"They Can Always Choose Another Church" - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 03-21-2006, 12:09 AM
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Forgive me for starting another religious discussion thread in the Heap, but there's something I wanted to rant about because it's been bugging me for a long time. It may seem a little strange coming from a Jewish atheist, but here goes:



Whenever I read news stories regarding the Roman Catholic Church, much of the discussion revolves around church "reform". Specifically, admitting women into the priesthood, allowing married priests, etc. Regarding the Catholics who are active in the church reform movement, the response from other Catholics seems to be the same thing every single time: "This is also MY church they're trying to reform. If these so-called Catholics don't like XYZ about the Catholic Church, why don't they simply choose another church?"



Am I the only one who considers such a statement insulting and condescending? I believe these church reformers to be very devout Catholics who love the Church and its teachings, but want the Church to be relevant to their lives, today, and they feel that the best solution is reforming the Church. The church is their life and their soul, and they can no more "choose" another church than they can choose another set of parents. It's not like changing jobs if you don't like where you work.



I would especially like to hear from the Catholics on VB on this. Am I way off the mark, or am I striking a chord?

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#2 Old 03-21-2006, 12:17 AM
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I guess I don't really understand why they would want to continue to support an institution with such a history as the Church (and this goes for Protestants also, btw, they stem from the same source). So, I don't really understand it at all. What is it they "love?" "The Church and its teachings" as you say, but what are those actually? What is "the Church" and what are its "teachings"?
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#3 Old 03-21-2006, 12:33 AM
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Well, obviously I'm not qualified to discuss the details, but isn't it about Peace and Love and Tolerance, and all that good stuff?

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#4 Old 03-21-2006, 12:37 AM
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Really? You sure can't tell that from its history....I think that's what people want to believe, but there's plenty of evidence to the contrary.



Tolerance! One of the first actions of the early church bishops was to outlaw Gnostic Christianity and ban the Gnostic gospels.
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#5 Old 03-21-2006, 05:46 AM
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The problem here is, MANY catholics want to change the church. They come to realize some of the "traditions" are really quite arbitrary and they view them as possibly mutable. I view it as almost a rite of passage.



The phases of faith and questioning in a typical catholic: (as defined by me ;-) )



1. blind faith in everything

2. hmmm.... I don't think its fair women can't be priests... but hey, times change!

3. hmmm.... transubstatiation... symbolism anyone?

4. You mean I can't use condoms?? OR the pill????

5. Maybe the church will change....

6. The church will never change.



Once you get to # 6, (plus or minus a few phases) people decide to stay or leave the church. You see a lot of "ex" catholics out there... (myself included...) The ones who stay value the comfort of the church, the community, the traditions - and don't mind the problems they see so much as to leave.
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#6 Old 03-21-2006, 09:28 AM
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Really? You sure can't tell that from its history....I think that's what people want to believe, but there's plenty of evidence to the contrary.



Tolerance! One of the first actions of the early church bishops was to outlaw Gnostic Christianity and ban the Gnostic gospels.



What are you talking about? I don't think Amy brought this topic up to randomly bash the Catholic Church. She was asking a legitimate question.



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Am I the only one who considers such a statement insulting and condescending? I believe these church reformers to be very devout Catholics who love the Church and its teachings, but want the Church to be relevant to their lives, today, and they feel that the best solution is reforming the Church. The church is their life and their soul, and they can no more "choose" another church than they can choose another set of parents. It's not like changing jobs if you don't like where you work.



I think that these feelings probably work both ways. You feel they're insulting to you, but they feel reform is insulting to them. It seems like inevitable tension between old-schoolers and reformers, which probably occurs in every possible group.
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#7 Old 03-21-2006, 09:30 AM
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Yes, I agree, many (possibly most) people stay in the church for community, not necessarily because they support the ideals of the institution.
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#8 Old 03-21-2006, 09:32 AM
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What are you talking about? I don't think Amy brought this topic up to randomly bash the Catholic Church. She was asking a legitimate question.





Mine is a legitimate comment, not a "random bash." If Catholics don't like the history of their Church maybe they should not support the institution.
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#9 Old 03-21-2006, 09:43 AM
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I always though that the word of the bible was the word of the bible. If you believe in the bible shouldn't you abide by everything it says? "Sure its the word of god but that part of the word of god doesnt really apply to today's world."



