“Outside the Church there is no reality.” What could such a statement possibly mean?
It’s hard to view the world we know as real unless it has an intrinsic connection to our thoughts and intentions. If it doesn’t, then we can’t grasp it in thought, and it seems to become an unknowable whatever that somehow provokes our experiences and beliefs but has nothing in common with them. Something of the sort seems to have been Kant’s view, and an odd view it was. But it’s hard to think of the world as intrinsically connected to thought and intention unless it was planned and intended—that is, created.
So only if the world is created can the world we know be a real world. To support that claim I suppose I could point to the Oriental religions that conceive of God impersonally, and the world we experience as illusory. I could also point to modern life, that denies God, and in which all that is solid melts into air and eventually (as in Samuel Beckett’s works) nothing can even be named.
So if we are to view the world we know as real we must accept that it is created. But how can that do us any good—how can we even understand what is being said—unless we can know the creator? So somehow the creator must become present in the world he has created in a way sufficient for us to recognize him for what he is and distinguish him from a poetic or mythical figment of our own invention. Something public is necessary, so private inspiration is out, and a text isn’t enough either, because a text can be turned into anything whatever (as biblical “scholarship” and my experience as a lawyer both demonstrate). The actual personal presence of the creator is needed
Which brings me back to the point of the entry before last: if God’s actual personal presence in the world is needed, in this case to justify our treating the world as real, then the need for his concrete presence survives the Ascension. The only candidate, however, for an institution continuing his recognizable concrete presence here among us is the Church. So, it seems to follow, we need the Church for our connection to reality. Without papal infallibility the possibility of justified rational thought about things disappears.
In defense of a view that I’m sure seems eccentric and incomprehensible, I can point to a couple of old tags: “without the Creator the creature vanishes,” and “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.” Without God and the Church we are lost in every way imaginable. Infallibility and the rest of it are extraordinary claims. How can they make sense unless we can see how they serve quite extraordinary functions?