Imagining a Heretical Cardinal

By Thomas J. Paprocki.
bishop of Springfield, Illinois.
First Things Magazine

Imagine if a cardinal of the Catholic Church were to publish an article in which he condemned “a theology of eucharistic coherence that multiplies barriers to the grace and gift of the eucharist” and stated that “unworthiness cannot be the prism of accompaniment for disciples of the God of grace and mercy.” Or what if a cardinal of the Catholic Church were to state publicly that homosexual acts are not sinful and same-sex unions should be blessed by the Church? 

Until recently, it would be hard to imagine any successor of the apostles making such heterodox statements. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon today to hear Catholic leaders affirm unorthodox views that, not too long ago, would have been espoused only by heretics. “Heretic” and “heresy” are strong words, which contemporary ecclesiastical politeness has softened to gentler expressions such as “our separated brethren” or “the Christian faithful who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.”

But the reality is that those who are “separated” and “not in full communion” are separated and not in full communion because they reject essential truths of “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Thus, it is deeply troubling to consider the possibility that prelates holding the office of diocesan bishop in the Catholic Church may be separated or not in full communion because of heresy…” 

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March 2, 2023

On Not Imitating the World. The Other Revolution.

The path along which the new creation comes is totally different from the path of revolutionary change. There is a tedious similarity in the programs for social revision advanced by classical Marxists, Maoists, and the New Left. In each case the revolution advances under the norm of violence and the new order is born through the destruction of the old. But whatever new state of affairs is introduced is doomed to become as corrupt as the former, as George Orwell saw so clearly in his disarmingly simple allegory, Animal Farm. In startling contrast, the Bible’s new creation is intimately tied up with a person—“if any man be in Christ.” Men become new creatures when they are in Christ, who is the new man par excellence. Though the union with Christ transcends our understanding, it is real nonetheless. True Christians are united with Christ in his death and his resurrection.

Although the union with Christ that stands at the center of the Christian view of change is mystical, it is not an abstraction. For it was realized through a specific event, Pentecost, and is real in the life of believers today through the work of the Holy Spirit within them. The new creatures are the Spirit-filled people of God. For the early Christians, the Holy Spirit was Christ himself come back, and to be “in Christ” was to be influenced by Christ’s Spirit first of all and all the time. The influence of the Spirit was not vague and undefined; it occurred as the people of God lived according to the instruction of the apostles.

The Bible, the inscripturated teaching of the apostles, was received in the early Church as the work of the Spirit to equip people for the good works that are the mark of the new order (2 Tim. 3:16).

Second Corinthians 5:17 speaks of change on the individual level, simply because the Bible knows of no change that is not rooted in changed men, no redemption by groups. But those who are new creatures are not meant to exist in isolation from one another. They are swept together into a new nation of God that displays a rich variety of spiritual gifts. Romans 12, First Corinthians 12 and 14, and Ephesians 2 are records of a Spirit-filled people of God who existed within the established non-Christian order as a foreign force. They were the beginning of Christ’s new creation within the world.

Christians, of all people, may not be reactionary or establishmentarian. Yet their vision of the possibility for change in human life bears little resemblance to that of revolutionaries. They envision men changed by the Holy Spirit, joined together in a fellowship of the Spirit, and exerting a radical dynamic for change in the direction of the Kingdom of God. The people of God know their citizenship is in heaven, and their view of reality is determined by the Bible, the Word of God. They receive their orders from heaven. And wherever such obedience is expressed, the Kingdom of God comes, and where that Kingdom comes, the new order becomes a reality.” — Joel Nederhood