Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Healing Polarization & Focolare’s Economy of Communion

A few thoughts on John Allen’s “gut check for American Catholicism.”  I know you will all be shocked to read that I’d agree with his assessment that among the “winners” in the encyclical is Focolare and its Economy of Communion project, as “the lone initiative singled our for praise” in Caritas in Veritate.


I’d see a further connection within Allen’s roundup: I think the Economy of Communion project and the Focolare spirituality generally also hold much promise for the work of healing the tendency that Allen describes for pro-life and peace-and-justice Catholics to move in separate circles, create their own echo chambers, and as Allen puts is, “travel down separate paths, having separate conversations and investing their time and treasure in distinct, sometimes even opposing efforts.” 


Last week I was reflecting on the group of people involved with the Economy of Communion project.  Some of us have been in conversation almost from its inception in 1991.  And as I went through the list of these friends, I realized that for many I could not remember if they were Republicans or Democrats.  I am sure the role of the state and political models has come up in our conversations over the years, but the focus – a common commitment to a concrete project in service to the poor, in the conviction that Gospel values can completely permeate an approach to business life -  has formed such a deep non-ideological bond that political alliances have been completely relativized and accepted among the normal differences in any group.


Similarly, what draws people to the Focolare spirituality is not a particular political agenda, but the spirituality of unity, which is grounded in the prayer of Jesus, “that all may be one,” and the conviction that this can permeate their everyday lives.  Especially during presidential campaign seasons, local Focolare communities have not been immune to the political tensions, and have had to work very hard to keep open the lines communication across political differences.  But the common bond in the spirituality lays a foundation for building the kinds of relationships of listening, love and trust that can bridge the political divide. 


Before the 2008 election season, in the New York area we did a formation program that we called “Citizens for a United World,” which started, like all Focolare gatherings, with a “pact” of mutual love.  Over the course of studying Catholic social teaching, many were able to recognize the ways in which they may have mischaracterized the “other” (political) side, see that our pro-life and peace-and-justice leanings were all integral to the work of building up the body of Christ, and move toward healing the relationships in tension, within the Focolare community, and also within their families, parishes, and other circles.


I agree with Allen that one of our big challenges in the life of the Church here is bring our pro-life and peace-and-justice energies into alignment so as to “breathe with both lungs.”  And I have the sense that in addition to Focolare, other ecclesial movements may have had analogous experiences of creating the kind of non-ideological space that can help to heal the divide.  These may be rare, but perhaps not as rare as we think.


Uelmen, Amy | Permalink

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