It’s a matter of priorities

In my WDTPRS articles and in this blog, I have addressed the issue of authentic inculturation.  In a nutshell, between the world and the Church there is a constant dynamic interchange.  However, for inculturation to be authentic (and avoid the destructive silliness we often see), what the Church has to give to the world must always be logiclly prior to what the world has to give.  When the Church has logical priority, she can then receive back from the world many beautiful things which make us all richer as Catholics.

In an article by Sandro Magister there is excellent analysis of the Italian Church’s Congress which took place in Verona.  He explores two great poles is the Church, which I think I am not off base in identifying as "World prior" and "Church prior" schools of the Church/Modern Word nexus.  He identifies some of the key players and provides great quotes.  

On the one hand, there are those alligned with a "Church prior" view, which includes Pope Benedict XVI himself and, in Italy especially Card. Ruini.  On the other hand in the school of Dossetti and Martini and Tettamanzi, as Magister explains, we have the "World prior" view:

The “religious choice” was synonymous with a Church that would be docile and friendly toward modernity, silently mixed together with the forces of progress, invisible like “yeast in the dough,” concentrated on the spiritual and on the primacy of the individual conscience. This was an unacceptable choice for a pope who had come from the beleaguered and combative popular Catholicism of Poland: a pope, in effect, seen as a “barbarian” by much of the Italian Catholic intellectual class at the time.

In Verona, Card. Tettamanzi (whom many thought would be elected to the See of Peter, including himself I imagine), gave a keynote address.  It was strongly redolent of what I am calling in this entry the "World prior" view.  Here is Magister (my emphasis and comments):

During the first three days in Verona, the Tettamanzi effect had stunning success. In the absence of Benedict XVI and with the silence of cardinal Ruini, the dominant words among the delegates, divided into dozens of groups for parallel discussions, were “welcoming,” “listening,” “dialogue,” “oblation”: words imbued more with passion than with analysis [brilliant phrase that!] of the epochal changes that have taken place in the world and in the Church over the past twenty years. The pope was almost completely ignored, even by the official speakers. His lecture in Regensburg was cited only once: by the rector of the Catholic University of Milan, Lorenzo Ornaghi, a dyed-in-the-wool disciple of Ruini.

That was until Benedict XVI arrived and pulverized what had held the stage until then. “L’Osservatore Romano,” on the mark for once, printed the papal address beneath a full-page headline: “To restore full citizenship to the Christian faith.” This means the public citizenship, equivalent in secular terms, of Christians capable of saying ‘no’ (and the pope omitted nothing of what he sees as obligatory for the defense of human life from conception to natural death, the family, freedom of education) but above all of saying ‘yes’ “to everything that is right, true, and pure in cultures and civilizations,” in short, “that great ‘yes’ that, in Jesus Christ, God has spoken to man and to his life.” This is, in essence – the pope said – the “cultural project” conceived and implemented for the Italian Church by cardinal Ruini.

This article is well worth reading.  Check it out.

In the meantime, scan this bit from the speech the Pope made which demolished the fuzzy-wuzzy approach (my emphasis and comments):

[…] Following Christ is never easy: it faces, instead, opposition and controversy. The Church thus remains “a sign of contradiction,” in the footsteps of its Master (cf. Luke 2:3-4), even in our time. But we do not lose heart because of this. On the contrary, we must be always ready to give an answer (apo-logia) to anyone who asks us the reason (logos) [There is one of the leitmotifs of this Pontificate – logos/reason, which reoccurs everywhere in his writings and speeches] for our hope, as we are invited to do in the first letter of Saint Peter (3:15), which you have rather opportunely chosen as the biblical guide for the unfolding of this conference. We must respond “with kindness and respect, with an upright conscience” (3:15-16), with that meek power that comes from union with Christ. […a meek power that conquers all…]  We must do this in every area, on the level of thought and action, of personal behavior and public witness. The strong unity that was realized in the Church of the first centuries between a faith friendly toward intelligence and a practice of life characterized by reciprocal love and solicitous attention toward the poor and suffering [Cf. Deus caritas est] made possible the first great missionary expansion of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world. [And did not simply remain docile and "invisible" in the fabric of society.] This also happened later, in various cultural contexts and historical situations. This remains the king’s highway of evangelization: the Lord guides us to live this unity between truth and love in the conditions proper to our time, for the evangelization of Italy and the world today.  [The King’s Highway is like the Royal Way of the Cross… it requires risk, suffering and persecution.]

In concrete terms, in order for the experience of Christian faith and love to be welcomed, lived, and transmitted from one generation to another, a fundamental and decisive question is that of the education of the person. […] A real education needs to reawaken the courage of definitive decisions, which today are considered a constraint that chafes at our freedom, but in reality are indispensable in order to grow and to attain something great in life, and in particular to bring love to maturity in all its beauty: and thus to bring coherence and meaning to freedom itself. From this concern for the human person and his formation come our “no’s” to weak or distorted forms of love, or to counterfeits of freedom, as also to the reduction of reason only to what is calculable and manipulable. In truth, these “no’s” are rather “yes’s” to authentic love, to the reality of man as he was created by God.

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10 Responses to It’s a matter of priorities

  1. I’m sorry that I have nothing profound to say about the topic – but I have to say that the photo of Benedict XVI very nicely catches his particular charism as the ‘Professor Pope”

  2. “In truth, these ‘no’s’ are rather ‘yes’s’ to authentic love, to the reality of man as he was created by God.”

    That last sentence is spectacular. Reminds me of one of St. Augustine’s refrains.

  3. fausmaxII says:

    Every time I read what Benedict has said, I feel like I’ve just inhaled pure mountain air.

  4. Greg Hessel says:

    Tettamanzi is still stuck in 1964. Wake up. It’s 2006 and etthe great apostasy is here.

  5. bedwere says:

    About two years ago I confronted a document by Cardinal Tettamanzi about marriage with then Cardinal Ratzinger’s Letter on the collaboration of men and women. I was amazed at the emptiness and shallowness of the first, especially in the light of the richness and depth of the second.

  6. RBrown says:

    “Tettamanzi is still stuck in 1964. Wake up. It’s 2006 and etthe great apostasy is here.”

    Yes, and a phrase by Jacques Maritain seems to be applicable to the World Prior view: Kneeling before the world.

  7. It seems Tettamanzi sees himself as a new John XXIII. Nothing could be further from the truth. Long live Benedict XVI, a real prophet.

  8. Diane says:

    Pope Benedict says:

    A real education needs to reawaken the courage of definitive decisions, which today are considered a constraint that chafes at our freedom, but in reality are indispensable in order to grow and to attain something great in life, and in particular to bring love to maturity in all its beauty: and thus to bring coherence and meaning to freedom itself.

    Bingo! The prevailing theme throughout my 44 year life at Church was one of preserving our self-esteem – sometimes over the priority of salvation. For me, it had devastating spiritual consequences (for which I accept full responsibility, but nonetheless felt aided by the fluff).

    Some go to church to look for hope. Others go for consolation, which seems to have been fed well. But, younger people especially are going more and more to be challenged precisely in the way Pope Benedict speaks. Hence, these are the “young fogeys”, many of whom have a better understanding of “freedom” than theologians teaching at Catholic universities today.

    It reminds me of another great article by Fr. James V. Schall in Homiletic and Pastoral Review: Is Christianity a Comfortable Religion.

    Signed: A middle-aged fogey.

  9. Kim says:

    These “young fogeys” as Diane has pointed out are the future of our church. They are the fruitiion of the “JPII” generation, and praise be to God, they love their Church. Since I am 41,I am going to attach myself to this generation because in all reality, JPII is the only Pope I remember. This is his work coming into maturity under “B16″. The “liberals” such as Tettamanzi don’t see that their time is over. They don’t speak for the Church and their time was just an anomaly in the history of the most Holy Roman Catholic Church. Move over dissenters, we’re orthodox and we’re here!

  10. RBrown says:

    “A real education needs to reawaken the courage of definitive decisions, which today are considered a constraint that chafes at our freedom, but in reality are indispensable in order to grow and to attain something great in life, and in particular to bring love to maturity in all its beauty: and thus to bring coherence and meaning to freedom itself.

    Bingo! The prevailing theme throughout my 44 year life at Church was one of preserving our self-esteem – sometimes over the priority of salvation. For me, it had devastating spiritual consequences (for which I accept full responsibility, but nonetheless felt aided by the fluff).

    Some go to church to look for hope. Others go for consolation, which seems to have been fed well. But, younger people especially are going more and more to be challenged precisely in the way Pope Benedict speaks. Hence, these are the “young fogeys”, many of whom have a better understanding of “freedom” than theologians teaching at Catholic universities today.

    It reminds me of another great article by Fr. James V. Schall in Homiletic and Pastoral Review: Is Christianity a Comfortable Religion.”

    The present state of the Church is not an accident. We are in this mess because of decisions made at the highest levels of the Church. These decisions affected not only theology but also liturgy, the seminaries, the priesthood, the religious life, and the life of lay men and women.

    Why did this happen?

    IMHO, there were two major events: First, the era that produced the by-the-numbers Church had come to an end. Second, the vacuum created by the end of the by-the-numbers Church was filled by policies that were not intended to propagate and deepen the faith but rather to establish detente with Protestantism, the secular culture, secular governments, and anti-Catholic ideologies.