Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"Christ yes, the Church no!" JP II on the Contemporary "Appearance" of Openness

The Vaticanisti recently completed John Paul the Great's brilliant final book, Memory and Identity, wherein he reminds us yet again that it is through a community in time and space that we encounter Christ:
Christ yes, the Church no! is the protest heard from some of our contemporaries. Despite the negative element, this stance appears to show a certain openness to Christ, which the Enlightenment excluded. Yet it is only an appearance of openness. Christ, if he is truly accepted, is inseparable from the Church, which is his Mystical Body. There is no Christ without the Incarnation; there is no Christ without the Church. The Incarnation of the Son of God in a human body is prolonged, in accordance with is will, in the community of human beings that he constituted, guaranteeing his constant presence among them: "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mt 28:20). Admittedly, the Church, as a human institution, is continually in need of purification and renewal: the Second Vatican Council acknowledged this with courageous candor. Yet the Church, as the Body of Christ, is the normal locus for the presence and action of Christ in the world.

(pp. 116-117).

If you have not yet read Memory and Identity in its entirety, do it. This is a wonderful collection of John Paul's thoughts on so many issues, such as his first-hand experiences of totalitarianism, the promise and limitations of democracy, and the Church's ongoing mission to spread the Gospel.

In addition, the Vaticanisti would urge you to read Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's brilliant Declaration Dominus Iesus on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church.

Both documents serve to remind us that, while continuing to nurture a spirit of ecumenism and interreligious goodwill, we must take care not to confuse our interlocutors or ourselves--there is only means of salvation for man, Jesus Christ, and He established a Church, which he entrusted to the Apostles and their successors under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.


Anonymous Shannon said...

Good to see some of JPII's stuff here (not that I think you guys have really ignored him). And good to be back.

Also, this seems like a great quote to ask your Protestant friends about, some of whom show up here. I wonder what the Protestant response is. Any thoughts?

6:55 PM  
Anonymous fr. bob said...

These long quotes give me a headache. Just stick to the gossip. Shannon is soooo earnest.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Atiyah said...

Fr. Bob is quite right. This is not the place for extended theological discourse or for that matter, the desperate and dateless.

However dear earnest shannon a serious question does deserve a answer but in doing so I do not seek to represent the views of others just my own as one small Prod.

There are too many Christian Churches – it is simply inefficient in the First World where religious adherence is declining. Those Churches can continue to focus on the things that divide them or they can focus on their commonalty – the essence of their message. Meanwhile time passes and relevance slips. Logically it makes sense for them to return from whence they came for much of the rationale for leaving in the first place is now gone.

I regard the Catholic Church with enormous affection being in part educated in a Marist Primary School by Irish nuns and gentle Priests. However how should I put this…. well with the greatest of respect to those who visit this blog…. the Mass can be (but is not always) a very ordinary experience.

I attend Church to contemplate the divine, not to attend a community centre. My primary interest in my fellow parishioners in the pews is that they not fidget or cough too much. And as for guitars, drums, ‘modern’ hymns and non-rehearsed or completely choir-less services, well it is often awful. That is why I like the very traditional Anglican choral evensong which lifts me above my ordinary hum drum existence and the many problems of everyday life. The announciation, music, choir and Latin are superior. This ‘otherworldly’ experience has another advantage: I do not have to suffer a leftwing sermon from a ‘new age’ vicar. And consider how ERII would get on without my antipodean prayers.

That said, I have just read an article on BXVI in the UK Spectator which speculates about his interest in improving liturgy. We shall see. The same article suggests that his CDF writing is somewhat perfunctory as opposed to some of his personal writing which can soar.

8:18 PM  
Blogger vaticanisti said...

You all can be way too harsh to our friend Shannon. We want to share the gossip AND have an occasional theological reflection--it doesn't have to be an either/or situation.

12:06 AM  
Anonymous Torquemada said...

In response to atiyah, I must say that we must, in fact, focus on what is common about the Gospel message. However, we cannot remain there. The Catholic Church is not one among others, it is, we belive, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is the locus within which Christ has wished for the gospel message which we share be preserved. It is in this sense a divine institution, willed and guided by God, while at the same time made up by humans who are weak and sinful. Thus we can say, with BXVI that the Church is at once sinless and sinful -- Casta meretrix. Thus, one ought not look at the Church in purely human terms, but rather as the vehicle whereby Christ leads us to the FULNESS of TRUTH.
Yours in Christ.

