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The Unholy Holiness of the Church

Sandro Magister has entered into dialogue with Joseph Komonchak on the "Chiesa" website. The issue is how to speak of the Church as holy, yet counting innumerable sinners among her members. Both refer to Joseph Ratzinger's great work "Introduction to Christianity." Here is the portion that Magister cites:

Is the Church not simply the continuation of God's deliberate plunge into human wretchedness; is it not simply the continuation of Jesus' habit of sitting at table with sinners, of his mingling with the misery of sin to the point where he actually seems to sink under its weight? Is there not revealed in the unholy holiness of the Church, as opposed to man's expectation of purity, God's true holiness, which is love, love which does not keep its distance in a sort of aristocratic, untouchable purity but mixes with the dirt of the world, in order thus to overcome it? Can therefore the holiness of the Church be anything else but the mutual support which comes, of course, from the fact that all of us are supported by Christ?

The rest of the exchange is here.N.B. This is the second day in a row that Magister has referenced Commonweal. Yesterday, on his blog, "Settimo Cielo," Magister referred to Ken Woodward's article, in the print issue of the magazine, which he called: "la rivista Commonweal, espressione raffinata della cultura cattolica progressista americana, specie newyorkese."Since "raffinata" is feminine, he must mean Mollie!


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"newyorkese"? I'm cut to the quick.But over the course of a life I've become impressed with how really messy spirituality is. It is quite like Jean Raber's and my beaten up rosaries. To me, that's part of the beauty of it.

My problem with this, Bob, is that while it is capable of recognizing individual sinners in the church, as you say, it seems less capable of acknowledging social sin --or corporate sinfulness that requires structural reform. The same development in social analysis we find in Evangelium Vitae (which looked at the "culture of death" in social and political culture, in order to move beyond seeing abortion as an individual sin,) needs to be extended to the church, in order to facilitate analysis of structural sin in the case of child abuse.So I guess my question is this: how do you combine a mystical sense of the church as the spotless bride of Christ with a moral analysis that takes into account structural and even corporate sin in precisely the manner JPII described?

Oh, yes, as a Midwesterner who lives in a little cow town, I think C'weal is very "specie newyorkese." But I enjoy subscribing to foreign journals :-)

Cathleen articulated exactly what I have been trying to express.

I think its worth a look at the cognitive sphere within which debates such as these take place; it seems constructed by excluding reference to much of the lived reality of the faithful and much of the knowledge that is so easily accessible in the modern world. It seems reference is only ever made to existing Church documents, previous papal books and speeches, etc. etc. It is typically only from these things that evidence is drawn and only upon these things that reason operates. I think, for example, that framing the argument based on the actual experiences of both Church victims and Church heros, or say, the expertise weve evolved on organizational behavior (a rich and interesting field of study) would be more to the point than the often singular focus on previous papal utterances.

Fr. Imbelli: that depends -- is "raffinata" a compliment? It didn't come up in my crash course in Italian for travelers. (Neither did "newyorkese," but that one I can figure out.)

I don't know if Benedict/Ratzinger ever had any words to say about Balthasar's Casta Meretrix --- it would be interesting to read them if he did.

"Specie new yorkese" ! (Which isn't always a compliment in Italian!) Like Jean Raber, I live in the hinterlands, that backwater known as Washington, DC. But I can read, though posts on the in and outs of THE city's politics do defeat me.Puts me in mind of a story. The late Cardinal John Wright was considered "the intellectual bishop" in the 1950s, perhaps even a "Commonweal Catholic." The story is told, and I have it on excellent authority, that one day in the 1940s, the young and handsome Father Wright was browsing in a downtown Boston bookstore. He was unaware as he spent time sampling an impressive range of new publications that he was being watched intently. But then he heard someone say,"Oh, Father, are you a Jesuit?" He responded, "No, but I CAN read."