I think church reform to be a hillarious hypocricy.
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#10 Old 03-21-2006, 11:52 AM
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Mine is a legitimate comment, not a "random bash." If Catholics don't like the history of their Church maybe they should not support the institution.



Maybe they should support the institution, but try to work from within to change it. Your comment is akin to saying that any German who does not like the history of Germany should leave and disavow their citizenship.



The the OP: Yes, that is condescending, but that has more to do with the person, not the Church.
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#11 Old 03-21-2006, 12:00 PM
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Yes, I agree, many (possibly most) people stay in the church for community, not necessarily because they support the ideals of the institution.



If all they wanted was community why don't they go to a unitarian church? It seems to me it has more to do with either: they honestly believe the church is right, they feel that they are suppose to and don't want to dissapoint their family, or they don't realize they have a choice.



It isn't very clear to my why someone wouldn't want to reform the church, but then again I left for a reason .
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#12 Old 03-21-2006, 12:05 PM
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Maybe they should support the institution, but try to work from within to change it. Your comment is akin to saying that any German who does not like the history of Germany should leave and disavow their citizenship.



The the OP: Yes, that is condescending, but that has more to do with the person, not the Church.



Well leaving a church is a lot different than leaving a country. Leaving a church means you stop going, and you're done. Leaving a country means finding a new country, having money, obtaining a visa or citizenship, etc. A country is where someone lives, not what someone believes or worships. I don't think they compare as simply as you suggest.
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#13 Old 03-21-2006, 12:06 PM
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Well, I'm at work so I can't say much right now, but one of the reasons certain things can't be changed is because the Catholic religion is what is called a "revealed" religion. When it comes to the man made rules, those can be altered. Certain aspects of the religion that are supposedly revealed are not things that can be changed. I will write more and try to be a little more specific when I get home. I don't know how much I will be able to participate in this because I don't do well with negativity regarding my religion, but I will make an attempt. I personally don't go around telling Jews, atheists, Episcopalians, etc. etc. what they should or should not be doing with their religion or lack thereof. Sorry, but my gut reaction would be to say, find your own religion and leave mine alone. But I am going to try and be open-minded and see what happens. Later.
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#14 Old 03-21-2006, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by bigdufstuff View Post

Well leaving a church is a lot different than leaving a country. Leaving a church means you stop going, and you're done.



That's true on the face of it. But what I was trying to say in my OP is that for some people, leaving a church is never a simple thing. I suppose it's also true for members of other denominations, and for non-Christians as well. I believe that for some devout Catholics, leaving the church is akin to cutting oneself off from one's family; a community and a faith that they've known their entire lives. That's why I thought that a comment such as "they can always choose another church" indicates a serious lack of understanding of the spiritual and ethical dilemmas that reform-minded Catholics experience.

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#15 Old 03-21-2006, 12:16 PM
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That's true on the face of it. But what I was trying to say in my OP is that for some people, leaving a church is never a simple thing. I suppose it's also true for members of other denominations, and for non-Christians as well. I believe that for some devout Catholics, leaving the church is akin to cutting oneself off from one's family; a community and a faith that they've known their entire lives. That's why I thought that a comment such as "they can always choose another church" indicates a serious lack of understanding of the spiritual and ethical dilemmas that reform-minded Catholics experience.



Good point. I agree with this. I suppose the individual needs to weigh the pros and cons and decide whether he or she is willing to leave the church.
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#16 Old 03-21-2006, 03:57 PM
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I'm catholic, and i consider myself a devout catholic. i tend to be a rather 'radical' catholic, but how i arrive there is roundabout. I generally fit within franciscan and jesuit theological schools, but i have a strong influence from thomas merton, who was a cicstercian monk. cicstercians follow benedictine rule to an extreme--they're largely monastic contemplatives to take vows of silence, many of which may last years (vows of silence only refers to non-necessary speech, but excludes prayers, vespers, and asking someone to pass the pepper--that is, those on vows of silence can write, sing in church, give masses (if ordained to do so), and lead scriptural study groups if they're teaching).



the movement within the catholic church that i'm most alligned or associated with is the 'zen catholic' movement, which was approved by the vatican in the late 1990s. it was approved with the 'charismatic catholic movement' and a few others, when the 'traditional catholic movement' was considered schismatic.



i think it is important for me to say this, so that people begin to understand what catholicism truly is. Catholicism is really not one core idea or church. We have a few dogmatic elements about the nature of christ. That's about it. Nothing else, really, is dogmatic. To be catholic, you have to essentially believe in these dogmatic elements. Everything else is doctrinal. Doctrines are highly and hotly debated, and those debates change over time.



