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Friday, 10 July 2009

Synchronicity, and Lay Empowerment, and Cabbages, and Kings

In an odd coincidence, I am reading, (that is the present historical tense, by the way, developed in in Paramus, NJ, I believe, where the typical diction of the historian or bard is, "and then I say.... and then he says..... so I says right back....",) an interview with the retired (O, bless the Lord, my soul! and give thanks to His Holy Name!) Bishop Remi J. De Roo toward which CharlesInCenCA directed us when an email arrives from Brother 3, with a link to some apologetics from one John J. Moran.

His aging Excellency seems, with his anti-Roman droning, to be urging the Church toward an ever-greater balkanization that can lead to nowhere but protestantism which ultimately leads to oblivion, where as (the layman?) Moran quite rightly demonstrate that without a visible central authority the Church simply ceases to, would not exist.
DeRoo: In our Western world we’ve gotten into our individualism. We’ve lost that cultural concept of the people of God that the Jewish people have kept, faith as a people, as a community, as pilgrims in history. We’re hung up on individualism... the overcentralized church [is] using second-string specialists in the Vatican to control the [American] bishops, who know best in their own countries. The massive submission of the American bishops to some curialists in the Vatican is one of the saddest events in recent history. After what Vatican II said, why should the American bishops contradict themselves and back off? Because someone in the Vatican says jump? It’s very sad. I don’t want to judge; a lot of the American bishops are my personal friends. I have great respect for them individually, but there’s no question about the power and control of the Vatican. It’s scary.
So, we err in not realizing that inherent in belonging to the Faith is being in communion with other people, we err in insisting on things our own way... and we err in thinking that inherent in belonging to the Faith is being in communion with other people if they wear pointy hats at the Vatican, and we err in not insisting on things our own, or rather, the way of people wear pointy hats in the US.

Got it.
Moran: dialogue. The opening question was from one of our guests, a Methodist pastor: "What really divides us?" Before citing his own views, he solicited others'. From Catholics and Protestants in the parish hall came the same few responses: "The Pope!" "Confession!" "The saints!" "Using wine in communion!" "The Bible!"

At this first in a series of parish seminars with non-Catholic clergy, we - both sides - were about to be brought face to face with the one overriding issue that stands like the Great Wall of China between Catholics and Protestants. Our young assistant pastor brought it forth.

"It comes down to this," he said, trying not to appear confrontational. "Did Christ found a visible Church or an invisible Church?" ...

the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) declaration of principle: "We believe that the holy Christian Church is a reality, although it is not an external, visible organization. Because 'man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart' only the Lord knows 'them that are his.' The members of the holy Christian Church are known only to God; we cannot distinguish between true believers and hypocrites. The holy Christian Church is therefore invisible and cannot be identified with anyone church body or the sum total of all church bodies."...

Paul did speak of "one faith," and the first great Church gathering, around the year 50 in Jerusalem, was without doubt the manifestation of a visible Church. There the apostles, the quite visible leaders of the Church, made one of the earliest universal decisions, exempting Christians from Judaic law.

Ignatius of Antioch speaks of a visible Church when he outlines its nature in 107, marking it, for the first time of which we have record, as the "Catholic Church": "Where the bishop is found, there let the people be, even as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."

Most of Protestantism - at least traditional Protestantism - chokes on the idea that Christ established a visible and consequently authoritative Church, no matter how clearly history seems to insist that he did. If Christ's Church is truly visible, as Catholics maintain, then it follows that no Protestant body can be that Church, for no Protestant church, quite obviously, can be dated back to the beginning...

To acknowledge that Christ did establish a visible Church necessarily would demand that that Church be identified, singled out from other claimants, and its authority accepted. Few Protestants relish such a task. They don't want to examine the tree and its branches. Their argument for an invisible Church becomes an argument made conclusion-end first....
The pairing of the invisible Church and [sola scriptura] concepts leads to the conclusion most Protestants avoid: Christ failed to keep his promise (Matt. 28:20) that he would remain with his Church throughout history; instead, he allowed it to become rudderless for the 1500 years it took to invent the printing press and to disseminate the Bible widely....