A few comments on Sandro Magisters text. First, he reads the passage on the matter in Lumen gentium 8 as speaking of the sins of the Churchs children, but the actual text...the Church, embracing sinners in its bosom, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewaldoes not make use of a distinction between the Church and her children. There is a single subject of the paradoxical phrase sancta simul et semper purificanda; it is not possible to separate them out as if holy applies to the Church and always in need of purification applies to her children. Second, the English translation of Ratzingers Introduction to Christianity could give the impression that he was bringing in a distinction between the institution of the Church and its members, to the same effect. The translation reads: Because of the Lords devotion, never more to be revoked, the Church is the institution sanctified by him forever, an institution in which the holiness of the Lord becomes present among men. But the German original lacks the noun institution; it reads: Aufgrund der nicht mehr zurckgenommenen Hingabe des Herrn ist die Kirche immerfort die von ihm geheiligte, in der die Heiligkeit des Herrn anwesend wird unter den Menschen. Which would be better translated: ...the Church is the Church made holy by him forever, a Church in which the holiness of the Lord becomes present among men. Third, this section of Ratzingers Introduction refers approvingly to Hans Urs von Balthasars essay on the Church as a chaste whore, the use of which Magister, following Cardinal Biffi, sought to exclude. I have been told that he also spoke favorably of von B[s essay in his courses.Fourth, it is striking that in this early text, Ratzinger does not have recourse to the distinction between a sinless Church and her sinful children nor to the claim of Charles Journet, often quoted today, that the Church is without sin but not without sinners. Both Yves Congar and Hans Urs von Balthasar criticized Journets position for its reification of the formal element in the constitution of the Church.

Cathys note on the importance of considering applying the idea of social sin or of sinful social structures to the inner life of the Church shouldnt be considered so radical. It was after all the point of the constant and, in the end, vain appeals for a reform of the Church in capite et in membris (in both head and members) made at medieval general councils, of works such as Matthew of Cracows De praxi curiae Romanae, also known as De squaloribus curiae romanae, and of the long list of abuses which a special commission of cardinals presented to Pope Paul III in 1537 (the famous "Consilium de emendanda Ecclesia") and which helped inspire the reform-decrees of the Council of Trent. Structural reform was part of all that, changes not only in heart and mind but in habits of behavior in institutions and roles. Perhaps we need another Consilium de emendanda Ecclesia today; but could we find churchmen of the intelligence and courage of those who drew up that earlier one?

What Jeanne said.Churchmen today need to do better at listening if needed change is to occur.

Thanks, Joe K. That is very helpful. My own experience as alluded to in my column- is that bringing up the church's identity as spotless and sinless in connection with this just gets people really, really angry. Also. . . . I have to say, while, I'm not one to get all worried about gender terms generally. . . the reference to the Church as "she" in reference to this particular crisis strike me as very ironic.

Ecclesia and all that. Speaking of which, there's a Latin Wikipedia: knew???

Here is a summary, by Walter Desterre, of some of the conclusions of the 1537 Consilium de emendanda Ecclesia":"It pointed out, first of all, the measureless exaltation of the Papal power by servile counsellors, who had sought to prove, on unstable grounds, that the Pope is the possessor, and not merely the custodian of all benefices. The Vicar of Christ ought not to use the power of the keys committed to him by God for purposes of gain, and it is incumbent upon him to take care that his lieutenantsBishops and priestsshould be worthy of their office. Numberless evils flow from the great carelessness with which sacred offices are bestowedthe contempt of the spiritual state, the neglect of the worship of God. After all the abuses, down to the neglected and dirty appearance of some of the officiating clergy in St. Peter's, have been enumerated, with a directness of language which reminds us that the commission had employed the pen of the writer of the "De Unitate," the report ended with the confident hope that under Paul III.'s pontificate God's Church would emerge cleansed and beautiful as a dove to the perpetual honor of his name. Lastly, the report addressed a personal appeal to His Holiness in the following impressive words: "Thou hast taken the name of Paul; thou wilt, we trust, follow the example of St. Paul. He was chosen to carry the name of Christ to the heathen; thou, we hope, are chosen to make that almost forgotten name live again in the hearts and works of the heathen and of us churchmen; to heal our disorders, to bring back the sheep to the fold and to turn away the anger of God, which we have deserved, from our heads."

