Bishop Hying

Through Christ’s saving death, we learn there is no room for exclusion or hatred

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on August 27, 2017


      We live in very disturbing and violent times. Just in the past two weeks, the lunacy in Charlottesville, Virginia took three lives and injured many; terrorism in Spain killed thirteen and wounded a hundred, random people were stabbed in Finland; police officers were shot in various cities and CBS news ran a feature detailing the virtual elimination of children with Down Syndrome in Iceland through systemic abortion. 

      Those perpetrating all of this violence justify it in the name of some ideology, whether it is racism, fascism, religious fanaticism, or even a redefinition of whose life counts.

      For a long time now, we have witnessed an increasing polarization in our country and world, where a rational and respectful mutual exchange and discussion of ideas and beliefs has become almost impossible. We sadly see a tribalism developing which needs to scapegoat, demonize and even destroy those who disagree with the current, insular “group think.” 

      The function of our government and the correcting balance of a two-party system have broken down almost to the point of complete gridlock. The name-calling, mud-slinging and outright hatred exhibited by some of our leaders has created an environment of intense pessimism, fear and distrust. Regardless of our political point of view, we would all agree that the founders of our nation had something better in mind than what we are currently suffering through. 

      I see the same dynamic in the Church at times. Some prelates who make sweeping negative judgments of those who disagree with their take on matters doctrinal, pastoral or political, influential theologians and writers who question the motives of anyone who embraces a different point of view than theirs, and ecclesial ministers who ostracize and marginalize those who may have a differing ecclesiology or spirituality; all contribute to a culture of polarization, confusion, fear and division which is not the mind and heart of Christ.

      Most people are intelligent enough to have a nuanced opinion of important matters. Economy, poverty, sexuality, immigration and religion are complex realities which defy simplistic assessments and judgments. Yet the polarization created by extremist tribalism disallows thoughtful conclusions. If you question anything the leftist camp embraces, you are an intolerant hate-monger.  If you question anything the right wing camp believes, you are a wild-eyed liberal intent on bringing America down.

      I can question some of the injustices of capitalism without being a socialist. I can be against abortion without being against women. I can have opinions on terrorism without being an Islamophobe. I can advocate a rational compromise on the question of illegal immigration without being labeled as anything but a thoughtful and concerned citizen. I can hold up traditional Church teaching without being rigid. 

      As a society, we have allowed the two extremes to define the national discussion and social agenda for too long with devastating and even deadly results. The majority of us who live somewhere in the complex center of things need to reclaim the issues and the common good.

      On Saturday, Sept. 9 at 10 a.m. at our cathedral, I invite you to join me as we celebrate a special Mass for peace, healing and justice in our country and our communities.  We need to come together and pray for our nation, world and Church. The bishops have chosen this day as appropriate because it is the feast of Saint Peter Claver, the patron of racial justice. A Spanish Jesuit priest, Claver traveled to Colombia at the height of the evil slave trade. 

      Not content with simply condemning the racist dehumanizaton of enslaved Africans, the saint would enter the hold of the recently arrived slave ships, offering food, medicine and love to these oppressed people who were in the midst of a living hell.  His example of love, compassion and justice still inspires us today.

      As Christians, we need to be ever more sacrificial and courageous, daring to love everyone, living in reconciliation and peace, shunning every type of violence, hatred, scape-goating and polarization. We need to be willing to embrace dialogue and compromise when possible, refusing to label and marginalize others. 

      The Church lays out for us the transformative path of the Gospel in obedience to and imitation of Jesus Christ who laid his life down for us on the cross, accomplishing our salvation by absorbing all of humanity’s hatred and evil. In Christ, God himself became the scapegoat, the criminal, the one rejected and murdered in order to forever heal the wound of our violent hatred.

      Because of Jesus’ saving death, we must exclude no one. Because of his forgiveness, we must hate no one. Because of his life within us, we must love everyone. The infinite mercy flowing from the Cross is the only power that can heal us in this harsh and dreadful moment. 

      We dare to hope and struggle for peace, justice, mercy and truth because this love never fails.


       + Donald J. Hying

Join The Flock

Flock Note