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June 6, 2012


The Vicar: Part II

This last week I met with the Vicar for the final time, he was being reassigned to another Parish, and I was returning his books and giving him one more shot. It was bittersweet in many ways, a new parish is getting a very talented and compassionate man, who has a true heart for Christ. He will be missed for sure.

I read through the suggested material from my last post, plus some of the books the father had supplied, I found them again to be fully unconvincing on the issue of Papal infallibility. I don’t buy the apologist line that it’s in there if you look for it, that’s the same line that other religions use to justify their theology. You have to read the meaning behind the text, and read the whole history to get the true ‘meaning’ of the words. I read Adrian Fortescue’s ‘The Early Papacy’ and found that again, as with other Catholic apologist, good sound evidence of the PRIMACY of the papacy, but nothing meaningful on infallibility. I stopped reading Catholic Apologists on the issue after that, I just don’t see the point. I can read the early fathers for myself, and ultimately *I* have to decide.

So based on everything I’ve read, the only way you can get papal infallibility is to claim it as part of the Doctrine of Development, because despite what I keep hearing time and again from Apologists, I can’t find any direct or even salvageable indirect history that it was ever fully supported outside of Rome, or that the early churches in the East, had the same concept. Francis Sullivan, who is highly regarded as a Catholic Theologian, basically says the same thing. The man has a Doctorate in Theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, and while he believes in papal infallibility, he’s at least honest enough to say you can’t use history to prove it.

As to the development of doctrine, the argument that the trinity had to be developed like the the findings of the early church doctrine, is an incredibly weak position to try and prove your case. First of all, the trinity is EASY to find in scripture, there is clear scriptural and historical evidence for what the councils agreed upon, and certainly we deepened our understanding of those issues over time. But that’s COMPLETELY different than saying we had to develop the immaculate conception, or infallibility, because WHERE DO YOU FIND THE SEED FOR THOSE LIKE YOU CAN FOR THE TRINITY? Do they exist in any standard written form?, and I’m not referring to the practice of reading your theology into someone elses writings. The church Fathers weren’t illiterate idiots, they spoke clearly and concisely on a number of topics, but it seems that there is a hidden theology in their writings that Catholics have been able to piece together, where’s Dan Brown when you need him? Doctrine has to develop and change over time, I’m not disputing that, but you can’t claim something out of nothing, and then make it dogmatic. That simply goes too far for me…

Back to my discussion with the Vicar, what became apparent to me this time around. Was that the Vicar who is a cradle Catholic, has never explored much outside of Catholicism, why would he? I mean you have a church claiming to be the one ‘True’ church, and an infallible pope and magisterium. So why ask questions? I wasn’t there to try and challenge his faith, he’s got a good handle on it. I was there to try and quiet my doubts, and this time it did the exact opposite. Part way into the conversation I realized we had left logic at the door, and had started into the area of philosophical sparring, which I really have no interest in.

We did discuss how far my disbelief could go before I fell into schism with the church, and that for me was the point where something inside me broke. When all your left with is posturing, and the discussion begins to resemble an Aristotelean diatribe, the gig is up and it’s time to move on.

We parted on good terms, I hold no ill feelings against the Catholic church, but I cannot honestly consider myself Catholic and gloss over these crucial issues. If the doctrine of infallibility, immaculate conception, and the assumption where not Dogma then I’d be staying. But they aren’t, and the gradual change in the character of the papacy starting around time of the Gregorian reforms have led to a situation where the church has overreached.

This is a decision that has been a long time in the making, I could spend another two years rooting and digging, and I’m convinced now that I would still reach the same conclusion. I’m not an apologist, I’m not going to write any books on the papacy, I am simply someone who had to decide for himself where the truth was to be found. Fortescue was kind of the lynch pin for me, once I realized how weak his argument was on infallibility, there was no going back, the landslide had begun.

I came home Friday evening dispirited, but after a good stiff drink, and some time to talk things out with my wife. I decided at that point that I needed to move on, it was time to go east, stop putting off the inevitable, and get with the program.

So this Sunday, Michelle and I attended our first Great Liturgy service with the Christians at the local Antioch Eastern Orthodoxy parish. It was like entering a different world, the basic structure of the liturgy was the same, but the form was SOOOO different. We didn’t feel out of place, as much as lost trying to keep up with what was going on, we’ll get better as time goes by. We did decide that doing the Great Liturgy, and then the kneeling vespers was a little too much for these novices :)

Next Sunday we are visiting the local Greek Orthodox parish, they have this new invention called pews, so maybe our legs won’t hurt so much after a long service.


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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 7 2012


    Though I’m sorry to hear this in many ways, and of course though I do believe the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, I wish you well and look forward to reading future posts.

    God bless!

  2. Jun 7 2012


    I know you are, I appreciate it and I understand, and very much respect your opinion and view of the church. We need more ecumenical Apologist who are willing to stop being right, and start being honest.

    I wish with all my heart that we could heal the schism, because then I’d have a much larger family. I think it would be AWESOME for some Catholics to see how seriously the Orthodox do their liturgy, and to show the Orthodox how beautiful the Western liturgy can actually be. It would go such a long ways to bring a more common understanding between the two.

    John Paul II wanted it fixed, as does Benedict, so my prayer is that we can fix this and soon.

    I’m mulling over some posts about how alien the whole experience has been to us, their liturgy is more complicated than the Catholic one, and I have yet to find a St. Josephs guide (and trust me, we got every penny out of ours)…



  3. Jun 15 2012

    Thanks Paul. Yes we must heal the schism, and by us I mean God working through people in the Church.

    I think it could happen in a century or two, but it will take good will on both sides, forgiveness, and humility in examining the history and theology. The fact is Catholic and Orthodox are very close in almost every important way. The gradual nature of how the schism occurred underscores this.

  4. Aug 22 2012

    Paul, hope you are feeling better. I ran across this article and wanted to share it with you:


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