Friday, November 4, 2011

To choose or not to choose...

Refusing to chose is a choice.

A group in Austria has published seven recommended changes to how the Catholic Church should function. I like the list. Their website has a guest book. Seeking some tool of procrastination, I wrote something there rather than here. Efficiency being holy, I'm writing here, too. It took a while, since I wrote it in German. One point I made, however, is that over the past 2,000 years the Church has changed; yet we still hold ourselves to be "one holy, catholic, and apostolic church". Of course these words come from the Nicean Creed, which any long-term Catholic knows. However, at this point, since I certainly don't know the Creed -or any other part of the Mass in German other than the offering of Peace - and wished to use that wording in writing to a bunch of German-speaking priests, I sought the text auf deutsch on that wonder of wonders, Wikipedia.

My education for the day: The American Catholic Church uses the Nicean Creed accepted in 381; the German Catholic Church uses the original version from 325. I didn't realize there was more than one. I like ours better. I'm actually quite surprised at how very close the current version is to the one from more than 1700 years ago.
The German ends with We believe in the Holy Spirit [boooooring], with nothing about Her role in our faith.
Ours ends with We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, with the Father and Son She is worshipped and glorified, She has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. [perhaps long-winded, but at least comprehensive in highlighting many of the differences with the evangelical/pentacostal sects]

As much as I approve of the social justice policies of the US Council of Catholic Bishops, they fall prey to the same limited vision as their fellows in the Vatican. The USCCB is changing the official text for the Celebration of the Eucharist (ie., Mass). I'm torn between thinking change is ok, after all, that's what I want the church to do and thinking "this sounds stupid and has no apparent purpose other than being closer to the old-fashioned version pre-Vatican 2 text". Here we go, back to mea maxima culpa. The new Gloria sucks. Just sucks. The only exception to my disregard of the new text is that the end of the Nicean Creed uses the first person, "I believe / I confess / I look". I confess I like the fact it makes the profession my personal. I really want to know who voted against the changes (173-29).

So, how badly do I think it sucks? How much is the change going to influence my decision to attend Mass? Will I go to the physical building, leave Mr. Gopher with the Jr. Gophers in our regular pew and go read a book in the social hall? Or sit there in silence? Yes, I'm emotionally attached to the current version. I've used it for the past 45 years. I have sympathy for the people who were confronted with the changes from the 2nd Vatican Council. But those changes were made to keep people in the church and to involve The People in the Mass.

What do these new changes provide?
a) A power trip for the Bishops to remind us of who has the power?

b) A sincere belief that the changes from Vatican 2 were detrimental to the pious and devout expression of our fidelity to the dictates of Jesus to achieve the Salvation promised by the Messiah?

c) Stupidity?

d) All of the Above?

Would I stop going to church because of these impending changes? I suppose it says something about my devotion to the holy Church of Rome that my answer is: hmmmm... I'm not sure.

Does the form of the Mass have such a big impact on enjoying it? Should enjoyment be a criteria for going to Mass? The annoyingly conservative parishes use the same words we do. It is, in part, what makes the church universal.

I go to Mass and belong to a Catholic parish when my adherence to the Church's teachings is at times tenuous. Why? The same reason I belong to the Green Party: no one has it all right. I'll pick the one that has the greatest proportion of what I think is right. The willingness of local parishes to pursue good works tips the scales. Does that make the Church a social organization? At times I think people look more at what their parish is doing, and consider a generic "Christianity requires us to do Good Works, I'm doing good, therefore I'm fulfilling my requirement as a Christian" to be the only justification for belonging to a specific denomination.

Yes, I realize being a member of a religious group is voluntary and if a person doesn't like it, one can leave.

I was confirmed my last year at university, when I was 21. I was questioning my choice to continue to return to the Roman Catholic church. There was, after all, no pressure from anyone to belong to any church. One evening at Mass, I paid more attention to the check list presented by the Nicean Creed: one god, check - creator of all, check - Jesus son of god, check - messiah, check... and so on. At the end I decided that I could agree with all of them as the core items of faith. Everything else is optional. Question answered.

