Saturday, August 11, 2007

Once a Jew, always a Jew--even if a Atheist? Or a Christian?

One of the bigger surprises awaiting those venturing into the interfaith arena for the first time is that there are many Jewish people who fully claim their Jewish identity, but who are, in fact, atheists. They even have a name for themselves: "Secular Jews". They may practice the outward observances of Judaism to a greater or lesser or even non-existent extent, but for them there is no contradiction in being Jewish and being atheists. And while religious Jews would generally say that secular Jews are "not good Jews", I have never once heard them challenge the right of atheistic Jews to call themselves "Jewish".

I guess that is natural and follows from the fact that while it is possible to convert to Judaism, you are, in fact, born a Jew. Jews even have a term for this: they speak of the "Jewish Soul", with which every Jew is born and which cannot be eradicated. Even in those who are not aware that they are in fact, racially Jewish, this "Jewish soul" will make itself known.

I therefore find it hard to understand why, apart from a deeply ingrained prejudice, Jewishness would be denied to those who are racially Jewish but who have converted to Christianity. I can understand that it is not possible to follow Judaism and Christianity at the same time, for as they exist today, these are two different religions (although closely related--see my blog here on Judaism MkIIA and MkIIB). But surely a Jew who converts to Christianity has at least as much right to still call himself a Jew as a Jew who abandons belief in God altogether has the right to be called a Jew.

My thoughts have been fired on this matter because of the death of Cardinal Jean-Marie Aaron Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris for just about as long as John Paul was pope (1981-2005). Lustiger, a French Jew of Polish parents, converted at age 13 to Catholicism against his parents wishes in 1939. His mother died in Auschwitz in the same year as St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, and his father reluctantly attended his ordination as priest in 1954 (read good articles here by George Weigel and here by Raymond de Souza).

There has been positive tribute from the Jewish quarter for the Archbishop (see especially this article in HAARETZ.com about Lustiger's relationship with the Chief Rabbi of Paris and this article in the European Jewish Press).

But always there is a questioning of his Jewishness. Even the article in Haaretz reports the Chief Rabbi of Paris as follows:
"I was once asked on television what has to happen for Lustiger to be considered Jewish," Sirat said, "so I said that if he returns to the faith, I would even be willing to give up the chief rabbi's seat to him."
Did Sirat mean to say that Lustiger IS Jewish, and all that was required for him to be Chief Rabbi is that he return to Judaism, or that he WOULD BE Jewish if he returned to Judaism? One hopes he meant the former.

More starkly is this reaction from the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau: "He betrayed his people and his faith during the most difficult and darkest of periods."

For himself, the Cardinal once said:
I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that is unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim [gentiles]. That is my hope, and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.
And at another time:
To say that I am no longer a Jew is like denying my father and mother, my grandfathers and grandmothers. I am as Jewish as all the other members of my family who were butchered in Auschwitz or in the other camps.

30 Comments:

At Saturday, August 11, 2007 12:53:00 pm , Blogger Chris Burgwald said...

(The following comment is related, but not strictly on topic... feel free to delete if it is too far afield, David.)

This post reminds me of the similar conversation regarding the status of dissident Catholics, i.e. those who knowingly and intentionally deny Catholic doctrine while continuing to call themselves Catholic. Short of an ecclesiastical judgment, is it ever possible to say that someone who claims to be Catholic in fact is not, and if so, at what point does this obtain? Thinking primarily of a doctrinal stance, what doctrines "can" be rejected without forfeiting one's Catholicism? Or are dissident Catholics simply "bad Catholics"?

I'm very curious about the thoughts of the folks here.

 
At Saturday, August 11, 2007 4:15:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

I've thought over the years that being Catholic is somewhat comparable to being Jewish in that one is not simply a believer in a religious faith, one is or becomes part of a much larger scene which includes a religious faith -- a people, a culture, a history, including historical hurts -- and which scene can constitute an or the essential element in one's consciousness of identity even when the religious faith is not primary.

This may well apply to other religions too but I do not have the personal experience to comment, just observation.

I remember when a Mexican man "converted" during my term as elder (I was not his elder and had nothing to do with it, but aware of it as an elder) his family rejected him not for a change of religious belief but because he would not be Mexican any more. I don't think such things are confined to Mexicans, Catholics, Lutherans, Jews, or any one, but indicative that religion itself is a small part in how religion functions for a great many of the world's people.

