The death of trust and the triumph of suspicion

Religion News Service | 6/26/2019 | Staff
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(RNS) — Without trust, human cooperation is impossible. Without trust, people refuse to cooperate and instead engage in struggles over power because they fear what will happen if their opponents have it.

Today, we see this in the highly charged partisan character of American politics and in the Catholic Church, where the hierarchy has lost credibility. A lack of trust provides fertile ground for conspiracy theories from both the left and right.

Catholic - Grammar - School - History - Books

When I attended Catholic grammar school in the 1950s, our history books were filled with positive stories about America and the Catholic Church. For the most part, the books fostered a love and respect for political and religious leaders and institutions. The church was the source of all truth and goodness; America was the home of the brave and the free.

Where there were bad spots — and we all know there were more than a few — they were presented as all in the past and as the actions of individuals, not systemic problems. Little attention was given to the Inquisition and intolerance in the church or slavery and racism in American society. Homophobia and sexism were not words in our vocabulary although they existed all around us.

Focus - Expansion - Catholic - Church - Catholics

Rather, the focus was on the triumphant expansion of the Catholic Church. American Catholics were winning their place in American society. America had defeated fascism and was in a Cold War with demonic communism. The culture fostered self-sacrifice and commitment to religious ideals and patriotism.

For my generation, political cynicism began with the Vietnam conflict, during which thousands bravely gave their lives in a war that should have never been waged. We were constantly lied to about why we were there, what was happening and what would happen if we left. I believed those lies almost to the bitter end.


We also saw great leaders...
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