Friday, October 10, 2008

A Pastoral Letter on the Financial Meltdown

My Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Diocese of New York,

We live in perilous times.

For many years we have been aware of the danger to the environment. In recent years we have been acutely aware of the dangers of violence and war here at home as well as abroad. Day by day and week by week we have prayed for the men and women who serve in harms way, and for the leaders who direct their paths. Now we face a new threat, one that presents an even more immediate threat to the way we, live our lives as individuals, the well-being of our nation and even the health of the world's community of nations: the apparent collapse, at least in the short term, of the economic underpinnings that sustain us all.

No wonder that anxiety saturates society.

Times of danger can cause panic and panic which reveals the best and the worst in human character.

The worst amounts to a blind frenzy to survive. And here the operative word is "blind"; the state in which anything and everything can be sacrificed to the one objective of personal, corporate, or national survival. A pernicious corollary of this blind instinct is the indiscriminate placing of blame. Clearly the time will come when a deep and thoughtful analysis of what went wrong will need to be undertaken. However, in the very midst of the crisis, as we now find ourselves, we need to be extremely cautious about the wholesale pointing of fingers. This is exactly the impulse that, in other eras and places has led to the obscenity of pogroms.

However, such moments of crisis also have the power to elicit the very best that the human heart has to offer. It is that very best that Christians are called to offer, now and always. It is our deepest conviction that though there can be no dispute that the physical circumstances of our lives are important, yet the truth that we have been shown in Jesus is that the ultimate, the real, foundation on which our lives rest, is not on the health of our bank account but rather upon the abiding love of God. The gospel that we have heard, and have been called to proclaim, is not that the darkness is not dark, it is rather that the light of Christ will over-come it. The hope that is ours is rooted not in an unbroken chain of triumph and success but rather the cross of Christ that brings life out of death. Therefore, we need have no fear. Our identity is not defined by our bank accounts but by God's love. The ground on which we stand, the abiding love of God for us and for all creation, is solid ground. Though we may be surrounded by the tornadoes' winds we need have no fear. Though we may even be caught up in those winds, we need have no fear. The wind of the Spirit of God who sustains us is more than any of these.

Now more than ever, at this time, when our society is in such turmoil, it is our vocation as Christian to be, in ourselves, beacons of hope. We can be such beacons of hope not because we possess a secret answer to complex financial and economic questions, but rather because we know that the One through whom all things were made possesses us in the palm of His hand.

Faithfully yours,

(XV Bishop of New York)

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