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Reply to a comment on fj's journal. Apparently there is a character limit on comments and I exceeded it. Thus, I am posting my comments here. If anyone is curious and wants to follow the original thread, it's here.



Surely I'm not the only Catholic you know that disagrees with the Vatican on many points. So obviously the archdiocese is not speaking for me or for them any more than the nonsense that the President speaks equals what I believe as an American. I am a Catholic, and just like being an American that doesn't mean that I cannot hold opinions different from that of the elected or appointed hierarchy. Calling channel 7 would be as fruitful as calling in to give my opinion on the war in Iraq, and I don't like wasting my time. I'll spend my time on those who would actually listen to what I have to say, in the hopes that I might succeed in dispelling some grossly wrong stereotypes.

The whole point of my diatribe here and elsewhere is to try to make people aware of the generalization they are making when they say "the Catholic Church." The Catholic Church, just like -- to extend my analogy -- America, is made of two parts: a head and a body. (Yes, I am aware that the metaphor is overly simplified in both cases, but it gets my point across.) The Vatican represents the head, just as the US government does, and the body is comprised of the laity and the priesthood, just as the American public and institutions comprise its body. Together, the head and the body make up the Church, or America. So many you say that "the Church" says something, just because the archdiocese says it, you are wrong, just like the foreigner who says America says something because George Bush says it.

Most Americans, I believe, are stupid and like to think in generalizations. I don't expect them to understand the distinctions I am attempting to clarify. Most of my friends are pretty darned intelligent, so I make the effort with you and them. I don't give a shit what Channel 7 says. I know better. The various priests I have talked to know better. Many of the fellow Catholics I have talked to know better. And things I have read lead me to believe that the Vatican knows better. But it's politics, and I don't expect the propaganda machine to shut down because of the truth.

Part of the problem is that the Vatican is both the political head and the theological head of the Catholic Church. They don't bother to make the distinction, most of the time, between something they say or do politically-motivated or theologically-motivated. And since they don't bother making that distinction, the idiots in the press don't either. And thus ordinary lay Catholics continue to suffer the stereotypes and the misrepresentations. Despite Vatican II there is still a lot of anti-Catholic sentiment in this country and abroad, and part of that is rooted in the misunderstanding of what the Church is. I'm sure many Catholics are tired of being asked "How can you still be Catholic when the Church believes...?" But see, just because the Vatican says doesn't mean the Church believes. The Church would have to be made up exclusively of idiots to believe that, especially where you often have one pope directly contradicting the previous pope (as with Paul VI after John XXIII). But the Church, despite containing many, as any institution would, is not made up exclusively of idiots and has many extremely intelligent people in its ranks. But non-Catholics like to use this as a way to attack Catholics. Non-Catholics like to think that Catholics believe in papal infallibility. Hell, the Pope doesn't believe in papal infallibility! (Which, in fact, has only ever been invoked twice: once in the mid-1800s to say that Mary was conceived immaculately, and once in the mid-1900s to say that she was assumed bodily into heaven. But if you ask a non-Catholic, or a Catholic who hasn't studied the Catholic Church, you would think that Catholics believe every word that comes out of the Pope's mouth regardless of how inane it is.)

No one here is arguing that the Church institution doesn't have some pretty backwards social ideas. Especially right now with a very conservative pontiff. We're only arguing that you cannot ascribe the thoughts, actions, and beliefs of one individual or one institution to the entire Church. Scripture is very clear on what the Church is, and the Vatican is not so stupid as to deny the validity of scripture. And scripture says that the Church is made of many parts with Peter, the most flawed of the apostles, at its head. And that is exactly what the Catholic Church is today: made up of many parts, with the Vatican, it's most flawed part, at its head.

So, please, everyone, disabuse yourselves of the notion that the archdiocese or the Vatican is the Catholic Church. The archdiocese is the archdiocese, and the Vatican is the Vatican, and each is only a part of the Catholic Church, and only non-Catholics believe that Catholics believe that the archdiocese or the Vatican speaks for all Catholics. Dude, if the Vatican spoke for all Catholics, I could not be your friend, for I have no intention of abandoning my Catholic faith. But I consider you and other people who don't make aging cardinals in fancy robes and miters comfortable my friends. And none of that affects my Catholic faith because Catholic faith is about the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection and not about 21st century politics.

