Text of Alberta Archbishop’s Comments on Church in the Modern World

This is the text of the speech on the schema on the church in the modern world made in the ecumenical council by Archbishop Anthony Jordan of Edmonton, Alberta, on Sept. 22.

I am speaking on behalf of the Canadian Social Life Conference.

In Section 54 of the schema on the Church in the modern world reference is made to the need for constant and trusting dialogue between the clergy and laity in the Church. We are fortunate in Canada in having a forum which makes possible this type of continuous communication between the bishops, the priests, and the laity concerning those matters which deal with the problems of a social nature in our modern society. This instrument, called the Social Life Conference, derives from the Social Weeks in France and French Canada. In a national conference of this kind, held this year in the city of Montreal, Canada, under the patronage of His Eminence Paul-Emile Cardinal Leger, Archbishop of Montreal, discussions and exchanges took place on subjects dealing very closely with the matter of the schema we are presently considering, since the theme of this social conference was “The Christian in the Community.”

I wish to comment now on the text of the schema we are considering in the light of our experience at this recent social life conference in Montreal. Mention will be made, first, of those things experienced in our conference which the schema supports and confirms. Secondly, we will point out certain gaps or lacunae which should be overcome to improve the text. We are exceedingly pleased and grateful that this remarkable document serves to fulfill many of the great hopes and aspirations of our Montreal conference. We are heartened to see how the text joins the Church, the People of God, solidly with the joys and hopes, the anguish and sorrows, of all our fellowmen.

The spirit of optimism and confidence in men aroused by Pope John is carefully safeguarded, and thus this document is fittingly addressed to all our fellowmen in positive language which they will understand and appreciate.

In the schema, social and economic progress is seen to be in tune with the mysteries of Creation and Redemption and directly related to man’s mission here on earth. It expresses well our grief and anguish in the face of a world cruelly divided by an abyss that separates the rich from the poor. And our contemporaries will be very encouraged to see Christians herein insistently urged to become more closely identified with the great mass movements of our time — movements for peace, for freedom, and for the alleviation of poverty.

The myth unfortunately cherished by many Christians that the Church and her ministers possess ready-made answers to the world’s problems is systematically exploded in the document, and the Church is portrayed rather in the posture of a humble inquirer, striving honestly, not without the help of all men, to tap the sources of divine and human knowledge in her search for truth. We appreciate the reference made to the encyclical letter Pacem in Terris, reminding Christians of their need to work toward a synthesis in their lives between their professional life, on the one hand, and their religious life, on the other.

Christians are warned that they cannot hope to fulfill their duty to build a better world without necessary professional competence, for the vision of faith alone is insufficient.

The Church is portrayed as the presence of the People of God in the world and not merely as a dogmatic authority seeking dominion over the minds and hearts of men. Rather the Church, like Christ Himself, is seen as humbly knocking at the door of human hearts, fully respecting their freedom and dignity, even when they are in error.

Constant and trusting dialogue, both within the Church, between clergy and laity, and between the Church and all men, is seen as one of the principal ways of having all men participate in a human and rational way in the shaping of society and its institutions.

However, in spite of these positive aspects of the document which reflect well the experience of our people, we wish to point out what appear to us to be certain gaps in the text.

  1. The document for the most part overlooks the vital relationship that must exist between the Christian community at work and at play and the Christian community at worship. The council has reminded us of the importance of the liturgy as a powerful means of forming Christians to a sense of social awareness and to a sense of community. If the liturgy is to be regarded as more than an empty symbol, it must be intimately related to the daily work of the Christian in and for his community.
  1. The document is very weak concerning leisure activities. In highly industrialized societies because of rapid technical advances in the means of production many persons are finding increased amounts of time to spend in leisure rather than in work. The creative value of these activities should be stressed. Not only must we recognize that the traditional links between productive work and family income may have to be modified and other titles to income discovered, but it should be pointed out that leisure time creatively used can fulfill some of the greatest spiritual and intellectual capacities of man.
  1. Although the document gives considerable attention to the needs of the poor and the dispossessed there is a noticeable lack of mention of the sick, the infirm, and those suffering from various kinds of disease. Since the Church is the “Church of the poor” it would seem fitting to make a more explicit mention of the vital role of the mission of so-called “unproductive” members of modern society. Not only do these members of the Church and of society play an important role in the work of redemption by accepting their suffering in union with Christ’s but they also contribute to the witness of the Church in her care for the sick.
  1. In the section of the schema dealing with principles relative to the promotion of culture, it would seem useful that mention be made explicitly of the creative role of the architect, the engineer, and the builder of the physical community who determine in such large measure the nature of the environment man inhabits. In this regard attention could be paid to the recent message of His Holiness Pope Paul VI to the French Social Week meeting in Brest, France.
  1. The sincerity of the Church’s wish to cooperate with all men in an attempt to alleviate world poverty could be demonstrated more effectively if we had in the document an expression of our willingness to coordinate the activities of the Church’s foreign missionaries with those services being rendered to the poor peoples of the world by other churches, by the agencies and governments of individual donor countries, as well as by specialized agencies of the United Nations.

Conclusion:

The document pleases us very much and if the changes suggested could be effected we see in this statement on the Church in the world a promise for our times of the fulfillment of Our Saviour’s prophecy: “And I if I be lifted up will draw all men to Myself.”

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