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Theological Notebook: A Rahner Quotation That Captures the Health of Conflict in the Church

Re-reading Karl Rahner's seminal essay "The Charismatic Element in the Church" in The Dynamic Element in the Church for part of the current dissertation chapter and I came across this gem:
For a Catholic every "clash" with the Church is always an occurrence recognized by the Church herself as an expression of her own life and only to the extent that it is such a thing. (p.49)
The gets right to the heart of something it took me years to realize: that the so-called "conservatives" and "liberals" within the Catholic Church, who spend so much time arguing against or in defense of what they conceive to be "the Church," are doing little more than amusing themselves, largely because they fail to recognize whoever they are arguing with as equally being part of the Church, which in most cases they are. It is this fact that results in their then being confused that the Church doesn't react (either for or against the group or idea in question) in the way that such people suppose the Church will or ought to.

This "clash" mentality is part of the disease of the dualistic thinking we Americans have imported from out political two-party system, along with labels like "liberal" and "conservative." There are few greater luxuries than thinking that one group can be right about everything and the other wrong about everything. In American politics, that way of thinking results in the Right conceiving of the Left as unpatriotic, or traitorous to the notion of America; it results in the Left as failing to recognize that the Right embodies in their "Rightness" the very diversity that the Left claims to cherish.

This perspective, imported into the Church, results in the same kinds of dismissal of the Other. This is where the Christian conception of Love, expressed politically, transcends any anemic notion of "tolerance" that is expressed today, because the person who recognizes the inherent diversity and clash within the Church, as Rahner describes it here – like the human body which lives by constantly constructing and deconstructing itself – embraces that and those from whom one differs as an individual. Thus we come to the Table of the Eucharist together, one Church as internally diverse as the whole of Protestantism, I think, but committed to this one communion together. I think that the particular danger of our time is that that commitment to internal unity despite diversity is under attack in a new way, especially by the overt attempts at recruitment by (and, essentially, incorporation into) American political parties.
Tags: america, dissertation, ecclesiology, political, quotations, rahner, theological notebook
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