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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!

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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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.

Okay, I will try one more time. Bob and Joe, a particular doctrine may be true, but stating it or teaching it at a particular point in time may be pastorally or communally unsound. For example, one might not want to tell a woman whose baby died of a late-term miscarriage that the Church does not each that such babies will certainly go to heaven although unbaptized, and that the history of the doctors on this matter is rather less optimistic.Now my judgment is that reaching in the midst of this crisis for the doctrine of the sinless Church isn't pastorally sound, for at least four reasons. First, I think it is likely that this doctrine, transformed and simplified into background belief, contributed to the reluctance of the prelates responsible for some of the abusers to fix matters, because they were afraid of scandal. Second, I think it leads to positions like Kathy's which I think are indifferent to moral responsibility. "My failure, your failure, their failure, what's the difference." Well, there's a big difference, depending upon who did what. Sin is personal, too. Third, figuring out what happened institutionally is going to make a big difference to putting in place safeguards against social sin. And finally, I fear that too many pious Catholics are taken in by the appearance of beauty, the appearance of propriety, and I think language like this tends to encourage that tendency. We've all heard of the stories of parents who beat their kids rather than believe the Church could do something wrong. So conceding that it tells the truth, why do you think this approach is pastorally useful to the Church here and now? [Update: you are free to pick apart my reasons. But even if you do, you will just get us back to zero. What are your reasons for thinking it's positively helpful?]

-Second, I think it leads to positions like Kathys which I think are indifferent to moral responsibility. My failure, your failure, their failure, whats the difference. -This is a misquotation and complete misconstrual of my meaning.

My early-in-the-day point aside, I have found this an excellent topic and well-articulated discussion.Though the theological underpinnings are essential, nonetheless I think that Cathleen Kaveny's persistent point remains. Yes. The Church is holy. But when happens when that claim is used as a shelter and subterfuge by those whose actions and decisions betray it? When the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. But till then, and for now in this, surely for many, painful pastoral moment ...?May the Lord support us all the day long ....

what happens when

Cathy: If you have been able to take from this discussion that I have been "reaching in the midst of this crisis for the doctrine of the sinless Church," then I do not know what possibility of discussion there is, so completely does this summary phrase misunderstand and misrepresent what I have been saying. I am simply mystified at this and do not know what else to say.

If those are right who say that the Church is not an individual person over and above its members, then of course the Church is neither sinful nor sinless in the sense in which an individual person may be sinless or sinful. But if the Church is a corporate person, then when a designated agent of the corporation acting in his official capacity sins or makes a mistake, the Church as a corporation can be said to sin or make a mistake. Here is an example. If the popes and/or holy office acting in their official capacity wrongly condemned Galileo, then we can rightly say that the Church as a corporate body acting through its designated agents wrongly condemned Galileo. Do these distinctions help?

Joe Gannon, your remarks are helpful. Corporate lawyers make these distinctions all the time. Joe K.-you seem to so relish attack mode-why, I wonder. I agree there really is no point in engaging you. Suffice it to say, I think you're re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic--the entire metaphor needs to be rethought.

Cathleen,I am not sure what you are asking, but that does not stop me from having opinions that I think might be pertinent. Might not.First, I think it is likely that this doctrine, transformed and simplified into background belief, contributed to the reluctance of the prelates responsible for some of the abusers to fix matters, because they were afraid of scandal. As background belief, the "sinless church" is problematic, which is why it is important to make it explicit. Infallibility, as a background belief, contributes to an unthinking submission to papal teaching. When it was made explicit, it was so surrounded by conditions that it was obvious it applied only to a small subset of teaching, and downright asserted that most papal teaching is not done infallibly. There is still background belief demanding support, eg "definitive" teaching, but infallibility brought out of the background is strictly limited. The situation with a "sinless Church is similar. Third, figuring out what happened institutionally is going to make a big difference to putting in place safeguards against social sin.So it is important to figure out the beliefs of the principals so we can craft safeguards. Belief in a sinless Church should not fool anyone into thinking their behavior is sinless. The visitators' report does critique the power structures within the Legion, which I think is a powerful step toward critiquing power structures elsewhere in the Church. finally, I fear that too many pious Catholics are taken in by the appearance of beauty, the appearance of propriety, and I think language like this tends to encourage that tendency. So it is important to publicize the limits of sinlessness, beauty, etc. "There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem." Is 53: 2-3 The Beauty is spoken of earlier, apparent even in the feet of the one who brings good news, but the beauty is not where we expect it. And that is the standard of beauty that needs to be taught, the beauty of the poor, afflicted people, not that of the stately majestic ones. This is admittedly difficult, but it is achieved only by facing how holiness and sin coexist, not by setting the issue to the side.

