Spirituality for Today – July 2010 – Volume 14, Issue 12

Editorial – Diversity

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

These days, an almost requisite "warm glow" fills the hearts of people who speak of anything characterized by a high degree of diversity. Anyone who travels widely is keenly aware of the diverse factors making up the world we live in. Shahid Naeem, professor of ecology and chair of the department of ecology and environmental biology at Columbia University, posed a provocative question in a past article about bioengineering: "Does biodiversity matter?" He stated that many of his colleagues can describe the evolutionary processes of biodiversity, but they are sorely tested to explain the necessity of that diversity and what it all means. Diversity exists in the universe, the biosphere, and the human population, but does it matter? Does a nation made up of a diverse population and which is interactive with other cultures have a social and economic advantage over those that do not? And what about the Church, does it possess a spirit of diversity and, if so, does it benefit the Church in its mission of spreading the Gospel?

A photo of many hands in a circle

The catholicity of the Catholic Church places it in contact with all of the peoples of the world. Does this contact fit into the context of these diverse cultures? In Pre-Vatican II times, Catholic travelers would remark on how the universal use of Latin in the Mass gave them a comfortable feeling when attending the celebration of the Eucharist at any location in the world. Now, the liturgy is celebrated in the native tongue of each country. While foreign worshippers may depend on liturgical gestures to mark their place in the Mass, the change to the vernacular, for most, is judged to be a favorable development. Missionaries had to learn the language and the culture of virgin mission fields in order to effectuate the proclamation of the faith. Once a native clergy became dominant, the feel of the faith took on a wider cultural identity. Vestments, music, devotions, and many other aspects of the Church reflected native influences. Thus, one may conclude that the Church is very diverse.

What is the nature of this diversity? Is it merely geographical? After all, the Church is hierarchical in its governance and is dogmatic in its creed and theological viewpoint. The Church is marked as ONE, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Is this essential unity a stumbling block to authentic diversity? Perhaps, the nature of the universe, the earth, and humankind itself directs one to the answer?

Earth formed at just the right time, at just the right distance from the Sun, with just the right kind of axial tilt to generate seasons, with just the right kind of moon, and at just the right size to be geologically active, with volcanoes and drifting continents. Earth was also bombarded with just enough comets to have water and other materials important to life accumulate on its surface. In fact, how we got where we are today as a living planet requires so many singular, low-probability events that we should consider it miraculous we are here to think about it (which, of course, is what the anthropic principle says would have to be the view of a creature that could ponder its own existence.)

– Shahid Naeem
Lessons from the Reverse Engineering of Nature

The greatest gift of diversity is not found in offering opposing viewpoints or in proposing differences for differences sake, but in the contribution of understanding and insight that challenges and awakens a beauty and a goodness creating a more generous whole. The oneness of the Church is founded in the One God, the One Truth, and the oneness of the human family. The beauty of diversity in the Church is that all cultures and individuals can enhance the unity of the love of Christ within a mosaic of vigorous and vibrant expressions.