Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Beware the Jaberwock, my son!..."

"...The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!"

Fictitious monsters have always held a fascination--no more so than that fictitious monster, Triumphalist Roman Papalism. I will leave it to historians to argue whether or not there was ever such a monster, but today--believe me when I say this folks--there is no such animal.

Nevertheless, I am amazed at the power this mythology has even to skew modern ecumenical relationships. You can't start a healthy relationship on an "hermeneutic of suspicion" ("you speak with forked tongue!"). Dialogue requires a relationship of trust.

I can partly understand the long ancenstoral memories of those whose fathers' fathers, and whose fathers' fathers' fathers, and whose fathers' fathers' fathers' fathers (you get the idea) remember some atrocity committed by this ancient monster. Yet, even those who have no personal stake in this history (eg. recent converts to Orthodoxy) seem more than eager to adopt the full mythology and paradigm of the world which includes this horrible monster.

Fr Christopher Orr (born and raised Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran and received into Orthodoxy in 2001) is a case in point. In a recent comment on a previous blog, Fr Orr stated:
Whatever positive, inclusive, friendly steps have been taken in the past decades - and they have been honestly taken, I think, in the main - there is a long history of RC abuse and domination that is well-remembered by the Orthodox and Protestants. Time will need to go by to ensure that positive language is not simply a marketing ploy, a bait and switch; until Rome can come to a dogmatic determination that is more in line with your explanation of Vatican I and II, most will simply fear not what this or the most recent Pope's have said or done, but what future ones may do with their dogmatically unfettered power.
Oh, Christopher. That is really unworthy of you. A "marketing ploy"? A "bait and switch"? What future popes "may do with their dogmatically unfettered power"? Good grief. I know (as my Mother-in-law keeps on telling me) that the Pope and bishops of the Catholic Church are "only men", but please--they are are at least men of charity and justice, and of integrity.

Beware the hermeneutic of Suspicion, my friends! It will be the undoing of us all!


At Wednesday, October 24, 2007 4:26:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

The only thing wrong with Father Orr's statement is that the plural of pope is popes, not pope's.

Men of charity, justice and integrity? Stay Catholic, brother. You'll find out. You won't have to "suspect" a thing.

Or, you could listen to your mother-in-law.

At Wednesday, October 24, 2007 6:52:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

You are all familiar with Past Elders opinions. But we love him.

(NB. this time I didn't put in that pesky apostrophe).

At Wednesday, October 24, 2007 7:41:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading your year of Grace, and the heart rending turmoil is palpable.
That it has taken a toll of you, your family, and your life is obvious. And each day, though you live by faith, can not erase the pain of those years. But you put the best face on things, and have faith that one day all things shall be well.
Time and distance are good healers. No?

Unless you are prepared to say the no one in the Roman Catholic Church has never been even indirectly responsible for causing someone pain, spiritually, emotionally or physically, I would ask that you withhold judgement on those of us who have had our trust shattered.

I could tell you stories that would make you hair stand on end. Things that cannot be separated from the way the Roman Catholic Church has chosen to conduct herself. Lives destroyed.

Yet I pray and and beg for mercy and Grace to heal these wounds everyday, and I pray for unity, though I will approach with caution...yet I will approach nonetheless, for we are commanded to love and forgive.

I realize people like us make other Roman Catholics uncomfortable...I know it wasn't you personally who hurt me...but I find most would rather not even have to deal with me. Forgive and Forget. It could have happened anywhere.
The majority of priests and Bishops are Holy men.
All true.
But in my experience, it didn't happen anywhere else; it is tied up part and parcel with priests bishops and all things Roman Catholic.
I know enough about psychology to know that is MY Problem.
And I am willing to wrestle with it.

If I was hurt in the way by someone other than someone in the RC church, I would have your prayers and support and time.....time and mercy and a safe place to heal.

But because it makes people uncomfortable.
I am told I must forgive and forget.....right now.
Or my sins will not be forgiven.

It almost sounds like the wicked servant who was forgiven a great debt, but when asked to show mercy on a lesser servant, and smaller debt...there is no mercy.

This is what the RC church and the Bishops don't get...and I am afraid will never get.

To demand that some of these wounded souls forgive and forget and just get over it under the threat that their sins will be held against them until they do...shows that they don't get it.
I am sorry I am a reminder of pain; but if the source and cause and struggle were something else...the church would be willing to struggle along side me for a life time, as I fell and rose, sinned and repented; as I depended on the Graces that the Church has to offer to help fight this battle.
The hurt I suffered at the Hands of the RC can be forgiven, but it is tied up with my own sins; Hardness of heart, lack of faith, lack of personal trust and transparency, slowness to love, quick to anger are the sad results of what happened. That takes a lifetime of repentance and Grace, but the RC church demands I pay my debt in full right now, and I ask for time, and mercy, and find none.
All or nothing.
It may not be phrased that way, but that is what is expected...that would mean you want perfection before I am acceptable...why am I allowed to struggle with sin in learning to love and forgive my enemies, my family, myself, but am not allowed to struggle with those same sins if they are directly tied up with the sins of priests of Bishops?
I know this is rambling, and every-time I have ever said anything like this, I end up regretting it; it makes people uncomfortable and defensive; and maybe I should explain in better in an email.
Delete this if it looks like it is going to generate into the usual name calling. Or don't post it at all. Maybe these things are best handled on a personal level, one on one.


