Getting a handle on PE’s Ecclesiology

In the combox to the previous posting, Past Elder expounds further on his reasons for rejecting the (“Roman”) Catholic Church and for criticising what he calls “the new religion”, ie. the Post-Vatican II Catholic Church.

We’ve treated this topic before (eg. here), of course, and you may wonder why I (and he) keep coming back to it. From my point of view it is because a) I am still trying to get a handle on the rationality or logic of his argument, and, more importantly, b) because his accusation is a profound challenge to me personally. He himself has said as much:

But thanks for yet another, as if more were needed, confirmation of why I am not Roman Catholic any more, or rather, why Roman Catholic no longer exists to be any more. If you had headed East, at least you would have found Orthodoxy…

So in nuce, I’m not saying here you ought to drop this crap and resume your call to the Office of Holy Ministry (though as a Lutheran I say you should), I am saying here that, unlike our converts to Orthodoxy who get Orthodoxy when they convert, what a convert to Roman Catholicism gets when they convert, speaking as one who once believed that religion, is nothing but a barge of bilge lying peddled under the same name and while I would now question your decision, nonetheless if Roman Catholicism is what you want then run from this pile of dung precisely because what you want is Roman Catholicism.

So you see, I can’t leave this alone. It is not that I have to answer PE. It is that I have to answer myself, and I myself have to take into account what happened in the Catholic Church post-Vatican II.

Another thing to add, of course, is that I did not become a Catholic seeking the “pre-Vatican II” Church. The only Church that I knew then, and indeed, the only Church that I know now, is the Church of Vatican II (and the other 20 ecumenical councils, of course). It was to this Church that I “converted”, or rather, it was this Church that drew me. I don’t know if things would have been different if there had never been a Vatican II – that isn’t the reality. Certainly, as a Lutheran considering the Catholic Church, I was not aware of the existence of a “hermeneutic of rupture” – I saw only the Church which was established by Jesus Christ founded upon the Rock of the Petrine Ministry and which has existed in continuity ever since.

But in any case, here is PE’s case “in nuce”:

My position on the postconciliar RCC in re the real RCC derives from the faith I was taught by the RCC, which in turn could not be what I thought it was, the true faith and church of Jesus Christ, since it lost to such a monstrous perversion of it at Vatican II, and there being nothing else with any valid claim to being the true faith and church of Jesus Christ, Christianity itself must then have been false all along. Hence twenty years as a Righteous of the Nations.

Of course, we thank God that PE was eventually able again to find his faith in Jesus Christ. But I am trying to get a handle on that original impulse to abandon the Church he founded.

I found today a picture – an analogy – which might help. It is in part suggested by the Orthodox theologian John Zizioulos who has suggested that the Catholic Church would benefit from an ecclesiology that was more consciously eschatological. In other words, the Church (and indeed the Eucharist, which is the basis for this ecclesiology as in most Orthodox reflection on the Church – it realies greatly on the image of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb from the book of Revelation) is a present reality that ultimately gets its real being from the future goal of the eschaton. This contrasts to the rather “backward looking” emphasis of the Catholic Church which usually emphasises the founding of the Church, the apostolicity of the Church, and the Succession of the Petrine ministry (as I did above).

From this point of view, we need a picture that connects the “back then” with the “what will be”, ie. the future eschatological fulfillment. And thus came to me the analogy of a BRIDGE.

If we view the historical establishment of the Church as one side of a vast chasm, and the Marriage Feast as the other side, then the Church is the concrete (incarnate) structure that spans the chasm. From one point of view, this chasm is already spanned – the “suspension ropes” are already in place, so to speak, which support the bridge as it is being built, but from an historical point of view, the bridge is still a work in progress. Stone by stone, the permanent structure is being constructed upon which the People of God can journey step by historical step toward the goal of the other side of the chasm.

Now, the curious thing about this Church-Bridge is that the builders use what comes to hand at the time, and build in the style that seems appropriate to the times. (Visually, it would be a very odd structure indeed!). But it is important to stress that it is one single structure heading in one single direction. There have been times in the History of the Church when the bridge is built with shoddy materials and with shoddy workmanship. But it has always been in the nature of the Church (the Bridge Builders) to go back and patch up the dodgy spots, to repair mistakes, and to press on with the task at hand.

One recent “dodgy spot”, we would all agree, was the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. In the long history of the Church, 40 years is not a long time, nor is it in the span of this bridge, but the workmanship in this time has definitely been of such shoddiness that many have lost their footing and fallen. Still a great many have maintained the project, and today we are in a period when the shoddy workmanship of the last 40 years is being repaired and strengthened in line with the whole structure from the beginning.

But let us think back to those who, like PE, found themselves on the dodgy work, with planks missing and sometimes deliberately removed. What to do?

