Friday, August 23, 2013

Drew Christiansen, SJ, on Bradley Manning Sentence: "A Tragedy Not Just for Him. But for All Americans As Well"

And speaking of Bradley/Chelsea Manning: Drew Christiansen's essay at America on Manning's harsh sentence is a fine reflection, I think, about what this sentence--and the discrepancy between how we have chosen to treat Manning and how we choose to treat those who torture in our name--says about us as Americans: Father Christiansen regards the sentencing of Bradley Manning as "a tragedy not just for him, but for all Americans as well."

And he notes:

We live in confusing times, an era that includes global terrorism, digital technology, an evolving global economy and a celebrity culture. It is harder and harder for young people, whether in government service or in ordinary life, to know what is right and good. Unfortunately, our leaders and middle managers across society, in government, the media, business, finance and the church, seem unmoored from the Western moral tradition and the American tradition of civil liberties and are all too ready to hide their errors and justify them by their authority alone.

Our leaders and middle managers across society . . . are all too ready to hide their errors and justify them by their authority alone: this seems to me chillingly true, and what it portends for our culture as a whole is equally chilling. It portends precisely that descent into madness about which Henry Giroux warns us, it seems to me. 

And when this total evasion of the truth with the resort to coercive authority whenever authority figures' lies are challenged occurs in the church--and Christiansen does include the church in his analysis here of what's happening "across society"--then we're left with pastoral leaders of the ilk of Archbishop Myers in New Jersey, whose response to revelations about his mendacity is to double down on the authoritarian language of scapegoating: you're evil for challenging me, because I'm ipso facto holy as a Catholic bishop.

Father Christiansen is correct, it seems to me: it's extraordinarily difficult for young folks to grow up in a world like this. And as long as the understanding of faith operative at the top levels of the Catholic church keeps failing to take a close look at how the church itself, through its top leaders and lay Catholics who apologize for them, is increasingly posing a serious obstacle to many people's faith, then we'll continue to see a mass exodus of young Catholics from the church.

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