With added Holy Spirit

Our frequent contributor, Superview, ends his comment on Natural Law doesn’t come naturally with the passage: “there is the dogma that the Holy Spirit guides the Church. I have asked several times in the Second Sight blog for insights into how this is to be interpreted in any meaningful way given the chequered history of the Church (to put it mildly). It seems many are ready to acknowledge that this dogma has been rolled out to justify all sorts of terrible things done by ‘those entitled to speak for the Church’, yet they still cling to it even though it seems it is incapable of any demonstration. Last Sunday I heard a sermon that made a lot of sense about prayer. In summary: ‘Pray as if everything depends upon God, but act as if everything depends upon you – the result is a perfect partnership.’ In this instance it could not better describe our stewardship obligations.” (The whole of Superview’s comment , no.40, is worth reading.)

I am sure that many of us, bearing in mind recent happenings and recalling anti Semitism, countenance of slavery, acceptance of torture, the three”popes” at Avignon and all the rest – must be asking themselves the same question.

So let us discuss it, and see if we can understand the work of the Holy Spirit better.

I want to start with a brief passage from my 2002 book Autonomy and Obedience in the Catholic Church: “No one has greater need of the help of the Holy Spirit than I, and it is help which I often feel I have received. But I do not justify my decisions on the grounds of his inspiration – I need to justify them through my natural faculties. I accept that the Church is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error in infallible matters and that his general guidance supports the Church. But when he is invoked as support for specific non-infallible matters I demur.

Was the Spirit there when John XXIII was elected? But how about Alexander VI? As Cardinal Ratzinger said on Bavarian television “It would be a mistake to believe that the Holy Spirit picks the pope because there are too many examples of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have chosen.” He said the Spirit leaves considerable room for the free exercise of human judgment, probably guaranteeing only that, in the end, the church will not be ruined. The good priests of my parish were no doubt called by the Spirit but how about the paedophile priest? Was the Spirit behind the Inquisition, and also behind the Council declaration on religious liberty? Was the Spirit behind Pope St Gregory the Great when he said that married sexual intercourse could not in practice be performed without sin or behind the Council’s statement that it must be honoured with great reverence?

Since on some occasions he may be present and on others he is apparently not, and we have no way of knowing which, there is a problem. Until some good evidence can be produced of his presence in a specific matter it seems to be no more than a kind of superstitious magic to bolster a case by claiming his support. Like me, the Magisterium has to go through the ordinary processes of judgment, and then observe the fruits. Claiming a further buttress in the Holy Spirit suggests a lack of confidence in the evidence for the teaching. It might be better to employ the humility Bernard Shaw put into Joan of Arc’s mouth ( mutatis mutandis ) when she was asked if she were in a state of Grace: “If I do not have the Holy Spirit may God bring him to me: if I have, may God keep him with me.”

History is studded with examples of men ascribing their triumphs or defeats to the will of God. The Elizabethans put the defeat of the Armada down to the will of God; the Puritans under Cromwell similarly recognized his hand in the winning the battle of Marston Moor. The will of God has frequently been used as an excuse both by Christianity and other religions for committing atrocities. This taking of God’s name in vain, instead of using our best efforts and humbly hoping he is with us, are instances of fundamentalism as I describe it in Chapter 2. Sadly the Catholic Church is not immune.”

This passage does not address Superview’s comments directly since it predates them, but I hope that, together with Superview’s comments, it will be a useful starting point, for your thoughts.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Moral judgment, Quentin queries, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to With added Holy Spirit

  1. st.joseph says:

