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Who is my Neighbour?

Author(s): Eoin Cassidy

ISBN13: 9781847301888

ISBN10: 1847301886

Publisher: Veritas - RG Wholesale

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  • In February 2008, the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs (ICJSA) hosted a conference in Dublin on the Encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, entitled Who is my Neighbour? This publication includes papers delivered at the conference, as well as others commissioned with a view to highlighting the important contribution which the Encyclical makes in promoting the Gospel message in an increasingly secular world.

    An array of contributors address the outwardly simple yet most perplexing question, `Who is my neighbour?; each bringing to the subject their individual and insightful perspectives. Exploring themes such as justice, human rights and education, among others, this book sheds a new light on the influential Encyclical that is Deus caritas est.

    CONTRIBUTORS

    Bishop Raymond Field is Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1970 and was ordained Titular Bishop of ArdMór and Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in September 1997. Bishop Field is a member of the Department of Social Issues and International Affairs of the Bishops Conference, Chairman of the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs (ICJSA) and a member of the Catholic Healthcare Commission. Bishop Field is a member of the National Executive of ACCORD and the Bishops Commission on Health care/Disability/Drugs. He is also President of Pax Christi in Ireland.

    Eoin G. Cassidy is a priest of the Dublin Archdiocese and is head of the Philosophy Department at the Mater Dei Institute, Dublin City University. He is chair of the international sub-committee of the ICJSA. His most recent publications include: The Common Good in an Unequal World (Dublin: Veritas, 2007) and Community, Constitution and Ethos: Democratic Values and Citizenship in the Face of Globalization (Dublin: Otior Press, 2008).

    Cardinal Seán Brady is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1964. In 1980 he was appointed Vice-Rector of the Irish College, Rome, and in 1987 became Rector of the College, a post he held until 1993, when he returned to Ireland to become parish priest of Castletara, Co. Cavan. In February 1985 he was ordained Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh and, on the retirement of Cardinal Cahal B. Daly, succeeded as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland on 1 October 1996. He was created Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI at a consistory in Rome on 24 November 2007. Cardinal Brady is President of the Irish Bishops Conference, a member of its Department of Planning and Communications and a Trustee of Trócaire.

    Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969. He entered the service of the Holy See in 1976 in the Pontifical Council for Family. In 1986 he was appointed Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and in 1994 Secretary of the same Pontifical Council. In December 1998 he was appointed Titular Bishop of Glendalough and received the Episcopal ordination on 6 January 1999. In March 2001 he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop and undertook responsibilities as Permanent Observer of the Holy See in Geneva at the United Nations Office and Specialised Agencies and at the World Trade Organisation. He was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Dublin in May 2003 and was installed as Archbishop of Dublin on 26 April 2004. Archbishop Martin is Vice-President of the Irish Bishops Conference, Chairman of its Department of Social Issues and International Affairs and a Trustee of Trócaire.

    Catherine Prendergast, DC, is a Daughter of Charity of St Vincent de Paul. She is currently Provincial of the Irish Province. Prior to this appointment, she lived and worked for twenty-seven years in the north inner city in Dublin. Her background is in Social Science and Apostolic Spirituality. Catherine worked with the Dublin Diocesan Social Services. In this ministry she was involved in influencing social policy and advocacy in the direct service of people in Centre Care at the Pro-Cathedral. Subsequently, she worked in the Daughters of Charity Service in Henrietta Street, creating opportunities for second chance education for those who have been excluded from mainstream education.

    Bishop Donal Murray is Bishop of Limerick. He was ordained to the priesthood in May 1966. He was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in April 1982. He was installed as Bishop of Limerick on 24 March 1996. He is a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Chairman of the Irish Bishops Conference Department of Catholic Education and Formation, and Chairman of their Commission on Bioethics. Bishop Murray is a member of the Irish Bishops Conferences Doctrine Commission, the Commission on Europe and the Commission for Faith and Culture. He is also a member of the Strategic Task Group on Education and a Trustee of Trócaire. Bishop Murray is a noted author and theologian.

    Professor Conor Gearty was educated at Castleknock College, Dublin, and afterwards at UCD and Cambridge University. He has taught law and human rights at Cambridge, Kings College, London, and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He is currently Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE. His publications include: Civil Liberties (2007), Can Human Rights Survive? (2006) and Principles of Human Rights Adjudication (2004). His most recent book is Essays on Human Rights and Terrorism, published by Cameron May.

    Dr Fergus OFerrall is Director of the Adelaide Hospital Society, an Irish non-profit healthcare organisation founded in 1839. He holds a part-time position as Lecturer in Health Services Management in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, Trinity College, Dublin. He is a member of the National Economic and Social Forum and was a member of its Project Team, which produced the Forum Report, The Policy Implications of Social Capital, published in October 2003. He has led the co-ordination of the Irish non-profit healthcare organisations through the establishment in 2002 of TheHealth Spoke, representing 400 such organisations in Ireland within The Wheel, the co-ordinating body of the non-profit sector in Ireland.

    Gerry OHanlon, SJ, is Acting Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the Milltown Institute. He has published extensively, including an academic study of theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar and, with others, several booklets on social theology. His latest publication is The Recession and God: Reading the Signs of the Times (2009). Ethna Regan, CHF, is a Holy Faith Sister and Lecturer in Theology at the Mater Dei Institute. She was previously Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at the University of the West Indies. As Chairperson of the Credo Foundation for Justice in Port of Spain, Trinidad, where she lived for ten years, she was involved in social justice issues and the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty in the Caribbean. She also worked for five years in Samoa in the Pacific Islands. She studied at the Mater Dei Institute in Dublin, Fordham University in New York, and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. She has written on liberation theology, Catholic social teaching, theological anthropology and is the author of Theology and the Boundary Discourse of Human Rights (forthcoming from Georgetown University Press).

    Fr Paul Taylor, KCHS, born in Dublin and educated at OConnell CBS, holds a BA(Hons) from UCD. He was ordained by Pope Paul VI on 29 June 1975 in Rome. He received an STL from the Gregorian University, Rome, in 1977 and taught Moral Theology from1977, 1988 at Mater Dei Institute and University College Dublin (Diploma in Catechetics Course).He has worked in parishes in Dublin and Melbourne, Australia, and at present serves in the parish of Celbridge, Co. Kildare.

    Bishop Donal McKeown is a native of Randalstown, Co. Antrim, and was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Down and Connor in 1977.He spent twenty-three years teaching in diocesan colleges and in 2001was ordained Titular Bishop of Killossy and Auxiliary to the Bishop of Down and Connor. He is a long-term member of Pax Christi and has maintained a substantial involvement in educational issues, nationally and internationally.

    Joan Roddy, DMJ, has been Director of the Refugee and Migrant Project since it was set up by the Irish Bishops Conference in 1999. Prior to that, she was involved with her Congregation in several African countries, including Ghana where, for eight years, she was part of a community development team. She also worked for almost a decade with the Kilkenny Social Services.
  • Eoin Cassidy



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    Who is my neighbour?... The answer is the iconic story of the Good Samaritan. It is a story of love, of the face of God, revealed in unexpected people. It is the story of borders in our minds and hearts becoming new horizons of hope and healing for the whole human family, because of the message of Jesus Christ.

    - Cardinal Sean Brady

    Deus caritas est is the first encyclical from Pope Benedict XVI and its publication prompted the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs to organise a conference in Dublin in February 2008 entitled Who is my neighbour?.The conference papers make up this book. The title automatically invokes the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan and the question raised there about who is my neighbour or in todays terms, social solidarity. The speakers were mainly drawn from the Catholic clergy of various ranks, headed by Cardinal Sean Brady. They looked at the issues inspired by the papal encyclical not simply from a religious point of view but as to its relevance to Irish society today in terms of human rights, acceptance of others, citizenship and education. The book reflects a Catholic view of society, political principles and policies but it is nevertheless an informed analysis of society today and puts forward both an examination of the issues raised by Deus caritas est and possible responses to them.

