Monday, September 27, 2021
Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
Doctors must be patient with those who dare to diagnose illnesses and suggest treatment, even though they have not studied medicine. Something similar is happening now with Church people. There are plenty of amateurs who, in awe with Pope Francis, like to pontificate about the present and future of Catholicism.
Some seem more Catholic than the pope in their concern for the Church. The real pope is not concerned at all; he just makes sure that he serves the Church by fulfilling the responsibility of his Petrine ministry, aware that the Church is not in his hands, did not begin with him and will not end with him. That is a job for Another.
Some state that the Church must change because the world has been dealing with great scientific and technological advancements since it was established. They forget something that has not changed: human nature. Humans in the 21st century are the same as always. They remain rational, provided with an immortal soul and with a vocation to eternal communion with their Creator, a beatific state that can be achieved by the righteous exercise of free will under the breath of divine grace. There are those who say, “What was true yesterday, is not true today.” This may be the case in certain fields of knowledge, but not of humans. If this statement were accepted, we would fall into the dictatorship of relativism, so deplored by Pope Benedict XVI.
Certain pundits say that the Pope should free himself of the “spider web of dogmas.” Well, there’s no such web, nor are there any spiders. Actually, dogmatic definitions are scarce; most of them refer to Christology (Council of Chalcedon, year 451) or Mariology (Blessed Pius IX, 1854) and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Pius XII, 1950). This is the last one defined since the First Vatican Council proclaimed the pope’s infallibility in matters of faith and morals whenever he speaks “ex cathedra” (year 1870). It is clear that the Supreme Pontiffs have not considered it necessary to practice this charism frequently. The standard magisterium will suffice.
Usually, the Church limits itself to explaining, with different levels of theological sophistication, the faith beginning with the Creed; to stress morals based on the Ten Commandments; and to celebrate worship with the seven sacraments. To this, we could add the Liturgy of the Hours and devotions such as the rosary, Way of the Cross and novenas, which are renewed in tune with the culture and the concerns of every historical moment.
Another overused prejudice is to point out that the Church’s teachings are “inadmissible for human beings in the 21st century.” In which century, then, live the millions of believers who today practice the Catholic faith, morals and worship?