According to Canon Law, “The Christian faithful, even in their own manner of acting, are always obliged to maintain communion with the Church.” (Canon Law 209: 1)

Christianity is founded on Community with Christ being the Head, and the Faithful, the different parts of the body.  However, from the 20th century, there has been an increasing opinion and turn that Christian Faith is a private affair. This fallacy can be traced to Martin Luther, who having broken away from the Catholic Church, asserted that Scripture could be rightfully interpreted by an individual without consulting the teachings and the traditions of the Catholic Church. Increasingly, Faith, became a personal declaration, for Protestants were now being justified “By Sola Fide, by faith alone” – its workings cannot be tested by anyone, for its foundations were solely private and internal.

These false ramifications are seen today, as the world embraces more and more Individualism and Secularism. Jeb Bush, a politician from the United States of America in his commentary on Pope Francis in 2017, highlighted this prevailing dangerous notion, “I think his Christianity is between he and his creator – don’t think we need to discuss that.”

The wrong implications of this statement are found in the following:

1.Christian faith is private and confined to the home.

2.This allows individuals to declare that they are Christians, while living lives of Atheists.

3.It gives politicians an excuse to strip society completely from all signs of Faith, for example in France, where it was forbidden to hang crucifixes in Catholic schools, given the virtue that they were public schools. In Cresco, Pennsylvania, a lawsuit was filed by parents against the school district because the school prohibited a fifth grader from giving out invitations to a church Christmas party.

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis writes with urgency, “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.”

The movement and inclination towards Catholicism as an individualised affair, is also dangerous in the light of how Faith is reduced only to the sphere and influence of the private and personal. This is further challenged by how these individualised understandings of Catholic Faith are also opening these Catholics to the proliferation of religious and esoteric movements, some of which tend to fundamentalism, while some take on the tones of a spirituality without God or even to the extent of denying God.

As Pope Francis continues, “Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism. These have led to a general sense of disorientation, especially in the periods of adolescence and young adulthood which are so vulnerable to change. As the bishops of the United States of America have rightly pointed out, while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms which are valid for everyone, ‘there are those in our culture who portray this teaching as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights. Such claims usually follow from a form of moral relativism that is joined, not without inconsistency, to a belief in the absolute rights of individuals. In this view, the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom’”

In actual fact, our Baptism and our relationship with the Father demands, needs, and encourages a communion which heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds.

By Brian Bartholomew Tan