One more thought.The Sinless Church/Church of sinners resonates with the Catholic Church subsisting in the Roman Catholic Church. The two are identical, and yet different Sinners can exist in the Church in a "bodily way", but if they do not have love, they cannot be saved. (LG 14) And elements of salvation exist outside the visible boundaries of the Roman Catholic Church, and are ordered toward being accepted by the Catholic Church. In this particularity, horror at the sexual abuse of children exists outside the Church, within secular realms, and the Church's role is to incorporate it into our life, not condemn it as "secularization".

Well, thank you, Cathy, for your concern about my alleged dangerous, almost scandalous strategy. To quote you: "Okay, I will try one more time...."To make it clear: I am OPPOSED to the "metaphor of the Church as the spotless, sinless, bride of Christ," and everything I have written today on this matter has opposed it. I remain stupefied that you can think I am interested in presenting or preserving it. Did you not notice that I seconded your comment on the applicability of the notion of social sin to the Church and as well the suggestion that social scientific insights ought to be brought to bear in analyzing the structures and patterns of behavior of the hierarchy, that I urged the relevance of the kind of self-examination that was made by the Consilium de emendanda ecclesia, that I quoted Aquinas to the effect that the Church will never here on earth be "without spot or wrinkle"? In fact I believe that the theology of the holiness of the Church that I have been proposing liberates us for a serious critique of sin within the Church, individual and collective.

I agree with Cathy that something might be true but not pastorally prudent to speak of at a given time. But the holiness of the Church is an article of faith. Whether it is preached or not, it will be acclaimed by the faithful at Sunday Mass. I think it would be good for theologians to work out its meaning, in service of thoughtful preaching.

Is holiness exclusive to the Church (in whatever form it's supposed to be manifest)?

No, holiness is not exclusive to the Church, whether thought of in terms of God's gift or of our efforts to live lives worthy of those gifts. Vatican II spoke of the many spiritual gifts enjoyed by non-Catholic Christians and their communities and of the possibility that every human being, in a manner known only to God, could participate in the Paschal Mystery of Christ.

The Council also said that these spiritual gifts are given through the Catholic Church.

My concern both in preaching and teaching (and in a small way on this thread) is to accent the opening of "Lumen gentium:" "Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this sacred synod, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, to bring the light of Christ to all."As I think is clear by the citations from Aquinas and Ratzinger (not to mention the New Testament!), the holiness of the Church is derivative and utterly dependent upon the holiness of Christ.Any true reform is to return to the Church's one foundation (Aquinas quoting 1 Corinthians as per Komonchak above). This reform will also assume diverse institutional forms -- as with Benedict, Francis, Ignatius, Chiara Lubich; but the measure is always fidelity to Christ. Note in the immediate preceding comment by Joseph Komonchak that the norm of the "spiritual gifts" is participation in "the Paschal Mystery of Christ."What attracts people is the beauty, truth, and goodness they see on the face of Jesus Christ. I continue to believe that our reflections on "Church" will fall short unless chapters five, seven, and eight of "Lumen gentium" are ingredient to our ecclesiology and not an "add on."

Kathy: I don't know of any text in the conciliar documents that say this so baldly. LG 8 and UR 3 say that the gifts belong by right to the Catholic Church and therefore are forces propelling toward unity--in this sense they are rather divine gifts moving people towards the Catholic Church than obatined through it--, and in UR 3 it is said that the gifts derive their force from the fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church. Nothing of this sort is said in GS 22. Perhaps you are reading this out of the idea of the Church as universal sacrament?

I don't know whether what I'll try to say here is helpful, but let me try.To say that the church is one, or holy, or catholic, or apostolic, is not to make a set of claims for which we are prepared to offer empirical evidence. Rather, it is to say both that these are objectives for which God has established the Church and that He always provides the resources needed to realize these objectives.The empirical; history of the church, a community made up of fallible and sinful people, is a history of a people confronted with the task of trying to deal with what God has established. Perhaps the simile here is that the Church is like the Israelites in the desert, out of Egypt, but not in the Promised Land. All the Israelites, from Moses on down, remained fallible and sinful during their sojourn. So too with us Christians.Regrettably, in our present situation, there are people, both clergymen and lay people , who all too often talk and act as though some segment of us has gotten to a position beyond fallibility or sinfulness. Such talk or conduct is not credible either in empirical terms or in terms of our Faith. All of us always need one another to keep us conscious of our fallible, sinful condition.Mindful of what I've just said, I am certainly ready to stand corrected.

