The claim of many self-professed “orthodox” Catholics nowadays that they have the corner on dogmatic truth and the practice of the spiritual life is astonishingly self-righteous. And like all self-righteousness, it’s woefully oblivious of the manifold ways in which all of us fall short, both in what we know and what we do, in our lives of faith.
It’s absolutely impossible to be informed to the hilt about what the church teaches, and to follow every rubric to perfection. As Jesus himself teaches over and over in the gospels, the point of the spiritual life is not rubristic perfection at all. It’s our disposition of openness to God, our willingness to be led where we do not intend to go.
. . . The claim of today’s self-professed “orthodox” Catholics that they scrupulously adhere to every jot and tittle of church teaching (and that they know each jot and tittle) seems to me spectacularly to miss the point. The point is that church teachings have shifted constantly over the years, in response to new cultural insights and developments. And that any time we’ve chosen to imagine that we can freeze those teachings at a particular moment in time, we’ve been proven wrong. Because cultural development itself does not stop, and along with it, doctrinal development and development of the church’s moral teaching occurs. Because development and change must occur, if the teachings of the church are to reach new generations of believers, or believers in new cultural settings.
. . . Rather than trying to learn and follow everything, it might be wiser for Catholics today to try to focus on what counts above all. I wonder what would happen if we started the catechetical process with the gospels, for instance, as Terry Weldon wisely suggests we might do? With the Sermon on the Mount?