By Sister Marianne Watts, OP “CHANGES”

From a recent NCR article: “Catholic social teaching is unfortunately the church’s best-kept secret . . . Because it directly addresses the world’s most pressing social justice and peace issues, Catholic social teaching . . . needs to come out of hiding and be discovered, read, preached, proclaimed and lived in our parishes, schools, universities, media, homes and society.”

Probably nothing.Catholic social teaching is certainly a secret in the sense that these principles are virtually unknown. But the author implies that publicizing them would have a world-shaking and soothing effect. What do you think would happen?

Why? Because haters are too consumed with their hatreds to want to apply principles. That’s an enormous generalization but consider this:

The division between Shia and Sunni Muslims, according to Google, dates all the way back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and the question of who was to take over the leadership of the Muslim nation. Sunni Muslims agreed (and still do) that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job.

Shia Muslims believed (and still do) that leadership should have stayed within the Prophet’s own family, among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself, and that following the Prophet Muhammad’s death, leadership should have passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law. (From this conflict, other spiritual and political differences have developed but the succession of leadership is the fountainhead.)

So they hate each other. And what effect could any scholarly document, even one dedicated to peace and justice, have on the elemental desire to destroy humans who do not believe what you believe? Peace and justice don’t seem to rank when a centuries-old custom of authority has become a rock-solid, unchanging monument to “the way it has to be.” Is digging in and refusing to change truly the meaning of religion?

I don’t believe that hatred is caused. Yes, there has to be some event or words or misunderstanding that stirs the pot. But with the addition of time, hatred grows and develops and becomes its own person. I think you have to want to hate. And since no one sees him/herself that way, you have to learn to blame.

Is there an answer? I remember an article on the friendship that developed between Israeli and Palestinian women in a certain village as they came together to do their laundry in common. They gradually shared concerns about their children and their ways of life. Probably ancient hatreds were not part of the conversation.

I’ve thought about that a lot. If you have something in common that you need to take care of, if something needs your attention right now, you have to get to it. There’s no time for killing or hatred when the laundry has to be done.

Maybe this maxim could help the bishops who continue to condemn the health-care law. What the bishops apparently see in the Affordable Care Law is the potential to fund birth control. What those who favor the law see is the many real human beings who desperately need health care right now.

It’s the right now factor that matters, in health care and laundry.

And what of Catholic social teaching? Yes, it should be “discovered, read, preached, proclaimed and lived in our parishes, schools, universities, media, homes and society.” That would be good. But for situations fueled by the stubborn need to hang on to the way things have always been, maybe a less academic remedy would be helpful.

In His parables Jesus used ordinary, concrete realities: bread, wine, sheep, money, water, housekeeping, oil, a wounded man, a field, a tree. These signs of commonplace life, familiar to His people, were the present-moment realities that community and communion were made of in Jesus’ message of loving one’s neighbor. Not “what used to be.” It is in the simplicity of thenow that enemies can become friends.

No one expects Muslim males nor bishops to do their own laundry, but aren’t there other ways to have a decent conversation with soon-to-be former enemies about almost anything as long as it includes listening?