Monday, May 09, 2005

Finding One's Place in the Church

Nathan at Fides, Spes, Caritas (now Lazarus Rising?) moves at whirlwind speed. In the past week he has moved from tacit support of Pope Benedict to open criticism, a blog hiatus and blog redefinition. Everyone's internal clock moves at different speeds and it works for him. (Sometimes I'm afraid to breathe or blink because of how fast he operates:).)

His latest posts, a 3 part series called The Faggot Speaks Part I, Part II, and Part III, are the most powerful posts I have read in Catholic blogsphere, either ever, or in a very long while, and there is some good stuff out there too. I hope more people get to read this series.

BTW, speaking of favorites, the funniest post I've read in Catholic/ Christian blogsphere is this one by Talmida.

Anyway, I digress. Nathan is going through a period of discernment I would say related to finding his place in the Catholic Church, i.e, do I belong here? if I do in what capacity? can I remain Catholic?, etc. I went through a similar thing a few years ago, in 2002. For me, it was that I found the Catholic Right so distasteful and that racism was so easily accepted that I decided that was it for me. It capped a lot of issues I have with the Catholic Church and so I did not see any reason to remain Catholic.

That I remained "Catholic" is more an accident. It was simply more about a lack of enthusiasm for searching for another communion. I had my mind set on the United Methodist, but they were not at all helpful about finding a community. (The headquarters in Tennessee was great, but they referred me to local numbers and I felt like I was bothering them.) I had very specific needs and desires and I eventually gave up the search.My interest in leaving has evolved into a passive search for an alternative worship location. So if I did find the "right" place, I only intend to show up maybe once a month or so and not join fully like I had intended.

There are many reasons why I remain the Catholic Church, and no one dominant reason. The most fundamental is that I was born and raised Catholic and I have been a Catholic longer than I have not, so there is an unprecedented comfort level with Catholicism. I also realize that conservatives make a living persecuting and harassing progressives, in all ages of the Church. But as it happens, the Church mostly tends to be embarassed by its conservatives of centuries past and upholds the progressives. Newman was a progressive and was greatly disliked by the conservatives. They made his life very unpleasant. Now conservatives trip over each other to embrace Newman. Aquinas was a progressive who was condemned by the Church. Scotus was a progressive and found his life threatened by it. Even more fundamentally, Paul was a progressive.

The fact, though, is that in the present, the conservatives rule and have the power because the hierarchy in its need for self-preservation, depends on the conservatives. The Church hierarchy is quite happy to shelter virulent racists and not-so-Christian-types as long as they are conservative. This coupled with many theological issues pushed me to determine that I will not sit at the same table of the Lord with the Catholic Right. I do not see the compatibility, rather I see something on that side of the fence that runs counter to Christianity. I don't deny their Christianity, I just don't see it clearly. As a result, back in 2002, I stopped receiving the Eucharist and haven't partaken ever since. It has been one of the most enriching decisions of my life.

My reasons for not taking the Eucharist are:

1. The sacraments, though not owned by, are the responsibility of the hierarchy, and they can indicate (not demand) who they want at the table. As I said, they clearly want the conservatives and I won't sit at the same table with the Right.

2. The Eucharist is a sign of submission to the hierarchy and what they teach to be Catholic doctrine. I do not believe 85% of Catholic doctrine as is taught. For instance, how would you answer the question: True or false, the Eucharist is the most preeminent form of God's presence on the earth? I do believe you can encounter God's real presence in the Eucharist, but the encounter is no more real than an encounter one can have in praise and worship or prayer. Otherwise stated, I don't accept that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.

2 a. I do not respect the motives and authentic Christianity of the institutional Catholic hierarchy with whom control of the sacraments lie.

3. Aware of my feelings of incompatibility with the Right and my many profound disagreements with Catholic theology and my lack of regard for the institutional hierarchy, I have to much respect for the Eucharist and what it signifies and what it is, to partake of it.

Now, does it mean that liberals should separate themselves from the Eucharist? Absolutely not. What I find is that most liberals are trying to be the best Catholic they can be. I explicitly am not. I acknowledge that, which is why I do not participate in Holy communion.

On the issue of the positive effects of my decision, that's a whole nother post. But two things:

1. it is extremely liberating because the only way the hierarchy can control you is if they can take away something you need, i.e., sacraments. They have nothing they can take from me and they can't control me. That is liberating.

2. Taking my focus away from the Eucharist has brought me back to the one of two things in which I experience God, Scripture. (I really have nothing against the Eucharist, I am a believer in it.)

I do have a vague sense of what I think my place is in the Catholic Church, but even then, I really don't try to figure it out because there's nothing I can do about it anyway. If God has plans, as long as I remain open, he can do whatever he wants, most importantly, when he wants.

I certainly hope progressives don't cede ground to conservatives, because the Church needs us, conservatives don't, but the Church does. Some I'm glad Nathan staying. I'm glad that I stayed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can I recomend trying a free church?

I personally find the theology of the Catholic Church a little off. I am not saying the free church hsa it right either, but Commuinion is open to everyone who knows Christ as his Saviour, also you eat the body and drink the blood, which Christ asks us to do.
You do not have to bow to a statue, again it does say in Exodus 20, do not make idols and worship them.

The Cathoilc Church is wonderful, I am not doing it down, but if you feel you are not getting spiritual nurishment, then I feel you need to try another door.

7:08 AM  
Blogger Ono said...

Thanks for the suggestion, but believe it or not, there is a weird doctrinal compatibility with the "older" tradition churches. I returned to Catholicism after I found that I begun to believe in Mary, purgatory and saints/angels stuff.

That left me with very, very few options, one of which was Catholicism.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Ambrose said...

Ono--so glad you stayed. I hope you do find your way back up to the front of the church, so to speak, because the Eucharist is such an amazing gift from God that I won't let anyone take that away from me.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

I, for one, am glad you stayed. I'm not sure I would be who I am if, for instance, you had not been in the Catholic Church during the 2004 election. It's interesting the kind of impact you can have on people's lives without knowing about it, or without even knowing them.

Thank you for your kind comments about my recent entries. :)

1:19 AM  
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