Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Catholic downplays the importance of the priesthood

We've talked a lot about Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy on here. A while ago, during the media break over the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church in  Germany, this article was posted on TIME.com: Taking up the Dr. Suess School of Catholicism.

It is, in some ways, a cute and reassuring article from a Catholic about faith and the church in the midst of scandal. I don't get it, though. It doesn't sound like it reflects Catholic belief at all, given that THE Church and the heirarchy within the Church is absolutely essential to the core of Catholic belief.

This to me... sounds like a Protestant way of thinking. Am I wrong?

Catholics can use the Easter spirit of renewal to turn this heartbreak into something positive by putting their religion — their singular communion with Jesus' life and teachings — above their church. We're in this mess largely because we've continued to let the Catholic Church believe that it's somehow more important than the Catholic religion
and this:

The main symbol of our religion — the Church — has been stolen from us through its forfeiture of moral authority. The silver lining is that we're left to ponder our religion sans church, to define our faith not via hoary doctrine but via our own reason, which is how Catholicism is supposed to be practiced anyway. (Yes, despite the Vatican's warnings, it's safe to try theology at home!) Because Catholicism so richly contemplates Jesus' human as well as divine nature — Michelangelo didn't sculpt the Pieta in a theological vacuum — real Catholicism promotes human reason as a door to moral understanding and spiritual redemption. The Church can be a valuable guide to that understanding, one that jerks like me can benefit from. But it's not the arbiter of that understanding.

As a Catholic, I believe in the workings of divine grace, that in the end light defeats darkness; but as a reasoning human being, I know that no mortal institution has direct access to it.

But if Catholics are tired of their church embarrassing their religion, then they've got to quit indulging the priesthood's belief that its earthly power somehow matters as much as Jesus' teachings — one of the most important of which is that earthly power isn't what matters.

7 comments:

CM said...

Frankly, I don't quite understand what he's saying. I do agree that he sounds like a person with a much more Protestant worldview than a Catholic one.

That Married Couple said...

It sounds to me like he's drank a lot of mainstream media kool-aid :) And by that I mean it looks like his faith is informed by the media (of which he is a member) as opposed by from the actual Church (for example, the catechism, other Vatican documents).

I agree with you and CM that he definitely has Protestant leanings. It seems like he's (imperfectly) grasped some aspects of Catholicism (for example, the importance of reason) but not all of them (the hierarchy, the priesthood, homosexuality), and certainly not how they all work together.

Kacie said...

I was just confused after reading it, because he presented it as if he was a good Catholic encouraging other Catholics to hang on through the scandal, and yet the way he defined and thought about the RCC seemed to me to be actually antithetical to the beliefs of the Church.

Amy B. said...

I would not trust Time magazine to know who is or isn't a "good" Catholic. ;)

There are LOTS of American Catholics who think like this guy. Many of them have some "protestant-ness" about them, but often its due to a liberal mindset. These sort of Catholics are usually (not always, but usually) questioning/rejecting the hierarchy, not because of the typical Protestant doctrinal issues like justification or the authority of scripture, but rather over issues like women in the priesthood, homosexuality, birth control, etc. However, despite their problems with the hierarchy, they remain committed Catholics.

From their point of view, they ARE the good Catholics, and it has been the conservatives of the past 30 years who are leading the Church astray. You find the same problems anywhere - who are the "good" Anglicans, the ones who are opening the doors to homosexual clergy, or the ones who are breaking away? Who gets to say?

From my perspective, if you look at Church history and how the sacraments and doctrine have traditionally been understood, if you look at the Catechism and the documents the Church has produced, then this person is NOT really representative if true Catholicism. He says that the Church highly values human reason - that is absolutely true. But when he says that the Church is not the arbiter of reason...well, the doctrine of infallibility and the whole sacramental, Petrine system pretty much flies in the face of that claim. He can only say that about Catholicism by rejecting a pretty huge part of its teaching.

s-p said...

From an EO perspective this is essentially the western philosophical fallback to individualism when faced with a crisis of "community". "Jesus' teachings" INCLUDED and indeed set up "community" as THE image of the Trinitarian life within which human beings are created, from relationships to family and including the Church. At its core this borders on the protestant neo-gnosticism that no "human material institution" can adequately reflect "Christ" but the "real Christ" and the "true light" is in my head between me and my Bible. He's basically saying that if you want to be a good Catholic you need to stop being a Christian. sigh.

Andrea Elizabeth said...

"It's not that I disagree with him, often I quite agree with him, in fact. I'd agree that what should hold the church together is Jesus' teachings, that the church guides us in that but that the institution itself cannot be the arbiter of grace. But... in my understanding, someone who thinks the way he does by definition cannot be a Catholic: "

When I was protestant and watched the movie, "Luther", and when I saw the silent film, "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (based on original transcripts of her trial), I believed that the Catholic Church brainwashed people into believing that they could only find saving grace through their institutional church. With this teaching they were able to coerce people into giving them money and to gain power over their lives.

I see the Orthodox Church differently. There is grace and prayer everywhere, but the grace within the Church, the literal Body of Christ, that I have experienced is more palpable and visible through the physical aspects of the building, icons, candles, incense, music, the priest, and of course the Eucharist. Even though we practice closed communion, I do not see this as a means of control, but a logical working out of the belief that one must be received into the body of Christ to commune with the body of Christ.

This doesn't mean that there isn't grace outside the Orthodox Church, but coming to terms with the difference is a difficult part of becoming Orthodox or at least understanding the Church. I think in order to respect it, one has to feel that there is something missing in their lives that Orthodoxy has.

Remac said...

Is being a good Catholic more important than being a good Christian? Can one be a good Christian and not a good Catholic? Can one be closer to truth than the Catholic Church?

I admit that I ask these questions as a Protestant, but they seem to be important ones to me. In my mind the pursuit of truth and of Jesus Christ are more important than my adherence to any Christian denomination.

Every blessing to you all.