By reflecting on the life and death of Simon Peter, it is easier to move
from the opposition "Christ - yes, the Church - no" to the conviction
"Christ -yes and the Church -yes, as a continuation of our yes to Christ.
The logic of the mystery of the Incarnation - synthesized in that yes to
Christ -entails acceptance of everything that is human in Christ, in virtue
of the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in solidarity with the
nature tainted by the sin of Adam's race. Although he was absolutely
without sin, Christ took on himself all of humanity's sin: Agnus Dei qui
tollit peccata mundi. The Father "made him to be sin", the Apostle Paul
writes in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (5:21). Therefore, the
sinfulness of Christians (about whom it is said, and sometimes not without
reason, that "they are no better than others"), the sinfulness of
ecclesiastics themselves should not elicit a pharisacial attitude of
separation and rejection, but should rather compel us to a more generous
and trusting acceptance of the Church to a more convinced and meritorious
yes in her regard, because we know that precisely in the Church and by
means of the Church this sinfulness becomes an object of the divine power
of redemption, under the action of that love which makes possible and
accomplishes the individual's conversion, the sinner's justification, a
change of life and progress in doing good, sometimes even to the point of
heroism, .e., to holiness. Can we deny that the Church's history is full
of converted and repentant sinners who, having returned to Christ, followed
Him faithfully to the end?
One thing is certain - the life which Jesus Christ, and the Church with
Him, proposed to man is full of moral demands which bind him to what is
good, even to the heights of heroism. It is necessary to observe whether,
when one says "no to the Church", in reality one is not seeking to escape
these demands. Here, more than in any other case, the "no to the Church"
would be the equivalent of a "no to Christ". Unfortunately, experience
shows that this is often the case.
On the other hand, one cannot fail to observe that if the Church - in
spite of all the human weaknesses and sins of her members - in her entirety
remains faithful to Christ and brings to Christ her many children who have
failed in their baptismal commitments, this occurs because of the "power
from on high""(Luke 24:29), the Holy Spirit, Who gives her life and guides
her on her perilous journey through history.
We must also say, however, that the "no to the Church" is sometimes based
not on the human defects of the Church's members, but on a general
principle of rejecting mediation. There are indeed people who, although
admitting the existence of God, wish to maintain an exclusively personal
contact with Him, without allowing any mediation between their own
conscience and God, and therefore, they reject the Church above all.
Next installment: part three.