Bernard: Thank you for your helpful post, with which I mostly agree, particularly the second paragraph which echoes ideas found in the NT and in writings of the Fathers: "the Church is like the Israelites in the desert, out of Egypt but not yet in the promised land." The Church's condition here and now is one characterized by what biblical scholars call "the already and the not yet." The Christian life is an effort to respond worthily to the absolutely gratuitous gifts of God, but every day the Church has to pray "Forgive us our debts," because "If we say that we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us," which is why the Church will not be without spot or wrinkle until the Kingdom comes, because our sins are the spots and wrinkles. St. Augustine loved the image of the Ecclesia peregrina, often translated as "pilgrim Church," which would, I think, be misunderstood if conceived in terms of religious pilgrimages. The Latin adjective "peregrinus" means foreign, alien, non-native, and when used as a substantive it means a foreigner, an alien, someone not from here. We are on our way home, to our homeland, to our "patria," and Christ is the path there. But we, that is, the Church, even if we make some slow progress, walk with a limp. Better, however, Augustine added, to limp along the way that is Christ than to run off the path.

I am coming late to this thread, but will throw in a couple of thoughts anyway...The multiplicity of images and concepts with which we speak about the Church can be confusing. It seems that the fullest reality of "Church" is that it is a communion of persons, divine and human--Christ, the head, the Spirit as vivifying agent and bond of communion, and human persons as members, not just as individuals, but with their ordering according to charisms, states of life, visible roles and offices, etc. Thus the image of the Church as the Body, with both christological and pneumatological dimensions (based on the visible and invisible missions of Son and Spirit). BTW, I think Congar and others have rightly pointed out the overemphasis, especially in post-tridentine theology, on the christological or visible dimension of the Church vis-avis the pneumatological or invisible dimension, but that is another discussion). On this account, too, it's hard to see how an entity that is a communion of persons can then itself be regarded as a single person.Within the single entity then are persons who are holiness in and of themselves (the divine persons) and persons who, both individually and in the structures of their social and cultural life, reflect both grace and sin. Now what is marvelous in this body is the dynamic flow of grace (holiness) and sin. What I always find personally moving is the (mostly) Pauline theme of Christ actually "becoming" sin--so for example 2 Cor 5:21--"For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him." Or again, Gal 3:13--Christ "became a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree." The simultaneous existence of sin and grace in the one body is confounding in terms of strict logic, like saying that my drink is at once hot and cold, maybe. But in terms of the Pauline paradox, it is exactly what we would expect to find. The love of Christ reaches so deeply into our woundedness and brokenness that He is willing to exchange his holiness and grace for our sinfulness, if only we are open and willing to accept this offering. So, as long as this world exists, this Body always bears with human sinfulness (of all kinds) but at the same time the healing and creating grace of Christ. So how can we not say that the Church is both holy and sinful?Distinct (though of course related) to this account of the Church is the whole Bridegroom/Bride theme, which shifts our understanding of Church. Here more prominently come the ideas of the church as marian/feminine, the "casta meretrix," etc. But again I think the dynamic applies--in this union there is an exchange of grace and sin between Christ and the Bride. Personally, though, I find this image less appealing, given its usage to lock in notions of gender-specific identity in the Church.

Thanks, Fr. Komonchak.

Fr. K., I'm thinking of the first sentence of LG 8, "through which," and the passage you mention in UR 3: For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.

Paul is full of imagery both wonderful and useful. But the very multiplicity of the imagery--the Church is the body of Christ of which Christ is the head and also a building of which Christ is the foundation, cornerstone or perhaps also capstone--should remind us that it is IMAGERY, which our dim intellects need but we concretize at our peril.

