Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

1/22/2014 (1 year 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.

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/22/2014 (1 year 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 clich 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'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More U.S.

Personal assistant to Mississippi Senator arrested for trafficking meth and date rape drugs Watch

Image of Assistant Fred Pagan was paid $160,000 in his Senate role last year, according to newspaper reports. The 49-year-old Pagan has worked for Cochran since he was 16 years old.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Mississippi Senator's personal assistant has been charged with trafficking drugs from China to use as payment for sexual favors. An investigation was launched after police seized a package on April 9 with over a kilo of the date rape drug GBL addressed to ... continue reading


Oregon bakers who refused to make lesbian wedding cake get $100K from online fundraiser Watch

Image of Melissa Klein and her husband Aaron disapprove of gay marriage for religious reasons. They refused to  make the cake for a commitment ceremony in June of 2013.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, in the Portland suburb of Gresham, made international headlines when they refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple two years ago. The bakery was fined $135,000 -- $100,000 was raised on an online fundraising page ... continue reading


The Obama Administration to bring waves of immigrants to refugee settlements in the United States Watch

Image of You could look for clues if you're community is selected for immigration settlements, says WND.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Obama administration is no less than discreet. From the "Strengthening Communities by Welcoming All Residents: A Federal Strategic Action Plan on Immigrant and Refugee Immigration" report from the White House Task Force on New Americans, certain clues and signs ... continue reading


Infant Exposure: Newborn Baby Rescued from a Dumpster Reunited with Hero Who Saved Him

Image of Officer Michael Buelna reunited with the baby he had saved from the trash, twenty five year old Robin Barton.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Michael Buelna is a Police Officer in Santa Ana, California. In 1989 he heard a sound coming from a trash bin. When he looked closely, he discovered a newborn baby boy with his umbilical cord still attached. The child was only four hours old. He weighed four ... continue reading


Lifting the Christian flag on Georgian government grounds raises concerns Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

After seeking legal recommendations, Cochran, Georgia was advised not to raise the traditional Christian flag outside City Hall. However, the city council decided to determine this through votes that eventually turned in favor of lifting the flag. The flag raising is ... continue reading


California's extreme drought causes rodents to raid homes Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Rodents are being forced to forage into houses and residences for water to survive during the high temperature in California causing an extreme drought. The rats are going through various lengths and pushing themselves into small holes just to get some food and water. ... continue reading


It just might be the largest eruption ever! Fire in the belly - much more magma underneath Yellowstone volcano than thought Watch

Image of The recently discovered magma reservoir alone has a volume 2.5 times that of the Grand Canyon. However, these new expanses do not mean that the two hellish hollows could overflow the Grand Canyon with molten rock.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A research group, using seismic technology to scan Yellowstone National Park's depths has made a literally earth-shaking discovery. Yellowstone's magma reserves are many magnitudes greater than previously thought, making the notion of an eruption far more ... continue reading


Islamic State's seduction, recruitment of Americans under scrutiny Watch

Image of At least 25 Probable American recruits have been detained since January.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

U.S. prosecutions of would-be recruits to Islamic State has grown exponentially. ISIS has used both brutality and perceptive propaganda to attract members worldwide, in ways that are far more sophisticated than al-Qaeda and other jihadist adherents. LOS ... continue reading


'Man of peace, tenacity and courage,' Cardinal Francis George dies aged 78 Watch

Image of Polio during childhood had left the prelate with a weakened leg and a pronounced limp throughout his life. With his death, the College of Cardinals has 223 members, of whom 121 are under 80 and thus eligible to vote for a pope.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Retired Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George has died after a decade of battling cancer at the age of 78. The first native Chicagoan to head the archdiocese, he is being remembered as "a man of peace, tenacity and courage" by his successor Archbishop ... continue reading


Genetic rescuing considered for shrinking wolf population on remote Michigan island Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There are only three wolves left on Isle Royale, a small island in Michigan Lake's Superior, according to biologists. Researchers said that they do not know what to do or what should be done in order to save the wolves from dying and disrupting the ecology. MUNTINLUPA, ... 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 11:1-18
1 The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 42:2-3; 43:3, 4
2 I thirst for God, the living God; when shall I go ... Read More

Gospel, John 10:1-10
1 'In all truth I tell you, anyone who does not enter ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 27th, 2015 Image

St. Zita
April 27: St. Zita was born into a poor but holy Christian family. Her ... Read More

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