Author: Jessica Wrobleski

Big C and small c: identity, ecumenism, and the Council

A good friend and I still joke about one of our first conversations when we met at a Catholic Worker house several years ago.  He asked if I was Catholic. “Small-c catholic,” I told him. “So I guess that’s a no,” he responded.   What may seem strange to many people was that I didn’t see it that way.  At the time of that conversation, I had actually been a full and active participant in the Catholic Church for a number of years.  But I think my response to my friend had been intended to indicate a fuller picture of my religious and spiritual identity—which is, depending on your point of view, either a story of total confusion or one of ecumenism incarnate.  In any case, my “identity”, like that of the Church itself, is a story—a dynamic, evolving, ever-unfolding story—not a status.  Vatican II is a part of both of our stories, and I’m quite convinced that without the Council’s emphasis on Christian unity and its acknowledgment of the wisdom and grace of other traditions, there would not be a place for someone like me within the Church today. I sometimes explain my religious formation in terms of having been born Catholic and raised Protestant: I was baptized in the Catholic Church as an infant just before my mother (who was hungry for a richer experience of community...

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Faithful Citizenship: The Audacity of Responsibility

“We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals…” Although there were many points that I found noteworthy in President Obama’s acceptance speech last night at the DNC [1], it was these lines on the inseparability of true freedom and responsibility that most stood out to me. Perhaps this was because I had just taught a couple of classes on the theological reasons for both distinguishing between and holding together the “positive” and “negative” dimensions of human freedom: that is, as Christians, we recognize that the fullness of human freedom is not only or primarily freedom from coercion and constraints on our choices, but rather freedom for self-commitment in love and responsibility. This theme is consistently woven throughout the Church’s moral teaching, from the Catechism (e.g., ##1731-1734) to Faithful Citizenship (#49) and many other documents, including the following section from Pacem in Terris, which acknowledges the ways that responsibility, as the correlate of freedom, is at the center of the dignity of citizenship: “As the Apostle Paul exhorts us, ‘Away with falsehood then; let everyone speak the truth to his neighbor; membership of the body binds...

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