Question and Answer

Confession: I haven’t been to church since the Easter vigil. I don’t know if I would have gone either if I didn’t go for a friend who was joining the Church. Why doesn’t it appeal to me and why do I think I have to like doing something in order to do it? (not unlike my laundry). I can hear my undergrad professor right now talking about how community is about each of us showing up, whether we want to or not, and relying on each other. It’s not all about me. And I won’t always be in this ‘dry place’ either.

Maybe I’m sick of religion. I work in it every day and I’m not so inclined to do anything church related in my time off. Let me do something light and fun (as though I can’t be light and fun with God?). Sounds like spiritual fatigue to me. Or I could just be sick of my religion. It’s possible that the Church has become irrelevant to me and I get so much more from a good sleep or my faith-sharing group than church. It’s disheartening to hear ‘safe’ sermons or experience lackluster liturgies. Maybe I just hate going alone, and hate not being a part of a community. I see community happening all around me and I yearn to be a part, but, for some reason, I don’t feel like I belong. Or maybe I’m dealing with “existential anxiety” and questions about God being within us all and also an entity outside of us that we go and worship. When I have a whopper of a question such as that I have a hard time not acknowledging it all of the time, annoying as that may be to me.

As a relational type person I commune with God by talking with people, especially one on one, connecting deeply with the concerns and experiences of others, and having them minister to me by caring and listening to me as well. It doesn’t get any better for me than that in this world. The concrete human experience of the Divine nature. And maybe I’m over-analyzing (or maybe that’s a certainty) but that’s what I’ve been trained to do and it’s hard to turn it off. It’s difficult to live in two worlds, one where God is one, and one where God is all.

I know I’m supposed to know how to make sense of such questions and phases in life, especially as a chaplain who tries to help others with their own spiritual life. But I think this may be one of those areas of learning that I’m comfortable just admitting that I’m young, and although I’m on the journey, there are just some things I don’t know yet (or may never know). It actually feels good to have that pressure off of me, as I trust the process, and let things be. Maybe I just need to go, get acquainted and involved with a community. It can’t happen unless I try. Then these questions surrounding the mysteries of our faith, although they will not disappear, will be easier to carry with a community by my side. That’s the amazing part about community– transitions and transformations happen just because we are journeying together.

Maybe I just answered my question.

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About Lauren Ivory

Lauren Ivory is a hospital chaplain working on Chicago's diverse north side. After receiving her Master of Divinity degree at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO she went on for further hospital ministry training at the Cleveland Clinic of Ohio. On the side, she enjoys helping couples plan wedding/commitment ceremonies and works with couples as a certified premarital guidance counselor.

46 thoughts on “Question and Answer

  1. I found myself in a similar situation about a year ago. I had moved to a new state and found a job in a pretty progressive and forward-thinking parish. But I never put down roots there. I knew it was a two or three-year commitment at best. I neverreally connected or integrated into the community and, predictably, stopped celebrating the Eucharist with them. I used the same reasoning: “I work in the Church all week long and I don’t want to spend my free time at Church!”

    I came to understand that my faith had become a job to me. The community was merely a customer to be served. I feel like this is a situation which more and more professional ministers may face in the future. There is a distance which many ministers feel they must maintain between themselves and the communities they serve. This distance is deadly to the faith life of professional ministers.

    I left my position in that parish for this an other reasons (it is difficult to be a youth minister when you simply don’t buy the party line on many issues of personal morality and public policy), and I’m re-learning how to practice *MY* faith, not the faith I practiced as a matter of my job description.

  2. Thanks for that response! So so true. I think its important for us to worship in an environment where we don’t work. I often find that I wish to be ‘anonymous’ in a way and not tell people what I do for a living so I can just be me and not worry about towing the line or acting ‘properly’ (probably more of an issue because of our tradition and current climate in parishes). Besides, people are always going to have a different expectation of what a minister would or would not do/say. I just have to remind myself sometimes to be myself and not worry about how someone will be perceiving me. Egh. Thanks again!

  3. Nate, I’m not sure how your comment got through but please read the terms of participation outlined by the moderators of this blog. Questioning the validity of one’s faith or the depth of love one has for the Church is not allowed here. Furthermore, a term like ‘towing the line’ means one thing to one person and another to someone else. From communication theory we know that language is limited, especially in the form of the written word when we don’t have nonverbals to go along with the message. I’m insulted that you would think I meant towing the line as defined by you (lying or posturing). Obviously further explanation of my post is needed, however, I don’t find you to want dialogue and I’m only here to dialogue so I think it would be fruitless to explain further.

    Never did I say the Eucharist could possibly be lackluster. You seem to be assuming you know what I am referring to. Is it because it is what you expect a progressive Catholic to say? I suggest you ask your question of the author first, and then offer your feedback. I can only speak for myself and can only put in the request but from now on please ask me the question you have or ask me to clarify when you have an assumption like this. And again, please read or reread the terms of agreement for dialogue on this board.

  4. Lauren – I believe it is presumptuous on your part to assume that I am not here to dialogue. That is exactly what I came here for. To hear opinions expressed that challenge my own, and hopefully challenge those I hear. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialogue

    I do not believe I was off base with stating that towing the line means posturing or acting in a manner contrary to your own beliefs. I think the meaning of that phrase is pretty well settled at this time in history. If that is not what was meant, then perhaps it was poorly stated, but one should never feel they “tow the line” in their work, especially religious work.

    What I really expect from most young people (liberal, conservative, agnostic, doesn’t matter) is to hear that the Mass is boring, and this saddens me a great deal. There is so much going on – if participants understood what was going on, how could they possibly be bored!

  5. Please pardon my presumption that you are not here to dialogue. We may have different definitions of dialogue. But nowhere in your wikepedia link did I see wanting to challenge someone and their beliefs as you would like to do. That is the definition of debate and persuasion in my mind. Dialoge doesn’t normally raise defenses like this. And saying I may have “poorly stated” my thoughts instead of thinking its a lack of ideal communication, or even a misunderstanding by the receiver is hard to swallow. Why does there have to be someone to label as being in error?

  6. Dialogue is an conversation between parties. It does not have to be two parties who agree with each other, and the presentation and consideration of viewpoints not shared make for the most thought provoking and invigorating conversation. To mill about constantly only with those you agree with is a form of mental coddling. If we converse only to validate each other through agreement, then we do each other a diservice. Sometimes the best medicine is hard to swallow.

    Also, in your response post you follow towing the line with acting properly, does this mean that you put on a show for those you minister to? If so, is this show doing harm, and to whom most: those you minister to or yourself?

    If there is a misunderstanding, then there was an error. By you or by me, doesn’t change the fact that there was an error. The ensuing dialogue should work toward fixing the error.

    If you find my style sharp, and perhaps blunt, I apologize, but I am not necessarily the most eloquent (I’m also a horrible speller, two gifts God left off my plate :) But I don’t think that I offended any of the policies in the commenting policy. I never called anything into question you hadn’t already yourself, and I focused on job choice in general, not the voracity of your faith or religiousness.

    If there is one thing I believe, its that if you’re on this post, or any Catholic post, you’ve got faith!

  7. 1.) What defines dialogue verses debate to me is HOW you discuss differences; I never said dialogue had to be conflict free. May I tell you how I experience your communication style?

