Tuesday, November 7, 2017

You Have to be Some Damned Thing, So Why Not Catholic?

The Bear is Not a Good Catholic

So now we come to the big question. If Bear loved Orthodoxy so much, and complains about the Catholic Church so much, why the Hell isn't he still Orthodox?

Bear is tempted to say, "That is a very good question," and leave this as the shortest article  ever.

First of all, Bear must remind his readers that there is a reason this is not "St. Corbinian's Blog."

This is a blog written by his horrible, pony-killing, sheep over-killing, kitten thrill-killing, lazy, conceited, pedantic, snarky, heretical and extremely bad-smelling Bear who is little better for having been humbled, miraculously given the power of speech, catechized personally by a saint, and having 1300 years to improve himself.

The Bear is not a respectable Catholic blogger like all the other Catholic bloggers out there and definitely does not claim to speak with their same unflinching certitude. With regard to most things that raise the blood pressure of Catholics, he just gives a Bearish shrug these days.

Words of ordination or consecration? Latin? Facing front, back, or sideways? If the Mass is a sacrifice, the Bear could design a better ritual than the one currently in use. If it is a meal, we're doing better, but the Bear could improve that, too. Anyone with an understanding of the goal, a grasp of psychology and a flair for the dramatic could. But a camel is a horse designed by committee, and our generation got the camel. That doesn't say anything about validity.

Sometimes it seems as if "what I like" becomes "the only thing that isn't wrong."

Bear is done with white-knuckle religion. If God wants Bear to have valid sacraments or be saved without any sacraments at all, who is Bear to tell God what he can and cannot do? Besides, he has given up trying to be the world's greatest living theologian, capable of telling Catholics what is right and what is wrong. He has an adequate intellect, a flair for writing and a mordant sense of humor. Those are the only qualifications he asserts as a blogger.

The task of explaining 2000 years of Church teachings up to this very day in a way that does not involve ambiguity and even contradictions is beyond his ability. Others are welcome to have at it.

The Myth of Catholic Unity

The Bear thinks it is a bit rich when Catholic apologists make fun of Protestants for failing to agree about Christianity. Certainly, any two Evangelical Christians chosen at random will believe more in common than any two Catholics chosen at random.

The Catholic blogosphere is marked, offered, admitted and published as Woodlands' Creatures Exhibit A. There is no group of true believers who does not have their own unofficial spokespersons, from Sedevacantists to Womyn Priests. Few of them are stupid. Few of them do not have their arguments. All of them claim to be more Catholic than everyone else.

One thing the Bear finds interesting. For every time you see "Jesus," you see "Francis" 100 times. The Bear on his bicycle indicts himself as leader of this Boschian parade of never-ending ear-tickling controversy.

Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. Is that the picture painted by the right-believing Catholic blogosphere? Or is there an inversion that puts correct belief, intellectual assent, "faith," if you will, ahead of everything?

Hieronymus Bosch Anticipates the Catholic Blogosphere

Which is the correct view?

Why, mine, of course! No one wakes up one morning and says, "I'm going to be wrong from now on! I want to be the bad guy in this whole Christian drama." Nope. I'm right and all the rest are feeble-minded or frauds.

And that goes for the Pope and councils if they disagree with me. Am I wrong?

Those exciting and faithful early days of the Church were a train wreck, too. St. Paul spent half his life traveling the world preaching the gospel. Then he spent the other half of it writing epistles to the people who had rejected him personally and his message. Now there are thousands of St. Pauls writing epistles every day.

The Pope is right. The Pope is wrong. The Pope is mostly right, but probably wrong about this. There is no Pope. The real Pope reigns from a truck stop in Del Rio, Texas. The Pope is the Antichrist. The Church in Rome has never contradicted herself. The Church has ceased to exist. That's impossible, so the Church exists somewhere, but hidden. No, Orthodoxy was the real Church all along. Well, what do you know? The Protestants had it right, after all. 

The very best Catholics in the world are questioning the Pope. More Catholic than the Pope used to be an insult. Now it's a compliment. Whatever else you can say about Catholics, their irony meters need a firmware update.