    - Books Ireland, September 2009

    Pope Benedict XVI it seems caused some mild surprise with the title and content of his first Papal encyclical Deus Caritas Est. Some had expected a less universal and more insular theme than God is Love from the new Pope who was filling the shoes of the most universally admired Pope in history, John Paul II. But as he has proved since its publication Pope Benedict regards loving service and justice and very importantly prayer, as the key building blocks of that civilization of love which his predecessor had encouraged with a deepening sense of urgency as the civilisation of death grew in strength and ambition through global warfare, terrorism and the devaluing of human life and dignity. In Who Is My Neighbour? Dr Eoin Cassidy, chairperson of the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs, draws together the contributions made to a conference dedicated to Deus Caritas Est in Dublin in February 2008. Justice, human rights and education are the major themes addressed by a series of distinguished commentators and advocates for justice in different areas. Contributors include Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Prof Conor Gearty, Ethna Regan CHF and Joan Roddy DMJ among others. Each takes heart from and addresses particular aspects or elements of the encyclical and its underlying values which powerfully reinforces the gospel in a world where it seems peoples hearts have grown cold. This book illuminates a message for our time which deserves further and deeper reflection

    - Fr Paul Clayton-Lea, Clogherhead, Co Louth, Intercom, March 2010

  • INTRODUCTION

    In an insightful reflection on the question Who is my Neighbour? in the dialogue of Jesus with the lawyer in the Gospel of Luke, Bishop Donal Murray in his article, Towards a Real Discovery of the Other, suggests that the response of Jesus reveals it to be the wrong question, because there is no category of neighbour as distinct from other human beings. As he says:

    Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan, which utterly upends the implication that some people are not our neighbours. It tells of a victim and three passers by. Nobody would have dreamed of denying that fellow Jews were neighbours who should be loved as they love themselves. The priest, the Levite and the victimare clearly neighbours.

    With this brief reflection, Murray highlights a core theme that is reflected in the very title Deus caritas est (God is love), namely that God is love and it is a love that does not discriminate. However, more than this, as Murray perceptively observes, Jesus response in the parable of the Good Samaritan suggests that the real question is not Who is my neighbour? but rather, What does it take to be a neighbour?:

    It is not a question of looking at a person in need and asking, Is he or she a neighbour? but of looking at a person in need and asking, Am I a neighbour? or Am I looking at this suffering person with the eye and heart and courage of a neighbour?

    If the thesis of Deus caritas est is correct, the importance of this issue is not in doubt: if God is love it follows that the only pathway to God is that which is laid with the paving stones of love. In one of the most inspiring sections of the Encyclical, Deus caritas est explores the intimate character of the relationship between the love of God and the love of neighbour. As Pope Benedict XVI puts it: Closing our eyes to our neighbour also blinds us to God. (DCE, n. 17) And again:

    Only my readiness to encounter my neighbour and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. (DCE, n. 18)

    In another valuable comment on what it is to be a neighbour and the link between the love of God and neighbour, Murray invites us to consider that the true meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan is about being present to people who need my help. In
    a further reflection on what it takes to be present to another, he acknowledges the importance of being present to oneself. Ultimately, this ability to be present to oneself is not something one achieves, but something one receives , it is nothing less than the gift of love from God, who is love. In reflecting on the truth of this insight, I am reminded of an extraordinary story which the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber tells of himself. As he recounts it, one day he received a visit from an unknown young man, without being there in spirit. He continues:

    I conversed attentively and openly with him , only I omitted to guess the questions that he didnt put. Later, not long afterwards, I learnt from one of his friends , he was no longer alive , the essential content of these questions. He had come to me not casually but borne by destiny, not for a chat but for a decision. He had come to me and come to me in this hour. What do we expect when we are in despair and yet go to a man? Surely a presence by means of which we are told that nevertheless there is meaning.

    What Deus caritas est reminds us is that God in his love for us is present to us or, in the words of St Augustine, is closer to me than I am to myself. It is a presence that enables me to love even the person whom I do not like or do not know. (DCE, n. 18) In this sense, love of God and love of neighbour have become one , in the least of the brethren God finds us and we find God.

