Sunday, January 16, 2005

Lord, to whom shall we go?

Dr. Phil Blosser has written a splendid essay (largely drawn from Thomas Howard's writings) about why Episcopalians, in particular (or anyone in general) should become Catholic. Some choice quotes:

"The apparent strangeness and uniqueness of Catholicism, from a cultural and historical point of view, may consist, in the final analysis, in little more than its more complete and universal embodiment of what is already present, if only partially and incompletely, in the experience of other Christian communions."

"The accelerated disintegration within the Catholic Church over the last four decades has so many potentially depressing aspects that I hesitate to mention them. But honesty compels me to admit that the Catholic Church in the West, since the 1960s, has passed through something that looks a bit like a delayed adolescence."

"Catholic tradition--the richest treasure trove of spiritual, devotional, moral, ecclesial, and liturgical resources imaginable--is virtually ignored today. The oldest liturgy in world history--older than the celebrated Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox tradition--is the traditional Latin Mass of the Roman rite, which can be traced back to the beginnings of Church history...."

"If the Church has not budged a single inch from the apostolic Faith on points of orthodoxy, such as the divinity of Christ and the inviolable authority of Scripture, neither has she strayed one iota from such fidelity in her moral teaching on such issues as the sanctity of life, family, and marriage. In fact, the Church has stood against the prevailing tide of modern opinion by her consistent opposition to abortion, homosexuality, extra-marital cohabitation, divorce and remarriage, and a host of other ethical issues. In a Church whose membership constitutes roughly a fifth of the world's population, this fact speaks volumes. It says that Church teaching on matters of faith and morals is not dictated by prevailing opinion."

[from Thomas Howard:] "Perhaps I ought to phrase this last point as a question, then: if the Roman Church has nourished that sort of thing (and the writings of Lady Julian and Richard Rolle and Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila and ten thousand others whose work towers above the terrible flea-marked junk filling religious bookstores these days), then I must ask myself whether that source is worth finding. Nearly all mere arguments--about Petrine claims, about Loreto, about indulgences and the Immaculate Conception and the Perpetual Virginity and infallibility and the Infant of Prague and bingo and the Mafia and horrible Mexican cults and Borgia popes and Torquemada and the Duke of Alba--die away in the light of this question of spirituality. Not that doctrinal questions do not matter. But one pauses before some such syllogism as this: "If the Church that makes those claims has nourished this spirituality, then what is one to make of it?" Of course there are riddles and horrors. Anything as old and enormous as the Roman Church is bound to be a horror show. But then one remembers how Christ insists on calling His poor Church, who paints herself up like the Whore of Babylon sometimes--how He insists on calling her his spotless Bride."

[from Howard:] "The holy Catholic Church looks more like the five thousand whom the Lord fed on the hillside than it does the small group of insiders in the Upper Room. That is, everyone is here: the earnest and the preoccupied; the poor and the rich; the fashionable and the unfashionable (more of the latter than the former); the ignorant and the luminously wise; the proletariat and the bourgeoisie (to reach for anachronistic categories); the pathetic and the impressive. It is just "us" whom this very ancient Church comprises. None of us has any credentials at all other than the fact that we are baptized into this Church."

"It is both more conceptually transparent in its intellectual expression and yet more sacramentally opaque and mysterious in its material incarnations. It is simultaneously more spiritual and yet more physical; more otherworldly and yet more earthy; more culture-transcendingly universal and yet more particular, physically and culturally rooted, locally incarnated and expressed."

[from Howard:] "But everyone--both in the world and the Church--knows that there is a desk on which the buck stops, so to speak, and that when Rome has spoken on the issue, it is concluded. Oh, to be sure, Father C. or Father F. over here can keep on burbling--Rome cannot stop that. But Rome can say and does say to the Church and the world, "This which you hear Fathers C. and F. teaching is not Catholic teaching. It is not in accord with the Faith once for all delivered to us by the apostles." A pressure group organized by trendy nuns in favor of abortion exists explicitly in rebellion against what Rome teaches. No one needs be in the slightest doubt on the point; whereas another denomination, if it can ever get up the votes, can only pass a resolution. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself has not in our lifetime said, "No. That is heresy." Rome has."

"The Church universal has never said, "Geneva locuta est, causa finita est" ("Geneva has spoken, the case is closed") when it came to doctrinal definitions. But to pit one city against another in this way does little more than raise the hackles of partisanship and factionalism, which is hardly becoming among Christians. Howard's point is simply that the only history which we Christians do have in this world, very early on, settled upon the city of Rome as the locus and seat of pastoral authority for the universal Church."

"As Evelyn Waugh put the matter: "Conversion is like stepping across the chimney piece out of a Looking-Glass world, where everything is an absurd caricature, into the real world God made; and then begins the delicious process of exploring it limitlessly." Once that is clear, all I would add is that one must have no illusions, but come aboard Peter's Barque quickly and help bail. The philistines are ravaging the Ark of Salvation and we need all the help we can get from any who love God and His Church."

No comments: