Some would say that the Catholic
Church is in a moment of decline, but Cardinal Juliαn Herranz is
affirming that it is in fact experiencing extraordinary growth
Cardinal Herranz has worked in the Roman Curia since 1960. He
has been at the service of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I,
John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
In recent years the cardinal has served as president of the
Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and as member of the
Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for Bishops, and
In his Spanish-language book "En las Afueras de Jerico:
Recuerdos De Los Anos Con Josemaria Y Juan Pablo II" [On The
Outskirts Of Jericho: Remembering the Years of St. Josemarνa and
John Paul II], which is in its fifth edition, he evokes with a
wealth of data and personal experiences the years of the Second
Vatican Council and the subsequent and current period of its
Here is the first part of an interview with "Temes D'Avui," a
magazine in Spain of current pastoral issues, in which the
cardinal speaks about the worldwide Church in the post-secular
Part 2 of this interview will be published Tuesday.
Q: Secularization seems to be advancing in the countries of the
first world. How can one explain this growing atheism,
anti-clericalism and indifference to religion?
Cardinal Herranz: It is worthwhile to distinguish between
secularity and secularization or secularism.
It is a positive fact that in the last centuries there has been
a growing awareness of the legitimate autonomy of secular,
earthly realities, clearly recognized in a special way by the
Second Vatican Council. An aspect of this reality is what today
we call positive laicism and surmounting of old clericalisms.
Quite different is the secularism that desires a humanity
without its most radical foundation, which is God, an atheistic
humanism, which reveals itself a tragedy, as Henri De Lubac well
Moving in this line are the sectors desirous of imposing, as a
politically correct ideology, laicist fundamentalism, an
atheistic dogmatism contrary to authentic laicism, which instead
recognizes in religion a cultural and social factor to respect
and even to promote.
At present quite a few sociologists specialized in the analysis
of cultural tendencies and processes
for example John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist,
and Adrian Wooldridge, author of the bestseller "God Is Back"
are not convinced that atheistic secularism or religious
indifference is advancing in society; rather, the opposite is
Decades ago some predicted the death of religion, above all of
Christianity, but later they have had to rectify themselves and
admit a return of the religious under very varied forms.
Not a few say that we are in a post-secular period,
characterized by a growing interest and debate on fundamental
human questions, with a patent religious dimension.
In a recent report titled "The Return of God," a
non-confessional Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, was surprised
by the boom of books on faith in Italian bookstores, where sales
have increased by 27% in the past year.
Concretely, it stated that the sale of books on religious topics
had increased by 196% in the large centers of distribution, such
as supermarkets and commercial centers.
Another interesting fact is that the Pope's last encyclical,
"Caritas in Veritate," with the first edition of 600,000 issues,
surpassed in mid-July the sales of some leading bestsellers such
as Faletti, Larson and Grisham.
I believe that these and other similar facts
such as conversions to the Catholic faith of famous politicians,
writers, actors, etc., manifests once again that, even in the
midst of an undoubted materialistic environment, man's and
woman's reason and heart are not indifferent to the great
questions on the meaning and destiny of their existence.
There are few who are really at peace thinking that they are
only a piece of flesh that passes from the hands of the midwife
to the hands of the gravedigger.
Often some stereotypes
such as faith being an enemy of science or religious
indifference as intellectual fashion
are delayed in changing in public opinion because of inertia and
because interests have been created, also economic, in
maintaining a certain ideological tendency.
But even the activism of groups promoting an intolerant laicism
in different European political and financial environments
national and community
shows that in reality religious indifference does not exist or
It seems that those who hoped to assist passively at the death
of the Christian religion
it is a question of time, they said, it will end on its own
have now opted for a belligerent strategy, which is having the
positive effect of waking up many Christians from a lazy
After the negative response of the rich young man to join the
group of disciples, Jesus says to Peter that God repays 100% on
this earth and with eternal life, but "with persecutions."
