Sunday, December 14, 2008

Community and the Individual

I loathe the fact that "progressive" Catholics have stained the word "community" to the point where I'm not even sure how to use it in a positive light anymore.

Recently at a conference on the Eucharist sponsored by "Renew International", the nun literally spent more time on Christ's presence in the community of believers than in the Blessed Sacrament. I have no problem with mentioning the mystical presence of Christ in the community but I do when it competes with or marginalizes the real presence in the Eucharist. And no wonder then, that the songs were all about us as "the community" and not about Christ. But more disturbing is the fact that none of this was due to carelessness but a reflection of false theology which is still lingering on from the 70s & 80s because when I criticized the music selection, she responded that it was proper to sing about ourselves because Christ is present in us.

Yesterday at a retreat preparing for my son's first reconciliation (and subsequently communion), the video shown on reconciliation I swear used the word "community" more times than "confession", "reconciliation" and "sin" combined. The video went so far as to marginalize private ordinary confession and explicitly recommend the communal reconciliation services.

In fact, the real offense of any sin, it seemed, was that it weakened the integrity of the community rather than committing a personal offense against God. In this way, the individual's offense is against the community even with private sins (which may be true to some degree) but not against himself. It was never demonstrated that sin is that which is contrary to reason and a private sin always offends my relationship with God (in addition to the community). I think this convolution of sin and its consequence makes a perfect springboard for dissenting views of various kind. What is lacking here is clear expression that an individual is fully culpable in God's eyes for his sins (as opposed to being just another a weak link in a community of weak links).

I certainly don't say any of this to the exclusion of some level of communal interaction between God and man (as opposed to strictly individual-God interaction). That is, the corporate aspect of salvation so clearly present in Israel and subsequently the Church is clearly appropriate to reflect on but not at the expense of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist or the individual's personal culpability for his or her sins.

So I'm getting a better idea of where the dissenters are coming from and perhaps this will lead to more fruitful dialogue. It is unfortunate that the infection of this weak theology has lingered for so long even as the tide is clearly turning.

St. Augustine of Hippo, pray for the Church that clear theology regarding the individual and sin triumph over the misleading focus which leads to dissent. Amen.

1 comment:

Andrew Preslar said...

A good dose of Saint Augustine of Hippo is sure to be a balm for what ails. It may even effect a cure. God bless the man. Pray for us indeed, good Bishop.

I read a bit in Lewis this morning where he recommends that we focus our theology reading on the old gold (with contempory stuff being relugated to the margins of our intellectual formation), not that the Fathers were smarter than the contemporaary writers, but that they knew things we have forgotten.

As you have just noted.