February 4, 2018

Friends,

I started reading a book called, “The Catholic Thing” by Rosemary Haughton. She just died at the age of 90 and wrote this book in 1979. I figured I’d give it a try. Early on in the book she writes about the conflict in the Church among the political, religious and charismatic powers. I would say that every one of us who is Catholic by birth and/or by choice have to face the reality that the Church is the people of God. Therefore, the Church has to be influenced and formed according to the issues that that the people of God are facing every day. Our Church leaders are no less or more human than we are. When we read about the Church throughout our 2,000-year existence, we are now able to look back through history and realize the Catholic Church was and is a product of its environment, e.g., mentality and theology of those in positions of authority both within and outside the Church played a major role in Church teaching. Many of the early Church councils were called together by emperors who in some cases had appointed the popes. Obviously over the years the Church has evolved and has become a separate entity from the state. The question now is, how can the Catholic Church have a strong impact in society and at the same time welcome leaders from the secular world to share their thoughts and expertise with the Church? As Vatican II put it so well, “it is the Church in the world, not the Church and the world.”

So naturally, the institutional Church has many dimensions. The political aspect of the Church is a result of the power and authority that the Church has in the world today. We are a strong influence in society and in some cases get involved in the voting process and enact laws. Sometimes the Church professes itself to be counter cultural and actually plays a major role in the political process. The religious dimension stems from our history and the authority the Church has as it attempts to bring Catholic people to a deeper understanding and relationship with God. The sacramental system becomes our encounters with God celebrated ritually through the Catholic Church. The hierarchical system beginning at the Vatican and filtering its teaching through its parishes is an indication of the strength of the religious dimension.

Then there is the charismatic presence of the Church. This would be a strong indication of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our leadership and in all of God’s people. This is also evident in the prophetic and imaginative that can be signs of God’s Spirit within the Church and among God’s people. The charismatic aspect of Catholicism looks to the past to assess its impact on the present so that it can better prepare to face the future.

We use the word “Church” so often, but it can be a complicated community. I am thrilled to belong and recognize these 3 aspects as contributing positively to a healthy tension that keeps us honest.

Enjoy life!
Fr. Coyne

 

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