Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 12, 2000
Calgary bishop wary of growing 'fundamentalism'
By GORDON LEGGE
Special to the WCR
Calgary Roman Catholic Bishop Frederick Henry is concerned about what he sees as a rising tide of fundamentalism in the Church.
It derives from a profound fear of thinking and offers a false hope of a faith without ambiguity, Henry said in a keynote address to the 53rd provincial conference of the Catholic Women's League Alberta-Mackenzie Council.
"This fundamentalism sometimes takes the form of an unthinking repetition or received words, a refusal to take part in the never-ending search for understanding, an intolerance of all for whom tradition is not just a revelation but also an invitation to draw nearer to the mystery," he said in notes prepared for his presentation June 2.
Henry made his comments as a controversy continues to swirl about the Canadian Catholic Church's involvement in March 2000 or the World March of Women.
Some of those who are raising concerns about the march could be regarded as fundamentalists, Henry said afterwards during an interview.
During his presentation, Henry said fundamentalism may appear to be a rock-like fidelity to orthodoxy, he said.
"But it contradicts a fundamental principle of our faith, which is that when we argue and reason, we honour our Creator and Redeemer who gave us minds with which to think and to draw near to him," he said.
"We can never do theology well unless we have the humility and the courage to listen to the arguments of those with whom we disagree and take them seriously."
People ponder the Word of God, seeking to know God's will, not to discover evidence that God is on our side, he said.
It's easy to use Scriptures as a sourcebook for easy slogans. But the study of God's word is the pursuit of a deeper liberation than people could ever possibly imagine, he said.
Too often, Catholics are afraid of debate, he said. But there is no need for fear.
Ever since the days of Pentecost, the Church has known tensions. The Jerusalem community - apparently of "one in mind and heart" - quarreled over the distribution of money and interpretation of obedience to the Law, Henry noted.
"The mystery of our communion in the Spirit, of which the hierarchy is the visible sign, does not mean a seamless unanimity," he said.
Debates and arguments are the sign of a Church which is always being renewed by the Spirit. "Perfect unanimity would be a sign of the immobility of death."
The purpose of pondering and studying is not simply to acquire information; it's to bring Christ to birth in the world.
In talking about the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul has repeatedly pointed out the need for offering new opportunities for discussion and dialogue with the contemporary culture, accompanied by concrete expressions of welcome and friendship.
"The Gospel should both embrace and transform any culture in which it is planted," Henry said. "No culture is pure and static. Every culture is in a constant process of evolution, creating new meaning, otherwise it is dead."