April 23, 2013

Pope Francis: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Iesu

(c) 2007, Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). Used by permission.

© 2007, Priestly Fra­ter­nity of St. Peter (FSSP). Used by permission.

 

F

R. Z SAYS that this is going to be unpop­u­lar among “dis­senters and lib­er­als.” I would add to the dis­senters and lib­er­als a cer­tain seg­ment of con­ser­v­a­tives who per­sist in a 500-year-old schism. You can almost hear the clack clack clack of smoke ris­ing from their blog­ging key­boards; you can almost see the Fundies in their pul­pits dust­ing off their “Whore of Baby­lon” references.

 

AN ABSURD DICHOTOMY

POPE FRANCIS CELEBRATED Mass today, the Feast of St. George, in the Pauline Chapel of the Apos­tolic Palace, and in his homily said the fol­low­ing words about where it is pos­si­ble, and where it is not, to find Jesus:

Chris­t­ian iden­tity is belong­ing to the Church, the Mother Church. Because it is not pos­si­ble to find Jesus out­side the Church. The great Paul VI said: “Want­ing to live with Jesus with­out the Church, fol­low­ing Jesus out­side the Church, lov­ing Jesus with­out the Church is an absurd dichotomy.” And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our iden­tity that is not only a seal, it is a belong­ing. Iden­tity means belong­ing. This belong­ing to the Church is beau­ti­ful.

It is not pos­si­ble to find Jesus out­side the Church. Well, shaz­aam. Extra Eccle­siam nulla Iesu.

False dichotomy a charism of the Protes­tant mind

A lot of con­ser­v­a­tive Protes­tants indeed do attempt—in the words of Paul VI—to cre­ate the “absurd dichotomy” of Christ or the Church. I have heard the Protes­tant who has said of Catholics, “They wor­ship a Church, and not Christ,” as if Christ can be divorced from his Bride. Or who has assumed that Christ can be found in any one of the myr­iad of denom­i­na­tions, as if Christ were a ser­ial adul­terer, an unfaith­ful spouse. But Christ has one Bride.

For all the talk about ecu­menism, it is impor­tant to empha­size what ecu­menism does and does not mean. True ecu­menism is not pos­si­ble apart from the truth. And the Truth sub­sists fully and sub­stan­tially within the Catholic Church. That is so because that is how Christ intended it to be; and you can­not forgo Christ’s pur­poses in favor of your own indi­vid­ual pref­er­ences or pet theologies.

What Pope Fran­cis is say­ing is some­thing along these lines: You may talk a great deal about Jesus; you may admire Jesus; you may love and adore Jesus. But out­side the Church, you haven’t found Jesus. This might sound like a sub­tle dis­tinc­tion, but it is impor­tant and it mat­ters. Christ is present in His Church; Christ is present in the sacra­ments; Christ is present in the Eucharist. That is where all the action of grace is, and there alone is the soul at rest.

 

ALL THE KING’S HORSES

TO SPEAK PERSONALLY for a moment: I know this, and feel it strongly today, because today hap­pens to be the two-year anniver­sary of my recep­tion into the Catholic Church. And I remem­ber. I remem­ber my first con­fes­sion and my first Eucharist and when I stood to say, “I believe and pro­fess all that the Catholic Church claims to be revealed by God,” because that changes every­thing for­ever and you can­not put Humpty Dumpty together again once the Protes­tant egg has cracked. You have truly found, and you know it. And that is not pos­si­ble unless Jesus is there and nowhere else you may ever look to find Him.

Many will be sorely angry at the truth the pope spoke today, but they will be angry only because they know that what he says is so, even if they won’t admit it. They know.

Granted there is some the­o­log­i­cal nuance here, because the Church doesn’t say that non-Catholics nec­es­sar­ily won’t be saved. And that is absolutely true—though the key word here is “nec­es­sar­ily.” Com­pla­cency about this mat­ter is very dan­ger­ous. If the Church talks about “invin­ci­ble igno­rance,” “invin­ci­ble” is a pretty strict stan­dard. And if the Church talks about “sep­a­rated brethren,” “sep­a­rated” is a pretty stark con­di­tion to be in.

Those out­side the Church are liv­ing a life that is less than what Christ intended

But all that nuance aside, the cru­cial thing for those out­side the Church to under­stand is this: You are liv­ing a life that is less than what Christ intended. Christ intended for grace to be poured out through the sacra­ments; you don’t have them. Christ intended for us to encounter Him—body, blood, soul, and divinity—in the Eucharist; you haven’t received it. Christ intended for us to be led into “all truth”—those were his words: all truth—within the Church; you are being shep­herded, by your own admis­sion, by fal­li­ble teach­ers. You may talk about Christ until you are blue in the face, but you do not know Him; you have not encoun­tered Him; and your life is less than what He meant for it to be.

But there is a way to come home, and it is more than you could pos­si­bly die for joy to receive.

Extra Eccle­siam nulla Iesu.

God bless Pope Francis.

 

Update: As I sus­pected, it hasn’t taken long for the Protes­tant hand-wringing over the pope’s words to begin.