Category Archives: Personal

Is repetition wrong??

Scene 1: Lutheran Baptism
We went to a Lutheran baptism this Sunday. (We went to the Vigil Mass on Saturday, in case you were wondering.) The service was very nice, especially the music. The sermon was (surprisingly) good. Alas, a little disembodied: is it really the Gospel of Jesus that challenges us or Jesus himself??

The liturgy was classical Western in shape and was done within the established rite of the Lutheran Church of Australia. The Baptismal Rite replaced the Penitential Rite at the start of the service – that is, it followed the Sign of the Cross – and included the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. These two were then omitted in the service – that is, there was no Creed after the Sermon, nor was the Lord’s Prayer said during the Eucharistic Liturgy.

Scene 2: Perpetual Rosary
Our parish had a Perpetual Rosary on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. For three hours before Mass, parishioners gathered before the Blessed Sacrament to pray for the defeat of the Abortion Law Reform Bill.

I admit that I have not spent that amount of time on my knees for many years. Our kids joined us for the last hour. The oldest three kneeled for the whole hour to say the Rosary. (No 2 is especially effected by it all!) I have not been that effected by a devotion for a while. (The last time was when I was exposed to the Divine Mercy Chaplet.) After it was all over I wanted it to start again.

The two could not be further apart. I admit that the first created a emotional response more to do with our particular past rather than any theological problems. But it did make me wonder: is repetition fundamentally wrong?? Our kids seems to enjoy and flourish in a daily routine that is largely based on repetition – they have the same breakfast, we say our prayers together in the evening, etc. No 4 is especially attached to routine and repetition.

One may quote Matthew 6:7 (KJV) in this connection: But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. To my simple reading (I am no Scripture scholar and I have not looked at the Greek) the end defines the act as wrong not vice versa. (And, just stating the obvious, I do not think any Catholic every things that the number of Rosaries makes the prayer worthy but rather the attitude.)

So I ask again: is repetition fundamentally wrong in a religious context??

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Evangelism, apologetics, catechesis??

Q: What is the difference between evangelism, apologetics, and catechesis?
A: Not method but CONTEXT! The context sets the intended end.

The same discourse can be evangelistic, apologetic, or catechetical depending on the context.

  1. When addressed to someone who has no relationship with Jesus, it is evangelistic.
  2. When addressed to someone outside of the Church but with a relationship with Jesus, it is apologetic.
  3. When addressed to someone inside the Church, it is catechetical.

So the end of the discourse is:

  1. Faith in Jesus
  2. Full communion with the Church
  3. Full intimacy and communion with Jesus in the Church

The methods may be slightly different. Yet the context establishes the intended end of the discourse and, hence, the terminology used.

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Traditionalism defined??

Terra has an interesting post about Traditionalism: What is a traditionalist? Last part!. Terra is to be congratulated for wrestling with the question of identity for traditionalists (something, btw, I have raised before). I am no theologian, nor am I a philosopher, but my simple reading of the post leaves me a little unimpressed. I somehow feel the answer raises more questions. Allow me to ask a couple:

A traditionalist is loyal to the Pope but believes that (1) Tradition is a quite distinct concept from the Magisterium, and (2) there are limits, prescribed by the Church, to papal infallibility.

The problem remains: who says? Is separation of Tradition from Magisterium traditional? Is it not, in fact, the opposite?? Without a doubt there are limits but who decides where these are??

Tradition has content that is distinct from Scripture and to the Magisterium.

This begs the question: which is? Jesus is the Word of God that is transmitted through Tradition, Scripture, and the Church. Jesus communicated himself to the apostles and this communication continues in the Church through the line of bishops in communion with the successor of Saint Peter. What exactly is the content that is distinctive from the Magistrium?

I wonder how the above stands with Dei Verbum?

My issues with the above is the flip-side of my argument with Protestantism: why the absolutes? Protestantism absolutizes the Word of God in Scripture, Traditionalism the Word of God in Tradition. Both separate the Word of God from the Church and have no choice but to elevate private judgement. Further, I wonder where the starting point is: what has led these people to adopt this position within the Church?

The constant name-calling and triumphalism does not help endear me to it. (Okay, I will now be called a neo-con or a Magisterialist!) Maybe work with people rather than against everyone who does not conform to your ideas. There are many faithful Catholics who happily attend the Ordinary Usage who would be more than happy to help their fellow Catholics who are attached to the Traditional forms of the liturgy but are put-off by the negativity and name-calling.