The options were limited. You could have tried to start the project all over again from the beginning (sort of like some Reformation sects attempting to “get back to the NT”). You could have tried to start a new bridge in mid air – half way across the Chasm (sort of like the Sedevacantists). Or you could do what PE did. You look back at the Bridge that has brought you safe thus far, and say: what a load of crap this bridge is. It looked so solid, but now it is dodgy and unsafe. It doesn’t look as if it will ever reach the other side – and more to the point, I see now that it never was going to. It was always only ever “half a bridge” – which is useless. It has left me hanging in mid air. So I think I will just jump off from here.

Mmm. That’s the way it seemeth to me, anyway.

In my case, however, I looked at the whole Bridge. I looked at the people who were working on it now, repairing the past damage and building a sure and certain path into the future. I looked at the suspension ropes that were still in place linking the Bridge-in-progress (the Now but Not Yet Bridge) to the other side (the promises of our Lord, the Eucharist etc.) and I thought: This Bridge is going to get there. In fact, it is the only Bridge that has even a hope of ever reaching the other side. Even if it were just a ricketty suspension bridge of rotting planks and ropes, I would still use it. In short, eschatologically speaking, it is a real Bridge – not because it is a glorious and beautiful structure, but because it is the only Bridge that will ever cover the entire span.

So I stick with it. I never had a head for heights or bungie-jumping. I am sticking with the Bridge Builder. (Which, coincidentally in Latin, is Pontifex).

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40 responses to “Getting a handle on PE’s Ecclesiology

  1. Tony

    I find your bridge analogy very evocative but way too linear and way too … looking for the right word here … small.

    For me, the kingdom is not ‘over there’ it’s ‘right here’. It doesn’t have to be built first to be seen, it has to be seen first to be built. It’s not ‘then’ it’s ‘now’.

    I believe … well maybe it’s hope sometimes … the Catholic church, at it’s core, has the clearest vision of the Kingdom but we don’t have the keys to ourselves. The Kingdom is way bigger than our club.

    I know people who can’t find the Kingdom in the CC. One example: an elderly friend converted to the CC when she got married. She was pretty much pressured into it in those days, but being the kind of woman she was, she embraced it (as only converts do sometimes!) and grew to love it with a passion. It became a part of who she was in a way that I only can aspire to. It was also the fuel that gave her great strength and conviction to help others, esp those with mental illness and abuse problems. She also got to see the dark side.

    Now she can’t face a church or a priest. She got to see the dark side of the abuse issue. She won’t tell me what she saw, but it was enough to break her bond of love. It wasn’t about her either, it was about people she tried to help for all those years.

    She is still a woman of deep, growing faith and I’ll defy anyone to say that she’s not ‘of the Kingdom’. I don’t think God is that small.

    I think God loves ‘our bridge’ but it’s like the son that didn’t leave.

  2. Past Elder

    FWIW Tony — I don’t go into it here, but I got to see the dark side too. My response was not hers, but I certainly understand it.

  3. Christine

    Another thing to add, of course, is that I did not become a Catholic seeking the “pre-Vatican II” Church. The only Church that I knew then, and indeed, the only Church that I know now, is the Church of Vatican II

    I think, David, that is the core of the issue. Converts who have no lived experience of the preconciliar church are understandably not going to relate to what PE is saying.

    One of these days I am going to take on the job of reading the preconciliar papal encyclicals and other documents and do a side by side comparison with the documents of Vatican II. That there will be important differences is beyond doubt.

    Nor is there any doubt that the vision of Pius X regarding modernism is radically different from that of Pope John XXIII, although I don’t think it was good Pope John’s intent to go to the extremes some Catholic scholars and theologians did, i.e., in adopting wholesale the historical critical method of interpreting scripture and other issues.

    I recently shelved my St. Joseph’s missals first published in the 70’s and 80’s. The commentary is just awful and it is dismal to think how many young Catholics were exposed to its drivel. That, thank goodness, is being corrected with the new translation.

    My limited glimpse into the preconciliar world through my father and my husband showed me a Catholic world that was still firmly imbued with a supernatural ethos and all that that entailed.

    I remain Catholic because I still find the catholic Church within her and through my Lutheran roots have always held onto that eschatalogical vision that the Orthodox refer to. I can, nevertheless, understand PE’s views. My Catholic grandmother would have agreed with him.

  4. Past Elder

    Well, it seemeth to you more or less correctly, up to the point of leaving, but not beyond. There are in fact other options beyond the three you mentioned. I just didn’t see them for twenty years.

    Yes, Option One, upon examination, is no option at all. There is no other stone than the one the builder laid. You don’t go back and start over, and what is more, Jesus himself promised this would never have to happen, will not happen. On that basis, all of Protestantism, however well intended, and it was well intended, is doomed to fail. Including Lutheranism. I sought no other church, because there is no other church to seek.

