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Friday, February 24, 2012

Choose the proven winner

It amuses me when I hear things like the Church should "get with the times."  That it needs to bring its teachings in line with modern thinking about a variety of topics.  It is funny because it is not the first time that the Church has been told this.

In every Age the world states this about the Church.  Sometimes it uses cultural pressure, like in the 60s here in America.  At other times it uses naked aggression to force to "get with the program" (like sadly in the 2010s in America).  Personally I'm not sure why anyone is shocked.  In America we have had a good run.  But now it is time to join our brothers and sisters who are persecuted throughout the world.

The funny thing is that the world tries to bury the Church.  Yet the Church continues to bury the corpses of the latest trend.  The societal fashion of ideas that break from the Church and intend to set the world on fire (sometimes quite literally) do not last.  The Church has outlasted them all.

We have seen the persecution in the past.  Our Faith is persecuted now in other parts of the world.  That it happens here is only "new" in the sense of the last 60 years or so.  Persecution is an old hat for the Catholic Faith.

But a curious thing keeps happening.  The Church doesn't seem to get the clue that it is supposed to go away.  She doesn't "get the message."  Like the guest that would't leave She patiently reminds people that gorging on the foods and wines of this world will make you sick.  When they laugh and hate Her for her "authoritarian" attitude, they mock her and then beat her.  But eventually the others collapse and die from the very thing She tried to warn them about.  And she buries the corpses of those who mistreated Her so.

Don't believe the headlines.  The Church is here to stay.  It might not persist in America.  While the Rock of Peter will never be abandoned, the Church in America has no such promise.  But the Church Herself will remain, when the dust has settled.

So in the latest tussle between Church and the world let's remember who has the proven track record in such fights.  The count is quite lopsided.  And let's face it.  The world has taken a beating in this fight since 33AD.  Sure it has looked like it had the upper hand at some points, but really, like a show that has jumped the shark, the world is once again past its prime.  That is why it lashes out so.

So take heart, Catholics one and all.  The Church is here to stay.  And She welcomes all guests.  But she does have a code of conduct.  You will have to man up.  

But when you look at who else is out there, why not choose the proven winner?

22 comments:

CatholicGuy said...

I have deleted the previous comments as I have deemed them to not benefit the discussion in any fashion. My apologies for those who were reading.

Unknown said...

I think at the end of the day, the issue here isn't nearly as simple as "choose the one who wins most, duh" because if you're picking a "proven winner" just for the sake of their track record, you're being a)disingenuous to yourself and b)disingenuous to the people who really believe in what you're siding with.*

I'm not going to even try to get into a debate with you on the issue of whether or not being Catholic (or any other religion for that matter) is the right way to live life because it's pointless to argue something that we'll clearly not come to a suitable agreement on.

All I'm going to say is that it is my opinion that you let people live their life the way they see fit and if it doesn't jive with your beliefs, by all means, pray for them.

*If I'm taking the "choose the proven winner" schtick further than you intended it, so be it, but you should have expected that, what with it being in the title and all ;)

Trace said...

The above comment was me... I don't know why it chose Unknown as my username =/

CatholicGuy said...

It's a bit farther than I intended. It is more a tougne in cheek title. But it does come with a warning. When the state tries to beat the Church down, the state loses. Always.

Obviously I don't intend to say that simply because the Church has survived for 2000 years. But I think it warrants at least a look based on that fact. And those who would force her to change her ways should look at those who tried in the past. The record is obvious.

CatholicGuy said...

I mean to say you shouldn't join the Church just because of her surveil for 2000 years.

Trace said...

I dunno man, the notion of churches and winning/losing and having win/loss records just doesn't seem right. Sure, the fact that it still exist says something about its fan-base, but the catholic leaders have done some pretty atrocious things its lifetime and I feel like, for the most part, its members are willing to turn and look the other way.

Yes the church will continue to exist, but it's worse for the wear.

Really though, the hardest part for me in this article is how trivial you're making the matter. Games can be won and lost, wars can be won and lost, choosing a faith and holding your life to a set of standards that may or may not make sense to you? Not a contest.


I know that's not your point, but I really can't help but think you're trying too hard to simplify a subject that is never going to be simple.

CatholicGuy said...

My post should be understood as being very limited in scope. With the HHS mandate it has become very clear that the state under Obama is attempting to get the Church to violate it's beliefs. My point is that if you are a betting man, and had to pick which is going to come out on top, pick the Church.

That's it. The things you raise, while some are good points, are way beyond the scope of this post. This is but to place a smiley face on a warning. More serious posts to come.

Trace said...

Fair enough, I wait with bated breath until then! :)

Joachim said...

I agree with Trace, that this is a fairly narrow read of the history. If you look at the last 600 years, the story is more nearly "when the Catholic church tries to beat down the state, the church loses--and retreats into a smaller sphere." The 13th century was the height of the church's attempt to claim power over the secular government; it ultimately lost that fight. In the 16th century it lost even spiritual authority over all of its regions. In the 19th century it lost control of the papal states. In the 20th century west it lost a great deal of its authority over the political conscience of the west.

