What does a completely divinized culture look like? Will everyone pray the Divine Office? Will they go to Mass daily? What liturgy will be celebrated?  What clothes would be acceptable to wear in everyday life?

The idea of a culture rooted in Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, is inherently attractive. United together in faith, we can leave our human sinful ways behind along with all the trappings. We can shed any and all attachments to this world and live godly lives. Church is the culture.    

In truth, however, in the process of attempting to divinize a society, the Church will create a unique blend of the prevailing human culture and divinizing elements. It will be human insofar as it will draw them out of the muck, and it will be divine insofar as it will raise them up to heaven. When Church is at its best, it does both well–not pandering to our base humanity nor making the Christian life livable only by a pre-chosen few.  Rather, the Church serves as a bridge between our earthly life and the divine life, and it must do so for people in many different stages of their journey.

However, in the process of doing so, there is an inherent danger in theologizing, or making absolute, the elements of our Church culture that are not the Way, the Truth, and the Life–elements that are a way but not the Way.  I’m talking specifically of things like the Divine Office or the Latin Rite liturgy (either form) or the Latin language.

Specifically, the danger with theologizing culture is two-fold: First, when we theologize human culture we can create the sense that the Church’s role of “drawing us out of the muck” is paramount and neglect its more essential role in raising us up to God. Secondly, we can come away with a misunderstanding that what the Church offers us for our benefit is what God himself has ordained as definitively the “best” or ideal for all peoples in all places and times. This approach limits the ability of the Church to evangelize throughout the world. Either way, it’s not the truth about how the Church operates, and this practice will ultimately lead to fundamental misunderstandings about the role of the Church today.

Of course, from time to time, the Church will also provide teachings or disciplines of holiness that are good precisely because they draw us together before God and unite us through time, such as the Divine Office. Another obvious example here is the Latin language itself. While God spoke Aramaic on earth, we have not made Aramaic the language of the Church. Rather, for historical reasons that are not directly related to concepts of Truth and Love, Latin was adopted as the universal language in the West. The Latin Rite Church offers its prayers in Latin because it is the language that the Church chose to be universal among all its Catholics. It is good that we sing and pray together in the same language in worship of God.  

As regards the first danger of theologizing human culture, here, I want to share one specific example. In recent days, one of the authors behind Rebuilt, a book dedicated to rethinking parishes and parish rejuvenation, was taken to task on social media for his insistence that children must be discouraged from being in the sanctuary during Mass. While the book itself has a lot of good things to say about how we can make our churches and the parish a more Christ-centric experience (e.g., stop fundraising for every thing in the Narthex; stop having programs that actually don’t lead people to Christ), tragically and ironically, it appears at their own parish they have done so at the expense of the “divinizing elements” of the faith.   

Specifically, it is a very American belief that we are individuals who have a direct relationship with our Lord; we are saved individually and condemned individually, perhaps insofar as we have an experience of God in our hearts. However, this isn’t the truth and leads to fundamental misunderstandings of God’s grace. It is more correct to state we are saved as a Church through the action of Christ, even if it is not something we personally feel or experience. We are members of the Body of Christ through our Baptism, and thus our Church community is both a human and divine reality. If the role of sin has been to separate and divide, it is God who gathers together for our salvation.   

It is desirable to do more as a Church to draw more people together, but in the process, those elements which raise our soul to God must never be discarded or de-prioritized, as arguably this particular parish has. Indeed, God’s very act of salvation in the Mass–not personal experience–is precisely what creates community: as God calls people together in the Eucharist to worship, pray, and love, they are formed into a community that transcends humanity’s sinful tendencies to find differences and segregate themselves. Humanity is at its best when it is at worship together.  

Nothing could demonstrate the parish’s deficiency in this regard better (although there are unfortunately many more examples) than its insistence that children be removed from Mass for being disruptive, and that children should not distract others from their hearing of the homily. As the baptized and members of the Church, children and babies have as much a right and obligation to be part of the worshiping community as anyone else.

Moreover, if parents are to be the first teachers of their children in matters great and small, no parish should discourage the habits of those who wish to “teach by doing,” that is, worshiping the Lord present in the Word and Eucharist in view of their children. Specifically, by their learning and doing of the things that are part and parcel of “being redeemed,” children grow into personal holiness. As Pope said in reference to today’s youth, but could be said of anyone at any age, “You are the now of God.” The Mass “experience,” positive satisfaction survey responses, and weekly giving may be signs of a healthy parish, but they are not the goal of parish life. The goal must be the holiness of all the parishioners, children included, a goal which starts with recognizing the primacy of God’s work in all we do.

