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
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
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.
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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