LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Is this a Dilemma ?

As time passes, I am increasingly bewildered by what a large number of people within the Catholic Church seem to think the adjective ‘Catholic’ means. I try to contemplate the ‘options’ which appear to be available, and find that they’re largely contrary to what I was given to understand ‘being Catholic’ implied; which leads me to a dilemma : as I wonder how people who apparently hold these beliefs continue maintain that they’re ‘Catholic’ when what they seem to think is important is plainly contrary to what the Church teaches . . ?
Let me try and explain.

The lady in Ireland in Saturday evening’s post, who was trying to persuade other women in Ireland to ‘boycott’ Mass yesterday, apparently not only believed that this was a right and acceptable way to persuade the Church to do something; but also, that something which has already been clearly stated to be beyond the Church’s power is something which should be done.

Now; whether or not such a ‘boycott’ is a right – or even right-minded – approach, I just find it hard to understand how one can claim to be Catholic and yet be determined to achieve something which the Church has already said, irrevocably, that it cannot do : especially when someone who believes that what she wants is readily available in other Churches.

Another example : if you go looking round the blogs – and I give no particular examples of this because I am not trying to stir up trouble – you may well come across some of those people for whom the form of the liturgy is more important than its content : and if that seems a curious observation, let me clarify . . . they prefer the ‘traditional’ Mass (that is to say, that which was used pre-1962; preferably even pre-1955) said by an Anglican priest to (say) the ‘Ordinary Form’ celebrated by a Catholic one : because the form is so important. Indeed, you can even find examples of those who believe that the Holy Father has done something actively wrong by issuing Summorum Pontifium, and thus allowing the use of the 1962 Mass which they believe is positively obnoxious.

Again, I just find it hard to understand why – if form is so much more important than content – they want to remain Catholic, when they could (as far as I can establish) have everything they want elsewhere.

Do you see why I’m bewildered ?

As part of my preparation for Reception, I was told that the fundamental issue was that I had to accept that, if my opinions and those of the Church came into conflict, then I simply had to believe that the Church, inspired by God, was right, which meant that I was wrong . . . and if I was wrong, and the Church was right, then I had no possible legitimate ground for contesting the Church’s teaching . . . and if I did contest the Church’s teaching, then I was simply showing that I wasn’t a Catholic.

Now; to this bear of very little brain that seemed - and seems - a perfectly simple position to understand . . . what I find so difficult is that there appear to be so many Catholics who don’t agree with it, and yet are perfectly certain that they are Catholics.

I’d love to understand . . . but at the moment it is a dilemma to which I can see no obvious solution.


  1. I didn't know hardly anything about what it actually meant to be a true Roman catholic adherent until I joined blogger!! And most of the Catholics I know from, say my son's school wouldn't have much clue as to the rules and rubrics either. It's poor Catholic education, rather than anti Catholicism, they are not rejecting as some Protestants might, ( by claiming a higher 'revealed' spiritual truth for example)but rather using their own views on any given subject. A kind of "Well, it seems to me....." And not realising this ain't bloomin well allowed!!

    You took time and effort to find out what the Church believes, and as we have spoken about before, cradle Catholics are just born into their faith, if and when a cradle Catholic makes an adult decision to adhere, well, I don't know if that happens. My understanding of my faith was given a turbo charge when I started the rosary. It was the beginning of a new relationship, and like any new formed relationship, I became keen to find out more about the person. And obviously, when the person is the Mother of God, you start to learn about the Catholic Church as well. Seeing as she lives there!!!!

    As for this Irish Granny, not sure what that's all about, but as we women age, we don't get as much attention, and it's always tempting if you start shouting the odds and people start to listen to you, maybe for the first time, one might be convinced that the attention is a sign of being 'right'.