Father Imbelli, thanks for posting these essays. I had been quite interested in them, and am happy to see the comments from Father Komonchak -- Magister's reading seemed a bit one-sided, but I ain't the expert. I do think this issue of ecclesiology is crucial to many issues in the church, post-V2 and in the midst of the current crisis of abuse by clergy and misdeeds by bishops. My sense of Ratzinger is that he seems to have tightened up a bit on his earlier views on the nature of the Church (and that's from someone who used the "Introduction" as his conversion catechism), though I don't subscribe so enthusiastically to the view that Ratzinger himself had some kind of post-1968 traumatic conversion to conservatism. I think, however, that whatever Ratzinger's views in the abstract, his concern that the faithful in general would like to see the church as defectible and thus reformable in any or all aspects has given him a start. He did not like JP2's serial apologies (and there are good arguments that those were not really apologies, or had sufficient remove from apologizing for "the Church" as to protect against undermining the indefectibility of the Church). He is also concerned that scandals such as the clergy abuse crisis will undermine the divinely-instituted structure of the church, which (in my reading) he closely identifies with the apostolic superstructure, that is, the bishops -- hence his problem with some massive purge of the hierarchy. Once a bishop, always a bishop -- even if you abuse a child. (Unless you are president of Paraguay, natch.)So there seems to be a mixture of models -- abstractions and concrete realities -- that is difficult (frustrating!) to tease out in Ratzinger's thought and in his practice. His attachment to a platonic ideal of most everything ecclesial is an aspect of this. He has said very interesting things (which I can't lay my finger on right now) about Christianity not being a "religion," as it is simply the Truth (cue Nancy Danielson) and religion -- which is something that other faiths are -- being a necessary vehicle, or something like that. Cue Bonhoeffer? I dunno. Lots to chew on, and much at stake. Thanks for input.

Thanks to JAK and DG! You are both on target and extremely helpful!As for "raffinata" I don't know whether it is a compliment, but espressione raffinato would surely be a solecism such as Fr. I. would never commit, I had thought.

"Refined expression" seems quite complimentary, and quite suited to Mollie (well, up until the third pint at Kennedy's, but that's not for the blog). Both should be in the feminine (as well as Mollie) because they refer to "la rivista," the review, the magazine, which is feminine. Almeno, ci credo io.

A look back to the 1500s certainly provides precedent for reform (and a look back at the entire history of the papacy certainly gives some eye-popping examples of unholiness). Yet I think the real solution will be illuminated by knowledge gained from the "secular" world (one gets the feeling that sometimes the Pope thinks that is a world that God DIDN'T create). How many organizational behavior departments reside in Catholic business schools, or secular business schools for that matter? This is also where we should be looking. A lot of this "relativist" talk also serves as a handy way to ignore the wisdom the secular world has accumulated re questions of jurisprudence, corporate governance, transparency, etc. etc. etc.

From: is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages of reasonable balance in choice and thought that might normally be obtained by making decisions as a group.[1] During groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking.Highly cohesive groups are much more likely to engage in groupthink, because their cohesiveness often correlates with unspoken understanding and the ability to work together with minimal explanations.Social psychologist Clark McCauley's three conditions under which groupthink occurs:Directive leadership.Homogeneity of members' social background and ideology.Isolation of the group from outside sources of information and analysis.

