OK, I promised: Past Elder's Apologia Pro Vita Sua…

Here it is, from a combox to one of the posts below. We challenged PE to give his reasons for why he continually states that the Catholic Church is not the Church,and here is his reply. We invite your conversation in the combox.

For openers, here it is not at all a matter of faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a matter of faith in the Roman Catholic Church. I am sorry if the difference is not apparent. Yes, I was an academic and am a PhD, but my faith journey, as some call these things, was not an academic matter primarily. I did not read this or that and come to some conclusions. While it did include some classes while in high school and college, primarily my conclusion re the RCC was something arrived at over time as a lived out experience. So to summarise it, the result would be not so much a position paper, but a, shall we say, apologia pro vita sua.

Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading, wrote once that a person’s life is the compost, sometimes the dung, that results in his thought, and what is important is not the compost but the thought. That is why I have always referenced those who ask why I think what I think about the RCC to paricularly two papers on the SSPX site, the Ottaviani Intervention re the novus ordo, and the paper on the new Catechism. These two — which I did not read until years after I had left, for that matter the catechism itself did not appear until years after I had left — state as papers things which did not at all happen for me in academic form, but express in a straightforward exposition things that to me were collected over time in experience in no particular ordering, some of them clear and some not clear other than a sense that something is wrong here. I should think it much more to the point to read them, since I find them an organised exposition of things that grew within me in anything but an organised fashion, rather than for me to either attempt same when it has already been done or to attempt a summary of my experience in a single post or even a separate blog — perhaps entitled “Years of Agony” (wink, Nietzschean dance).

That said, I will set out a few things experientially rather than academically which are things I have already tried to say over time on this blog.

The council convened when I was 12. I had been an altar boy already for several years. Serving Mass, and the RC faith and church generally, were far and away the most important things to me. I continued to serve well past the years when boys generally didn’t, and served as what would become the novus ordo in 1970 when I was 20 was introduced piecemeal. In both this and the religion classes in school, it was explicitly clear that with “the changes” we were emerging from a dark reactive era to the Protestant Reformation into a breath of fresh air of the Spirit where we were actually becoming more and not less Catholic by stepping out of this late mediaeval ghetto mentality both forward into our own times and backward to more consistency with the earlier church.

Of course, exactly how this was to be effected admitted of all sorts of things, all of them OK by the invocation of Vatican II and/or the spirit thereof. To the extent that I was actually afraid to read the documents of Vatican II for fear of what I would find. After all, there clearly (I thought at the time) was no other church that had any tenable claim to be the church founded by Christ, therefore however well intended they were there was no point in looking at them for an answer, and if the RCC had stumbled then the gates of hell had prevailed and Christianity itself unravelled.

Many then argued as many do now on this blog, Oh, but that’s not what the church REALLY teaches. After getting a little tired of various versions of what the church REALLY teaches and having to pick and choose where to go based on that, finally in academic year 1972/3, my first year of graduate school, I determined to read the documents myself.

If there was a turning point, that was it. I was amazed at what I found. On the one hand, I found little to justify most of what I experienced, and on the other, what I did find did not sound like the voice of the Church I knew. You want details. It wasn’t something I wrote out. It was more like the reaction of an infant put at some other woman’s breast who instinctively knows this is not mom (or mum).

I was aware of the good archbishop and the society he formed, and was sympathetic with their efforts, however, I found their position untenable. It cannot be that Truth would be conserved in this manner, the Roman faith held apart from Rome and against Rome, yet on the other hand, Rome allowed anything and everything except that which it formerly only allowed. Those who taught what the church doesn’t really teach continued on their merry way in pulpit and podium, those who taught what the church really taught me were squashed, all the while this post-conciliar church of the documents, neither what I saw around me now nor what I had seen around me before, existed as a mirage, and even when found, wasn’t home at all though it said it was. And so, at the start of the 1973/4 academic year, it was clear enough to me that even if the post-conciliar church of the documents prevailed (which those loyal to it have been saying is just around the corner for 35 years now) what would emerge is not, to resume the imagery, the mother’s milk at breast.

The Roman Catholic Church had ceased to exist. Which meant, so I thought, Christianity was false. Therefore, not only was what they taught now false, what they taught before was false too. It had all been false all along. I asked myself, borrowing from the title of one of the books I read at college) if the fulfillment turned out to be not the fulfillment, does that mean the promise was false too? My answer was no, and as the High Holidays were nigh, I attended services at the Jewish Student Center, and began twenty years as a Gentile believer in Judaism (which is to say, Orthodox Judaism).

That’s a lonely business. A Righteous of the Nations (look it up if you don’t know) remains of the Nations, and periodically over that time I would read this or that, watch this or that, go here or there, in an attempt to prove myself wrong, only to find the “spirit” of Vatican II, the religion I knew outside the church from which I learned it, or the religion of the documents of Vatican II that was not my mother.

I’ll leave the Lutheran part out, except to say that did not begin until 1993 when I married an LCMS woman — as estranged from that by the Serminex years as I was from the RCC by Vatican II. You don’t like my tone now? You should have heard my first discussions with the LCMS pastor who married us, as I was concerned for the religious identity and upbringing of such children as we hoped to have! (PW, I find out, has known him for years, small world!)

Wir sind am Ende damit. No, Christine, I will quite happily retire from this blog. How many times have I said that? Once. Retracted because I quite frankly was pissed (by which, for our Aussie readers, I mean angry, not drunk) by the call on this blog for one of our pastors to convert — Newmanism all the way, one is either agnostic or Roman Catholic, or just not thinking it though, so think it through and come home.

Which is, ironically, the only way I could come to what you call your, my and everyone else’s home. Newman’s way. Belief by first believing in the authority of the Roman church. Since this is the Church of Christ, it remains the Church of Christ, its tribulations being ever present and notwithstanding, and if it says it is the same then it is the same, because it cannot err on such matters.

Aw geez, no specifics, no points to argue, no proof texts. No, there isn’t. At least, not from me. You will find the things that were clear to me, the things that at the time were but partially clear to me, and the things that were akin to the instictive reaction of an infant to another woman’s milk, laid out
in expository form on the links provided on my blog on the sidebar “The Tiber, For Swimmers er al.” I read them years later, in the Internet age, and they spell it out — what I might be able to, what I might in part be able to, and what I sensed rather than spelled out even to myself, and minus all the compost and dung to which this post has subjected those who read it.

Further the deponent sayeth not (Nietzschean dance, my Germans, and my non-Germans!!).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 3:44:00 PM

Well, there are many questions. Such as “Why is Nietzsche the only philosopher worth reading?” such as “Why Lutheranism?” Such as “What then is the Church and where is it?” And some things needing pointing out, such as “Just because it sounds like a circular argument to say that the Roman Church is the Church of Christ because it says it is doesn’t mean that it isn’t.” Perhaps the real question is “What is ‘belief’ anyway?” And a reminder about what Trollope said about the fervant Romanist: he is always ready to believe.

Anyway, folks, over to you.

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