Preparing for the Jubilee.
Catholic Insight printed Professor Ian Hunter's lengthy essay "Of a whirlwind, a breakdown, and a rock" to help us look at the Canadian situation. Canadians have sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind of a religious and moral breakdown in the face of hedonism, consumerism, and "me-ism", as Cardinal Ambrozic calls it. Our only hope and salvation, Dr. Hunter said, is to return to Mount Horeb in obedience to the text "You will find me waiting for you there, by a rock in Horeb" (Horeb is another name for Sinai).
In this November edition we attempt to examine our conscience as Church. The subject of the Church in history is so vast that no single examination can suffice; so we chose the Inquisition as a topic because Pope John Paul II himself will speak to this sometime next year.
Now the Church--as the mystical body of Christ--is holy and the story of the Church is that of holiness in history. But in its purely human aspect, the Church also contains sinfulness which has not yet been purged. "So what was wrong with the Inquisition?" we ask ourselves, and add: how does one avoid superficial indignation and sweeping generalizations which only lead to mocking the Church and defacing the truth of Christ?
Our answer moves tentatively towards an explanation of how difficult it is to reconcile religious truth with the rights of those who reject or mock this truth. Yet, as the Decree on Religious Liberty of the Second Vatican Council teaches, that integrity of the individual must be protected.
Although the Inquisition as a Church phenomenon has disappeared long since, in society at large the use of violent force remains a problem. Even today torture is (unjustly) justified for reasons of state survival. Only a month or so ago, for example, the Israeli Supreme Court decided to disallow it, after its use had been defended for many years as an absolute necessity for the security of the state.
In Rome the Synod of European bishops is even now examining the religious and spiritual state of the Catholic Church in that continent. The picture is not pretty.
In 1991, when Europe's Synod met for the first time shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet bolshevism in 1989, attention was focused on political and social problems. In 1999 the focus is on spiritual questions. The bishops admit that Europe is running away from the Church in apostasy from Christ.
The Synod Outline states in Section 56 that, while Europe gave way to consumerism, violence, loss of meaning, and pro-State suffocation, the Church "grew ever more timid, abstract or sentimental in her words and in her witness." The document observes that where the Christian faith was once that of the majority, today people tend to live "as if God does not exist" (24,29).
Various speakers confirmed this analysis. Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela of Madrid spoke of "the inordinate degree to which the fundamentals of the social-political life of Europe have broken down"; another participant quoted statistics showing that in France 40 per cent of the people say they have no religion, and that 44 per cent of the English no longer believe in a personal God; in the Czech Republic, and in some other countries, Sunday observance barely reaches three per cent (see also News in Brief under England, page 24). What to do?
Pope John Paul believes in evangelizing. He follows the teaching method of certain Old Testament prophets who were ordered by the Almighty to "act out" the judgement of God before the eyes of the people. So, for example, did Ezechiel, who was told by God to bind up his turban on his head, gather his few belongings, and dig his way through the wall of Jerusalem, in order to abandon the city to its reckless rejection of the one God.
Soon the Holy Father will visit Mount Sinai, almost in fulfilment of Dr. Hunter's plea. But why visit Mount Sinai? Because, again as Prof. Hunter pointed out, vast numbers of people know nothing of either Moses or the Ten Commandments. Thus they may be educated via TV or the newspaper.
The Pontiff will also visit the city of Ur in modern Iraq, the birthplace of Abraham. Why? What does a Catholic pope have to do with the Jew Abraham? Again, via the media, John Paul will clarify that this Jew is very much part of the Christian heritage; indeed he is "our father in faith" as the Eucharistic Liturgy puts it (Canon One).
Our 80-year-old Pope, suffering from Parkinson's disease, drives himself to his last breath to re-establish the great and indispensable heritage of the Christian faith in all its beauty and goodness and wisdom before our very eyes. It is time for us to change course, to stop the 30 years of timidity and faintness of heart which have characterized the post-Council period, and once again become bold and united in proclaiming our precious Faith.
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|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1999|
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