THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE TURBULENT WAVES OF HISTORY

By William Markiewicz

The Catholic Church is a monolith that has to find a "modus vivendi" with Sociology and Psychology. As a monolith it cannot afford, like other Churches, a diversity of directions. One Protestant theologian told me: "When new thoughts appear in Protestantism, a new Church is born. If something new appears in Catholicism, a new Order is born. Among the Orders, differences are minimised and Church unity is safeguarded.

A challenge to the monolithic character of the Church can be either local or universal. Regarding the local aspect, in Latin America the Catholic Church had difficulties in applying the principle "give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar" because it would have opened the gate to Protestant activists who had no scruples about defying local dictatorships. So the Catholic clergy opposed -- some of them with guns - the corrupt police and "Death Squadrons."

One Italian from Latin America told me about his encounter with Pope John Paul II in (I don't remember which) Latin American country. Conversing in Italian, the Pope repeated: "per il bene della Chiesa" - "for the good of the Church." In practice it means that the Church cannot decide on a perpetual line of behaviour; if for instance the ship steered too persistently toward liberalism, the spiritual link would weaken. Uniform "purism" would weaken the link with the broad masses of believers, and so lose its universal character. Therefore, the Cardinals show a tendency to alternate, choosing a more liberal Pope once, then a more conservative one. This keeps the Church on the middle road. Pope John-Paul II had a unique gift to attract, through personal magnetism and sincere feeling, those who agreed and disagreed with him. In this way he remains a "Star" among the Popes.

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