And we though many throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord...

In the combox for the text of my homily this week, a reader writes: Thank you for the reminder that faith is not the same thing as church (though I thought you said "religion"; am I reinterpreting too much?). It was something I needed to hear. Not that I'm disappointed in HFP -- quite the opposite.

This comment raises some interesting points deserving of clarification.

In my homily I used both terms: religion and faith. I mentioned "religion" as the only answer I could reasonably check on the online form but then I referred to what can happen when one confuses faith and church.

For many Christians and certainly for Catholic Christians, some distinctions here are important and I'm grateful for the comment that raises them.

In Catholic theology we speak of the church as the body of Christ in a way that makes of church and Christ an inseparable unity. It would be very helpful to take a look at how the Catechism of the Catholic Church concisely describes this unity to refresh our understanding of its depth.

From the Catholic perspective, faith and church share a unity that is intrinsic to both and that unity is in Christ. This is true on many levels but especially in terms of the sacraments. Catholic Christian faith is experienced in the sacramental life of the church and the sacraments are part and parcel of the church's life: without one you don't have the other. So those who might say, "I still have my Catholic faith, I just don't go to church anymore because..." are making a statement that contradicts itself. No, I'm not saying that those who are strangers to the church's sacramental life are no longer Catholic. Rather I am saying that those who seldom or no longer share in our sacramental life have an important question to deal with in terms of their faith as Catholics.

What leads or adds to the confusion here may be the several ways in which we use the word church to refer to: a building; a people; a theological and spiritual reality; a particular parish or diocese; Sunday Mass; and an institutional reality. Increasingly, I hear Catholic people distinguish between the church as universal institution, hierarchy or diocese and the church as local parish. As I've written before, we need to be aware here of an inclination towards a kind of congregationalism, an ecclesial self-understanding by which other churches define themselves but which is not part of Roman Catholic identity. I recognize that simply stating that does not ease or resolve differences and tensions between the local and the universal, but it does raise a critical reality for our consideration.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!