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Selections from ARCC LIGHT
the ARCC Newsletter 
edited by James E. Biechler, Ph.D.

A Question of Rights
Theology of the Trinity is the Basis for Reform

By James E. Biechler

"By now ARCC must have been told a thousand times that Christ's church is not a democracy. As a hierarchy it must resist your reform ideas, otherwise it will be unfaithful to its divine founder. Conservative Catholics want nothing but to conserve the divine truth of the church. Can't you folks see how subversive you are?
--G.C.C., Chapel Hill, NC 

By "divine truth of the Church" I assume you refer to our belief that the Church belongs to God and that we see ourselves as members of God's family: the "People of God" as Vatican II defined the Church. 

As a Catholic, you and most other Christians, believe that God is a Trinity of Persons united in dynamic relationship: a "communion" of Persons. Let me take you one step further.

ARCC's reform ideas are based upon the Catholic theology of the divine Trinity, and hence we believe that the Church, in its own structure and internal reality, should reflect this Catholic view of God as Trinity. In our view, the principles which govern the life of the Church should mirror as closely as is humanly possible, this trinitarian reality.

The radical equality of all Christians is based upon the equality of Persons in the Trinity. There is no hierarchy within the Trinity. Nor did Jesus relate to his disciples as if they were his inferiors. He called them "friends" and rejected the Gentile social structure of the kings who "lorded it over" people. You don't have to know much history to realize that the Church, unfortunately, has almost never been faithful to this teaching. To the scandal of the whole world, the leaders of the Church even today live in a marble palace and are treated like princes and kings.

 Understanding the inner life of the Trinity as relational and dynamic, theology today emphasizes the primacy of relationship as basic to the reality we call Church. The Second Vatican Council reflected this understanding in its teaching on nearly every topic it addressed, from ecumenism to marriage and the family, to religious liberty. In the wake of this teaching the widespread resignation of priests to marry reflected a renewed consciousnes of the primacy of relationship and personal intimacy as basic to Christian life.

Long before Vatican II, the Bible used the term "image of God" in connection with the interpersonal relationship of male and female in marriage. It teaches that the "image of God" is to be found in community: "male and female he created them."

The heresy of contemporary American individualism is challenged by the radical Christian truth that the personal exists only in community, that there is no person who is not structured by and tied to community, even though the latter may not be consciously appreciated. We can be somewhat consoled by the latest statistics coming from a Harris poll of the first graduating class of the new millennium. Commissioned by the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and entitled "Generation 2001" the poll finds that 96% of young people look forward to marriage and family life. This may have some bearing on the option of young men to choose a future other than the celibate Catholic priesthood.

The essence of the teaching of Jesus that God is compassion and love, that the kingdom of God is inclusive and merciful, reveals to us something of the inner divine life of the Trinity and the true nature of its outward expression. All of creation witnesses, by its very existence, to divine compassion and love as the heart and essence of universal being. 

ARCC believes that the Second Vatican Council was aware of this in its emphasis on the primacy of conscience as based upon the dignity of the human person, in its teachings on ecumenism and the relationship with the other religions, and in its revised understanding of Christian marriage as interpersonal relationship. ARCC is also aware, along with many canonists and theologians, that these reform principles were not consistently and thoroughly incorporated in the revised Code of Canon Law (1983). 

Much remains to be done to make the church a true community of equals (that's the only kind of true community there can be). Our reform activities are based upon the Christian spirituality of communion: relationship, community, compassion, personal dignity and equality. These are not new principles. We first learned them from the Gospel of Jesus. He taught them as characteristics of God. Where these values are found in the western world they are there by inheritance from the Christian Gospel. We in ARCC only wish we could do a better job of convincing our Catholic sisters and brothers that the church cannot continue into the third millennium as the medieval princely monarchy it still remains.


Dr. Biechler, an emeritus professor of religion, is a member of ARCC's board of directors. He also holds a licentiate in canon law and is a longtime member of the Canon Law Society of America. 

E-mail Comments to Dr. Biechler

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Ingrid H. Shafer, Ph.D.
e-mail address: ihs@ionet.net
Posted 18 July 1999
Last updated 18 July 1999
Copyright © 1999 Ingrid H. Shafer
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