Speaking to representatives of the “Petrine Church,” who not infrequently think themselves the center of the Catholic world, Pope John Paul suggested that the “Marian profile” in the Church is the most fundamental of Christian realities. Mary, the Pope said, was the first disciple, whose “yes” made possible the incarnation of God’s son. The incarnation was “extended” in history through the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ. Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven prefigures the glorification of all those who will be saved. Thus, Pope John Paul taught, Mary provides a “profile” of what the Church is, of how the people of the Church should live, and of what that redeemed people’s destiny is.
The Pope then gave the screw another gentle twist. The “Marian profile” in the Church, the Pope said, is even “more...fundamental” than the “Petrine profile.” The two cannot be divided. But the Church formed in the image of Mary — the Church of disciples — preceded and made possible the Church formed in the image of Peter — the Church embodied by the distinguished Churchmen present at the Pope’s address. Indeed, the “Marian Church” made sense out of the “Petrine Church,” for, as the Pope insisted, office and jurisdiction in the Church exist only “to form the Church in line with the ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary.” The Church formed in Peter’s image and the Church formed in Mary’s image complement each other. But, the Pope insisted, “the Marian profile is...pre-eminent,” and is certainly richer in meaning for every Christian’s vocation.
The message was unmistakable. Authority in the Church serves discipleship. The power of the keys serves sanctity. Here was a richly textured theology of Mary chipping away at some old-fashioned assumptions about the centrality of the Church-as-institution — and at the very epicenter of institutional Catholicism.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
George Weigel's latest column (5/21/03) -- "The Catholic Difference" discusses the revolutionary implications of Pope John Paul II's Marian view of the Church, which he describes as a "theological time bomb":