The first two sections of this chapter on persistent characteristics of Catholicism have laid the ground for the third. It is typically Catholic to embrace 'both/and', and hold together things that some Christians may tend to oppose to each other. Hence Catholics, like Orthodox, do not accept an 'either/or' in the case of Jesus and his Mother. Many Protestant Reformers and their followers hold that honouring Mary (and, for that matter, other saints) somehow blurs the unique role of Christ as Saviour. But Catholics do not admit a choice here; they want Jesus and his Mother. It is likewise with the sacraments and that broad range of sacramental practices that we just summarized above. Sacramentals remain subordinate to baptism, the Eucharist, and the other five sacraments, but belong with them in consecrating to God through Christ our entire bodily and material existence.
Our opening two chapters provided numerous examples of the characteristically Catholic readiness to hold together, often in tension, things
247 See M. Walsh, Dictionary of Catholic Devotions (San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, 1993).
that others could separate or even oppose. Let us recall some examples of a Catholic 'both/and'.
1. Catholics unite in their confession of faith both divine grace and human freedom, rejecting, on the one hand, a Pelagian-style 'do it yourself' salvation, and, on the other hand, the kind of emphasis on divine predestination and sin's enduring harm to human freedom that would turn salvation into a puppet-show arranged by the omnipotent God. Debates flared up over works that St Augustine wrote late in his life and which pushed too far God's predestining will (Chs. 1 and 6), and over some Reformers' views on sin destroying human freedom (Ch. 2 above). Notoriously, no theological explanation is available for the mysterious interaction of God's sovereign grace with the human will, as we saw in Ch. 7 when recalling the sixteenth-century debates about grace and free will. The need to endorse both grace and freedom comes through the old advice: 'Pray as if everything depended on God, and work as if everything depended on yourself.' Dante knew that human salvation always comes through God's grace; yet he called free will 'the greatest gift God made to his creatures' (Paradiso., 5. 19—22).
2. A related Catholic 'both/and', one shared by other Christians, concerns the love of God and love of neighbour. Catholics want to give God time in prayer, either alone or with others, but they also want to care for all their neighbours in need (see Ch. 9). From the very beginning, a this-worldly and an other-worldly commitment have characterized Catholic Christianity. The ancient Didache enjoined not only the regular practice of daily prayer (8. 3) but also generous help to those in need (4. 5—8). Chapter 9 above quoted Tertullian's beautiful picture of how married life entailed both prayer and assisting the needy. Chapter 1 recalled the practical love towards the plague-stricken shown by second- and third-century Christians whose devotion to Christ could also bring them to martyrdom. Catholics, at their best, have always seen (a) satisfying the spirit's hunger for God through prayer and (b) feeding the hungry of this world as a 'both/and'. In modern times, an engagement with God in prayer and a practical love towards others have gone hand in hand for Catholic or Catholic-inspired groups that run soup kitchens, staff leprosaria, provide dying derelicts with care and dignified shelter, and give homes to the mentally handicapped.
Here a Catholic 'both/and' emerges strikingly through the support gladly given to both contemplative and active religious institutes.
Rank-and-file Catholics happily accept a kind of 'division of labour': Benedictine, Camaldolese, Carmelite, Carthusian, Cistercian, and other monastic groups of men and women who lead a life of silence and prayer are understood to support spiritually the work of consecrated men and women who serve others through schools, colleges, hospitals, and other social 'ministries'. A vertical commitment to God unites with an horizontal commitment to human needs.
3. Mentioning schools and colleges already hints at a further Catholic 'both/and': both faith and reason. Catholicism never embraced the opposition between Athens (standing for reason) and Jerusalem (standing for faith) that we saw being vigorously supported by Tertullian. Through the Cappadocians (Ch. 1) and Thomas Aquinas (Ch. 2) and down to the 1998 encyclical of John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, Catholic Christianity has never accepted a separation between God's gift of faith and the cultivation of human reason. St Athanasius of Alexandria and nearly all the Fathers of the Church had received an excellent secular education in the classics of Greek and Latin literature. When barbarian invasions tore Europe apart, the Irish and other monasteries kept learning alive. Charlemagne (d. 814) gathered his court scholars, collected many valuable manuscripts in his library at Aachen, and promoted the professional study of Latin, a language that held together the Western world. With gratitude we recall the contribution of many scholarly religious, such as Rosvitha, a tenth-century canoness of an abbey in Saxony. She was not only very learned in the scriptures, the writings from the Fathers of the Church, and classical Latin literature, but also composed in Latin a number of poems and plays. A few hundred years later Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans, and members of other religious orders played a major role in developing European universities. By leading a renewal in theological learning and recovering the philosophy of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas expressed for all times a harmony between faith and reason. Following his lead, Dante blended human learning and divine revelation in the Comedy. His two companions in that masterpiece were Virgil and Beatrice, the former symbolizing true humanism and the latter divine wisdom. From the sixteenth century Jesuits were 'the schoolmasters' of Europe, not to mention the role they played in education in the Americas, the Middle East, India, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and other parts of the world.