Here's a rough analysis of the terms "the holy Church" and "the unholy Church" using the modern distinction between reference and sense. The "referent" of a term is the object which a sign/term stands for. The "sense" of a term is what is said about the object or some possible object. A sense is some sort of description meaning. Some words/phrases have only reference, e.g., "it"; some have only sense, e.g., "red"; some have both reference and sense, e.g., "the Pres. of the U.S."\It is important to note that signs can be ambiguous in both ways - - that is, both the reference and sense of terms can be ambiguous. For instance, "Jack" can refer to two different individuals, and "bear" can signify a certain kind of animal or an action. Now look at just "the Church". Many, many centuries ago "the Church" referred to the combined Eastern and Western branches of the Christian Church. Since the East-West schism "the Church", at least in the West, now commonly refers to just the Western branch, though Vatican II's use does not follow the common usage. (Just what the referent of "the Church " is in Gaudium et Spes is very problematic, I think.) Anyway, in "the holy Church" and "the unholy Church" there are two somewhat different referents for those terms. Parts of their referents do overlap (e.g., both stand for St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican library). But one term ("the holy Church") does not refer to the unholy parts of that larger object out there (the whole Catholic Church), while the reference of the other term ("the holy Churhc") leaves out the unholy parts of the larger object, i.e., the sinners. So each refers to a somewhat different object in the logical sense of the term "object".* Not only do their referents differ somewhat their *senses* are quite different, being opposing meanings, "unholy" and "holy", though there is no ambiguity about them, I think.If someone assumes that "the Church" has only one referent, then it *would* follow that "the unholy holy Church" signifies a contradiction. But if you assume that "the unholy Church" refers to one part of the larger reality (the Roman Catholic Church) and "the holy Church refers to a different part of the larger one, then there is no contradiction involved at all.I might note that in one of the Aquinas texts JAK quoted, Aquinas recognises that there are two meanings of "Church" -- one in "the Church of Christ" and the other in "the Church of the Sinners" (or some such derogatory phrase).*This brings up some really technical problems I'll ignore.

if you assume that the unholy Church refers to one part of the larger reality (the Roman Catholic Church) and the holy Church refers to a different part of the larger one, then there is no contradiction involved at all.Certainly this is true. It is also a completely unsatisfactory solution to the problem. It is like looking at the Trinity and saying there is only one God who appears in three modes. We would be left with a Savior who has not taken on our humanity, but only those parts of us that are already like God.IMO the solution has to lie in the relationship of holy and unholy, and the fact of their coexistence in Christ. (see Mr Petzel's note above). As Christ has "become sin" to save us, sinners have become the Church to be saved in Christ. Holiness, the divine attribute, is shared with humanity, which is sin, in the person of Christ who is fully divine and fully human. Our categories of holy and unholy have to change in our encounter with Christ in and through the Church.

I like the image of "Pilgrim Church" - we are all on a journey. Community, sacraments support us on this journey. Scripture are the historical stories passed down through the generations of a people on a journey.Journeys - folks do this individually; they do this as a community. At times, we journey in sin; at other times we journey with forgiveness, gratitude. But, we die and rise on our journeys over and over again.

The Council also said that these spiritual gifts are given through the Catholic Church.Is the Church the only conduit?

"Our categories of holy and unholy have to change in our encounter with Christ in and through the Church."Jim --If you change the senses of "holy" and "unholy", you change the subject because you're talking then about a different kind of thing.. Changing meanings of words might somehow help with your problem, but it won't turn what "sin" refers now into into what "non-sin" refers to now. To interpret "and Christ became sin" literally would be nonsense, so I can understand your wanting to change the meaning to some other sense.

[H]oliness is not exclusive to the Church, whether thought of in terms of Gods gift or of our efforts to live lives worthy of those gifts. Vatican II spoke of the many spiritual gifts enjoyed by non-Catholic Christians and their communities and of the possibility that every human being, in a manner known only to God, could participate in the Paschal Mystery of Christ.Thanks, quite helpful. I think of the procession of thousands of Muslims around the Kabaa -- all equal before Allah. Or the pilgrimage to the Ganges. I can't believe God is unmindful of these devotions. Anyway, sorry for the digression.

A flurry of comments last evening that have enriched the conversation.I think one of the challenges is that speaking of "Church" requires us to "think beyond the box" and to fashion new categories. Images, though crucially important, can only take us so far (as all acknowledge). We need to raise issues that, for want of a better term, we can call "metaphysical."Hence, at the end of the stupendous Book Ten of his "Confessions" of a holy/unholy pilgrim, Augustine senses the need to write three more books that weave his story into that of the origin and destiny of all creation.Thus the "referent" of "Church" must be able to embrace the blessed in heaven to whom we are really united now, and with whom we can engage in real interactions. Hence my continued appeal to "Lumen gentium's" final chapters.But this requires a greatly expanded reflection upon the reality of "Church" -- or so I suggest.Is this why Maritain, von Balthasar, Muhlen et al sensed the need for a new category to indicate, however imperfectly, a new reality?Kasper and Ratzinger, whatever their differences of emphasis, concur that theology cannot do without metaphysics. However central narrative is, it also gives rise to further questions.