At Wednesday, October 24, 2007 10:30:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

I'm not going to delete you, A.L., and thanks for your thoughts and expressions of a pain that is obviously very raw.

Nor am I going to threaten you with even more pain unless you let go of the hurt you have experienced. That would be silly and cruel. If you have heard the Church saying this too you, then I am sorry.

I know it is hard, but it is important not to separate the Church from Jesus. Do you believe that it is Jesus who is threatening you with more punishment if you do not immediately forgive your transgressor? Surely not. Then believe that neither does the Church issue any such ultimatum.

There are wicked people in the Church. God help me, I may be one of them. But I beg you, if nothing else, to understand who and what it was that hurt you. It was not Jesus--it was not his Church--although it may have been someone who claimed to have been acting in his name.

And perhaps you are right. The depths of suspicion with which some regard the Church may well be due to just the sort of pain you have experienced. But I beg them too to distinguish between the actions of wicked men (who are everywhere today and always have been) and the Church of Christ, which is Christ himself.

As for all things being well, my wife said the other day in a fit of exasperated anger: "It's OK, alright? It's all going to be OK, everything will be OK." I don't think she was aware at the time that she was almost perfectly quoting Julian of Norwich, but there we are, eh?

At Wednesday, October 24, 2007 10:54:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

I second David's comments. Those of us who came into the Catholic Church, especially as adults, know that she is filled with sinners (like myself). I also know that having been raised in a Lutheran and Catholic home that we all struggle with sin until the day we cast off this mortal coil.

My prayers are with you, A.L., you are making me neither uncomfortable nor defensive. Your pain is ours to share and bring before the Lord, because He has made us one.

And yes, David, we do love Past Elder, I particularly more so since he has revealed that he and his boys are sharing their home with a furry sock thief.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 1:11:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Regarding the hermeneutic of suspicion. Bread and butter in my European family.

I made myself a promise that when I became Catholic I would never carry on the negative caricatures that existed between my Lutheran and Catholic family over into another generation.

Now that I've lived both traditions I look back in amazement at how very little both sides understood one another.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 4:03:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

Brother A.L. -- that the spiritual devastation wrought in my life by the RCC was not joined by the kind of which I think you speak is just luck. I certainly saw it happen around me on all sides and the invitation was extended to me as well.

My dad was fond of saying that statistics are fine but when it happens to you it's 100%.

It is characteristic of the oppressor to present himself as the saviour too, even from the very oppression he has wrought. "Blame the victim" is one of the most common techniques. Trust is earned, not commanded.

You, brother, are a beloved creation of God, who wants for you a life where you know him, love him and serve him here and are happy with him forever in eternity.

And he knows that this is impossible for us to attain ourselves. For which reason he set aside his divnity and became a man, to pay the price himself for everything everyone would ever do to separate himself from Him. He has declared us righteous, we have passed over from sin and death to life washed clean in the blood of the Lamb he sent. Which body and blood he offers us as our inheritance, his testament, his pledge of salvation.

Who then dares to take this back from us? Only the devil, whom among other things Scripture calls the Accuser. God, on the other hand, offers us a clean slate so completely that he is even described as remembering our sins no more!

And what of the sins of others visited upon us? I don't suppose a combox is where the full answer to among the hardest problems of human existence will be found. I can only say what has helped me.

And that is primarily two things. One is, to realise that sanctification is not justification, that I will never attain a personal holiness satisfatory to God this side of eternity, and that while I am not excused from the effort, the effort is not my justification before God, it is something I am now free to do knowing my justification before God is complete through Jesus Christ.

And having freely been let off the hook, no-one can put me back on it or have me put myself back on it. Before God I am free of my sins, and also free of the sins of others. Even in the RCC there are many for whom the faith of Christ has brought the same forgiveness and peace of soul we want ourselves. This does mean the RCC is right, or wrong, nor does it excuse a thing or pretend it didn't happen or really wasn't that bad, nor does it mean therefore I have to be in the RCC. It simply means that when I think of the RCC I think of those in it who have the forgiveness and peace of Christ and be grateful for their experience even if it was not my own. It's not about the RCC, it's about the forgiveness and peace of Christ, for in Christ we have a high priest who himself knows of experience everything we have suffered, not from headdresses and rites, but from emptying himself to the point of crying out in agony Why have you abandoned me! Just as I have.

He took this on himself so we wouldn't have to. He wants to do this for us, he knows we can't do it for ourselves and he doesn't ask us to, he knows our cry will always be Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief. And he was pretty clear about those who cast stones! Those stones are not from Him!