    As the Church is appointed to guide men to Heaven, it follows that she must be guarded against error in her teaching’
    Eternal Life is promised to those who hear and obey the Pastors of the Church,while eternal damnation is denounced against those who refuse to believe.
    Now if the Teaching Church erred-and we are bound to obey her-the Hearing Church would thus be bound by Christ to believe what is false, and Christ would have to reward error and punish truth.
    Then would the Church have failed in her mission and have injured alike the interests of God and of man; the power of hell,the spirit of lies,would have prevailed against her.But this is contrary to the expressed declaration of Christ;
    I am with you all days even to the consumanation of the world (Matt.xxviii.20)
    ‘And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth,that He may be with you forever'(John xiv.16,17)
    Hence the very nature of the Church and of her Divine Founder requires that she be guarded against the very possibility of teaching what is not true;
    Well therefore,might St Paul,speaking of the Church,apply to her the glorious title,’The Church of the living God. The pillar and ground of truth’
    How important, then, it is for us to know the exact meaning of the term infallability, and where this Infallable Teaching Body resides!
    If individual teachers have fallen into error,it is because they taught differently from the whole Teaching Body of the Church.
    If then,differences arise in matters of Faith,we must adhere to the decisions when the Pope in his office of Supreme Pastor and Teacher,defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the universal Church;ie, when he speaks ex cathedra. ‘ that we may not now be like children,tossed to and fro,and carried about with every wind of doctrine,in the wickedness of men,in craftiness,by which they lie in wait to deceive’ (Eph.iv 11-14)
    In all such cases the Pope may make a mistake and, since he has free- will it is in his power to go wrong and commit sin like any other man, but it is meant when he address the Universal Church as her supreme Pastor and Teacher, and requires certain doctrines to be accepted under pain of excommunication from the fold of the Church, he is then acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,and cannot therefore go wrong.
    ‘Keep the good thing deposited in trust to thee by the Holy Ghost who dwelleth in us'(2 Tim.i.14)
    ‘If any one preach to you a Gospel, besides that which you have received,let him be anathema'(Gal.i.9)To show how impossible it is for the Church to err,or to have at any time erred,in matters of Faith we have only to turn to Our Lord’s promise;’ When He the Spirit of Truth shall come, He will teach you all Truth; for He shall not speak of Himself, but what things soever He shall hear, He shall speak;and the things that are to come He shall show you’.
    (Johnxvi.13).

    Sorry this is so long ,but it is what I studied in my old catechism- Right or Wrong it is what I profess to be true.
    Superview, have things changed since then!

  2. Iona says:

    Quentin – anti-semitism, slavery, torture… And the crusades, don’t forget the crusades.

    As for paedophile priests, I wonder whether any of them entered the priesthood entirely cynically, in order to get access to children? Or did they hope that ordination would somehow protect them from their own inclinations?

    The converse of wondering when the Holy Spirit is or is not guiding specific actions or decisions, is wondering whether specific misfortunes can be ascribed to the devil. I know people who – if prevented by some kind of an accident or illness from attending Mass or going on a pilgrimage, for example – blame this on demonic intervention. Padre Pio, St. Jean Vianney, Marthe Robin, are all said to have been attacked or assaulted by the devil. How would one know?

  3. Ion Zone says:

    A bit tenuous, but I often wonder why, why on Earth is it that when racist idiots decide to spray graffiti all over a church in England, why is it almost always Anti-Semitic? Case in point:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-11605789

  4. Ion Zone says:

    #Iona

    It isn’t well known, but the Crusades were not, strictly speaking, religious wars. The first crusade was initiated to stop what was thought to be an invasion. The Church had almost no control over any of them after about the second or third – they were basicly just maurauders pretending to be holy warriors.

  5. st.joseph says:

    Suerview, the Sermon the priest made on Sunday,which you quote.
    Without hearing all his Homily, I am not too sure I understand what is meant by ‘but act as though everything depends on you’
    I dont ever want to criticize the way prayer is made between one self and the Father, and I don’t want you to think that is what I am doing, but I find it a bit ambigious,and I wonder if you can clear my mind on this, and how it would relate to the Holy Spirit-in action?

  6. Iona says:

    St. Joseph: Isn’t it just a way of saying “Do everything you can”? e.g. if you’re praying for the missions (quite topical, I think), pray as though the well-being of the missions depended entirely on God, but act as though it depended entirely on you, by donating, encouraging others to donate, etc.

  7. John says:

    In another context much open to contention – namely biblical inspiration and interpretation – a comment I have found helpful is that it is in the totality, all of scripture seen as a whole, and centred on Christ, that the truth of the word is to be found. Pondering the inspiration of particular passages in isolation on the other hand can foster doubt – ‘How could such a story be a valid part of God’s Word?’
    Could it be that with the Holy Spirit’s guidance the same is also true – that it is the total plan which is ‘guaranteed’ Spirit-filled; but individuals and individual decisions/ events may seem anything but?

  8. Daisy says:

    I wonder how these thoughts apply to someone who feels that they have a vocation. There can be many different motivations to join the priesthood or become a nun which would seem to have little to do with the Holy Spirit. But I can see how easily wishful thinking could make it appear that one had a genuine call.
    But I don’t think you can conclude that someone who fails as a priest was not called. He might just not have lived up to his vocation.