 
At Saturday, August 11, 2007 4:25:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Yes, Chris, I thought about that as I was writing. PE is quite right when he pionts out that in some cultures, one is regarded as being "born" Catholic--this is even more true of some ethnic Orthodox communities, eg. to be Russian is to be a member of the Russian Orthodox Church. And ceasing to be a member of the Catholic Church is, as I understand it, a rather difficult matter canonically (as those who have attempted to get themselves removed from membership roles have experienced).

Nevertheless, the truth is that one becomes Catholic through baptism and confirmation, not by birth.

 
At Saturday, August 11, 2007 5:07:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

That's what the Baltimore Catechism said -- being Catholic wasn't a matter of heritage, family, ethnicity, culture or anything else, though it may include those things, but belief and sacraments.

It's a problem that infects all of us. Happens politically too with voter blocs -- the old joke, did you hear Timothy Gallagher is a Republican, that's impossible I saw him at Mass last Sunday!

As to canonical status, you're right there. The SPOF still sends me stuff! Let's see, I've professed Lutheran faith (twice actually, WELS and LCMS), married by a Lutheran pastor, had my kids baptised in a Lutheran church and go with them to Lutheran Sunday (Wednesday, actually) school, not to mention hold that post conciliar Catholicism is anathema to the Catholic Faith. Am I out yet!

 
At Saturday, August 11, 2007 5:09:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

If being Lutheran is about lutefisk and torsk, I'm no Lutheran! That stuff's bloody awful!

 
At Sunday, August 12, 2007 9:09:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Nope. All that just makes you a bad Catholic.

Hey, there's a thought.

Martin Luther wasn't a Lutheran, he was a "bad Catholic"... Mmm.

 
At Sunday, August 12, 2007 11:00:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

Well, that's good. If I have to be a Catholic, then I would always hope to be a bad one, even schismatic, in the opinion of a post-conciliar "Catholic". I guess then I'm a bad Catholic twice over: once being a Catholic who held to what the Catholic Church taught him, then a couple of decades later professing the faith of the Lutheran Confessions (IMHO the most catholic thing I have ever done).

I drove by the local cathedral earlier to-day (wasn't much going on, guess they ran out of liberal political groups to rent to). Maybe I should have nailed some theses to the door. Then again, since "renewal" has emptied the former cathedral grade school and it stands closed, maybe I should find a higher profile venue.

 
At Sunday, August 12, 2007 11:21:00 am , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

A Catholic is a Christian whose is in communion with the Bishop of Rome. That communion is effected through communion with the local church, gathered around its bishop, who is in turn in communion with Rome. And the communion with the local church is primarily expressed by making the local church your primary eucharistic community, i.e. the community in which you gather to celebrate the eucharist.

It’s ideal, although not essential, that you should participate regularly in your eucharistic community. But a Catholic who goes rarely or never to mass out of laziness or indifference can still be a Catholic – albeit an inattentive one – if the local Catholic church is the community in which they do participate on the occasion that they participate, or in which they would participate. On the other hand, if you don’t participate because you don’t consider yourself a member of the local church, or you reject the whole idea of communion with them, then I’d have to say you’re not a Catholic any more. This causes something of a problem for traditionalists who take such strong objection to the practices of their local church, or the person of the local bishop, that they “opt out”, and seek to make their own community. Their devotion to a particular view of Catholicism notwithstanding, it is debatable whether they are any longer Catholics.

There’s nothing here about doctrine, you’ll notice. Rejecting Catholic doctrine can reach a point at which it makes it impossible for you to continue to participate, in good faith, with integrity and honesty, in the local church. Mostly people in this situation identify this point for themselves and “walk”. The church herself sets the bar fairly low. The Nicene Creed represents the historic core of faith which you need to profess in order to be accepted as being in communion.

But, as the traditionalist example illustrates, you can be in substantial agreement about doctrine, and still not be in communion. Attitudes and activities which are disruptive of communion can be just as big, or bigger, obstacles to Catholicism. I am thinking here, for example, of people who go to mass with notebooks or cellphone cameras with a view to collecting evidence to dob the priest concerned in to his bishop, or the bishop concerned into Rome (or to posting it on Youtube). This is so much the antithesis of what a eucharistic gathering is about that it has to raise a real question over the Catholicity of the people concerned, and it’s obviously a bigger question than whether the extraordinary ministers go up to the sanctuary before or after the priest’s communion.

