Mutuae Relationes 2: One Body, Many Parts

SenanquecloisterWe pick up the great Pauline theme of the Body, perhaps a more widely applicable metaphor than groom and bride, especially as it articulates the relationship not only between Christ and the Church, but between various people in the Church. As always, you can access the full document online here.

Section 2 begins with this header and reminds us the image of Head, Body, and Parts are described in the twelfth chapter of the longest two letters of the New Testament:

“One body and, as parts of it, we belong to each other”

(Rm 12:5; cf. l Cor 12:13)

2. In the mystery of the Church, unity in Christ involves a mutual communion of life among her members. God, in fact, “willed to make (people) holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people” (LG 9). The very life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit (cf. LG 7) builds up organic cohesion in Christ: indeed, He unifies the Church “in communion and in the works of ministry, He bestows upon her varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her; and He adorns her with His fruits” (LG 4; cf. Eph 4:11-12; 1 Cor 12:4; Gal 5:22).

You’ll have noticed the heavy reliance on Lumen Gentium, Vatican II’s work on the Church. We will not escape edification from that document as we look at this one. Note the importance given the Church as first a community of members, one that shares a “communion.” If neither community nor communion exist, there are no roots, no reference for hierarchy or spiritual gifts.

The elements, then, which differentiate the various members among themselves, the gifts, that is, the offices and the various duties, constitute substantially a kind of mutual complement and are actually ordered to the one communion and mission of the self-same Body (cf. LG 7; AA 3). Consequently, the fact that in the Church there are pastors, lay(people) or religious does not indicate inequality in regard to the common dignity of the members; rather it expresses the articulation of the joints and the functions of a living organism.

Equality is a concern of some Christians. I wonder if what is really missing is the shared respect of a community. Pastors and bishops appointed from outside a local flock. Staff members hired from advertisements. Newcomers arriving to change everything. People with influence strutting their stuff simply because they can, not for Christ.

As this document pertains mostly to bishops and religious, my sense is that religious complain less about a lack of equality, and more of a lack of respect. And Saint Paul covered that point, didn’t he?

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. (1 Cor 12:21-24a)

Thoughts or comments on the point that bishops, pastors, ministers, and other leaders do not need greater honors and treatment with greater propriety?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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