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18 septembre 2007 2 18 /09 /septembre /2007 06:24
In Elie Wiesel's little book, Night , we are introduced to a neighbour of the Wiesels, a certain Mrs. Schachter who had often frequented their home. We are introduced to her in the course of the deportation of the Jewish community in the neigbhourhood of the Wiesels. Unfortunately, unlike other families, her husband and two sons had been mistakenly transported by an earlier vehicle, leaving her and her ten-year-old son behind. Most families had often been deported together, at least until they got to the concentration camps. Mr. Wiesel recalls that the lady kept asking why she had been separated from her family and had exhibited the worst symptoms of depression. On the third day of their arduous journey, the silence of the night was suddenly pierced by her shouts of; Fire! I see a Fire, I see a Fire! The hapless crowd is startled and, according to Mr. Wiesel, when everyone turned to look at her, she stood there like a withered tree in a field of wheat. She continued howling: Look! Look at this fire! This terrible fire! Have mercy on me! Frustrated and unable to calm her down, her fellow passenger rain heavy blows to her head and body.

 Although no one knew where they were being taken to, no one saw any fire anywhere in sight. Everyone distanced themselves from Mrs. Schachter whose deranged state had isolated her and turned her into an embarrassment. The only one who stuck with her in innocence was her ten year old son who obviously had no choice, though he himself had seen no fire in sight. All day she remained mute, absent, and alone.  

Then again, she began the shouts: The fire, over there! This time, she was pointing at somewhere in the distance. But no one felt like beating her anymore. Even the passengers had become tired of beating her. Mr. Wiesel stated that the heat, the thirst and the stench were nothing compared to the screams of Mrs. Schachter which psychologically tore the group apart. A few days later, their train pulled up at a station and everyone peered out in curiosity and anxiety. There, before them was written boldly, the name of the station: Auschwitz. None of the thousands of Jewish passengers had ever heard of that name before. But, as they would realize, no sooner had they got off the train than they saw the fires, the flames and the furnaces of Auschwitz, fires and flames which would devour almost all of them. Sadly, Mrs. Schachter had already died from their beating and could not say how it was that she had seen the fire many days before they had arrived at this infamous station.

When I read this little book, Mrs. Schachter’s fate was similar to that of the prophets before her. Many years later, Mr. Elie Weisel would spend the rest of his life trying to find out how it was that the world did not hear or see the fires before they swallowed 6m Jews. How was it that the Journalists did not write about it? How did the politicians not speak about it? How and why did the Churches not speak about it?

How is it that the world seems always unable to develop a remote sensing capacity for detecting the smoke of evil well before these disasters engulfs the world? Time after time, the world has always woken up too late for the victims of injustice. Time after time, the world has often ignored or muffled the voices of the prophets, refused to see the Fire or the smoke and instead bludgeoned the prophets. The stories are all too familiar, including the most recent ones:  the slave trade, Apartheid, Bosnia, Rwanda or North Korea and now Iraq. I fear that in many corners of the world today, even in the name of democracy, atrocities are being committed, but again, it will probably be too late before the world wakes up to see the smoke or the Fire.

In these reflections, I wish to argue that despite the physical evidence of the presence of democracy around the world, the Church has to remain vigilant so as to detect the smoke and the Fire well ahead of time. We must do this by reasserting the Teaching authority of the Church. My conclusion is that the Church must reclaim its voice  by teaching in season and out of season, welcome or unwelcome while also decoding and distilling the prophesies of  the millions of the voices of the Mrs. Schachters who inhabit no thrones or kingdoms and wear no prophetic garb.

I will therefore divide this short paper into three sections. First, I will briefly explain how and why, despite its flaws, the democratic environment provides us with the best hope for the defense and protection of human life. I wish to explain how and why we must insist that our people return to Politics as noble vocation. Finally, I will identify some of the key areas of intervention and to ensure the Democracy places the human person at the centre of its principles and practices.

1: The Imperative of Democracy:

It can be argued that despite the ironic explosion of violence which made the human person the first casualty at the dawn of the return to Democracy it will be right to argue that the return to Democracy has been the first victory of the end of history. We can also argue that the real challenge now is not so much a question of whether developing nations will adopt democracy but how they will deepen it. Although democracy itself provides the necessary environment, we know that it is not sufficient to ensure the protection of the lives of ordinary citizens. Nazism, the Congo, Somalia and Rwanda represent twisted forms of democratic expressions.

