Wednesday, 25 July 2007

What difference does a quotation make???

One of the most entertaining things to have happened in the last few weeks has been to watch the rearguard action of the free-thinkers society over the issue of the recent motu proprio and the CDF's document regarding the Church. It seems that these recent documents have sent the society and its members into a flap and looking for their copies of Free Thinking for Dummies.

I find it incredible that those children of the 60s and 70s who found the promised land of free-thought are now invoking the teaching authority of the Church to back-up their own "independently held views". After all, the sign of a great idea is that "I" think it. Those who did nothing but criticise the Church in order to bring about 'the change' now appeal to her precisely so things won't. No sooner had both documents been printed then the free-thinkers society was busy taking their case to the secular press. And what did they use to argue their point- reason? philsophy? theology? the Bible? No, of course not! It was Vatican II. It must be a sign of God's super-abundance the number of opinions one can find in the documents of the Council when left in the hands of some theologians.

An article in the Tablet by Nicholas Lash published in this week's edition (July 21) is a fine example of the old theological three-card trick. I believe the thrust of the article was to show how the current document on the Church and those of Vatican II are at odds. I quote from the by-line:

The Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith has issued a document aimed at clarifying the distinction between the concepts of 'Church' and 'ecclesial community'. But it is difficult to see how this latest document harmonises with the key texts of the Second Vatican Council.

With such an introduction, one is prepared for a gloves-off theological show-down that will highlight through a detailed analysis of the relevant documents where such conflict is derived. If that's what you think, then you are like me going to be sadly disappointed. Dr. Lash in his article gives one quotation from Lumen Gentium and none from the CDF's document. And even the one quotation that he uses is rather revealing not for what it says, but rather for where it stops. Here is Dr. Lash's quote:
The account of the ways in which different kinds and conditions of people already live within this "People's" scope runs all the way from those (begin quote LG: Editor) "fully incorporated into the Society of the Church, who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her and through union with her visible structure are joined to Christ" (end quote LG: Editor) through other Christians "consecrated by baptism, through which they are united with Christ," and who "recognise and recieve other sacramnets within their own Chrucg or ecclesial coommunities", and so on to the Jews, the Muslims and those "who have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, but who strive to live a good life, thanks to his grace".
Here is the full quote from Lumen Gentium 14:
They are full incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. (Emphasis added)
My, my, my- what a difference a quote makes!

Now what was Dr. Lash's point in making this half quote? That what counts is that we are all 'one people', that it doesn't really matter what religion you belong to or ecclesial structure you live under? Whatever his point, it doesn't seem so clearly supported by Lumen Gentium.

I long for the days when the free-thinkers will cease trying to further their agenda by relying on people's ignorance- that no one would actually bother to read the Council documents. However, as Dr. Lash puts it, 'any theologically trained nose will twitch suspiciously' at certain ideas- well my nose was turned up when I read the article and I think it had more to do with the brown smelly stuff he was shovelling.

Last thing- Dr Lash's reference to a holy atheist being closer to God's plan than a wicked pope (of course an innocent example) must have been meant to offer a fraternal correction to the Pope in this matter that Dr Lash so piercingly analysied. News for you doctor- I doubt the Pope reads the Tablet. Last I rememeber he was a Catholic. And not stupid.

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