How would you readers tackle this statement from Pope Paul VI?
16. There is thus a profound link between Christ, the Church and evangelization. During the period of the Church that we are living in, it is she who has the task of evangelizing. This mandate is not accomplished without her, and still less against her.
It is certainly fitting to recall this fact at a moment like the present one when it happens that not without sorrow we can hear people – whom we wish to believe are well-intentioned but who are certainly misguided in their attitude – continually claiming to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church. The absurdity of this dichotomy is clearly evident in this phrase of the Gospel: “Anyone who rejects you rejects me.”[Lk 10:16; cf. Saint Cyprian, De Unitate Ecclesiae, 14: PL 4, 527; Saint Augustine, Enarrat. 88, Sermo, 2, 14: PL 37, 1140; Saint John Chrysostom, Hom. de capto Eutropio, 6: PG 52, 462] And how can one wish to love Christ without loving the Church, if the finest witness to Christ is that of St. Paul: “Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her”?[Eph 5:25]
I think a bit of clarity is needed from someone who more frequently encounters the so-called dichotomy than perhaps a pope does.
Many Catholics and non-believers identify “the Church” with the hierarchy. Though some of us might sometimes wonder if the hierarchy are with us or against us. But the truth is that the bishops are indeed part of the Church. But just part. The entire Church includes hundreds of millions of believers who each have their part to play in the Body.
That said, some people, through their personal experiences, find institutional Catholicism an obstacle. Since WWII, the West hasn’t quite shaken a broad distrust of authority. Even conservatives distrust government these days. And most liberals distrust even more people in authority. Leaders might like to think we’ve gotten over the sixties, but we really haven’t. Factor in political movements abroad from the Berlin Wall to present-day Syria, and just about every year, a few different sets of citizens are grumbling enough to make the ground shake. And for the Church, figure in the catastrophic handling of sex predators. And who wouldn’t look at bishops and conclude they might not be in the Church, as Pope Paul expresses it.
The local community and every Christian marriage is a manifestation of the Church. I think we need to emphasize that. And some of our bishops, and Rome–in their stumbles and sins–maybe less so. Or recognize them in a most charitable way without making excuses for them. How to do all that? Darned if I know.
How would any of you handle evangelization in an era of skepticism?