Today, as with the Parable of the sower, the growth of the seeds of democracy is threatened by so many forces. Yet, we have to continue to nurture and tend these seeds with patience. Many developing nations are fighting many battles in this regard.  After so many years of civilian and military dictatorships the institutions to support democracy still very new and weak while the socio-economic challenges are really enormous. The dangers and possibilities of citizens backsliding and crying for the fleshpots of the past do exist. Like the people of Israel, the temptations to recall the good old days continue to appear on the horizon.  With our experiences of the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Rwanda, there are many who continue to wonder if some of our developing nations are ready for democracy. In a country like Nigeria, the first four years of return to democracy were marked by the resurgence of violence which claimed thousands of lives in the name of old primordial sentiments . These superfluous arguments must never distract us because these tragic realities must be seen as the final spasms of a dying order. For, as the great Winston Churchill said, Democracy itself is the worst form of government, except for others. What we ought to be concerned with is how to ensure that democracy is built on a sound foundation that will last, how these structures can ensure a just and fair society that creates an environment for individuals, groups and communities to fulfill their God given dreams.
For, as the Professor Amartya Sen, the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Economics has reminded us,  it is only under conditions of freedom that individuals and nations can grow and develop .  I wish to propose that a system that guarantees the expression of individual freedom is an antidote to dictatorship and a guarantee for the attainment of Common Good, the true test for the legitimacy of a democracy. To do this, we shall now turn our attention briefly to how the application of the rich texture of the Church’s social teachings, we can   help to institutionalise democracy and ensure the defense of human life.

2: Democracy as a Tool for the Common Good and the Defense of Life:

The first challenge for us is to provide a context as to why the defense of human life and human rights is the condition and basis for the legitimacy of democracy. We can do this by properly explaining the province of Human Rights as the sacred ground for the drama of politics in a democracy. To do this, we need to properly understand Human rights against the backdrop of the Church’s teachings.

While we note the monumental leap that the world made by adopting the 1945 Human Rights Charter, we must also not lose sight of the historical context in which these developments took place, namely that more than three quarters of the peoples of the developing world were still living under colonial bondage and considered subjects or surrogates to existing empires. The world has made tremendous progress since then and it is a welcome development to note that Africa, Arab  and the Asian worlds have now adopted their own Human Rights instruments taking into consideration their own cultural peculiarities and challenges . Although it is too early to celebrate because these Instruments are still in formative stages, still, there is cause to celebrate because they at least provide a frame work for Human Rights discourse, the development of a political culture and the deepening of political culture. Indeed, the Asian Charter even more progressively offered the right to Democracy as a Human right when it states: Colonialism and other modern developments significantly changed the nature of Asian political societies. The traditional systems of accountability and public participation in affairs of state as well as the relationship of citizens to the government were altered fundamentally. Citizens became subjects. The traditional systems of accountability and public participation in affairs of state as well as the relationship of citizens to the government were altered fundamentally. Citizens became subjects, while the government became more pervasive and powerful. Colonial laws and authoritarian habits and style of administration persisted after independence. The state has become the source of corruption and the oppression of the people. The democratization and humanization of the state is a pre-condition for the respect for and the protection of rights. The state, which claims to have the primary responsibility for the development and well-being of the people, should be humane, open and accountable. The corollary of the respect for human rights is a tolerant and pluralistic system, in which people are free to express their views and to seek to persuade others and in which the rights of minorities are respected. People must participate in public affairs, through the electoral and other decision-making and implementing processes, free from racial, religious or gender discriminations .

We need to state right from the beginning that at the centre of the claims of Human rights is the right to Life. Everything else is important only to the extent that it protects, guarantees or facilitates the attainment of the welfare of the human person. Thus, the right to Life is so important because in the final analysis, it is the basis of our common humanity irrespective of religious or cultural differences. There are three reasons for this.

•    The right to life  is divinely conferred on the individual by God, His creator.
•    Each Individual lives in a person-in-relationship situation.
•    The Individual is unique, irreplaceable.

It is a proper understanding of this that provides a context for what Africans refer to as the spirit of Ubuntu, I am because we are . Thus, on closer examination, it is evident that the spirit of democracy and Human rights has its roots in our common humanity across cultures and histories .

