Page 4, 27th November 1964

27th November 1964
Page 4
Page 9
Page 4, 27th November 1964 — DEVELOPMENT IN DIGNITY

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Locations: Bombay, Mexico City


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Last week FR. PAUL CRANE, S.J., ofiered some criticism concerning the tone of recent Catholic comment in this country concerning the task of the Church in the modern world. This week he gives some constructive suggestions for the carrying out of that task in the developing countries.

THE apparent unconcern of Catholics with the world has worried some of us for a considerable time. The root of the trouble lies, I believe, in an overemphasis on one side of the Christian message. This is represented as confined only to the means of salvation and as having little to do with the human condition necessary to their effective operation.

Yet the Church's message is to all men and it is as human beings that men are meant to serve God. Grace does not operate in vacuo, in defiance of human nature.

The extension to all of the means of salvation presupposes a parallel effort in the social and political field to place before each the opportunity of a way of life compatible with human dignity. The dignity of men is found in their likeness to God which is through their understanding and will: the way of life. therefore. consonant with their dignity is one that allows for the growth of their humanity—their growth. that is. in the likeness of God— through the responsible exercise of their human powers.

The right oi each to the opportunity of so doing is God-given and may not be abrogated by roan. Grace works through human fulfilment and not in spite or it. The conclusion is inescapable.

Those who are copecrned with grace must be concerned with the social and political conditions relevant to human dignity, with the opportunity of human—that is, responsible—action these should place not merely before Catholics, but all men; for all arc candidates for grace.

First requirement

The basis of the Church's concern with what is sometimes called the temporal order is found in this analysis. It carries a constant obligation to work for a political and social order under which the opportunity of responsible fulfilment is placed before all men. Mere statement of the task is sufficient to define its magnitude. How is it to be done?

The first requirement is that bishops, priests and laymen should be aware of this' necessity: the second. that they should attempt strategically to meet its demands. So far as I can see. neither of these requirements has yet been met on a significant scale.

Awareness is growing, but very slowly. There is, in consequence, little understanding of the very great need for the strategic application of what resources we have. An example or two will clarify these points of criticism. They are, I am afraid. rather easy to find.

In illustration of the first, there is the pre-occupation of church authorities in developing countries with what they call the rights of the Church. Examination reveals this to mean a determination on their part to preserve intact the material fabric of the Church's pastoral work, The furtherance of human rights is not clearly envisaged: their defence rarely seen as resting on episcopal shoulders.

Confronted with this contrast, which they are quick to perceive, local politicians interpret it almost at once as signifying that they will get into trouble if they throw

a brick through a presbytery window. but that no protest will be uttered if local thugs or, indeed, police beat up an innocent opponent two hundred yards from the cathedral door.

The interpretation of the politicians usually proves correct. Faced with the growth of societies which increasingly disregard dignity, the Church has tended to retire to the sacristy. The reason given is that politics are no concern of hers.

The answer is that they are. in the sense just described; but that the work of permeating the political and social order is the task of laymen well instructed in Christian principle. It is because these have been neither instructed nor encouraged adequately to participate in public life that the Church now in many developing countries is retiring into the sacristy.

Protective outlook

The vicious circle is closing fast, The missionary mentality, which sought only to protect Christians from the world, left them without ability or inclination to influence the evolving societies of developing countries.

The result has been the birth of new States often with little respect for dignity and resentful of any attempt to further its claims. This has served the Church in these countries with an excuse for resuming the protective outlook and self-contained existepce originally responsible for a present state of affairs where personal dignity is at public discount.

By defect in the first place and now by forced choice. the Church's main concern in too many developing countries is with the preservation of herself in being. Her resources are devoted to this objective.

Meanwhile, all round her, dignity goes by default. It is, I am afraid, only too easy to see how her present misapplication of money and men is the direct result of a situation produced originally by the misunderstanding of her representatives on the spot of the full implications of the Church's mission.

Resources short

The spiral is steadily downwards, the vicious circle nearly complete. The immediate problem is to prevent it closing; the question, how to do so.

Resources of men and money are in short supply. The problem, therefore, boils down to one of apportionment. This is what I rnean by strategy; the careful selection of means and their deployment in defence of dignity.