Well, I guess one question --raised by David's post--is "So what?" What follows, in terms of real world consequences, from recognizing the "unholy holiness of the Church? Why does it matter? Continuing institutional status? Take, for example, the LC. it's arguable they were founded to serve as a criminal enterprise. Corporations can't be founded to be criminal enterprises, and those that are found to be such can be disbanded lawfully. Should the state consider the "unholy holiness" of the Church in deciding whether to disband the LC, as opposed to say any old garden variety cult. I don't think it can, in the US--or that it should. Moral authority? It seems to me that non-Catholics aren't going to buy into this in the first place, and it's not going to prevent Catholics from saying that doctrine or practice on certain matters (pick your issues) needs to be developed.Shoring up fundamental belief in/respect for the system? I myself don't think that doctrine is going to help here, or any doctrine. I think the only thing that is going to help is the conspicuous practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The problem wasn't doctrinal, it was moral; the solution is going to be moral too. Can the church produce good people, who love and care for the weak and protect children.

Jeanne: I agree entirely that some of the inner dynamics of the Church's life and behavior can be illuminated by the social and political sciences; in fact, I've been publishing about that since the early 1980's. I sent us back to the 1500's, and even earlier, because the call for serious structural reform in the Church today if oten met with appeals to the transcendent spiritual nature of the Church, and it can be helpful to remind objectors that there are grounds in the tradition for calls to reform. Christopher Bellitto has a book on the subject: Renewing Christianity: A History of Church Reform from Day One to Vatican II (Paulist Press 2001).

Cathy: One consequence of thinking about these things is greater clarity in talking about the Church. I don't think that by itself it's going to have immediate real consequences, but clarity of thought is itself a desideratum and when people think more clearly, they may be more likely to come up with good real-world analyses and solutions. Ratzinger's position, to which I am closer than to, say, Journet's, which has had a certain authority in Rome in recent decades, at least doesn't make the mistake of thinking that the institutions, or the system, are the Church. The Church is already conspicuous in its practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, but this is often overlooked when the Church is first, and sometimes last, thought of as the hierarchy.

I don't understand why all idealism must be immediately reduced to the Platonic. Given the huge Scriptural witness to the newness of life--the total renewal of creation--following upon the Pascal Mystery, it seems to me that the theological task is not to debunk the holiness of the Church but to explain it.According to Scripture, the One who remakes the Church is the Holy Spirit. Unlike Platonic idealism, this spiritual idealism is fully instantiated. Creatures make up this perfect Church: human persons, and Christ.

Make that human persons, in Christ.

Well, too much emphasis on the holiness of the institutional church led too many people to give the Church a pass on too much. So as part of explaining it, a good deal of misfired romanticism has to be debunked.

Fr. Joe, I agree we need both -- precedent for reform in the tradition and secular wisdom. I think a key point is recognizing the conflating of the real business of the Church with its governance structure. There's nothing inherently holy about an absolute monarchy.

As we continue to reflect upon the reality that is "Church," it seems to me important to underscore that Ratzinger's perspective, as set forth in the brief consideration in "Introduction to Christianity," is intrinsically Christ-centered. It is the holiness of Christ which is mediated to and through the Church.Thus, to limit ourselves to Komonchak's re-translated sentence: "the Church is the Church made holy by him forever, a Church in which the holiness of the Lord becomes present among men."So the claim is fundamentally Christological. One may then ask: how does the mediation occur? I would suggest that it is primarily through Word and Sacraments and saints: the "communio sanctorum."None of this is to gainsay the desirability of structural reform, of employing the best knowledge from whatever source, of the committed and generous practices of Christian life.But the whole treasure of our earthen vessels is Jesus Christ. It is this conviction that impels the telling of the Good News.Moreover, I think that consideration of "Church" must embrace chapters 7 and 8 of "Lumen Gentium:" the heavenly reality of Church and its essential Marian dimension. Here the "casta" comes to full realization.

The words/phrases 'ecclesial dysfunction', 'codependency', and 'enabling' come to mind when I see the word 'Church'.I wholeheartedly agree with Jeanne Follman's suggestion that we need to use the insights of organizational psychology (as well as other social sciences) in examining this institution called "the Church".I also share Cathleen's concerns.Perhaps it's our failure to use more precision in our terminology that contributes to the muddled discussion about "the Church" (or maybe it's Rome's hope that we will continue to be sloppy in our use of terms).

