Monday, April 19, 2010

The Catholic Church: Universal. Really

The Catholic Church: Diverse?! Roman Catholic Cop thinks the Catholic Church is universal: for everybody, everywhere.

And he's right.
"The Universal Church"
Roman Catholic Cop (April 19, 2010)

"I was sitting looking around while at mass yesterday morning and the thought struck me, 'Wow, this really IS the catholic church.' The word catholic means 'universal' and the Catholic Church certainly is that. I saw the universal church just in the seats around me. I saw diversity in my little suburban church. I saw people of all types of color, nationality and ethnic background. There were people of Asian backgrounds next to us, Hispanic background in front of us, African-Americans behind us....

"...We were all in mass together at Holy Family but the universality is more spread than that. Yesterday, in parishes throughout the world Catholics were celebrating the same mass, reading the same readings-truly together- in a spiritual sense. The universality of the church can be seen in her liturgies not only throughout the world but even in our own local communities. You can see masses with contemporary music, more traditional music or Gregorian chant. There are even Salsa masses and Polka masses...."
No, don't have a stroke. I didn't put Roman Catholic Cop on the blogroll because he sincerely, intensely, irrationally believes in warm fuzzy feelings and all people doing their own thing.
"...Obvious issues arise of course when people start saying things that go against Catholic teaching, against the authority of bishops and the pope and, worse of all, conduct liturgical abuses that attack the sacredness of the mass. Because it is our faith, which is handed on to us through the teachings of the church and through the authority of the bishops and the pope and celebrated in the mass is WHO we are. We cannot be 'cafeteria catholics' and pick and choose what we want to believe. We cannot make up our own catechism. It is, after all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church--not the 'Catechism of Jamie' or of Bill or Ted or whomever...."
(Roman Catholic Cop)
That description Roman Catholic Cop gave, of the sort of micro-United-Nations in the pews around him at Mass, reminded me of Masses here at Our Lady of the Angels church in Sauk Centre, where I live.

You might think that a town of about 4,000 people in central Minnesota would be all white picket fences and Cleaver clones. Fact is, there never seem to have been that many picket fences in town: and we've long since stopped being a town with two families: one German and the other Irish. (I go to the "Irish" church, by the way - and that's another topic.)

My hat's off to Roman Catholic Cop, for writing about what the Catholic Church is: and what it isn't.

The way I've put it, sometimes, explaining Catholicism to my kids, is:
  • You want rousing music?
    • We got rousing music!
  • You want quiet meditation?
    • We got quiet meditation!
  • You want ancient rites?
    • We got ancient rites!
  • You want polka with your Mass?
    • We got polka with your Mass!
  • You name it?
    • We got it!
Obviously, that isn't something you'll find in the official Catechism. But I think it's a fairly reasonable summary of what I've learned about Catholicism.

Take liturgical dance for example: dancing during Mass, as part of worship. Today, the Catholic Church has a very definite stand on liturgical dance. It's:
  • Forbidden
  • Encouraged
Depends on where you are. Western cultures can't handle it. Others can. (January 10, 2010)

Let's put it this way. The Catholic Church has been around for almost two millennia now. If I start being careful with my health, there's a chance I'll live to see the 2,000th anniversary.

Several empires rose and fell as the centuries rolled past, and the world's cultures have changed. Quite a bit, in some cases.

The Catholic Church doesn't change the underlying rules. What does change is what I'd call surface detail: like whether or not liturgical dance is okay.

"Universal?" You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

If you're surprised - or put off - by that distinctly mixed lot celebrating Mass: Hang on to your seat. Like the fellow said, 'you ain't seen nothin' yet.'

A chapter in part three of the book, "Brother Astronomer" (Brother Guy Consolmagno (2000)) is titled, 'Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?' It's a hypothetical situation - so far - but I think that Brother Guy did a good summary in the last paragraph of that chapter:
"...Frankly, if you think about it, any creatures on other planets, subject to the same laws of chemistry and physics as us, made of the same kinds of atoms, with an awareness and a will recognizably like ours would be at the very least our cousins in the cosmos. They would be so similar to us in all the essentials that I don't think you'd even have the right to call them aliens."
(Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? "Brother Astronomer," Brother Guy Consolmagno (2000))
Think that all this open-mindedness and cosmic thinking was forced on those ignorant, superstitious Catholics by Modern scientists? A page or two earlier, Brother Guy pointed out that the idea, "God could not have made other worlds," is a heresy.

The Holy See says so.

And has, since 13th century.1

Then there's how the science of genetics got started - but I'm wandering off-topic.

Related posts:

A tip of the hat to JamieMc4525, on Twitter, for the heads-up on that Roman Catholic Cop post.

1 Toward the end of Europe's Middle Ages, quite a few European scholars were big fans of Aristotle. Aristotle didn't seem to have liked the idea that there could be other worlds like the one he lived on.

Some of Aristotle's fans said that we had to be living in the only inhabitable spot in the universe. Because Aristotle said so.

That's when the Catholic Church stepped in:
"...Beginning about 1100 a.d., text after text of the great Greek philosopher Aristotle reached the West, and Christians were suddenly confronted with a unified, well- constructed account of the universe, an account written by a pagan. Aristotle denied that there could be a plurality of worlds. Of course, if there could not be a plurality of worlds, then the question of extraterrestrials was moot.

"There were three reactions to Aristotle's purely natural, non-Christian philosophical account: vehement rejection (the radical Augustinians), careful embrace (St. Thomas), and passionate embrace (the radical Aristotelians).

"Around 1265 a conflict between the two radical wings began to heat up, resulting in the famous (or, for Thomists, infamous) 219 Propositions in 1277, issued by the bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier. Proposition 27 condemns all who hold the Aristotelian position 'that the first cause cannot make more than one world.'

"It should be stressed that the aim of this condemnation was not to affirm a plurality of worlds but to affirm God's omnipotence against any account of nature that seemed to restrict God's powers. Aristotle's insistence that there could only be one world accorded nicely with the Genesis account of creation, but it appeared to the radical Augustinians to make God the servant of natural necessity rather than its master...."
("Alien Ideas Christianity and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life," Benjamin D. Wiker, Crisis 20, no. 10 (November 2002))
A little over seven centuries later, we still don't know for sure whether there's life anywhere except on Earth.

But, as a practicing Catholic, I'm not going to say that God couldn't have created a space-time continuum with life on more than one ball of rock.

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