  9. claret says:

    I would suggest that we need to very wary of attributing everything that happens in the Church as being ‘inspired’ by the Holy Spirit. The fact that the Church was slow to condemn slavery or that it has been guilty of harbouring paedophile priests along with a whole list of other evils it has perpetrated down the centuries, should not be aligned with the Holy Spirit.
    At the very dawn of Christianity there was evidence of disputes and greed that are recorded in scripture (the same scripture that is inspired by the Holy Spirit!)
    The Holy Spirit that we read of in the NT and that is explained to us in the Catechism is a positive force for good. There is no negatvity there.
    What the questionner seems to me to be asking is why there is so much evidence of evil in the Church. This in iteslf is massive ( and disturbing ) subject but should not be confused as being somehow motivated by a (malign?) Holy Spirit. Indeed it is the Holy Spirit that has brought the Church back from the brink of eclipse time and again.

  10. st.joseph says:

    The Holy Spirit works also through sinners.
    He works through the hands of the Priest when Celebrating Holy Mass. The forgiveness of sins-he acts in the Person of Christ, and many more.
    If the Church was not protected from the evil one it would not be here today,and it will continue until the end of time!.
    And I fail to understand Superviews dilema.
    Yes we ought to act as though it is down to us, and thank you Iona for your comment,but alms giving is a duty, and an important one-but there is more to our ‘acts ‘than that. The ‘Forgivness of sins’, we pray that in the’ Lords’s prayer’ ,as Jesus ‘taught us’. That is a Spiritual ‘act’. As it says in the Catechism-‘every time we say the ‘Our Father’ we pass judgement on ourselves’.
    Isn’t the church a Church for sinners!

  11. st.joseph says:

    Where was the Holy Spirit when Pope John Paul 11 was shot?

    He was there when His Holiness went to visit his assasin in prison, and forgave him.

    Perhaps it is not for us to question the mind of God.

  12. Ion Zone says:

    Though slaves sat with their masters in Church (Equal before God), the church was slow to condemn it, though it was keen to free slaves.

    One reason forwarded is that the society of the time didn’t think it was possible for the economy to function without slave labour.

  13. Ion Zone says:

    “Where was the Holy Spirit when Pope John Paul 11 was shot?”

    It is truly amazing that he lived, and even more so that his attempted assassin did not succeed, did not escape, and later came to emote with the Pope and wish him well.

  14. st.joseph says:

    I dont think the problem was so much being a slave-but with the ‘master’.
    I dont remember exactly what Jesus said about free men, associating it with freedom of the Spirit-and then remaining a slave, seemingly that it did not matter ,in God all men were free.
    Perhaps someone can say the correct meaning.
    But I took it as, ‘when you become free men’ , stay as a slave etc. Does that make sense.Maybe I had better look it up!

    Ion Zone, Pope John Paul said it was through Our Lady’s intercession that he was saved-it was on the Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima,hence the reason the bullet was placed in Our Lady’s Crown.
    And She is someone who is full of Grace and The Holy Spirit.

  15. John Candido says:

    Let’s face it, the Holy Spirit, like God or the randomness of life itself, are mysteries that are ultimately unknowable and unfathomable. We can know a little bit about God if we look at the life of Jesus and the Saints. What we cannot have is an intimate daily knowledge of what the Spirit is thinking on the minutia of life, any more than we can fathom another human being. Therefore, using the Spirit to justify a policy is most likely wrong, or to say that good events in hindsight are proof of His favour, are most likely wrong or misguided.

    Despite the Western world’s sophistication, life itself is a random matter that we sadly have limited control over. We cannot say if a bad event is in fact bad because it could lead to a good result. For example, a person misses their regular bus due to a sudden illness only to learn later that it was involved in a horrific accident with no survivors. The fact that God allows free will as an act of love is not a point of dispute, but when we look at gross examples of evil in human history such as the Holocaust and to more mundane but no doubt equally horrible matters such as child abuse, violence, and paedophilia, the gift of our freedom is a mystery.

    I am very much in favour of what Superview has said about prayer and our own efforts. We need to pray about our concerns to God but equally we need to plan and focus on our issues in order to maximise the possibility of their success or resolution.

