CHAPTER VIII

 

AGENDA OF RESEARCH FOR COMMUNITY LIFE

 

THE CALL TO ACTION

 

 

In preparation for the Bi centennial of the Declaration of Independence, the N CCB held a series of consultations at all levels of the American Church in order to uncover the concerns of the people. These regional hearings and the following national "Call to Action" provided a coordinated forum for culling statements of concern from local and regional communities and for their formulation by a representative national assembly.

The concerns were those of families who are value conscious and sensitive to the needs of the local, national, and international societies. Hence the conclusions of the "Call to Action" meeting constituted a unique expression on the part of the members of the Christian community on issues of overriding importance, ranging from the life of the American family to concern for the rights of peoples in distant lands.

Subsequent reflection at an I CR meeting held at the Brookings Institute concluded:

A. There is great need within the Church to elaborate an adequate response to the expressions of concern surfaced by the long process of the Bi centennial Hearings.

B. Such expressions and their background data are in need of careful technical analysis and sage evaluation in order to establish their precise import.

C. They imply the need for extensive research on a series of crucial issues involved in the life of the nation as well as of individuals, neighborhoods, and parishes.

D. National funding agencies respond most readily to needs voiced by such informed and concerned groups as those involved in the unique process of consultation carried out in the Bicentennial Hearings.

From this analysis, it was concluded that the ICR as a coordinating unit for research among Catholic universities could contribute to the work of the NCCB in responding to the "Call for Action" by helping to identify and establish priorities among the needs for further knowledge and the development of policies.

The following was developed by a group of scholars who had been involved in the above consultations who met at The Catholic University of America at the invitation of the ICR. They drew up the following list of major issues identified in the consultation process as being in need of research.

COMMUNITY

The increasing depersonalization of our society due to the impact of technology in industry, government and the media has led to a search for personal values. In this context the need for community has been broadly experienced. In order to understand how to respond to this need a study is required of an institution which has been successful in creating community which is more than a village or territorial unit, and which has provided through the decades the means for integral personal growth and development within the American experience. This institution is the parish.

Unfortunately, to date relatively little about it is really known, the first studies having been initiated by Fichter within the last two decades. In order to learn from this successful project of community building there is need for a broad interdisciplinary study which would include, among others, the following dimensions.

H istorical. This study would trace the development of the parish from its immigrant base in the last century when it served as a channel for its #:migrant population into positions in the general society, while mediating and rearticulating the values of their ancestral homes and new circumstances. It would study the phenomenon of families moving to the suburbs and regrouping in new common or non-ethnic parishes which were indeed the melting-pot. Further, it would attempt to learn from the experience of the parish in the post-World War II period when it adapted its structures and forged new bonds of unity in the face of mass society, linking persons and families among themselves and to the roots of their value system.

T heological. This dimension of the study should research the biblical sources of the meaning of ecclesia or `people' and its development through the unifying classical image of "one body." Special attention would be given to the notion of "communion" as it has evolved under the impact of modern phenomenological and existential philosophies.

So ciological. This dimension of the study would proceed concretely from, for example, the proven success of Catholic parish schools in developing a positive attitude toward integration. It would build upon this background by identifying the contextual ethos which has made it possible, drawing upon the theological and historical studies above.

Pa storal. The experience in developing parish councils during the last ten years in the face of a tradition of more autocratic direction provides a particularly useful point for the study of the possibilities of decentralization in this country. Comparison should be made to the development of analogous neighborhood institutions during the same period, often under the aegis of the war on poverty. From the successful efforts much could be learned concerning the possibilities of decentralization of authority, the conditions for its continuity, and the range of possibilities for its application.

E ducational. A study of the role of education in community building would be integral to the above areas of the research and especially feasible and useful. A study of the parish school which compared the character of the communities in which such schools were and were not present, or the years before and after the opening or closing of a school could contribute significantly to an understanding of the contribution of education to community building and the conditions for its success.

Throughout, comparisons will be useful between urban, suburban, and rural parish communities. From such studies could be expected not only a better understanding of the general process of community building in the existing conditions in this country, but a basis for understanding the extent to which a restructuring of the parishes is called for, the manner in which they could be pastorally more effective, and the steps required in order that the parish serve all and constitute a true community for its members..