Certain schools within catholicism tend to support certain doctrines and certain perspectives of certain doctrines. So, when i say i'm in the 'jesuit camp' to those who know what jesuits are and how they think, they understand that this means i'm a rather liberal catholic--as jesuits are very liberal in their doctrines. But then, these same people may be entirely confused when i align with cicstericans who are considered very traditional because of their association with Benedictines--who are very conservative doctrinally. But, cicstercians, among benedictines, are considered extremists in a certain sense, and also considered weird and liberal insome ways by those same benedictines.



so of course, even within schools--like jesuit or franciscian or benedictine--there are broad differences in doctrinal interpretation within a certain 'type' of doctrinal interpretation. Benedictines largely base their lifestyle and theology (doctrinal interpretation) on Benedict and the Rule, but because there are so many styles of benedictines, there are different interpretations of what Benedict thought (and wrote about) and what his Rule means and how it should be applied.



So why is this important? This is important because very few people--catholics or otherwise--understand that the church is a huge seething mass of academia. it's essentially 2000 years of debate about how jesus wants us to live and how to be a good 'bride of christ' and find union with God. We have a core belief as to the person of Jesus (christ, messiah, born of virgin, had mission, died on cross, rose from dead, sent holy spirit, present in the eucharist), but everything else is pretty much up to interpretation.



early on, due to certian social and philosophical concepts, it was believed that the priest classes were able to gain info on this, and they debated it, and passed on what they knew and learned and debated about onto their flock, their parishoners, the general populace. but, around the time of the middle ages, late even, you had crazy women who were mystics and crazy men like Martin Luther saying that there's this whole individual consciousness thing and individual conscience, and that really any person has access to God, and therefore anyone can enter the debate--as long as they can hear or read scripture--and therefore everyone enters the debate.



it took about 3-400 years for catholicism to grow into this idea fully, but once it was out of the box (btw, around the same time that islam crops up with the same idea--and judaism was also making a change to a similar ideology) it started to take hold like wildfire both within and without the church (as there was a great deal of schisming going on at that time, with those excommunications and all).



So now, we have a catholicism where the essentials are Do you believe the dogmatic elements? and if so, then the rest is between you and your conscience. You choose your doctrines, which ones you agree with and which you don't, and you enter the debate, and we go from there.



Truth be told, everyone in the catholic church is a reformer. from the traditionalist conservative to the most radical liberal catholic, each person in the debate wants their argument to win out. everyone wants to say 'this is the way that the church should go. . ." and 'this is the way that church is meant to be. . ." and so on.



When a catholic says to me "if you don't like it, find another church. . ." i see their glaring ignorance about what the church really is and how it works. The church is about differneces and debate and learning and coming to know god together.



Most churches that are not catholic disagree with catholicism on the dogmatic issues--most noteably, the transubstantiation of the eucharist. I cannot participate in any christian religion that doesn't believe this--not matter what else they support. Why? because I believe in it--and therefore i pretty much HAVE to be catholic.



And beyond that, i can believe and live and interpret as i feel fit. It's a matter of my conscience. I still go to confession--and i'll discuss with my priest whether or not something is a sin, why and how, and if i don't think it is, then i have nothing to confess ont hat matter until i do think it is--if i'm ever convinced.



