Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Church, Conversion, and Change

Robert George has a fabulous post on First Things. I will give a few snippets below, but highly recommend you read the entire post.

In any event, for those of us who believe that the Church is a reliable teacher of truth, and that her doctrine is fundamentally sound, the last thing we desire is a transformation of the Church’s historical teachings. (If we wanted that, we would become Unitarians or join the United Church of Christ or, at least, cast our lot with the Episcopal Church in the United States.) What is in need of transformation is not the teaching of the Church but the human mind and heart to which these teachings are addressed. Christianity is a religion of transformation. No one is literally born into it; even infants at baptism are converted to it. There is not a Catholic on the planet or in the history of the Church who is not a convert.

Conversion is effected, by God’s grace, by transformative acts of the intellect and will. And the process of conversion is lifelong, whether one begins it a few days or weeks after birth or on one’s eighty-fifth birthday. Christ is constantly calling us to conversion and making available to us the divine graces that are its fundamental resources. We falter and fail; he lifts us up and puts us back on track. We grow in him, so long as we are faithful in responding to his acts of love for us by our acts of love of God and neighbor.

The Church doesn’t need fundamental transformation; it needs to be about the business of transforming us. This is a task for the whole Church: bishops, priests, and other religious, and the laity. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, this work of transformation of minds and hearts necessarily includes work of cultural transformation. For better or worse, culture is character-shaping and, thus, person-forming. That’s why the task of cultural renewal and reform is part of the Christian task—an essential part. It may not be rejected or neglected by the Church or her leadership in the name of evangelization of individuals; indeed, it is crucial to the project of evangelizing individuals. The task of evangelization is immeasurably more difficult where culture works powerfully against the witness of the Church by fostering, facilitating, and encouraging sin and undermining the efforts of religious communities and families to encourage in their members, especially young people, respect for themselves and others and fidelity to the law of God and moral truth.

Truth spoken in charity.

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