Benedict Daswa is soon to be beatified. The African martyr died at the hands of a mob for refusing to contribute to the hiring of a witch doctor in his South African village.

Benedict Daswa African martyr

  • February 19, 2015

One of the dynamics of last year’s Synod on the Family was the contrast between the German-speaking bishops, who have been preoccupied with finding a way for those in invalid marriages to receive Holy Communion since Joseph Ratzinger and Walter Kasper were young theologians, and the African bishops. The latter, not to put too fine a point on it, objected that it was not possible for the Church to teach that simultaneous polygamy was immoral for poor black Catholics in Africa while serial polygamy was okay for rich, white Catholics in Europe.

The dramatic conflict between the decadent, secular German culture and the dynamic, religious African culture highlighted what some have called an “African moment” in the universal Church, where the more culturally conservative south challenges the priorities of the liberal cultures of the north. That’s not quite right though, for conservative and liberal don’t really apply across the board. Africans may well be conservative on marriage and family questions, but would not be thought conservative on economic questions. A better contrast is between Africa, where the Word of God is still the governing norm for Catholic life in a culture where the biblical word still resonates strongly, and secular Germany, where the Church seeks adaption to the prevailing culture as a higher priority.

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