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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cardinal Arinze: On the Church speaking out versus the culture of death, and on the role of the Catholic university

Last May 10, 2009, Francis Cardinal Arinze gave a powerful address on the Contribution of a Catholic University to the Life and Mission of the Church . This lecture ought to be disseminated to all Philippine Catholic colleges and universities, some of which are being tempted to compromise on their Catholic identity.
Some quotes:
The human being who explores the frontiers of science and technology is the same human being who is spouse, father, mother, son, daughter, citizen, ruler, company director, bank official, medical doctor, merchant, or otherwise. Relationship with one's neighbour is an important dimension to be considered in human action.

Even more important are man's relations with God. He is our Creator. We are his creatures. "It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture" (Ps 100:3). Divine Providence keeps everything in existence and in the divinely established order. A human being who dares to deny God theoretical and practical recognition should be considered ridiculous. "Without the Creator", testifies the Second Vatican Council, "the creature would disappear...When God is forgotten the creature itself grows unintelligible" (Gaudium et Spes, 36). Secularism stands condemned because it is an effort to conduct life as if God did not exist, as if God were interfering. Pope Benedict XVI condemns this ideology because it "presents itself in culture as planning of the world and of humanity without reference to Transcendence, invades every aspect of daily life and develops a mentality in which God is in reality absent, totally or in part, from human existence or consciousness" (Address to Plenary Assembly of the Pont. Council for Culture, on 8 March, 2008).

The scientist, therefore, should not regard whatever is physically possible as also morally lawful. Human action has to take into account the natural law, the eternal law of God written into human nature. Pope John Paul II, when he visited Mount Sinai in 2000, said that before God wrote and gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, he already wrote them into the human heart. That is why people of all religions and cultures, when they are not weighed down by ideology or human weakness, can recognize most of the dictates of the Ten Commandments.

A Catholic College or University educates students to appreciate that moral rules of right and wrong apply also to science, technology, politics, trade and commerce, and indeed to all human endeavours.
The Christian must learn to make a synthesis between his duties as a citizen and his religious practices. There must be no divorce between these two dimensions of his life. The Second Vatican Council is rather clear: "The split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age... Therefore, let there be no false opposition between professional and social activities on the one part, and religious life on the other. The Christian who neglects his temporal duties neglects his duties towards his neighbour and even God, and jeopardizes his eternal salvation" (Gaudium et Spes, 43). These are strong words coming from a General Council of the Church.
We can also in this light see the mistake of politicians who regard the Church as interfering in politics when the Pope or the Bishops speak on contraception, abortion, strange new definitions of family, the rights of workers, the education of children or what moral standards should guide the mass media. While the Church has no mandate from Christ to produce recipes for the solution of political or economic questions, the Church has the duty to invoke the light of the Gospel on various areas of human endeavour, on matters of right and wrong and on the morality of human acts in general (cf Benedict XVI: Deus Caritas Est, 28).

In the complicated world of today, where all kinds of ideas are struggling for the right of citizenship, a university student needs a clear and viable orientation on the relationship between religion and life. The Catholic College or University is ideally positioned to help him see the light and equip himself for a significant contribution in society.

Deserving of special mention is education in the use of freedom. Pope Benedict stressed it when he spoke to Catholic educators in the United States on 17 April 2008 in the Catholic University of America. "While we have sought diligendy to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequendy we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in — a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves".

The Holy Father continues and says that educators owe it in all "intellectual charity" to lead their students to the truth so that they exercise freedom in relation to truth. We can add that this is very necessary in the intellectual world of today where many people deny the objectivity of moral truth and where moral relativism is regarded as the accepted thing. A person who holds that certain actions, like direct abortion, are always objectively wrong, is regarded as "judgmental" , or as imposing his views on others. The exercise of freedom in pursuit of the truth is very much a part of integral education. If a Catholic College or University does not help in this way, should we not say that it has failed in one of its important roles?

If a Catholic College or University answers to its vocation in the ways outlined above, then it will be educating, forming and releasing into society model citizens who will be a credit to their families, their College, the Church and the State. It will prepare for us members of Congress or the Senate who will not say "I am a Catholic, but..."; but rather those who will say "I am a Catholic, and therefore... " They will be coherent both as Catholics and as citizens. Their religion will not be just a matter of an hour or two on Sunday, but will also provide a vital synthesis for their activities on Monday through Saturday, and from January to December.

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