Occasionally tensions grew between faith and reason or between the truths of revelation and worldly learning, above all after the rise of the natural sciences. Sometimes these tensions arose from rational, scientific, and materialist claims to enjoy total authority over the interpretation of reality. Sometimes Catholics, in particular Church officials, were to blame. After making the right decision to reform the calendar of Julius Caesar, Roman authorities proved disastrously intransigent in the case of Galileo Galilei (1564—1642), as we saw in Ch. 5. Since his observations that the earth moved around the sun seemed to challenge the Church's authority to interpret the scriptures, he was forced to deny those observations. His case came to symbolize for many people an antagonism between science and religion. But all truth is based in God, and there can never be final opposition between religious and scientific truths. Nowadays more and more people realize how advances in the life sciences and biotechnology need to be evaluated ethically and religiously; otherwise they can threaten the dignity, environment, and even survival of the human race (see Chs. 5 and 9). Full and genuine dialogue between faith and scientific reason is more urgent than ever. In the case of Galileo, ecclesiastical officials made a tragic mistake. Fairness, however, suggests retrieving other names from history: a Jesuit mathematician and astronomer, Christopher Clavius (£.1537—1612), led the team for Pope Gregory XIII that in 1582 reformed the calendar that Julius Caesar had devised and which had accumulated an error of ten days by the late sixteenth century. The new, 'Gregorian' calendar eventually became standard for the life of the world. Sadly Clavius, who confirmed in correspondence with other leading scientists the discoveries Galileo had made with his telescope, died before Galileo's problems began with some theologians of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. An Austrian abbot, Johann Gregor Mendel (1822—84), through his experiments with peas in the monastery garden, demonstrated the primary source of variability in plants and animals and became the father of genetics. In their different ways, Clavius and Mendel symbolize what Thomas Aquinas stood for: the basic harmony of all truth, whether known through divine revelation or human research.
4. We could pile up a long list of further 'both/ands' that typify Catholicism: for instance, both Eastern and Western ways of worship; both married and celibate priests (the first being typically the case in Eastern Catholicism and the second in Western Catholicism); both the (very many) lay members and the (comparatively few) ordained ministers; both saints and sinners belonging to the Catholic
Church;248 both institutional structures and charismatic initiatives. The final 'both/and' provides the material for the closing section of this chapter.
From the time of Ignatius of Antioch, Cyprian of Carthage, and Augustine of Hippo (see Ch. 1), we find Catholic Christians shrinking from divisions and sharing a gut feeling that worldwide unity must be maintained. Inevitable and, one should add, healthy tensions have continued to arise between unity and diversity, and between the inherited institutions (essentially the pastoral government of bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome) and fresh movements inspired by the Holy Spirit. In a world that now includes around 20,000 separate Christian denominations, Catholics believe and hope that new movements, led by Spirit-filled and Spirit-guided men and women, should not lead to separation and any breaking of communion with others. Rather they should enrich the whole Church, whether these movements last for only a short time or for many centuries, as was the case with the religious families founded by Benedict, Scholastica, Dominic, Francis, Clare, and Ignatius.
Undoubtedly the institutional authority of bishops has at times been exercised foolishly and sinfully against men and women who emerged charismatically with fresh ideas and new commitments. But that authority has often worked to defend and promote people raised by the Holy Spirit to minister to others in times of crisis and challenge.
Our final 'both/and', both the institutional and the charismatic, leads naturally to the agenda for the closing chapter, dedicated to our vision of the major challenges facing the Catholic Church at start of the third millennium.
248 We saw in Ch. 1 how strongly St Augustine upheld this 'both/and' against the Donatists.
Babylon the great city will be violently thrown down, and will be found no more. (Revelation 18: 21) One of the seven angels, showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. (Revelation 21: 9-10)
Our first ten chapters have been predominantly descriptive of the Catholic tradition. We set ourselves to summarize the history of the Catholic Church (Chs. 1 and 2), clarify its doctrines (from the nature of revelation in Ch. 3 to morality in Ch. 9), and spell out its basic characteristics (Ch. 10). Those chapters attended to the past and present state of Catholicism. Before ending this book, what dreams and concerns do we want to share about the future of the Catholic Church?
Professor Umberto Eco and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, when taking stock of Catholicism and, indeed, of the whole world, in a remarkable exchange of letters, began with the future of our race and planet. Should we fear the future or hope in the future? Eco had no difficulty in listing some ecological and other major threats:
the uncontrolled and uncontrollable proliferation of nuclear waste; acid rain; the disappearing Amazon; the hole in the ozone; the migrating disinherited masses knocking, often with violence, at the doors of prosperity; the hunger of entire continents; new, incurable pestilence; the selfish destruction of the soil; global warming; meltdown glaciers; the construction of our own clones through genetic engineering.
Eco even entertained the thought of humanity's 'necessary suicide': we must 'perish in order to rescue those species' that we have 'almost obliterated', and 'Mother Earth' herself, who is 'denatured and suffocating'. Without minimizing the terrifying portents listed by Eco, Martini insisted that no human or satanic power can destroy the hope of believers: the virtue of hope is, after all, a gift from God.249
But, if we look beyond the ecological, political, and social challenges that all human beings face, what particular issues confront the Catholic Church as it moves ahead in the third millennium? What are the challenges that arise from faith and invite discernment, action, and deeper commitment? At least four areas call for scrutiny: ongoing conversion to Jesus Christ; over-centralization; the ministry of laypeople and women; and dialogue and mission.
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