I was told the other day (on Father’s Day to be exact) by an associate who had been following my Facebook page and this blog that, in regards to my last post about being both Anglican and Roman Catholic, I was being “illogical” in taking such a stance. He took a great deal of time from his Father’s Day (and mine as well) to plaster my FB page with responses to posts he was either offended with (one was a picture of two men kissing, fully clothed—that one nearly did him in I think), or which he simply disagreed with for whatever reason. Aside from seeing a side to this person I had honestly not realized before, I also was taken by utter surprise at his timing as he is the dad of two lovely children and has a both kind and dutiful wife. SO WHAT DID THEY DO FOR HIM ON FATHER’S DAY ANYWAY? That very sincerely was my first and foremost question. I wondered how he had so much time on his hands on what should have been “his” party day. Oh well.
My second however was far more serious and to the point of this post, and has to do with one particular comment he made on the post linked just below. I normally would not create an entire post in order to respond to one comment, but this particular one warrants more than a quick and easy answer, so I shut off the blog for a couple of days as I pondered and prayed.
Still Roman Catholic…and Anglican Too! (catholicboyrichard.com)
One of the things he told me in no uncertain terms was that I could no longer call myself a “Catholic” because I disagree with Rome on a couple of arguably major items. And along with that, I should not consider myself a member of any Roman Catholic parish. He does have a partial point here. I say partial because I am not sure he understands one of the most basic philosophies of the Faith, which is that, once baptized within the Catholic Church, you remain Catholic for life whether you question some things later on or not. That is also my biggest gripe against the hierarchical system too by the way. During RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) you are generally encouraged to ask all the questions you wish to and have the right to expect an answer when you do. That, in itself, is a drastic change of attitude from when I was growing up as a Catholic. We were taught, and in no uncertain terms, to question nothing. Ever. But that changed, along with the rest of society, during the late 1960s and early 70s, along with the rest of society. At least now you can question during RCIA if not after. In any case it became fair game to question virtually everything during that milestone period of history, and that attitude seeped rather deeply into the Church as well. In fact if you were to ask the average Catholic, the Mass-going, offering-giving minority who are still in the pews today, if they are allowed to question such teachings as the authority and infallibility of the Holy Father (Papacy) and Magisterium (hierarchy), and further to have a different view on issues such as same-sex marriage and onward, you would find a resounding “yes”—from those who even knew what a Magisterium is, that is.
Also most priests and bishops would tell you to please, please keep coming to Mass even while working through those questions and issues, in the hopes that at some point you might eventually move from “cafeteria Catholicism” to a more technically correct understanding of the Sacraments, nature of the Church and her core teachings. And most would say so even if you spent part of your time attending another non-Roman parish or congregation too. The simple fact is that they do not wish to lose the minority of Catholics who actually still attend Mass weekly. What they would probably say is not to partake in the Eucharist, but in reality most would anyway and no one would be there to police them or escort them away from the altar, unless they were of course wearing an Obama T-shirt or something when presenting themselves! A double standard to some extent, yes, but one done with the intent of keeping the Faithful…well “faithful.” Or at least giving them more of a likely potential for that to eventually occur. And it in no way violates the common understanding of Catholic teaching in doing so.
Where my rather fuming friend is probably correct, however, is that I should perhaps not refer to myself as an active Roman Catholic when I am also actively a part of another Christian communion. My thinking in doing so was to remain close to the Catholic Church (the Roman version that is) as I probably agree more with her than with the Episcopal parish I am now again part of. I continue to practice the devotions I have learned or re-learned upon my return to Rome in 2005, such as the Rosary and asking for the intercession of the Saints, believe in the Real Presence of Christ our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, and with CS Lewis (a fellow Anglican revered by Protestants and Catholics alike) I accept and even embrace some form of purging after death on our way to heaven. As stated elsewhere on this blog I still believe in the 4 basic pillars of Catholicism, which are the early Creeds, the 7 Sacraments, following the 10 Commandments particularly as expressed in the Beatitudes and finally in Christian prayer with its basis the very prayer given to us by Jesus in the “Lord’s Prayer” or “Our Father.” Either name is incidentally valid and true. So I am more “Catholic” than not.