Joe J.: What is the relation between the last sentence of this post and the first?

Cathy: Consider the possibility that the theologians who talked about the holiness of the Church weren't thinking with "misfired romanticism" of "the institutional Church," but rather of the Church.

Bob, it's all very beautiful. But what does it do? And make no mistake, this crisis is a problem of doing. Not of beauty. The disordered desire for beauty created it. A disordered attempt to protect the beauty of the church perpetuated it. An over susceptibility of its surface manifestations contributed to it. Maciel's order was BEAUTIFUL--they were strikingly handsome, they were pious, they were devout, they were loyal. Their music was the best. Their liturgies--who could bow more profoundly? I remember Mary Ann Glendon speaking of them in absolutely glittering terms. And they were utterly and completely false. And Pope John Paul II either was taken in by them or didn't care enough to investigate, given their other merits (we cannot discount this possibility.)So what has to be prioritized is the development of a spirituality and a prayer life that will let the Church--the laity that Joe K. speaks of --see through all that--not with hate, but with truth.

I may have sent this in before, but here is Aquinas's commentary on the section of the creed that has to do with the Church. Notice how thoroughly biblical it is, and how the holiness derives from the holy acts of God in Christ and calls for a life lived in a correspondingly and derivatively holy way, something that will be realized perfectly only in the Kingdom. Till then, he says, we may not say that the Church is "without spot or wrinkle." The word church means assembly (congregatio). The holy Church is the assembly of believers, and every Christian is a member of that Church that is mentioned in Sir 51:23, Draw near to me, you who are untaught, and assemble in my school."This Church has four characteristics (conditiones): it is one, it is holy, it is catholic or universal, and it is strong and firm.... "With regard to holiness: it can be noted that Scripture speaks of another assembly, that of evildoers: I hate the assembly of evildoers [ecclesiam malignantium] (Ps 26:5). This assembly is evil, but the Church of Christ is holy. As the Apostle says, Gods temple is holy, and you are that temple (1 Cor 3:17). "The faithful of this assembly are made holy in three ways. First, just as a church is materially washed when it is being consecrated, so also the faithful are washed in the blood of Christ: He loves us and has washed us from our sins by his blood (Rev 1:5). Jesus suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood (Hb 13:12). Secondly, just as a church is anointed, so also the faithful receive a spiritual anointing which makes them holy; otherwise they would not be Christians, for Christ means anointed. This anointing is the grace of the Holy Spirit: God has anointed us (2 Cor 1:21). You were made holy in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 6:11). The third way in which the faithful are made holy is by the indwelling of the Trinity, for any place where God dwells is a holy place: This place is holy (Gen 28:16). Holiness befits your house, O Lord (Ps 93:5). There is also a fourth way in which the faithful become holy: they are called by Gods name. You, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name (Jer 14:9). "After being made holy in such ways, then, we must beware lest by sin we desecrate the temple of God which is our souls: If anyone violates Gods temple, God will destroy him (1 Cor 3:17)."

Cathy: Just to clarify: On this thread, at least, I don't believe I have spoken specifically about the laity, but about the Church, which also includes clergy and vowed religious.

Kathy: "Pascal Mystery"? There's the title of your first thriller! Something along the lines of Perez Reverte, I'd say...I think one problem is that folks start talking past each other -- as I, for example, am talking about the Church as a visible institution screwing up others talk about the fundamental Christological nature of the Church. In some sense we're both right. But a second problem is that we can use our preferred meanings to divert attention from the other meaning.

Thanks--both for the sources, because I always find Aquinas calms me down, and for the correction. " I should have written laity as well.:

JAK: "Strong and firm" seems to replace "apostolic" in Aquinas' analysis, though there is an ellipsis after the phrase. Wassup?

