Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Anything But Irrelevant

The paradox of the way people think about the Catholic Church has always fascinated me. On the one hand people think of it as irrelevant, out-dated and near death's door. On the other hand people are provoked and angered by things that the Church teaches (most recently objections to the Pope's comments that the Catholic Church has the fullness of truth).

I just came across a dialogue regarding this topic in an interview with Cardinal Ratzinger from 1996 as quoted in the book Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium. The part in italics is written by the interviewer:

According to the stereotypes of contemporary mainstream opinion, the Roman Catholic Church is not only considered to be a relic of a bygone time that is almost despicable to the world at the end of the second millennium after Christ. There actually seems to be no greater provocation than the mere existence of the official Church. That there is a God, that he has a Son, and that God sent this Son in order to redeem mankind is a fact that sounds for many people in this day and age like the message of a sheer lunatic. One can probably say that hardly any other institution provokes the world more than the Catholic Church...

In many respects, however, it says something for the Catholic Church that she still has the power to provoke, that she is a thorn in the side and a contradiction or, as Saint Paul says, a skandalon, a stumbling block. This shows that she means something, and that you can't simply pass over her and go about the day's business. Very early on I said that it is necessary to distinguish between the primary and the secondary scandal. The secondary scandal consists in our actual mistakes, defects, and over-institutionalizations, but the primary scandal consists precisely in the fact that we stand in opposition to the decline into the banal and the bourgeois and into false promises.
This also reminds me of Brideshead Revisited (both the book and movie) which my sister introduced to me in this very context.

3 comments:

Kimberly Wasson said...

ahh...Brideshead Revisited...lovely book, fabulous program.

Great post, by the way. Outstanding reference from BXVI.

Margaret in Minnesota said...

Should I be reading this book? Because I have had it there sitting on the shelf since I was given it in 1988, for heaven's sake. I just haven't been able to get into it.

Encourage me, please! Say the word that will entice me! Because I really don't have enough to do with all my free time. ;)

Love2Learn Mom said...

Margaret, I had it on my shelf for quite awhile too before I finally dove into it - and I've been slowly working my way through it over many months.

I find it a nice book for the bathroom shelf since it's divided into questions (one paragraph long) with a 2-3 paragraph answer. I usually only read one of these questions at a time.

I like to have quite a few non-fiction books going at a time but take them at a very comfortable pace.

I'd say - go for it!

By the way, there are more than one interview book with Cardinal Ratzinger. If your date is correct, then it is likely the Ratzinger Report. RR is very good, but I found Salt of the Earth more enjoyable.