As mentioned above, the second danger of theologizing human culture is the belief that certain teachings which the Church gives for our benefit are universally true, plucked from the timeless divine like an apple from the tree. However, this is a belief unable to process the way in which decisions are made in the Church amidst very human infighting and factionalism. And fundamentally it is at odds with the idea of development and the need for continuous and ongoing reform. Shouldn’t the Church’s teachings be articulated from a place of peace, meditation, and prayerful dialogue, so that the Spirit’s intentions might be best divined? Shouldn’t they be permanent once they are so divined? In theory, yes. In practice, hardly. As Bishop Barron once advised in relation to a recent synod, don’t mind the sausage-making.     

Tangentially, this is related to our recent post on “imagisterium” for it speaks to either a fundamental trust or mistrust of our Magisterium to determine what is best for our growth in holiness. The more we trust the Church, the more we can rely on the Church, and the easier it is for us to do what the Church recommends for us to do, such as praying the Divine Office, or a daily rosary, or any number of practices that the Church offers to us. (I can’t help but think of the backlash in some corners of the internet to Pope Francis’ exhortation in October for all Catholics to pray the rosary daily. They accused him of “weaponizing” the rosary as a way to distract from the abuse scandal. Talk about theologizing human culture!)

As regards the liturgy, for example, the Church has the grace and the authority to offer to us what is for our benefit–that is, what will lead us to our salvation. It does so through very human processes, cognizant of our human needs. What the Church does not do is try to implement some ideal rarefied liturgy that is universally applicable throughout time. For one, even if this liturgy did exist, we should hardly be expected to call upon the Spirit of God to hand it to us. That’s not how the Spirit of God works in the Church.  Secondly, the Church is still presented with the problem of translating the “ideal” liturgy into human terms. What elements should it use to express this liturgy?

On the one hand, we can say that a divinized culture that is completely rooted in Jesus Christ will look much like any other divinized culture. The Church does help to build a universal culture shared by all the faithful that unites us through time in Truth and Love. On the other hand, even a divinized culture necessarily borrows heavily from our humanity and our experiences. Everyone from across the world can and do worship together at St. Peter’s at the Easter Vigil–the heart of Christianity in many respects–but they will do so in a Western style Church (Renaissance) in a Western style liturgy (Latin Rite, ordinary form) predominantly speaking and singing in a Western language (Latin). Not to mention anything of the dating of Easter or the development of each prayer.

Pope Francis has said:

The unified and complete sense of human life that the Gospel proposes is the best remedy for the ills of our cities, even though we have to realize that a uniform and rigid program of evangelization is not suited to this complex reality. But to live our human life to the fullest and to meet every challenge as a leaven of Gospel witness in every culture and in every city will make us better Christians and bear fruit in our cities.

One can apply this reasoning to any number of Church elements, from pastoral teaching, to disciplines (e.g. celibacy among clergy or fasting on Fridays), and even to the specific formulation of perennial doctrines. Take capital punishment, for example. In defense of the revision to the Catechism, Pope Francis and the CDF discussed several factors that led to the decision. First of all, it cannot be denied that the Church’s understanding grows over time; the entire scholastic movement is founded on the notion that theologians are capable of expanding the Church’s understanding and, in fact, must do so.

Here, Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and related encyclicals and documents seems especially relevant given how much he made us aware of the theological underpinnings of Pope St. Paul VI’s condemnation of artificial contraception, specifically, and then broadly the Church’s perennial teaching regarding the inherent dignity of each human person as rooted in the image and likeness of God, a dignity that cannot be limited or destroyed but can be denied or infringed upon.

What also changed, of course, was our human culture. Collectively, we generally have grown in awareness of both the ineffectiveness and brutality of all forms of capital punishment and also in respect for the dignity of all human life.  This positive development in the history of man was met with a corresponding revision in the teaching on capital punishment, that clarifies for our time the perennial teaching regarding when one can properly take another human life. The goal of this revision, implicitly, is to help us to be a more holy people. We are, individually and collectively, a more holy people when we do not kill other people, for any reason, and we have the means and the collective will and now a moral exhortation to do so, at least in one more area of human life.  

