Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cardinal Reinhard Marx: Sage observations

Cardinal Reinhard Marx is the current archbishop of Munich und Freising, the former see of Pope Benedict XVI. At 58, His Eminence is the youngest cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. He has written a book, Das Kapital: Ein Plädoyer für den Menschen, that very badly needs to be translated into English.

Back in 2009, after the publication of his book, Cardinal Marx did an interview with the Italian magazine 30 Giorni. This interview reinforces several aspects of a post I did a week ago Saturday on Church teaching derived mainly from JPII's Centesimus Annus and Benedict's most recent encyclical, Caritas in veritate. I have no doubt that Cardinal Marx contributed to and consulted on the latter encylical. I was struck by how relevant his insights from a little more than two years ago are to what is happening today (i.e., the Wall Street occupation and the spreading of this protest against those who opportunistically move capital with no regard for the common good, the passing of Steve Jobs, the insistence of many in the U.S. on fairer taxation policies, resisting the regressive schemes being proposed)

Recalling the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Cardinal Marx said,
I remember Bush senior saying that after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism there was the possibility of building a new world order. John Paul II, back in 1991, in Centesimus Annus, warned that radical capitalist ideology would not open the path to the future. And that what was wanted was a morally alert market economy, oriented towards global welfare. In fact, that radical capitalist ideology has become the social model. The narrow view has prevailed that leaves to the market the monopoly on all human relationships. And this has led the world into a dead end. If you look back now, at the thinking, and slogans of twenty years ago, that stressed the emergence of a new social order after the end of communism, one can say with certainty that the first attempt has failed
Speaking of Karl Marx, His Eminence said that he "some of his analyses" allow us to understand the dynamics of the present moment (2009= after the beginning of the global crisis). Cardinal Marx notes as an example of one thing the other Marx's analysis enables us to grasp is "the globalization of capital" and concomitant "reduction of labor to commodity on a global scale." He states clearly that Marx's "remedy" was incorrect because he was incorrect about the nature of the human person, conceiving of human beings materially. In addition to "being at odds with the vision of Christian anthropology," Karl Marx's materialist conception the human person, according to Cardinal Marx, "does not correspond with the datum of reality." His Eminence goes on to note that this same critique can be applied that "other materialistic image" of human beings, "the triumphant one conveyed by capitalist ideology, whereby the only real man in terms of the existent is homo oeconomicus, man as a function of economic processes, and the rest is an incidental and redundant trifle."

Reinhard Cardinal Marx

Speaking of the neo-conservatives, he makes it very clear that "the Church is not against the modern world, freedom, democracy, pluralism." However, in not opposing these historical phenomena we must resist the temptation to reduce "Christianity to religious ideology propping the market economy." "On some issues such as the defense of life and the family," he continues, "the so-called neo-cons, are fully in line with the Church. But I don’t understand how one can define oneself neo-conservative and put all one’s trust in the capitalist model." He then follows with something I think most people in the U.S. might find incomprehensible: "Capitalism is dynamic, it’s not conservative, it’s very progressive. It doesn’t conserve social and cultural situations as it found them, it changes them and often distorts them by introducing new paradigms and clichés. Whereas one often sees this kind of pact linking those who nurture traditional values of conservation with capitalism. But the two things don’t go well together."

Regarding the cultural and societal situation Christians find themselves in today, he wisely observes that "we won’t get through it with catchwords about the wickedness of society, or the alleged errors made by the Pope, or priestly celibacy and other secondary issues. All these things serve only to hide and evade the only important question. That is, what does it mean to be Christians today. What does it mean that following Jesus today..." (underlining emphasis mine). Along with Pope Benedict, Cardinal Marx, holds that "the liturgy will decide the fate of the Church. If the Mass is not celebrated well, all our talk, our pronouncements, our encyclicals are of no use."

He concludes the interview by commenting on his episcopal motto- Ubi Spiritus Domini, ibi libertas ("Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty"):

I’ve always been annoyed by the fact that freedom is considered counter to the preaching of the Church. And that many people think Church and freedom are incompatible. It’s a key phrase of St Paul’s. The question of what freedom means will be crucial in the time ahead...

...Freedom means choosing good in freedom. And the same thing is valid in the Church. The freest phrase that a man can utter is "I love you". And when one says it, one depends in some way on the object of one’s love. This is true in marriage, in the priestly life, it’s true for every baptized person who answers Jesus’ question: "Do you love me?" with "Lord, you know that I love you". And even in the Church, it is through that love that one can live in freedom
Prelates like Reinhard Marx, who I have mentioned before, in 2007 and in 2010, when he was created a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, give me great hope and help me to see clearly and concretely that the Spirit is at work in the Church throughout the world at every level.

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