Archbishop Javier Martínez. Wikimedia Commons

Need for Each Other

It was Archbishop Javier Martínez of Granada who conceived the idea of the theological convention, “Meetings for a New Beginning,” and was its chief animator

How was the idea of this convention born?
First of all, from the pain at seeing a large part of the Church–and not only in Spain–a prisoner of a false and destructive dialectic. Christians who criticize socialism are considered conservatives, while those who distance themselves from liberalism are seen as supporting socialism. In reality, the two positions are only apparently alternatives; for both of them, the premise is the denial of the reality of the Church. It is almost impossible to distance oneself from a secularized conception of life that is provoking the slow death of the Christian people. For many Christians, the defense of this conception has even become a kind of mission, as is evident in positions that claim to defend marriage and the family by starting from the very principles that are provoking their destruction. What proves how profound is the acquiescence to the common mentality is the fact that even the criticisms of the liberal system come normally not from the resources of Christian tradition, which, as De Lubac said, “is so little known even by those who think they are defending it,” but by some variant of the secular ideologies into which the enlightenment culture is dissolving.

These are questions of interest to those you invited to Granada.
Certainly. For this reason, I began reading the works of Alasdair McIntyre, of Stanley Hauerwas and his followers, Stephen Long, Daniel Bell, William Cavanaugh, and also thinkers of Radical Orthodoxy, like John Milbank. In them, I found intuitions and judgments on our historical situation, its causes and its remedies, which I think important for the future of Christianity, in both Catholic and Protestant contexts.

Meetings between Catholics and Protestants often sound like projects for ecumenical dialogue. Was it also the case in this convention?
I would say not. At least, this was not the main motive. My main concern was, and is, the freedom of the Church, of the Church’s experience, which re-awoke in me in my encounter with Fr. Giussani and in the life of Communion and Liberation. The idea of a new beginning is all in the rediscovery of the meaning of the event of Jesus Christ and of the communion of the Church for human life in all its aspects. This is a road that we Christians, Catholics and Protestants can follow today only by helping each other, starting off from our different experiences, and committing ourselves and praying for our unity. As Hauerwas wrote to me before the convention, “Perhaps God allows His Church to pass through this wilderness of contemporary culture in order to make us Christians understand how desperately we need each other.”

How did the idea of a convention take shape?
About a year ago, I contacted Stephen Long and William Cavanaugh over the copyright of some texts of theirs I was translating into Spanish. When I had told them of my experience and my concerns, Long suggested to me that it would be very important for the good of the Church to get people formed in Radical Orthodoxy, in Nouvelle Theologie, and the post-liberal theology of Hauerwas to meet each other. I saw in this suggestion an indication I absolutely had to follow. To meet together and think together over our situation of Christians in today’s “wilderness” seemed to be such a grace that I did all in my power to make it possible and useful for us and for the Church.