Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From the Series: Recovering Catholics: Our Stories

notes from my class i'm teaching at Trinity, part one of four. feel free to answer the questions yourselves! i'd love to know!

What do you know?


What do you think you know?


What would you like to know more about?


Why “Recovering”?

In Roman Catholicism, a lapsed Catholic is a Catholic who has ceased practicing the Catholic religion. Such a person is said to have lapsed from the faith.
According to Catholic belief, if you are baptised as a Catholic you remain a Catholic forever. A comparison with Judaism can be made, where even though a Jew may not practice their faith, they are still Jewish by birth. Baptism is said to seal the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark... of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation."

If a Catholic leaves their faith but returns later, they are not required to "reconvert" but often go through RCIA for a refresher education in the faith.
The term "lapsed Catholic" is favored over "ex-Catholic," especially in cases where the person has merely stopped practicing the faith (such as going to mass or confession) but has not actively adopted a new religion. Such people often still nominally identify their religion as Catholic. Even repudiating the entirety of Catholic faith does not make a Catholic un-baptised, but rather an apostate. Likewise, a Catholic who rejects an essential part of the Catholic religion is a heretic, and a Catholic who refuses to submit to the Roman Pontiff is a schismatic.
(from Wikipedia “Lapsed Catholic”)

My Story
I LOVED the church. It was easy to understand and I knew who was in charge and where to go to when I had problems. However, the problem of being in a structured society is that you must first fit the structured society from the get go. Being from a “broken home” is an automatic deduction of social points in an all-Catholic crowd. To be poor and not wear the latest trend is even worse. The biggest sacrifice my mom made was to put my sister and I through 12 years of Catholic school. It was expensive but the local school system didn’t cut the mustard in my mom’s eyes. But I never fit in. Then, at 16, my grandparents divorced. I found out over my summer break that my grandfather was having an affair. This was devastating to me as my grandfather was my father figure. My grandmother and I dove deeper into religion, going to church even more.

This need blinded me to a lot of things the church was saying. I never really questioned church doctrine; I did as I was told. I even got mad at my classmates who would question the dogma--it was unthinkable to question the Bible. But something started to give around my junior year. The new priest at my parish seemed to care more about the bottom line than our souls. He didn’t answer or clarify anything for me as the old priest had. His first priority was getting the parish out of the red, so we felt as if we were shunned in favor of the richer families. To get back at him, I started asking more questions in his religion class. This questioning started as just something to annoy him, but it jump-started the critical thinking process. I soon began seeing things I took at face value in a different light. The straw that literally broke the camel’s back was a sermon about a camel.

We were covering Matthew 19:24, where Jesus says, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.” I thought this was the perfect thing to challenge the priest on as it showed to me the exact error of the priest’s ways in shunning the poor families of the parish. I ran home, and my mom and I both looked it up and what I found completely blew me away.

The “eye of the needle” in Jesus’ time was a small alleyway between the long streets in the city. For a camel to pass, he must be unpacked and, in some instances, crawl through the narrow opening. Jesus was saying that a rich man must be unburdened by his belongings, not that it was impossible. I was floored. I went looking for fodder to throw at the priest and instead God gave me a whole new way of looking at the world. At that moment my thinking changed, and I realized I was no longer Catholic. I felt that God spoke directly to me—I didn’t need the priest to intercede on my behalf. The whole experience really showed me that God is all around and in everything, not the Bible exclusively. I relied less on dogma and more on logic. I became more outgoing and friendlier.

Until the Second Vatican Council, Catholicism taught that there is no salvation apart from the Catholic Church, its sacramental system, the priesthood, and the Pope and this was the party line given to me by this priest. (Since Vatican II, there have been a variety of teachings about salvation. These range from saying that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, to saying that salvation can be found in non-Christian religions.) That blew my mind. I then started questioning everything including the set up of the liturgy itself. Here’s a doodle that pretty much sums up my feelings at that time:

(found at http://indexed.blogspot.com/)

Now I view systems and structured societies with extreme caution and skepticism. I reject the Roman Catholic hierarchy as I believe in the priesthood of all believers. As for systems, I feel, at least now that ultimately we fit in NO boxes completely as there are always exceptions. Some respond to this by cutting off those limbs that stick outside the box, or lying, or making concessions, or realizing that there is no box. The box is constructed by us for us to keep us safe from the CHAOS of the natural world. Those of us to see order in the natural world are less in need of boxes.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I became more outgoing and friendlier."

Pope is on crack, Mass or Zombie Takeover, Drinking Blood, Eating Flesh, Droning crowds.

Yes, very consistant, I can see you've learned alot.

