"....... the Holy Spirit who often acts like "an unruly house guest.""


"We must realize the [Roman] Catholic church oppressed the Indians from the beginning" .................. after 500 years, there is not one country in Latin America with an autonomous church." [Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Chiapas, Mexico]


From ..................... National Catholic Reporter

June 14,1996

page 7

By ROBERT McCLORY Special Report Writer

If the church of the third millennium is to be a vital force in the world, it must make better use of the unpredictable and sometimes volatile gifts of the Holy Spirit latent in its own members. And it needs to recognize the Spirit's gifts already present in the people it seeks to serve and save.

These were two themes that emerged from the Cardinal Suenens Symposium, titled "Retrieving Charisms for the 21st Century," and sponsored by John Carroll University. It was held in Cleveland May 31-June 4. More than 500 people attended.

Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens was enthusiastically honored as a major architect of the Second Vatican Council, a leader who urged the church to be "open to the future" and all its members "to behave as noninfallible seekers after truth."

Both Suenens and his successor as archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Belgium, Godfried Danneels, had agreed to attend. But Danneels underwent triple-bypass surgery in April, and Suenens died in early May at the age of 91.

In his remarks during the posthumous conferring of an honorary degree on Suenens, San Francisco Archbishop William Levada spoke of Suenen's almost reckless optimism and his conviction that "where caution is everywhere, courage cannot be found." Suenens firmly resisted the forces of the Roman curia who wanted to rubber-stamp their own preconceived conclusions, said Levada, who worked closely with the cardinal after Vatican II.

However, in his own assessment of the charisma needed for the 21st century, Levada seemed far more cautious than his mentor. The first priority, he said, is for the church to promote "Catholic identity" among its members as an antidote to pervasive "religious ignorance" within the church. Guided by the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, he said, Catholicism can represent "the boldest challenge to cultural relativism."

Major speakers at the symposium were less hesitant. In the keynote address, Jesuit Fr. John Haughey said many of the problems within the church today result from failure to maintain a healthy tension between the church's hierarchical gifts and its charismatic gifts.

Haughey a theologian at Chicago's Loyola University and a veteran of the Vatican's outreach to the Pentecostal churches, said charisma are to be understood, not just in the narrow sense of extraordinary manifestations, like speaking in tongues, but as gifts given "the faithful of every rank for the sake of others" for upbuilding the community. Most, he said, are quite ordinary and assist an individual in family, professional and community relationships as well as in specific church activity.

According to Vatican II, said Haughey, the charismatic gifts, which keep the church ''vital,'' are distinct from the hierarchical gifts, which keep the church unified and "orderly." Given that distinction, Haughey pondered aloud how the church could "make a law that would exclude a priori the freedom of the Spirit to seize some portion of the community, women for example, to minister to the community for its upbuilding. ... And we must inquire whether the serious problem we are experiencing with vocations is due to law rather than to an absence of such calls or to an unwillingness of the called to follow them. What if the call is being issued and the possibility of responding to it is not there because of law?"

Because of their unpredictable nature, said Haughey, charisma have received uneven treatment in the history of the church, and even Vatican II was "quite unprepared to deal with the subject." He said one cardinal, Ernesto Ruffini, protested even the use of the term because he contended charisma had passed out of the church after the first years and "are today very rare and entirely singular. "

Indeed, a tendency to subordinate charisma to hierarchy seems to have begun in the first century, said Haughey. He noted how 1 Corinthians, written in the 50s, stresses "a very egalitarian way of doing ministry," while the epistles to Timothy, written in the 90s, seem to indicate that the charisma have come under the exclusive control of presbyters and bishops, whose major mandate is guarding the deposit of faith.

Charisms proved an intriguing subject throughout the symposium. One member of a panel wondered why the Spirit is not "a little more generous" in supplying church officeholders of mediocre talent with the charisma they need in preaching, for example. Fr. Michael Himes of Boston College replied that the better question might be, "Why are we giving office to people who don't have the charisma in the first place?"

The subject of charism was addressed in some detail by Margaret Mitchell of the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago in her analysis of 1 Corinthians. On the one hand, she said, Paul seems to fully legitimate hierarchical authority, yet stresses the "greater honor" that is due to the seemingly inferior members of Christ's body.

Stability and order are major concerns in the church, she said, but not the only ones: Room must be made for the Holy Spirit who often acts like "an unruly house guest."

The presence of charisma already active in the church was amply demonstrated by speakers from several foreign countries. Mario Marazitti, president of the Community of Sant' Egidio in Rome, told how a group of teenagers in 1968 decided to "change the world" by taking the gospels seriously. The resulting Sant' Egidio lay movement has grown to 300 centers worldwide and a membership of 15,000. The communities work with the poor and homeless, promote peaceful solutions to political conflicts and support interreligious dialogue.

The sheer scope of their achievements as described by Marazitti, seemed almost incredible. In 1992 the Sant' Egidio community was credited with negotiating an accord between the warring parties in Mozambique and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Currently the community is promoting peace efforts in Sudan and Algeria.

The gifts of listening and learning are having a profound effect on the San Cristobal de las Casas diocese in Chiapas, Mexico, said Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia. "We must realize the Catholic church oppressed the Indians from the beginning," he said. "And after 500 years, there is not one country in Latin America with an autonomous church."

Nor has the ordination of native peoples as priests been very helpful, he said, because when the young men return from their "seminary formation or deformation" they are "accepted into their own communities as foreigners."

Through a long "process of synods," Ruiz and other church leaders heard the views and ideas of the poor Indians of the more than 200 communities within the diocese.

In the beginning, said Ruiz, the people had two basic questions: Does God know how to save bodies or only souls? And, since the Word of God is seed, does only the bishop have seeds or do the people have seeds, too? Ruiz said he has attempted to respond to these questions by encouraging analysis and activism among the people. The diocese now has 8,000 catechists and some 200 ordained deacons. Currently, Ruiz is working as a peace broker between the government and the revolutionary forces in Chiapas.

In Africa, too, the church must learn to listen, said Mercy Sr. Amba Oduyoye of Ghana, a theologian who writes on African women. The oppressed, exploited and marginalized, especially women and children, "have been rendered voiceless by those on top of the patriarchal pyramid," she said. Yet, she said, their very existence cries out and demands response from a listening church.

Oduyoye sharply criticized another kind of voicelessness that of political and church leaders who refuse to speak against oppression because they fear losing their position. "The charisma of women must be especially heeded," she said.

During the symposium, the First Cardinal Suenens Award was presented to Mother Teresa and Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin as two people who are "imbued with the spirit of Vatican II."

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