HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Religion & Spirituality » Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity (Group) » A Prayer for Frustrated C... » Reply #1
Introducing Discussionist: A new forum by the creators of DU
In the discussion thread: A Prayer for Frustrated Catholics [View all]

Response to meow2u3 (Original post)

Sat Jun 9, 2012, 10:53 AM

1. I'm frustrated as well

Many people say that Catholicism is absurd. Well, it is absurd. Any religion is absurd, but only because our existence is absurd. Why are we here, anyway? Why is there anything at all? Religion is a cautious attempt to respond to mystery with something better than Macbeth's suspicion that it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, if only with Teilhard de Chardin's modest, "there is something afoot in the universe, something that looks like gestation and birth".

Religion is the affirmation in the face of substantial contrary evidence that God is not mad. It is an attempt to face the odd fact that the evolutionary process has produced minds that are capable of comprehending, if just barely, both General Relativity and Quantum Theory, when there was no advantage in our evolutionary past of having such an intellect.

Catholicism at its best is a celebration of that God. At its worst, it is a deadening, soul destroying institution, with too much emphasis on following the rules and not enough joy.

I have been asked what I would change in the Church. What I would like most to change would be to get the hierarchy, especially the Vatican, to accept the inevitability of the freedom of its laity. The hierarchy does not like the laity's assumption of the right to make its own decisions, and its demand that it be persuaded instead of ordered. Indeed, the institutional Church usually works on the implicit assumption that it is still dealing with peasants of centuries ago who did what they were told (usually) without question, without argument, without the demand that it be heard, consulted, persuaded. Many pastors still seem to assume that they have the same influence and power that their role models from a generation or two ago had. Catholics, they believe, should simply do what they are told. (The phrase "pray, pay and obey" is used to describe this attitude.)

It ought to be obvious by now that this is not so. When Church leaders pretend to deny that the souls of the laity are now shaped by a constant exercise of freedom or lament the passing of the good old days when there was a lot less freedom, they have turned their faces against history. Moreover, they miss the point of their own tradition which has believed that virtue is formed by the frequent repetition of free human acts. In any event the days of the supposedly docile peasant are gone and they will never return. The church must adjust to the fact that in the Americas and Europe at any rate, the day of the free laity who make their own decisions after reflecting on the issues, who want to be heard, consulted, persuaded, is the world in which we live and work. In the present milieu, we laity reserve to ourselves the right to say on what terms we will be Catholic. Nothing will change that fact, neither orders from Rome nor hysterical ranting from the tiny fundamentalist Catholic minority.

There are other things I don't like in my Church:

The oligarchic system of government and the love of pomp and splendor among the hierarchy. Jesus's complaints about the Pharisees in Matthew 23:2-7 are appropriate:

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men.


Seeing, say, a Cardinal in full regalia reminds me of this.

The overemphasis on legalism. The Pharisees did not die out, they became Canon Lawyers. Remind me to give you the official answer to the question "If one has a nosebleed and swallows some of the blood, does that break the Communion Fast?" It is pettifogging at its finest and shows how casuistry got a bad name.

The refusal to even consider the ordination of women. The arguments against this do not hold up to real scutiny, but the previous Pope -- supported by the current Pope -- has attempted to shut off this debate by fiat. As I said, we aren't docile peasants to be ordered.

The overly restrictive rules on divorce and remarriage. I'm sure that it is entirely cynical of me to see any connection between the rigidity of these rules and the fact that they are formulated by a group of unmarried men.

The whole thing about sex -- rules and policies formulated by celibates.

Most of all, their failure to live up to what I see as the call of Christ. What I see all too often is a Church that colludes with the dispossession of the poor or the enslavement of others in the name of patriotism becomes just one more instrument of the state. A Church that blesses oppressive governments in the name of obedience to an authority that denies the authority of conscience makes itself an oppressor as well. A Church that goes mute in the face of massive militarisation practiced in the name of national defense abandons the God of love for the preservation of the civil religion. A Church that preaches the equality of women but does nothing to demonstrate it within its own structures, that proclaims an ontology of equality but insists on an ecclesiology of superiority is out of sync with its best self and dangerously close to repeating the theological errors that underlay centuries of church sanctioned slavery. A Church which sees covering up pedophilia in the clergy is acceptable behavior.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Church. I love the Church for what it is and what it could be. I love the Church as a family of faith. I do not say with John Stuart Mill, "My love for an institution is in proportion to my desire to reform it".

I am, of course, disappointed when I do not find perfect faith, hope, and love in the Church. But that is asking too much. It is, after all, made up entirely of sinners. I do have a right to expect enough faith, hope, and love to sustain me as I stumble on my pilgrim way. Perfect faith, hope, and love will come only at the end, in the great eschatological blow-up. "We are named, and are truly, God's children, but what we shall be has not yet been revealed" (I John 3:2). In the tension between what has been achieved in us and what remains to be accomplished lies the possibility of growth.

So why do I stay? After all, I have had any number of people are saying to me, "You claim to be Catholic, but you really should admit the truth and join the Anglicans". Believe me, there are times I seriously consider it. Incidentally, I want to make clear that my objections are to the Catholic Church. The Catholic Faith is a wholly different matter.

I am a Catholic because that is my Church. It is just as much my Church as it is the Pope's Church. I am not going to change the institution by leaving it. But I do seriously consider leaving.

Reply to this post

Back to OP Alert abuse Link to post in-thread

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 1 replies Author Time Post
meow2u3 Jun 2012 OP
LineNew Reply I'm frustrated as well
Fortinbras Armstrong Jun 2012 #1
Please login to view edit histories.