UNE PASTORALE DE LA CULTURE :
aux travaux de la Conférence Ukrainienne
Cher Monseigneur le Métropolite de Léopol,
1. C’est pour moi un grand privilège de pouvoir répondre à l’invitation du cher Mgr Marian Jaworski, Métropolite de Lviv et de participer aux travaux de la Conférence Épiscopale Ukrainienne des Évêques de rite latin.
Collaborateur du Saint-Père pour la Pastorale de la Culture, je voudrais, à sa demande, partager avec vous quelques convictions à l’aube du IIIe millénaire sur les problèmes de la culture chrétienne dans les pays de l’ancienne Union Soviétique.
Tout d’abord, je voudrais vous saluer avec respect et admiration, vous, les pasteurs, et à travers vous, toute l’Église de rite latin en Ukraine, qui avez subi le poids d’une persécution très dure et très longue, et qui, avec la grâce de Dieu, avez surmonté cette tragique épreuve, et prenez les moyens de remédier aux effets de cette dramatique persécution. La persécution est terminée, mais ses effets pervers demeurent. C’est votre tâche pastorale de les combattre par la nouvelle évangélisation à laquelle nous appelle courageusement notre Saint-Père le pape Jean-Paul II. En son nom, je vous salue avec affection, et je m’adresse à vous avec respect, en ce moment singulier de notre histoire commune, kairos de grâces, riche de significations et de devoirs, chargé de défis et d’espérance.
2. Le dessein d’amour du Christ a eu raison du régime marxiste-léniniste athée et a disloqué l’empire soviétique socialiste.
Le système oppressif athée mis en place par le marxisme-léninisme entendait transformer radicalement l’homme, en le coupant de toute référence aux valeurs chrétiennes. Pour empêcher la sève de l’Évangile de nourrir l’arbre de la culture européenne, ce totalitarisme athée a voulu substituer au Dieu transcendant l’immanence d’un monde clos sur lui-même, dans un enfermement source de désespoir.
Le régime est tombé, mais ses effets demeurent, fruits d’un totalitarisme sans Dieu qui a engendré une culture sans âme. La rupture de communication entre la personne humaine et Dieu, entre l’homme et ses semblables, revêt le caractère d’une véritable catastrophe anthropologique, dans les familles comme dans la société. La première urgence pastorale est celle de l’éveil des formateurs, parents et éducateurs, à leur responsabilité, dans les familles comme dans les écoles, pour apprendre aux enfants à vivre en hommes et en chrétiens. C’est à dire à être, en nouant les relations fondamentales, filiales avec le Créateur, et fraternelles avec la création et les créatures.
Pour nous combler de son amour, Dieu a besoin que nous lui ouvrions un espace au plus profond de nous-mêmes, lieu de liberté intérieure et d’écoute de la voix de la conscience. Le communisme a engendré un vide spirituel vertigineux, perverti les valeurs les plus pures, sali les vertus les plus limpides. La destruction systématique des traditions culturelles et religieuses a exacerbé l’envie et la haine, et érodé le dynamisme de la liberté, pour détruire l’homme en tant qu’être personnel et la nation en tant qu’entité culturelle. Le système athée est mort, mais le matérialisme demeure, qui exclut toute spiritualité et réduit le spirituel à n’être qu’une composante culturelle.
La prise de conscience du mensonge abyssal du dogmatisme communiste suscite aujourd’hui par réaction le règne du relativisme absolu qui tolère tout, sauf l’absolu de la vérité. Les sociétés post-communistes portent toutes les stigmates de ces longues décennies totalitaires. Pendant tout ce temps, les problèmes furent congelés et les aspirations légitimes des peuples étouffées sous une pesante chape de plomb.
3. Aujourd’hui, les vieux démons se réveillent du sommeil totalitaire : xénophobie, chauvinisme, nationalisme exclusif, convoitise des biens de ce monde sans travailler pour les conquérir. Après ces décennies collectivistes, la tentation individualiste est de chercher le gain sans respecter les obligations du travail et sans égard pour les autres. Le système communiste a profondément gravé certains traits de comportement dans les peuples qui lui furent soumis : méfiance et soupçon généralisés envers les hommes et les institutions, intérêt égoïste et mensonge utilitaire, légalisme pour échapper à bon compte aux contraintes du bien commun. La passion d’égalitarisme conduit à objectiver les sujets, à réduire les personnes à n’être que des choses, les hommes comme les organismes, et les organismes comme une matière inorganisée. Grande tâche pour la pastorale est de réveiller le sens de la personne créée à l’image et à la ressemblance de Dieu, libre et responsable : aider chaque homme, chaque femme, à être lui-même et à respecter les autres, car chaque personne humaine est un être unique, irremplaçable, qui a valeur par lui-même, pour Dieu qui l’a créée, rachetée par le sang de son Fils, et l’appelle à la vie éternelle
Avec la mort du marxisme-léninisme athée, l’Église a vu descendre dans la tombe l’ennemi le plus terrible qui s’est dressé contre elle au cours du second millénaire de l’histoire européenne. Le communisme a été le système le plus raffiné réalisé contre le Christianisme. Mélange d’utopie et de précision diabolique, unissant la contrainte politique à l’élan eschatologique, système philosophique négateur des identités nationales, il a dépassé de loin en perversité intellectuelle et en cruauté inhumaine toutes les persécutions qui jalonnent l’histoire de l’Église, histoire des martyrs. Nous devons faire place, en notre pastorale, à la mémoire des martyrs du XXe siècle tragique, comme le demande notre Saint-Père le pape Jean-Paul II, et montrer aux jeunes, en particulier, à travers leur exemple, l’idéal du chrétien vécu, même au plus profond de la nuit des barbares, avec la lumière de la foi, la flamme de l’espérance et la chaleur de l’amour partagé pour Dieu et pour tous les frères.