And i feel very strong in my relationship with God and my relationship with the Church.
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#17 Old 03-21-2006, 04:07 PM
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I believe that for some devout Catholics, leaving the church is akin to cutting oneself off from one's family; a community and a faith that they've known their entire lives.



i can live without my family or community. i've moved many times, and so i'm used to giving up communities. i live away from my family and see them rarely.



for me, it would be giving up my spirituality, which is giving up ME. that's a lot, isn't it? i mean, i have to not be myself in order to be another religion or spirituality.



while i consider myself catholic, many of you recognize that i also practice buddhism, hinduism, etc, and i also take a graet deal of wisdom and insight from a number of religious traditions. Ultimately, though, i see myself as catholic as that is my first source, and my ultimate source. Most of my spiritual disciplines come from catholicism, are informed by catholicism, and i truly believe the dogmatic (or revealed) elements of catholicism.



to say that i will walk away from these things (there are many things in the catholic church that i could leave, but not these things), would be to walk away from myself.
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#18 Old 03-21-2006, 04:10 PM
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Maybe they should support the institution, but try to work from within to change it. Your comment is akin to saying that any German who does not like the history of Germany should leave and disavow their citizenship.





No, I don't think so. The institution is the institution, maybe they should try to form a new Church not based on a history of intolerance, as perhaps Germans should have overthrown their government and started a new one. Nobody has overthrown the hierarchy of the Church, to my recollection, it's been in place since a few hundred years after the death of Jesus, and darn proud of the fact.
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#19 Old 03-21-2006, 04:18 PM
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Well, I'm at work so I can't say much right now, but one of the reasons certain things can't be changed is because the Catholic religion is what is called a "revealed" religion. When it comes to the man made rules, those can be altered. Certain aspects of the religion that are supposedly revealed are not things that can be changed. I will write more and try to be a little more specific when I get home. I don't know how much I will be able to participate in this because I don't do well with negativity regarding my religion, but I will make an attempt. I personally don't go around telling Jews, atheists, Episcopalians, etc. etc. what they should or should not be doing with their religion or lack thereof. Sorry, but my gut reaction would be to say, find your own religion and leave mine alone. But I am going to try and be open-minded and see what happens. Later.





Yes, but "revealed" to whom? Anyone who knows the history of the church knows that it is a political history first and foremost, founded for political reasons. I don't mean the Church founded by Jesus, I mean the Catholic church, the orthodox church. Very different from the earliest Christianity which was quite diverse and individualistic, and very different from what Jesus spoke about. Jesus preached against the institutionalized rule-making of Judaism of his time, and yet here we see his Church having been made into the very model of the things he spoke out against. The irony is heartbreaking.
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#20 Old 03-21-2006, 04:19 PM
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the institution of the church has been in a constant state of change since it's beginning. it's not an unchanging system. it's got elements that work, and elements that don't. eventually, those that don't are left behind.
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#21 Old 03-21-2006, 04:20 PM
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revealed to those who belong to the church--not just the leaders, but conceptually to every believer. it's revelation that leads to conversion.
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#22 Old 03-21-2006, 04:21 PM
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I always though that the word of the bible was the word of the bible. If you believe in the bible shouldn't you abide by everything it says? "Sure its the word of god but that part of the word of god doesnt really apply to today's world."



I think church reform to be a hillarious hypocricy.





That's a difficult question though because of all the various translations, and interpretations of the Bible...The reason there are so many 'sects'....is because someone is always reinterpreting something in the Bible in order to fit either a personal or political agenda....OR...because as the OP stated, they feel a need for reform...for the church to meet their needs and be relavent to people's lives today. People have branched off for these various reasons throughout the long and sordid history of the church.



I have to agree, that the words of Jesus...are of tolerence and peace. That many humans aren't peaceful and tolerant is neither here nor there. And No...the church has OFTEN not lived up to the teachings of the Bible/Christ.



I think people are involved in churches for a number of reasons...personal relationship with God (I always say that Methodist Christianity is my personal way of worshiping God...other people have different ways, this is mine). Community is very important and church is one way to participate in community



I do think there need to be real discussions held in the Catholic church about realistic reform for the church. but then I'm not catholic.



B
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#23 Old 03-21-2006, 04:24 PM
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That's true on the face of it. But what I was trying to say in my OP is that for some people, leaving a church is never a simple thing. I suppose it's also true for members of other denominations, and for non-Christians as well. I believe that for some devout Catholics, leaving the church is akin to cutting oneself off from one's family; a community and a faith that they've known their entire lives. That's why I thought that a comment such as "they can always choose another church" indicates a serious lack of understanding of the spiritual and ethical dilemmas that reform-minded Catholics experience.





