I was recently asked, in a workshop that I was giving, “why doesn’t the Church come into the modern world? This question followed a discussion of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and the exclusion of women from the Priesthood.
The foundational reason for the Church’s often counter cultural positions is that she does not have the authority to change her doctrines. We believe that all revelation comes to the Church through Jesus Christ. Christ gave all authority to Peter, the Apostles, and their successors. The Catechism of the Catholic Church States:
85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.
86 “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”
When Jesus identified Peter as the rock upon which the Church would be built, He also promised that the gates of hell would not prevail (Matthew 16:18-19).
The Church therefore is holy because she was born from the blood and water that flowed from the side of Christ on the cross. The Church is united to Christ.
At the same time the Church contains sinners. The recent coverage of the child sex abuse by members of the clergy have made this painfully obvious. As Pope Benedict has said, “filth” has entered the Church. Yet we know that the Church will survive attacks from within and outside the Church, because the Church belongs to Christ, and He promised that evil would not win.
The Church exists for the sanctification of its members. She has her sights set on the Kingdom of God. The goal of the Church is the salvation of souls, and not the rewards of this world.
As members of the Body of Christ, the Church, we are all called to strive to be holy so that we can one day see God face to face. We can only do this with the grace of God and through the Sacraments of the Church.
As we strive for holiness, we will often find ourselves at odds with our culture. To be a Catholic, to be a Christian, means that we are counter cultural. It has always been so.
In the Gospel of John (15:18-20), Jesus warns us that the world will not like His message:
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.”
The Church must remain true to Jesus Christ. He is The Truth. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Many doctrines seem harsh and impossible to our modern ears. It does not help that many people, especially those in the media, do not try and understand the reason for her teachings. All we hear is that the Church is stuck in the dark ages, and that She discriminates against women and homosexuals.
Neither is true, and the Church has written extensively on those teachings, but they cannot be reduced to Tweets or easily made into sound bites.
Tomorrow, if all goes well, I will attempt to lay out the Church’s theological arguments for why those with homosexual inclinations are called to live a life of celibacy. Perhaps I will have time to go into the reasons for excluding woman from the Sacrament of Holy Orders.