Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Church - Hypocritical or Holy? My Honest Response

I recently heard a gentleman lambasting his "hypocritical Catholic Church."  His comments were somewhat jumbled but it was clear that he thought the Church was very concerned with money and, although it was a lesser concern for this particular gentleman, the Church does not "encourage people to think for themselves."  Two things I will tell you right off the bat:  1) When I hear things like that it gets my dander up, because I love the Church, and 2) Twenty years ago I frequently said the same kind of things about the Catholic Church.

So what gives, right?  Why would I move from offense to defense?  Well, it all comes down to what we mean when we speak of "the Church."

When people like the gentleman above, or a younger Shane Kapler, level charges against "the Church," they are almost always referring to a particular leader - or group of leaders within the Church - with whom they disagree.  And they may or may not have valid reasons for doing so.  There are priests and bishops within the Church who make terrible decisions, even commit egregious sins.  It has always been so and always will be so - both among the clergy and the laity.  (Do not forget, Judas was one of the original Twelve Apostles.)  We individuals are always in danger of going astray; Jesus didn't establish the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a whim - He knew we were going to need it!  It is not wrong to acknowledge wrongs committed by individuals within the Church, or even wrongs committed by a group of individuals in collusion with one another.  But these sins are not the actions of "the Church"!  Stay with me here; I will explain.

The Christian Faith recognizes "the Church" as the Body of Christ (1 Cor.12:12-27; CCC 792-801).  Jesus Himself is its Head (the Mind),  the Holy Spirit is its Soul (its Heart, or vivifying force), and each of us are Cells (the physical component visible to the world).  Because of this the Church is HOLY (Nicene Creed, Apostles' Creed).  "The Church," understood in this way, understood by faith, does not sin - because it is the Body of Christ, and Christ does not sin.  

Individual members, cells, can and do sin; but these are not the actions of the Body, directed by its Head and made possible through the energy of the Spirit.  They are "rogue" actions - like when a cell in one of our bodies becomes cancerous.  It is still attached to our bodies, but it no longer lives in harmony with the other cells; it is at war with them.  And so it is when individual cells, individual members of the Body of Christ, fall into sin.  These are not the actions of "the Church" but of individuals or groups of individuals (analogous to tumors) afflicting the Body.  But these "cancers" are no more "the Church" than a tumor is the patient being afflicted.

I do not expect the media or people outside of the Faith to make these distinctions.  But if you are a Christian, and you desire to be faithful to the Truth that has come to us from Jesus and the Apostles, then you must.  That desire is what forced me to change my tune.  The Church is Christ's Body.  To speak ill of her, is to speak ill of Him.  We can and must deal with the sins of individuals - ours and others - the cancers afflicting the Body.  But we must never attribute these things to "the Church;" it is slander.

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