You are a silly little boy, who loves his own thoughts and attributes them to God, because your God reflects you and your image.

Do not expect a reply.

Luke said...

those are called "jokes," you might have heard of them... i am a silly boy, that's true. the rest is unfounded.

i apprieciate the comment, but a less jerkish response would have been nice. i would love to talk about my love of my own thoughts and esp. attributing them to God as I fail to see where and when i did that. but thanks for reading!

Jilted Lover said...

Add me to the list of those who have been jaded by this church.

I just am on the fence about what Church I want to fully attend. I've posted in previously, the Catholic Church is too harsh on some people. Especially, those who have divorced...

I have been judged by a Priest recently. Another reason, why I'm on the fence. I don't want to go into details, but some of the things they teach, just don't seem right.

And - I've been a Catholic all my life. I've followed the ways of the church for many, many years.

This is my opinion...

Life in the Closet said...

Thank you for adding your story to the world wide web, here's mine:http://lifeinthecloset.wordpress.com/2008/05/30/i-am-a-recovering-catholic/

Yael said...

Funny how whenever someone doesn't like our views on God they claim WE have made God in our image, unlike them of course.

I am a bit curious about one of your statements and would like to ask a couple questions which I hope you will take as real questions and not some attempt to start a debate or change anyone's views, things which are not my style at all.

You mentioned how you realized you didn't need a priest to come between you and God but that you could go to God direct. So, my first question is this, doesn't Jesus do the same thing for those who hold to the NT, standing between people and God?

One of many things that attracted me to Judaism was that I didn't believe I needed a man between me and God. I prefer working things out directly between me and God. I'm curious how you see your own relationship with God and what role you see Jesus playing in this relationship.

If my question seems out of line, feel free to ignore. It just seems to me that for some of us Jesus was as much of a hindrance to our building a relationship with God as you saw your priest to have been.

Which then brings me to another question. Do you think for some people the only way they can deal with God is through any number of intermediaries, Jesus, their priest, Mary, saints, etc. and that this is a perfectly legitimate means for them, put in place because there was a need for more space between some people and God?

Curious to read your thoughts on all of this, if you don't mind.

Timothy said...

>"These range from saying that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, to saying that salvation can be found in non-Christian religions.) That blew my mind."

Actually, "no salvation outside the Church" is an ancient Christian dogma and is not uniquely Catholic in origin. While the doctrine has never changed, our understanding of the doctrine has expanded Regarding the salvation of non-Christians, the Church says that they may be saved and, if so, are saved by God's grace and Jesus is involved, but in an as yet un-understood manner. Nothing contrary to scripture and nothing contrary to doctrine.

>"I reject the Roman Catholic hierarchy as I believe in the priesthood of all believers."

Lack of a hierarchy is unbiblical(Titus 1:5).

As a priest, can you confect the Eucharist and absolve sins (John 20:23])?

>Yael: "for some people the only way they can deal with God is through any number of intermediaries, Jesus, their priest, Mary, saints, etc"

Anytime someone prays for you they are an intermediary between you and God. Even in ancient Judaism we find priests and praying for others.

Regarding intermediaries, all can go directly to God. Like a mother baking cookies, the mother needs no help from a young child, but out of her love allows the child to assist her. God too does not need our help, but out of love for us allows us to assist by our prayers for each other.

Hopefully, all you recovering Catholics will make a full recovery and regain your faith. Hopefully Yael will discover Hebrew Catholics and like Rosalind Moss discover "The most Jewish thing a person can do is to become Catholic."

God bless...

+Timothy

Yael said...

Hopefully Yael will discover Hebrew Catholics and like Rosalind Moss discover "The most Jewish thing a person can do is to become Catholic."

Good grief. Now a Catholic is out to convert me? Well, I'll have to disappoint Timothy. I'm quite happy being Jewish and the most Jewish thing a person can do is remain Jewish. What I find fascinating is all the Crypto Jews who are returning to Judaism generations after their ancestors were forced to accept Catholicism. Now that's being Jewish!

Anyway, my questions were merely asked for the purpose of conversing with Luke, not because I'm thinking about changing religions. I am Jewish to the depths of my soul and have zero interest in Jesus, less than zero even.

Luke said...

hey Yael, thanks so much for post.. i'll be more than happy to answer your questions as that is the purpose of this blog!

"So, my first question is this, doesn't Jesus do the same thing for those who hold to the NT, standing between people and God?"

in the Gospel of John, yes, Jesus sort of stands b/t us and God but then the writer of John thought that Jesus WAS God, so ergo, we have direct connection to God. I know that in ancient Jewish thought, there is no separation between the God-follower and God, but we're taught in periocial school how the Jews of the 1st century were legalistic and were pretty much the model of how catholic view God these days... you need a priest. but what they fail to recognize was that was just SOME of the Jews of the first century, largely the Sadduccees.

