On Bishops, Local Churches and Movements

Author: ZENIT


On Bishops, Local Churches and Movements

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 "maturity" — 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 exist?

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 possible distortions.

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 ecclesial movements?

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 charism?

Father Cattaneo: Between institution and charism there cannot be contraposition — 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.  

This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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