 
At Monday, August 13, 2007 12:37:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

There's the voice I recognise! It's all about community. That determines everything. Catholic is as Catholic does. First there was the community, then there was the faith. Or as it was taught to me, but not before 1962 or so, doctrine and creeds are the expressions of a community's self-understanding, and the community may find previous expressions of the community's self-understanding helpful, or not, or arrive at new expressions.

Thus, one person may say Jesus rose from the dead understanding that it means he rose from the dead, and another may say that reflects a culturally conditioned expression of the continuing significance of Jesus that we also experience. The Nicene Creed can be said by either person with equal validity, the one who means it as a confession of faith that he rose from the dead, and the one who means it as a cultural statement of the significance of Jesus for him. (That, brother, is why dissenters don't need a vote at synod -- votes at "synod" don't matter.) I'm Catholic as long as Catholic is where I go, or would go even if I don't. It's all about me and the other mes where I go, then we figure out what that means.

It means nothing. Yes I notice there's nothing about doctrine. Nothing could be more clear about the post conciliar church. You can reject the doctrine and still go, or not even go but would go if you did go, and you're in. The only thing that puts you out is putting yourself out by not going, or not thinking that's where you would go if you went. All about me. All about community.

Community of faith? People of God? Hardly. The community determines its faith, the people determine their god. One could counter this with Scripture or even church documents, but since these are but earlier expressions of the community's understanding of faith and the people's understanding of God, the community and the people may understand them anew, with equal validity because it is the same community and the same people over time.

I never understood, for years, how the Catholic Church could have come to this -- to use the creedal example, how I who believes Jesus rose from the dead and the community member next to me says it as an expression of Jesus' ongoing significance for him are both and equally confessing the faith. That we are not a community gathered by our common belief, faith asnd practice, but our belief, faith and practice derive from our having gathered -- which is why one can endure the occasional pronouncements by some to the contrary, since they stand apart from the community as a whole.

The shift was clear. It still is. Rather than be part of a sub-community continuing in what is only a quaint earlier understanding of what we are about, if that understanding were in fact essential, or true, or if there even is something called truth, then it must have been false too, therefore it is time to go though some remain to fight the good, but losing, fight.

That is what I mean on this blog in saying my rejection of Catholicism and the Catholic Church was entirely on the basis of Catholicism and the Catholic Church, not acceptance of any other belief system or, cough, community.

When that acceptance came decades later, I finally understood. The Catholic faith and church has always been about itself, and Vatican II simply relocated that from institutional and monarchial models to sociological and phenomenological models. Either way, it can be seen as having anything to do whatever with the faith of Jesus Christ when one puts one's faith in it rather than him, which will be unrecognised since it and him are then held as the same thing, variously understood.

And it's who's, not whose.

 
At Monday, August 13, 2007 9:55:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Actually, when I was talking about the difficulty of getting oneself removed from the membership of the Catholic Church, I was talking in canonical terms, not in terms of either faith or community.

Re Community though, it is related to "communion". There is a line in Ratzingers "Jesus of Nazereth" that sums the entire thing up well, but which I don't have at hand. Because the Church is essentially a Eucharistic body, communion (with the Triune God, with our brothers and sisters in Christ, with all the Churches) is an essential component of what it is to be Church. "Communion" in a theological sense has been translated by many Catholics into "Community" in a sociological sense--a move which is perhaps not wholly justified, but not unrelated either. An emphasis on faith or doctrine apart from communion would be like an emphasis on Truth apart from Love.

 
At Monday, August 13, 2007 12:41:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Yes I know you were speaking primarily in canonical terms, hence my first response. The next was more re perebloodygrinus, who stated quite well the post conciliar take as I have heard it many times. It ain't all bad -- at least according to them I'm not Catholic. The funny part is, they would have said that -- and did -- when I still was.

 
At Monday, August 13, 2007 3:05:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Hi PE

A degree of shared faith is essential for communion. But it is the communion, not just shared faith, which makes the Catholic church. Consequently no matter how orthodox your beliefs, if you are not in communion, you are not a Catholic. This is not controversial, surely?

What degree of shared faith is necessary for communion? Now we enter into a slightly greyer area.

To some extent each Christian decides this for himself. If you feel so strongly about, say, dropping the celibacy rule for clergy that you leave the church over this issue, then obviously a shared belief on that issue is, for you, essential to communion. Equally obviously, it’s not essential from the point of view of the church; as far as the church is concerned, you can believe what you like on this issue, and still be a Catholic. But, since communion is reciprocal, your views on the matter are enough to preclude your being in communion.

From the church’s perspective, I would say that (a) there is no definitive “list” of what you have to believe to maintain communion, but (b) if there were a list, it would be fairly short, and (c) the classic creeds are probably as close as you will get on the point, since that was pretty much their original function.

I think there would be a problem with someone who denied the reality of the resurrection. In my view that’s a real obstacle to communion in a way that, say, rejecting church teaching on contraception is not.

If this is a grey area, it’s because communion is not founded just on common belief, but on common praxis also. Considering somebody’s beliefs in isolation from other aspects of his life as a Christian only gives you part of the picture; considering only his participation in liturgy is equally incomplete.

Consequently I do not assert that everyone who rocks up to mass regularly, or occasionally, or who would go to the Catholic church if he could be bothered to go anywhere, is a Catholic. We can’t really answer that question without knowing a bit more about what he believes, and about aspects of his Christian life other than participation in liturgy. And if we did undertake such an examination, the outcome doesn’t have to be a simple, binary is/is not in communion. You can have degrees of communion; you can have aspects of your faith and life which are ordered towards communion, and aspects which are ordered against it. You can have damaged or imperfect communion.

 
At Monday, August 13, 2007 3:51:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Most estimable peregrinus:

Let's stay for a moment on celibacy, not so much in itself but as an example of how this functions.

I agree one can hold celibacy to be flat wrong and still be a Catholic. And one may, and rightly so, point out that celibacy is not a matter of doctrine, not an article of faith, but church practice and law. One may even agitate for it to be changed, abandoned, made optional or whatever and still be Catholic.

But what one may not do until that comes to pass is marry if one is a priest. Or as a teacher of mine did, marry prior to ordination and conceal it thinking it would soon be OK anyway.

So one can think what one wants, but there are limits to what one may do. Now, we're speaking here on the level of church law, which can be changed. Does this also apply to church doctrine, which (presumably) cannot be changed, or is this another realm? And related to that, how does this function in the in-between things, what we Lutherans call things neither commanded nor forbidden. Liturgy for example. Christ hands down no rite whatsoever yet the church has many rites. What is required for "communion" there?

Myself, I cannot imagine why I would associate myself with a church that teaches things I do not believe. But people do it all the time, for reasons of family or ethnic or national heritage or personal identity.

This is why I was taught, pre 1962, we say I believe even when said in community. I believe, and the community of all other Is who believe is created by that bond, which is so deep that the community itself speaks in the singular, I, so that I at once profess my personal belief and the community's belief.

 
At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 1:39:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

I've thought over the years that being Catholic is somewhat comparable to being Jewish

Except that being Catholic does not depend upon having a Catholic mother. No one is "born" Catholic. One becomes Catholic by baptism and confirmation, as David points out.

 
At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 1:00:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Unless of course you're Reform, which recognises patrilinear descent too!

Not only David but the Baltimore Catechism pointed out that one becomes Catholic by baptism and confirmation -- by holding to the Catholic faith, although my developing discussion with peregrinus might suggest another model.

In point of fact, for most people religion is an aspect of culture -- not saying that's right, just that that's the way it is.

Interesting for me, being a member of a Lutheran synod of German origin. I don't have a drop of German blood in me. I'm English by blood, was adopted and raised by Irish Americans, grew up and went to school with a bunch of German descended people, the older of which still spoke an Americanised dialect of Bavarian German (which gets you a few looks in Germany but you'll get by!) and was culturally adopted by the Puerto Rican student community as having a Puerto Rican soul (so I speak Puerto Rican Spanish too). About the time someone thinks we need to de-emphasise our German roots to draw others, I think hell no, bring on the sausage and stollen and they'll come from miles around! My first pastor used to joke -- I think he was joking -- that it was God's plan for me to grow up around Germans so that when I became Lutheran I could lapse into it when ranting!

