An odd title, to be sure. The meaning shall become clear quickly. The Church is a Divine Society. She is a “society” because she consists in many rational persons. She is “divine” because she was instituted by the God-man, Jesus Christ.
Now, every society has a social order. Therefore, the Church has a social order. This order is complex, being both visible and invisible, both earthly and transcendent. The social order of the Church on earth is visible and juridical. For the social order is that unity of persons under their bishops, who are under the Pope in Rome. This is the juridical and visible aspect of the order of the Church on earth. It is crucial to understand the Church in this way. This order was instituted by Christ and has endured to this very day. It is found in only one corporate body of Christians, the Catholic Church. All who have received Baptismal entry into the faith, accept all the Sacraments of the Church as true, profess one faith, and are in hierarchical communion with the Pope (read: Enter the social order of the Church) are members of the Catholic Church, which is the Church of Christ. No one else is a member of the Catholic Church. However, various relations to this one Church do exist. I have treated that in two other posts (first and second).
Of course, the visible and juridical aspects of the Church, intrinsic to the definition of the Church on earth, are for the invisible and spiritual aspects. That is, the hierarchy is for the service of worship according to the universal priesthood. God spoke us into being, and Christ redeemed us, so that we might have life, and have it to the full. This is the whole raison d’être for the Church, the reason she exists. Thus, although the visible and juridical aspects are integral to the definition of the Church, they are by no means the final cause. The final cause is the interior richness of spiritual union with God and neighbor proper to rational being. I should say, such interior communion is the intrinsic final cause of the Church. This is the “social order” of the Church in its most beautiful, in its flourishing state. There is yet another, higher end: The glorification of Almighty God. For we exist for the praise of the glory of God’s grace. Amen.
Now, it is a solace that the Church is defined juridically. It is a solace because it means that the Church is a hospital for sinners. The Church on earth, that is. For we are sinners, all. And the Church is for us. The Church was not instituted for the righteous, but for sinners, so that they might be made righteous (Rom 5) and serve him, holy and righteous, without fear, all the days of their life (Luke 1).
Alright. We have seen that the purpose of the visible and juridical aspect of the Church is the spiritual and invisible flourishing of the members. Indeed, of the whole human race. What does any of this have to do with “Audience” and “Communication”? Everything.
This flourishing cannot take place unless men learn that their thoughts are confused, even erroneous, that their ways are floundering, even rebellious, and that they must repent of their evil. In other words, they must hear the Gospel. For the Gospel comes with the clarion announcement of Repentance. It is no Gospel if it has not this message. If there is anything lost in this message, then men cannot make their pilgrim way to the desired land of joy in a human manner.
Survey after survey reveals that a horrible job has been done in announcing this message with its clarity and contour to all people. Many people are confused about many truths of our faith. Many people have forgotten many truths of our faith.
How could this be? There are of course many reasons. If each of us aimed more and more to achieve God’s will in the concrete details of our lives, we might now and again substitute the beer and cigar on the back porch with a reading of the Catechism or Scripture. Thus, we would be better informed about our faith. Or we might substitute watching the game with contacting and instructing someone who is ready or at least open to learning more about the faith. Etc.
This problem can be remedied quickly if we have the will, leaning on God’s grace. I recall a situation in Laredo. I was just about to utter the following sentence, and was “interrupted” by a strange prophetic-like person who utter his statement while I was still speaking. I shall type the sentences distinctly. But note that he began speaking in the midst of my statement. My statement: “When will this New [he begins now] Evangelization ever come about?” His statement: “The moment you give your life to Christ.” He may have finished before I finished. And right he was. Thus, the “blame” for this problem is largely our own, my own.
There is yet another cause, one that I think is become well nigh systemic. It is, I suggest, the failure of communication in the Church. A specific kind of such failure. Every society has its own internal order. And every society is faced with other societies. Thus, every society has its own internal order to maintain, and it has proper order to maintain with other societies. Neglect of either of these realms of order can entail defect in the practical life of the society. If the bowling society thinks of nothing but itself, it may well schedule a bowling game on July 4th during the Fireworks display. Or during Sunday’s Mass. Or during the funeral of the captain’s wife. The society must pay attention to other societies. Conversely, it must pay attention to itself. For it cannot maintain itself unless it attends to its own needs.
Similarly, the Church has two realms with which she must concern herself. First, she must attend to her own social order. Second, she must pay attention to other societies. I suggest that in the past 50 years, the Church has paid excellent attention to other societies but has neglected to attend to her own social order. I suggest that this mistake is acutely noticed in the focus of the Magisterial utterances in the past decades as well. That is, the Church has issued many statements with an eye precisely to their potential reception by the eyes of the world. How will this come off in the press? How will non-Christians hear this? How will non-Catholics hear this? Is the world ready to hear this now? How will it affect dialogue with non-believers? With Jewish believers? With Protestants? With Orthodox?
