There can be no turning back
THE real importance of the present stage in the Church's history is that more and more Catholics are thinking about the dualism that has bogged down human history in the Christian era.
For all its strength and size, the Catholic Church can hardly be said to have transformed the world. For many she is irrelevant and anachronistic. Catholics seem to be little better or worse than anyone else on the whole. The quality of Britain, many would say, would hardly be worse if there were no Catholic community here at all.
It spite of all the ideals and pritmiples generated into society by the giants of the Church's history, her own rank and file have done far too little towards giving them form and effect.
The reasons for all this have been exploded by an impressive body of "shock thinkers" over the past generation. The universal effects of Reformation and Renaissance showed themselves in a fragmentation of knowledge, a tendency to over-specialise, and an over-fondness for mutually exclusive categories.
Man's proneness to living with a fact in each of two worlds, natural and supernatural, became more pronounced. The spiritual life became a matter for the "professionals". Natural and supernatural, spiritual and temporal, became enemies instead of wedded partners. Religion has come to be seen as a spurious overlay.
What Pope John XXIII and all those Catholic thinkers on his wavelength have meant to the world is the recognition that Christ is to be incarnated into the whole of creation, animate and inanimate, and into the social order. Everything that is derives its quality and value from this.. Pursuit of this line of thought leads naturally to a vast process of reintegration. It is, for instance, seen that the Church's teaching must be pastoral as well as juridical; that the act of faith is a combined "op" of intellect, will and passions; that the philosophies of religion, science and history _remind us that all disciplines of knowledge derive from the one, ultimate, living truth.
Finally, all this takes place in an age of vast centripedal movements from end to end of human experience. The new Europe, the awakening of the prosperous nations to the needs of the hungry millions, the ecumenical movement, the thinking of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin, Sir Charles Snow's lecture on the Two Cultures, talk of "dialogue" even with the Communists, all are part of the same process.
To the Chair of Peter
POPE JOHN came firmly into the picture with his first encyclical letter Ad Petri Cathedram, early in 1959, This startling document was a plain invi
tation, addressed to separated Christians all over the world, to
return to their Father's house. There was no reference to submission or heresy or the validity of orders. Just a simple plea to come home.
Speaking of his "gentle longing" to "address you as brothers and sons", Pope John went on; "When we lovingly invite you to the unity of the Church, we are inviting you not to the home of a stranger, but to your own, to the Father's house which belongs to all . . ."
Taking to himself the words of Augustine, he added: '"All those who are separated from us we address as brothers . . whether they like it or not. they are our brethren; they will cease to be our brethren only if they cease to say the 'Our Father' ".
Because of what he called "the lowliness of our own person", Pope John's final plea to "all our children who are separated from this See of the Blessed Peter" was the simple, moving statement; "I am thy brother Joseph; come, receive us. We have no other desire. no other wish, we ask nothing else from God, save your salvation. your eternal happiness."
The encyclical sent a convulsive throb throughout the groping, exploring councils of the ecumenical movement. Now the world knew. beyong a shadow of a doubt, the sort of Pope it had to deal with. The image of the Catholic Church as the one unyielding barrier to ecumenical progress, however false, was vivid and daunting. Now it began to change in earnest.
The Pope and the Missions
POPE JOHN'S fourth encyclical, written at the end of 1959, has been given all too little attention, and indeed only a few paragraphs of it are really mem orable. But those few are of crucial importance. In Princeps Pastorum, his first encyclical on the missions, Pope John made a notable contribution to the developing social consciousness that is making men all over the world realise that they are, and must be, their brothers' keepers.
The encyclical develops Pope Pius XII's insistence that Christianity is not to impose alien cultures on those it seeks to bring to Christ, but must baptise the indigenous cultures of those people and study ways and means of marrying all that is good in them to the Christian dispensation, so that the two enrich one another.
Missionaries and their converts alike must never allow false concepts of patriotism and nationalism to vitiate the universal charity that Christianity demands. In this, Pope John follows Benedict XV, and the fact that he has to present these truths as though they were wholly new, underlines the incredible slowness of the Church to respond to the dynamism of the modem Papacy
Princeps Patiorum is a milestone in that major process whereby the Church urges clerical and lay missionaries to "put on" the traditions and cultures of the people they seek to Christianise, and to work like suicide squads — traming the more backward peoples so to develop that the missionary will rapidly become redundant.