I'm even pressing for singing Stille Nacht along with Silent Night on Christmas Eve. Ah, Stille Nacht. How I used to love to accompany our Viennese director at Christmas concerts for his "Silent Night" solo, only to improvise a recap, mutter "auf Deutsch dann einmal bitte!" and on we'd go!

And you think I'm impossible.

 
At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 7:22:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Hi PE,

Sorry about the delay in coming back on this.

“ . . . But what one may not do until that comes to pass is marry if one is a priest. Or as a teacher of mine did, marry prior to ordination and conceal it thinking it would soon be OK anyway.”

Agreed. That would be destructive of communion. And in a sense this underlines my point, because this is a matter of behaviour or action, not of belief.

“So one can think what one wants, but there are limits to what one may do. Now, we're speaking here on the level of church law, which can be changed. Does this also apply to church doctrine, which (presumably) cannot be changed, or is this another realm?

And related to that, how does this function in the in-between things, what we Lutherans call things neither commanded nor forbidden. Liturgy for example. Christ hands down no rite whatsoever yet the church has many rites. What is required for "communion" there?”

What I’m saying, I think, is that some beliefs, some truths are more central to communion than others, and therefore doubts or disagreements on some issues are bigger barriers to communion than others.

And issues can become central in a couple of ways.

For example, I practice artificial contraception; you believe that only natural methods are acceptable; not, in my view, a huge barrier to communion, since how I conduct this particular aspect of my life is not something that affects you, or our shared life together. You want to a sacramental marriage for your same-sex relationship but I object to this; that’s a much bigger obstacle, because the whole nature of Christian marriage is that it does affect the entire Christian community.

An issue like the Incarnation or the Resurrection, by contrast, is central for different reasons, because it is one of the foundations of our faith (in a way that, say, teaching on limbo is not). Not necessarily because of its implications for what we do, day to day, in our shared life as Christians.

And an issue like the Eucharist is obviously important for both reasons.

“Myself, I cannot imagine why I would associate myself with a church that teaches things I do not believe. But people do it all the time, for reasons of family or ethnic or national heritage or personal identity.”

Well, that’s your call. I’m not out of sympathy with your position but, taken to extremes, it leads to problems. The more opinionated you are, the less likely it is that you will find a worshipping community that can quite match the “shopping list” of things you believe. And while ever smaller schisms culminating in proud isolation may possess a certain admirable integrity, Catholics have a sense not only that we are called to pursue the truth but that we are called to do so in community, and there’s an obvious – and, I suggest, healthy – tension there.

 
At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 11:51:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

Yes, Past Elder, I am aware of the Reform position. Orthodox Judaism does not recognize it.

As for your long "Germanic" connection dissertation, is there a point to that? I am German born but that ethnic identity was not enough to keep me Lutheran. In fact, when I returned to Bavaria as a young adult and had the opportunity to explore my native culture from an adult perspective I became very aware of the short tenure of my Reformation roots and consequently embarked on my own personal search as to where I would find the fullness of my relationship with Jesus Christ and why should I remain Lutheran.

Catholics have a sense not only that we are called to pursue the truth but that we are called to do so in community, and there’s an obvious – and, I suggest, healthy –tension there.

Great observation, Peregrinus. It also explains why the Catholic Church is so engaged in serving others through her schools, hospitals, shelters, hunger centers, etc. Certainly other Christian communities do works of charity but the Catholic Church is unequalled in her outreach.

 
At Wednesday, August 15, 2007 2:52:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

The point of the Germanic thing is this: in all churches which have an ethnic aspect to their history, there seems to be those who hold that outreach in our time to be effective must downplay the ethnic connexion the church has, since time has moved on for those who have that ethnicity and it may be off putting for prospects who don't. In my case that would be downplaying the German roots of the LCMS. I do not agree with this, and think to fasten on such things is an excuse disguised as a reason. A reason can be addressed on its own terms; an excuse must be addressed in terms of that which it avoids. In my case, as a non German the Germanness of LCMS has never been off putting. I would not argue that one would have to absorb Stearns County "Dutch" and rant in it -- that's just me!

