Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

1/22/2014 (3 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Catholic Church is the institution par excellence.

Empires have come and gone, as have epochs - the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Romantic Age, and the Modern - but the Catholic Church has remained, and now it's arguably the Last Institution.  The only certain bedrock in our culture is the natural law, and the Catholic Church is the only institution that believes in it.  Those who rail against institutionalized religion have not thought seriously about  the temporal nature of human existence. The passing of time does not destroy the wisdom of the past, rather it stores it away. A vision suddenly disclosing itself in time does not necessarily fade into a corrupted shadow of itself. Therefore, time may seem fluid, but it carries truth into the future. Time and eternity are not like oil and water - they cannot be mixed. That's where you will find the Catholic Church and all who are Her members.

The Church, as institution, undergirds and informs the culture by providing the fundamental rationale for serving the common good of all, seeking authentic happiness, and hope for the salvation of all.

The Church, as institution, undergirds and informs the culture by providing the fundamental rationale for serving the common good of all, seeking authentic happiness, and hope for the salvation of all.

Article Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/22/2014 (3 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Deal W. Hudson, institution, Catholic Church, ecclesiology, natural law, Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Rome, Roman Catholic, beauty, splendor of truth


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - Some books that seemed wise when we were young look pretty silly from the perspective of 40-50 years. In my teens I devoured all of Ayn Rand, thinking of myself as profoundly philosophical, an individual who stood apart from the conforming masses. By age 15, when I had started reading the classics seriously - Hawthorne, Melville, Lawrence, Dickens, Shakespeare, Poe, and the Metaphysical poets, I realized that Rand was exactly what William F. Buckley called her, "a third-rate novelist."

At that same age, however, there was other silliness to embrace, the clichť about the inferiority of institutional religion as opposed to personal "religiousness" or "spirituality." Certain intellectual obstacles are inevitably put in the way of the education of a young adult, and the scorn toward "institutional religion" is one of the most predictable.  My generation had its own best sellers such as Honest to God (1963), that led the altar call away from participation in a Christian denomination of any kind. By the time I reached seminary, Honest to God had been replaced by To a Dancing God (1970) by Sam Keen, who had the advantage of having a sense of humor. Prior to my walking the aisle of a Southern Baptist Church in 1969, I bought the assumption that institutions necessarily corrupted the vision they originally served. Institutions, I thought, represented a dry husk needing to be separated from the living kernel.

I found some intellectual justification for this attitude in existentialist theologians like Paul Tillich. Tillich's then famous notion of the Protestant Principle employed St. Paul's distinction between the letter and the spirit to interpret the history of the Church. In his view, the institutional Church inevitably kills the spirit of the Gospel with the letter of ecclesial regulation and clerical bureaucracy. The living kernel is surrounded, and hidden, by the thick, rough husk (This original version of this argument is found in the German philosopher Gotthold Lessing 1729-1781 with his image of an "ugly broad ditch" separating us from the time of Jesus and his disciples.)

Hardly anyone reads Tillich anymore, but his arguments are always close at hand. A. N. Wilson, an English novelist who entered the Catholic Church as an adult only to leave it shortly afterward, occasionally dabbled in religious commentary. Wilson produced a book that accuses St. Paul of corrupting the pure message of Jesus and replacing it with the institutional Church. The message of the Apostle Paul is often treated this way, especially among professional theologians. The alert reader may already see where this argument leads when applied to the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is the institution par excellence. The Church has institutionalized in Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Roman Rite, the authority of its Bishops and Holy Father, and its worldwide network of nunciatures, chanceries, parishes, colleges, hospitals, and schools.  The Church claims to hold the "sacred deposit of the faith" (1Tim 6:20; 2Tim 1:12-14). The Church is a repository in history, time and space, of the truth about God and man, the place where we celebrate the Real Presence of God in this world.  Nothing can be said to be more institutionalized than the Catholic Church: For nearly twenty centuries, the Church has claimed to be the sole repository of the truth about God, about human life, about existence itself.

Empires have come and gone, as have epochs - the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Romantic Age, and the Modern - but the Catholic Church has remained, and now it's arguably the Last Institution.  The only certain bedrock in our culture is the natural law, and the Catholic Church is the only institution that believes in it.
 
Those who rail against institutionalized religion have not thought seriously about  the temporal nature of human existence. The passing of time does not destroy the wisdom of the past, rather it stores it away. A vision suddenly disclosing itself in time does not necessarily fade into a corrupted shadow of itself. Therefore, time may seem fluid, but it carries truth into the future. Time and eternity are not like oil and water - they cannot be mixed. That's where you will find the Catholic Church and all who are Her members.

The Church, as institution, undergirds and informs the culture by providing the fundamental rationale for serving the common good of all, seeking authentic happiness, and hope for the salvation of all.

The Church once enjoyed other institutional allies - other religions and Christian denominations, colleges and universities, the professions of law and medicine, and various international organizations. Now the Church stands alone for life, the primacy of the family, the objectivity of truth, the natural law, and God's final sovereignty over man. It is in this sense, the Church has become the Last Institution.

Some will say that I am overlooking the emerging coalition of Catholics and Christian evangelicals. I am not. Evangelicals, however, even though they have allied together within powerful organizations, are congenitally wary of religious institutions. For example, Southern Baptists, the world's second largest Christian denomination, insist upon the autonomy of local congregations and reject the observance of a common creed.

