Well, I bet that got the attention of at least one reader of this blog…
Seriously, Past Elder–a welcome guest of this blog for the past two years–is really beginning to drive me nuts. And I know I am not the only one. Try as I might, I have not been able to make sense of where he is coming from (or going to, for that matter). Lucian makes more sense in his less sane moments than Past Elder does in his most lucid.
Here is his comment in answer to a query from Joshua in one of the com-boxes below:
Hi Joshua! I take no offence at all that you do not find my actual position in my comment. It isn’t there. I do not come here to advocate for my actual position, I come here to advocate for my former position, Roman Catholicism, which is an entirely different thing than what travels under the name now. [You've got to follow him on this one--it is crucial to coming to grips with PE's discourse]
And there is nothing to be forgiven in your questions; I’m happy to address them. I am not now nor have I ever been associated with SSPX. I am a member of a parish of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. I came to that last year after professing confessional Lutheranism in the Wisconsin Synod, and having served as an elder there, hence my posting name. [PE's real name is Terry. (HT to Christine).]
I did not convert from Catholicism to Lutheranism. There was 23 years between leaving the former and converting to the latter, for most of which Lutheranism struck me as a well-intended but misguided effort to be Catholic without being Catholic. [Which sounds about right to me.]
I left the Roman Catholic Church because it became impossible to deny any longer that what it preached since Vatican II was no longer the Catholic Faith [a double negative there--he means that it was impossible to maintain any longer that what it preached was the Catholic faith; I guess I would ask whose preaching is he talking about?]; I left the Roman Catholic faith because if it were the true faith this could not have happened [Ah--I think there is a point here that we could engage], and, despite many efforts to convince myself otherwise over those 23 years, each time I came away clearer than before that it had.
I would not know of this blog except that its author from time to time visits one of the Lutheran blogs I visit regularly. Some months back, I made a point on that blog to clarify a matter of Catholic theology [this is why PE sometimes sounds as if he is still Catholic]. When I do that, I always add a caveat that this may no longer be the position of the RCC, since nearly everything they taught me has been stood on its head [cheap shot; it is a simple matter to determine what the Catholic Church teaches--that's what the Catechism is for]. Our host appeared and verified what I said as valid [by which he seems to mean that I recognised whatever argument he happened to have been making at that point as the true Catholic faith both before and after Vatican II], and in turn I checked out his blog, and it turned out he had been a Lutheran pastor who converted to the post-conciliar church.
While I can understand the desire of a Lutheran for there to be something like the RCC holds itself to be, it is a flight into the absurd to think the RCC now is that church, or even to think it is any longer the RCC. [Now if you can follow that statement, you are doing really well. He seems to be saying: It is understandable that a Lutheran might desire the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church to exist as a visible society upon the earth, but it is a flight of fancy to think that the institution which calls itself the Catholic Church is actually that church, and anyone who thinks it is is deluded, including the Lutheran who converted to it.]
At least Lutherans who convert to Orthodoxy get Orthodoxy, but to get the pious fraud that is the RCC is really tragic. [Do I understand him rightly? Is he saying that those who convert to Orthodoxy because they want to be in full communion with the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church on earth and in heaven actually DO get what they were seeking when they become Orthodox? That would raise the question of why PE does not become Orthodox?].
Ironically, these conversions themselves reinforce my point: they would not have happened to the RCC that once existed [so I would not have become Catholic if it wasn't for Vatican II?], and these converts do not sound anything like converts did [Is this a case of "They don't make 'em like they used to"?], which fits since what they have found is neither the RCC nor Roman Catholicism [Neither the "Roman Catholic Church" nor "Roman Catholicism"? He's really lost me there. Its like saying an strawberry isn't a strawberry because it doesn't taste as good as I remember it tasting when I was a kid. No, its more than that, he is actually saying that strawberries--real ones--don't even exist anymore and anyone who thinks they may be eating them is deluded. And even worse, strawberries never in fact ever existed, because if they did, they wouldn't have let themselves go downhill to the point of tastelessness that they have now achieved.].
