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October 21, 2009

Anglicans Invited to Rejoin Catholic Church

Yesterday the Spousal Unit sent me this news:

IN WHAT an Australian bishop calls the most significant Anglican-Catholic development in nearly 500 years, the Pope has invited disenchanted Anglicans to return to Roman Catholicism - as Anglicans.

Hundreds of thousands of Anglicans worldwide, including hundreds of Australians, are expected to take up the offer to be reunited through a structure that makes them full Roman Catholics while allowing them to keep their spiritual and worship traditions. Anglo-Catholics, as Anglicans with a strong Catholic inclination are called, have been seeking unity more urgently, feeling disenfranchised over the ordination of women and homosexuals as priests, then bishops.

My family has a rather interesting relationship with the Catholic Church. I was raised an Episcopalian. My husband was raised a Methodist. Our two sons were confirmed in the Episcopal church but attended Catholic elementary schools. My husband's brother and his wife converted to Catholicism and are active churchgoers and his sister married a Catholic and their children have also been raised Catholics.

As Grim notes, 'Piskies are something of a dying breed in America:

The Episcopal Church is about 1/30th the size of the Catholic Church among Americans, for example; and that though the Church of England had a substantial advantage in early American culture. (Indeed, Catholics were outright banned from Georgia during the colonial period, along with slaves and lawyers.)

Our tiny mission parish in southern California was struggling, in part, because so many parishioners had slipped down the hill to St. Mary's (the local Catholic church). Part of this was dissatisfaction with the new liturgy, part was the desire to have a daily morning Mass.

Just in my little slice of the world, I've noticed that the Catholic church exerts a powerful pull on families who are hungering for structure and a sense of tradition. This is what I have always loved about the Anglican liturgy. I love the old words; in fact, I like Rite I far more than Rite II (which puts me firmly in the minority). I think that as the church has watered down the language of the liturgy, we've lost most of the nuance. There's something a bit unsettling about the newer prayers. In many ways they remind me of that old joke about saying grace: what should be an occasion for reflection and reverence becomes the ecumenical version of

Rub a dub
Thanks for the grub Yay, God!

As someone who appreciates the beauty and meaning of the Anglican liturgy, I can see some good coming from accepting Anglicans into the Catholic fold:

This is very big. If this reconnection is well-facilitated, we may see the entire African arm of the Church of England (which is currently its most vibrantly-growing branch) cross the Tiber, and that will be a very interesting development, especially as Catholics are exposed to the Anglican-use liturgy, which will remind many of everything they loved about the Latin mass, but in the glorious language of the Anglican liturgy. This may accelerate the already-growing movement within the Catholic church to correct some of the liturgical excesses and errors we’ve seen in the last 40 years.

But I could just as easily see things going the other way. The Catholic services I've attended recently have been 'popularized' almost into meaninglessness. We've already diluted our own liturgy several times. Who's to say that absorption into the Catholic church wouldn't accelerate this trend?

Despite the attractions of rejoining the Catholic church, I can't help wondering how well this will really work? There were good reasons - other than the satisfaction of Henry VIII's lust for Anne Boleyn - for the formation of the Anglican church. Sometimes I think we ignore history at our peril. When trying to explain the Anglican church to non-'Piskies, I usually resort to jokes:

"The Anglican church is sort of like Catholic Lite: All of the ritual, none of the guilt."

or...

"An Episcopalian is just a Catholic with authority problems."

It's this last that leads me to doubt whether absorbing Anglicans into the Catholic communion will work? The heart and soul of the Episcopal church, to me, was always that we loved and understood the need for rules and structure and an attempt - however imperfect that might be - to live up to God's word. But we also appreciated how God's word can be corrupted by self-serving and fallible human beings. Therefore, we deeply distrusted the politics and power plays involved with church life. That healthy (in my view) skepticism resulted in a congregation and celebrants who tend to be tolerant of human foibles while we're aiming for a standard few if any of us will ever measure up to.

When my brother in law and his wife converted to Catholicism, he had to have a first marriage that had been over for years officially annulled. He and his current wife actually had to be remarried and his children re-baptised. Given the virtual sameness of the liturgies associated with all these rites, my husband and I (we were witnesses at all of these services) found this somewhat offensive. We were, in essence, being asked to witness and in a way, co-sign off on the notion that there wasn't any value in these rites unless they were blessed by the Catholic church.

Most of my friends are Catholic. I grew up attending their services and even, sometimes, going to CCD with them. And yet, though I'm a baptised and confirmed Episcopalian, when I attend Catholic services as an adult I'm not welcome at the communion rail.

I have to say that this has always bugged me. Their church, their rules. In my own church, all baptised Christians are welcome to take Communion. It rankles to be told that although our services are, if anything, far more faithful to traditional Catholic doctrine, I'm not welcome at Communion.

I have been as irritated and offended as everyone else at the frankly silly struggles of the Anglican church to deal with priests who seem to want to go their own way. This story seems to encapsulate the idiocy that currently afflicts the Anglican church:

Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.

On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.

She does both, she says, because she's Christian and Muslim.

Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she's ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she's also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.

Her announcement has provoked surprise and bewilderment in many, raising an obvious question: How can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim?

My love for the Episcopal church is inextricably bound up with my church's willingness to deal with doubt and the ambiguities of faith explicitly. There is no, "because I say so", or "you must submit to the authority of an earthly officiant or be excommunicated". In many ways, that is the root of our current problems.

I believe humans need to submit to both divine and worldly authorities and I fully understand the folly of faux inclusiveness. My problem is that in the end, I suppose that I truly am a Catholic with authority problems. So long as people don't insist upon gratuitous eye pokes or try to force me to validate their choices, I am more comfortable with leaving certain matters to individual conscience.

I have no problem with the Africans for refusing to accept ordained priests who openly flout Anglican rules and doctrine. But at the same time I find many of the Catholic church's strictures difficult to accept. I suppose that more than anything else, I'm uncomfortable with the assertion of worldly, external authority over individual conscience. I understand why that happens but in a matter as exquisitely personal as faith, I can't help but wonder how many intermediaries are needed between each of us and God?

More and more I'm reminded of something my mother used to tell me when I got aggravated with the church. "Churches", she said, "are primarily political organizations organized for a religious purpose." We can't seem to get away from human nature, can we? We come to church with all our faults upon us.

I always thought that for all its shortcomings, the Episcopal church did just about as good a job of reconciling human shortcomings with the more rigorous demands of faith as could be imagined.

I can't help but grieve for something I love that is dying.

Posted by Cassandra at October 21, 2009 12:56 PM

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Comments

It is not dying so long as it is still in your home and heart.

I'm still searching for my path and envy those who have found and/or are secure in their own.

Posted by: Nicki at October 21, 2009 02:30 PM

Thanks, Nicki.

I don't know why I'm so saddened by this. Maybe it's our own inability to govern ourselves. I think our current political situation in this country only deepens my feeling that people are losing their ability to tolerate ambiguity.

I think (ironically) that this is rooted in the rejection of authority. It's a contradiction that I don't really have an answer for.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 02:41 PM

The Episcopal Church is committing suicide.

How can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim?

The can't. In order to be a Christian, you *must* believe that Christ redeemed us by His death.

In order to be a Muslim, you *must* believe that Christ was only a prophet, and His death was essentially meaningless.

My love for the Episcopal church is inextricably bound up with my church's willingness to deal with doubt and the ambiguities of faith explicitly.

Declaring oneself both a Christian and a Muslim is not dealing with ambiguities of faith -- it is declaring that one hasn't the courage to declare for one of two mutually-exclusionary religions. Allowing someone to remain a priest who professes such a lack of courage, and exhibits such a lack of understanding of the meaning of the priesthood doesn't imply a willingness to deal with doubt, it implies an unwillingness to stand up for its own core beliefs.

Posted by: BillT at October 21, 2009 02:42 PM

I was raised Catholic, and as an adult have been on-again, off-again (currently off-again...). You remark about not being welcome at the communion rail at Mass. Catholics might be welcome at the rail at an Episcopal service, but they are not allowed to, per the Catholic Church. Currently, I shouldn't go to communion myself, until I go to confession for the mortal sin of not attending weekly services without an "legitimate" excuse.

One reason I have fallen away from the church is that there doesn't seem to be a place for someone like me: a single adult not interested in becoming one of the religious. So much of what local parishes do is focused on families. When I was in Arkansas, I did get involved with a singles group: we would have our regular activities (going to Mass as a group once a month, and then going out to eat, either Saturday dinner or Sunday brunch; dinner & a movie; occasional camping/hiking/canoe trips; and once a weekend retreat to Subiaco there in Arkansas). Now that I'm back in Texas, there isn't anything like that: there are "young adults" groups, but those seem to be targeted at college-aged adults, not a single person pushing 40 who is still interested in finding someone to marry.

The weird thing is, my mom (my parents were both sent to Catholic school growing up) has gotten ueber religious in recent years (she attends Mass daily, and participates in Perpetual Adoration at at least one parish here in town, she teaches Religious Education (she had done that when we were kids), and she got my dad going to some Bible study group, and he's even joined Knights of Columbus. Mom is always saying how she feels she's failed as a parent because none of the four of us kids go to church, my brother is a father without the benefit of marriage, and my sisters are both in serious relationships with non-Catholics (the one is getting married in 2.5 weeks in a non-Catholic, not at a church service and has been living with him for a long time now, and the other sister will be moving in with the boyfriend end of next month. Even I got a lecture over the phone once when I made the mistake of talking to my mom about a guy I had been interested at the time who wasn't Catholic and was also divorced about how there couldn't be a church wedding, never mind I was just interested in him and wasn't - and never did, really - dating him...

Matters of religious practice can be pretty complicated...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 21, 2009 02:53 PM

Maybe its not such a bad idea.
The Anglican church has run away from the bible and traditions and a large part of its membership, and then insults the membership with a elitist edict from on high basicly saying "Do what we say you are too stupid to understand the word of God." Well, we ran away from the Catholic church for the same reasons, now the are less dictorial then our own church.

Posted by: John at October 21, 2009 03:11 PM

I wonder if part of the shift is the same as for Episcopalians who become Orthodox Christians (as in Eastern) - the desire for more defined and perhaps rigid practices and beliefs. The same shift seems to be happening to other Protestants as the Presbyterian and Methodist denominations lose any true definition of what makes them Presbyterian and Methodist, as well as no longer talking about serious topics: evil, death, sin. Instead they seem to preach, "be nice to people and don't judge them and God is love." The latter doesn't help much when all Dade County breaks loose.

Posted by: LittleRed1 at October 21, 2009 03:16 PM

...people are losing their ability to tolerate ambiguity. I think (ironically) that this is rooted in the rejection of authority. It's a contradiction that I don't really have an answer for.

Perhaps this:

"We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff's edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased."

Posted by: Grim at October 21, 2009 03:18 PM

Allowing someone to remain a priest who professes such a lack of courage, and exhibits such a lack of understanding of the meaning of the priesthood doesn't imply a willingness to deal with doubt, it implies an unwillingness to stand up for its own core beliefs.

I agree Bill. As I said, I fully understand why the Africans want to withdraw. When an organization won't even defend its basic tenets anymore, they become meaningless.

I have, on a few occasions, considered becoming a Catholic. I don't think I ever will though, because the Catholic church continues to tolerate what I can only consider to be small acts of tyranny. Example: telling you that your children MUST be baptized but then refusing practicing Catholics that rite. I have seen variations on this theme visited upon military couples for years and it never ceases to astonish me.

IMO, Anglican priests tend to be authority-averse (sometimes to bad effect) while Catholic priests are sometimes too in love with their own authority (to the point where it becomes an arbitrary exercise of power). I think this is an organizational rather than a doctrinal matter however I may be wrong. In any event, we deal with the outward face rather than the root cause so in some respects it's irrelevant to ask why.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 03:41 PM

The Anglican church has run away from the bible and traditions and a large part of its membership, and then insults the membership with a elitist edict from on high basicly saying "Do what we say you are too stupid to understand the word of God." Well, we ran away from the Catholic church for the same reasons, now the are less dictorial then our own church.

You know, the juxtaposition of your comment and LittleRed's (next comment) is fascinating b/c I see elements of truth in both.

I think both churches are suffering from an 'authority problem' to the extent that they're watering down their organizing principles in an attempt to attract new worshippers.

I sometimes wonder whether many converted Catholics were attracted by Catholic doctrine, or in spite of Catholic doctrine? When I question them, they don't seem to buy into many of the things that bug me about the Catholic church but I think they like the tradition and family-friendly atmosphere. Many people attend church for reasons that are as much social as spiritual.

Which may be my problem, come to think of it :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 03:55 PM

Hi there, I am a Catholic in South Africa. I really love my Church. This opening the gates to facilitate Episcopalians is interesting for us as well, I would imagine.

As a Catholic I would not take communion in any Church other than Catholic or orthodox Church in union with us. Because of belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I believe that the authority to say mass stems from Christ to Peter in an unbroken line to our present Pope.

When having the Eucharist there is that consciousness of union with all fellow brothers and sisters around the world who believe the same in Christ.

The homily can be boring, the singing can be awful but there is a spirituality that is powerful.
IF on my own and the only person at mass, it would make no difference. It is amazing though, that those who's forefathers were catholic will possibly be Catholic.

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 21, 2009 04:07 PM

You can't serve two masters. Period. You have a faith that satisfies your soul and gives you peace, makes you and yours better people, stick with it. If not, seek and ye shall find.

I also think BillT and Little Red made the same point, but from a different perspective.

Posted by: Cricket at October 21, 2009 04:15 PM

I see an enormous difference between the public and private existence of dissent within a larger organization.

For instance, it's pretty much open knowledge that many Anglican priests are gay. I would no more ask them whether they are practicing homosexuals than I would ask a married priest when was the last time he slept with his wife, or if he had ever committed adultery.

We all know what "the rules" are. And we all know that fallible humans fail to live up to those rules all the time. That doesn't invalidate the worth of rules, however.

Gay celebrants have been tolerated in the Anglican church in very much a 'don't ask, don't tell' way for decades. So long as they didn't openly challenge church doctrine, they were welcome to continue wearing the mantle of church authority and legitimacy. It's not a perfect solution, but I think it is a better solution than banning them outright.

I doubt there are too many folks who agree (much less are bound by in real life) every single tenet of their church. Personally I always appreciated the Episcopalian willingness to let some sleeping dogs lie. I have had two priests I am pretty certain were gay. They were both wonderful and I trusted them implicitly.

And neither ever did anything overt to broadcast their sexual orientation.

On another matter, while I fully understand the reasons why Rome insists on celibacy for priests, I've often doubted that is a good idea. However, their church, their rules. I'm not familiar enough with the doctrinal basis for the ban on married celebrants to comment on that aspect.

I do know that having married priests has been very helpful to me. I will never forget the advice I got from the priest who married us. That advice was the product of having a successful marriage as well as his theology.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 04:26 PM

"For instance, it's pretty much open knowledge that many Anglican priests are gay. I would no more ask them whether they are practicing homosexuals than I would ask a married priest when was the last time he slept with his wife, or if he had ever committed adultery."

Why not, one lifestyle is ordained by God, the other is not. That said, there is a difference between a gay leaning priest who remains celibate because he agrees with the word of God regarding homosexuals and a gay leaning priest who sees nothing wrong with being gay.

It cannot be both ways, the word of God is either fact or it is just a weird story.

Christ, by claiming to be the Son of God, left us with two choices:
1. He is the Son of God.
2. He is insane for claiming to be the Son of God.

Posted by: Russ at October 21, 2009 04:45 PM

That said, there is a difference between a gay leaning priest who remains celibate because he agrees with the word of God regarding homosexuals and a gay leaning priest who sees nothing wrong with being gay.

That's why I wouldn't ask. There is also a difference between a married priest who admits adultery is wrong but has committed it and one who sees nothing wrong with adultery.