With billions of adherents globally, the Church cannot be expected to come up with one universal system of laws and practices that is appropriate for all people. So, the Church has given to each local Church the ability, within limits, to guide their flock in a manner that is appropriate for them.  From the global Church down to the individual parish, each level of Church authority has a role in determining what is for the good of their flock. And here we can bring in principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. Without going into a full treatment of these principles here, suffice it to say that even at the parish level, choices must be made by the pastor to best minister to the people in his community. What one parish decides will look very different from what another parish decides, but we all pray and work for continued reform that better achieves the goal of becoming a bridge between each man, each community, and God.  

Amoris Laetitia is perhaps the best example of these principles, as articulated by Pope Francis. In that document, Francis observes that a parish priest will have to guide individual couples in their process of discernment and formation and create programs best suited for their flock. The local bishop will have to institute guidelines for their pastors that are best suited for their diocese. And the bishops will do so in continuity with the directives and teachings of the universal Church, as represented in his person by the Pope. It has been lamented in the case of Amoris Laetitia that one diocese will look different in praxis from another diocese, but in truth, this is an unavoidable and even desirable outcome of individual bishops finding the path that is best suited to achieving the holiness of the Church for which they are responsible.

It is when we theologize human culture, when we make absolute what is only our personal preference or culture, that we limit the ability of God to reach more people in the world. Somewhat ironically, those who overstate God’s actions in the world deny and reject the ways God is truly acting in the world through his very human Church.

One could say that one of the main factors distinguishing various sides in this debate over the papacy of Francis is precisely the extent to which each holds an “incarnational” view of the Church. God works in and through his human church, collectively giving their actions direction and meaning perhaps far beyond what they themselves are aware of. Conversely, while it is tempting to say that God works in the Church “in spite of” humanity, it is more correct to say that God works in the Church “in spite of human sinfulness.”  We still must rely on his very human and sinful Church, infused as it is with the Spirit and mystically united to Christ, to grow in holiness.

Finally, the Church is already hamstrung by a variety of factors, not least of which among them is its own sinfulness. What we do not need to do is place further and unnecessary burdens upon the Church in its ministry to the world. From Africa to Asia to the United States, the Church’s solutions will look drastically different. But if this past Sunday’s epistle offers any insight, all parts are necessary even if they might be treated differently and have different roles in the universal Church.

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Daniel Amiri is a Catholic layman and finance professional. A graduate of theology and classics from the University of Notre Dame, his studies coincided with the papacy of Benedict XVI whose vision, particularly the framework of "encounter" with Christ Jesus, has heavily influenced his thoughts.  He is a husband and a father to three beautiful children. He serves on parish council and also enjoys playing and coaching soccer.

The Perils of Theologizing Human Culture

25 Responses

  1. Chris dorf says:

    I like this simple colorful diagram of the early church liturgy from 155 with Justin Martyr as an example of how the faith is common to all human beings.


    • Daniel Amiri says:

      That’s pretty cool. I hope my post didn’t imply a bagging on traditions or something. There is value (as I tried to indicate) in carrying through various traditions through time and preserving them for perpetuity. I should clarify, of course, that many elements of the liturgy were given to us by God, specifically in the Eucharistic prayer, and indirectly through the elements of Jewish customs and traditions we have carried through to today.

  2. Peter Aiello says:

    The Body of Christ has both a corporate component and an individual component. Each body part needs to individually communicate with the Head in order for the Body to work as a unit. The Head coordinates the individual functions of the Body. If our primary reliance and trust is not on Christ Himself, it doesn’t work.

    • Daniel Amiri says:

      Totally agree: “The goal must be the holiness of all the parishioners, children included, a goal which starts with recognizing the primacy of God’s work in all we do.”

  3. carn says:

    “As mentioned above, the second danger of theologizing human culture is the belief that certain teachings which the Church gives for our benefit are universally true, plucked from the timeless divine like an apple from the tree.”

    I am a bit puzzled what you mean here due to the word “certain”.

    Do you mean there are some teachings – e.g. which language and words are to be used in mass – that we should not consider universally true? (E.g. it would be wrong if someone thought the current words to be used in mass are the only possible and true words to be used) In that case there might be other teachings – e.g. that Jesus rose from the dead – regarding which it would not be an error to consider them to be universally true.

    Or do you mean that we should not consider any single teaching whatsoever universally true?
    Which would mean we should not even consider that the Church teaches that Jesus rose from the dead to be true everywhere and anytime.

