Friday, December 28, 2007

Benedict XVI's provocative theme

From CWNews.com

Pope Benedict XVI chose a provocative theme for his first public audience of the autumn season in Rome: the solemn obligation of Catholic pastors to protect the truths of the faith. If only more Catholic bishops took that obligation so seriously!

In his commentary on St. Cyril of Alexandria, the Pope noted that the
5th-century theologian recognized his duty, as bishop, to be "custodian of
accuracy-- in other words, the custodian of the true faith."

The alternative, the Pope continued, is to allow novelties to creep into
the faith, so that what young Christians learn is not quite the same as
what their forefathers were taught, and the precious heritage of the
original faith is diluted.

This is not merely a question of differing opinions, the Holy Father
explained. Only the faithful preservation of the original Gospel message,
Pope Benedict concluded, provides us with "a guarantee of continuity with
the apostles and with Christ Himself."

If the Catholic faith changes from generation to generation, then we
Catholics of the early 21st century do not fully share the beliefs of the
first apostles. If our understanding of the Nicene Creed differs from the
understanding of the prelates who gathered for the Council of Nicea, then
we have no firm assurance that we are members of the same faith, the same
Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

The truths of the faith, then, are matters worth fighting for. A teacher
who leads his students to question the faith is endangering their
connection with the Church, and thus endangering their souls. False
teaching is a scandal, the Pope reminded his audience, and "anyone who
disturbs the least of those who believe in Christ will suffer unbearable
punishment."

In the past decade we have learned to treat the scandal of sexual abuse
seriously. But what about theological abuse? What about the abuses involved
in false teaching and false preaching, which confuse the faithful and
squander the legacy of the Catholic faith?

Why can't Church leaders confront errors directly, and denounce them? Is
the fa├žade of polite respectability more important than the reality of
Catholic orthodoxy?

The boisterous debates of the early Church helped to define orthodox
Christian doctrine. We know what we believe today in part because our
Christian ancestors for 15 or 16 centuries ago hurled insults and anathemas
at each other until finally, in a trial by intellectual combat, the truths
of the faith emerged.

Today, Pope Benedict suggests, the orthodox teachings of the Church are
endangered not by direct challenges but by studied indifference-- not by
declared enemies who demand that we renounce a doctrinal teaching, but by
supposed friends who tell us that it really doesn't matter. For many
Christians, perhaps this is how the faith ends: Not with a bang but a
whimper.

Doctrine does matter. The fundamental truths of the faith, passed down from
the apostles, are our most precious heritage. It's a faith worth fighting
for.

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