By Fr. Ben Hawley, S.J
Read the Vatican’s recent Working Document, a synthesis of responses from bishops conferences world wide.
The common dignity of baptism creates the co-responsibility among ALL the members of the church, which is manifested in the participation of ALL, with the charisms of EACH, in the mission of the church and the building up of the ecclesial community. (Para 20)(Emphasis added)
Then read Archbishop Broglio’s speech at the mid-June US bishops meeting.
Sounds like dispatches from different Catholic Churches: one of abstract Truth, a cultic priesthood, its followers looking inward to the Eucharist and Church from their respective sides of the communion rail; the other looking communally toward the Eucharist, then moving outward as church in the world.
This split is unfortunate. Some critics say that Vatican II made mistakes in its renewed theology of church and sacraments. Well, a council of bishops acting with the pope offers the highest level of teaching authority in the Church. No pope nor group of bishops can override the Council.
We can feel secure in believing that the Church is ALL the people of God, that ALL people are called to holiness; that the Church is called to go into a world that retains its divinely-conferred goodness, though its people suffer from sin done to them; that the Eucharist is a communal experience in the vernacular; that we as Church can and must discover God at work in the world building the Kingdom.
That said, the Council - and now Francis - challenge us too. Both call the whole People of God to embrace scripture in a personal way and to engage the renewed Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing the Sick as encounters with divine love that bring healing and restoration. We are challenged to remember that neither the Council nor Francis are “liberal” nor “conservative.” Francis and the Council are Catholic, and they call the Church to a renewed and deepened Catholicity: active relationship with Jesus, with scripture, sacraments and tradition to heal wounds and divisions in ourselves and in the institution, to bring us fullness of life, and to bring the Good News to the world.
Francis challenges us to discern wisely through prayer and conversation how to apply abstract Catholic principles and the scriptural imperative to human life: God’s justice and mercy made real in deeds and words of faithful Catholics.
Modern disciplines, like psychology, modern theology and scripture interpretation, can provide valuable data for discernment in the context of fundamental Catholic principles. So, we do and should welcome the LGBTQIA+ community, for example. But what would deeper prayer and conversation reveal to us about sex and sexuality, family, marriage, vocation, evangelization, among other things? Remember: discernment is not deciding. Discernment is drawing conclusions after prayer, reflection and conversation.
Jesus comes first. The Church is called to be countercultural and culture-transforming, not culture-absorbing. Let’s continue to pursue the Vatican II/Francis way. The world needs the Church, and we must be Church to the world.