I know so many Catholics who don't want to stop being catholic, but are frustrated by (i.e., fed up beyond human comprehension with) the Church's apparent blatant refusal to accept that any of the social changes of the last, say, 500 years are beneficial. The moral choices before us today may be the same (abortion, extramarital sex, divorce), but the social context in which those choices are encountered is different than it was 1500 years ago. Or 500 years ago. Hell, it's different than it was 50 years ago. e.g., Did the church want to know that Mr.Gopher and I were living in consensually blissful sin for a few months before getting married? No. 50 years ago we would not have moved in together before the wedding, even if we were ignoring the prohibition against pre-marital sex. Did we want children before we said "I do"? No. Did it happen? No. Why not? The genetic lottery wasn't selling tickets back then.

Birth control is almost universally ignored by young (or middle-aged) (or older) (hell, maybe all) Catholics. I don't accept the theological conclusions about why it's wrong. If virginity and the absence of sperm does not present an insurmountable barrier to the Almighty, a little bit of fragile latex shouldn't either. Theological flippance aside, it boils down to a question of who gets to choose when I have children: me or God. Why shouldn't I? Because God knows best seems equally flippant. The Jr.Gophers both spent a few months lobbying for a little sister. I had to explain to them that we thought 2 was a nice number for us. Tubal ligation isn't really in their vocabulary yet.

The boys in Rome present a bureaucratic and human (not divine) obstruction to our method of worship. The church runs on theology; theology is simply the human conclusions about what they think god is/wants/means.

I know many who have changed their relationship with the church; we just accept that the bunch of old men over in Rome are ignorant of the beliefs that we, the Faithful, have while concurrently refusing to accept that we should participate in any meaningful way in developing the Church's theology. I simply cannot imagine anyone, not one single person in the Vatican actually giving a damn about my opinion about theology. I could tell them Jesus Christ, Son of God was the Messiah and they wouldn't care.

A 2nd Reformation is not out of the possibilities for the Church. I'm sure they didn't think the first one would happen. I'm sure they don't think another could. I'm not familiar with the popular sentiment in Luther's era (the 95 Theses were written in 1517), but where would you go, if you refuted the Church of Rome in the 16th Century? You'd likely be socially ostracized, rejected by your family and friends. Today? Few would care. No one would even know outside of your immediate circle of friends.

The Church has a choice: they can change their relationship with me (us), or they can stay the same without me.

I have a choice before me: change my relationship with God or change my relationship with the Church. I can no longer be faithful to both.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The Church has a choice: they can change their relationship with me (us), or they can stay the same without me.

I have a choice before me: change my relationship with God or change my relationship with the Church. I can no longer be faithful to both."

OK, I don't know much about the Roman Catholic church really. I was raised Southern Baptist until my Grandma Yager died and then the family started going to the Presbyterian church right across the street. Back then, I wondered why people need churches when one's spiritual relationship with God doesn't need a physical building, other people, or a clergy to exist, function and thrive. My father disliked clergy intensely. It took me years to understand the reason. The best clergy, like the Presbyterian minister, acknowledged his fallibility and humanity, and the only difference between him and us is that he's studied to lead a church congregation. Unfortunately, my father had run into far too many who claimed the opposite. For him the Roman Catholic Pope was the worst offender of all. BuT, my father believed in the moral teachings that religion provides and insisted that we, as children, attended church and/or Sunday School.

To me, a church needs to be a place of guidance not worship. The guides would be elders who are experienced in spiritual awakenings and growth. No specific building would be necessary for this activity, but anything could suffice. A cafe. A park. I have a Mensa friend who several times a year meets 2-3 friends at a city lake and they talk about spiritual matters for the afternoon well into the evening. He learns more, grows more, from those deep discussions that sitting in a pew and listening to a sermon.

In my life, I chose years and years ago to disassociate myself from organized religion and began studying Hinduism and Buddhism. I began to think of my beliefs in terms of a spiritual philosophy without a name other than Cinda's Spirit. This is fine for me alone. If I had children, I'd probably do something else closer to organized religion -- Quakers or Unitarian, perhaps.

I think it's mature and thoughtful of you to be questioning the religion's tenets as well as your own beliefs. It's part of spiritual growth, whereas rigid, dogmatic thinking squashes spiritual growth....