There must be, said Pope John, native directors and professors in the local seminaries. Students must be incorporated into that part of the world which is their lot. Seminaries must not be too removed from the world, but be near enough to sanctify and illumine it.
"One roust insist on the local way of life, even in those things that pertain to the government of the seminary. but not without making full use of all those facilities of a technical or material order which are now the property an.d patrimony of all civilisations."
Seminarians are to be trained to judge local cultural values, particularly in the philosophical or religious fields, in their relation to Christian teaching and religion.
Bishops are to "provide immediately for the needs of one or more regions by establishing centres of culture in which the foreign missionaries and native priests may be able to put to advantage their intellectual preparation and their experience for the benefit of the society in which they live by choice or birth."
The lay apostolate, too. is to be adapted to local conditions and needs. It is never enough to transfer to one country that which was done elsewhere. Nor, on the other hand, should there be fragmentary movements or excessive specialisation. The laity must get into public life.
Mother and Teacher
POPE JOHN'S social encyclical Mater et Magistra could be assessed as an extension of Rerun Novarum and Quadra gesimo Anna, In a sense, the
judgment is not unfair. But the whole corpus of social teaching
is brought to a new head, given
a new dynamism, and made directly relevant to the changing world of the 1960s.
It lays great stress on the needs of agriculture, calls for national economies to bring the farming community's living standards into line with those of the industrial, and puts out a massive demand that the "have" nations of the world must give to the "have-nots" aid without strings as a matter of simple justice.
This passage contains a plain denunciation of neo-colonialism. Aid is to be given "for the sole purpose of helping the underdeveloped nations to achieve their own economic and social growth" and not "with a view to gaining control over the political situation" in those countries.
For some of us, however, Mater et Magistra will live eternally for its reconciliation of the social sense, so sincere but so often misapplied by humanists in wrong
headed socialism. with the Church's perennial insistence on the dignity, right and liberty of the individual; of private property with the duty to share the fruits of the earth among all men.
Applying the traditional doctrine of subsidiarity, Pope John envisages a working partnership between state and private enterprise. "In the development, therefore, and right ordering of organised modern society, a balance must be struck between the autonomous and active collaboration of individuals and groups, and the timely co-ordination and direction of public enterprise by the state."
To develop the full human dignity of the "small man", industry must think more and more in terms of partnership rather than in terms of the contract of service.
The encyclical really amounts to a plain rejection if paternalism, kind a summoning of the man in the street to full human stature. Small businesses are encouraged, because they commit the ordinary people to a fuller share in the shaping of local and national communities; to secure for them the stability and resources enjoyed by larger firms. they are to form co-operatives and, in this structure, industry and agriculture are to be brought into alliance.
The passages on co-operatives are of special relevance to the needs of developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. As a northern Italian born of peasant stock, Pope John had practical suggestions to make for the predominantly agricultural economies of these areas. and of the southern Mediterranean countries.
In industry everywhere, all efforts must be made "to ensure that the company is indeed a true community of persons, concerned about the needs, the activities. and the standing of each of its members .
"Any firm which is concerned for the human dignity of its workers must also maintain a necessary and efficient unit of direction. But it must not treat those employees who spend their days in service with the firm as though they were mere cogs in the machinery, denying them any hope of expressing their wishes or bringing their experience to bear on the work in hand, and keeping them entirely passive in regard to decisions that regulate their activity".
In firms which finance themselves by ploughing back profits. and thus achieve rapid devetopments in production, "we hold that the workers should be allocated shares in the firms for which they work, especially when they are earning no more than the minimum wage".
And Pope John urges workers and managers alike to determine wages, not only in terms of the human dignity of the family and the financial status of the firm. but also in terms of the requirements "of the good of the country", and even of "the universal family of nations".
Peace on Earth
RARELY has an encyclical -11-‘ had such dramatic impact on the world as Pacem in terris, issued at Easter time in 1963 and addressed to all men of goodwill.
Its two principal features ap. peared in its attitude to modern war and its attempt to open the door to some kind of give and take between Christians and Communists, though the latter were not explicitly mentioned.
As so often happens with long statements, the press did little to put these matters in the context of the whole argument, which began with a close examination of the rights of the person and the family. and of the relationships between nations in day to day living.
Here are some of the highlights
Personal rights include the right to social security in sickness widowhood, old age, and unemployment, freedom in searching for truth and expressing opinions; the right to emigrate and immigrate.
Civil authorities must run their economic policies in the light of the social considerations involved, but in such a way as to expand, not curtail, freedom of personal initiative.
