Don't you see paradox and ambiguity in everything? I do. That's not shadow or lack of light, it's a brighter light, a deeper truth. God himself is paradox. 3 in 1? He who loses his life will gain it? Total contradiction. Life is littered with contradiction and all the richer for it.
And I think you misunderstand my claim to autonomy. It's not independence or self will. It's reliance on God, submission to his will, but self determination when it comes to choice. The use of an individual's reason as sacrosanct. God wants that. Where's glory in his determining our choices. That's all I mean.
I know there's diversity in the Catholic Church. I know people make choices there too. I just submit to God and my own conscience in relation to my community before the Church. That's all. I think you too easily dismiss the Church's abuse of its power when you bemoan the decline of civilisation after the reformation. It's not just about the odd bad guy popping up and being naughty. At times the whole system stunk, which indicates a weakness at the institution's core.
No point in labouring all this, Jacques. It's just a different perspective. I'm probably finished with this. Thanks for your input though. I respect what you say .
In certain parts of the world there are huge cultural differences to be overcome before conversion.
When I was moving away from my evangelical background, I talked with the local Catholic priest, went to Mass for a month, considering whether to convert. No one talked to me, or even acknowledged me. There was an air of protectiveness, separation. This is common in Scotland because of historical isolation, even persecution etc. A huge Irish immigrant community populates the church and there is an insular and self-protective spirit which is well nigh impossible to breach. There remains a Great Divide here.
It's not just a matter of what is the correct church historically. One must feel at home. I didn't. I do in my local Episcopal Church.
Not really, but this may just be our different temperaments at play…I tend to ask how it all fits together ultimately. If I find ambiguity I dig and dig until I either find an answer or accept when the Church says it is a mystery. But I don’t believe that a mystery is paradoxical or contradictory by nature, but only to my finite mind. I believe God is ultimately highly ordered and congruent.
Those paradoxes/contradictions you list are only such on the first look, but make complete sense when understood properly…that is all I mean, that ultimately God makes sense…we are rational creatures, God made us that way as a gift because it reflects Who He is as a Rational God. I don’t think God delights in contradiction…sure He delights in turning man’s sense of wisdom on its’ head…but that is only because His wisdom is deeper and truer, but it can still be known rationally and understood intellectually, even as it is apprehended sensually and known intuitively…I do not see a contradiction even in these different ways of knowing.
I apologize again if my post made it seem as though I was accusing you directly of the kind of autonomy that we seek as human beings, I included you in as much as I would include myself. I sincerely believe you are seeking to submit to God and rely on Him for your growth and union. I just think a desire for autonomy is deeply rooted in original sin. I also heartily agree that the use of our reason and free will is sacrosanct…in fact I was listening just this week to a talk on the Catholic understanding of predestination and free will and I was literally adoring God as I listened because it was so much better, (a greater emphasis on human goodness and dignity) than the Calvinistic and Lutheran positions.
I hear you, and I won’t push any more, but I have to say that I lived my faith in the way you describe for a long time and it was a good way to live, I related to God, I desired to live according to His ways and I tried to be accountable to other Christians in my life. But I was also deeply unhappy with all the contradictions I found. I wasn’t happy to simply write them off as the human element of Christianity, not when they claimed to be spiritual/divine, and not human, in content.
Discovering the Church was like becoming a Christian all over again. As a non-Catholic Christian I felt like an orphan who knew he was a prince, but try as I might I couldn't get home. As a catechumen I felt like an orphan who was found by his mother the queen and invited back home. As a Catholic I feel part of a family. That family has rules and a highly established way of life, but it all makes sense and it all feels good – most importantly this family lives to nurture my relationship with God, that is all they exist for.
No, I believe I take the abuse of power, the sin and rot which are always part of the Church, very seriously. When I discuss Catholicism with my family and friends I am always quick to point out that Luther lived in one of the darkest periods of Catholic history…but Luther erred greatly when he thought he could create a church that would be immune to this sinful reality, Calvin tried in Geneva and quickly found that a Church without weed/tares is not possible this side of heaven…both men would have done far better to seek reform from within the Church rather than raise up another church at her side.