No, it certainly isn't easy to leave a church or a religion. I've faced this with my own spiritual life, still I think I have one toe in the Christian faith, hence my lovey-hatey relationship with it that so many seem to see as "bashing."



Questioning in the Christian faith, since the institution of orthodoxy, has never been seen as a good thing, in spite of the debate tradition within Catholicism. This debate has been discouraged among the laity, unless that has changed recently.
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#24 Old 03-21-2006, 04:25 PM
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revealed to those who belong to the church--not just the leaders, but conceptually to every believer. it's revelation that leads to conversion.





That's the ideal but certainly not the reality. If it were the reality, Gnosticism would not have been outlawed.
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#25 Old 03-21-2006, 04:32 PM
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I do think there need to be real discussions held in the Catholic church about realistic reform for the church.



there are, every day. there are debates going on constantly within the church as to the meaning of doctrines, and how they apply to modern issues, concerns, and developments.



to give an example, catholicism takes a staunchly pro-life stance now. this stance is both political and scientific in origin--it's also modern. it's largely a 20th century stance, and catholics do not have to agree with it or support it in order to be considered catholics. the stance comes from the scientific explanation and understandings of genetics, conception, and the development of the fetus in the womb. from here, certain ideologies were developed, and certain political stances in response to those ideologies were developed. And then, we get the pro-life stance and movement.



traditionally, that is prior to the 20th century, catholicism rested on the writings of many great saints and theologians regarding women's bodies and pregnancy. pregnancy was considered a risky proposition--for mother and child--and it was strongly supported that a woman could choose to terminate a pregnancy before 'the quickening' (when you feel the fetus move inside the uterus) if she felt that the pregnancy was a risk to her health (mental, physical, or social). there are those within catholicism who still support this ideology, and take a political stance that is not 'pro life' or take a modified 'pro-life stance.' they have the history of the church, the theology of certain doctrinal interpretations, on which they rest their opinions. they are just as 'catholic' as someone who takes the newer, pro-life/conception stance.



it is important to recognize that reforms have gone on in the church since it's beginning, and that theological debate is the cornerstone of catholic life. it is also the cornerstone of individual catholic practice, as we are encouraged to practice spiritual disciplines so that God will reveal to us as individuals how we are supposed to behave in our larger community. In this way, each catholic is called to be a reformer for the church, every moment, by simply engaging in catholicism as a series of spiritual disciplines, based on a few dogmatic or core beliefs.
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#26 Old 03-21-2006, 04:38 PM
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Have any Catholics called for the reinstatement of the Lost Gospels?



Just curious.



Zoebird, I have to say your depiction of the Catholic Church is profoundly different from that of others who were raised in the Church in previous decades, such as my husband. This is indeed a reformed church if it is how you say. Yet I haven't seen such a feeling exuding from the Vatican lately.
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#27 Old 03-21-2006, 04:45 PM
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as far as i can tell, ludi, questioning and debate has been supported in catholicism since it's inception, if the writings of the saints and theologians--both men and women--are adequate evidence of this fact.



gnosticism was found largely problematic because it supported doctrines as dogmatic elements, and confused the issue. for example, the reason that many 'traditional catholics' (speaking to the trad catholic movement) is considered 'schismatic' from catholicism is because they would like to institute the blessed virgin (mary) as the coredemtrix with christ--they want this to be a dogmatic element of the church. the church has no conflict with maronites, who greatly value Mary and her part in the life of christ (many of whom personally see her as coredemptrix), but to bring it into focus as a dogmatic element confuses the larger picture and focus on christ, and therefore is considered problematic by orthodox catholicism.



gnosticism--much of gnosticism--was similar. many gnostics believed that certain dietary strictures were important for salvation, or that certain behavoiral practices where necessary for salvation--they wanted to add these cultural elements into the dogmatic structure of the church. they became schismatic because of this--forming their own churches, their own forms or brands of christianity.



