Jaeger David-M. A. ,
Antonianum, 86/1 (2011) p. 5-8
Africa is, according to the (Oxford) dictionary, “the second-largest continent, a southward projection of the Old World land mass divided roughly in two by the equator and surrounded by sea except where the Isthmus of Suez joins it to Asia.” If only it were that simple! Africa is, of course, so very much more than a determinate physical portion of the terrestrial globe. It is, like any part of the Earth, first of all (in the order of importance) people, the peoples of Africa, the persons who belong to Africa, or rather, to whom Africa belongs. This was not always crystal clear to all. Some Europeans used to think that Africa is theirs for the taking, just as some Americans used to think that the people of Africa were theirs for the taking. And for centuries now these presumptions have had a decisive role in determining the fate of the continent and of its people. And while colonialism and slavery are formally things of the past, that past appears to be of the kind that never passes, as the Italian saying goes: il passato che non passa. New, far more subtle, forms of colonialism, have persisted in myriad forms, it is sometimes observed, while chattel slavery is surely not the only kind, it is further being remarked. The colonialism and slavery of the past too have left deep scars, and not only on the poor tortured bodies of the slaves of yesteryear. Generally we Europeans and Americans have been adept at the assiduous practice of cognitive dissonance whenever it has come to our (mis) treatment of Africa and the Africans. We could not have borne the burden of shame and guilt otherwise. Nor, so the thinking has gone in various circles, could we have sustained our flourishing economies. Thomas Jefferson was famously critical of the “peculiar institution” of slavery, he detested and condemned it. Yet he was an unreconstructed slave owner himself his whole life. His personal economy, and the economy of his part of the United States, could not have flourished otherwise, he and his neighbours were sadly convinced. Nor would our economy today flourish, we tacitly believe, if we paid rather more for the natural resources we take out of Africa for our own consumption, and insisted more genuinely on the proper distribution of what we do pay to the people of those parts. Only a healthy (?) dose of cognitive dissonance has enabled us, for the most part, to ignore the formidable challenges that our (mis)treatment of Africa has posed to the values we uphold and the beliefs we profess, our philosophy and our faith included. Africans have, of course, before now noticed the inconsistencies, the contradictions, and have in different ways pointed them out to us, willing to use the very same instruments of reasoning and expression that we thought to “endow them” with, as a mirror in which we ourselves might recognise our inadequacies, and as tools whereby, when suitably adapted, they might regain their own freedom and articulate effectively their own thought – to us too. The (unfinished) process of de-colonisation has not been a tidy one necessarily, nor has its intellectual, philosophical and theological counterpart. Yes, the practice and practitioners of the Christian religion have been part of it all. The preaching of the Gospel was often inextricably bound up with the colonial project, but then the same is true of the process of overcoming it. So, in more ways than one, was “Western philosophy” itself, some will say. Light and darkness blend here into a seemingly impenetrable chiaroscuro. Thought itself may appear to be fogged up when we think of what we have done to Africa, what our involvement with Africa has done or should do to us, what Africans and we can, perhaps must, do together to reconcile on a higher plane. Surely we are not very far here from the thoughts that so fruitfully occupied the mind of a remarkable man, an unusual participant in the philosophical conversation (and not only that) of the last century, Frantz Fanon, the Caribbean descendant of African slaves who accomplished a personal return to Africa, and being thus at home in more worlds than one, left us a particular legacy in his personally re-shaped field of discourse. In this number of Antonianum, Fr. Alfredo Manhiça, ofm, himself an African, from Mozambique, who teaches in our Faculty of Philosophy, expounds the thought of Frantz Fanon as pointing to the “new humanism” that alone can give peace and freedom to Africa, and therefore also to the rest of us in relation to Africa. A bold, original article on a bold, original personage, by a young, dynamic philosophy professor, it should hold distinct interest for our readers. As we do with some bold, imaginative, innovative, original contributions, we have placed it – along with another article in this issue, of which later – under our rubric Les essais. The Bible, we are taught, is the very soul of theology. This issue of our review is richly “ensouled” by articles on both Testaments. Augustine Marie Reisenauer, op, of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C., inspiringly writes, in the opening article, of “The Goodness of God in Psalm 73,” thus giving a hopeful tone to the entire issue, or so I have thought in giving it first place. There follows the article by Fr. Artur Malina. Fr. Malina, a priest of the Archdiocese of Katowice (Poland) and a doctor of biblical sciences, teaches in the Theology Faculty of the Salesian University in Katowice, and is a member of the Committee on Theological Sciences of the Polish Academy and of the Presidency of the Association of Polish Biblical Scholars. He offers here an introduction to Paterology, specifically the Paterology implicit in the Gospel according to Mark. This is to be the first of a series of four articles arising from the specialized study and research of a particularly well qualified group of biblical scholars. The much revered biblical scholar, Fr. Klemens Stock, sj, of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, introduces the entire project in the note that is being printed here immediately following this editorial. As he points out, in spite of a good amount of work done in this field, “biblical theology and systematic theology do still have the task of giving Paterology a recognition corresponding to the prominence the same disciplines give to Christology and Pneumatology.” Antonianum is grateful to him, to the authors, for having honoured us by letting our review host their pioneering findings, and we are grateful in particular to our own Confrere and colleague, Fr. Jorge Humberto Morales Rios, ofm, of our Faculty of Theology, for having thought of this collaboration, intiated and mediated it. Is it only my own personal impression that Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate”, has not yet been given the full weight and resonance that should have been expected to be accorded to it in theological discourse? That there is still so much riches to be mined, illustrated, communicated effectively? That the issues it takes on board are such that we must not simply move on, as it were, after the first glance, the first round of discussion, the first reports of them quickly submerged by the relentless march of further “news”? Be that as it may, our Confrere and colleague, Fr. Martin Carbajo Nunez, ofm, of our Faculty of Theology, who specializes in communications ethics and Catholic social doctrine, is determined to help further and deepen our understanding of this Papal teaching, with special reference to another field he has specialised in, communications. His meticulous, confident, thought provoking article constitutes a good part of the substance of this issue of Antonianum. The Holy Eucharist, the Mass, is the truly perfect drama, says a luminary of twentieth century English letters, quoted by Professor Paul H.C. Chow – of the Egnlish Department at the National Chi-Nan University on the island of Taiwan – in his contribution to this issue of Antonianum, dazzling with its sequences of poetry, drama, philosophy and theology. This is “simply a superb article” is the judgment of our “reader” for it, a very well known emeritus professor at one of the English-speaking Catholic world’s premier universities, to whom I submitted it for his evaluation, as I do with all articles in disciplines other than my own. Essentially the discipline, in this case, is English literature, but not considered in artificial isolation, rather situated within the context of the entire civilisation of which it too is an expression. Reviews had been piling up in our offices, as it were, so this issue has a generous allotment for them, while also reserving space for “chronicles” and a listing of some “books received.” With this first issue then, a new year of Antonianum is getting underway, a year of happy though unremitting toil for our editorial team – and, of course, even more so for our contributors (!) – and of ever new delights for our readers, old and new. Happy reading!