Fr Bruno Cadore, “Dominicans must promote conversations with the new knowledge and technologies”
The editorial team of the annual magazine (Veritas) of the student brothers of the Province of India sat down with fr. Bruno Cadore, the Master of the Order for a conversation during his last visitation to the Province. We were touched by his genuine interest in listening and sharing his thoughts on various issues even though he had a busy schedule. Here is the transcript of this conversation with our Master General.
Veritas: In the midst of the many political, environmental, religious, social and moral crises, what do you think is happening to the world? Are you able to make sense of all these trends? How do you describe the current state of human affairs?
fr. Bruno Cadore: We can say that this is the story of human creativity. The human reason is developing many new capacities. Human intellectual capacity does not stop at applying itself to understanding and bring forth new knowledge. Human reason is in a new position now, which is that, it not only works to arrive at new knowledge but it also works to master the subject of that knowledge. Best example is the way we look at the human body. Today, the way to understand better the human body is also a way to master it and to transform it. However, this new way of the development of human reason can also be called human creativity. Reason is able to develop itself and its field of application.
When faced with these new kinds of human ingenuity we can have two kinds of responses. First could be to see everything as a threat, and as a consequence, we tend to identify all the negatives. We focus on what is getting worse than what is getting better. Nevertheless, it is important to identify the risks of new technology, techno scientism, or any new way of mastering of the reality. Second kind of response could be to see them as opportunities. This point of view is clearly expressed by the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin in his quote “But where the danger is, also grows the saving power”. It means that we can look at transformation in new ways, not just to complain but to identify the ways of salvation and the ways of evangelising. In order to take this new look at the ingenuity of human reason we must take time to discern and understand the reactions, the reasons for those reactions and the dangers or benefits that these reactions bring for humanity. It is my conviction that the Dominican Order has to promote this kind of conversation with the new knowledge and new ways of mastering reality so that we will arrive at a clearer understanding why some actors in the process consider that this new way of mastering reality is good for the world and humanity.
Veritas: India is facing numerous challenges like; Hindu fundamentalism, the caste-based politics, trampling of human rights and minority discrimination, sharp rise of violence against women, a controlled, scared and mostly bought media etc. How will you compare India with other parts of the world with similar challenges?
fr. Bruno: Yes, I am aware of it more or less because I try to read a lot on current affairs. I can say that it is part of my job. That doesn’t mean that I understand everything. Nevertheless, we can identify some trends that are common to many countries today.
One of those trends is the tendency to focus so much on identities as if they can be some protection against a global enemy. In this way the countries or societies identify themselves with very strong religious or philosophical or cultural identities. We can observe this all over the world.
Another trend that we are witnessing is that, in many countries politics is a matter of opinion and not debate. But politics is debate. Politics has common good as its goal. If we think that the aim of politics is the common good, then we need to discuss to achieve that common good. Political debate has become a mere stating that I have this opinion and you have a different opinion. But the real political debate is to say that I have a particular opinion for a particular reason and you have a different opinion for a different reason. Therefore, now let us discussabout the reasons.
The political agitation or political noise is done to avoid taking time to debate. Social media is made as the place of political talk which is often black and white or yes or no. This too is not a debate. We can only make statistics like “10 % has this opinion” or “25% has another opinion” or “this group is a minority” etc. The political space is not available for the so called minorities or different groups to express their reasons which can be a better contribution to the common good. In short, the opinion is becoming more important than discussion and debate.
There is a third one which is a consequence of the previous one which is that, the religious opinions will become the factor which influence and replace the political debate. So the religions could be exploited by this movement. We have a very important task to remind ourselves that our master and Lord taught us to reject any exploitation of religious sentiments or to use the Word to exercise power over others. The sacred language, sacred authority and sacred conviction don’t give us any power over the other.
In my understanding these three trends sum up the challenges that the political field is experiencing.
Veritas: It looks like we are living in a culture that doesn’t seek and value truth in all walks of life. Dominican Order has Veritas as its motto. Our magazine is also named Veritas. We Dominicans try to seek, understand and establish truth in all our endeavours. In this crisis of truth what kind of role do we Dominicans play?
fr. Bruno: I would say that the Order of Preachers has been entrusted with the task of preaching the name of Jesus Christ. The Order of Preachers in this crisis has to repeat that the Truth is not some content or a doctrine. The truth is someone. In other words, seeking the truth is to open new ways to the truth who is someone. And I would say that the crisis you are talking about is a crisis because we define truth in terms of content or doctrine. But this is a very narrow definition of truth.
Here I suggest you consider the commentary of St. Thomas Aquinas on John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth”. This commentary will help us to understand that this consecration is a consecration to Him who is the way, the Truth and the Life. We may be tempted to commit ourselves to the truth and say that we know the truth in terms of the content. We should rather say that we know the truth in terms of the way. Our mission is not just pointing out the ways to find the truth. Our mission is to say, “With you, we would like discover the way to the Truth.” This discovering of ways involves a dialogue with unbelievers, new knowledge and new technologies.
We are not sure from where this motto Veritas came from but it is a good way to say something about the itinerancy. This itinerancy is not just a geographical movement but also a cultural movement. We must learn to be itinerant in our minds, our intentions and in our human reason to discover the new ways. One Belgian Philosopher used to say that the structure of human reason is eschatological. So just begin to seek the truth and you will discover that your human reason has insatiable thirst for truth. We the Dominicans have this duty to help our contemporaries to discover this joyful endeavour of seeking the truth.