The places where I differ are in issues that were not even on the table as near back historically as 150 years ago or thereabouts. Papal infallibility was never delineated fully until the later 1800s at the First Vatican Council, and the nature of marriage is frankly a fairly new discussion—but a timely one, I believe, given what science and society now knows about homosexuality. It is ironic to me that I could have been a solid practicing Catholic 160 years ago and not believed in full Papal infallibility, and, due to the understanding of the world at that time, been a closeted LGBT person with no one dismissing me from the altar as a result. I might have been castrated or worse if found out of course. Never mind that I have been careful not to so much promote “same-sex marriage” either here or on my FB page as to simply point out that, through my own and countless other people’s lived experiences, without this enshrined in law we as LGBT are in the very real danger of finding ourselves once again fighting for everything from hospital visitations to wills that cannot easily be contested by biological families who oppose the couples in question, and another 500 or so benefits given to those considered to be “married” by the state and nation which are denied to single people whether straight or gay. I agree that there is the danger of religious freedom issues being violated with marriage equality laws in place, but I think the other issues far outweigh those dangers personally. Civil marriage can be indeed set up to work for both groups and should be.
My brother fairly recently lost the love of his life to a horrible form of cancer. They had been together for many years (over 10) and in a monogamous relationship, as well as being past the age of child-bearing that was never an issue. For probably half of that time, and particularly in the last couple of years, he took care of her like the champion he is. But they never legally married. Why? Her insurance was based upon a military pension from her first husband. That simple. Had they married he would have lost his home, and likely his business. As well as her. While the Church would not have considered that arrangement “sacramental,” in the eyes of those of us who knew them it was far more sacred. And I fail to see how a legal technicality based upon faulty law would have changed that.
And that is the lot for many LGBT couples too. I find the above and similar situations unconscionable and cannot honestly in my heart support them with what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), quoting from Blessed John Henry Newman, refers to as the “aboriginal Vicar of Christ “(CCC 1778), which is our personal conscience. Of course it can be argued that, in that same Catechism, we are told to have a “formed conscience,” with the implication that certain issues can only be decided by the hierarchy, and of course it is that very same hierarchy which will then tell us which issues those are so our individual brains or hearts are not needed nor welcomed anyway regarding those topics. Ironically then, within just a few pages of each other, the Catechism of the Catholic Church first gives us freedom of conscience and then reels us right back in when we practice it. And I do not agree nor find that system either logical or tenable.
Back to my offended cohort for a moment. To him, I do not belong within the Catholic Church nor have the right to even refer to myself as a Roman Catholic. Unfortunately he is not alone in his technically correct but what I believe is a deficient understanding of Church History. So many times the Church has changed stances, official ones, and yet has claimed to never once have erred on issues of “faith and morals.” I disagree. During the Reformation it was considered not only legal but well within the authority and duty of the Vatican to painfully execute those who were dissenters, even if fellow Christians. Now our Catechism states that we should call them proudly our Christian sisters and brothers due to our common baptism. There are many ways to slice that, but to deny that there is a difference in doctrine and how it was practiced in this instance is utter nonsense. I have also heard people defend the Inquisition with such statements as “well not nearly as many were put to death as once thought.” Using that reasoning, those who do not believe that 6 million Jews were gassed or destroyed during World War II are correct then in giving Germany and the other participants a pass. Someone I once worked for (an ex-World War II Nazi foot soldier no less) who had come to the United States after the war, once suggested to me that it was “only 1 or 2 million.” I never trusted him after that.
If one person died by Papal mandate (and many more than that did), it was one too many, was it not? And the excuse given is that this was a “discipline” not a universal doctrine, so it then takes nothing away from Rome’s authority or overall truth. Yet atrocities such as the many human stake-burnings, the seizing of property and livelihood by Church authority directly from Councils such as Lateran VI, Protestant Bibles and other literature destruction done en masse, were conducted universally and with the ecclesial authority of doctrine in reality. If we for example had lived during the German peasant revolt, the Inquisition, several of the Crusades, and an innumerable list of other atrocious and unneeded calamities set up and enforced by the Church, and had we been, as most people were then, illiterate and the Church we belonged to ran both the religion and our totalitarian government, we would have had no choice but to accept those decisions “from above and beyond” as infallible. It is extremely convenient for the Church to say, hundreds of years later, that none of those criminal actions by her hand were doctrinal in nature, but if not what were they then? And each of these was universally enforced when the Church was at her absolute height of absolute political power.