  16. st.joseph says:

    Candido, your statement,’The Holy Spirit like God ‘Just to put the record straight, He is God, only one God,I am sure you meant that,but just to make it clear..
    I think all Christians would be in favour of what Superview say’s about Prayer and our own efforts. My dilema with his opinion is of The Holy Spirt and the doctrine of the Church! In his opinion!

  17. st.joseph says:

    God ‘can’ work Miracles through prayer.
    We dont need to know what the Holy Spirit is thinking!We know what He does for our Soul
    with the Gifts we receive from Him.
    He is the Sanctifier, the Comforter, He enlightens our mind and many many more.
    God ‘can ‘turn things into good from evil.With God all things are possible!
    Our free-will ought to be in line with what our faith teaches! If we do something against Gods Will, it obviousley is not Gods fault, but our own.We can’t blame God for it.
    We ‘can’ know a ‘lot’ about God ,not just a little, as ‘Jesus’ is God!
    He did say ‘he who hears the Father hears me’.And ‘he who sees the Father sees me’!
    We need to depend on prayer for favours,(as Superview said) but sometimes our actions are not always able to bring forth change.

  18. John Candido says:

    Can I ask st. joseph and everybody else that is reading a favour by drawing on your considerable Christian goodness by not addressing me by my surname alone, because that is somewhat impolite don’t you think? John Candido is my real name so if you don’t mind I would prefer to be called John or Mr. Candido. Not that it should matter, but if you are wondering I am 53 years of age and I am not a teenager. Thank you.

  19. st.joseph says:

    Thank you for telling me your real name.
    This was not intentional to be impolite.
    Your reference in earlier posts were Candid Candido, so sooner than be familier,as I realised when I had sent the message, that to refer you to ‘John’ was being too ‘familier’so I did not change it-as I didnt’t think you would be so offended. I do apologise for any upsets caused!
    I hope I am ‘forgiven’in the True Spirit.

  20. st.joseph says:

    Also I will add, I was rushing out to Holy Mass, in my true Christian goodness when I realised it, otherwise I may have changed it.

  21. Superview says:

    I do appreciate Quentin progressing the question of how the Holy Spirit can be said to be guiding the Church. It is for me what I take to be a simple, if vital, quest of trying to understand the evidence of history.
    But because the record shows the Church has so often been wrong and incapable of expressing a vision that was consistent with the Gospels and distinctively above the age or the culture it inhabited, I do not for a moment think of the Holy Spirit as ‘malign'(Claret 9).
    Defining what we mean by ‘the Church’ would be helpful – and the evidence does seem to suggest that it is certainly not history’s motley collection of bishops, cardinals and Popes, because it is by their actions or with their authority that the name of the Holy Spirit has been perjured, is it not?
    I can easily be persuaded that in the lives of the many unsung saints who give themselves in the service of others – a recent example I gave was from reading the obituaries in the Columban Fathers magazine, but they are all around us in fact – there is an extraordinary dimension; but so far little has emerged that argues and evidences (as opposed to asserts) the case for the Church, as an institution led by men, being protected from error. But, again, it seems to me that defining the term ‘error’ is essential. What is it, in terms meaningful for the lives we live on this planet, and for simplicity narrowed down to our denomination, from which the Holy Spirit protects us Catholics?

  22. st.joseph says:

    I do believe Superview that you may be speaking out of place, to say that the Holy Spirit has been perjured. That is a very serious accusation to make against, (whether you like it or not) are still members of the Body of Christ, and are still Temples of the Holy Spirit.
    I say a little prayer very often in the day. ‘Oh Lord keep me from pain of sin’.
    I would like to believe it works in most cases,. but being human I recognise my faults.
    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all understand the evidence of history. Why dont you leave that to the Lord. no doubt he does understand.And no-one will escape His Judgement..
    Maybe if you pray to the Holy Spirit to give you His Gifts of Wisdom and Understanding it may help your thoughts on defining what is meant by the Church.
    I know what it means when I look at the Crucifix, then I know why Jesus died for us all.Even those collection of Bishops, Cardinals and Priests, who maybe sometimes have got it wrong,just like you and me!.But we are very grateful that those collection of Popes Cardinals and Bishops can still give us Absolution from ours sins.

  23. tim says:

    Superview is right that we need to define what we mean by the Church. The Bride of Christ? – maybe that is not the right place to start the present discussion. If we take his suggestion “an institution led by men” (and I take it by ‘men’ he means males as opposed to people, though we have female Doctors of the Church) then it becomes implausible that the Church is protected from error. As I said in the previous discussion, it is not the Church’s teachers that are protected from error, but Her teachings. To this it may be reasonably enquired how we are to distinguish true teachings from the erroneous views of teachers. That is a difficult question, but not an optional one.