    You talk in absolutes. You don’t say, ‘this is my opinion’ or ‘I see the Church teaching this way’. In my opinion, absolutes give no invitation for dialogue nor do they show an interest in the other’s opinion. You ask leading questions, such as am I putting on a show (acting properly). That seemed to me more like an opportunity for you to make a ‘zinger’ than really asking me. But I also know that we each experience each different person in different ways. It’s a bit of a chemistry experiment (sorry, self confessed communication nerd here).

    2.) Being a chaplain is not just a job choice. Its so much more, and is very personal as a result. Its condesending to me for you to suggest I should study this or that more–I guess unless you’d say that freely to a priest since I have the same training. I hate to sound arrogant, but I’m just trying to tell you what my educational and pastoral background is.

  8. Lauren – you may tell me anything you wish! That is what makes this so exciting! No need to ask permission!

    My lack of prefacing everything I say with – this is my opinion – seems unecessary to me, since if it was not my opinion I would not be stating it here or anywhere else. See aforementioned admission to lack of eloquence and tendency to be blunt from my previous post.

    As for the putting on a show question, I am curious if the reference to towing the party line and acting properly was a reference to how you must put on airs with those you work with? This is a sincere question.

    I believe that would be a damaging way to live because in those conditions you are not being true to yourself, nor to those you work with. This applies to everyone in all professional situations. It is also my belief that this is especially true for those in religious work (educators, pastors of all faiths, clergy, anyone doing God’s work).

    If I knew a priest who told me they felt like they towed the party line and had to act properly when interacting with the congregation, that would concern me deeply about that priest. I would have no problem expressing my honest concerns (see aforementioned lack of eloquence and bluntness, applies even more to my verbal communication!) with him. I imagine a hearty discussion would follow!

    If this question seems to you like a desire to “zing” then I would suggest that says more about you than me. As I am sure you are aware, our perception of these situations often reveal as much, if not more, about ourselves than the questioner. When an uncomfortable question is asked – am I uncomfortable because of the audaciousness of the questioner, or am I afraid of what my honest answer is? This is true of all uncomfortable questions not just this post, nor just religious questions.

    Also, you will have to educate me more on what it is that you do, and how the program coincides with a Catholic seminary. To my knowledge, even a PhD in Theology does not have the same training as a priest…similar in many ways, but not the same. Also, a social worker, even a religious one, has similar training as a priest, but not the same.

  9. Nate, your first comment was, in actuality, a violation of the Commenting Policy, therefore I had to delete it. We want to ensure that this is a safe space, and that we can civilly discuss points that not all of us agree on.

  10. Whew, lots of questions to answer. First about not prefacing things. I understand and have heard others who have your same opinion. I simply disagree, what more can I say?

    Acting properly-What I am thinking of is probably not as big of an issue as you might think. So I will offer an example. I don’t believe that swearing is a moral issue, I think its a classism issue that people have deemed a moral one. The general Christian population seems to judge it as bad. Now, I’m no sailer, but I do swear now and then. So, to avoid causing “scandal” (the word our Church loves so much!) I’m not going to swear around my coworkers who know me as their chaplain and might be shocked by a clergyperson swearing. Is that lying or not living true to oneself? ehh, I don’t think so, not to that extreme. Do I shout from the rooftops that I believe in women’s ordination, same sex unions, etc.? No. But if I’m talking about it with someone and its appropriate for me to share I will (most of my job is about listening, similar to counseling, so its not always appropriate for me to share my views). But I will talk about how that is my belief alone, and I’m not representing the Church there.

    You are a very bold guy. Even priests are not above your reproach ;). If it’s ok for you to question them, why not me? I know my points of view have already proven not to be consistent with your opinions of what is ‘orthodox’ but again, I just simply disagree. Aren’t we just following Jesus’ example of challenging the pharisees?

    I was trying to be careful in my last post to express that I was explaining how I experience your communication, not how I think you are but what my personal experience was of it. For me, this would include asking myself- what do I know or want to find out about myself that might play a part in how I am receiving him? So, when you suggest to me that me seeing your attempt to ‘zing’ may say more about me than you, is it safe to assume that you looked at yourself first as well?? I hope you don’t mind the teasing, but you deflected my feedback. Very clever trick. Whatever we’ve experienced, we bring it to the table in any conversations; they’re always a part of us (in my opinion-ha!). I’m feeling better now, we can just exchange ideas, feel free to joke, etc. At least this is better for me.

    So, now I’ll tell you about seminary and priestly training vs Phd work, etc. I earned my Masters of Divinity degree in 2004 from a Catholic seminary. The Divinity degree is what most clergy people study before getting ordained. It is roughly a 4 year graduate level program in which we study the Bible, languages, preaching, liturgy, systematic and moral theology, etc. and then study more counseling type courses to reflect on how to apply these things to real life issues. It is different than a Phd generally because it is the degree people get who are going to be doing ministry, what we call pastoral care, and not academic ministry such as teaching. My degree was about 110 credits but that varies by school-mine was just extra generous with requirements! In some cases priestly candidates also do an additional masters in an area of study like Biblical studies for instance and some, like me, do a year long residency program training as a hospital chaplain. And some priests, like I did, also get certified in premarital and marital guidance as an added skill to apply to one’s ministry. I know that’s a lot of detail, but it was alot of work! And I’m proud of my accomplishes. Does that answer your questions?

  11. *accomplishments* Typo there. Sorry for such a long post! It’s really deceiving looking at it here in this little box. Take care.

  12. In regards to seminary – question answered – thanks.

    As to acting properly – also, question answered. But to return to towing the line – I’ve seen it in another post (about Catholic Relief Service, I believe) and although it was not your post, it definitely indicated that CRS doesn’t disagree with the Magisterium and is comparable to…I dunno a politcal person who goes along with the party no matter what, and can’t form an opinion of their own. So how would this perception fit into your post? Do you feel you must tow the Magisterium line against your own judgement? If so, does this do harm? Is it more like a little white lie, telling people what they need or want to hear to spare their feelings so you can accomplish more important things?

    I wouldn’t say reproach, but concern. As mentioned, I can come across as a bull in a china shop, but I’m really not trying to break anything :) I had been apathetic, even hostile to the religion in general until recently, and thanks to the grace of God, I have come home in a pretty passionate way. If a priest said something along the lines of towing the line from Rome, then I would certainly be concerned. If it was a personal conversation I would address it to them directly. If it somehow got into a homily, I would write the bishop.

    I don’t think challenging the Magisterium on matters that have been infallibly defined equates with Jesus questioning the Pharisees. First – none of us are Jesus, who is God. Second – Jesus instituted the Sacraments Himself, so if we call the nature of the Sacraments into question, aren’t we questioning the Lord? If we recieve an answer from the Lord’s body on earth, shouldn’t that answer suffice?

    In regards to homosexual marriage, I was struck by Matthew 19:12. Even after being a member of activist groups in college, I think this passage pretty much closes the subject: there are some made never to marry and homosexuals fit into this category, especially since Jesus had just got done defining marriage. If in your post, you mean civil unions, not marriage, I think that is splitting hairs. One is secular the other religious. A civil union is a contract, a marriage is a Sacramental bond (I’m getting married in July so I’ve been thinking about this alot!)