La tâche pastorale est considérable, à la hauteur des obstacles hérités du passé, des défis du présent, et des raisons d’espérer, à l’aube du IIIe millénaire. L’avenir appelle d’abord le retour de la mémoire. Les peuples sans mémoire sont des peuples sans espoir. La mémoire culturelle de l’Ukraine est une mémoire chrétienne, nourrie du message évangélique qui s’exprime à travers tant de chefs-d’œuvre d’art, des plus humbles images populaires aux plus belles icônes, des petits sanctuaires paroissiaux aux grandes églises, des coutumes millénaires à la liturgie ecclésiale. C’est une tâche pastorale primordiale de retrouver le sens et de partager le goût de cette culture populaire qui s’est peu à peu élaborée, génération après génération, a engendré toute une façon de comprendre et de vivre la foi, et a fini par imprégner l’existence et le vivre ensemble des hommes : traditions familiales, fêtes locales, célébrations jubilaires, pèlerinages. C’est la véritable inculturation de la foi, à laquelle ne cesse de nous appeler le Saint-Père. En elle s’harmonisent la foi et la liturgie, le sentiment et les arts, et s’affirme la conscience de l’identité chrétienne du peuple ukrainien.
4. C’est une tâche merveilleuse pour la pastorale de la culture que d’éveiller, soutenir, nourrir et purifier la piété populaire qui permet au peuple d’exprimer du plus profond de lui-même sa foi au Christ, ses relations avec Dieu et sa Providence, la Vierge et les Saints, avec le prochain, avec les défunts, avec la création, en Église, notamment à travers les grandes célébrations festives de la liturgie et des pèlerinages, véritable catéchèse vivante dans la joie de la foi partagée, vécue, célébrée et chantée. Par sa nature, la piété populaire appelle des expressions artistiques. C’est la responsabilité des pasteurs d’encourager la qualité culturelle et religieuse des arts décoratifs comme des chants et de la musique sacrée.
Une autre tâche pastorale non moins exigeante dans tous les pays libérés du carcan totalitaire et renés de la dislocation de l’empire soviétique athée est d’éduquer au bon usage de la liberté. Après trois quarts de siècle de persécution du totalitarisme athée, la sortie du régime totalitaire crée une situation radicalement nouvelle. Courageuses pour vivre l’Évangile du Christ sous la persécution, les Églises aujourd’hui doivent apprendre à vivre, agir, annoncer l’Évangile dans un monde pluraliste où la culture démocratique marquée par l’omniprésence des médias est souvent réductrice de son message. Il faut lutter en même temps contre deux tentatives antagonistes : celle de séparer, non seulement l’Église de l’État, mais la foi de la société, et de ravaler la vérité absolue de l’Évangile au niveau d’une option relative, et celle à l’inverse de ne pas percevoir avec clarté toutes les implications de la distinction entre pouvoir temporel et pouvoir spirituel, selon l’enseignement donné par Jésus lui-même dans l’Évangile : « rendez à César ce qui est à César, et à Dieu ce qui est à Dieu ».
Une autre tâche pastorale pour l’Église Catholique est de promouvoir une culture ouverte à l’universel à partir de son enracinement national. A l’encontre du nationalisme obtus et empli d’aversion pour les autres nations et cultures, le patriotisme authentique est l’amour et le service privilégiés, mais non exclusifs, de son propre pays et de sa culture, aussi loin du cosmopolitisme que du nationalisme culturel. Apprendre aux jeunes générations à vivre avec fierté leur propre identité dans le respect des autres nationalités est une tâche prioritaire de l’éducation à la culture, d’autant que souvent des groupes de pression ne manquent pas d’utiliser la religion et ses expressions publiques à des fins politiques qui lui sont totalement étrangères. Si le rite est l’expression de la foi et en même temps le garant d’une identité culturelle, l’Héritage culturel commun à tous les chrétiens constitue le patrimoine vivant de l’Église.
5. Enfin, l’horizon de toute pastorale ecclésiale de la culture est l’ensemencement fécond des cultures de notre temps par l’annonce libératrice de la bonne nouvelle qu’est l’Évangile du Christ, chemin, vérité et vie : insérer la sève vitale de l’Évangile dans les cultures pour renouveler de l’intérieur et transformer à la lumière de la Révélation les visions de l’homme et de la société qui modèlent les cultures, les conceptions de l’homme et de la femme, de la famille et de l’éducation, de l’école et de l’université, de la liberté et de la vérité, du travail et des loisirs, de l’économie et de la société, des sciences et des arts, afin que le message du Christ imprègne et inspire toute l’existence chrétienne. C’est dire la nécessité primordiale de l’éducation à la prière d’adoration et de contemplation et le besoin de guides spirituels ancrés dans la grande tradition et l’amour de l’Église. C’est dire aussi la nécessaire prise de conscience du combat spirituel qui est celui de toute vie chrétienne. Des forces obscures et parfois coordonnées s’opposent à l’Église. La culture de la vie rencontre une contre-culture de mort portée par un matérialisme ambiant, un hédonisme attrayant, un pragmatisme sans transcendance.
C’est dire l’importance de l’art comme expression de l’invisible rendu visible à nos sens, de la liturgie empreinte de beauté et porteuse de recueillement, de la charité qui sait découvrir en tout homme un visage de frère et d’ami, dans la joie de l’espérance partagée dans la prière, à l’exemple de la petite Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus, ma petite Sainte préférée : « On obtient tout de Dieu, autant qu’on en espère ».
Autant le communisme athée a rebaissé l’homme au plus petit dénominateur commun, autant l’Église doit l’élever en l’appelant à la sainteté. Les saints de notre histoire chrétienne sont la preuve de la force inouïe de l’Évangile et de la vitalité de l’Église depuis deux millénaires. Il est très important pour la pastorale de les proposer en exemple aux hommes et aux femmes d’aujourd’hui, aux jeunes comme aux adultes, pour répondre à leurs besoins et à leurs aspiration. Les saints, à la suite de la Vierge Marie, sont le chemin privilégié pour suivre Jésus en Église où nous les célébrons dans la joie de la foi. Le culture eucharistique est le cœur de notre culture chrétienne, qui manifeste au peuple chrétien, avec toute sa sainteté et sa beauté, son mystère d’amour nourri de sacrifice et de prière.
La nouvelle annonce de l’Évangile que nous demande le Saint-Père en cette Année Jubilaire de l’an 2000 a pour tâche primordiale d’évangéliser le cœur de l’homme déçu et meurtri par le totalitarisme marxiste athée, et par les difficultés énormes pour émerger de ses ruines. Cette déception a besoin d’être évangélisée pour devenir espérance féconde dans l’Amour du Christ Rédempteur de l’Homme. L’Europe entière manque d’espérance pascale. La tâche des pasteurs, messagers de la Résurrection de Jésus, est de partager cette espérance dans le monde nouveau et définitif de l’Amour infini de Dieu source de joie éternelle, car « de pleurs ni de mort il n’y aura plus », nous dit l’Apocalypse. L’annonce des Béatitudes ouvre un chemin d’espérance.
