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Wah! I seem unable to compose a coherant comment to captain_aj… - Sally's Journal
April 23rd, 2005
09:40 am

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Wah! I seem unable to compose a coherant comment to captain_aj about why "liberal" and "catholic" arn't a contradiction, and why all the liberal catholics "don't just go and join another denomination". I am worried these exams are eating my brain and my powers of reason* I also feel deeply worried about leaving him in his state of ignorance** It's not good for him (or any liberal catholics he stumbles across) Somebody whose entire vocabulary hasn't been replaced with technical terms about turbomachinery should go and "help" him ;-)

*What powers of reason, I hear the masses cry...

**ignorance annoys me.

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From:filecoreinuse
Date:April 23rd, 2005 08:47 am (UTC)
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The words, in their strict sense, 'liberal' and 'catholic' certainly aren't contradictory. With a big 'C', however, I would suggest they collide a little more. Nothing that imposes an ideology can be 'liberal' by definition.
From:nlj21
Date:April 23rd, 2005 09:10 am (UTC)
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Nothing that imposes an ideology can be 'liberal' by definition.

No no no no no no no no no.

Or at least if you go with that definition then I think you will find that very few organisations can be described as liberal (in fact I'm struggling to think of an example where your definition of liberal is used). Pretty much all liberal political parties want to pass laws, which effectively impose their ideology.


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From:filecoreinuse
Date:April 23rd, 2005 11:21 am (UTC)
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Or at least if you go with that definition then I think you will find that very few organisations can be described as liberal (in fact I'm struggling to think of an example where your definition of liberal is used).

I have no problem with there being few organisations that are liberal. The RAC, for example, is liberal in that it requires you to have no particular arbitrary moral view[1] to join.

[1] modulo not objecting to cars :)
From:yrieithydd
Date:April 23rd, 2005 10:41 am (UTC)
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I'm not entirely sure I follow his logic as to why they are contradictory. However, he doesn't just tell all the liberal catholics to go and join another denomination but to consider their views of papal authority and their 'liberal views' and see whether something (their liberal views towards the Pope's or their view of Papal authority which might lead to a denomination outside the RC Church) has to change.

The trouble with talking about 'liberals' is that the term liberal means different things to different people. For a start, there are Theological, Political and Social Liberals, those who use it to mean something like 'open-minded' and its old meaning of something like 'generous'! Theologically, Liberal refers originally to the ideas of a group of 19th century German theologians who, among other things, IIRC, were sceptical about the historcity of miracles. From this you get the extreme Liberals of today, the likes of John Selby Spong and Don Cupitt and the Sea of Faith. Politically, well you used to have the Conservatives and Liberals as the two main parties (prior to Socialism) and we sitll have the LibDems today although I think the ideals of the parties have shifted so much I'd be hard pressed to pin the word down. I've a feeling that in some ways (on free trade and the like) todays Conservatives are closer to Whigs (Liberals) than to their predecessors the Tories. Socially, being a Liberal today means not having problems with Gay marriage etc and going back further being pro-feminism perhaps, i.e. being open to changes in the status quo. I suspect that most of the 'liberal catholics' are social liberals (and thus disagree with the papacy on contraception and homosexuality) rather than theological ones (have thrown out the divinity of Christ (to be extreme)). Given that, I can see why, theologically people can remain faithful RCs despite disagreeing on certain moral pronouncements. Those things are not at the core of what we believe.
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From:the_lady_lily
Date:April 23rd, 2005 10:43 am (UTC)
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Or, alternatively, cease feeding the troll?
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From:captain_aj
Date:April 23rd, 2005 11:16 am (UTC)
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I was making a serious point, you may feel free to disagree with it and tell me how I'm wrong(*), but please don't turn it into a personal insult just because we have different opinions. I'm not quite sure why you've accused me like this, and I find it regrettable. Is it my specific opinion, or do you have a wider problem associating with non-Christians (I wouldn't know about this)?

(*) Other people have done this already, without being rude, in this journal entry and my own. I respect polite discussion, not childish name-calling.
(Deleted comment)
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From:rochvelleth
Date:April 23rd, 2005 12:10 pm (UTC)
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I reckon I could describe myself as a liberal Catholic. But then I'm far from being a 'normal' Catholic, so I don't know if it counts for much :)

I think captain_aj is right at least to some extent - Catholicism holds certain views that are (or should be) very strict, and the infallibility of the Pope is one of those, and that has huge implications for liberality (disapproving of the Pope's views/actions is enough to make you count as a 'bad' Catholic in strict Catholic eyes - some countries certainly have very large Catholic groups that might well hold this view). So, when the Pope does/says/thinks non-liberal things, a 100% proper Catholic would have to agree with him.

