Cardinal Cottier on Conflicts in the Church
90-Year-Old Prelate Offers Perspective on History, Advice to Youth
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By Jose Antonio Varela Vidal
VATICAN CITY, JULY 16, 2012 (Zenit.org).- At age 90, Cardinal Georges Cottier has a rich perspective on the developments of the past and the path of the future.
In this third part of his dialogue with ZENIT, he speaks about the sins of today for which future generations will ask forgiveness, and also offers advice for youth.
ZENIT: We have spoken of the public forgiveness desired by Blessed John Paul II. What is humanity doing today for which it will have to ask for forgiveness tomorrow?
Cardinal Cottier: The whole problem of the trivialization of abortion, and also diving without respect into some fields involving the human embryo. These are great sins, for which we run the risk of having to pay. As you know, now there is the opportunity to see the sex of a baby in the mother's womb, and in some countries there are those who prefer boys to girls, and they now have a serious demographic imbalance. I would also say permissiveness in the realm of sex, this ends up by being a crime against the person, in this case women and even children.
ZENIT: And other issues?
Cardinal Cottier: There is another issue, the arms trade. Efforts are being made but the process as such has not ended. When there are wars in Africa, they are in fact very harsh and affect many innocents, but all the armaments are made in our factories of the West, and also in China and Russia. After all this, there is also the situation of today's economy, tolerance of some miseries and so many other things. The future will be severe with us.
ZENIT: And how does the Catholic Church answer this?
Cardinal Cottier: All these are sins against which the Church has always fought, but she fights with the evangelical means of preaching and with some initiatives. And I would also say, “good is more effective than evil,” though appearances seem to say the contrary. Because the good is not seen; it is done in silence, it is like the image that Jesus uses of the seed that falls to the ground and matures slowly; but evil makes much noise and leaves traces of death and also spiritual death in souls. We have made great progress since the last War, where the experience was so terrible that we now have a peaceful attitude, open to dialogue, which is the result of Vatican Council II. This changes things.
ZENIT: The Council also changed the attitude to war, no?
Cardinal Cottier: Before the last two World Wars, theologians had a theology of just war, which is a heavy issue, including monstrous things and also the power of the means, such as the atomic bomb, etc. Now we see that war is no longer a solution. I am referring to the modern war. But, what happened? The Council opened and immediately with Pope John XXIII's encyclical Pacem in Terris, and then with Paul VI's great address at the United Nations during the Council, the Church began to develop a doctrine of peace and no more war, which we see in all the [papal] addresses of January 1, [the World Day of Peace]. There is a whole complex of reflections on peace which is beautiful, and this is a modern contribution.
ZENIT: Do you think that there are some sectors of the Church whose attitude is mistaken again, and who will have to ask for forgiveness later?
Cardinal Cottier: Yes, we are about to see it, it might happen. I wouldn't say a Church as Christ wants her, but of members or sectors of the Christian world. There are, certainly, prejudices, for example, indifference to the poor on the part of rich environments – this isn't just. The division of goods, tolerance of some unjust laws, and the use of violence as we have seen, but which is not the Church. And in recent documents, for example, there is insistence on democracy. But, what does democracy mean? It's not only voting, but the participation of men as persons.
ZENIT: We see disobedience in some sectors, for example, in northern Europe. Why does all this arise? Is it a manner of thinking that in this way more people will go to churches?
Cardinal Cottier: No. I think that these movements of contestation in the Church have always existed, and they became more frequent after 1968 in Europe and North America. There are groups with claims that are exceedingly foolish. And some also want women priests. So the Church must do much to evaluate masculine and feminine gifts, but in each one's vocation. It's interesting to see that these claims are often accompanied by a rejection of human nature. All these “gender” stories, in which in the end sexual difference is a cultural not a natural fact. Nature is a path for one's vocation, whether man's or woman's.
ZENIT: The Church has already spoken about this, no?
Cardinal Cottier: From the tradition that comes from Christ, John Paul II was clear; he said: [women's ordination] cannot be done, because the Church does not feel capable of touching something on which Christ himself gave the example. Then they answer that Christ adapted himself to his time, but I think it's an argument that is not worth much, because the Virgin, who has always been central, never had priestly functions; it's another vocation. It's interesting that many feminists who want women priests are really thinking in the language of power, and this is false, which has led the Pope to repeat many times recently that it is a service, which changes things very much.
ZENIT: There are other “burning” issues, no?
Cardinal Cottier: Yes, the marriage of priests, which is an issue that stems from the first demands of the Protestant Reformation, which allowed married priests. But the Gospel isn't easy; it is exacting, ad it is exacting because it leads us to a great end. Evangelical joy is not the consumer society, it is the joy of God. There is a very profound spiritual convenience with this intention of celibacy in the Church of Latin rite, which bears many spiritual fruits that we must not lose.
ZENIT: Because a married priest is not only a husband but also father of a family?
Cardinal Cottier: The vocation of father of a family is not a small vocation. Today it uses much of the spirit, and I don't know if it's always compatible. At least the Church believes that when a bishop is consecrated, he is considered the spouse of his Church. And I would say there is something analogous in the diocesan clergy. Thus, there is a spiritual treasure in this that the Church cannot give up. Some bishops bring up the topic, and it is not a sin to do so. It must be studied, you understand. These are issues that must be addressed in the New Evangelization.
ZENIT: Finally, what is your message to the younger generations that are beginning their journey in the Church, for example, priests, nuns, persons who offer their life as you offered yours?
Cardinal Cottier: I would say what the Holy Father says at present, and it is a word that is repeated frequently in his addresses: it is “joy.” I would say the same thing to them. Do this with joy, enthusiasm and fidelity to the Gospel, because their task of service is also a testimony. And the testimony is the evangelical life; there is nothing to invent, the Gospel gives us everything.
[Translation by ZENIT]
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