[1] It has sometimes been suggested that the ecclesiology of Vatican II no longer countenances the term "Body of Christ" as applied to the Church. This is quite untrue. Such a rich term, so deeply rooted in Pauline thinking and in tradition, does not pass out of fashion. The whole of Lumen gentium 7 is devoted to an exposition of its richness. The term "Body of Christ" or "Mystical Body of Christ" appears in numerous other passages in documents of the Council: e.g. SC 7; LG 23, 50; CD 12, 16, 33; PO 1, 2, 5, 8; AA 2, 3; AG 7, 9, 16, 19, 38, 39, etc.
[2] The Vatican II Declaration on Religious Liberty says that the modern world, "there are many who, under the pretext of freedom, seem inclined to reject all submission to authority" (DH 8).
[3] A coherent human rights philosophy necessarily involves belief in a common of human nature, i.e. in the Natural Law. Cf. Appendix II.
[4] "In exercising their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have regard for the rights of others, their own duties to others and the common good of all" (DH 7).
[5] The Code of Canon Law lists in detail the Obligations and Rights of Christians: of Christ's Faithful in general (cc. 208-223), of Lay People (224-234), of Clerics (273-289). It is interesting to note, as the title to each section shows, that obligations are specified not only as well as, but before rights.
[6] References to the serving mission of the clergy permeate the documents of Vatican II. Cf. for instance: LO 21, 24, 27, 28, 32; CD 5, 9, 16, 28; PO 3, 16, 13; GS 3, 40, 42, 76, 89, 93; AA 3, 8, 10, etc.
[7] Cf. c. 840; SC 7.
[8] Behind this, of course, lies the theological question of who ia qualified - by means of a divinely-given charism - to judge and know what is in fact the authentic teaching of Christ: a question that we study in Chapter 14.
[9] Hopefully, if he is a priest, he is more sensitive about the rights of other people than about his own.
[10] A badge is clearly not a dress.
[11] AAS 76 (1984) 644.
[12] If we are going to take a look inside man, we need to establish some distinctions about the way he functions interiorly. Some people today question these distinctions. They say that man is one being, one person, and it makes no sense to speak of, say, his mind or his will or his feelings, as if they were really distinct from him. One is not saying that they are distinct from him, in suggesting that they are distinguishable among themselves; and that the complexity of man's interior operations cannot be understood unless they are distinguished. While it is true that in each one of us there is only one person, one "I" who acts, nevertheless we can and should see that personal activity is expressed in clearly distinguishable modes. To think is not the same as to feel, to know is not the same as to love, to be hungry or tired is not the same as to be angry or selfish. Unless we bear these distinctions in mind we can never understand the process by which man can win, or lose, his interior freedom.
[13] DH 2; the proviso about the requirements of public order is repeated throughout the subsequent paragraphs of the Declaration.
[14] In Chapter 2 we saw that any law, precisely in defending the rights of certain persons, does have a legitimate restrictive effect on the rights of others.
[15] It is clear of course that the motives for obeying the two categories of law - (a) fundamental laws of faith and morals, and (b) merely disciplinary laws - are not identical. In the case of fundamental dogmatic or moral laws, the motive for our acceptance is respect for Christ's Truth, because in these matters Christ has pledged that his Church will not err, that it will teach with his very Truthfulness. In the case of merely disciplinary laws, the motive of our obedience is not the Truth of Christ - which is not at issue in regard to such laws - but the Authority of Christ. We obey these laws because we see Christ's Will behind them. Both categories of laws are in fact covered by the crystal clear scriptural texts cited above: Mt 18:18; Lk 10:16.
[16] cf. chapter 4.
[17] Naturally he should not let himself stop at this conclusion. He should start a positive process of investigation to see where his mind may have been mistaken. He should especially try to investigate, and to reflect more deeply upon, the positive arguments behind the Church's position.
[18] To choose to dissent, on conscientious grounds, from major church teaching, is to put one's conscience higher than Christ, and so make one's conscience the sole guide to own's actions. The person who does so attributes infallibility to his own conscience, and denies infallibility to Christ. In other words, he attributes to his conscience what is not due to it, at the same time as he denies to Christ what is due to him. He puts his trust not in Christ but in himself.
[19] Conscience and Freedom, Sinag-Tala, Manila, 3rd edition, 2009, pp. 93-95.
[20] Cf. ibid. pp 114ff; and below, Chapters 14-15.
[21] As we saw earlier, callings of service - the medical profession, the teaching profession, the priesthood, etc. - are more strongly characterized by obligations than by rights. To approach any such way of life with an awareness that obligations are going to outweigh personal rights, is a sign that one is approaching it vocationally, i.e. with a real purpose of service. To approach it with an excessive concern for personal rights and with a tendency to place them before obligations, betrays a lack of true spirit of service. It is a sign that one is approaching that way of life with too much self-concern; a true and proper vocation is not present, or else is not being answered properly
[22] If he had preferred to remain uncertain, he clearly would not have asked the way. The point applies: people who do not want the Church's guidance, do not come seeking it. Those who do come seeking it, are entitled to have it.
