August 1, 2009

"But who does the Church think she is?"

...But the Church down through the centuries has understood herself to be the appointed vessel for God's working, in the ordinary run of things. Her authority is not her own. She arrogates nothing to herself. Her bishops are the merest custodians, the merest passers-on, we might say, of the Deposit of Faith. As a Roman Catholic now, I am acutely aware of this.

When someone objects to me, "But who does the Church think she is, taking this high and mighty line?" (about abortion say, or about sexual morality, or about who may or may not come to the Lord's Table), the answer is, "She doesn't think she is anyone in particular, if you mean that she has set herself up among the wares in the flea market as somehow the best. She has been given her task to do do— pass on the teaching given by the apostles—and she has no warrant to change that. She is not taking her cues from the Nielsen ratings, nor from a poll, nor even from a sociological survey as to what people feel comfortable with nowadays. She didn't start the Church, and it's not her Church...
    -- Thomas Howard, from Lead Kindly Light

There is really no way to explain the difference—you have to experience it—in belonging to an organization that is not created by or dependent human beings. The Church existed before time, and even if the human race became extinct she would still exist. Every other family or tribe or group or nation or empire is created by people, and if they ever slack off...that's the end of it. Poof, it's gone. But the Church will never let you down. The human part, the people who are members...can sometimes be just as horrid as any other humans. But if you fall asleep like Rip van Winckle, and wake up in a thousand years, She will still be here. Kinda takes the pressure off a person...


Posted by John Weidner at August 1, 2009 9:46 PM
Weblog by John Weidner