Tag Archives: ecclesiology

Possibilities of the Reunion of East and West.

In the past half-century, relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church have been growing ever closer and oriented ever more toward possible reunion. Perhaps the greatest hope of the late Holy Father John Paul II, of happy memory, was the reunion of these two oldest Churches of Christendom. In his many efforts to bridge the doctrinal and cultural divides which separate the Churches, he was successful in fostering much greater mutual respect, if not any actual reunification. Understandably, the steps taken by the Holy Father’s predecessor have excited much hope for reunion. However, it is my belief that the steps taken, on each side, toward the noble goal of rebuilding the single pre-schism Church, truly amount to little more than window-dressing, with no substantial gains made.

Not to be a party-pooper, but there is a huge list of very important things that need to be cleared up before reunion can be effected.

In compiling this list, I have provided a brief summary of each point. In order to shorten this article to a readable length, I have eliminated source citations. If you would like a citation on a particular point, please let me know in the comments section or via e-mail.

I invite your commentary.

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Tres Viae

It seems that a lot of the problems within the Church today stem from Catholics, who have vastly different ideologies, thinking every Catholic thinks as they do. This simply isn’t true. Within the Church today there are at least three distinct ideologies in use. What are these ideologies? Well, I hope to explain that. Now, the names used are arbitrary. Just because you call yourself “traditionalist” doesn’t make you one. Furthermore, these distinctions have little to do with politics. Conservative Catholics may be quite liberal politically. And please, bear in mind, “liberal” is not synonymous with “heretic”. While the liberal position may constitute heresy, we can’t assume that right off the bat.  The greater portion of “liberals”, for example, oppose abortion, and if they don’t it’s because nobody has explained abortion to them in their terms.

Oh, and most Catholics in the pews fit into none of these, they just go to Mass on Sunday.

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“Father” Bill

An article in today’s Pitt News has some misleading information.  In the section addressing Lent, "Father" Bill Hausen, of Christ Hope Church, is quoted. Hausen broke away from the Catholic Church in 2004. He has been excommunicated and is no longer longer recognized as a priest by the Church, the sacraments he offers are not valid, and attending services at Christ Hope does not satisfy one’s Sabbath obligation.

“Is the Catholic Church who she claims to be?”

From Al Kimel, the Pontificator:

The Salty Vicar has published the following letter he recently received from an individual inquiring into the Episcopal Church:

I am seeking to learn more about the Episcopalian Church. I am currently taking RCIA classes at my local Catholic church and want badly to convert but am assailed with doubts for the following reasons: the Church’s stance on divorce, birth control, abortion, homosexuality and women as priests. I am a liberal and cannot and will not betray my conscience by accepting the teachings of the Church hierarchy that I view to be implicitly wrong. I love Christ will all my heart and long to serve him, but don’t know if I can reconcile my personal belief system with these teachings, not to mention the overall alarmingly conservative outlook of many Catholics. I know that many former Catholics have become members of the Episcopalian Church. Do you know of any yourself? Is it true that many have become members since Pope Benedict took his place in the Holy See?

I have encountered some Catholics online who are progressive and share my views but they seem to be the minority, alas. I’m feeling pretty lost right now and I don’t know where I can find a home, so to speak, a church that will accept and embrace my views. I love so many aspects of Catholicism, the dignity of Mass, the sacraments, the emphasis on social justice, but don’t want to feel as if I’m living a lie but rejecting other teachings. Does the Episcopalian Church offer the sacrament of Reconciliation? I don’t know if I could stand to leave this behind. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

* * * * *

Dear Inquirer,

I applaud your commitment not to betray your conscience “by accepting the teachings of the Church hierarchy” that you believe to be wrong. The Catholic Church teaches that the conscience is the voice of God and therefore a person should and must obey his conscience, even though it is possible that he may have misheard the divine voice. “It is never lawful,” Cardinal Newman writes, “to go against our conscience.” However, we also have a moral obligation to inform and train our conscience. How are we to do so?

You write that you disagree with the Catholic Church’s positions on divorce and remarriage, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, and the male priesthood. May I suggest that you bracket these convictions for a moment and consider a more fundamental question: Is the Catholic Church who she claims to be? This question must be asked and answered before you can reasonably address the specific teachings of the Catholic Church, for if the Catholic claim is true, then you will be forced to reconsider your present beliefs…

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Salvation, Discipleship, and Priorities

"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

 – Matthew 25:31-46

I have recently come to understand that "the nations" in verse 32 would be goyim if the Gospel of Matthew had been written in Hebrew. To Jesus' audience, the goyim would have been gentile nations, i.e., those not part of God's chosen people. In light of Christ's teachings, we would see non-Christians as goyim.  We can see thing from the tradition, going back to the time of the apostles, of referring to the Church as the new Isreal or the new Jerusalem.

My point is that this parable is descriptive of those outside the Church (in the broad sense). In it, Jesus tells us how those who do not have faith in Him, but did not explicitly reject Him, are to be saved. What it amounts to is an explication of His command to "love our neighbors as ourselves". To borrow from another parable, a good tree will not bear bad fruit, nor will a bad tree bear good fruit. That is, to act with agape love is to follow Christ, whether one knows it or not.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not endorsing universalism. There are plenty of uncertainties in this parable, such as how different charitable acts balance against failures to act charitably, to leave more than enough rope for man to hang himself. There's also the matter of explicit rejection of Christ, which seems to be pretty…well…condemned.

I believe this parable shows us how those of other faiths, or no faith at all, can be saved. Consequently, it represents the barest minimum of loving behavior that is expected from humanity. Isn't it reasonable to expect that those who have faith in Jesus Christ to do even more? Shouldn't the love we receive from our Lord and Savior spill over into our relationships with other people? Shouldn't we, who allegedly have the Law written on hearts, be more focused on loving one another as Christ has loved us than beating each other with doctrinal sticks?

I do not deny that there are real and important differences between different sects within the Body, and I do not believe they can be ignored. However, there are times and places for discussing such matters and there are people who are better equipped to do so than the average Joe blogger. Surely there cannot be as many qualified theologians in the blogosphere as there are bloggers spouting pontifications. We cannot all be hands in the Body Christ. Some of us have to be feet. Others are part of an arm. You get the idea.

Far too much air is expended, too much ink spilled, and too many pixels lit in battles over orthodoxy. Why don't we spend a little more time talking about orthopraxy? I addressed a specific aspect of this topic, civility in discourse, in an earlier post. There's more to being Christians than just being civil, though. That's not meritorious behavior, just what is expected of us. There are poor, lonely, hurt, angry, sick, and otherwise needy people in this world. Let's try spending a little more time caring about them, and leave theology to the theologians once in a while. It's fine to have a rousing debate once in a while, but it doesn't fulfill our duties as Christians, as people commanded to love to the point of laying down our lives. Instead of being quick to label each other heretic and refuse to have dealings with each other, let's work together to spread the love of God. Even nonbelievers can do that; Jesus said so.