Thursday, October 18, 2007

Religion: Thanks For Sharing

I realize that I haven’t posted anything new for going on a week now. This is in great part because my cyber-energies were being drained off by an on-going discussion following the Wednesday, October 10th post at Disputations, entitled “Neither Pretense Nor Trump” which is now at 230+ comments and counting. It has been pretty much Protestant me against the Catholic field. But that’s par for the course. I’m not whining. That’s why I read that blog.

The original post, in which Tom, the Lord and Master at Disputations, discusses the urge of some Catholics and non-Catholics toward Christian unification and intercommunication, and the problems inherent therein, contains this statement of a Msgr. Wells:

“To pretend a unity that does not exist may feel good at the moment; but it allows us to avoid the painful truth that we are still far from the oneness in faith and action intended by the Lord.”

This was followed immediately by Tom’s statement:

“True enough, but if I may, I don't think Catholics and non-Catholics who desire intercommunion are pretending a unity that does not exist. At the very least, they surely don't think they are.”

I have argued before for an open communion as a necessary condition to allow for even the hope of a future Christian unity, and I took this opportunity to argue for it once again. Those interested in the topic might want to read through the comments following Tom’s post, as they are interesting from a number of different angles. I will not try to recapitulate all the points here. But I do want to mention an argument that occurred to me rather late in the discussion, which was that the episode in the Gospel of John concerning “Doubting Thomas” was a good analogy for a Protestant wanting to receive the Catholic communion.

The decisive argument against a Protestant receiving the Catholic communion, as forcefully articulated by Zippy, and others, is that the Protestant would be done great harm by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, while not believing in the Real Presence. I argued that Thomas was allowed to touch the resurrected body of Christ, while not believing it to be the Real Body of Christ, and Thomas was in no way harmed; in fact his faith was confirmed and he received an immeasurably great gift:

John 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, wasn’t with them when Jesus came. 20:25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

20:26 After eight days again his disciples were inside, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, the doors being locked, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace be to you.” 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see my hands. Reach here your hand, and put it into my side. Don’t be unbelieving, but believing.”

20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

20:29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me,* you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.”

Here is but one of my comments in this long, long thread:

Zippy--
No, you're missing my point. The analogy obviously assumes that the Eucharist IS the Real Presence, as it was in the case of Thomas. The point is that Jesus did not send Thomas away because of his unbelief. Rather, Jesus allowed Thomas contact with His body, and thereby Thomas came to believe that it was Real.
We recall that first Thomas refused to believe the reports that Jesus has risen. Next Jesus appears in a room *with a locked door*. In other words, as in the Eucharist, the REAL body is present; but it is present *supernaturally*. The analogy is really very close.
Unbelievers should not be denied contact with the Eucharist because of their unbelief, but rather should be allowed the opportunity to come to belief *through their contact with it*. This, even though it would be better if they just believed without having it proved to them.
It is, in fact, difficult to see what the point of the inclusion of this episode in the Gospel is, if not to make this point and teach this lesson.
Rodak | Homepage | 10.14.07 - 7:15 pm | #

I was not able to convince a single Catholic that my analogy was any good, although I did receive some moral support from a loving soul named Anna, for which I was grateful. I have extensive notes for a post on the subject of the banality of atheism, that I will get to this weekend. Meanwhile, I would welcome any comments that would continue the conversation here.

44 comments:

EdMcGon said...

Of all the original disciples, Thomas was always my favorite, because I can relate to him. If you had heard Christ was risen, wouldn't you be sceptical too?

In addition, I also liked the Gospel of Thomas, even though it is considered apocryphal. If I was following Christ around, I'd be writing down his words too.

But on the issue of Christian unification, I believe there are many paths to God. To say there is only one path is religious fundamentalism at its worst.

Rodak said...