Whew! That is a far longer response than I anticipated. I refer anyone who wants to hear this stuff from someone both far more studied and more devout than me to Why I Am a Catholic by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills. You'll here what I am saying far more elegantly stated and with scholarly research to back up his statements.

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
treacle_well
Feb. 8th, 2004 01:13 am (UTC)
Why I Am a Catholic

Oh yeah, I did want to borrow that from you. Let's arrange a handoff soon--Kosinksi for Wills.
pinkfish
Feb. 8th, 2004 04:22 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry if you have been personally attacked, with the expectation that your beliefs must correspond to those that your church leadership tries to spoon-feed to you. But while there are sensitive, intelligent people who count themselves as part of the catholic church, just like any other group, it has its share of those who will happily accept a high-road justification for their own hatred and bigotry.

But given that you don't agree with many of the silly things the church leadership tells you to think (and I have to thank you for refusing thier admonitions to you to betray your friends), and you might even agree with me that leadership of the church is morally and spiritually bankrupt, what do you gain, personally and spiritually, from continuing to be affiliated with a group with such corrupt leadership?


(Deleted comment)
pinkfish
Feb. 8th, 2004 05:33 pm (UTC)
Re:
Should I leave America?

I didn't ask you leave the church - I asked you what you gain personally and spiritually from being affiliated with it. Living in America isn't supposed to give you spiritual satisfaction - so leaving America has nothing to do with it.

I ask again - what do you get out of being part of the Catholic church?

all these questions are answered far more elegantly and thoroughly in Wills' book.

I don't care about Wills, but I do care about you. And his book was written before the archbishop told you to betray your friends (and please, understand that I am thrilled at your choice not to give any heed to this --- suggestion --- that you have been given). I just want to know what a sensitive, thinking, intelligent person finds to be attractive, especially from a spiritual point of view - from such an organization. You can't be taking spiritual guidance from the goons in charge - but you must be getting something from it. What is it?
spwebdesign
Feb. 8th, 2004 06:24 pm (UTC)
Re:
I have and do gain guidance from certain priests. (Priests have differing ideas about the Vatican.) And I have gained spiritually and in other ways from experiences with people and organizations within the Catholic church. I share doctrinal beliefs with fellow Catholics; i.e., though Catholics may differ with each other on various issues such as homosexuality, contraceptives, divorce, dietary restrictions on certain days, and many other political issues, we share a core set of beliefs which I happen to believe is most in tune with my concept of the truth. I get the opportunity to commune with other people who share these core beliefs and praise and worship and contemplate the Lord together. I get the opportunity to fulfill certain spiritual needs that I might not get outside the Catholic Church. And I believe strongly, keeping in mind the distinction I make between the head and body and various parts, that the Catholic Church, as flawed as it is, is more good than evil.

I keep referring to Wills because his book could almost have been written by me, if I were of a more scholarly bent, had access to as much material as he, could write and explain as well. It's my way of cheating, by saying "Yeah, what he said."
pinkfish
Feb. 8th, 2004 06:57 pm (UTC)
It's my way of cheating...

yeah, I know - I'm trying to keep you from cheating.

And I believe strongly, keeping in mind the distinction I make between the head and body and various parts, that the Catholic Church, as flawed as it is, is more good than evil.

Given that the "body" consists of a large group of devout individual people, many of whom are genuinely righteous, I suppose this could be true. But the "head" of the church has, to my mind, betrayed the body, and given it a great deficit to answer for.
spwebdesign
Feb. 8th, 2004 05:11 pm (UTC)
Re:
I'm sorry if you have been personally attacked

I have not been personally attacked. I simply take exception to continually hearing that the Vatican is the Catholic Church and to hearing stereotypes about Catholics and Catholicism based at least in part on ignorance or a misunderstanding of what Catholicism or the Catholic Church is.

just like any other group, it has its share of those who will happily accept a high-road justification for their own hatred and bigotry.