C HURCH AND THE PUBLIC ORDER

In the public arena much has been said and written about the separation of Church and S tate; great attention has been paid to assuring that the Churches do not enter the political arena. This is a viable and, in this country, a successful political decision.

Presently, however, a new awareness has arisen of the importance of a strong sense of values, and of the need to educate the citizenry to a constant and discerning application of these values in living one's private and public life. This awareness has generated a conscious need to rediscover the bases of values and to understand better the way in which they are articulated in society and personally appropriated. In this area the Church in this country has always been central. A study could improve our understanding of this role in American society and of the modes of its more ample implementation in response to present needs. Such a study would include both personal and public dimensions.

Personal. The personal dimension would concern the manner in which values are evolved and the consciousness of the individual. This would include an historically oriented review of the philosoph ical and theo logical factors in the evolution of the sense of val ues in this country, with its various modes of pioneer enthusiasm, pragmatic re alism, and p ersonalist reaffirmation. In this study the impact of a decline in the explicit attachment to the Judeo-Christ ian heritage would be important, as would attention to the sense of re sponsibility and to the factors which undermine or promote acting according to one's values.

The ped agogical dimension of this study would trace the developmental pattern in the growth of the child particularly as regards the sense of values with a view to evolving p edagogical techniques, not simply for clarifying values possessed, but for enabling the child to elaborate personally his or her sense of values.

Public. The public dimensions of this study would concern problems of education for life in a democratic world. Without intending to change the basic formula by which Churches do not enter political life, an intensive study is needed to discover ways in which the Churches: (a) can fulfill their proper role in the education of citizens regarding a deep sense of personal value and (b) can aid in the development of a system of laws which will reflect and promote truly humane decisions concerning the many issues of public life.

Such study requires resolving a number of problems:

1. In what way can the Church protect its educational programs from undue political, social, or economic pressures?

2. What are the means by which the roots of moral values embedded in the ancient traditions of the various ecclesial communities can be enabled to play their part as an integral and essential dimension of the understanding and aspirations of the people of this country?

Without this understanding, values will be accepted but not implemented, statism will supplant an integral and free citizenry, political life will lose its sense of values, and the life of the nation will atrophy. In contrast, if the roots of man's values can be made vibrant, state control can be replaced by personal and public responsibility, the self-seeking of the majority can be tempered by a proper attention to the rights and needs of minorities, and the cultural h eritage of many ethnic groups can be drawn upon to create a rich harmony of free people.

JUSTICE

It would appear that the intensive concern with justice in our times is affected by an unfortunate isometric, with the result that the more intensely it is sought the less likely it is to be achieved. This is based in the development of rationalism in the modern period, with its resulting passion for systematic clarity, which fosters the illusion that all can be precisely conceptualized, clearly categorized, and mathematically equilibrated. In this perspective all hopes are directed toward the achievement of justice, so that people are understood as counterpoised one to another. What is sought is equality of physical condition; the emphasis is upon each person or group gaining what belongs to it. The result has been dissension rather than unity.

Throughout what is lacking is the much-maligned sense of love or charity. It is a basic Christian insight that charity is the form of the virtues and that no virtue, including justice, can be realized without it. What is needed today is not only a sense of rights ignored, but a willingness to help--a deep concern for the good of the other which is conducive to unity in the family and community on the local, national, and international levels.

This study would require, first, extensive and historical work in the p hilosophic and socio-political evolution of culture. Secondly, it needs a theoretical effort to discover the roots of the understanding of charity in the religious heritage and to rearticulate it in terms of the personalist and social philosophies of the present time. Thirdly, it would imply an analysis of the implications of this enriched notion of charity in the international realm so that a positive concern would extend not only to persons or to one's own nation, but to societies in other parts of the globe. Work in social philosophy and political science would be needed to search out the implications of charity for national sovereignty so that this might evolve beyond nationalism to a sense of international brotherhood, particularly as this affects such questions as food and energy supplies.

F AMILY AND ITS SUPPORT SYSTEM

Much has been written about the disillusion with family life in recent decades. The rising divorce rate and the number of juvenile delinquents are but symptoms of the increasing difficulties experienced in this basic unit of social life. When stated in terms of the families concerned, it bespeaks a situation of basic personal anguish to which a response must be made. While considerable study and research has been devoted to these issues, the continued escalating difficulties of the family suggest that what has been done is not sufficient. Indeed, some policies, e.g., "the man in the house" welfare regulation, notoriously intensify, rather than resolve the problem.

Ma rriage has traditionally involved a religious ceremony, indicating the sacred character of the union and the high inspiration with which it is entered. Further, the bases for love and concern, sacrifice and joy, have been a central element in the value systems as grounded and articulated in the religious traditions.

Hence, a pattern of research undertaken with explicit consciousness of these values central to the American ethos might succeed in providing a better understanding of the character and effectiveness of the support systems for the fa mily, as well as ways in which they can be evolved and improved in order to assist the family in facing its challenges at the present time. Here the Church and the society are, as it were, parallel tracks upon which the ideals of family life are realized and celebrated; both need study.

The social structures require study by specialists in social work, law, and politics in order to evaluate and make recommendations in areas such as taxation and welfare policies with respect to their impact on the quality of family life. The availability of parents for the education of their children is another factor in the unity of the family, as is the ability of parents to have a voice concerning the moral environment in which their children grow, including the schools and the media.

Correlatively, there is need to learn much more about the way the churches provide a basis for the self-understanding and high personal goals of the family and the education of the children. That is obviously true in terms of enabling t heology, religious education, and liturgy to perform more adequately their teaching and consecrating missions. In order to achieve their real pastoral impact, however, they must be carried on in an inter-related manner with social studies of the Church as a gathering place for families and of the mutual support system implied for the consecration and fruition of the personal love consecrated in the marriage ceremony.

C OMMUNICATION

As predicated upon revelation, the Christian community has a long tradition of transmission of the Word, incorporated in Christ, living with the Apostles, and being lived under the inspiration of the Spirit in the Christian community. In contrast to a radical humanistic individualism, the person is not alone, but is born in a community in which he or she draws upon the lived experience of the Word and which in turn is uniquely recreated in oneself. Hence, communication is central to the Christian community. Today it is in need of special attention due to the particular pressures implied by society and the media upon the growth of the person as well as the new dimensions of understanding of communication made possible by studies in psychology, semiotics and hermeneutics. Consequently, a two-pronged study of this problem is recommended.

One phase would be a study of the communication of values from parents to children. This study would require (1) drawing upon work already accomplished concerning the various stages of child development in relation to value awareness; (2) complementing this work by attention to the classical Christian sense of an objective morality and the ability of the person to comprehend it; (3) identifying the implications of the ps ychological and soc iological characteristics of receptivity on the part of the child, as. e.g., fear, acceptance; (4) study of the modes of communication by word, by action and by discipline. Throughout, the study would concentrate upon the communication of the most fundamental personal values and social attitudes. Study concerning Catholic schools has shown that they are effective within certain specified family situations. Understanding the manner in which these family conditions are constituted in relation to the communication of values should assist the schools and other public units in society effectively to accomplish their dimension of the task.

A second phase of the study concerns the modes of communication between Church leadership, particularly bishops and pastors, and the Christian people as a whole. In the light of the importance of revelation and hence of communication as noted above, and in view of public pressures at the present time, there is special need for this study. Such modes of renewal and reflection as the parish mission and novena services have largely disappeared. The public media largely predominates in the transmission of the statements of the Church's leaders and the results of its committees, which they present from a secular viewpoint. The means for general communication of reflective Christian attitudes on life in our days are sorely lacking. A study which would contribute a better understanding of the means of communication and articulate clearer implications for the transmission and realization of the Christian message would be of deep importance to the life of the Church.

AGING

Due to certain characteristics of our society the needs of the elderly have become acute. For one thing, the mobile character of the population often moves the younger generation to distant places for education and employment. Then, the pragmatic emphasis of our industrial society puts great value upon the productive ability of the individual, whom it then disvalues at retirement. Also, the very attempt to redress the lack of personal attention in a mass society has begun to focus on the needs of the family at the expense of those who are elderly and alone, whose number increases as retirement age is lowered and medicine improves. In order to improve the response to the elderly as persons, research is indicated.

