One of my recent posts garnered the following comment:
He’s going to believe what his church tells him to believe. Of course, he has every right to be Catholic, and there is much about the Catholic Church to be admired, but when it comes to doctrinal differences, Rick will go with his church every time. Consequently, it is futile to try and convince him of error.
Rick erroring is one thing, and it is not futile to convince me that I’ve made a mistake. I’ve made mistakes in the past, I make mistakes in the present day and I will make mistakes again in the future. Count on that. The Church erroring however is quite another thing, particularly and specifically when it comes to faith and morals.
“It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error…. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.” (Catechism, 890)
More here on what comprises the Magisterium (or Teaching Authority) of the Church for those interested but the point of the post lies with the whole notion of authority and what we as Christians deem to be authoritative.
Recently, Bishop Robert Barron was celebrating the fact that his YouTube channel had received its 15 millionth view and highlighted his top 15 viewed videos. In one of them, number 7 on the list, he expounds on this notion of authority:
I think Fr. Barron makes an interesting and thought-provoking point when he notes that, while an umpire is essential to the game, the game is not about the umpire. It’s about the game. The point of the Catholic faith is not about ecclesial politics or the minutiae of what the Pope and bishops are doing today. It’s about the relationship of Jesus Christ and the human person. The gospel is not a mere set of moral precepts. You can get that from any religion and from a dozen philosophies. It’s not a mere collection of liturgical practices or religious rites (again, you can find these in most religions). It’s not about authority for the sake of authority (you can find that, not only in many religions and political ideologies, but in chemical purity in totalitarian states). All these things are found in human society apart from the gospel. They can be, when exercised reasonably, good things. But in our idolatrous fallenness, all of them are latched on to by human beings as possible means of salvation in and of themselves and invariably become evils when this happens. Apart from Jesus Christ, they are all idols and cannot occupy the throne in which he alone can sit. All of them, separated from him, are just one more grab at some form of money, pleasure, power, and/or honor as the perennial substitutes for God.
This is, I think, one of the reasons that Pope Francis is confusing so many people: they have lost sight of the fact that the game is not about the umpire. His emphasis, over and over, is on the game itself: on directing us back to the relationship between Jesus Christ and each human person. But lots of us want him to be about an idol: power. They imagine that the faith is about something other than Jesus Christ crucified for our transgressions and raised to life for our justification. It matters little what. For some, it’s the attempt to reduce the faith to economic justice. For others, it’s the attempt to reduce the faith to the proposition “Opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world”. Both are examples of idolatry: of putting some good creature in the place of God. A,lot of people want the Umpire to kick out of the game anybody who fails to make their idol the goal of the game. But Francis is not primarily about exercising power and throwing players out of the game (though that will occasionally enter into his duties). More than that, he is not about the worship of idols. Instead, he’s directing our attention to the game itself: to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, who goes out into the highways and byways and calls in the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind–including people we might feel are too spiritually blind to be allowed into the game. And so the cry goes up that “The Ump is blind!” when it is we who are blind to the fact that, well, we are not the Ump and our idol is not the object of the game. Jesus is the object of the game.
That doesn’t make every call the pope will make infallible. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t make every call we make infallible either–including the ones we make about his prudential and pastoral judgments. And the most fallible call we can make is to assume we are the Ump or that the point of the game is the Umpire or our favorite idol. The point of the game is our relationship with Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, and the love of God and neighbor.
I think Mark to be dead on. Yes, Catholics and Protestants are going to disagree on what is or isn’t authoritative when it comes to faith and morals and yes, I’ve decided, as a wannabe faithful Catholic, that I’m going to believe what the Magisterium and its inherent authority tells me to believe. But more than anything, I’ve got to remember, and those who disagree with the notion of the Magisterium’s authority need to remember, that Jesus is the object of the game, that the point is relationship with Him.
Lord, help us remember. Lord, let it be so.
Crossposted at Brutally Honest.