I don't confuse human frailty with human ideals. It's when your public behavior conflicts with the doctrine of an organization you represent that the problem arises.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 04:50 PM

Odd that your BIL and wife would have to be "remarried." Typically what's required in those circumstances is a blessing of the marriage, since, if the first had been invalid, and the next had been entered into with a full understanding of what a sacramental marriage entails, the marriage is sacramentally binding.

"It rankles to be told that although our services are, if anything, far more faithful to traditional Catholic doctrine, I'm not welcome at Communion."

Believe it or not, this is actually done out of a sense of spiritual charity. There are theogically different views of what the Eucharist actually is, and communicating when when doesn't know what one is doing can be spiritually dangerous. That is one of several reasons. It's not done because of a desire to exclude but to respect that we have real, serious theological differences (which is why Catholics can receive communion in Orthodox churches and vice versa, according to Roman canon law).

"There is no, 'because I say so,' or 'you must submit to the authority of an earthly officiant or be excommunicated.' In many ways, that is the root of our current problems."

I think both of these views are based on distortions of what the Church actually does and teaches. First, imagine yourself as a parent who continues to explain patiently the reason for a teaching, only to get in response, "Why?" Eventually, after numerous official teachings, catechisms, Apostolic letters, encyclicals, and what not, a priest or bishop is going to say, "Because, that's why." Actual excommunications (I mean, those that are actually carried out by bishops and not "threatened" in the confessional by priests, who don't have that authority anyway) are few and far between and only follow after flagrant, repeated, and public rejections of Church teaching and authority. In fact, I would say that a majority of North American and European Catholics reject Church teachings on one point or another. They just aren't public about it. I think that's unfortunate, but that's my perception.

Posted by: Bill B (AKA Theocoid) at October 21, 2009 05:13 PM

Cassandra, you mention that there are certain things that bug you about the Catholic Church but you fail to say what they are?

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 21, 2009 05:14 PM

Celibate priesthood stems from the Catholic Church's belief that Christ never married and was celibate. Since priests are to stand in Christ's stead for the flock here on earth, that is why the single, celibate priesthood. I do know that for priests who have converted from another faith to Catholicism, they will make a special dispensation for the priest to now be a Catholic priest, even though he is married. Not sure if it's ever come up for a female priest converting, though. Something tells me she'd have to change to being a nun if she wanted to remain a religious...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 21, 2009 05:28 PM

It's not done because of a desire to exclude but to respect that we have real, serious theological differences (which is why Catholics can receive communion in Orthodox churches and vice versa, according to Roman canon law).

I respect the right to recognize serious differences in theology. It's just I can't think of too many differences between the Episcopal meaning of the Eucharist and the Catholic one except, perhaps, for transubstantiation (the meaning of which debated even within the Catholic church). But I'm willing to be educated on the subject :)

you mention that there are certain things that bug you about the Catholic Church but you fail to say what they are

Well, first of all let me say that there are things that bug me about the Methodist church, too! :)

And things that bug me about my own church. So I didn't intend to single out the Catholic church. But the things that bother me the most boil down to a quote by St. Augustine:

In Essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.

Growing up attending Catholic services and having participated in innumerable Catholic rites (like weddings), I've been struck many times by what I can only describe as dismissal or outright hostility to other religions coming from ordained priests.

As a 20-something I was in a friend's wedding. The priest repeatedly singled me out as the only non-Catholic. He went out of his way to be obnoxious, to the point where I seriously considered pulling the man aside and saying, "What on earth is your problem?"

This is far from the only instance - it's just an example.

A little disclosure here. One of my sons married a lovely Jewish girl. When they came to visit last year, we celebrated Chanukah. I didn't and don't see that as a betrayal of my Christian faith - the words were generic enough that I wasn't professing anything inimical to my own beliefs. We worship the same God and believe most of the same things.

It bothers me at times when a church sets itself up as infallible or the only path to God.

This will undoubtedly sound more relativistic than I intend it to, but I separate individual faith from membership in a worldly organization whose purposes are not wholly spiritual. I can accept that in order to maintain its identity, an organization needs to come down on one side or the other of issues where there may be legitimate debate. For this reason, I view dissent from a parishioner differently than dissent from an officially ordained priest. Given that (as so many have observed) few of us would not quibble with at least one of the teachings of our churches, I think some leeway needs to be built into the system.

Saying, "Because I said so" is a great argument ender :p

But I've seen that used (mistakenly, I believe) to drive away parishioners who are genuinely devout and aren't trying to cause trouble. I think that structurally, the Catholic church may invest priests with too much authority. Arguably, Episcopal priests have too little!

There's definitely such a thing as being so open minded that your brains fall out :p I think that's a failing Episcopalians can justly be accused of. I suppose that, given human nature, I'd rather err on the side of charity than strict obedience.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 05:41 PM

I do not have a dog in this fight - I am a Russian Orthodox, however, lately, I have been wondering about the Anglican Church and its future... If that was my Church, I would be sorely tempted to look someplace else...
This Sunday, my mom and I went to the Notre-Dame and ended up at the mass there and did receive a Communion :o) We were not even shooed away from the central aile as all other wondering tourists :o)
Russian Orthodox actually considers any other religion to be a herecy but recognizes the churches to be a holy place when one needs a spiritual or physical sanctuary... and there is a huge animosity between Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches...

Posted by: olga at October 21, 2009 06:12 PM

Grim:

Great quote. It manages to capture a somewhat paradoxical idea - that sometimes restrictions have a liberating effect.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 06:15 PM

Olga:

First we're going after the Anglicans. Then we're going after the Lutherans. And then we're coming after the Russian Orthodox. Considering the pace so far, you should be safe for about another 700 years.

Posted by: spd rdr at October 21, 2009 06:27 PM

I was raised Anglican and have been drawn to Roman Catholicism all my life, but always held back because they refuse to ordain women, because they do not allow married clergy, because of doctrines of the infallibility of the Pope, because they do not admit all baptized Christians to communion, and because of the way the church hierarchy has handled the abuse issue. George Will's book on the church's deceptions is good on this.

Nevertheless, I love the Latin Mass, believe in the Real Presence of Christ, and worship with Catholic friends whenever I can.

The evangelical churches of all denominations in Africa inspire and hearten me. Our youngest was baptized by the bishop of Tanzania--awe inspiring man of God.

I attended an Episcopal seminary but was never ordained because my home parish was Anglo-Catholic and refused to sponsor a female for ordination. They would sponsor gay men, but not a heterosexual female.

After seminary, I worked in hospital chaplaincy,considered becoming a Navy chaplain, but was called as the Protestant chaplain in a Roman Catholic child welfare agency run by nuns. We served abused and neglected urban kids, most of whom were Protestant if anything at all. I was useful as the token Protestant. Ironic, given that I thought of myself as Catholic!

After I married and had children (I worked thru the first pregnancy and my giggling kids in religion class would introduce me to new kids on unit as "THAT's the pregnant nun!" because to them, all religious females were nuns) I stayed home with my kids and worshipped in the local low church Episcopal church for many years. I gradually became disenchanted because it was not BIblical or evangelical enough (Anglo-Catholics have historically worked with the poor, and reached out).

When my kids went to school, I went back to work as a DRE in a local Anglican church. In the meantime, our bishop had declined to ordain me despite my parish's support because "I have too many married mommies wanting to be priests". So I worked in a church, preaching, teaching, running programs for kids and adults anyway.

I left the ministry when one of our children became extremely ill and I had to get a secular job that could be done when the kids were in school, and that gave us health insurance. Spouse was jobhunting.

At that point we had to find a church (in my area, when you leave the staff of a church, you leave so as not to cramp the style of your replacement). We left the Episcopal church and went to a very evangelical Congregational church pastored by a friend of mine from seminary (who had also grown up Episcopal). Loved it, despite the cringe-worthy praise songs and bland liturgy. Good preaching, loving congregation, mission work to do and Xian education for adults, and pastoral care.

In the meantime, my girls had sung for years in the choir of our previous Episcopal church, and shortly after they stopped singing there, the choir director was arrested for kiddie porn and discovered to be a child molester (had brought child prostitutes to the church housing). The parish handled it much as the Roman dioceses do: with an eye to liability and much talk of forgiving the perp.

