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Classics

Not Another Church, but a Church that is Other

Real reform in the Church requires four essential conditions: intelligence of the real always nourished by charity: the rooting in community of the whole body which possesses a truth that is always greater than personal truth; patience with delays; a return to the principles of tradition.

The reform spirit lives off prophecy. The reformer, even if he is not a prophet in the strict sense of the word, shares the character of prophets. He is a “twice born” person, aware of his mission, captivated by his idea. For these reasons he is usually disposed to be solitary, opposed to the given state of affairs, and does not feel himself fully at home in the concrete church. Think of Savonarola confronted with Alexander VI, or in our day, someone like the novelist Bernanos. As I said, the prophet is not concerned with the balance or the harmony of his message; he is more likely inclined to overstate it in an absolute way. Likewise he is tempted to fall into unilateralism, that is, to see only one aspect of things. If he tries to systematize or even formulate his conviction, he tends to fall into a unitraditionalism – an insistence on one point of view. Without going as far as Luther, who is an extreme example, we can use the examples of the intolerant spirit of Peter Damian or even St. Bernard, as well as the tendency of St. Francis to reduce everything to a single theme (poverty). Great reformers generally are simplifiers [1]. This can be a strength but also a danger. […]

 

 

The intuition of the “prophet” needs to develop, but not in an abstract fashion or into a system. The prophetic intuition should not become in itself and for itself a tradition or a school. It risks turning into a sect. It should not become in itself and for itself a corpus, but should rather become incorporated into the existing body of the church. The prophetic perception certainly has to develop, but it shouldn’t develop for its own sake; it needs a development within the church, within the existing life of the concrete church. It should not result in an ecclesial novelty, but rather should renew the church as an existing reality. The church preexists the reform effort, and therefore it is not the object of discovery, retrieval, or creation. […]

 

 

[1] Cf. Jean Guitton, “L’Evangile captif”, Jeunesse de l’Eglise (cahier 10), p. 102.

 

 

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