for the most part, independent forms of orthodox christianity were very tolerated. it bears out in the canonization of the bible, actually. the canon was set on these texts because of the common thread between them that all of the churches who submitted texts agreed to. But, it was also decreed that individual, regional churches could still include their specialized gospels (like the gospel of paul, thomas, or mary magdalene) and their specialized texts (epistles, treatise, etc), as well as their specialized, regional celebrations and various cultural ornamentations. This is why roman catholics are considered 'in union with' byzantine, armenian, and a myriad of other catholics, who do not necessarily look the same as 'roman catholic' churches, and have slightly different traditions. But because they include the biblical canon in their traditions, and they agree to the dogmatic elements of the roman catholic church, they are considered part of our larger church, the catholic church, even though they have distinct flavors. in their distinct flavorings, though, they do not require any more dogmaticly, or any less dogmaticly, than the catholic church. does that make sense? am i being clear about how it works?



gnosticism, on the whole, was considered problematic for this reason, and was largely downplayed or 'outlawed' within catholic doctrine. why? because ti wasn't considered to be 'good doctrine' because they wanted to add dogmatic elements. To add a dogmatic element to catholicism is no small undertaking, and truly very little has been added to the dogmatic elements since those first years of the church's coelescence.



what is also important to note about gnosticism is that their texts weren't necessarily hidden or destroyed. they were simply considered far less important than other texts, and many survive in the vatican AND in regional churches throughout the world. If the church survived (as in the building) then it's likely their texts did too. The nag hammadi was such a great find within a desert hermitage site, believed to be part of a library and a monastic community related to early christian churches (likely coptic). similar churches and monestaries still exist in egypt--with monastics still living in caves, and still working with ancient texts that most people have never heard of. it's very exciting spiritual work--but different from gnosticism because they see it as doctrinal and not dogmatic.
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#28 Old 03-21-2006, 05:03 PM
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Have any Catholics called for the reinstatement of the Lost Gospels?



Just curious.





first, there are no 'lost gospels.' there are canonized gospels and non-canonized gospels. you can see my post above to see how non-canonized gospels are viewed within catholicism. but, to restate it, essentially, they can be used for spiritual development and meditation, within certain regional communities as part of the tradition of those communities.



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Zoebird, I have to say your depiction of the Catholic Church is profoundly different from that of others who were raised in the Church in previous decades, such as my husband. This is indeed a reformed church if it is how you say. Yet I haven't seen such a feeling exuding from the Vatican lately.



i think that this is difficult to discern. my depiction of the catholic church is profoundly different than the way that most people percieve it because most people never dig deeper into the faith than what they got in catholic school from the baltimore catechism (which is considered problematic on a number of levels, and not a favorite of the vatican).



my father was raised catholic, as were his parents, and their parents. All of them read the texts, entered the debates, and were devout catholics. they were taught to question, to join in focus groups, to write to the vatican with their ideas and suggestions. my great grandmother and my grandmother both had the archbishop preside over their funerals--because of how devout they were, and the work that they put into the church.



both of my grandmothers were educated women. i have my great-grandmothers latin vulgate copy of the bible, including her translations and journals. the archbishop asked for them, to be brought to the library and potentially published, as she was considered an amazing woman. She's no saint (at least as far as i know), but she was taught to question, to practice the spiritual disciplines, and to be involved in the church. She raised her daughter that way, who in turn raised her children that way.



but, only her son--my father--actually continued in the faith, and raised my sister and i catholic. my father participated in catholicism actively until we left for college. he's always been a thinker and a questioner, and he and my mother helped the archdio of st lois and the dio of little rock, ar, develop the current catholic bible study--which is now used throughout the world as a model of bible study. if you follow this form of bible study--it's all about independent study and practice, debate and discussion, and the method of revelation to the church as a totality through this process.



i am a part of this tradition, as a continuing member of a church that is based on, and has always been based on, debate and discussion on matters of faith.



it is not surprising, though, that many miss this point. having been educated in a catholic school myself, in the same classroom as many friends, i am one of only a few who are still catholic. most see it as a structured, static community that oppresses people. most see it as a series of false beliefs and weak followers who want to be lead and demand a sort of oppression through rules and regulations. i can see why they see this.



