Monday, 23 November 2015

Proselytism and education

To you, who represent the Church in Latin America, today I symbolically entrust my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, in which I sought to point out to everyone the essence of the Christian message. The Church considers herself the disciple and missionary of this Love: missionary only insofar as she is a disciple, capable of being attracted constantly and with renewed wonder by the God who has loved us and who loves us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:10). The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by “attraction”: just as Christ “draws all to himself” by the power of his love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfils her mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord.
[Source: here]

And Pope Francis, answering a question about what we should do if an educational institution is to be truly Catholic in the widely differing circumstances of today:
..... E mi viene in mente quello che ha detto un grande pensatore: “Educare è introdurre nella totalità della verità”. Non si può parlare di educazione cattolica senza parlare di umanità, perché precisamente l’identità cattolica è Dio che si è fatto uomo. Andare avanti negli atteggiamenti, nei valori umani, pieni, apre la porta al seme cristiano. Poi viene la fede. Educare cristianamente non è soltanto fare una catechesi: questa è una parte. Non è soltanto fare proselitismo – non fate mai proselitismo nelle scuole! Mai! – Educare cristianamente è portare avanti i giovani, i bambini nei valori umani in tutta la realtà, e una di queste realtà è la trascendenza. Oggi c’è la tendenza ad un neopositivismo, cioè educare nelle cose immanenti, al valore delle cose immanenti, e questo sia nei Paesi di tradizione cristiana sia nei Paesi di tradizione pagana. E questo non è introdurre i ragazzi, i bambini nella realtà totale: manca la trascendenza. Per me, la crisi più grande dell’educazione, nella prospettiva cristiana, è questa chiusura alla trascendenza. Siamo chiusi alla trascendenza. Occorre preparare i cuori perché il Signore si manifesti, ma nella totalità; cioè, nella totalità dell’umanità che ha anche questa dimensione di trascendenza. Educare umanamente ma con orizzonti aperti. Ogni sorta di chiusura non serve per l’educazione.
[Source: here - not RC]

My (rough) translation:
It comes to my mind what a great thinker said: "To educate is to introduce into the totality of the truth".  It is not possible to speak of catholic education without speaking of humanity, because precisely Catholic identity is God who was made man. Moving ahead in attainments, in human values, opens the door to the seeds of Christianity. Then comes faith. To educate in a Christian way is not only to make a catechesis: this is a part. It is not only to proselytise - never proselytise in schools! Never! - To educate in a Christian way is to move young people, children, forward, in human values in all their reality, and one of these realities is transcendence. Today there is a tendency towards a neo-positivism, that is to educate in material things, to the values of material things, and this both in countries with a Christian tradition and countries with a pagan tradition.  And this does not introduce youth, children to total reality: it lacks transcendence. For me, the greatest crisis of education, from the Christian perspective, is this closure towards transcendence. We are closed to the transcendent. We should prepare hearts so that the Lord is shown forth, but in the totality: that is, in the totality of humanity that has also this dimension of transcendence. To educate humanly but with open horizons. Every type of closure does not work for education.
What Pope Francis actually said...

Fr Luigi Giussani, whose movement Communion and Liberation is very familiar to Pope Francis, from p.105 of my English translation of his The Risk of Education (Pope Francis, in answering a later question, refers to the risk that is necessary in education):
As we said forty years ago, and we still haven't been able to come up with a better definition, to educate means to help the human soul enter into the totality of the real".
And, for both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, the word "proselytism" refers, not to the perfectly legitimate missionary activity of the Church, but to those actions that take advantage of a person's situation of trust or vulnerability to abuse their freedom in seeking to draw them to Christ - such as that of a pupil in a school.

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