Thursday, July 5, 2012

Understanding the Nature of the Church

With the current attacks on the Catholic Church in the United States of America, we see that a large portion of Americans and even some American Catholics seem to believe the propaganda used by her opponents – the canards of "celibate old men" who are trying to "control" people and "impose their views on others."  It is believed that if the Church were not governed by this group, it would have different teachings on sexuality.

Such a view demonstrates a lack of understanding, thinking it is about factions and not understanding why the Church acts as she does.

The first thing to realize is Christianity is not some sort of philosophy with competing schools of thought.  It is not a human system of gaining some sort of enlightenment.  Christianity is a revealed religion given to the world by Christ which is focused on the salvation of humanity – the reconciliation of God with man.  Christianity acknowledges that each person is estranged from God, but God redeems us because He loves us.

Reconciliation between God and man indicates a separation between God and man exists however.  Reconciliation also indicates a response on our part – a desire to change our lives, rejecting behaviors and attitudes which are contrary to a loving relationship with God.  The behaviors and attitudes may differ.  The person uneducated in religion may be bound up in sex and drugs, while the person who is more advanced in faith might struggle with pride and disdain.  In any case, no person can honestly claim to be without need for God's grace and no person honestly can claim to be without sin.

Second, the Church is not a "School of thought" that forms around a certain interpretation of Christ the Philosopher.  The Church is the means Christ chose to bring His salvation to the world.  From the Twelve Apostles to the present day, the Church preaches the message of salvation to the world.  She reminds the world that every person is in sin and needs to repent to enter the right relation to God.  The Magisterium of the Church is not supposed to be a career (though some have treated it this way).  One doesn't enter the priesthood with the goal of getting a "promotion" to Bishop or Cardinal.  The intended role of the clergy is to serve Christ looking after His flock.  The priest or bishop who looks it as a career looks at it wrongly.

The teaching authority of the Church ensures the teaching of Christ passed on to the Apostles remains uncorrupted.  She evaluates, accepting the compatible formulations and rejecting those which contradict this teaching.  This includes what we believe about God, doctrinally, and the moral teachings we are called to follow.

Because certain behaviors are incompatible with the relationship of God and man, the Church must speak out – both to the whole world and to the members of the faithful.  To the former to inform them there is a God who loves them and to call them to holiness.  To the latter to remind them that Christianity is not a "check the box and move on."  It is a lifelong relationship with God, constantly growing more intimate.  The Church must speak out even when such vices are morally acceptable to the world.

Third, those who would claim to be Catholic must, obviously, accept what the Church teaches.  Can you imagine the NAACP accepting as a valid point of view that blacks are naturally inferior to whites?  Can you imagine B'nai B'rith accepting the views of a member that the Nazis were right?  Of course not!  Such views are grossly incompatible with the purpose of these groups.  Nobody would accuse the NAACP of bigotry for refusing to accept as a member someone who was openly racist.  Nobody would accuse B'nai B'rith of intolerance for refusing to accept a Nazi skinhead into their ranks.

Moreover, why should someone who openly rejects the beliefs of such a group want to be a member to begin with?

But this is the problem with the so-called "cultural Catholic" who dissents from Church and wants to change her teachings.  They effectively deny what the Church believes about herself.  Given the scope of what she claims (that she is the true Church established by Christ and teaches with Christ's authority, not her own), the dissenter has a dilemma.

  1. If what she teaches is false, no sane person should even want to remain in a Church that makes such a wild claim.
  2. If what she teaches is true, the dissenter is not rebelling against man, but against God.

Either way, the attempt to get the Church to "change her views" is absurd.  If her teachings are false, she is a sect of people who dress funny one day a week.  People are free to leave such an institution.  If one thinks the Church is not Christ's, they are fools to remain in her and have no cause for complaint because the Church teaches differently than they like.

BUT, if she is what she claims to be, she cannot change what she teaches to be held definitively because to do so would be unfaithful to the God she believes in.  She then must stand firm against all the hostility of the world, when compromise would be humanly easier.  People are still free to leave her, but to do so would be to trade truth for a lie.

In the first case, the attempt to change Church teaching is a waste of time.  In the second case, it is rebellion.

I believe it is clear that the Church is not on some power trip.  Because she believes she serves Christ, she must preach Christ in season and out of season.  She must preach to the ones who are in her and those who are outside her, even at the cost of being hated.

We can then see that the bishops are not being political in opposing the HHS mandate being imposed on the Church.  They believe that the government is promoting a lifestyle which is in opposition to reconciliation with God, and they must warn them that they risk losing everything if they continue on the path.

No comments:

Post a Comment