I don't deny that. But to blanketly categorize a group based on a few individuals is wrong whether one speaks of Catholics, Latinos, blacks, gays, Irishmen, atheists, Republicans, etc. And while most people don't seem to have any problem avoiding such generalizations for other groups of people, for some reason such generalizations about the Catholic Church seem to be very prevalent.

what do you gain, personally and spiritually, from continuing to be affiliated with a group with such corrupt leadership?

Should I leave America? After all, we have a pretty un-Democratic, if not corrupt, administration.

The Catholic Church embodies a set of theological ideals that I very much believe in. And I feel comfortable at Mass. The core Catholic doctrinal beliefs are those I share. Yes, I am embarrassed by my church's leadership. That is not reason to abandon my church.

Again, all these questions are answered far more elegantly and thoroughly in Wills' book.
spwebdesign
Feb. 8th, 2004 05:27 pm (UTC)
Re:
One other thing I should state:

I could simply choose to keep my mouth (fingers?) shut on the issue and avoid the debate, avoid trying to change people's deeply ingrained misconceptions about Catholicism. I'm certainly not going to contact Channel 7 as fj suggests or start marching on a newly-appointed Catholic Pride Day.

You must get lots of stereotypes about gays, many of which doubtless do not fit you at all, some of which may offend you. I've certainly heard many of the stereotypes myself. And until I came to Massachusetts for college I had only know a couple of gay people and had not realized they were such and had no reason not to believe the stereotypes that family and friends and society were spreading. But I approached gay aquaintances with an open and inquisitive mind. I have befriended many gay and lesbian people, and I have educated myself and know that these stereotypes are bunk.

No one changes his mind because he sees someone marching at a Pride parade or writing an angry editorial to the newspaper. Rather, one's perspective is altered through direct personal experience and interactions. I'd like to think, as egotistic as it may sound, that I am the devout knowledgable Catholic that might change a few people's misconceptionsideas about Catholicism.
am0
Feb. 8th, 2004 10:43 pm (UTC)
Catholicism and Beyond
I keep hoping that you will see that expanding your vision beyond the realm of Catholicism doesn't necessarily negate your beliefs in your present faith. Just as you have discovered that the stereotypes concerning gays are misleading, you could well discover that Pagans aren't necessarily the evil creatures that you've been taught they are.

The Devil is not a Catholic invention, but when they borrowed the concept from other sources they knew they had a great tool, for propaganda if for nothing else. Would it surprise you to learn that many Pagans have no belief in the Devil? Yet they are portrayed as devil worshipers.

Every group demonizes the members of any group of outsiders. Claiming they are devil worshipers or cannibals or perverters of the young creates a strong emotional reaction that bonds "our" group together against "their" group.

Shrub invented a war by demonizing Hammer (that's one meaning of the name Saddam) as having WMD that he was preparing to use against us and our friends. It was easy for him -- most people want to be part of a group that can claim to be better than others, and demonizing gives them that in good measure. It is candy to the sweets-starved.

To get back to my point, you are viewing the world from the small pond of Catholicism, one of many tempting ponds. None of those ponds offer significant advantages over all the others, they're just different. You don't have to try to live in another pond, but consider visiting.
spwebdesign
Feb. 9th, 2004 12:01 am (UTC)
Re: Catholicism and Beyond
Dude, where the fuck did this come from? Do you really think I am a hatemongerer because I am Catholic? Do you really think that after spending so many years exploring other religions I am ignorant of other religions? What makes you think I have ever thought or been taught that Pagans are evil or devil-worshippers. Please be careful where you spew shit like that, because I don't want my Pagan (Wiccan or other religions that Christian conservatives might consider Pagan) friends getting the wrong idea.

