Newsletter of the District
- June 1999
or Inculturated Catholicism? Having taken the time recently to
look over some material of last year’s Asian Synod, one feature
emerged as being the key to all the synod: the de-romanization of
the Catholic Church in Asia. And the de-romanization actually means
very clearly, the return to tribal/indigenous/pagan religions.
The irony of it all is that it is Rome itself that is encouraging
and pushing the Bishops in that direction. As the Message of the
Synode (No.5) itself stated, “We are all aware that the liturgy
has a key role in evangelization.”
Here are the
roots and the fruits of such a situation. Firstly, a few texts
of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy “Sacrosanctum Concilium”
(Dec. 4, 1963), then of the General Instruction preceding the New
Mass (April 1969), then the official result, 30 years later, with
some texts from the Asian Synod (May 1998)
Vatican II, Constitution on the Liturgy:
is manifest by:
shifting the control over the liturgy from Rome to the Bishops’
Conferences. The most important text is this one:
virtue of power conceded by law, the regulation of the liturgy within
certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of bishops'
conferences, legitimately established, with competence in given
b) the practical
elimination of the Roman language, Latin:
The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law,
is to be preserved in the Latin rites. (2) But since the use of
the vernacular, whether in the Mass, the administration of the
sacraments, or in other parts of the liturgy, may frequently
be of great advantage to the people, a wider use may be made of
it, especially in readings, directives and in some prayers and
chants. Regulations governing this will be given separately in
subsequent chapters. (3) These norms being observed, it is
for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned
in Article 22:2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the
vernacular language is to be used. Its decrees have to be approved,
that is, confirmed by the Apostolic See
the door to heterogeneous elements from “traditions and cultures
of individual people” (No.40,1), thus taking the risk of eventually
removing any or all Roman elements:
in the liturgy the Church does not wish to impose a rigid uniformity
in matters which do not involve the faith or the good of the whole
community. Rather does she respect and foster the qualities and
talents of the various races and nations. Anything in these
people's way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition
and error she studies with sympathy, and, if possible, preserves
intact. She sometimes even admits such things into the liturgy
itself, provided they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.
that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved, provision
shall be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate
variations and adaptations to different groups, regions and
peoples, especially in mission countries. This should be borne
in mind when drawing up the rite and determining rubrics.
40. In some
places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation
of the liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties.
For this reason: (1) The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority
mentioned in Article 22:2, must in this matter, carefully
and prudently consider which elements from the traditions
and cultures of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted
into divine worship. (…)
B) A few
years later, the General Instruction of the New Missal, in its No.19,
encourages singing in the celebrations “having considered the natural
character of the people and the aptitude of every assembly- attentis
ingenio populorum et facultatibus cujuslibet coetus”.
The results of these principles are before our eyes. Here are a
few texts from the Asian Synod, some taken from the Bishops Conferences
responses to the pre-synod questions, others from interventions
during the Synod, finally, a few lines from the final Message of
the Synod. (Always keep in mind the ‘de-romanization’.)
position of the Catholic Church towards other religions is unambiguous:
The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in
(…) our remarks
about the necessity of being truly inculturated Local Churches.
Suffice it to say here that we Indians perceive the world as Asians
we see as a basic reason behind the failure of Christian mission
efforts in the East: the spiritual and mystical elements of Asian
religions have been practically ignored….”
of Christian faith with indigenous religious beliefs gives rise
to unhealthy syncretism: in young Christian communities traditional
religious customs still persist and sometimes create confusion.
Sometimes there is dualism: Christian faith and belief in the spirits
on which the Lineamenta is based is the theology of the Christian
West, and appears to the eyes of non-Christians as overly self-complacent
and introverted. Based on this kind of theology, we cannot approach
the unsettled Asia of today. In the Lineamenta there is a lack of
understanding of Asian culture, especially the Asian culture of
today, which is a mixture of traditional Asian culture and an Americanized
modern culture. Moreover, it does not appear that we can be satisfied
with modern Western theology, either. Especially if we consider
that even in non-Christian cultures, we can never say that the redemption
of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit is absent.
from a Western-style Church (…)
of the Western image of the Church in the liturgy, style of life,
celebrations, and trying to overcome the present image of a powerful,
affluent and domineering institution.
new challenge to Christology is to speak of the identity of Jesus
Christ in the context of the world religions and secular culture.