Now, what is one's behaviour but belief in action? This is not usually thought through by the person in action, nor need it be, but every action reveals a belief implicit in it whether one engages in reflexion to make it explicit or not.

Which is why we say actions speak louder than words. My primary source of knowledge about you is your actions, not your words; it is through your actions that who you are is revealed to me. This is true of my self-knowledge too. It is also true of our knowledge of God.

We do not say in the Creed "I beleive in love, peace, doing good to others" etc. We recite a belief in certain actions God has taken toward Man through which he has revealed himself, who he is, to us -- born, suffered, died, rose, usw, all actions, and then in actions the Holy Spirit takes in consequence of that, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, life everlasting etc.

This is why, contra what I was later taught by the Catholic Church, that it cannot be eg that the Resurrection can be equally confessed as a literal action and a culturally conditioned expression of a life changing ongoing significance, or that Son of God can express a literal action of taking on human flesh and also a culturally conditioned expression of the overwhelming significance of a great teacher.

What I hear running through your whole thread of thought is the primacy of community. And certainly, that would explain a lot -- why the Catholic Church will tolerate almost anything as long as you don't leave and don't challenge the community, why those who in action reject Vatican II for the "spririt" of Vatican II are allowed almost free reign but those who reject Vatican II for the pre-conciliar Roman Catholic faith are stomped on. In the liturgy, this is why taking all manner of liberties with the novus ordo is allowed, but denying the validity of the novus ordo brings on the jack boots -- and also why the Motu should be rejected by "traditionalists" for the backhanded bait and switch sleight of hand it is.

So I contend that Catholicism as it exists to-day is a faith about itself, expressed now in sociological and phenomenological models rather than the institutional models of the past, and is confused with the faith of Jesus Christ precisely in mistaking itself for him present or past, missing entirely that the Church is described not in terms of sociology and community nor institution and hierarchy, but another creative act of God, the body.

 
At Wednesday, August 15, 2007 3:18:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

“What I hear running through your whole thread of thought is the primacy of community.”

No. What you hear is the essentiality (is that a word?) of community. If you haven’t got a community, you haven’t got a church.

But I reject “primacy”, because community is not the only thing that is essential. Jesus Christ, to state the blindingly obvious, is essential. (Therefore not every community is a church.)

And because there is more than one essential thing, there can be tensions, one of which we have identified – how much shared faith must be have? Do we destroy our community to maintain the integrity of our faith? Do we betray our faith in order to sustain the community?

For a Catholic, neither of these is an acceptable answer, and that’s where the tension arises.

And I have already described these tensions as “creative”, which they can be in a number of ways. For instance, a tension between faith and community forces us to a healthy examination of exactly what our faith is, and exactly how our community is constituted, to see how tensions can be reconciled. Thus if some in the community develop a new way of expressing some matter of faith, I am forced to at least to consider whether it may have elements of truth and light. I cannot reject it because it is not the precise formulation of the Council of Trent/the King James Bible/the Westminster Confession, and that is all that matters.

It’s also creative in that it leads us to see that faith is something we develop as a community. Faith does not precede community; we do not decide what we believe, polish and perfect our belief system, and then seek out others with the same belief system with whom to form a community. It is in and through the community that we develop and express our beliefs. Hence what I believe is, from an ecclesiological perspective, less important than what we believe.

 
At Wednesday, August 15, 2007 3:51:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Removing cancerous cells from the body does not destroy the body, leaving them in does.

Excommunication -- to proceed directly to an extreme example, admittedly -- is to preserve, not destroy, communnity. It is the recognition that a person has placed himself outside of the community, not a placing of him outside the community. In part for which the "commnunity" was given the Office of the Keys.

If faith does not preceed community (what is this, ecclesiastical Sartre?) then community indeed has primacy over faith. Or again, as I was taught to understand the Nicene Creed pre council pre "we" believe, this is what I believe, I cannot confess another's faith nor he mine, which belief consitutes a single body (not a community) that itself says "I believe".

 
At Wednesday, August 15, 2007 3:58:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Mea culpa for the typos. It's getting bloody late here.

 
At Thursday, August 16, 2007 12:58:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

in all churches which have an ethnic aspect to their history, there seems to be those who hold that outreach in our time to be effective must downplay the ethnic connexion the church has, since time has moved on for those who have that ethnicity and it may be off putting for prospects who don't.