In the past 50 years, the Magisterium has gone to great lengths to articulate the faith of the Church in words that are as accessible, as sensitively expressed as possible. This is in itself a virtue, no doubt. However, there are some hard truths in the Gospel. There are some hard truths in the Catholic faith. Of course, all truth gives life; falsity and ignorance do not give life. Nevertheless, some truths are, no doubt, “very hard to hear” (Jn 6). Thus, as though wracked by sadness over the potential rebellion of those who might “walk away” in rejection (Jn 6:66) or else laugh us to scorn (Acts 17), the Magisterium has sometimes been silent on matters of faith.
This silence has been taken by some rebels within the Church as tacit admission that such matters of faith are false and no longer to be believed. But to the contrary! What has been taught infallibly once must be held or believed forever. Thus, no one is without excuse who begins to reject what the Catholic Church has taught infallibly but about which the Magisterium is recently silent. Silence does not imply denial. The infallible pronouncements of the Magisterium remain forever in the archives of being, because they articulate the very truth of God and man.
Examples could be given. Vatican II did not teach that Mary was “Co-Redemptrix” in so many words. The reason was that such an expression might be difficult for Protestants to hear. This is an understandable cause of restraint. However, when some theologians began to say that Vatican II rejected these concepts and ideas about Mary. One wrote, “The idea of Mary as ‘co-redemptrix’ is gone now, as is the idea of Mary as ‘mediatrix of all graces’”. (The reader can look up that expression on Google if we wishes to find out who authored it. But do not fear. The man who uttered that was not Pope at the time. Further, even a Pope can err when he states his personal thought and does not exercise the teaching authority to bind the whole flock.) But this venerable theologian who at the time of the Council held a number of views he later came to reject (for while Pope he defended that Mary was mediatrix of all graces). We all make mistakes. Nevertheless, some theologians not only made mistakes but got caught up in a revolutionary movement that watered down the teachings of the faith. This is an egregious crime against the immaculate spouse of the Son of God.
Another example: Theologians began to say that the Scripture is not inerrant in all its parts, just because Vatican II did not repeat the claim. But this conclusion is false, for we are bound to hold what Leo XIII decreed, and Pius X, and Benedict XV, and Pius XII. Scriptures are inspired and inerrant in all their parts.
Another example: Theologians began to say that the Church has at Vatican II rejected the traditional teaching on Church and state. They said this even though the Council itself taught exactly the opposite in Art. 2 of the relevant document, Dignitias humanae, about which see the five parts of this post on the topic.
Another example is the way some have read John Paul II’s document on ecumenism, Ut unum sint. In that document, John Paul speaks of Tradition not in terms of doctrinal content but simply in terms of a necessary help for exegesis. What John Paul wrote was true, Tradition is such a necessary help. However, we believe more about Tradition. We even believe that it has content. Indeed, we believe that Tradition contains all the content of the deposit of faith. Thus, there is no revealed truth that is not found in Tradition. And what document clearly announces this is none other than Vatican II’s Dei verbum! Thus, the latest examples of this erosion of memory regarding the faith are the excuses that people make by their false appeals to post-conciliar papal utterances. Of course, John Paul would never have wanted people to understand his teaching in this way. He was being a gentle father to Protestants. He was not prescribing forgetfulness of doctrine. But forgetfulness of doctrine is the heresy we now have.
Thus, the rebels have used the very silence of the extraordinary conciliar and ordinary papal Magisterium on a number of points to argue that Catholics do not hold these truths any longer. Or, teachers continue the silence. The silence of the everyday episcopal magisterium also adds to this situation.
The situation is very problematic. For the Catholic flock needs to hear the “whole truth”. Thus, the practice of uttering only those truths that the world can hear, or that one thinks the world can hear presently, is in fact a neglect of the internal social order of the Church. That order is breaking down in its lived expression – i.e. in the lives of Catholics.
The difficult is exacerbated nowadays because of the communications media. Whenever the Magisterium speaks, the world broadcasts those parts that it wants to broadcast. Other parts it leaves in silence. The world does this to achieve its own ends, not God’s ends.
The internal social order must be supported by, at the very least, an everyday episcopal magisterium that proclaims the full truth on all the matters of faith. Help from the ordinary papal Magisterium would be very beneficial as well.
In short, we must recover our “internal audience” so that we do not neglect our first task, to instruct our own members. For it will be by our own having “one mind” in lived expression that there will emerge the possibility of our having “one will and love” in our apostolate. And if we have “one will and love” then the world will see our good deeds and believe. But that they do not see our good deeds and are not believing is a sign that we must emend our internal practices. We must recover the Catholic audience as the Magisterium’s chief audience.