Saying all this makes me sound like Jack Chick on a bad hair day, but I am not. I am faithful to the early Traditions as best I understand them, but leave room, as Rome teaches we should, for doctrine to develop and grow through the ages. The question becomes then who makes the final decision in whether we are called “Catholic” or not? The Vatican would say that they do, and our bishops do. Most of the “sensus fidelium” would question at least one or more issues as stated above. And that lay person’s method of understanding doctrine too is considered to be infallible if, over time and study, it is found to be plausible, reasonable and universal or nearly so (CCC 92).
What it all comes down to, to me, is that being a “catholic Christian” on any level is complex at best and a bundle of seeming contradictions at worst. That is unless you see it on a higher level, one that goes beyond Rome, Canterbury, Greek or other Orthodox, or Reformation/post-Reformation Christian communities of faith. Somewhere there is a God who keeps us in unity of spirit if we allow Him to do so. One that has given us an inspired (God-breathed) Word in the form of the Holy Bible, and the additional insight of the rich Traditions through the ages to study and learn from. But that unity cannot, in my mind, be based upon the dogma of one of those groups. It goes above and beyond, just as He too is above and beyond our mindsets and always will be. And, yes, that separates me from the official teachings as now understood by Roman Catholicism. I am “close but not quite,” in other words, in my current understanding of theology.
So, to my friend, I should give up attempting to be Roman Catholic or even referring to myself as such. But according to the Church and Catechism I am still Catholic but dissenting in some areas. To him, my soul is in danger by such dissent. To me, again according to the “primordial” sense of a studied conscience, I am in far more danger by not dissenting. So dissent I do.
Frankly I get the fact, as I have already stated that I probably cannot consider myself “actively” Roman Catholic at this point. But again the Church seemingly encourages even inactive Catholics to go to Mass and participate as appropriate. So to me that was my personal call to make, neither his nor anyone else’s. However his irateness was a microcosm of what I will get if I attempt to, and I am frankly too tired to fight battles I can never win. Plus I am not going to hide anymore, whether behind Rome or a semi-conscious attempt to please my more conservative Catholic friends or relatives. It is not worth it to me or them obviously. So today I plan to make a couple phone calls, “unregister” myself from the Catholic parish I had intended to become part of (Holy Rosary), resign my associate membership from the Cathedral of St Paul, and from here on will refer to myself as a “catholic Christian” only—small “c.” I am officially a “lapsed Roman Catholic.”
Hopefully that will please my angry (and just a tad self-righteous, or so it would seem) “friend,” and remove any confusion or doubt from the minds of any of the rest of my readership who have been puzzled over my constant vacillating of the last 2 plus years—but if it pleases you not, I don’t plan to lose any sleep over it. Not a wink. Not anymore. Nor will I argue about it with even the most well intended “do-gooders” who wish to set me straight, and assume I could not possibly have thought or prayed this through properly.
Rome will ALWAYS be home to me. One day I may return yet again—one day when more freedom of conscience is allowed and actually welcomed that is. But for now, she and I have needfully parted company—at least on an active level. I hope that return can occur in this lifetime still. The traditionalist circles within Catholicism are likely happily rid of me. And for that I am hugely sad. But, though I sojourn elsewhere for now, she is and remains my Mother. And my love remains for her as well. I am not home yet.
Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
Lament over the Destruction of Jerusalem
137 By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willow there
we hung up our lyres.
3 For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
6 Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!
- Still Roman Catholic…and Anglican Too! (catholicboyrichard.com)
- Who is RCIA for? (cristinasfaith.wordpress.com)
- Anglican attitudes (jessicahof.wordpress.com)
- Marianne T. Duddy-Burke: Is the Catholic Church Unfriendly to LGBT People? (queeringthechurch.com)
- Meet the ‘American National Catholic Church’ – A Pro-Gay, Progressive Splinter Denomination (theblaze.com)
- Pope Francis meets Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (standard.co.uk)
- Joint statement ref “Archbishop David Bell” (orcce.wordpress.com)
- The secret of the Catholic Inquisition (christianpersecutioninamerica.com)
- The Inquisition, an absolute monstrosity (maybeilackneurons.wordpress.com)
- Catholic League’s Bill Donohue Urges Anti-Gay Witch-hunt In The Vatican (lezgetreal.com)