Everyone who knows me, except my own father apparently, knows that I am about accepting other people for who they are and not about labeling people according to stereotype. I think that's part of the reason I have any friends at all despite being an obnoxious, strong-willed smartass of a person. I don't swallow what people tell me; I find out for myself. I have studied Catholicism, yes, but I have also explored the various Protestant denominations at length (do you forget I attended Methodist, Presbyterian, and American Baptist churches for fairly significant stretches?) and have learned (and continue to learn) about Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Shinto, and many of the other paths to Truth. My faith is a Catholic faith, and I would stand by my faith to the death if necessary, but at no point in my worldview have I ever rejected other people's paths to truth. They are different and they are not mine, but it wouldn't occur to me to think that they are evil. In fact, I have been far more critical of my own religion than of any other: I have had to be in order to be able to come to terms with and embrace it.

Rather than tell me to try living in a pond I have never lived in, why don't you try getting out of your basement, away from your computer, and learn how real people interact. That's what I do, and I learn a great deal about people and the world around me every day.

I'm sorry if this response seems harsh, but you seem frequently to make assumptions like this about my positions on various issues, and I have honestly no idea where you have gotten the idea that I hold some of the opinions you think I hold. Usually it's just annoying, and it's the reason you find that I have to respond to so much of what you say with an argument. In this case it's not just annoying, it's insulting. And it's potentially harmful to me because most of my friends are not your cookie-cutter white Christian American -- most of my friends, especially those who read my journal, belong to some category that the 1950s white middle-America conservative prototype would find threatening for some reason or other -- and it could be damaging if some of them actually believed the tripe you spew about my beliefs. If you aren't sure where I stand on something, ask. I have nothing to hide. But don't assume, especially not when the assumption is so hateful.
am0
Feb. 9th, 2004 01:37 am (UTC)
Re: Catholicism and Beyond
Whoa! Back up! Read what I said!

I didn't say you were a hatemonger. The Catholic Church does teach hate. All groups do. This is what builds the feeling of group superiority that binds groups together. You pointed out one false stereotype; I pointed out a similar one.

The demonizing process is used to control people. In excess of 90% of everybody in a group will respond favorably to being told that non-members are evil in some way. You may not be completely ignorant of social dynamics but you frequently act as if you are unaware of it. It seemed appropriate to remind you how groups work.

You have, quite recently, demonstrated a profound ignorance of the origins of our civilization. Your background shows a typical traditional literate and historical education, with little background in social science or sources from beyond Western traditions. In ordinary terms, you are well educated. From my point of view, with a background in psychology, sociology, anthropology, mythology and general science, there are great gaping holes in it.

Ignoring your first question, I think I have answered the next two. As for my taking sanctuary in the basement, I don't spend as much time here as you have been led to believe and my time here is spent in better persuits than you've been told. When I do leave to attend classes or visit with friends, I sometimes write about it. I have many windows to the world and to the universe, not all of which I share.

Your response is disappointingly emotional. It is also misguided, the result of not reading carefully what I wrote. You commonly misread my writings, leading to long, often pointless, discussions over minor differences in point of view. If you don't understand something I have written, don't blow your top. Try reading it a second time, more slowly and carefully. If you still don't understand it, just ask for clarification. You don't have to go off the deep end.
spwebdesign
Feb. 9th, 2004 06:55 am (UTC)
Re: Catholicism and Beyond
What is there to misread?

"you could well discover that Pagans aren't necessarily the evil creatures that you've been taught they are."

One of my Pagan friends could stumble across this an justifiably think that to mean that my father thinks that I either believe or have been taught that Pagans are evil creatures, neither of which is true. Whether or not you think I hold such errant views on other world religions, you need to be careful in how you write such statements in my journal so as not to create the appearance, however inadvertently, that I might.

And of course my response is emotional. I am a human being, and thus my reactions to the outside world are going to be an interesting blend of the emotional and the intellectual. I am not going to try to invalidate my emotional response to things because that is an intrinsic and valid part of who I am.

You really have little idea of the extent of my education. Yes, there are areas where I am better read than others. Yes, the education I received in schools was default traditional, but I hardly let that stop me from learning things on my own. And I have a far stronger background in non-traditional subjects than most Americans and stronger than you're aware. Yes, there are areas where I could benefit from learning more, but education is a lifelong process. I am constantly learning and don't ever plan to stop.