If I left my present evangelical Protestant congregation (and I wonder sometimes, as our church becomes more fundy with a bunch of anti-intellectual, mostly male ex-jock ministers), it would not be for the Episcopal church which is bland, PC and neither fish nor fowl these days. It would probably be for the Roman Catholic church, tho I have got so used to good preaching that I would probably have to travel far to find it. And I still don't know about the refusal to ordain women. One doesn't need to be ordained to minister, but I have doubts about an institution that relegates women to second class.

I mean no offence to devout Catholics. Just my own experience. All churches are imperfect, because they are made up of us sinners in need of God's mercy. Schools for sinners, not clubs of saints. As I have got older, despite my personal snarks and preferences, I have come to believe that the right church for any of us is NOT the one that meets our needs or even inspires us, but the one where we are needed, and can serve others in God's name. Without being a whinging martyr about it, I think that if you are being regularly reminded of God's call, having a lot demanded of you, and know your need of God in a church, that church is the right one for you. God speaks to us and leads us in places that do not always "suit" us or make us purr with contentment. The spiritual life is a struggle, not a spa.

Yikes, what a lengthy screed...

Posted by: retriever at October 21, 2009 06:41 PM

Considering the pace so far, you should be safe for about another 700 years.

mr rdr: Please step to the head of the class.

WHAP! WHAP! WHAP!!!!!!

You may take your seat now :p

Posted by: Sister Mary Bag O' Metaphors at October 21, 2009 06:54 PM

As I have got older, despite my personal snarks and preferences, I have come to believe that the right church for any of us is NOT the one that meets our needs or even inspires us, but the one where we are needed, and can serve others in God's name.

Amen. The church I loved the most was that little one in the high desert.

The congregation were mostly older folks and it was struggling. But I experienced more joy there than at any other time, and I suspect a large part of that was the feeling that I was doing someone other than myself good in attending.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 06:56 PM

Having been in the military in a disciplined unit it took a bit of time to see the logic of it all. Yet the sense of it was so close one could not see it. What was more visible were the small irritating things like rules,that could fill a book, obeying instructions, to the unit commander they were infallible and punishable.

The logic in all this is that an army in disarray is no threat, the one advancing in a disciplined manner is a threat.

If you see the Church mission as an extension of Christ mission in order to save souls, you would comprehend that the teaching is sound in the hope that those who are authorized to preach the Good News carry it out authentically.

The problem would arise in the army, if the troops did as they pleased or devised their own mission. Would it be charitable to the well being of the troops to allow this to develop.

The reality is that those problems of dissent rebelliousness will always arise, then one would have to look to a teaching authority that is infallible. Surely Jesus new this and for two thousand years has protected His Church. There have been times when that Church needed to be shaken disciplined yet its teaching has always been authentic.

As we are with 30 000 churches there is disarray, its mission is severely hampered in the corpus of its mission.


Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 21, 2009 07:03 PM

You know, I always liked the priests we had at the parishes on base growing up... When I was in college, I didn't go to church much because I didn't have transportation until my senior year, but the one time I road my bike, there was something familiar about the priest (only did that once, one September Sunday in San Angelo...) - he'd been a military chaplain... Haven't always liked the strictly civilian priests I've encountered, though.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 21, 2009 08:14 PM

There have been times when that Church needed to be shaken disciplined yet its teaching has always been authentic.

Well, the Catholic church (like pretty much every other church I know) has reversed course a few times. The teaching on unbaptised infants going to limbo comes to mind:

http://cbs3.com/topstories/Limbo.Catholic.Church.2.303594.html

Was the church not authentic for 1600 years, or is it not authentic now?

I don't believe all doctrine is that straightforward. Christianity has been complicated by mistranslations and poor translations of the Bible and other sacred writings.

I always thought that perhaps there was a reason for this? Perhaps there is a real role for doubt and intellectual inquiry in the observation of faith?

Perhaps God wants us to ask questions? To have faith, but also to use our God given faculties to reason out what His will is? I've known many Catholic priests who admit there are areas of theology that disturb them, and areas of doctrine they find troubling or hard to reconcile.

Like so many other things in life, I think this is a balancing act. How do you admit doubt without destroying faith? How do you reconcile obedience to God with loyalty or obedience to a church (which I don't confuse with God, though obviously they are related). I think this is a tightrope we're meant to walk.

The trick is not falling off.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 08:48 PM

MLB:

I have known far more wonderful Catholic priests than testy ones.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 08:56 PM

Cass - it seriously sounds as if the things you have experienced are more a problem of the priests you've encountered than the actual church. It's not that different from the treatment I got when accompanying a friend of mine to her Baptist Church when I was told that I was in serious spiritual error (but it was phrased much less nicely) because I "worship" the Virgin Mary.

Doctrinal ignorance at its finest, really. But not something that I think all Baptists think when they see me and my roiling Papist brood with our crucifixes and holy water.

There are a few points here (as I'm late to the game because my kids had CCD this evening):

1) The Catholic Church actually has completely modified its doctrine in regards to Judaism (no matter what Mel Gibson spouts off). Jews are considered to have their own path towards salvation and their own and sacred covenant with God.

2) American Catholicism in most places is like ordering Bratwurst at Oktoberfest and getting an Oscar Meyer hot dog instead.

3) The Pope is only considered infallible in doctrinal matters, not his every pronouncement (so, for instance, should the Pope make an announcement on the proper age for potty training, it is not spiritually binding for us).

4) Priests and celibacy are related to Christ's life, but also to reasons of inheritance. In the history of the church, that's actually a recent requirement (relatively speaking, if you mean several hundred years as opposed to 1600 years). I think the Borgias were good examples of why the need to require celibacy and ban marriage were considered absolutely necessary.

5) Much like the "us and them" mentality the military often has with civilians (things we will discuss amongst ourselves vs. things we will discuss with the general public) we have the same thing going on within the church. I've had some awesome discussions with priests and religious about history, future, and the church doctrine. Fascinating stuff, and with enough wiggle room to walk a brontosaurus through, really. With said wiggle room being constantly debated, as well.

On the other hand, I've gotten into it with other devout Catholics about some issues - girls as altar servers being the tip of the ice burg (but an important one in my family, as altar serving is a rite of passage in our clan).

6) I think that one's comfort with married vs. celibate issue in clergy has to do with what one is most used to in a lot of cases. I attended a Lutheran church during AFG's first Iraq deployment because they were FAR more supportive at the time than the local Catholic church. The minister was wonderful - a great man. But still... there were things I felt uncomfortable discussing with him because he was so obviously a man. I mean, he was married, he had kids, obviously he was interested in man things.

I need that disconnect to feel comfortable. I see my priests as priests, which is an entirely different entity than man. Their venn diagram may overlap, but it is not the same circle.

Which may not make sense to anyone but me, but there it is.

Posted by: airforcewife at October 21, 2009 09:01 PM

Limbo has never been a doctrinal belief for Catholics, more of a theological inquiry that has been laid to rest,

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 21, 2009 09:11 PM

I'm glad to hear that, Cass.

I don't really remember the priests prior to us being in Germany in the late 70s. Prior to that, we went to a civilian parish since my parents bought a house when we were in San Antonio for Daddy's assignment at Ft Sam. After that, we always went to Mass at the military parish: Germany, Ft. Bliss, back to Germany, then I went off to college. Like I said, I didn't go to church much during my college years, except when I was back with family (staying with grandparents over holiday breaks, or back with my family over the summers). My last two years of high school, I didn't mind going to church too much because so many of the people I knew from school also went to the Catholic services, and their parents made them go to the Sunday school stuff, too.

It's been since I've been an independent adult that I've really felt there's not a place for me in the Catholic Church. If I were married with children, and my spouse happened to be Catholic, I'd likely be attending Mass regularly. But, I'm not that wife and mother, and I don't really get anything out of going to Mass, at least at the parishes around here. So, I just stay home. And then there's my mom, who practically seems to live at church...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 21, 2009 09:38 PM

If your spouse happened to be an atheist what would you do?
Go to mass to worship God and for no other reason, the answers will follow Miss Ladybug. Its late in Africa, God Bless

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 21, 2009 09:52 PM

Cass - it seriously sounds as if the things you have experienced are more a problem of the priests you've encountered than the actual church.

