Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nicholas Kristof on "Tussling Over Jesus"

Readers who have followed the controversy within the Catholic Church over the abortion done at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix to save a pregnant woman's life should read Nicholas Kristof's powerful op ed in today's New York Times.

Kristof correctly locates the St. Joseph's controversy in the struggle in every faith group between dogmatic fundamentalists and compassionate humanists. "Faith group" is not limited to religions. The controversies about the U.S. Constitution between strict constructionists and those who - correctly - recognize that the Constitution was designed to be a living document, rests on the same dynamic.

Here are the key paragraphs from Kristof's piece:
To me, this battle illuminates two rival religious approaches, within the Catholic church and any spiritual tradition. One approach focuses upon dogma, sanctity, rules and the punishment of sinners. The other exalts compassion for the needy and mercy for sinners — and, perhaps, above all, inclusiveness.

With the Vatican seemingly as deaf and remote as it was in 1517, some Catholics at the grass roots are pushing to recover their faith. Jamie L. Manson, the same columnist for National Catholic Reporter who proclaimed that Jesus had been “evicted,” also argued powerfully that many ordinary Catholics have reached a breaking point and that St. Joseph’s heralds a new vision of Catholicism: “Though they will be denied the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist, the Eucharist will rise out of St. Joseph’s every time the sick are healed, the frightened are comforted, the lonely are visited, the weak are fed, and vigil is kept over the dying.”

(My own posts about St. Joseph's can be seen here, here, here, and here. My most recent post on the topic shares Kristof's admiration for the noble Catholic traditions of commitment to the poor and to social justice.)

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