Aquinas always cheers me up -- a rock in the storm ;-)

David Gibson: The ellipsis is because I omitted the section on the unity of the Church that follows immediately upon "strong and firm." Here is how Aquinas explained the words:"With regard to the strength and firmness of the Church: we may note that a house is said to be strong, first, if it has a good foundation. But the Churchs principal foundation is Christ, as Paul says: No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:11). The secondary foundation of the Church is the Apostles and their teaching, and from them also the Church derives its firmness, which is why it is said that the city had twelve foundations on which were written the names of the twelve apostles (Rev 21:14). This is why the Church is called apostolic, and why, also, to indicate the firmness of this Church, St. Peter was called its summit (vertex). Secondly, a house is firm if, although severely shaken, it cannot be destroyed. And the Church has not been able to be destroyed: not by persecutors, for instead during the persecutions the Church grew, and both the men she persecuted and those she persecuted have constantly failed: And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but when it falls on anyone, it will crush him (Mt 21:44). Nor have errors been able to destroy the Church, for the more errors have arisen, the more has the truth been made manifest: Men of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, but they will not get very far (2 Tim 3:8-9). Nor have the temptations of devils destroyed the Church, for the Church is like a tower to which flees anyone who fights against the devil: The name of the Lord is a strong tower (Prov 18:10). That is why the devils chief effort is to destroy the Church, but he will not prevail since the Lord has said: And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt 16:18). It is as if he had said: They will war against you, but they will not prevail. That is why the Church of Peter, within whose sphere all Italy came when the disciples were sent to preach, has always been firm in the faith. While in other regions either there has been no faith or there has been faith mixed with errors, the Church of Peter has both thrived by faith and been clean of errors. Nor is this surprising, for the Lord said to Peter, I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith not fail (Lk 22:32)."

It's interesting that Thomas (and Congar, btw, in I Believe in the Holy Spirit) begin with the sanctiification of persons, who are assembled together. It's rather the opposite of the apologetic trope which says that the Body is holy but members of the Body are sinful. Rather, here, the locus of the holiness is personal salvation.

JAK: Whew. Thanks. (Truly.) On another point, I looked up an article from 2002 in America by Father J. Michael Byron which calls for a "chastened theology of church" that he thought was necessary in the wake of the scandal revelations. Here's the link -- I hope it's not subscriber only. What struck me was the first of his eight "correctives," namely that "The church is not Jesus Christ."He writes:

"This apparently obvious axiom in ecclesiology has received scant acknowledgment in pastoral praxis, in the documents that emanate from teaching authorities and in sermons preached on Sunday mornings. Several implications flow from this simple principle. One is that nothing is self-evidently Gods will simply because some cleric, council or Roman dicastery has said so. While Jesus Christ can be afforded that kind of respect, the church is a more ambiguous reality. However intimately and beautifully interrelated are Jesus and church, they are not coterminous.A related implication is that the reverence owed to the church, while real, is not the same as the deference due to Jesus Christ. That is because the quality of holiness attributable to each is not the same. The holiness of Jesus is such as to push aside all sin and darkness. The holiness of the church still allows for the possibility of harboring pedophiles. One who points out this fact in public is not thereby unfaithful, notwithstanding some recent episcopal comments to the contrary."

And while I'm at it, quoting myself quoting Ratzinger, from my bio on B16:

Augustine can say: The Catholic Church is the true Church of the holy, Ratzinger wrote. Sinners are not really in her, for their membership is only a seeming realityBut on the other hand, he can stress that it is no part of the Churchs business to discharge such sinners, just as it is not her affair to cast off this body of flesh. It is the Lords task, who will awaken her (at the End) and give her the true form of her holiness. As the Dominican Aidan Nichols points out in his survey of Ratzingers thought, the holy Church, the ecclesia sancta, is found within the Catholic Church, the ecclesia catholica, but they are not identical. Maintaining this distance between the material and the spiritually pure, as Augustine argued in the City of God, and recognizing our unremediated alienation from the eternal goodthis unending Holy Saturday of our existencewould become, as Nichols noted, perhaps the most insistent refrain in Ratzingers criticism of the Catholic Churchs modern self-reform.

