Posted May 25, 2006
Place and Role of Movements in the Church (Part 1)
Interview with Father Arturo Cattaneo, Professor of Canon Law
ROME, MAY 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The world congress of ecclesial movements,
held in Rome in 1998, opened with an address of the then Cardinal Joseph
In his address the cardinal asked bishops not to "condescend to any pretence
of absolute uniformity in pastoral organization and programming."
He said that the diocesan bishops must seek to harmonize "unity and variety"
in itself and not "confuse unity with pastoral uniformity."
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Arturo Cattaneo, professor of Canon Law
at the St. Pius X Institute of Venice, explains the need to not insist on
uniformity in the Church.
Professor Cattaneo is author of "Unita e Varieta nella Comunione della
Chiesa Locale" (Unity and Variety in the Communion of the Local Church),
published by Marcianum Press of Venice.
Q: Can you explain the reason for calling attention to the danger or
temptation of uniformity?
Father Cattaneo: Uniformity is an impoverishment of unity. In the Church,
unity is characterized by catholicity. Consequently, also in every local
Church a plurality and diversification must be developed that not only do
not disturb unity but enrich it and change it into communion.
Q: What do you understand by "catholicity"?
Father Cattaneo: It is one of the great rediscoveries of ecclesiology of the
20th century. In his work "Christians Disunited," Yves Congar described it
as a "dynamic universality of the unity of the Church" or, in other words,
as the "capacity that its principles of unity have to assimilate, perfect,
exalt and lead to God, to unite in him the whole man and all men, as well as
all values of humanity."
The Church "responds therefore to the law of the recapitulation of
everything in Christ (Ephesians 1:10)." ("Chretiens Desunis, Principes d'Un
Oecumenisme Catholique," 1937).
Q: And why do you consider catholicity so important for the integration of
differences in unity?
Father Cattaneo: Catholicity, as the rest of the essential characteristics
of the Church, is a gift and a task. The expression comes from the Greek
"kata holon," which means "according to the whole" or "extended to the
whole," indicating that the parts and differences must be in keeping with
the whole, with a unity made of fullness, which must be continually realized
and founded on the plenitude of the grace of Christ.
Q: Can you indicate the practical consequences that this has for the
governance of the local Church?
Father Cattaneo: In pastoral governance, the diocesan bishop must take into
account the catholicity of the local Church, and not confuse unity with
pastoral uniformity at all costs, which makes difficult the fruitful
insertion of the different charisms.
One cannot think that the only thing that is legitimate is what is organized
by some diocesan organisms because then whoever does not submit to the
decisions of such organisms runs the risk of being excluded from the
paradoxically called "structures of communion."
Q: Don't you think that there must be limits to variety in the Church to
Father Cattaneo: I think the question is incorrectly posed because it
assumes as a given that unity and variety are necessarily opposed when, in
fact, it is not so. Suffice it to think of the most holy Trinity that is a
mystery of perfect unity in the diversity of the persons. The eruption of
the numerous apostolic charisms, which give new life to our parishes and
dioceses, has made the topic especially timely, of great importance also for
Q: But don't you think that at times there is tension between unity and
Father Cattaneo: Indeed, the fact that these two aspects are not necessarily
opposed does not mean that they are automatically in harmony. In fact, it is
a challenge that the Church must address continually.
After dedicating an ample study to the local Church, I have been concerned
many times with questions relating to the insertion in the parish and the
diocese of the different ecclesial realities (personal pastoral structures,
institutes of consecrated life, movements and various groups). I have
brought together those studies in this book, some of which are still
Q: The first great concentration of movements and ecclesial communities with
the Pope was held in Rome in 1998. What are the reasons that impel Benedict
XVI to repeat that meeting, programming it for Pentecost this year?
Father Cattaneo: Pentecost of 1998 was very special because that year was
dedicated to the Holy Spirit -- part of the three-year period in preparation
for the Great Jubilee of 2000. That Benedict XVI wishes to repeat it seems
to me to be an eloquent sign of the interest and confidence that he also has
I think the reasons are the same as those that moved his predecessor, among
them I would mention above all the desire to be able to count increasingly
on them, in the urgent and enormous work of the new evangelization.
Q: What is Benedict XVI's vision of the movements?
Father Cattaneo: I have referred to the interest with which he views the
Movements. I think it stems from his strong missionary yearning, from the
conviction that one must be profoundly committed to re-Christianize our
society, to, among other things, make Europe rediscover its Christian roots.
I would say moreover that the Pope's sensitivity to the charisms that have
given rise to so many ecclesial movements is the fruit of his attitude of
profound humility and at the same time of responsibility at the service of
the Church that he himself manifested in the homily of the Mass at the
opening of his Pontificate.
Benedict XVI said: "My true program of government is that of not doing my
will, of not following my own ideas, but of listening, with the whole
Church, to the word and will of the Lord and of letting myself be guided by
him, so that it is he himself who guides the Church in this hour of our