April 19, 2005

American Catholicism?

Scott Kirwin discusses the tension between Rome and American Catholics, and some of the commenters at Dean's World (where he posted) predicts that American Catholics will split with Rome within 50-100 years.

I don't see it, primarily because there is already an alternative to Roman Catholicism: it's called the Episcopal Church (or Anglo-Catholicism, if you like). A lot of the rituals are the same, yet it's more liberal on a lot of the issues that have served as a sticking point.

Also, when the world is unstable, there is a visceral human need for constancy, and that's what the Roman Catholic Church provides.

One can argue about Vatican II all day long (and my husband and I have), but the fact is, these reforms were very ill-timed. At a time of social unrest, it's critical that people feel their religious institutions are holding steady, and providing moral leadership. The 1960s were a bad time to make sweeping changes. As is the present day.

(I do not feel that this applies to the issue of married priests, because that is not a core doctrinal issue: the Roman Catholic Church is in full communion with Eastern Orthodox sects that include married priests. So the Church has already conceded the point: it simply hasn't yet done the practical thing.)

UPDATE: More from The Corner.

Posted by Attila at April 19, 2005 08:16 PM

In my I wasn't around then opinion, Vatican II has been made out to be more of a drastic change than it was, leading people to believe they could make drastic changes to Church Doctine in the areas of abortion, gay marrage and the such.

As far as the married priests, I would be inclinded to initally agree, but after many a yeears in Jesuit Education I can see the Church Doctrine behind it.

As far as the split, I doubt it. I mean you can compare it to Judaism, people still call themeslves Jews but hold almost none of the Jewish beliefs, kind of like many Catholics also do currently.
Which is one of the reasons I might like Pope Benedict XVI is because he has the "If you don't like it leave" menality, rather than the give in and change the Church to make people feel better mentality or to make a cultural relativism (check out Pope Benedict XVI homily from monday on this subject, good stuff its on Hugh Hewitt's site) based faith.

Posted by: the Pirate at April 19, 2005 10:29 PM

I'm not a Catholic, but the one thing I wanted to comment here was on the notion that times of sweeping societal changes are bad times for the church to change.

While you have a point about people wanting stability and constancy, I would suggest that times of sweeping societal change are the only times when the church will EVER change, because during periods of stability/stagnation, there is no pressure to change.

Whether or not the church needs to change is a seperate issue, I think.

Posted by: Christiana Ellis at April 20, 2005 06:39 AM

I'm just saying that any change should be done thoughtfully, rather than under pressure.

And right now, keeping up dialogue with the moderate Muslims is Job One.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 20, 2005 07:45 AM

The ordination of women and a married clergy are doctrinal issues, not dogmatic issues in Catholicism. I'll post about this distinction later today.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at April 20, 2005 09:04 AM

Celibacy strikes me as a non-issue: it's not something imposed, it's a conscious sacrifice made by men of faith. It's like fidelity in a marriage: it has value because it's not easy & requires personal sacrifice

Posted by: jeff at April 20, 2005 11:07 AM

The reason the issue is being revisited is that there is a shortage of young men willing to go into the priesthood now, and it's having an impact: churches are being closed down and so forth.

The theory is that allowing priests to marry would help in recruitment.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 20, 2005 02:50 PM

Msr. (as he then was) Ratzinger has himself said he expects the number of the faithful to decline before a resurgence in Catholicism. He is planning on hewing to a hard line with respect to doctrine, and in the industrialized nations he therefore expects to lose adherents.

It seems that he is planning on allowing the population growth in Africa and Latin America to establish a new and more conservative Catholic mainstream outside of the first world. Indeed, there were many eminent Catholics who considered an African or Latin American Pope a possibility for this very reason.

Fighting fire with fire?

Posted by: douglas brown at April 20, 2005 03:24 PM

From the way I have understood the married priest issue, (from many a theology course) is that with the view of the Church being married with Christ, making the Church into Christ's Bride. Then the priest being Christ's representative in the Church means the priest is married to the Church. Then having a priest who also maried to a woman would then be polygamist and polygamy isn't part of the Church Doctrine. It can also be applied in the abstract to female priests because of the connotation of the Church as a bride would make a female priest a homosexual marrgae and we all know where the Church comes down on that issue.

Posted by: the Pirate at April 20, 2005 03:37 PM

My problem with that is, where exactly does that place the male parishioner? After all, he is also part of the church, and therefore the bride of Christ (and/or, symbolically, the priest). So isn't it homosexual marriage anyway?

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 20, 2005 06:13 PM

No, because the individual male parishoner is not acting in Persona Christi as the priest is during Mass. Also, the Church as The Bride of Christ refers as to the Church as a whole- not to the individual members.

Posted by: Dennis_Mahon at April 21, 2005 07:26 PM

Right. So the male parishioner isn't the entirety of the Bride. He's more like the shoe or the veil or the bouquet or the garter or the ankle or the arm.

I'm not trying to be a jerk, I'm just trying to point out that this really doesn't make sense.

The effect is still men (as part of the Church) marrying men (as the priest, standing in for Christ).

The overall effect is of an entire group taking its metaphors so seriously that it ties itself in knots.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 21, 2005 09:52 PM

Sorry that I've taken so long to respond:

Right. So the male parishioner isn't the entirety of the Bride. He's more like the shoe or the veil or the bouquet or the garter or the ankle or the arm.

A more apt metaphor would be to say that he was a single thread interwoven into an enormous tapestry. :)

I'm not trying to be a jerk, I'm just trying to point out that this really doesn't make sense.

But it does make sense, once you shift your perspective away from the worldview of radical autonomism: when a Catholic becomes part of the Bride of Christ, he (or she) allows his individuality to be subsumed into the whole, and in so doing becomes something greater than the mere individual.

If you are looking for a "perfect explanation", you're going to be severely disapointed; we are dealing with the supernatural here, and it does not mesh with natural understanding all that well.

The effect is still men (as part of the Church) marrying men (as the priest, standing in for Christ).

Except it isn't; we are not a mere collection of individuals, like a bag full of marbles- at that moment in the Mass, we are part of the whole. To insist on seeing a bag full of marbles is to miss the forest for the sake of the trees.

(I believe I've exceeded my metaphor quotient for the month. ;) )

The overall effect is of an entire group taking its metaphors so seriously that it ties itself in knots.

But who is it that has tied themselves into knots- those who accept the metaphor, or those who insist on interpreting through the lense of radical autonomism?

Posted by: Dennis_Mahon at April 26, 2005 03:14 PM

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