    Option Two isn’t really starting a new bridge, but attempting to continue with the bridge underway against the rogue crew that took over. While at first this may seem to be different than Option One, not saying the bridge so far is wrong and we need to start over, upon examination though it fails for the same reason as Option One, namely, that same promise also precludes, not better or worse times, but a fundamentally rogue crew actually taking over and the real guys having to fight for it from without. That is why, while I agree for example with the SSPX in their sun clear exposition of the non-Catholic nature of Vatican II, I cannot join them.

    Ultimately, while a person may attempt to find refuge in something else, either Option One or Two means the bridge is just crap and is not worth any kind of effort, if the promises about the bridge are true, so, there is just one option left, which you number as three.

    Which is, the bridge is all there is regardless of the amount of crap on it at any given time, and whether you see crap and someone else sees the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and which of you is right, is not the point, the bridge is the point, and one is either on it or in the abyss.

    So far so good? Assuming yes, then you ask, so why did you choose the abyss rather than stay on it?

    There’s a joke you hear around post-conciliar converts. It goes:

    When did you decide to become Catholic?
    As soon as I discovered I wasn’t one.

    I am sure you get that profoundly.

    So when did I decide to not be Catholic? As soon as I discovered I wasn’t one.

    Get that too? Not on the basis of deciding something else was right instead, on the basis that Catholic now is not Catholic by the very terms on which Catholic was defined by the Catholic Church. And since — and this was by far the more painful part than the ghastly perversion that was Vatican II in toto — Catholic has ceased to be Catholic, Option Three does not exist, Options One and Two cannot be, therefore, the whole deal is a complete mistake from the start, there is no bridge at all, any time, ever.

    Months ago you used the image of mother rather than bridge. Recalling that, it’s not a matter of discovering your mother is a whore, it’s a matter of first seeing the obvious, that this woman calling you saying she’s your mother is a different woman altogether, and then, if that’s happened and your mother is gone, turns out she was a whore.

    My problem and your conversion — and you are right, you go on about this not to answer to me but to yourself, and I will add the same is true of me — rest upon an unexamined assumption. Which is, the bridge in the analogy is the Roman Catholic Church, the mother in the analogy is the Roman Catholic Church, the catholic church in the creed is the Roman Catholic Church.

    The whole contruct of the Options above falls apart entirely when one no longer assumes that the bridge is the Roman Catholic Church as I did, or when one concludes the Roman Catholic Church is the bridge as you did and it becomes the a priori for everything else.

    You look at the whole Bridge and see Roman Catholic Church. I looked at the whole Bridge and saw a fantasy because the Roman Catholic Church that used to be visible is no longer. Now I look and see the whole Bridge, it’s there after all, it just isn’t the Roman Catholic Church, and the mistake was judging whether there is a Bridge or not by whether the Roman Catholic Church is it or not.

    It isn’t. It’s part of it, mostly the rotting planks and ropes, and operates under some severe delusions derived from false bridges like its head being a pontifex, but it’s part of it nonetheless and the real Bridge can be found in it. Nor are the rotting planks and ropes confined to it, there’s other part of the Bridge like that too. And God bless us ten times, even where the planks are rightly preached and the ropes rightly administered (like that one?) there’s a WHOLE bunch of jamokes thinking those shoddy ones look better!

    But the Bridge endures, not because of a clown in Rome appropriating a pagan title, not because of a “Purple Palace” in St Louis, not because of anything like that at all on anyone’s part, but because the Bridge, while earthly analogies may be helpful to those who already see it, simply become Platonism for the people, as Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading, said, when one begins to take them as reality itself.

    Judas at the movies, Christine just chimed in. I’ll read that.

  5. Past Elder

    Hey Christine — wanna see MY St Joseph’s Missal? Copyright 1950. That pre-Bugman 1962 (or the EF as the liars call it now) as well as pre-Bugman 1970 (the OF, the novus ordo).

    Blessed be the Bugman, blessed be his holy name …

  6. Past Elder

    God bless me sideways if I don’t see it now, Liturgics down the road, or bridge, a while — the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, the Liturgy of St Hannibal Lector Bugnini 1962, the Liturgy of St Hannibal Lector Bugnini 1970, etc.

    Oh to be there!

  7. Christine

    Sigh, PE. The Bugman’s name is also appended to all four volumes of the Roman Divine Office (or LOH). But I’ll forgive that instrusion as I really like the patristic readings in the Office of Readings.

    I’m sure he would be delighted, though that you have placed him firmly on the road to sainthood.