La nouvelle évangélisation qui est notre tâche primordiale sera une évangélisation de la liberté et de la responsabilité. Seule l’éducation à la liberté responsable peut convaincre que l’exercice de la responsabilité dans la liberté donne à chaque personne de devenir pleinement humaine. Elle fait découvrir le sens du péché et du pardon, et par là même le sens et la valeur infinie de l’Amour, dont le mystère de Dieu est la source et l’Église la messagère.
Après l’écroulement de la grande muraille idéologique et policière qui avait si tragiquement divisé l’Europe, il nous est bon de respirer enfin pleinement à pleins poumons dans la liberté du Christ. La voie de l’Église est celle de l’Évangile « dans ce monde, mais non pas de ce monde » (Jean 17,14), en puisant sans cesse à la source éternelle de lumière qu’est le Christ, en laissant agir en nous et en ouvrant tous nos frères à la grâce de son mystère d’amour rédempteur et sanctificateur.
Chers frères évêques d’Ukraine, après tant de larmes répandues et de sang versé, tant de ruines matérielles et culturelles accumulées, des accomplissements nouveaux deviennent possibles, qui sont confiés à votre pastorale pour qu’après la nuit du Vendredi Saint brille la lumière de Pâques du Christ ressuscité.
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Cardinal Paul Poupard addressed a working session of the Ukrainian Latin rite bishops’ conference on the theme of the Church’s pastoral attention to culture. He drew attention to the fact that, while the atheist communist regime had fallen from power in Ukraine, its effects were still to be felt: the fruit of a godless totalitarianism is a soulless culture. Thus, the Catholic Church in Ukraine ought to give pride of place to the promotion of a culture that is open to the Universal, with deep roots in its national identity.
En su intervención en los trabajos de la Conferencia Episcopal de Rito Latino de Ucrania, el card. Paul Poupard ha abordado el tema de la pastoral de la cultura. En ella recuerda que tras la caída del régimen comunista ateo en Ucrania, sus efectos aún permanecen: el fruto del totalitarismo sin Dios es una cultura sin alma. Por ello, la tarea principal de la Iglesia Católica en Ucrania consiste en promover una cultura abierta a lo universal, que hunda sus raíces en la identidad nacional.
Partecipando ai lavori della Conferenza Episcopale d’Ucraina di rito latino, il Cardinale Paul Poupard ha affrontato la tematica della pastorale della cultura, ricordando che il regime comunista ateo è caduto in Ucraina, ma i suoi effetti rimangono: il frutto del totalitarismo senza Dio è una cultura senza anima. Per questo, il compito principale della Chiesa cattolica in Ucraina è di promuovere una cultura aperta all’universale con le radici nell’identità nazionale.
UNO SPIRITO DIALOGANTE
alla cerimonia di consegna dei Premi Principe de Asturias 2000
Carlo Maria Card. MARTINI
Sono vivamente grato per la concessione di questo premio, che mi onora e mi stimola nel servizio alla Chiesa e alla società di oggi.
So che è stato tenuto presente per il suo conferimento l’impegno di aprire sentieri di dialogo tra credenti e non credenti e tra gruppi sociali con difficoltà di mutua intesa.
Vorrei dire che la radice di questo servizio che ho cercato di fare – anche con l’aiuto di tanti altri, miei maestri, colleghi e collaboratori, a cui va tutta la mia gratitudine – sta nei libri della Bibbia, che ho avuto il dono di poter studiare scientificamente per molti anni, dedicandomi in particolare alla critica testuale e alla ermeneutica. Ho potuto così sperimentare in me e in molti altri come la Bibbia sia il libro fondamentale della nostra storia e il libro del futuro dell’Europa.
Dall’ascolto e dalla frequentazione delle Sacre Scritture ebraiche e cristiane nascono sentieri di approfondimento spirituale che portano alla radice dei grandi problemi umani e permettono di cogliere una base comune di dialogo con tutte le persone di buona volontà, anche di altre religioni o non credenti. Meditando a lungo sulle Scritture mi accorgevo che ciò che si produceva in me nella mente e nel cuore (il “cuore che brucia” di cui parlano i due discepoli di Emmaus in Lc 24,32) lo si poteva trovare anche nella esperienza profonda di altri, in particolare dei giovani.
Posso dunque dire che è lo studio della Bibbia e la meditazione sulla Bibbia che mi hanno portato alla pratica del dialogo.
Oggi uno spirito dialogante è quanto mai necessario. Ma per esso occorre anzitutto avere approfondito bene la propria identità. La Bibbia e in particolare i vangeli e le lettere di Paolo sono come lo specchio che rivela noi a noi stessi, ci fa capire chi siamo e che cosa siamo chiamati ad essere.
Per dialogare è poi necessario coltivare una spiritualità fondata sul silenzio e sull’ascolto. La familiarità con la Bibbia insegna anzitutto ad ascoltare: “ascolta, Israele” (Deut 6,4); e l’esortazione è ripresa spesso da Gesù: “Ascoltate” (Mt 4,3), “Se uno ha orecchi per intendere intenda” (Mt 4,23). Ma l’ascolto suppone il silenzio. Oggi è necessario che chiunque ha una responsabilità pubblica abbia nella sua giornata momenti di silenzio prolungato, tanto più lunghi quanto più grandi sono le sue responsabilità. L’episodio biblico di Elia nella caverna del monte Oreb ci racconta che la voce di Dio non si manifestò né nel vento impetuoso né nel terremoto né nel fuoco ma “in un sottile mormorio di silenzio” (1Re 19,13). Il silenzio apre il cuore e la mente all’ascolto di ciò che è essenziale e vero.
Da ultimo per il dialogo occorre avere sincera simpatia per l’altro, avvicinarlo con fiducia, essere pronto a imparare da chiunque parli con sincerità e onestà.
Un dialogo sulle cose più importanti della vita è oggi necessario per la sopravvivenza e lo sviluppo delle culture, specialmente in Europa, anche per evitare che ci trovi spettatori di quel “clash of civilizations” (“cozzo delle civiltà”) che è stato prospettato da qualche studioso come conseguenza della fine dei grandi blocchi ideologici.
In un mondo che va sempre più unificandosi dal punto di vista economico e finanziario e nel quale oggi è possibile comunicare in tempo reale da tutte le parti della terra con ogni altra parte di essa, occorre uno stile di dialogo e di ascolto che tocchi anche i problemi sociali ed economici e permetta di passare da una globalizzazione dei mercati e delle informazioni a una globalizzazione della solidarietà, come ha chiesto ripetutamente il Papa Giovanni Paolo II, invitando per l’anno del Giubileo a “creare una nuova cultura di solidarietà e cooperazione internazionali, in cui tutti... assumano la loro responsabilità per un modello di economia al servizio di ogni persona” (Giovanni Paolo II, Incarnationis Mysterium, n. 12). Si tratta di interpretare e organizzare l’economia riconoscendone il valore e i limiti e la sua subordinazione all’etica. “Ciò implica anche la ricerca di strumenti giuridici idonei per un effettivo governo «sopranazionale» dell’economia: a una comunità economica deve poter corrispondere una società civile internazionale, capace di esprimere forme di soggettività economica e politica ispirate alla solidarietà e alla ricerca del bene comune in una visione sempre più ampia, capace di abbracciare il mondo intero” (Giovanni Paolo II, Ai docenti e agli alunni dell’Università Commerciale “Luigi Bocconi” di Milano, 20 novembre 1999, n. 4).
Sarà così possibile affrontare anche altri problemi brucianti di oggi: la pace tra le etnie e le religioni, specialmente in Medio Oriente; i diritti umani e la difesa della dignità della persona in ogni paese del mondo e in ogni momento della vita; i problemi dell’ambiente e la difesa della terra dal degrado che la sta minacciando. I1 credente sarà guidato dalla certezza che c’è al di sotto dei cammini umani una grazia dello Spirito Santo che sostiene nella lotta contro ogni assurdità e ingiustizia. Chiunque ha almeno fiducia nella vita, anche se non ha una specifica fede religiosa, potrà allora trovare dei compagni di cammino con cui condividere l’ansia per la dignità di ogni uomo e donna e di ogni popolo della terra.
La grande tradizione civile e religiosa di questa terra di Asturias, in cui la cultura europea riconosce uno dei suoi nuclei fondatori, ci fa guardare al futuro con quella speranza che sola può dare slancio di fronte alle difficoltà e alle oscurità del presente.
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Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the archbishop of Milan (Italy), spoke at the presentation of the Principe de Asturias prize 2000 of his conviction that the Bible is the foundation stone of our history and the key to the future of Europe. While the spirit of dialogue is important, what matters most of all is appropriating one’s own identity. For dialogue, we need to cultivate a spirituality based on silence and listening, as well as having sincere sympathy for the other person, whose trust we must earn.
El card. Carlo Maria Martini, arzobispo de Milán, en su intervención en la ceremonia de entrega del Premio Príncipe de Asturias 2000, expresa su convicción de que la Biblia es el libro fundamental de nuestra historia y el libro del futuro de Europa. Es importante un espíritu de diálogo, pero para ello es necesario cultivar una espiritualidad fundada en el silencio y la escucha, se debe nutrir una sincera simpatía por el otro.
Le Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Archevêque de Milan, Italie, dans son intervention à la cérémonie de remise des Prix Prince des Asturies 2000, exprime sa conviction que la Bible est le livre fondamental de notre histoire, et le livre du futur de l’Europe. L’esprit de dialogue est important, mais pour cela il requiert avant tout de bien approfondir sa propre identité. Pour dialoguer, il est nécessaire de cultiver une spiritualité fondée sur le silence et sur l’écoute, d’éprouver une sincère sympathie envers l’autre.
DIVERSITY AND RELIGION
Fís Conference, 15 April 2000
Mons. Donal MURRAY
The fís brochure expressed the hope that the conference will be “a lively, forward-looking event”. There are those who would expect a conference on Christianity and our Culture to be boring and to have its focus very much on the past. Many believe that religion is seriously weakened, that we are in the process of growing out of it. Nobody can deny that the statistics point in the direction of steep decline. “If present trends continue…” as they say, the decline would surely be terminal.
Pope John Paul predicted something of the sort when he addressed the young people of Ireland in Galway: “You will hear people tell you that your religious practices are out of date, that they hamper your style and your future, that with everything that social and scientific progress has to offer, you will be able to organise your own lives, and that God has played out his role.”
Those who were eighteen or nineteen at that time are now about forty years old. For over two decades they have heard voices which tell them that religion hampers their style. Many people of that generation, and indeed of other generations, in spite of the experience they have had of growing up in a Christian environment (or could it be because of that experience?) see the Church as unrelievedly restrictive, rigid and cramping.
It is not an undue exaggeration to say that they see Ireland stalked by a clumsy, insensitive, outdated, dinosaur-like creature, which really ought to be long-extinct, which they believe will be extinct very shortly, a creature called “the institutional Church”! I sometimes wonder if that is meant to be another name for ‘the bishops’ or, if not, who or what is this creature and where is its lair? If that vision were correct, the future prospects for such a clumsy, obsolete survival would be bleak indeed!
And what about the future of the faith which the Church has tried, with varying degrees of success and varying degrees of consistency, to proclaim? To reflect on the future of faith in Ireland necessarily involves facing up to the challenge posed by that attitude which we all recognise, even if I have caricatured it somewhat. The question poses itself not just to institutions but to faith itself: is religion something that cramps one’s style or is it the truth that sets us free.
The first thing we need to do is to look at what we mean by freedom. Is the new “freedom” which is celebrated by many people – the “freedom from the oppressive influence of the Catholic Church” – a genuine liberation? It certainly has aspects that show greater maturity and harmony, but, in all honesty, one also has to recognise some of the characteristics of a turbulent adolescence. We are ‘freed’ by labour saving devices; we are more ‘entertained’ than any generation in history, but we often feel that we are on a merciless treadmill.
I am always struck by an incident in one of Steinbeck’s novels. Two soldiers in an army of occupation are talking dejectedly to one another. One begins to laugh bitterly: “Conquest after conquest, deeper and deeper into molasses… Flies conquer the flypaper”.
The first flush of exuberance can pall and disillusionment can set in. What seemed like exciting liberation can become wearying. That is what Dorothy Parker called “The Flaw in Paganism”:
and dance and laugh and lie,
What seems to be freedom may turn out to be an illusion or at least to be unexpectedly ambiguous. The question posed by Vatican II still niggles: “What is the meaning of suffering, evil, death, which have not been eliminated by all this progress?”
One reason why freedom as many people seek it turns out to be illusory is that their idea of freedom is too individual, too solitary. Freedom is seen as “doing one’s own thing”, unhampered by anything outside oneself. It is an image that we all find somewhere in our own hearts because we are all children of our culture. Such an idea is bound to lead not just to a testing and challenging – which is necessary and good – but to a fundamental rejection of institutions and traditions of all kinds, political and religious; it will tend to find all frameworks, religious and cultural, restricting.
In relation to the Church, to politics, to society in general, we can all detect in ourselves a resentment about the very idea of rules or structures: “What right has anyone else to tell me what to do?” That does, of course contain an element of truth. We do all feel ‘hemmed in’ in all sorts of ways. Structures can become deadening. Institutions can keep people trapped in discouraging situations, circumscribed by the expectations of others, limited by an inability to recognise the need for new approaches, frustrated by outdated traditions.
But the idea that people would make themselves freer by standing in splendid isolation, belonging to nothing, without roots, trying to build a new world for themselves from scratch, is an illusion. It is worth reflecting a little on why it is an illusion.
myself” is a fine ideal provided
we realise that it is only in
relationship to others that we grow in self-understanding and in freedom.
Culture and freedom are a kind of language. They have to do with how we relate to one another. Without some kind of grammar and vocabulary a language cannot function; without some kind of shared context – a culture or tradition – freedom cannot effectively be exercised. That is why human creativity never means literally making something out of nothing. Unless the new is built out of human experience, which however unique and individual is also in some sense a shared experience, unless it is expressed in some kind of human language, it is not just challenging and difficult, it is simply unintelligible.
That truth is clear in the very language we use about some forms of creativity. We speak of ‘making a discovery’. The word ‘making’ implies that something new is brought into being; the word ‘discovery’ implies that something that was always there is being uncovered, as when the sculptor ‘releases’ a figure from the stone. Human creativity always exists in the interplay of these two elements.
The individual standing defiantly alone is a common image of freedom. The paradox is that the lone individual is helpless in the face of political structures and economic forces – apart from the ability that we always retain of a heroic refusal to participate in what we believe to be evil. It is only in working together that change is achieved.
More importantly, the individual considered in isolation lacks the very things that make it possible for a person to be creative and whole. (That is insofar as we are ever whole – the quest of freedom is in a fundamental sense the never-achieved quest for wholeness.) It is only in relationships that we grow to know ourselves, that we develop our abilities. The human being finds him or herself only in sincere self-giving.
A deep sense of loneliness and helplessness is very characteristic of life in our time. The world is full of problems that seem insoluble – famine, ethnic conflicts, structural injustice, threats to the environment. All of us look at the world with a sense of unease, with a feeling that we are not addressing, and do not even know how to address, the vast problems that surround us. Anybody who does not feel that helplessness has never faced the reality of the kind of world we inhabit.
Even when dramatically welcome changes come about, almost out of the blue, as happened in South Africa and in the collapse of the Soviet empire, or when the prospect of a breakthrough flickers from time to time in intractable situations such as the Middle East, or Northern Ireland, we are not quite sure what is happening to bring progress about. No matter how great the breakthrough we know that it does not resolve all the issues and the ‘solutions’ remain fragile and incomplete.
We are taken by surprise by developments at least partly because we underestimate the power of the convictions which grow in people through their family life, their religious faith, the power of the commitments and loyalties which mean most to them. The human person grows through self giving, in honest, loyal, generous relationship and sharing.
People learn to see the truth, to live the truth, to stand up for the truth in their homes and their churches, in groups and associations, in their dialogue with one another. That is where convictions come from. Mighty empires and impregnable walls have crumbled throughout history. They fall at least partly because people stop believing in them and begin to see them for the empty shams that they really are.
One of the reasons why the life of the wider society often seems empty and shallow is that it subtly seems to imply that such convictions and loyalties are merely private matters. That, in a nutshell, is the meaning of secularism. It gives God a box, a “God-slot” which must take its place alongside all the other boxes. A god who fits into a slot, however, is not God but an idol. There is not and cannot be a slot big enough for God.
To speak about the individual, sincere, authentic, true to himself or herself sounds fine. But when one asks what this authenticity consists in, or what makes this individual a person of integrity, the picture becomes more complicated. Integrity is actually the willingness to devote oneself generously and honestly to the dignity of others; it is a person’s commitment to what is beyond him or herself, to what a believer sees as the call of God. It is about relating to others.
One of the most profound sources of alienation is the feeling that when one stands in the public square, one does so in a certain sense “anonymously”. The things that are deepest within the human person are not seen as relevant. We are expected to speak and relate, for the most part, without reference to what are called our ‘private convictions’. We find ourselves speaking a kind of Esperanto, which has no deep roots in our own personal experience or convictions, to someone who is similarly tiptoeing around his or her own convictions. Esperanto is a second language. In an increasing number of contexts we speak only our second language. It is inevitable and good that we should have a second language – we must speak to one another across differences. But we must not neglect our first language which gives life and depth to what we are seeking to express.
Generally speaking, one also realises that institutions as such, which seem increasingly powerful and pervasive, have little interest in the individual person. It is really only people who relate to people. Institutions are never any more than instruments through which they may do so – or obstacles which render that relationship more difficult. Faced with institutions, therefore, the individual often has a sense that “these structures neither know me nor care about me”. That sense of ‘anonymity’ is found at work, in relation to the State, in relation to the churches, in relation to every kind of institution.
The hopeful side of all this is that those convictions, the integrity to which they lead, the commitment which they create, are much more powerful forces than we recognise. They are factors without which society and the State would be unworkable.
They spring out of the great restlessness, the energy which is at the root of human freedom. This energy, which expresses itself in religion and in sexuality, in myths and in primordial fears and longings, in artistic creativity, is dangerous because it is always capable of distortion and fanaticism, but it is the “creative restlessness in which beats and pulsates what is most deeply human – the search for truth, the insatiable need for the good, hunger for freedom, longing for the beautiful, and the voice of conscience”.
One of the most fundamental challenges for society and for the Church today is to relate with individual people in such a way as to show them that they actually count, that they do matter. This means relating to them in a way that speaks to ‘what is most deeply human’. The Catch-22 is that if society and the Church are seen as soulless institutional structures, they are regarded as being, ‘by definition’ incapable of relating in such a way. They are not seen as capable of touching those seething depths of restlessness and creativity.
Meeting this challenge requires a reaching upwards and downwards. The institutions have to find ways of reaching individual people; each person has to find ways of reaching out beyond his or her individual and family concerns to the wider society.
Paradoxically, it is in reaching out to meet the human condition in others that one learns to meet what is deepest in oneself. That is why the most important meeting point for the individual and what appear to be great monoliths, such as political and economic forces that no one seems to control, is a rich social fabric of intermediate groups in which individuals grow and flourish by meeting as whole persons, and which the larger society has to learn to value as essential components of social well-being.
There is a paragraph in Centesimus Annus which sums up the challenge: “Apart from the family, other intermediate institutions exercise primary functions and give life to specific networks of solidarity. These develop as real communities of persons and strengthen the social fabric, preventing society from becoming an anonymous and impersonal mass, as unfortunately often happens today. It is in interrelationships on many levels that a person lives and that society becomes more «personalized»”.
Speaking out of a minority culture, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain sees religion as playing a central role in a society which is multicultural and secular: “As national identity grows weaker, other identities fill the vacated space, and of these religion is the most personal and transmissible. Not only among minorities. Perhaps the most unexpected fact about contemporary Britain is that the overwhelming majority of the population has not stopped being Christian. It may not be reflected in church-going or religious observance. But it answers the question increasingly unanswerable in other terms. The question: Who am I?”
In a Conference devoted to the topic, ‘Christianity and our Culture’, an underlying question is bound to be about how these two are linked. It is important to begin by saying that they are not linked as two entirely separate realities. The dialogue between Christian faith and culture cannot be identified with the dialogue between Christian faith and non-belief. That is a confusion that is sometimes made and it is a sign of sloppy thinking. It would imply that culture and non-belief were identical, whereas, to even the most casual observer, Irish and European culture are shot through with Christian themes and Christian inspiration.
The dialogue between faith and culture takes place in the first instance in the believer and in the believing community. Because it brings us onto the common ground of the culture we share with others, it is the foundation for the dialogue between faith and non-belief.
The question “Who am I?” or better, “Who are we?” is a question which is fundamental to both faith and culture. In saying that, I am not at all saying, as some commentators have suggested, that, “Unless culture is underpinned by faith it is meaningless”. I hope I did not say anything so daft! But I do say that culture and faith both touch the deep question of what it means to be human.
Pope John Paul says in Centesimus Annus that, “Different cultures are basically different ways of facing the question of the meaning of personal existence”. In Redemptor Hominis, he described Christianity as a “deep amazement” at human worth and dignity when we see ourselves in the light of the Gospel.
The task for the Church is to be a place where we discover and celebrate and live the truth about ourselves. That is where the challenge lies today. In many ways art and culture express the vibrancy and the pain of human life and its deepest questions. With the passage of time, there is a danger that the language of religion, which also expresses profound and liberating and humbling truths about humanity, can become dry and empty, can lose touch with the pain and vibrancy and questions of the human heart.
The opening words of the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World express that challenge. They are, I think, not simply a statement of fact; they might also serve as a mission statement: “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts”.
That is why the dialogue with culture is so urgent. One of the things that emerges when one listens to artists is that they often express a sense of being isolated and not understood – a sense that being an artist can be a lonely vocation.
In some way, perhaps, this parallels the experience of the preacher of the Gospel. Words and expressions which seem full of rich meaning to the artist often seem to be met with incomprehension. Anyone who tries to witness to the Gospel knows the same frustration. Words which only a couple of decades ago were words of power and resonance, ‘sanctifying grace’, ‘salvation’, for instance, seem to have lost their power. They refer to a life in which every aspiration of every human heart is fulfilled and in which every human wound is healed, but they are heard as tired religious language scarcely related to ‘real’ life.
One reason why the words of both artist and preacher often fail to resonate is that most of the people, most of the time, do not seem to feel the need to open themselves to the level of experience that both the artist and the preacher are trying to address. Even the most hallowed words can become hollow.
The sad thing, however, is that, too often, these two voices, seeking to address the reality of human existence, do not understand, and do not see any need to understand, each other. I have no doubt that the dialogue with art and culture can help religion to discover a new language – a language which can learn from poetry and the audio-visual, from literature and science and communications. This will be a language not in the first instance for communicating the Gospel but for hearing the question of meaning as it poses itself in what the Pope during his visit to Knock, called the new continent, of a new generation. Only those who know how to listen can know how to speak.
What that will require is not just new techniques of communication but learning to relate in a genuinely personal way with other people. The first step in communication is some kind of community or communion or common ground – a language which is mutually understood. And that needs to take place at the kind of level where the questions and the answers can be heard in depth.
That means relating in a way that does not evade the questions of life and death and meaning in the way that is expected in most areas of social life. The Church, and in particular the liturgy, is the place where people are meant to gather in awareness of their dependence on God and on each other, aware of their mortality and the tragic side of human life, yet full of hope. The liturgy is a place to which one is meant to come without illusions of self-sufficiency. There is a sense in which it is the place in which we can be most truly ourselves and relate most truly to each other.
The liturgy, when it is really seen as addressing those realities – at a wedding, at a tragic funeral – does come alive and allow the congregation to come alive, precisely because it is in touch with the deeper truths which ordinary life finds it hard to handle. Ritual is capable of addressing truths that language alone, however eloquent or even poetic, is inadequate to express.
It would be unrealistic to expect every liturgical celebration to have the intensity of a tragic funeral. On the other hand every liturgy should in some way touch the fragility of human existence, the joys and hopes, the pulsating restlessness of the human heart, the longing for and the worship of God as the creator and the destiny of human life.