BTW, Nichols notes that Augustine never used the term "People of God" though Ratzinger the Younger sort of put it in his mouth.

I have just finished the original material presented by Sandro Magister and it seems to me that the case that the Church is not really sinful is connected with the notion that the Church is a real person, a personal agent, over and above her members. If that were so, it might make sense to say that the church cannot be sinful any more than Christ could be sinful. But the notion that the Church is a person strikes me as implausible, and I would suppose that the Church is our mother only in the sense that Yale might be someone's mother.

Joe Gannon: Whether the Church may be called a "person" over and above the persons of its members is a question that divides theologians today. Affirming it are such as Journet (and the philosopher Jacques Maritain), Bouyer, Balthasar, Mhlen, and no doubt some others; denying it, or at least seriously questioning it, are such as Congar (who has an important article on the matter), Legrand, and yours truly. In the initial text cited from Aquinas, as Kathy noted, he moves from the believers having been made holy to the Church's being, therefore, holy; that is, there is not some distinct Church that is made holy. But, it's interesting to note, when Charles Journet claimed to be interpreting Aquinas's view in precisely this text, he read it as saying that the Church is holy because it washes believers in the blood of Christ"! What in the biblical texts cuted by Aquinas and in Aquinas own commentary is the work of Christ, in his saving passion, Journet attributes to the Church in her sanctifying, sacramental role, and the Church which Aquinas had identified with believers as the recipients of that great act of redemption, has now been set over and against believers to the point that it is now the Church that washes believers clean. (But there are texts in which Aquinas does speak of the Church as "una mystica persona.") Augustine put the issue more concretely: Taken individually, each of us is a child of Mother Church. Taken collectively, we are Mother Church. He meant something quite different than Journet did, for whom it is principally through the priesthood that the Church is Mother.

Komonchak's gloss on Aquinas: "the holiness derives from the holy acts of God in Christ and calls for a life lived in a correspondingly and derivatively holy way, something that will be realized perfectly only in the Kingdom."Seems similar to my gloss on Ratzinger: "Ratzingers perspective, as set forth in the brief consideration in Introduction to Christianity, is intrinsically Christ-centered. It is the holiness of Christ which is mediated to and through the Church."What does this insistence do? It issues, with Vatican II, a "universal call to holiness." Evidently, too often not responded to!

And that circles back again to the issue of what do we do about that failure?

Thanks, Mr. Gibson - you bring this excellent discussion back to a practical point which echoes, it seems, the concerns expressed by Prof. Kaveny.A couple of questions - you are the expert on B16 with your biography and research....can you help me understand your statement above that you do not completely buy into the post-1968 Ratzinger as different from Ratzinger the Younger? Fr. K - slow learner here....can you elucidate on Jornet's stance of the church as a person - what impact does that have on us? on practical issues? ecclesiology, etc. and how you see things from a different perspective? thanks

It would be interesting, sometime, to look at the theology of the distinct corporate identity of the church next to the canon law of its distinct corporate identity next to the distinct corporate identity of American corporations. I'm not sure whose theology of the body is higher, so to speak.The US Supreme Court just decided that corporations qua corporations are persons with a first amendment right to free speech that includes the right to make big huge campaign corporations.Some people have interpreted this decision with a hermeneutic of suspicion.

Bill D -- Thanks for the compliment, but wish I were more than a popularizer. I have to run out -- in-laws in town. But will try to weigh in with what I know later. Basically, I think in one sense he was always more "conservative," with a small "c," than those backing the "conversion" theory would argue. I don't think he was ever a liberal, though he was arguably a radical -- and one who in private had a very "incendiary" take on what to do with the Holy Office!

J Komonchak: Thanks for the information. I am glad to be in good company.

What do we do about the failure? This brings us right back to Waits. Two thousand years ago we were invaded by flabbergasting Mercy. My failure, your failure, "their" failure--it's all happening in Christ. Which makes all the difference.