Persecutions have never been lacking, but neither has Divine
help been lacking to face them. Already the first generation of
the followers of Christ needed the consolation of the fantastic
book of Revelations, relevant in all ages, which brings
certainty and joy in face of obstacles and the different forms
violent or subtle and hidden
But it is fitting that Christians get used to acting in public
life without complexes and with good doctrinal formation, to
enrich civil coexistence and democracy, filling them with
humanity and the profundity of love and liberty, which bring to
reason and to society the cross and resurrection of Christ.
Q: In the book "On the Outskirts of Jericho" you say that
humanity is at a "crossroads." You refer to a particular appeal
that John Paul II made in the Jubilee of the year 2000, speaking
to the bishops of the whole world. In what does this crossroads
consist? Is that call to attention still current?
Cardinal Herranz: It is worthwhile to recall that famous
affirmation of John Paul II: "Humanity possesses today unheard
of instruments of power: It can make a garden of this world or
reduce it to a heap of ruins.
"It has acquired extraordinary capacities of intervention on the
very sources of life: It can use them for good, within the line
of the moral law, or it can yield to the myopic pride of a
science that does not accept limitations, to the point of
trampling on the respect owed to every human being. Today more
than ever in the past, humanity is at a crossroads."
It is a question of great progress in the scientific and
technical means in so many aspects of existence
and especially in the field of biology and genetics
which obliges the women and men of today to reflect on the aims
of that progress, more so because in an environment of
relativistic totalitarianism the universal concept of the human
being as bearer of a dignity and of inalienable rights tends to
On the fundamental topics that put our humanity at stake, there
is no room for a neutral attitude.
We are indeed in a crossroads situation. Two paths are opening:
that of an ever greater humanization, with a science and
technology at the service of persons (educational progress,
improvement in the quality of life, ability to care well for the
neediest, greater liberty and responsibility, etc.); and that of
a progressive erosion of human dignity, caused by a use contrary
to the nature of the personal being (techniques of genetic
engineering and the manipulation of embryos used only for
commercial interest and for individualistic well-being), which
humiliates human dignity, weakens social cohesion and even
damages a focus of renewal of the whole of society: the family.
The novelty of the present situation in relation to the past is
that the path of humanization today calls for a strong ethical
awareness, greater conviction, and a more profound education.
The human being is more frail faced to pleasure than faced to
inevitable difficulties. We are at a crossroads in which the
ordinary citizen is very exposed to following the current,
letting himself be led by inertia.
in the plural, as Robert Spaemann stresses
are subjected to strong economic and ideological pressures that
are opposed to profound anxieties to attain a more just society
with more solidarity, and in many cases also the legitimate
desire to exercise one's profession according to one's dignity:
This is true not only for professionals of communication and for
doctors, but also for lawyers and artists and for many jobs and
When, for example, a pharmacist feels he is treated by
legislation as a qualified businessman, his work at the service
of patients and his long university preparation are deprived of
liberty and responsibility, unless he opposes his liberty of
conscience to that totalitarian abuse.
It is significant that Francis Collins, the North American
biologist responsible for the "Human Genome Project," a
Christian who converted at the age of 27, said, commenting on
his book "The Language of God," a name that he gives to the
genetic code: "I believe there is a divine plan that has passed
through the Big Bang and evolution to reach human beings. And I
believe that God has created us to infuse in us the concept of
the correct and the mistaken, of free will, and to have a
personal relationship with us through prayer" (Avvenire, June
Q: There are those who accuse the Church of turning its back on
society in topics of morality regarding marriage, contraception,
abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality. There are also those who
argue that it would be more 'evangelical' to insist on questions
such as mercy and love rather than the condemnation of certain
moral behavior. What do you think about this?
Cardinal Herranz: What is most evangelical is to act like Jesus,
who teaches and practices at once and inseparably truth and
Jesus tells us "the truth will make you free" (John 8:32) and,
faced to the harmful error of an absolute liberty separated from
the moral norm, he teaches the salvific value of truth.