Priorities become clear—at least for the Church in the developing countries—if we look at things in this hard-headed but necessary fashion. The least they indicate as a first necessity is the careful examination ii attempts at present being made to broaden the area of responsible activity to an extent compatible with human dignity.

This is what the credit unioUs

for example, seeks to do. The same applies to the rural co-operative, which so often stems from it.

These are not gimmicks, stunts thought out to bring local popularity to a hard-pressed Church. Their basic aim is to build a selfreliant people. taking care of its own life, shaping its own future.

This cannot be done by exhortation from the pulpit alone: some priests have still to learn this. The only effective way is patiently to encourage local populations to adopt a framework of living which cannot be supported without the practice of virtue—the entrenchment of those good habits of living —which dignity demands.

The whole point of the credit union lies here. It stimulates responsibility and self-reliance, leading people away from the docile acquiescence bred too often by the missionary Church and encouraged nowadays in the new countries by government superimposition of plans aimed at rapid modernisation.

Credit unions and the types of co-operative endeavour which flow from them do. of course, improve living standards. They do so, however, not in defiance of human dignity, but in its support.

This is what the pioneers Raiffeisen, Desjardins, Tompkins --understood so well. This is what Antigonish sees so clearly today.

In the developing world, which is mainly a rural world, the credit union is. perhaps. the instrument par excellence for consolidating the early work of the missionary Church; that is. for grounding men in those habits of responsible living which dignity demands and twaiteh.out which grace cannot easily k

Splendid success

Why then, one may well ask, does the kind of work represented by the credit union still occupy so small a place in the missionary Church's official scheme of things? One may grant that the modern pioneers have had to struggle against appalling indifference and misunderstanding in order to achieve their splendid success. am thinking of Fathers John Peter Sullivan in the Caribbean. Marion Gancy in the islands of the South Pacific, Dap McLennan in Peru, John McNulty in Northern Ghana. The last of these started latest; he began ten years ago.

What one asks now is why. given the proven success of credit-union and co-operative ventures, those working at them today should still lack official support, still find themselves out on the periphery of the Church's missionary effort, still have been given no significant training in their seminary days to fit them for this kind of operation.

Why should the indifference and misunderstanding which greeted the pioneers still persist? I am afraid the answer has to be that the missionary Church still remains unaware of the implications of its vocation and is, in consequence, largely devoid of strategic sense.

I can find no other explanation for the way in which, year after year, its effort remains confined to the same groove and its young men arrive in missionary lands as in adequately trained as they were in days gone by.

These are hard words. I am sorry if they hurt, I would not write them unless I believed them to be absolutely true.

My complaint can be simply phrased: in face of the present tendency in new nations to downgrade human dignity, the scarce resources of the missionary Church are still used with very little reference to the need for its defence.

We have, for example, heard recently from the Council on the subject of world hunger. With the greatest respect, I would suggest to the Fathers and attendant experts that the problem of world hunger is not essentially that of feeding the hungry, but of helping them to feed themselves.

In our anxiety to help the distressed, we should refrain from measures liable to pauperise the poor of the world by putting them permanently on a breadline and destroying, thereby, their dignity and their pride. instead. we should seek patiently to furnish them with a framework of living within which they can gain their bread like men; in a manner that accords with their dignity as human beings.

It is one thing to meet shortterm disaster with immediate relief: another to place whole populations permanently on the dole. This is a vital distinction. I found little trete of it in reports of speeches that dealt with world hunger. I only hope I failed to look hard enough.

I shall be told by some that Our Continued on Page 9, Col. 1 Lord bade us feed the hungry. He did indeed: but He never told us to do so at the price of the dignity of those who are fed.

It is the same with most of the other corporal works of mercy, yet we still assume that there is only one set method of carrying them out; that, somehow, it is wrong to suggest that, instead of feeding and clothing the poor directly, we should put them in the way of doing these things for themselves.

I am reminded of the nun in Graham Greene's Burnt-Out Case: she was in love with leprosy, but not with the leper. Could not the same thing be said of a good many who practise the corporal works of mercy in the missionary Church? Are they, subconsciously, in love with dependence as such and not really with the human beings who arc dependent on them?


