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Posted January 27, 2005

Book: Justice: A Global Adventure
Author: Walter J. Burghardt, S.J.
Orbis Books, New York, pp.275

An Excerpt from the Preface:

Justice. A rich and raw reality. And yet, in my first three decades (1941-70) as a priest/theologian, justice was not a significant word in my vocabulary. Strange, indeed, since the earliest Christian theologians, the Fathers of the Church on whom I lectured at Woodstock College, had developed a quite impressive social doctrine.

In 1970, when Woodstock College moved from its 650 rural acres 18 miles outside of Baltimore and relocated in the concrete and asphalt, the hustle and bustle, the poverty and affluence of New York City, my theology and life changed dramatically. Here I list only three of the most powerful influences on my thinking and writing, on my teaching and preaching.

First, largely through Jesuit Scripture scholar John R. Donahue, I discovered biblical justice, God’s justice. I mean fidelity to relationships that stem from a covenant with God. Relationships to God, to people, and to the earth. Love God above all human idols. Love every human person, enemy as well as friend, as a child of God, fashioned in God’s image. Touch “things,” God’s material creation, with respect and reverence, gifts to be shared generously, not clutched possessively. A justice that does not exclude the ethical and the legal, but rises above them.

Second, largely through Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund, I discovered the tragedy of America’s “sixth child.” In the richest country on earth, one of every six children is born into poverty. Not the genteel poverty of Jesus in Nazareth. A poverty that includes hunger and homelessness, a poverty that stunts mind and body, a poverty that kills.

Third, largely through the program Preaching the Just Word, I have discovered the indispensable relationship between justice and the liturgy. Liturgy, specifically the Eucharist, is the most powerful means the Church and the Christian have at our disposal for bringing about a just family, a just city, a just country, a just world. Why? Because the Eucharist is the living presence of “the Just One” — in the people gathered, in the Word proclaimed, in the body and blood received.

In this connection, I cannot fail to acknowledge the ceaseless inspiration of Fr. Raymond B. Kemp, whose dynamic vision of the just city, struggle for justice, and powerful preaching have energized more than a hundred Preaching the Just Word retreats/workshops and almost four thousand participants. Without such inspiration and that of untold others, this book would never have seen the light. I cannot, however, fail to express profound gratitude to one person who merits explicit mention for his years of contributions: Gerard P. Walker, Project Manager of Preaching the Just Word, whose expertise with the computer compensated for my own inadequacies with this new medium.

An Excerpt from the Book:

After these several years of research, I think it pertinent to indicate where I myself stand on justice and injustice in the context of globalization. I do so because with Friedman I see today’s globalization as “almost irreversible.” I mean that the system in its main components, especially the economic, is not likely to break up soon, is here to stay a significant number of years. Assuming as fact, I find it imperative to attempt a fairly brief critical look at justice in the system. By “justice” I mean 1. Ethical or philosophical justice, giving to every man, woman and child what they can claim as a right, not because they are wealthy or powerful, but because they are human. 2. Legal justice, giving to each what is just, fair, and impartial laws require; and 3. Biblical justice, fidelity to relationships that stem from a covenant with God: relationships to God, to our sisters and brothers, and to the earth. An important critique, because it involves the way we humans live, or should live, or have a right to live on planet Earth. Important because globalization is about relationships — relationships that are changing in space and time.

Within globalization the possibilities for good, for justice, are enormous; I dare say unprecedented. In a special way, opportunity for interconnectedness. Here I submit some evidence that does not make the headlines but is touchingly real. I mean the housebound, the untold millions confined to home or hospice through age or illness, men and women till now condemned to a life of loneliness, but through e-mail and the Internet now make contacts across the world, communicate constantly, share their experience of living with lupus or histoplasmosis, develop fascinating friendships that make it possible to help one another to come alive or stay alive, to discover that there are others who care.

With the new forms of communication distance disappears. Not entirely, not for everyone, for problems abide: languages, cultures, animosities. But the mechanisms, the techniques, the systems are there — globally.

Given interconnectedness, the possibilities of solidarity are increased immeasurably. Pope John Paul II made it clear that solidarity is more than the famous struggle of Polish workers against communist repression. Solidarity “helps us to see the other — whether a person, people, or nation — not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our ‘neighbor,’ a ‘helper,’ to be made a sharer on par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.” After indicating how solidarity exclude the exploitation, oppression, and annihilation of others, the pope continues:

In this way, the solidarity which we propose is the path to peace and at the same time to development. For world peace is inconceivable unless the world’s leaders come to recognize that interdependence in itself demands the abandonment of the politics of blocs, the sacrifice of all forms of economic, military or political imperialism, and the transformation of mutual distrust into collaboration. This is precisely the act proper to solidarity among individuals and nations . . .

In the light of faith, solidarity seeks to go beyond itself, to take on the specifically Christian dimensions of total gratuity, forgiveness, and reconciliation. One’s neighbor is then not only a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but becomes the living image of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit. One’s neighbor must therefore be loved, even if an enemy, with the same love with which the Lord loved him or her, and for that person’s sake one must be ready for sacrifice, even the ultimate one: to lay down one’s life for the brethren.

I realize that what John Paul II was commending has two levels: a solidarity motivated by reason, by sheer intellectual recognition of the interdependence necessary for world peace; and a solidarity inspired by Christian faith, by gifts of grace that enable a sinful, self-centered humanity to extend its love to a Saddam Hussein, to a terrorist like Osama bin Laden, to the untold millions who dislike or even abominate us and so much that America unfortunately represents. Unreal? Only if we are yoked to a secularism that excludes the religious factor from public life.

Table of Contents:

I. Justice Analysed

II. Justice Applied

III. Justice Sacramentalized

IV. Justice Globalized

V. Justice Communicated