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In The Idea of a University (Discourse VI.5), Cardinal John Newman refers to the sort of mind that
takes a connected view of old and new, past and present, far and near, and which has an insight into the influence of all these on one another; without which there is no whole and no center. It possesses the knowledge, not only of things, but also of their mutual and true relations; knowledge, not merely considered as acquirement, but as philosophy.
Cardinal John Newman ascribed the comprehensive mind he describes in this passage to "a truly great intellect, such as the intellect of Aristotle, or of St. Thomas, of Newton, or of Goethe."
With a greater sense of the finite reach of any merely human mind, I would rather ascribe it to Almighty God. Either way, I doubt that anyone without some semblance of the intelligence Newman describes could adequately understand — much less find some clever way to resolve — the present deep crisis of the Catholic Church, though it seems to be more spiritually threatening than before any in its history.
People who believe that God made humans in His image and likeness of God ought not to discount the likelihood that there is someone presently living in the body of Christ endowed by the spirit of God with the requisite mind, the mind of God in Jesus Christ.
Tragically, despite its lofty label, the recent so-called summit of leading Catholic bishops from throughout the world failed to indicate that grace of that high caliber is evident among them. Indeed, though the bishop of Rome himself shared his thoughts, the heart and mind of Christ he is supposed to represent did not appear to be among them.
Pope Francis and his close associates have not frequently to remind us that the great commandments of love describe the sine qua non be all and end all of our vocation as followers of Christ. Yet, when it comes to the sexual delicts presently roiling the soul of the Church, many of them are wont to speak of the imperative of love as though it were simply some aspect and consequence of human choice and feeling.
This is, of course, the view of the elitist world, at the moment. Indifferent or passionately hostile to God, and to those who think it loving to obey His will, it is a world devoted to the lie that people love whomever they will, the wholesome counsel of God notwithstanding.
But as Christ's followers, shouldn't we always keep in mind how Christ answered the man of the law — a Pharisee — when he tested him, asking:
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And He [Christ] said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."
Clearly, the love of God ought to preoccupy Christ-followers who strive to obey the first great command of love. Focused on His heart and mind, do they pray without hope who ask God for a share in them? If, like Solomon, we put in second place things that the world might expect us to cherish, doesn't our Lord promise that He will nourish our hope, responding to our please with more alacrity than any human judge or parent?
So instead of considering only our own feelings and desires, people living in good faith can take "a connected view" of the history of our identity in Christ, considering what is as old as creation and as new as tomorrow's dawn. What stretches back into a past as ancient as God's love for His creation, and as new as His complete foreknowing of the child we were, just seeded in the womb. And what lies as near to us as our own flesh and blood, yet as far removed as the provision of God for the infinite repletion of the whole.
From the Pope on down to the parish priest, which of the clerics of our day begins their teaching on human will and obligation from the premise of the love of God that transcends our capacity for love, even as it makes it possible for our little selves to accommodate the heart of Christ, which gives and receives it without limit? So why do so many Christian people, leaders and laity alike, now parrot the world, speaking of love as a thing of our own making, though a trace of it, invisible to our will, is what makes and keeps our soul alive?
Love pleases God. Yet they talk as if its pleasures belong to us. Love identifies God, but they speak of it as if it serves to support our willful human identities instead. We worship the creature, forgetting the creator. We worship His revel in His power of creation, disrespecting the belongings in respect of which we praise and glorify His love.
The abuse of power that Pope Francis decries in his closing remarks to the Vatican summit is but a symptom of this idolatry. The remedy is not to turn one against the other in the name of some too worldly crusade against our adversary.
Rather, it lies in returning to worship God, with the humility that accepts the bonds and reaches He assigns to us whenever He speaks the word — "Let us make Man." Then we become what we are meant to be: male and female, the very image of the one who makes us so. Wholly alike in kind, we also differ from one another. We live and move and have our being in Him, like sounds echoing upon the winds of His infinite providence; diminished in time, and but continually renewed.
We must turn again to God, in trust and obedient prayer, that He may, through Christ in us, resolve our Church's present crisis of faithlessness. But repentance requires we speak the truth in love, adamantly refusing to disremember God who is the source of both. By living through Christ, we are at our best: God's echo. Uprising from our broken, God-healable hearts His word resounds in us with praise and glorifies His will, leading us home.