I really didn't intend for this to become a discussion about any issues (real or imaginary) that I may have with the Catholic church.

In my post I mentioned not being welcome to participate in Communion. That has nothing to do with individual priests and everything to do with the church's policies. At the same time, I said that any church should be able to set its own rules, so I'm not attacking the Catholic church - just stating my personal reaction to their policy.

Ultimately, whether or not I like it is utterly irrelevant because I'm not Catholic.

To clarify, I don't have any problem with requiring celibacy of priests, but then again as I'm not Catholic my opinion is irrelevant here as well. I don't really see one way as being so far superior to the other that it's an argument ender.

This is why I don't like writing about religion and rarely do write about it. This subject is so close to many people's hearts that no matter how careful everyone is, the conversation tends to devolve into an attack/defend scenario and people become upset or offended.

That's the opposite of what I strive for here.

I have a lot of Catholic friends - in fact, most of my oldest and dearest friends are Catholic. I've had conversations with them and many of them object to exactly the same things that bother me a bit (not a lot - just a bit). So I don't think I'm completely off base.

However, I don't want this to turn into me against the Vatican :p

I should not have mentioned my personal feelings in this post and probably should not have written about it at all. I have the utmost respect for the Catholic church as an organization and I'm concerned that in an attempt to answer a question, I'm being forced into a position I have no desire to defend because it doesn't accurately reflect my feelings or my beliefs.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 09:54 PM

I don't think I'd marry an atheist. While I might not currently be a church-goer, I do believe in God, and I think that's going to be something that whoever I (hopefully...) end up marrying is going to have to share with me: belief in the Judeo-Christian God.

When I think about it now, I think one reason I might miss the priests that are also military chaplains is that they - through the nature of their job - know they serve a large single population and make the appropriate adjustments to their sermons. If I were given the opportunity to go to Mass on a military base, I might become a regular church-goer again. But, since there isn't a military parish in the area, that's something I can't say for sure.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 21, 2009 10:13 PM

Example: telling you that your children MUST be baptized but then refusing practicing Catholics that rite. I have seen variations on this theme visited upon military couples for years and it never ceases to astonish me.

Something doesn't sound right, there -- under Church doctrine, Baptism for a child must *never* be refused. It sounds like there were additional issues -- perhaps personal ones -- which the priest allowed to impair his judgement.

Posted by: BillT at October 22, 2009 01:55 AM

It sounds like there were additional issues -- perhaps personal ones -- which the priest allowed to impair his judgment.

That is the only thing I can attribute it to, Bill.

I never thought this had anything to do with church policy. This particular incident is why I knew about the limbo thing - the child's mother was pretty upset. But they had no trouble finding another Catholic priest who would oblige them.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 22, 2009 02:18 AM

And here I'd always thought that Limbo was just a back-wrenching dance...

Posted by: BillT at October 22, 2009 03:23 AM

I don't confuse human frailty with human ideals. It's when your public behavior conflicts with the doctrine of an organization you represent that the problem arises.
Posted by: Cassandra at October 21, 2009 04:50 PM

The Episcopalian Church lost it when they decided it was OK to be a practicing homosexual and a member of the clergy. The (Evangelical) Lutheran Church just started down that same dead-end road this past August. A church is supposed to represent the beliefs it allegedly espouses, not give in to popular "P.C." pressure...

Posted by: camojack at October 22, 2009 03:59 AM

I can't disagree with that, Camo.

I don't think the DNC should be forced to hire me to represent them or face the charge that they're discriminating. Hiring someone like me would make no sense since I would never be able to advocate for their position. I don't believe in it.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 22, 2009 04:07 AM

I don't think the DNC should be forced to hire me to represent them or face the charge that they're discriminating.

No, they should be forced to hire you so that they can be infused with common sense by osmosis.

Posted by: BillT at October 22, 2009 06:11 AM

"This subject is so close to many people's hearts that no matter how careful everyone is, the conversation tends to devolve into an attack/defend scenario and people become upset or offended."
As I think I've mentioned in passing, those are my sentiments, exactly...

My family has folks who cover the spectrum from atheists, to agnostic, to Jehovah's Witnesses, to various Protestant denominations, or as I read recently, Lower Church Protestants. I've not heard that one in a while. Not knowing what to make of it, exactly, other than my awareness of it's historical usage and the time or two I've heard it used in discussions, I have to ask, is that terminology still used as a demeaning term in the 21st century

? Oh yeah, back on track, my tree being half Irish also has quite a few Catholics, C-lites, and the one in every crowd family member, who professes to being a Buddhist.

I've watched conversations among the various family members become debates, turn to arguments and in a few cases, estrangements.

I stopped speaking to an aunt after she condemned the recently dead second child of my sister to hell for having the temerity to die as an infant! That was the state of our relationship for the balance of that woman's life. I may burn but I've never been able to forgive that cruel injury to my sister.

Sorry, I think I've already said too much.

Posted by: bthun at October 22, 2009 08:51 AM

However, I don't want this to turn into me against the Vatican :p

TOO LATE!!! You already have, Protestant WHORE!!!

Joking! Joking! That was a joke! Don't burn me!

[serious now]
Ok, as a failed Catholic (I parted with the RCC years ago, but not on any manner of bad terms) I love this discussion. Like Cass, I had problems with the Catholic church, some of which match her own. I recall sitting in the National Cathedral in DC, attending Mass with my family, and there, in the back of the Liturgical was a note telling guests to PLEASE not attend Communion unless they were Catholic. That REALLY bothered me. The Schism was hundreds of years old, and really that smacked of petulance on behalf of the Church. "Leave us, will you! Well, take THAT."

But like Cass, this is not some kind of personal war against the Church for me. I didn't agree with fundamental doctrines, so the proper thing to do was remove myself, because the RCC is NOT about making ME happy, it's about being true to the RCC. In fact, I very often find myself defending and explaining the Catholic church and doctrine to folks who are obviously mis-informed. Like AFW, I've had others tell me to my face that Catholics "worship Mary". Funny, decades of CCD, Confirmation in the Church and even a bit of personal research on the side, and somehow, I missed the bit where the Catholic church places Mary within (or above, or beside) the Trinity. Huh... good of folks to tell me what the doctrine they weren't raised in, but I was, believes.

But, one thing Cass mentioned that I really wanted to speak to was described by someone else as troubles with certain priests rather than with the Church. And I think there's a lot of truth to this. The Catholic Church is by NO MEANS a monolithic, well organized, lock step group. The variance from church to church can be astounding. I grew up with mostly boisterous Irish priests. And to a man they were funny, personable, caring and wonderful men. We did have one Polish priest when I was a lad who was dour and joyless. Night and day as to how they conducted Mass. My parents (lifelong Catholics to this day) avoided the Catholic church in Augusta, GA. The priest was completely off doctrine and PC to a fault. As an example, everything was "God the Parent" rather than "God the Father" and "according to his/her will". He didn't actually say the '/' so it was more like "according to his her will". But you get the idea.

That and they sung hymns like dirges there. You have no idea how terrible "Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee" sounds sung at half speed. Instead, when in Augusta, we attended the Lutheran Mass. Seriously, same religion, half the guilt. There were perhaps 7 words different in the Mass, and the Lutheran priest (I think they're called priests, right?) was married. Other than that? If I'd been taken there blindfolded, I might not have guessed I was not in a Catholic service.

Great discussion Cass, keep it up!

Posted by: MikeD at October 22, 2009 10:26 AM

Even if you are Catholic, it doesn't mean the Church is okay with you going to communion. As I mentioned above, as far as the Church is concerned, I shouldn't go to communion until I go to confession and confess all my sins, to include not having attended weekly Mass for several years now. There are lots of things that normal human beings have no problem with that the Church believes to be sinful, and if you don't confess them, or confess them but aren't truly sorry/remorseful, you'd still not be entitled to receive communion, and if you go to communion anyway, well, now you've really gone and done it...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 22, 2009 10:49 AM

Oh I know LB, and honestly, I'm not saying the Catholic church should change. That's not my place to tell the RCC. It's why I left. It's a variant on "their house, their rules".

