Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm Not Sure That Means What You Think It Means...

First, let me say that I *know* that the papacy is not the biggest issue between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I feel like, in my thinking, I'm focusing on this one little detail, but, to be honest, it's an issue for me. I don't think that anyone would argue that St. Peter had a special place among the Apostles. The issue, of course, in that instance is what does 'special' get you? Does it make you first among equals, or does it put you in charge?

But that's a question for another time, I think. What about the claim of papal infallibility? First, 'infallibility' does not mean that the pope is right every time he says something. Infallibility only comes into play in matters of doctrine regarding faith and morals.

The conditions, according to the First Vatican Council (where papal infallibility was decreed a dogma by a council of bishops, thus making it an infallible decree of the Church and a requirement of the faith) are as follows:

1. 'the Roman Pontiff' - meaning the pope
2. 'speaks ex cathedra' ("that is, when in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, and by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority…") - 'ex cathedra' by the way, means 'from the chair' - it refers back to the belief that the pope 'sits' in St. Peter's 'chair' as his successor.
3. he defines that a doctrine concerning faith or morals must be held by the whole Church.

Since papal infallibility was declared, it's been used rarely, according to most sources. They point to the declaration of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary as two of the infallible declarations since the 1870 declaration of infallibility itself. However, there's (I've learned) not an actual list or record of everything that a pope has declared infallibly. So it's sort of hard to tell how often this power has been exercised.

There are plenty of sites that you can look up and get explanations of where the Church gets their basis for declaring the pope infallible. I thought about going into it, but really, I'm just not going to.

The end point, the crux of this post is:

I just don't believe it.

I've read the arguments, I've looked at the texts (and certainly not all, by any means, don't get me wrong - there's *lots* of things that I don't know.), and I see what they're saying, but I honestly do not see a Biblical or historical basis for the successor to St. Peter (where ever he was posted) declaring matters of faith all on his own and having the whole Church follow him. I don't see it, and I can't believe it.

I can see and believe that the Church (through the Bishops, acting together in councils) can be infallible in matters of doctrine, morals and faith. But not one man, no matter whose successor he may be.

Which...means I can't be Catholic anymore.

16 comments:

  1. At least it's clear that you're a Christian and that you have lots of beliefs in common with the Catholic church, and a lot of respect for it overall. I don't think you automatically have to stop considering yourself Catholic because of a difference like this. I know it's kind of a "big thing", but I feel the line between being part of a group and not is feeling like you belong and gaining something from it. If you have enough in common for that, couldn't you just be a Catholic with a twist?

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  2. Amber-
    I was Catholic at one time. I am now Orthodox. Hubby is still a member of the RC.

    That said, many people think that I converted because of not being able to take the papal infallibility 'thing' any more. It was only part of it. I don't think that that should be the only reason to leave.

    What gets me is the the RC really doesn't believe it any more. If they did would there be such conflict in the Church? Many outside the Church think that the RC is this big monolith with the pope holding all this power, but when one is inside, one sees that it is much harder to define. Institution is not Church..but the Church is partly and institution.

    I think that in a way Candice is right. Believe me, just leaving might not be the answer...if the problem is just papal infallibility.

    Sorry for the long two cents..you can email me if you want...I promise only to ramble on if you want me to.

    Sorry...

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  3. This is one of the factors that made me walk away from the Catholic Church :( I just couldn't wrap my head around it. But I had a lot of other things that lead to that decision too.

    Oddly...I peaked at Orthodox for a bit after this revelation :)

    But the ladies are right. If its the only reason, then you might not be totally lost. And you know your Christian so that's a definite plus :) At least you know what religion you belong to lol

    Lots of Love dear. I'll pray for God to help you.

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  4. Candice,

    Maybe. I don't know. My understanding is that you have to believe certain dogmas or you're not in communion with the church, and therefore can't receive Communion.

    Maybe that doesn't technically make you 'not Catholic', but, if my understanding is correct, it is a problem. *sigh*

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  5. Mama Juliana,

    Really? I knew that your husband was RC, but I somehow missed that you'd been Catholic and converted. Or maybe I knew that and forgot. That happens...

    That's all true, and I just...I don't know. I never went in expecting the Catholic church to be all marching lock-step, that's unrealistic with anything dealing with humans, but...there're things that I didn't have problems with, that as I've learned more, or thought about more, don't quite mesh for me.

    Papal infallibility is one thing, but then I also have issues with the position of Pope itself, as defined in the Catholic church. I don't see (from what I've read), that St. Peter ever acted as the sole head of the church. He may have been given a measure more respect and deference, but he was never regarded as the be all, end all of the Apostles.

    I don't understand why some changes were made in the Catholic church. For instance, separating the Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, and Communion. It makes more sense, theologically and spiritually, to me, for all three to be done to infants, as opposed to Baptizing and then waiting some eight (maybe more) years for Chrismation, and *then* having a separate ceremony for First Communion. If a child is a member of the Christian family, why are they denied spiritual food during their youth?

