Thanks Giving

Thanksgiving Week End 2021

This weekend I want to thank all who have journeyed with For Another Voice this past year. You are a much appreciated group of readers and I always welcome your comments and questions. And I must also say that, after checking, I amazed to see that there are now readers not only in the United States and Canada, but also the United Kingdom, Ireland,Western Europe, and Australia.

For Another Voice offers weekly reflections about  contemporary Christian belief and practice. The title comes from the poem “Little Gidding,” by T.S. Eliot: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” 

We are rooted in our Christian tradition but are called not to live in the past but to see and speak with contemporary words and vision about life and society today.

Unlike some blogs, there is no charge for following For Another Voice. 

Once a year however, usually toward the end of November, I invite readers to make a contribution. As an older retired fellow, with a modest retirement, these contributions help me to update and/or replace my computer and cover miscellaneous expenses connected with my website.

If you would like to make a contribution, I would be very appreciative. 

There are five ways readers can contribute:

(1) With a US dollars check, from a US bank, sent to: 

   Dr. John A. Dick

            Geldenaaksebaan 85A  – 002

            3001 Heverlee    — Belgium

(2) By ZELLE using:

(3) By US bank transfer to: 

      Account 7519230887 in name of John A. Dick

      Routing number 072400052


(4) By international bank transfer to my Belgian bank: 

      BNP Paribas Fortis Bank 

      Account in the name of John A. Dick


      IBAN: BE83 2300 3923 6015

(5) By credit card or PayPal. Simply click on this link:

A very sincere thank you!


The Tenacity of Hope

Recently some readers of Another Voice told me they fear I am becoming “negatively critical and pessimistic.” Their remarks surprised me. I am critical but I think it is healthy and responsible to be constructively critical. Being critical, however, is not the same thing as being negative. And I am really not pessimistic. But I am a clear-eyed realist and greatly concerned about the problems that confront present and future generations in our contemporary world. 

Today I have short reflection that does not focus on the problems. I call it the Tenacity of Hope because I am not a prophet of doom; and my faith and my reading of history give me hope and encouragement . 

Yes very big problems confront us today: political and religious polarization, climate change, and of course a rebounding Coronavirus. If people work together, all of these problems can be resolved. I do believe that. For some problems it may take a lot of time. For other problems like the pandemic, there will be yet more suffering and death before we can say we have safely moved beyond that. 

As an older historical theologian, I am confident, as well, that there will be a greatly needed reconfiguration of our Christian churches. But I am not certain I will live to see it. Right now I enjoy witnessing what I call the new church transformation movements, like those involving women priests. And I find encouragement from truly well-informed contemporary theologians – like the men and women teaching and researching at the Catholic University of Leuven. They know the tradition and its history. They understand and know how to interpret today’s signs of the times.

One’s life perspective is important. I grew up with family stories about fear and hope. In Corona days I have thought a lot about my father, his four brothers, and of course my grandmother. My grandfather, Alonzo William Dick, a school teacher in Indiana, died in 1919 in the Great Influenza epidemic of 1918 – 1920. Most of his children as well as my grandmother were too sick to attend his funeral. Town authorities in Montpelier, Indiana wanted to put the boys in foster care homes. My grandmother said “absolutely not.” She had a big challenge in front of her. Fortunately there were neighbors and family members who encouraged and helped her, especially in the first couple years after Alonzo’s death. It was not always easy but, on her own, she raised the five boys and they all became wonderfully mature, optimistic, warm, and wise adults. Their mother had often reminded them – and often reminded me as I was growing up — that “bad things do happen but we cannot allow them to destroy us.”

Yes my perspective and optimistic vision are historically based. I look at what happened in the past, what is happening today, and what can happen tomorrow. 

These days I also find that my current Belgian environment is helpful when reflecting about tragedies and the tenacity of hope. 

Although I was born and grew up in Michigan, USA, I now live in Leuven (“Louvain”) Belgium. Many years ago I came here to complete a doctorate, was offered a job, and never left…But I am still very much a US American. 

