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

  1. Chris Burgwald says:

    Terry, my question comes from this and other comments… you claim that the RCC of 2008 isn’t the same thing as the RCC of, say, 1950. You also claim that both [sic] RCCs are erroneous in various points of doctrine. But if they aren’t the same thing, then their errors must likewise be different. I’m curious, then, about what you see as the respective errors of both RCCs, as you can’t reject them for the same reason(s) if you believe they aren’t the same thing.

  2. Past Elder says:

    You’re quite right Chris. I don’t see the pre and post conciliar churches as the same church, and the errors I see and for which I reject them are different.

    The post conciliar church I reject for the reasons referenced above and elucidated far better than I can in the documents to which I refer. It was, a rejection on Catholic grounds.

    At the time, and for some time afterwards, I rejected the pre conciliar church (which it would be better not to locate as some point in time but rather as the unfolding church over time) because it had ceased to exist, therefore did not bear the promise of Christ, therefore was not the true Church after all, and, there being no other Church with a plausible claim, there is no true Church because there is no Christ, not yet anyway.

    In fine, the post conciliar church was false because it was a disconnect with the pre conciliar church, which in turn must be false because it did not endure.

    This of course was years before Lutheran belief. So again, I did not come to doctrinal differences with the pre-conciliar church, it simply could not be true, because it had failed to endure. You might say, the pre conciliar church is the true Catholic Church, which is my point on this blog to converts to its post conciliar replacement, however, the true Catholic Church is wrong.

    What Lutheran belief added was an explanation for how the church didn’t in fact end, which in turn for me implied maybe there was something to Jesus as Christ after all, and where I was wrong was in thinking the Catholic Church in any era was the only “true” church, or the church in which the fulness of the true church subsists.

    I intended my mini-apologia to be not the sort of thing that would be posted separately as a document, but as a deliberately experiential rather than expository statement, and a valedictory at that. However, you seem a reasonable person with a reasonable question, and since you asked, I would think it rude for me not to answer.

  3. Isabella says:

    “Newmanism all the way, one is either agnostic or Roman Catholic, or just not thinking it though, so think it through and come home…

    Aw geez, no specifics, no points to argue, no proof texts. No, there isn’t. At least, not from me.”

    Thank you for sparing us the pile of proof texts; they have never convinced one to go in either direction.
    You articulated very well what makes for the things do and do not break the hold that sin, brokeness, and most of all that restlessness and longing that can only be satisfied by Christ.
    And the whole notion of come Home to Rome…
    This is very disturbing.
    When Christ was on earth, he had no place to even lay his head; and warned our lot would be no better as far as leading a quiet peaceful life.
    We would live as pilgrims, sojourners whose citizenship is in heaven,

    If we start to feel “at home” anyplace this side of life, there is something very wrong.
    Being a cradle Protestant and literally being put out of of a couple Church’s that were our “home” because we would not compromise the Gospel and seeing that there
    will never be an end against heresies, false teachers, and false gospels, and thus no rest from watchfulness….Home to Rome with someone else responsible for everything concerning the faith……they sure know how to hit the right buttons for weary pilgrims, who just are damn tired.

    I’m also bone weary tired of having to do the “Apologia Pro Vita…” thing, and I will spare you any point by point problems I have with Roman Catholic Dogma–that is between my God and me and the road He has set me on—-and besides is summarily dismissed before it’s even read as nothing but person interpretation and prot private opinion.(though I am Orthodox, I have been told by many RC, it is just an older flavor of Protestantism)
    Also, I have Roman Catholic Brothers and Sisters in the Faith I love and respect, and this discord is a painful business; but beyond the fundamentals of Faith they have chosen to assent to, there are other things, some alluded to by Pastor Elder, that are outside of the Deposit of Faith, that are been decimated the Church, and affects all members of the Body of Christ.
    even outside the Roman community.

    It should be the duty of every Catholic, of every rank to respond to the mess made by unchecked and Unfaithful shepherds, continuing public scandals, the well known shameless treatment of some of the most defenseless of the flock; but most of all, the desecration of Holy things Worship, Liturgy, the Duty of Charity, and the handing on of the True Faith to each generation.
    And a new phenomenon, incredible damage being done by self appointed lay apologists, who are motivated by scoring points, winning debates, which cannot be classified as defending the faith or evangelism; there is no motivation for it other than pride, revenge, bullying the more knave into the faith; they may win their minds, but unless Christ wins their hearts, all that is accomplished is the breeding of more discord, re-igniting ancient grudges, making the Faith look like petty foolishness to curious onlookers and creating more ill will, disinformation, and inspiring hate and ridicule of denominations, leaders, even the Holy Mysteries. The discord and divisions they leave in their wake will make Luther look like an amateur (isn’t the internet wonderful)

    There is the The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and there is the visible hierarchal structure she subsists, which is riddled with corruption, scandal, power struggles and everything else that goes along where two, three or more Christians, still living in and struggling with an sinful human nature.

    But I have a real problem is when these things, these structures and processes are elevated to the same holiness as the Body of Christ.
    Or go even farther and lay it at Providence’s doorstep, as historically necessary evils that are part and parcel with the work of Salvation and the Holy Bride of Christ.
    What does holiness have to do with evil? Holiness does not need evil to exist.
    There is nothing Holy about the ugly mess that men inevitably make, and can excuse, rationalize, or even elevate to the “mysterious ways of God”
    The holiness of the Church must manifest itself against these things by repentance, transformation, reformation, justice and healing
    What it will not do is blame the values and evils of the society that the Church and contaminates her. Who exactly is transforming who in this World?
    And where are the friends of the Groom to defend the holiness of the Bride; who is to be presented to Christ pure and unspotted.

