Friday, July 20, 2007

Ecclesiological Matters

Okay, enough with irresponsible, scandalous flirtations with other beliefs. I am remaining Catholic, despite the obvious corruption in the Church. And not because I am enamored of my own hypocrisy. Actually, I hate hypocrisy, and so if I really wanted to indulge my lecherous desires, I would have to renounce my faith for the sake of honesty, and I just can't do that. I can't leave my family. True, my family includes those vile pederasts, Cardinal Mahoney who covered up for those bastards (by the way, are the mainstream media calling for his resignation with the same sanctimonious indignation as they had called for Law's resignation five years ago? If not, they should just for the sake of, I don't know, consistency, say?), the Conquistadors, the idiots who sacked Constantinople, etc. (I am not including Hitler; he was an acknowledged neo-pagan.). My family also includes Thomas More, Thomas Aquinas, Jeanne la Pucelle, Etienne Gilson, and my dear mother (God rest her soul!), and I refuse to tear myself away from them.

But why I am remaining Catholic is not the subject of this post (even though it may be the focus of the comments from a certain Protestant stalker of mine). No, in this post I want to attempt to clear up some confusion that has developed in the wake of the Vatican's recent pronouncement that Protestants do not have real churches. Some people such as my beautiful bĂȘte noire seem to think that Rome has declared that anyone who is not a member of the visible Catholic Church will go to hell. Rome has not said this, and Rome cannot say this.

First off, it should be noted that the Catholic Church is not saying that she has a monopoly on truth. The Catholic Church has always acknowledged that there is truth in other religions and philosophies. If she did not, she would be bonkers. St. Paul acknowledged that Greek Polytheism managed to hap upon the one true God of creation (Acts 17:23), and the Catholic Church would be daft if she ever taught that the doctrine of Incarnation is false when a Protestant Religion teaches it or that the moral teaching, say, against homosexual behaviour is wrong when articulated by the Dalai Lama.

The Catholic Church has always taught that the true Church has two primary components, the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant (there is the Church Suffering as well, but that is irrelevant to this argument). The former is the communion of saints enjoying the beatific vision in heaven. The latter is the visible hierarchical church on earth. What the Church has not quite clarified is how these two parts relate. But we do know that the two components cannot be co-extensive with one another for the very simple reason that the Church Militant includes sinners who still have an addiction to sin (I know I do and everyone who reads this weblog knows I do as well). Also, we know that it is possible for someone not to be a member of the visible Church Militant but still be a member of the Church Triumphant. This is not an innovation of Vatican II as many suppose. It was taught during the pagan persecutions of the early centuries when catachumens (sp.?) were martyred BEFORE they were received into the Church Militant.

It should also be kept in mind that the Catholic Church is not Calvinist. This means, among other things, that she rejects limited atonement. Limited Atonement is the putrid anti-Biblical Calvinist claim that Christ did not die for all but only for the elect. In other words, only those elected to go to heaven are the ones that receive what Catholics would call sufficient grace. The Catholic Church teaches what the Bible teaches, namely that Christ died for everyone, which means that everyone gets sufficient grace. (It should be said that this does NOT mean that everyone goes to heaven. That's a whole 'nother debate.) Well, not everyone is a formal member of the Church Militant. How does everyone obtain sufficient grace, then, for no one can receive sufficient grace apart from the Body of Christ, namely the Church? The answer to this question is that the Church Triumphant comprehends more than the Church Militant. To say otherwise would force the Church to embrace Limited Atonement, and that is heresy.

It is these considerations which has led the theologians of the Church to adopt the formulation that the visible Church "subsists" in the True Church. The teaching goes on to say that it is the visible Catholic Church that MOST FULLY subsists in the true Church. It is much harder to co-operate with sufficient grace outside the visible boundaries of the Church Militant because outside her are all sorts of really dangerous soul-ensnaring heresies (such as Limited Atonement, Neo-Conservatism, and Bush's Doctrine of Pre-Emption, for example) and access to the sacraments is difficult. Nevertheless, salvation outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church is not impossible, and because it is not, the Church Militant cannot be the only possible path to salvation. As a Catholic I believe the Church Militant is indeed the normative path, but every norm has its exceptions.