Here’s my June reflection for CatholicCare Sydney.
CatholicCare’s Person-Centred Approach is about keeping a focus on the dignity of the person at the heart of things. It sounds very straight-forward and obvious, but in fact it calls us to act in ways that are deeply counter-cultural. It calls us to act to change the culture of our society as well as inviting careful attention to the quality of our interaction with the people who access our programs. We need to witness to the dignity of each and every person through our own behavior and through the behavior that we accept, if only by failing to challenge it.
In a society where many seem to think it is acceptable to demean and insult the person and the office of the Prime Minister using violence filled language and sexually explicit abuse, the poorest and most marginalized women and men are rendered all the more vulnerable.
The coarsening of our political discourse and the deep disregard for the humanity of those with whom we disagree demeans us all. When played out in public by leaders and opinion makers it gives license to others to say and do things that would at other times have been considered socially unacceptable.
But what is socially acceptable? We set the standards of our society by what we let pass.
For me, one indicator that the deep undertow of racism in Australian society is getting close to the surface, is when I start witnessing or being subjected to racist rants on the public transport. I had to make an intervention on a train last week. What was different on this occasion was the sexual nature of the extreme violence threatened against the woman of Asian descent. And not one man on that Sydney train said or did anything.
A person-centred approach means that CatholicCare people and programs won’t let such things pass. Our duty of solidarity is not about whether we are Asian or Anglo, women or men, Labour voters or Liberal voters, but our shared humanity. The dignity, well-being and participation of all persons is important to us. We try to see situations through the eyes of those who suffer. We work at transforming attitudes. We work at building people’s capacity to make life-giving choices and to achieve their potential. We seek to be for each one Christ’s liberating presence in the world.