7:12 AM  
Anonymous Atiyah said...

My Dear Torquemada & Others

Yours is a statement of orthodox Catholic belief. My observation was a practical one devoid of theology. The question of whether the Catholic Church is primus or primus inter pares among Christian churches I will leave to theologians, priests and prelates to argue as they have done in earnest since the schism of east and west.

I guess healing these arguably unnecessary, inefficient, now largely irrelevant and certainly un-Christ like divisions will be up to those who have a better grasp of such things, than a mere simple sinful soul who has a practical bent.

As for being mean to Shannon, it was certainly not my intention. After all Shannon is sweetly named after both an Irish river and airport. But whom is Torquemada named after? It is a puzzle. It sounds like a car manufactured in Malaysia :)

On another matter, did anyone notice that most Catholic of nations, Spain passed a law on gay marriage? Not even my hopelessly secular wishy-washy leftwing nation was prepared to go that far - the atheist political majority in Parliament were scared of the Churches.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous Torquemada said...

I would recomend that you google the name Torquemada and you will be surprised how apt a name it is, considering the observations you make. Respond with your thoughts.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Atiyah said...

My Dear Torquemada

Here are the results of the google researches.

First there is the paragon Spaniard, Tomas of Inquisitor General fame, a man noted for his subtle inter-religious relations and gentle insistence on orthodoxy from the faithful.

And then there is his uncle, Juan (a Prince of the Church) who appears to be noted mainly for being a good ‘head office’ and boss's man.

The puzzle therefore remains; which is your namesake? For if it is the former then there is no hope. If the later, then you will be pursuing BXVI’s call for “spiritual ecumenicalism” and “interior conversion” and “concrete gestures that will help heal the divisions and restore unity amongst all of Christ’s followers.”

Silly small and sinful Prod I am, I would never have thought of googling your grand sounding name prior to posting, it took your suggestion for me to think of it :)

Your friend in prayerful hope for unity.


10:41 PM  
Anonymous Torquemada said...

My most respected Atiyah,
I am afraid that the Torquemada I am referring to is Tomas de Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. THis, however, should not be a cause for despair (as you claim) but for reflection. Think to yourself, why would I hide my true identity behind the shadow of such a towering figure. I must tell you that it is not so much about who he was or what he himself did, but about what he stood for. Here you have a man who fought heresy and error, not because of some self-affirming goal, but because of his love for truth and the salvation of sould. He understood that there was something to Xtianity which was (and is) essential for society. It is the way, not only to heaven, but to happiness and true fulfilment. He undertook a defense of this Xtian core (which is preserved in the CHurch) - call it orthodoxy, if you will. Now, orthodoxy is not an elitist term that a group claims to in order to assert itself. Rather, orthodoxy is the truth as it is preserved through time - in tradition, in the Church. Thus, a defense of orthodoxy is not a defense of the ecclesial institution, but a defense of all human beings, who have a claim on the truth that is handed down in tradition. Orthdoxy is not an arrogant claim, but a necessary right for all who seek happiness - for all men. This is what Torquemada stands for - what Benedict XVI stands for. Heck, this is what Christ came to bring, the Truth that sets man free.
Awaiting your thoughtful response, I remain, always yours in truth,

5:39 AM  
Blogger Beasonlopes said...

One reason that I converted to Catholicism many, many years ago is that I could not believe that Christ left us without any guidance at all after his death and resurrection.

The Church is a physical manifestation of a spiritual reality. Attempts to disassociate oneself from the Church, while certainly not precluding a connection to Christ, make it more difficult.

I do agree with some of the comments about how aesthetically displeasing the mass has become in many places. I hope Benedict will try to work on this. His book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, should give us all hope. Although written in the dusty language of a nineteenth century professor,he has some good ideas which fall between the latinists and the moderns.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Atiyah said...

My Dear Torquemada

You have challenged me to think about why you might hide your true identity behind the shadow of ‘our mutual friend’ Tomas whom you describe as a ‘towering figure.’ Alas I lack the necessary training in psychiatry to provide a definitive conclusion on why you might nominate such a man as your namesake. Certainly you appear to operate in a disassociative manner when you separate his motivation from his actions. Is torture, tyranny, racism, anti-Semitism, genocide and personal enrichment by extortion morally acceptable methods to save souls? I am not one to judge Tomas by the standards of today, even in his own time he was…. well… ‘a bit out there.’ Consider Pope Sixtus IV's observation, early in 1482 regarding Tomas and his team of Inquisitors at Saville:

"without observing juridical prescriptions, they have detained many persons in violation of justice, punishing them by severe tortures and imputing to them, without foundation, the crime of heresy, and despoiling of their wealth those sentenced to death, in such form that a great number of them have come to the Apostolic See, fleeing from such excessive rigor and protesting their orthodoxy."

Let us not judge him by the standards of his own time, let us consider the time of Christ. Whom would Jesus take in to his arms; the Inquisitor or his many victims?

Of course it is remotely possible that all of this is new to you. If this is the case then you are sadly ignorant in the history of your own Church. More likely, taking his name is the swagger of a young man certain in his view of his faith and looking for ‘a rise’ or attention from others. If so, you have succeeded in getting that which you seek.

Regarding orthodoxy, I do not use the term in a pejorative sense merely in a factual manner. You are not required to justify it or apologise for it. I care not whether it is an elitist position or a popular one. If greater Christian unity is a priority for the Catholic Church and other denominations then a way forward will be found overtime. If it is not, then no progress will be made.

My only general observation regarding orthodoxy is that it does change over time albeit slowly. Likewise all traditions were novel once and sometimes they were even revolutionary.

Your friend in patience


9:08 PM  
Anonymous Atiyah said...

Dear Mephista

As Torquemada observes there is no need for crudeness.

As to what happened to him, well our Tomas declined further promotion with the Spanish Crown and retired as Inquisitor General to a monastery that had had built with the proceeds of his various ‘fundraising activities’. There he lived to a ripe old age (unlike his victims) and died of natural causes clutching a unicorn horn as for some reason he believed that in retirement someone would try to poison him.

One of his biggest claims to fame was to persuade the Spanish Crown to issue an edict expelling the Jews from Spain after they had offered Ferdinand and Isabella a ‘king’s ransom’ to stop the persecution. Single-handidly our Tomas bravely held a crucifix aloft and remained the money hungry Ferdinand and Isabella that the Jews had betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and that the Jews of Spain were now offering 30,000 ducats. His singular bravery carried the day. Those Jews that did not leave were forcibly converted, killed or assumed the outward trappings of Catholicism whilst remaining ‘secret Jews.’ Tomas issued a ‘helpful’ guide to detecting such Jews, notable pointers included their practice of wearing of good and clean clothing on Saturdays a sure fire giveaway (he was very fond of confessions by burning at the stake)

To this day the ‘secret Jews’ of Spain are disowned by most Rabbinic Jews as being ‘Christian’ although they themselves still believe they are Jews and retain many Jewish customs.

Tomas de Torquemada is indeed a towering figure. I first came across him in studying European estates and parliaments. He played an important role in solidifying the new Spanish State. I am not sure it is a role one would necessary want to boast about.



2:18 AM  
Anonymous Torquemada said...

To all interested in Torquemada,
Just a single thought on the issue. It is my understanding that the Inquisition's role has always been to declare someone as a heretic. The inquisition, that is, the ecclesiastical institution had, in itself, no power of setencing anyone to death. It was the civil authorities who, upon receiveng some who had been found to be a heretic (or jew, or moor), would condemn him to death. Thus, the role of the Inquisition was solely to inquire into the nature of the accused - it was up to the civil authorities to condemn. Torquemada, the inquisition, and the Church for that matter cannot be then blamed for such condemnations - up to a point. There is a certain blame, but not in its entirety.
Inquisitively yours,

5:20 AM  
Anonymous Atiyah said...

My Dear Inquisitive Torquemada

I admire your moxie in the face of the overwhelming weight of history. Such somersaulting legalism is good enough for the Cirque du Soleil. Nevertheless I have misadvised you for which I apologise. The Spanish Parliament consists of two chambers. The law change providing for gay marriage has passed Congress of Deputies and must now pass in the Senate (upper house) and then, once again, back to the Congress of Deputies for a vote. Protests are afoot and the buses of Europe have been enlisted.

Thus there is the chance for you to return to your ‘old stomping ground’ to affect the outcome as your Country and your King need you. A pillar of Christendom and a true son of Spain would not hesitate to heed the call.

Kind regards from your friend (and wishing you a good flight)


7:20 PM  

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