12: Issues and Challenges of the Church in Modern Society


Cardinal Bernardin acknowledges that the Church has to deal with great ethnic and racial diversities, especially in the United States, making solidarity and collaboration difficult. The Archbishop of Chicago believes that genuine solutions to social, economic, and political problems require the collaboration of all citizens, who must work together for the common good. He says that ethnic and social diversities are also a great opportunity for the Church. In fact, they greatly contribute to enrich the community.

It is out of doubt that we live in a period of history in which technology and its capacity to threaten and diminish human life are at hand. This is especially true for genetic engineering, abortion, capital punishment, modern warfare, euthanasia, prostitution, pornography, sexism, and racism. The importance of the family in modern society must be restated. Today the family is very fragile, and the priests may be more aware of that fact than anyone else in their knowledge of the private and inner lives of people they serve.

The condition of women within the Church is another critical issue. Women feel that they are not undervalued and their potential is unrealized. The Church acknowledges that women deserve to take their rightful place in equality with men but, unfortunately, the Catholic tradition does not yet permit the admission of women to priesthood.

The Church, too, is facing its own internal ecclesiastical pains. It is necessary to heal the divisions and tensions which exist within the Church, and face the problem of vocational decrease in both lay and religious people. Priests, Cardinal Bernardin says, must be intrinsically united with the Lord, strengthened through the breaking of the bread and pouring of the wine during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.