Monday, January 09, 2006

Unjust Discrimination

The point I was trying to make in my previous post was made by Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Christifidelis laici, No. 37: "The dignity of the person constitutes the foundation of the equality of all people among themselves. As a result, all forms of discrimination are totally unacceptable."

Authentic Christian love (which is often very difficult to find in some parishes) rejects the discrimination which faith finds unacceptable. Vatican II teaches us that:

"The disposition of a human person toward God the Father and his or her disposition toward fellow human beings are so connected that Scripture says: 'Whoever does not love does not know God' (1 Jn 4:8). The foundation therefore is taken away from any theory or practice which leads to discrimination, between one person and another or between one nation and another, with respect to human dignity and the rights flowing from it" (Nostra Aetate, No. 5).

Therefore, as Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II says, love requires avoiding "every form - whether social or cultural - of discrimination with respect to the fundamental rights of persons, whether on the basis of sex, race, color, social condition, language, or religion" (No. 29). Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. There are many other factors which are often used to rationalize discrimination or injustices: such as nationality, wealth, health, physical or mental capacity, age, and even one's personal appearance.

The point of my last post was not that the Church shouldn't reach out to people who frequent barrooms or nightclubs or people who are estranged from the Church. The Church has a responsibility, a moral duty, to reach out to everyone. And any unjust discrimination must be avoided since such is incompatible with an authentic Catholic faith.

Many Catholics are treated with scorn at their parish - or simply ignored - because they accept, promote and defend the Church's Magisterial teaching. Often those at the parish level forget that loving everyone in Jesus with the same Christian love means acknowledging the same human dignity shared by all who are called to be God's children and avoiding all discrimination with respect to every basic human right.

This same love must extend to each individual person's entire being, including all his or her diverse gifts and particular potentialities. St. Paul addresses this point in 1 Corinthians 13. And, in Chapter 12, he explains how communion should exist in Jesus' one body, which is the Church, among members who possess diverse and complementary gifts which pertain to their personal vocations:

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good...

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." (1 Cor. 12:4-7; 12-13).

As I said previously, this point is lost on many at the parish level. Often, like the Apostle John in the Gospel, some take the attitude that others have no gifts at all or (if they do) should be restrained since they do not belong to a certain group:

"John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us." Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us." (Mk. 9: 38-40).

But this is not the Catholic attitude. Not by any means.

Paul Anthony Melanson


Marie Cecile said...

When there is true love of God within one's heart, there will also be love of neighbor.
God Bless
Marie Cecile

Anonymous said...

I really love what you had to say about unjust discrimination and how me must afford every person the dignity they deserve. Thank you.

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