“Guard the noble deposit,” exhorts the Apostle Paul to Timothy, his young colleague and friend, in what was perhaps his final epistle. And why should he do that? Because, very simply, it is the mission entrusted to the Church by our Blessed Lord. It is not anything we have discovered on our own, pursuant to this or that swashbuckling endeavor. Rather, it is something that we have been given, a pearl beyond price, and thus a thing we should be loath to lose. As the inimitable Belloc once put it: “The moral is, it is indeed, thou shalt not monkey with the creed!”
Faith is not philosophy, in other words. It is not something on which we reflect, but rather Someone we receive, and upon whom we are blessedly free to repose the whole weight of our understanding and trust. “It is not a matter of learning and cleverness,” Hans Urs von Balthasar advises, “but the courage to put oneself at risk.”
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As did Pope St. John Paul II, by the way, when asked why he would not allow the ordination of women. “I am not authorized to do so,” he said in effect. Not, heaven knows, because he despised women, or felt they were somehow inferior to men, whose bastions of medieval privilege he was determined to preserve. But because he and the Church, whose teachings it is the job of popes and bishops always and everywhere to defend, must remain on the side of Christ.
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