    I am really at a loss, how you wish that sentence to be understood.

    “It has been lamented in the case of Amoris Laetitia that one diocese will look different in praxis from another diocese, but in truth, this is an unavoidable and even desirable outcome of individual bishops finding the path that is best suited to achieving the holiness of the Church for which they are responsible.”

    This nothing to see there approach seems to be at odds with what Mike Lewis posted under the “imagisterium” piece:
    “Mike Lewis
    January 28, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    It seems quite clear that the archbishops in Portland, Philadelphia, etc., are deliberately resisting what has been promulgated by the magisterium, however. If they acknowledged the validity of the teaching elsewhere, but wanted to express that such a discipline would be inappropriate in their specific diocesan pastoral situation, that would be one thing, but you are correct. They do seem to reject the validity of the teaching. That’s problematic.

    So even according to Mike Lewis that in some dioceses – and he names them – the handling of AL by the diocese and/or the bishop is insufficient.

    Hence, your nothing to see there about what is or isn’t done in some dioceses regarding AL is not convincing.

    • Daniel Amiri says:

      I meant “certain” in the sense of “some,” perhaps trying to carry a sense that there is some selectivity happening here. I think the example you first provided is the sense in which I meant it. I would definitely not hold to the belief that “we should not consider any single teaching whatsoever universally true.” I tried to provide more clarity later when I referred to rules, disciplines and the “specific formulation of perennial teachings.” That hopefully gets you closer to my understanding–the teachings themselves don’t change, but our understanding and our expression of those teachings may. In other cases, what was once tolerated becomes prohibited. But however you look at it, these should not be considered to be fundamental breaks with Tradition but rather the product a very human Church doing what it is called to do for the people of today.

      I really don’t see any differences between what Mike and I said. I believe Mike is suggesting that accepting the teaching but not implementing a specific discipline allowed by Amoris Laetitia would, in fact, be in continuity with Amoris Laetitia. This is the point I was making by saying that praxis will differ from diocese to diocese and that’s ok. What would not be ok would be rejecting the teaching itself.

      • carn says:

        “perhaps trying to carry a sense that there is some selectivity happening here.”

        How am i as an individual going to handle that selectivity?

        E.g. if i happen to end up in a parish in which the priest more or less implies that resurrection is just a symbol and polite “digging” confirms that notion; and if i dutifully informed the bishop or more precisely his office staff about that issue; and if it happens that the bishop has other things to care about than pondering the issue of a priest somehow implying during homily that Jesus did not in fact raise from the dead; and if it happens that bringing the matter to Rome does seem to proceed at the usual speed – meaning years –

        how i as an individual then proceed from the facts that:

        the priest the Church has placed above me as a shepherd teaches that Jesus didn’t raise from the dead;
        the priest is officially still in good standing with the bishop and thereby the Church;
        the bishop must be presumed to have dutifully considered the issue and deemed it not at the moment worthy of action;
        the bishop is officially still in communion with the Pope;
        the Congregation must be presumed to have dutifully considered the issue and deemed it not at the moment worthy of action, which thereby implies the will of the Pope, as it has to be presumed that the Pope put people into the congregation handling matters as he wants them to be handled;
        i am bound to submit to the Church and the Pope;

        to the – at least i think sensible – conclusion of:

        “Ok, that bit of heresy coming from the pulpit i try to ignore and i try to diminish/reducing in a polite way this spreading of heresy within my parish by e.g. making other trusted parishioners aware about the problem”

        without going along what you consider protestant thought, which for example would be:

        Opening the bible, read some parts of gospels and the letters of St. Paul; read a bit here in there in the so far official catechism; and then using my reasoning capability to conclude that the priest’s suggestion of Jesus not raising from the dead is in contradiction to scripture and Church teaching (so far) and therefore is to be REJECTED by me on a personal basis.

        After all, nowhere did the Church officially suggest that her priest in good standing spreads a heresy from the pulpit which the parishioners should ignore and the so far official stance of the Church regarding that priest is that he is doing a fine job.

        It seems your approach would mean, that i have to submit for the time being to the teaching promulgated by this priest in officially good standing and adjust my faith accordingly until either the bishop people or Rome wakes up and starts to officially do something; and when either the priest repents and starts teaching again that Jesus rose from the dead or a new one is installed, then my faith has to revert back.