    Tell ya what, next time you want to get a seriously upset stomach I’ll send you my copy of the Collegeville Bible Commentary from the Abtei. Talk about the preeminence of the historical critical method!

  8. Past Elder

    Judas H Priest in the sacristy, I probably know half the guys who wrote the bleeder!

    Any time you’re on campus and you need to barf and just can’t, a trip to the Liturgical Press store will get the job done!

    Have you seen the latest — the St John’s Bible or some such crap. Not a whole lot about Jesus Christ — it’s Catholic after all — but tons on art, tradition, whatever. The bleeder has been on tour across the country, came here too. I stayed home. My Concordia Edition ESV from CPH does just fine.

  9. Christine

    No doubt you do. I’m afraid St. John’s is one of those Benedictine institutions that went off the raft after the Council and has no intention of ever getting back on.

    But thanks for the hat tip for the purgative if I need one!

  10. Past Elder

    Hey, better a purgative than Purgatory.

    I’ll forward my mail (read: send money) from the Alumni Office to you from now on. That works just as well.

  11. Christine

    I’ll forward my mail (read: send money) from the Alumni Office to you from now on. That works just as well.

    And that, my friend, will earn YOU at least twenty more years in said purgatory !!

    One of the things I most want to be in on is the conversations you will have with Father Godfrey at the Heavenly Banquet.

    I must admit I’m still on the Liturgical Press mailing list but then, it’s good to know what the “other” side is thinking and doing 🙂

  12. Past Elder

    I’m on a list there too, but not the mailing one, if you know what I mean!

  13. Christine

    Ja, PE, ich verstehe!

  14. matthias

    I wish all Catholics,orthodox,Lutherans,
    anabaptists (the stepchildren of the reformation) and other sundry protestants groups all the best for this Reformation Day 2008,knowing that it is one day closer to the Marriage Feast that the Book of Revelation refers to.

  15. Tony

    PE,

    I don’t know you from Adam, but I’m struck from reading your stuff by one thing more than anything else: bitterness.

    It’s a level of bitterness that prompts me to ask, ‘is it because of ‘out there’, or ‘in here’?’

  16. matthias

    I’m glad Tone that you are directing your comments to PE ,as that is the impression i have gained.Perhaps he needs to use Schultz’s bridge and get over it!
    As corrie ten Boom wrote ‘ for those in the shadow of the gas chamber,what matter was their view on Christ’s death and resurrection. Views on the Millenium were secondary”

  17. Past Elder

    Pretty typical. Since the god Rome is always right by definition, there can be no opposition and anyone who opposes it cannot have any content to address, so we may ignore that and instead analyse a personal issue and chalk it all up to that. It’s a great way to keep a god in its shrine though!

    Schultz’s Bridge?

  18. Tony

    PE, your reaction didn’t really help to dispell my point.

    I didn’t make the observation for the sake of being personal or winning a point. It just struck me in this and some of your other contributions.

    As for being a mindless defender of the ‘god Rome’, I gotta tell ya that’s a novel feeling!

    I’m usually told in no uncertain terms that I’m anything but!

  19. Past Elder

    It is my general practice to address positions rather than speculate on the state of mind of their advocate.

    But I suppose in a religion that is little else than a religious form of phenomenology that can’t be expected to fly.

    Mindless? Where is that?

    I like Schultz’s Bridge though — an Occam’s Razor for the 21st Century!

  20. Tony

    It is my general practice to address positions rather than speculate on the state of mind of their advocate.

    I wasn’t really speculating, just giving you an impression.

    But I suppose in a religion that is little else than a religious form of phenomenology that can’t be expected to fly.

    That’s a ‘position’ I suppose.

    Mindless?

    OK you didn’t use that word, but it certainly sums up:

    … is always right by definition, there can be no opposition and anyone who opposes it cannot have any content to address

  21. Past Elder

    Anyone who opposes it (the Roman church), having no content to address since opposition by definition is groundless, applies to me, not you.

    Yes, that post-conciliar “Catholicism” is merely phenomenology served up with a religious veneer derived from Christianity is a position. So the immediate question then is, is that so, or is it rather that the Catholic church has adapted methods of exposition derived from more recent wordly thought to better address the world with the Gospel entrusted to it by Jesus Christ, not a psychological evaluation that since by definition the Catholic church does proclaim the Gospel entrusted to it by Jesus Christ, failure to see that and call it something else, having no basis in fact, must proceed from, say, bitterness, or hate (you didn’t say that last but others have).

    In short, since a priori he can’t be right, he must be bitter, hateful, or whatever.

    Flying Judas in the belfry.

  22. Tony

    Sorry PE, I can’t make sense of that first sentence so my response may not hit the mark.

    I’m the last person to suggest opposition to the church is groundless. A lot of the time, propably for very different reasons than yours, I’m hanging on (to the bridge?) by my fingernails.

