The Fifth Core Principle of the CAC: We will support true authority, the ability to “author” life in others, regardless of the group. Richard grounds this principle in both Scripture and Tradition:
St. Vincent of Lérins (died c. 450) in the year 434 was the first to define the word “catholic.” Scholars used his definition for much of the first millennium of Christianity to discern the true belief of the Church. Vincent’s in-house principle was amazingly simple and clear and yet also shocking and seemingly impossible: “In the Catholic Church itself, every care should be taken to hold fast to what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.”  That is truly and properly ‘catholic,’ as expressed by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. In other words, if it is true, then it has to be true everywhere and all the time, or it is not true!
Most of history has been content with cultural truth, denominational truth, national truth, scientific truth, rational truth, factual truth, personal truth, etc. These are all needed and helpful, but true religion affirms the Big Truth beyond any of these limited truths. This is what makes authentic religion inherently subversive and threatening to all systems of power and control. It always says, “Yes, and!”
Such recognition of “authority” beyond our own group is structurally demanded of Christians by the fact that our Bible includes the Hebrew Bible! Inclusivity is valued from the start. Every Christian liturgy reads authoritative texts from the Torah, the Jewish Prophets, and the Wisdom Writings. We listen to Abraham, Moses, and Elijah, all of whom never knew Jesus. The implications should be clear: we have been taught by non-Christian authorities from the beginning! The door is opened and must remain open or we become insular Christians instead of catholic ones.
The pattern continues with John’s Gospel using the concept of the Logos (John 1:1), which was first used by Heraclitus and Greek Stoic philosophers. Paul is willing to quote non-Jewish sources and worldviews to the Athenians (Acts 17:26–29) in order to preach a more universal message. We also have centuries of reliance by many first millennium Fathers of the Church upon the “pagan” categories of Plato and Aristotle—to make their Christian points! This clear pattern with Aristotle kept Thomas Aquinas from being recognized and canonized for some time. Augustine and Bonaventure did much the same with Plato. Certainly, Catholic scientists and theologians have significant overlapping discussions today. This is our heritage: using universal wisdom to teach Christian truth.
If it is the Perennial Tradition, it will somehow keep recurring at different levels and in different forms from different voices and disciplines. In Vincent of Lérins’s daunting phrase, it will have “been believed everywhere, always, and by all,” which is still the best argument for Great Truth. No single group will ever encompass the magnificent and always mysterious Reign of God.
 Vincent of Lérins, The Commonitories, chap. 2, trans. Rudolph E. Morris, in The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, vol. 7 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1949, 1970), 270. Emphasis added.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “If It Is True, Then It Has to Be True Everywhere,” Radical Grace 25, no. 4, The Eight Core Principles (Fall 2012): 27–31.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard on how unity is not uniformity.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Claudia Retter, The Villa Stairwell (detail), used with permission. Claudia Retter, Via Galuzza (detail), photograph, used with permission. Arthur Allen, Untitled 1 (detail), 2022, photograph, France, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
This week’s images by Claudia Retter and Arthur Allen appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: Stairs and buildings provide structure for our movement and safety. The CAC’s eight core principles guide us in exploring the context and substance of our lived experiences.
Story from Our Community:
When I awaken in the middle of the night, I often turn to the Daily Meditations to center myself. I experienced overwhelming loss in my 50s, including the deaths of many of those close to me and the launching of my three children into the world. The Daily Meditations help steady and nourish me as I lean on God for direction and comfort. My midnight musings remind me of the love, care, and support that comes from a worldwide contemplative community reading and sharing these reflections each day in our own homes. —Patricia M.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.