I. John Allen, “Support for “Healthy Secularism”
During Benedict XVI’s Sept. 2008 trip to France, he endorsed what French President Nicolas Sarkozy has dubbed “positive laicite”—a French term for which there is no exact English equivalent, though the usual translation is “secularism.” The basic idea is that religious freedom and church/state separation are positive things, as long as they mean freedom for, rather than freedom from, religion.

The emergence of Islam as the church’s central interfaith preoccupation has turbocharged support for “healthy secularism.”

Proof can be found in the Middle East. Squeezed between two religiously defined behemoths, Israel and the Muslim states which surround it, the tiny Christian minority has no future if fundamentalism prevails. Their dream is to lead a democratic revolution in the region. That outlook reflects a basic law of religious life: secularism always looks better to minorities who would be the big losers in a theocracy.

Momentum towards healthy secularism in Catholic thought has implications well beyond the Middle East.

In both Europe and the States these days, there’s considerable debate about the political role of the church. Critics, including many Catholics, sometimes argue that bishops are “too political.” Americans, for instance, are still chewing over the role the U.S. bishops played in the health care reform debate.

If there is a force in Catholicism capable of balancing the scales, it’s likely to be the relationship with Islam, and the perceived need on the Catholic side to offer a credible model of the separation of religion and politics. That points to a keen irony: The specter of shariah might do more to give Catholic leaders pause about blurring church/state lines than a whole legion of liberal Western theologians. National Catholic Reporter blog, “Pondering Islam and its discontents,” Nov. 5, 2010.

II. May 27-30, 2008 Forum was partly to help the Secularity Team in Indiannapolis develop its program.
Click on Mission with Secularity for the link to more information on the team.
III. The following document was submitted to the participants in the May, 2008 meeting.

Missionary Ecumenism and the May 27-30, 2008 Forum on Secularity
by Harry E. Winter, OMI,, May 4, 2008

…The division among Christians damages the most holy cause of preaching the gospel to every creature and blocks the way to the faith for many (Vatican II, Decree on Missionary Activity, #6; Decree on Ecumenism, #’s 1, 4; Catechism, #855).

…As Oblates with many scattered resources in missionary ecumenism, how can we bring these resources to bear on the challenge of secularity? The recent statement of Cardinal Walter Kasper that “certain features of the Christian mystery have at times been more effectively emphasized by other Churches or Ecclesial communities ” (A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism, New City Press, 2006, #10, highly recommended) applies to both Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism.

I…Eastern Orthodoxy
…..A friend who visited a state-owned art museum in Moscow not long ago was surprised to observe people kneeling, bowing their heads and praying reverently in public before the icons and other Christian works on display. Some worshipers left a flower or a candle on the floor beside a work. Apparently such gestures are commonplace. That these Christians had encountered the art outside a church seemed to matter not at all, since the art itself was seen in that culture and among the Orthodox as worthy of veneration (Karen Sue Smith, “Artful Contemplation,” America, March 3, 2008, p. 16).
…..With the recent thawing of contact with the Orthodox (“Ravenna Was ‘Breakthrough’ in Orthodox-Catholic Ties,” Zenit, 2/19/08), we need to take advantage of our Oblates who are bi-ritual. In the past two years, the Polish-Canadian pre-novices in Buffalo, NY have shown a great interest in the work of Father Waclaw Hryniewicz, OMI, the Polish Oblate who served for many years on the International Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue. Our Oblate College in Washington, DC, trained many priests of the Maronite and Ukranian Rites.
…..Many Eastern Orthodox leaders have recently indicated a new interest in working with Roman Catholics on secularity. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I has a special concern for environmental issues. “The Green Patriarch” and his actions in this area have the support of the Vatican. Environmental concern is an area where secularists and people of faith can work together.

II. Protestantism
…..”It seems that the evangelical and Pentecostal movements have the most energy in our time” (Dean Hoge, “Challenges Facing the Priesthood in America,” Origins 37 [April 17, 2008, #44] :710). Catholic charismatics have led an amazing convergence with Pentecostals and evangelicals. Although some Pentecostals (and fundamentalists) would still not be caught dead with an RC, the amount of cooperation today is growing by leaps and bounds. Oblates have a strong presence within the charismatic movement, and within earlier movements which also stress the same adult conversion experience (Cursillo and Marriage Encounter, for example).
…..One cannot forget how the Presbyterian Reformed centers of Taizé and Iona have resulted in greater cross-fertilization, for mission and evangelization, especially among the young. Even the late Francis Schaeffer’s center at L’Abri, Switzerland, took the lead in cooperation on reducing abortion, in addition to attracting thousands of young people to its various centers on different continents.
…..Hispanic bishops Ricardo Ramirez CSB (Las Cruces, NM) and Placido Rodriguez CMF (Lubbock, TX) have shown initiative in working with Hispanic evangelicals and Pentecostals. Efforts by World Vision International to build bridges to Catholicism are slow in Latin America, but they are trying. Pentecostal leader Juan Sepulveda has written movingly of ecumenical progress at the Fifth Latin American Bishops Conference (Aparecida, Brazil, 2007): Ecumenical Trends 37 (April, 2008, #4): 9/57-11/59.
…..Ron Rolheiser’s sketching of conservatism versus liberalism (Secularity and the Gospel, pp. 49-50, 85-87) reminds us of the phenomenon of red states and blue states. Red states not only tend to vote Republican and have conservative values; they also have higher rates of religious practice and are rural oriented. When Harvey Cox wrote his classic Secular City, he explained how urbanization is related to secularity (rev. ed., 1966, pp. 3-12). Can our three person secularity team, residing in Indianapolis, IN, also alert Oblates working in more rural and small town areas, to the differences between faith practices in red and blue states?

…..Cox’s ch. 9 “Sex and Secularization” has this marvelous view:
…..If Americans had consciously set out to think up a system that would produce maximal martial and premarital strife for both sexes, we could scarcely have invented a more sexually sabotaging set of dating procedures than we have today (p. 180).
…..Modesty, chastity, and a mature Christian view of sex are important elements in our exploration of secularity.
…..Since Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical on social Justice Rerum Novarum (1891), observers have noted that the papacy is liberal in matters of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), and conservative in matters of doctrine. On the Protestant side, Jim Wallis and his journal Sojourners is the latest in a line of evangelical liberals, conservative in doctrine and liberal in JPIC.
…..Here in Buffalo, NY, a growing number of African-American Protestant pastors are discovering the courses in spirituality at the inter-diocesan seminary. Our resources in spirituality at Oblate School of Theology, and Lebh Shomea should be attractive to Hispanic evangelicals and Pentecostals.

III. Proclamation and Dialogue exist in creative tension. The following article from Columban Missions, Nov. 2007, p. 11 challenges us. See the Assisi Page for this article