Not a problem here in my neck of the woods. I've described somewhere else the beautiful ethnically German parish I worship at from time to time. It's wonderful hearing Mass in my native tongue.

We also have a new Hispanic parish and I expect to see a lot more of them. The Vietnamese community also has their own ethnic parish, and there are more Asian communities springing up. Polish Masses are still heard in the neighborhood where my husband grew up.

the Church is described not in terms of sociology and community nor institution and hierarchy, but another creative act of God, the body.

Of course. The Mystical Body of Christ. But you can't live that out solo. The body needs its various parts, hands, feet, ears, eyes, etc., yes?

faith does not preceed community (what is this, ecclesiastical Sartre?) then community indeed has primacy over faith. Or again, as I was taught to understand the Nicene Creed pre council pre "we" believe, this is what I believe, I cannot confess another's faith nor he mine, which belief consitutes a single body (not a community) that itself says "I believe".

Well be at peace. The upcoming Roman Missal will restore "I believe" to the Nicene Creed. As far as faith vs. community goes, in every liturgical/sacramental tradition the child (or adult) that is baptized is given faith through the gift of the Holy Spirit (and that certainly includes liturgical Lutherans). Faith does indeed precede community, but it is the community that helps to nuture that faith. Even Jesus grew in wisdom and stature as part of qahal Yisrael.

It also will not do to pit the Nicene Creed against the body of the New Testament with its call for love in action. The Creed is a public witness to what the Church believes and her hope for her fulfillment at the eschaton. It also defines what those who might be seeking life in Christ are required to believe. The faith expressed by the Christian in the Creed is fleshed out by Christ's call to be His body in the world, showing forth the Kingdom that is already among us in the concern we show for all creation.

The fact that the church has always had wheat and tares has been there from the beginning. Excommunication for grave offenses is one thing. Intolerance of those who are weak, struggling or may at some particular time be misinformed is another entirely.

 
At Thursday, August 16, 2007 1:43:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Great Zeus Cloudgatherer!

At what point does the German, and therefore presumably older, congregation have to become less "German" as the old ones die off and the younger become more assimilated and move away? Or does the Vietnamese et al, presumably younger in newer ethnic communities, go through this cycle and face the same challenges down the road. But I was talking about church bodies with a national or ethnic background (which includes all Othodox bodies, a problem with which they struggle mightily) rather than parishes within them. And, FWIW, for most of the time I was Catholic you would find exactly the same Mass in any parish, regardless of the food served and language spoken otherwise. When it came to God, we were one and could participate in worship in otherwise diverse communities no problem.

The body is not a community, it is an organism. It is not understood by models derived from human inventions such as institutions, hierarchies, sociology and community. Vatican II simply relocated Rome's self absorbed faith from one set of non Scriptural models to another.

The Roman Missal I have never threw out I believe, so it doesn't need to be "restored". Credo was never mistaken for Credimus.

There isn't a major world religion that doesn't consider love in action a part of it, and to consider that characteristic of Christianity is myopic in the extreme. Where the rubber meets the road is, not platitudes, but: what is love, and what are the actions it takes, not to mention, is one saved by this, is this what religion is all about? Most of the world says yes it is, and a good bit of it goes on about being "a good person" with no reference to religion these days.

Now, as a homespun reflexion on xommunity, it's interesting to me that in the posts among our host, peregrinus, christine of late, and others, I have no sense of speaking with members of the community to which I formerly belonged, no sense of I was once from there too but left, but rather it is like any other communication with those not coming from any place I come or ever came from, with the exception that "Catholics" say they are.

 
At Thursday, August 16, 2007 1:55:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

PS -- which makes the whole "come home" thing tedious at best and offensive at worst to me: what they call home is nothing like what I called home under the name "Catholic" and to come to it would be to land in a foreign place using the same name.

 
At Friday, August 17, 2007 12:26:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

I have no sense of speaking with members of the community to which I formerly belonged, no sense of I was once from there too but left, but rather it is like any other communication with those not coming from any place I come or ever came from, with the exception that "Catholics" say they are.

...

PS -- which makes the whole "come home" thing tedious at best and offensive at worst to me: what they call home is nothing like what I called home under the name "Catholic" and to come to it would be to land in a foreign place using the same name.


