31 August 2019

A necessary pedantry

We often speak loosely about "the Church". I fear I do it myself. In a prim, schoolmasterly fashion, I would like to sugest some rather important precisions.

(1) The Church, the Body of Christ, consists of the Church Triumphant; the Church Exspectant; the Church Militant. Heaven; Purgatory; Earth. We use "the Church" so commonly when we are talking only about the Chrch Militant.

The tempter Screwtape writes to a junior tempter: "One of our greatest allies ... is the Church itself. ... I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That ... is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished sham Gothic erection ... the local grocer with an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad ... When he gets to his pew and looks around him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided..."etc., Letter 2.

The awareness that the Church is so much more than merely the Church Militant, owes, I think, a lot to the appropriation of this important truth by Anglo-Catholic writers of the twentieth century  from Orthodox writers.

(2) Sometimes we talk about "the Church" when we mean, within the Church Militant, the Latin Church. Latin Christianity is  not the only cultural, theological, liturgical tradition, even among those Christians who are in full communion with the See of S Peter.

6 comments:

Fr PJM said...

Or sometimes we confuse the Church with "her personnel" (an expression of Maritain). When a churchman speaks it is often not the Church who is speaking, but himself. This applies also to the Pope. Yes, he can really bind the Church and speak definitively in her name. But very often she is not speaking through him. Very often it is not --to shift gears-- is is *not* "Peter is speaking through Leo, rather, it is just Leo, or today, Francis.

Banshee said...

One of the good things about the spread of the various Eastern Rites is that now Latin Rite kids have more opportunity to be exposed to the existence of different eparchies, etc. This stuff was very theoretical to me, when I was a kid. But today, we see stuff on EWTN, there are podcasts, and the local Maronite Catholics have a big church festival every year.

Of course, it would still be nice to have Eastern stuff more mainstream, because I know I am still pretty ignorant about it, and there is so much heritage! But then, we are having a hard time teaching any Catholic stuff, in some places. So baby steps are needed.

GOR said...

I suspect that, in a sense, it cuts both ways, Father. In mid-century Ireland we were accustomed to view all non-Catholic Christians as ‘Protestant’ – Cof I, Cof E, Methodist, Presbyterian and especially the Rev. Ian Paisley - who was termed a ‘Black’ Protestant…

But harking back to Mr. Chesterton and his “Democracy of the Dead”, I fear many Catholics of today have little understanding of all that is encompassed by the term ‘The Church’. This is most likely a result of faulty catechesis or lack of the knowledge of history – and probably both.

Henry Ford’s attributed quote of “History is bunk” was followed up by: “…It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that’s worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”

That was in 1916 – but it could describe the attitude of many Catholics today.

Andrew Malton said...

Some people say "the Church" without qualification when they mean the Catholic Church (in communion with the Roman Pontiff). I do that, mostly. But I don't think I've ever heard anyone say "the Church" to mean the Latin Church -- certainly not anyone who was aware that there are non-Latin rites.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Father. The highly intelligent and redoubtable Fr. Joseph C. Fenton (for a score of years he was the great editor of The American Ecclesiastical Review) made the point that it is only The Catholic Church that is the Kingdom of God and al else is the Kingdom of Satan.

He was also wise enough to observe that it is in The Catholic Church alone that Jesus Christ dwells.

It is for those reasons, and many others, that this excellent Dogmatic Theologian has fallen out of favor.

Real Catholic men can still buy his works on Amazon

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Father. ABS lives in Wellington, Florida where, once again, a storm generated in Africa is threatening us poor innocent white Catholic men but trying and get the media to focus on that international geographical racism just doesn't work.

However. we are talking about names and, so, this must be said:

It is stupid to designate the center of a Harricain (that's how crackers pronounce it) the eye. The eye is not the center of a large mass of anything.

From now on it will be expected that Real Catholics will refer to it as The Belly Button of a Harricain.