The truth about the dignity of the person
man and woman
created in the image of God and bearer of an eternal destiny.
The truth about the exalted value of human life from conception
until natural death. The truth about human love, the "beautiful
love," which has a spiritual dimension of mutual self-giving and
fidelity, vastly superior to the sole biological dimension of
sex. The truth about marriage
stable union of one man and one woman open to fruitfulness
and the truth about the family founded on marriage.
And together with truth the Lord teaches love and mercy. Jesus
forgives the woman taken in adultery and says to her: "Neither
do I condemn you; go and do not sin again" (John 8:11). Luke,
the evangelist of divine mercy, recounts how Jesus invites
himself to dine in the house of the rich sinner Zacchaeus, is
concerned about his soul, his eternal salvation, and the result
is the conversion of that man: "Behold, Lord, the half of my
goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of
anything, I restore it fourfold."
Jesus comments: "Today salvation has come to this house, since
he is also a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and
to save the lost" (Luke 19:1-10).
St. John, the evangelist who insists so much on charity,
recounts how Jesus Christ helps a Samaritan woman to order her
family situation. Jesus answered her: "Go, call your husband,
and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband."
Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying 'I have no husband,'
for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not
your husband; this you said truly" (John 4:16-18).
Jesus comes to teach the truth that frees and saves and, at the
same time, he comes to remedy with love and mercy the
inclination to egoism that also nests in the human heart.
That is why he invites to repentance and conversion, which
brings peace and joy.
The Church is no other than Christ present among men in the
course of history. That is why, despite the personal weaknesses
of Christians, the Church with its teaching, with the sacraments
instituted by Christ, says a great "yes" to the most profound
vocation of every human being: to love and to be loved.
And thus helps people to live the splendid project of marriage
and the family without lowering their dignity.
In regard to the topic of euthanasia, in addition to
distinguishing it well from therapeutic aggression, it can be
said that it is like litmus paper.
The degree of humanity of a social community is measured by
commitment to the care of the sick and the elderly. They are not
a burden, but something humanly precious, and in addition they
It is an obligation that is worthy of the human being, that
helps for mutual collaboration to come to the fullness of the
human vocation to love: to give and to let ourselves be subject
to the free care of others.
Q: You have traveled to China and have had contacts with
Catholic environments. How do you see the development of the
Church in that country? What solutions do you see to surmount
the schism between the so-called Patriotic Church, more or less
controlled by the Chinese political regime, and the
semi-clandestine Church faithful to the Roman Pontiff and in
communion with the universal Church?
Cardinal Herranz: In reality in China there is no "schism," nor
is it right to speak of two Churches: one "patriotic" and the
There is only one Catholic Church, with unity of faith and of
notwithstanding the difficulties originating in the lack of
also with unity of regime and in communion with the Roman
Pontiff and the universal Church, if one excepts in practice the
still confused situation of some bishops.
It is true that at the birth of the People's Republic of China
in 1949 the Vatican
the Holy See
was considered a "political enemy," a "foreign power," ally of
the United States. Hence the violent religious persecution of
Mao, which culminated in the terrible decade (1966-1976) of the
so-called Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
With the advent to power of Deng Xiaoping in 1976 Catholics were
given a certain degree of religious liberty, but under the
control of the state through some organisms, especially the
"Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association," superimposed to the
authority of the bishops whose appointments were no longer in
the power of the Roman Pontiff.
The idea was to constitute an independent national Church. But
the ordination of clandestine bishops, the robust Catholic faith
and the spiritual communion of the people and of the great
majority of the priests with the Pope, convinced the government
of the need to reorient its policy.
Informal contacts and conversations then began with the Holy See
(there are no diplomatic relations), above all in regard to the
appointment of bishops and to foster respect for some founding
principles of the nature of the Church, such as its catholicity,
apostolicity and the spiritual character of its mission.
