Occupy: Catholicism as the Sleeping Giant (UPDATED)
Despite evictions around the country, Occupy continues actions on a daily basis around the USA and the world. Religious organizations and spiritually-interested institutions are a part of Occupy, but one thing I have noticed in New York City at Occupy Wall Street is the relative absence of Catholic pastoral workers and other Catholic-identified leaders. I wonder if this is the case in other parts of the USA and around the world.
This morning, for example, I was at a meeting of Occupy Faith NYC, a collection of leaders from many religious traditions and social justice organizations in support of Occupy Wall Street, and out of approximately 45 in attendance, there were just a few from Catholic churches or organizations.
Of the churches who opened their doors to serve as sanctuary churches after the raid on and eviction from Zuccotti Park in NYC a few weeks ago, no Catholic churches were involved (as far as I know), but several other churches (Methodist, Baptist/UCC, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and more) stepped forward. And among the Occupy theologians and chaplains, only a handful are Catholic or identified with Catholic institutions.
Into this gap steps a new website, Occupy Catholics, a place to gather for Catholic-inflected interpretations of Occupy and Catholic resources for engaging the movement. If you are interested, check it out.
Those formed in Catholic thought and practice have much to contribute to Occupy, including a rich tradition of Catholic social teaching to inform thinking about economic justice, a respect for the shaping and mystical-political power of ritual (whether in worship or on the street), and an openness to interreligious dialogue and cooperation. Deepest of all, as far as I can tell theologically, is the yes to incomprehensible and gracious mystery through the practice of solidarity with all those left behind by the social-economic policies we have "chosen" in this country, and the empowering of that "yes" for oneself and others by helping all to live a more human life, with more diffuse opportunities for flourishing, by changing how our society works. It is learning about what is holy through personal and communal resources given for the good of others, for the common good. It is letting the quest for "economic democracy," alongside those from other religions, faiths, and spiritualities, or none at all, be a school for refining our sense for what is good, true, and beautiful. Without baptizing Occupy by any means, it is letting Occupy, and the many relationships and opportunities it opens, become part of what theologian Karl Rahner called our experience of the Liturgy of the World.
It is as if Catholicism is the sleeping giant while the biggest social movement in a generation, nationally and globally, is going on around it.
Once that giant wakes up and takes notice, a strong movement will get even stronger. For those new to the movement, one way to start is to read the 99% stories of others and share your story here.
UPDATE, 1 Dec 22:46: I am struck by the thoughtful frankness of ethicist Thomas Massaro, SJ's conclusion in his column, "Occupation Therapy," in America (28 Nov, p. 10): "It might just be that Occupy Wall Street has made more headway as a catalyst for change in the United States in the last 10 weeks than Catholic social teaching has accomplished in the last 12 decades."
New York City