        I do not see in your writing any mechanism for the individual to handle problematic things coming from the pulpit or other official Church channels unless it happens that the current Pope has offered an explicit statement regarding that specific issue (as for example you suggest the Pope has done regarding AL).

      • Daniel Amiri says:

        Thank you for wrestling with some of the implications of our writing. Indeed, one of the very difficult parts about heresy, especially from our bishops and priests, is that they can do lasting and irreparable harm with limited recourse to stop it, typically only from a superior or peer. Much of what I have been about is restoring right relationships. As I wrote in my Pastors Gotta Pastors/Sheep Gotta Sheep, there are mechanisms that properly occur WITHIN these rightly ordered relationship. If your pastor is preaching heresy and you know it, confront your pastor! There’s no rule that says you shouldn’t, and yet this mechanism seems to be lacking in your comment. Still, this “disturbing” occurs within the context of a loving relationship. It must! Ultimately, if we upset the order of relationships in the Church, then we can create divisions within the Church, which is both a scandal and antithetical to Christ’s mission of salvation. Admittedly, it’s not easy and certainly the Church on the ground quite often experiences liturgical abuses, minor heresies and even major heresies. It’s not easy for the laity or the clergy. Ultimately, we have to have trust in the Spirit; we can only do what’s in our power, nothing more and nothing less.

      • carn says:

        “If your pastor is preaching heresy”

        But how am i determine that something is heresy, if i have no method of personally sorting teachings into such that are always true (like resurrection) and against which heresy is possible and into such that are true till the Church says otherwise (like what words should be used in mass) and against which heresy is probably not possible (or at least i as a sheep cannot determine whether some superior is heretic, cause maybe he is just promoting the new valid teaching, while i accidentally still cling to the one that was true yesterday)?

      • Daniel Amiri says:

        In theory, you can’t determine that for yourself, and, in fact, many still can’t, because they lack theological education and training. Fortunately, especially today, we have access to all sorts of information, not least of which is the Catechism. But, as comprehensive as the Catechism is, it is only a snapshot of current teaching and can be changed and revised at any time (as we know), by the Magisterium. Our bishops have the authority to teach, with the Pope being the ultimate guarantor of our unity in Truth and faith. From the standpoint of history, sometimes a heresy make take centuries to uproot. We still struggle with casual Pelagianism from the pulpit. I’m rambling but the point being that you owe your assent to the MAGISTERIUM, not the Catechism, or a book by St. Augustine, as edifying as they might be. Even Scripture can only be faithfully interpreted by the Magisterium and to read Scripture, you read it WITH the Church (i.e., with the teachings of the Magisterium).

        There’s another piece I wrote called Pastors Must Listen that may also be helpful. All laity must practice regular discernment. And certainly your theological training and education (I’m presuming you have some? but even if not) is a blessing as much as a responsibility. You can help your pastor, respectfully, ensure fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        Vatican II says: “It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom.” (Dignitatis Humanae 2).
        If we have to read Scripture WITH the teachings of the magisterium, there is no psychological freedom for us. Scripture IS Church teaching, and it is the teaching that regulates all of Christianity, including the teachings of the magisterium (Dei Verbum 21).

      • carn says:

        “In theory, you can’t determine that for yourself,”

        Which seems to mean that according to what you suggest, i would have in the hypothetical scenario of a priest preaching from the pulpit that Jesus did not rise from the dead,

        for the time being

        ASSENT to that teaching,

        until either the bishop or CDF wake from their slumber and right things.

        What I – in theory – not allowed to do is what i would do: withhold ASSENT to that teaching of the priest the Church in her authority installed above me as my pastor.

        I guess that makes me a natural dissenter, as i have full intent to refuse to give assent to what my priest says in certain situations.

        And naturally, i would the same way refuse my assent in case a bishop or a person that externally seems to be the Pope would teach that Jesus did not rose from the dead.

        I hope that protestant tendency of mine is acceptable for Jesus.

      • Daniel Amiri says:

        Heresy is problematic precisely because it leads to these sorts of divisions within the faith and upsets the relationships that are truly beneficial for personal holiness. I don’t doubt that the laity have personal consciences and can assess whether something is in continuity with what they believe the Church’s teachings are. But these cases where laity have to take extreme measures to correct their priest or bishop are exceptions, not the rule. We should not stand on an island, never accepting what might challenge us to growth, if it doesn’t fit in nicely with our priors.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        Vatican II says: “Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that men are to adhere to it. On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious. The reason is that the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind.” (Dignitatis Humanae 3).
        I’ve found it rewarding when I have read things for myself, including Scripture.