Ah, and here's the crux of most of PE's posts. It's all about his disapproval of what has gone on in the pre and postconciliar church.

Well, gee, Past Elder, I chose to become Catholic. I simply don't have the issues you have. Maybe you shouldn't be preaching to the choir so much and spending more effort on educating your fellow LCMS members about the problems looming on their horizon ??

 
At Friday, August 17, 2007 2:21:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

I don't come here to be a Lutheran or argue for Lutheran positions.

This is the only "Catholic" blog I regularly visit, let alone post on. I don't visit any others except to check reference links in posts on blogs (Lutheran) I do visit -- which visits are short, since it doesn't take long before the old "how they call this drivel Catholicism is depressing" begins to descend upon me, something in which I spent far too many years.

One exception being Dave Armstrong, just a hell of a guy and I thoroughly enjoy his posts even when, as is usually the case, I don't agree. He doesn't come to "Catholicism" from Lutheranism like you guys.

I understand what you guys think you have found in Catholicism. I also understand how a Lutheran could find it the fulfillment of everything that was good in Lutheranism, how you could maybe say now you're really Lutheran, much as I say now I'm really catholic, as distinct from Catholic. A large part of why I say that is that I once felt the same thing, and it was about something called Catholicism -- something that only faintly resembles what you call Catholicism, something that I saw formed in place of Catholicism. Put another way, I left because the Catholic Church deliberately lost what you think you have found, though it claims to be the same.

And that's the crux of most of my posts here -- Catholicism is now but the grossest caricature of Catholicism. At least those who swim the Bosphorus get Orthodoxy when they climb out. The problems in the LCMS are not my issue here.

 
At Friday, August 17, 2007 11:26:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

He doesn't come to "Catholicism" from Lutheranism like you guys.

Whaaaat? Excuse me? Armstrong's bona fides include Methodist, Lutheran, Evangelical, Assembly of God and who knows what else.

That puts him pretty much in the Reformation bucket. It doesn't make a bit of difference whether he was formally "Lutheran". With his background his conversion to Catholicism is even more remarkable.

I also understand how a Lutheran could find it the fulfillment of everything that was good in Lutheranism, how you could maybe say now you're really Lutheran,

No, I didn't become Catholic to become really "Lutheran". Your understanding of what it is to be Lutheran and mine are very different.

 
At Saturday, August 18, 2007 5:57:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

I do have to backtrack, though and give Past Elder his due on Godfrey Diekmann, OSB. Diekmann's name was somewhat familiar to me because of his ecumenical connections and as I recall he favored inclusive language in the Mass, women's ordination and a married clergy, along with that awful "Worship" publication that he was involved in. Pfui !!

Wasn't he also a member of ICEL?

He has gone on to his reward, whatever it might be. The Motu Proprio would probably have given him apoplexy. Lex Orendi, Lex Credendi.

Here's a rather amusing gem about him:

An incident recounted in Sister Kathleen Hughes' biography of Godfrey Diekmann, A Monk's Tale, illustrates this dismissive attitude. In the late fifties St. John's Abbey in Collegeville built a new abbey church. Its design, in which Diekmann was involved, was decidedly “contemporary”.
Andrew Greeley visited the abbey, and Diekmann showed him the model, enthusiastically pointing out all its advanced features.

Greeley asked the perhaps not too innocent question: "But Godfrey, what if it is not the architectural wave of the future?" Godfrey stopped dead in his tracks, frowned as though this thought had never occurred to him, and then waved his hand: "Impossible!"

 
At Saturday, August 18, 2007 6:29:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Oops. Make that Lex Orandi.

 
At Saturday, August 18, 2007 2:14:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

I believe Dave's background is primarily Reformed. However, he is more than capable of jumping in for himself should he choose to. Or one can visit his site.

Re Fr Godfrey, vide our host's separate post.

I don't find anything remarkable about anyone's conversion to post conciliar Catholicism other than each of such stories reinforces to me in various ways why I cannot identify that to which they have converted as Catholicism, except that it is taught by an entity calling itself the Catholic Church, and each reinforces to me that this is something which at no point in my journey, as they say, I could have believed, including the first part of it as a Catholic.

 

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