I'm not trying to make any normative principle out of any of this, but it's definitely not a history of winning. (That doesn't bother me in the slightest, since as I've said elsewhere, I don't think the church should be particularly interested in winning.)

As for the church out-surviving everyone else, that's in some sense true--but it's survived only through massive, fundamental shifts. The change is as important as the formal continuity.

CatholicGuy said...

"As for the church out-surviving everyone else, that's in some sense true--but it's survived only through massive, fundamental shifts. The change is as important as the formal continuity."

But she hasn't changed. Her teaching is still the same. And those empires that have attempted to take her down (Napoleon anyone?) are gone.

Both of you are seeing this purely through the political lens.

Joachim said...

Ok, let's talk about teaching. Which are the doctrines that have lasted through all ages unchanged?

* I'll assume you don't mean things like purgatory, censorship, the legitimacy of democracy, priestly celibacy, the status of non-Catholic Christian churches, the status of the Jews, or even the idea of 'religious freedom'--because those have obviously changed drastically.

* That God is three in one, that Christ is human and divine, that the Spirit teaches and enlivens? Yes, those have remained mostly consistent (though they did take several hundred years to develop to the form we profess now). But I have a feeling you mean something else, because Protestants carry on these beliefs too.

* The primacy of the Pope? That didn't develop to its highest form until the 13th and 14th centuries (a fact to which the existence of the Orthodox churches stand witness, since as soon as it was declared in the west, the 'ancient church' split), then fell on hard times, re-emerged to counter Protestantism, was finally thematized as infallibility in the 19th century, and now has been only ambiguously received by the Catholic laity (and has been destabilized by the JPII's attempt and after to reach out to the Orthodox churches).

* The centrality of the Eucharist? But its form has changed many times over the centuries, as has its importance to lay Catholic life.

I'm not trying to be snarky here, but of course things have changed, including the church's teachings and self-understanding. The challenge for theology is to think through what it means for the church to 'remain the same' despite and in the changes it has undergone historically. My position would be that we look for continuity not on the human side (under which I include church teaching, as the attempt of Christians to make sense of what God has revealed to them) but on the divine side, i.e., in the power of the Spirit and our common identity in Christ.

CatholicGuy said...

"purgatory"

Still teach it.

"censorship"

We still think censorship is good in cases like porn.

"the legitimacy of democracy"

When it first came about in Europe was during the French Revolution. Hardly a ringing endorsement.

"priestly celibacy"

Still the same. And disciplinary, not doctrine.

"the status of non-Catholic Christian churches"

Disciplinary, not doctrine. And we still hold that the Catholic Church under the Pope is the true Church.

"and now has been only ambiguously received by the Catholic laity (and has been destabilized by the JPII's attempt and after to reach out to the Orthodox churches)."

So what? While the temporal influence of the Papacy has waxed and waned over the years it is still the teaching of the Church.

"The primacy of the Pope? That didn't develop to its highest form until the 13th and 14th centuries (a fact to which the existence of the Orthodox churches stand witness, since as soon as it was declared in the west, the 'ancient church' split"

The primacy has been in place far longer than that. Witness the hulabaloo about changing the date of Easter in the 4th century.

The rift happened far earlier, after Niecea-Constantinople ecumenical council. It only became more pronounced after the definition.

"The centrality of the Eucharist? But its form has changed many times over the centuries, as has its importance to lay Catholic life. "

The Eucharist is still the Eucharist and the source and summit of Catholic life. That Western Catholics are unaware of this is irrelevant. The teaching has not changed an iota.

Joachim said...

I said purgatory, I meant limbo. Which was recently dropped from official language.

So you'll grant disciplinary change, just not doctrinal change? Of course discipline stems from doctrine, but we'll let that go. The church has changed its patterns of discipline. (Though I just want to say, on priestly celibacy, it didn't exist until the early Middle ages.)

On the Eucharist and papal primacy, it's not enough for continuity to say that they have always existed. The general idea of democracy has existed for longer than the general idea of the Eucharist. The question is whether they're in substantial continuity. Neither is. They've been understood and embodied in dramatically different ways in different cultures and periods of history.

But let's be done with this. We really don't enjoy talking to each other, so there's no reason to continue.

CatholicGuy said...

"I said purgatory, I meant limbo. Which was recently dropped from official language. "

Yes but was not part of official teaching anyway. Neither supported by ecumenical council nor promulgated via an ex cathedra statement.

"So you'll grant disciplinary change, just not doctrinal change?"

Sure. So did the Jews. Discipline is where principle (doctrine) meets the the world (application). Of course this is going to change. The doctrine does not.

"On the Eucharist and papal primacy, it's not enough for continuity to say that they have always existed."

Sure it is. The Trinity was not fully fleshed out until the 4th century. Yet its essence has always been present. Development of doctrine is valid growth, just like anyone's understanding of a given subject.

"They've been understood and embodied in dramatically different ways in different cultures and periods of history."

