WASHINGTON –– The Catholic Church is suffering from too much busyness and is lacking an emphasis on praise and worship, a theologian at The Catholic University of America said Sept. 28.
“The result has been a church of Marthas worrying about many things rather than a church of Marys mindful of the most important thing,” said Christopher Ruddy, an associate professor of historical and systematic theology at the university.
“The church is in the holiness business,” Ruddy said in a talk on the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church at Catholic University’s conference on “Reform and Renewal: Vatican II After 50 Years.”
“Everything the church does is oriented toward leading us human creatures and human communities to a sharing in God’s own Trinitarian life, that is, holiness,” he said.
The church has failed to receive the riches of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, also known as “Lumen Gentium,” Ruddy said, quoting the Jesuit historian Fr. John O’Malley, who has remarked that no other church council emphasized the church’s role in promoting holiness more than Vatican II.
Ruddy called holiness “the inner reason of the church. It is decisively important to grasp this primacy of holiness.”
All of the church’s institutions, activities and its hierarchy exist to serve the final goal of holiness, he said. “The church evangelizes, not as an end in itself, but to arouse, awaken and sustain the conversion that leads to true, eternal life with God.”
A greater emphasis on holiness, he said, can challenge “an American culture where an economic treadmill of ever-greater productivity and consumption fractures persons, families and communities.”
Everyone is entangled in that culture and such entanglement can foster “the quite subtle danger of a busy or useful church,” he said.
The church today faces both great challenges and great opportunities, leaving much work to be done, he said. Yet, the zeal to do good deeds may conceal a belief that what is most real “is out there in the real world, not here in worship.”
Ruddy asked whether this quest to be useful “leads us to prefer a controlled liturgy that we can shape to our own ends and manipulate to keep us in our comfort zones as opposed to the ecstatic abandon of the contemplative and the charismatic.”
The way the church worships determines the life of the church, he said. “We often end up with worship that is neither contemplative nor charismatic, but tepid and cheaply stimulating.”
“Lumen Gentium,” however, calls the church to be a school of prayer and holiness. “When the church opens itself to God in prayer, when it ecstatically abandons itself in worship and praise then it is most fully itself and it bears its most effective witness to Christ, the light of the nations,” Ruddy added.