Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Unity or Uniformity: Where is the Focus of the Church’

Unity or Uniformity: Where is the Focus of the Church?

By David Brodsky

I reflect today on the broad nature and mission of the Catholic Church (imagine that). It has been an issue among the campus orthodoxy, since the publication of a recent viewpoint of mine, whether a person who disagrees with a few or a number of Catholic doctrines can remain a member of a church where doctrine plays such a key role. Without discussing the role of doctrine itself, we can ask the question: Is the “universal” church more concerned with unity or uniformity?

Uniformity wills that those who disagree with doctrines of the church inevitably will defect and either join reformed churches or live individual spiritual lives. Unity, conversely, wills that only certain core beliefs, say the acknowledgement of the divinity of Christ, be necessary for membership and that, indeed, even with doctrines as guiding lights, all those who fit into this broad category can and should participate in the one universal church.

Analysis of the broader mission of the church can yield only the realization that the church is, and by ideology ought to be, bent on unity among all Christians. That the church should focus on unity in keeping with the nature of the faith itself, the common individual quest for God and the most idealistic realization of the mission of Christ, is an argument of ideology. People would disagree with that analysis, and that is fine. My present purpose is simply to demonstrate that that church is bent on unity at the heart of its mission.

No one will deny the elaborate doctrines that make up much of one’s conception of the Catholic Church. Doctrine, and specifically dogma, is a necessary part of organized religion in a practical sense. The church must have dogma to allow for its faithful to follow its path. We cannot assume the absolute truth of these declarations, being words of men not of God, but we can trust the church as an institution composed of people of God to direct the faith in a manner in keeping with a universal Christian conception of the divine.

These dogma are necessary for guidance, particularly for those who do not spend significant amounts of time in thought and prayer on theological issues. These people must have an outlet of faith and a direction through the church. All people, however, have their own individual ideas and theories about the one truth, some stronger than others. “Christianity by its very nature introduce[s] an element of individual decision” (Spivey and Smith, “Anatomy of the New Testament”). No one’s individual thought can be considered superior or subordinate to that of any other because different people come to their conjectures through different preconceptions or ways of thinking. There is no one definite notion of truth on Earth; all is inference on some level. Divine revelation is, of course, a source of objectivity, but it is not understood well enough by anyone to inspire unity on uniform grounds.

The modern church, while of course retaining its dogma and keeping its well-defined direction as an institution, has realized that the mission of a universal church as a vehicle for Christ is to include, not exclude. Especially in this past century and even previously, the church has embraced the reality that while its leaders differ significantly from liberal Catholics and Protestants, unity among all Christians is a goal that transcends that difference.

The fact that now an Anglican priest can become a Catholic priest and keep his wife and children demonstrates that the church is making efforts to reunify all Christians under one faith. In the past few months, the Catholic Church has been having dialogues with the Lutheran Church stressing ecumenism, or church unity, between the two. The catechism of the Catholic Church makes this quite apparent in stating that “the desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit” and that “the church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce and perfect the unity Christ wills for her.” Christ himself says to God, “I am in you and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me” (John 17:22-23).

Some in the church choose to focus on the necessity of division and on the importance of thinking precisely in keeping with the dogma of the church. Accepting every facet cannot, however, be required of all people in a universal church which strives for unity among all the Christian faithful. I accept the legitimacy of points of view that differ from my own and I know that even in our differences we can practice and come to table together; for despite our natural individualism, Christians are one faith and must unify to best fulfill the mission of Christ.

David Brodsky is a freshman in the College.

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