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Church should be open to change

Austin Hagwood | Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dear Josh,

In your letter (“Church over society,” Feb. 15), you condemn an individual who “… had the audacity to claim to have knowledge that supersedes 2,000 years of church teaching … to suggest that the Church should rethink its teaching based on the whims of a generation.” You also claim that throughout its 2,000 years, “… the Church has never been known to waver on its teaching…” and that the Church cannot represent a “pillar of truth” by “bending to the will of society.”

As Catholics, we belong to a church devoted to God, inspired by Jesus, but comprised of humans — living, emotional and flawed. While you state that the Church remains “the beacon that lights the way to heaven,” that same Church also initiated the Inquisition, started the Crusades, sold indulgences, colonized peoples who did not ask for such indoctrination and persecuted scientists, artists, and philosophers.

As Mr. Niehaus and Mr. Schlehuber noted in their Feb. 16 letter (“‘Never,’ is a strong word”), not even Galileo, a man who did indeed have knowledge that superseded what was over 1,000 years of Church teaching, was spared.

If the Church “… has never been known to waver on its teaching…”, then what was the purpose of the Second Vatican Council? The Church endures because of a willingness to recognize its flaws and grow with humanity. Our Church embodies a living entity, not an archaic institution incapable of self-examination and change.

You also argue that because Jesus “went against many societal values,” the Church should not become subject to the “constraints” of society. Perhaps you have forgotten that Jesus also opposed the inflexibility and misguided practices of his society’s dominant religious leaders. If anything, Jesus would promote a collaborative dialogue.

The most disturbing aspect of your letter remains the line, “The Church is not part of society, it’s above it.” As a Catholic and student of this University, I beg to differ. The Church operates soup kitchens, homeless shelters, hospitals, schools and development programs around the world — are these not part of society? Is this University not part of society?

Catholic universities, food programs, medical initiatives and outreach efforts exist in prisons, in impoverished neighborhoods, in war zones and in the fabric our communities, making a visible difference.

As part of society, the Church needs to remain open to discussion with all people, for that remains the true message of Christian action and love.

Austin Hagwood


Dillon Hall

Feb. 16