Ed--
Yes, I probably would be sceptical. That was my point. The Catholics are telling me that I would be spiritually injured by accepting the Catholic communion while in a state of scepticism. I am saying that Thomas was not injured, but greatly helped by being allowed contact with the Body of Christ in a state of scepticism.
Only by allowing Protestants to fully worship with Catholics in their mass, and by allowing Catholics to worship with Protestants in their churches and receive communion with them, is Christian unity even a remote possibility.
In light of the reawakening of an agressive Islam, world-wide, Christian unity is a crucial goal, imho.

EdMcGon said...

"Onward Christian soldiers", aye? :)

As far as Islam vs. Chistianity goes, the biggest problem I see is the great "Switzerland" known as atheism, from which we get the flawed idea of multiculturalism.

Rodak said...

Ed--
I have to disagree there. Multiculturalism is much more a function of religion, which is central to most cultures, than of atheism, which tends towards a one-size-fits-all, global, uniculture: McWorld, as it's sometimes called.

Tom said...

Unbelievers should not be denied contact with the Eucharist because of their unbelief, but rather should be allowed the opportunity to come to belief *through their contact with it*.

For what it's worth at this date, there are at least two problems with this.

A theological problem is that your proposal makes the Eucharist a means of unity, when the Catholic Church holds that the Eucharist is a sign of unity. Receiving the Eucharist in a Catholic Church necessarily and inescapably signifies sharing the Catholic Faith. So if someone receives the Eucharist with the thought that, one day, he and the Catholic Church will share one faith, then he is trying to make the Eucharist signify something contrary to what It actually does signify.

In plain words, that makes his reception a lie. Which is bad.

A practical problem with your proposal is that, as an empirical matter, receiving the Eucharist does not happen to be an effective means of unity anyway. Sure, there will be some road-to-Damascus type experiences, but sacraments aren't like seeds to be scattered widely in the hope that one will yield a hundred-fold.

Rodak said...

Tom--
My problem is that I see the concept "Church" as being larger than the concept "Catholic." Therefore, the unity that I see already exists and contains "Catholic" as a subset of the Universe of those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Catholic Church (as I understand it) sees itself as the Universe, and every other "Christian" confession as existing in an alternate universe, the subsets of which range from wannabes to enemies.
That said, I don't see any *logical* reason why sacraments can't work as seeds, yielding a hundred-fold.
But I do understand the position that the Catholic takes. I just don't agree with it.

Tom said...

The Catholic Church (as I understand it) sees itself as the Universe, and every other "Christian" confession as existing in an alternate universe, the subsets of which range from wannabes to enemies.

This is incorrect.

Rodak said...

"This is incorrect."

How so? If the Eucharist is the sina qua non of Catholic religious practice, and Protestants are excluded from it, then whatever the Church officially *says* about the Christian-ness of Protestants, in practice becomes null and void.

Tom said...

If the Eucharist is the sina qua non of Catholic religious practice, and Protestants are excluded from it, then --

Catholics don't consider Protestants Catholic.

You've still got a long way to go if you want to conclude that Catholics don't consider Protestants Christian.

Rodak said...

"You've still got a long way to go if you want to conclude that Catholics don't consider Protestants Christian."

Oh, not really so far. No farther than some of the subtextual--even some of the explicit--statements encountered in comment boxes, anyway.
It seems pretty clear that the general opinion of Catholics is that a Protestant *might* get into heaven, but only because nothing is impossible to God, and exceptions might be made. And, of course, the same is true for Hindus, Scientologists, and Animists...

Rodak said...

In general, I would say that the designation "Catholic" is more important to Catholics than is the designation "Christian." Whereas, to most Protestants, the designation "Christian" is more important than the designation "Presbyterian," or "Lutheran" or "Methodist."
In other words, for Catholics, the word "Catholic" implies "Christian." This makes the thinking exclusionary in effect, even if, the stated position of the Church is (kind of) not.

Tom said...

In other words, for Catholics, the word "Catholic" implies "Christian."

I should hope so!

And I should also hope the same holds true for Presbyterians and "Presbyterian," Lutherans and "Lutheran," and Methodists and "Methodist."

Rodak said...

