Thursday, March 16, 2006

Salty's Letter

Via titusonenine I came across the Salty Vicar's response to a "Letter From a Young Catholic".

Salty and I tend to disagree a lot, but I would like to commend this letter, though I disagree in degree with its valuation of searching perhaps over and against finding.

Over at Pontifications, of course, there is a reply. It is a reply that doesn't speak to me, for reasons that I think might resound to Salty and be a rebuke to Ponty, who says:
But how does one discern the will of Jesus, given the manifold and contradictory voices in the world? If the Catholic Church is the Church, then assent to her authoritative teachings is assent to Christ; obedience to her commands is obedience to Christ. [....] When I became Catholic just under a year ago, I made this profession: “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.”
In a sense, I have no problem making the same profession, because I do not agree that the Catholic denomination represents the Church in the fullness which it claims. One can assign infalliblity to almost any human authority, and with sufficient will and possibly derangement of thinking one can perhaps maintain this indefinitely. But when one sees falliblity, there is nothing one can do but place limits on one's fealty; and if the failures are severe enough, so may be the disillusionment.

The obvious answer to Ponty's first question is, "imperfectly, because we are imperfect, sinful humans." And of course I may well see this imperfectly, but the reality I see is that the reification of teaching by Catholics into an infallible Catholic teaching overreaches. I say this with the acknowledgement that by and large Catholic teaching is pretty good. Its claims for authority, however, are too political. Teaching that is really infallible shouldn't have to resort to authority for its defense.

The truth is that in the largest picture, picking the truth out of "the manifold and contradictory voices in the world" is actually difficult. But in one sense, the difficulty is overstated, especially by Catholic converts from other Christian denominations. In someone like Al Kimel or any number of other high profile convert ex-clerics, the Church of Rome is gathering the harvest that another has planted and raised. These and many others testify in their deeds, if not their words, to the breadth of the fundamental Christian consensus about who Jesus was and what his life means for us.

But in the other sense, the problem is actually difficult. Constantinople and for that matter Mecca, Salt Lake City, and wherever the Scientologists camp out vie with Rome, and at some point infallibility is just another claim to puzzled through in all those voices. If it is hard "truth", the harder and truer truth is living without it.

No comments: