What Does it Really Mean to be a Practicing Catholic?
(i.e., "practice" as used by MacIntyre) which is applicable in architecture, medicine, law, science, art, or football (but not to tic-tac-toe or bricklaying according to MacIntyre), to something like the Church which is of divine origin. Catholic practice is something of an entirely different order than mere human practices, such as the practice of law, medicine, music, etc.
For one thing, strictly human practices do not involve grace, something which is gratuitous and divine in origin. Human practices are the result of natural talent, training, and discipline. The virtues or excellences of a human practice are entirely acquired.
Catholic practice, on the other hand, participates in the confluence of human activity and divine activity. The virtues relating to Catholic practice--be they theological or moral--are infused at baptism. In human virtues, our own efforts bear the fruit. In divine virtues, our efforts are to get out of the way so that the divine virtue can bear fruit. We become excellent (holy) because we allow God to make us so.
In Catholic practice, the goods, the "standards of excellence," and the rules intended to advance those are directly revealed by God and are defined, expressed, or developed by the Church's Magisterium under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
So practice in human sciences and arts is not the same as Catholic practice. The term "practice" cannot therefore be used univocally (with identical meaning) when going from the mundane to the supernatural. Nevertheless, there are analogies between a wholly-human practice (such as law) and a blended divine-human practice such as the Catholic Church from which we might draw some insight to help us grasp the concept of Catholic practice.
Catholic practices are both external and internal. An example of an external Catholic practice is the obligation to attend Mass on the Lord's Day and on Holy Days of Obligation. Our body needs to be there. There is an internal practice associated with this external practice, and that is to strive to give "full, conscious, and active participation (actuosa participatio)" while at Mass. (SC No. 14)
In this article, however, I want to focus on an essential internal Catholic practice, the practice of assent or religious submission to the authentic Magisterium of the Church, in particular, the Pope. In this particular area, Lumen Gentium establishes the "standards of excellence that are appropriate to, and partially define, the form of activity" as well as the rules that embody those standards as it relates to internal assent or religious submission.
"In matters of faith and morals," Lumen Gentium states, "the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking." (LG, No. 25)
An essential aspect of internal Catholic practice therefore requires that the Catholic give religious submission of mind and will to the authentic Magisterium of the Pope and this even if he is not speaking ex cathedra. An essential component of internal Catholic practice is that the Pope's ordinary teaching at a minimum must be religiously submitted to by both intellect and will. (I say at minimum, because if infallible teaching is involved, whether in ordinary or extraordinary mode, the full assent of faith, or theological assent, is required. This is something much more than religious submission.)
The Pope's extraordinary and ordinary teaching on many matters of faith and morals that are controversial in modern times is well known. For example, in Blessed John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (No. 4), it is manifest that "the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." I believe this to be extraordinary, infallible teaching.
Whether one ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Catholic, magisterium, religious submission, dissent, practicing Catholic, Andrew Greenwell
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