    I understand this though:

    In short, since a priori he can’t be right, he must be bitter, hateful, or whatever.

    Problem is I didn’t say you can’t be right and, just to be crystal clear, it’s not my position. And, as a rule, I follow your guide of dealing with issues.

    But the tone of bitterness is so strong that it makes any dealing with issues pretty much impossible. I mean, there’s not many places to go in a conversation when the other guy describes the church as a pile of dung.

    That’s the ‘position’ of a closed book, locked down real tight with attitude.

    So, don’t get even more cranky, and correct me if I’m wrong, but it comes across as ‘the church is well f*%$#d, end of story!’.

    There are any number of sites where I can engage in battles with people throwing grenades from entrenched positions. I thought David’s invitation was not about that though.

    Of course the other possibility is that I’m just not used to your style. If that’s the case I’ll pull my head in and try to be a little more patient.

  23. Mikha'el

    Is Jesus God? Yes.

    In his human nature, Jesus Christ was never said to be an outwardly ‘glamorous’ man. His passion and Crucifixion made men’s faces cringe. He bore our sins, which caused His disfigurement. But he is God.

    Is the Catholic Church the one Church that Jesus established? Yes.

    In its visible form, the Catholic Church is not glamorous. Its visible face in its darkest period made men’s faces cringe. Human and demonic sins blemished His bride. But the Catholic Church is the mystical Body of Christ, even though its visible membership does not always correspond to its true membership.

    If the Head suffered disfigurement, it is not scandalous that the Body too should suffer.

    The question is ‘What will you do when the mystical Body of Christ stands before you, disfigured by sin?’ Cf. Lk 10:25ff.

  24. Past Elder

    A pile of dung? Locked down? Great flying hoards of frogs, a pile of dung is an expression of restraint — living as I do under the constant threat of Der Schuetzmeister’s delete function, which the altogether more applicable and descriptive phrase would have called forth!

    Yes, Tony, I see well from other of your posts that you do hang on by your fingernails a good bit of the time. And that it is for different reasons. We are closer than it may appear. Brothers, maybe, at least first cousins. It’s also why — insofar as one may say this of someone known only through pixels — I like you.

    Our difference is not in the reasons. It is in the effort to hang on.

    My dissertation adviser used to complain that my English prose read like a literal word for word translation of something written in German. I am a recovering academic. Next to my fear of David’s Delete is this, that in taking up blogging I may end up not being able to introduce myself at Academics Anonymous meetings by saying My name is Terry and I’m an academic, by the grace of God and your fellowship I haven’t published an aritcle in a journal or read one before a convention since 1984.

    So, style. In writing, first of all one must dance. This is also last of all. Actually, it is all. Herr Kapellmeister! And if there is no answer, one is in the wrong Kapelle, or rather, one must make music a-Kapelle! Alles klar? No? Good, we go on.

    There. Wasn’t that fun? With that, I have given mankind the greatest gift it has been given in the last five minutes (damn, I started dancing again, so since I am now trying to not dance, to limp — get into a wheelchair, really — I’ll disect, dessicate, defecate, this last: it’s a little bit of fun with the estimation of Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading, of his Zarathustra, that with it he had given mankind the greatest gift it had ever been given). It would take a ten page article, with footnotes, unless you prefer endnotes, to say everything said in that paragraph.

    One must not mistake words for the reality to which they refer. Otherwise, one becomes incapable of dancing. One becomes a theologian. A paralytic. But with tenure hopefully. Now that’s hanging on by your fingernails!

    A pile of dung? Perhaps the real problem is not decribing the church (the Roman church, which Romans typically elliptically — that was fun! — call the church)ss a pile of dung, but a pile of dung describing itself as the church!

    From the wheelchair: yes, it’s the style. I have a ball blogging. I hope you do too. Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading — which I always append when I mention his name, in part because it’s a play on something he said and in part because it’s true — once said the philosopher is only the precondition, sometimes the dung and manure, for his work. I left the Roman church because, on the basis of what the Roman church had taught me, it was no longer the Roman church, and since part of that was that the Roman church IS the full and true church, there is no church and therefore no Christ (yet), and years later by the grace of God and no merit of mine, I saw there is “the church” after all and the Christ whose it is, and it does not have Rome, or Constantinople, or St Louis (where the headquarters of my synod is) on it, and I come here not so much to warn those who think they have come home to Rome that it is one of those efforts to start the bridge over or start a new bridge, though it is, but to say it’s not Rome, they hung the name on something else. That’s about it. The rest is all fun. Like professional wrestling, a great dance, and afterward we all go out for pizza!

  25. Tony

    PE,

    I’m no academic and I guess I’m more of a phenomenological type when it comes to faith.

