Thinking of the Church in Light of Biblical Revelation
Like Dom, I think Rod got carried away in writing, “There’s a world of difference between Times Square and St. Peter’s Square, but they are alike in one way: Both are headquarters to institutions of enormous reach, influence and – it goes with the territory – arrogance.” There is no divine revelation concerning the true nature of the NY Times. It’s just a human machine for getting news out and subject to the normal vicissitudes of human flummery. However, there *is* divine revelation concerning the Church (and please, before the screaming starts, I mean “the Church”–the body of Christ, not just Roman See or Bp. Grahmann). Yes, it is a communion of sinners of which every member is guilty of sin worthy of eternal damnation–apart from grace. However, because of that grace it is also “holy” in the words of the Creed, or in Paul’s description, “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”
This is hard for us to grasp, but it is the essence of Paul’s way of doing moral exhortation. To a Corinthian Church every bit as morally messed up as the Diocese of Dallas, Paul writes, in exasperation, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:9-11). In short, his moral exhortation is “Become what you are!”
For this reason, I think it is a fundamental mistake to speak of the Church as an “institution… of arrogance.” It invites a conception of the Church that is fundamentally false to biblical revelation. Are some churchmen arrogant? Without question. Do “structures of arrogance” exist in the way the hierarchy does business. I think so. But to describe the Church itself as “arrogant” seems to me to contradict revelation.
I also, by the way, am skeptical that this shows the arrogance of St. Peter’s square, particularly in light of Ut Unum Sint and the Holy Father’s strong tendency to *not* micromanage the affairs of his brother bishops. Not telling people what to do is not typically a sign of arrogance. And arrogance is not, in any case, a trait I find very easy to associate with a man like John Paul.