Interview With Speaker From Laity Council Conference
By Jesús Colina
ROME, 20 MAY 2008 (ZENIT)
About 150 bishops gathered near Rome last week for the second
conference on the role of ecclesial movements.
The theme of this year's conference, organized by the Pontifical Council
for the Laity, was a phrase Benedict XVI recently directed to German
bishops: “I Ask You to Go Out and Meet the Movements With Much Love.”
One of the main speakers at the event was Father Arturo Cattaneo, a
canon law professor from Venice. Father Cattaneo spoke with ZENIT about
what he told the bishops.
Q: On Pentecost 1998, John Paul II addressed the ecclesial movements,
recalling, "Their birth and spread has brought to the Church's life an
unexpected newness which is sometimes even disruptive. This has given
rise to questions, uneasiness and tensions." Ten years later, what would
you say about this?
Father Cattaneo: I would recall above all that on that occasion the Pope
addressed the movements, affirming that after "a testing period" and [a
time of] verifying, a "new stage," that of "ecclesial maturity," was
opening before them. In the 10 years that have passed since then, that
— also thanks to the solicitude of Benedict XVI
has continued consolidating itself. This is particularly notable
regarding [the movements'] insertion into the local Churches. Naturally,
this does not mean that all the problems have been resolved, also
because the Church
as a living organism
requires that every reality be continually updating itself.
Q: What makes it difficult to find solutions to the problems that still
Father Cattaneo: The difficulties often flow on the one hand, from
prejudices, misunderstandings or narrowness on the part of the faithful
of the local communities, and on the other hand, of imprudence,
inexperience or exuberance on the part of the members of the movements.
Moreover, as the late Father Jesús Castellano observed
"the charisms don't exist in a pure state, and sometimes in the name of
charisms, there can be distortions."
A continuous work of perfection is thus needed, and on the part of the
bishop, there needs to be not only the promotion of the charismatic
richness, but also discernment, watchfulness and the correction of
Q: How can these difficulties and tensions be overcome?
Father Cattaneo: Principally with dialogue animated by charity, with a
bit of patience and good will to understand and to make oneself
understood. Everyone should
as Cardinal Ratzinger observed
"allow themselves to be educated by the Holy Spirit," so they can have
"an interior sense of the multiple forms that a lived faith can take
on." Both sides
movements and local communities
should find the path that leads to those attitudes that Paul speaks
about in his hymn to charity.
Q: You have spoken to the bishops. Can you tell us something of what you
have told them?
Father Cattaneo: I have summarized it in four points, corresponding to
the essential characteristics of the Church, which are a gift but also a
task. Christ, through his Spirit, allows the Church to be one, holy,
catholic and apostolic, and he calls her to fulfill in an ever better
way each one of these characteristics. Every diocesan bishop should
promote in the Church entrusted to him unity in plurality, catholicity
in the sense of openness to the universal Church, as well as the
apostolicity that implies complementarity between institution and
charism. Acting in this way, the bishop will contribute to the holiness
of his particular Church as the first servant of the Spirit.
Q: Could you explain how this guarantees the integration of the
Father Cattaneo: The service of the bishop to unity should be carried
out with the awareness that a diversity of ministries, charisms, and
ways of life and apostolate are not an obstacle to the unity of the
local Church, but rather a richness. It must be considered that the
character of communion, precisely of the Church, includes, on one hand,
the most solid unity, and on the other hand, a plurality and a
diversification, which are not obstacles to unity. A narrow
understanding of unity leads to a pastoral uniformity that makes it
difficult for the various movements be inserted [in the diocese] and
[carry out their] apostolic action.
On the other hand, the catholicity of the particular Church has special
relevance to the theme that we are speaking about. One of the
predominant characteristics of the new ecclesial movements is their
universal dimension. As a reality of the universal Church, in virtue of
the mutual interiority between universal Church and local Church, the
movements are called to act in the particular Churches, enriching them
and preserving them from the danger of "separationism" or of "localism."
Q: Doesn't the opposite danger also exist, however? That of a movement
never rooting itself in the local Church?
Father Cattaneo: Certainly the characteristic universality of the
movements should not make them forget that the Church also possesses an
essential local dimension. The movements will be, therefore, fully
ecclesial in the measure that they root themselves in the various local
Churches. The universal vision of the Church, which represents one of
the valuable contributions of the movements to the local Churches, could
be deformed, becoming a vision platonically "universalist," and this
would work to the detriment of attention given to the reality and the
problems of the local Church.
This is also love for the Church. The members of the movements,
remaining faithful to their particular charism, should try to inject it
creatively into the life of their respective local Churches, without
limiting themselves to being present in diocesan organizations. The
fields of ecclesial action proper to the lay faithful is that of family,
social, professional, political, cultural, athletic life, etc. With this
capillary presence in the life of the diocese, they will keep the
charism of the movement from seeming like a foreign body within it.
It's something analogous to the insertion of a new musical instrument
into an orchestra, which while conserving its characteristics, adjusts
to the particularities that it finds there with the goal of producing a
true symphony, and this, thanks to the leadership of the orchestra
director, who, in our case, is the bishop.
Q: And how can we understand the complementarity between institution and
Father Cattaneo: Between institution and charism there cannot be
as there is not between Christ and his Spirit
but rather complementarity, the putting into action of which corresponds
in a particular way to the diocesan bishop. [The bishop] should avoid an
excessive and bureaucratic development of the institutional dimension in
detriment of the charismatic one.
In reflecting on the insertion of the movements in the particular
Churches, there exists the temptation of inappropriately referring to
the binomial institution-charism, allowing oneself to be dragged along
by a clearly unacceptable dialectic. On various occasions, John Paul II
emphasized that the institutional aspect and the charismatic aspect in
the Church "are co-essential."
One should, therefore, affirm that in each reality of the Church, both
the institutional and the charismatic dimension are found, even if in
varying degrees. It would thus be an error to think of the diocesan
pastoral structures as mere institutional organizations, just as it
would be erroneous to place the ecclesial movement in a purely
charismatic realm, without institutional references.
Q: What is the bishops' responsibility in promoting this complementarity?
Father Cattaneo: The importance of the sacred ministry being understood
and lived charismatically was emphasized by Ratzinger, observing, among
other things, that only in this way "no institutional stiffness arises.
There subsists instead, an interior openness to charism, a type of
antennae for detecting the Holy Spirit and his action […] and lines of
fruitful collaboration in the discernment of spirits will be found."
He called for guarding against the innate danger of an excessive
institutionalism. The Church certainly needs organizational structures,
also of human right, but if these institutions "become too numerous and
preponderant, they endanger the ordering and vitality of its spiritual
nature. The Church should continually verify its institutional ensemble,
so that it doesn't become excessively heavy, [so that it] doesn't
stiffen into a coat of armor that suffocates the spiritual life that is
proper and unique to it."
Q: You concluded by speaking of the bishop as a servant of the Spirit.
In what sense?
Father Cattaneo: The bishop is the first minister of the Sanctifying
Spirit. He exercises the function of moderator of "episkopé," at the
service of the Spirit of Christ, ensuring that the various apostolic
initiatives based in the charisms develop in harmony and contribute to
the edification of the Church in fidelity to the apostolic tradition.
Their jurisdiction is not then understood as a center from which flow
all the ministries and apostolic initiatives in their Churches, but
rather as a center that unifies, coordinates, encourages, promotes and
moderates, always aware of the responsibility of supporting the manifold
action of the Spirit.