Referring to the “extraordinary synod of bishops,” Cynthia predicts the outcome of the synod based upon her belief that, “…doctrine is, by definition, immovable.”
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “doctrine” as:
1. a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true
2. a statement of government policy especially in international relations.
What is so immovable about that? Doctrine is only immovable until someone decides to change it – and the synod has an excellent opportunity to do precisely that! Will it capitalize on that opportunity?
It’s not likely.
And that really got me thinking. What actually could happen?
Now, I’m not a theologian and I haven’t spent hours reading the Gospels. But one thing that I remember from my religion classes as a child is that the Eucharist (Communion) was said to be truly the body and blood of Christ – and that it was our special spiritual food. Communion was a sacrament through which we received “grace.”
Grace is defined by the Catholic Catechism as follows: “[G]race is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.”
Yes, grace is free and undeserving help.
That definition doesn’t say anything about it having to be earned. The definition implies that Grace gives us power to become children of God, adoptive sons [and daughters?] and partakers of the divine nature.
Who needs grace? If we are to believe the teachings of Catholicism and most other Christian churches, don’t we all?
Wouldn’t a remarried divorcee like Louise Mensch benefit from grace?
While the Catholic Catechism defines grace as “free and undeserved help,” the Catholic Church demands much more. The benefits of grace have instead become a control mechanism. We must first confess our sins, then we receive “grace,” and then we can go to Holy Communion and receive even more “grace.”
How do we get the help promised in the definition of grace to even step into the confessional? When do we need “grace” more; when we have fallen and need to get up, or when we have gotten up, been healed, and are living in the favor of God?
I think that’s an important question. And it leads to an important distinction. Grace is marketed by the Catholic Church as a gift, but it is treated more like a reward.
A number of things are being argued at the “extraordinary synod of bishops,” but they all seem to boil down to the following:
- Should the church allow divorced and remarried people to receive Holy Communion?
- Should the church allow openly gay Catholics to receive Holly Communion and if so, under what circumstances? Only if they are celibate? What if they are sexually active? What if they are (heaven forbid!) married?
- Must couples who use so-called artificial birth control be required to confess their sin and seek forgiveness before they can be allowed to receive Holy Communion?
After all, these serious and complicated doctrinal issues do seem to come down to a single more important question – one that involves implementation and does not involve doctrine at all:
Should Holy Communion be a grace-giving spiritual meal, or merely a dessert – a reward for good behavior?
Published by the Winona Daily News on October 15, 2014 under the headline: Should grace be at center of Catholic Church?