For us in the Catholic Church, it was really in the 60s that the Human rights discourse leapt into public memory with the publication of the earth breaking Encyclical,  Pacen In Terris, by Pope John XXIII. The thrust of the Encyclical can be summed up thus: Human rights include the right to life; the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and the necessary social services; the right to be looked after in the event of ill-health, disability, widowhood, old age, unemployment; the right to a good name; freedom to investigate the truth, and freedom of speech and publication; freedom to pursue a choice of career; the right to be accurately informed about public events; the right to share in the benefits of culture; the right to receive a good general education; the right to raise children, which belongs primarily to the parents; the right not only to be given the opportunity to work but also to enjoy the exercise of personal initiative in that work; the right to a just wage; the right to the private ownership of property including that of productive goods; the right to meet together with others and to form associations; the right to freedom of movement; and the right to take an active part in public life, and to make a contribution to the common welfare .   

After Pacem In Terris, Pope John Paul 11’s Redemptor Hominis stands out as another Encyclical that focused on the human dignity and human rights. Coming so early in this Papacy, the Holy Father used this Encyclical to demonstrate the centrality of the restoration of man’s dignity as a primary preoccupation of his Papacy. Drawing from Pope Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi, this Encyclical focused on the mission of Christ and its redemptive flavour. Pope John Paul II developed a Christian anthropology that showed how the new man redeemed by Christ now has dignity and thus, ought to be the focus of the Church’s concern. He continued by stating that: The Church has always taught that the fundamental duty of power is solicitude for the common good of society; this is what gives power its fundamental rights. Precisely in the name of these premises of the objective ethical order, the rights of power can only be understood on the basis of respect for the objective and inviolable rights of man. The common good that authority in the State serves is brought to full realization only when all the citizens are sure of their rights. The lack of this leads to the dissolution of society, opposition by citizens to authority, or a situation of oppression, intimidation, violence, and terrorism, of which many examples have been provided by the totalitarianisms of this century. Thus the principle of human rights is of profound concern to the area of social justice and is the measure by which it can be tested in the life of political bodies . The high point of Pope John Paul 11’s teaching on the sanctity of life came with the earth breaking Letter, Evangelium Vitae. Here, the Holy Father opens with the definitive call to us to realize that incomparable worth of the human person and argues that: After all, life on earth is not an "ultimate" but a "penultimate" reality; even so, it remains a sacred reality entrusted to us, to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters . Over the years therefore, the Catholic Church has been consistent in the fulfillment of its role as Teacher. However, it is clear that in spite of all this, the world’s problems have not gone away and we are forced to recall the admonition of St Paul on the need to preach the Gospel, welcome or unwelcome.

When the state fails in its duty of weaving a garb of legislative support to ensure that these rights of the individual are protected while also ensuring that the individual performs his duties and obligations to the state, our world would be back to Hobbes’ state of nature where life was brutish, nasty and short. But, the duty of protecting and enforcing these rights cannot be left to the state alone. This is because the state itself can and does overstep its bounds and it is sometimes the greatest violator of the rights of the individual. This is where the Church appears to clarify the moral vision in these moments of moral upheaval . Thus, along with other organs of society, now commonly known as Civil society organizations, they become monitors, regulators and agents of restraint of the state by way of advocacy and engagement.

This is important because outside the creator, no other organ of state or the individual himself/herself has a right over this Life. Only the giver, God can take it away. Thus, the state has a duty to ensure that the individual protects his/her own Life. This is why right from the beginning, Jesus Christ categorically stated that it was the essence of His mission: I have come that you may have Life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10). The mission is operationalised through the removal of all barriers that stand in the way of the realization and fulfillment of a full life as we see in Lk. 4: 18. Our next question is, how does the Church then engage the state and how should we articulate this challenge?  To answer this question, I will list some proposals as to where and how I believe the Church needs to engage society to ensure that it nurtures democracy and also ensures that the defense of human life becomes the primary concern and conditions of democracy.

3: How the Church can Nurture Democratic Values:

The end of Communism in 1989 left the world rather confused. The nations of the west burst into celebration believing that the end of Communism marked the beginning of the end of history . Embedded in this thought was the belief that western liberal democracy, driven by market forces would naturally be the choice of all nations. Looking back, from Bosnia, Rwanda to 9/11, subsequent developments have proved this prophesy be inaccurate and presumptuous.