part of why they see this is because of the structure of catholic education being based in a concept of memorization, rather than a discovery through contemplation and debate. catholicism has simple dogmatic elements--only a few core beliefs--but a vast doctrinal structure with vast differences in doctrines. the Christian Brothers (a specific order) will teach along these doctrinal lines. A jesuit school will teach along these lines. a sisters of mercy school will teach along these lines. rarely do they ever expose the fact that they're teaching along doctrinal lines, not dogmatic line. And when they do, it's debateable whether or not the person in the class is absorbing that fact.



it was in church history, and in my ability to translate from latin and greek, that made it possible for me to see the larger debate structure and realize how the system worked. When i began to understand how the monastic system became the university system, i began to see how the debate within theology, within the monestary, became the cornerstone of modern academia--which is founded on debate and conflicting ideologies.



and when i saw that, i began to realize how the whole system worked--how it's always worked--but it's rarely revealed.



and i don't know why. I don't think it's a conspiracy theory to keep people in the dark, so much as it is a school propogating it's particular social/theological ideology within catholicism. they desire to convince people of their doctrinal interpretations, and insodoing, create the church that they want through this form of teaching. Sadly, most children do not know, or do not know to know, or do not know to look eventually, that there may be factions or groups within catholicism that align with their interpretations, rather than with the ones that they were taught in catholic schools.



aside from my parents being amazing, i was surrounded by amazing priests in high school. my parish priest was a canon lawyer. you can imagine what confession was like with him--entirely socratic method. in fact, he's still my confessor so it's still like that. he was the right-hand man to the bishop, and both of them were 'independent' priests with jesuit leanings. In my catholic school, there was a priest who taught church history and biblical studies, he was an astrophysicist before becoming a priest, and when he became a priest, he dove into biblical interpretation through church history. You can imagine what he classes were like--and what we were exposed to.



and if you were like me, an eager student, after hours were spent debating texts, debating how we translated them from latin, from greek, from hebrew (i worked with a rabbi for that). and there was ample opportunity for continuing the conversation at home, where my parents opened doors to questioning, to debate, and lead our family in prayer, to mass, and through scriptures.



catholicism has been about debate in my family since my great grandmother at least--and probably before her. So, it's always been this way, but not everyone seems to find that.



and i don't know why. perhaps it's something that needs to change.
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#29 Old 03-21-2006, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by zoebird View Post

what is also important to note about gnosticism is that their texts weren't necessarily hidden or destroyed. they were simply considered far less important than other texts, and many survive in the vatican AND in regional churches throughout the world. If the church survived (as in the building) then it's likely their texts did too. The nag hammadi was such a great find within a desert hermitage site, believed to be part of a library and a monastic community related to early christian churches (likely coptic). similar churches and monestaries still exist in egypt--with monastics still living in caves, and still working with ancient texts that most people have never heard of. it's very exciting spiritual work--but different from gnosticism because they see it as doctrinal and not dogmatic.



No, this is not what I have learned from studying the issue. You have made this claim befgore but have not substantiated it and in fact admitted you had no proof of the existence of the lost gospels, which were indeed ordered to be destroyed. If you need reference for this I will get it for you. Please give me reference for your claims.



Gnostics didn't attempt to apply their beliefs to the entire Church but only to their own individual groups. The Church needed to consolidate power and it did so by outlawing these "heretical" groups. This has been extensively researched by one of the foremost scholars of early Christianity, Elaine Pagels. Now it's possible I have completely misunderstood the various books of hers which I have read, but I doubt it.
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#30 Old 03-21-2006, 05:52 PM
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i have not read works by elaine pagels, but i will put it on my resource list. are there any specific titles that you prefer?



most of my reference materials come from the encyclicals that come out of the early church, most of which are in latin or greek. this is my interpretation and understanding, and i consider myself no less capable of gathering knowledge than elaine pagals or john dominic crossan or any other academic.



i was lucky enough to work with some amazing priests (and rabbi) who helped me find certain texts, or asked me to translate them, and we discussed them at length. similarly, as a person with a graduate degree, i'm well acquainted with how to use libraries, how to read (primary and secondary texts), and i'm also capable of coming up with conflicting interpretations of the same materials that another academic may read or utilize. This is the nature of academia too, afterall, that people will read the same texts or origin texts and come to strikingly different conclusions as to what may have happened and why.



to some of the other issues raised in your post:



did the church seek to consolidate power? yes.



