Institute For Theological Encounter With Science and Technology
Volume 46 – # 1 Winter 2015 Bulletin
In his Lenten message for 2015, Pope Francis addressed the problem of “the globalization of indifference.” It’s an easy fault to fall into, because the news every day is filled with stories of human suffering, which seem impossible to do anything about, so a common response is to just tune the whole thing out. The term for this is “compassion fatigue.”
Pope Francis writes, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians” and goes on to suggest that Lent is a time to re-focus and overcome our indifference.
Fortunately, there are times and places where people overcome the temptation to indifference. Perhaps the best example of all is the huge crowd who gathered in Washington DC on January 22 to protest abortion. While most of America goes about daily life, participants in the March for Life are making the statement that we are not indifferent to the sufferings of unborn babies. Now in its 42nd year, the annual March for Life has grown to a half-million people.
The major national media are beyond indifferent, blocking out any coverage. Advertisers know that showing even 2 seconds of a moving throng will cause the viewer to change the channel; the networks conform to the safest path to profitability: indifference.
The most striking thing about actually being there was seeing how young the crowd was. Everywhere you looked was a sea of “millennials.” For decades the marching chant has been “Roe V Wade has got to go!” but this year the loudest repeated chant was “We … Are … The Pro-Life Generation.” Signs read “One third of my generation has been killed by abortion.” Many of our young Christians understand how the plague of abortion is destroying us, and they are not about to be indifferent. Because of them, the tide is gradually turning against abortion.
Pope Francis urges parishes and communities to be “A body which acknowledges and cares for its weakest, poorest and most insignificant members” He says “How greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!”
Those islands of mercy are springing up everywhere: crisis-pregnancy centers, in both big cities and rural communities; sidewalk-counselors who invite women approaching abortion clinics to turn away and accept real help; maternity homes sponsored by churches; groups praying the rosary at abortion clinics, providing the only funeral that some children ever get.
Many tiny islands remain unseen, slightly below the surface: the high school girl who convinces her pregnant friend that it is workable to choose life; the parents whose example of Christian marriage convinces their children that abstinence and fidelity lead to the best life. Every instance begins when someone makes the decision “I will not be indifferent.” In Pope Francis’ phrase, they have acquired “…a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.”
Thomas P. Sheahan