Friday, March 6, 2015

Cardinal Marx's Gorbachev Moment

On December 7, 1988, Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev delivered a momentous address to the U.N. General Assembly on the reforms being considered by the Politburo in its attempt to plot a new course for the Soviet Union. While the text of the entire address is too long to reprint here, the following selection is worth noting:
...There emerges before us today a different world, for which it is necessary to seek different roads toward the future, to seek - relying, of course, on accumulated experience - but also seeing the radical differences between that which was yesterday and that which is taking place today. The newness of the tasks, and at the same time their difficulty, are not limited to this. Today we have entered an era when progress will be based on the interests of all mankind. Consciousness of this requires that world policy, too, should be determined by the priority of the values of all mankind. [...] We are more than fully confident. We have both the theory, the policy and the vanguard force of restructuring a party which is also restructuring itself in accordance with the new tasks and the radical changes throughout society. And the most important thing: all peoples and all generations of citizens in our great country are in favor of restructuring. [...] No one intends to underestimate the serious nature of the disagreements, and the difficulties of the problems which have not been settled. However, we have already graduated from the primary school of instruction in mutual understanding and in searching for solutions in our and in the common interests.
Three years later, the Soviet Union completely disintegrated.

In a recent interview with the French magazine Etudes (reported at Vatican Insider), Cardinal Reinhard Marx spoke about the reforms he sees as necessary in order to plot a new course for the Catholic Church in Europe. Speaking of the concept of the "new evangelization," the German Cardinal said:
It [the "new evangelization"] could be mistaken for a model for a spiritual reconquest, as if the aim was to regain lost ground. It is not, however, about restoring or repeating what existed in the past, but rather: a new start, a new approach, a new situation. [...] In actual fact, this is the process followed by the entire history of the Church. The Gospel is always new, Ecclesia semper iuvenescens, the Church's youth is constantly being renewed as the Church Fathers used to say. I remember something Cardinal Lustiger used to say: "The European Church is at its beginning; it has a long way ahead." In many discussion on the 'new evangelisation,' I get the impression a lot of people think that most of Christianity's history is behind us and what lies ahead is an uncertain and distressing future. That is not the way to evangelise. [...] This is precisely why there needs to be an open spiritual battle between us regarding the future of the Church in relation to these existential questions that affect all humans and all believers. Of course, care needs to be taken so as not to turn this process into a political and tactical one. I don't know if we managed to avoid this. Openness is essential, as is mutual trust in order to find the right path to take, together. In terms of the magisterium, too, the Church develops without renouncing its beliefs. But throughout its history, Church dogma has unfolded further and it has been elaborated on further. This also applies to marriage and the family. There is no finish line in the search for the truth. From this point of view, an 'open society' means progress for the Church, too. The question, therefore, is not whether the majority shares our ideas, but whether, with our lifestyle and our way of thinking, we have something to say and can manage to persuade many, even within a pluralistic society, to follow the path of the Gospel in the visible community that is the Church.
While three years would be far too soon, three decades seems just about right.

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