15 May 2016


This is the first paragraph of a piece I first published 2/6/2010: 
"I see that the Holy Father, on Pentecost Sunday, again enunciated the thesis which led to the very public row between himself and Walter Kasper, not long before the Conclave: that the Universal Church theologically 'precedes' the Local Church. I wonder if Professor Kasper will respond this time. I suppose Professor Ratzinger's thesis is now to be deemed to have formal support from the Magisterium."

I have just reread that 2010 Pentecost homily of the Holy Father emeritus; to be embarrassingly personal, it brought tears to my eyes to be reminded, after the aridities of the last couple of years, of the elegance, the clarity, the Biblical insight with which Benedict XVI spoke and wrote; rereading it was like drinking, after a hot and dry and dusty and sweaty and tiring day, a glass-full of limpidly pure and refreshingly cold water. Here is part of it, translated by Zenit. (In the literal sense of the words, this was uttered ex cathedra!)

"This is the effect of God's work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the 'business-card' of the Church in the course of her universal history. From the very beginning, from the Day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages. The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality. The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with states nor with federations of states, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier.

"From this, dear brothers, there derives a practical criterion of discernment for Christian life: When a person or a community limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit. The path of Christians and of the particular Churches must always conform itself with the path of the One and Catholic Church, and harmonise with it. This does not mean that the unity created by the Holy Spirit is a kind of homogenisation. On the contrary, that is rather the model of Babel, that is, the imposition of a culture of unity that we would call 'technological'. The Bible, in fact, tells us that in Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Pentecost, however, the Apostles speak different languages in such a way that everyone understands the message in his own tongue. The unity of the Spirit is manifested in the plurality of understanding. The Church is one and multiple by her nature, destined as she is to live among all nations, all peoples, and in the most diverse social contexts. She responds to her vocation to be the sign and instrument of unity of the human race only if she remains free from every state and every particular culture. Always and in every place the Church must truly be Catholic and universal, the house of all in which each one can find a place."

So much for silly talk about the acceptability of 'differences' of doctrine or doctrinally related discipline between different particular churches, as may be dictated by the particular and differing cultures in which they exist and to which some people think they are obliged to conform. 


Sue Sims said...

Thank you for this.

Have you come across the blogger who writes as 'Clerk of Oxford'? She's an Old English and Old Norse specialist who posts some wonderful stuff (though not as frequently as one would like). Here's her post for today:


Tom Broughton said...

Fr. Hunwicke,

Speaking of church unity, I would be very interested for you to make a blog post about Pope Francis's most recent endeavor to start a commission to cinsider admitting women to the diaconate. Or you could respond here. Anyway, I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.



DMG said...

Thank you kind pastor; you are not alone in your tears...