Place and Role of Movements in the Church (Part 2)

Interview With Father Arturo Cattaneo

ROME, MAY 23, 2006 ( Ecclesial movements can “revive the apostolic action of the Church” in an era of secularization, says a canon lawyer.

In this interview, Father Arturo Cattaneo, a professor of canon law at the Pius X Theological Center of Venice, reflects on this possibility. Part 1 of this interview appeared Monday.

Q: Charismatic endeavors are not new in the Church. What are the general elements that characterize movements and differentiate them from other charisms that have taken place in history?

Father Cattaneo: Since Pentecost, the Church has been a charismatic reality. The Spirit continued to manifest itself later with particular force in specific historical moments.

Suffice it to think of the phenomenon of monasticism, which spread in Europe since the fifth century, or of the rise of the mendicant orders in the 12th century, or other subsequent initiatives of a missionary, educational and charitable character.

The new ecclesial movements that arose in the second half of the 20th century are characterized above all by the fact that they are addressed to lay faithful to help them live with full consistency the following of Christ in daily life or secular undertakings.

Among other characteristics, of note is the universal spirit that animates them, which has led them to develop a relationship of special affection and communion with the Roman Pontiff, as witnessed so many times in the World Youth Days.

Q: Over the past 40 years there has been an evolution in the relationship between bishops, parish priests and movements. What has it been like and what is the present situation?

Father Cattaneo: I imagine that you are referring to the initial mistrust manifested by many pastors in regard to the movements and, therefore, to a certain lack of appreciation on the part of members of the movements of ecclesiastical structures which were perceived as hostile.

Those differences were due to behavior that we should call “adolescent” by some movements and some of their members. However, all these understandable difficulties have been, at least to a large extent, surmounted.

Undoubtedly, John Paul II’s and Cardinal Ratzinger’s pastoral attention has contributed to a better understanding of the movements by the pastors and to an ecclesial maturation of the movements.

Q: What contribution can ecclesial movements make to parishes?

Father Cattaneo: Both John Paul II, as well as Benedict XVI recently, have manifested their confidence in the movements’ ability to revive the apostolic action of the Church and, above all, in their capacity to address the challenge posed by the phenomena of secularization.

The movements reinforce the personal presence of Christian life. As Professor Giorgio Feliciani explained, “The first and most important contribution that movements can make to a parish community is the presence in their territorial ambit of what John Paul II described as ‘mature Christian personalities, conscious of their own baptismal identity, of their own vocation and mission in the Church and in the world.’ Therefore, they are capable of offering a significant testimony of Christian life.”

Q: Could not the Church’s ability to integrate diversities in unity, constituting communion, be an example for civil society?

Father Cattaneo: More than example — let’s not forget that the Church and civil society are essentially different — I would prefer to speak of an aspect of service that the Church is called to offer to society.

The latter is increasingly multiethnic and multicultural, globalized and fragmented at the same time. All this constitutes a stimulus for the Church, which is called — as the Second Vatican Council said — to “raise an ensign for the nations” and “light of the world,” to understand and embrace “all tongues in her love, and so supersedes the divisiveness of Babel” [“Ad Gentes,” No. 4].

This perspective opens necessarily also to interreligious dialogue, a difficult but necessary question, in which the Church will have to be increasingly committed.

Q: In your book “Unità e varietà nella comunione della Chiesa locale” [Unity and Variety in the Communion of the Local Church], in addition to the movements you also mention personal pastoral structures. To what are you referring?

Father Cattaneo: We must keep in mind that we have moved from a period in which territorial stability was extremely clear, to a way of living characterized by ever greater mobility.

The phenomena of migrations and other social and professional factors call for pastoral exigencies of a personal nature that go beyond diocesan confines. In her mission, the Church must obviously take all this into account.

In the realm of the particular Church, for centuries organizational responses have been given to these needs, such as the creation of personal parishes and the appointment of chaplains who are entrusted with specialized pastoral care — schools, hospitals, prisons, etc.

Recently, organizational responses have been given in regard to pastoral needs that transcend the diocesan limits. The Church has created trans-diocesan structures of specialized pastoral care — entrusted to an ordinary, assisted by priests and with the possible collaboration of lay faithful — who carry out their own role in regard to particular Churches, offering them specific aids. It is the case of the military diocese and the personal prelature.

Q: What do you hope for from this year’s Pentecost meeting?

Father Cattaneo: I will answer with the motto chosen for this meeting: to make “the beauty of being Christian and the joy of communicating it” not be only a prerogative of movements, but that increasingly they be able to disseminate them to all the faithful.

In 1999, Ratzinger recalled that in the Roman Empire, the Church was an infinitesimal minority in the first centuries, “but that already at the time of the apostles this minority aroused the world’s attention.” The cardinal concluded with these words: Today “the movements can be of great help thanks to that missionary thrust […] and they can encourage all of us to be leaven of the life of the Gospel in the world.”

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