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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

There is the city on a hilltop

I feel less and less inclined to wade into ecumenical debates. There's been one brewing at Cum Ecclesia between the Catholic and Lutheran positions. The primary issues at hand are authority and the question of where the Church is.

I can't count the number of times that I had prepared a lengthy comment in the comment box only to find myself aborting the comment in the end. Not because I wasn't sure of what I wanted to say, but because my comments seem futile in the end. The Lutheran position does not hold much hope to me of dialogue. It is too subjective, it seems, and the Lutheran sentiment of one's unbending stand gets in the way.

In the end, lazy as it seems to be, I am inclined these days to simply lift my arm and point to the Church Magisterium: there she is, the city on a hilltop. Don't take my word for it, take hers. In any other Christian denomination, my interpretation of the Bible is the sure foundation of my arguments. In the Catholic Church, the interpretation of Scripture and Tradition that is offered by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is the sure foundation. I have had the Iglesia ni Kristo or the Jehovah's Witnesses thrown at my face before, as an answer to this assertion of mine. Let me be clear then that I refer to Christian denominations who share the Nicene Creed and the pronouncements of the councils up to about the first millennium at least. Those who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, the closing of revelation with the death of the Apostles, the Trinity, the hypostatic union of Christ's nature.

In predicting the demise of Jerusalem, the Lord told his disciples to scatter away. Going against prevailing practice at that time, they were to depart from Jerusalem, rather than to hide within and wait out a siege. No such warning is recorded about the Church that he built on the rock of Peter. He declares a promise that asserts the opposite: "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." St. Paul confirms this when he calls the Church the pillar and foundation of Truth.

If you pose a difficult dogma to me, I'll point to that city on the hilltop. I may not understand everything she tells me, I may fail to uphold my avowed obedience to her judgments, but I trust my Lord, who told me to trust that city. Even if I don't feel like it, even when I don't understand it -- even when I feel like dissenting. You see, at the end of the day, I just don't feel comfortable with the idea that I know better than all those popes, bishops, clergy, scholars, doctors and ordinary Catholics down through the centuries. Even if I were to consider that many of those popes, bishops, clergy, scholars, doctors and ordinary Catholics were individually sinful, and perhaps often individually wrong in word and deed, I'd be loathe to dissent. The Lord has already warned of what fate awaits those false teachers and leaders. I shall observe whatsoever the Magisterium teaches, but there will be times when I shall not do as they (of the Magisterium) do. God have mercy on them if they cause scandal, but I shall not make of myself a rebel. Some hats are simply too big for my head.

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