Wednesday October 12th: Do as I say not as I do
October 12, 2022
29th Sunday in OT (C)
October 12, 2022

Faith in context – the Church in the Caribbean and Americas


By Amílcar Sanatan, CCSJ Board member

What is the position of the Church in the world today?

This question invites reflection on the status of the Church in public affairs, the contextualisation of theology, the legitimacy of the institution and the operations of the Church, including its capacity to recruit and manage human and financial resources.

The question is ever present in the minds of the leadership of all religious institutions; it also pierces the most private thoughts of individual believers.

As a student, I explored the pronouncements of liberation by the Church in Latin America to appreciate a gospel that was more radical and in touch with the soul than prosperity gospel and moral distance from social ills.

I searched for economic systems that provided dignity for all – it was clear to me that capitalism was a system that fuelled competition and exploitation and had no place in my sociological imagination.

I imagined a Church more attentive to the needs and aspirations of women’s leadership, respect for diversity and support for families in all shapes and forms. I asked myself – how could I worship in a building that was built on the environmental, mineral, and spiritual resources of Indigenous peoples?

If the Catholic Church is the Mother Church, what more must be done to transform notions of patriarchal manhood, end sexism and enhance the status of women in society’s eyes as they are professed to be in God’s?

For some, theological enquiry suggests that a believer is being pulled away and distracted by the secular world. To the contrary, those who question and embrace the uncertainty and doubt that are necessary ingredients for faith experience the most profound transformations of the mind, body, and spirit.

I yearned for a Church in context, to further the cause of Msgr Patrick ‘Paba’ Anthony, Peter Telfer’s Mawasi Experience, Sr Monique Moniquette OP and Brazilian Archbishop Hélder Câmara. Knowledge of history puts my faith in context.

It is difficult to imagine a world without European conquest and the colonisation of the ‘New World’ through force by the Spanish, Portuguese, French and Dutch in competition for territories.

Every priest and parishioner should understand that Christianity came with a sword in our history. There was nothing just about the crusade of conquerors who plundered the lands and violated Indigenous peoples then justified their Empire as grand missions for the civilisation of ‘dark’ and ‘godless’ peoples.

To say that it was God’s will for the development of a cruel system is to uphold an ideal of God which is unfair and partial.

The political, social, and economic systems founded in this project of Empire continue to impact the lives of people today. Few and select ‘rich’ and ‘developed’ nations continue to set the global economic and social development agenda; a smaller group determines the actors and outcomes of wars.

Colonial divisions of people along racial and colour lines; economic and educational deprivation of most of the population.

Out-of-touch colonial modes of governance influence our belief systems, the way we dress, our speech and the value we give to specific social norms. This history of the Caribbean and Americas and history of the Church are not behind us.

People guided by faith are tasked with redressing historical injustices and systemic sins. God shares our love and our pain. This pain of history and its lingering effects in our nation and region are not unfixable.

Through work, commitment to the poor and oppressed and a furtherance of the quest for self-definition, the possibilities for transformation, justice, peace, and love are endless in the Church and society.

Until the Church and theology in the Caribbean and Americas are not exports of Europe and the talk of God has the power to set a person in our space free, the Church and meaning of God will be without position in the world.



“I think, too, of ‘the elderly who, also due to their disability, are sometimes considered a burden’. Yet each of them is able to offer ‘a unique contribution to the common good through their remarkable life stories’. Let me repeat: we need to have ‘the courage to give a voice to those who are discriminated against due to their disability…’” (98)

– Pope Francis, Fratelli Tuitti.

CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee