Dr. Katherine Greiner of Carroll College (MT) helps me to explore section five of Fratelli Tutti (chapters 7-8) on this week’s Catholic School Matters podcast.  A former high school theology teacher at a Catholic all-girls high school, Dr. Greiner has a unique perspective as a theologian.

We began exploring truth, justice, and mercy. Pope Francis writes, “Truth, in fact, is an inseparable companion of justice and mercy” (227).  Greiner asks, “Can we really have restorative justice without truth?”  We explored how in South Africa, truth & reconciliation were intertwined, as it is now on the Native American reservations. In this section, Francis unites his concern for mercy with knowing the truth of our world as well as our common history.  Mercy can only become transformed into justice (as opposed to simply charity) without truth.

We spend a little time talking about examples of our common history that impact today’s world. Catholic schools and churches owned slaves, for example, and Catholic European nations destroyed each other in two world wars. But Greiner rightfully points out the importance of the local as well, mentioning that coming to grips with her own family’s history (the local) helps her understand the world’s history (global). Francis addresses this in paragraph 249:

Nowadays, it is easy to be tempted to turn the page, to say that all these things happened long ago and we should look to the future. For God’s sake, no! We can never move forward without remembering the past; we do not progress without an honest and unclouded memory. We need to ‘keep alive the flame of collective conscience, bearing witness to succeeding generations to the horror of what happened,’ because that witness ‘awakens and preserves the memory of the victims, so that the conscience of the humanity may rise up in the face of every desire for dominance and destruction’

We need to appreciate the history can be manipulated and the truth is important. We explore the idea of “penitential memory” (226) which calls us to remember the past, acknowledge the errors, and move forward.

It’s also important to recognize the theme of nonviolence in this section.  Francis is clear that “Jesus never promoted violence or intolerance.  He openly condemned the use of force to gain power over others” (238). He goes on to declare that war might never be considered just and capital punishment is against church teaching. These ideas will make many Christians very uncomfortable—especially those who espouse a militant Christianity.

We then talk about how to approach dialogue and then Dr. Greiner closes the conversation with song.  It’s the first time I’ve ever convince someone to sing on the podcast!  Enjoy the podcast and look to the study guide for more resources.

This post originally appeared in the March 1st Catholic School Matters Newsletter