Chittister calls for renewed "humility" to save Western culture

In a wide-ranging speech delivered at a lecture commemorating the Good Samaritan Sisters' 150th anniversary, visiting US Benedictine Sr Joan Chittister has slammed the "narcissism" of the West and called for a "commitment to a renewed sense of humility".

According to the online magazine Catholica, the often controversial sister yesterday criticised the major "ills of Western society", listing among them the exploitation of developing nations and the environment, the culture of armaments and violence and the relentless measurement of everything in terms of monetary profit.

"Narcissism has become the hallmark of Western culture," she told the audience in Pennant Hills, west of Sydney. "It is a sin against human community."

Sr Chittister, who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, delivered the talk to over 900 people with tickets sold out months in advance and organisers reportedly overwhelmed with enquiries.

Contrasting Western "narcissism" to a set of values that sit at the heart of Benedictine Spirituality, she says the values which saved Western civilisation at the beginning of the sixth century, could successfully address the many challenges that face today's world.

"Benedictine Spirituality of Community calls for more than togetherness. That's the very cheapest sort of community," she says.

"Benedictine Spirituality calls for the community of the open mind and the open heart. It calls for the conscious inclusion of differences. It calls for the conscious, and conscientious, enlargement of our comfort zones. It calls us to a commitment to making strangers our friends. It calls us to ask the question 'who have you invited to supper lately?'"

Saying that Western "superiority has not changed us" nor "saved us", Sr Chittister called for a renewed sense of humility and commitment to a global community.

"We need the wisdom of humility now," says the Benedictine sister.

"We need the quality of life that makes it possible for people to see beyond themselves to the point where they actually value the other, and touch the world gently and peacefully, and make it better as they go.

"A commitment to a renewed sense of humility is the leadership we need in the new millennium," she concluded.

Sr Chittister, from Eire, Pennsylvania, is well known for her strong stance on issues such as women's ordination, contraception, peace and justice.

Sr Joan Chittister in Australia (Catholica, 20/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
"From Where I Stand" by Joan Chittister
Benetvision | About Joan Chittister
Joan Chittister (Wikipedia)
Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict
Struggle and hope: Sr Joan Chittister - The Spirit of Things interview (aired 6.05pm, 22 July)

No amnesty in NZ for outspoken US nun (CathNews, 5/7/07)
Nun defies order not to attend women's ordination conference (CathNews, 3/7/01)
Vatican, Amnesty in abortion stoush (CathNews, 14/6/07)

20 Jul 2007