In fact, almost all of the "official" bishops have desired and
attempted to be recognized by the Holy See, which did so once
the necessary requisites of fitness were ensured.
In the end it is the faith of the Catholic people that dictates
the law: The immense majority of priests, religious and laymen
would not obey bishops who were not appointed or recognized and
legitimized by the Pope.
As for the rest, it is obvious that, although some will delay in
understanding it or would still like to hold the contrary view
out of personal interest, one can be a good Catholic and an
exemplary Chinese citizen.
It is true that, as has happened recently in the Diocese of
Baoding 150 kilometers [93 miles] from Beijing, there are at
because of a lack of information and consequent ambiguities
tensions between groups of faithful and conflicts of authority.
But I think that in the majority of dioceses the magnificent
"Letter to the Church in China" of Benedict XVI, of June 30,
2007, is already producing slowly (patience is obligatory in
China) the two fruits that were expected and that have been
stimulated again by another letter of the secretary of state,
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, of last Nov. 10.
It is in the first place about fostering with all means
(pastoral charity and fraternity, doctrinal clarity and
discipline) reconciliation within the Catholic community between
those who still live in different conditions of liberty and
civil legitimacy in religious practice.
And in the second place, it is about trying to establish a
respectful and open dialogue between the ecclesiastical
authority (the Holy See and the Chinese bishops) and the
government authorities, to surmount misunderstandings and
limitations that touch the heart of the faith and the free
exercise of the pastoral ministry.
When will these difficulties be surmounted and the unity and
expansion of the Church in that nation be fortified? Let us pray
with faith and patience, very united to the Pope and to the
Chinese Church, so that it will be soon.
Let us be certain that the Kingdom of God, as the mustard seed
of the Gospel, grows, even more so in land that has been
fertilized by the blood of so many martyrs, many yet unknown.
That small seed (some 10 million Catholics among 1.3 billion
Chinese ) is alive and growing.
It is comforting to think, for example, in the slow but constant
development of a small diocese, also of Hebei, in which I have
some good friends. Some 150 years ago there was hardly a small
group of faithful; in 1930 there were 54,000; in 2005 there were
already 90,000; today there are 112,253, with 81 priests and 42
seminarians and a missionary diocesan religious congregation
with 51 men religious and 90 women religious. Every year some
1,000 adults are baptized.
Q: How do you think the universal Church as an institution and
the Christian faithful, each one in his place in the world, must
act to contribute to the spread of the Kingdom of God in the
Cardinal Herranz: I think the key can be summarized in the word
The Church is communion with Jesus, communion with its founder.
That is why, as Benedict XVI continually says, what is essential
is friendship with Christ: in the Eucharist and in the other
sacraments, in the Word of God, in charity.
This communion has in addition a strong fraternal and missionary
dimension: to live in the Church as brothers, very united to the
Roman Pontiff and to the bishops in communion with him, and
putting into practice responsibly the right or duty of all the
baptized to evangelize, to make Christ's message known, with the
humility of knowing ourselves as simple instruments of Divine
grace and, because of this, with faith and audacity.
Communion is concern for one another: to give to others
to place in common
the best that we have.
And for a Christian, the most valuable thing is his encounter
with Christ. In this sense, a profound work of catechesis, of
cultural diffusion and I would add of information is necessary,
to avoid misunderstandings that can impede a correct reception
of the message of the Church.
Information is always a good. All this requires a great effort
of formation that, as I said earlier, begins in the schools, in
the parishes and pastoral and associative structures of
different types, in the universities and other centers of higher
learning, and in a particular way, in the seminaries.
Q: Don't you think that to speak in this way of the extension of
the Kingdom of God is in contrast with the less optimistic
vision of those who affirm that scientific progress, the change
of customs and the influence of the prevailing secular
fundamentalism in the media and in politics pose to the Church
which they consider decadent
serious problems of influence in society and even of survival?
