Change, timelessness, and ecclesiological confusion

Over at First Things, our friend David Mills thumbs through an eye rolling interview with Boston College Theology Dean Mark Massa, SJ. Father sounds all the usual progressive Catholic notes, and in doing so, reveals a surprising confusion over the distinction between the Church’s eternality and her theological and institutional development.

“The current battles between the left and the right,” [Massa] says, “are really between those who want to press a historical awareness of change and those who want to view the church as timeless”….

But it’s not a very thoughtful distinction, and not a very helpful one either. The Church can be essentially timeless and still change through history, in fact change in order to remain who she truly, essentially, is. The analogies are all kind of obvious. Father Massa himself has changed through life and yet remains, timelessly, himself. Those who view the Church as timeless may in fact have the subtlest understanding of historical change, precisely because they are forced to reflect on how a body can remain essentially who she is while living in history.

Well said. Here’s the entire piece. And if you click now, David promises to work in a Jerry Maguire reference.


Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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