FAITH Magazine May – June 2011
The issue of development lies at the heart of so much that besets the Church today. For development, which is a sign of growth, is as much a healthy characteristic of the Church as it is of creation.
Lack of appropriate development implies a conservatism that seems to shy away from the claim that the Spirit is leading us into all truth. The conservative reaction to the 17th century rise of experimental methodology and the new thinking that followed has significantly reduced the intelligibility of the Church's proclamation in the modern world. In this issue Joanna Bogle engagingly describes her own movement beyond the conservatism surrounding the role of women in the Church.
On the other hand, when development oversteps itself evolution becomes revolution, and growth an unhealthy transmutation. Ecclesial revolution, as experienced in some post-1960s catechetical and liturgical experimentation, cuts us off from Christ, whose Incarnational teaching and presence is founded upon the faithful handing on of Word and Sacrament in the Church's Tradition. In his column William Oddie puts his finger on a manifestation of this dynamic.
Blessed John Henry Newman plotted a way through the above extremes in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. Sadly, despite his clear rejection of "liberalism", Newman's ideas have been falsely labelled "liberal" by the ecclesial establishment of his time and of ours. As a result, the faithful intellectual development that he called for in his introduction to that essay remains an even more urgent need today than it was 150 years ago.
Our latest Road from Regensburg column once again shows Pope Benedict grappling with this same issue, inspired by the insights of Blessed John Paul the Great, himself an outstanding exponent of truly Catholic development. Both Popes tell us, for instance, that "The Church's preference for [St Thomas Aquinas's] method and his doctrine is not exclusive, but exemplary".
Our editorial tries to show how understanding the humanity of Christ as the foundation and exemplar of our humanity deepens traditional Catholic thought on the meaning of His death. In our main articles, Professors Paton and McDermott illustrate, in their own way, the importance of taking modern knowledge into account. In our next issue we will publish a discussion on Fr McDermott's implication that the concept of analogy removes the need to fine-tune scholastic ontology. Our lead letter laments, with us, the failure of the scholastic tradition, from Descartes to its virtual collapse during the 20th century, to allow the implications of scientific methodology to shape our metaphysics.
We believe that the Catholic understanding of the Cross developed through a deeper theological insight into the flesh of Christ, and the Catholic understanding of Creation developed through a deeper metaphysical insight into the matter of the cosmos, can be beautifully harmonised. Such development is called for today.