All of these are things that we learn to face, if at all, in the deep personal relationship of family and close knit groups. Sometimes when people speak of the importance of the family, it sounds like a mere longing for an idealised past. What is involved is much more basic than that. It is a recognition of the importance of the formative role of the family and other groupings on a human scale in enabling the person to acquire the convictions, the sense of personal identity, the commitment and the drive to live a really human life. The family is ideally a place in which a person can be truly who he or she is, a place where one does not have to pretend in order to be accepted, where one does not have to act as though one were immune to the fear, anxiety and vulnerability that are at the heart of our lives. Even those, perhaps especially those, who are tragically deprived of that experience, through war or disaster or misfortune or the fragility of relationships, need some such setting where they can learn to trust others and to trust themselves.
No State, no mere institution, can of itself provide the context in which such genuine human growth can take place nor can it produce the qualities that come from such growth. To expect that of the State is to misunderstand its role. It is not, and cannot be, the whole of human society. It is an aspect of the community, which, if it is to be healthy, needs to have a whole series of interlocking and overlapping groupings. It is within these groupings that human qualities develop. Without those qualities, and the hope and solidarity they engender, the individual will almost inevitably be swamped by what, in the absence of those qualities, would truly be monoliths.
An even more basic reason why the isolated individual cannot be really free is that freedom is reciprocal. Pope John Paul says that freedom “is not merely a right that one claims for oneself. It is also a duty that one undertakes with regard to others”.
This is a factor in contemporary culture which at first sight might seem to be working against individualism – namely tolerance and pluralism, which are rightly seen as essential qualities of a civilised society. And indeed the next question, once we recognise the importance of the settings in which convictions and character are formed, is how we relate with others whose convictions are equally deep but different.
The strange thing is that, in practice, for instance with regard to the question of abortion, our “pluralist”, “tolerant” societies seem to be every bit as bitter and as polarised as any society that went before them. It is worth asking ourselves why.
The idea that what are called “private convictions” have no place in ordinary social life is an attitude which seems tolerant, but it contains inherent contradictions. Tolerance of that kind is a merely passive acceptance of the right of others to hold views different from one’s own. Their views are respected, but only from a distance. They are tolerated precisely because they are of no possible concern: “You are entitled to your beliefs, whatever they are; they are none of my business.”
One reason why this does not diminish polarisation, as one might have thought, is that it provides little or no incentive actually to understand the convictions of others. We recognise the differences, but take no steps to understand what causes them. We may presume that it is unnecessary, perhaps impossible, to understand why someone else sees things differently.
The differences are often due to incompatible ways of understanding the basic questions: “What is the right thing to do and why?” For some it is a matter of balancing good and evil consequences; for some it is a matter of intuition; for some it is a matter of interpreting the scriptures; for some it is a matter of reasoning about the most human way to live.
Seeing people come to different answers may be a source of great friction if one has little understanding of why they do so. Underlying the passive tolerance there can be, and often is, an added, unspoken, clause: “You are entitled to your view – but it beats me how anyone could possibly be so stupid/inhuman/pigheaded!” How far is it the case that views which are apparently tolerated are in fact at the same time being silently dismissed as amoral, weird, evil, medieval, lax, fundamentalist, cruel, woolly and so on?
Obviously anybody with strong convictions will regard opposing views as false – that is not the problem. The problem is that, when we try to act as though it were a matter of no significance, minds do not meet.
We do not address the issue because we have no way of discussing such differences and no way of understanding why they arise. The tolerant surface covers turbulent depths, seething with anger, disapproval and dislike. This leads to the situation described by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “Once we lose a common language, we enter the public domain as competing interest groups rather than as joint architects of a shared society… At its extreme [this environment] produces a clash of fundamentalisms, some liberal, some conservative, neither with the resources to understand the other”.
Merely passive tolerance can lead to a bitter polarisation because it can amount to saying to a person, “Your beliefs do not matter to me; they are irrelevant to how we relate to one another; they have nothing to contribute to our common social life.” It also amounts to accepting that you regard my deep, so-called ‘private’ convictions in the same light.
The trouble is that neither of us may actually be prepared to accept the implication that our convictions are unimportant or irrelevant to the well-being of society. Each of us may bitterly resent the other’s attempt to suggest that our beliefs have nothing to contribute. Once again, “tolerance” covers an underlying resentment and hostility.
What we need is a society which is really pluralist and tolerant – a society in which a person’s convictions are not just respected from a distant, basically uninvolved perspective. We need a society in which any person is welcome to appear as he or she is, with all the beliefs and convictions that are important in their lives. We need a society in which a person need have no embarrassment about saying what they believe and why they believe it, and how that belief influences the options they exercise as citizens – and where others are free to say why they regard those views as mistaken, harmful or unjust. The right of free speech does of course have limits – to prevent incitement to hatred, for instance, but the presumption must be in favour of freedom.
Such a society would, by definition, have no desire to suppress the beliefs and convictions of a minority by imposing a different set of values on them. But neither would it wish to exclude some social options simply on the grounds that they harmonise with the views of a particular group of citizens. They would want all such decisions to be made in the light of respectful, honest, open dialogue as to what is best for society.
The complexity of the demands that this makes is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in the question of accommodating the different traditions in Ireland. But it is a question that will have increasing relevance everywhere in a shrinking world, where contact between people of very different backgrounds will occur on a much greater scale than in the past.
The challenge of building peace, is summed up by Pope John Paul: “The right to profess the truth must always be upheld, but not in a way which involves contempt for those who may think differently. Truth imposes itself solely by the force of its own truth. To deny an individual complete freedom of conscience – and in particular the freedom to seek the truth – or to attempt to impose a particular way of seeing the truth, constitutes a violation of that individual’s most personal rights. This also aggravates animosities and tensions, which can easily lead to strained and hostile relations within society or even to open conflict”.
The isolated individual is impotent because only in relationships does he or she grow as a person and acquire the values and convictions that give life depth and direction. Furthermore, it is only in relationships that respect the same depth in others that real growth takes place. The philosopher Gabriel Marcel says, in effect, that the less seriously I take the person with whom I am dealing, the less seriously I take myself. From one point of view the peacemaker might be described as one who sets out to take every other human being as seriously as him or herself.
