National Catholic Reporter
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Issue Date:  March 26, 2004

From the Editor's Desk

A holy curiosity

Mary Jo Leddy, author of the Lenten reflections that appear on our Web site, was in Palma de Majorca, Spain, when the bombs went off in Madrid March 11.

We are grateful she was willing to interrupt a retreat to produce the moving first-person account of the days following the terrorist attack. She attended an outpouring of solidarity when thousands of people took to the streets in Palma, mostly quietly, to express their grief. “There was no flag-waving, there only a few shouts of anger. There was only silence. There were only candles in the dark and umbrellas raised against the falling rain,” she wrote.

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I wouldn’t want to be in charge of Sr. Joan Chittister’s schedule. It is difficult to keep track, week to week, of where she is on this earth. But then one doesn’t acquire the kind of global outlook she brings to life’s issues and questions without first-hand experience of how others live and think. Her latest jaunt was to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where religious leaders came together “to consider what part religion plays in this global assault on women.” It was a fascinating exchange she had with the Venerable Bhikkhuni Dhammananda, a Thai woman and ordained Buddhist monk in a country where Buddhist men won’t accept female monks.

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Please go to Pages 19 and 17 and take in the tribute to the late Jesuit Fr. Karl Rahner by his friend, Fr. Leo O’Donovan, and the appreciation of Cardinal Franz König by John L. Allen Jr. I recommend them not as bits of nostalgia or reasons for disappointment about what was. These pieces are reasons to rejoice in who we are, in the possibilities of this communion called Catholic. They move us beyond the despair and the fear prevalent in the church today.

We are living through a backlash to reform, a time in which the rule of law and proofs of orthodoxy proliferate. Catholics can get the impression that we are called to live an impossible equation: that a life of faith should equal a life without questions or doubts. In such a world, every eventuality is covered by an entry in the catechism. We’ve known this Catholicism. Rahner and König both knew it, and worse.

Some today might view the two as antiques, throwbacks to a bygone era in the church. Others would see them as threats. They were neither. They represent an inquisitiveness that is at once wholly human, deeply Catholic and moving toward the future. Neither was naive about the world -- they knew the horrors of Nazism and the depravity of a world gone mad. Maybe that is why they also knew hope and were able to develop a deep love for the world.

Theirs is a holy curiosity. Their willingness to engage questions and issues about which this papacy has demanded silence is tribute not to a lack of faith or a distortion of faith but to an authentic faith that truly does trust that unity is best expressed, as König said, “in all possible diversity.”

Rahner and König would have know in their lifetimes, in a way many of us cannot know, the horrors that are inspired by a sense of superiority, the need to establish differences and a prohibition against questions.

I find the aging König’s words, spoken in a 1999 interview with NCR, the real challenge for the future: “Up in the structure of the church we have people who are full of anxiety, who are afraid. I would say, if we are the people of God: Why? We will have problems, of course -- always. But this drawing in on ourselves is not the answer. We have to talk; we have to listen.”

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, March 26, 2004

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