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Catholic by choice since 2007!

Dear Mr Self-appointed-internet-Protestant-Apologist,

Thank you for flooding my Inbox with your emails. I was completely unaware of the numerous Biblical texts that you quote. Where were you when I struggled and wrestled with these questions for years, reading and studying? Where were you when I struggled with my identity and was looking for answers? Yet I am so grateful to you for finally pointing out the error of my ways.

So I became a Catholic by conviction because I believed that theology, logic and history all pointed one way. But no! You showed me that 2000 years of history must give way to novelty. That the collected experience of those who have offered their life in faith to Jesus must give way to the newest evangelism programme that strives to be relevant. All by accepting your way of looking at the world. My education and reading have been null and void until you explained the plain truth to me. I really enjoyed that you set all the rules for our discussion and then changed them mid-sentence.

You finally showed me what Roman Catholics really believe without ever stepping inside the Church or looking at the Catechism. You showed me the error of my ways without ever wrestling with your own identity and the open contradictions within your thoughts. But I now realize that I was too hung up on the gift that God gave me – my sanctified common-sense.

The straw-man you set up was easily burned by your slogans. Your misunderstandings and historical inaccuracies really didn’t lessen your point that much. Making fun of my devotional life, especially the parody of the Mass you entertained me with, really opened my eyes.

But above all, I thank you for not talking to me but rather at me. After all I am only an ignorant Roman Catholic. Monologue is so much fun! Without a doubt your ideas are so new and indisputable that I have no choice but to surrender the faith of all the great Saints and adopt your interpretation of Christianity. I look forward to the next Apologist who visits my Inbox to tell me that all the other apologists have got it wrong and I need to accept his interpretation.

Yours sincerely,
CATHOLIC BY CHOICE!!

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The convert and Private Judgement

I have been puzzeled by this question for sometime:

  1. Can the convert to Catholicism ever escape the accusation of hyper-Protestantism?
  2. Is not the conversion process an elevation of Private Judgement in relation to the Church?

If someone has an answer (simple so I may comprehend) I would be most interested.

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Turning Point #5.1: An example

There is a post at Western Orthodoxy that illustrates a point I was trying to make in a previous post: The Seeker-Sensitive Takeover of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

It looks like another denomination is going the way of “praise bands”: the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Although the LCMS has a wing of “Luthero-catholics,” liturgically minded people who use a modified Breviary, there has been a strong cultural pull to slide into LCD (lowest common denominator) worship.

For those who are not in the know when it comes to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod: it is the conservative one! (It is also the former home of Fr John Fenton.) I am not sure about a group of Luthero-catholics (is there such a thing?) but it is naturally conservative on issues of theology (ordination of women, ecumenism, etc).

My point: this slide to LCD worship is an illustration of the Theological Method. A method not grounded in the historical community of faith but fluctuating between the past and the present. (If not fluctuating, than at least selective.) The liturgy will not magically create an orthodoxy Christian community, but an orthodox Christian community will have liturgy (by definition, btw!). Also, a change in style (and that is a big red herring!) will not bring the young or anyone to Jesus.

To put it in a slightly different way, when we are made right with God by faith alone, why have liturgy?? (Why have the Church or the sacraments??) As soon as the addition of the Church or the liturgy or the sacraments is acknowledged, how is it alone?

NB: I have edited the post to reflect the comment.

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Turning Point #5: Theological Method

I have not added anything to the Turning Points in our journey into the Church for sometime. So I thought I would write about a simple realization: Catholicism is not a set of doctrines (that can be looked at from the outside) but a method of looking at the world (experienced from the inside). That is, it is a means and not an end in itself. So, our search can be summarized as the seeking after

a theological method that
proclaims and lives the Faith once delivered to the saints
and engages the question of today’s world with authority and clarity.

Allow me to illustrate the journey a little:

  1. When we were Lutherans, the Faith once delivered to the saints was enshrined in the Confessional writings of Lutheranism. Of course, these writings were interpreted with a specific cultural hermeneutic. Yet, as a whole there is a central authority. But that Faith, for the average layperson, was not lived in the sense that the Confession were a part of their everyday life. In fact, most see the Bible as the only necessary book for doctrine. So the issue of the perceived identity vs the historical theological identity is very interesting.

