REFLECTION: Doctrinal orthodoxy and pastoral charity PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 26 December 2014 11:29



These two should be together, like an unbreakable, organic pair, or like the two sides of the same coin, or like marriage where the principle of “what God has put together let no one put asunder” has to apply.

They need each other, establishing a relationship that should be worked out and enriched along the way. It is therefore a living, dynamic relationship, not an inert, passive one.

But to be realistic, we have to learn to distinguish between the two and to admit that some tension is always involved in their relationship. The ideal has to be pursued in the context of the concrete conditions and circumstances of the parties involved, and always in reference to God’s will.

The relationship should not just be a matter of one’s good intentions and estimation of things. It has to be forged by dint of prayer, study, personal contact with people, continuing monitoring of developments, etc.

Especially these days when the Pope is pushing for what is called the Church of mercy and compassion, and when some proposals, like those raised in the recently held synod on the family, sparked a raging controversy as to how to wed charity with truth, mercy with justice, we need to know how to develop this relationship properly.

The challenge is right in front of us. We cannot avoid it or ignore it for long. Life has moved on to another level of development with their corresponding good things and the inevitable problems, issues and questions, if not, clearly bad things also coming out.

The thing to remember as a basic guideline to tackle this matter is that the ideal relationship between doctrinal orthodoxy and pastoral charity can only be found in the mind and the ways of God. We can only reflect and approximate that proper relationship to the extent that we are willing to identify ourselves with God’s mind and ways.

Of course, the will and ways of God can be discerned not only from the doctrine and dogmas so far defined by the Church, nor only from the rich traditions and established practices developed through the years in the Church, but also from the continuing developments in the world through which God also continues to speak to us.

The Spirit of God continues to intervene in our lives, no matter how we shape and develop our lives. We always need to be perceptive of his promptings that can come to us like the wind.

We have to be ready to go along with these promptings that can demand of us to go farther from the current state of our beliefs and practices. While it’s true that the objective body of faith is already given to us, our subjective understanding, appreciation and application of it will always be an endless process.

We also need to understand that the will and ways of God are not confined only to some letter, to some doctrine or dogma, to some theories and principles. They are mainly spiritual and supernatural that go beyond, without nullifying, what we can humanly articulate.

Our usual problem is that we tend to absolutize what in fact only have a relative value, since they are always subject to many factors that can vary, like the historical, cultural, social, not to mention the personal that can be quite unique to each one of us.

Our generalizations, otherwise valid and necessary, can also overstep their limits. This is when our laws and traditions degenerate into isms, frozen and blind to the real and concrete needs of the people and deaf to the promptings of the Spirit. This is when we would have legalism, traditionalism, rigorism, etc.

We should not be afraid to continually review and examine how things are with respect to the proper relationship between doctrinal orthodoxy and pastoral charity, and much less afraid to do the necessary corrections, purifications, adjustments and adaptations.

Aside from having a general assessment of things and people, what is actually more needed is to have direct personal knowledge of the people. Thus, individual personal spiritual direction is most needed.

We also need to understand that the ultimate and culminating doctrine of our faith is that Christ assumed all the sins of men by offering his life on the cross. Our doctrinal orthodoxy should go to that extent. Otherwise we would not be orthodox enough.

Christ preached and clearly told us what is right and wrong. But in the end he perfected his redemptive work by dying on the Cross. That’s 7where doctrinal orthodoxy and pastoral charity become one.