is you is or is you ain't a catholic?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 08, 2005

There's an especially interesting exchange on liturgical abuses -- and the obedience of faith -- at Jeff Miller's blog. I found Miller's own remarks in this post particularly well targeted (he's answering a critic who does not support women's ordination "at this time"):

Sorry, that won't do. It's not honest. "I refuse to say I believe in the Trinity, but I 'support' the Church's insistence on that at the time for reasons which I may or may not be willing to get into" would also be unacceptable. We are REQUIRED to give assent to certain things -- openly and publicly -- in order to be Catholics in good standing. To question any of them is to remove ourselves from the Unity of the Church, regardless of what services we attend or what we say about recognizing authority, or whether we can be effectively disciplined or not.

Who gets to decide where the line is drawn? The Popes and the Councils. If I don't believe in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, I'm not Catholic. If I question it, I'm not Catholic. If I say, "I think it's a bad idea to rock the boat on the issue of the Assumption at this time, but I refuse to commit myself one way or another on it in any substantive way" it can fairly be presumed that I'm not Catholic. Whether I claim the unity of the Church or not makes no difference. ...

So, if someone doesn't want to answer a question about whether they believe in the Assumption or Women's Ordination or any defined teaching of the Church, Catholics have a perfect right to say, "Oh, I see what the problem is. This guy is a pseudo-Catholic. No point really in discussing the issue with him."

Offensive? No doubt. Too bad! It's too important for mere politeness. You may be a nice fellow, a brave man, a fine husband and father, a brilliant thinker, a person of integrity, a human being of surpassing goodness. You may get to heaven anyway and I may not! You may have every excuse for your lack of faith and I may not have excuses for my many transgressions. But there it is. "Anything goes" doesn't go and I didn't draw the lines. They were drawn by Christ's Church and I accept them BECAUSE I have no choice and neither does anyone else who wants to claim Catholicity.

In his own vivid terms Miller is echoing the aphorism of an earlier convert, John Henry Newman: "ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." Less well known, but germane to the subject, is this extract from the sermon "Faith and Doubt":

I must insist on this: faith implies a confidence in a man’s mind, that the thing believed is really true; but, if it is once true, it never can be false. If it is true that God became man, what is the meaning of my anticipating a time when perhaps I shall not believe that God became man? this is nothing short of anticipating a time when I shall disbelieve a truth. And if I bargain to be allowed in time to come not to believe, or to doubt, that God became man, I am but asking to be allowed to doubt or disbelieve what I hold to be an eternal truth. I do not see the privilege of such a permission at all, or the meaning of wishing to secure it: if at present I have no doubt whatever about it, then I am but asking leave to fall into error; if at present I have doubts about it, then I do not believe it at present, that is, I have not faith. But I cannot both really believe it now, and yet look forward to a time when perhaps I shall not believe it; to make provision for future doubt, is to doubt at present. It proves I am not in a fit state to become a Catholic now. I may love by halves, I may obey by halves; I cannot believe by halves: either I have faith, or I have it not.

Amen, Jack.

Correction: I erroneously attributed the first comment above to Jeff Miller. It belongs in fact to Jeff Kantor, and I happily lift my hat to him for his perspicacity. It should be mentioned that Jeff Miller also has some excellent remarks in the same thread, and that the entire discussion -- particularly Kantor's contributions -- is worth a read.

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  • Posted by: - Aug. 11, 2005 9:16 PM ET USA

    On the Assumption: there has been no authentic teaching on whether Mary died prior to her bodily Assumption, per Pius XII. But death is one of the consequences of the Fall. Hence the unanswered question. AMDG

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Aug. 10, 2005 8:23 PM ET USA

    Amen Jeff K. Amen Jeff M. Amen Diogenes. Now let's send this to the USCCB, with permission, to run copies for the bishops' next conference... for their actions tell me clearly that some, if not many, might learn a few things from reading it.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 10, 2005 1:25 AM ET USA

    Pete, Some people — including some who have been baptized — may never receive the gift of faith for reasons beyond their control. A few people are good devout Christians even under the most pressing circumstances: a few will never be able to understand the need for spirituality, with or without an organized religion. Most people need a supportive environment to grow spiritually, but we don't have that environment. It's a miracle that there are *any* people who have faith: I wish I had it.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Aug. 09, 2005 6:57 PM ET USA

    Amen. But brothers Diogenes and Jeff you are preaching to the choir. this needs to be shouted from the roof tops.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 08, 2005 7:15 PM ET USA

    This takes us back to the tried and true "black and white" era of religion. Thanks be to God! Either something is true or it is false. If it has been tested and proclaimed the truth, failure to completely accept it as true is failure to believe, ergo failure to be a part of the believers. Faith is a gift, and, unfortunately, not all have received the gift--whether they profess it or not.