The Church is real, yes, a real community (communio) and it is holy with the holiness conferred by its founder, but it is not a person (moral agent) in the sense that Christ is a person and the members of the church are persons. How does that sound? As for the church being our mother, that is an illuminating image, as is the church as body of Christ or as building of which Christ is the cornerstone, and the image is not a mere image, a mere bit of emotive language, but conveys something of the underlying reality as the other images do. But the church as our mother is still not a real person of the feminine gender.

Changing meanings of words might somehow help with your problem, but it wont turn what sin refers now into into what non-sin refers to now.Ann, changing the meaning of Church as you do is even more of a change in subject than what I suggested. The root of our problem is the creedal affirmation of "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church". Introducing a separation would mean that One and Holy modify different referents even though they modify a single word. "Strawberry pie equals 3.14..." The Holy Church has to be the One Church which includes sinners, not a subset that excludes them.The answer has to be found instead in the mystery of Christ who united the divine and the human in a single person. By forgiveness, the Church forges a unity out of the holy and the sinner. That transformation is the Church's task, and is what we affirm by saying "one holy church". Christ's new creation, a holy church of sinners, can confound our categories of holy and unholy in surprising ways.

Fr. Imbelli, you say "kasper and Ratzinger...concur that theology cannot do without metaphysics." I'm afraid I don't know what that means. There are different theologies and different metaphysics. Does each theology presuppose some specific metaphysics or just some (of course, not all) metaphysics? Or does each theology contain within itself some metaphysics? Or does your comment refer to some other connection between theology and metaphysics? To put matters in still another way, would Kasper and Ratzinger say that a theologian who is not prepared to espouse a particular well developed metaphysics is not equipped to develop a solid theology? Or again, does the term 'theology' refer here only to what one might call systematic theology?I ask all this because I am still trying to understand claims about the connections between faith and reason.

[A]t the end of the stupendous Book Ten of his Confessions of a holy/unholy pilgrim, Augustine senses the need to write three more books that weave his story into that of the origin and destiny of all creation.Perhaps the fact that the book was unfinished ought to tell us something. There will always be a need to write 'three more books'.

A.M.,perhaps there is a misunderstanding. Augustine did go on to write Books Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen of "Confessions." There he sets the narrative of his conversion into a meditation upon the Source and End of all created reality.B.D.,I think you are right that engaging in what I have called "metaphysical" reflection is a characteristic of systematic theology (of which both Kasper and Ratzinger are practitioners). It clearly is dependent upon biblical revelation (and therefore upon the labors of exegetes and biblical theologians). But it seeks to present a comprehensive account of reality as seen with the eyes of faith, and thus will draw upon some metaphysical categories. This is not the only task of theology, but it is, I believe, a necessary one.I don't think that there is only one metaphysical framework that is serviceable. I believe Augustine drew upon a neo-Platonic approach, Aquinas on an Aristotelian one. Some frameworks seem incompatible -- for example, a purely materialist reading of reality.One challenge is not to allow the Gospel to become subordinated to the metaphysical system. But the effort derives from the persuasion that faith and reason are mutually illuminating. It also represents a serious effort to engage the best thought of a given era. But I welcome the insights of others here.

Thanks, Fr. Imbelli. What you say helps me.

"... the mystery of Christ who united the divine and the human in a single person." (Jim McK)I recently introduced my university students to an insightful explanation of the Church found in Fully Human Fully Divine (which is what the Church is) by Michael Casey, page 93 - their view of the Church moved from negative (in January) to very positive by the end of the class last week - it reads: "One of the traditional qualities of the Church is that it is "catholic" or all-inclusive. If it is faithful to its nature, the Church may never allow itself to degenerate into a sect with clear boundaries between the insiders and the outsiders, between "us" and "them". Catholicity is not a claim to some universal hegemony that permits the Church to impose its will on all and sundry. Authority in the Church is service: this service is unrestricted in scope and permits no exclusion of persons. If it is true to itself, there are no collateral advantages in its exercise. Service is a privilege only in the sense that following the way of Jesus is always a privilege, even though such discipleship leads unavoidably to the sacrifice of self for the sake of others." All-inclusive -saints and sinners!!

Ann: Sorry I didn't get to this earlier. I'm not sure dividing the Church up into parts is the solution, or at least it doesn't help me. That's because none of us is perfect and we delude outselves if we say that we have no sin (I John). And yet we have been given the holy gifts of God, including his own holy life. All that is of God in the Church or in each of us is holy; what there is of the unholy in each of us and in the Church is solely from us. If that's what you mean by "parts," I agree, only I don't think it's a very helpful way of referring to it. I also don't agree with your statement that there's no ambiguity about the terms "holy" and "unholy." In fact, they are very often taken in an ethical or moral sense; but the first sense they have is more ontic: set apart for or by God. Look at the four grounds for affirming the holiness of the Church that Aquinas offers: they all describe what the holy God has done for Christians, for the Church, which makes them, makes her, holy. The ethical comes in only at the end, with the plea that we live lives worthy of the holiness we have received.

