Maradiaga on the state of the church

This past weekend, I attended the annual University of Dallas Ministry Conference. I was there because Liturgical Press, for which I work, was an exhibitor, offering our wares at a booth in the exhibition hall. One thing that made me glad to be present was the chance to sit in on the keynote address that was offered by Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga. The announced title of his talk was “The State of the Church: The Importance of the New Evangelization.”

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga is the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras. He is also the coordinator of the group of eight cardinals appointed by Pope Francis to advise him on the reform of the Roman Curia. (That’s them in the photo, gathered for the first time with the Pope. Maradiaga is directly to the Pope’s right.) Given that latter role, what he has to say on the state of the church is well worth paying attention to.

And the Cardinal did not disappoint. He offered a thoroughly engaging talk, delivered with gusto, even though English is not his first language. What he had to say was also somewhat surprising at times. I think it’s fair to say that several of his main points were ideas that we have not heard proclaimed very loudly in the church in recent decades.

I offer here just a few snippets, which I transcribed from a recording I purchased at the conference. (I actually was not able to sit in on the event in person, as the room was filled to capacity and doors were closed before I arrived.) I emphasize that there is much more from the Cardinal’s talk that’s well worth quoting, but I don’t have permission to reprint the whole thing, so I look forward with hope to the publication of the full talk.

Within the people [of the church] there is not a dual classification of Christians — laity and clergy, essentially different. No! The church as a society of unequals disappears. There is therefore in Christ and in the church no inequality. No ministry can be placed above this dignity common to all. Neither the clergy are the men of God nor are the laity the men of the world. That is a false dichotomy. To speak correctly, we should not speak of clergy and laity, but instead of community and ministry. All the baptized are consecrated as a spiritual house and as a holy priesthood, as we read in Lumen Gentium 10. Therefore, not only we clergymen are priests, but also side by side with the ordained ministry, there is the common priesthood of the faithful. This change in the concept of priesthood is a fundamental one. In Christ, the priesthood is changed, as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews. Indeed, the first trait of the priesthood of Jesus is that he had to be made like his brothers in every respect. The original priesthood of Jesus is the one that has to be continued in history, and it is the basis of understanding the presbyterium and of course the common priesthood. Thus, the whole church, the people of God, continues the priesthood of Jesus without losing their lay character.


The calling of the Church in the likeness of Jesus is to proclaim the kingdom of God…. Her calling is to serve, not to rule…. She must do this service living in the world, herself a part of the world and in solidarity with it, because the world is the only subject that interests God. And there the church, in humble company, helps make life intelligible and dignified, making it a community of equals without castes or classes, without rich or poor, without imposition or anathemas. Her foremost goal is to care for the penultimate — hunger, housing, clothing, [shoes?], health, education — to be then able to care for the ultimate, those problems that rob us of sleep after work, our finiteness, our solitude before death, the meaning of life, pain, and evil. The answer the church gives to the penultimate will entitle her to speak about the ultimate.


The globalization of the exchange of services, capital, and patents has led over the past ten years to establish a world dictatorship of financial capital. The small transcontinental oligarchies that hold the financial capital that dominates the planet. The lords of the financial world, of financial capital, wield over billions of human beings the power of life and death. Through their investment strategies, their market speculations, their alliances, they decide day to day who has the right to live on this planet and who is doomed to die. The effects and consequences of the neo-liberal dictatorship that rule democacries are not hard to uncover. They invade us with the industry of entertainment, they make us forget about human rights, they convince us that nothing can be done, that there is no possible alternative. To change the system, it would be necessary to destroy the power of the new feudal lords. You mean that this is [chimerical?], utopia? The church decidely bets on living the globalization of mercy and solidarity. How can the church aim to counteract the deleterious effect of the preponderance of economism and its fundamental postulates? Return to the church of the poor!


To go into the new evangelization, we need, all of us, a heart test, because many times we are ill. We are ill of cardiac insufficiency. One day, Saint Paul didn’t feel well and went to the cardiologist. And when the cardiologist was listening to the heart of Saint Paul, do you know what he heard?  He was not listening like, “Boom boom, boom boom, boom boom.” No. The heart of Saint Paul beat like this: “Woe on me if I don’t preach the Gospel. Woe on me if I don’t preach the Gospel! Woe on me if I don’t preach the Gospel!” You mean that that’s the way our hearts are beating now? Do we have that heart? That is why I have said, each of us are ill of cardiac unsufficiency, missionary insufficiency. What happens to a person who has cardiac insufficiency? He gets a very small device, a little one, a pacemaker, and after that the heart is powerful again. We have to ask the Holy Spirit to give us a spiritual pacemaker, that our hearts will beat like Saint Paul’s and go forth to evangelize! “Woe on me if I don’t preach the Gospel!”

On that last passage, you should hear the tone in the Cardinal’s voice as he repeats that line, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” Full of passion and intensity — there’s is no question the idea beats strong in his own heart.

UPDATE: Rocco Palmo has the full text of the Cardinal’s Dallas address.

I did notice a few differences, sometimes significant, between the prepared text and what the Cardinal actually said, though. The final passage I quote above, for example, about Saint Paul’s visit to the cardiologist, is not present at all the version Rocco received.


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