Catholics should be living the teachings of the Church, says a professor at the Incheon Catholic University, even before the Church formally declares those truths as essential in living a fulfilling life. Writing in Kyeongyang Magazine, he says the magisterium of the Church is the protector of these teachings that have been handed down to us for our spiritual good. But where does this authority to teach come from and do we have to obey? he asks.
He begins with some historical background.
There was a time when the Church was an important part of the culture,
and if you did not follow its teachings, you would be punished. This is
obviously no longer the case in our secular world, where religious life and faith is no longer considered of primary importance. And many
Christians also feel that when the Church does not echo the teachings
of the society they live in, there is no need to pay attention to Church
In Korea, we have the case of Naju, where the Church has made clear its decision about the events that have reportedly occurred there, but many Naju believers think the Church is corrupt and has overstepped its authority by stating its position on Naju, and so they refuse
to obey. And when the Church speaks about certain matters of life,
environment, labor and human rights, there are those who say the church
is becoming involved in politics. And when it comes to matters of
morals, there are many Christians who find the teaching difficult: no
sex before marriage, no abortion, no artificial contraception or artificial insemination, no euthanasia, and the like.
In the history of religion there there was always more concern to maintain that authority of the Church than the authority of the teachers. According to the Church, its authority comes from Jesus and the apostles, and the teachers of religion, now as always, are the instruments of this authority. The Church strives to keep this inheritance it has received from not deviating or falling into error.
However, throughout history there have been times when the Church has
not been free from the conflicts that have shaken societies, and in
matters not of faith and morals the Church has fallen into error. Pope John Paul II, in 2000 at the beginning of
the Jubilee Year, acknowledged these errors: responsibility
for divisions in Christianity, persecution of the Jews and other
religions, oppression of women, violence against aboriginal peoples, and so on. The
Holy Father asked God for forgiveness for these offenses, including
also the injustice of the Inquisition, the Crusades, the trials of the
so-called witches, and the Galileo affair.
The Holy Spirit's guidance of the Church, the professor reminds us, is
limited to matters of faith and morals. It is when the Church speaks
universally and not locally that this protection is given to the Church.
He quotes from the Constitution of the Church (#12): "The body of the faithful as
a whole, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of
belief. Thanks to a supernatural sense of the faith which characterizes
the people as a whole, it manifests this unerring quality when, from
the bishops down to the last member of the laity, it shows universal
agreement in matters of faith and morals."
obedience that is wanted is not blind obedience. We are on a journey of
faith, together with others, discovering truths, living them and
expressing them in our lives with knowledge and assurance that the Church will not
allow us to fall into error.