    To me philosophy is a little like my experience of chess. I’d like to like chess more, but once you have to think more than 2 or 3 moves ahead I get lost in the unfiltered possibilities. So too with philosophy, once you get too far removed from what I stubb my toe on, it starts to lose a sense of urgency. I’d like to like cheese a bit more too, but that’s another story.

    My memories of the pre-VatII church are probably best summed up in this image: I’m an altar boy kneeling, ad orientum, pretty much terrified about getting the bell-ringing right. Occasionally I’d risk incurring the withering stare of old Fr K and sneak a peak at the congregation. What I saw was a few people in the front row totally enthralled by the proceedings (they used to weep on Good Friday) and the rest mastering the skill of sleeping with their eyes open, day dreaming or looking vacant and bored. Somehow too, in those days, many of the men seemed to find their way to the back of the church so they could sneak out and have a fag. The bit in English was the sermon and that was almost always about guilt.

    I think that 2000 years of tradition is a very powerful ‘bridge’, but I was listening to someone talking about Elija’s experience of God (1Kings19 I think) which was a still small voice. The bridge building is important but God is found when the bridge is at its worst, collapsed in a pile of rubble. In our despair we can see the foundation stone is undamaged and we understand what’s really important. The foundation stone just is.

    So the bigger and stronger the bridge appears the more we need iconoclasts to smash it to smithereens.

    I was reminded of this after being a leader in the RCIA in our parish for a few years. I really enjoyed challenging and being challenged by this process. One year we went to a diocesan conference and the topic for one afternoon session was Canon Law and its implications for new Catholics.

    The lecturer was very knowlegeble and came across as a compassionate woman. But, besides feeling a little like the congregation of my youth, I was overwhelmed by this sense of Canon Law being a tower of Babel. There were so many ‘move’s removed from the reality of people’s experience that it all became a very boring game of chess for me.

  26. Past Elder

    Yeah, I get it, Tony. I had a feeling we might be brothers in there somewhere.

    You know what I fear more than being mistaken for a bitter old — well, I’m 58, so you make your mind up about the old thing! — man, is being mistaken for someone who thinks the Roman church pre-VII was perfect and so was everybody in it, and we gotta get back to that.

    I saw the sleeping with the eyes open too — literally and figuratively. Hell, some days, it might have even been me. Pius XII was very concerned about that, and he wasn’t the first. That sort of thing didn’t start with VII and didn’t end with it. You know what, it isn’t even confined to the RCC. Happens in all churches. You can leave one church because of it and join another, and sooner or later its version of the same thing will appear.

    In the end, if I still thought the RCC was the same as the church founded by Jesus Christ, I’d still be in it, oftentimes like you hanging by the fingernails. But if it is the same as the church founded by Jesus Christ, or that in which its fulness subsists, then warts and all there is no other place to be.

  27. Christine

    My memories of the pre-VatII church are probably best summed up in this image: I’m an altar boy kneeling, ad orientum, pretty much terrified about getting the bell-ringing right. Occasionally I’d risk incurring the withering stare of old Fr K and sneak a peak at the congregation. What I saw was a few people in the front row totally enthralled by the proceedings (they used to weep on Good Friday) and the rest mastering the skill of sleeping with their eyes open, day dreaming or looking vacant and bored. Somehow too, in those days, many of the men seemed to find their way to the back of the church so they could sneak out and have a fag. The bit in English was the sermon and that was almost always about guilt.

    That pretty much sums up my cradle Catholic husband’s experience (he also was an altar server). Guilt, guilt, guilt — the nuns at his school loaded it on. And the part about the guys (and some gals, his sister being one of them) sneaking out for a cigarette made me howl. He remembers that happening all too well as well as the hangers-on who would show up at Midnight Mass “a bit in their cups” from drinking too much Christmas Cheer.

    Then there was my Catholic grandmother, more Catholic than the Pope. Her ueber-orthodoxy needed to be tempered with a little good old fashioned Gospel compassion.

    Mass at my parish for All Souls was just beautiful. I’m still glad I made the move to the Catholic Church twelve years ago.

  28. Tony

    I must say Christine that, probably more than any other year, I found the Mass for All Souls very moving too.

    My mother dying earlier this, in particular, and attending way too many funerals in general, no doubt resonated, but it just seemed a very fitting thing to do.

    Our PP talked about the nature of purgatory too — a subject I’d never thought would engage me — in a way that just made sense.

  29. Past Elder

    Why not be Othodox — they have several “All Souls Days”!

    I’ve lost my wife, both parents and a father in law to death. I suggest comfort from the promises of Christ in the Gospel rather than a theologically inferred fiction like Purgatory.

