Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Pilgrimage, the Magisterium, Authority, and Mayonnaise

Many folks in America have odd ideas about the Catholic Church and Catholicism. At least one of the common notions about the Church, though, is right. We have rules. The 'big picture' rules come from Rome. Bishops have the final say in quite a few things that go on in their area. Like whether or not deacons can preach. (June 21, 2011)

That doesn't sound very "democratic," because it isn't.

I don't have problems with democracy as a political philosophy, but I do not:
  • Trust the 'wisdom of the masses'
  • Assume that reality is determined by opinion polls
As I've told my kids, 'if three hundred million people really believe in a stupid idea: it's still a stupid idea.'

One reason that I think democracy can work - and why I think having elections in America is a good idea - is that 'the masses' may not be wise: but we're not complete idiots, either. And that's another topic.

Before getting back to authority, the Magisterium, and why I pay attention to the Holy See, here's what got me started thinking about authority and all that:

Opinions, Style, and: Arrogance?

Sometimes it's several days before I check comments on my blogs. That happened this week, when someone responded to a post about the Marian apparition in Wisconsin. The real one, in Champion:
Ashley Z. brought up some important points:
"I read your blog this afternoon and I have to say I am very disappointed in the free way you express your opinion. How can you speak so flippantly about something the Catholic Church (2000 years old) has been researching for 100's of years? How can you be so sure that the Blessed Mother hasn't appeared in this place? A pilgrimage spot is somewhere where people go to deepen their faith, find peace, and sit in silence in a holy place. Maybe before you mock so arrogantly something so beautiful, you should go there."
(Ashley Z. (November 14, 2011 3:24 PM),
commenting on "Apparition of Mary, Champion, Wisconsin: A Pilgrimage? Not for Me" (April 10, 2011))
My response (November 18, 2011 9:43 AM) started with the explanation that I believed what I do, because "Rome had spoken." Later, I realized that Ashley Z. and I may have been writing about two different things.

Ashley Z. was "disappointed in the free way you express your opinion." There, she has me. I won't deny that what I say may seem "flippant." I think of it as "informal," but that's just my opinion.

As for being arrogant: that's something I may need to be more aware of. But I doubt that I'll start expressing myself in a stilted style, calculated to bury nuggets of fact, opinion, and authoritative statement in a measureless moraine of platitudinous prosody.

Religion, Pilgrimages, Mayonnaise, and Elvis

I recognize that quite a few folks, when they write about religion, start using a special dialect. I'm not going to do that.

I'm not going to start writing in the sort of olde Englishe that some of the 'King James' folks seem to like, or adopt the sort of turgid, yet soporific, style that made required reading in college an occasionally-wearisome chore.

On the other hand, Maybe I'd better be more careful about making important points quickly. Even then, I'm pretty sure that some folks will get the wrong idea. More topics.

Here's how that Marian apparition post started:
"Mary, mother of Jesus, appeared to Sister Adele Brise in 1859.

At least, that's what folks in the Champion, Wisconsin, area have been saying for the last century-and-a-half. And the Bishop in Green Bay says it's okay.

Someone claiming to see Mary, or Jesus, in a slice of toast - or mayonnaise jar - or whatever - isn't all that uncommon.

I've got a pretty lively imagination myself, and could probably 'see' Elvis outside the window: provided I gave my brain a running start.

What happened in Wisconsin is not the American equivalent of someone seeing Queen Elizabeth II in a marmalade jar.

The Champion, Wisconsin, Marian apparition stands out because it's gotten approval of the Church. (December 8, 2010) Which is a first for the United States. (CNA)...
"
(April 10, 2011)
When I wrote that, I figured that anybody would realize that, once a bishop said an apparition in his jurisdiction was okay - it was okay. Until and unless someone higher up the ladder came back with an official, 'no, it's not okay.'

I could be wrong, but my guess is that Ashley Z. noticed "toast ... mayonnaise jar ... Elvis ..." and assumed that I didn't take the Champion apparition seriously. Particularly since I said, later, that I wasn't going to go on a pilgrimage.

Not Going on a Pilgrimage

I gave an explanation for my non-participation in that pilgrimage:
"...Part of my reason for staying in town is economic. I'm sure that the cost, $260 per person, is reasonable for this sort of thing. That's still quite a lot of money for this household.

"Besides, I am not convinced that a pilgrimage is necessary - or would be useful. For me.

"But that's me. I recognize that quite a few folks make pilgrimages a part of their faith. I've made the point before, that lockstep conformity isn't what the Catholic Church is about. We're each supposed to bring something different to the Church. (August 26, 2010)..."
(April 10, 2011)
But, at the end of the post, there's that inescapable fact: I'd said that I wasn't going on a pilgrimage to Champion, Wisconsin.

