Panama (spwebdesign) wrote,

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.
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