A short reflection about religion and reality, with a contemporary Catholic nuance.
Our word “religion” comes from the Latin root lig, meaning “to connect,” and the prefix re, meaning “again.” We find for example the root lig in the word “ligament,” which connects muscles to bones.
Religion, ideally, connects us to reality in all of its depth and mystery.
It happens of course that people can also use religion to try connecting to a long-gone past, the good old days, or to an artificial reality, by denying contemporary reality and creating their own truths. Cultic groups, for example, venerate the artificial reality created by authoritarian leaders.
A contemporary Catholic religious distortion struck me this week, as I read news reports about the Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. He served as the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States from 19 October 2011 to 12 April 2016. He is well known for his conspiracy theory criticism of the pope and has now criticized Archbishop José Gomez, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for congratulating Joseph Biden on his election as the soon-to-be second US president who is Catholic. (Yes, Gomez later said he was concerned about Biden’s position on abortion; but he also praised Biden for his policy proposals regarding immigration reform, refugees, the poor, racism, the death penalty, and climate change. These are truly pro-life issues. I hopeArchbishop Gomez and his episcopal colleagues can truly enter into respectful conversation with the new president and further dismantle US polarization.)
Viganò, however, who has strongly supported the current president has been strongly condemnatory of the president-elect. In a letter sent for publication to LifeSiteNews he stressed that “Covid and Biden are two holograms, two artificial creations, ready to be adapted time and time again to contingent needs or respectively replaced when necessary with Covid-21 and Kamala Harris.”
“Let us allow light to be shed on the deceptions of Biden and the Democrats,” Archbishop Viganò continued. “The fraud that they have plotted against President Trump and against America will not remain standing for long, nor will the worldwide fraud of Covid, the responsibility of the Chinese dictatorship, the complicity of the corrupt and traitors, and the enslavement of the deep church.”
When it comes to religion and reality, Viganò and his Catholic supporters twist and mix facts and fantasy. They are “alt-Catholics,” who have found ways to integrate sexism, bigotry, xenophobia, and isolationist nationalism with their religion.Their distorted Catholicism has a seductive appeal. It asks no questions, and it blesses their unwillingness to navigate in the world of contemporary reality.
Healthy religion focuses on today’s questions and concerns about human meaning, identity, and purpose. The goal is to better understand all human contexts in which faith arises: philosophy, history, literature, sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, and the arts. No single discipline has a corner on the truth. We draw from all and we learn and live together. We strive for collaboration not polarization.
Healthy religion, above all, recognizes the depth of the mystery of life and allows the God-mystery to stand as the horizon for all learning. God is disclosed in the human journey even when some humans cannot find or refuse to find God. We are never dismissed or abandoned by God. When we open our eyes and hearts to the people around us, we open the way to God’s revelation.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945), pastor and theologian, said it so well in one of his Advent reflections: “Living WITHOUT mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life, nothing of the mystery of another person, nothing of the mystery of the world. It means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others. It means remaining on the surface, taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation. Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of life at all and even denying them.”
Take care. With healthy religion we can dialogue, collaborate, and move ahead. Religion is at its best when it forces us to ask the hard questions. May we ask and listen and learn together.
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