Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ecclesiological Crisis And Resolution

“My impression is that the authentically Catholic meaning of the reality ‘Church’ is tacitly disappearing, without being expressly rejected. Many no longer believe that what is at issue is a reality willed by the Lord himself. Even with some theologians, the Church appears to be a human construction, an instrument created by us and one which we ourselves can freely reorganize according to the requirements of the moment. In other words, in many ways a conception of Church is spreading in Catholic thought, and even in Catholic theology, that cannot even be called Protestant in a ‘classic’ sense. Many current ecclesiological ideas, rather, refer to the model of certain North American ‘free churches’, in which the past believers took refuge from the oppressive model of the ‘State Church’ produced by the Reformation. Those refuges, no longer believing in an institutional Church willed by Christ, and wanting at the same time to escape the State Church, created their own church, an organization structured according to their needs…..

For a Catholic the Church is indeed composed of men who organize her external visage. But behind this, the fundamental structures are willed by God himself, and therefore they are inviolable. Behind the human exterior stands the mystery of a more than human reality, in which reformers, sociologists, organizers, have no authority whatsoever. If the Church, instead, is viewed as a human construction, the product of our own efforts, even the contents of the faith end up assuming an arbitrary character: the faith, in fact, no longer has an authentic, guaranteed instrument through which to express itself. Thus, without a view of the mystery of the Church that is also supernatural and not only sociological, Christology itself loses its reference to the divine in favor of a purely human structure, and ultimately it amounts to a purely human project: the Gospel becomes the Jesus-project, the social-liberation project or other merely historical, immanent projects that can still seem religious in appearance, but which are atheistic in substance…..

It is necessary to recreate an authentically Catholic climate, to find again the meaning of the Church as Church of the Lord, as t he locus of the real presence of God in the world. That mystery of which Vatican II speaks when it writes those awesomely challenging words which correspond nonetheless to the whole Catholic tradition: ‘the Church, or, in other words, the Kingdom of Christ now present in mystery’

-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in The Ratzinger Report.

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