The deepest truth about the sincere convictions and beliefs of anybody is that they are sacred. “objectively speaking, the search for truth and the search for God are one and the same”. In that context, the convictions of other people demand the greatest reverence. That is one of the key roles of the Church, indeed of the Churches, in the Ireland of today with its fragile hopes for peace and reconciliation. Christian faith offers the real reason why the beliefs of other people must be treated with reverence. The conviction that one has found the truth is a belief that, in some small respect, one has taken a step in the common journey by which we respond to the call of the Truth.
It also provides the basic reason why it is not sufficient simply to say, “whatever you believe is no concern of mine”. The search for the truth is not a merely private matter. The truth we seek is the same truth. Our Christian faith tells us that the Truth, which is the answer to the longings of the human heart, is Jesus Christ. “Through loyalty to conscience Christians are joined with the rest of humanity in the search for truth”. We cannot be indifferent to the search by which others seek the Lord.
Far from hampering our growth, Christian faith provides the foundation for a vision of freedom which genuinely answers human aspirations.
Underlying our view of the world there is a sneaking feeling that we are relying on a philosophy of “I’m all right, Jack!” We have anxieties about the health and well being of those close to us, about the success we hope for in our own lives, about economic prospects, about the prospects for peace and so on. But, however unfortunately our lives turn out, they will never compare with the misery suffered by millions of people in our own time and down the centuries. They have led lives of unrelieved desperation, of pain and fear, of starvation and deprivation, of persecution and injustice, beyond anything we can imagine. If it is true that, whenever anybody suffers, the bell tolls for me, then is not my freedom an illusion so long as life is absurd for any of my fellow human beings?
In the end, the sense that we can all be “joint architects of a shared society” depends on there being a goal which we can seek together. If it is to be a complete answer to the dilemmas and the questions of the human condition, that goal cannot be a simply human construct. Millions of those whose lives have been blighted by oppression and misfortune are entirely beyond the reach of our efforts to improve the world. Most of them are dead; many of those who are alive will not be helped by any action that we could conceivably take.
The most liberating truth of the Good News is that the effort to build “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace” is not in vain and that the way of love is open to us. This is so because the goal of human history is being established by the power of God who is love. That is what makes our freedom more than a seeking after illusions. It is the search for God who can ultimately and completely satisfy the human quest.
The Christian Gospel points to a freedom which recognises that there is more to the human person than the shallow, autonomous individual who tries to stand alone in the face of the vast machinery of political, social and economic forces that shape our world. It challenges us to avoid “every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about humanity and about the world”.
The Christian Gospel shows us that we are engaged in a common human search for God who is the Truth. It is a search in which we are “joined with the rest of humanity”. It is a search which finds its ultimate meaning when the Word of God, the Incarnate Truth, reaches out to us, providing ‘the definitive and superabundant answer’ to the deepest human questions about the meaning and purpose of life.
“Nothing can come but that God wills”, St. Thomas More wrote to his daughter on the eve of his execution. “And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best”. God meets us not in the “if onlys” or the “might have beens”, but in the actual reality, however bleak it is. To refuse to recognise and in a sense to ‘consent’ to the truth of one’s situation is to fail to understand that our freedom is God’s gift, to be exercised in God’s world, in response to God’s love.
Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God ‘face to face’, will we fully know the ways by which – even through the dramas of evil and sin – God has guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth.
It requires an act of faith to recognise that God comes to meet us, even in frustration and helplessness. But that act of faith knows that human freedom is unconquerable. Everything it longs for and more is to be found in the acceptance of the liberating but mysterious purposes of God.
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El obispo de Limerick, Irlanda, Donald Murray, estudia el tema de la libertad. Examinando las causas que llevan a muchos a considerar la libertad una ilusión, demuestra que sólo la fe cristiana puede ser el fundamento de una visión de libertad que responda sinceramente a las aspiraciones humanas. A continuación aborda la pregunta “¿quién soy yo?”, o mejor “¿quiénes somos nosotros?” y destaca que se trata de una pregunta fundamental para la fe y la cultura.
L’Évêque de Limerick, Irlande, Donal Murray, s’interroge sur le thème de la liberté. En recherchant pourquoi la liberté, chez de nombreuses personnes, est illusoire, il démontre que seule la foi chrétienne peut être le fondement d’une vision de la liberté qui réponde sincèrement aux aspirations humaines. Il affronte ensuite la question : « Qui suis-je ? » ou mieux, « Qui sommes-nous ? », et il relève qu’il s’agit d’une demande qui est fondamentale pour la foi et la culture.
Il Vescovo di Limerick, Irlanda, Donal Murray, indaga sul tema della libertà. Esaminando le cause, per cui la libertà per molte persone è illusoria, dimostra che solo la fede cristiana può essere il fondamento di una visione di libertà che risponda sinceramente alle aspirazioni umane. Quindi di fronte alla domanda: “chi sono io?”, o meglio: “chi siamo noi?”, mette in evidenza il fatto che si tratta di una domanda fondamentale per la fede e per la cultura.
 Steinbeck, J., The Moon is Down, Pan Books 1958, p. 87.
 Gaudium et Spes, 10.
 Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 24.
 Redemptor Hominis, 18.
 Centesimus Annus, 49.
 Sacks, J., The Persistence of Faith, Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1991, p. 86.
 Hederman, M. P. and Love, C., The Furrow 48, 6, June 1997, p. 378.
 Centesimus Annus, 24.
 Redemptor Hominis, 10.
 Gaudium et Spes, 1.
 Message for the World Day of Peace 1981.
 Sacks, J., op. cit., p. 88.
 Message for the World Day of Peace 1991.
 « Chose remarquable, plus mon interlocuteur est extérieur, plus je me sens, du même coup et dans cette même mesure, extérieur à moi-même; en face d’un tel, je deviens moi aussi tel autre », Marcel, G., Essai de Philosophie Concrète, Gallimard 1967, p. 55.
 Message for the World Day of Peace 1991.
 Gaudium et Spes, 16, cf. 45.
 Sacks, J., op. cit., p. 88.
 Preface, Solemnity of Christ the King.
 Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 38.
 Redemptor Hominis, 12.
 Gaudium et Spes, 16.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 68.
 Quoted in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 313.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 314.