Chalcedon’s article, here, struck a number of chords with me, and I thought maybe another perspective would be useful. His linked article on the liturgy from the forties and fifties just made me nod and go, “I thought he was talking about the Catholic Church, not my home church”. The order of worship hadn’t changed in at least one generation, the opening hymn was verse one of hymn #1 Holy, holy, holy, not that anybody got out the hymnal, we had all memorized it at our mother’s (if not Grandma’s) knee, the Doxology was just that, The Doxology, and that’s all the program had to say about it. The program was one page of a folded letter size piece of paper. Given that this was back in the time of the one year Lectionary, I wouldn’t take a bet that the Preacher (and that is what he was called) didn’t read the one he had written 20 years before.
When he retired, we called one of those new-fangled pastors, and darned near had a mutiny when he substituted the Nicene Creed one Sunday for the Apostle’s Creed, I never even knew the Anthanasian Creed existed till I joined my church here. Now mind you this is the pastor that confirmed me, and on our class field trip, one of the people we met was a Rev. Wright in Chicago, you might have heard of him around 7 or so years ago. That’s the UCC, all things to all men, and that’s the Roman Catholic Church, The Anglican Communion (especially the Church of England, with the added fillip of being controlled by a mostly Godless Parliament, and the Lutheran church as well. It works (sort of) when there is good will on all sides and that’s rare. When it doesn’t you get schism and sometimes religious wars.
By my count there are at least four churches calling themselves the Roman Catholic Church:
- There’s the hippy dippy, anything that makes you feel good church of Nancy Pelosi, ‘The Nuns the Bus’ and such.
- There is the church of the people who think every innovation is bad. this is our own QVO’s church and to a somewhat varying but lesser extent Servus, Chalcedon, and yes, me as well, although on the Lutheran side. We’re the people who think the word ‘novelty’ is a curse.
- Then there is the great middle ground, the great majority of whom may well be poorly catechized for one reason or another, or who are just too busy trying to make ends meet, working anything up to three jobs each, to really pay attention. This is, I suspect, most of the Catholic population world-wide. they know that Jesus died for them and is Risen, they likely pray, albeit informally, and let the rest go right over their head. But they try to do the right thing, and they are indisputably Christians. Some percentage of these (some reports say about 20%) actually regularly attend worship, Mass, whatever term you prefer. Another percentage are what Protestants call C&E Christians, which stands for Christmas and Easter, when they show up, and a lot never darken the door, but they claim some church or another. Actually, that is the majority in all our churches, I know them well, I was one of them most of my life.
- Then there is the bureaucratic church, the people who keep the light bill paid, St. Peter’s ceiling painted, the clergy on message, the cemetery mowed, and all the niggling little details that go into running the world’s largest organization. God bless them from the Curia right on down to the janitor at the soup kitchen, without them it would fall apart.
But where it all goes wrong for Rome (and to an extent Canterbury and Stockholm as well) is that we have one man, a Godly man, to be sure, but one lonely man sitting there, trying to control this stampede of millions around the world, and if that wasn’t enough, whatever the official doctrine says, you expect him to be infallible with the (unfriendly) press in the back of the plane.
And if that still isn’t enough, you expect him to be an economic genius, and expert on all the other religions of the world, and why they’re are wrong.
And then we Protestants chime in and expect him to function as the patriarch of the west, as well, simply because he can make himself heard over the world’s din.
The man born of woman has never yet been born in this world that can do this job. Maybe Jesus could but his team was often pretty fractious itself.
And maybe it worked better a thousand years ago simply because communication was slow and Rome far away. That where subsidiarity came from, few things went past the bishop at most because it simply took too long.
Lessons? Nope, not from me, I just want you to think before you yell, and pray for the Pope if any man needs all of our prayers, it’s him.