An Editor Sizes Up the Consistory

Interview With Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 25, 2001 ( Robert Moynihan noticed that the cardinals during their extraordinary consistory dealt with topics as diverse as the question of the universal Church, and the policies of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Moynihan, the editor in chief of the magazine Inside the Vatican, offered some insights into the largest-ever meeting of cardinals, which ended Thursday.

«It was a consistory that has marked the beginning of the millennium in the final phase of John Paul II´s pontificate,» he said. «Although I hope the Holy Father will live as long as possible, it is true that the paths the Church will follow in the forthcoming years have been indicated.»

–Q: Don´t you think that this consistory addressed problems too removed from today´s world?

–Moynihan: The problems humanity must face are very numerous: I am thinking, especially, of the temptation to construct men according to one´s own taste, thanks to the new possibilities of biogenetics. Wisdom alone can help to overcome these temptations, but the latter needs «experts in humanity.»

The Church is an «expert in humanity,» because wisdom is an aspect of faith, leads to faith, and stems from faith. For this reason, the weakening of the faith has brought the collapse of the moral level, the first problem the Church must address today.

If the Church is not solid and faithful, it will not be able to maintain its own unity and will have problems in fulfilling its role of service to the world.

–Q: How were these topics treated in the consistory?

–Moynihan: The cardinals focused clearly on the problem. I am thinking, especially, of the address of Slovak Cardinal Jozef Tomko, former prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who underlined that the Church has no need to preserve its situation, but [has need of] missionaries.

The new evangelization is a response to the enormous demographic, technological and bioethical challenges present in the world — a new evangelization oriented to changing men so that they will be able to resolve problems without falling into the temptations of power, and especially to give the world peace and justice.

–Q: Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels requested a reform of the synod of bishops, so that there will be a more collegial reform of the Church. What is your opinion?

–Moynihan: We live in the global village. To travel to Rome, months and weeks are no longer necessary, but a few hours. Because of this, thought is being given to creating more flexible structures, such as a frequent synod. Some saw in this proposal an attempt to weaken the figure of the Pope, but this is normal development, which responds to the needs of the time.

However, as can be deduced from the debate between Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, the central point of the theological debate at this time is not the reform of the synod but, rather, the relation between the local churches and the universal Church.

Ratzinger supports the universal Church; Kasper has a view that at least reduces the role of the universal Church.

In the issue of my magazine currently being printed, we publish an address of U.S. theologian and Cardinal Avery Dulles, in which he considers that Ratzinger is right. That is, he advocates a mystical and universal — catholic — Church, which any one who enters a parish will recognize. This universal Church is incarnated and exists in an evident way in the person of the Holy Father, Peter´s Successor.

–Q: What were the other outstanding topics of this consistory?

–Moynihan: Italian Cardinal Ersilio Tonini told me that the Americans spoke much on the first day. I think they discussed George Bush´s policy.

The current president of the United States has brought a very great change in U.S. policy. He has cut funds for abortion, promoted initiatives for the support of schools of Christian faith in a very secular state. And, above all, he has decided to use government funds to support initiatives of social assistance developed by religious groups.

I think that the American cardinals, especially Theodore Edgar McCarrick, who spoke on Monday morning, know these initiatives well and are proposing that thought be given to this type of collaboration at the world level with all governments. Meanwhile in Europe, which was always the matrix of Christian faith, there is an evident decline in this alliance between the states and religious groups.

Africa was also discussed, a most grave crisis, which cannot be resolved with new colonization, but with the spread of educational programs, the re-establishment of law, peace and the creation of infrastructure.

–Q: How do you see the media´s coverage of the consistory?

–Moynihan: Not good. The media tried to see only the old topics, such as married priests, abortion, homosexuality. I felt embarrassed when I was invited by the BBC to a program in which it seemed that the only problem was that of the relation between the Catholic Church and women.

Unfortunately, there is great confusion on the differences and complementarity of man and woman. The prevailing culture proposes the androgynous figure; some would even like to create it in the laboratory.

In the meantime, there are fewer and fewer children, and this is very sad. Because of this, even in the consistory there was talk of encouraging procreation in every way. And the need to educate children was especially underlined.

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