Paradoxes of Catholicism: The Catholic Church – Divine and Human

Today’s meditation from the Magnificat is an excellent excerpt from Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson‘s “Paradoxes of Catholicism.” The paradoxes were sermons of the Monsignor’s which he preached during Lent of 1912.  Benson is a favorite author of Cowboy Papist, and the following passage, ‘Understanding the Chair of St. Peter’, is a fine example, (my emphasis):

Treat the Catholic Church as Divine only and you will stumble over her scandals, her failures, and her shortcomings. Treat her as Human only and. you will be silenced by her miracles, her sanctity, and her eternal resurrections.

Of course the Catholic Church is Human.  She consists of fallible men, and her Humanity is not even safeguarded as was that of Christ against the incursions of sin.  Always, therefore, there have been scandals, and always will be.  Popes may betray their trust, in all human matters; priests their flocks; laymen their faith. No man is secure. And, again, since she is human it is perfectly true that she has profited by human circumstances for the increase of her power.

Undoubtedly it was the existence of the Roman Empire, with its roads, its rapid means of transit, and its organization, that made possible the swift propagation of the Gospel in the first centuries.

Undoubtedly it was the empty throne of Caesar and the prestige of Rome that developed the world’s acceptance of the authority of Peter’s Chair.

Undoubtedly it was the divisions of Europe that cemented the Church’s unity and led men to look to a Supreme Authority that might compose their differences.

There is scarcely an opening in human affairs into which she has not plunged; hardly an opportunity she has missed.  Human affairs, human sins and weaknesses as well as human virtues, have all contributed to her power. So grows a tree, even in uncongenial soil.  The rocks that impede the roots later become their support; the rich soil, waiting for an occupant, has been drawn up into the life of the leaves; the very winds that imperilled the young sapling have developed too its power of resistance.  Yet these things do not make the tree.

For her Humanity, though it is the body in which her Divinity dwells, does not create that Divinity. Certainly human circumstances have developed her, yet what but Divine Providence ordered and developed those human circumstances?  What but that same power, which indwells in the Church, dwelt without her too and caused her to take root at that time and in that place which most favored her growth?

Many have left our Church for good reasons, human reasons.  It is vital to recall in times of severe anger and frustration with our Church, that “Divine Providence ordered and developed those human circumstances” for reasons unknown to us.

May we all remember that it is the throne of Peter, assigned by Christ, that makes our Church, our Faith, both Divine and Human.

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