    Female ordination is a little trickier because there is no specific verse you can point to. You have to have trust that Sacred Tradition is divinely inspired. You have to trust that the Magisterium is protected from error in the matter of faith and morals. I trust those two things, our Church’s Tradition is rich and Sacred, and where I used to see a lot of crusty old men clinging to power, I now see a group of people who may not be perfect, but they are not evil, or opressive, and they certainly take their responsibility in perspective to the Church, which is so much more than the whim of an era.

    In regards to acting in persona Christi – we believe Jesus is in Heaven in Body and Soul. The Mass mirrors the eternal worship that we hope to join in Heaven, the priest mirrors Christ in the earthly celebration, so to validly mirror the man Jesus in Heaven, it must be a man here on earth.

    In another post, you mentioned that God was paternalistic in the OT. I believe that has never changed. Love is not always cuddling and puppydogs. Hard truths are also involved. You can’t always get what you want. How many times did Jesus mention wailing and knashing of teeth or burning chaff in unquenchable flames? Not all people who say “Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (side point – Kingdom of Heaven, not Heaven the democracy or the peoples republic of heaven, God is King, not an executive ratifying the will of his creations). There are absolutes in religion just like math and science, and Jesus laid some of them out for us.

    This has been a stimulating discussion.

  13. I don’t think you would view “hard truths” the same way if they affected you.–In any case, there is a great deal of teachings in the Church that are not infallibly taught nor divinely inspired, but the Church gives it the presumption of truth. Catholic belief has been evolving over the centuries and it would be ignorant of history to claim otherwise. The doctors of the Church, such as Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, are esteemed as being the greatest thinkers in the Church and heavily influencing Catholic theology. They came to conclusions on their own, and today their independent thoughts are a part of an ongoing Catholic tradition. While I believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Church, I know for a historical fact that clergymen and authorities are fallible and can get things very wrong. Questioning authority and the status quo can either lead to necessary reforms or a greater understanding of Truth. To have real faith is to sharply question what you know…

  14. Hey Nate,

    I wish I could help with the towing the line question you have. Either I’m not understanding your question or I just haven’t had experiences that would help me make an informed comment on it!

    When a priest makes a statement you find contrary, why not talk with the priest first before writing to the bishop? I think its in Pauline literature where he says to speak with the person you have a grievance with first but if he refuses you, then go to the community leaders. Anyone know what Scripture verses I’m talking about? I’m so bad with recall of that.

    I don’t know if I could articulate my thoughts on the teaching office of the Church much better than what Rick did above. No, I don’t trust that the heirarchy has gotten it all right. So I don’t trust on faith in regards to some very important issues like I mentioned (female ordination, same sex marriage, etc.) I understand that you think that is a requirement for a Catholic. I disagree.

    With in persona Christi, I just wonder how far we were supposed to go. Should men being ordained be of darker skin with dark, long hair and angular features? Oh, and be Jewish? If we’re not getting that specific, and it’s not about appearance, what is it about then? And only the human part of Christ was male anyhow. ;)

    A paternalistic view of God’s actions in the world is a perfectly fine theology. I understand what you’re saying about “tough love”. I just don’t think God acts in the world in a physical sense; spiritual, emotional, relational, yes, but no parting of the sea sort of thing. Unless we’re talking about a symbolic parting of the sea, that I believe in!

    I hope you’re well!

  15. Rick – I admit the “hard truths” aren’t nearly as hard on me as they are on others, but please don’t think I am without empathy. As I mentioned I belonged to activits groups in college (a very small, rural and conservative college in the northeast), and I know what its like to be the butt of jokes, and to recieve harrassing even threatening phone calls for being on the board of one of those groups. By subscribing to the Church’s teachings on the liberal subjects I used to advocate for, I have not abandoned my compassion. Love the sinner, not the sin!

    The doctors of the Church are certainly a treasure, I just recieved my copy of Faith of the Early Fathers by Jurgens, its a three volume beast that I am looking forward to studying! Correct me if I am wrong, but none of the orthodox writers in early Christianity (meaning not the heretics) questioned the basic composition of the Sacraments of Marriage or Holy Orders? The may have debated the celibacy issue, or some of the ways to express the Sacraments, but the man + woman = marriage formula was certainly never in question (in all of human history until the last thirty years or so). Even if homosexual behavior was socially acceptable, like in Roman culture, it was never seen as a social building block that marriage is, right?

    We are still “unpacking” the deposit of faith and the Church does evolve, slowly and not without much consideration. I would never deny that things change, but there is a point when debate ceases, and that is when the teaching comes to us Infallibly.

    Infallibility, as definded by the RCC, is very limited, and to be honest hard to understand. I don’t know if I understand it all myself, but I do know that the Sacraments, haven’t and will never change in their basic “ingredients.”

    This is especially true for marriage. Without looking at Leviticus or Paul, see Genesis 2:24, and all of Matthew 19 3-12. Man and woman become one. There is no other way to be married, and any sexual activity outside of the Sacrament is adultery, and a sin. Even if men are fallibile, this is Sacred Scripture, the Word of God (in some cases the direct words of Christ Himself), and Divinely Inspired.

    Laura – As far as in persona Christi, correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to insinuate that the human part of Christ is less important than His divinity, am I wrong? I argue that Christ’s humanity and divinity are eternally intertwined, equally necessary and important, and make up Christs entire being. The physical attributes and nationality of his humanity are inconsequencial, but I argue that sexuality is so much more than a physical attribute. Maleness and femaleness is an integral part of our humanness and in order to mirror that eternal celebration validly, we need a male to mirror Christ’s maleness. Having a female priest would be kind of like having Angelina Jolie play Rocky. Its not that Angelina Jolie can’t be a tough character, or fit many of the traits that Rocky had, but if they made Rocky 15 and tried to cast AJ as Rocky, it just wouldn’t work.

    I don’t think that believing everything that the Vatican does is right is a requirement for being Catholic, but I do think that picking and choosing what is right and what is wrong can lead to dangerous territory. Plus, there is a huge difference between disagreeing with a doctrine and participating in a sacrilege.

  16. Nate; I’m not sure I follow your argument that “The physical attributes and nationality of his humanity are inconsequencial, but I argue that sexuality is so much more than a physical attribute.” While I certainly agree that gender has an integral part in each person’s identity, I don’t see how this carries over to Christ’s role as priest (which, remember, all Christian men and women share in by virtue of baptism). Certainly Christ’s “maleness” was part of his human identity as you say, but I don’t see that His gender has any real bearing on His priestliness — aside from the antiquated societal norms of the time and place He happened to live.

    And I guess that’s the real problem I have with the Church’s position; I just can’t make sense of it. Just about everything else the Church teaches has some kind of rational and/or spiritual logic behind it that I can understand (even when I don’t necessarily agree). But the reasoning behind the male-only priesthood — and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard all the arguments the Church has to offer — just makes no sense to me at all.

  17. Nate, I’m assuming you were talking to me, just a typo on the name? So I’ll respond. No, I would never say that Christ’s human part is less important than his divinity. Consider yourself corrected!! ;) Had you just asked you could have saved yourself a whole lot of writing. Do you mind the teasing?

    I’m just musing about this outward/inward appearance. I haven’t decided anything, probably never will! Based on what I told you about my education background, you can certainly assume that I know the teachings and arguments you are making. I can imagine it seems impossible that someone wouldnt be convinced by the reasoning that has convinced you so. At least I’ve felt that way from time to time.

