Monday, November 4, 2013

Cardinal Oscar and the Grouches

The World Series may be over, but some Cardinals are still
in the news.
So Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB has caused a stir.

Here's his speech, presented in full by Whispers in the Loggia.

Here's Father Dwight Longenecker's take on it.

Here's my response to Fr. Longenecker (who, by the way, is an excellent writer, a smart Catholic and a man I admire very much) ...

But there is something stirring in this all the same. And there are parts where the fuller vision is alluded to. Father, you are right in that sin and salvation are not mentioned, but the context of this speech is evangelization, and the poor are not merely those who have little money, but those who don't know Jesus and who sin. The cardinal does not spell this out, but if this speech is read knowing the fuller context - where is the world today and what has the Church been doing to save it? - it makes much more sense.
For example, look at what he says about argument. "This means that the Church will convert the world not by argument, but by example. There is no doubt that doctrinal argument is important, but people will be attracted by the humanity of Christians, those who live by the faith, who live in a human way, who irradiate the joy of living, the consistency in their behavior."
This is quite true. Does it ignore the fact that some people are indeed converted by argument, or by writers like Chesterton, who were brilliant apologists? No, it does not ignore that; he is speaking a truth and addressing a more normal group of people. His "half truths" that you point out, Father, are more a kind of rhetorical enthusiasm than deliberate half truths, or so it seems to me. At least that's the case with his statement on argument. Read literally it's not true - argument does convert some; but read without the sense of "proof texting", the reader sees that in essence and in scope it's very true.
And even if he is focusing on certain aspects to the detriment of others, why can we not say, "Well, this may not be the full picture, but amen! The cardinal's vision of a vibrant loving community that exists for the sake of love is what we need. Yes, there's more to it than that, but this vision of a vibrant, caring, evangelizing Church - which is not without the altar, the priesthood, and the Sacraments - would be a wonderful thing."

On Facebook, I quote with enthusiasm this line from the speech ...

"If the Church has a mission at all, it is to manifest the deeds of Jesus. The Church has never been her own goal. Salvation comes from Jesus, not from the Church."

Now technically this is not true.  Salvation comes from Jesus through the Church.  But indeed "the Church has never been her own goal".

Facebook friend Dale Price responds ...

  • Dale Price *If* the Church has a mission? If? Er....
  • Kevin O'Brien Dale, come on. This is a rhetorical technique. It's like saying, "If I'm alive and breathing air, I know one thing." Would someone come along and say, "If?" at that and scoff? Of course the Church has a mission. In fact, the Church IS a mission. Read past the rhetorical flourish.
  • Dale Price I've read the whole thing. As I said on Michael Liccione's page: "To use an (international) football metaphor, it's 5000+ words of own goals."

  • [I then tell Dale I think he's confused, and he responds ... ]

  • Dale Price Confused? Always a possibility. But it's hard to spin straw like this into gold: "Even Christ himself did not proclaim or preach Himself, but the Kingdom." To me, that sounds confused, for a start.

But that's true.  Yet, as Dale points out, it's also potentially quite false.

I think the problem here is how to read.

If we read with a spirit of proof-texting we'll be missing the rhetorical brilliance of this speech and the overall spirit of it, which, though not comprehensive, is quite inspired and true.

I am, however, rather shocked that such a presentation would offend so many people.


Kevin O'Brien said...

Well, this speech of the cardinal's is lighting up the internet.

In order to avoid the truth of what he's saying, folks are dredging up comments the cardinal made from 11 years ago that they claim are antisemitic. They are in no way antisemitic. They are comments that show an appalling naivete in regard to the sex scandal, but they are not antisemitic.

Either way, we are free to read the cardinal's speech in the context of Jesus Christ and Faith in Him, or not.

John C. Hathaway said...

I read the speech, but haven't read the commentaries or debates yet. I don't really see what the big deal is, either way. However, I like your observation about "proof-texting."
That's one of the basic problems in our society: we want everything explained in "sound bites" and "chapter and verse" citations. Nobody wants to see the big picture.