He went on then to have a go at poor old Christine, who knows enough of both Catholicism and Lutheranism to have a valid opinion on this matter:
Christine, for God’s sake …Say the First Mass of Christmas at midnight or any time you wish, it will remain what any Mass of the novus ordo is — a rejection of the Catholic Mass, to assist at which is for a person who believes the Catholic faith a venial sin [Do you get his sleight of hand there? It would be a venial sin, if the Catholic ideas about venial sin were true, which it isn't, because the Catholic Church and its mass are not the Catholic Church and its mass, which doesn't matter anyway, because... Oh, I give up. He goes on:].
Now: my “actual” position, what I believe now. I will step out of my usual role and say it — what a person occupying an office bearing the marks of Anti-Christ does for the Nativity of Jesus is beyond irrelevant to the faith of Christ or his Church, which is the best possible construction to put on it. ["The best construction"? Is that what Luther meant when he used that expression in his catechism for the 8th Commandment? That the Catholic Church and its pope are "Anti-Christ"? I know Luther believed that of Alexander VI and Leo X, but Pope Benedict? Pope John Paul II? Pope Paul VI? I could keep going back, but these are guys who have proclaimed Christ and his gospel more clearly and to more people than any other human beings upon earth. Not even the Lutheran Church of Australia maintains any longer that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Does Missouri? If it does, then what Richard John Neuhaus quotes Pastor John Hannah as saying is really true: LCMS is a fundamentalist sect.]
Over time, I have read some really good fictional characterisations of the devil doing his temptation thing on Eve-like characters. Anne Rice’s “Memnoch the Devil” comes to mind, as does C.S. Lewis’s “Perelandra” (Philip Pullmann is his own fictional tempter). But there are times when Past Elder takes the cake for torturous, convoluted, circular, and finally incomprehensible reasoning that has just enough ring of truth about it to convince the wavering. But I will say this, like Old Nick himself, he is consistent and persistent.
None of this is intended as abuse, PE, and I hope that this will not stop you from visiting this blog, but I do plead with you for once to make your reason for not being Catholic perfectly clear. You have stated it many times, but something is missing in the logic of your argument. Let me see if I have it clear:
1) I used to be a Roman Catholic.
2) I believed what my Roman Catholic teachers taught me to believe.
3) After the Council my Roman Catholic teachers were teaching me to believe things that sounded like the complete opposite of what I had been taught before the Council.
4) I thoroughly investigated it for myself, and realised that it wasn’t just my teachers but the Magisterium of the Catholic Church which had done a complete reversal.
5) I therefore concluded that the institution calling itself the “Catholic Church” wasn’t “the Catholic Church” because it wasn’t the Church I knew before the Council
6) I was taught that the teachings of the true Catholic Church could never change.
7) The teachings of the institution calling itself the Catholic Church had changed, therefore it was not the Catholic Church now.
8) Nor had it ever been the Catholic Church, for if it had been, its teachings would not have changed.
9) So I left the insitution called the Catholic Church.
10) 23 Years later I became a member of the Lutheran Church – Wisconsin Synod.
11) They were wrong too, so I became a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod which is the true Church because it holds to the Lutheran Confessions which are true.
Now, forgive me, but I think there are a few links missing in the chain of logic there.
First: What are the particular instances that convinced you that in fact the teaching of the Catholic Church had changed in such a way as to negate what it had taught prior to the Council? (I assume you do not reject the possibility of any change at all in the teaching of the Church?)
Second: Do you believe that the one holy Catholic and apostolic Church exists and if so what do you understand it to be?
Third: Why do you assume that just because there exist in its midst wicked and evil people who distort the teachings of the Church that the Catholic church cannot be what she claims to be?
Fourth: Does not the Church affirm that she is “ecclesia semper purificanda”? Or, in Lutheran parlance, “semper reformanda”? Therefore, far from being the occassion for denying the ecclesiological verity of the Church (something not even Luther did), are not abuses in the Church something we should work actively to correct, rather than reject the Church herself?
Fifth: By what logic have you adopted Lutheranism, and why does Lutheranism seem to answer your questions in a way that Catholicism does not?
Sixth: Has not the teaching and practice of the Lutheran Church changed over time? Does this not, by your reasoning, invalidate it?
Seventh: If those converting to Orthodoxy get Orthodoxy, and those converting to Lutheranism get Lutheranism (as long as they join the LCMS), is the purpose of converting to get the kind of Church you personally would like be in or is the purpose to find the true Church and seek communion with her?
Go, on, PE, you old devil. Tempt me with an answer to these questions.