At this point, it's pretty much too late for me. I married (in a non-Catholic service) a non-Catholic woman who was previously divorced, I have not taken Communion in years, I have not attended Mass in years, I have practiced birth control other than the rhythm method... I'm just a mess. But that's ok. I'm not in "their house". I couldn't live by their rules, I needed to leave. It's worked out nicely for each of us.

Posted by: MikeD at October 22, 2009 11:16 AM


Thank you for this article

Posted by: Devis at October 22, 2009 11:18 AM

My goodness - you are quite welcome :)

Thanks for reading!

Posted by: Cassandra at October 22, 2009 12:10 PM

Mike~

That's kinda my thinking. The things I do (or don't do) aren't really things I think are bad, but the Church frowns upon. So, no matter how much it may upset my mother and make her thinks she did a bad job of instilling religious beliefs in her children (none of us go to church, my unmarried brother lives with his significant other and my niece is 14 months old, the oldest of my two younger sisters in marrying - in a non-Catholic, not-taking-place-at-a-church wedding - a divorced [non-church-going] Baptist who she's been living in sin with for years, and my other sister stays the night with her boyfriend either at her apartment or his, and they'll be moving in together in a little over a month; I guess I'm the "least sinful" as I am the 39-year-old virgin, but still, I'll be going to hell if I don't change my ways....).

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 22, 2009 12:38 PM

oops... I didn't finish my thought...

....I'm not going to start going back to church (living a lie, if I were to be honest) just to make her happy...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 22, 2009 12:42 PM

Have you ever thought that if an introvert were at a party and every one there, were having a wonderful time, the party could or would be an awful experience for the introvert however all who were in the swing of it, would enjoy the experience.

Possibly what keeps us from Church is ourselves the experiences and what we hear from others are what justifies our decisions. Church is a hospital for the imperfect, the list of Saints are those who have been discharged.

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 22, 2009 01:32 PM

Malcolm:

I don't know how comfortable I am in discussing this. It is fairly personal.

The biggest thing that keeps me out of church is that I frequently find myself in tears and I hate crying in public. It brings all sorts of things to the forefront that I can't deal with.

The last time I was in my own church, I couldn't stop crying. My priest was concerned about me. Philip the 80 year old deacon was worried. I wasn't sobbing or anything but I was powerless to stop the tears running down my face.

As I detest making a spectacle of myself, I never went back. The fault, as far as I'm concerned, is mine and mine alone.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 22, 2009 02:40 PM

Have you ever thought that if an introvert were at a party and every one there, were having a wonderful time, the party could or would be an awful experience for the introvert however all who were in the swing of it, would enjoy the experience.

Absolutely, but at the same time, the introvert should not be insisting that all the extroverts should change and accomodate the lone introvert.
The introvert should just thank you for the invitation and find a party more suited to their liking.

Cass, for example, appreciates the ceremony of mass. To her, it lends reverence and respect for God. To me, it's stifling and empty. I'd much rather say a prayer of "God, I'm a moron, I could really use your help right about now" than "Father, though I have failed thee,Father, please, Father, bless thy faithful servant, Father".

One is not right, and one is not wrong they're just different styles. Whichever one works for you, have at it.

But this is pretty much my problem with the RCC(and not a few fundamentalist churches, too). I have absolutely no problem considering the RCC , the Eastern/Greek/Russian/etc. Orthodox, and the protestants as all part of the catholic Church. I don't think God will be giving a test on the theology on the perpetual virginity of Mary, nor her Assumption into Heaven. I don't think God will be asking about your belief in a pre- or post- millenial tribulation.

I just don't think God cares about that stuff. He cares about what is in your heart.

For example, I agree with the RCC that faith and works do go hand in hand. But I read the Bible as saying that faith is the cause of salvation and works are the effect (and logically that if you lack the effects, you most likely lack the faith, too) and the RCC reads the Bible as saying that faith together with works are the cause of salvation. Who's right? Helk if I know, but I figure that if you and I's hearts are in the right place God will do the right thing.

This, apparently, is unsatisfactory to the RCC.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 22, 2009 03:02 PM

Look here, buster. Until you can tell everyone how many of ME are gyrating around up here, keep it down to a dull roar...

Heh.

Posted by: Angels, Dancing on the head of a pin at October 22, 2009 03:08 PM

And like Cass said, I don't mean this to be pointed at the RCC alone.

It is darn near unheard of for a Baptist Church to help a Methodist Church for any reason whatsoever. It's like they are afraid of losing market share, or something.

That's completely assinine.

There are tons of people who will never attend my church simply because it says "Presbyterian" on the front of it. Why not help those people find a church whose door they *will* darken? Maybe that means lending them some gym equipment so they can start a sports ministry, or sending over our A/V guys to ensure that everyone can hear the preacher, or giving advice on how to set up a recovery program like AA. What's important is that you choose to follow Christ, and not at all about following the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 22, 2009 03:17 PM

If a introvert insisted on change their malady would be healed. However, I do agree, ones intentions are important, the proof is in the tasting of the pudding not in the intention.

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 22, 2009 03:23 PM

I'm not sure I'm down with the equivalence of introvert with malady.

We are as God made us. Extroverts love to define their own world view as the 'normal' one but I suspect that having made fully 1/4 of the population the way they are, he has his reasons.

Posted by: Angels Dancing on Pinheads at October 22, 2009 03:33 PM

If a introvert insisted on change their malady would be healed

Which is actually, exactly my point.

Instead of saying "Our doctrinal differences really aren't that big of a deal, we're all brothers and sisters in Christ" the RCC wants to brand me a heretic because we only agree on 99.99999% of doctrine.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 22, 2009 03:52 PM

Until you can tell everyone how many of ME are gyrating around up here, keep it down to a dull roar...

I don't really care how many of you can prance on a pinhead -- I wanna know how many of you are gonna gang-tackle me just before the next rocket hits.

Call me introspective...

Posted by: BillT at October 22, 2009 03:58 PM

THWACK THWACK TWACK!!!!

Dusting off hands as she twirls a 27" zipper tab between her fingers....

Posted by: Angels, Dancing on Pinheads at October 22, 2009 04:02 PM

Catholics do brand former Catholics such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli as heretics, those who follow them and represent the fragmented 30 000 denominations rarely get a mention. In fact I have never heard mention of any Protestant denomination at mass. It would help if you could agree amongst yourselves on doctrine and cooperation so we could determine are you 99.9%, 50%, or 10% in error we just don't know.

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 22, 2009 04:12 PM

Instead of saying "Our doctrinal differences really aren't that big of a deal, we're all brothers and sisters in Christ" the RCC wants to brand me a heretic because we only agree on 99.99999% of doctrine.

Yet another problem I had with the RCC. I was less concerned with what ceremonies someone else went through, and more concerned about how they lived their lives. The Church teaching would actually relegate my wife to Hell. You'll forgive me if I don't cotton to that.

To be fair though, this isn't a Catholic issue either. According to the church my wife was raised in (Non-Denominational Bible Believing is what they refer to themselves as, as near as I can tell, it's California Baptist), I myself am doomed to Hell. For you see, at one point in my life, I was a Papist. The most savage cannibal in the depths of Borneo can be saved, but never a Papist. Go figure. Strangely enough, I don't cotton to that much either.

In fact I have never heard mention of any Protestant denomination at mass.

I never did hear it mentioned in Mass either. But it was printed in the Liturgical anyhow. Surprised me too.

Posted by: MikeD at October 22, 2009 04:37 PM

I'm kinda with YAG about the prayer stuff. Yeah, I learned all the standard prayers growing up, but when it comes to "original" prayer for specific things, making one up with all the "thee"s and "thou"s and whatnot just isn't me. I kinda make ones up in my head, get to the point, and be done with it...

