Change we can believe in


Time and things in time change.

The philosopher Heraclitus (d. 480 B.C.) said that you cannot step twice into the same river, because everything is in flux, including the waters flowing onto you. There are changes benevolent or malignant. As of the good kind of change, Newman said that to be alive is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often. Healthy change preserves "type," which means keeping the original focus of existence, without which change goes out of control. Change for the sake of change can be romantic humbug, like Shelley's poem: "Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow; Nought may endure but Mutability." Or change can be destructive. So, while we're quoting the poets, there is the hymn of Henry Francis Lyte: "Change and decay in all around I see . . ."

Lyte had faith in God "who changest not." This changeless stability, like the axle of a wheel, would have made sense to the Greek Platonists, who believed that there is an over-arching "Logos," a serene wisdom which holds the fluctuating world together.

Belief in progress is rooted in the Judaeo-Christian knowledge of God, the eternal Logos, who guides us by change to perfection. Contrary to current psycho-babble about "feeling good about ourselves," we must never be satisfied with the way things are, and especially with the way we are. St. Augustine laid the groundwork for social and scientific advancement, as well as spiritual growth: "If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing."

Without obeying the will of God, attempts at constructive change are delusional. The materialist political systems of the twentieth century proved that. Every four years our nation has a chance to change its government, and as we do so now, we pray for our new leaders, without loss of priorities, following the dictum of St. Thomas More who was "the King's good servant, but God's first." When people want change without knowing what kind of change, they take a risk. As all good change protects and advances the supreme gift of life, the moral integrity of a government is measured by how it does this. The Catechism (n. 675) warns against a secular messianism which roots hope in other than God: "Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the 'mystery of iniquity' in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth."

We shall know whether a change in government is good or evil when it protects innocent life or legalizes its destruction.



Father George William Rutler. Weekly Column for January 18, 2009.

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.


Father Rutler received priestly ordination in 1981. Born in 1945 and reared in the Episcopal tradition, Father Rutler was an Episcopal priest for nine years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1979 and was sent to the North American College in Rome for seminary studies. Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford. Cardinal Egan appointed him Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, effective September 17, 2001.

Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 16 books, including: Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2009 Father George W. Rutler

Subscribe to CERC's Weekly E-Letter



Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.