The Responsibility of Privilege

February 2016

Dear Alumnus or Alumna,

This is my first opportunity to address you as alumni of the Living School, and I am honored to do so. I am grateful that you trusted and stayed with the sometimes grueling process and curriculum of the two-year program. We—the faculty and staff—have learned so much from you, as I hope you have also, alongside us.

It surely has been a wonderful experiment in teaching a contemplative way of knowing and living. That is the heart of the matter for us, and it underlies our approach to Scripture, the Big Tradition, and our own inner experience. Such a different way of knowing lays a solid foundation for social analysis and action, wherever we might find ourselves on the class, racial, ecclesiastical, gender, or economic spectrum. As you seek to integrate contemplation in your work and relationships, I hope you are mindfully considering ways to prioritize your calendar and your finances!

I think we know that the Living School experience is available and possible for very, very few people. Most of us are indeed privileged, and for those of us who are white and comfortable, we might not even be aware of our entitlement. This “white privilege” is largely an unrecognized form of racism, which is still endemic. In the United States, we also see the top 1% controlling economic and power systems, as well as most of the profits from those systems. Many of the candidates running for high office in the U.S. right now are stirring fears of “outsiders,” particularly Muslims.

With privilege comes responsibility. We cannot be quiet or hesitant about our faith and our concerns for justice, truth, and peacemaking. Therefore, I ask you, wherever you are on the demographic spectrum, to personally take responsibility for making it possible for more people to join the Living School. We want the program to represent global diversity, including those from various cultural, ethnic, and faith backgrounds; various age groups; the differently abled; and the LGBTQ community. Unique perspectives and experiences are crucial in making contemplative wisdom relevant and accessible for all, so that we’re not just “preaching to the choir,” an insulated and isolated group. If the Living School and our Alumni are not somehow clear and visible gatherings of our common humanity, I doubt whether we will be able to make a difference in the long run. We will become another closed system.

We will continue to accept only those who show readiness and commitment to rigorous spiritual and intellectual learning. It would not befit human dignity to treat anyone as a token or statistic. We are sure there are many who share the same desire for a deeper interior journey, lived out in compassionate action, that brought you to the Living School.

There are at least two ways in which you can help us grow the Living School’s diversity:

The CAC’s Lydia Fund provides scholarships to accepted applicants who are unable to afford full tuition. Your donation to this fund will allow us to make CAC’s programs accessible to everyone, regardless of financial ability. Click here to donate securely online.

Befriend someone you consider “other”—someone unlike you in some way. This will keep you open and honest, and will hopefully lead to new, creative ways of living the contemplative-active way. When you find someone whose path seems to parallel that of the Living School, invite them to explore the opportunity. Consider bringing them to a CAC conference and introducing us! (More information on financial assistance for conferences is available here.)

Thank you for letting me share a concern that is so close to my heart. I hope you will continue to discover God in surprising places and that you’ll keep learning—always staying open to new experiences and wisdom—how to participate fully in God’s active presence in our world.

Courage and blessings, dear friends,

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Richard Rohr

You may also enjoy Romal Tune’s interview with Fr. Richard on White Privilege. Click here to read the article at Sojo.net.

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Learn more about making a donation to the CAC.

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