Bill DeHaas: You asked: "can you elucidate on Journets 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?"I find it hard to describe Journet's position because I disagree with it. He sees the word "Church" used in the singular in certain NT texts, in the tradition, in the liturgy, etc., and certain metaphors applied to it (her) such as Mother and Bride, that imply some "personality" over and against Christ (the Groom). He and von Balthasar don't think that one should think here of fictive persons such as are acknowledged in both civil and canon law. Journet thinks that the "without spot or wrinkle" of Ephesians 5 refers to this person-Church but does not apply to individual Christians. This view tends to make much of the distinction between the Church and its members, between Mother Church and her children.I find it hard to imagine or to think about the Church except in terms of the spiritual persons who compose it: in its broadest sense these include the angels, the Blessed Virgin and saints in glory, and us wayfarers on earth. In its broadest sense, the Church includes all the saved from Abel to the last of the just, but their number is known only to God. I am concerned with the part of the Church that is still journeying on earth, that is, the assembly of believers. The Church (singular) is the communion of the Churches (plural); it does not exist except in and out of individual Churches located here, there and everywhere. So when people use the term "Church" as the subject of a sentence that says something, I always want to ask: Of whom are you speaking? Of whom is what you say true? In whom is it verified? It is all very concrete. I think that there is good traditional ground for my approach. When St. Augustine commented on the Psalm verse: "Your wife like a fruitful vine," he said that the wife was the Church, but then he asked: In whom is the Church a fruitful vine?" And that "in quibus?" is the question I'm always asking. When St. Thomas read the passage about the Church "without spot of wrinkle" he said that this was not now true of the Church because we delude ourselves if we say we are without sin. That "the Christian we" (Fr. Congar's phrase) has to ask for forgiveness every day means that the Church still has spots and wrinkles, namely, our sins. Neither great mind resorted to a distinction between the Church and her members, or children, in order to say that the first is without sin but not the second. Hope this helps.

Thanks, Fr. K. This is interesting. I lean strongly your way for many reasons. I think of my mentors and scripture profs who made the parables come to life and often challenged us to write our own modern parables. These seem to speak about the Church as a "community" that is journeying together rather than a church as a single identity. It seems to be a more "both-and" experience than all or nothing.Anyway, - if you have some brief suggestions in terms of a summary or explanation of this theological discussion - would appreciate it. Also, think Congar's words have real meaning given the current abuse crisis in the church.

"Ann, changing the meaning of Church as you do is even more of a hange in subjet than what I suggested".Jim McK --I didn't change the subject or the meanings of "the Church", I *found* different meanings in "the Church", "the holy Church", "the unholy Church" and "the unholy holy Church" at the beginning of this thread. There are special problems with uses of the word "one" (and "whole", "single" "the", etc.), both as a descriptive, adjectival term (i.e., as to its varied senses) and as to its referential use. I expect it will take a new Aquinas to deal with those difficulties. In the meantime, we can at least eliminate some of the verbal fog caused by complex functions of single words, phrases and their uses in sentences.

"Im not sure dividing the Church up into parts is the solution, "JAK --If by "the Church" above you mean the whole complex in the largest sense of the term, then I don't divide it at all. In fact, I would describe it as its parts *plus* the relationships among the parts. There are real relationships in the Church and they are crucial constituents of it.But my main point is that when you add a qualifier such as "holy" or "triumphant" or "maternal" or "unholy" to "the Church" you thereby automatically limit the meaning of that particular use of "the Church" to only *parts* of the whole Church== you necessarily leave out the unholy parts, unless you don't mind oxymorons. Another example: contrast these uses of "the U,S, Army": "The U, S, Army is very large." and "the reorganized U. S, Army is very large". Obviously they are not precisely the same reality. They both include some of the same elements and same relations, but the second "U. S, Army" leaves out some elements and relations found in the first and adds others not found there.Noting these differing functions of substantives will certainly not answer all questions about a subject, But at least becoming aware that different referents and senses change the subject can help to avoid such contradictions as "the unholy Church is the same Church as the holy Church".

