June 15, 2008

The Church has members as a human body has arms and legs...

...There is little that is given or secure in a denomination; the denomination is constantly being remade by its members. Christianity as denomination has no distinctive, fixed form, given to it by Christ; it adapts its form, its institutional structures, to the patterns of the age…. In much of American denominational Christianity today, institutional process is more important than binding doctrinal reference points; anything can change. The denominational community’s boundaries are ill defined, even porous, because being nonjudgmental is essential to group maintenance. Religious leadership is equated with bureaucratic managership; bishops and other formally constituted religious leaders are discussion moderators whose job is to keep all opinions in play, rather than authoritative teachers.

A denomination is something we help create by joining it; according to Vatican II, however, the Church is a divinely instituted community into which we are incorporated by the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist). Denominations have members like voluntary associations or clubs; the Church has members as a human body has arms and legs, fingers and toes. A denomination has moving boundaries, doctrinally and morally; the Church, according to Vatican II, is nourished by creeds and moral convictions that clearly establish its boundaries. The structures of a denomination are something we can alter at will; the Church, according to Vatican II, has a form, or structure, given to it by Christ. Catholicism has bishops and a ministerial priesthood, and Peter’s successor, the Bishop of Rome, not because Catholics today think these are good ways to do things but because Christ wills these for his Church...

    -- George Weigel


Posted by John Weidner at June 15, 2008 5:58 AM
Weblog by John Weidner