The Present Situation

As we noted earlier, Vatican II ushered in a third stage in Church history. Some people had anticipated this new stage in their thinking, and on the whole they fared badly. Lagrange, the great Dominican exegete, carried on his fine biblical work in an atmosphere of persecution. Teilhard de Chardin worked in silence. And the case was much the sa~e with Yves Congar.

In 1937 Congar wrote a book on separated Christians (Eng. trans.: DividedChmtendom, London, 1939). If one picks up that book today, it seems hardly novel. But at the time it was a dangerous book and its reprinting was forbidden. The great school of Le Saulchoir was liquidated, and the nouvelle théologie was attacked. This "new theology" was really nothing more than a sound "historical" theology .But it was torn apart, as Congar himself has told me, and its proponents were scattered. The possibility of teamwork, centered around a great library, was wiped out.

With Vatican II we certainly enter a new stage: the manifestation of Christianity on an extensive scale to mankind all over the world, to all the cultures that had never yet been evangelized. European civilization, that is, technological civilization, is now worldwide, and this fact poses a serious question: Will all the cultures of the world be unified into one and only one culture-a culture based on the experiences of only one segment of mankind? There is no doubt that cultures are confronting each other as never before, and it seems possible that only one will survive the confrontation. It is a serious matter.

The Church exists in history, and it too is chal1enged by the confrontation between cultures. But it may well be that a process of pre-evangelization is going on even though we have not adverted to the fact. As we noted earlier, Ricci did not manage to evangelize China. England did not conquer China in the Opium War either. Suddenly we find, however, that a Chinese Marxist has Europeanized China. It is now difficult to read the works of Confucius in China, but very easy to read the works of Karl Marx, a European philosopher who grew up in the J udeo-Christian tradition.

The same process may be at work in Hindu and Muslim culture. The introduction ofWestern technology into these cultures may well bring about a theological crisis. What will Hinduism do if slaughterhouses are imported into its territories? What will the theocratic Muslim states do in the face of other contemporary governments which are lay in nature? The Christian religion does not have problems with these realities, whereas Hinduism and Islamism do.

Let me sum up my main point here. Christendom-that vast cultural, religious, and socio-political reality of the past-is on its way out. That is the reason behind all the critical problems we as Christians are now facing in Latin America. Some want to hold on to Christendom, but time spent on seeking to preserve Christendom is so much time lost for Christianity.

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