Cardinal Herranz: Of survival certainly not, because Christ
wanted his Church to be catholic, that is, universal, and he has
sent it on a mission until the end of history: "Go therefore and
make disciples of all nations ... and lo, I am with you always,
to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).
But even those who do not have faith must recognize the sure
stability of the Church through the profound social and cultural
changes of two thousand years of history.
Empires, government regimes, political parties, fashions and
ideologies have passed but the Word and the Body of Christ, the
Eucharist, root and vital center of his Church have not passed
and will not pass.
Can one speak, instead, of decadence, of progressive loss of
faithful and of social influence? Some, including Catholic
sociologists or theologians, affirm this and propose more or
less radical remedies, dramatic or extraordinary.
Many more, among whom I count myself, are not in agreement with
this vision of the "Church in withdrawal," which with all
respect I consider a pessimistic and not very objective view.
Cardinal [Carlo] Martini, a Jesuit [and the retired archbishop
of Milan], who as a theologian is not usually described as
"conservative," wrote recently: "The Church in decadence? I am
of the opinion that history demonstrates how the Church on the
whole has never been as flourishing as it is now. For the first
time it has global diffusion, with faithful of all languages and
cultures; it can exhibit a series of Popes of very high level
and a flourishing of theologians of great worth and cultural
And alluding to those who observe the contrary based on certain
situations of crisis in regions of the Western world
some moreover in a phase of being surmounted
added that those observations "do not take into account the
vivacity and joy that is found in the Churches of Africa, of
Asia and of Latin America" (Corriere della Sera, Dec. 27, 2009).
Personally, I would also point out the vocational and apostolic
vivacity of the new ecclesial realities that arose in the past
century, above all in Europe, with a variety of charisms and
canonical configuration, but all committed to vivifying
Christian communities through the practical performance of the
universal call to sanctity and the apostolate.
In regard to the reality of the expansion of Christianity in
other continents, I would like to point out, for example, the
situation of a country
where the Church has lived for a long time a regime of
persecution. This year it celebrates 350 years of
evangelization, and the mustard seed of the Gospel has
fructified already in 26 dioceses, 2,900 priests, 11,000 men and
women religious and 8 million faithful.
Baptisms are in the order of 100,000 every year and priestly
vocations have grown by 50% over the past five years, reaching
at present the number of 1,500 seminarians.
Similar data could be added of the Philippines and South Korea
in Asia and also of numerous African nations.
Interview With Cardinal Juliαn Herranz
ROME, 23 MARCH 2010 (ZENIT)
It is not accurate to say that the
Church is in a vocations crisis, and less so to claim that a
change to rules on celibacy is the solution.
This is the estimation given by Cardinal Juliαn Herranz, a
member of the Roman Curia since 1960. He has been at the service
of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict
XVI. In recent years the cardinal has served as president of
the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and as member of
the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for Bishops,
and for Evangelization.
In his Spanish-language book "En las Afueras de Jerico:
Recuerdos De Los Anos Con Josemaria Y Juan Pablo II" [On The
Outskirts Of Jericho: Remembering the Years of St. Josemarνa and
John Paul II], which is in its fifth edition, he evokes with a
wealth of data and personal experiences the years of the Second
Vatican Council and the subsequent and current period of its
Here is the second part of an interview with "Temes D'Avui,"
a magazine in Spain that deals with current pastoral issues, in
which the cardinal speaks about some of the issues facing the
Part 1 of this interview appeared Monday.
Q: In Europe, and in other countries and regions, it seems
that we are going through what some call a winter of priestly
vocations. How do you see the recovery?
Cardinal Herranz: There is a colorful Italian expression that
might be useful to clarify the situation: "a macchia di leopardo."
The spots on the skin of a leopard describe phenomena
differentiated in the geography of a country or a region. This
is the case with this topic. In Europe, some countries have
suffered a genuine winter of religious persecution and of
de-humanization of society under Marxism, and now they enjoy a
splendid springtime of young men who feel Christ's call to the
priesthood. In other nations
such as Poland
even under that persecution abundant priestly vocations arose.