Being On a Pilgrimage

To clear up possible misunderstandings from this post:
  • I think pilgrimages are a good idea
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2691)
  • Properly considered, life is a pilgrimage
    (Catechism, 1013, 1525)
I've yet to discover that a Catholic must go on some pilgrimage, other than the big one we're all on. I think many folks find traveling to some particular place as part of a pilgrimage very 'uplifting.'

If I had gone to Champion, earlier this year, the trip would have felt more like an exercise in tourism: for me. That would not, I think have been a good idea: for me.

Other folks, obviously, get quite a great deal out of pilgrimages.

I've long since come to terms with the idea that the 7,000,000,000 or so people living today aren't all pretty much like me: not even, or maybe particularly not, the 1,100,000,000 or so Catholics in the Church Militant. And that's yet again another topic.

Keys of the Kingdom, Peter, and Jesus

I worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit: Three Persons, One God. Even more topics.

I take Jesus very seriously. That's why I became a Catholic, after learning what happened after the discussion recorded in Matthew 16:13-19. Basically, the authority my Lord gave Peter was passed along from each Pope to the next. Today, the 265th successor of Peter has an authority which came from Jesus: who was tortured to death; didn't stay dead; and promised to stay with his people "until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)

I suppose I could pretend that "the end of the age" has already happened. But considering the wildly improbable survival of the Catholic Church, and other factors: I don't think that would be a good idea. At all.

It's like Peter said:
"Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.' "
(John 6:67-69) [emphasis mine]
Knowing what I do, I don't have any acceptable option: other than to follow the authority that the Son of God gave Peter.

Jesus: Who Does He Think He Is?

My assumption that Jesus is particularly worthy of notice is debatable. I gave some of my reasons last year:
Briefly, Jesus thinks He's God:
"24 Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.' "
(John 8:58)
I imagine that quite a few folks, over the millennia, have had the impression that they're God. Or a god, at any rate. One thing that sets Jesus apart is that He didn't stay dead. Yet again more topics.

Obedience

There's an old joke that goes something like this: "I am firm-minded; you are stubborn; he is a pig-headed fool." I'm "firm minded," and try not to be a "pig-headed fool."

I used to think that I had a problem with authority. My wife straightened me out on that, earlier this year:
"...I realized that what I'd done was confuse my attitude toward pompous nitwits with a professional title and a fancy desk, with my attitude toward rational process and proven traditions...."
(March 30, 2011)
I don't have a problem with the idea of being obedient to authority: provided I think the authority is legitimate. The practical matter of acting in an obedient manner, that's - you guessed it, another topic.

The idea of being obedient probably needs explanation. There's a pretty good section on the obedience of faith in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 144-165.

The Bible; the Magisterium; and Tradition

I'm about as confident as I can be, that the Catholic Church is reliable. We're kept on-track by:
  • The Bible
    • But not what I think the Bible says
  • The Magisterium
    • The what?
      • More about that, below
    • Tradition
      • Capitalized "T"
        • Not the same as being old-fashioned
    I've mentioned the Magisterium earlier in this post. Here's how the Catholic Church sees the Bible, and what Magisterium and Tradition mean:
    • "BIBLE: Sacred Scripture: the books which contain the truth of God's Revelation and were composed by human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit (105). The Bible contains both the forty-six books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament (120). See Old Testament; New Testament."
    • "MAGISTERIUM: The living, teaching office of the Church, whose task it is to give as authentic interpretation of the word of God, whether in its written form (Sacred Scripture), or in the form of Tradition. The Magisterium ensures the Church's fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles in matters of faith and morals (85, 890, 2033)."
    • "TRADITION: The living transmission of the message of the Gospel in the Church. The oral preaching of the Apostles, and the written message of salvation under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Bible), are conserved and handed on as the deposit of faith through the apostolic succession in the Church. Both the living Tradition and the written Scriptures have their common source in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ (75-82). The theological, liturgical, disciplinary, and devotional traditions of the local churches both contain and can be distinguished from this apostolic Tradition (83)."
    (From Catechism of the Catholic Church, first posted October 2, 2008)

    Slightly-related posts:
    Background:

    2 comments:

    Brigid said...

    That's 'in': "million people really believe is a stupid idea"

    Shouldn't 'does' be capitalized in this heading? "Who does He Think He Is?"

    I think this is supposed to be its own bullet, not a sub-point of Magisterium: "Tradition"

    The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

    Brian Gill said...

    Brigid,

    Found, fixed, and thanks!

    I also cleaned up a format error, related to that misplaced "Tradition" point.

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    Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

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