Historical reminders are all around my family and me. In our back yard my wife and I can look at the area, not far from our house, where there was once the local community hanging-tree. Soldiers of the fiercely anti- Protestant Duke of Alba, “The Iron Duke,” used the local hanging-tree in the sixteenth century religious wars to execute citizens of Leuven suspected of Calvinist sympathies. Alba, strongly supported by Pope Pius V (1566 – 1572), was Governor of the Spanish Netherlands from 1567 to 1573. During those six years he executed, across the country, more than a thousand people. 

Nevertheless, Leuven not only survived but flourished, because enough people maintained courage and hope.  That area of the local hanging-tree — which I am sure is unknown to most contemporary people — has been greatly transformed and is quite safe and peaceful today. Life is stronger than death.

Close to three hundred and fifty years after the terrorism of the “Iron Duke,” Leuven suffered again in WWI. Starting on August 25, 1914, and over the course of five days, German troops burned and looted much of the city and executed hundreds of civilians. Our world renowned university library with its magnificent collection of ancient manuscripts was burned. This provoked great national and international outrage. Nevertheless, people did not give up and Leuven was rebuilt. And, starting in 1921, thanks to countless, mainly US American, fundraisers and the personal efforts of Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), chairman of the Commission for Relief of Belgium, a new library could be built.

Then, just about thirty years later, the city was bombed in World War II. Great devastation. Again, people picked up, rebuilt, and moved forward. The tenacity of hope. 

Hopeful people pick up and move forward. And now thanks to the narrow-minded, and often belligerent behavior of the anti-vaxxers, we are confronted with a major resurgence of the Coronavirus. Our contemporary challenges are very real.

I confess. I do find it very easy to point my fingers at and write articles about problematic and negative people. I get annoyed and frustrated. But I know we need to work against polarization and I do try to reach out to the problematic and negative. It is not easy. I have lost a lot of Facebook friends in the process. From the Apostle Paul, I know that “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful.” (1 Cor 13: 4–5)

And I know as well that, in my dealings with negative and often obnoxious people, I do need to be humbly alert to the exhortation of Jesus in Matthew 7 and Luke 6: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” 

Thinking about strengthening our own tenacity of hope, we greatly need to learn from the example of hope-filled men and women. My old friend, Archbishop Jadot, the subject of my recent book, was for me a supportive teacher. I remember complaining to him about problems in the church and my frustrations with problematic bishops. One US archbishop had tried very hard — but without success —  to get me fired from the University of Leuven. Jadot looked at me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said: “Yes it is winter now. But spring WILL return.” We all need people like Jean Jadot in our lives.

Actually I guess we are all called to be prophets of hope and hopeful change. We need to critically examine our own perspectives, because they can make us open or closed. 

A few days ago I met a very old fashioned-thinking young priest. His theology was medieval and his comportment was haughty and arrogant. What a disappointment. Then a couple days later I met a group of energetic young men and women, who are theology students at our university. They are wonderfully bright, well informed; and their theological perspectives are contemporary and pastoral. What a delight. A healthy perspective. These young people, working on advanced theological degrees, are indeed, whether they realize it or not, prophets of hope and hopeful change for today and for tomorrow.

In a couple weeks, one of my adult discussion groups will discuss an article about the English anthropologist Jane Goodall (born 1934). She is a wonderfully prophetic and inspiring person. I remember her 1999 book, written with Phillip Berman, Reason for Hope. The book details her spiritual epiphany and her belief that everyone can find a reason for hope. 

“Each one of us matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference” Goodall wrote. “It is these undeniable qualities of human love and compassion and self-sacrifice that give me hope for the future. We are, indeed, often cruel and evil. Nobody can deny this. We gang up on each one another, we torture each other, with words as well as deeds, we fight, we kill. But we are also capable of the most noble, generous, and heroic behavior.” 

