|Interview With Jaime Antúnez, Editor of Humanitas
ROME, 11 OCT. 2005 (ZENIT)
For 10 years the Chile-based Catholic
review Humanitas has been promoting dialogue between faith and culture.
For the 10th anniversary of the publication, ZENIT interviewed its
editor, Jaime Antúnez Aldunate.
Antúnez holds a doctorate in philosophy. He is a member of the Academy
of Social, Political and Moral Sciences of the Institute of Chile.
Part 2 of this interview appears Wednesday.
Q: From your experience over these years, do you think it is possible to
overcome the "divorce" between faith and culture?
Antúnez: With the grace of God, we cannot deny that this and much more
is perfectly possible.
By overcoming that "divorce," it might be possible to advance decidedly
toward a situation
as has been witnessed so many times in so many places over 2,000 years
in which faith in Christ becomes the keystone of culture.
The profound relationship between faith and culture is something,
moreover, which is appreciated in the genesis and development of all the
greatest and oldest civilizations.
Q: But in the intensely secularist atmosphere that prevails in our time,
where in many countries characterized by a Christian past, including the
Ibero-American, political-cultural actions are being taken of an
aggressive secularist bias, does this not seem to be far removed from
Antúnez: In the same measure in which the prevailing atmosphere is
difficult and adverse, there are people and nuclei of Christians that
are becoming aware of the problem and acting as a consequence.
The existence and development of a culture is something that is not
limited and that is far beyond the spectacle, the event or the theater
world, which greatly catch the attention of the media in our time. It is
an error to confuse this plane with what philosophy properly calls
Sufficiently removed from all this, the real traces of what is culture
are found in an horizon that transcends us and that in that same sense
invites us to be genuinely free.
It was said magnificently by John Paul II in his address to the U.N.
General Assembly in 1995: Every culture is an effort to reflect on the
mystery of the world and, in particular, of man: It is a way of
manifesting the transcendent dimension of human life. The heart of every
culture is constituted by its approach to the greatest of all mysteries:
the mystery of God.
Q: In what way do you say that culture invites us to be free? Is there
not, perhaps, in the aforementioned an ideological conditioning?
Antúnez: Very much the contrary. An ideology, in the modern sense of the
word, is something different from faith, even if it tends to corner the
same sociological functions.
Ideology is a work of men, a mechanism by which the political will tries
consciously to shape social tradition to his ends.
But faith looks beyond the world of man and his works. It leads man to a
higher and more universal degree of reality than the temporal and finite
world to which the state and economic order belong.
And for this very reason, it introduces in human life an element of
spiritual freedom that can have a creative and transforming influence
both on the interior life of each person as well as on the social
culture of men and their historic destiny.
Q: How does this occur in a predominantly liberal society, as the one
that prevails today virtually throughout the whole world?
Antúnez: A culture is a way of organized life which is supported by a
common tradition and animated by a common environment. In this
connection, it is like the form of society.
The stronger a culture is
exactly as we see it in Renaissance art, for example, and in so many
manifestations through time
such culture forms and transforms more completely the varied human
context in which it is incarnated. A society without culture is an
I think there is an inherent factor in the liberal societies in which we
live today which we have an obligation to repair. It is the fact that
these societies do not offer a concrete meaning to life, for example, a
justification of suffering and of people's fears.
Neither do these societies have a plan for the future, capable of
mobilizing consciences; they leave the individual exclusively at the
mercy of his own concepts, in terms of private personal satisfaction.
This situation makes us reflect, as we can plainly see that the great
fruits of culture and of civilization have always rested on the strength
of that spiritual and religious dimension of reality, and that in its
bankruptcy we also find the origin of the decadence and even of the
great tragedies that history shows us.
