Thursday, June 06, 2013

"The Church is a Love Story not an Institution"

So declared Pope Francis recently. It's a clever statement, if the objective is to appeal to the "I'm spiritual, not religious" sentiments hostile to the notion of "institutional church." There's a sense in which it is also profoundly true.

Taylor Marshall asks: "Does that make you feel uncomfortable?" And he says: "I feel a little uncomfortable when I read that, because I'm sold on the idea of the Church as a visible "institution." However, as I chewed on this quote from the Holy Father I began to seem the wisdom in it.

Bottom line, as far as I'm concerned is this: Here's a case where it's clearly both/and, not either/or. As long as one doesn't take the expression as suggesting some sort of ethereal flight into the nebulous world of mysticism, which begins in mist and ends in schism, or, as a rejection of "institutional religion" the "institutional Church" and her religious Sacred Tradition, there should be no problem; and perhaps even a net gain. But it all depends on what you do with such appealing slogans.




Christianity is a love story. The Church is part of that. And this Church IS an institution, unless historical theology is irrelevant. If the Pope is making a rhetorical point, that is one thing. But taking alone this statement is only halfway true, and can be as misleading as helpful. The Church is an organism also, as Newman pointed out and as helped me in my conversion. Hopefully Francis would agree here.