  24. Superview says:

    I am very grateful to Tim for this comment. It was Tim who pressed me to clarify my thoughts – and feelings – on this topic. I shouldn’t like to think they have hardened, but rather focused down on to two of the important issues – What is Church, and what is error? Curiously, in the interlude, I have been reading a CTS pamphlet from 1926 (another product of our loft clearance -I think from my father-in-law’s possessions – with lots more to read) which gives a sympathetic account of the life of Fra Girolamo Savonarola O.P. (1452-1498), “whose life fell within the period when the Church was at its weakest and the corruptions of the Papal Court were at the flood” under the rule of Pope Alexander VI, a Borgia pope who bribed his way to election (ie. bribed the Cardinals – who thereby could hardly be said to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit)and who was widely known to have lived a life of licentiousness. Savonarola raged against ‘the corruption of the Church, the depravity of the clergy’ and it led, in due course, to his torture and execution by Alexander VI. Cardinal Newman is quoted as saying of the period ‘Satan took up bodily the King of Saints and carried Him whither he would.”
    One of the striking things about the publication is its candour when describing the evils to which the Papacy had succumbed. It is in contrast to the first reference to Pope Alexander VI that I came across in a Catholic paper some years ago that remarked, mysteriously, that ‘it would be difficult to rescue his reputation’. Now I know why. The point is, we seem not to understand the implications of the Church’s history. It is painful, and challenging, and it is human nature to seek to forget it. Then, of course, there are the actions of the Vatican to airbrush out the warts and worse, in its mission to bolster Papal authority, which deceives subsequent generations.
    One of the criticisms of Savonarola was that he was carried away by his ‘ardent temperament’ and a refusal to be silenced. That sounds familiar. In time, according to the CTS pamphlet, he was embraced by the Church, so in that sense the Holy Spirit can be said to have triumphed; but surely the moral of the story (or one of them) is that we have to be vigilant and exercise stewardship in matters relating to the Church and not trust implicitly in the Hierarchy to get it right? That said, the reality is that there exists no acceptance that the body of the Church should hold any sway whatever on the Papacy. It begs the question: Can the Papacy be an obstacle to the workings of the Holy Spirit?

  25. st.joseph says:

    Superview you ask the question’Can the Papacy be an obstacle to the workings of the Holy Spirit’
    Why are you asking that question-when quite obviousley you believe it to be true.
    Are you saying you would like the Papacy to be abolished so that the Holy Spirit can do His work properly?

  26. This impressive discussion reads, and perhaps is, a joint meditation on the nature of the Church as both divine and human. We may not arrive at an answer but as Frank Sheed taught mysteries are there to be explored more deeply without expecting to solve them this side of Heaven.
    Is it blasphemous to speak of God as a person of habit? The history of Jewry is often a history of betrayal of their Covenant, yet they remained the Chosen People. And we see a parallel in the Church. So God it seems likes to work that way, and we have to try to get nearer to his reasons.

  27. st.joseph says:

    What reason did the Pope say(I dont know which one it was now without looking it up)that the smoke of Satan was in the Vatican!
    And why did Our Lady at Fatima say ‘The Holy Father will have much to suffer.To pray for him.
    Where else would the Devil do his tempting only to those close to God.
    Even Jesus was tempted by the Devil.
    I would still like Superview to answer my last question! I would like to know his opinion-as he wants to know ours!

  28. st.joseph says:

    I would like the Heirarchy in this country when making provisions for Marriage Care to make provisions for the knowledge of Natural Family Planning and not thinking it as a ‘comicality’ as most. By doing so maybe preventing early abortion from artificial contraceptives.
    But that doesn’t mean to say that I want them all to be aboloished, because they havn’t got it right!

    I believe a little common sense is needed here.
    God did give us a mind to think for ourselves, perhaps we ought to be considering helping the Holy Spirit in His work in the 21st Century!Not to look back trying to solve problems from centuries ago.God knows there is enough to keep us going until we die. We can’t alter the past,but can make a big diffirence to the future.
    Then maybe the future generation will say we got it right, and the Kingdom of Heaven ‘is’close at hand.
    Perhaps the prayer to St Michael ought to be brought back after Mass, as it was in the past.
    It was started by a pope to defend us in battle,and to safeguard us against the wickedness and snares of the devil!