    The Orthodox (as far as I understand it) view of Ancestral/Original Sin and it's consequences for us makes more sense to me. I've been told that it's really a matter of semantics, and that the Catholic and Orthodox positions on this aren't actually that far off, but if that's the case, the Catholic position has not been well explained.

    The concept of Hell not as a place away from God, but the presence of God paining sinners makes more sense to me. I mean, if God is everywhere, how can there be a place where He's not?

    The whole attitude of not trying to define and scientifically dissect our faith makes more sense to me.

    I know they're all small things, but I guess they add up, for me, to a growing sense of...disquiet, at least.

    Please, don't ever not ramble, if you want to. Rambling is key, around here. I sometimes have my best thoughts when I'm rambling. :)

    I appreciate the offer to let me email you, but I don't even feel like I know what to say, except 'Help!'. I find it hard, sometimes, to define my issues down, and then, I (and this is a personal issue) feel like I should be able to sort this out without imposing on other people...like, I should *know* this stuff already.

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  6. LK,

    That's not surprising. :)

    'And you know your Christian so that's a definite plus :) At least you know what religion you belong to lol'

    Hah. True. At least I know that much, without question. I have made progress. :)

    Thanks.

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  7. Are you Orthodox Christian then? I've been sorely tempted to ditch the Catholic Church...about three times a week, really. But that's because I'm so sick and disgusted with the Liberal crap EVERYWHERE FOR GOD SAKE. Drives me nuts!! What the hell good is it to have theology when it seems as if hardly anyone can be bothered to listen to it, let alone follow it??

    I feel as if the *real* Catholic Church is a myth ... the one where you attended a sacred mass and people took the Faith SERIOUSLY without all this "oh but that was back then, this is now so abortion/homosexual sex/birth control/fornication/immodesty/you-name-it is totally acceptable!" It's a distant myth from long, long ago in a land far, far away. I don't dare hope to ever find it.

    I'm fed UP with belonging to a Church where if you take your faith seriously you are bullied and harassed, ostricized and made to feel like an outright lunatic ~ where you are treated *better* by secular people then your own fellow Catholics!!

    And the utter lack of a working, thriving, reaching-out-to-each-other (and those around us) community within parishes... I've belonged to a load of parishes and I've never seen the same kind of community that you see in even the wackiest Protestant churches. It's such a letdown. I gave up all the wild crazy fun of secular life for.... sit home and basically collect dust while 99.9% of my family members, friends, and peers feel sorry for me having "found religion."

    When I lived in Bahrain I wanted so much to stay there, become Muslim, live in a place amongst a people and a culture that had at least somewhat of a collective religious identity. You can't help but envy a place where modest is as normal as breathing the air and TV programs have images of mosques super-imposed over the screens during prayer time. They kinda take their faith a bit *seriously*...

    I know your pain. I struggle constantly with my Catholic faith. But then again... the grass is anything but greener on the other side of the fence. **Sigh**

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  8. "I don't think that anyone would argue that St. Peter had a special place among the Apostles. The issue, of course, in that instance is what does 'special' get you? Does it make you first among equals, or does it put you in charge?"

    I'd say according to Jesus it meant Peter should be the best example of a servant since Jesus said the greatest among you is a servant to all. (Mt. 23:11)

    "What about the claim of papal infallibility? First, 'infallibility' does not mean that the pope is right every time he says something. Infallibility only comes into play in matters of doctrine regarding faith and morals."

    Well, for sure Peter wasn't infallible as any Bible reader knows. :) Too much focus on the pope being right every time he says something sounds like Muslims' devotion to every single thing Muhammad said or did or preferred. Sooooo I'm VERY happy it's not that! :)

    " But not one man, no matter whose successor he may be."

    I agree.

    "Which...means I can't be Catholic anymore."

    Whoa....I wasn't expecting THIS though! O_O So what are you going to do? Does this make you sad?

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  9. Amber: if people can be publically pro-abortion and still receive communion I'm sure that you can have honest doubts about the papacy and still be Catholic.

    Just a snarky observation. *wink*

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  10. Michelle,

    'Are you Orthodox Christian then?'

    No. See, the issue is not that I'm ready to give up the Church, but I sort of feel like...like I've put myself in a corner by not being able to believe this particular dogma. But I'm also not ready to entirely write the Church off. I have issues. I have doubts. But that's not enough. I'd have to *know*, and I don't. Not yet.

    Our parish priest is not what I would call conservative, but neither is he a liberal. Fr. Pat is getting on, however, and I don't expect it to be too long before Fr. Anthonio takes over the parish. And he's conservative. So...that'll be interesting.

    I've lucked out in that while Fr. Pat is not, as I said, 'conservative', our parish hasn't been overrun by the liberal wackiness that I hear about it other churches. Certainly, we're not the most 'old school' parish around, but we also don't have to worry about liturgical abuses happening.

    'Amber: if people can be publically pro-abortion and still receive communion I'm sure that you can have honest doubts about the papacy and still be Catholic.

    Just a snarky observation. *wink*'

    Sadly, you're right. (About the pro-abortion people, not me.) I've decided that I just need to talk to my priest, and ask him. I'm actually pretty sure that he'll tell me I can continue to receive, but I need to be sure.

    I think yesterday was sort of an overreaction to the realization, but like I said, this one thing is not enough, for me, for me to leave the Church. It's really not. And while I do have other questions, even added together I don't think they're enough.

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  11. Susanne,

    'I'd say according to Jesus it meant Peter should be the best example of a servant since Jesus said the greatest among you is a servant to all. (Mt. 23:11)'

    A good definition. And I know that St. Peter was an excellent servant. And there have been many popes who've followed his example in that. There have also been many Bishops, priests, and just plain men (and women!). :)

    'Well, for sure Peter wasn't infallible as any Bible reader knows. :)'

    Infallible does not mean perfect. St. Peter is provably not perfect and not without sin.

    'Too much focus on the pope being right every time he says something sounds like Muslims' devotion to every single thing Muhammad said or did or preferred. Sooooo I'm VERY happy it's not that! :)'

    I honestly don't know anyone who treats the Pope like that. I don't doubt that they may be out there, but I think they're in the minority. So far as I know no one has gone out and started wearing Pope Benedict XVI's special red shoes just because he does. :)

    'Whoa....I wasn't expecting THIS though! O_O So what are you going to do? Does this make you sad?'

    I may have (probably did) jumped the gun with that one. I'm not ready to leave the Church, and I sort of panicked yesterday thinking this one thing was enough to take me out of it. Likely, that's not the case. I'm going to speak with my priest on Saturday about it.

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    ReplyDelete
  13. Amber ~ You'll find that you won't believe a lot about the Catholic Faith. That's normal and actually ok. I live my faith with a handful of blind faith. We are falable mortal beings and we can't be expected to understand everything.

    The teachings of the Church evolved outward from the time of Christ. Everything was not laid down in easy-to-follow black and white steps that couldn't be missed, let alone misunderstood.

    What it all boils down to is this: There comes a point in time where you have to decide if you're going to submit to the Church or not. You can't be halfway.

    Even if you don't agree, don't understand, or even don't believe everything, there comes a point in time where you have to decide to submit to the authority of the Church.

    I don't agree with the ban on non-aborting artificial birth control. I want to be able to take pills that will help me to take a break from pregnancy for a year or two. But you know what? In 1998 I stood at the altar and said, "I accept this Catholic Faith." I was baptized and made a member of this Church. I made public witness that I would submit to the authority of the Catholic Church. And so regardless of what *I* feel personally with regards to some of the teachings, I made the choice to submit to this particular Faith.

    And oddly enough, that brings me a lot of peace because you know what? No faith, no church, no ideology has everything laid out with such logic and precision that everything always makes sense. No matter where you go you will always find grey areas. You will always end up scratching your head and wondering at some of the teachings and saying to yourself, "I've read the explanations etc but I'm still not seing a black-and-white reason that *makes* it so that I can believe 100%..."

    I don't have to worry about it. I don't have to drive myself into the ground trying to understand. Like a child to her mother, I can lay my concerns in her hands and say, "I don't understand all of your rules but I trust you. I trust that you are going to take care of me and that you sometimes know something that I don't know - and so for my own good I need to stop stressing myself out and trust in your care."

    The Church knows something I am just not grasping about birth control. God knows why He blessed me with twins six months after a c-section. I don't run the show. I don't know everything. I am not always in control. Sometimes I am the child that doesn't understand something - and there is no crime in leaving it at that, accepting my lack of comprehension, and letting Holy Mother Church guide me.

    We don't always have to know and understand every single detail of every single teaching. It's absolutely ok to accept things on blind faith.

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  14. I didn't know all that, it makes conversations with a Catholic friend of mine make a bit more sense. I wasn't understanding things he said about the pope or the Church being able to speak for everyone, or why it was such a big deal that he'd been attacked at Catholic forums. He's still Catholic, he just doesn't accept everything. That doesn't seem to be an option for you, and it wouldn't be for me either so I get that.

    It's rough realizing you don't fit with a religion anymore, but I hope that Orthodoxy is everything you're looking for and works out better for you. :)

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  15. Sanil,

    Heh. I'm happy to help make things clearer for you. :)

    It's difficult, but I think you know that far better than I do.

    I spoke to my priest, and he actually agrees with Michelle and the ladies here, that while it's problematic, it does not actually give me an automatic boot. Until a time comes when I'm convinced that the Catholic church is definitely not the true church, I'm 'okay'. Which...*waggles hand back and forth* makes me happy because I'm not ready to start over, but also makes me sad, because how far do you stretch yourself to compromise before it becomes silly and pointless?

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  16. I'm glad you have a temporary answer! Gives you as much time as you need to really figure it out. It doesn't become pointless until you've made a decision and when you make the decision, I'm sure you'll act (leave the Church or stay in it) so nothing will be pointless!

    I feel like this is the place I'm with in Islam sometimes. I don't fit 100% with the beliefs of Muslims, but I feel like I fit 100% with the beliefs of Islam so I am half in half out with the Muslim population... but at least I feel like I am where I belong in the real sense and that's really the important part right?

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