Risking the Church: The Challenges of Catholic Faith

Risking the Church: The Challenges of Catholic Faith

Risking the Church: The Challenges of Catholic Faith

Risking the Church: The Challenges of Catholic Faith

Synopsis

As a consequence of numerous social and theological movements over the last few decades, the Roman Catholic Church finds itself in a situation that some have described as a state of 'peril'. This book traces the emergence of that 'peril', develops a systematic ecclesiology that identifies both the mission and resources of the Church in the present-day, and explores possible responses to some of the specific challenges facing the contemporary Church. The book develops an understanding of the Catholic tradition in order to highlight its potential for development.

Excerpt

The appeal of the church is puzzling. Indeed, were the existence of the church to depend on the outcome of a cost-benefit analysis, it is unlikely that there would be a church. After all, are not the disincentives obvious? What about the focus on Jesus Christ, which gives the church an aura of sectarianism in an age suspicious of divisive religion? What about the doctrines, which appear to be narrow and arbitrary, even incomprehensible? What about the structures, which seem remote from the priorities of the Gospel, disconnected from the members of the church, and beyond the possibility of reform? Those factors, to say nothing of historical or present-day scandals involving various aspects of the church, underscore the fact that ecclesial faith will always be a challenge; indeed, a risk.

Nonetheless, the Roman Catholic tradition stresses that Christian faith is not simply faith lived within the church; it includes faith in the church as a component of God's self-revelation. As if it were not sufficiently challenging that Christian faith is inseparable from the notion of Jesus Christ as fully human and fully divine, the emphasis on the church can make that faith seem doubly burdensome. Worse still, the ecclesial dimension of Christian faith is not even conditional on the church being attractive or being a body that never impinges on individual freedom. All the more remarkable, therefore, that people commit themselves to such a faith even though the imperfections of the church, present not simply past, are no secret.

While the source of the church's appeal might be its claims to offer hope that embraces the present and the future, the value of such claims are far from obvious. After all, what does 'salvation' mean? Even a satisfactory answer to that question cannot disguise the fact that the connection between the church and salvation comes with encumbrances: 'membership in the

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