  29. st.joseph says:

    To continue as I had to go out.

    I just want to bring notice to Superviews comment in (24) where he says.Quote ‘The Holy Spirit can be said to have triumphed,surely the moral of the story is that we have to be vigilant and exercise stewardship in matters relating to the church,and not trust the heirarchy to get it right’.Unquote.
    That goes for the laity too. We all should practice what we preach! Pope Paul 6th got it right in Humanae Vitae. But then the church has been criticised for that too.!Did we see our parishes celebrating the 40th anniversary of H.V?.
    Even though I wrote to my Bishop asking him if he would do something.He was too busy with his ‘topic’Seeking the Face of Christ’They are still looking!Still they might find it in amongst all the meetings they are having!!!!on ‘A People of Hope’! I am still hoping!!!!!
    As I said I see the face of Christ in the Crucifix and pictures of aborted babies.
    As Christmas is coming upon us-I would like to think that we may see a few Bishops and laity outside Marie Stopes abortion Clinics and Hospitals. and when they place Jesus in the Crib, to remember the faces and the sadness on young girls faces as they come out from the clinics after killing their child.We may put a few pounds towards the White Flower collection once a year but Yes- we have plenty of work here, and praying.
    So you see Superview I also have a lot to say about our bishops, and I maybe one of the ‘staunch’ ‘catholics’ you speak about, who will believe anything that the church teaches, but I am able to ‘distinguish’ the Truth, and when the ‘Holy Spirit’ speaks to me!

  30. Superview says:

    Since joining the Second Sight blog I have read all kinds of interesting things and as a result my thinking has developed in several different directions. The literature on the history of the early Church was an illuminating journey, and lead me to numerous related materials on the internet and elsewhere. Now I am rewardingly engaged with the literature found in my very own loft, where it has lain gathering dust for decades. I have just read the encyclical ‘The Mystical Body of Jesus Christ’ of Pope Pius XII, dated 1943, CTS, when WWII was raging and terrible things were happening all over europe. Coincidentally, it informs the very questions of what is to be understood by the Church and what part the Holy Spirit has in guiding its actions.

    I realise I have to allow of the encyclical being of its time, and that a certain stylised approach may have been standard, and that many tender and spiritually sublime ideas were given expression, and it predates Vatican II, and yet my heart sank slowly as I perceived the various underlying temporal purposes, a major one being the underpinning of papal authority. I could dwell on various aspects of this document, whose title promised so much, but it would be to digress. Instead I shall let it speak, and quote directly, if selectively because of space.

    The hierarchical membership of the Body is very clear to the authors: “It is certainly true that those who possess the sacred power in this Body must be considered primary and principal members, since it is through them that the divine Redeemer himself has willed the functions of Christ as teacher, king, and priest to endure through the ages.” This begs the question as to who are the ordinary members, but I’m sure most readers will be able to hazard a guess. I guess, also, that the reference to ‘king’ justifies the imitation of royalty, and the Papal Court, along with titles and the use of palaces (even in a place, it should be noted, as poor as Haiti).

    There follows a long list of others who are worthily included in the Body, and the list ends with “and also those joined in chaste wedlock.” We are then told that such “hold an honoured though often obscure place in Christian society, and that they too are able…to attain the highest degree of sanctity …” It is difficult not to detect patronising currents in this section, although I guess we should be grateful we weren’t overlooked altogether.

    Several pages later it describes what followed from Christ’s death on the cross. He became the Head of the Church and “opened up to His Church the wellspring of those divine gifts which would enable her to teach infallible doctrine to men, to give them salutary government through divinely enlightened pastors, and to bathe them with a rain of heavenly graces.” Because Christ is Head he rules the Church and “imparted to the Apostles and to their successors the threefold power of teaching, governing, and sanctifying men, and established that authority, determined by appropriate precepts, rights, and duties, as the primary law of the whole Church.” Really?

    Christ also governs the Church directly by “invisible and extraordinary government”, not least by “enlightening and fortifying her rulers”. “Moreover Christ looks down from heaven always with singular love for His immaculate Bride and when he sees her in peril He saves her from the waves of the tempest ..” There are several passages where the authors indulge in this type of metaphor, and I confess I am resistant to it, whereas it probably works for a lot of others; yet as to the examples in history, the document is silent.

