It is clear that the sects are not the only problem in America, or even the most important. Nonetheless, these groups are posing serious questions to the Catholic hierarchy of the New World.
The Synod is beginning to see how the sects and new religious movements, such as "New Age," are successful in both hemispheres simply because the Catholic Church lacks the trained personnel and resources to provide the spiritual help needed by Americans today. Before blaming the sects, therefore, the participants are first analyzing the causes within the Church.
Bishop Jose Luis Lacunza of Chitré, Panama, explained that the bishops must consider dialogue with other Christian confessions to be an "irreversible decision." In recent years, John Paul II has desired to push forward this movement for unity among those who call themselves followers of Christ. But now the aggressive and proselytizing presence of the so-called "sects" is generating confusion, suspicion, and a defensive attitude, which has raised obstacles to ecumenical dialogue in the Catholic Church. According to the Panamanian bishop, this stems from a lack of ecumenical formation among Christians, especially in Latin America, where ecumenism is perceived as "something unnecessary and superfluous-- a question for experts or even a sign of weakness." How should the Church react?
One of the fundamental reasons sects are able to draw Catholics away from the Church is a lack of catechetical education, which the Catholic Church can help overcome in a unique way by means of its schools. In the Continent, it directs more than 60,000 primary and secondary schools, with more than 17 million students; in addition, there are 330 universities and 40 theological faculties in the Catholic education system.
Nevertheless, Cardinal Pio Laghi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, pointed out that many of these institutions do not provide an authentically Catholic spiritual formation, because students often do not receive Christian guidance in harmony with the bishops' pastoral initiatives. According to Cardinal Laghi, the adjective "Catholic" should be more than just a decoration; it represents an "educational plan".
Some Catholic universities are failing to fulfill their educational function as well, according to the General Director of the Jesuits, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach. In the last few years, these institutions have been in conflict with the Church over the issue of how Catholic they have to be to be called "Catholic." To resolve this problem, Father. Kolvenbach proposed that these faculties of higher education listen "to the teachings of the Church in an atmosphere of openness which presupposes academic liberty."
Many sects or new religious movements use economic resources or promises of economic aid as a means of winning converts, especially in Latin America. Msgr. Romulo Emiliani Sanchez, vicar of Darien, Panama, denounced "these campaigns which target the most marginalized members of society" (immigrants, prisoners, the sick, and those living in the slums of major cities). These actions demand a response from the pastors of the Church, above all in reviewing the type of help and social action thus far applied by the Church in these areas. At times, these areas have been politicized, and the need to accompany the sick and imprisoned has been forgotten. "As our presence increases in these areas, the sects' presence will decrease," concluded Monsignor Emiliani.
Ethnic minorities in particular have left the Church for the sects. Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, asked the Synod to seriously face the challenge of racial integration and charity among ethnic groups, since this belongs to the heart of the Gospel message. Cardinal Gantin, a native of Benin, referred to Rev. Martin Luther King, as "the apostle of non-violence and integration of African-Americans into society." As another example of work in this field, he spoke of St. Peter Claver, the Spanish Jesuit who was a great missionary to Africans in the Columbian city of Cartagena.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, spoke of the fascination many American Christians have for Eastern religions, as evident in the popularity of Oriental meditation and asceticism, as well as yoga. According to Cardinal Arinze, all bishops, priests, and religious must feel responsible for teaching the Christian faithful the riches of Christian meditation, prayer, contemplation, asceticism and mysticism.
This crisis requires a decisive response on the part of every bishop. Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput asked the bishops of the Synod how they view their work as bishops. He asked that every bishop ask himself at the end of the day, before going to sleep: Am I an apostle or am I a manager? "We are evangelizers first. That is our paramount purpose."
Archbishop Carmelo Juan Giaquinta of Resistencia, Argentina, added this observation: "The Church would be more credible if we talked less about ourselves and more about Jesus Christ crucified."
Therefore, since the exercise of the munus docendi, sanctificandi et regendi by the sacred minister constitute the essence of pastoral ministry, the diverse functions proper to ordained ministers form an indivisible unity and cannot be understood if separated, one from the other. Rather they must be viewed in terms of mutual correspondence and complementarity. Only in some of these functions, and to a limited degree, may the non-ordained faithful cooperate with their pastors should they be called to do so by lawful Authority and in accordance with the prescribed manner. "He (Jesus Christ) continually provides in his body, that is, in the Church, for gifts of ministries through which, by his power, we serve each other unto salvation...".(38)
This doctrine needs to be reaffirmed especially in the light of certain practices which seek to compensate for numerical shortages of ordained ministers arising in some communities. In some instances, such have given rise to an idea of the common priesthood of the faithful which mistakes its nature and specific meaning. Amongst other things, it can encourage a reduction in vocations to the (ministerial) priesthood and obscure the specific purpose of seminaries as places of formation for the ordained ministry. These are closely related phenomena. Their interdependence calls for careful reflection so as to arrive at well considered conclusions in their regard.