    OVERVIEW OF PAPERS

    This publication is derived from a conference, Who is my Neighbour?, held in Dublin in February 2008 on Pope Benedict XVIs Encyclical, Deus caritas est (God is love). In his opening address to the conference, His Eminence Cardinal Brady reminded us of the celebrated vision of the neighbour as all mankind that is provided by the parable of the Good Samaritan. As he says: What a difference it would make if, in fact, we were to love all mankind, of every description, without distinction, even those who injure us or differ from our religion.
    In section one of the book, Theological and Philosophical Reflections, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, in his article, The Interior Logic of Deus caritas est, introduces us to the key themes of the Encyclical, one of which is the importance of prayer , a most challenging and little commented upon theme in the Encyclical. He says:

    In Deus caritas est, [Pope Benedict XVI] notes that: It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. (DCE, n. 37)

    In her article, Deus caritas est and the Daughters of Charity: Looking anew at the Vincentian Charism, Catherine Prendergast, DC, reflects at some length on the manner in which the insights of Deus caritas est can inspire the ongoing work of renewal that is an integral part of the religious life of a community such as the Daughters of Charity. In this context, one of the themes studied is the manner in which Deus caritas est reflects on the unity of the love of God and the love of neighbour. Given the charism of love , love of Christ reflected in service of the poor that gives expression to the spirituality of the Daughters of Charity , it is hardly surprising that the Constitutions would seek to stress the unity of these two loves. For both St Vincent and St Louise the path to an encounter with God was one that was framed by the love of the neighbour or it was no path at all. In point of fact, St Vincent had a dread of a love of God which neglected the neighbour. The unity of the two great commandments of love is a core tenet of the Constitutions. However, as Prendergast stresses:

    [I]t is the manner in which they answer the question as to, Who is my neighbour? that marks out the special charism of the Congregation. Taking inspiration from the parable of the Good Shepherd ( John 10:1, 19), who is God himself, who goes in search of the stray sheep , a suffering and lost humanity , St Vincent urged the Daughters of Charity to seek out the poorest and most abandonedAs the Constitutions put it, the reason that God called the Daughters of Charity together was to honour our Lord Jesus Christ as the source and model of all charity, and where do they find Him but in the person of the poor.

    In the article referred to above, Towards a Real Discovery of the Other, Bishop Donal Murray offers the reader pointers to explore the parameters of what it takes to become a neighbour and to name the barriers which make it difficult to be present to another. The importance of this quest is reflected in the insight that it is only in and through the discovery of the other as neighbour that one has the possibility of discovering God or indeed oneself.
    In the article, We live in Recessionary Times: Deus caritas est, an Encyclical for Today, I argue that the root cause of the current global economic and cultural malaise is the cultural dominance in western society of instrumental reasoning, which is shorn of any link to the common good. It is a milieu in which consumerism flourishes , where everything and everybody comes packaged with a sell-by date. I suggest that the 2006 Encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, is extremely timely. In its proclamation of the mystery of God who is love and of the inseparability of the love of God and neighbour, it provides a vision of solidarity that alone is capable of engendering the type of societal transformation demanded by the present crisis. Furthermore, in its celebration of the transcendent character of love, God loved us first, it provides the wherewithal to critique the inner logic of the secularist ideology, which underpins the self sufficient humanism that is enshrined in consumerism.
    In the final article in section one, Human Rights: Faith for a Secular Age, Conor Gearty reflects on the shared vision that links much of human rights discourse with the ideals put forward in Deus caritas est. In this context, he suggests that the power of the language of human rights is identical to the power that is sought to be harnessed in Deus caritas est, because it tries to get us to see the neighbour as beyond boundaries set by family and/or self interest. Furthermore, human rights discourse also raises a critical question which is a core issue in Deus caritas est, namely how you translate notions of neighbour into notions of justice.
    In section two, Towards a Civilisation of Love, the first article, Deus caritas est and Active Citizenship by Fergus OFerrall, raises issues which reflect the concerns of many today, namely how to engender and sustain social capital in an increasingly individualist culture. He says:

    In secular pluralist societies such as we now inhabit, where do we get the right norms, values and understandings for flourishing human living in the twenty-first century? In short, how do we know anymore in our changing and confused times Who is my neighbour?, and how we ought to respond to these neighbours?

