by Fr. Keith Branson, C.PP.S., Publications Editor
It’s hard to find anyone in the news today without a label. Almost everyone is mentioned with a label, spoken or implied: conservative, liberal, gay, straight, Christian, Humanist. Labels seem universal; few escape them.
Labeling is human nature. We want a lot of information about people we really don’t know, and labels seem to help us. Unfortunately, most of them boil down to friend and enemy, and we attach a long list of traits to both without thinking, without realizing no one wears a label perfectly. Labels tell us too little, and invite injustice as we fill out details, particularly in choosing exclusive loyalties.
Heretic is a label usually unspoken but easily applied. It’s not only bishops and priests who feel compelled to enforce this label: we all want to remove anyone we think is wrong, lazy, or negative from our personal elect and dismiss them from our charity. We can cast such people from our hearts rather easily. We forget what we have in common, even if it’s only the God-given basic human dignity which can’t be taken away or given away.
Christ-seeker is a label Pope Francis uses. While drawing attention to the dehumanization and evil of our times, he hasn’t condemned individuals. This label, Christ-seeker, seems more important than any other we may get: after all, our basic identity isn’t what we do, or say, or advocate, or condemn. We are all bearers of the Blood of Christ, and that’s not only the sole label which should matter to the Church, but also to our inner orientation of Charity.