    Nonetheless, remembrance of the faithful departed can and should be observed without recourse to either a Christianised version of pagan ceremonies or theological make believe.

  30. Christine

    Tony, I’m glad to hear that. The Catholic Church has a long history and sometimes explanations given for doctrinal or dogmatic issues were colored by the times and cultures in which they were expressed.

    I like the idea of Purgatory. I believe 100% that I am saved by the merits and grace of Jesus Christ alone, but I want to have a bit of a spiritual “shower” before I am ushered into that loving Presence.

    I need it!

    As for the Orthdox, nah — I don’t like Greek food!

  31. Tony

    In some ways PE (and this is part of the fingernails stuff) all of religion is an inferred fiction for me.

    Our PP’s talking about Purgatory was in terms that I could related just the same.

    He spoke of times when we are entering new human relationships and how part of that process is a ‘purgation’ of stuff that we need to disgard in order to enter more fully into that new relationship. I am happy to leave it at that and not go into Purgatory being a time or place.

    I’m sorry to hear about those loved ones of yours who have died.

  32. Schütz

    Well, that was fun. I love throwing down a bombshell and going away for a holiday (where not even the mobile internet reaches me as I have just done), and coming back to see what you guys have made of it. There’s a ton of good stuff in the above 30 comments, so I hope to get down to it tonight with some replies.

  33. Past Elder

    I think for most of the butts in the pew — including pews in my church as well as yours — religion is pretty much an inferred fiction; you just seem to recognise it.

    IOW, religion is not so much truth but a lens, or rather a bunch of lenses, though which we view truth, all of which lenses are culturally conditioned, and we forget that what we see through this or that given lens is not truth itself, but simply what one sees when that lens is used.

    I use the Resurrection often in talking about this, not that it is the only example, but because it uses such a central aspect of Christianity. After the Revolution, there was to be no problem in understanding that “Jesus rose from the dead” can be said side by side by those for whom it means he literally rose from the dead and those for whom it is language to describe his overwhelmingy continuing significance.

    Likewise “Son of God” — that he is literally the only begotten Son of God, or that it is an ancient honorific, much like Son of Thunder, Cloudgatherer (I am wont to exclaim Great Zeus Cloudgatherer when verbally dancing, in reference to the Homeric honorific) and other such, where a person is named by that which characterises him, Son of God being someone completely characterised by God but not a biological statement. Either understanding can be valid then when saying Jesus is the Son of God.

    Which is a detailed complicated way of saying what is often put this way — we’re all heading in the same direction.

    Re Purgatory, there is not the slighest indication of any such thing in the NT. On the other hand, your pastor’s observation is spot on re human relationships. Unless one is completely blind, who cannot find examples when baggage from one relationship inserts itself into a new one. The woman who can’t trust a man because her father was untrustworthy, the man who can’t trust a woman because a previous one was unfaithful, or, for those who have experienced loss, the baggage that new loves willl just end up new losses so why bother, to use more obvious examples of something that exists on many different levels.

    If there is a Purgatory, I would think one really could leave it at that, separating that from speculation about where exactly Purgatory is and how long one is there — though it would dry up a good bit of indulgence income for the cassock crowd. Even pre VII, we were taught to think of the days and years not so much in the sense of a literal jail term but a relative thing indicating seriousness coupled with the thousand years as a day thing from the NT.

    I could buy that as a Catholic. I just don’t at all as a Lutheran, or rather, upon examination it falls apart as a human fabrication leaning upon human understanding far more than just times and places, obscures the justification that comes by faith in itself and as distinct from sanctification in this life, that this remains an objection even if grosser ills such as selling indulgences are removed, the obfuscation of the Gospel Good News remains.

    My parents’ funerals were hard three times over: once for the obvious reason that they were my parents’ funerals, once for being novus ordo (I’ll leave out the “pieces of crap” that usually follows me saying “novus ordo”) completely foreign to the many funerals I served and/or chanted for (we schoolkids were the choir for parish funerals) which we were now taught refected the mediaeval agonies of the Plague rather than the Gospel so one looked in vain for where one formerly looked for comfort, and once since being then Lutheran the whole thing seemed to be just like everything Roman, the Gospel in there someplace but overlaid with so much humanly derived things, like Purgatory for example, the priest praying for a merciful judgement when the judgement has already happened, whereas any decent Lutheran pastor could have put clearly in five sentences what this bunch will hem and haw and stutter and sputter to say for an hour and never really get it out clearly.

    In sum, a triple whammy: human loss, church loss as a non Catholic service passes itself off as Catholic, then the recognition that neither the faux Catholic nor the real Catholic is the REAL catholic found in the evangelical Lutheran church (not a denominational designation, as catholic church is neither!) which by the grace of God I now enjoy.