"I should hope so!"

Okay, let me rephrase that: for Catholics the word "Catholic" is *synonymous* to the word "Christian."
"Presbyterian" is, ipso facto, synonymous to something other than "Christian"--to "Calvinist," perhaps.
To a Presbyterian, on the other hand, the word Presbyterian doesn't exclusively *contain* the concept "Christian."

Tom said...

Okay, let me rephrase that: for Catholics the word "Catholic" is *synonymous* to the word "Christian."

That's not true.

I can't be any plainer than that. It's simply not true.

Rodak said...

What I'm still hoping to hear is *how* it's not, when there is an irreconcilable doctrinal disagreement on the sacrament that is central to Catholicism.

Tom said...

What I'm still hoping to hear is *how* it's not, when there is an irreconcilable doctrinal disagreement on the sacrament that is central to Catholicism.

Before I tell you, can you tell me what "There is an irreconcilable doctrinal disagreement on the sacrament that is central to Catholicism" has to do with "Catholicism is not synonymous with Christian"?

Rodak said...

"Before I tell you, can you tell me what "There is an irreconcilable doctrinal disagreement on the sacrament that is central to Catholicism" has to do with 'Catholicism is not synonymous with Christian'?"

How can I tell you that, when I never said "Catholicism is not synonymous with Christian" and therefore don't know what that means? My point is that Catholics seem to use "Catholicism" in a way that implies that it is, to them, synonymous to "Christian." I'm told that the Church does not teach this, but I'm just saying.
Moreover, how can Protestants and Catholics be said to be a parts of the same body, if the Protestants are barred from participation in the central sacramental rite of the Catholic religion? To Catholics, Protestants are the Other, the Excluded, the Excommunicants. It's like saying, You can be in the club, just don't come inside. Or, Sure you have a car; it's just that it's up on blocks--which doesn't matter because it has not transmission anyway.

Tom said...

My point is that Catholics seem to use "Catholicism" in a way that implies that it is, to them, synonymous to "Christian."

And my point is that you're wrong.

I don't say that no Catholic anywhere has ever done this. I do say that I have never met any Catholic who does this, in person or on line, and apart from a few fringe characters the Church has repudiated, I don't think I've even heard of any Catholic who does this.

And no, you don't get to steal the base between "lots of Catholics have a low opinion of the spiritual life of Protestants" to "Catholics think Protestants aren't Christians," because the latter doesn't follow from the former.

Rodak said...

Okay, fine. Please explain it (the difference that is no difference) to me the *right* way, so that I can understand it.
If, in order to be a Christian in the sense that is implied by Catholic, one needs to believe in the Real Presence and in Transubstantiation, then how, by the Catholic definition, is a Calvinist a "Christian" in the full sense of the word? And if he's not--in the full sense of the word--then in what sense of the word is he a Christian?

Tom said...

By the Catholic definition, a person is a Christian if he has been baptized by water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (and, I guess, if he has not subsequently apostized).

Here's some Code of Canon Law for you:

"Can. 204 §1. The Christian faithful are those who, inasmuch as they have been incorporated in Christ through baptism, have been constituted as the people of God. For this reason, made sharers in their own way in Christ’s priestly, prophetic, and royal function, they are called to exercise the mission which God has entrusted to the Church to fulfill in the world, in accord with the condition proper to each.

"§2. This Church, constituted and organized in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church governed by the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him.

"Can. 205 Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance."

Rodak said...

Right. And that doesn't restrict the definition of "Church" to Catholicism, and therefore exclude Protestants from Christianity?

I.e., Once baptized "...they are called to exercise the mission which God has entrusted to the Church..." and

"This Church, constituted and organized in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church" and finally,

"Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church.."

So, obviously, only a Catholic baptism is valid, or at least is implied in Can. 204 §1.

I don't see how what you have posted here doesn't support my posiition rather than yours as indicated by "This is incorrect" and "That's not true" and "my point is that you're wrong" above.

Tom said...