Also, I'm not down with the introvert = there's something wrong with you idea. I am more introverted, I've always been that way. It is how God made me and God doesn't make mistakes, now, does he? Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were all extroverts? Good Lord, I don't think I'd be able to put up with that...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 22, 2009 04:39 PM

...so we could determine are you 99.9%, 50%, or 10% in error we just don't know.

Of course, the idea that it could be *you* that are 99.9%, 50%, or 10% in error never occurs to you.

Which, like I said, is exactly my point. I assume that we're equal, you assume that you're superior.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 22, 2009 04:41 PM

Our pastor mentioned Presbyterians in his homily, twice.

First time, the contractor who was repairing their roof broke his leg and he asked those of us with tools and ladders to help out; second time was two weeks later -- he announced they were hosting a pot luck supper to thank us.

Posted by: BillT at October 22, 2009 04:49 PM

It is how God made me and God doesn't make mistakes, now, does he?

This I have to disagree with as a type of argument. Just because we behave a certain way does not mean that God made us that way. He might have, He might not. I have proclivities toward being geeky and gluttony. I believe that God made me as a geeky personality, but that doesn't mean that God made me gluttonous and therefore gluttony is OK.

That being said, I don't believe that 'style' differences are sinful and are in need of repentance (unless you're a Paris fashion designer and then you've got a lot to ask forgiveness for).

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 22, 2009 04:55 PM

Paris fashion designers were placed on Earth to test our souls -- as long as we can resist strangling them, we pass...

Posted by: BillT at October 22, 2009 05:03 PM

As far as I know biblical, that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli were not around at the time of Pentecost nor were there any Protestants around the 1500 century so if they, and their 30 000 derivatives are lead by the Holy Spirit and you cannot agree, surely you would find this strange.
By the way it is impossible for an African to feel superior it is not cultural, however being P.C. is not one of our traits, we would consider it a Western ideal.

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 22, 2009 05:06 PM

Being introverted is a personality type. Being a glutton is not. I have always been more introverted. Nothing happened to make me this way: it is how God made me.

I also happen to be a bit geeky, too ;-)

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 22, 2009 05:14 PM

I call BS on the "it is impossible for an African to feel superior". ANYONE, ANYWHERE, REGARDLESS OF CULTURE has it in them to feel superior to someone else in regard to something.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 22, 2009 05:16 PM

Have you been to Africa, do you know the various cultures or is it your superiority that fuels your assumptions.

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 22, 2009 05:31 PM

As far as I know, there weren't any Roman Catholics around at the pentacost either. They were all Jews. In fact, there weren't any Roman Catholics until about 300 years after Christ.

How anyone ever got to Heaven without them God only knows.

Second, I find no Biblical reference where upon only those at pentacost (or as the RCC contends, only those directly ordained by those at pentacost) could be lead by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will lead whom He will. I wouldn't presume to put limitations on God.

And I gotta mirror LB, for someone whom it is supposedly impossible to feel superior, you're doing a good job of it.

As I said, I don't believe that I am 100% doctrinally correct and that it is *my* place to judge whether *you* are X% doctrinally in error, but you apparently do.

I leave the judging up to God.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 22, 2009 05:45 PM

Cradle Episcopalian here. Mom sang soprano in the choir, Dad was on the Vestry, older brothers and I served as acolytes. Then we moved from the Boston area to the Chicago area, Dad's job became more demanding, and we just never became churchgoers in our new home.

Fast forward some 30 years and my Boy Scout Troop got dumped by our sponsor the Park District because we don't permit atheists to join. This hit the local paper. The Senior Warden of the local Episcopal parish 2 miles from my house that I had at that point driven past literally thousands of times called me up and suggested that they pick us up. One think led to another and a) they did and b) I became a regular church goer again. In fact, I joined the choir (tenor), read the intercessionary prayers (Prayers of the People), and just ended a 3-year stint as Warden.

I am rather disenchanted with the changes in the Church. The name itself means that we have a hierarchical organization headed by Bishops. The General Convention, made up of two houses (Bishops, and lay people + priests) that must concur on any issue put before it, can make changes to our doctrines, etc. But absent such changes, we have a Constitution and Canons and the Bishops are charged with enforcing them.

However, in practice they don't. For example; many parishes practice "Open Communion", wherein they invite anyone present to come up to receive the Eucharist. Should you demur, you are instructed "God's table is open to EVERYONE!" and considered a trogdolyte. But the canons clearly state that only baptized persons are to be given Communion. Does the bishop do anything about this? No! He (or she) likely thinks it's a good thing. It's open defiance of what we as a corporate body have agreed upon and presented in a self-righteous manner that THEY are right and WE are obviously un-spiritual and don't understand Christ.

Even my own priest, who I think is a great guy and gifted, told me that he was blessing a house for an Indian (as in sub-continent of, not Native Amerian) family that was Episcopalian. It included a Mass. Many Hindus were present. He gave everyone Communion. I asked him "Did you announce, as you do every Sunday, that all baptized Christians were welcome to partake?" He said that he did not, as he thought it would be rude. But that's what he's supposed to do!

I could go on, but no time. Suffice it to say that I'm having a hard time holding on.

Posted by: RonF at October 22, 2009 06:02 PM

Well all I ask for is a little intellectual honesty. If in maths 1 plus 1 = 2. It can never be 3or4. What you seem to say all are right. When I ask the question "How can 30 000 protestant denominations all claim to be led by the Holy Spirit, when they have doctrinal differences and by your own admission do not co-operate." You cannot answer the question then you accuse one of being superior. Please answer the question.
Now I will answer your question, the apostles were all Catholic and this is how I will prove it to you. Jesus started a universal Church. Catholic means Universal. From the great Catholic St Peter the next Pope was Linus the next was Anacletus I can go on to Benedict the xvi please I ask you show me any linage from any of the 30 000 denominations. Come on, do not play games you are not children

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 22, 2009 06:11 PM

"How can 30 000 protestant denominations all claim to be led by the Holy Spirit, when they have doctrinal differences and by your own admission do not co-operate."

The same way that 30,001 denominations (including the RCC) all claim to be led by the Holy Spirit, when...

And then I can add the Eastern Orthodox and make it 30,002, and then I can add the Russian Orthodox and make it 30,003, and then...

I answer the question that they are all led by the Holy Spirit, but that because "God's ways are not your ways, and God's thoughts are not your thoughts" we all have a flawed understanding of God and so make errors, the RCC is no exception. That's the problem with the 1+1 metaphor. There is a right answer, but to suggest that you and only you have it is to claim that you have a perfect understanding of God.

That is why I say you believe yourself to be superior. Not because I can't answer the question (which I did), but because you hold out the RCC as the exception: As "above" the other followers of Christ.

Catholic means Universal

No, "c"atholic means universal, "C"atholic means the subset of the universal church that follows the Bishop of Rome which are not at all the same thing.

As for lineage I've got three positions on that.

1) Anyone can make any claim they want. It being true is a completely different matter. The RCC was not created until some 300 years after Christ, during which time record keeping was not an exact science. To believe that Anacletus I followed Linus and so on, well, I pretty much have to take the RCCs word for it.

2) Who said that Peter was supreme? The other apostles certainly didn't treat him that way and the Orthodox churches still consider the Bishop of Rome only to be an equal, a peer, to all other Bishops. (This is the point I turn things around and say "When all you Bishop followers can get your doctrine together and stop disagreeing with one another...")

3) So what? Who said that lineage was the end all and be all? Oh, that's right: The RCC. Convenient that.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 22, 2009 07:14 PM

There are three spirits one Holy,one human, one evil. You do not know the difference. The Holy Spirit is never divided, it is unified read your scriptures. Substantiate that I am wrong on linage, Google it. I ask simple for intellectual honesty, please. Get hold of the Oxford Dictionary of Popes.

Do not argue a point you do not know and diverse to other areas, answere the question with honesty.

By the way its late in Africa God bless.

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 22, 2009 07:44 PM

Wow. Somebody's getting their knickers in a twist...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 22, 2009 09:21 PM

Roman Catholics have to defend their beliefs - just as we all do.

Cassandra, I myself am an Anglican, albeit one attached to the Diocese of West Malaysia, in the Province of South East Asia. We still hold to the Articles of Faith, and remain staunchly opposed to even ordination of women, let alone the bizzareness pacticed by the ECUSA.

