Joanne Bray—International Liberation Reference Person for Catholics.

Catholics

Society is collapsing. Every constituency needs to build strong relationships, hold out pro-human policy, and reach for unity. We need to connect with and support every liberation effort.

SOME CATHOLIC HISTORY

Two thousand years ago, a courageous Jewish peasant living in a brutally occupied land led a people’s liberation movement seeking a universal (“catholic”) embrace of humanity. The Roman Empire saw his principled, pro-human stands as a threat and executed him for treason. For three hundred years his followers, inspired by his vision, were persecuted, tortured, and killed for their opposition to Imperial Rome.

In the fourth century all this changed: the empire took over Christianity and used it to take over land; dominate peoples; expand the empire’s wealth, control, and power; and impose fear, obedience, submission, and passivity on its followers.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries two additional changes occurred. Ruling Popes endorsed the enslavement of non-Christians, first in Africa, and then the enslavement, colonization, and genocide of Indigenous peoples in the “new world.” Secondly, the transition from feudalism to capitalism led to a new church-state alliance, Protestantism. Competition for control and economic power resulted in war and revenge aimed at the Catholic people and their religion.

Meanwhile, across the centuries, courageous leaders (saints, reformers, Vatican II liberationists) refused to abandon the liberation roots of Catholicism, no matter how much they had been obscured and distorted by the ruling interests.

OUR DISCHARGE WORK AS CATHOLICS

Our RC Catholic liberation movement cannot afford to deny the brutal history of opportunism that has attached itself to our people, culture, and religion. Nor can we remain uninformed and distant, with attitudes of moral superiority that prevent us from attaining our full liberation and that of all peoples.

Our work as RC Catholics includes the following:

  • Establishing safety. Ours is a complex heritage. To be effective clients, we need safety to discharge the diverse hurts connected with our identity. For some of us, the Catholic institution has been a source of sexual or emotional abuse, genocide, racism, sexism and male domination, exploitation of labor, or Gay oppression. For others it has been a source of inspiration and a harbor protecting us from anti-Catholic as well as national, racist, anti-immigrant, ethnic, and class oppression. We need respect and awareness as we tell the full range of our personal stories and those of our families and nations.
  • Reaching for each other. Fears and oppression have kept us separate and feeling victimized. We huddle with others like us. Short-term this may be necessary for safety and to connect with our own thinking. However, to have an effective liberation movement we need to challenge our internalized oppression, challenge the separation based on oppressed and oppressor roles, and end our victimization.
  • Freeing ourselves, and others, from oppressed and oppressor roles. Hurts related to “good and bad” and “innocent and evil” have left us feeling confused and guilty. We can fully claim our goodness and challenge our internalized oppression and oppressor distress. Distancing, separation, and feeling morally superior have never helped people free themselves from oppressor patterns. Liberalism, wishful thinking, and avoidance also impede the work. Discharging on our deepest struggles (often kept secret for fear of recrimination) while acting on our best thinking will allow us to act on our integrity.
  • Discharging on early religious beliefs. Most of us haven’t discharged on our early religious beliefs. Many of us have become cynical, believe that religion has few benefits, and dismiss our early beliefs as irrelevant. I think this is an error. (See Harvey Jackins’ chapter in The Human Situation “Where Does God Come From?”) Many lives have been saved by inspired religious principles—a loving God, the goodness of creation, a vision of heaven, the oneness of humanity, hope, connectedness, the common good, justice coupled with mercy. At the same time, many lives have been damaged by fear of original sin, eternal damnation, and an angry male God. We can look at the beliefs that have terrified us and at those that have offered us comfort or pseudo-comfort. We can approach people of other religions with full respect, stripping away the notion attached to our religion of “possessing the full and eternal truth.” We can separate what is human from the effects of an oppressive society and appreciate our evolving understanding of the universe and all creation.
  • Standing against the targeting of Jews and other religious groups. Anti-Jewish oppression was an early result of the formation of the fourth-century Christian empire. Standing against it is a necessary foundation for our liberation. Aligning ourselves with Jews can correct our relationship with Jewish culture and religion. To reclaim our integrity, we must challenge the mechanism of blame that is tied to anti-Jewish oppression and that legitimates all oppressive scapegoating. The current climate of scapegoating offers Catholics an opportunity to challenge misinformation and refuse to let any religion or group, or its followers, be targeted for any reason.
  • Overcoming sexism and patriarchy. Despite women’s efforts, for five thousand years patriarchy has saturated and dominated all Western religions, including Catholicism. Catholic women’s leadership, experience, and thinking have been marginalized. We can encourage Catholic women’s confidence, visibility, voice, and leadership. Catholic women marginalized by genocide, racism, imperialism, language oppression, classism, and Gay oppression must be central and implement “female first.” We must all unflinchingly overcome the shame, hiding, pretense, and denial long forced on Catholic females by sexism and male domination. We can discharge on all contemporary issues for women (including prostitution, pornography, and sexual exploitation) resulting from our oppression as females. We can face how the Catholic patriarchy has distorted our choice to be mothers or not, causing divisions among women.
  • Confronting the legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery. The Doctrine of Discovery was a series of documents promulgated by two Popes in the fifteenth century. These documents laid the foundation for slavery, colonization, genocide, and imperialism and continue to legitimize them to the present day. Most Catholics are unaware of this history. European-heritage Catholics need to face the effect of the domination and theft and figure out what giving back means. This will require listening to Global Majority (especially African-heritage) and Indigenous people who have been enslaved, colonized, and targeted for genocide through their contact with Catholicism.
  • Ending Gay oppression. Ancient fears and confusions about closeness and sex have permeated all of society and its institutions, including Catholicism. Distortions beginning in the fourth century appear in our sacred teachings and have been internalized by our people, leaving us vulnerable to the scapegoating of Gay people and to sexual manipulation in a capitalist society. We want our fully human and connected selves back.
  • Learning from and sharing RC with wide-world Catholic leaders. Many of us are disconnected from the wide-world Catholic community and are unaware of Catholics who are leading on climate change, racism, poverty, and the rights of immigrants and refugees. Liberation theology in Latin America has encouraged the development of Latin, Black and Asian liberation theology. Catholic women liberationists have developed feminist, womanist, mujerista theology and have played a leading role in challenging sexism and male domination. We can engage with wide-world Catholic leaders and share our knowledge of the discharge and re-evaluation process.
  • Discharging feelings of being small, insignificant, and defeated. As society continues to fall apart, every group will feel some version of defeat and insignificance. This is no reason to be isolated or paralyzed. We can have each other, connected and secure. We can face our earliest defeats and act.

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE RC COMMUNITIES

Everyone in the RC Communities needs to discharge on religion. The owning class will continue to use every means, including religion, to generate confusion and mask the reality of this class-based capitalist society.

Co-Counselors need to know who Catholics are worldwide. Two thirds of us are colonized people, with histories of genocide and racism that are still largely unaddressed.

Discharging on early memories of nations and cultures that have been affected by Catholicism—as a liberating force or as a tool of oppression—will help us reach for the ending of all oppression.

Joanne Bray

International Liberation 
Reference Person for Catholics

Stamford, Connecticut, USA

 


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00