Christians, have courage to fight against lies (1)
Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks to Archbishop Angelo Amato about the Magisterium of the Church and social communications.
WLODZIMIERZ REDZIOCH: - Your Excellence, it is often said that the Church has certain problems with passing on her teaching. Most information about the Church and her teaching in the non-Catholic communications, i.e. the majority of media, is bias and incorrect. Do you see this problem?
ARCHBISHOP ANGELO AMATO: - It is true that the problem of transmitting faith both inside and outside the Church has appeared in the contemporary world. The evangelic message, which is proclaimed nowadays, is still the good news that can bring happiness and harmony to whole humanity and can promote every person and his talents, which the Creator has bestowed. Therefore, we must do our best to proclaim the good news effectively.
- In the Catholic Church the authoritative interpretation of the word of God has been entrusted to the teaching Office of the Church (the Magisterium). Can you explain what we mean by 'the Teaching Office of the Church'?
- The conciliar constitution Dei verbum says that 'the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on' (no. 10). The teaching office, whose subject is the whole Collegium of Bishops, is authorised to interpret authentically the word of God towards which it has the duty to listen to it devoutly, guard it scrupulously, explain it faithfully and pass it on to the faithful. The magisterium of the Church is, therefore, closely connected to mass media because its task is the authentic interpretation and authoritative transmission of the word of God.
- In order to show the teaching of the Church we need mass media on the one hand and the faithful must be open to receive it on the other hand. Unfortunately, in the contemporary world, the world of relativism, doubt and manipulation of media, it is not obvious that the faithful approve the teaching of the Church...
- In today's world we are still dealing with obvious open persecutions of Christians who are refused the right to practice their faith and who live under the threat of imprisonment or death. However, in most countries the real obstacles to proclaim the Gospel are as follows: contemporary culture, which is called postmodernist, certain weakening of the feeling of identification with the Church (cum Ecclesia), which we can see among believers and unfortunately among theologians as well, and common lack of knowledge of the history and theology of the Church. All these things influence the reception of the teaching of the Church, which is actually rejected.
Pensiero debole (literally 'weak thought, philosophy', which means a weakened confidence in cognitive abilities of the reason) of the contemporary postmodernist culture rejects pensiero forte ('strong thought, philosophy') of the Christian Revelation. For example, the nihilistic culture, which is relativistic and biotechnological and which domineer at universities and is aggressively promoted by mass media, thus greatly influencing the so-called ordinary people, is juxtaposed with Christian anthropology that sees man and woman as the image of God and regards the human existence as pilgriming, the destination being perfect unity with God - the Holy Trinity.
- You speak about 'relativistic, nihilistic, biotechnological culture' but ordinary people do not always understand these concepts.
- The nihilistic culture regards human being as a self-contained individual whose life, without values and aim, would be only going towards nihility. Such a man, without identity and aim, cannot accept Christian message. The relativistic culture is in a way on the other end. It offers man countless proposals and 'sensible' solutions but this versatility of proposals goes hand in hand with their weaknesses since relativism is a radical departure from the truth and good. The relativistic approach is characterised by negation of the existence of the truth, which is considered to be only an elusive chimera. One's opinion is the most important thing and consequently, what is true for some people others would not accept as true; what is true today would not be true tomorrow. Thus man would not be able to achieve the truth but would have at his disposal thousands of opinions, including his own one.
As far as the concept of 'biotechnological culture' is concerned one should pay attention to the fact that for some time we have witnessed a biotechnological revolution, i.e. connected with living organisms, including human beings. A cultural consequence of this rapid development of technology applied to processes of life is the substitution of the solid idea of invariability of the nature of human being, created by God, by the idea of human being that is a creation of biotechnology, and thus a human being can be manipulated. Consequently, it is assumed that what can be 'done' can also be 'destroyed'. If man becomes some kind of a machine - similmacchina - we begin admiring the power of the machine, forgetting the Almighty God. When such anthropological perversions appear we have the duty to remind people that human being is a person and he or she is the image of God. The knowledge that negates the human nature of man wants to 'produce' man who would be only a product and some biological material.
- The problem is that today many people put their hopes only on knowledge and want knowledge to solve all problems, without taking into consideration the religious aspect of our existence...
- When the religious aspect is removed from our lives the concept of 'life' is reduced. Such a life would be only a biological existence, without any deeper meaning and values that would be limited to ordinary functioning of human organs. Therefore, man is reduced to biological material. Archbishop Ignazio Sanna of Oristano claimed, 'If man is treated as a biological 'product', everyone can manipulate him since he ceases to be inviolable; whereas if he is treated as a person he remains a mystery that all people must respect remembering his transcendence'.
- The postmodernist culture you described has undoubtedly won the West thanks to the mass media which promote it and which effectively wash the brains of ordinary people. Does it not seem to you that the believers' reaction to these disturbing cultural tendencies has not been satisfactory?
- Unfortunately, one should note great cultural poverty of most Christians who cannot take a firm attitude in the situation in which evangelic truths must be defended. Otherwise one cannot explain the success of the aggressively anti-Christian novel 'The Da Vinci Code', which is full of insults, abuses as well as historical and theological errors concerning Jesus, the Good News and the Church. If these types of insults, abuses and errors had concerned the Koran, Buddha or the Holocaust the whole world would have condemned them and there would have been protests and riots. The abuse of the Church does not involve any risk. On the contrary, it may be profitable and can bring money.
- One can only imagine what would happen if some Jewish or Islamic institution were depicted in the novel in the way Opus Dei was described as a criminal institution...What should be done to stop the process of losing Catholic identity by the faithful?
- This is a great challenge to the Church, to her shepherds and all believers. The Holy Father gave the Church the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church - the book of two popes (John Paul II wanted the Compendium to appear but it was Benedict XVI that actually published it). The Compendium is a synthesis of our faith, confessed (Credo), celebrated (sacraments), experienced (commandments) and faith which becomes prayer (Our Father). It was the first precious gift of the Magisterium of Benedict XVI, a great theologian as well as a wise shepherd and outstanding catechist.
- The problem is that the powerful anti-Catholic forces do their best to weaken the moral prestige of the Church, her bishops and priests (recently this has been especially visible in Poland). Consequently, there are problems in transmitting the Magisterium inside the Church...
- It is true. Apart from the above mentioned external cultural challenges the Church must face the internal challenge: the faithful show a weakened relationship with the Church, which the saints called amare Ecclesiam et sentire cum Ecclesia (love the Church and feel with the Church). The Magisterium is not regarded as the transmission of God's truth about man and salvation; on the contrary it is seen as an ordinary opinion and is often ignored, fought against or rejected. We can see that the faithful lack obedience to faith and confidence in effectiveness of God's word to enlighten life of each man and the whole society. One's personal opinion is put over God's truth. One can see that clearly during TV discussions in which there are many participants, including a priest. The opinion of a Catholic priest, although actually I would prefer to have competent and educated laymen participating in those debates, is treated as any other opinion because the aim of these programmes is not to seek the truth but to proclaim opinions without their proper evaluation.