Cardinal Calls for "Apologetics of Presence"

British Prelate Addresses Church’s Challenges

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LONDON, MARCH 2, 2009 ( The Church has a crucial role in today’s society, and must not believe the secularist opinion of its current irrelevance, stated the president of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, archbishop of Westminster, affirmed this Thursday at a lecture about his vision of the Catholic Church in Britain titled “Gaudium et Spes — The Shape of the Church: Past, Present and to Come.”

The cardinal observed, “There has been a subtle but deep change in the way the Catholic Church has been perceived by contemporary culture.” Yet, he added, “I believe the Church has a perspective and a wisdom which our society cannot afford to exclude or silence.”

The Church’s unique perspective, he stated, in the defense of the common good of all people, gives it a particular capacity to contribute to current issues such as the economic crisis.

The cardinal noted how the Church reminds us that “money is not an end in itself.” He affirmed, “The Church does not offer a blueprint for economic policy, but it does argue that if the market is to serve the common good of all then it demands a strong ethical framework and effective regulation.”

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor also underlined the Church’s importance in upholding the value of the family in society. He said: “The family is not only the domestic church; it is also the foundation of society.

“We can see that even in times of political and social collapse, the family has the power to survive and enable others to survive. It is from the family that society can rebuild itself.”

The archbishop of Westminster emphasized the need to uphold the true concept of marriage, understood as a “lifelong commitment between a man and a woman open to the transmission of life ordered to the good of spouses and their children.”

He added, “It seems strange that one should have to preach this in our time, for when asked what is most important to them in survey after survey, people consistently place family at the top of the list; high above health or wealth.”

Church in society

The cardinal, noting that “the relationship of the Church to culture is constantly being reshaped,” called for a “new apologetics of presence.”

He explained, “Indeed it is that different way of seeing, that different way of being, that is the gift of faith to every culture.”

He continued: “The distinctive way of being Christian is surely grounded in the way in which the Church understands the dignity and destiny of every person before God and their infinite value in his eyes.

“And it is this very depth of understanding — we might call it loving — that also gives an attunement to the longing and desire for what is genuinely good and life-giving that every person has, whether they share our faith or not, whether they can articulate it or not.

“This is why the Church’s first word should never be ‘No.’ It is always a ‘Yes’ to the fundamental calling and dignity of life, through which we come to see more clearly the necessary ‘No’s’ that must also be uttered if the truth is to be spoken.”

“We need to encourage and affirm the good in each person,” affirmed Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, “rather than simply naming the bad.”

Active agent

The cardinal noted that “the lamentation for a past time, some glorious golden age, is not a Christian song.” He added: “It is not the song of faith but of despair, for our faith gives us a vision not of what has been but of what will be — whatever the difficulties or sufferings we have to endure — we cannot surrender or lose confidence in the future which God has secured for us.

“This is why the Church must always be an active agent in the creation and building up of a genuinely humane culture.”

He warned that “the greatest danger for us at the moment is to let ourselves believe what secular culture wants us to believe about ourselves, namely, that we are becoming less and less influential and are in decline.”

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