The institutional character of the Catholic Church is grounded in the universal celebration of the Eucharist. Nothing could give clearer voice to a Catholic's confidence in the fact of the Incarnation and the power of God to enter and to remain present in human history through His Church. The Church is not a husk that must be shorn from the kernel of the Gospel; St. Paul does not have to be cast aside in order to embrace Jesus.

Because the Church is an institution there is hope for our culture: Present and future generations will have the opportunity to embrace reality rather than the postmodern fantasy of self-created and poly-gendered lives. Catholics, thus, bear a special burden in the present culture, their evangelism must take head-on the very things they fear most about secularity, its nihilism, banality, narcissism, carnality, violence, and hatred.  Only those who are no longer prisoners of turbulent subjectivity can become bearers of the Gospel Light.

Summary

1. The Catholic Church is the last institution in our culture: Empires and epochs have passed, the Church remains.

2. There will always be arguments and screeds against "institutionalized religion" and especially the Catholic Church on the grounds they have ruined the purity of Jesus Christ's message.

3. Catholics can affirm the Church as an institution because they recognize that truth does not change from generation to generation, or from moment to moment: The Church contains union of time and eternity.

© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

-----
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, will begin broadcasting in February on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for April 2014
Ecology and Justice:
That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick: That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.



Comments


More U.S.

Alabama Supreme Court Recognizes Child in the Womb Has Fundamental Rights

Image of The Alabama Supreme Court

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Because a human life with a full genetic endowment comes into existence at the moment of conception, the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights encompasses the moment of conception. Legal ... continue reading


Help Make the Story of the Serial Killer/Abortionist Kermit Gosnell Into a Movie Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In 1852, the great abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was invited to speak on the Fourth of July and delivered the now famous speech entitled What to the Slave is the Fourth of July. Here is a stirring quote from that famous speech: 'For it is not light that ... continue reading


Their Eyes Were Opened: Walk With Jesus on the Road to Emmaus Watch

Image of On the Road to Emmaus: In the light of the encounter with the Lord in the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened. So it is meant to be with each one of us. The Holy Eucharist is more than a commemoration; it is an invitation into communion with the Living God - right now because Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead and walks with us on the road of life.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We are those disciples on the road to Emmaus, living our lives in the real world, walking along with Jesus who is always there accompanying us on the road, whether we recognize Him or not. He listens to us, and understands us, because he became like us, in "all ... continue reading


Made for Beauty: Liturgy and Music

Image of

By Deal W. Hudson

Some might flinch at my use of the word "satisfying" to describe a liturgy, but I used it deliberately because I want to think aloud about the fact that we were made for beauty as much as we were made for goodness and truth.  To be satisfied by the shape, ... continue reading


'COME AND TAKE IT' Texas AG blasts BLM scheming to seize state land, threatens fight Watch

Image of Texans are rallying against the federal government and its habitual overreach.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A major land war between the Bureau of Land Management and the state of Texas is brewing as Texas lawmakers push back against the feds plan to seize 90,000 acres of land along the Texas/Oklahoma border. AUSTIN, TEXAS (Catholic Online) - The Bureau of Land Management ... continue reading


SHOCKING NEW TWIST: Autistic boy defends teenage girls who filmed his sexual assault Watch

Image of The parents of the victim are insistent that they want their son's abuser, 17-year-old Lauren A. Bush to be tried as an adult.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Abused beyond belief by two teenage girls, who filmed their despicable activities with their cellphones, a 16-year-old autistic boy now says he doesn't want to press charges against them - concerned that it would damage their - "friendship?" LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Time to Live the Easter Way of Life Watch

Image of Easter is more than a Day; it is a way of living our lives in Jesus Christ. Darkness has been scattered by the Light which broke forth from that empty tomb. That Light is meant to infuse our daily lives with the radiance of Resurrected love.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The early Christians lived their lives in the Lord, for the sake of the world. They exhibited a holy boldness; because they internalized the faith they professed and allowed it to transform every aspect of their lives. They experienced the transforming power of ... continue reading


50,000-strong OK Militia declares they will resist federal takeover attempts Watch

Image of The Oklahoma Militia is ready to defend property against unlawful federal seizure.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An Oklahoma militia which claims the allegiance of 50,000 members has sided with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in his recent clash against the feds. Although the standoff appears to be over, and is not likely to resume, the militia says it is ready to defend the rights ... continue reading


BLOODY EASTER WEEKEND IN CHICAGO: Six children shot in widespread violence Watch

Image of Five of the six children wounded, aged from 11 to 15 years, were shot during a drive-by shooting Sunday night.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With 36 people wounded, and nine people dead, it was one of the most violent Easter weekends in Chicago within recent memory. Far more shocking was the fact that six young children were among those injured. Gang violence remains prevalent on Chicago's windy ... continue reading


Militant atheist organization seeks to ban schools from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance Watch

Image of The AHA says that the line

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An organization of militant atheists is suing a New Jersey school district of discrimination, on the behalf of a family who take offense to the line "Under God," within the Pledge of Allegiance. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The lawsuit against the ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 3:11-26
11 Everyone came running towards them in great ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 8:2, 5, 6-7, 8-9
2 even through the mouths of children, or of babes in ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:35-48
35 Then they told their story of what had happened on ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 24th, 2014 Image

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen
April 24: Franciscan Capuchin martyr. He was born Mark Rey is Sigmaringen, ... Read More

Marketplace

Image of St. Cecilia Pewter Prayer Card

St. Cecilia
Prayer Cards

Visors
Hats

Ceramic Mug
Drinkware

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter