Redemptoris Missio 54: Guidelines For Inculturation

In this regard, certain guidelines remain basic. Properly applied, inculturation must be guided by two principles: “compatibility with the gospel and communion with the universal Church.”(Familiaris Consortio (1981) 10, which speaks of inculturation “in the context of marriage and the family.”)

I doubt there are many problems with the first principle. But as we’ve mentioned earlier, it can be hard at times to differentiate the essentials of the universal Church from the peripherals, the latter of which can raise significant obstacles.

Bishops are responsible:

Bishops, as guardians of the “deposit of faith,” will take care to ensure fidelity and, in particular, to provide discernment,(Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 63-65) for which a deeply balanced approach is required. In fact there is a risk of passing uncritically from a form of alienation from culture to an overestimation of culture. Since culture is a human creation and is therefore marked by sin, it too needs to be “healed, ennobled and perfected.”(Lumen Gentium 17)

And included in that diagnosis would be elements of human-created Church culture. None of us can have an argument against taking our careful time:

This kind of process needs to take place gradually, in such a way that it really is an expression of the community’s Christian experience. As Pope Paul VI said in Kampala: “It will require an incubation of the Christian ‘mystery’ in the genius of your people in order that its native voice, more clearly and frankly, may then be raised harmoniously in the chorus of other voices in the universal Church.”(Address to those participating in the Symposium of African Bishops at Kampala, July 31, 1969, 2) In effect, inculturation must involve the whole people of God, and not just a few experts, since the people reflect the authentic sensus fidei which must never be lost sight of. Inculturation needs to be guided and encouraged, but not forced, lest it give rise to negative reactions among Christians. It must be an expression of the community’s life, one which must mature within the community itself, and not be exclusively the result of erudite research. The safeguarding of traditional values is the work of a mature faith.

We’ve seen negative reactions among Christians. The question for today: is this negativity an amplified sound coming from a few voices, or does it constitute a serious query? Again, discernment is key. That effort often needs to take place in quiet, respectful places and not in the midst of noisy gongs.

This document is available online here and is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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