    Christ rules His mystical Body also by the “visible and ordinary government” of His Vicar on earth. The traditional argument is then developed from Peter “Prince of the Apostles” to its inevitable conclusion, that Christ and His Vicar constitute one Head, and “It is therefore a dangerous error to hold that one can adhere to Christ as head of the Church without loyal allegiance to His Vicar on earth.”

    Further on, the claims for the papacy show no bounds: “He it is who sheds upon believers the light of faith; who divinely endows Pastors and Teachers, and especially His Vicar on earth, with supernatural gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom..” Subsequently, we have the observation – prudentially qualified – that “It is He himself who is present in all the members and divinely acts in each, though He also acts in the lower members through the ministry of the higher.” There is more on the ‘higher and lower’ members, and on the duty of all Christians to “honour and obey as they ought the more august members of this mystical Body”. In the light of current scandals, never mind the dreadful things of the past, this doctrine is very difficult. Would Christ recognise the lower and higher membership of his Church? Will heaven be so ordered? Of course, the doctrine teaches that to know the mind of Christ we simply have to ask the pope, so the whole thing is nicely circular.

    There is no distinction between the ‘invisible mission of the Holy Spirit and the juridical office of Pastors and Teachers’. We are to accept the ‘absolute necessity of there being a supreme Head’, which is the pope, whose personal mandate from Christ is “to conduct the visible government of the Christian commonwealth.”

    Nowhere is anything given over to recognising and understanding the chequered history of the rule of popes or their fallibility in the world of ‘men’. There is no attempt to balance doctrine with reality. The word that comes to mind is spin.

  31. st.joseph says:

    Supereview do you believe that the Papacy ought to be abolished ,as I asked you in an earlier comment?.

    Maybe you think that we ought to have a democratic church like the Anglicans!

    Have you forgotten the Prophets,that God chose to speak to us in the O.T. especially the Psalms!
    Jesus said He did not come to change the Law(and He did quote a lot of Scripture) but to explain it, and to bring it to fruition. Not one dot would be changed. Superview Patience is a Virtue.
    Jesus wanted a Head on earth, that is why he chose Peter the Rock, as the first Pope-‘no democracy there’!!

    You say ‘There is no attempt to balance doctrine with reality’.What exactly do you mean by that?

    Surely you do not believe that the scandals in the church-are with the approval of church doctrine.Or any of our sins committed-even by the Popes.
    Are you confusing your ‘reality’ with Truth.
    Incidentally, the ‘Church’ being the Mystical Body of Christ-was always the Head, in the Blessed Trinity-from the very beginning, before it was established on earth.And instead of condemning– you ought to be praising the Lord, that you are one of its members-even if we are all not perfect.You will only find that, when you reach Heaven, where all things will be revealed to you.Wouldn’t it be lovely if God would reveal everything to us-in fact if He did it would blow our minds.
    We ought to be ever thankful, that we can receive the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, every day in Holy Mass, and the Sacraments -the Covenant that He sufferd and died for. It will always be a Suffering Church until the end of time-that is His Second Coming, and you won’t be able to change that. Maybe speaking to Our Blessed Mother, you will have some consolation ,to soothe your soul. I always find Her helpful!

  32. st.joseph says:

    Superview, I looked up the Encyclical The Mystical Body of Christ.
    One that I had not read.
    I found it very inspiring!
    I want to bring attention to a couple of the statements you may be interested in reading, as you did say it is very long, and maybe you will have missed it.
    (49 Christ did not wish to exclude sinners from His Church, but rather a reason why we should increase our devotion to her members.
    And if at times,there appears in the Church something that indicates the weakness of our human nature,it should not be attributed to her juridical constitution but rather to that regrettable inclination to evil found in each individual, which its Divine Founder permits, even at times in the ‘highest members’of His Mystical Body for the purpose of testing the virtue of the Shepherds no less than of the flocks,and that all may increase the merit of their Christian Faith.

  33. st.joseph says:

    I missed out a few words in the Encyclical, but will clear it up.Where I started with—
    Christ did not wish to exclude sinners from His Church- Hence if some members are suffering from spiritual maladies, that is no reason why we should lessen our love for the Church,but rather a reason why we should increase our devotion to her members….. It continues from there

    I thought it important to clear that up,as it shows the message of Our Lord in the Commandment of Gods Love for us.
    Easy to say but difficult to live. But we must try!

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