The Church's Commitment to Promoting Fraternity

Caritas President Discusses Social Doctrine in Latin America

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ROME, MAY 17, 2011 ( Political systems can try to promote liberty and equality, but in order to promote fraternity, human beings must be recognized as children of the same Father, says Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga.

The cardinal, who is archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and president of Caritas Internationalis, asserts that the social doctrine of the Catholic Church — because it is founded on the dignity of the human person, which comes from being children of God — is an important point of reference in Latin America … and one that perdures through the rise and fall of political ideologies.

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga spoke with ZENIT as he participates in a conference under way to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s social encyclical «Mater et Magistra.» The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is sponsoring the conference, which concludes Wednesday.

ZENIT: What are the concerns and hopes of the Church in Latin America?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: In the first place, there is great hope because the Church continues to be a reason for hope.

The beautiful thing about our people is that, despite the poverty, difficulties, struggles, they never lose hope. And it isn’t a simple optimism. Optimism can spring from a psychosomatic constitution. But hope is based on faith; it is something theological, which is at the core of our countries.

ZENIT: Is the Church always an important point of reference for Latin America?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: She continues to be so, despite the fact that there are quite strong forces that would like to discredit her. And one of the reasons is her commitment to the social doctrine of the Church.

In general, other religious options are very vertical, and they are not a problem for those who wish to govern in an unjust way. Instead, the Catholic Church has a consistent voice. Just examining the teaching of the last 50 years, beginning with the 1955 conference of Rio de Janeiro, and then of Medellin, Puebla, Santo Domingo and Aparecida, there is a consistency and a line in the social teaching that is very defined and very uncomfortable for some powers.

Hence, they try to discredit her. Of course they have made use of things such as the scandals of pedophilia, in particular in the United States, to remove her voice. But there is a quite particular phenomenon. In our continent, that scandal has not succeeded in discrediting the voice of the magisterium, because there is a commitment to the poor that the poor man perceives although he doesn’t reason about it.

ZENIT: A commitment not to politics, but to Catholic social doctrine?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: Precisely, because there are so many changes that really must come about and the Church has been consistent in trying to make the people aware that change is necessary.

ZENIT: In this conference, what is hoped for from this analysis?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: The participants, who are very numerous and from every continent, are directly involved in the social doctrine of the Church and its study, and in putting it into practice. I think that all of them will be disseminators so that the message of these days can be put into practice.

ZENIT: Many ideologies and walls have fallen. Perhaps the message of Catholic social doctrine can obtain an advantage now, given that some wished to relate it to political ideologies, some of which no longer exist?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: Indeed, and I think this is very important. And, of course, we also have to make an examination of conscience. In my judgment, there hasn’t been sufficient evangelization of politicians and of politics. Because of this, some changes are delayed, but it is very clear that the social doctrine of the Church is no ideology, because ideologies pass, fall, others come. The Church wishes to contribute and at the same time to question the ambiguities of ideologies.

ZENIT: The central point of the social doctrine of the Church is human dignity. What is the relationship between poverty and the dignity of the human person?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: I would say that poverty is an unjust situation, which does not allow human beings to live in keeping with their dignity as children of God. Consequently, poverty is an evil that we must try to eradicate. If you remember the famous objectives of the millennium at the United Nations, at times poverty is used for everything. I think that, sadly, that objective has been an empty pledge, because I haven’t seen great efforts to reduce poverty by half by the year 2015.

ZENIT: Some take advantage of the fight against poverty to couple it with an ideology that does not take into account the dignity of the human person.

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: Indeed, that’s what they don’t consider, and the center of the social doctrine of the Church is the dignity of the human person, which comes from the fact of being children of God.

Let’s look at the ideal of the French Revolution: liberty, equality, fraternity — one system wanted liberty without equality: capitalism. Another system wanted equality but no liberty: communism. And fraternity doesn’t come in anywhere, because fraternity can only be attained when we recognize that we are children of the same God. We have the same Father and that is why we are brothers. And without the transcendent dimension, humanism is impoverished and it is reduced to an ideology.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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