REFLECTION: Church-world engagement PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 September 2011 15:46


I was happy to learn that in a recent gathering of some bishops, priests and lay leaders in Cebu, the concern was raised to look into issues involving workers. There was talk about raising the minimum wage and also about the duty for the Church to get involved in these matters. She cannot remain indifferent to these, a news item said.

These, I think, are good developments. They highlight the often ignored responsibility that the Church should be very much concerned about socio-economic and even political issues that have impact on the dignity of persons.
This is simply because whatever concerns man is a concern of Christ, and therefore of the Church. And so we have to make some revision of attitudes and thinking that before appear to be restrictive, isolationist, veering more to the spiritual at the expense of the material, to the clerical at the expense of the laical.

That is to say, things have to be done properly. These developments should avoid a free-for-all scramble, confusing the roles of clergy and laity.  We should try to avoid what is called as clericalism and spiritualism, on the one hand, and laicism and secularism, on the other.

We need to deepen our knowledge of the nature and purpose of the Church, as well as the roles of the different members—the clergy, the laity and the religious—that comprise it.

For any collective action to be dynamic, living and meaningful, we should not forget the principles of common good, solidarity and subsidiarity. The many practical implications of these principles ought to be known and lived by all, and most especially, by the Church leaders who need to be trained for this purpose.

We need to look at Christ for the proper way to do this Church-world engagement. Of course, we should neither ignore the Church tradition that has been developed through history that, in spite of some limitations, offers a good light to guide us in this regard.

While it is a divine institution, the Church is also human, subject to space and time, and to all other human factors—social, historical, cultural, political, etc. While it is in possession of the supernatural, it is subject to the natural process of development.

The Church leaders who are supposed to orchestrate Church-world engagement should have a good understanding of how to do things in this regard. For example, the concern for macro issues in the world, like the working conditions of laborers, environment, mining, corruption, gambling, etc., should never set aside what may be called as the micro requirements of prayer, sacrifice, sacraments, etc.

The organic link between these two aspects of Christian life should be lived and clearly expressed in all the pertinent public pronouncements and actuations. We should avoid giving the impression, no matter how slight, of interventions by Church leaders in temporal affairs as being purely social or economic or political in nature.
That would violate the nature and mission of the Church. The Church is only interested in the eternal salvation of man, and any temporal affair or worldly issue to which the Church is drawn to intervene, should be clearly related to this ultimate eternal-salvation-of-man mission.

Otherwise, the Church leaders should just allow its lay faithful to sort out what is best for everyone, or at least for the majority, in matters that are open to many legitimate opinions and to human consensus.

Church leaders should refrain from downgrading their roles into political leaders , economic pundits or social workers. Christ rejected all temptations to make him an earthly king with an earthly kingdom.

Still, we have to understand that the Church is involved even in matters of opinion, because the laity are very much into them. Their autonomy, arising from the autonomy of worldly affairs with respect to man’s eternal salvation, should be respected.

We have to avoid clericalism in the Church as much as we reject secularism in the world. Yes, it’s true that there should be Church-world engagement, but we need to follow the rules of engagement, set by Christ and now taught by the Church.

The Church too can benefit from the continuing consensus of human opinions by fine-tuning her social doctrine to capture and express the finer nuances of the human condition in relation to our eternal salvation. This will be an ongoing, endless task that should be pursued with openness and prudence.

The world should also recognize that the Church has a place in the public discourse of world issues, and acknowledge the benefit it can derive from such Church participation.