      • carn says:

        “But these cases where laity have to take extreme measures to correct their priest or bishop are exceptions, not the rule.”

        The cases where laity have to or in other words must/are forced to take such measures might be rare.

        But the number of cases where the one or other personal conscience of some lay person registers statements squarly in the “This seems to avoid heresy only due to being rather unclear” is in my opinion quite high; after all, i live in Germany, where for example just some days ago some prominent priest with theological background called for a “Neubewertung” of homosexuality compared to what catechism says, which might or might not (see “unclear” above) their way of saying: Church should no longer teach that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil and sinful, cause they aren’t intrinsically evil and aren’t sinful (which for all i know might be heretical or at least very problematic in other ways).

        But as their statements lack clarity, one is in a bit of doubt, what they want; but i see good reason to be sceptical about anything they say regarding sexuality in general, cause they might actually try to further their heresy.

        So realy not an exception, but rather a recurring thing for German catholics, that they come along a priest who says things sounding problematic; resolving the issue by asking such priest questions, e.g. “But you still agree that homosexual acts are intrinsic evil and sinful?”? Don’t you dare you close minded Pope Francis hating trad (though personally i am rather blessed, cause the priest of my parish would – in probably far more dimplomatic words than me – also disagree with “Neubewertung”; but that is a fortunate exception; take it as a sign, that whatever things might go on in German church, God at least saw fit to shield me from that during Mass, which i am quite thankful for and i think i should translate into as much presumption that realy there is nothing problematic about the course the Church is taking as possible)

    • David says:

      Yes. There is some validity to what is being said regarding legitimate differentiation, but this goes way beyond that. This piece is an unwitting admission for the sad state of things in the Church at present: that we should except this troubled state as the new normal because we should no longer want to theologize the culture, we should no longer strive for a culture that is as Christian as can be in every way. How different this approach is to what the Church has previously advocated, up until 2013 apparently! One false element underneath this is a backwards dynamic: instead of the catholic approach of evaluating everything in the light of the Church’s Tradition/tradition, the latest novelties are blindly accepted, and then the Tradition is interpreted in light of the latest; in which light, everything that came before is now suspect while the new is what is of greatest value. So, how bizarre and disturbing for someone to label as erroneous or bad “the belief that certain teachings which the Church gives for our benefit are universally true.” What?! That consists of just about all of what the Church teaches and believes! That is exactly the nature of religious truth. And likewise with the claim: “the Church cannot be expected to come up with one universal system of laws and practices.” Again, it always has and does! The code of canon law? The roman missal? That is why the Church is universal- by and large it has the same beliefs and law and discipline wherever you go! This also includes the Eastern Churches, which have their own code of law, missals, etc. This seems to be an apology for the theological and moral relativism which is now being advocated at the highest levels.

      One also sees little understanding of matters, such as those of liturgy and what liturgy even is, e.g., the extraordinary form of the mass is one of two forms of it for the latin Church. It is not just some preference or a mere option. That would be as mistaken as saying that the ordinary form or mass in general is just a peculiar preference. (Granted, Francis has made statements that seem to reduce the EF to some preference.) And we are supposed to believe that the liturgy is handed down to us by God; otherwise we think it is us who create the liturgy, which has precisely been a grave problem in the last 50 years. Read almost anything by BXVI on this. (And this is where it’s comical for people to say there is no rupture between Francis and his predecessors.) And one could go on…

      • Daniel Amiri says:

        There are some misunderstandings apparent in your comment, not least of which is the claim that I would deny we need to make our cultures more Christian. I recommend rereading the second and third paragraphs, along with the section about the “Rebuilt” parish.

        Secondly, you make the false assumption that the Church’s Tradition is readily apparent. In truth, Tradition is unfolding over time as we grow in understanding of it. The Apostolic successors, who receive this Tradition from their predecessors, have the task of teaching us what Tradition entails. (Cf. Dei Verbum 8, 10).

        As to the comment about “universal beliefs,” the Canon Law and missal you refer to applies only to the Latin Rite Church. Within the Catholic Church, there is much diversity, even on doctrines of original sin, understanding of the filioque, and so on. There remain many “sui juris” Churches that are in full communion with the Roman pontiff. You mention this yourself but to me that’s evidence of “diversity.” Churches have various laws and practices. True or False? True! This is partly what I am referring to. I’m not referring to a “free for all” or moral relativism in the least. As I imply at the bottom of the article but do not mention explicitly, the Church must include submission to the Pope because he, as a representative of the whole Church, guarantees our unity in faith. The Pope is precisely the person to condemn any practice throughout the whole Church that is contrary to Truth or Love.

        Admittedly regarding liturgy, there is some glossing over here on my part. God’s work is evident at the Mass and in the Eucharist. In that sense, the liturgy is given to us. But as to the construction of the liturgy itself (e.g., the prayers, the readings, the architecture, the form, the rituals, even the arrangement of candles and use of incense), this is a very human thing. These things HAVE changed over the years, though some elements have remained consistent in our 2000 history. When these human elements change, we shouldn’t necessarily lament them as if we are offending God’s mandate. I think Paul VI’s explanation for the new missal is always good reading and reflects an appropriate view of how we should consider liturgical reform–namely, does it actually fulfill its purpose in making people holy? How can we make it even better?

        “The recent Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in promulgating the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, established the basis for the general revision of the Roman Missal: in declaring “both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify”;(4) in ordering that “the rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, can be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful can be more easily accomplished”;(5) in prescribing that “the treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s Word”;(6) in ordering, finally, that “a new rite for concelebration is to be drawn up and incorporated into the Pontifical and into the Roman Missal.”(7)”

      • Peter Aiello says:

        Scripture has a place that even tradition does not have. Vatican II, in Dei Verbum 21 says: “Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture.” This is a good way to ensure that things don’t veer off from Christianity’s true beginnings.

      • pat says:

        Scripture is part of Tradition, and its meaning is given by Tradition… Otherwise we’re just a bunch of Protestants.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        Tradition is supposed to be regulated by Scripture, otherwise, we are not Christian.

      • Pat says:

        So there were no Christians before the scripture was completed? or in those parts of the world that didn’t have access to the whole body of scripture for a time?

        What does “this is my body” or “do this in remembrance of me” mean? – seems like using scripture to regulate tradition has led to several answers. Even today, though, only 1 can be correct.

        One could go on, but, the point is that the Faith was preached before the New Testament was was completed. Interpretation of scripture in a way that contradicts the Faith as taught by the Apostles i.e. Tradition is not Catholic.
        So, what does “this is my body” mean? – look to Tradition. We know what it means because we know what the Apostles did, not because we are scripture scholars.

        Which by the way is why the job of preserving Tradition is the most most important duty of the pope.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        There were Christians before the New Testament was completed. We now have the full New Testament that we can refer to. It contains the Faith that was taught by the apostles and others in the New Testament Church, and we can read it for ourselves if we want to. It is handy to have around after 2000 years of developed doctrine. If “all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture”, and Tradition is part of the preaching of the Church, it is regulated by Sacred Scripture. If I hadn’t read Dei Verbum 21 for myself, I wouldn’t have known that this is official Church teaching.
        Those of us who are able to read can also comprehend what we are reading. This is how we form our personal consciences.
        When it comes to “this is my body”, we can read what Paul says in 1Corinthians 10:16-17 and 11:26. He discusses the purposes of the Eucharist. I’m glad that the Church preserved Scripture for us, and the regulator of itself.

      • pat says:

        so why are there so many different Christian religions. Why are there so many different interpretations of that line? If what Paul says is the only and sufficient reference?

        Some people don’t pray hard enough? Some people aren’t open enough to the real meaning? which people?

        Should we suppress the feast of the Assumption, and Immaculate conception?

        Tradition is not preaching. Tradition, like scripture, is a ‘font of revelation’

        Perhaps you just don’t understand the terms as they are applied by the church.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        Vatican II says in Dei Verbum 10 that “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church.” I think that if sacred tradition was also supposed to regulate Christianity, Dei Verbum 21 would have said that the word of God regulates all of Christianity instead of only Sacred Scripture.
        There have been divisions in Christianity from its New Testament beginnings all the way until now; even within the Catholic Church. I think that this is something which we have to live with.

  4. Chris dorf says:

    It could not be put more simply than the explanation in the catechism and saint athanasius:

    460 The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”:78 “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”79 “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”80 “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”81

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