1. One problem is how to integrate these persons, with their acquired wisdom and new leisure, into the parish community. With the responsibility of raising their own children passed, and some of the pressures of earning a living eased, the elderly have new possibilities of service to their parish and local community. These should be investigated, categorized, and engaged. Here the service of soc iology and ps ychology, as well as the experiential dimensions of pastoral and social care, could be of importance.

2. Reeducation. A fundamental educational program is needed in order that those who have understood their life too explicitly in terms of their work potential can begin to be aware of their personal worth and the possibilities for the fruition of their leisure. Too often, they are too often unaware of the dimensions of reflection, enjoyment, and meaning which they can develop and communicate to younger persons in their family and society. In this study, the depth of Christian wisdom in its philosophy and theo logy will be an important resource. It needs to be rearticulated in terms of a contemporary educated and active citizenry in search of new dimensions of meaning.

3. The development of new awareness of human meaning has extended to the reality of death and of life thereafter. Whereas in the past great efforts were made to avoid consideration of death, considerable attention now is directed thereto. In part, it has concerned the sociology and psychology of the families and individuals involved. Relatively little has been done to carry forward the deep human understanding of the passage to new life or to bring the contemporary resources of philosophy and theology to bear upon evolving a renewed and contemporary understanding of this momentous passage. As a result, even with the most complete medical information, most persons are but minimally aware of the great human step they are taking. Out of ignorance they remain almost passive at the point of the culminating act of life on earth. The increased attention to death and dying at the present time summons the Christian community to do its part in contributing a greater understanding thereof. Research on this issue should not be left to the proclivities of individual scholars.

SHARED RESPONSIBILITY

Three factors combine to give this issue special importance. (1) The American experience of participatory democracy creates the natural expectation that all persons in the Church will share in the responsibility for its daily life. (2) Particular emphasis upon the freedom of the person has led to new dimensions of self-awareness and consequently of self-determination. This, in turn, raises the correlative need to understand the means of shared re sponsibility. (3) As the notions of collegiality and participation, evolved in the reflections of Vatican II and its resulting documents, penetrate more deeply into the self-understanding of Christian communities on all levels, there is need to find means for their concrete realization. A study of this issue would include a number of dimensions which could be carried on simultaneously and contribute mutually one to another.

Histori cal. A review of various American experiences in shared responsibility within the churches would be directed towards discerning those which were successful and identifying the conditions of theirs success. Here, the varied experiences of Protestant churches could be of special interest.

Psycho-sociological. Study of the most successful voluntary associations should identify the structural conditions of their success and the psychological factors, such as concentration, deliberation, and training, required for shared responsibility.

Philosophi cal. Study of the basis of contemporary attitudes toward notions of personal freedom and social responsibility would enable individuals consciously to integrate and exercise these factors in their own lives.

Theological. A speculative investigation would focus on the operational components of various theologies of the Church and the pastoral review of diocesan and parish structures in order to discover what has been successful. It would also work out the implications of all the above for a more adequate articulation of the roles of lay people, Church works, priests, parish councils, and other groups..

AUTHO RITY AND RES PONSIBILITY

On the one hand, the Christian tradition, by recognizing the origin of all from God and particularly the incarnation of the Word in Christ as the foundation for faith, implies that hierarchical order is essential to the life of faith. With this recognition comes a respect and even reverence for persons in higher positions. On the other hand, the body of Christian revelation has emphasized the dignity of the person and the fundamental responsibility of each person before God for his response in faith.

Ideally, the two are intimately related as authority elicits a free response by the person in love and truth. Striving for the ideal, however, is a task proper to each generation, and there are reasons to believe the present generation in this country is experiencing special difficulties. The basic individualism of the Anglo-Saxon culture contains overtones of suspicion of authority. In recent years there has developed a strong emphasis upon the person deriving from a ph enomenological and existential attitude suspicious of reason, l aw, and structure. The combination has resulted in the recent crisis of authority in public and private realms, out of which both Christian and secular societies are now attempting to find their way. The Christian community has not only a special need to discover a resolution for this crisis, but it possesses also certain resources which enable it to make a special contribution in this community crisis at large. Research related to this end, then, is of particular importance and would assume several aspects.

