Earthly Mission

Earthly Mission: The Catholic Church and World Development

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Earthly Mission
    Book Description:

    With 1.2 billion members, the Catholic Church is the world's largest organization and perhaps its most controversial. The Church's obstinacy on matters like clerical celibacy, the role of women, birth control, and the child abuse scandal has alienated many Catholics, especially in the West. Yet in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the Church is highly esteemed for its support of education, health, and social justice. In this deeply informed book, Robert Calderisi unravels the paradoxes of the Catholic Church's role in the developing world over the past 60 years.Has the Catholic Church on balance been a force for good? Calderisi weighs the Church's various missteps and poor decisions against its positive contributions, looking back as far as the Spanish Conquest in Latin America and the arrival of missionaries in Africa and Asia. He also looks forward, highlighting difficult issues that threaten to disrupt the Church's future social role. The author's answer to the question he poses will fascinate Catholic and non-Catholic readers alike, providing a wealth of insights into international affairs, development economics, humanitarian concerns, history, and theology.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19676-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Somewhere in the developing world, a 57-year-old woman is trudging up a steep hill in the early afternoon, sorry she could not come earlier when it was cooler or delay her visit until the evening. But the person at the top of the hill needs her urgently. In another life, she could have been spending a quiet afternoon in the suburbs of Bonn, with a grandson sitting on her knee, delighting in the gentle sunlight reflecting in his hair. Instead, she squints as the tropical sun assaults her like stage lights, careening off the wet banana leaves along the path....

  5. CHAPTER 1 Two Troublemakers
    (pp. 13-22)

    Christians believe that people are more important than dogmas, structures, scriptures, and rituals. So one way to introduce the role of the Catholic Church, but also its contradictions and limitations, is to look at the lives of two remarkable men who exemplified what was best in the Christian tradition and yet paid a price for it. Like the imaginary nun at the start of this book, they did not spend a lot of time weighing the “pros” and “cons” of throwing themselves into the struggle. Even less did they worry about what their superiors would think of them. Both were...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Catholic Church: ʺSeven Inches of Condemnation and One of Praiseʺ
    (pp. 23-42)

    The English philosopher – and towering humanist – Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) would have liked Câmara and Hurley and, knowing them, might even have toned down the opinion he expressed in 1927 to a London branch of the National Secular Society. He told it that he could think of only two contributions that organized religion had made to human civilization: the development of the calendar and the ability to predict eclipses. “I do not believe that there is a single saint in the whole calendar whose saintship is due to work of public utility.”¹ At about the same time, the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Social Teaching: From Caesar to Centesimus Annus
    (pp. 43-68)

    Christ’s most famous “political” statement – “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” – seems to have been a clever way out of a rhetorical trap rather than real advice; and even if it was intended as guidance, it was sibylline and unsatisfying. Despite claims that the Church’s social teaching is firmly rooted in Scripture, there are very few specifics to be found there. In fact, the early Christians were not particularly concerned about the way human societies were organized, as they believed the world was about to end. One sign...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Religion and Development: ʺA Task of Fraternityʺ
    (pp. 69-94)

    The taxi driver at Paris airport started it. “What were you doing in Rome?” he asked. Research for this book, I told him. “Are you Catholic?” “Yes,” I replied. “A practicing one?” “Yes,” I answered. “And you?” “Muslim,” he declared. “Practicing?” I shouldn’t have asked. “Of course!” Then he picked up the thread. “Do you believe that Christianity is a universal religion?” “Yes,” I told him. “I don’t,” he replied. “I think Islam is the only universal religion.” This puzzled me. “If that is so, why are there so few Muslims in Latin America?”

