|EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S CORNER.......................................................................|
CULTURAL DIVERSITY: THEOLOGICAL AND PASTORAL REFLECTIONS
I. It’s all about love…rooted in the life of the Trinity!
The Church’s focus on diversity is rooted in the inner life of God as we have come to know him in the Scriptures, as God has revealed himself to us. We are told that “God is love.” Love is about reaching out to another. The inner-life of God is trinitarian - it consists of a mutual giving and receiving among the three divine persons. Human beings we are told are “made in God’s image.” So we are also about love and our godliness consists just like God’s in reaching out to others in mutual giving and receiving. Now otherness is about difference not sameness. So when we close ourselves off from others, from those who are “different,” we cease being like God. We stop reaching out, we stop loving. Jesus illustrated this in his parables, particularly the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The parable was given in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is that one’s neighbor is the “other,” not the person you think is like you, but rather the person you know to be different. He or she is your neighbor according to Jesus.
People ask why the Catholic Church is so supportive of immigrants, refugees and other people on the margins. The answer is that we are faithful to the God we have come to know in Jesus by following Jesus in living out this love for others, especially the poor and all people on the margins. These ideas are not novel. They echo what Pope Benedict XVI said so much more eloquently in his wonderful first encyclical Deus caritas est.
II. Unity in an age of growing diversity: What does it really mean to be Catholic?
Globalization means that diverse people are coming more and more into contact with each other as a result of migrations, economics, travel, mass media and cyberspace. The Catholic Church has truly become catholic or universal in the fullest sense only recently in the 20th century when it ceased being a primarily Western institution and achieved a real presence in every continent. This process of expanding universality shows itself in the make-up of the Church’s leadership which today is shifting from Europe and North America to Africa, Asia and Latin America. A similar process is underway in the United States. Here the shift is from European American to Hispanic, Asian and African American leadership. The great strength of the Catholic Church and its primary challenge consists in being faithful to the identity given it by Christ while at the same time establishing real bonds of unity across the boundaries of culture, language and social class. Catholic identity and unity in diversity—this is quite a challenge. It is beautifully pre-figured in the Church’s highest form of prayer – the Eucharist. All share in the one bread of Christ and thus become a communion, the embodiment of Christ, his hands and feet, eyes and ears, in the world.
III. Culture is the target of the Church’s mission to evangelize
The recognition of cultural diversity and competency to work with different cultures is a fundamental aspect of the Church’s mission to evangelize. The object of all preaching and teaching in the Church is culture. The gospel message and the Church’s reflection on that message enshrined in tradition and made contemporary in the teachings of the Holy Father and the bishops must engage the core of a person’s and an entire people’s way of life or culture. This requires knowledge, attitudes and skills. The magna carta of Catholic teaching on culture and diversity is found in Pope Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi and in Pope John Paul II’s Catechesi Tradendae and Redemptoris Missio. The vision of an evangelizing church has been integrated into Catholic teaching especially in the General and National Catechetical Directories. This focus on culture as the object of the Church’s teaching flows from its understanding of its mission to evangelize. As the late Cardinal Avery Dulles has often noted, however, the Church’s emphasis on evangelization has still not been understood, accepted or readily put into practice in many parts of the Church including the United States.
IV. The pastoral care of migrants, refugees and travelers: witnessing to the Church’s evangelizing mission
No subcommittee of the Bishops Conference is as “diverse” as PCMRT! Some have called it a “catch-all” committee to covers any area of the bishops’ pastoral concern that no other committee can capture. This is very true. As such, however, the work of PCMRT is a source of great pride and real joy for the staff and certainly for the bishops who serve on this subcommittee. I have personally experienced this pride and joy at the semi-annual meetings of the Subcommittee at which we hear detailed reports of the great work, often done under difficult conditions and almost always with inadequate funding by clergy, religious and dedicated laity in pastoral areas that do not easily relate to existing church structures like the parish or diocese. People are surprised to know that the bishops are concerned about the pastoral well-being of circus and carnival workers, seafarers, people passing through airports and airport workers, even racetrack workers, bull-riders and car-racing enthusiasts! Such ministries carried out often in obscurity and without a great deal of support witness to a real concern for the well-being of those on the margin. It also exemplifies the evangelizing nature of the church by going beyond tried and true structures in order to pastorally respond to unique circumstances and needs. It reminds me of Jesus’ response to the need of the crowd for food in Matthew’s Gospel 13:14-21. He did not accept the disciples’ shrugging their shoulders and hoping the people would just go away. Jesus told his disciples “You yourselves give them something to eat!”
Fr. Allan Figueroa Deck, SJ, STD, Ph.D.
A Message from the Executive Director
Effective pastoral ministry depends on the ability to respond to the needs of people in a way that respects their identity and deepest values...