 The result is that as we now see today, the struggle to expand the frontiers of democracy has taken on a missionary momentum, most of which is really about power and building of new secular empires. After the Church relaxed its guard, politicians are now engage in what a scholar has referred to as the construction of a theology of empire .

The rise of global terrorism has not only posed a challenge to the foundations of democracy but now threatens human life and all that we hold dear. There seems to be a crisis around the concept of Truth. The terrorist holds on to a kind of certainty regarding his absolute claims that he is right to kill, murder and maim innocent lives in the name of his own views of Truth. But what is this evidence of? It is evidence of a world in search of a culture of truth informed by a right Conscience. In abandoning or loosening its hold on its teaching authority, the Church has created a condition for the erosion of the fine edges of the human conscience, introducing relativism that is the product of the culture of a conscience in dire need of proper formation.

In exercising its Teaching Authority, the Catholic Church does not only aim at reaching its adherents, but it also speaks to men and women of good will. Through the application of Philosophy /Reason and Natural Law, the Church can achieve the same level of understanding with men and women of other non Christian faith traditions. By the application of Revelation on the other hand, the Church sometimes reaches consensus and builds bridges with other faiths within the Christian community. Perhaps this explains why the late Pope John Paul II’s Pastoral Letter, Fides et Ratio generated so much controversy when it was released. But we find in that Document, an opportunity for the realization of this consensus through dialogue based on Faith and Reason. In it, the Holy Father noted that: Theology's source and starting point must always be the word of God revealed in history, while its final goal will be an understanding of that word which increases with each passing generation.  Yet since God's word is Truth (cf. John 17:17) the human search for truth - philosophy, pursued in keeping with its own rules - can only help to understand God's word better  .
In the pursuit of this methodology that applies both faith and reason that we seek to identify areas of engagement between Church and state that can ensure and guarantee sustainable democracy that places the human person at the centre of policy. I refer to these as the options and challenges for the Church today.

3: 1: Options and Challenges for the Church Today:

3: 1: 1: Clarification of moral options/conscience.

It should be clear to us that the way the prognosis of the new world order, hinged on a view of the world that focused on reason and had little time and attention for faith, was wrong. For, the rest of the world has not rushed to embrace western, liberal models of Democracy as if it was a one size fits all. I think that although the Church did so much to bring down Communism, we did not seem to have been at the starting blocks helping to point at the moral imperatives of creating a new world based on human values. The result is that we have ended up with a world that now threatens the future of humanity and has also made life so cheap. The fact that the greatest threat to world peace today is posed by non state actors that base their arguments on a false reading of human history and the will of God is a major challenge to the Church. Here, a reading of some of the views presented by His Holiness in his works on Conscience and moral relativism. But in doing this, the Church must show concern for the historical experiences of many peoples whose views of the Church and the world have been coloured by the conflation of western cultural history as Church history and doctrine.

3: 1: 2: A concerted Effort to end Poverty:

There is a general belief that the world does possess enough to feed all God’s children. But, as the late Mahatma Gandhi said, There is enough for everyone’s need, but there isn’t enough for everyone’s greed. Many scholars have come to believe that the battle to end world hunger is not an illusion and that it is a project that we can execute successfully in our life time . Although there has been a lot of debate about the role and place of Aid in ending poverty, some of us are of the view that if the international community can help design a mechanism for monitoring economic outflows from developing nations with a view to ensuring the creation of more equitable trade and business environments, more and more countries can climb out of poverty rather than waiting for the Godot aid from the donor nations.
There is an urgent need for the Church to keep abreast with the objective goals and principles of the new secular catechism to end Poverty known as the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs. Already these 7 Goals are being presented as a cure-all for the problems of the developing world. There is need for extra care and to deepen our people’s understanding and appreciation of the issues involved in the attainment of these lofty goals. The various Churches must engage their governments to ensure that either by Legislature or Policy, values that undermine the Family and the sacredness of individual person do not get sacrificed.

3: 1: 3: Rethinking strategies for Coping with Globalisation/Terrorism.

