A considerable part of education is merely restating the obvious. No one would answer the question, “Is the Church a hotel?” in the affirmative when the question is stated this bluntly. Nonetheless, the heresy of identifying her with a hotel sneaks in through the back door. In this way, what should be obvious is obscured and what is mistaken is affirmed.
Essential to any hotel worthy of the name is hospitality. Guests are welcomed and treated as royalty. The hospitality may not be sincere, but that does not matter as long as the hotel staff accommodates the guest’s every wish. The guest’s comfort becomes the standard which the hotel tries its best to accommodate. A good hotel can be an escape from the rigors of reality. We are not guests in the world. Rather, we are pilgrims who must deal with endless trials and tribulations.
Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, once stated that “the greatest danger facing the Church in our country today is that of an excessive and indiscreet accommodation” (“Catholicism and American Culture: The Uneasy Dialogue,” America, January 27, 1990). The distinguished theologian’s comment is probably truer today than when he wrote these words slightly more than two decades ago. The dialogue that Vatican II encouraged turned out to be more a monologue in which the secular world influenced the Church while the Church made accommodations to the world. The Cardinal’s words also apply to decades past.