"A Catholic by any other name…"

Sr. Mary Ann Walsh over at the USCCB blog takes a good long look at Bill Keller’s remarks about Catholicism last week.

Her stirring conclusion:

The Catholic Church doesn’t totally give up anyone. Even if you’re excommunicated, it expects you to attend Mass each week, though not to participate in the sacraments. James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake defined the Catholic Church as “here comes everybody,” giving a blunt, yet poetic expression to a Church with room for all.

One also suspects this hold comes from something more. Is it based in the image of Mother Church, emphasis on “mother,” who loves her children and doesn’t give up on them even when they don’t deserve it or don’t merit the affection, except for the accident of birth or in the Church, of baptism?

Is it the lifelong impact of prayers and other rituals, such as guardian angels to protect you, the Blessed Virgin to care for you, the rosary to guide your prayer, the Eucharist to sustain you, the soaring cathedrals to amaze you? Is it rooted in emotion laden events such as First Communion Day celebrations of purity and innocence or the deep comfort in a funeral Mass imbued with the conviction that we’ll meet again in heaven? Is it a wish to connect to a parent’s or grandparent’s Catholicism that provided a moral compass in facing life’s many challenges?

Is it grace? Is it this inexplicable gift of God’s presence, recognized not enough to stop us daily in our tracks, but sensed on occasion to make us pause at God’s creation, the gift of human life, the message in Louie Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”?

Whatever it is, this Catholicism, this grace, is real, and because of it Bill Keller and others, be they lapsed, collapsed, befuddled or bemused, are part of it. They are family, even if they no longer come by for dinner.

Read it all.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    I liked sister’s piece a lot. And of course, there is always the flip side of that — http://www.patheos.com/community/diaryofawimpycatholic/2011/07/10/bring-on-the-dirt/

  2. Regarding all of these last blogs about heretics and being Catholic regardless here and with the Anchoress and others, I think Lutheran Pastor had a very good definition for all this fuzzy feelings of warmth and sentimentality: Cheap Grace

    “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

    It takes a Lutheran to teach us.

  3. The Lutheran Pastor was of course Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

  4. ron chandonia says:

    It’s interesting that Bonhoeffer wrote this description of “cheap grace” to critique a watered-down popular understanding of Reformation theology, yet it seems even more applicable to what passes for Catholicism in America today. It certainly shows up in plenty of “love-means-tolerating-anything-that-comes-along” posts on this very blog.

  5. friscoeddie says:

    For the ‘supply siders’ here who lament about ‘cheap grace’ . Christ has such an abundance to bestow it’s cheap.. .

  6. “Supplier siders” I wonder what economics have to do with Theology. Read a little.

  7. Man, it must really hurt to find out that people you consider inferior are still part of the Church. I think some people should join the SPXX to get away from the rest of us.

    Or, if you can find a more exclusive Church, you might try that. Of course, you might still be considered as a member of the Catholic Church.

    Mike L

  8. “I think some people should join the SPXX to get away from the rest of us.”

    Or those who pick and choose what to follow in the Catholic faith could join a Protestant denomination.

  9. As Bonhoeffer explained, the error in seeing grace as cheap is that grace is actually free. Which is an entirely different (and terrifying!) state of reality.

  10. ron chandonia says:

    In The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer castigated what he saw as a cultural Christianity that had “watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence.” This was the Christianity that quite readily lent itself to the service of Hitler. Did his candid assessment of what the Reformation had become make him a candidate for some Lutheran variant of SPXX?

  11. Cheap grace “…certainly shows up in plenty of “love-means-tolerating-anything-that-comes-along” posts on this very blog.” Are we reading the same blog? I think Deacon Greg strikes a nice balance. Goodness knows balance is a quality in short supply online.