As I mentioned earlier in regard to man's frailty in face of
pleasure, the welfare society in other European or American
countries, with more comforts, also makes the decision to follow
Jesus more difficult, as happened to the rich young man who
rejected the invitation to give himself completely. Yet even so,
Christ attracts and the Holy Spirit awakens desires of total
self-giving to God, of spiritual paternity, of evangelization to
take the light of the Risen One to the world, to live not to be
served, but to serve everyone.
In countries or dioceses that had many priests before
such as Spain
after a notable decrease, we can now see an improvement in
quality and quantity of vocations. It has happened thus, for
example, in my native diocese, Cordoba. During the maelstrom of
the so-called post-conciliar crisis, we suffered the abandonment
of many priests and the lack of vocations. The seminary was
closed for 12 yeas. Now, thank God, everything has changed:
There are three seminaries
major, minor and missionary
with 54 major seminarians and 40 minor seminarians; in the last
six years 41 priests have been ordained, and 120 of the 284
priests of the diocese are younger than 40. I have known similar
cases personally in Italy and France, and they are beginning to
happen in other European nations.
In a single country there can be dioceses with quite flourishing
seminaries and others in a precarious situation. Very varied
circumstances influence the situation. At times, having
preserved and enriched popular religiosity theologically
facilitates following the Lord; a higher birth rate creates a
propitious environment to give oneself for life. There is also
the phenomenon of young men with a vocation to the priesthood
who seek formation in seminaries that give them confidence and
that do not necessarily coincide with their place of residence.
In any case, it seems vital to put the task of human and
Christian formation as a permanent priority of the first order:
schools, colleges and associations, the universities and in a
particular way the seminaries. Benedict XVI is insisting on the
educational emergency. I know bishops who are faced today with
the task of reconstructing the diocesan seminary
not only the building
and of following closely the formation team, because for years
there has been a hermeneutic of rupture. It's hard to do it,
undoubtedly, but when all is said and done it is Jesus'
formative task with the Twelve.
Q: Could the suppression of the law of priestly celibacy help to
overcome the lack of priests, or should the solution be found
instead in a spiritual revitalization of Christian communities?
Cardinal Herranz: Priestly celibacy
which as consecrated virginity and apostolic celibacy in
general, goes back to the first centuries of the Church
is not the simple consequence of an ecclesiastical law, but
responds to profound theological reasons of suitability that the
Second Vatican Council summarized thus: "Through virginity,
then, or celibacy observed for the Kingdom of Heaven, priests
are consecrated to Christ by a new and exceptional reason. They
adhere to him more easily with an undivided heart, they dedicate
themselves more freely in him and through him to the service of
God and men, and they more expeditiously minister to his Kingdom
and the work of heavenly regeneration, and thus they are apt to
accept, in a broad sense, paternity in Christ" (Decree
Presbyterorum Ordinis, 16).
It is true that in the Eastern Churches celibacy is only exacted
of the bishops. But I think that the experience of places where
candidates to the presbyterate are also chosen among those who
have not received from God the gift of celibacy, shows that the
suppression of that venerable canonical discipline in the Latin
Church would not be a more valid solution to the scarcity of
priests. The grace of apostolic celibacy and concretely of
priestly celibacy is a treasure for the whole Church: a treasure
of adoration of God and, in the case of priests, of
configuration to Christ.
As you yourself suggest, there is a growing awareness in
Christian communities that the filling of seminaries is the
responsibility of all the faithful
I am thinking especially of Christian parents and educators
not only of bishops and priests, and it is part of the baptismal
duty to participate actively in the mission of the Church. Jesus
has left us this intention
firstly for our prayers
in a very explicit way: "The harvest is plentiful, but the
laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send
out laborers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:37-38).
