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« Guilty, and convicted | Main | Prepare to meet God »

May 25, 2006


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Joe Killian

Protestants crack me up...

Ginger Bush

And what are you Joe? Catholic?

Joe Killian

Got it in one, Ginger.

As I was saying to Matt - I think Catholicism itself makes you decide, at a very early age (for me it was Catholic school), just how much and what kind of Christianity you think is applicable. There are, of course, devout Catholics who treat whatever comes from the Vatican as THE WORD. But they're few and far between.

Most of my protestant friends report to me (and Matt's tale seems to support this) that their denominations splinter and fight over how the religion is to be applied in the modern world and whether Church institutions (like the Baptist conventions) can decide that for them. Some of this is at the root of why they're protestants to begin with -- but it seems to me that one of the dark, unspoken joys of Catholicism is having some central authority that you can ignore at will in order to decide for yourself what Christianity means to you rather than a million people within your own relgion all arguing that their personal interpretation and their interpretation (and that of whoever's on their bus) is best.

I can hardly speak for all Catholics - but, even with the wheels coming off the old girl, that's one of the reasons I stay aboard.


So, Joe, wat you're saying is, you would rather not be inconvenienced by having to assert control over your spiritual life but would rather simplify things by either saying 'yea' or 'nay' to the Holy Padre.

I suppose that works for you. . . .

Ed Cone

No, that's what you're saying he's saying. Why the rush to condescend to someone else's belief and practice?

Britt Whitmire

(again, using my expertise here) I think this blog entry and the ensuing comments hit the shitter around the 4th post. Not blaming anyone, just giving the opinion of an expert on when things go terribly wrong.

How about that "Lost" finale? Was that (maybe) best single episode of television ever?

Joe Killian

In fairness I was clearly condescending to the belief and practice of the Baptist convention.

But I think they've earned it. The Catholic Church too, for that matter.

But what I was trying to get across was that it's up to individuals to decide and "take control of your spiritual life" - I just think that, in my experience, Catholics have it a little easier in that area because there are fewer people telling them what they SHOULD be doing and, as a general thing, we leave each other alone about our spirituality.

If the Pope makes some statement about our Faith there's not a huge splintering argument about whether he can (or should) say that sort of thing and what that means for the Church. Not among the average American Catholics anyway. We know he can and should say these sort of things because they've been telling us so since we were in short pants. That forced us to square away for ourselves before we sprouted our first few whiskers that spirituality is a little more complicated than that, that you do have to figure it out for yourself and you have to be able to live with it.

There are good and bad priests and nuns just as there are good and bad preachers, pastors and panhandling TV evangelists. But while American protestants are almost across the board currently at each others' throats none of the Catholics I know can be borthered to get in each others' faces about our spirituality. That's what the Church is for. And we either listen and agree or listen and disagree.

Either way - you're the one who has to go to sleep at night. If you feel square with your spirituality, and you're not hurting or depriving anyone else of their dignity, I say Amen.

Cara Michele

Bloggers are writers and we can all wax eloquent about faith and religion ad nauseum. But in the end, it's not what you say. It's what you do.


Jim Caserta

I agree to a degree with Cara. It's not just about "If you feel square with your spirituality, and you're not hurting or depriving anyone else of their dignity" Christian faith is not just about not doing bad things, but bringing the love of Jesus to everyone you meet. To me, it's that simple. Any interaction you have with someone else, whether walking past the homeless, shouting insults at someone, or helping a family build a house - you know in your heart how Jesus would act - it's a hard act to follow.

David Wharton

"...none of the Catholics I know can be bothered to get in each others' faces about our spirituality."

I'll take that as a challenge, Joe.

Plenty of American Catholics are apathetic and theologically lazy, as you describe, and can't be bothered to engage seriously with Church teaching (or even read it) before they dissent from it, or, perhaps more accurately, simply ignore it.

And it does often seem that lots of cradle Catholics give up thinking about theology while they're in "short pants," and much of the fault for that probably lies in the Church, not the kids. But the downside is that as adults they often have a rather jejune view of theology and Church doctrine.

Since I know that you dissent (in practice at least) from pleny of Catholic teachings, let me ask -- have you read the latest catechism? What do you agree / disagree with in Benedict's recent encylical on love? Do you have any favorite theologians? What Catholic spiritual traditions have you investigated?