  12. ron chandonia says:

    Melody, I was certainly not aiming any barbs at Deacon Greg, who is truly “fair and balanced” in his choice of topics and in his occasional comments on the items he posts. I should have said “in plenty of . . . comments [not 'posts'] on this very blog.” The responses to the deacon’s recent posts about the redefinition of marriage in NY have been particularly dismaying, effusive in their praise for those who defy Catholic teaching and quick to brand those who support that teaching as haters.

  13. Thanks for the clarification, Ron.

  14. I have seen comments in some blogs that say that Catholics should leave the Church if they do not agree with everything the Church teaches. Some have called for a smaller, more pure, Church. If I understand this correctly, this seems to say otherwise.

  15. Deacon Greg’s is the best blog about the Catholic Church. Well, at least for me. I think he knows comments (well at least mine) are not against him.

  16. ron chandonia says:

    To be the church of Jesus Christ, we need plenty of sinners, no doubt about that. But we also need a moral compass and a sense of sin. The problem we face today is not that so many of us are sinful; it is, rather, that so many of us refuse to acknowledge the reality of sin, not just in others but in ourselves. Instead, prominent Catholic lay people very publicly claim that what the Church has always considered right is now questionable or simply outdated, and the media cheer them for their broadmindedness. When the bishops–individually or as a group–try to correct these misleading claims, they are branded intolerant and judgmental. This breeds confusion among the many ordinary Catholics who try to do right and teach their children clear moral standards. Saying “God loves us all, especially the sinners” does nothing whatsoever to clear up the confusion. I don’t like the blogs that try to sort out the “real Catholics,” but I sure understand why so many fellow churchgoers look to them for guidance.

  17. cathyf I have to disagree with you a bit about “cheap grace being free.” In a literal sense, I believe you are correct, “cheap” grace is indeed free, because we give it to ourselves however the wind blows.

    The GOD-GIVEN, transformative kind of grace, is also free, albeit ONLY TO THOSE WITH A RECEPTIVE HEART. One can only imagine how many minutes in a day of all of our lives are “lost opportunities for the acceptance of “God-given, aka, the “hard kind of grace, thatwhich requires something”,

  18. Yes, all are welcome, but they should all hear the same truth spoken boldly and with solid conviction. When you water down truth to be “tolerant” of evil and of open dissent, you are doing a major disservice to Christ who died on the Cross. Trying to tell a drug addict that it is ok and even helping them find drugs is not love. Telling a homosexual that their behavior choice of sodomy is equal to one man and one woman in marriage does not help the person lost to their grave disorder. Allowing a professor to teach dissent to our kids in Catholic schools does not build strong Catholic faith proven by the numbers that are lost to their faith after attending Catholic Univesities. Acting as if Catholic politicians who support and keep abortion holocaust legal and supported are as guilty of killing as any other holocaust in history be it the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn certainly had face to face contact with evil built around a godless socialist state which the left is trying to create in the USA. A one time supporter of the Marxist ideas, he came to see that Christianity is man’s only hope and salvation. He estimated that between 1918 and 1959, 66 million people died in the soviet gulags, roughly eleven times the number which perished in Nazi death camps. We have lost 54 million babies to the holocaust of abortion. I cannot accept letting anyone off the hook who does not do everything possible, including being vocal and in other faces or showing the impact of what the baby has gone through who supports this evil or who is indifferent. Solzhenitsyn says that what happened in the soviet union had more to do with those who did not want to stand up and say anything or to offend anyone else or were too busy to get involved. While living in the West in Vermont, he wrote about his sadness about what he saw happening here. I have so often been disappointed by our “Christian Leaders” and finding Solzhenitsyn was very important in my life. When awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970, he was not able to leave Russia to recieve it but sent this message. He contrasts two kinds of artist writers: one who “see himself as the creator of an independent spiritual world” and a second who “recognizing a higher power above, gladly works as a humble apprentice beneath God’s heaven” of which he counted himself in the second camp. His works always include the triune of creation, fall, and redemption. His view of America, a country that had lead the fight to his freedom and who had given him home and wealth, was that we were in decline due to the loss of a sense of the distinction between good and evil. “I am a critic of the weakness of the West. I am a critic of a fact which we can’t comeprehend: how can one lose one’s spirtual strength, one’s will power and , possessing freedom, not value it, not be willing to make sacrifices for it, not be willing to speak out frankly and boldly even in the face of criticism. Tolerance of evil just might be greater than the evil itself.”