Q: The "Year for Priests" declared for the whole Church includes
Benedict XVI's call to the holiness of priests. Is this call
especially important in the present context? Is it in response
to the moral scandals of priests
although the percentage of clerics is very minimal
which have had such an echo in the media?
Cardinal Herranz: All that can be said about the importance of
the holiness of priests will be little. I prefer to be the echo
of far more authoritative voices than my own. The Epistle to
Diognetus of the 2nd century states that "what the soul is in
the body, is what Christians are in the world"; the mission of
Jesus' disciples is to be light and salt of the world; Christ
chose twelve with the function to help all the others. The
bishops and their necessary collaborators
have a special responsibility. The progress of the Church
depends in great part on their holy life. Stated in the Decree "Presbyterorum
Ordinis" from Vatican II is: "Holiness does much for priests in
carrying on a fruitful ministry. Although divine grace could use
unworthy ministers to effect the work of salvation, yet for the
most part God chooses, to show forth his wonders, those who are
more open to the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, and who
can by reason of their close union with Christ and their
holiness of life say with St. Paul: 'And yet I am alive; or
rather, not I; it is Christ that lives in me' (Gal 2:20)" (No.
And in regard to the responsibility of the bishops it reminds:
"[B]ishops should regard priests as their brothers and friends
and be concerned as far as they are able for their material and
especially for their spiritual well-being. For above all upon
the bishops rests the heavy responsibility for the sanctity of
their priests. Therefore, they should exercise the greatest care
in the continual formation of their priests" (No. 7).
On Dec. 21, 2009 Benedict XVI said to us cardinals and the other
superiors of the Roman Curia, referring precisely to the meaning
of the "Year for Priests" in the context of the New
Evangelization: "As priests we are available to all: to those
who know God at first hand and to those for whom he is the
Unknown. We all need to become acquainted with him ever anew,
and we need to seek him constantly in order to become true
friends of God. How, in the end, can we get to know God other
than through those people who are friends of God? The inmost
core of our priestly ministry consists of our being Christ's
friends (cf. Jn 15:15), friends of God through whom others may
also discover God's closeness."
Q: In some of his conferences he has spoken of the "rediscovery"
of the sacrament of reconciliation. To what degree do you regard
this need as important?
Cardinal Herranz: To the degree that this sacrament is, as the
arteries are for blood in the body, the privileged channel for
the life of grace in the soul, the "stopping" or abandonment of
the sacrament of penance or reconciliation would produce a heart
attack or necrosis in the spiritual fabric of the person, and
also of whole Christian communities, because the sense of sin,
the need for forgiveness and the enjoyment of peace and joy of
the reconciled soul would be gradually lost.
In fact in the address I just referred to, Benedict XVI
addressed this profoundly human need: "If man is not reconciled
with God, he is also in conflict with creation. He is not
reconciled with himself, he would like to be something other
than what he is and consequently he is not reconciled with his
neighbor either. Part of reconciliation is also the ability to
acknowledge guilt and to ask forgiveness from God and from
others. Lastly, part of the process of reconciliation is also
the readiness to do penance, the willingness to suffer deeply
for one's sin and to allow oneself to be transformed."
And the Pope added: "Today, in this world of ours, we need to
rediscover the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. The fact
that it has largely disappeared from the daily life and habits
of Christians is a symptom of a loss of truthfulness with regard
both to ourselves and to God; a loss that endangers our humanity
and diminishes our capacity for peace.."
In many cases
as John Paul II reminded in his Motu proprio "The Mercy of God"
it suffices for the priest to be available at all times and also
in an ample schedule known in the parish and other places of
public worship, so that little by little many more Christians
will again receive this sacrament in a personal way. As is
logical, we must also pray and do everything possible so that
abuses in collective absolutions, wherever they happen, will
disappear, which do grave damage and do not give true peace and
joy to consciences. When sacramental confession is practiced
frequently, there begins to be spiritual direction, greater
desires for holiness, more peace in families and justice in
society, more priestly vocations.
It is well known that I owe very much to St. Josemarνa Escriva.