Sociological. The study should review a sampling of persons in authority, such as bishops and pastors, in an attempt to identify why some are and some are not successful leaders. This psycho-social topology could provide significant indications for the development of leaders and the successful exercise of authority for the future. One study on this topic has been done concerning bishops. The coordination of such material and its development in relation to those deep elements of life particularly affected by personal and religious commitment could carry this understanding forward to the community in a most important manner.

Philosophical-theological. A study of the contemporary speculative difficulties in relation to our present understanding of authority is essential. It would be directed not simply as a return to earlier statements regarding authority, but would adapt creatively such material in the light of present cultural understandings of personal freedom. This study should produce a clarification of the relation of person to authority appropriate for the fullest mutual understanding of both the dignity of the person and the character of present social structures.

WOMEN

The rising consciousness of women, which has characterized life in the years following the protest movements in the United States, has been articulated in terms of achieving equality and removing discrimination. The movement has affected the general social consciousness and has had particular impact upon the process of self-discovery of younger women. This topic would appear to call for a twofold study: one would be speculative in character, evaluating the basis of this new consciousness and aiding in its more adequate development; the other would concern structures in the Church in order to assure that an adequately developed consciousness can find its expression in the concrete conditions of life in the Church.

The speculative dimension of the study would review the resources of the Christian tradition with its philosophy and theology of the person, in order to assist in evolving a more adequate articulation of the developing vision of women. Emphasis upon equality directed particularly to eliminating recognition of sexual difference in law or social policies, seem too exclusively framed in terms of justice and law. Being too abstractive, this fails to give adequate recognition to all dimensions of woman's person. Hence a close philosophic analysis is required to assure that the implications of sexual differentiation for the person are adequately taken into account. Related to this is the long tradition within the Christian community of reverence for women in their distinctive character, and of the bonds of complementarity and partnership thus implied for the family as the basic social unit. It is important that all of these factors be profoundly studied and richly articulated in order that the attention to women be integral and promote their full reality as persons in family and the broader society. The Catholic un iversity context would appear uniquely suited for this task.

Secondly, the Church as a body must be studied to assure that the more integrally developed awareness of the woman is given full positive attention in present structures. A number of types of work must be carried forward in concert. The exercise of authority by women in Church institutions needs to be studied intensively in the different periods of the Church, from the abbesses of medieval monasteries to the modern heads of educational institutions, hospitals, and religious orders. Indeed, these constitute one of the sole extended body of experience by women in the exercise of authority in the modern age. Such study could identify the particular characteristics of successful leadership by women, their personality traits, and their fundamental inspiration.

Further, specialists in pastoral work need to carry out the reevaluation of the present life of the Christian community in order to identify modes in which women can most effectively contribute to the life of the Christian community. The experience of the past years, when conjoined with the speculative study of the topic, should make it possible to identify new and increasingly effective modes of participation by women in the life of the Church.

LIFE C HOICES

It is characteristic of the progressive secularization of our times that persons view themselves less in religious terms, which has implications for personal dignity and a broad range of social values. The impact of the loss of religious consciousness pervades all dimensions of life, but is perhaps nowhere more than in the making of choices concerning one's career where the effects extend for long periods or even the entirety of one's life. Nonetheless, these choices must be made and must inevitably reflect one's set of values. As these become less ample, decisions concerning one's life are correlatively restricted and restrictive for the future. This is true for the individual; it is similarly true of the help he can receive from family or from guidance counselors. Consequently, though elaborate counseling structures have been developed for schools, little work appears to have been done to mediate explicitly to that system the value concerns of a Christian vision. Many delay their decisions until, or after, college age; others change careers in mid-life; while still more need help in carrying through their commitments to marriage and family life. A twofold study of this problem, therefore, would appear to be needed.

The first would bring together the capabilities of psychology, sociology, and religious education in order to identify the way in which people make choices about their careers and the manner in which religious values can be operative in that choice. The study would be directed toward learning how to assist individuals to draw upon that which is highest in their aspirations in evaluating the possibilities of vocation and of participation in the world. Particularly, it would concern the way one can make the choice of a career with explicit awareness of the implications of a Christian vision with its aspirations for charity, justice and peace, its concern for family life and the needy, and its search to realize those conditions which make a richly human life possible.

The second dimension of the study would concern the structures needed in order that these dimensions of value awareness be effectively presented to persons in the process of making their life choices. The effective manner for this needs to be discovered and institutionally provided.