Write In Between

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Writer's Wednesday -- Richard John Neuhaus

The Magisterium of the Church presides rather than controls. The pope claims universal and immediate jurisdiction over the Church, but nobody should think that he and his few hundred aides in the Roman Curia can control the hundreds of thousands of bishops, priests, theologians, and teachers of all sorts who are charged with the responsibility of guarding and transmitting the faith. The Magisterium demarcates and to some extent patrols the outer boundaries of the permissible, and occasionally disciplines egregious offenders. It provides authoritative and readily accessible points of reference such as the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Magisterium raises the flag at the center that holds, to which the confused and pedagogically abused can repair...

To say that the center holds is to say, in part, that the Magisterium is an anchor. But it is also a compass. Both anchor and compass are needed, depending on the turbulence of the surrounding sea. The Church is called the barque of Peter on its way to the destination of the promised Kingdom. In the third Eucharistic prayer we ask God "to strengthen in faith and love your pilgrim Church on earth." The images speak of stability and movement, of communal identity through time. Employing the nautical imagery, the Magisterium is in command on the bridge... Those on the bridge and in the engine room have their appointed tasks and, we are assured, the charisms necessary for carrying them out. As do we all. We are pilgrims and passengers and members of the crew beckoned onward by what the Church calls "the universal call to holiness." Which is to say, beckoned on by Christ and the promise of the Kingdom. What is expected of us is to respond to the call where we are, and in doing so to allow ourselves to be carried to where we are to be.

---Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Catholic Matters, Confusion, Controversy and the Splendor of Truth, Basic Books, 2006.

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