Saturday, February 3, 2007

Christianity, Real or Otherwise

  • "Some Dissenters Quit the Church But Don't Stop Being Catholic", by Jeff Diamant (Washington Post January 27, 2006)
    Many Catholics drift away from the church or join other denominations. But Ortelli, 57, wanted to maintain both her Catholic identity and her worldview. And she didn't want to feel one was inconsistent with the other.

    So 20 years ago, she did what a small number of defiant Catholics are doing. She joined a church with many lifelong Catholics of similar views, a church that borrows heavily from Catholic rituals even though it's not part of a Catholic diocese. . . .

    A profile of breakaway "Catholic" sects like Rochester NY's "Corpus Christi", replete with mind-boggling quotes ("I don't think I should have to give up my Catholicism. That's part of who I am" -- yes, but to sever communion with Rome?) and a curious perception of Christianity:
    The Inclusive Community's chapel is set up to be, well, inclusive. Two crosses are on the Communion table -- one with the body of Jesus, the other without, respecting Catholic and Protestant traditions, respectively. The Communion host can be taken with either wine or grape juice.
    Via Get Religion, who poses the question:
    Do these churches have bishops? How do you claim to be Catholic — big C — without a bishop? Also, what is the Vatican’s legal or technical view of the sacraments offered by the men who were once ordained? I mean, a priest is always a priest, even if he is an inactive priest. Right?

  • Responding to the proposal that we as Catholics should "we need to change our focus from Jesus in the tabernacle onto Jesus in the tabernacle of our brothers and sisters," Off The Record's Diogenes' comments on "The Real Thing":
    On first reading this proposal might sound edifying ("as you have done to the least of my brethren, so you have done to me ..."). But finding Jesus in our brothers and sisters is only edifying if Jesus himself is something extraordinary. When Mother Teresa said that Jesus was to be found "in the distressing guise of the poor" her confession had wallop. Why? Because she believed Jesus was God Incarnate, and to see God Incarnate as somehow present in a wretched human being is to acknowledge that person as intrinsically worthy of reverence. But if you're a social Gospel christologist, to say you find Jesus in others is to say you can see in them the Jesus you yourself have found in the New Testament: a heterodox rabbi of first century Galilee. Sure, it's meant to be a compliment, but it doesn't shake you up, doesn't force you to confront, radically, the difference in the way you treat important and unimportant people. If Jesus is no big deal, finding Him in others is no big deal either.

    Now consider Eucharist adoration again. Mother Teresa regarded it a daily necessity if she and her sisters were to persevere in their work. On one hand, adoration reinforces one's faith that Jesus is God Incarnate, even as the belief itself summons the believer to adoration. But worshiping the body of Jesus under the species of bread also coaches us in a particular disconnect between appearance and reality, where the underlying reality is infinitely more precious than the surface appearance. Now it's comparatively easy to minister to poor people when they're cooperative and grateful and make the minister feel a sense of accomplishment. But sometimes, we're told, they're cantankerous to the point of being positively repellent. That's the point at which the self-congratulatory do-gooders quit and go home and where the real charity kicks in. That's the point at which it's impossible to see the face of Jesus in the destitute (or sick, or deranged) except as a pure act of faith. And that's the point at which it matters whether Jesus is divine or not, because belief in the repulsively disguised spark of divinity is the only reason to keep on giving love in exchange for contempt.

  • On a related topic, Oswald Sobrino blogs on "Catholicism that Doesn't Work" in its secular liberal ("those who think that the mission of the Church is to coddle modern Western secular culture and to embrace the agenda of anything goes") and authoritarian ("claims to respect the magisterium, but likes to make his own binding magisterial pronouncements even when the official magisterium has not taken a stand") manifestations.

  • Nicholas Hardesty, aka. "PhatCatholic" who has sometimes pitched in to moderate the Ratzinger Forum, has started An Apologetics Blog -- check out his sidebar and the Phatmass Catholic Defense Directory for an wealth of links and helpful resources.

  • Dr. Blosser aka. Pertinacious Papist has started a new blog, The Jesus Seminar (Critically Examined):
    . . . For some time I have had thought that the Jesus Seminar represents a significant, if scholastically dubious and slightly goofy, avant garde of the movement of historical-critical biblical scholarship, which, whatever its earlier antecedents, acquired its important historical momentum in Germany during and following the Enlightenment period. In one way, it might be characterized as the historical-critical movement gone to seed. In any case, over the past decade I have taught several courses in hermeneutics and epistemology, and at least one course explicitly dealing with the philosophical background of the historical-critical interpretation of the Bible; and these classes have reinforced my belief in the importance of addressing the issues at the popular avant garde level. Perhaps it is unfortunate that in this case "avant garde" does not mean the most scholarly sophisticated level. Yet when one looks at where the influence of these studies are found in the present culture, it is not in the world of academe, but rather in the world of popular culture.
    The blog begins with a reposting of two early articles from Crisis magazine, The Genesis of the Jesus Seminar by Prof. John McCormick and Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar, by William R. Farmer (Crisis March 2000).
. .the present situation is characterized by a strong polerization in the Church, so much so that a dialogue between "progressives" and "traditionalists" succeeds only rarely. The camp of the progressives seeks to conquer the center; that of the traditionalists holds the fortress tenaciously as if it defended the center. Both sides distance themselves from the men in office and the small number of theologians who seek to maintain the true center.

Where should one look to see a dawn? One should look to where in the tradition of the Church something truely spiritual appears, where Christianity does not seem a laboriosly repeated doctrine, but a breathtaking adventure. Why is all the world suddenly looking at the wrinkled but radiant face of the Albanian woman in Calcutta? What she is doing is not new for Christians . . . but suddently the volcano that was believed extinguished has begun to spit fire again. And nothing in this old woman is progressive, nothing traditionalist. She embodies effortlessly the center, the whole.

Hans Urs von Balthasar
A Short Primer for Unsettled Laymen.

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