  4. Jeff Tan says:

    Past Elder.. I can only feel for your heartache upon concluding on that day long ago that the Church you knew had fallen.

    My wife became estranged from her Evangelical roots when something terrible went on in her church. She never told me the details, and I don’t pry, but it was horribly disappointing to her, and she never went back to that church as far as I know.

    Today, she remains Evangelical, and would happily attend Evangelical services, I think, but she accompanies me and the kids to Mass every Sunday instead. That disappointment did not make her jump ship, but it did break a significant illusion: the preconceived notion that the church (whichever that might be) is perfect. More to the point, that her members, justified, washed and sanctified men and women, were perfect.

    All we know of perfected saints is that they are not here on earth. Whereas, here around us, is the Church that Christ had built on Peter. Wheat growing among weeds. If the Lord had not deigned to teach that they be pulled apart forcibly, perhaps it is reasonable to expect them to remain intertwined to this day?

    To speak of my own faith, I have faith in Christ. I have hope for the Church. I know that the Church is imperfect — I need only look at myself to know this. I can only imagine the crushing heartache you felt when all seemed lost. But consider where you stand now. Will you, like the curious explanation I found in the Unbound Bible years ago, look at the phrase “the Church, the pillar and ground of truth”, and say rather, “When a church ceases to be the pillar and ground of truth, we may and ought to forsake her.”

  5. M. M. Regan says:

    Past Elder: I appreciate you giving us a taste of your experiences surrounding your decision to leave the Church, but is there any chance of an “expository statement” of similar length, in your own words (not Fr. Scott’s!), on your own blog, if you prefer? I just don’t understand your ‘Catholic reasons for not being Catholic’, as I think you once put it; in other words, why the Church pre- and post-Vatican II cannot be the same entity. Is it to do with the Church’s teaching regarding Her indefectibility? That would clarify why you rejected sedevacantism (since an infallible Pope rules an indefectible Church). I suppose that the argument would go that the promulgation of the New Order of the Mass disproved the indectibility of the Church and thereby the existence of the Church Herself, so that only if Paul VI were not a legitimate Pope could the Church possibly be the Church, but then, if the Church had no Pope then She has no guarantor, so to speak, of Her indefectibility, and so, hypothetically, the Church is still not the Church.

  6. Past Elder says:

    Thank you all for your kind comments.

    Isabella, as you may well know some of the revisions to the Roman Rite done at Vatican II were in the name if bringing the Roman Rite closer to its older Eastern roots. Traditional Catholics however, while finding these efforts false to the Roman Rite, also find them false and patronising the Eastern Rites.

    From Article VII of the Ottaviani Intervention: The Apostolic Constitution explicitly mentions the riches of piety and doctrine the Novus Ordo supposedly borrows from the Eastern Churches. But the result is so removed from, and indeed opposed to the spirit of the Eastern liturgies that it can only leave the faithful in those rites revolted and horrified.

    What do these ecumenical borrowings amount to? Basically, to introducing multiple texts for the Eucharistic Prayer (the anaphora), none of which approaches their Eastern counterparts’ complexity or beauty, and to permitting Communion Under Both Species and the use of deacons.

    Jeff, if the intertwining of wheat and tares characterises the true church, then LCMS must be the true church indeed.

    Herr (oder Frau) Regan, no chance as I see it now. My blog is a Lutheran blog, not a Why I Ain’t Catholic blog. On Catholic reasons for not being Catholic, two things — one, that means not being Catholic as in the post-conciliar faith now appropriating the name, and two, the best formulations I know of why and how the post conciliar “Catholicism” is not Catholicism at all come from people who continue to look to the Roman Church, hope for a comeback from the deep crisis it inflicted upon itself, and would in no way take their formulations to be a basis for being Lutheran instead. Nor do I. I reject what they reject, but on what to do about it, they and I take very different paths.

  7. M. M. Regan says:

    So be it then, Past Elder. When you speak in future of ‘Catholic reasons for not being Catholic’ I’ll grit my teeth and accept that you won’t pin down what those reasons are.
    P.S. For a Lutheran blog your posts are peppered with a lot more Catholic references than one might have expected. Perhaps a ‘Why I ain’t Catholic’ post would help you to get it out of your system?
    Matthew Ritter von Regan

  8. Christine says:

    P.S. For a Lutheran blog your posts are peppered with a lot more Catholic references than one might have expected.

    m.m. regan, you noticed !!

    Perhaps a ‘Why I ain’t Catholic’ post would help you to get it out of your system?

    Das ist eine sehr gute Idee!!

    m.m. regan, me being a former Lutheran (now Catholic) and having Lutherans and Catholics in the family, I get to have fun with both sides !!

  9. Past Elder says:

    If you cannot accept that my objections to the “Catholic Church” on Catholic grounds have been much better put by others than I could, so be it.

    The only place where Why I Ain’t Catholic even comes up in my life is here, and I first came here to make the point that whatever our host has converted to, it most assuredly is not the Catholic Church.

    Maybe the refusal to engage the ideas rather than find fault with me can ascend into a true ad hominem! Things look a little different when viewed outside the paradigm of Catholic/in various stages of wanting to be Catholic.

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