In a way, yes. As I previously mentioned, the widespread and worsening political, economic and environmental realities have rendered me disgusted, heartsick, mute and overcome with powerlessness. I’m still dealing with the powerlessness, but the muteness has abated. While I’m more heartsick than anything else, disgust is easier to articulate.
The best antidote to powerlessness, which dehumanizes and creates exponentially more problems, is positive action. Developing and using whatever talents you have. Doing something and sharing it. Yes, I’m getting all preachy here, because the main person I’m trying to convince is myself. Writing matters. I can readily believe that writing helps the writer herself. When I’m not writing, I feel even more unmoored. But it is harder to believe that it helps the world, that the product has use beyond the process. Who is going to read yet another poem, or care? But I stick with my two-pronged program, whenever possible: do the work and share it.
Which leads me to “Excommunicate,” my soon-to-be-published poem online at Talking Writing, as part of their series on Writing and Faith. According to the definition provided at Wikipedia, excommunication is “an institutional act of religious censure used to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community or to restrict certain rights within it, in particular receiving of the sacraments.”
Yes, excommunication still happens today in the Catholic Church, and if my views were to be closely examined, I, an entirely observant cradle Catholic, would be in danger of being excommunicated. And, believe it or not, I would care deeply. But most people would not care; in fact, the Church tribunal’s decision arriving in their mailbox would garner as little interest as a fundraising solicitation or a piece of junk mail. (This juxtaposition fuels the poem, another from the etymology-based series.)
Things change, with time and patience. (How many years have I been saying that?)
I read, with pleasure, of this week’s canonization of El Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero, who was gunned down in 1980 for his solidarity with the poor, while saying Mass. It reminded me of a September day in 1998 when I attended a talk by the former Jesuit Marxist Nicaraguan poet, Ernesto Cardenal and thought any vestige of Liberation Theology was dead. And now we have Saint Óscar Romero. (Note: Atlantic has made available online Paul Elie’s excellent piece, What Óscar Romero’s Canonization Says About Pope Francis. Worth finding and reading.)
Change is always possible.
It also reminded me that theologian Sister Elizabeth Johnson retired this past spring from her teaching position at Fordham University. I attended a talk she gave shortly after the publication of She Who Is, well before the time in 2011 when the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine discovered her book The Quest for the Living God (2007) strayed too far from traditional Catholic teaching. Fortunately, like Teilhard de Chardin, another of my heroes, she was able to allay their suspicions.
Change can be swift or painfully incremental.
Did I mention that Pope Paul VI, author of the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the church’s opposition to the use of artificial birth control, was canonized on the same day as Saint Óscar Romero?