Today, we continue the discussion on A Shattered World, noting the place of the Church. What is our role? A frustrated Cassandra harping on other peoples’ problems? A dispassionate observer more concerned about our own deck chairs? A sharer in the human condition of sin? First, the usual reminder that we are “with” and not “of.”
Moreover, the church-without identifying herself with the world or being of the world-is in the world and is engaged in dialogue with the world.(Cf Gaudium et Spes 3, 43 and 44; Presbyterorum Ordinis 12; Pope Paul VI, 1964 encyclical Ecclesiam Suam) It is therefore not surprising if one notices in the structure of the church herself repercussions and signs of the division affecting human society.
Inescapably, the Church is a human institution, and liable to any form of human behavior, graced or sinful.
Over and above the divisions between the Christian communions that have afflicted her for centuries, the church today is experiencing within herself sporadic divisions among her own members, divisions caused by differing views or options in the doctrinal and pastoral field.* These divisions too can at times seem incurable.
And the footnote on this:
* At the very beginning of the church, the apostle Paul wrote with words of fire about division in the body of the church, in the famous passage 1 Cor 1:10-16. Years later, St. Clement of Rome was also to write to the Corinthians, to condemn the wounds inside that community: cf Letter to the Corinthians, III-VI; LVII: Patres Apostolici, ed. Funk, I, 103-109;171-173. We know that from the earliest fathers onward Christ’s seamless robe, which the soldiers did not divide, became an image of the church’s unity: cf St. Cyprian, De EcclesiaeCatholicae Unitate, 7: CCL 3/1, 254f; St. Augustine, In Ioannis Evangelium Tractatus, 118, 4: CCL 36, 656f; St. Bede theVenerable, In Marci Evangelium Expositio, IV, 15: CCL 120, 630i In Lucae Evangelium Expositio, VI, 23: CCL 120, 403; In S. Ioannis Evangelium Expositio, 19: PL 92, 911f.
The diagnosis of the shattering:
However disturbing these divisions may seem at first sight, it is only by a careful examination that one can detect their root: It is to be found in a wound in (humankind’s) inmost self. In the light of faith we call it sin: beginning with original sin, which all of us bear from birth as an inheritance from our first parents, to the sin which each one of us commits when we abuse our own freedom.
This is an important statement and we shouldn’t dismiss it easily. What does it mean? We all experience two significant things. Saint Paul identified our awareness of the good, but our inability, all too often, to do it. (Cf Romans 7:15ff) Why is this so? Why does the conscience fail us so often, and we of the Church are undoubtedly plagued by this phenomenon. Baptism washes away all sin, so why does this original stain persist?
Additionally, we experience moments when it seems our judgment clouds. The person on point to move in a direction of virtue doesn’t. Others nearby see the right way, but so often they are dismissed, derided, and even labelled as sinners for challenging the so-called decider. And this too happens with frequency in the Body.
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