Saturday, 21 March 2009

Are you sure ?

I'm wondering about the place of certainty in Catholicism. Certainty is beginning to override reason, being used to hide any inconsistencies of individual or group approaches to Catholicism under the carpet, so as not to disturb their jealously held opinions.

To some, certainty is in the Pope's infallibility, to others it's the certainty of Pentecostal or charismatic Catholicism. In between there's a whole lot of colourful space where people live their faith in the tension of belief and doubt where God is found in the ordinariness of everyday life.

Many blogs have sprung up to celebrate the rise of a 'conservative' Catholicism that almost demand an unyielding fidelity to the pope with no room for critical discussion. Those who dare are usually dismissed by a tirade of abuse. Hand in hand with this usually goes the promotion of the extraordinary form of the Mass (nothing wrong with that) along with an 'assumption' that this liturgy is 'better' than the ordinary form. Criticism of the Papacy seems to have achieved the same level of anathema that criticising the Prophet Mohamed has achieved within the Muslim world.

Pope's have made some silly decisions in the past (slavery, the promotion of anti semitism, Galileo) which today's 'ultramontanes' would have assented to, had they lived at the time. One of their champions (and one of mine though for different reasons) is the soon to be beatified Cardinal Newman. In his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk he writes: “Certainly, if I am obliged to bring religion into after-dinner toasts (which indeed does not seem quite the thing) I shall drink – to the Pope, if you please – still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards”.

At the opposite extreme lies the catholic pentecostalist. Their 'certainties' can lie in an overemphasis of the importance of speaking in tongues, prophecy, interpreting tongues, ministries of deliverance and even a biblical fundamentalism. St. Mark says in Chapter 16:17 "These are the signs that will be associated with believers; in my name they will cast out devils; they who have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover." Can we really take this passage literally for the sake of certainty ?

I cannot imagine for one moment that any of the above positions of 'certainty' reflect the fullness of faith to be found in the catholic church. Corinthians 13 is probably a passage more often heard than lived out. It has some lessons for our blogging world.

"If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all it's fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all."


Anonymous said...

You're getting a bit slack with the updates. Us regular visitors have nothing to make us think!

Contemplative Catholic said...

Awwww aren't you kind. I didn't think anyone read this ! This week and a bit has been quite a busy one so I haven't had as much free time to spend on the blog. Should be back to normal from saturday.