States must co-operate to strike a balance between population, land and capital. Wealthy nations must help the poorer, and not with a view to political domination.
The arms race must cease. The encyclical counsels that stockpiles of nuclear weapons be reduced equally, simultaneously and progressively. Nuclear war should be banned. It is hardly possible that, in the atomic age, war can be used as an instrument of justice.
The universal common good requires the establishment, by common accord and not by force. of a public authority to operate on a world wide basis. (This seems to discount the practical value of Summit meetings as the ultimate solution, and the encyclical states plainly that normal diplomatic relations have proved inadequate).
The Pope's earnest wish is that the United Nations will become a guarantee for everybody's human rights. (This suggests that the world authority might develop from the U.N.)
BECAUSE of the common law of nature working in every human being, Catholics and non-Catholics (including unbelievers) can work together for the common good over a wide field.
While false philosophies remain false, the men they inspire can develop, change, and evolve in their thought. The movements they inspire are inevitably subject to modification because of the effect on them of the actual historical situations they work in.
Thus attempts by believers and those in error (obviously including the Communists) to draw nearer together for attaining practical ends may now be opportune and useful. though hitherto they have been regarded as not worth trying.
The Pope counsels prudence and responsibility in this matter, and shows no trace of starry-eyed belief that any form of effective theoretical dialogue between Catholics and Communists will spring up overnight. But he points out that fresh contacts may bring to the surface the dictates of the natural law implanted in the very being of the unbeliever as well as in our own.
The encyclical was greeted with volumes of praise from almost every political and social centre in the world, apart from the Chinese Communist sphere of influence. Many Catholics were disturbed lest the encyclical be iised to make men forget continuing Communist
persecution of Christianity, and non-unilateralists were quick to point out that the Pope did not formally and specifically outlaw the nuclear weapon and its use absolutely.
But the overall impact of the document was to make men feel that the Pope was lifting Christianity, and the Catholic Church in particular, into a kind of new dimension, telling us that we had done too much thinking and too little loving, and calling the faithful to the task of giving to the world. through themselves, an opportunity of encountering the living Christ at work in His members.
These attitudes are all of a piece with the emphasis laid so insistently, in the first debates of the Vatican Council, on the need to give full play to the pastoral aspects of the major dogmas, and not to strangle these by an undue preoccupation with the juridical approach.
This existential treatment of truth seems to have prompted in Pope John what has been called "a kind of Christian sixth sense" in regard to questions of nuclear war. Precise limitations about the use of such weapons, however, seem to have been left for others, and presumably the Council's second session, to esrablish.
Charity and Love
OPE JOHN wrote four other
encyclicals, Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia (on the priesthood and the centenary of the Cure d'Ars); Grata Recordatio (on the rosary and the Papal intentions); Aeterna Dei Sapientia (on the 15th Century of Pope Leo the Great; an appeal to the separ ated Churches of the East); and Paenitentiam agere (on preparation for the Council).
These encyclicals achieve more by the atmosphere they generate rather than by any specific statement or passage. Unlike the letters of Pope Pius X1I, they do not enter into closely reasoned arguments, or suggest new lines of philosophical, theological, or scientific thought and enquiry.
But they breathe the immense charity and love of a Pontiff who realises that in this age, when communication breaks down between those brought up in the scholastic disciplines and those formed in the so-called liberal philosophies or in the world of symbolic logic and linguistics, Christ must be lived rather than taught by each and every one of those who follow Him.
This radiation is the theme of Pope John as he leads the Church towards a new era of self-understanding. social sense, and dialogue with the secular world. His bounding optimism thundered through the address he delivered to the Bishops of the world gathered in St. Peter's for the most spectacular Pentecost in the history of mankind. Repudiating the prophets of gloom, Pope John declared :
"In the present order of things, divine providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by men's own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed towards the fulfilment of God's superior and inscrutable designs".
The Church "must ever look to the present, to new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world. which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate."
We are to break out of the defensive mentality that seeks merely to guard the treasures of faith. and "dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us." The deposit of faith is to be "studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literate forms of modern thought".
And everything is to be measured in the forms and proportions of a magisterium which. Is prevalently pastoral in character.
Thus the Church, like Christ himself, opens her arms to the world, and Pope John, in his greatest hour. speeded the restoration of all things in their crucified Lord to such an extent that, as even the severest non-Catholic critics have said, there can now be no turning back.