[23] It is peculiar that some people who receive the answer, "You can follow your own conscience", in reply to an enquiry about contraception, seem to conclude, "that means it is OK for me to practice contraception"! I wonder if people who do practice contraception are really listening to their conscience... Who knows? What is certain is that if a person is not listening to his conscience, he clearly cannot be said to be following it.
[24] Beyond knowing the words to be said, and the matter to be used.
[25] Entrance Antiphon for Holy Thursday; cf. Gal 6:14.
[26] St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, no. 933.
[27] See below, chapter 14.
[28] It is the Natural Law which in a certain sense comes from the heart.
[29] In Joann. Ev. Tract. 32, 8. cf. OT 9.
[30] Cf. the opening paragraph of Lumen gentium: "the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God, and of unity among all men". And Ad gentes says that Jesus "founded his Church as the sacrament of salvation" (AG 5; cf. also LG 48; GS 42). The spiritual and the institutional aspects of the Church are harmonized, in Vatican II, in a thoroughly christocentric ecclesiology. The dialectical approach - of contrasting and opposing the material and the spiritual, the human and the divine - which characterizes much of Protestant thinking, is basically a failure to accept the full implications of the Incarnation.
[31] Though it is not strictly speaking from life but from justice, that it takes its norm.
[32] Stress or tension. For law always involves tension: the good tension of holding wayward man to the line and path of justice, and binding him to his fellow-men in the community.
[33] To see the 'institutional-juridical" as necessarily opposed to the 'spiritual-charismatic' is another example of that dualist tendency we commented on earlier, which makes some persons see opposition where a truer vision sees complementarity. Institutional and spiritual are no more necessarily opposed than are law and freedom, authority and conscience, common good and individual good.
[34] St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ is Passing By, no. 131.
[35] And in certain cases coinciding in the same person or persons; e.g. the hierarchic and charismatic gift of infallibility.
[36] c. 482; cf also cc. 228, 230, 231, 492, 537, 910.
[37] Cf. Instructions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on Liberation Theology, of 6 August 1984 and of 22 March 1986.
[38] This of course has its application within the contemporary Church. Can those modern theologians who not only lack union with the Magisterium, but are not even at one among themselves, inspire a new sense of community among Christians? Or do they not rather run the danger of forming a series of splinter groups disconnected from the mainstream of Catholic thinking?
[39] Attempts at "clericalization of the laity" and "secularization of the clergy" are parallel dangers that Pope John Paul II has drawn attention to (cf Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II; VII, 1(1984), p. 1784.
[40] Emphasis added in this and the following quotations from the Council documents.
[41] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical, Laborem Exercens, 25.
[42] Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 70.
[43] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, 21.
[44] cf. Apostolic Letter Ministeria Quaedam of 15 August 1972.
[45] The Church does not have to fear "losing credibility". It, like Jesus, has to challenge people to have faith. "Credible" means "capable of being believed in". God, the Church, the sacraments, the christian moral law . .. all are credible if we have faith. If we are not prepared to have faith, they remain incredible; their infinite richness remains inaccessible to us and we remain stuck within our own impoverished lives.
[46] We are speaking of both the solemn and the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Church. A concise statement of what this is, and of its binding force, is given in c. 749,1.
[47] Lk 7:35 (Jerusalem Bible).
[48] The image of building up the Church, the community, the Body of Christ, was especially dear to St Paul (cf. 1 Cor 14:5-12; 5:12; 2 Cor 12:19; Eph 4:12, etc.). He insists that individual gifts must be used for building up (1 Cor 14, passim); and warns in particular that while knowledge without love "puffs up", it does not "build up" (1 Cor 8:1).
[49] Eight, to be precise (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Jude, Peter); or nine, if we take the author of Hebrews to be other than Paul.
[50] Con. epist. Manichaei fundam. no. 6.
[51] The agreement on this point of doctrine was ecclesially unanimous. The Magisterium was clear in what it presented. The faithful were clear in what they saw. And the theologians were clear in what they taught; not a single theologian of any repute questioned the teaching before 1960.
[52] Although, to my mind, papal infallibility is also involved. All modern Popes, especially from Pius XI on, addressing themselves precisely as teachers of all the faithful on a major matter of morals, have explicitly and repeatedly taught that contraception is a grave sin against God's law and against the meaning and dignity of sex in marriage. The argument that the teaching of Pius XI and Paul VI is contained "only" in an Encyclical (Casti connubii and Humanae vitae) and that an Encyclical is not normally used for infallible proclamations is no argument. The Pope is infallible not when he chooses to use a particular type of document for his teaching but when, in virtue of his office, he teaches all the faithful a doctrine to be held concerning faith and morals. This is what Pope Paul VI explicitly did in Humanae vitae. Consider the force and solemnity of the words with which he introduces his decision that, despite modern arguments urged in favor of contraception, the moral evaluation on this matter remains unchanged: "We, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, intend to give Our reply to this series of grave questions" (HV 7).
