Rorate Caeli

Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga: Pope wants to take "Church renovation" to "irreversible" point: Previous reforms were "insufficient, superficial", Church reform to be "deep and total".

On January 20, 2015, Cardinal Oscar Andres Maradiaga Rodriguez, the Coordinator of Pope Francis' Council of Cardinal Advisors gave a talk at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics of the Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley. His remarks were drawn from an essay he had written, The Church of Mercy with Pope Francis. The following passage from this essay reveal just how far-reaching the "Franciscan reform" is intended to be. (His talk, as delivered, can be found here: The Meaning of Mercy - Reflections by Cardinal Oscar Andres Maradiaga Rodriguez on a Central Theme of Pope Francis.)

We walk as Church towards a deep and global renovation. For this renovation to be sincerely Catholic, it must encompass all of the historical dimensions of the Church.

Specifically, there is no true ecclesial renovation without a transformation of the institutions; of the quality and focus of the activities; of the mystic and the spiritual. Usually, renovation begins with pastoral activities. For it is there where the inconsistencies of a certain “model” of the Church and reality are primarily experienced. The missionaries, the evangelists on the “margins” of the Church, are the first ones to notice the insufficiency of the “traditional” ways of action; the pastoral criticism begins with the experience of the mission in the “peripheries.” Changes and adjustments begin there.

After Vatican Council II, the methods and content of evangelization and Christian education change. The liturgy changes: local languages are adopted, some rituals and symbols change, measurements are taken for a greater participation, etc. The missionary perspective changes: the missionary must know the culture, the human situation; the missionary must establish an evangelizing dialogue with those realities. “Social action” changes, it is no longer just charity and development services but also struggle for justice, human rights and liberation…

For Christian coherency, certain institutional and organizational changes are contemplated simultaneously: new functions require new suitable institutions.

The Council propelled institutional renovations, following the logic of the Spirit. These reforms encompass all levels of the ecclesial organization: the religious congregations or missionary societies —whose “Chapters of Renovation” multiply— the diocesan and Vatican Curia, Episcopal Conferences, the Synods, the parishes, the pastoral areas, the presbyteries, the lay apostolic institutions, the teaching of theology, the seminaries, the catholic schools… New institutions for missionary dialogue emerge: ecumenism, Jews, other religions… Everything in the Church changes consistent with a renewed pastoral model.

Maybe some thought that the Church renovation was only that. But the institutional and functional changes —alone in themselves— proved insufficient, superficial. Sometimes they created new problems and crises both unnecessary and deep. Any change in the Church eventually requires considering a renovation of the motivations that the new options inspire. Without deep-rooted, living and explicit motivations, no human group, no institution and no society can survive for a long time, much less renovate itself. Motivations answer to the fundamental “why” of the options, the enterprises, the demands, and the same reason for being of the institution.

The Pope wants to take this Church renovation to the point where it becomes irreversible. The wind that propels the sails of the Church towards the open sea of its deep and total renovation is Mercy. 

For the Church, the motivations are more than essential; they are its identity stamp. The “why” of its organization and its action cannot be decisively explained by the human sciences or the pure historical rationality: they refer to Jesus and his Gospel as the global, indispensable and predominant motivation. It is the motivation of the Spirit. Therefore, to speak of motivations in Christianity is to speak of the mystical, of spirituality.