The Difference a Pope Makes
In keeping with the theme of confidence as a prerequisite to true tolerance, Joseph Bottum explores the way in which the authority represented by the papacy gives the Roman Catholic Church a theological coherence that has preserved its voice in modern society:
For a long while, Americans thought Catholicism was an un-American form of religion, but in our current situation, Catholicism alone appears able to synthesize faith and reason long enough, broadly enough, and deeply enough to avoid sectarianism. John Courtney Murray, the American Jesuit who influenced the Second Vatican Council’s decree on religious liberty, made essentially this argument, and the thirty years of debate over abortion has confirmed it. Catholic thought now defines the nonsecularist terms of American discourse—and does so, at its best, without threatening either the religious freedom or nonestablishment clauses of the First Amendment.
The Church’s structure is among the decisive factors in my decision to become — and remain — Catholic. The hierarchy, properly understood with distinctions between the prudential and the divinely imparted, is in keeping with the way in which human nature requires community-level disagreements to be resolved and foundational beliefs to be maintained as our understanding of the world evolves.
If there is a capital-T Truth, then something like the Catholic Church is essential toward its pursuit, not the least because the institution gives us confidence to meet and address disagreements.