Just askin'.

Ed Cone

Michele and Jim seem to be coming down toward the works side of the old faith v works question (not saying that either is eschewing faith, of course).

Jews are all about the works, the relationship with God via the commandments and law is foundational, but there is no explicit plan for an afterlife and your job is to follow the rules and help others.

Of course by some teachings, that sends you to hell.

You can be as Christlike as humanly possible in your actions, but if you don't go full John 3:16 then too bad for your immortal soul...

I like the closing line of a letter my great-great-grandfather carried with him to this country in 1846: "Do right, trust in God, and fear no man."

Ginger Bush

"No, that's what you're saying he's saying"


"You're not hurting or depriving anyone else of their dignity"

I think I'm going to go throw up.

Cara Michele

"Michele and Jim seem to be coming down toward the works side of the old faith v works question..."

Actually, Ed... ;) I come down here:

Faith produces works.

The latter without the former doesn't count. The former without the latter isn't real.

Ref: 1, 2, 3

Ed Cone

I see plenty of good works done by people who don't have Christian faith, or any religious faith.

Cara Michele

I don't disagree with your statement, Ed. And again, I was simply clarifying my position after you mused upon it in your earlier comment. All good? Good.

Love, peace, hugs, kittens, haiku and other things which make us all smile and not argue (I'm SO not in the mood today), ;)

Joe Killian

Sorry about the lag time. Have been really busy.
I think I probably didn't express myself well in the above post. I certainly dissented from a lot of the Church's teachings - but I did so after Catholic school (where I was asked, from a very early age, to seriously consider Christianity and Catholicism specifically and not given the Saturday morning cartoon version we sometimes see in Sunday School), the usual adolescent twistings, friendships with clergy and independent study. Some of it works for me. Some of it doesn't. I feel very connected to Catholicism - culturally Catholic, people sometimes say - and it still seems like the iteration of Christianity that makes the most sense to me. But I certainly don't think the Pope's infallable and don't walk the ideological line.
I think that my dissent - though I can't speak for others - is the exact opposite of theological laziness. I've taken a real and serious interest in my religion, I've studied it, I think a lot of it makes a great deal of sense and some of it is simply ridiculous. I think it would have been ideologically and theologically lazy of me to try to find some way to be devout when my firsthand knowledge and study of the religion didn't move me to accept it lock, stock and barrel. There are parts of it I wouldn't give up - and I think being a Catholic has, in a way, informed most of what I've done with my life to this point.
I have read the latest catechism but what I think about it and our new Pope is a whole other post - maybe one over at my place. Ditto for favorite theologians - though I will say that in the last few years I was really impressed with Gary Wills' "Why I Am a Catholic."
All this is to say - I agree with you that there are any number of Catholics who dissent without examination. I'm not one of them. Though I'm not sure how you know that I dissent in practice from a lot of Catholicism (this is one of those moments when the Internet creeps me the hell out) I can assure you that I came from a Catholic family, went to Catholic school, gave the whole thing a chance even thereafter and parts of it just don't work for me. More pieces - and to my mind the most important bits of it - work fine.

David Wharton

Thanks for such a thoughtful answer, Joe.

I know about your dissent mostly from what you write in the newspapers (the Carolinian and the N&R), so don't be too creeped out.

A colleague recently put me on to some of the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was a friend of both John Paul II and Benedict.

I usually struggle, when parts of the faith "don't work for me," to decide whether the problem is with me or with the faith. Mostly it's with me.

I also highly recommend this interview with Jaroslav Pelikan on APM's show "Speaking of Faith." I found it quite inspiring, especially when he talks about how the creed focuses him as his faith "fluctuates" over time.

Jim Caserta

DW, JK - I'm an ignorant Catholic whose education consisted of Sunday school up to 8th grade, and weekly Mass since then. Never read a catechism or encyclical, but feel I am solid on the basics.

I can only think of 2 or 3 things I strongly disagree with the Church about. Contraception and how the American Bishops dealt with the abuse scandal being the big 2. Ed's house isn't the best place for a forum, but I'm interested if you guys are.

David Wharton

How about a reading group?

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