I see Jesus then as a rabbi who is working to put panentheism (a belief system which posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well) versus the Pantheist pagans (God is IN the world, not beyond it) AND vs. the Classic Theists (God is BEYOND the world, not in it). that's just my interpretation now... take it or leave it ;-)


"were "things"...put in place because there was a need for more space between some people and God?"

some people need that.. the Israelites needed it in the Book of Exodus... as Rabbi Jack said (teacher of my Jewish interp. class), "Everyone was supposed to go up Sinai, but they were too scared. they sent moses instead. that then touched off the priestly-concept as not everyone feels that they are deserving or worthy of God. God doesn't feel that way, but people do." i think that works in both Christian and Jewish contexts...

hope that makes sense? thanks Yael, you RAWK!

Luke said...

"Actually, "no salvation outside the Church" is an ancient Christian dogma and is not uniquely Catholic in origin." -Timothy

yes, but the Catholic church CLAIMS to be the Ancient Christian CHURCH (in fact the ONLY church that offers salvation). So with a claim like that, you're actually supporting the RC claim as THEY ARE (in their view) the ancient church.

"Lack of a hierarchy is unbiblical(Titus 1:5)." -Timothy

Actually, Jesus said "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12). I tend to go off of what Jesus said, not what Paul says. However, Titus was not written by Paul, but an anonymous Christian schooled in Paul's doctrine, writing between 90and 140.

as for a "Full Recovery" i feel that i have made that.. i'm catholic with a small 'c' and have nothing to do with the capital 'C' that's based in Rome. catholic means universal and that's what i believe in, the universal church.

as for Messianic Jews... they are not Jews. the core belief of Judiasm is that the Messiah has yet to come... plus Jesus isn't the only Messiah. King Cyrus is called the Messiah (2 Chron 36:22-33; Ezra 1:1-8, Ezra 3:7; Ezra 4:3,5; Ezra 5:13-17, Ezra 6:3,14, Isaiah 44:28, Isaiah 45:1,13; Daniel 1:21, Daniel 6:28, Daniel 10:1, and 1 Esdras 2). And so is Maccabees, Rabbi Hillel (by some of his crazier followers), and many others. A Jew by any other name, is not a Jew.

Yael said...

Luke,
Thanks for your response. You know, I sometimes wonder if we aren't too casual today in our approach to God, that our ancestors were wise to be a bit leery about all this God stuff, but...it's just something I keep in the back of my mind. I think I'm mostly respectful with my God-wrestling and God questioning, even when it perhaps pushes the limits.

But, sometimes, never for very long, I wonder if I'm not just a bit crazy to think I even want to be around God. Mostly we dismiss the early depictions of God as primitive man's ideas but what if we're being too condescending and it really did happen that a guy tried to keep the Ark from falling off a cart and died on the spot? Would I approach the entity behind such an action and say, "Hey, Dude, why don't you come hang out with me for a bit, have a few drinks, a few laughs?' Maybe I'd be better off with taking the approach of good fences make good neighbors. Do you ever wonder?

I don't make demands on God as some do, or reduce God to a vending machine where I put in my coins and get what I want. But, who knows. Perhaps people who do these things see ME as the one hovering at the foot of Mt Sinai afraid to go up and meet with God and themselves as Moses meeting God face to face.

I'd like to think I follow in the steps of Abraham, Moses and Amos who questioned God and helped God return to reality a bit, but others might view me the same as I view the vending machine God worshipers!

And that's something I find perversely amusing. How perhaps none of us are even close to having it right, but that maybe God doesn't really care about such things like 'right' anyway (my view)but that God is more concerned about tikkun olam and how we act. Or maybe God does care deeply about 'right' and we're all so far gone it doesn't matter anyway.

You had a rabbi for a teacher at seminary; that is really great. I wish all seminaries, even the very evangelical types, would allow Jews to teach about Judaism and Jewish history instead of having only professors who toe the party line. 'Let me teach you how the Jews went wrong, how their rabbis hid important teachings from their followers so that Jews ever since have had it all wrong, and we, the triumphant Christians, have it all right!'

I know the seminary I attended would never have allowed any professor to teach who didn't sign a faith statement, yet what's the harm in presenting another POV? I would hope seminary students are smart enough to think things through for themselves and so be able to handle being challenged to consider another view, even if they ultimately reject it in totality. I don't suppose there are many rabbis who would want to be the sole Jewish voice in a sea of Christian fundies, however, anyway.

