Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Synod Weirdness

The Synod continues. It turns out that Rabbi Cohen was not the only non-Catholic invited to speak. Rev. Robert Welsh, a Protestant minister was also there and, according to Zenit, is the guy who has gotten the best reception, applause even. Let's take a gander at some of his comments.

According to this fraternal delegate: "Christian unity stands at the heart of the Gospel message; division within the body of Christ is a scandal before God and before the world.

"Our division at the table of the Eucharist stands as a continuing denial of the power of the cross to heal, to reconcile, and to unite all things on earth and all things in heaven."

Welsh acknowledged his hope that "this synod will deepen its reflection on the relation between the Word of God, the Eucharist, and the unity of all Christians within the one body of Christ."

I certainly hope that this is not what everybody was clapping about. These statements reflect a very odd view of ecclesiology, and this guy is not the only one who promotes this kind of stuff. Catholics do it, too. What I can't cipher is how it's supposed to jive with Catholicism.

Think of it this way. The Church has certain marks by which we know Her to be the True Church. She is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Emphasis for our purposes here on the "One" part. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. This is clear no matter what source of Church teaching you look at. We know from St. Paul that Christ cannot be divided. So how can we speak of "divisions" in the Mystical Body? I have no idea. Using the example of our speaker above, Protestants are not part of the Church, ergo, they are not part of the Body of Christ. They are outside the Church. Hence, there is no "division" in the Body. There is the Body, then there are those outside of It. Not only is there one Body, there is but one Spouse of Christ. Scripture itsefl testifies to this:

One is my dove, my perfect one is but one, she is the only one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her.

Canticle of Canticles 6:8

This is usually when someone brings up "imperfect communion." This phrase usually has a lot of attention focused on "communion," rather than the "imperfect," which is the more important item. Bearing the indelible character of baptism, the source of said communion, is not salvific, nor does it make one a member of Christ's Body if one is a heretic or schismatic. While it might be true that someone might not be culpable for their heresy or schism, that is something that only comes into play on an individual basis. When folks talk about these "divisions," they are usually talking about sects that have heresy or schism as their defining characteristics. It seems a bit off to talk about the "imperfect communion" of a whole group, especially when that group's existence is defined by its separation from the Church's teachings on given subjects.

Back to the Church Herself. What we have in the Church is a "city that is a unity unto itself." If we take the opposing view of our speaker, we seem to start contesting this. Moreover, we know the Church has certain attributes: infallibility, authority, and indefectibility. A division, by definition, would be a defect. Going farther, it would compromise the notion of the Church's infallibility to suggest division since, as Paul says, there is only One Faith. Since any "divisions" are necessarily the result of errors of some sort, to consider the Church to be "divided" would mean that these other ecclesial communities (or whatever you want to call them) with all their errors would still be in the Church, which in turn would mean that the Church was home to error.

Does that make sense? This whole shpiel about a "divided" Church is just flat-out weird.

A good number of them, for example, deny that the Church of Christ must be visible and apparent, at least to such a degree that it appears as one body of faithful, agreeing in one and the same doctrine under one teaching authority and government; but, on the contrary, they understand a visible Church as nothing else than a Federation, composed of various communities of Christians, even though they adhere to different doctrines, which may even be incompatible one with another. Instead, Christ our Lord instituted His Church as a perfect society, external of its nature and perceptible to the senses, which should carry on in the future the work of the salvation of the human race, under the leadership of one head, with an authority teaching by word of mouth, and by the ministry of the sacraments, the founts of heavenly grace; for which reason He attested by comparison the similarity of the Church to a kingdom, to a house, to a sheepfold, and to a flock.

Pius XI, Mortalium Animos

Whoever heard of a divided flock? By definition, such a thing can't exist. It would then be two flocks. Except that in the case of the Church, we know there is only One, hence the apt metaphor would be that there is a flock, and then there are lost sheep.

Pius XI is even more explicit down the line:

For since the mystical body of Christ, in the same manner as His physical body, is one, compacted and fitly joined together, it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head.

I just don't get how the opposite view is tenable.

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