Friday, March 1, 2013

Assurance in Our Faith Life

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 teachings.

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."

The 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. 


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