After Schema 13, the Council takes up discussion of the Missionary Church. In this article, DESMOND O'GRADY analyses the document which comes before the Bishops. The basic idea w hich comes through is that the whole Church is a mission field and each part of the Church must be responsible for the rest.
THE Church, of course, is
essentially missionary, but which are the missionary dioceses? It is a good question, not altogether answered by the Council's Missions text.
Previously the answer came pat: the missions are those territories assigned to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. It was an administrative concept and its illogicality became apparent as soon as one realised that territories such as Mozambique and Luanda are not part of Propaganda's competence.
The theological conception of need has made headway against the administrative conception in the Missions text. Thai is because in reworking the text for the fourth session theologians and missiologists were consulted.
Fr. John Schutte, the SuperiorGeneral of the Society of the Divine Word, who headed the sub-commission which redrafted the Missions text sought the collaboration of men such as Yves Congar 0.P., the Jesuits Ratzinger (Germany), Grasso (Italy) and Buijs (Holland), these last two of the Gregorian University in Rome, Andre Seumois, O.M.I., and Professor Glaznik who occupies the chair of Missiology at Munster University.
This group elaborated a theology of the missions linked to the affirmation of the Constitution on the Church that it "is essentially missionary". It found the paradigm for missionary activity in the Trinity, in the fact that God sent his Son, the Father and Son sent the Holy Ghost, and Christ sent his apostles.
The implications were that the missions must aim not merely to get people into the fold but to satisfy their need for supernatural life, not merely to baptise people but to incorporate them in a missionary community.
A consequence would seem to
be that the whole world is missionary territory. This concept is accepted by the Protestants who, for instance, have Indians doing missionary work in England and Americans preaching the Gospel in the Abruzzi region at the back of Rome.
The American 'Protestants have preached to people there who have never heard the Gospel unless they saw Pasolini's recent film based on it, who use Christ only as a curse word, and who do not even baptise their children.
It might be advisable for the Church to send American Catholic missionaries to similar Italian regions who could break. through some of the conventions such as that which prevents priests visiting people in their homes.
Here, however. the objections arise thick and fast. Is not Italy a Catholic country? Is not its claim to he 99 per cent Catholic used to ensure that the State will pay priests' salaries? Is this not evoked over questions of public morality, censorship. politics?
The need for this missionary activity in Italy and many other countries in similar situations is not recognised because of the lack of adequate sociological studies. It is to he hoped that as the result of the conciliar discussion real needs rather than administrative divisions become recognised as the basis for missionary activities.
The text vacillates over the question because although the French, following the work of the Dominican Henry, argue that the whole world, including France. is missionary territory, the Germans claim that they for instance are not a missionary, but an ecumenical, country. The growth of the atheistic humanist union in Germany would seem to indicate that this is wishful thinking.
If the text had wholeheartedly recognised need as the basis of the Church's missionary activity it may have treated questions it ignores such as atheism, relations with non-Christian religions, dc
Christianised inner city areas and sociology.
Such an approach would have made it a much more ambitious text but the subject merited it because as the Church is by nature, missionary, the Church's whole activity should be rethought from this point of view.
The drafters of the text did not draw all the implications of their theological premises. Rather than a completely renovated basis for missionary activity they have suggested a central evangelisation hoard to govern the overall strategy of the ('hurch's missions within the existing Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. The hoard would be composed of bishops of all rites. religious and representatives of pontifical missionary societies.
The obvious danger is that the new energies will not find expression through the old structure. that the theological understanding of missionary activity will nut transform the Congregation whose emphasis is administrative and organisational.
The mission texts proposal will strengthen the Congregation but still this will not help the Church meet the needs of those countries who connect the work of the Congregation with the colonial period, The conciliar text does not make adequate provision for an information service which will put the enlarged Congregation in touch with needs.
Such a service is necessary to avoid such mistakes as building unnecessarily two hospitals for crippled children in the same district as happened recently in Africa.