Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 10, 2007
Catholics should carry the torch for God
The Vatican's July statement that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church should not be controversial among Catholics. It is not surprising that non-Catholics would take issue with the statement. If they agreed with the document, one would expect them to seek to enter the Catholic communion. But, as for those already Catholic, why be a Catholic if you do not believe that the Catholic Church is the one true Church?
Because your parents were Catholics and had you baptized in the Church? That is it was not your decision? But surely it is an adult responsibility to examine the central teachings of the Church - teachings on the most central issues of human existence - and either to accept them or, if one finds them wanting, to set out to find a better description of the truth.
Nor does it wash to maintain that while Catholic teachings are true for me, another set of teachings, say Lutheran or Buddhist, could be true for someone else. This again represents a failure to confront the issues at hand.
Is Jesus the incarnate Son of God as he claimed or was he a madman? Is Jesus truly and fully present in the Eucharist and is eating his body and drinking his blood essential for eternal life as he claimed?
These are not questions that admit of an answer that says, in effect, what's true for me may not be true for you.
A Catholic answer to those questions, however, does not imply a lack of respect for other spiritual traditions or lead to denying that other Christian "ecclesial communities" are a path to salvation. Even less does it mean that we should not respect the people who adhere to other traditions. We owe them great respect if they are sincere and committed to finding salvation.
The real question for Catholics should not be whether we believe the one Church established by Jesus Christ subsists in the Catholic Church (to use the Vatican II terminology). Rather, the real question is what we are doing about that belief.
If we believe that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Christ and that Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the true re-presentation of his saving paschal mystery, how could we ever deliberately miss participating in the Sunday Eucharist? Even more to the point, how could we ever fail to see the Eucharist as the source and the summit of everything that matters in our lives?
The scandal our Church faces lies not in the nuances of some statement by the Vatican, but in the fact only about 15 per cent of Catholics in English Canada attend Mass on any given Sunday.
The scandal is that even when we do come, we are not fully present. The scandal is that even if we receive the body and blood of Christ with right intentions and pure hearts, we do not come crashing out of the church building to transform the whole world with the spirit of the Gospel.
Vatican II's almost clinical language is that other churches and communities "suffer from defects." But the defects are not the whole story. "In fact, the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using (these communities) as instruments of salvation."
If these ecclesial communities "suffer from defects," we must also admit that their members often possess enormous zeal in bringing the Gospel to the world. They are true Christians who show us practically how to be instruments of salvation.
Our Catholic problem is not teaching, but action. We have allowed ourselves to become too defined by a materially prosperous culture that deals death, not only physically, but also spiritually.
We need to pray to be open to the action of the Holy Spirit. We cannot be complacent in the knowledge that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church. We must be fire - fire that consumes and transforms and that is always alive in Christ.
- Glen Argan
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