Jesus Christ must be presented as fulfilling completely all human
aspirations. He is the model of a completely human person.
This will help
the Church to shift emphasis from one of maintenance of what exists
to a dynamic dialogue of lived experience.”
the contribution of the efforts at inculturation in your area to
the universal Church?
1. These efforts
have given credibility to the fact that the Church is not totally
Western but universal in concept and practice.
3. The incorporation
of local elements from language, music, dance, offerings and dress
of clergy into the liturgy on special occasions heighten the feeling
that the Church is universal.
“We must therefore
courageously start introducing into Church life the customs and
traditions of the veneration of ancestors, especially in the liturgy
and sacramental rituals. This is certainly for the benefit of the
great work of evangelization”.
From the Final
Message of the Synod, in L’Osservatore Romano (Eng. Ed.),
No.20, May 20, 1998:
gladly acknowledge the spiritual values of the great religions of
Asia such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam. We esteem the
ethical values in the customs and practices found in the teachings
of the great philosophers of Asia, which promote natural virtues
and pious devotion to ancestors. We also respect the beliefs and
religious practices of indigenous/ tribal people, whose reverence
for all creation manifests their closeness to the Creator.
5. (…) We note
with joy that practically everywhere in Asia the liturgy is held
in the language of the people.”
with all these bishops, Archbishop Lefebvre showed his deep attachment
to Rome, to Roman Catholicism when he wrote in the “Spiritual Journey”,
just before his death: “Romanitas (romanity) is not a vain word.
Schisms and heresies are often begun by a rupture with Romanitas,
a rupture with the Roman liturgy, with Latin, with the theology
of the Latin and Roman Fathers, theologians. One cannot deny that
this is a Providential fact. God who leads all things, has in His
infinite wisdom prepared Rome to become the Seat of Peter and center
for the radiation of the Gospel.” Seventeen years earlier had
he not written: “We cling with our whole heart to Eternal Rome..”
Interestingly, it is precisely this Roman profession of faith with
has been the act launching the avalanche of Roman condemnations!
As St Patrick
said: “Sicut Christiani, ita et Romani – Just as we are Christians,
we are also Romans!” The Archbishop continued saying that it was
an error (now professed (!) by the Bishops of Asia) to speak of
Roman culture as Western. “The converts from Judaism brought with
them from the Orient all that was Christian, all that which in the
Old Testament was a preparation and could be a component to Christianity.”
In a way, it was a repetition of the story of Abraham who left Ur,
in Chaldea, by the order of God, and took with him Sarai, his wife,
Lot his nephew, “and all the substance they had gathered” (Gen.12,5)
to go to the Promise Land. St Peter also took with him “and all
the substance they had gathered” in the Holy Land and brought it
with him to the center of the Empire.
To these various
reasons of the establishment of the Church in Rome, St Ireneus (+203),
in his famous Adversus Haereses (Book 2, Chap.1) adds the fact that
the Apostles did not commence to preach the Gospel until they were
endowed with the gifts and power of the Holy Ghost. So, for such
an important move as that, we can be sure that St Peter was acting
on precise instruction of His Master.
Our Lord Jesus
Christ was born in Bethlehem but lived in Nazareth, thus was called
a Galilean. Likewise, His Church was born in Jerusalem but moved
its center to Rome, thus was called and is still called the Roman
or, in a sense irony, is that Rome is asking, pushing its faithful
not to be Roman, and is accusing Archbishop, of being anti-Roman!
Archbishop Lefebvre on the contrary is asking, urging us to cling
faithfully to our Roman origin in spite of being rejected by modern
Let us ask
the grace to continue to live and to die in defense of this ‘romanitas’!
yours in Jesus and Mary,