So, obviously, only a Catholic baptism is valid, or at least is implied in Can. 204 §1.

As a matter of empirical fact -- you could look it up -- baptisms by and for non-Catholics are considered valid by the Church.

So, obviously, you don't understand what the Catholic Church teaches.

Which wouldn't be such a problem if you didn't insist that you did.

You keep asking how your assertions and claims are wrong, but that's like asking how claiming that spiders have ten legs is wrong. Your claims are wrong because they're not true!

You're trying to shift the burden of proof to me when you keep making claims without making any arguments. "So, obviously," isn't an argument. Neither is "it's at least implied."

If you would actually make an argument, with premises and conclusions, then I might be able to help you see where you're going wrong. As it is, though, you're merely making false pronouncements, then asking me how you could have.

Rodak said...

"As a matter of empirical fact -- you could look it up -- baptisms by and for non-Catholics are considered valid by the Church."


Then, how do you explain:

"Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church.."?

Please define "fully in the communion" in this context.

Btw, having established my premise with a pronouncement, I've basically been asking questions since, hoping to receive an answer that will provide me with a more positive perspective on the Catholic-Protestant relationship.

Tom said...

Then, how do you explain:

"Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church.."?


By reading the rest of the sentence:

"...on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance."

A less formal way of arranging the sentence is:

"Among the baptized, those fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth are the ones who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance."

In other words, the sentence itself defines "fully in the communion" -- more precisely, "fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth."

It involves three things: profession of faith; sacraments; and ecclesiastical governance. Do all three and you're in full communion.

And if you're looking for a positive perspective, you've got to love the "on this earth," which allows for different conditions for full communion elsewhere.

Rodak said...

"And if you're looking for a positive perspective, you've got to love the "on this earth," which allows for different conditions for full communion elsewhere."

But, I didn't think that there was to be an "elsewhere." I thought we were to be resurrected *on this earth* (now glorified) in the same bodies (now glorified)(or not?) that we had in the previous life?
That being the case, "on this earth" would constitute the Universe of Christians "fullY communion" with the Church, and would be seen as an eternal condition, it would seem.
Or does "elsewhere" actually mean "otherwise," so that "new" in the concept "a new heaven and a new earth" refers to a state of being, rather than to a location, with reference to "this earth"?
If that is the case, then could all Protestants, along with all other non-Catholics, be hopeful only of some kind of special dispensation from the fault of being without the Catholic Church throughout life and at time of death?

Tom said...

But, I didn't think that there was to be an "elsewhere."

Okay, that about wraps it up for me.

I quoted the sentence twice. I even paraphrased it for you.

That you still can't understand it tells me there's no point in continuing this.

Rodak said...

Tom--
I think that maybe the meanings of these terms are so obvious to you that you can't see why I'm not understanding what you're explaining to me.

Thanks for your patience in trying.

brandon field said...

But, I didn't think that there was to be an "elsewhere."

What about the "new heavens and new earth" Jesus talks about?

Rodak said...

Brandon--
See my comment of 10/24/07, 12:40 p.m.

Rodak said...

That is, Brandon, see the rest of it, since the quote you chose is from that same comment.

NB: Or does "elsewhere" actually mean "otherwise," so that "new" in the concept "a new heaven and a new earth" refers to a state of being, rather than to a location, with reference to "this earth"?

brandon field said...

Rob, one thing that is hindering you from the Catholic understanding of shared communion is that you insist on clinging to the Protestant concept of Salvation being black and white. Dante expressed the Medieval Catholic understanding of salvation and damnation, which isn't exactly the present Catholic understanding, but it's closer than the present Protestant understanding.

Rodak said...

Brandon--
So, you are saying that Protestants can be "kinda saved."
I guess in heaven they will have the eqivalent of "Catholics Only" bathrooms, and Protestants will ride on the back of the cloud?
Meanwhile, down on the earth, it's black and white, so far as the communion is concerned--either you believe the whole thing, in the one, right way, or hit the highway.

brandon field said...

