Catholic Husband

Love / Lead / Serve

The Church Isn't A Democracy

The reporting and commenting on the Church these days is insufferable. I skip over most articles, including those in the Wall Street Journal because they completely miss the mark. Even worse, although some articles contain bits of good information, reading them as if I wasn't Catholic, I can see how ambiguity of phrasing could give the complete wrong impression of the Church.

In our nation, we have a penchant for forcing every issue, subject, and topic into our understanding of a political system. Every single issue is either left or right, and it must be on the extreme ends with no hope of compromise. The same is done with the Church.

There are articles that suggest that Pope Francis might change Church teaching. There are articles that suggest that "conservative" Catholics are hoping that he doesn't and "liberal" Catholics will return to the Church en masse if he does. All of this bloviating, of course, is a waste of column inches. Pope Francis isn't going to change Church teaching, he's not Jesus.

Pope Francis was chosen by the Holy Spirit, through the College of Cardinals, to be our Pope for a very particular reason. I think the fruits of his election are already apparent. He is breathing fresh air into the Church, he is building bridges, and he's turning our attention to different aspects of what it means to be Catholic. There was a beautiful meme that floated around during the first year of his pontificate that had images of St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Under John Paul, the word "hope," under Benedict, the word "faith," and under Francis, "love." The three theological virtues, each exemplified by the papacy of these popes.

St. John Paul reminded us to hope in the promises of mercy and salvation that God has made to us, Pope Benedict gave us voluminous scholarly works that distilled complex theological subjects into clear teachings, and now Pope Francis is reminding us that we are the hands and feet of Christ. Just as you cannot take one theological virtue and ignore the rest, so too with the messages of these popes. We can't only focus on our own salvation, we can't ignore the theological tenants of Catholicism or the Church's teachings, and we can't ignore our call to be radical in advocating for social justice.

The Church isn't a democracy as some churches are. We don't vote on what we believe, we don't vote on what the Church teaches, and we don't make up the theology as we go. Therein lies the beauty of Catholicism. We're rooted in truth, we focus on living our faith and not figuring out what it is.

The Church isn't a political system. There is no conservative or liberal, there's only people trying to do their best, while personally struggling to love God more than self and sin, to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. That is how the Church has endured thousands of years of persecutions, withstood innumerable attacks, and all the while sustained the faithful.