A Real Problem; Or *The* Real Problem


By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

I had just finished explaining a particular exercise to my senior religion class (Catholic Social Teaching).  It involved primary sources and analysis.

Any questions? 

(hand raised)


Are we allowed to be real in these reflections… like, can we talk about real issues and things?

(me staring)


And that, I think, sums up what I might call the “real problem” for American Catholics working at schools, parishes, hospitals, and agencies.  There is a basic problem that doctrine and teaching don’t seem *real* to listeners.  It is, first and foremost, an intelligibility problem, which takes on two particular mutations (that come to my mind immediately.)

(1) Doctrines such the Trinity haven’t been described as “real” and relevant.  Augustine did this.  So did Aquinas.  They spoke in ways intelligible to their society, their culture, their era.  To me, the bedrock of our faith is the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity: it’s up to ministers to find the correct metaphors and confessions of faith to make them understandable.  But this isn’t enough: how “Trinity” is one thing; but why “Trinity,” as in, why I should care is quite another: we need both.

(2) The Church’s witness to and against the tragedies of our modern society largely go unreported or unnoticed.  Pope Francis has, by many accounts, changed some of this.  Yet any “Francis effect” will only be lasting if the Church provokes and promotes a “real” witness around these issues.

A real problem indeed.


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