Monday, 25 March 2013

Whither the Church?

The 22nd conversation of Tischner czyta Katechizm opens the fourth and final part of the book, and concerns the Church - in particular, its future. Fr. Tischner points out that the Church pre-dates the European nation state - and says that the Church will see the third millennium through to the end, while he expresses doubts as to whether Poland, Germany or France will do so.

"The Apostolate is not diplomacy, cabalism or juggling, but sincere prophecy," says Fr. Tischner of the Church. And the Church, says the catechism, "calls to all people, faithful Catholics, as are others believing in Christ, and indeed all people that by the grace of God are called to be redeemed." Jacek Żakowski says "Everyone and no one".

Fr. Tischner says that at the very heart of the Church is Christ, alive in history. "Surrounding Him is the great human organism, the good and the bad, the honest and the dishonest. Each one rooted in the living Christ." I have pencilled in signs of my own doubt in this statement.

Żakowski says that this vision is incomplete, as it does not mention the understanding between the Church and the state. And at this point I note that the Concordat - the document regulating the relationship between the Republic of Poland and the Vatican - had indeed been signed in 1993, but was not finally ratified by the Polish parliament until 1998, two years after the conversations in this book were first recorded.

Fr. Tischner sets out the tension between the Institution  and Christ, between the Office and the Charisma. The regulations, the opening hours, the representatives, the discipline - and at the heart of this - the mystery of great reality.  What can be done to ensure that this mystery be expressed through an institution?

And here, Fr. Tischner sets out the great fault line in the Catholic Church of today - that between the liberal tendency - ecumenical, seeking understanding with all other religions, in order to become one Church of one God - and the integrists - seeking certainty in tradition, the rights of God, not the rights of man, critical of the Vatican Council, critical of the liberal, ecumenical tendency. The liberals, Fr. Tischner, are epitomised by Hans Küng, the integrists, by Marcel Lefebvre.

Żakowski asks whether there can possibly be a way of reconciling these two tendencies. "Do you not have the feeling that the Church is coming apart? Is the Church not falling for that great 20th Century madness - to improve, to change, to repair everything? In this madness, is the Church not beginning to lose its identity?"

Fr. Tischner calls for dialogue, between the capax Dei; dialogue based on the presence of Christ at the centre of the Church. "Dialogue regarding female priests, and and end to celibacy among clergymen - these are not problems in themselves, but issues that reside within the mystery of the Church. Dialogue is key, dialogue is the perspective. Not just an exchange of beautiful words, but of continual, mutual choosing."

Żakowski points to falling Church attendances since the Vatican Council. "The Church is simmering intellectually, but this does not attract new faithful. And the world is getting ever more secular".

Fr. Tischner says that maybe the Church is not presenting the Good News sufficiently effectively. Many people choose to close their eyes on the tensions within the Church. "Many clergymen die, convinced that they have been witnesses to defeat." Asked by Żakowski whether he thinks that way too, Fr. Tischner replies: "Me - the opposite. I think that from these tensions arises a deep truth, the depth of reality. We disagree with the Church, we don't like this; that we'd like to improve, something else we don't  understand. But who would we be, if we didn't have the Church?"

The question, sadly is not answered; this chapter is prophetic. The Fr. Rydzyk wing of the Polish Church was still then only a vociferous minority; Pope John Paul II was the great authority holding the Polish Church together. The future for a Polish Church in which the integrists hold the upper hand, an intolerant and backward looking Church will ensure falling congregations.

This time last year:
Crossing Warsaw's newest bridge on foot

This time two years ago:
Crossing another Vistula bridge on foot
[25 March evidently attracts this activity!]

This time four years ago:
Look at the snow! LOOK AT THE SNOW!

This time five years ago:
Summing up at the end of Lent

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