Casting the first stone
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels March 14, 2013 - 11:24am
We live in a world of instant information and instant communication so it is no surprise that Cardinal Bergoglio's (aka Pope Francis) past has been put before us (accurate, inaccurate, who knows?).It put me in mind of the problem of collective guilt and the responsibility that is thought to fall on all for the sins of some, or selective guilt that falls on one for the sins of others. It is reported that Bergoglio didn't do various things during Argentina's "dirty war"; even that he might have been complicit, etc. Just as most stories in the U.S. media on clerical sexual abuse usually imply that no bishop ever did anything about it, or didn't do it soon enough, or still hasn't done anything, etc. The same broad brush is used, for example, on whether FDR did enough to save European Jews from Hitler's death camps. One frequently cited example is that he failed to bomb Auschwitz to end the atrocities there. A new study reports that the issue was never put before him so he couldn't have decided not to bomb. Here's a review of that book.We live in societies where few of us have real authority to stop the war in Iraq, for example, or right the wrongs done by the 2008 financial crisis. What then is our responsibility for these and/or other moral and political travesties? What is the responsibility of leaders who may not have any more authority, knowledge, or power than the ordinary person to remedy matters?
About the Author
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.