Monday, February 11, 2013

Leonardo Boff on Our Current Crisis: Theological Framework for Thinking about Benedict's Resignation

In light of the announcement of the pope's resignation, it's interesting to me to read Leonardo Boff's latest weekly theological reflection, as translated by Rebel Girl and offered on her wonderful website Iglesia Descalza. The essay is entitled "The Legacy of the Current Crisis: Reviewing and Reinventing Concepts."

Boff's not writing about the deep crisis through which the Catholic church has been passing under this papacy. He's writing about the "systemic crisis" caused by the near-collapse of global economic systems in this period of late capitalism, and the crisis caused by the destruction of the environment that is a direct result of our way of doing business at a global level. These crises call for a profound realignment of the human race, a reconsideration of how we imagine and construct our shared world, Boff proposes.

One of the fundamental realignments to which we're now called by global systemic crisis is, Boff argues, spiritual. He writes:

The sixth is the concept of spirituality. This has been confined in the religions, when it's the dimension of universal human depth. Spirituality arises when consciousness perceives itself as part of the Whole and intuits every being and the entire universe supported and penetrated by a powerful and loving force -- that Abyss of energy, generator of every being. It's possible to grasp the mysterious link that binds all things again and again, forming a cosmos and not a chaos. Spirituality gives us a feeling of reverence for the greatness of the universe and we are filled with self-esteem by being able to admire, enjoy and celebrate all things.

These words nurture spirit and hope for me as I begin to think about the resignation of the current pope and as Lent gets underway. I hear Boff saying that one of the ineffective and downright maleficent reactions of many faith communities and their leaders to the socioeconomic and ecological crisis through which the planet is now passing has been an exclusivist reaction. This reaction has sought to draw in the reins, to stake claims to the exclusive ownership of God and religious truth by particular religious traditions--to define religious truth in ways that put many people outside the circle of salvation, while shutting only tightly controlled and exclusive groups inside the club of religious truth.

But the deep truth to which all religious traditions point at their most fundamental level, Boff indicates, is that the divine is the abyss of energy, generating being everywhere, in which we must all be rooted if we're to have a fruitful life within the global community. Spirituality is "the dimension of universal human depth." It belongs exclusively to no one person and to no religious tradition. Spirituality transcends religion and is, at a basic level, the raison d'être of religion.

And religious traditions and religious leaders who have borne down hard on the exclusivist claims of their particular faith communities at this point in history have not served those traditions well at all, and have thwarted the important abilities of their religious traditions to assist the human community in building a better world at a point of global crisis in which such collaborative action and new imagination generated by spiritual energy are very much needed.

I take these words to heart, and plan to keep holding them close to my heart as the chattering Vaticanologists now start their pretend-insider reports about what's going on in Rome, why it's going on, and what they know as insiders to the club in some privileged way that surpasses what the rest of the church knows, thinks, and feels. If ever the insights and voices of all Catholics and not just members of the exclusive club were needed in order to build a better church (and world), that time is now.

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