Saturday, November 07, 2015

The transubstantiated church

Catholic apologists allege that Protestants have no visible church. The charge is ironic when you consider the dichotomized church of Catholic apologists. For them, the real church isn't located in people. It isn't to be found in monks, nuns, priests, bishops or even popes–much less the laity.

Rather, the real church is located in documents. The idea of the church. 

Consider their reaction to the last two synods on marriage and family. By now it's unambiguously clear that this pope wants to change church policy on the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to communion. And it's clear that bishops and priests can get away with that. 

But so long as the policy isn't reversed on paper, Catholic apologists breathe a sigh of relief. That's because their church is contained on slips of paper.

It's like they believe in the transubstantiation of the church. The laity, monks, nuns, priests, bishops, and popes are the visible accidents. But the true church, the substance of the church, consists of invisible, intangible, inaudible, tasteless, odorless ideas. Formal definitions and dogmas. 

In that respect, even "mainstream" Catholic apologists are functional sedevacantists. Their practical position is indistinguishable from sedevacantists. Archbishop Lefebvre never doubted the continued existence of the One True Church. But that wasn't to be confused with living, breathing church of popes, bishops, and priests. 

For Catholic apologists, just like sedevacantists, the church isn't a physical, organic entity, but a set of transcendent ideas. It doesn't discredit Rome when popes appoint known modernists to influential positions. Apologists stand on the deck of the Titanic, waving their little Union Jacks and belting out another refrain of "Rule Britannia" while the ship takes on more water, because –for them, the true church isn't the concrete church under their feet, but a beautiful abstraction: a timeless, spaceless theological construct. 

There is, of course, a point at which this dichotomy becomes untenable. For it's popes and bishops who produce the documents, popes and bishops who interpret the documents. 

1 comment:

  1. They are "sola dogma-as-writtenists", although, they have had to contend with a kind of paraphrase since Vatican II, dealing with "The Living Bible" kind of paraphrase and re-characterization (i.e., some actual meanings have changed, i.e, "separated brethren", "The Church" as "Sacrament of Salvation", etc. It's not just the actual paraphrase that matters ... they're now contending with "the spirit of the paraphrase" upon which they have to stake actual propositional meaning.