NEXT ISSUE: Theological Principles -part four 3. The Indispensability of the Ordained Ministry
By 1164 Victor had died, but this did not stop the abomination from continuing as Paschal III was thrown on the throne by Frederick. Paschal III who had been Cardinal Guido of Crema, a pro-imperialist cardinal who had worked in the Holy See for years but bitterly opposed Alexander. With Paschal as antipope, the bishops did an about face and refused to acknowledge him. Frederick was livid and called the diet of Wurzburg on May 22 1165 whereby he forced the bishops to recognize Paschal and not Alexander with the threat of severe penalties. Many caved in, but there were many who didn’t and as the months went by, more and more, even within Germany, turned their backs on Frederick and his puppet Paschal and returned in reconciliation to Alexander. This strengthened the latter’s position, not only in western Europe, but eastern Europe as well where the Eastern Emperor Manuel I Commenus expressed hope the schism in the Latin Church could work in favor of reuniting the Eastern and Western Churches. To help effect this, he requested Alexander crown him "universal emperor." Alexander, a wise man, realized the ambitious emperor was only trying to gain power at the pontiff’s expense. Thus, he proceeded cautiously, delaying any action. As time passed, so did Paschal. In his place the weakened band of pro-imperialist cardinals elected, on their own, Cardinal Giovanni who took the name Callistus III but he could not even get the attention of Frederick, let alone the people. Alexander was overshadowing anything the pro-imperialists could throw at him, and, for the most part ignored their veiled threats. But, in the west, he couldn’t ignore what was happening in the British Isles where Henry II was striving to wrest control of the clergy in England by downgrading the power of the Holy See. He backed Saint Thomas Becket archbishop of Canterbury in his disputes with Henry over this power-control issue and for it, Beckett gave his life in martyrdom for the cause of Holy Mother Church in 1170. Alexander responded by chastising the king and convincing him to become a penitent ruler and adhering to all Rome pronounced. This Henry II did. Alexander’s growing prestige and power reached its zenith in 1176 when the forces of Barbarossa and Alexander’s alliance of the Lombard League met in battle. The latter was victorious and Barbarossa was reduced to a crawling subject. When news reached Paschal, he fled Rome fearing for his life. To mark the official end of the schism, Alexander triumphantly convened the Third Lateran Council on March 5, 1179. The Council reaffirmed the reforms long promoted by Alexander and first generated by Pope Saint Gregory VII and proudly proclaimed the supremacy of the papacy. This eleventh ecumenical council also passed the rule still in force today - that it would take two-thirds of a majority to elect a pope. Bishops pledged anew their loyalty to Alexander and the Holy Father called for an established procedure for persecuting heretics which proved to be the beginning of an organization that would gain great power a few centuries later: the Inquisition.
Alexander’s law expertise and judicial decisions contributed greatly to establishing many of the codes we have today in Canon Law. In addition, though a man of military knowledge, Alexander more often than not chose the path of peace through negotiation before taking up the sword as a last resort. He influenced the Christian world greatly in denouncing the evils of slavery of the surfs and, in many ways, helped inaugurate the eventual end of the medieval age with the end of serfdom as we shall see in future installments.
After the Lateran Council he returned to Rome, but a few die-hard pro-imperialist cardinals didn’t get the message and nominated their own antipope Innocent III to replace Paschal. But he was no match for Alexander and was dispatched within a few months as 1180 dawned. Always a pontiff on the move, Alexander spent the final years of his pontificate traveling from town to town throughout Italy evangelizing to the citizens and reassuring them of the power of the Holy See. It was in one of these small villages - Civita Castellana, just north of Rome - that God took home this one hundred and seventieth successor to Peter on August 30, 1181. His body was returned triumphantly to Rome for burial in the Lateran palace, but the pestering families aligned with the rebuked pro-imperialist assaulted the funeral cortege and pelted his coffin with stones and wrote insults all over the sarcophagus. Despite the insults, nothing could prevent this Pope from going down in the annals of Church history as one of the great pontiffs who left an enduring mark on Holy Mother Church in the governing and prestige of the Holy See.
NEXT ISSUE: Pope Lucius III: The peaceful pope tries to reinforce the defense against hersesy.
To review all past installments of this on-going series, go to Archives beginning with the inaugural A CALL TO PEACE internet issue in January 1996. volume 7, no. 1.