The problems posed by the so called fight against terrorism need some very careful consideration. For, there are too many historical injustices that still persist on which the terrorists continue to use to prey upon the Muslim community in general and other developing nations. Clearly, the world needs to think more clearly and creatively as to how the problems of the Palestinians will be resolved. At the early stages of his Papacy, the late Holy Father did take up this challenge, with the climax being a visit by

3: 1: 4: Engage in Law making Advocacy:

There is the need for Local Episcopal Conferences to sharpen their capacity to negotiate and participate in law making, law reform and so on, both to monitor but also to guide Law makers in their tasks in developing nations. Our law makers are constantly under pressure and attack from lobbyists for organizations that devalue human life. Very often, these legislative initiatives come under the cover of assistance to women and families. It is important that our women groups attain all the information that they require to enable them decide on the issues that affect them. Since the Beijing Conference, women groups have tended to present the Catholic Church as an obstacle to the realization of some of its goals.

3: 1: 5: Acquire Expertise on key issues Economic and Environmental Issues.

As a corollary, there is need for the Church to also improve its arsenal of knowledge regarding such issues as Economy, Environment, Trade and a range of other issues that affect the family and majority of our people. Today, oil exploration, the so called blood for diamond adventures into Africa have seen the lives of poor people made more vulnerable. Unaware of the conditions under which they live, poor people daily struggle with environmental elements that endanger their present and future lives. For effective advocacy, the Church will need to possess the requisite tools of expertise to enable it engage the state and the multinational companies which do business in the developing world. Also, matters relating to national income, budgeting, allocation of income to various segments of society, all these are areas where the Churches need to be able to engage the state vigorously to ensure that resources are effectively put to good use.

3: 1: 6: Ensuring Proper management of Resources.

There is need for the Churches to equip themselves with the details of the contents of agreements which Governments enter into on behalf of their people. Negotiations relating to borrowing of funds from international agencies such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Paris Club and so on need to be transparent. With proper knowledge of the issues the Churches can help citizens participate and in the process enrich the debate. In the last five or so years of the struggle for debt relief, citizens of developing countries ought to have learnt many lessons regarding the dangers of not holding their countries to account. The great lesson we now ought to have learnt is to become eternally vigilant over what happens to our resources and how these are deployed for the common good.

3: 1: 7: Ensuring the protection of the Family:

The Family remains the most vulnerable institution today. We cannot talk about human rights and human dignity unless we get the arguments right about the family as the beginning of society and the Church itself. The various assaults on the family will be dealt with by other speakers here. But suffice it to state that if we get it right with the family, whether it is in the area of culture, faith, social security etc, other problems of the society will be easier to deal with. There is need for the Church to continue to guide its children on the ideals of family life.

 3: 1: 8:  The need to take Back Religion from Politicians:

In a very insightful analysis, the Holy Father has noted that: The collapse of Communist systems was due in the first instance to their false economic dogmatics. But there is a tendency to overlook the deeper fact that they broke down because of their contempt for man and because they subordinated morality to the needs of the system and its promises of a glowing future. The real catastrophe that the Communists left behind is not economic. It consists in the devastation of souls, in destruction of moral consciousness .

Somehow, the rest of the world seemed to have been more concerned with the ideological consequences of the end of the cold war. The result has been the brigandage exhibited by the powerful nations especially the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Rather than facing the consequence of what has produced the cloud of Terrorism that now threatens the world, the proponents of this fight have been engaged in the appropriation of the moral fibre of international discourse, pretending that somehow, they are the world’s knights in shining armour. What has turned out to be a misadventure has been presented to the world as a holy war and the result now is that we are unable to tell the difference between the contending moral claims by both Osama Bin Laden and the President of the United States of America along with his surrogate, the British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair.

There is an urgent need to redeem what is left of the moral contents of the cup of politics. For, as we have seen, politicians have increasingly become holier than the Pope in matters relating to the political and economic goals of their nations. A new book, perhaps a cry in the wilderness, has addressed this issue with sufficient urgency. In his book, God’s Politics, Jim Wallis has shown how politicians in the United States have held the liberating truth of the Gospels captive. According to Mr. Wills, there is need to rescue religion from those politicians, who love to say how religious they are but utterly fail to apply the values of faith to their public leadership and political policies .