    As far as ‘picking and choosing’ or cafeteria Catholics, I think we all are. One example I can think of is how so many people are anti abortion, but 80% of U.S. Catholics believe in capital punishment. I don’t think anyone has this all right. So the dangerous territory I think we need to avoid is neglecting to see the plank in our own eye (please don’t think I’m directing that to you o.k.? I’m talking about people as a whole).

  18. Hey Lauren, the verse you were thinking of about confronting someone privately first is Matthew 18:15-17. I’ve always liked that one because it’s so specific and applicable today.

    Good to see that a good discussion is evolving here and thanks for being respectful, everyone.

  19. Josh – Sorry I wasn’t very clear that actually my comments have nothing to do with Jesus’ priestliness, rather the ability of a woman to mirror Christ during Holy Mass here on earth. As I am sure you know, the Sacrifice of the Mass, especially the Eucharistic Liturgy is an eternal, never-ending ceremony in Heaven, and our High Priest, and Victim, is Christ. So we mirror that celebration here on earth on the Lord’s Day (well, everyday, actually probably perpetually, I am sure at every minute there is a Mass celebrated somewhere in the world…what a beautiful thought!), with an actor in persona Christi. That actor is the priest celebrating the Mass. In order for the priest to validly act in persona Christi, his ontology has to be as close to Christ as possible – so he is a fully ordained male – as close of a representation of Christ as we can get here on earth.

    Now go back to my Rocky – Angelina Jolie comment. Does it make more sense? Its not that Angelina Jolie isn’t a good actress and its not like she can’t kick butt and take names (go Mrs. Smith & the new Wanted film looks like fun), but even if it was Rocky 2, and Rocky’s character hadn’t been fleshed out by 8 or 9 sequels, there would still be something amiss. It would not be a valid representation…

    I hope this analogy doesn’t seem trivial, but I am not a theologian…

    LauREN – sorry about the type-o. I never would have wanted to save myself the typing, because the more I think these things out for myself, the better I understand them (hopefully) and what I believe. I’d like to say that I post in five minutes but that’s not the case!

    I never said that a lot of Catholics aren’t on dangerous ground by picking and choosing. Statistics like that don’t make me think that the Church is wrong because it isn’t listening to the “will of the people.” Jesus said a lot about the Kingdom of Heaven, not so much about the United States of Salvation :)

    Also, you picked an interesting topic to bring up, because while abortion is the intrinsic evil of murdering an innocent life, capital punishment is not intrinsically evil. That said, the Church strongly encourages bloodless penalties for even the bloodiest crimes (especially in developed, western societies with modern justice systems), but the case is not 100% closed on capital punishment like it is on abortion (CCC 2266 & 2267).

    Plank in eye syndrome is certainly a problem. I’m sure we’re all guilty it at some point, and the prescription that’s helped me is a daily examination of conscience and regular Confession (about every other week, sometimes more – if there is one thing I am good at, its sinning!)

  20. Nate, thank you for clarifying. That does make your position clearer — though I have to say I still don’t “get it”.

    I guess the problem I have is that none of the arguments I’ve heard against women priests has what I’d consider a “ring of Truth”. What I love about the Catholic Faith is that so much of it just feels so true. I do believe that God’s Law is written on every human heart, and as I read the Chatechism or other spiritual works, the Truth just resonates with what my heart already knew but maybe forgot. But I don’t get that with the male-priesthood thing.

  21. Hey Nate! I’m thinking we’ve got our lines crossed, and we are actually talking about the same thing-because I was agreeing with you (I thought!)that many could be considered on dangerous ground by picking and choosing. And, when I mentioned the statistic about capital punishment I was trying to say that it is a teaching that the people of the church dont seem to be supporting, not that the Church should be listening to the will of the people on this. Quite the contrary, respecting life in all forms is something I’m very passionate about. Like you said, not all issues of respecting life are “equal” if you will. I don’t usually emphasize one over the other (I don’t think), but some are more prevelant than others-abortion being more prevelant than euthenasia for example. I don’t know what the statistics are on euthanasia bu I’m assuming its not as high.

    Here’s a curiosity: why do you think Christ’s ontology being male would be important to God? I understand what you were saying about mirroring the celebration in Heaven, but God could have chosen anything or anyone, why a male Christ? Hmmm. That might be one of those questions we wont have an answer for here on earth though! Which, of course, are some of my most common questions. Go figure.

  22. So, I’m rading my last post here and something just occured to me. I don’t think the Church should change their teaching on capital punishment even though a good amount of the people of the Church are for capital punishment. However, I think the Church should change their teachings on women’s ordination because of what a good amount of the people of the Church believe. Uh oh. that appears to be contradictory. Anyone make any sense of that??

  23. Well, Lauren … here’s my question: do you really believe the Church should change its teaching on women’s ordination because of popular opinion — or do you believe the Church should change its teaching because it would be the right thing to do? Because if it’s the first, then you’re right; you’re contradicting yourself.

    But if you believe the Church should stand firm when it’s clearly right (as in capital punishment and other life issues) and change when it’s not so right (women’s ordination, for example?) then there’s no contradiction. Right?

  24. Josh – Simply put, I agree that the Magisterium is made up of fallible men, the pope himself makes mistakes, except when protected from error by the Holy Spirit when teaching ex cathedra. The female ordination issue was closed by Pope John Paul II, ex cathedra, infallible, stick a fork in it – its done. To reverse an infallible doctrine guided by the Holy Spirit, or to change the matter of a Sacrament instituted by Christ would mean that God changed, and that is not possible.

    Lauren – you’re right, I don’t disagree with you regarding plank in eye or respect life issues, including being anti capital punishment, abortion and euthenasia. This is going to be a tough political season for me, rediscovering my faith and being a pretty die hard democrat! In fact, this is kind of a hard subject, because all the candidates are wrong for capital punishment, the candidate I WANT to like is really bad on abortion, and the one that would seem to match up best is no good for stem cells – what’s a good Catholic to do! We’d probably need a whole new thread just to talk about it.

    Your ontology of Jesus question is a good one. As I was writing, I was wondering, what if Jesus had been a woman? Certainly God can accomplish anything He desires, and the human gender seems like God could’ve flipped a coin, and it wouldn’t have mattered, we’d still have the Church just in a different form. I am sure the Church has a theory, and I imagine its in the Theology of the Body somewhere, but I have not read that yet. Are you familiar with Theology of the Body?

  25. I definitely resonate with you Nate about one’s beliefs making political decisions hard! Ugh, what to do! And in my experience, issues of respecting life are sort of on the top of the pile in this issue. Maybe that’s what I’ll write about for wednesday so we have a new thread on that one.

    You know, some days I really wish I didnt have such darn good questions! With so many things being intentional rather than happenstance, and since the Church has placed so much importance upon this, what reason did God have for making Jesus male? I don’t remember anything in the Theology of the Body on this but I may just not be remembering.

    And Josh, thank you for helping me clarify my question. You’re right, I don’t think the Church should only change its teaching on women’s ordination just because of the people’s beliefs. I guess it is sort of an ‘when all of the stars align’ issue. We’ve got our theologian’s imput, the peoples sensus fidelium, revelation, Church teaching, etc. I’m surprised you don’t have “formal” education in theology as you say. But I think it means someone is doing things right, because theology shouldn’t just be something for the occasional Karl Rahner’s. (His brother was quoted as saying that his life work would be translating Karl’s german theology into understandable german! Made me feel better about being totally befuddled when reading his stuff!)

