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Is Church teaching outdated?

BY Matthew Warner

| Posted 5/27/10 at 2:20 PM

 

Today the Pope met with some bishops in Italy. Here is something he said that jumped out at me when I read it (emphasis mine):

“Frequent all areas of life, including those of the new communications technologies which now permeate culture in all its expressions. It is not a question of adapting the Gospel to the world, but of drawing from the Gospel that perennial novelty which, in all times, enables us to find the best way to announce the Word that does not fail, fecundating and serving human life. Let us, then, again present the young with the exalted and transcendent measure of life as vocation.” - Pope Benedict XVI

Fecundate: to make prolific or fruitful (for those of you, like me, who needed to look that one up again).

How often do Christians make the mistake of thinking it is Church teaching that is “outdated”? Often leading them to the false conclusion that we must better adapt the Gospel to the world? This is, of course, totally backwards. And such a perspective not only leads to taking steps backwards on our journey, but it also misses out on what the perennial novelty of the Gospel continually offers.

Many of these same Christians also increasingly struggle with their faith as each advancement in science and technology occurs (like a recent issue concerning the Eucharist). They burden themselves with the impossible task of adapting the Gospel to the world. Such an approach is doomed for failure. And as this self-inflicted burden inevitably stacks up, they falsely find themselves forced to abandon the heavy weight of their faith.

This is all needless conflict. Instead, we should see each advancement in society as an opportunity in faith. Because it is! It’s an opportunity to understand the truths of our faith more deeply, not to shed our need of them. It’s a chance to apply the enduring newness of the Gospel to something totally new. To do something that’s never been done before. It’s exciting! Like what we’re all trying to do with our Catholic faith in New Media, for example.  And on the flip side, our faith in return gives us deeper insights into science and technology as well. They work hand in hand.

It’s not Church teaching that is outdated. It’s usually us. It’s the way we think. It’s the way we communicate. And I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being “outdated.” It just means we might be able to do things better. And it means that right now, and always, there are new opportunities out there just waiting for you to infuse them with the Gospel and draw out that novelty which “enables us to find the best way to announce the Word that does not fail, fecundating and serving human life.”