by John F. X. Harriott, S.J.
THE individual is aware of his identity, he knows who he is, but throughout his life he is aware of not being all that he could he. Becoming whole is a process which continues throughout life, and it entails a range of experiences, moments of inspiration and understanding. mistakes and failures, advances and reversals; it also entails an increasing clarity about personal ideals, and an awareness of conduct, conscious or unconscious. which is incompatible with them.
Much the same is true of the Church. She knows who she is but she is also in a state of continuous develop. ment and change. Much that is familiar to us in the daily life of the Church would be completely unfamiliar to the Apostles, and similarly the Church two centuries from now will he different in many respects from the Church we know today. And as with the individual this process of growth entails a process of selection,
;,-niiat;,,n, 1.1 rejection.
ft were nor capable of change, development. transformation, the Church could never be the Body of Christ; it would be a robot.
There is nothing shocking, then, in saying that some ideals which have been institutionalised in the past, have come to be seen as incompatible with the Gospel in the present. It has taken time for the Church to realise—and the realisation is still not complete— that though great evils spring from a lack of principle, evils can also spring from having principles. The unprincipled man is evidently irresponsible, unreliable, and callous; but the man of principle can also be stubborn, self-righteous and hard, a pharisee, a saint without imagination.
It has taken much time and many mistakes for the Church to work out her relationship to those whose beliefs and behaviour are, in her eyes, at variance with the Gospel. From the time of St. Augustine, who demanded corporal punishment for heretics and schismatics, right through the Middle Ages and the period of the Reformation, there has been the dark shadow of cruelty in her life, as well as the radiance of compassion.
It has taken centuries to
grasp that nobody can he drawn to Christ by phys6 violence, ostracism or social penalties, because these things are a complete contradiction of the Church's mission, which is to he a living witness to the love brought into the world by Jesus Christ.
Love's methods are es ample, persuasion, concern for truth and justice. There i5 no way of bullying people into virtue because any ac tion which is done under physical or moral pressure is less than human. To he human it must he free_ There are still lingering traces of an older, more violent tradition both in the Church as an institution and in the individual lives of people who call themselves Christian. There are many petty ways in which we can be tempted to treat intolerantly those with whom we disagree; but intolerance. though it may have the ap pearance of virtue, is always. a failure of love.
And Our Lord has told us to he me': ; concerned with the beam in our own eye than the mote in the other man's. His word is always the last.