Thursday, May 18, 2006

TCR's Interview with Fr. Baxter

Fr. Michael Baxter gifts readers a valuable and simple insight in his recent interview with TCRNews:

Q: What about the bishops’ statements on economics?

A: Same problem: primarily a policymaking approach at the expense of concrete pastoral guidance. I don’t have anything against policy statements. I am all in favor of the recommendations spelled out in Economic Justice for All. But if that is all there is to say, ordinary Catholics won’t take anything away from it.

Q: What do you mean by "concrete pastoral guidance" when it comes to, say, economics?

A: Let me give some examples. They should urge people to keep the Lord’s Day. They should challenge families to stop watching so much television, and to pay closer attention to each other. They should declare that every diocese will tithe its budget and use the money to set up credit-unions, nursing homes, and the like. They should turn old, unused rectories into houses of hospitality for the poor and the homeless; as Peter Maurin said, “we need Parish Homes as well as Parish Domes.” They should commit themselves to moving out of their fancy homes and living more like ordinary folks. My point is that the bishops should be setting forth things that ordinary Catholics, and they themselves, can actually do.

As someone who is neither a policymaker nor a theologian (not even much of a student, on some days, heh heh), I second Fr. Baxter’s suggestion to the bishops. I have never seen in print an account of the feelings a young and impressionable college student experiences after having been given a long, systematic, philosophical account of THE CRISIS OF OUR TIME, whatever it may be. The student is left inspired, but with a sense of powerlessness. “I would change the world,” he or she may think, “if only I could change the world.” But the emphasis is always on power. Fr. Baxter, however, has it right: the most effective avenue for change is the “Little Way.” And he should be aware that he is not the only one who realizes this…