Supreme Knight Views the Family and Social Doctrine

Interview With Carl Anderson

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ROME, NOV. 1, 2004 ( The world tends to see the Catholic Church’s social doctrine as just one more ethical value system, warns the head of the U.S.-based Knights of Columbus.

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the world’s largest Catholic family fraternal service organization, was in Rome for a closed-door congress of Ecclesial Organizations Working for Justice and Peace. The event, convoked by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, attracted representatives from more than 100 nations.

ZENIT spoke with Anderson on Friday.

Q: Tell us about your presentation to the conference.

Anderson: The topic of our panel this afternoon was the «Ecclesial Role or Identity of Organizations Working for Justice and Peace.»

The topic presents a very important issue for the Church, and that is, the tendency in many societies and cultures to reduce the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel of life and its social doctrine to just one more ethical value system or means of social services delivery. And of course the Gospel is much more than that.

So we have to always be on our guard against this tendency and we must redouble our efforts to make sure that the full truth of the Gospel is always presented as we work for social justice and peace.

Q: What is the general level of involvement from the Knights of Columbus with regard to this issue of the Church and justice and peace?

Anderson: Well, we have 1.7 million members of the Knights of Columbus in several countries and our two main principles are charity and unity — I think you can see the parallel with peace and justice.

So we all try, in our local communities, to bring this message through works of charity and solidarity, but we also aim internationally and globally.

Q: In your presentation to the assembly, you mentioned «Familiaris Consortio» and said that the true vocation of people is love. As a Knight of Columbus and a father of five, what do you mean by this in the context of this conference?

Anderson: We [Knights of Columbus] have tried consistently to assist the Holy Father in his pastoral mission to families in a number of ways — at the local parishes, also through institutions of higher education like the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.

One of the advances in the social doctrine of the Church that the Holy Father has made during his pontificate is to understand the family — the relationships within the family — as reflecting the relationships among the Trinity; and the interpersonal communion of the Trinity is reflected, in a way, in the family.

This is why the Pope calls the family «the first school of humanity» because it is there that we learn these kinds of relationships.

Thus, for justice and peace it’s terribly important because the family is the first cell of society, and so, as we might think of the family as modeled on the Trinity, we should begin to think of the other associations in society.

Society itself is based on interpersonal relationships that we learn within the family, and therefore you see the Holy Father talking about the «family of nations.»

Q: Now, speaking of the Holy Father, all representatives at this conference had the opportunity to meet with him this morning at the Vatican. Why was this encounter so important in the framework of this justice and peace conference?

Anderson: Well, it’s obvious that everyone is thrilled, in this organization and this meeting, to be in the presence of the Holy Father, to see him articulating so clearly the value of the social doctrine of the Church … this outreach.

You know, Pope Paul VI spoke about the Second Vatican Council, at its conclusion, saying that it presented the Catholic Church as the Church of the Good Samaritan. The pontificate of John Paul II has been a daily witness to this reality of the Church as a Good Samaritan.

Q: You spoke, in your presentation, about the need to safeguard the ecclesial identification of the Church’s mission. Very briefly, how do you think the release of the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church and this congress will assist in this?

Anderson: The work for justice and peace to renew society is a primary responsibility of the laity, and we need tools to help form the laity — men and women, for this responsibility. The compendium is a tremendous tool.

You might even look at it as the blueprint or the guidebook for moving forward; now in one place we have this teaching for all to see. It’s tremendously important and I think that from this first world-congress, we’ll see greater enthusiasm, greater interaction, and a greater solidarity across borders and globally. It’s a very significant meeting.

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