  2. Me, I like a bit of vagueness round the edges, and I am not too worried about making sure every individual in the universal Church is singing from the same hymn sheet on the myriad of issues life confronts us with. I try and look to see what it is that is upsetting people so much that they feel the need to protest. Take the lady who wants people to boycott mass - now, I can't fathom why she thinks boycotting mass might be a good idea, regardless of what she thinks about women's ordination, but I do know this - that the Church will not / cannot ordain women is a deep source of hurt for many women. That is what I see expressed. As for extreme opinions on liturgy, either for or against Novus Ordo -well, I always understand this as people being very concerned about what our common prayer says about how we think about God. So, the Latin Mass - ites drive me up the wall - I consider it my problem. Again, why they would refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of a mass celebrated in the round, with guitars and handshakes is beyond me - but there is something important about what the Latin Mass says about God which is fundamental to them. To answer your question you need to do some digging around to find out what that fundamental thing is.

    The Church being universal is full of diversity - here and everywhere else. I have a friend who argues, quite sincerely, that anyone who does not give their life to the lives of the poor cannot consider themselves truly Catholic. That is what he has done, as a missionary, and he believes everyones commitment to the poor and social justice should be of equal magnitude. I would be tempted to agree, but the thought frightens me so much!

    I reckon the Church is strong enough to allow for disagreements, even about the most fundamental issues. At this point a scholar would quote a relevant passage from St. Paul, but I can't find one. So, here is Newman and his definition of being a Catholic. For someone who was so particular about which tradition he belonged in, se seemed to stay particularly wooly on this issue!

    "I am Catholic by virtue of my believing in a God; and if I am asked why I believe in God, I answer that it is because I believe in myself, for I feel it is impossible to believe in my own existence (and of that fact I am quite sure) without believing also in the existence of Him, who lives as a Personal, All-Seeing, All-Judging Being in my conscience."

    Like Shadowlands says, it takes time to learn and think through your faith. For all of us a lifetime. Conscience takes each of us a different route. And, cradle Catholics (like me) have to convert too, only we (in general) don't get to do that with the help of RCIA or any equivalent because we are already meant to KNOW stuff. Most of the time we dont because we were confirmed at 13 with our friends and never paid the slightest attention to anything anyone ever said.

    So, Catholic? A universal Church of pilgrim brothers and sisters journeying towards their Maker. Yes, the Church has teachings we are aspiring towards, struggling with, learning about, etc. But I am not sure you have to hold them all just to be counted 'in', just so long as you are open one day, any day to experience something that might help you change your mind (Rosary, Homily, Classes, Good Book, Conversation etc)

  3. I think one needs to distinguish between different levels of questioning.

    I would imagine the many (perhaps most) Catholics have reservations or questions over this or that point.

    Where this becomes a problem is when they have reservations not only over X but also over Y,Z & A,B,C - at which point "questioning" easily turns into a habit and pattern of dissent.

    It's also a problem when private reservations are aired in a public forum - especially by clergy, seminary professors and academic theologians.

    Within an academic context, asking difficult questions is, of course, a necessary part of the theological process.

    However, for a Catholic theologian, "asking questions" and "advancing the debate" (both legitmate within their proper limits) can all too easily evolve into "dissent".

    (Pope Benedict recently pointed to the negessity of distinguishing between authentic debate and dissent.)

    A couple of years ago I was present at a Catholic theological seminar in which someone expressed the opinion that "the task of Catholic theologians is to hold the Magisterium to account".

    People who hold such a position, it seems to me, have crossed the line that separates debate from dissent.

  4. I think, thanks to the troubles in Ireland, nativism in the USA and other factors that contributed to tribalism in the English-speaking world, many cradle Catholics feel that they are Catholic "by birth" and therefore have all the romance of being an "ethnic group"--somewhat akin to being a Jew by birth, not by religious belief.

    I'm tempted to suggest that Catholics who want to change Catholic beliefs rather than adhere to them are like vegetarians who want vegetarianism to accept meat-eating as an authentic vegetarian lifestyle choice. But this, too, is too facile, as Catholics remains Catholics by baptism, even if they unknowingly excommunicate themselves the first time they deliberately skip Mass.

    The solution, I think, is to constantly speak up for real Catholicism.

  5. Seraphic said:

    'Catholics who want to change Catholic beliefs rather than adhere to them are like vegetarians who want vegetarianism to accept meat-eating as an authentic vegetarian lifestyle choice.'

    Brilliant! I love that. Might stick it on my blog side-bar. I'll give Seraphic a H/T ofcourse.