    Now it was the taxi driver’s...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Africa: ʺNo One is Opposed to a Schoolʺ
    (pp. 95-118)

    The greatest surprise about the Church in Africa is how long it took to take root. There had been sporadic Portuguese contacts along the coast in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a short-lived Christian kingdom in the Congo, and almost fruitless missionary efforts in Senegal and Madagascar. But at the beginning of the twentieth century, Catholicism was largely absent from Africa. In 1900, there were only 1.5 million Catholics in the whole of the continent; by 1958, the number had grown to about 16 million; now there are 180 million. The Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (sometimes...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Asia: A Determined Minority
    (pp. 119-142)

    The Indian state of Kerala became Christian in about ad 52 – reportedly at the hands of the Apostle Thomas – but it was one of the few places in Asia where missionaries made any headway at all. Overall, foreign religions fared badly in that part of the world, being persecuted or simply absorbed like interlopers in a school of larger fish. India remained Hindu despite two centuries of Muslim rule. In China, Taoism and Confucianism held their ground against Indian Buddhism, as did Shintoism in Japan. Christianity was younger and apparently less sophisticated than the older religions, so it...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Latin America: From Las Casas to Romero
    (pp. 143-166)

    According to contemporary accounts, it was a priest who instigated the bloodshed. On 16 November 1532, two hundred Spanish soldiers waded into an army of 80,000 Inca warriors, slaughtering 7,000 of them with their superior weapons. The Spanish commander, Francisco Pizarro, had asked the priest to address the Inca Emperor Atahualpa. The priest obliged by handing him a copy of the Bible. Having never held a book in his hands before, the Emperor had trouble opening it and, apparently irritated, threw it to the ground. Furious at this supposed act of sacrilege, the priest urged Pizarro to punish the “heathens.”...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Horror in Rwanda
    (pp. 167-178)

    Nowhere has the Church’s role been questioned more than in Rwanda, the most Christian country in Africa, where priests, nuns, and lay Catholics participated in the 1994 genocide. Church leaders did little to prevent the butchery, and some even seemed to encourage it.

    Rwanda has rebounded impressively from that ghastly experience and has become an example for other countries to follow. Like Singapore in the 1960s and 1970s, it prides itself on hard work, discipline, self-help, and using the firm hand of the law. In the image of Singapore’s old “schoolmaster” Lee Kwan Yew, Rwandan President Paul Kagame brooks no...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Tilting at Condoms
    (pp. 179-204)

    If Rwanda was a piercing challenge to the Church’s moral conscience, population growth and the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa, have been regarded by some as another shocking case of Catholic indifference. In October 2010, the University of Oxford Current Affairs Society invited me to debate the issue of contraception in Africa with the UK spokesman for the Catholic movement Opus Dei. My debating partner exuded the joy and confidence of a born-again Christian who tries to speak and live by the truth without adopting holy airs along the way. A month before, during the pope’s visit to Britain...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Catholic Charity: ʺA Network to Die Forʺ
    (pp. 205-226)

    In 1937, at the age of twenty-three, inspired by the works of traveler-writers like André Malraux and troubled by what he thought was a cultural crisis striking Europe, France’s youngest doctor traded a potentially brilliant university career for a mud hut in Cameroon. Trying to serve 150,000 people from a small dispensary, Louis-Paul Aujoulat and his wife were regarded at first as eccentrics, even by the local missionaries. Like another Frenchman who had wiped out sleeping sickness in central Cameroon in the late 1920s, Aujoulat used large teams, tested entire villages where necessary, and trained nurses and midwives to practice...

  15. CHAPTER 11 Looking Ahead: A Fading Social Mission?
    (pp. 227-240)

    In Barcelona, in the sumptuous art nouveau auditorium of the Museum of Catalan Music, I made the mistake of smiling at him as he stood in the central aisle; so he edged into the row and sat next to me. Reeking of tobacco and too large for his seat, he grumbled throughout the interminable opening ceremony of the annual peace gathering of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay organization. After three hours, his buttocks and nicotine addiction were getting the better of him and he even scowled at the remarks of the two “princes” of the Church, including the...

  16. CHAPTER 12 Conclusions: ʺEveryone Who Fights for Justice Upsets Peopleʺ
    (pp. 241-248)

    One Saturday morning in June 1968, a young Peace Corps volunteer named Stephen Heyneman was buying vegetables at his neighborhood market in Malawi when he spotted about a thousand people outside the local police station. Women and children were huddled on the grass, seeking police protection from the Youth League, which had been beating up anyone who was not a member of the ruling party. Cycling home, Heyneman passed a group of red-eyed toughs carrying machetes and clubs. There was smoke on the horizon, indicating where men were killing villagers, most of them Seventh Day Adventists. Heyneman rushed to a...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 249-262)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-268)
  19. Index
    (pp. 269-278)