April 03, 2005

On the Death of the Pope.

It has been difficult convincing people that being Catholic does not mean being hopelessly entrenched in obsolete, ineffective religious dogma and rigid hierarchy that ignores the realistic needs of the laity. It has been difficult reminding them of the distinction between the Church as the mystic Body of Christ as manifest in the community of believers, in which individuals can put down roots to help in the healthy evolution of tradition; and the "Church" as the political and social institution with many flaws, injustices and failings which Catholic laypeople have every right (and sometimes even obligation) to object to and improve upon. With the death of the pope, we have an opportunity to re-emphasize these important facts.

I mean no disrespect (well, to be honest, I'm not all that concerned about whether or not my objections to certain Church doctrine seem "disrespectful"), but I am relieved that John Paul II has finally "shuffled off this mortal coil," so to speak. Despite much lip-service to tolerance and interspiritual dialogue and a commitment to the sanctity of life, I do still believe that the many of the actions of this papacy have undermined real steps towards the development of the Roman Church. It is evidence enough for me that in my personal life, the common assumption of those around me is that one cannot be both a Catholic and a thinking human being addressing a modern culture, and many of those who see themselves as truly pious sacrifice the latter for the former. What a disappointment! Especially when such a sacrifice is far from necessary, and can be even dangerous, as it renders Catholicism increasingly irrelevant to modern life, meanwhile robbing modern culture of a grounding in spiritual tradition that could otherwise greatly enrich it.

An interesting article by Hans Kung can be found here: The Pope's Contradictions.

An Excerpt:

If the next pope were to continue the policies of this pontificate, he would only reinforce an enormous backup of problems and turn the Catholic church's current structural crisis into a hopeless situation. Instead, a new pope must decide in favor of a change in course and inspire the church to embark on new paths -- in the spirit of John XXIII and in keeping with the impetus for reform brought about by the Second Vatican Council.


At 3.4.05, Blogger VV said...

I start by saying I am not Catholic.

Responsible, pragmatic religious figures ought to reinvigorate the teachings of the Church, align them with a progressive world view, and cast out the hypocrisy of the institution. Throw off chastity, and sexism, and prohibitions on birth control....

Changes called heresy. Men who suggest them will be cursed, their after lives threatened, they will be excommunicated...but you know all this. What these men should not do is revel in the fight. If they "awoke" to a new understanding. They use Faith to move a mountain (the Roman Catholic Church) out of their way not to try and make the mountain into a tree. A mountain is a mountain, not a tree.

Oh wait...this sounds familiar...

Sounds to me like protestation...


and not Catholicism

Let mountains be mountains, and trees be trees. If you prefer trees seek them, but try as you might you cannot make one into the other.

At 3.4.05, Blogger VV said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4.4.05, Blogger J.J. said...

vv is right by saying there are problems with the Catholic church. But that does not mean that they cannot be reformed. Just because the Church is sick does not mean it cannot be healed. Maybe they could start by not treating a single man's words as equal to scripture.

By the way, I responded to your comment on my blog, Ali. Sorry it's long.

At 4.4.05, Blogger Ali said...

Thank you for your comments, both of you.

I'd like to remind vv that not all protest is Protestantism. The Church as a social institution is always evolving (for example, priests were not always required to be celibate--this was a reform that came about because of the abuse of property ownership, and it has been rendered largely unnecessary in a politic sense due to the modern separation of church authority and state authority). Just because it is evolving does not mean it is evolving towards Protestantism; indeed, I think in many ways it is beginning to embrace a stronger emphasis on orthopraxy, at least in some communities, which is as you know not exactly a strong Protestant line.

Another difference is that, as JJ Bennett points out, Catholics, unlike Protestants, do not accept Scripture as the single and final source of authority (as even Scripture points out it could never be, John 21:25), but instead understand the holy text in context with the developing Tradition of faith. While it is true that, because of the hierarchical structure of the Church qua political institution, a single man is the head (though not the entirety) of this Tradition, I do not think that retaining the focus on context and evolution is something that needs remedying in itself. After all, ideally, the Pope in his authority is servant to all, not some power-crazed dictator bending the Church to his personal will.

An interesting article on the development of Tradition can be found here. It is short and fairly simple to read.

In short, although there are many problems with the Church, I do not believe its balance of Scripture and Tradition is one of them, and I do not think that, even with the reforms I hope to see someday, a decontextualized and wholly private, interior and unmanifest faith is in its future (at least, not if that future is a bright and healthy one).

At 10.4.05, Blogger Euian said...

Hi I noticed you introduce yourself in BE as catholic witch. I think people, even most catholics don't realize that there actually is use of magic in the church.


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