I hear this wishful thinking all the time. Doesn’t every person take issue with one or more teachings of the Catholic Church – believing she is in error and must someday reverse or evolve on those faulty teachings? Perhaps not all people are like this, but many are. And for sure, many Catholics are. These days it’s usually when we’re talking about her more polarizing teachings – those regarding same-sex marriage, contraception, female clergy, capital punishment, etc. – that you most often hear the old “oh, don’t worry, she’ll come around” mantra.
But you see, she won’t.
It can be most tempting for us, as humans, to believe that we see truth and recognize it as such merely due to our ability to reason and intuit. But the reality is that there are billions of people currently seeing billions of different truths in the world. More specifically, there are millions of Christians reading the same (or nearly the same) Bible and drawing different conclusions – forming different doctrines. Here in America (and other places too, but most notably here) we have the Christian cafeteria where one can simply look around at all the Christian denominations and then pick one that most lines up with their own current set of beliefs, or truths, if you will. But then, once said denomination has strayed a bit from that original ideal, one must either fracture the denomination to form a more precise faith group, or start over with the search for the Christian community most in line with “the truth”. It can be exhausting and discouraging.
Before we converted and entered the Catholic Church, the search for truth resembled this pattern in many ways, although at some point we made the logical connection that the Church of the Bible was not a democratic one, and therefore could not line up with every one of our opinions – let alone all the opinions of everyone else. I soon realized that the fact that I did not see eye to eye with the Church on every issue was a very good thing. Why? Because it meant that I was not the arbiter of truth. I am not God. And according to Isaiah 55:8, God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and neither are his ways my ways.
And indeed, over time I came to understand the Church’s teachings on so many tough issues when I simply dropped my guard and humbled myself. I am a student. A child. A sheep. How could I presume to know better than the Shepherd? Well, I suppose I could say that Jesus (the Shepherd) and I have a special, personal relationship, where he tells me things that only I understand correctly. Right, that sounds very biblical. Especially given that Jesus specifically asked Peter, the first pope, to feed and tend his sheep (Jn 21:15-17) for him. Jesus shepherds us vicariously. Thus we a have a Vicar of Christ for the teaching of faith and morals.
But wait, you say, couldn’t anyone say about their own denomination that there is dissent from doctrine; so by that standard it must be the unwavering Church that Christ founded as well? Well, no. Not for that reason alone. The very structure of the Catholic Church, along with her historical connection to the first century, is equally important. Truth must come from the top (Jesus) down. The Church is necessarily hierarchical. Doctrine cannot be formulated by the masses and then be enshrined for the time being as truth – only to be reevaluated once the sensibilities of the masses change.
Those teachings of the Church that I am still having trouble understanding – in light of my own sense of justice, fairness, laziness, or what have you – are exactly what give me faith and peace in knowing that the Church is unchanging. She will not acquiesce to me or anyone else for the sake of being popular or evolving to fit the times. She will not be informed by human greed nor weakness. She will not bow down to anyone but her king, Jesus. The Catholic Church will not change, because God does not change (Mal 3:6).