February 26, 2017
Mr. Jefferson may or may not have been right about the desirability of a ‘great wall, between Church and State. But the Catholic Church, after being born in persecution, privileged in the Late Roman Empire, dominant in the ages of Christendom, attacked for its ‘romanism’ in the Reformation, scorned for its foreignness in the Anglo tradition and its retrograde thinking in the 20th century, continues to exist as the oldest and only NGO in the world. It is present in every country, is watched for it positons on almost any contemporary topic, is hated to the point of persecution and loved to the point where people will die rather than betray her. How can this be?
If you are a despiser of Catholicism you will easily affirm that the Church is just too stubborn to give up when it is clearly beaten! But if you are a believer, you will understand that the Catholic Church has accepted the role of being ‘in the world but not of it’. Although subject to all the ‘slings and arrows’ that afflict other social groupings, she exists in response, not to the events of history, but to an eternal mandate to be in and for the world ‘a sign and a cause of a way of life together that is planned by God’.
It is the alternative to every world-order because it is grounded in, directed by and ordered to a reality called the Kingdom of God.
On the strength of this truth, one writer has gone so far as to assert that the Church is the only social realization of the Kingdom of God in the created universe.
If there is no Kingdom of God, then the Church’s insistence on it is just one more delusion. But if there is a Kingdom of God, then what kind of wrongheadedness moves whole groups of people – including all the religious groups of the Reformation – to refuse to seek to be this social reality? How can a community of ‘faith’ be willing to be a kingdom of any one or any thing else than God?
There is some truth to the proposition that the universal Kingdom of God can be present and real in any place or time. But the universal Kingdom of God cannot be contentedly present in a community that cannot or will not seek to be visibly universal.
Can the Kingdom of God not be the ‘invisible universal’ binding every local to every other? Perhaps, but not as long as those ‘locals’ refuse to be become as visibly one as the invisible uniter is one.
Make no mistake; these are not debating points or put-downs. These are exactly the questions on which the Unity of the Church foundered some five hundred years ago. They are the major and sincere questions that YT and lots of dialogue partners from other Christian communities have broken our intellectual and creedal teeth on for the last thirty years (and others for lots of years before us).
Really and truly and in unison yours,