Rob,
So, you are saying that Protestants can be "kinda saved."

No, I'm not.

Rodak said...

Brandon--
You see, the problem is that you never say what you *are* saying. You throw out terms without defining them. For instance:

"Dante expressed the Medieval Catholic understanding of salvation and damnation, which isn't exactly the present Catholic understanding, but it's closer than the present Protestant understanding."

You state that, but you don't explain, in any way, how it is relevant to my questions. As it stands, it's meaningless.

brandon field said...

You state that, but you don't explain, in any way, how it is relevant to my questions. As it stands, it's meaningless.

Yeah, I notice that. I'm not sure, however, how to do it better in a comment box.

If you're even passing through central Illinois, give me a call. Or even better, let Zippy fly over to you and explain it.

Rodak said...

Well, let's give it a rest for while. Maybe something concise will occur to one of us.

Kyle R. Cupp said...

The term "catholic" means universal; it refers to the character of the covenant (family bond) that God made with man through Jesus Christ.

Christ came to save all peoples, not merely the Jews, the chosen people with whom God has made convenants throught history. With each covenant, the family got bigger: family, tribe, 12 tribes, universal (catholic).

There's more to it than that, of course, but consider exploring salvation and covenant history. It may give you an clearer understanding of how Catholics understand their church.

Cheers!

Rodak said...

Kyle--
I think that I understand very well how Catholics understand their church. It is precisely that understanding which is so dismaying.

Kyle R. Cupp said...

If I understand you correctly, your dismay at the Catholic understanding of Catholicism is that it hinders Christian unity, which you see as a crucial goal, especially in our world today.

Catholics, I think, would agree that Christian unity is the ideal, is a proper goal for all followers of Christ in this world; however, I am sure you would be quick to note, and rightly so, that Catholics have a very different idea of what this Christian unity would look like than would, say, a Baptist or Methodist or yourself.

Perhaps you've written on this questions already, but I'll ask anyway: What do you think the basis of this Christian unity should be? What particularly should unite Christians in your view of Christian unity? What should tie us together?

Rodak said...

"What particularly should unite Christians in your view of Christian unity? What should tie us together?"

In my view, we are already tied together by the Cross. I never gave much thought to ecumenicsim until last summer when my wife, my two daughters, and I went to a Chicago suburb to attend the wedding of one of my wife's nieces. It was a Catholic wedding, and a big, family affair. Long story short: before and during the wedding mass I was experiencing a very strong feeling of "oneness." Not being able to take communion (and I was only one of many who did not;some, or perhaps all, of the groom's family were also Protestant) felt wrong to me. That feeling has lingered. I feel that the intent of the Protestant communion is the same as the intent of the Catholic communion: to obey Christ's instruction to "do this in remembrance of me." I don't feel that the differing understandings of the nature of the mystery of the sacrament should be a deal-breaker where Christian unity is at stake.

William Huber said...
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William Huber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Huber said...

I would like to try and shed some light on this issue. I was born and raised Catholic and left the church at an early age. When I returned I was welcomed back with very little enthusiasm. This idea of ecuminecism appealed to me at the time. When I asked one of the leaders at my church what he thought of inter-faith Communion, he was strictly against it. He said as a Catholic, I should never receive Protestant communion. When attending Protestant services of any denomination, I was always well received. Even after telling them I was Catholic, they still allowed me to take communion with them. Some were insistant that I did. I have gotten very discouraged about Chistian unity due to this and other issues. I hope and pray that someday we can all sit down together and put this stuff aside for a few hours at least.I know that this is being done, at least on a pastoral level but it needs to come from the grassroots level up. We all need to try and see each other in God's eyes, as his children. A wise woman once said to me,"God doesn't have grandchildren." If we don't get it together soon, I fear we are in for a very bad time. Peace.
Bill Huber

Rodak said...

Thanks for sharing this, Bill. The subject has come up over and over again, here and there, since I put up this post. I, too, share your fears about the folly and ultimate destruction that may result from disunity.