    His article reflects on the contribution made by Pope Benedict XVI in his Encyclical letter to addressing these questions. The folllowing article by Gerry OHanlon, SJ, The Work for Justice and Deus caritas est, acknowledges that campaigners for justice are often wary of the term love, especially when used in a religious context:

    [I]t sounds too soft. It conjures up notions of emotional attachment and altruism, rather than human rights and entitlements. It threatens to disturb the conventional wisdom that what is required in our world is not charity, but justice.

    OHanlon envisages his article as in the form of a conversation with Deus caritas est from the perspective of justice. It is his contention that the Encyclical:

    [I]n at least one important way, is novel, inspiring and challenging; that it confirms the work of justice, even if it needs to be complemented by other aspects of Catholic social teaching; and that it raises extremely interesting questions for our contemporary situation, questions which require careful consideration for the future.

    In the article, Justice Overs had owed by Charity? Deus caritas est and the Work of Catholic Charitable Organisations, Ethna Regan, CHF, offers a critique on the challenges posed by Deus caritas est to Coop?®ration Internation ale pour le D?®veloppement et la Solidarit?® (CIDSE), a network of sixteen European and North American Catholic Aid and Development agencies. She argues convincingly that Deus caritas est has much to offer to these charitable organisations in terms of guidance and challenge, but perhaps an opportunity was missed to do more. She says:

    Benedict began his reflections on the practice of love by the Church as a community of love with Augustines beautiful words from De Trinitate, words that say as much about the nature of the human person as about the nature of God: If you see charity, you see the Trinity. (DCE, n. 19). However, the Encyclical might have offered even more to these complex charitable organisations if it had not established a potential overshadowing of justice with charity, but had pointed also to the traces of the Trinity, vestigia Trinitatis, in the work of justice.
    In his article, Reflections on the Encyclical Deus caritas est from the Coalface of Parish Life, Paul Taylor highlights the challenging cultural backfor the preaching of the Gospel today. Nevertheless, he is by no means blind to the opportunities for evangelisation that flow from the same cultural milieu. He says:

    The emptiness of the above situation is also an opportunity for a new evangelisation. Pope Benedict puts is succinctly: the challenge is to give to others the look of love which they crave. (DCE, n. 18)

    In the course of the article, Taylor examines some of the elements in this first Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, which he says can encourage us and challenge us at the level of the local church community, to pray, worship and celebrate the Sacraments in a manner that will equip us to be Gods good servants in the world. It is a very reflective piece of writing, which states some home truths with regard to current pastoral practice. Moving on to reflect on parish outreach, Taylor acknowledges the value of the Encyclical and in particular the importance that it places on the need to reawaken what it describes as a spiritual energy: [T]he spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. (DCE, n. 28b)
    Bishop Donal McKeowns article, Helping to Purify Reason: Catholic Leadership and Education in Northern Ireland 1998, 2008, examines the role played by leadership in Northern Irelands Catholic education sector, and does so in the light of some principles enunciated in Deus caritas est. He says:

    This Encyclical appeared well into the ten-year period I will discuss in this paper. However, its principles regarding the role of Church and State in promoting justice provide a useful paradigmagainst which to examine the statements and lobbying of Catholic leaders, specifically regarding education in Northern Ireland.

    In the final article, A Host is a Guest and a Guest is a Host, Joan Roddy, DMJ, refers to a story in John Mc Gaherns novel, That They May Face the Rising Sun, of an encounter between two neighbouring rural families, which reminds us of an oft forgotten truth that in the human family there are no clear categories of givers and receivers, of hosts and guests, of insiders and outsiders. Likewise, in Deus caritas est, one can without difficulty discern this important truth that all of us, as individuals and societies are at one and the same time bearers of gifts and bearers of needs. In the light of this insight, she argues persuasively that we ought to accept the challenge in Ireland and beyond:

    [T]o recognise in the migration phenomenon the unfolding story of salvation, to open our eyes to this sign of the times and to the presence of God in history , in creation and in all of Gods people. To keep alive and strive to realise Gods vision of the future, we need to reach out and link hands with our sisters and brothers, north and south, east and west. Like those neighbours in the McGahern story, all of us, from whatever point on the compass we come, are bearers of both burdens and gifts.
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Who is my Neighbour?