Luther was just one man, formed by much faulty theology in the part of Germany he called home, it has now become clearer to scholars that Luther was often reacting to a straw-man of Catholicism rather than the true Catholic Faith and suffered deeply from scruples which marred his understanding of human nature. The theology of the Church is safeguarded by the Spirit in the Church, it was impossible for Luther, Calvin, or anybody else to re-create the Church without falling into heresy.
Many others who lived through this time were able to bring the Church out of darkness through true reform and renewal, rather than schism and rupture…think of St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, Pope St. Pius V, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Francis de Sales, St. Robert Bellarmine, and St. John Fisher – there have always been saints who were able to confront the rot without breaking the Church…St. Francis, St. Catherine of Sienne, St Athanasius, St. Augustine, we could go on and on. It is a doctrine of the Catholic Church that the Church is always in need of renewal.
Thanks Stephen, at least you’ve given me a fair listen, I appreciate that and cannot expect more, though of course I do pray for continued growth towards unity in all aspects for our two communions.
I can certainly relate to the story you tell Stephen. The Catholic Church is a true mix of the human and the divine, the wheat and the weeds and Cultural Catholicism is a big part of that mix. When my RCIA leader found out that neither my wife nor I were Catholic he wondered why on earth we were converting as it seems that conversion by marriage to a Catholic is major point of call for most RCIA participants. But I had already read myself into Catholicism before ever attending Mass/RCIA and I allowed my knowledge of the true teachings of the Church to overshadow any human element that I saw in her members or Clergy. I know what Catholicism is, even if her history and current reality includes many Priest, Bishops, Laity, and even Popes, who did not really know her, or the Lamb to whom she is betrothed.
And that is an indictment on the Catholic Church, one that I would like to work at changing in whatever way I can. We cannot call her the Ark of Salvation if people do not feel at home inside her protective walls. I will pray for you Stephen, thanks for listening and thanks for the conversation.
Jacques and Stephen, I think you two are demonstrating how left- and right-brain people (respectively) approach religion and spirituality.
By the way, Jacques, I don't know if you ever got a chance to read through the entirety of that article from the First Things web site I referenced early on, but even the more feminist contributor acknowledged that biblical translation and liturgical prayer ought to be faithful to the more traditional use of pronouns. I would agree. I'm sure we've all been to liturgies where prayers were addressed to our "Mother/Father God," or "Loving Parent." That all feels contrived and even silly after awhile.
Haha, absolutely! That just about nails it, Phil.
I agree about the use of pronouns too. Our tradition is towards the Father, who encompasses the feminine in unending Trinitarian completeness.
Hi Phil, yes, I did manage to read both views and also felt that the second contributor made some valid arguments. In the end, however, she still fell short, primarily because she failed to demonstrate that she understood the entire Catholic position. Thus her reflection addressed a number of side issues that I was happy to agree with, but it certainly didn't manage to be an adequate critique of the fuller realities that make up the Catholic doctrine on both the Fatherhood of God or the necessity of an all-male priesthood...my opinion of course, but also the opinion of the Catholic Magisterium
I just finished some DVD's about St. Teresa of Jesus also known as Little Flower. This paper
mentions God as Paternal & Maternal Love.
God as Father, God as Mother. If I recall correctly it was Pope John Paul 11 who also mentioned God in this manner.
I'm not saying this is necessarily easy for me
to think of God in these terms. But it does seem that as mother & father issues are healed it becomes easier for me.
However, the time was not yet ripe for a woman to be declared a Doctor of the Church. In fact, Pope Pius XI had already replied negatively to the Carmelites' petition to have St. Teresa of Jesus, "Mother of Spiritual People" declared doctor. The petition was turned down because she was a woman. "Obstat sexus" ("Her sex stands in the way"), the Pope replied, adding that he would leave the decision to his successor. After the Vatican's negative response, and by its order, the gathering of signatures in favor of Thérèse of Lisieux's doctorate was interrupted.