    If only the people had said not to Hitler, no to Lenin and Stalin, when they started to propose evil, how many millions could have been saved. If only we who are supposed to be Christians had stood up when Roe was made law and said that this will not stand and any politicians who supports this evil, any party that supports this evil against God and humanity will never be elected in this country again, how many babies would have been saved? If we said no to judges who decide to legislate from the bench removing our freedom of speech and our freedom to vote in a land of the people, by the people, and for the people in one nation UNDER GOD, we would not be in serious trouble and decline today. Stand up and shout for out lives, our liberty, and our sacred honor are being lost in the form of tolerance of evil. Read the works of one who suffered in a godless state of socialism where atheism is the state religion and the government tells us everything we are supposed to do and believe and who decides what rights we will have in this country. Europe is almost lost and the godless in this country are trying to do the same here. The Anchoress is a gifted writer who can do so much with her talent. Maybe she needs a heavy dose of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to put that talent to work combating evil over preaching tolerance with evil. When one quibbles over something being a heresy or not, we might be losing the way. I think what our government has become and is trying to reach for is a pure heresy of the Constitution and the idea of all our rights coming from our Creator and I think those who claim to be Catholic should follow the clear teaching found in the documents of Christ Church. If someone does not practice the faith and accept the teaching as defined and seek out those teaching on our own every day, whether they are a heretic, an apostate, or a sinner, they have sepeated themselves from Christ and His Church. He gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter and down through the years all the way to Benedict XVI. Go for the apple if you want, but it is filled with worms.

  19. Greata I’m also a HUGE Solzhenitsyn fan, to the point I believe he was a “missed prophet” for our times.

    I would (and often), sum up most of what you say in “IF CATHOLICS WOULD ONLY VOTE AS CATHOLICS!”

    Yes, the left is spirtually lost, as well as many poorly or uninterested uncatechized Catholics. That said, there is nothing in this day and age (short of the reception to God’s Grace), to keep anyone from learning the Catholic Faith. Simply the daily watching of EWTN could alone “jump start” even the lukewarm.

    I often say and or write, that the most “responsable when all said and done” will not be the secular left or even the late term abortion docs, , but the “feel good, go along to get along, often silent, Catholics.” United, we are the most powerful American force and VOTING BLOCK (of which we will all be held accountable).

    As for sister’s piece, I don’t have any sense that she wants to water anything down, only saying that those who have wondered off always have a home. It’s our job of course, to “pray them back.”

    I personally am very grateful to E Scalia for her strong Eucharistic Conviction, which is at it’s core, our only hope! Most of us Greta, self included, were once the “homeless”, but by God’s grace, and lots of prayers, found our way back.

  20. Could Mr. Keller be just another of the million examples of the truth of Jesus’ parable of the”Sower and the Seed” where the cares of the world-in Mr. Keller’s case success in the secular media- prevented the seed from taking root?

  21. I wonder if the comments above would have been as critical had you not identified the author of the post. There seem to be some who cannot see the letters USCCB without translating them to HERETIC. I suffer from a similar but opposite kind of label blindness, and am trying to teach myself not to react before reading when I see a post that originates from the fiercely neo-trad. It’s a difficult process, so I sympathize with those on all sides who are trying to learn and listen, and I am grateful to Deacon Greg and others who continually call us to step closer to the Oneness that is Christ’s desire for us. It’s very hard work, much harder (though less satisfying, I concede) than using litmus tests and instant condemnation. “In all things charity” does not translate to “cheap grace,” just “grace.”

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