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.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Protest by Occupation, but Does It Make Sense?


The “Occupy Wall Street” [OWS] movement has manifested itself across the country. The ability to assemble and to present grievances to the government is a part of American life and the political and legal fabric that form a part of this life. But the OWS is not quite that as the foci of the protests are directed toward private institutions that do have an enormous impact on public life. Nevertheless, the OWS movement is, within reason, protected by the peaceful assembly and freedom of expression clauses of the Constitution. Should the intent of the protesters incorporate actions designed to interfere with the lives and work of others—many of who are sympathetic—the protections guaranteed by the Constitution become thin to the point of non-application.

Now, Professor Thomas Beaudoin of the Fordham University Graduate School of Religions and Religious Education (GSRRE) has taken the OWS movement into another dimension by suggesting that it could be attempted and should be applied in the Catholic Church. [HERE]

But why does he make this claim? His wonder about the suitability of using OWS methods in parishes and other places where Catholics worship is triggered by his “passion for and grievances with [the] church.”

Taking stock of the Beaudoin suggestion, I suppose that those folks who wonder about what is going on in the American academy of higher education, including that which uses the moniker “Catholic”, could just as easily target these institutions with OWS methods in order to air their grievances against colleges and universities—but I digress.

It does appear that the professor has, if not grievances then, disagreements with the Church that are shared by some of his colleagues from the academy in that he is “a part of the Fordham conference ‘Learning to Listen: Voices of Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church’.” As the GSRRE website states, he and a colleague are “part of a larger collaboration between Fordham, Union Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, and Fairfield University, titled ‘More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church ’” which I and Robby George have addressed at the Mirror of Justice on earlier occasions. Any disagreements or “grievances” which Beaudoin has regarding “sexual diversity and the Catholic Church” are apparently being voiced and heard by those interested in his views without the need of the OWS model being employed. I am certain that if he chose, he could air his “grievances” on other elements of the Church’s teachings somewhere other than houses of worship, perhaps even in his classroom.

But would it make sense to use the OWS model in parish churches? What goes on there? High level discussions addressing policy, doctrine, and dogma? No. What does go on in these venues is worship and the administration and receipt of the sacraments. Yet, Beaudoin wants to disrupt this in order to “name, protest and change what is intolerable about [the] church today.”

I wonder if he thought about those who are happy with the fact that they have a parish or other place where they can go and pray and receive the sacraments? It appears that he has not, for as he says he has a “vision of a different Catholic Church,” and he is not interested in the one that he wishes to disrupt. He wants a “Catholic version of the Arab Spring, to combat the long Catholic Winter.” But his fiery rhetoric fails to take stock of the fact that programs like “More Than a Monologue” are offering the “vision of a different Catholic Church” that he apparently desires. So, why bother the faithful laity and the presbyterate whose vision of the Catholic Church differs from his? He offers no response to this kind of straight-forward question.

As one progresses through the balance of manifesto, it is clear he is not satisfied with the Church’s teachings on a variety of fronts for he complains of the Church’s “structures, teachings, and practices [that] become steadily more incredible in contemporary society.”

Did it occur to him that the teachings of the Church are not designed to reflect what any society appears to want at any given time? Still, he imaginatively pits the “overwhelming majority (all non-ordained persons)” against “the small minority (the ordained).” I happen to be in the latter category, but I find the reality of being one of the ordained unlike the broad characterization offered by Professor Beaudoin does not pit me against those whom I am called by my particular vocation to serve. Having served on most weekends in local parishes for the last eighteen years since my ordination, I don’t find myself or the other clergy with whom I labor being pitted against the faithful. Rather, what I have found and continue to find in parishes across the country is that the People of God, the Body of Christ, whom I encounter, come together to pray, to celebrate and receive the sacraments, and ask God to help us reinforce our faith so that we may be worthy disciples of His Son. I do not see anyone from either segment of the Church as Professor Beaudoin describes it, “Looking at the world and the church in this moment” and declaring “that now may be some kind of privileged time for [OWS] action.” Beaudoin asks in oratorical fashion: “Will Catholics take it [i.e., OWS action] up?”

Why should they, for most of the faithful, be they clergy or laity, have what they seek in the Church as she has existed, as she continues to exist, and as she will exist: guiding and perfecting their way on the human destiny of union with God. The Church is not a political event; rather, it is a divine institution established to bring salvation to those who, in spite of our sinfulness, chose the standard of Christ.

Professor Beaudoin does not mention anything like this, so I don’t think his OWS-like plan makes much sense for anyone in the Church to pursue, be they of the laity or of the clergy.

RJA sj



Araujo, Robert | Permalink

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