11. To evangelize is not to transmit a doctrine but an experience transformed into life. This experience is precisely what is shared: "Something which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have watched and touched with our own hands…we are declaring to you…so that you too may share our life" (1 Jn 1:1-3). At the threshold of the third millennium the world to which we must give witness is largely one of unbelief and injustice. Christians are called to "always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Pt 3:15). The question is how to make this hope and witness clearly intelligible. It must lead the faithful to revise their personal lives and the way they participate in the Church because: "People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories."4 "The evangelical witness which the world finds most appealing is that of concern for people, and of charity toward the poor, the weak and those who suffer,"5 along with a commitment to peace, justice, and human rights.6
++++++++16. By examining Thérèse of Lisieux's experience and delving deeper into her teachings, which have a universal and timely quality, we are able to understand that aspect of her experience and doctrine which makes her a teacher and doctor in the Church as it contemplates its evangelical role for the third millennium. Her doctrine can be summarized in the words: God's Paternal and Maternal Love.
Guided by the Spirit, she was led to understand the revelation of God's merciful love, which summarizes the whole of the Gospel. God is love who reveals himself to the poor and humble. God who is love invites us to live in communion with him and with others and to serve our brothers and sisters as Jesus did in order to bear witness to the good news and proclaim it.
Whoever is a little one, let him come to me. So speaks the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Solomon. This same Spirit of Love also says: For to him that is little, mercy will be shown. The Prophet Isaiah reveals in His name that on the last day…As one whom a mother caresses, so will I comfort you; you shall be carried at the breasts and upon the knees they will caress you. …Jesus does not demand great actions from us but simply surrender and gratitude.10
This experience of Thérèse of Lisieux is one of a God who is both Father-Mother; who has love even for the unjust and evil (cf. Lk 6:35); who knows what we need before we ask; who forgives our sins and asks us to forgive; who protects and looks after us (cf. Mt 6:8-9, 14-15, 26). Here we see the change from fear to confidence. We stand before God as sons and daughters before a father and a mother. God makes everything work together for our good, even our deficiencies and faults. Getting to know a God who is both Father and Mother requires the heart of a child that chooses to remain small:
Thanks for this Mary Sue.
I'd be keen to read more of St. Therese of Lisieux's own words on this subject.
I'm quite happy with the Paternal and Maternal love of God described here, after all, such language is quite biblical. I still think the Fatherhood of God describes something specific about the nature of God in an ontological sense...thus it is not wrong to speak of God's feminine qualities/characteristics, neither is it wrong to speak of God's maternal love.
I still hold to my opening point (though of course I'm making it less emphatically than when I opened the subject, due in large part to the fruitful dialog here), is that the Fatherhood of God as emphasized in the Bible is done so purposefully and not merely due to cultural context and patriarchal bias.
Interestingly, though our souls are masculine or feminine according to our gender, it is also true that in relation to God all souls are feminine...this has been the intuition of the mystics and the theologians have been happy to agree.
Thus again, I think these issues speak to deep realities within God and within us. I don't think it is helpful to try to neutralize the differences between masculine and feminine or even to equalize them in the same sense as making them indistinguishable from one another. Certainly the greater conversation is far from over, but I believe that upholding the differences while maintaining the essential dignity and beauty of both masculine and feminine is key.
I know the Episcopal Church of Scotland isn't the same as the C of E, but this article about England might be relevant:
In brief: After decades of decline, Church attendance in England has now stabilized. Some churches are even reporting growth. The report mentions cathedrals in particular, but I've also heard that Holy Trinity Brompton is quite a phenomenon in the C of E.
Yes, I can see that. The fastest growing churches in the world are, as we're often told, the pentecostal churches of the Global South.
I've only been to church on a Sunday once in the past couple of months, although I'm still attending a Bible Study one evening a week. I feel the need to meditate and pray and still myself each morning, and going to church seems to clutter my energy unfortunately - too much chat, business, activity. It seems churches thrive on that, or think they do, when really a more substantial inner growth might develop from some cultivated silence and awareness before and during services. But that's not the way with most folks.
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