Were this latter the case they would seek out means to abolish dependence. to restore dignity to the poor without delay. As things are, they continue in the old ways. I often wonder why. Is lack of imagination the only answer, or is there something that goes deeper down?

There is another thought that nags me in this context. It is that the immersion of the missionary Church in the corporal works of mercy is due perhaps to escapism. It is, after all, a difficult business to work for a social order in which opportunities of responsible fulfilment are placed before all men.

This requires a correct appraisal of existing situations, the careful selection of priorities. imaginative training, hard work, great patience and a capacity for involvement which at present appears to elude the best efforts of missionary orders and congregations.

It is easier. I am afraid. to stick to the old ground than to break new, to be busy with many things whilst the real work remains undone. It should be clear from the context in which this criticism is Set that its direction is not against the corporal works of mercy as such, but the confinement of their application in the mission. field to one stereotyped method.

My admiration for the selflessness of those who practise them, irrespective of the method chosen, remains unbounded.

The rural countryside is not the only area where missionary work nuist be pressurised in furtherance of human dignity. New cities and towns mushrooming in developing countries offer wonderful opportunities.

I remember a unit I discovered last year in a slum of Mexico City. It was staffed, by three Jesuits and consisted of quarters for themselves. a small hostel for young factory workers, a playground for the kids of the neighbourhood, an office and community block, a pintsized technical school.

The work done was outstanding, particularly that which was channelled through factory groups and inspired by the dynamic set in young workers by a skilful system of factory retreats. Yet, these three Fathers felt very much alone. They were only too conscious of their isolation from the mainstream of ecclesiastical effort in Mexico City.

They were regarded as peculiar by a Church still endeavouring to get back to something thought of as the normality of pre-revolution

ary days: the lesson of Cuba had not yet been learnt. These three Fathers were right on the haff Was it for this that they were left right on their own?

I have had the thought wherever 1 have clICOUntercd similar examples. like that of my friend Fr. Mascarenas whom I found early in 1962 heroically toiling alone in the red belt of Bombay. I am left with the impression that the wind of change has got to blow very hard through the missionary Church if she is to gear even a reasonable proportion of her resources in support of the rightful claims of human nature in the modern world.

The task of making the world safe for dignity belongs preeminently to the layman. A prerequisite is that he should receive the training that will enable him to assume it. Tragically, it is here that One encounters the area or greatest neglect.

Training neglected

This is a time when, particularly in the developing countries, laymen are needed to carry Christian principles into public life. to save for dignity a ease which, so often. is going by default. At a time when the Church needs them most, she is doing very little to provide even a select few with the right kind of training for this task.

The italics are deliberate. Despite the valiant efforts of a handful, son only is the general training of the layman neglected, but facilities for the specialised training of lay elites are almost negligible. Against

Communism's well disciplined cadres busy in Britain's unions, swarming now into Asia. Africa and South America, we are able to pit today MI more than the merest handful. It is like trying to hold

back a. tank with the point of a pin.

I am talking in negative terms. I am fully aware that the basic answer to Communism is through the positive working of a Christian social revolution. With great sadness I have to point out that work in its aid has barely begun.

More sadly still, even at this twenty-fifth hour, there is little evidence in the Church of any significant effort in this direction. It seems sometimes that we will never learn.

There are three things to be said by way of postscript to this article. In the first place, space has allowed me to deal only with a few of the measures immediately necessary for the defence of dignity in the modern world. _I have selected the three I consider of first importance.

Of these. the most essential is the most neglected. I refer to leadership training. Secondly. it has not been found possible, in the context of this article, to examine long-term measures to he employed in aid of man's right to live like a human being: unfortunately, on

of the existing situation in the modern world is causing these long-term measures frequently. to be substituted for others which should be employed at once if situations are to be saved.

The result is a tragic diversion of energy at a vital moment, resulting, as often as not, in heavy loss for the Church.

Thirdly, this article has referred mainly to the developing countries. The reason should be clear: the fight there is thickest at the moment. I think readers will discover nevertheless that what I have written with regard to the Church in these areas is capable of general application.

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