    My wife was Lutheran, and at her funeral, you could not possibly miss that the only dead people in the church had nothing to do with who’s in a coffin but with not being alive in Christ. It rocked! The sureness of the promises of Christ was right up front from start to finish, a connexion that not even death could break between each of us and the Lord and for that matter among us all, in this life or not.

    Anyway, I’m sure we’ll shortly hear from the Schuetzmeister.

  34. Christine

    He spoke of times when we are entering new human relationships and how part of that process is a ‘purgation’ of stuff that we need to disgard in order to enter more fully into that new relationship.

    Excellent summation, Tony, that’s just as I would regard it.

    I’m always fascinated by the exchanges with PE because of our completely opposite faith journeys, his from Catholic to Lutheran and mine from Lutheran to Catholic.

  35. Past Elder

    A bunch of stuff just appeared on this blog re Fr Dresser, and it’s really the same sort of thing we’re talking here.

    I don’t know why anyone finds Fr Dresser remarkable at all. He simply holds — just much further thought out and applied — the faith of the vast majority of Catholics I have ever known or read.

    I also don’t know why anyone would question that he loves the Catholic faith and church. In this mindset, it’s all analogy and symbol, and what one loves are the analogies and symbols, where one differs is in how one sees them and what one sees in them, the “Catholic faith” that some think he denies being one set of what may be seen in and through them, but not the only set, neither historically nor going forward. What endures are the analogies and symbols and the community that finds them meaningful. Hell, it’s just Newman without the hierarchy controlling the development, hierarchy itself being part of the development.

    That is also why, though I disagree with them almost totally, I am at ease with them whereas I am not with these “Documents of Vatican II” (which I use to distinguish from the oft-cited “spirit” of Vatican II) types, mostly creaky celibate clerics and a small minority of lay huddled around them, shouting “Oh that’s not what the Church REALLY teaches” whenever they encounter the living reality of Catholicism outside their small circles. They try to reform the Church and engage the world and end up doing neither, sounding like someone who tries to relate to an African-American by using black slang or impress a teenager by using what they think is teen slang.

    So far this really should have been posted under the Dresser post. How it relates here is this: re PE’s ecclesiology, another way to put it is, the postconciliar RCC is just utterly irrelevant to either the world or the church, being lost as it is now in trying to articulate some sort of Catholic sounding yet modern sounding too; re Purgatory that has come up here, the understanding under discussion makes perfect sense in human terms, which is the whole problem when used to explain something that makes no sense in human terms, Christianity. It’s the sort of thing that happens when you make, eg, the Incarnation both a fact revealed by God and a theological principle for use by Man. Fr Dresser et al just don’t try to have it both ways; it’s all a principle surrounding a bigger mystery. The RC faith and church didn’t try to have it both ways either; it’s all a fact in which principles may help our understanding. Each, and either, is a clear and consistent entity, or to use a phrase oft used on this blog, a both/and approach unfolding through time, whereas with the post conciliar “official” church you have a neither/nothing.

  36. Christine

    Except that Fr. Dresser is the complete opposite of my (much younger) parish priest who is totally orthodox in his views.

    Father Dresser is simply one of the greying heads of the Call To Action crowd which had hoped to morph into hundreds of thousands of members but failed miserably.

    On the other hand, those Lutheran (and Presbyterian and Methodist and Baptist and Anglican/Episcopalian) bodies like my sister’s who have become utterly heterodox have their lady “bishops” who love their church, too.

    When I go to Mass I have no doubt that I’m receiving the Eucharist. Who knows what “Father” Dresser is receiving.

  37. Past Elder

    Misses the point. In that mindset, “orthodoxy” is what happens when one view through the lens is taken for the only view through the lens, or the only lens.

  38. Christine

    Horsefeathers. My parish priest thinks with the mind of the Church.

    Dresser doesn’t.

  39. Past Elder

    I’m not saying I agree with it, just that I understand it.

    “The mind of the Church” is not to be mistaken for a snapshot of it at a particular point in time. From that standpoint, any “mind of the Church” excludes a good deal that is part of the mind of the Church.

    God bless me sideways if I don’t like those guys better than the post-conciliar pseudo-Orthodox crowd. At least they don’t go on in continual doublespeak Orwellian games like blather about changes in the church but nothing really changed and other such stuff not generally heard outside of lunatic asylums, graduate seminars, LSD trips, Catholic Catechism Class and other places of semi-organised insanity.

  40. Christine

    “The mind of the Church” is not to be mistaken for a snapshot of it at a particular point in time.

    Ah but it IS that “snapshot” that has consistently defined the person of Jesus Christ in total opposition to Father Dresser’s views.

    For him to say he loves the Catholic Church is laughable. He’s created an idol of his own making as pagan as any fireworshipper.