I have just finished reading an article by Sandro Magister (“Go forth and baptize”) on the situtation in the Catholic Church in Argentina.
The problem concerned rigorism in application to the question of who should be admitted to baptism. As Magister puts it:
What reemerges here is the ancient and still unresolved dispute between a Church of the elite, a pure, minority Church, and a Church of the masses, populated also by that immense sea of humanity for whom Christianity is made up of a few simple things.
This is relevant to a comment Christine recently made on Acroamaticus’ blog. She commented of the Catholic Church: “A “baptized” membership of billions, even though many are practically unevangelized pagans.”
The whole article by Magister is worth reading in this regard, but I am reminded of a comment that James Joyce originally made in his novel Finnigan’s Wake: “Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody'”. By the sheer fact of the universal nature of the Church, we do not have the luxury of requiring a high degree of catechisation of everyone who wishes to be a member of it. The problem is, as Magister points out, a perennial one, but it is one that we live with for the sake of the gospel. Rigourism was rejected by the early Church (against Tertullian and others). We are not about to reintroduce it now.
Christine made another similar comment at the end of the same string on Mark’s blog in response to something I said:
The price of full communion is full acceptance of Catholic doctrine.
Hmmm. Forgive me for being cheeky, but perhaps the Catholic Church ought to work on that premise for her own before requiring it of others :)
Well, from my experience, those whom I admitted into membership of the Lutheran Church when I was a pastor were always better catechised than those who were already members of the congregation and who had not had any formal catechisation since their confirmation. I think this is normal. We often require a greater degree of acceptance of the public teachings of a community at the point of admission and initiation than we do of those already in the community. The same goes for immigrants, who are often expected to show a degree of knowledge about our country and loyalty to it which is much higher than that required of those who are born here!