|My photo from the dome of St. Peter's, 2014|
If one is conservative, then the Kingdom of God on earth is the Church as a sociological entity, an established institution with a divine mandate to guide the destinies of culture, science, politics, etc., as well as religion.
If one is liberal or radical, then one admits that the progressives and revolutionaries of "the world" have unconsciously hit upon the right answers and are building the Kingdom of God where the Church has failed to do so. Hence, the Christian must throw in his lot with revolution -- and thus guarantee that Christianity will sruvive and rediscover itself in a transformed society.
Before we can properly estimate our place in the world, we have to get back to the fundamental Christian respect for the transiency of the world and the institutional structure of the Church.
True contempus mundi is rather a compassion for the transient world and a humility which refuses arrogantly to set up the Church as an "eternal" institution in the world. But if we despise the transient world of secularism in terms which suggest an ecclesiastical world that is not itself transient, there is no way to avoid disaster and absurdity.
--Thomas Merton, "Conjectures", p. 53
I can't read this without remembering Merton's last talk before he died, when he asked what happens when the institution collapses.