You should remember that the ECUSA has pretty much been cut off from the Anglican Communion as a whole, and that a whole swath of former Episcopal churches are now attached to the Church in Nigeria.

RCs: here's a question of your supposed charity to us, so that we do not eat and drink judgment on ourselves when we partake of the Sacraments. Is that not arrogant of you to take on God's role? Does not Scripture say each man ought to examine HIMSELF, and not HIS BROTHER? If we are fellow Christians, and hence fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, by what means can you tell we are not in 'full communion' with CHRIST, which is what the Eucharistic Feast is primarily about? Are you saying that we are not united with Christ in His death and therefore shall be resurrected like Him? If we shall be as one in Heaven, why do you deny us unity on Earth?

Further, why is the cup not shared with the laity except on really, really special occasions? Did Christ not institute the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup even with Judas the Traitor? Did St Paul not tell us that this division between the higher class and the lower class is not to be condoned?

Jesus calls the bread and wine His body and blood. But this was BEFORE He was crucified. He hadn't had His body broken yet, nor His blood shed yet. Do you maybe think He meant it other than biologically speaking?

Also, if the bread was biologically Jesus' body, is the Church not also His body? We are all members of the same body of Christ. Does that make us bread? And yet the Church is also the Bride of Christ. Is the Church now possessing a female form?

Or, maybe, could it possibly be that the bread and the cup are really the Body and the Blood of Christ, but in a sense other than physically and biologically speaking?

Yeah; I have my own issues with the RCs. But I'm fairly certain they are fellow Christians, and not people who have lost their way and have become a cult.

Posted by: Gregory at October 22, 2009 10:56 PM

"Wow. Somebody's getting their knickers in a twist...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 22, 2009 09:21 PM"

Big surprise. But this has been a fairly tame and respectful discussion.

You should have been at some of my family reunions. Skirmishes to perpetuate the Thirty Years War, or so it would sometimes seem.

Posted by: bthun at October 22, 2009 11:00 PM

Gregory~

In most cases, even if you were not entitled - so far as RCC Canon is concerned - to partake of communion, unless the priest KNOWS something about you in particular, you aren't going to be denied.

As for the cup not always being offered, that will vary from parish to parish. Most parishes in which I've attended Mass, you have the choice to take the cup. If I was sick, I'd pass: figured I shouldn't take a chance on passing on my germs ;-)

Someone else needs to use the Mac...be back later, hopefully...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 22, 2009 11:17 PM

Miss Ladybug: Sure, sure, and we don't check whether someone is an Anglican, Freethinker or downright Muslim before offering them communion either. But our official stance is what it is, and we tell people it is what it is.

*That's* the real issue; not whether I can physically go and take Holy Communion, but whether I would be welcome or not. And obviously, I would not be.

And if the cup contains the Blood of the Lamb, which washes away sin, then it should wash away bacteria and virii as well. Anyways, you can always dip the bread in.

But maybe it's just the RC churches in my part of the world; I'm sure some of them even conduct Mass in Latin still.

Posted by: Gregory at October 23, 2009 04:49 AM

I've taken communion I can't tell you how many times in my friends' churches. It used to be (when I was a child) that they didn't make a big deal of it and so I wasn't even aware they didn't allow non-Catholics at communion until my friend's wedding (when I was 23). It was ironic b/c she got married in the same church I'd attended so many times as a teen :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 23, 2009 07:05 AM

In fact I have never heard mention of any Protestant denomination at mass.

I realized last night that I was in error when I said I hadn't heard mention either. Father Murphey did mention Protestants once in his homily. I even remember the whole thing:

A bus full of Baptists went off the road, into the river and all of them died. They went to Heaven, and St. Peter met them at the gates. He said, "Well, let me show you around." And he took them to this LOOOOONG hallway with many many doors. And he opens the first door and says, "This is where we keep all the great peacemakers." And the Baptists look in and ooh and aah at all the famous peacemakers from history.

St. Peter continues to the next door and says, "And this is where we keep all the great philosophers." And the Baptists look inside and are mighty impressed at all the famous philosophers. And on the tour continues. Then they approach a pair of double doors. St. Peter says, "Ok, I'm going to have to ask you to be very quiet and tip toe past these next doors." So they all do so, and sneak past the doors.

Once they're all safely past, one of the Baptists asks St. Peter what's behind those doors. St. Peter responds, "Oh, that's where we keep the Catholics, they think they're the only ones up here."


That was my priest ladies and gentlemen. He had a million of em.

Posted by: MikeD at October 23, 2009 10:37 AM

There are three spirits one Holy,one human, one evil.

Agreed.

You do not know the difference.
No, I am fully aware of the difference, if you think otherwise, you are not understanding my point.

Which is...
The Holy Spirit is never divided, it is unified read your scriptures.

Agreed that the Holy Spirit is never divided, but man, however, is. The same Holy Spirit guides the Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Orthodox, etc. But because *Man* is imperfect, well, we all screw things up and get things wrong. Yes, even the RCC.

Helk, even the apostles themselves didn't understand all of what Christ was saying, and He was standing right there in front of them. But now you're going to tell me that there's no way your Bishop could ever possibly misunderstand His will? Sorry, if the Apostles could misunderstand, so can Bishops.

Substantiate that I am wrong on linage,

Sorry, the burden of proof is not on me to disprove your claim. It is yours to prove it.

But as I said: So what? Christ never said "Thou shalt only follow these people and whomever they shall appoint. And whomever they shall in turn appoint. And ..."

God calls whom He will.

But in any case, I'm not trying to convince you that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church is the "one True Church" which has everything correct and that them dern Catlickers are all going to hell. Because it's not true. The EPC has errors in it's Doctrine. And so do the Baptists, and so do the Catholics, and so do the Methodists, and so do the Orthodox, and so do the Episcopalians, and...

All churches have errors in doctrine, they've got people in them and not one of them has a person in them who is capable of fully understanding God. So we do the best we can and people of good faith come to differing conclusions.

And as such, *all* who proclaim God, who exists eternally in three persons, who came bodily to Earth as the savior of sinful people and died for our sins so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life are a part of the Holy catholic Church regardless of the name on the sign in front of the building.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 23, 2009 11:01 AM

Yu-Ain Gonnano: Right on! Of course, immediately afterwards you will get into massive theological disputes about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but get that central core doctrine correct and the rest usually naturally flows from it.

When you come right down to it, though, almost all Protestant churches hold to the same basic core doctrines. Where we differ is in church organisation and worship/service practices. We generally agree that we are all members of the same Body of Christ, and we generally allow any Christian to partake of Holy Communion at any church in recognition of that.

And let's be honest, RCs. Does anybody seriously think that some of the Popes of centuries past really should have been allowed to sit on that throne? The Borgias? Really? *They* had Apostolic Succession and Papal Infallibility?

Excuse me while I hack up a hairball. And you're saying they were valid heads of the Church and a godly man like Bp Michael Nazir-Ali isn't? Excuse me while I hack up another hairball.

Posted by: Gregory at October 23, 2009 11:54 AM

I make it a practice to avoid these discussions, at least as much as my resolve allows... Fallible human that I am, I'm going to give in to my flagging resolve for the third time in one thread and tip my hat to you YAG!

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 23, 2009 11:01 AM
Nicely said.

Posted by: bthun at October 23, 2009 12:15 PM

but get that central core doctrine correct and the rest usually naturally flows from it.

Kinda,

My take is that you get the central core doctrine correct and the rest usually just doesn't matter that much at all.

Like I said, Christ won't be administering tests on the comparitive theological advantages to pre- v/s post- millenial tribulation.

Our pastor has said, in the middle of service, that yes, he does have an opinion on such matters and no, he won't tell you what it is.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 23, 2009 12:29 PM

Oh, and thanks guys. I appreciate it.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 23, 2009 12:36 PM

My take is that you get the central core doctrine correct and the rest usually just doesn't matter that much at all.

An infallible pronouncement.

Posted by: Malcolm Bagley at October 24, 2009 12:59 PM

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