DIFFERENT PEOPLE for different reasons, look at the Catholic Church from different perspectives including personal and individualistic reasons. Or rather from subjective and not objective viewpoint leading them to a negative and unrealistic 'catholic church'! It is, therefore, of extreme importance to note that Catholic Church is far much beyond the Catechist, the Parish Priest, the Bishop or the Pope. The Catholic Church is universal and embraces all who are ready to  follow  Jesus  Christ who is the founder and primordial leader.

The Church's role is not merely to us or dictate to us about the mysteries of Christian faith; rather actual living in the Church is itself a mystery of Christian faith. Our capacity to live together as a community of people with mutual forgiveness and deep concern for the well-being of all is the way we come to know what the actual word "God" means. As John says: "Anyone who says "I love God" but hates their brother or sister is a liar" (1 Jn. 4:20). The only way we can discover who God is, is through one's experience of community. The Church is the community of believers in Christ, their founder! The Church provides a community of believers in Christ, a community of persons who attempt to live the mystery of God together.

However, today we live in a culture that is suspicious and distrustful of institutions and their claims. We fear, not without justification though, that they will limit our freedom and self-expression. Individualism is a pervasive and, to our generation of the 21st century, self-evident good, not just in the North pole and West pole, but also in the South pole, Africa. But it is not an unalloyed good. It is a virus. Loss of communal identity and a sense of place and roots are the main contributing factors to a felt dis-ease within society and to many of its problems. As with everything, it is a question of balance between the claims and needs of both communal and individual well-being.

All this is worthy of mentioning because the Catholic Church is often feared by some people as an oppressive authoritarian institution and resented for telling people what to believe. Many have an image of the Catholic Church which conjures up ideas of dogmatic spoon-feeding, magisterial baby-minding, thought-police and thought-control, even of sanctions against dissenters, inquisitions and heresy trials. Some people even within the Church question its authority to say what the Christian faith is exactly and how we should put this faith concretely into practice. Some claim the Church's structures are obstacles to human emancipation and happiness and freedom, whilst being an encouragement to immaturity and authoritarian attitudes.

The essence of Christianity, whereby the Church is an expression of it, or its subset, as the Italo-German theologian, Romano Guardini, never wearied of emphasising, is not just some idea or other, nor a programme; the essence of Christianity is Christ -  more so, for the Church! What is absolutely essential to grasp right from the outset of one's baptism is the heart of of Christianity in the person, a someone, a Thou, a You - not a book or an institution or a set of rules. Christianity is not a system, or an ideology, or a lists of truths to be believed. Christianity is a person - to be loved. That person is Jesus of Nazareth, who was compassionate and loving. He was neither oppressive nor authoritarian. Thus, the most important fact of the Church's existence is that she was initiated by Jesus as an instrument of his mission of reconciliation and salvation. He is the source of her life, not just in the beginning but throughout her existence. When we leave Christ out or lose the desire to know him, all that we are left with are shadows of complaints and unfounded blames. And shadows are lifeless realities! Individuals or groups who may be oppressive and authoritarian, surely, do not represent the Church as such. They live their own individual and individualistic shadows due to their incomprehension of the Church of Christ.

It must always be remembered that whatever faithlessness or sinfulness there has been or will be in the Church, no matter how true it is that it must for ever reassess itself by measure of Christ, there is no ultimate opposition between Christ and the Church. It is through the Church that Christ goes on living across the span of the centuries, that he speaks to us, relates to us lovingly and compassionately, and not oppressively and 'authoritarianly', objectively and not subjectively. The Church, in the light of her primordial leader, gives humanity a light and a measuring rod without which life would be unthinkable. Whoever wants Christ to be present in humanity will not find him there against the Church, but only in her in a gentle, truthful,  firm and loving manner!

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