Ann, "finding" different referents for Church is not a whole lot different from changing what the word refers to. It involves a claim that those meanings were there from the beginning, for which you offer no basis other than the incompatibility of the holy and the unholy. ("when you add "holy"... you necessarily leave out the unholy parts") Since I do not agree with the point that holy and unholy must refer to different things, I do not accept the inevitability of "finding" the meanings of Church that you offer. If we are not ready to deal with the difficulties of "One", we cannot just ignore the term and say the Church is in parts, some holy and some unholy. This just creates more fog around the term and pushes us farther away from clarity on "holy" and "catholic". There is some tension among the terms of "one holy catholic and apostolic church" that makes it hard to define one of them without referring to the others.

Augustine has a sentence somewhere: "Holy Church prays every day that her sins be forgiven."

Jim McK --The words (and their meanings) I've point out are not new -- they are right there at the earlier parts of this thread. Some of them (e.g., "the holy Church") have been used from the beginnings of Christianity.-

Ann, the words are there, but not the meanings you give them. I see "unholy holiness of the church" and "God's true holiness [is] love which does not keep its distance..". These are designed to point toward holiness/unholiness as what is paradoxical, not unity/parts. I do not see anything that suggests a complete disjunction of holiness from unholiness, which is needed for your interpretation. That meaning is simply not there from the beginning of this discussion. I suspect it is not there from the beginning of the Church either, but that is a different discussion.

Jim --If you accept that total opposites) can be real (holy=unholy , then there is no possible rational argument about it: there is a Church that is an unholy holy Church. And by your criteria there can be apples that are not apples, straight lines that aren't straight, and you who isn't you. Yes, there are limits to our understandings of mysteries, limits that lead us to be contradictory in our thinking about them. But the fault is in our understandings, not in something which is and isn't. Calling these contradictions "paradoxes" doesn't make them true, it only gives them a name.

Oops -- "can be real (holy = unholy" should be "can be the same reality (holy = unholy)"

Ann: The same reality can be both holy and unholy, but not in the same respect. E.g., the Church is holy in virtue of the holy gifts of the holy God; it is unholy to the degree that it does not live a life worthy of such holiness.

perhaps there is a misunderstanding. Augustine did go on to write Books Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen of Confessions. There he sets the narrative of his conversion into a meditation upon the Source and End of all created reality"I stand corrected and informed -- although I love the idea of what us ex-software types refer to as "infinite recursion".Antonio

Antonio,My mom used to repeat an old proverb: "la vecchia non voleva morire, perch c'era ancora da imparare."As for "infinite recursion" -- sounds more like Nietzsche than Augustine!

Infinite recursion sounds a lot like Augustine to me, especially those last three books of the Confessions:Is it possible, O Lord, that, since thou art in eternity, thou art ignorant of what I am saying to thee? Or, dost thou see in time an event at the time it occurs? If not, then why am I recounting such a tale of things to thee? Certainly not in order to acquaint thee with them through me; but, instead, that through them I may stir up my own love and the love of my readers toward thee, so that all may say, Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. (from Bk 11, chapter one. There are probably better examples, but you will never hear from me again if I start in on these books again. Too much infinity for me to escape)

Ann,if you accept that a word can refer to one thing now, and another thing later, like 'church' in holy church and unholy church, then there is no possibility of rational discussiont. Only if there is a single referent is there any point to what Magister wrote that sparked this discussion.All I meant by paradox was to describe the situation with holiness vis a vis the church, not to preclude any discussion. If I wanted to stop discussion, I would have said we have to wait for a new Aquinas to unravel it for us. But I am very much in favor of us exploring how we can be both holy and unholy, redeemed and sinners, as individuals and as the Church.

JAK --Yes, of course, a thing can have parts that are different. The problem is how to speak of the subject of one sentence in a secong sentence when at least *parts* of the subject of the first sentence are not inteneded in a second sentence. This whole question of kinds of reference can get awfully complicated, and I think we've just about reached the level of complexity that can be handled on a blog. Let's just leave it at: we agree that parts of a thing can be different, but I"m saying that the subjects of "the Church is holy" and "the Church is unholy" have to be partially different if a contradiction is to be averted. Here is my last shot at simply (or not so simply :-) stating the problem: when two statements have the same textual subject (e.g., when instances of the phrase "the Church" appear as subject of both of these physical sentences: "The Church is holy" and "The Church is unholy", ) can both instances of "the Church" refer truthfully to the exact same subject/referent?? The answer involves predication of wholes and parts and the semantic problem which is know as "Frege's puzzle". I must also admit that the logicians are not in complete agreement about the matter.This is a semantic problem which does not involve any metaphysical contradiction.