but why would some 'individual churches' be destroyed and others that were unique and different doctrinally, but not dogmaticly, be allowed to continue? and why would early church documents, coming out of the council of carthage in the 400s--at which the final canonization of the catholic bible was determined--stated that regional and individual churches could, in fact, use their own gospels, epistles, traditions and many other aspects, and still be considered 'in union' with the catholic church as a whole?



if this is the case, why were gnostics singled out (and their texts 'destroyed') but other texts not destroyed and their use supported? the most striking evidence that the church supported the existence of these texts at the time of the canonization is the evidence of modern churches throughout the world (noteably byzantine, egyptian coptic, armenian, etc) that are in union with rome still have traditions based on their own texts (gospels and otherwise), and desert monastics still use them (particularly in egypt, which is where most of my research focuses, though some in syria as well, in the transition from catholicism to sufiism in these desert monestaries that may have actually been jewish to begin with).



another thing worth noting is that christianity--and therefore catholicism--is a missionary religion. this is part of the reason why, as the church grew and regional and local differences developed, there were all of these various calls to church councils, at which leaders from all of the small and large local and regional churches would come together in different places (carthage, nicea, etc) in order to discuss what they had in common and determine what the core values where to determine who or what was 'christian' and who or what was not 'christian' but something else (with a christian influence perhaps).



this is why the canon is important. before the council of carthage, there were a number of canons--the ethiopean is one of them that still exists today--and that made the missionary aspect difficult. Do we believe this or this or this? well, we believe this and this, but not that, but they believe this and that but not this. It got confusing, and so we end upwith things like the Nicean Creed and the biblical canon out of the council of carthage.



the canonization of the bible actually took a very long time, because first people had to submit what they felt should be included. and others had to copy it, send it out, have people read and meditate on it. And then, they had to come back and debate--which texts denote what all of us believe? which ones are for some of us? and which ones only fit the local church over in egypt? or the local church in israel? or the local church in rome? it's important to realize that this canonization process gave a particular missionary 'edge'--the point being that all of us christians believe in this, and many of us also have these traditions and what not, and even though those are different, and many of our doctrines are different, we essentially agree on these points.



ok, so here we are with a missionary tradition that now has a central ideology--a creed, a canon, and a small set of dogmatic elements. beyond that, churches have their own traditions, their own documents, their own cultural flavor. there's not even a litergical calendar or anything at this point--that stuff comes much later. so, it's largely regional.



now, what is problematic about another group coming forward and saying "well, we believe in this creed, and we believe in this bible. but we also believe that you have to wear blue every day in order to get to heaven. And anyone who doesn't believe it, they're wrong. they're not the real church, and they're not really going to be saved." and they're a missionary tradition. And now we have two competing churches, both claiming to be christian. in fact, both claiming to be "THE christianity."



so as a regular person, who meets two christian missionaries, which one do you believe? which one is right? well, it makes sense to me that gnostics want to be believed, and non-gnostics want to be believed too. and both want that convert--not necessarily for power, but because they believe in their concept of salvation.



is it possible that gnostic ideology--adding dogmatic elements--could undermind the central message of christianity, which confuses the missionary process and therefore actually could have caused the demise of christianity? could the larger christian body at the time--made up of regional churches with their own doctrines and texts, largely independent of each other--fear the demise of their religion before it's even established because of the confusion of the missionary message that the gnostics posed?



this is not to say that the gnostics didn't have good intentions, or even good gospels, epistles, and the like. as i said, if they participated in the canonization process (which many did, as far as my research goes), then those texts most likely still exist somewhere in the vatican or in various church libraries throughout the world (and monestaries like the ones i mentioned in egypt and syria)--and like the ones found in nag hammadi.



i suppose i could ask, which gospels does the term 'lost gospels' refer to? i assume it refers to nag hammadi, among other texts such as those used in the armenian churches, coptic churches, in greek orthodox churches (with whom we are partially 'in union'), and those desert monestaries--then we are allowed to use them as an aspect of the church tradition for spiritual sustinance.



if you're refering to texts that no longer exist, then i don't know how they could be 'reinstated' and it can be argued that if they no longer exist, maybe they never existed, or never existed in broad enough use to have survived centuries in church basements.



or perhaps Pagal answers that.
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