However, the Catholic Church these days doesn't put so much emphasis on such issues - growing up as a Catholic in a Catholic school around a traditionally Catholic area, I was still taught tolerance and multiculturalism (we learnt about many world religions, and though we practiced Catholicism foremost, there were many pupils and some teachers of other denominations, and they were always respected and allowed to join in to whatever extent they wanted). I once fell in love with a priest who played the guitar and taught us liberal values. We weren't forced to do confession properly and I ended up just having a really nice chat with a priest about Man Utd during confession once. I used to go to the school chapel when *I* wanted, and pray how I liked. One of my RE teachers is now a very good friend of mine and he was always happy to talk through any number of questions and present all sorts of different views on it. Catholicism in my life has never been a strictly imposed discipline, and I know from tales of other Catholics I've known over the years that this was at least something of a nationwide trend. I wanted to share this bit of my experience because I thought it was important to try to illustrate the way that Catholicism can be practised.

However, there is still the rule that the Pope is infallible. And no, if you are a strict adherent then you can't get away with not believing that. But it was always an aspect that was never really addressed when I was being taught about Catholicism. *shrug*

For the record, I don't go to Mass nearly as much as I used to now, very rarely in fact. But then I have some faith issues in that I know the ceremony isn't the essence of the religion, etc. (shan't go into that now). But I never felt it was too problematic to call myself a Catholic (especially since I do believe in transubstantiation and other such quite specifically Catholic stuff, to one extent or another) and yet conduct my life and worship how *I* saw fit, including not believing in confession and not believing in the infallibility of the Pope. Also for the record, some of my views are definitely what you might call liberal - I believe in equality and absolute toleration of all religions, I approve of gay marriage, etc., etc..
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From:robert_jones
Date:April 23rd, 2005 06:33 pm (UTC)
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As Sam says below, you only have to believe two things to accept Papal infallibility. You don't have to agree with everything he says about anything. Although it is a bit unfortunate that both the two things are false. I did once meet a monk who tried to convince me that although the Pope was infallible, he'd actually never made any infallible statements, so there was nothing substantive which the doctrine required us to believe.

I was, however, under the impression that regular mass attendance was a matter of obligation for Catholics.
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From:rochvelleth
Date:April 24th, 2005 12:30 pm (UTC)
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I was once told (when I asked) that because the Pope was a direct representative of God, he couldn't actually have the wrong idea about things, thus disagreeing with him meant you were treating him as not infallible. OK, so I was about six at the time, and talking to the mad uberpriest I didn't like...

I was, however, under the impression that regular mass attendance was a matter of obligation for Catholics.

It kind of is :) But I did practise regularly and strictly up until a few years back. Since then I've been in an altogether dodgier state of Catholicism... :/
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From:requiem_17_23
Date:April 24th, 2005 12:30 am (UTC)
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Hmm. I share your views exactly but call myself a Protestant for so doing. I'm not sure that makes either of us wrong, though.
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From:rochvelleth
Date:April 24th, 2005 12:38 pm (UTC)
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I don't think either Catholicism or Protestantism caters exactly to what I believe (I often use the term 'tolerant Christian' to describe myself *shrug*). I guess I'd rather just concentrate on living a good life rather than earning the label of one sect or another (I was baptised and brought up as Catholic though, so that's a bit inescapable).
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From:naath
Date:April 23rd, 2005 12:11 pm (UTC)
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To ne a good Catholic you have to accept the infalability of the Pope. Thus when the pope says 'gays are evil' but you think that gays are good then you are *disagreeing with the pope* which makes you a *bad Catholic*. That's not to say that you can't accept other parts of Catholic doctrine (and regect the protestant ones, transubstantiation for instance and saints) and thus still be mostely Catholic but it is an important part of Catholicism that you agree with the pope because he is the mouth-piece of God On Earth. And last I looked the pope was not socially liberal (economically he is rather left-wing, so you can be pro-NHS and social security and things and be 'liberal' and be agreeing with the pope but I believe that the intended context was social).
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From:smhwpf
Date:April 23rd, 2005 12:16 pm (UTC)
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Papal infallibility has been defined very narrowly. It only applies to statements made Ex Cathedra, on matters of faith and morals, which he is solemnly defining as doctrine. Thus a Catholic is not obliged to agree with the Pope when he says "Gays are evil", and many don't. Likewise, on the other side, many very conservative Catholics disagreed with the last Pope when he said things like "The Iraq war is wrong", or "The death penalty is wrong". Somehow no-one considers these to be 'bad Catholics', just those who disagree from the liberal end. The problem is the Church has tried to enforce adherence to these social teachings far more vigorously, and far more vigorously than is actually justified by the Chruch's own offical teaching on Papal infallibility.
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From:rochvelleth
Date:April 24th, 2005 12:42 pm (UTC)
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I believe the limits of infallibility were applied just so there were limits, weren't they? (this is based on stuff I've definitely heard, but I'm can't quite remember how good the sources were) Then if you did something that overtly went against something that the Pope had said specifically with his Infallible Pope hat on (c.f. requiem below), you could be excommunicated easily. That doesn't mean that a Catholic can get away with arguing with the Pope's views - he's meant to be a direct representative of God, acting for God in the world. To disagree with the Pope is something very serious for a Catholic to do, and shouldn't be taken lightly.
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From:smhwpf
Date:April 24th, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC)
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A Catholic certainly shouldn't take disagreement with the Pope lightly - Christian conscience should be informed by the teachings of the Church, and that certainly includes the Pope's pronouncements, even if not infallible. But it would be absurd to claim that no Catholic can ever disagree with the Pope - for example Pius IX pronounced that freedom of the press was "heretical vomit" and likewise condemned democracy and religious tolerance, all of which the current Pope now supports. The Chuch has also now rehabilitated, for example, Galileo, who argued with the Pope. And of course Catholics have an excellent example for arguing with the Pope in St. Paul, who boasts about how he told St. Peter he was wrong to his face. But yes, not to be taken lightly.
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From:rochvelleth
Date:April 25th, 2005 06:21 pm (UTC)
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To look at it in the other direction, though, I don't think the Pope should make statements unless he intends them to be taken as a serious pronouncement (i.e. one Catholics shouldn't argue with). The Church is supposed to be in his hands, after all. But this is just an opinion.
From:senji
Date:April 23rd, 2005 03:15 pm (UTC)
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Can you be a Bad Catholic but a Good King?
(do not attempt to write on both sides of the sheet of paper at once)
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From:requiem_17_23
Date:April 24th, 2005 12:32 am (UTC)
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The Pope has an infallibility hat he can put on to say things.

