WelCom April 2022
Fr James Lyons
While the protests that disrupted Wellington for three weeks last month cannot be compared with the tyranny and terror that has engulfed Ukraine, both carry a much-needed lesson for our contemporary society.
A lesson on freedom.
The protesters demanded an end to ‘mandates’ – government regulations that curtailed their ‘freedom’ to choose whether or not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and its variants.
Freedom cannot be detached from our connection with one another.”
Some of those who took over parliament grounds, blocked streets and disrupted transport and businesses, had lost their jobs because of their stand. Others felt their ‘rights’ were being abused over various matters and that they were being manipulated and duped.
All called for freedom.
When Vladimir Putin gathered his tanks and troops near the Russia-Ukraine border, he said he was concerned for the freedom of Russians living in Ukraine and for the regions within Ukraine wanting separate autonomy. He said he had no intention of invading. The build up of force was ‘a military exercise’.
It is now apparent that he wanted to ‘free’ the whole country and make Ukraine once again part of Russia. Putin was so convinced of his freedom to do this that he denied his own people their freedom to object.
Freedom is not a blank cheque. It is not a one-way street.
Freedom cannot be detached from our connection with one another. If my freedom impacts on your freedom, then we have to negotiate, consider carefully our differences, look for common ground. And that takes wisdom and maturity.
In a letter to the DomPost (18 Feb), Lynne Wenden of Highbury outlined the classic principle that every right has a corresponding responsibility.
Mutual respect is vital if society is to keep its balance.”
Yes, I have a right to protest, to decide not to vaccinate, to make strongly held beliefs known to government, but I also have a responsibility to respect the law and those who do not believe as I do.
I may choose not to wear a mask, but I need to accept that others might choose to do so.
Mutual respect is vital if society is to keep its balance.
The Catholic Catechism puts it simply: While freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that,…human freedom is limited and fallible… The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything.
The Catechism points out that conditions for a just and free society are too often disregarded or violated. Such deviation violates our own freedom, imprisons us within ourselves, disrupts neighbourly fellowship and rebels against divine truth. [cf Part 3, Section 1]
In its document on the Church in the Modern World, the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) stated the while the ‘people of our time prize freedom very highly and strive eagerly for it…they often cherish it improperly, as if it gave them leave to do anything they like, even when it is evil.’ [n17]
But the Council affirms: ‘God willed that [man] should be left in the hand of his own counsel.’ [ibid]
Freedom is so wonderfully a gift of God. A privileged gift no one has any right to misuse.
Ash Wednesday 2022
New Zealand parliament grounds:
The pohutukawa burns. Ashes
Children’s playground burns. Ashes
Dreams and hopes. Ashes
Fragile social fabric. Ashes
Far away, Ukraine burns. Ashes
When will the phoenix rise?
– Sr Catherine Jones, smsm