When “catholic” is used as an adjective, it means universal, open or general. I have read art magazines and reviews that have described certain art collections as “catholic in its uniqueness.” The fact that Catholicism has its root in the word “catholic” is not a coincidence. In his essay “Catholicism: A Synthesis,” Richard McBrien says that it is this notion that distinguishes Catholicism from other religions, Christian and non. The notion is that Catholicism is a religion that is based on open-mindedness. McBrien alludes to flags to clearly define his thesis. Many flags of the world share the same three colors. He uses the colors red, white, and blue. The flags for Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cuba, and France all share the same three colors, yet they are not configured the same way. The flag of the United States has fifty stars and the French flag has three thick bars of color. It is in this way that McBrien relates the flags of the world to Catholicism. The Catholic Church is distinguished from other Christian religions by the configuration of its practices and characteristics.
One instance that I read about in the news recently was about a young girl in England who became pregnant. The girl went to her church and told her priest. The priest then referred the girl to the Cardinal of that area. The twelve-year-old girl comes from a family that can barely afford food and clothes, let alone support a new child. Abortion was obviously not even an issue in this case. The clergy decided it would be best to use church money and support this girl in her pregnancy. This shows openness on the part of the Catholic Church because they could have shunned this twelve year old girl, and ignored her pleas for help. However, they decided to take a risk and help her.
An instance in which the church is not so open has to do with homosexuality. I know that the Catholic Church embraces good causes, and finding a cure for AIDS is one. I know of Catholic churches that hold fundraising events, awareness seminars and promote AIDS benefits. There is such a thick layer of hypocrisy in this example. The church refuses to acknowledge homosexuals as human beings, yet the homosexual community is hit very hard by the AIDS epidemic. How can they embrace the AIDS cause, yet denounce homosexuality. This is just one instance of non-openness in the Catholic Church.
“Christian realism” is critical thinking in the context of the Catholic Church. Realists take reality in the context in which it is in history. Christian realism is based on the contexualist outlook on life. “…Christianity itself is mediated by meaning,” says McBrien. McBrien makes a good point when he says, “Christian realism also rejects the notion that clear and distinct ideas…are equivalent to the real itself.” Ideas are never based on solely one thing. That is what is so great about Christian realism. It incorporates the idea of openness into decision making. Critical realism is used in every aspect of the Church. Nothing goes unchallenged, whether it is ” doctrines, dogmas or canonical directives.”
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Richard McBrien makes some good points in his essay, “Catholicism: A Synthesis.” He made the reader aware of how open the Catholic church really is. He also makes us aware of Christian realism and how it works in association the Catholic Church. He clearly defines his thesis, that the Catholic Church is defined by the configuration of its characteristics.