How might we approach the two moral imperatives of justice and reconciliation in light of the recent storming of the U.S. Capitol Building as well as other events we have experienced recently? I am not a lawyer, a political analyst or a moral theologian, so my thoughts stem from my work with LMU’s CSJ Center for Reconciliation and Justice and as a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, one of the university’s three sponsoring religious communities.
I believe recent events throw light on the need for two things: first, education and example in action. When people do not have the education needed to put their experiences into a context of history, philosophy, science, the humanizing influence of the arts and a range of perspectives gained from education, they have limited recourses for responding to their needs and the needs of their community. One option left to them is to close off, build walls against what they perceive to be “the Other” and defend the world they know by any means possible, often with violence. Education gives us a context in which to place our experiences, to understand them and see options for solving problems or making changes as needed. Members of an academic community bear considerable responsibility for making educational opportunities more widely available and to share, by our efforts and example, in more liberating options than division, intolerance and violence.
As a university community, now may be an appropriate time for us to reflect on how well we are meeting our obligations toward social and civil education, for ourselves as well as for current students and alums. Are we, as the saying goes, part of the problem or part of the solution?
My second thought is to ask how we might open dialogue with those whose views are in conflict with ours. I see the restorative justice movement providing excellent models for conducting such dialogues, rooted as they are in principles of reconciliation and justice that are also the foundation of the CSJ Center. And I would refer all of us to “Fratelli Tutti,” Pope Francis’ recent encyclical in which he explores “the vision of a fraternal society.”
The term reconciliation is sometimes interpreted as weakness, giving in or forgoing our rights in favor of another’s. The CSJ charism espouses a very different interpretation of that word. We see it as the harder and more courageous road: as a journey towards openness and unity, towards listening to and trying to understand the other, to the risk of being pulled from the safety of our personal certainties into the mystery of a larger personal, national or global reality.
Constitutionally, we not only have the right to freedom of speech, which I support as a basis of any healthy society rooted in democratic principles, but also the right to use speech in the service of freedom by “fostering unity that is not uniformity and diversity that is not divisive.”
In our Call for Unity to Heal the Nation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange invite all to join in our personal challenge to:
• be a unifying presence
• uphold the dignity of others
• engage in respectful conversation
• practice non-violent language
• listen deeply and reflectively
• be a positive voice of calm
• recognize and affirm acts of kindness
The road to reconciliation passes through dialogue, openness and understanding. All are welcome on that journey.
The Center for Reconciliation and Justice will host its annual CSJ Symposium, titled “Faces of Justice,” on Feb. 2–4, 2021. The symposium will address themes including justice and spirituality, hate in America, restorative justice and student journalism, the Jesuits’ involvement in slaveholding, justice and spirituality in film and more. For more information and to register, go here. Recordings of sessions also be available online after the event. The center also holds information and dialogue sessions on justice and reconciliation. The CSJ Center and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange invite you to engage with us in our work for reconciliation and justice.
For more information about those events, email Judith Royer, C.S.J., at Judith.Royer@lmu.edu.