Cardinal Justin Rigali is the archbishop of Philadelphia. He serves on many committees at the Vatican, and attended the Second Vatican Council.We are honored to ask this eminent Catholic churchman and scholar some questions about the Catholic Church in the new millennium.
What are the most critical theological issues facing the church today? There are two very important things facing the church, and the whole world. The first is the issue of the primacy of God. This is God’s world. We are created by God. We were given life by God. It is God who has created the world and human beings – and it is God who has determined how we are to live. This necessitates a recognition of his rule, his presence, his primacy. In other words, we can’t just do anything we want. We have to recognize that God has put into our hearts a very special law. We know when something is evil, and, in some profound way, we know when something is good. We have consciences that have to be constantly instructed, but we know that our conscience speaks to us in terms of what God is asking. What God has written into our nature and is part of the way he made us is present to us through our consciences. After the recognition of the primacy of God, the second issue is the divinity of Christ. In other words, Christ himself asked, “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” And this is a question that all of us must ask and answer, because this is the very basis of how we act. Jesus Christ is the son of the living God. The church has a beautiful prayer about this: “Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.” He is true God because he is divine like his Father, and he is true man because he is human like his mother and like us. Jesus Christ, then, being true God and true man, is the one who came on earth in order to lead us to salvation. He is the one who came to teach us, lead us, guide us, shepherd us. And everything we do in life will depend on whether or not we recognize Jesus: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” He is the son of God, the son of the Virgin Mary. He is our one mediator with the Father, he is the one who teaches us how to live and love and serve. On our view of both of these theological issues depends so much. As a matter of fact, everything else we think and do depends on this.
Words of wisdom – can you complete the proverb? The Sacred Scriptures teach us “to get wisdom, to get understanding!” (Proverbs 4:5) Now it is time to put yourself to the test to see how far along you are in this quest by completing this proverb. Remember, no peeking into your Bible! ____________________, but a wish fulfilled is a tree of life. a. Hope deferred makes the heart sick b. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life c. A tranquil mind gives life to the body (Answer: a – Prov 13:12)
Are you a heretic? A theology professor once remarked that there were no new heresies, just old ones repackaged. To test the truth of this statement, consider this recent real-life scenario and see if you can name the error involved:
Is there really a hell? A coach jokingly threatens students with “hell” if they do not show up for practice on time. The students earnestly ask if it was true that such an offense could merit hell. The coach responds, “Oh no, I’m not even sure there is a hell.”
What is at stake? The truthfulness of the Word of God and the gift of free will.
What is the truth? The comment made by the teacher is consistent with universalism and originism, both of which teach that because God is love everyone will be saved in the end (Originism includes Satan as well). The problem is that this view contradicts the testimony of the Gospels, which paint a very different picture – that hell, or existence devoid of the presence of God, definitely exists. If the teacher is right, then the Word of God is not truthful and cannot be trusted. Also, this position does not ultimately respect the gift of free will because it suggests that God will “force” someone against his or her will to spend eternity in communion with the Blessed Trinity. In short, free will necessarily implies the option of hell or we are left with a God who is not truthful about the existence of our free will; a God who is not faithful to the gift of free will (we may have it, but it can be taken away at any moment); and a God who is not loving for love will not force itself upon another.
Church of the month The power and vitality of the Christian faith has long inspired tremendous works of art on the part of believers. One has only to consider the beauty of many of our principal churches to realize the transcendent beauty of our faith. For example, consider: Notre Dame de Paris Notre Dame de Paris is a Gothic cathedral in Paris, France, and is the seat of the archbishop of Paris. It is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It was restored and saved from destruction by Viollet-le-Duc, one of France’s most famous architects. The name Notre Dame means “Our Lady” in French and it was one of the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress. The cathedral suffered desecration during the radical phase of the French Revolution in the 1790s, when much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. During the 19th century, an extensive restoration project was completed, returning the cathedral to its previous state.
Origin: In 1160, because the church in Paris had become the “parish church of the kings of Europe,” Bishop Maurice de Sully deemed the current Parisian cathedral unworthy of its lofty role and had it demolished. Construction on the new cathedral began in 1163, during the reign of Louis VII, and was completed around 1345.
Notable features: • The bells - There are five bells at Notre Dame. The great bourdon bell, Emmanuel, weighs just over 13 tons and is tolled to mark the hours of the day and for various occasions and services. • Point zéro - The reference point for distances along the highways starting in Paris is situated in the square in front of the cathedral. Tradition holds that tourists who stand on Point zéro will one day return to Paris.