If there is one sentiment that baffles me more than any other, it's this:
The Catholic Church will be changing her teachings, and I only need watch and wait. I am foolish for not seeing the "big picture" of how it's all going to go down. It's inevitable. The Church will come around, the Church will conform. It's just a matter of time.
In response, I question how many millennia have to pass without the Church changing before they'll concede the point?
Take a look at what a dissenting* Catholic named James said to me just the other day, about the foolishness of faithful Catholics (emphases mine):
It’s just as frustrating to me to see an intelligent person walking a rigid black and white line that will waver and shift in the coming centuries. When I taught each of my girls to drive they all exhibited the same myopic habit of looking 6 feet over the hood. My first correction to them was to look waaaay down the road to get the big picture, to see what was coming so as to be aware, while using peripheral vision to sort out any immediate hazards. Their driving improved immediately.
James believes that he has vision far into the future; he sees what's coming ahead. If only the Catholic Church could see what he sees or could know what he knows.
Well, I agree that somebody is missing the big picture here, but it's not the Church. The Church isn't looking "six feet over the hood", not at all. In fact, she started her engine over two thousand long years ago, and she began her journey looking out toward all of eternity. She was full of confidence in her mission and destiny then (as now), and she knew exactly where she was going. Two millennia later, she sees in her rearview mirror the ruins of every empire she passed along the way, even as she steadily cruises along, undeterred. She has not "wavered and shifted" off of the road and into any ditches, nor is there any credible sign that she ever will.
There is just no sign of it.
Dissenters and heretics and naysayers and ex-Catholics have been predicting "inevitable changes" since the first century of the Church's existence. Yet, they are the ones who took their eyes off the road. While looking sideways to gawk at shiny distractions, or while looking inward to contemplate the lint in their own navels, they lost the "big picture" and ran themselves into a ditch. Ouch.
But that's not how the Church rolls.
Let's walk through it:
The First Century -- Enemies of the Church are smugly predicting her fall, brutally persecuting her, violently trying to force the change themselves.
The Second Century -- Ditto
The Third Century -- Ditto
The Fourth Century -- Violence against the Church eases, but how 'bout them heretics! The Church is wrong, they say, and she must and will change. The heretics gain lots of followers but lose Christ. The Church keeps driving straight ahead.
The Fifth Century -- The Church still hasn't changed her teachings, still going strong. Dissenters, heretics, and apostates see only six feet over the hood, and they lose the big picture entirely.
The Sixth Century -- The Church still had not changed her teachings. Eyes on the road, driving smoothly forth.
The Seventh Century -- The Church continues to outlast her critics, i.e., the ones who confidently predict her inevitable assimilation to the ways of the world or to their own particular heresy. Same story in...
The Eighth Century
The Ninth Century
The Tenth Century
The Eleventh Century
The Twelfth Century
The Thirteenth Century
(Are you still with me?)
The Fourteenth Century
The Fifteenth Century
The Sixteenth Century -- Special note here: A bunch of Catholics disillusioned with sinners in the Church decide to jettison the Church entirely and preach brand new (heretical) doctrines; Church teaching still does not change, even as internal corruption is cleaned up. The Church continues to drive on her divinely appointed path while the Protestant Reformers and their followers splinter endlessly off-course in all directions.
The Seventeenth Century
The Eighteenth Century
The Nineteenth Century
The Twentieth Century
The Twenty-first Century
Still no change. Yawn. Just checking my watch here. Nope, we're good. Still taking the long view and not getting sidetracked.
The spirit and sins of the age in every culture have come and gone a thousand times over, and the Church has not bowed to any of them.
There is not a scintilla of evidence that the Church is about to reverse course.
But still I get, "Oh, it's just a matter of time now. You'll see. The house of cards will fall." And yet, no one ever sees, and the "house of cards" never falls.
My question: How much time must elapse until the critics are convinced?
It's a serious question, but it's largely rhetorical, of course. The critics will never be convinced in our own time, even as they weren't convinced in the First Century, or the Second, or the Fourth, or the Sixteenth, or the Twentieth.
There have been a million Jameses talking of the Church's inevitable change for centuries on end with not a hint of vindication. Their blinders won't allow them to see the Church that Christ established, the Church protected and charged with teaching the Truth both in season and out.
My advice to James and the others is to take James' advice and apply it to themselves: Stop with the myopic habit of looking only six feet over the hood at the fads and fancies of the day. Look waaaay down the road to get the big picture, use the experience of two millennia to understand what is coming so as to be aware, and use your peripheral vision to sort out any immediate hazards and shiny trinkets that would take you off the steady, narrow road and into a ditch. Your driving will improve immediately.
Your path will be stable, reliable, and clear to eternity.
PS: Before anyone challenges me by presenting supposed "changes" in Church teaching, be sure to know the difference between a discipline and a doctrine.
*Updated to reflect that James may not be an ex-Catholic as I had originally believed, but rather a lapsed or dissenting Catholic. I can't really know, since he put a quick comment below and will not be returning to correct me from what I can tell.