Interesting to me that at the seminary I'm looking to soon attend they have arrangements with a nearby Christian seminary for us to take some classes from them and actively encourage us to do so. It's not high on my list of things to do, but if I am accepted at this school, I think it would be good thing for me to take at least one class. (Hope none of your lurkers get too excited about that, Luke, and think I'll be won over to the other side....Amusing to me how anyone would think someone like me should revert. Yeah, let's keep trying to fit that square peg in a round hole, if we just keep pounding on her no doubt it'll happen. Not.)

Um, either I'm not comprehending your statement about Jesus and other world views or there's a few words missing? Perhaps you could clarify? I think I'm understanding what you're trying to say, but want to make sure. Anyway, I enjoy reading your thoughts and ideas. Thanks for sharing.

Luke said...

Yael,

" sometimes wonder if we aren't too casual today in our approach to God"

i agree. that's one thing i still hold onto from my catholic upbringing. i think God is a relational God, but that doesn't mean that God's my buddy. I'm to wrestle and what not (like Abraham) but there's a degree of reverence there as well... the statement "who am i but dust and ashes" is one of my fav. in all of scripture. so i'm with you on that issue... a quote i like is "God is not your cosmic bellhop."

"let's keep trying to fit that square peg in a round hole, if we just keep pounding on her no doubt it'll happen."

haha! they'll keep try'n. those crazies. that's funny!

congrats on going to seminary! that's awesome! which seminary are you looking at attending? the Jewish Interpretations class was possibly the most important class i'll take here in seminary. just a whole different level of interpretation (letter by letter) and the Rabbis recognize that when something is not there, they can Midrash on it. i LOVE Jewish biblical scholarship (ava zornberg being my fav.).

what comment of Jesus am i not clear on? the "Jesus is a rabbi who reminded us that God is relational" or the "Jesus removed heirarchy" comment i made in response to Timothy?

I don't see Jesus getting in the way... he does say "I am the way..." of John 14:6, but that's only one Gospel out of 4. The rest he's like a finger pointing to the north star. the finger gives direction to the thing we can orient our direction on. however, some go wrong and worship the finger and think the north star is the destination... we can never arrive at the north star, we orient ourselves around it.

hope that clarifies.

Sam said...

I'm very touched by the personal nature of this post, and impressed with what it says about you. Will you be posting more on this subject?

Sorry about the discontinuation of my blog on here. I don't think it got many visitors, and when my .mac site was somehow lost and I had to rebuild it, I decided that I couldn't maintain my personal sermon site *and* a blog, so I just created a blog section of my personal site. Thanks for visiting it! I hope we can still keep up with each other through our respective websites.

Yael said...

Sorry, I should have copied and pasted.

I see Jesus then as a rabbi who is working to put panentheism (a belief system which posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well) versus the Pantheist pagans (God is IN the world, not beyond it) AND vs. the Classic Theists (God is BEYOND the world, not in it).

This is the part that I didn't quite understand.

I'm looking at attending either Hebrew College in Boston or Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. I'm leaning towards Boston. I can't wait to be able to really study for five years. Probably somewhere on this blog it says, but how much longer do you have before you graduate? Any plans for what you'll do afterwards?

Luke said...

hey sam! yeah, this is the first in a 4 part series i'm leading at my intern site. i'll be posting the notes! i hope you'll keep reading.

no problem about moving the site, that just means i need to fix my side bar. ;-D

Yael, awesome! yeah that paragraph was a trouble'n one, not just for you, but for a lot of ppl (HI HUNTER!). mainly just saying that I don't see Jesus getting in the way. Paul does, not Jesus ;-)

best of luck on choosing a seminary, i hear good things about both. rabbi jack attended hebrew union in NYC, so i know of that school (one in boston, NYC, and cincy OH). I have two more years left here at LTS and i'm excited for classes to start! i really do love this stuff!

RAWK to you all!

Yael said...

Hi Luke,
Just one clarification, I'm not looking at Hebrew Union, which is associated with the Reform movement, but instead am looking at Hebrew College, which is non-demoninational. I haven't decided yet if I consider that a plus or a minus....I have time.

Luke said...

Hey Yael,

all appologies for the misreading! what denomination do you belong to? or do you?

peace!

freestyleroadtrip said...

Luke. Thanks for the link. Quite a good synopsis of what you were thinking and feeling. I think we had nearly identical experiences on the being boxed in and told to tow the line without ever questioning. Then realizing that we hadn't owned a single bit of what we believed. Kindred spirits I say. You've been and continue to be inspirational for me. Thanks.