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When we talk about Humanism in the Hospitaller Project, we do it from the perspective of our own identity. We are a religious institution and, therefore, an evangelizing institution. The Hospitaller Project must be understood in this identifying sphere.

Reality as the starting point

First thing we notice in our centres is that the people we serve do not have a humanising demand from an evangelising stand in the short term. In other words, people come to our centres to be taken care of and, if possible, to be healed. They come because they have a disease, not because they have a spiritual demand. However, from the Christian humanism that inspires our service, we develop integrative guidelines as a response to the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual needs.

A long way to go

Historically, medicine, spirituality, and religion have been closely related. For many centuries, there was a dominant tendency of theological science over medicine (a known example is clearly illustrated in the movie The Doctor).

This predominance of theology decreased little by little, while medicine started its own increase through its own development, specially reinforced by rationalism and positivism that came with Modernisation. This brought a deep relationship crisis. Medicine became independent and even competed and even rejected some of the theological paradigms, including the proposals for spiritual and religious attention.

Sigmund Froid’s contributions and his vision of religion as an alienation of the humanising ability, radically influenced the separation between psychiatry and religion. Since the 1950s, the Catholic Church committed to strengthen the relationship between the scientific development and faith. The conflict between medicine and spiritual and religious attention, therefore, began to reduce, without ever disappearing.

The WHO has promoted this process by integrating spiritual attention in the promotion of patients’ quality of life. Moreover, there are numerous studies that demonstrate the impact of spirituality on health.

Nowadays, it is possible to combine medicine with spiritual attention: medicine provides the clinical reality on which to base a coherent and beneficial religious attention.

Attending the spiritual and religious needs of health patients has become a right integrated in the holistic care framework. It is clear that in our society, there is a loss of the confessional feeling, although we can’t say the same about the spiritual expressions present in our culture. Expressions that are characterised by an increasing pluralism, result of an ever more heterogeneous society, that brings us to the next challenge: to give an answer to the spiritual and religious diversity of the people attended at our centres.

Our Institution’s vision

From a charismatic, institutional, point of view, there is no doubt of the need to integrate the spiritual attention in the Hospitaller Health Model, as a specific expression of humanism. It is stated on our Identity Framework.

For most people, spirituality, religion, and personal believes are a source of wellbeing, security, sense, strength, and purpose. However, for others, spirituality and religion have a negative influence in their lives. That’s why it is important to respect the diversity of the people at our centres, something that should not be translated into absence of or poor spiritual attention.

Questions are still unanswered

Despite the clarity with which our Congregation’s documents present the need to integrate the religious and spiritual attention, some questions remain… Is it possible to humanise from an evangelising perspective, considering the spiritual diversity of our patients? Is it possible to humanise from a foundational perspective when collaborators do not necessarily follow Jesus of Nazareth’s words?

In 1919, Antonio Botana developed, together with the directive teams, a reflection about the evangelising purpose of our centres. He stated that, from the humanising commitment, all the members of the Hospitaller Community find a platform for unity and communion in the diversity, which already is evangelising.

Everything that is deeply humane is in line with God’s proposal incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth. Regarding this reflection, I think of the Jesuit Karl Rahner, when he talked about the “anonymous Christians”, those who look for the good and the truth and, without being Christian, behave in line with the Gospel values. However, criticism came soon from both outside and inside the Church. Are we confusing philanthropy with evangelisation?

Controversy is served. From outside the Church, Rahner was questioned by those who, being committed to the people and their dignity, with the human values, denied being considered “anonymous Christians”. “I’m Buddhist, I’m Muslim, I’m Atheist… I am not an ‘anonymous Christian’. I don’t need to borrow the title that, on the other hand, I reject”. There are spiritualities and other religious believes that also develop humanising processes. Is therefore legit to accept those who do not accept a Christian or evangelising identity in their commitment to humanism.

From inside the Church, there were also critiques against Rahner. Although the idea of Christianism centred around the human values was highly accepted among many theologists of the liberation, it was also in this theological current where some, such as Clodovis Boff, saw a dangerous way towards identity loss. According to Pope Francis, if the evangelising proposal is not inspired in the message and the person of Jesus of Nazareth, we will not be anything else than an NGO.

An NGO with a worthy and urgent proposal, but ones that hides, disguises, its specific spiritual identity. Hospitality gives as a strong humanising context. And that’s where we all find each other… baptised believers, baptised non-believers, non-believers, people with other believes or agnostic…

Integrating concepts: Institutional identity, humanisation, spiritual and religious attention…

We respect and happily integrate those who collaborate in the hospitaller humanising processes from other motivations, from other spiritualities, without denying, as a religious institution, a humanism based on the Christian anthropology.

We cannot deny the genuine contribution of the Christian humanism. To think of humanism as an evangelising and hospitaller expression is valid, as long as we do so from an evangelising perspective; as long as in our centres there is the commitment to the message and the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Hospitality at the service of humanism cannot forget the evangelising horizon… Unless we choose to be a philanthropic institution, a worthy NGO, forgetting about the foundational identity; the evangelising identity.

Humanism, needed and urgent, will be coherent with the Hospitaller Model as long as this integrative aspect is present. When the humanising process integrates the message and life of Jesus de Nazareth, the foundational charisma, we can say that humanism and evangelisation are related. Then, we can say that the hospitaller project is at the service of a humanism in line with our institutional identity. We can state that we are answering to the person’s integral needs, to their right to be served, also in their religious and spiritual needs.

When my service, whichever position I am at in the institution, is coherent with this humanising approach, integrative, and accepting of diversity, but that does not reject the Christian humanism, I can say that I am part of the Hospitaller Project at the service of Humanism.

Written by Danilo Farneda, Coordinator of AER Pastoral at Sisters Hospitallers (Málaga, Spain).