  26. Two things struck me in reading your conversation.

    First, this question of who is a theologian is definitely an ongoing debate. Aiden Kavanagh (was it in ‘On Liturgical Theology’ or an earlier work?) argued that theologians are really the pew-sitting faithful folks who do theology in their prayer, worship, ritual and relationships with people. Those of us who formally study theology, then, are secondary theologians who study the “work” or “theology” of the primary theologians. Though this terminology would not work in the modern church because most people pew sitting Catholics don’t know what “Theology” is or if they’ve heard the word, it scares them and few pursue it, still most do theology when they engage the topics that we are discussing now, when making political decisions, or even going through faith criseses with theodicy. (Side note, when I decided to major and subsequently get my masters in theology, my parents had no idea what I was studying but didn’t ask me and looked it up in the dictionary instead. For two years, they were simply telling their friends that their daughter was “studying God” at college. I really wish I knew what people thought of that!) So, after six years formally studying theology and two years working in the pew trenches (okay…folding chairs at this particular parish), I’ve really come to respect Kavanagh’s argument on who does theology. This really informs my belief of where decisions of faith and teachings should be coming from. In some classes, I perpetually want to cry out “but that’s not what people think or do!,” but because the “theologians” (and I would also argue many of our bishops) have had their heads in the lofty academy instead of with the people (where Christ was…) they lose sight of the theology being done on Sunday morning at Mass and Tuesday night at the homeless shelter by the vast majority of the Church who have no formal theology training.

    Secondly, I have a fondness for knowing where and how Church teaching developed because I believe it gives context to its implementation today (and my theology degree’s concentration is specifically in catechesis (i.e. church teaching) and pastoral ministry so I have to know the CCC backwards and forwards in order to pass comprehensive exams next month). I also seem to think other people are interested as well, but if you are not, I apologize. I would like to point out that Nate’s argument that “Jesus instituted the Sacraments Himself” is of GREAT debate in the academy and even the CCC carefully chooses other language because of the history of Sacraments: “Jesus’ words and actions during his hidden life and public ministry were already salvific, for they anticipated the power of the Paschal mystery…The mysteries of Christ’s life are the FOUNDATIONS of what he would henceforth dispense in the sacraments THROUGH the ministries of the Church…” CCC 1115. The CCC is arguing that the Sacraments were developed by the Church and inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus, though not necessarily instituted by him. Why am I pointing this out? Because the seven sacraments, as we know them today, were not formalized until the Council of Trent-mid 16th century. Prior to that time, Sacraments were determined locally and there were literally hundreds of Sacraments depending on diocese, region, culture and custom. Ever wonder why Confirmation is so lacking in theology and even form for age? It is because it began as a custom in the early church so that the Bishop would be present for at least one (the quickest) of Sacrament to help build church unity and remind people that the Church was much larger than their parish (not a bad reason in my opinion and it chose to use the theology of the pew-sitting faithful rather than the academy who tried to get rid of the Sacrament of Confirmation at Trent). Another really good example is that the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as we know it today, was originally condemned, banned as a heresy and forbidden by the magisterium only to be formally declared a Sacrament a hundred years later because the people, Census Fidei, ignored the hierarchy since formalizing reconciliation in that way brought them closer to God. Today, this Sacrament is taking a different form among most Catholics with the emergence of spiritual direction and both secular and pastoral counseling and therapy, so who knows what it will develop into over the next few years after the bishops stop wasting their breath and try to see how they can again sacramentalize such a rich practice of healing and forgiveness. Lastly, the Sacrament of Holy Orders has also gone through great development since the early church from deacons/deaconesses and presbyters to married priests and cannons, to an all male and celibate priesthood in the middle ages over property rights. Again, the Church historically has listened to the people and necessity of the time; why shouldn’t it now? If we are open to where the Spirit is moving, there is no reason that formal Sacraments cannot change and develop yet again.

  27. Hi Becky, thanks for joining the conversation and for the fascinating information! Here and on the excommunication post. It is always so important to know the context of things, its roots, and they usually ultimately help deepen their meaning for me to know the roots.

    Aiden Kavanagh is so good at observing the signs of the times. I like the idea that theology is what the people are thinking/doing/etc. and what the Spirit is doing in them, and then theological studies is just that-studying what the people have said. Because yes, who really “does” theology? The guy reading the book on it and writing a paper, or those engaging in the world? Not to belittle the work of academics, though, which are important as well.

    I loved your story about your family because my mom, who does career exploration in the school she teaches at, thought I was only going to be able to get volunteer jobs with my Divinity degree. As a cradle Catholic and “lay” ministry being so new, she just had no frame of reference. I just about died when she told me that! I can’t believe she thought I’d spend 3 long, difficult years in grad school (and then some) to do volunter work. By the way, good luck on your comps! I, luckily, did not have to endure that in my program. I feel for you. From what you’ve contributed here, I can’t imagine you not doing well, Miss brilliant Becky! As is our other Becky too.

    I appreciate your information on infallibility as well. I have always had a hard time with that concept. and the background info on the Italian states is fascinating. I love that UCC slogan “God is still speaking….” A lot of people seem to suggest that its not a big deal since its only been used twice (or was it three? I think it was almost three). But the sheer existence of it bothers me.

    Knowing what you know, what do you think about the cafeteria Catholic, picking and choosing idea?

  28. Wow. I like the idea that the ordinary pew-sitting Catholics are the real theologans. And it just happens to tie into some things I’ve been pondering for my next blog post here … so it gives me maybe an extra dimention to consider.

    Thanks, everyone, for such a fascinating discussion so far!

  29. I forgot to mention that Kavanaugh, after offering his understanding of who is a theologian, henceforth calls all of these primary theologians (pew-sitting Catholics as I tend to say) “Mrs. Murphy.” I love that image of the old, Catholic immigrant with her rosary beads during Mass who does all of her theology in the context of her parish and nightly prayers. She doesn’t necessarily know or give a damn what either the academy or hierarchy thinks because she has her faith not in the leadership of humanity but directly in God. Not that I am saying there is no place for leadership in the earthly Church, for I very strongly believe that there is, but I like to be reminded that when I am surrounded by all of these theology books and huge exam looming in the distance that at the end of the day, I still need to have that relationship with God just like my grandmother, a Mrs. Vetter, did. She ended each day by splashing both her and I with Holy Water (I think she was keeping evil away but I always thought of it as splashing us again with the waters of our baptism) and praying in her native German to protect her huge family and take her home to heaven when God was ready for her. That is still the best theology I have ever heard in my life, and she was barely literate with only a few years of a one-room school house education.

  30. I’m sorry that I never answered your question about Cafeteria Catholicism, Lauren. Personally, I think that is a derogatory term for a very ancient and permissible practice, i.e. dissent, in the Catholic Church. Here are some very beautiful sections on the topic from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, save for the non-inclusive language insisted upon by the late Pope JPII. A little known fact about the CCC is that it was originally translated from Latin into an inclusive English and nearly sent to publication before the Pope reordered it translated literally from the Latin creating some very strangely worded passages. The first translators (a number of highly respected bishops) refused to do the second translation and that is why we have the excessively masculine text now. If you can get past it, though (I still have problems stomaching it at times) there is some very rich and beautiful theology in this modern text. On informed conscience it says:

    “Deep within his [sic] conscience man [sic] discovers a law which he [sic] has not laid upon himself [sic] but which he [sic] must obey. Its voice, ever calling him [sic] to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his [sic] heart at the right moment….For man [sic] has in his [sic] heart a law inscribed by God…His [sic] conscience is man’s [sic] most secret core and his [sic] sanctuary. There he [sic] is alone with God whose voice echoes in his [sic] depths (CCC 1776).”