Jim McK --We obviously agree that the Church's unholiness is not identical with it's holiness. I also say that both its holiness and its unholiness are identical with two different *parts* of a *whole* which we often call "the Church". If, as you seem to think, the whole Church is somehow identical with all of its parts then there is a contradiction because what you refer to as "the Church" is then identified with its opposing parts, and it then follows that the opposites are identical with each other. But, I say, this is contradictory and therefore untenable As I see it, the question is: what does "the Church" refer to in "The Church is holy" and what does the second "the Church" refer to in "The Church is unholy"? Can both the "the Church"s refer to *exactly* the same thing? I say, No. Otherwise, as I showed in the paragraph above, the unholy, holy Church" includes a contradiction. You don't seem to mind paradoxes, i.e., contradictions. But to accept contradictions is to accept irrationality, and I cannot do that for the great metaphysical reason that what is so cannot also be what isn't so. There is no talking about something which is but also is not in the same way. We have no common metaphysical ground, and so the discussion has no place to go. It is very difficult to use ordinary language itself to talk about the misuse and ambiguity of ordinary language. Our speech about ordinary statements usually needs tp be only "good enough" to get a main point across. Often we can just use the context of an expression to ferret out just what the intended meaning is, and that's OK for most most purposes. Happily, very often we can also make do without speaking with total accuracy. But sometimes, if a subject matter is very important, we need to get technical, and doing that in some cases does require the brains of an Aquinas or Frege, or a lesser light like Dummett. They are the ones who can even speak "good enough' to get a difficult point across without being totally technical (that is, accurate). I don't have such a brain, so I reach a point where I just have to do my meager best and then stop if I can't get it across. I'm sorry, but I don't see how I can get through to you any better. (If this topic is of great importance to you I suggest you take a course in symbolic logic so you'll have the lingo to read the classic works about reference and sense and some of the other great contemporary linguistic and logical discoveries. I'm sure you'd enjoy doing so, But even if you do, I'm not sure that all of your questions will or even can be answered. Philosophy of logic and language is not settled completely yet.)

Jim McK,I suspect that Augustine was more interested in "requies" than "recursion."From Book I, chapter 1: "inquietum cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te" to Book XIII, chapter 37: "sabbato vitae aeternae requiescamus in te."But of course it is an "active rest:" praising the Triune God and rejoicing with the blessed in the heavenly Jerusalem. Another paradox!

Ann, If you can acknowledge the need for a new Aquinas to make unity comprehensible, why can't you accept a description of "unholy holiness" as a paradox? You are affirming that you do not understand something now, yet do not allow me to affirm that something is incomprehensible now? Why is the incomprehensibility of 'unity' to be preferred over the incomprehensibility of 'holiness'? The only difference that I can see is that you are willing to accept the incomprehensibility of 'unity' and end all discussion, while I think we should explore the incomprehensibility of 'holiness' to see if we can understand it.What is really annoying about this discussion is that I am not even defending my own position. I am simply restating the point of the original post, where Magister is trying to clarify "The Unholy Holiness of the Church". He clearly intends holy and unholy to refer to the same object. If your point is to say that Magister's remarks are preposterous, illogical and meaningless, go ahead and say that. But do not obfuscate his meaning by saying he is not using the terms to refer to a single referent. And don't tell me to study symbolic logic when you want him to study it.

"If you can acknowledge the need for a new Aquinas to make unity comprehensible, why cant you accept a description of unholy holiness as a paradox?":Jim McK -I don't think we need a new Aquinas to make your notion of a unity of contradictions comprehensible. That sort of so-called "unity" is impossible. We need a new Aquinas to make some of the new ideas of linguistic analysis more comprehensilble, plus giving attention to some of the inadequate metaphysical notions of the past. I simply cannot accept *any* paradox that is a contradition as rational. As the medievals and the contemporar logicians point out, from falsity *everything* follows. If you start out saying that a false statement is OK (e.g., the cat is not a cat) then you can't rely on your own argument because from fality you can "prove" anything you want." You are affirming that you do not understand something now, yet do not allow me to affirm that something is incomprehensible now?"Not allow you to say you don't understand what is incomprehensible? I said no such thing. You can say whatever you want, but I don't have to agree with it. "The only difference that I can see is that you are willing to accept the incomprehensibility of unity and end all discussion,"I don't understand what you mean by "accept the incomprehensibility of 'unity'". I certainly do not think that *unity* is incomprejemsible.. I said specifically that *Identity* of opposites is an instance of a contradiction, and it is therefore incomprehensible. That is not the same thing as saying that "unity" is incomprehensible.

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