It's taken very seriously when he does so.
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From:smhwpf
Date:April 23rd, 2005 12:12 pm (UTC)
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It depends what you mean by 'liberal'. Some would define adherence to traditional doctrines 'imposed' by the church, such as the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Resurrection, etc. as 'illiberal'. If so, then yes it does rather clash to be a liberal and a Catholic. Indeed I would consider there's something of a clash for those who claim to be 'liberal Christians' at all in that sense, e.g. theologians such as John Hick who reject all of the above but still consider themselves to be Christians. But I'm enough of a liberal to say, let people self-define as they wish. :)

A 'liberal Catholic' (such as I would class myself), typically means someone who probably adheres to the traditional doctrines of Catholicism, but who takes a more permissive view on some or all of a range of moral issues and issues of church practice and structure. So I am 'liberal' on issues such as contraception, homosexuality, sexuality in general, women priests, married priests, intercommunion, probably various others. More generally, I would like to see a church with a greater role for the laity, with more tolerance of dissenting voices.

The term 'Liberal Catholic' is therefore not two separate terms, rather 'Liberal' is a qualification of 'Catholic' here. captain_aj might well consider the notion of Catholicism per se, with adherence to this range of traditional doctrines, with acceptance of a hierarchical church structure, a Pope (with even a little bit of infallibility), to be highly illiberal, according to his definition of the term. Fair enough.

There is of course a clash for liberal catholics, in that the church takes quite a strong line on things such as contraception. However, we do have some things to hold on to to reconcile this. The stance on contraception, for example, has not been declared infallible. Vatican II has affirmed the centrality of conscience in Christian morality in life. We can claim that the rigid insistence by the current and previous popes that all Catholics must accept these teachings is actually contradictory to what the church has said about the nature and limits of infallibility. So there is a clash, but in my view it is still reconcilable.

What I would think is a more difficult clash is for those Cathiolics who reject teachings that are defined as infallible, where the church has pronounced 'anaethema' on those who reject them. I would find that a lot more difficult to reconcile holding such a position and remaining in the RC church.
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From:pw201
Date:April 23rd, 2005 04:27 pm (UTC)
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Hmm... I agree with captain_aj, to some extent. Possibly it's the remants of evangelicalism in me, but I tend to feel that if you sign up for a religion, you ought to play by the rules. The reason I only partly agree is that there's usually some room for disagreement about what the rules are, and for trying to change things from within. That said, I really don't see why people like, say, Bishop Spong and Don Cupitt still bother call themselves Christians (ISTR that Cupitt no longer does, in fact).

This is in danger of becoming my "liberal Christianity is a club for readers of Teh Grauniad" rant, so I'll stop there, I think :-)
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From:forthwritten
Date:April 25th, 2005 02:13 am (UTC)
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hello, I stumbled on you through looking at my friendsfriends page. At the moment I'm involved in an argument with quite an aggressive person about the same topic and I wondered if you'd mind if I observed the discussion here?
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From:atreic
Date:April 25th, 2005 08:35 am (UTC)
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I'm not sure whose side you think it supports, but feel free to ;-)

If I put something unfriendslocked on the internet, then I don't really have a leg to stand on about other people reading it. But I reserve the right to deleate nasty comments (I try very hard to make sure that's nasty or intentionally-stupid comments, rather than comments I disagree with, or actually confused comments) if they turn out to be a very aggressive person ;-)
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From:forthwritten
Date:April 25th, 2005 09:15 am (UTC)
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The debate so far is here and I do support your stance in this. The trouble is that I went to a Catholic school, and I suppose our relationship is that between a child and a somewhat exasperating family member, who you argue with constantly but to whose defence you'll immediately leap to if someone outside the family attacks them.

I try not to post nasty comments at all.
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