Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Scandal of it All!

Without Roots: Europe, Relativism, Christianity, Islam.
Ratzinger, Joseph; Pera, Marcello
(2007-03-09). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Don't ask me why or how, but I had occasion these days to read another book in the dialogue Catholic-secular genre from a few years back. It contains two university lectures and letter/commentaries exchanged between the lecturers. Marcello Pera and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger express different, positive view points on how crucial it is that Europe reclaim or rediscover its Christian roots.

Pero's bottom line might sound odd, but in point of fact it is not too far from what Taize is about:

“What we need today is a civil religion that can instill its values throughout the long chain that goes from the individual to the family, groups, associations, the community, and civil society, without passing through the political parties, government programs, and force of states, and therefore without affecting the separation, in the temporal sphere, between church and state. In Europe and in the West so enriched by Europe, such a religion would already be Christian by nature because the Western European tradition is Christian. What I am suggesting is therefore a non-denominational Christian religion. As I envision it, this religion would have more monasteries than central churches, more monks that articulate and communicate than church officials, more practitioners than preachers.” [Pera, Marcello (pp. 95-96). Kindle Edition.]

Professor Ratzinger graciously dots a few i's and crosses a few t's, professing his faith in the Church, as opposed to Pero's proposal for complex Europe of something generic/monastic as the only viable vehicle for European life and culture. Cardinal Ratzinger sees no substitute for the Church, the Catholic Church:

"This is why it is so important to have convinced minorities in the Church, for the Church, and above all beyond the Church and for society: human beings who in their encounters with Christ have discovered the precious pearl that gives value to all life (Matthew 13: 45 ff.), assuring that the Christian imperatives are no longer ballast that immobilizes humanity, but rather wings that carry it upward. Such minorities are formed when a convincing model of life also becomes an opening toward a knowledge that cannot emerge amid the dreariness of everyday life. Such a life choice, over time, affirms its rationale to a growing extent, opening and healing a reason that has become lazy and tired. There is nothing sectarian about such creative minorities. Through their persuasive capacity and their joy, they reach other people and offer them a different way of seeing things.

Therefore my first thesis is that a civil religion that truly has the moral force to sustain all people presupposes the existence of convinced minorities that have “discovered the pearl” and live it in a manner that is also convincing to others. Without such motivating forces, nothing can be built.

My second thesis is that we all need forms of belonging or of reference to these communities, or simply of contact with them. They are created automatically when their persuasive ability is sufficiently great. The Lord compared the Kingdom of God to a tree on whose branches various birds make their nests (Matthew 13: 32). Perhaps the Church has forgotten that the tree of the Kingdom of God reaches beyond the branches of the visible Church, but that this is precisely why it must be a hospitable place in whose branches many guests find solace.

As a third thesis, I would say that these creative minorities can clearly neither stand nor live on their own. They live naturally from the fact that the Church as a whole remains and that it lives in and stands by the faith in its divine origins. It did not invent these origins but it recognizes them as a gift that it is duty-bound to transmit. The minorities renew the vitality of this great community at the same time as they draw on its hidden life force, which forever generates new life.

As the fourth thesis, I would say that both secular people and Catholics, seekers and believers, in the dense thicket of branches filled with many birds, must move toward each other with a new openness. Believers must never stop seeking, while seekers are touched by the truth and thus cannot be classified as people without faith and Christian-inspired moral principles. There are ways of partaking of the truth by which seekers and believers give to and learn from each other . This is why the distinction between Catholics and secularists is relative. Secular people are not a rigid block.” [Ratzinger, Joseph (pp. 120-123). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.]

Although Pero nowhere in the book mentions Taize, I rather suspect that would be the closest "monastic" model to his communitarian catalyst for his non-denominational Christian religion. Recently, here in Kyiv, in informal conversation with one of the brothers from Taize he offered that a great concern for the brothers is that their community not become a place of arrival for young people but an invitation either to return to their own Church renewed or to find a Church and commit themselves. Another way of putting it would be to say that Pero does not know what he is talking about. Even though it does not fit his monastic dream the whole non-denominational and mega-church phenomenon in the United States might be termed evanescent viz. the "Crystal Cathedral" sold on the auction block to pay debts. Imagine all you want, but such constructs don't work. 

Lots of people are reveling in the immediacy and paternal/fraternal empathy which Pope Francis seems to communicate so well. Even those who express reserves about some of his statements would never accuse him of posturing for the sake of drawing attention to himself. The Head of Christ's Church tirelessly urges all to go forth and proclaim the Gospel through charity and compassion directed toward the least of the brethren. There is no substitute for the Church, Christ's Body. If Europe would flourish, it needs to find its roots in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Cardinal Ratzinger makes it eminently clear we are talking about process and dialogue, that we are talking about encounters of very personal and humane dimensions, drawing their grandeur from the dignity of the human person as created and saved by God in and through His Son Jesus.

As important as it is to respect the other, we cannot do so by denying the truth or ignoring where we come from: we are rooted, or better grafted to the Wine which is Christ. Relativizing, rationalizing or compromising on that human project called Europe is unworthy of the truth which comes to us from God; it's folly.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this Your Excellency. I read the book last year but did not arrive at the same understanding as yours.

    " in informal conversation with one of the brothers from Taize he offered that a great concern for the brothers is that their community not become a place of arrival for young people but an invitation either to return to their own Church renewed or to find a Church and commit themselves." --- I just think that young people can not commit because MAYBE they don't believe and know what the church teaches or maybe this young people can not connect with the church due to its diversity. Taize is a commnunity of mostly of young people and maybe wondering who they are. Thus, they arrive at the same level of "feeling". Being in the church requires a little bit of maturity in the faith: abilty to discover with the eye of child, to discern, commitment to give and accept responsibility (Sermon on the Mount) and accountabilty (response to the sacraments and sacramental life).


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