In the end, it doesn't matter whether this or that church or churchman gets it. God gets it, and any church or churchman who stands in the way of that is an enemy of God and his Church seeking only to defend himself. Let no-one rob you of this -- you are a beloved son of God through faith in Jesus Christ and no power on heaven or earth can erase that or your communion with other sons (generic: daughters too) of God washed clean in his blood.

Thank you for posting. It is my privilege and blessing to have heard you. You are not alone, neither with God nor among men. And I am not alone either, and now I know there is you too as proof of that! Thank you.

PS David, this time you needed the apostrophe. The possessive of Past Elder is Past Elder's; the plural of Past Elder is Past Elders.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 4:31:00 am , Blogger Christopher Orr said...

Dialogue requires a relationship of trust.

I thought i was clear that I see the overtures in recent RC history as being quite honest. These are good, strong steps toward establishng a relationship of trust within which true dialogue can happen. But, and you acknowledge this it seems, this is a relatively recent occurance. Whether the "monster, Triumphalist Roman Papalism" ever existed or not, non-Catholics and RC dissenters of various stripes all seem to be view the RCC as having been such and that means there is a problem that only overtures from the RC side can really allay - and they have been attempting just that. A few decades doesn't necesarily establish this change of course, though, when dealing with religious memories and cultures going back centuries, so it will take time.

The issue I was addressing had more to do with the fact that RC dogma has established Rome as unquestionable when it officially declares something and has given it dogmatically unfettered, unilateral power that must be obeyed. This is where dogma is not precisely aligned with the overtures made. There are no dogmatic or ecclesiastical mechanisms whereby an erring Pope can be called to repentance on he has spoken ex cathedra.

So, unless one agrees that a special charism has been given not only to Peter but has been passed on to the bishops of Rome, a charism different than that given to all bishops who also require obedience from their own diocesan clergy and laity, then reunion is a non-starter regardless of whether Rome is seen as a monster or not. I, for one, do not see this as an ancient charism testified to in the church of the first millenia (except by those in Rome about their own church) or accept its development as anything other than innovation that has been unrecognized and unaccepted by the Apostolic Churches as being of the Tradition. And this is a doctrine that is of the essence of what it means for the RCC to be the RCC that I do not see changing whatever ecumenical good intentions and overtures are made - Rome is simply not conciliar in the way Orthodoxy sees the Apostolic Church as having been and being, it sees itself as infallible and supreme in its universal and immediate jurisdiction with or without the Bishops. In practice, I think most RCs view the Church more along the lines you are describing and there are many dampeners to this power, but it is a power nonetheless reserved to itself even if not used - in many ways, it is the nuclear option that the US and others retain "just in case". This is antithetical to the "weak ecclesiology" that Fr. Stephen Freeman discusses as the strength of Orthodox ecclesiology - an ecclesiology of the cross, not an ecclesiology of glorious and final clarity (the 'court of last appeal' argument).

Not sure if my previous clarification got lost, but I am neither priest nor clergy. I am simply a layman in the OCA and the Greek Archdiocese: a Reader, choir boy and Sunday School teacher.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 5:23:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

I accept the correction! Let me amend the statement: there is nothing wrong in Mr Orr's statement other than that the plural of pope is popes, not pope's.

Can't find a thing wrong with Mr Orr's later post either!

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 6:00:00 am , Blogger Christopher Orr said...

I found a mistake: "whereby an erring Pope can be called to repentance on he has spoken ex cathedra." It should be "ONCE he has spoken".

I'm sure I'm wrong or stated it all poorly or something, too, this is just my two cents as to how I see things - and I think how many non-RCs of good will see things, too.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 6:46:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

That's the catch! Once he has spoken ex cathedra there can be nothing in it of which to repent since it is infallible, according to this folk myth.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 7:07:00 am , Blogger Christopher Orr said...

Well, I wouldn't refer to it as a "folk myth". We all believe what we believe and have reasons for such; we'll all find out what's what when we die. It is as much a "folk myth" to a RC as is sola scriptura and sobornost to a Protestant or Orthodox.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 1:57:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Yes we will finally find out what's what when we die, and I expect what will not be exactly the what any of us thinks here.

Sola scriptura and sobornost are ideas about which we may mistaken, though I don't think so on the former and you don't on the latter.

But that there is an actual guy who when speaking from the chair of Peter cannot err is right up there with them in folk legends. For that matter, so is the thing about the chair itself. Strikes me as a little different than finding out sola scriptura is completely unsupported in the Fathers or Scripture, or that sobornost is Russian ecclesiastical Hegel.

But yes I understand that within the belief system, these are realities. The RC holds things to be essential to the faith and church -- that I once held to be essential to the faith and church -- that Lutheranism and I now don't believe exist at all.

BTW, may I say I am very grateful to and for the Orthodox. Obviously, I do not share the Orthodox faith. But I respect its integrity even when I cannot agree.


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