    “Man [sic] has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He [sic] must not be forced to act contrary to his [sic] conscience. Nor must he [sic] be prevented from acting according to his [sic] conscience, ESPECIALLY in religious matters (CCC 1782).”

    Mother Church is pretty clear on this; as long as a person gives prayerful thought and consideration, listening to their conscience—God’s voice within oneself—then it is completely permissible to dissent on certain issues. For example, I vehemently disagree with Humanae Vitae’s teaching on contraception as did most of the Church when it was released, including the lay and clerical advisory council to the pope at the time he wrote it, as well as over 90% of Catholics today. I don’t think many people, however, really give enough prayerful consideration to the issues for which they disagree, nor do they always know that they are in disagreement with church, but I still think the Spirit is working in them if they allow it.

    It is interesting to me that many people proudly call themselves “Cafeteria Catholics;” I even see people list it on their facebook page under “religious views” which seems to indicate that many are uncomfortable publically saying that they are fully aligned with the Catholic Church. In a way, it lets the world know that they are open minded. I, on the other had, proudly profess my devotion to the Roman Catholic Church and then confuse the hell out of most people when I talk about my disagreements with the Church in an intelligent and prayerful manner. Rather than dance around my alignment with Church teaching that I do not agree with, I’d rather help people realize that being Catholic means being open-minded and willing to speak up when there are wrongs within our Church.

    That was probably more than you were looking for…sorry for the long reply!

  31. Hi Becky! thanks for your replies, the longer the better! I agree with you about the term cafeteria Catholics. I would never call myself or anyone else that. Interesting that people put it on their facebook profile.

    I really loved your explanation (and again, background!) on conscience. If I learned one thing from Aquinas in all of my years in Domincan schools its his quote, “You are first and foremost responsible to your informed concience”. How can we all live harmoniously? It seemed like the Episcalian church had a pretty good balance on that for a while and I long for us to model a little bit of that.

    But again, great post. Your writing is so accesible and heartfelt.

  32. Hi Becky S – So glad you joined the conversation.

    I don’t think it will take a rocket scientist to figure out that I disagree with some of what you’ve posted, but lets review.

    First – In regards to the Sacraments, the Catechism does not shy from the words “instituted by Christ,” as I am sure you know CCC 1114 (the paragraph right before the one you paraphrased) ends with the words “the sacraments of the new law were…instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord.” When you quote CCC 1115 your “…” is actually “They announced and prepared what he was GOING TO GIVE the Church when all was accomplished.” (emphasis mine) So the sacraments are instituted by and GIVEN to the Church by Christ.

    Also – I believe you paint with a broad stroke when you say that there were hundreds of sacraments. I think that is a sensational way of saying that local dioceses and parishes did the same things differently. Isn’t that what touched off the fire of the Reformation – outrage over the abuse of sacraments (ie poorly educated priests manipulating the sacraments to their benefit)? Trent did the Church the tremendous service of standardizing the form and matter of the sacraments so these abuses would stop. Again, as I am sure you know, the Church is loathe to universally define anything until dissent forces the Church’s hands. In all though forms may have varied, the grace conveyed certainly didn’t change.

    Take baptism – since Christ it has had two major components that have not changed – water and the invocation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sure the Didache says the water should be flowing, like a stream or river, and you supposed to totally imerse the candidate, but the baptism of the New Covenant in the first century and those performed this Sunday at church have changed so little that any current Catholic would recognize the ancient form and any ancient would recognize the modern.

    Confession is similar – it has changed in form, but certainly not matter. The confession and absolution have been around since the Didache as well, though in those days you would confess in public to the whole congregration!

    Confirmation is a little sneakier, but I doubt the explaination that it was instituted just so an average Catholic would meet the bishop at least once in his or her life is true. That may certainly be the reason why the bishop is the one that anoints with the chrism. The Church Fathers disagreed on the exact form and matter of conveying the Holy Spirit, but it’s been around since the earliest days for just that purpose. Here is a good article from the Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04215b.htm for those interested. The history of the sacrament is at the bottom.

    Here is the article on deaconesses http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04651a.htm. There is no proof that they recieved Holy Orders. In fact, according to the article, it is unclear if there was any difference between a deaconess and a widow. At the class I attended in my parish last weekend, I heard that ancient deacons fulfilled the works of charity that monastic brothers took over after the legalization of Christianity, and that deaconesses were most similar to modern day religious sisters. In any case, there certainly weren’t any orthodox priestesses (heretic like the Gnostics probably had them.)

    One question in regards to ordination of women. In Christ all things are possible. If the Lord had wanted to ordain women, He could have, made it plain in Sacred Scripture, and put the feminist movement ahead by about 1900 years! The fact is that one of two things must be true – There were female priests, ordained by Christ and evil men (I say evil, because sexism, like racism is baseless discrimination and an intrinsic evil) in the Church have supressed this knowledge for almost 2000 years – OR – Jesus had another role in the Church for women to play, and being ordained was not part of that plan.

    I’ve heard it suggested that Jesus could not break the social norms of the times regarding gender roles, but I don’t buy it. He shattered rules regarding associating with sinners, instituted a Church that had slaves breaking bread with their masters, and created a social movement that erupted in the ancient world. Certainly, Jesus could have institued a female clergy. Priestesses wouldn’t have been unknown to him, not only because He’s God, but priestesses were common amongst the pagans. And of course if He had instituted a female clergy, no man can squash the works of God.

    More to come…

  33. Ok – so on formation of conscience. The definition of conscience is certainly beautiful, and we certainly should follow our conscience, but the conscience does not replace the authority of the Church in definitive teaching. See CCC 1783, 1785, 1790 – 1794 (the section on Erroneous Judgment).

    Our conscience is for those times when we are faced with situations that fall outside the lines of the authoritative teaching of the Church. We face these situations everyday, the Church cannot provide us with an answer for every moral question we have – so it gives us guidlines to live by. These are usually general, can be specific (think abortion), and there might be grey area where we need to interpret for ourselves how to act.

    There is objective truth, and our conscience should be ruled by that truth. Christ gave the Church the authority to define this truth (Matthew 16:19). If the Spirit is acting on all of our individual consciences, then why are we coming up with different answers?

    Also – this sounds a lot like moral relativism, what’s good for you might not work for me, but as long as its good for you and your conscience then I will stick to my conscience, and we’ll all be happy! The recent writings of the Vatican make it clear that moral relativism is not condoned by the Church.

    I think this is a trap that many Catholics are falling into in this era. Moral relativism is in fashion, authority is not (especailly the ancient authority handed down from afar by a guy in a funny hat, the bishop, that only shows up at Church occasionally! :) ) I agree that many Catholics don’t prayerfully engage the issues that have caused controversy over the years, which is why I think the Cafeteria label applies, as I’ll explain.

    When at a buffet, if you see something that doesn’t look good, you pass it over, without even giving it a shot by tasting it. I argue that most Catholics reject some inconvenient teachings, such as contrecptives, because it looks bad to them, they never taste the meat of the teaching. I am not suggesting this is true of you, but I was interested to know if you’ve studied JPII’s Theology of the Body.

    I agree that Cafeteria Catholicism is not the same as thoughtful dissent, which does have a rich history in the Church. However, debates of significance have been settled by the Magisterium in their God given authority. Some issues that have been closed – Christ’s dual nature, Cannon of Catholic Scriptures, Abortion, Real Presence, and unless I am mistaken, JPII closed the book on ordination of women, it was a decree of difinitive assent for all the faithful, correct?

  34. Nate, I read over the citations that you and Becky provided for us (with thanks to you both) but I don’t see where following one’s informed conscience, even against religious matters, is limited in the following citations after CCC 1782. I see it talking about acting in error about mistaken perceptions of Church teaching but you read it to say that we cannot dissent from definitive teachings, do I have that right?

    They packed a whole lot into that paragraph, too bad its not broken down a little more. I’m curious to hear what you folks who are better at the word puzzles than me think of that particular paragraph (CCC 1792).

  35. Wow. Lots of food for pondering here.

    Looking at CCC 1792 — the paragraph that specifically deals with conceience vs. authority of the Church — it seems to be warning against the error of assuming that whatever one feels at a particular moment must be the Truth. A well-formed and informed conscience must constantly weigh itself against what we know of God’s laws and God’s Truth, and come to an informed decision. Certainly, no Catholic should reject the Church’s authoritative teaching lightly; but if one were to decide, after much study and prayer and searching , that one cannot in good concience uphold a given teaching of the Church, it is not unreasonable to assume that the Holy Spirit is trying to nudge that particular issue in a new direction.

    Nate asks, “If the Spirit is acting on all of our individual consciences, then why are we coming up with different answers?” Great question! Here’s my thought. I probably view the authority Christ gave the Church in a slightly diffrent way than you do. I believe that Christ has told us that if a Catholic accepts everything the Church teaches and in good faith obeys all to the best of his/her ability, it will be credited as a total obedience to God, and God will be pleased with that person. For such a person, their conscience sticks with what the Church teaches; why go beyond that?

    Then there are some extraordinary souls — Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi being some of my personal favorites — who look beyond the teachings of the Church and feel the Spirit prodding them to something more. Yes, they bucked some traditions and stepped on a few ecclesiastical toes, but they inspired the Church to make some necessary changes, and they continue to inspire us today.

    And, of course, most of us who do our best to be good Catholics fall somewhere between those two extremes. I believe the different answers we each come up with depend on many factors, beginning with our openness and sensitivity to Truths God may be giving us that we don’t necessarily want to hear. I say “we” because I know I can be as deaf to God’s will as anybody else. Even St. Francis was aware of his inability to perfectly discern what God wanted of him. So I’m not singling anybody out here!

  36. Sorry that I missed this conversation until now! Where to begin? CCC 1792 does not decree that we must blindly follow Church authority and teaching. It warns against “a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience,” which would be making decisions without considering Scripture, Tradition, and church teaching. As Lauren argued, this paragraph does not reject informed conscience of 1782, but affirms that we must give serious thought and prayer to matters that weigh on our conscience. I think Josh is completely right in saying “Certainly, no Catholic should reject the Church’s authoritative teaching lightly; but if one were to decide, after much study and prayer and searching , that one cannot in good conscience uphold a given teaching of the Church, it is not unreasonable to assume that the Holy Spirit is trying to nudge that particular issue in a new direction.”

    For Nate specifically, in my world and study, citing newadvent.org (whose agenda is certainly not one of impartial presentation of church information if you look at the sponsors and author list) for a theological argument is about as strong as using wikapedia to prove history or philosophy. I can offer you a bibliography of solid Church teaching on the sacraments beginning with Yarnold’s ‘The Awe-Inspirng Rites of Initiation,” Kavanagh’s ‘On Liturgical Theology,” Schmemann’s “Liturgy and Tradition,” and Corbin’s “The Wellspring of Worship” to name only a few very sound theological texts. Additionally. in an earlier post where you apparently didn’t read my argument and then flippantly told me to blindly read Theology of the Body (which you also said in another post that you haven’t read!) and Humanae Vitae, you would have discovered that I not only have read and studied both of these texts extensively in undergraduate and graduate work, but I also wrote my thesis on sexual ethics and incorporated these into it. I’d be happy to send you a copy of this 110 page work, but it is going to publication in the next year along with works from three of my professors, so by contract I can’t release it.

    As for your thoughts on Cafeteria Catholicism, we will have to settle for disagreement. Issues are NEVER closed. At Vatican I, infallibility was passed with the notion of “irreformability,” which does NOT mean that infallible teachings are immune from change. As formulations written in human language, they are always historically conditioned therefore subject to revision. According to ‘Mysterium Ecclesia’ (from the CDF 1973), doctrinal definitions are affected by the limited context of human knowledge in the situation in which they are framed, by the specific concerns that motivated the definitions, by the changeable conceptions (or thought categories) on a given epoc, and by “the expressive power of the language used at a certain point of time.” The Jews, too, were under the assumption that Mosaic Law was strict and never to change, but Jesus came along and did not break the law but transformed it for a new time and people. If you don’t believe that the laws can change, I’ll have to assume that you still keep kosher, make sure not to wear wool with cotton, and keep Holy the actual Sabboth (Friday at Sunset to Saturday at Sunset) with absolutely no work (no cooking, reading, turning on the TV), etc..The Church, itself, says that it can and should change with varying ages and cultures. I believe that it can and will.

  37. Becky

    I took another look at http://www.newadvent.org and saw nothing that would indicate they would change the texts of the resources that they offer. The articles I linked were from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913 edition). Newadvent also offers an online Bible (Douay – Rheims), writings of the Church Fathers (including the entire text of the Summa), and a collection of Vatican documents. If you consider these sources to be particularly slanted, I don’t think it’s their association with http://www.newadvent.org that causes that perception.

    I appreciate the reading list, and will have to cut and paste that into my Catholic book wishlist (which is already really really long). And you’re right – I haven’t read Theology of the Body, I haven’t even bought it yet! I have heard four seperate lectures based on the Theology of the Body. However lacking I am in the schooling on the subject that you’ve had, I feel there is truth to the teaching based on my personal experience.

    What rings true to me is that sexual intercourse does not belong outside of marriage. Sexual intercourse in the context of marriage is a renewal of your wedding vows, which are a complete gift of selfless love. Artificial contraception creates an emotional and sometimes physical barrier that blocks this gift, and preventing you from renewing those vows. If you are not giving yourself fully, then, to some extent, the act and your partner becomes a selfish instrument of pleasure, which perverts the act and violates the human dignity of your partner. So in order to have the most perfect union, in order to have sexual intercourse without sin, it must be in marriage and without artificial contraception.

    It really is quite romantic.

    As far as definitive rules go, I took a look at Mysterium Ecclesia (thanks for the resource!), and, unless I am mistaken, I believe the conclusion of the paper is that we’ve never had a more clear explaination of Church doctrine. Again, correct me if I am wrong, but the paper seems to be saying that while the explainations and formulas may change the underlying Truth does not. This follows the thinking of what I have been taught in that the Deposit of Faith is not growing, but being unpacked.

