Christ and Culture
“Father that is not the way Catholics do things”! the student proclaimed in frustration while sitting in my office a few weeks ago. I could only smile. (As Christians, and particularly as Catholics, we are a joyful people). Through teaching middle school in Roxbury, instructing morality and government classes in Tacoma and Spokane Prep schools, and currently living in a freshman residence hall at the university, I have a deep appreciation for being told I am wrong by students. It brings me great joy. Not mind you, that I am always correct or have all the answers; the Lord knows I live in a glass house. (Indeed, if I ever even think about forgetting my sinfulness, my Jesuit brothers are sometimes too quick to remind me). I practice the old adage of living in two worlds; as a Jesuit, my role is to bridge these worlds – to actually be a bridge between Christ and Culture
I gave a talk a few weeks ago on sex. Imagine a talk about sex on a Catholic campus – that is to say, a discussion on sex that was open and with no questions off limit. The talk was organized by a student group under the sponsorship of the Health Center, Student Wellness Resource Center, Counseling Center and University Ministry. There was some controversy about my inclusion in the discussion. Some students and faculty felt that I, as a male celibate, would have no insights to offer. Others, that anything I said would be centered on the trinity of words of sexual ethics, i.e., “don’t do it”. Still others, that perhaps I would be excessively liberal given my support of the university’s LGBT Resource Center. I must admit, this also brought me a smile: being accused of being either conservative or liberal by saying the exact same thing. I do not think I am conservative or liberal; in this talk, I was simply honest. To be clear, that honestly was grounded in our Catholic heritage and the Magisterium.
The hermeneutic I employ in homilies, teaching, writing and conversations is always centered on the unconditional love of Christ. The bridge between Christ and Culture is one of grace. As Catholics, we need to remember that our faith is grounded in the experience of the Father’s love, poured out for us in Christ, in the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It is Trinitarian. And the experience of the Trinity is played out both in the private and public realm. There are clearly “rights and wrongs” in the way we do things. I am not, nor will I argue for an “everything goes” hermeneutic. But I will, in an intelligent, loving, and Christ centered way, celebrate the diversity of Christ’s love as manifest in various realities. This is my task as a Catholic priest (in good standing), as a Jesuit, (eh hem, also in good standing), and as a faithful practitioner of the Roman faith. I might add it is the way Catholics do things. At Gonzaga, we invite other Christians, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, and many others to do the same.