    Yet what happens when a new question arises? Lutheranism in Australia has struggled with the question of women’s ordination for over a decade. The issue is not discussed (at least not explicitly) in the Lutheran Confessions. Neither, for that matter is there a Scriptural text that explicity speaks one way or the other. So, in the modern era, it is discussed on the floor of Synod and then voted upon. Not only is this an extremely slow way of making decisions but it is also ineffectual. When a decision is reached, it is open to political maneuvering and re-opening at a future synod. Also there is no sense of obedience to the decision and being in statu confessionis – a state of disobedience – is always an option.

  2. Anglicanism has no central confession. In fact, Anglican identity is fluid – depending largely upon the leadership of the priest in the parish and the bishop in the diocese. Yet Anglicanism is ahead of Lutheranism (and Reformed Protestantism) in that it sees itself as standing within the continuous proclamation of the Faith through Apostolic Succession. So the organic nature of the Faith is emphasized but not protected.

    Yet synods still play a part in theological decision making process. Okay, the theology is embedded in legal talk and canons. But it is still this context that engages the questions of today’s world and answers them with authority. But which synod? There is no consensus on anything in Anglicanism. In my experience, even the dioceses led by able conservative Catholic bishops are riddled with disobedience and decent. Why? There is an ongoing dialogue within Anglicanism over identity. Incidentals are elevated to the level of central doctrines and discussed infinitum.

Rome is not perfect. Yet, in the words of G.K. Chesterton, The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.

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Theological Method?

Great developers don’t think in terms of methodologies, they think in terms of what is right. Methodologies are an attempt to codify that.

The above is from the Tweets of Drew Miller (Anglican Geek).

I have been thinking about the quote all morning. Is it true? Can one transfer the quote to theology? Does the theologian (what is that?) think in terms of right (and one assumes wrong) and not in terms of method? A great theological/philosophical debate indeed!

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Problem of methodology

A number of things are coming together at the moment for me. The class I am taking on Greek Philosophy is extremely interesting. I would not have been ready for it a couple of years ago. It does, however, give me a headache! I am, also, reading, Theology of Revleation by Fr Rene Latourelle SJ. Here are a couple of quotes from the Introduction:

The term Word of God is applied primarily to revelation, that is, to this first intervention by which God comes out of His mystery, addresses himself to humanity, and communicates His plan of salvation. Scripture and tradition contain this word; the preaching of the Church transmits it; the liturgy celebrates and actualizes it. But all of this derives from the original word spoken through God. (15)

There is a fundamental difference in the theological starting point of Catholic theology and Protestant theology. Broadly speaking it is the theology of revelation. As Latourelle goes on to point out, for Catholic theology the topic is often left unexplored: We have established that revelation exists, but we have not yet said everything that it is. … there is thus room for a dogmatic study of revelation (15).

Ecumenism is actually not only a problem of ecclesiology but also a problem of methodology. A theology that is ecumenical in tone and intention must be concerned with presenting the doctrine of the Church with fidelity, but a fidelity that promotes dialogue with separated Christians. (16)

The problem of methodology goes hand-in-hand with the basic epistemological problem, the difference between knowledge and belief (even true belief). Read Plato, especially Memo!

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A lesson learned!

I have been reflecting the last couple of days about our journey. We are eight days away from our reception into the Church. That also for the uninitiated (Mark!) means I have eight days left as an Anglican priest.

I have come to realize over time that there is a considerable difference between Anglicanism in principle and the particular embodiment of Anglicanism. The Anglicanism which I read about in books does not exist in reality. The slum priests are no more, the Catholic Revival is marginalized and split, and the beauty of Anglican liturgy has been individualized. The Anglican attempt at a form of Catholicism without the pope has failed. Anglicanism will always hold a part of my heart in what it could be. And it will always remain a sad part of my life in that it fails to live up to its potential.  

Yet further I have come to realize that whatever Anglicanism maybe (or could be) is not my concern. God has called us into the Church and that is where our loyalty, love, and concern must be. Therefore I have decided to limit my posting to solid Catholic topics, to not post any more Turning Points, and to delete the draft posts about Anglican topics on the blog. A blog, by its nature, is extremely personal and therefore I cannot avoid the occasional trip down memory lane. But I will not allow this to become an ex-Anglican-now-triumphant-Catholic blog.

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