By Marguerite Jill Dye (Her 100th Column!)
Although I believe we’ve never met in person, I feel as if I know you. Our lives overlapped for a time in Buenos Aires when you were the Superior of the Society of the Jesuits and I served as a mission intern for the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. I worked with women and children in the villas miserias with Adelina Gonnet and the Centro Evangelico de Acción Social during Argentina’s brutal dictatorship.
I am enclosing a column I recently wrote in the Mountain Times entitled “On which side of history do you stand?” I wrote about the film, “Call Me Francis,” and how it revived memories of my Argentine experience, a fearful, traumatic, painful time that threw me into a clinical depression. Upon my return, a psychologist said I was “trying to deal sanely with an insane situation.” I can imagine your time in Augsburg after the junta’s fall, grappling with the aftermath, and praying it would never recur . . .
Of late, at home in the U.S.A., similar feelings have returned. I feel as if my optimism and idealism have been stolen—perhaps America’s optimism and idealism, as well. It’s tragic because those were two of our greatest strengths: giving people hope around the world, living up to our morals and beliefs (for the most part), standing up for what’s right on our earth, and taking a stand against what’s wrong. Those were values for which we were loved and known. We gave hope to those overcome with despair. We offered self-determination to the oppressed. We provided the belief that justice existed for sufferers of injustice—whomever and wherever they were. But these promises, we no longer make.
In spite of my country’s secret, now open, support of dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, I remember the hope Jimmy Carter’s vocal stand for human rights gave our friends in the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. (My deepest condolences for your friend Esther’s death, your parish priests, the French nuns, and all who were lost in the Dirty War).
We shamefully turned away boats of Jewish refugees during World War II, yet people have continued to come, risking their own and their children’s lives, crossing dangerous borders and perilous seas, for the hope of finding refuge and safety. Their situations in their home countries left them no choice but to flee.
The other quality America has lost is its compassion for the suffering. Truly, it’s breaking my heart. To see outcries against the weakest, poor, and most oppressed, without care or concern for their welfare, and to see heartless leaders padding pockets and power, with some “God fearing Christians” among the followers, has repulsed and sickened me.
So, Your Holiness, what might you say to restore my hope and faith in the future, for my own country and that of the world? Goodness and decency have taken a hit. Children have been torn from the arms of their parents, placed on a mat to cry out their tears. “Shock events” are more brutal each day, all for the purpose of power and greed. It seems as if lizard brains are leading us back to the dinosaur age, when survival of the fittest reigned, while neo cortex human brains are trying to act with kindness, in good faith. But what good is faith when leaders spew anger and hate, appealing to humans’ very worst instincts? I am anxious to know what you think.
I pray, and pray, and am not alone. But my hope has waned and is nearly gone. Uprisings help, seeing people who care, but I’m disheartened, feeling powerlessness, too. “Vote!” people say! Believe in the democratic process! But it’s been undermined. Our democracy has been kidnapped and compromised by people within our own ranks and billionaires who fund special interests without any limits, thanks to Citizens United. I fear another election with Russian infiltration, illegal intervention, and corruption far from ended.
Your Holiness, I’ve shared this letter in the Mountain Times of Vermont as my 100th column. Con permiso, with your permission, I’d like to share your response, as well. We await your message with great anticipation, for the inspiration you’ll surely send. Each talk and proclamation I’ve read or heard that you’ve given has rung very true in my heart, renewing my faith and belief in good works.
One last thought I’d like to mention is that we have a common friend who studied Cannon Law beside the Vatican. I was walking the Camino de Santiago and met Father Pambo Martin on retreat at the Benedictine Monastery in Rabanal, Spain. Following his studies, he directed Benedictine missions worldwide from Sankt Ottilien, Germany. Since then, Father Martin was called home to serve as Tanzania’s Abbot of Mvimwa. If he’s any indication of your flock, I’m impressed! He gives me hope!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you give and have given.