Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Church & The World

It is—and has always been—a struggle for Catholics and those approaching Catholicism, to be able to differentiate between the two and keep the faith with the former while dealing with the corruption of the latter, too often impacting the former.

In this article from Catholic Culture, the dilemma is examined.

An excerpt.

“I never cease to be amazed by two kinds of reactions to the positions we take on CatholicCulture.org. On the one hand, some people react to our explanation or defense of Catholic doctrine as if we are articulating just another personal opinion. On the other hand, some react to our suggestions for political, social or economic development as if they are dogmatic errors which must be rejected at all costs. Truth to tell, both reactions very often come from the same people.

“These reactions indicate a deep misunderstanding of what it means to be Catholic coupled with a tendency to take one’s cues from prevailing cultural ideas rather than from the Church herself. For the Church teaches infallibly in matters of faith and morals (commonly called Catholic doctrine). But in matters of political, social or economic development, she can teach authoritatively only at the level of guiding principles, and not at the level of practical proposals, mechanisms and policies. Therefore, the only reasonable approach for a Catholic is to assent to Catholic doctrine without argument while accepting the legitimacy of disagreement over specific proposals for political, social and economic development.

“The former is guaranteed by God Himself; the latter must be evaluated prudentially on two counts: First, the degree to which a proposal accords with the principles of Catholic social teaching; second, the degree to which it can actually be expected to accomplish its goals. But when people assert that doctrine is a matter of opinion while specific social strategies can be dogmatically approved or rejected, then we are no longer dealing with a Catholic mind. Only the person whose mind and attachments are primarily formed by the world will relativize doctrine and absolutize politics.

“A similar error can occur in our evaluation of the Church herself, for the Church has both human and Divine elements, both fallible and infallible. For example, if a Catholic is willing to cooperate with grace, Catholic doctrine and the sacraments infallibly engender holiness, but the Church’s administrative programs bear fruit only according to their prudential matching of the right action to the right situation, and the behavior of individual Churchmen bears fruit according to its conformity with Christ. For this reason, when we dislike or react negatively to particular programs and policies or to things that particular Churchmen have done, we react with a Catholic mindset only if we distinguish such things from the essential holiness of the Church herself.”