Rorate Caeli

Jesus Christ: the “Great Absence” in today’s Church

 “Today, Pastors and the entire people of God need to return to a correct order of priorities: to begin with, by shouting from the rooftops the first and most important of these priorities: the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.”

by Gianfranco Amato

President, Jurists for Life

La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana

August 21, 2020

Every day, it seems like ‘a great absence’ is making itself felt inside the Church: Our Lord Jesus Christ. We talk about everything except Him. In official discourses, prolusions, interventions and now even in documents, every reference to the Son of God seems to have disappeared. The idea that there can be a Christianity without Christ is making increasing headway in a creeping manner. For that matter “the Powers that be” are fond of a religion that attends to the poor, the needy, the diverse, immigrants, social justice, respect for the environment and peace, but which eclipses the troublesome figure of Christ – the only Truth – with all the ensuing weaponry of the precepts, dogmas, principles values and ideals of this Truth.  This is why in the ecclesiastical world we keep hearing authoritative voices going on about everything except the Unicum necessarium . But wasn’t it the mission of the Church to “proclaim the Kingdom of God and Christ and establish it among the peoples”  as it would seem No. 565 of the Catechism indicates?


It is sad to see such a low degree of awareness regarding the real mission of the Church on the part of its Pastors, such as we are seeing today. And it is sad, above all, for those, like myself, who have experienced a completely different view of Christianity and have had the grace to have been brought up in this view.


I remember very well, for example, the words of Monsignor Luigi Giussani when he said: “Those who sustain that before announcing Christ, political-social problems need to be resolved – in my view – consciously or unconsciously – they shrivel up the very heart of the Christian message,  whereby the salvation of man is Christ and Christ alone.” 

And I remember very well the denunciation he made about the danger  in “many spheres of the Christian intelligentsia” and in the Church Herself, where “the formulating and dealing with problems on the basis of  worldly categories is being purported.” 


Today it seems that at all levels only worldly categories apply. But this state of affairs ends up seriously shriveling the heart of man, to the point of making him lose sense of the exact dimension of things. In this regard, it has always impressed me another of Don Giusanni’s profound intuitions: “Those who work to better the life of man – with no clear perception or a confused one, explicit or implicit, of that transcendent connection which constitutes the substantial tension of the human conscience – fatally remain victim of discrepancies, of monstrous deformations of reality: small things end up appearing big and the big ones small, till everything takes on deformed and grotesque contours.”  Although these words were spoken almost forty years ago, they describe dramatically and efficaciously the situation we are facing today. How is it possible not to see the “deformed and grotesque”  dimension today assumed by a Christianity, which, by censuring Christ ends up making  small things big and big things small?


A Church that loses the awareness of the mandate entrusted by its Founder risks becoming irrelevant, futile  and extinct. It reminds us of the ‘insipid salt’ of the Gospel and it would end up being one of the many philosophies, visions and ideologies.


Today, Pastors and the entire people of God need to return to a correct order of priorities: to begin with, by shouting from the rooftops the first and most important of these priorities: the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. We need to return to having an authentic and concrete perception that the Incarnation of the Word of God is relevant to the “here and now” , is relevant to the present, because He is present and He is relevant to each man on earth, in whatever situation he is in, rich or poor alike. Giussani  pointed out: “ If He was not relevant to our present, Christ would immediately vanish into thin air and would become the center of a philosophy, a vision, or an ideology.” Precisely what is regrettably happening now.


We are now seeing an inversion of priorities: indeed, there are those would like to make us believe that first we need to resolve the social problems (immigration, poverty, social justice, pollution etc.) and then announce Jesus Christ. But as we have seen, it is the exact opposite.


Inverting the order of priorities means facing these problems on the impulse of a mere ethical impetus.  Once again, from this point of view, Giussani was prophetic “The influence of the Faith and the Church can be reduced on its socio-political activity to an extrinsic impulse, to a simple inspiration, as if the ecclesial experience inspires man to get involved in social problems, inculcating in him an ethical impetus towards them, but without having any impact on the way of actually dealing with  problems.”  He continued by giving an example: “We are told: the Gospel propels me to get involved with the poor, and this is true. But if one stops there, then the Gospel tends to be simply an ethical impetus, moralistic.  Instead the Gospel has something to say also about the way with regard to the discernment and conduct one should have in dealing with the problem of poverty.”


Today nobody in the Church is speaking about the “ways”,  “ discernment”  and “conduct” to deal with social problems, also because, by doing so, it would imply necessarily prior recognition of Christ as the Truth, from which everything follows. And this being rather troublesome, it seems better to deal with problems exactly as the world, which does not know Christ, deals with them.


Romano Amerio in his Iota Unum was also right when he denounced, that, for many Pastors the Christian faith is no longer a principle but an interpretation and a language.  He wrote this at the beginning of the 1980s, fearing it as a risk. Today, unfortunately, it seems it is now a widespread idea, even inside important sectors of the Church, whereby, explicitly, the Christian Word is no longer the beginning and caput, but an interpretation destined to be compatible with other interpretations in a confused quid which at times seems to be social justice, at times an abstract idea of solidarity. There is complete silence about the eschatological principle of the Christian Faith whereby the Earth is made for Heaven and the destiny of Man makes sense only in an otherworldly perspective. It seems, instead, that for some years now we are reliving the old South American “theological” vision for which the supernatural ends of the Church must be deferred to the struggle for social justice. The idea becomes heretical when it claims that the plan of God is that this world must be just, fraternal and happy. Amerio pointed out that “in this way the perfection of the world becomes the purpose of the world, the subordination of everything to God disappears, and the Church merges with the organization of the human race.”  But only by eclipsing the transcendental order, eliminating Christ, a sort of “right to happiness” can be considered in the world here, in a utopian construction of paradise on earth.


These  phantoms of South American theology come to us today not only through the increasingly explicit censure of the figure of Christ, but also thanks to the dangerous idea that the social-work of Christianity must prevail over Church social doctrine. 


For the supporters of this idea, however, it is sufficient to remember the words of Christ Whom they strive to censure: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and do His will”. All the rest comes after.


Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana