Resisting the Church

Resisting the Church February 12, 2015

Galileo_facing_the_Roman_InquisitionResistance to the Church isn’t necessarily or intentionally unfaithful. Case in point: Cardinal Burke’s promise to resist if Pope Francis insists on allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion.

From the cardinal’s perspective, such a change in discipline would violate the doctrine of the church on marriage. As it’s the truth of doctrine that guides the Church and which papal power serves, any move by the pope that denies that truth or acts contrary to it would not be authentic. It wouldn’t really be the Church doing this. Hence Burke’s response to the hypothetical: “I would be obliged to resist, in fidelity to my responsibility before God.”

Assuming that his interpretation of the doctrine and assessment of the hypothetical move are correct, he wouldn’t really be resisting the Church, even if he appeared to be. However, if Cardinal Burke is in fact wrong and the Church’s historical teaching on marriage can be validly developed (or re-interpreted)  in such a way as to welcome divorced and remarried Catholics to communion lines, then his hypothetical resistance would be resistance to the Church.

What I find interesting about these possibilities is that, with respect to the truth, resisting the Church is a risky damned if you do, damned if you don’t responsibility. Fidelity to God might mean going along with what Church authorities say and do, or it might mean resisting new official movements and dissenting from the authoritative voices of the day.  And sometimes you won’t be able to know whether or not you’re doing right! You take a step (or not) without being absolute certain that you’re being truly faithful. Discipleship is a walk in the clouds.

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