The objective of this call to my mind is the urgent need to distill the truths of the Gospel, to help ordinary people see how they can be agents of Truth in their daily lives and how politics as a vocation can help Christians fulfill their duties and responsibilities.

3: 1: 9: Reasserting the Teaching Authority of the Church:

Again as I have said over and over in this paper, there is an urgent need for the Church to engage society as Teacher. In a way, the fighting Communism ending Apartheid or military dictatorship in Africa and Asia may have made the Church exhausted or created the impression that the enemy has been defeated and that the new arena of politics remains solely the responsibility of politicians. But, as we know, the old order does not yield so easily. It will be a costly mistake for the Churches to think that the business of politics now is the business of politicians. Clearly, the great challenge of clarifying the moral options remains perhaps even a greater challenge than that of overthrowing the ancient regime. After all, it is easier to destroy the foundations of the building than to erect new ones.

To this end, although the leadership of the Churches must remain above partisan politics, they must create an environment for the recruitment of leadership that will serve society in the field of politics. To this end, Christian Student and Youth Associations, Knights of the Church and their Ladies must be encouraged to seek politics as a noble vocation in life.

The observation by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales in their excellent study and reflections on the Common Good are pertinent. The Bishops noted that: The Church has the right and the duty to advocate a social order in which the human dignity of all is fostered, and to protest when it is in any way threatened. Thus the Church opposes totalitarianism because it oppresses people and deprives them of their freedom. While recognising the importance of wealth creation, the Church denounces any abuses of economic power such as those which deprive employees  of what is needed for a decent standard of living. The Church also rejects the view that human happiness consists only in material well-being, and that achieving this alone is the goal of any government. If a government pays too much attention to material welfare at the expense of other values, it may advocate policies which reduce people to a passive state of dependency on welfare.  Equally, if a government gives too little priority to tackling poverty, ill-health, poor housing and other social ills, the human dignity of those who suffer these afflictions is denied. In every society respect for human dignity requires that, so far as possible, basic human needs are met. The systematic denial of compassion by individuals or public authorities can never be a morally justified political option.

3: 1: 10: The Church as an Agent of Reconciliation:

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges that most developing nations face is that of national reconciliation. The opening of the files in the former Communist enclaves has revealed astonishing evidence of compromise by even senior Church personnel. Similarly, nations which lived under military or civilian dictatorship and apartheid, face the same problems. The challenges of bringing closure to the past and laying a foundation for the future is a challenge that falls outside the immediate influence of the state and its agents which tend to see reconciliation as reward and cooption of friends and cronies. There is an urgent need for the Church to help to create a moral template to ensure reconciliation with justice and equity. In my own experience in Nigeria, I found that many victims tended to appreciate moral and spiritual support more than economic solutions.

Healing the Past and building the future is an uphill task and very often the new political class does not always possess the requisite experience and expertise to under take this duty. Some times, the Churches, with their reach and experience can help to provide support and expertise. Bosnia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo have demonstrated to us that even  some states that are religiously or culturally homogenous often do not escape the fracture and fissures of the disproportionate deployment of power, position and privilege.

3: 1: 11: Occupying the Watchtower:

In the same document, the Bishops again noted that:  The Church in each country, under the pastoral guidance of the local bishops, has a continuing duty to apply the values of the Gospel to the problems of society, and so help all members of the church, lay, religious and ordained, to play an active part in striving to build a just and compassionate social order. The foundation of this teaching is the dignity of the human person. In virtue simply of our shared humanity, we must surely respect and honour one another.  Each individual has a value that can never be lost and must never be ignored. Moreover, each of us is made in the image and likeness of God. Society must therefore first of all respect and protect human life itself - at all its stages from conception to its natural end.  This is the bedrock of our civilisation, and it is why abortion virtually on demand is one of the greatest scandals of our time.
At the close of the last millennium, the Catholic Church had every reason to be proud of its achievements at least in playing the role of the sentinel. From Poland, the Philippines, to South Africa or Malawi, the role of the Churches in bringing about an end to dictatorship by the deployment of its sheer moral force has been uncelebrated. Perhaps, just as well. However, there is need to end as we started. If we take on these challenges, it will be possible for us to play the role of Mrs. Schachter and identify the fire well before the lurking flames and chambers of modern day Auschwitz.

Rome septembre 2006


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