Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Loaves, Fish, and Shepherds

 From Father Paul Scalia:

Ecclesial authority is ordered to the handing on of what Christ has given. The twofold temptation for shepherds has always been either to neglect their genuine authority or to abuse it for selfish gain. Or both. As this scene indicates, they are to be ministers, not masters, of Christ’s grace and truth. Theirs is but to do and disappear.

Then comes the final, somewhat curious, command: “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” It seems superfluous. Surely, the One Who multiplies loaves and fish need not concern Himself with leftovers. Of course, He gives the command not for His own benefit but for theirs – and ours.

It is an apostolic duty to gather up what Christ has given – so that it can be handed down to others. This is the grave obligation the Shepherds have to Tradition. They have authority precisely so that they can gather up and hand down the Church’s liturgical and doctrinal patrimony. Failure to do so detaches their authority from Tradition and thus distorts it. Without the content of the Tradition, without a reference to generations past and future, authority becomes just an exercise of power here and now. It leads to a magisterial positivism that values Church authority, not because of its service to what was received and should be handed on, but simply because it has the power to compel.

Such an exchange of authority for positivism traps the faithful in a particular moment of time. It makes them prisoners of the present, temporal orphans with no tradition to receive and, therefore, nothing to hand on to future generations. This dangerous situation makes the faithful prey to whatever new ideas or, more likely, ideologies come along. With no Tradition in which they can stand and by which they can discern, they fall easily into error. (Read more.)


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