Can the church change its focus from rules to people?

Light of truth

Religion News Service takes a look at a couple of interesting issues that have surfaced recently. The first has Pope Francis proclaiming a fourth route to sainthood. Giving one’s life for someone else, even if it is not in defense of Christianity can now lead to sainthood. The example given is that of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest, who at Auschwitz offered to take the place of a fellow prisoner sentenced to die of star-vation. Kolbe was then executed by lethal injection.

Kolbe was canonized without this additional path to sainthood, so one wonders how significant this change really is. For me, the significance is that so much of what the Catholic Church understands about sainthood and holiness revolves around being a good Catholic. I think this fourth road to sainthood puts greater emphasis on the importance of being a good person. Catholicism does not hold a monopoly on goodness. There are good people in every religion and in every walk of life. Good actions are not only related to the practice of Catholicism, and these actions continue to be good even if they are done by someone who is not Catholic.

I think this small modification in the road to sainthood recognizes that reality. Perhaps the next step would be to canonize exemplary non-Catholics such as Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.

The second issue relates to the use of gluten-free commu-nion wafers in the church. It seems that Protestant churches are moving to provide gluten-free Communion at the same time the Catholic Church has restated its decision that, while low-gluten wafers are acceptable, gluten-free wafers constitute “invalid matter” for the Eucharist. Lauren Markoe sees the difference as a theological one. Because Catholics believe in transubstantia-tion, they want to stick as closely as possible to the first eucharistic celebration. Protestants see the Eucharist as more symbolic and thus are somewhat looser on what the elements must be.

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