[53] Lumen gentium, 25 teaches that both the ordinary universal Magisterium and the solemn Magisterium are infallible.
[54] The context here is historical - in the most precise sense. It is the fact of the Incarnation, and all that flows from it (Revelation, sacraments, Church...). If a scholar does not work within this historical context, he is not working as a Christian. Other historical or literary reference points are completely subordinate to the fact of the God-Man and his Revelation. For the exegete, as for any theologian, the first and fundamental questions are: Do I believe Jesus Christ to be God and Savior of all men? Do I accept his Divinity - and his Revelation - as my starting and reference point? Do I accept that his Mind and Will come to me through the Church's Magisterium?
[55] Already in the second century, St Irenaeus rejoiced to contemplate the unity of the Church in believing the truths of faith handed down from the apostles. "The Church believes these truths, as if it had but one soul and one heart, it preaches them and hands them on as though it had but one mouth. For although there are many different languages in the world, even so the strength of tradition is one and the same. The Church founded in Germany believes exactly the same and hands on exactly the same as do the Spanish and Celtic churches, and the ones in the East, those in Egypt and Libya and Jerusalem, the centre of the world. As the sun, which is God's creation, is the same throughout the whole world, so the preaching of the truth shines in all places and enlightens all men who wish to come to the knowledge of the truth" (Adv. Haer. I, 10).
[56] The doctrine of the Blessed Trinity could illustrate our point. The Church claims to teach this doctrine infallibly. In other words, it claims that the doctrine that there are Three Persons in One God, is certainly true. The Church has never claimed to understand or explain this doctrine fully; who can comprehend that Truth adequately except God Himself?.
[57] For instance, the Council of Trent taught solemnly that polygamy is forbidden by divine law (DS l8O2/972), and that sacramental and consummated marriage is indissoluble (DS l8O7/977).
[58] This reminds us once more that the Mind of Christ is not a thing of the past that needs to have new ideas added to it. It is the present Truth that simply calls for new light to be shone onto its recesses.
[59] Grammar of Assent, Chapter 6.
[60] The rule of private judgment in interpreting Christ's Message is on a par with moral subjectivism or legal positivism. There is no objective truth, or none is attainable. The individual creates his subjective norm in everything. Truth becomes a matter of opinion. Opinion becomes the standard of Truth. And then there are as many "truths" as there are opinions.
[61] "No one is freed from sin by himself or by his own efforts, no one is raised above himself or completely delivered from his own weakness, solitude or slavery; all have need of Christ who is the model, master, liberator, savior, and giver of life" (AG 8).
[62] In the ceremony of his ordination, when a bishop-elect receives the episcopal ring, the consecrating bishop says to him: "Take this ring, the seal of your fidelity. With faith and love protect the Bride of Christ, his holy Church". In the same ceremony he makes a public declaration before his people of his resolve "to maintain the deposit of faith, entire and incorrupt, as handed down by the apostles and professed by the Church everywhere and at all times"; and also "to build up the Church as the Body of Christ and to remain united to it within the order of bishops under the authority of the apostle Peter" (cf. The Rites of the Catholic Church, Vol II, pp 92ff).
[63] That is why it is sometimes also called Voluntarism.
[64] Either one man's opinion is as good as another's (and then you get potential chaos), or there is One Opinion that is better than anyone's: i.e. God's. That is why if, as Christians believe, God has revealed his "opinion" - about man and men's affairs - there, in God's Revelation, is the true basis for life.
[65] It is also vital to see that Catholic morality in major areas, especially that of sexual conduct, is simply an expression of the natural law. If one does not see this, there is a danger of thinking that the moral teaching of the Church, in areas such as marriage and sexuality, is out of touch with human reality and is contrary to man's true interests and development; whereas precisely the opposite is true.
[66] It is significant that the Encyclopedia Britannica has no entry on natural law in the sense in which we are discussing it, although the Encyclopedia Americana has.
[67] They did not begin to be wrong about the thirteenth century B.C. when God gave the Commandments to Moses. They were wrong "before" that. They were wrong from the start: always. Four hundred years before Moses, Joseph knew that it was wrong to commit adultery (Gen 39:9). It was no positive law, but his own sense of the natural law, that told him.
[68] Such reminders and explanations of the content of the natural law precepts are part of moral education, i.e. of the process of forming the conscience. But it is not moral education that gives rise to conscience. Conscience is already there. Moral education forms the conscience if the principles taught are sound and true, and deforms it if the principles are unsound or false.
[69] Here we are of course prescinding from the economy of grace.
[70] If man's nature is changing, then the human nature Christ took solidarizes him only with those who share that same nature, i.e. those of twenty centuries ago; not those of today or those of 4000 A.D. If man of 4000 A.D. will have a changed nature, then he will not be man, not as Christ was; and Christ, then, would not have died for him - whoever or whatever he will be. The thesis of an evolving human nature utterly destroys the universality of the Redemption worked by Christ.
[71] Chapter 8.
[72] Cf. for instance, cc. 57; 270; 698; 1505; 1649; 1732-1739; 1747.