Friday, May 21, 2010

Love & Dogma

In this great article from Catholic Education Resource Center, we are reminded that, rather than the Church of eternal love many wish the Catholic Church to be, it is a Church whose centrality of eternal love is built upon a foundation of eternal dogma, "doctrine taught by the Church to be believed by all the faithful as part of divine revelation." Modern Catholic Dictionary, John A. Hardon, S.J.

An excerpt.

“A recent column in the Sunday New York Times rehashed this worn cliché: the author asserted that in his global travels he has encountered "two Catholic Churches." One is "obsessed with dogma and rules and distracted from social justice;" the other is made of unheralded acts of charity and selflessness by religious missionaries and relief organizations. For this author the second church is clearly the right one; after all, "Jesus himself focused on the needy rather than dogma."

“This false dichotomy is at root an attack against faith, and it is nothing new. The Roman emperor Julian the Apostate despised Christianity and created his own religion as a rival; to win support from those impressed by genuine Christian charity he required his own priests to aid the poor. Thomas Jefferson, skeptical of religious mysteries, crafted his own version of the New Testament, which omitted all mention of miracles while showcasing Jesus' good deeds. The New York Times' charge has the same objective: by alleging that dogma impedes charity, it offers subtle encouragement to see aid to the poor as the only kind of religion needful – for secularists.

“Sacred Scripture proclaims that God is love, and Jesus specifically left one commandment: love one another. In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate Pope Benedict XVI calls love "God's greatest gift to humanity," and he places love at the center of the Church's mission. Why not, then, dispense with all the doctrines of divine mysteries – and those rules about behavior and morality – and just love and do good works as each one sees fit?

“To begin with, we had some experience of radically secular experiments in the twentieth century, and they weren't pretty.

“And besides, Jesus did not focus on the needy to the neglect of dogma. The opposite is the case: Jesus focused on the needy precisely because He was the true and living embodiment of dogma, which is nothing other than teachings about God. Jesus, called rabbi – teacher – from the beginning of His ministry through His resurrection from the dead, became man to teach that God is love of His very essence, and that we are to love in order to participate in God's inner life. Doctrine (Church teachings) and dogma (definitive explanations of the content of revelation) are not dead letters that sap vitality from believers; rather they are intelligible formulations that express real, living mysteries. Doctrine breathes life into the Church and the souls of believers by articulating the many dimensions of the one reason for our being – God. Through its solid teaching about God, doctrine gives powerful impetus to good works.”