One of our guests, a layman, said, "Frankly, if Christ did found a visible Church, you wouldn't be it anyway!"

"Why not?" asked one of the Catholics.

The non-Catholic smiled a Cheshire cat smile, striving for a semblance of cordiality.

"The word 'Catholic' suggests universality. But you folks aren't 'Catholic.' You're 'Roman Catholic'!...

Certainly it was to a visible, authoritative body that Christ declared, addressing its first earthly leader, "I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 16:19). What good would it have done to bestow the keys upon a Church so formless as to defy any effort to identify it? Then, too, Christ speaks of a visible Church when he recommends recourse to it for settling disputes among his followers: "Refer it to the Church" (Matt. 18:17). He tells his followers, who make us the Church on earth, that they are "the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house" (Matt. 5:14-15; see also Luke 8:16,11:33).

The visibility of the Church is no light matter. It underlies the ultimate source of Christian belief: Church or Bible? Its importance surpasses that of other divisive issues, such as the veneration of saints or confession.

As was pointed out at every one of our seminars in which the question of Church visibility arose (often the subject was deliberately introduced) Christ's Church does have an invisible quality in that it is his Mystical Body on earth. But to understand the Church as having no visibility at all - and, as a consequence, no authority at all - conjures up a Church as tenuous as feathers in the wind. It's almost as if Jesus, in setting up his Church, didn't quite know what he was doing.

... only a visible, authoritative Church could have set in place the pillars that would support Christian belief and practice through the ages....
[The protestants at these seminars] were unanimous in their contention that Peter was not the foremost of the apostles, that he had no universal authority, and that he never stepped foot inside Rome. All this meshes with their view of Church invisibility, since a visible Church would have visible and easily identifiable leaders. This pooh-poohing of Peter's leadership is easy. Not so easy is the dismissal of our culture's Catholic heritage. One of the guest clergy, relating an anecdote, suddenly stopped in mid-sentence on realizing that he was portraying Peter as standing guard at the gates of heaven. For Catholic and Protestant alike, it is always Peter who is there - never Paul, or John or James or any of the others. Always Peter.

Are we under Christ's Church visible or invisible? Is it a Church of authority or an amorphous "worldwide community of believers"? Is it divinely appointed in time and place or lacking enough substance even to make itself known? Any useful understanding of the locus of Christian authority must flow from questions such as these.
There seem to be some contradictions in Bishop DeRoo's description of the lay people with whom he meets:
a) [Young people's] understanding of the church primarily comes from what they’ve heard; they are pretty well conditioned by the media. It tends to be at the level of democracy, ordination of women and power struggles with the pastors. They have relatively little understanding of the richer doctrinal and scriptural insights.
b)I generally start by inviting the people to tell one another how much they know. I let them realize how much they really already know. It’s amazing how much truth comes out of those audiences.

Hmmm... maybe he means it's only young people who have "relatively little understanding."

And how will they acquire understanding?

Not sure: The homily must regain its pride of place, not as a sermon, not as an occasion to indoctrinate, but as an opportunity to link the Scriptures with our daily experience and tie that in with the paschal mystery. Too many sermons are trying to indoctrinate... “People don’t know their religion, so we’re going to teach them catechetics while we have them as a captive audience in church.” That’s missing completely the deeper role of the liturgy as the real education.

DeRoo probably wouldn't want to hear what Moran has to say -- while he's big on a kind of lay empowerment, ("What are lay people allowed to do? What will priests allow the laity to do? The main problems of the church today are issues of power and control,") he makes it pretty clear that although the lay people who share his views of the "Spirit of Vatican Two" are in the minority, ("there is still a very alive minority of forward-looking lay people who are really on track but are prevented from fully expressing themselves because of the power control at the base of our parishes,") they are the only ones he wants to empower...

Curiously, the word "Catholic," which appears several dozen times in the Moran article is totally absent from the questions and answers in the good Bishop's interview.

I don't know if that has any significance.....

1 comment:

Charles said...

Well done, G. I'm going to tuck the Moran away next time my pastor bristles when he feels dissed by the local denomimational "pastors."