Analysis From
a Brazilian Franciscan

By Father Antonio Moser, O.F.M., S.T.D.
translated from Portuguese by Fred Radtke, O.F.M..

Part 4 of a series

The Synod's Four Themes (part 2)

The Synod's final two themes address the role of Church in society.

Communion with God and others brings hope
St. Francis of Assisi understood very well that only a great love for God is capable of generating a universal fraternity. Especially beginning with Vatican II, it can be said that the people of God as a whole made great steps in the search for communion with God and their brothers and sisters. There is no lack of sign, however, that there is much more to do. Attitudes of authoritarianism, clericalism, anti-clericalism, individualism, non-acceptance of authority in the Church, are the primary signs. But there are others: lack of dialogue on all levels, lack of pastoral plans, scarcity of effective lay participation in some areas of the Church, sectors which have not assimilated the Second Vatican Council (especially in what refers to ecclesiology), lack of formation, lack of collaboration on the part of certain movements, ideological polarization, etc. All of this makes an effective communion difficult.

If in the internal plan of the Catholic Church communion is not an easy task, it is still more difficult in terms of ecumenical and interfaith relations. Among the more institutional churches and religions, big steps have been made, but it is more difficult to dialogue with the informal churches, normally called sects. This is noted in the Synod's working document as a very serious problem. In the first place certain aspects that would be characteristic of the so called sects are: fanaticism, proselytism, criticism and ridiculing the Catholic Church and many of its practices, use of moral and psychological violence, manipulation of political and economic power, of persons, of emotions, and even the distribution of alms.

Then there is the so-called "New Age." This is a fearful adversary because it is without a face but it slowly infects contemporaneous culture. Through a vague communion with cosmic energies, both reason and institutional religions lose effectiveness. Even God himself is diluted into a vague spiritual and undifferentiated kind of energy.

Solidarity and encounter lead to conversion and communion.
Already in the Old Testament God is not only the creator, but is a God who is in solidarity with the history of humanity. For this reason God asks for a religious and ethical commitment, chiefly from those who are the poorest. Christ, in his time, translates this double solidarity into the Great Commandment: to love God and to love neighbor as oneās self.
In spite of advances, it is necessary to recognize that there are many distressing challenges in this area, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Synod's working document lists many of them: ever greater differences between rich and poor, the complex situation created by foreign debt, lack of work, insufficient salaries, economic recession, inflation, financial speculation, loss of capital, commerce in arms and tensions of war, problems tied to drug trafficking, to public administration, and so on: It is a situation in which are evidenced grave ethical distortions. On a lesser scale, however, similar problems are found in the United States, particularly among immigrants and marginalized persons in large urban areas.

It is fitting that our Churches of the continent denounce the situation. But concrete gestures of solidarity are crucial. They show that a reverse of this scenario is possible. St. Francis admonished his first companions to preach more by attitudes than by words. Only in that way will lasting fruit appear.

(Father Antonio Moser, O.F.M., is a Franciscan theologian from the Immaculate Conception Province in Brazil. He is a professor at the Franciscan Theological Institute in Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro, and is in Rome to accompany closely this momentous event. Father Fred Radtke, O.F.M., formerly a missionary in Brazil, now ministers at St. Peter's Parish in Chicago.)

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