You and I have different backgrounds. I have studied more psychology and general science than I think you are aware. I have studied some, but not a great deal of, sociology, anthropology, and mythology, but those aren't areas that interest me as much as literature, music, art, science, languages, religion, philosophy. There is too much knowledge in the world for one to be an expert in everything. I am an expert in a few things I choose to be expert and extremely knowledgable in others.

But this isn't about gaps in my education. This is about an assumption that because I am Catholic I hold a restricted world view and think that non-Catholics are evil. This is extremely insulting to me and couldn't be based on anything other than ignorance of who I am and of what Catholicism is.
am0
Feb. 9th, 2004 08:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Catholicism and Beyond
It is only partly about gaps in your education or in your attitude. I guess it's more about your binary view of the world. You are making a great stretch when you ascribe to me or my statements, "This is about an assumption that because I am Catholic I hold a restricted world view and think that non-Catholics are evil". You have always had this tendency to read into my words things that simply are not there, to extend my meaning until it becomes meaningless. I have made no such assumption, but you are fighting an assumption you have created for me.

You have been taught that pagans are evil. We all have. It is the stereotype we have been given. Accept that this is the common viewpoint. Now, whether you believe it or not is different. I didn't address that point. Since you have addressed the point, I don't need to.

Please restrict your arguements to what I have said, not to your extensions of my arguements.
spwebdesign
Feb. 10th, 2004 05:45 am (UTC)
Re: Catholicism and Beyond
But there you go again: "You have been taught that pagans are evil. We all have. It is the stereotype we have been given. Accept that this is the common viewpoint."

No, I have not been taught that. Not in school. Not in CCD. Not in the home. I have never been taught that. It is not a stereotype that I have been given.

And what is Pagan. Speak of binary! Whether or not you think it refers to one thing -- that's not clear from what you write -- it refers to several things. Do you mean Wiccan? Do you mean other minor non-Judeo-Christian religions? Etc.?

And common where? Perhaps in some socially conservative places that is a common viewpoint. It certainly isn't a common viewpoint here in Massachusetts, perhaps the pagan capital of the US.

The problem with restricting my "arguements" [sic] to what you say is that what you say may only state a limited amount but it implies a hell of a lot, and it is the implication that is insulting and potentially damaging. I am asking you to be more careful in the sorts of things you say about me around others. Be more precise and you'll avoid people reading things into what you write that you don't mean to be there. I've had this argument with Jeff and others, where he basically held the position I hold now and I yours. And I have learned that you have to be precise with language or you run the risk of being misunderstood. Many reasonable people can and have interpreted your comments to suggest what I took them to suggest. I am not simply reacting out of some inborn need to fight.

And please, I don't know where you get the impression that I have a binary view of the world, that I live in a small pond, or any of those things. Every time you repeat those sorts of things, you just reinforce to me and to those who have come to know me fairly well that you simply do not know me very well at all. This is very disheartening, because I would like to think that my own father knows me, but it is very clear that, just like Mom thinks I have the social competence of a two-year-old, the me you think you know hasn't progressed intellectually, philosophically, and experentially since junior high school. I know that you are only partly to blame for not knowing me, since we don't talk very often and I have lived away from home for 12 years, during which time I have changed and grown in many ways. But recognize that the me you think I am is not the same me who grew up in your household and that you don't seem to have a very good idea of what I have been taught outside of the home, of the formative experiences I have had which define who and what I am, of what my outlook on and approach to life is, etc. You should get to know me -- I'd like you to get to know me and I you better -- but in the meantime please don't publicize your assumptions and misconceptions about what I believe in, what I stand for, and how I see the world.
am0
Feb. 10th, 2004 08:36 am (UTC)
Re: Catholicism and Beyond
What I said was very precise and limited. You extended it, as you admit, "but it implies a hell of a lot, and it is the implication that is insulting and potentially damaging", a step both unnecessary and improper.

Now you have dropped down to ad hominem arguments. Remember, it is your assumptions and misconceptions that have caused the misunderstanding. If you can't limit my side of the argument to what I say, but must add your spin to it, then discussion is pointless and you might as well delete this whole chain of comments.

Don't expect any more replies until you start using your brain instead of firing off emotional outbursts.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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