True and False Reform

Something moved Elizabeth Ann Seton to explore Catholicism. At one point, as she sat in her Protestant church in New York City, she made an act of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus. In the tabernacle of the Catholic church around the corner.

MonstranceHe is with us. He called Simon, gave him the name Peter, and founded the holy Church upon him.

The visible, organized Church, governed by Peter and his successors in office. She, and she alone, has preserved the original Christian faith, has continued the sacred ministry throughout the centuries, and offers us the Real Presence of Christ in the blessed sacrament of the world’s Catholic altars.

There’s a very significant theological book called True and False Reform in the Church, originally published almost seventy years ago. It makes an absolutely crucial distinction.

One extreme that cannot be right: Total enthusiasm for the institution of the Church. Christianity as nothing but rituals and rules. Pope and bishops, right or wrong!

The other extreme, equally wrong: Christianity as pure interior experience. Just me and my Jesus! I am a true believer, and that makes me a holy law unto myself. Who cares what the pope says or does? Jesus has made me my own holy pope.

We can only find communion with God somewhere between these two incorrect extremes. That is: in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Which can and does deeply criticize Herself, in order to find God’s path of purification and reform of life.

Outside the Church, our informed friends and neighbors in this world–those that prize the integrity of institutions–have reached a conclusion: the pope and bishops of the Catholic Church are dangerously incompetent. At best. The truth might actually be: they are much worse than just dangerously incompetent.

We have no evidence at our disposal with which we can disagree. We cannot credibly argue with these informed friends and neighbors of ours.

And yet we know that Jesus lives. He gives us Himself, and His divine, ever-living grace, through the sacraments of the Church. Using the very flawed sacred ministers that we have.

We have to find a way to live here. A strange place to live. We have to trust that God will provide.

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