The Craving for Certitude

The Bear is not going to tell you who's wrong. Or right. The Bear is not saying the Pope is right. The Bear is saying that he can blog until kingdom come and keep the controversies simmering and it will not make any difference or edify a single soul.

The Bear knows what he believes, and is blessed with far more faith than he deserves. But when it comes to the minutiae of Catholic teachings from one pope or council to some other pope or council, or from one century to another, he admits to ambivalence. Believe whatever you think is right, with or without the occasional re-examination of the evidence and exercise of your God-given intellect.

"We should always be disposed to believe that that which appears white is really black, if the hierarchy of the Church so decides." - St. Ignatius of Loyola. 

Perhaps the Bear was ruined by decades of analyzing evidence as a trial lawyer. He's just not there. Not expecting 100 percent certainty about anything this side of Heaven or Hell, perhaps that is why he is worrying less, even as he continues to believe what he believes, which may or may not be what he is bound to believe, or what you believe.

Obviously, in the minds of many Catholics, this puts the Bear outside of the Church. That's sort of the point. The Bear does not share the mind of many Catholics. We are in the age of yer pays yer money and yer takes yer chances because, if there ever was Catholic certitude, it now exists only in the minds of those willing to wink at good reasons to wonder. The Bear suspects institutional certitude is not for Bears.

The intellectual and institutional history of Christianity has not been one of certitude, but claims and arguments. (This is an excellent example of how bad a Catholic the Bear is, and why you should not read anything he writes.) Blaise Pascal was a bright fellow, but his "certitude" was from a mystical experience, not derived from controversy (although the famous Catholic polymath was, among other things, a controversialist).

Year of Grace, 1654, Monday, 23 November, Feast of St. Clement... from about half past ten at night to about half an hour after midnight FIRE, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of philosophers and scholars. Certitude, heartfelt joy, peace, God of Jesus Christ. "My God and your God..." Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy... Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, may I never be separated from him.

The Pitfalls of Intellectual Certitude

The Bear sometimes thinks he will never be able to think like a human. Humans crave certitude so much they have the evolved the ability to filter out every bit of evidence that does not agree with their current position. Because they will not starve or be shot or go extinct if they're wrong about religion, nature does not correct them. 

The Bear notes an eerie resemblance between the Never Trumpers and Never Francisers. The Bear is willing to go out on a limb here and say Trump is the lawful President of the United States and Francis is the legitimate Pope of the Catholic Church. Sometimes elections don't go our way and we suck it up. Or, used to, before the internet. Now no election is ever over, whether in the U.S. or in the Vatican.

Western democracies used to understand the need for finality and moving on with it. Another funny story is the one about the Catholic who says changing teaching on the death penalty undermines the whole Church, but chucking a Pope who isn't a sage somehow doesn't impact the absolutely essential requirement for any institution to at least pretend confidence in its legitimate leadership.

But the cognitive dissonance gnaws at their minds. They see things that cannot be reconciled, so they spend a lot of time figuring out how to make everything fit. Sometimes way too much time. In the end, the only thing they can do is find a fall-back position of certitude and dig in.

Eventually, they are no longer certain of their certitude, and this or that label looks like it has fewer contradictions (except, maybe, Catholics thinking the papacy is a crock). So they find the next True Church. But, that one turns out to have problems, too, so it's on to something else. Eventually, they're out of the Church entirely. God forbid they stop before they take that last step off Evangelicalism off the cliff of atheism.

They go nuts over Amoris Laetitia and loose talk about divorced-and-remarried Catholics taking communion and become Orthodox, which is dandy with divorce and communion, too!

So, Why is the Bear Catholic?

Because everyone has to be some damned thing. Even if you put "none" on your dog tag, that's a choice. The Bear does not believe he is ever going to find the 100 percent True Church that Poses No Intellectual Challenges for Him. And his temperament does not dispose him to believe white is black, no matter who tells him so. A quibble or reservation here or there is not going to bother him overmuch, even if it makes him a bad Catholic. 

Being even a bad Catholic is better for Bear than not being Catholic at all.

