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Archive for June, 2012


The desert of my discontent

Once again I find myself in the desert, the parched dry land gives no comfort for the weary.

In this place one can survive a long time, but no one is ever here by choice. A heart alone, devoid of life, surrounded by those who live their lives oblivious to darkness and pain.

This wasteland is of my own making, it’s a place that guards my heart. Providing isolation from those who would seek to impose their view of faith, life and love.

David has been here often, the Psalms are full of a darkness that plagued his existence. Oddly, I find comfort in his pain, it tells me I am not alone, others have shared this isolation.

How I wish I could find someone like David, who understands the pain and darkness. Instead of offering empty words, or fatuous bumper sticker theology, would just sit and suffer with me, shed a tear for my pain and simply offer nothing but sympathy.

This, more than anything else to me, is the mark of someone who understands why God whispers in the quiet hours and chooses to simply suffer with us.

Israel, Israel, your cries for justice did not go unanswered, like so many today, you missed the God of suffering in your midst.

There is a presence in the silence here, a still small voice. It calls to me, leading me on. Ahead I see the shore, and on the horizon a storm approaches, and I know I must endure, for my own good.

How did I get here?  Does it really matter?

Those storm clouds may entail bad weather, but the rain and wind are needed to wash away the stains, so when they have passed, I can walk again into the glory of a new morning.

I find nauseating the words of so many who do nothing other than live their faith through empty statements, forced piety, and smiling faces. I would like to see them suffer, for no other reason that the same Bible they so quickly quote victory from, is just as full of darkness and defeat. Unless you understand suffering, sacrifice, and pain, then you will never truly understand what victory meant to those who have gone before you.

Just as insipid are those who selectively avoid the whole truth to push their theology, who will never be able to see beyond the lifeboat of their tightly held beliefs. They spend more time patching holes in their boat, than learning to swim in the storm of truth, they can never be free until they understand that truth lives outside our safety nets.

I’m surrounded by those who claim the title of Christ, but seem to have no measure of him anywhere other than their empty words. Justin Martyr said the same thing in his first apology written in the first century, funny how some things never change.

But I digress (not without good reason, mind you)

This place is temporary while I sort through what has become of my life, I have left the safety of the Catholic Church because I can no longer support their claims made in the last two centuries, they chose to make those beliefs dogma leaving no room for dissension.  I have not yet fully entered into the arms of the Orthodox church, doctrinally I find them them to the most solid, but aligning my western worldview, with their eastern one is no easy feat. And I truly feel like an infidel, who has invaded a strange and holy place.

So for now I live in desert of my discontent, I find solace in those who have been here before, they filled the bible with their pain as well as triumph. It will all end, and the sun will shine again, but for now I need to carry on, and keep my eye focused on the prize.

This road has taken it’s toll, it’s meandered in out and of this place many times, but I still push on because I know that he’s calling me onward. At one time I thought the road stopped in Rome. I no longer know where it will stop, I’ve stopped worry about the where, and have just gotten busy with the moving part, one foot in front of the other.

I’ve been here before, but this time is different, this time I’m simply pausing to re-collect who I am, before I’m led on towards a new direction.


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.