Left wing? Or right wing?

December 16, 2009

What a stupid question eh? Well from a theological perspective I think it is a stupid question. I spent seven years of my life in religious formation, five in a seminary in Rome and two in a monastery. Throughout that time you were constantly being quizzed to see if you were ‘a trad’ or ‘a rig’  to name just two labels (sometimes I was called worse things). I remember returning once to my room to find a member of the seminary staff looking through papers on my desk (often wondered if that helped to get any closer to the truth). I remember seminarians looking through my bookshelves to try and make some sort of assessment of my books to help them understand my ecclesiology. It is tempting to write a book about my experiences but I often wonder if people would actually believe it. When I think of seminary the words deck chair and titanic often come to mind.

I had forgotten what this narrow view is like until yesterday when I was asked in a professional context if I consider myself left or right wing. It still baffles me why we have to label people. Why do we impose a political model on to something which is sacred? I feel really sorry for people who bring a 60’s agenda to the spiritual life. Heavens they are missing the point … but then again they are very often the people who do miss life. They miss what Luigi Giussani refers to as ‘the totality of life’ which only Christ can give.

The ‘political church’ generally keeps these people in their very comfortable middle class life style, I am saying that with personal experience. When you are in formation you really never have to worry about the next meal of if you will have enough money to pay the bills at the end of the month. You feel you are a martyr for doing Cafod Family Fast.

These are of course generalisations I know many sincere people within the Church, visit somewhere like Prinknash Abbey and you see the Gospel and the Rule of St Benedict lived to the full. They are lucky to have a wonderful Abbot who will be always young, always full of joy and faith.

It is rare that I express myself like this but I really am fed up with the 60’s agenda. People are thirsting for genuine spiritual guidance, love, reverence, faith and reason.

Can we move on from the 60’s? I think so. I am going to trust, like Benedict, the instincts of the young.

Richard Rohr OFM recently commented that, ‘the rifts and chasms between good people today sometimes seem impossible to bridge. Let’s just name a few obvious ones: male versus female, rich versus poor, liberal versus conservative, Christian versus non-Christian, “Pro-Choice” versus “Pro-Life,” the overdeveloped world versus the underdeveloped world, renew-from-within versus change-from-without, straights versus gays, hierarchy versus laity, whites versus people of color—and every shade of every issue in between.

We are all crowded on one limited planet and must somehow learn to live together while also maintaining the common earth beneath our six billion pairs of feet.  Sometimes I wonder if it is going to be this very common earth that we all stand on and eat from that will be the very thing that could bring us together.’

We should not be surprised that a Pope so clearly influenced by Benedictine principles has recently said, ‘If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.’ Linguistically there is a close relationship between the word humility and earth. Those who are humble understand and know our nature, they also know our eternal destiny. Petty distinctions fall away and become insignificant. Left wing or right wing do not stand the challenge of such a profound theological anthropology.


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