Images of the Church
7. First of all, what is the Church? While recognizing the numerous traditional images and metaphors for the Church, Vatican II gave new emphasis to that of the Church as the People of God
By emphasizing this image, the Council wanted to bring out more clearly the fact that, while the Church is united with Christ, it is not identical with him; it is also composed of people who “belong to or are related to it in various ways” (e.g., Catholics, other Christians, etc.). It also exists in history, as a pilgrim on the way to the kingdom of God. The advantage of speaking of the Church as a people is that it highlights the fact that the Church is not Christ and is not yet perfect. The opening line of the Constitution on the Church sums this up perfectly: “Christ is the light of nations. . . . a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church.” In other words, the Church is not itself the light, but its mission is to reflect the light of Christ. This vision helps the Church remain humble, avoiding arrogant triumphalism. (Source: The Second Vatican Council: What was it and why is it important today? The Episcopal Commission for the Doctrine of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops)
The Church is not yet perfect? Really? I beg to differ. Its members are not yet perfect. That’s certainly true. But if the Church is not Christ, then why is it more theologically correct to speak of the Church as a “people”? Well, it’s not. If the Church is not Christ, then the Church is not “people”, either. The correct answer is that both realities are valid. The Church in its members are sinful and constantly needing of purification, but the Church in its very nature because it is the spotless bride of Christ is indeed perfect:
10. This society [the Church] is made up of men, just as civil society is, and yet is supernatural and spiritual, on account of the end for which it was founded, and of the means by which it aims at attaining that end. Hence, it is distinguished and differs from civil society, and, what is of highest moment, it is a society chartered as of right divine, perfect in its nature and in its title, to possess in itself and by itself, through the will and loving kindness of its Founder, all needful provision for its maintenance and action. And just as the end at which the Church aims is by far the noblest of ends, so is its authority the most exalted of all authority, nor can it be looked upon as inferior to the civil power, or in any manner dependent upon it. (Source)
The fact that the CCCB chose to sloppily teach one truth without giving the full picture only shows us once again what was the problem with the Spirit behind Vatican II. It’s not so much what it said…as it was in what it did not say.
But if you say something without giving the full story, it gives a distorted view of what the Church really believes about Herself. Heretics and dissenters are really good at hammering away at one truth the Church teaches at the expense of the other. That’s what we’ve had to endure these past 50 years, a one-sided and lopsided exposition of the Faith.
Sadly, here in Ottawa, we won’t get a chance to hear about the other side of the story. The ‘pastoral realities” prohibit it.