Cardinal Maida: European Church Needs American Vitality

VATICAN CITY—The Catholic Church in the United States has developed a credibility and vitality that is absent in the European Church, according to Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit.

In a break from the European Synod, Cardinal Maida told Register Radio News that in Europe “culture can be an awful lot of baggage that gets in the way of clear dialogue between people.” On the other hand, he said, “In America we are rather young as a country. … We haven't developed the animosities, the deep histories and the cultural differences that exist in Europe.”

Cardinal Maida said U.S. Catholics, less burdened with history, are inclined to take a more optimistic approach when facing challenges.

“In the competitive mode, you've got to exist, so we're prepared to do what it takes to be sure we're not going to be lost in the dialogue,” he said.

“It's a matter of survival,” he added.

During his address to the synod Oct. 9, Cardinal Maida praised new Church movements as particularly suited to pluralistic societies like the United States.

“Increasingly we find that the answer to the question about the place of our Catholic faith in a pluralistic society lies in small faith communities of various kinds — charismatic renewal groups, Cursillo, Scripture-sharing groups, the Neocatechumenate, etc.,” he said.

Cardinal Maida said the movements' ability to translate beliefs into action was a powerful force for social renewal.

“Through these groups, people of all faith backgrounds can hear the Good News with its ever-fresh vitality,” he said.

Several bishops at the synod have pointed to new movements as a way for the Church to better dialogue with society.

“These movements have our attention for the moment because they are young, they're fresh, and they're creative,” Cardinal Maida said. “To the extent that they're guided by the Holy

Spirit, they have a great future.”

But bishops must be “discerning, patient and prudent” when new movements find expression that is at odds with traditional Church models like the parish, he said.

The final test of the movements is along Gospel lines, he said.

“The fundamental message is Jesus Christ,” Cardinal Maida said. “We've got to lift him up in a way that challenges society and invites our people to celebrate the Lord, because the core of our strength is the Lord.

“How we dissect it, how we work with it, with what movements — it should all be focused on building up the reign of Christ.”

He told Register Radio News that his respect for the movements was not automatic.

“In my own archdiocese and in my own life as a priest, the charismatic movement was an example,” he said. “At first I wondered where all of this was coming from, but as it has endured and as it has touched the hearts of so many people and made such a difference, I have to see this as God's work.”

He said the Church, through its parishes and movements, should be a “servant” to the community at large, “washing the feet” of those it would evangelize, rather than following an authoritarian model.