    Obviously I am not a kosher Jew, I understand that things change, over time, but the essential truth does not. The only Fridays I abstain from meat are during Lent, and I go to a vernacular Mass, though they just started having a Latin Mass in town that I would love to experience :)

    Also, I do not believe that everything the Vatican says has the same weight. Lets discuss celibacy for priests – a discipline that can be dropped at the pope’s whim. There is nothing to debate with others – abortion is killing. I believe the matter of Holy Orders falls into the category of nothing to debate. The Magisterium has spoken, with resounding clarity, and though Mysterium Ecclesia says that dogmatic formulations can sometimes be enunciated with traces of changeable perceptions of a certain epoch, I believe JPII’s decree is without sexism. My opinion is that to believe that Holy Orders is sexist is synonomous to accusing the Magisterium of perpetuating an intrinsic evil (baseless discrimination), which is a bold move and essentially impossible given Jesus’ promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. If Holy Orders is sexist, then the enemy has been doing a pretty good job….:(

  38. But when the sexism perpretrated isnt against you, then how would one know if it is truly sexist or not. I liken it to racism, and because I am caucasian I cannot fully understand what it is like to be treated with racism. And there have been a number of times when I have heard someone say how they felt and thought, Oh, I’m sure the person didnt mean it that way and I am ready to dismiss what the person has said. However, I think that’s when I need to pause and tell myself that they are the experts on their own experience and I am just going to choose to believe them. Besides that, we always say in communication that perception is reality. So, what’s one to do? My question is–is it fair for someone to say something was not sexist if they are not the object of the sexism?

  39. Lauren,

    I understand your point about reality being in the preception, but I don’t think this is applicable in this case specifically because we are discussing a matter of faith and morals, in which there must be an absolute truth. The Church’s position can certainly SEEM sexist, but I think the absolute truth of the matter is that it is not, no matter what our individual perceptions might be. The reason I believe it is not, in fact cannot be sexism, is the intrinsic evil of sexism, and Jesus’ promise to protect the Church and bind and loose in Heaven what the Magisterium binds and looses on earth. With this belief, I cannot accept that the Magisterium can perpetuate a sexist doctrine on the matter of faith and morals.

  40. Nate, you bring up a very interesting point here. Jesus did promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. But my question is, did He mean the Magisterium specifically, or the larger body of believers which includes all of us? I believe the latter, and so I believe too that the Spirit is working throughout the Church to change and correct whatever errors and corruptions might have leaked in from 2000 years of close contact with secular cultures. Yes, sexism is an intrinsic evil but it was not always understood as such by society as a whole.

    Jesus could do anything He wanted to do, as you’ve mentioned before, but how would others of His time have reacted to radical feminist ideology? Jesus says in John’s Gospel that He had much more that He wanted to tell the apostles, but they would not be able to bear it. That’s why He sent the Holy Spirit to guide them, and us, through the ages.

    I look at the painful schisms now happening in the Anglican churches because of controversial ordinations — some have said that it all started when they started ordaining women — and I wonder if maybe the Spirit is prepping the Catholic Church a little first. Work on the laity, get a certain level of consensus among the people, and then introduce the change when the Church as a whole is more ready for it.

  41. Lauren – Josh – Becky S & C and everyone else that has participated in the conversation:

    First I would like to thank you all for your thoughtful replies, and keeping this chat lively and engaging. As I’ve stated before, I may come off as a bull in a china shop, but my motivating factor is love of God, Neighbor and Church. I also love to study, and this has been a grueling mental and spiritual exercise that I have benefited from exponentially, and hope you have too! Again, I appreciate all of your insight more than you may realize!

    Josh – I believe that Jesus founded the institution of the Catholic Church, he appointed the first bishops and ordained them, giving Peter authority as the first pope. I believe that this institution is the one that is guaranteed protection, not Christianity as a belief system or a philosophy. Christian belief and philosophy is most perfectly preserved and explained by the Catholic Church, all other Christian denominations are susceptible to error to one degree or another. I believe in the very real and visible Church founded by Christ, not the invisible church that protestants and nondenominational Christians wish existed (what did Jesus say about a city on a hill?). I do not believe that non Catholics(or all non Christians for that matter) are all going to hell, just to clear that up, but I believe that their institutions do not have the guarantee that the Catholic Church has from Christ.

    The Anglican church in particular was founded not by a holy man of any stripe, but an adulterous, murdering king – that very birth was the start of their problems, in my opinion, and there is no example that we can, or should, take from Anglicans and try to integrate into the Catholic Faith. In fact, don’t the Anglican and Episcopalian expressions mirror Catholicism in many ways? Why would we imitate the imitators?

    For His time, Jesus was a radical feminist, wasn’t He? As I’ve said, priestesses were not unknown to Jesus or others of his time, pagans had them, so if Jesus could get slaves and masters to share a meal together (something very holy and meaningful in Judaism) I am sure that it was within His contemporary power to ordain priestesses.

  42. Nate, I wasn’t talking about protestant denominations; I was talking specifically about the Catholic Church. The Magisterium and heirarchy are just the tip of the iceberg that is our Church, the rest of which is made up of all of us layfolk. My point regarding the Anglican communion is that I believe the Spirit is working within the Catholic Church — working from the bottom up — to perhaps give us an easier transition than our protestant brothers and sisters have had.

    I too enjoy these lively discussions! I find that challenging my assumptions and convictions is often the best way to let God work in my heart, and it always makes my faith stronger.

  43. Josh – Sorry for the misunderdtanding!

    Yes, I think the Magisterium has a special protection that the lay Catholic does not have. They also have special responsibilities and a special authority that the lay Catholic does not have. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that this is the Kingdom of Heaven, not the United States of Salvation. I also believe that if more people understood in persona Christi, and the Eucharistic liturgy in relation to Revelation and the eternal liturgy in Heaven, less people would disagree with a male only priesthood.

    Also, I have been thinking about our priesthood as a people, and I think I hit on something. In Judaism, only the priests would offer and consume burnt offerings, sacrifices for sins and other offerings. But now, in Christianity, we all consume the sacrafice, thus sharing in the priesthood of Christ. However, we cannot all offer the sacrafice, or consecrate the sacrafice. So while we are all priests, we are not all priests of the same level or in the same way. I completely just made that up, didn’t read it way or anything, but does this sound right?

    I think the best lesson we can learn from the poor Anglicans is the chaos that rewriting ancient traditions for modern whims creates.

  44. Again, Nate, a minor linguistic point in your response; the “lay Catholic” in the singular doesn’t necessarily enjoy special protection from error, any more than any individual bishop can make infallible proclamations. My point is that it’s the Church as a whole — clergy and laity together as one single Body of Christ — that God protects from error. The Magisterium is the governing body of the Church and as such they are going to take their time in making any big changes. That’s understandable; it’s the way human institutions work. But the Spirit can work from the bottom up, so to speak. This happens often.

    In fact the only times papal infallibility has been invoked by the Church — both defining the Virgin Mary’s special role in Heaven and in our Church — it was for devotions that had begun with the laity. Throughout Church history, growth has begun with the laity and been eventually adopted by the leadership.

  45. “I also believe that if more people understood in persona Christi, and the Eucharistic liturgy in relation to Revelation and the eternal liturgy in Heaven, less people would disagree with a male only priesthood. ”

    Nate, just to share another perspective with you, these things you pointed out are exact reasons why I DONT believe in male only priesthood. I want to point out how two people can think so differently about the same thing, and how important I think it is that we don’t label the other one “wrong”. Doesnt mean its not hard for me though even if I think its important to do so

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