The tenacity of hope. With constructive criticism and collaborative efforts, we can indeed be “noble, generous, and heroic” in church and in civil society.

  • Jack

Polarization and US Catholic Bishops

During a video message presented to the Congress of Catholics and Public Life, an Opus Dei affiliated group in Madrid, Spain on Thursday November 4th, Archbishop José H. Gómez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, condemned the “new social justice movements” calling them “pseudo-religions” and “dangerous substitutes for true religion.” 

A good friend described the Gómez message as an Opus Dei “call to arms.” Founded in Madrid in 1928, Opus Dei flourished under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. In 1947, a year after the organization’s headquarters was moved to to Rome, Opus Dei was given praise and approval by Pope Pius XII. Since the 1970s, Archbishop Gómez, has been quite active in the powerful far right Catholic organization. In 1999, he became the vicar of Opus Dei for Texas; and, in 2001, he became the first Opus Dei “numerary” to be appointed a bishop in the United States. (Numeraries are members who give doctrinal and ascetical formation to other members.)  Archbishop Gómez has said that he is no longer a “member” of Opus Dei but follows Opus Dei spirituality. 

Gómez is a well-known  promoter of US Catholic polarization and a fierce critic of US President Joseph Biden. His statement on Inauguration Day in January 2021 was clear and direct: “Our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender.” Archbishop Gómez, quoting a US Conference of Catholic Bishops voter guide, stressed “For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the ‘pre-eminent priority.’”

Not all US bishops agree with Archbishop Gómez, however. Bishop Robert McElroy, Bishop of San Diego and a vocal member of the minority of US bishops who diverge from the Gómez line, has continued to stress that abortion is not the US Catholic pre-eminent issue. “The pre-eminent issue for our country at this time” he said  “is healing and coming together.” 

Bishop McElroy’s observations, and those of Archbishop Gómez of course, reminded me that it is now close to twenty-five years ago that Chicago’s Cardinal Joseph Bernardin announced his Catholic Common Ground Initiative: his call for dialogue among the US Catholic Church’s increasingly polarized believers. If only people had truly listened to him back then…But we can still listen to him today.

Bernardin was the Archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his death in November 1996. The Catholic Common Ground Initiative was Bernardin’s final and most substantial effort to promote dialogue in an increasingly divided US Catholic Church. Beginning in 1992, Bernardin had grown concerned about polarization due to political issues and the implementation of the vision of the Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965). He began working to gather influential Catholic bishops and laypeople who were committed to dialogue and church unity, despite their disagreements. The Common Ground initiative challenged US Catholics to honestly discuss their views on the role of women in the church, about human sexuality, and about how the church should be governed.

Shortly before his death, Cardinal Bernardin hoped he would be leaving a gift to guide the church during a difficult period. But Cardinals Anthony Bevilacqua (Philadelphia), James Hickey (Washington), Bernard Law (Boston), John O’Connor (New York) and Adam Maida (Detroit) came out strongly against Common Ground. Bernard Law captured the flavor of their criticisms when he said: “Dialogue, as a way to mediate between the truth and dissent, is mutual deception.”

Law of course was wrong. His life ended in disgrace. Bernardin remains the prophetic US Catholic hero. And Gómez remains a problematic prophet of doom.

We do not dwell in the past but we do learn from it, in our own ways, as I stressed two weeks ago in my “See, Observe, and Act” reflection. May we support people like Bishop McElroy and actively engage in a contemporary Common Ground Initiative. 

Polarization takes people who basically have something in common. It then emphasizes their differences. Then it hardens their differences into disgust. Then it turns their disgust into hatred. 

According to a 2021 Survey of American Catholic Priests, conducted by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, priests on both sides of the US political divide are largely pessimistic about the state of the US Catholic Church and its future. Their  pessimism is our call to listen, dialogue, collaborate, support, and move forward.

There is nothing Christian about polarization. Polarization, especially when promoted by highly placed religious and political leaders, is deadly. 

  • Jack