The Gospel and culture : the need for dialogue

Friday, November 21 1997

Vatican City (CCCB) — Bishop Raymond J. Lahey of St. George’s, in an intervention at the Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for America, said the Church must engage in dialogue with society in its own culture or face being marginalized and meaningless.

Bishop Lahey, one of 15 Synod delegates from Canada, quoted Pope Paul VI, saying “the Gospel must be preached not only in language that is faithful, but also in a language that can be heard.”

Bishop Lahey was intervening on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to Nos. 9-12 and 27 of the Instrumentum Laboris that deals with the Gospel and culture and contemporary society.

The Bishop of the Diocese of St. George’s in Newfoundland noted the Gospel itself has no culture of its own but takes root in the world’s varied cultures. Such diversity of expression, he said, is a sign of the Gospel’s vitality and richness.

Bishop Lahey said “dialogue of salvation” begins by listening and respecting the truth, value and dignity within the other person and that it uses the language and culture of the hearer. He said “the Gospel demands that the Church today must dialogue with those estranged from it.” Such dialogue includes: women, on their role in the Church and society; homosexual persons, on discrimination and sensitivity toward them; youth, on the values they hold; environmentalists, on the use of creation and population issues; the pro-choice movement, on freedom of conscience; New Age movements; those in fractured families and broken marriages; and other similar groups.

“Dialogue involves risk and will not be easy,” he said. ” But given the Church’s marginalization, there is greater risk in no dialogue. To be faithful to the Gospel is not to be fearful for it.”

Bishop Lahey observed that in the Americas, the Church, seen as peripheral to real life issues, is less rejected than marginalized. In turn, the Church often attempts to preserve the Gospel rather than communicate it and many times simply repeats religious language the culture finds meaningless.

The Bishop concluded his intervention by saying: “Our Gospel is that of the cross of Christ, which embraces every woman and man. With the Gospel as our basis, must we not engage in dialogue even with those who may not understand or accept all the Church teaches?”