During a course on sacred scripture this summer, the course instructor started the class with a very interesting ice-breaker activity. “If you were Pope,” he asked, “what is the one thing you would change in the Catholic Church today?” The majority of answers were of either the gay marriage or women priests variety. When it came to my turn, I mumbled something about a return to a greater understanding of the sacred in the liturgy.
With hindsight, I think I would answer that question a lot differently if I were asked it today. I would answer it with a string of questions:
Do you attend Mass regularly?
If the answer is yes , then I would follow it up with this next question (if ever the reply were negative, then I would just jump to my final question):
Do you recite the Apostles’ Creed with the rest of the Congregation?
Then, do you believe with the conviction of your whole heart that what you are saying is true?
I would then get into the nitty-gritty:
So then, you believe in ‘One holy catholic and apostolic Church’?
Taking this sentence of the Creed apart, I would then want to discuss the nature of apostolic succession; that Christ entrusted the earthly Church to St. Peter (Mt 16:18), as well as the notion that the Holy Spirit would be sent to guide the Apostles and their successors until Christ’s return (1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thess 2:15, Acts 1:21-26, and 1 Tim 1:6, 4:14 and 5:22). Even more importantly, I would want to bring to light the notion of the definition of catholic (which you can read about here).
Coming to an understanding that Catholicism permeates Creation in its entirety, I would then feel compelled to ask:
So then, do you believe in ‘God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth’?
I’d ask this because, if you feel the Catholic Church can (and ergo should) be changed, then you must also then be calling into question the Creator, He who put the earthly Church into place. If you cannot believe in His Church, then how can you also claim to believe in a God that is Almighty?
The final question I would ask this person to reflect upon would be this:
If you cannot believe in ‘One holy catholic and apostolic Church’, since you feel it needs to be fundamentally changed; then how can you, in good conscience, teach in a catholic school or provide professional development for catholic teachers?
As for myself, when it comes to the doctrines of the Catholic Church – I wouldn’t change a thing.