He was a great apostle of sacramental confession, which he
presented in his European and American catecheses as the
sacrament of joy." He said for example in Chile, with the direct
and familiar style that characterized him: "Confess, confess,
confess! Christ has lavished mercy on creatures. Things don't go
well, because we don't go to him, to cleanse us, to purify us,
to inflame us. [...] The Lord is waiting for many to have a good
bath in the sacrament of penance! And he has a great banquet
prepared for them, that of a wedding, of the Eucharist; the ring
of engagement and fidelity, and of friendship for ever. Go to
confession! You, daughters and sons, bring souls to confession.
Don't make my coming to Chile futile!"
Q: What would you say to those who do not value sufficiently the
norms of the Church, for example, in liturgical matters, or show
a lack of ecclesial communion disapproving certain episcopal
appointments or other decisions of the Holy See?
Cardinal Herranz: As you say, in some places ecclesial communion
has been greatly weakened or has been felt as a vague
affectionate sentiment. In practice, it has been forgotten that
Jesus left us this wonderful family of children of God that is
the Church with two essential characteristics that are
profoundly united: as community of faith, of hope and of charity
and at the same time
Vatican II reminds in the Constitution "Lumen Gentium," No. 8
as a visible organism, a hierarchically constituted society. To
that end he instituted the group of the Twelve Apostles, of
which the bishops are successors in communion with the Pope,
Successor of Peter, all with a precise mission of love, which is
that of teaching, sanctifying and governing the rest of the
members of the Church. So said Jesus to Peter three times after
the Resurrection: "'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' He
answered, 'Yes Lord; you know that I love you.' He said to him,
'Tend my sheep'" (John 21:15-23; cf. Matthew 16:19). And he
conferred the same power on the College of Apostles presided
over by Peter (Matthew 28:16-20).
There has been, and in part continues to be still in some
ecclesiastical ambits and of civil society, a crisis of
obedience and at times also of authority. I believe that this
crisis has been influenced above all by two different factors,
but in some cases superimposed. In the countries of the
so-called West, the influence of a growing libertarian
I don't say liberal
fruit to a large extent of that ideological cocktail of Marx,
Freud and Marcuse in which the "revolution of '68" degenerated.
The ecclesiastical ambit was influenced by the interpretation
rejection of the preceding magisterium
of Vatican II, both in the theological realm
socio-political reduction of the mission of the Church,
democratic interpretation of the concept and structures of the
Church People of God, etc.
as well as in the liturgical realm
anarchic and demystifying experimentalism, in name of the
abusively called "liturgical reform desired by the Council"
and even more showily in the disciplinary and canonical realm
laicization of the lifestyle of clerics, contempt for the norms
of ascetic prudence and priestly piety, defection. Thanks be to
God this maelstrom passed to a large extent. We have arrived at
a period of serenity of soul and magisterial lucidity that
In regard to episcopal appointments I can assert
because I am a member of the Congregation for Bishops
that all are made on the basis of the legitimate exercise of the
supreme power of the Roman Pontiff and with the greatest respect
for the norms of the Code of Canon Law, promulgated in
implementation of Vatican II after a threefold consultation with
bishops worldwide. Norms that provide, for each appointment by
the Holy Father, a long process of study and consultation
of bishops, priests and laity
on the pastoral needs of each diocese, the selection of
candidates, and the evaluation of their respective personal and
Perhaps we must all pray to God more for the grace to desire and
want to imitate Christ more, who was obedient unto death, and
death on a cross, as St. Paul says to the Philippians. To pray
also so that authority will always be exercised as service, as
an "officium amoris," in St. Augustine's words. All is possible
only in a climate of authentic charity, of profound friendship
with Christ in the Gospel and in the Eucharist
in the Bread and in the Word
of having as the absolute center of one's life the Holy Mass, of
knowledge and respect for the liturgical and canonical norms, of
fraternity and of purification, of effective concern for the