Who comprehends completely the mind of God? It isn't surprising that the understanding has shifted. Even the term "transubstantiation" is transitory. Yet the essence remains, the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a Mystery. A never ending well of contemplation and a continuous source of Truth.

It isn't surprising that as a Church the understanding would become multifaceted.

CatholicGuy said...

"It isn't surprising that as a Church the understanding would become multifaceted."

Despite the combative tone you have at times I've enjoyed the exchange. It has given a chance to explain several aspects of Catholic doctrine.

What I submit is that you are being challenged. I enjoy debate but will not simply accept a contrary opinion outright. I do challenge commenters to defend their positions. (Which you are beginning to do in the other thread).

CatholicGuy said...

Ooops. The quote in my last comment should be from you:

"But let's be done with this. We really don't enjoy talking to each other, so there's no reason to continue."

Joachim said...

See, this is the reason I have a hard time enjoying conversations like these: why is the issue here that I am being challenged? The mark of a good conversation is that people challenge each other. If my tone is combative (and I admit that maybe it is), your tone is condescending--you're bringing me to the Truth by proving that my points are 'political' rather than 'spiritual' like yours, or you're making arguments while I'm making assertions, or whatever. It's really annoying to be talked down to.

Ok, so I won't bail on the conversation just yet. I'll try to keep my temper in check, if you try to recognize where the misunderstanding or illogic is on your end rather than mine. Deal?

Joachim said...

My brief response to your last: you're right, I wasn't precise. It can be enough that the general idea has existed, if there exists a straight line of development. That's the development of doctrine idea, like you say.

My argument would have to be that the doctrines have not only developed (from acorn to oak, so to speak) but changed--taken completely different forms, even contradicted itself. I think that's true, too, but without doing more research than it's worth, I can't name many particular examples. So I won't pretend to be 'demonstrating' this point.

The one example that comes to mind, though, is that what was held to be a heretical position on church power in the 14th century (that the church didn't have jurisdiction over temporal or 'secular' affairs, but left that to secular governemnt) is the official position at least since Vatican II.

But like I say, moving this argument forward would require more historical knowledge than I have--and I dare say more than you have, too.

CatholicGuy said...

"you're bringing me to the Truth by proving that my points are 'political' rather than 'spiritual' like yours"

I'm not arguing that there is a huge gulf between the spiritual and the political. You seem to be, which is why I'm trying to get at your objection.

" or you're making arguments while I'm making assertions, or whatever"

My point is that for example in the dispute over what "turn the other cheek means" I asked you to defend your interpretation. All you did was infuse your interpretation into the text, which is why I cited the CCC.

My point was to point out the insufficiency of your argument that my posting runs contra our Lord's command about turning the other cheek. In this case the onus is on you to demonstrate that your interpretation is correct.

"if you try to recognize where the misunderstanding or illogic is on your end rather than mine. Deal?"

No. Pointing out the logic errors in my position during a discussion is your job. Not mine. I posted an entry. You challenged my entry. I'm challenging you to defend your opposing viewpoint, as I defend mine. Likewise, you should be defending your opposing viewpoint while opposing mine.

Misunderstanding though is both our responsibility. And it requires both of us to make sure that our positions are understood properly.

CatholicGuy said...

"The one example that comes to mind, though, is that what was held to be a heretical position on church power in the 14th century (that the church didn't have jurisdiction over temporal or 'secular' affairs, but left that to secular governemnt) is the official position at least since Vatican II."

Regarding this, the Church has always taught two things:

*There is a distinction between the temporal and religious authority.

*The temporal is subject to the religious authority.

This only makes sense as the law must conform to morality rather than the other way around. All laws in some sense reflect a moral viewpoint(or at least seek to establish order).

That's why a moral authority has power to judge the law, but not the other way around (which is what the HHS mandate is trying to do).

Now in practice the Church exercised great political authority in the past, and today much less so. But the principle still stands.

Joachim said...

You're incorrigible! In the literal sense: you won't allow yourself ever to be corrected. I repeat: that makes a bad conversation partner.

I don't know what to say to your response about ecclesial power, which completely avoids my point. The position in the 14th century was that the church, and specifically the Pope, had the power and jurisdiction to intervene in civil matters. The Catholic Church no longer believes that. That it still believes the moral law to be higher than the civil law is true, but a different point--one that excludes the question of whether the actual institutional church should have actual legal power to enforce the moral law.

CatholicGuy said...

"You're incorrigible! In the literal sense: you won't allow yourself ever to be corrected."

You have yet to demonstrate that I am wrong.

"The position in the 14th century was that the church, and specifically the Pope, had the power and jurisdiction to intervene in civil matters."

What I am saying is that your understanding in this matter is incorrect. It is a common misunderstanding. But it is a misunderstanding.

"-one that excludes the question of whether the actual institutional church should have actual legal power to enforce the moral law."

The Vatican is still its own country. Its political influence has waned, sure. But it still holds that it can intervene in political matters (it holds position in the U.N.).

You haven't demonstrated that I am incorrect. If anything I'm pointing out that YOU are wrong.