Borrowing a word from that great British thinker of culture and history
that was Christopher Dawson, one could say that when the mystical and
prophetic dimension of a culture declines, its very religion also
"becomes secular, is absorbed in the cultural tradition to such a point
that it identifies with it, and finally it becomes only a way of social
activity and perhaps even a slave or accomplice of the powers of this
world." Much of this is also happening in the present day. ZE05101121
ROME, 12 OCT. 2005 (ZENIT)
of a Catholic journal on culture and anthropology says it is possible to
recover the spiritual unity of the culture without giving up scientific
Jaime Antúnez Aldunate, editor of the Chile-based review Humanitas,
spoke with ZENIT about promoting dialogue between faith and culture. The
occasion was the 10th anniversary of Humanitas.
Part 1 of this interview appeared Tuesday.
Q: From the perspective of culture and considering a context such as
that of the present
unified, organized and controlled by knowledge and scientific techniques
what challenge do you see for religion, and particularly for the great
Antúnez: It was described and analyzed by [Christopher] Dawson himself,
in whose judgment
and he already said this in the '40s
they all survive and continue to influence human life, but all of them
have lost their organic relationship with society, which was expressed
in the traditional synthesis of religion and culture, both in the East
as well as the West.
Therefore, the British philosopher concludes, what we have before our
eyes is the most complete, intense and widespread secularization that
the world has ever known and, in this connection, what is prevailing as
culture in no way is culture in the traditional sense; that is, it is
not an order that includes all the aspects of human life in a living
Q: Is this judgment also valid for the Islamic world?
Antúnez: It is, because by the force of events it suffers the same
effects. Meanwhile, in all this, one must take very much into account
that the vision of contemporary Islam that we are given by the media is
that of an ideology much more than that of a religion. An ideology in
which the factors of violence that nestle in it are also much more
Western than indigenous.
Q: Given the context of technocratic unification that predominates at
present, is it possible to recover the spiritual unity of the culture
without giving up scientific progress?
Antúnez: It should be, as that scientific-technical progress which we
see prevail in the world today, established its foundations and had its
beginning and first impulse from a profoundly spiritual and religious
culture, such as that of the Christian West.
But what would have to be done is to recover that unity, not to replace
it. And I say this, because precisely what is characteristic of the
present technocratic era is the absence of such unification. Contrary to
it, today we live in a world in which fragmentation predominates,
without a counterbalance.
We live, in fact, in an acentric society, as Luhmann has called it,
indicating with this the lack of a representation of all in the all, as
existed in societies in which religion assumed such representation
naturally. Thus, for example, and very particularly, [there is] in the
Christian society and culture, whose keystone is Christ, the revelation
of the mystery of the Father and his love, the perfect man who has given
back to Adam's posterity the divine likeness, and which fully manifests
man to himself showing him the sublimity of his vocation, as the Council
teaches and the encyclical "Redemptor Hominis" recalls.
In view of all the preceding
with the nuances that correspond to each age
it doesn't seem bold to affirm that, just as a society that loses its
religion becomes, sooner or later, a society that loses its culture, it
also seems true to affirm that it is the religious impulse par
excellence which gives a society and culture its unifying cohesive
Q: What should be done to effect this recovery?
Antúnez: The "technical solutions," so much a part of our contemporary
mentality, would have to be discarded. More than that, it is a question
of awareness, of becoming aware in order to proceed in awareness.
Awareness, in the first place, of the depth and gravity of that
heart-rending cry of Paul VI when he warned how the great tragedy of our
time is the rupture or divorce between faith and culture.
Awareness of what John Paul II said that day in May 1982 when he signed
the creation of the Pontifical Council for Culture: A faith that does
not become culture is a faith that is not accepted in fullness, not
thought out in its totality, not lived with fidelity.
Awareness, then, of the mandate given 15 years ago to Catholic
universities by the apostolic constitution "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" and the
immense hope placed in it.
Awareness, finally, of what Benedict XVI said in Subiaco, at the
conclusion of the last conference he delivered as a cardinal of the holy
Church, evoking the figure of St. Benedict:
"We need men who have their gaze directed to God, to understand true
humanity. We need men whose intellects are enlightened by the light of
God, and whose hearts God opens, so that their intellects can speak to
the intellects of others, and so that their hearts are able to open up
to the hearts of others. Only through men who have been touched by God,
can God come near to men." ZE05101220