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Nov 11

Swim Back

A couple days ago, Episcopalian priest Pontificator advised his Episcopalian readers
to flee
the ECUSA with great haste
. He told them to join either the Orthodox or the
Catholic Church. Yesterday, an
Orthodox priest pleaded his case
. Today, a
Catholic priest pleads his
.

Father Addison Hart is a convert. Being a convert myself (though from the ELCA,
not the ECUSA), I’m usually pretty happy when someone crosses the Tiber. However,
every once in a while I wish some people would swim back. This guy is an – how shall
I say it? – uninspiring priest. He seems to have converted simply because the RCC
sucks less that the ECUSA. Here are some of my "favorite" bits of this
sad monograph.

“I am a Roman Catholic priest,…As such, I am obligated to uphold the Roman obedience, to adhere to the Church’s teachings without reservation, and to believe that the Church of Christ subsists in that Body which is in communion with the Roman See. But, …somewhat less than starry-eyed about Rome, harboring very few illusions about her present grandeur, still less about her uneven history and the correctness of certain of her customs. For example, mandatory clerical celibacy, which some revisionist zealots today are trumpeting erroneously as ‘apostolic’ in origin, has repeatedly proven itself more of a stumbling-block than an asset to the Church’s life. Only the most hardheaded and self-protective clergy (along with some fussy laity) insist otherwise.”

….

“When asked recently by a dear woman of my parish why I did become a Catholic, all I could think to respond was that I did so ‘by default’. In other words, I did so because my expectations within Anglicanism, shared by so many of us who had embraced the idea of it being a ‘bridge church’, had failed, pure and simple. So, by default, I became a member of that Body which I believed best expresses God’s Kingdom on earth.”

….

“Finally, in this extended disclaimer, I confess to possessing that rather skeptical frame of mind which characterizes Anglican piety. I have next to no interest in Fatima, Lourdes, etc.; I lack all depth of warm feeling for medals, scapulars, indulgences, chaplets, rosaries; I find most Italian and Polish devotions unappealing; and regard ‘private revelation’ as an unnecessary distraction from sound theology and prayer.”

….

“Even if we have to put up with rather stupid ecclesiastical disciplines and occasionally insipid devotions, these can be ignored easily enough; and if one is so blessed as to be in an Anglican Use parish, then life can go on rather nicely, I suppose (I’m not so blessed myself, I hasten to add).”

Having been a Protestant most of my life, I tend to be skeptical about a lot of a lot of Catholic devotional practice and I think some people verge on idolatry in their devotion to Mary, though perhaps unintentially. That said, I respect a great deal more of Catholic practices than this unfortunate member of the clergy. I’m sure one or more of my readers will defend priestly celebacy for me. I lack time and adequate information to so so myself. I don’t care for medals, scapulars, indulgences, chaplets, and rosaries either – when the’re used as lucky charms. When not treated superstitiously, they can be beautiful expressions, and more importantly, sacramentals.

This man has no understanding or sympathy for expressions popular piety or “little t” tradtions of the Church. They’re what give the Church character. They are expressions of a living faith. Great works of art, immortal musical compositions, and moving poetry have been produced as a result of inspirational faith. Fr. Hart describes a rather bare and sterile faith that I want no part of. Without the “insiped devotions” he mentions, or something similar, who would join the Church? Yes, we have the Truth. We maintain the Deposit of Faith. But what good does that faith do us if we have no love? What is devotion but love?

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (RSV)

[The following is an update. – Funky]

Father Hart responded to some of the criticism directed at him in the comments section of the Pontifications entry. On a side note, the comments there are often rather impressive theological debates. I love my commenters dearly, but I wish there were more of them. 😉

“I should add that my approach to this whole thing has been with the presumption that I am addressing Anglicans. So it is that I intentionally stressed my residual ‘Anglican’ sensibilities. My rationale was simple enough: Catholicism can easily accommodate those characteristics of Anglican piety that are essentially Catholic. (I hasten to add that these very characteristics also are to be found in the English Catholic context, as well.)”

“I have nothing visceral or intellectual against Italian or Polish devotions (as I have nothing against Arab, Russian, or Greek expressions of piety, either); but – in the immortal words of John Fogerty (now there’s evidence of ‘snootiness’ for you!) – ‘It ain’t me’. It also ain’t of the essence of Roman Catholicism.”

He’s still not a particularly impressive specimen with which to lure converts, is he?

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