He decided once that he was fed up with the Church before he decided to be Orthodox. Is there any woman who wants to be second wife only because her new husband decided he was fed up with his first one? If you leave the Catholic Church because it doesn't pass your personal purity test, the Bear suspects you may discover problems with what you find next. And with the one after that. 

The secret of happiness is lower expectations, the Bear advises from the perspective of a ripe old age.

If you are guided to the Orthodox Church because you truly believe it was always God's own plan for the world, and leave your beloved Catholic Church with reluctance, then who is the Bear to say otherwise? If you leave the Church in a snit and think Orthodoxy is "a better Catholic Church without some dopey pope or banal liturgy," like the Bear did, your experience might be similar to his. And it isn't very respectful of Orthodoxy, if you think about it. The Bear can say Orthodox don't think they are "a better Catholic Church." They think they are the Catholic Church and always have been.

The Bear's ravenous curiosity and adequate intellect is never going to find perfect rest. He is without doubt a Christian, and finds the evidence for the existence of God compelling. He derives much comfort, warning and edification from reading the Bible. He has, with a relatively brief exception, been Catholic his entire adult life. The historical bona fides of the Catholic Church are impressive. As a Bear of the West, he belongs in the Church of the West, or God would have made him St. Seraphim's Bear in Russia and not St. Corbinian's Bear. His wife married a Catholic man, and it seems rather caddish to do a bait-and-switch.

When he left Orthodoxy and returned to the Church, his thought was to find Peter. If he found Peter, he could not go far wrong by standing next to him. Well, well, well. Irony is a survivor, isn't it? But at least it is an objective marker that does not depend on the state of the Bear's digestion.

Note that none of the reasons is that he finds the kind of certitude in the Church that other Catholic bloggers seem to have. That he himself has seemed to have, but has come to realize he was fooling himself and his readers. Now, he's just glad to be here, and has given up on trying to square the circle publically or privately.

On the other hand, this has never been the "Catholic and Loving It" blog. It has always been the "Nail Your Foot to the Floor in Front of Your Favorite Pew and Die There" blog.

If the Catholic Church turns out to have been a colossal fraud, well, all the Bear has to say is that the devil managed to pull off a better fraud than God was able to make the real thing, whatever that is.

The Bear can see the bumper sticker already. 



  1. I'm so glad you joined us, way over here with the regular folks who don't feel any obligation at all to come up with answers or to solve puzzles they didn't ask for. I have watched things now for, how long has this guy been in, four years? It has become an abiding interest, I've spent hours and hours on this blasted computer, reading a number of blogs, but unlike so many others, not much of that surveying has been motivated to find out what is legitimate or "Catholic", and what has not. I can only make my best guess at that, although I do give it careful thought. If the pope is legit or he's not, I can't waste much time on that, good grief, no matter what I decide, who cares. In my younger days I might have gone off trotting to the Orthodox Church, but no, I know that grass is no greener. And I don't need it. After all these years, after all this apostasy and things that horrify us and things that cause us to lay awake and blink, I find out that while I lament with a broken heart the potential of souls lost in the world, and I pine for the beloved Church and all the good She can do, I find that what I need is Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And if they wreck the TLM, which I imagine they will do, I will stop attending there, and will stay home and read my Bible and good spiritual literature, pray the Rosary and other Catholic prayers, and endeavor to live out my life as an exile from home. It's ok, God knows where I am, when He wants to find me. Truthfully I feel more Catholic now than four years ago. I am adamantly Catholic now in a much more determined way, but primarily, I am a Christian.
    I'm glad you decided to let it go. It is far too much pressure for a bear to expect himself to be an oracle too, when all that is hoped is he will continue to write from his heart, which is more than enough.

  2. Bear will be continue to be provocative and hopefully a little more edifying. He sees a pan-blog panic attack feedback loop, not excepting his own, of course. Panic attacks are horrible, but self-limiting. The body is not made to stay in fight-or-flight mode for long. Not that intramural Catholic warfare isn't a blast, but fun is fun, and it's probably time to talk more about Jesus and less about Francis.

  3. Thanks Bear, we needed that. I little dose of humility. Down with perfectionism, live and let live, who are we to say?, etc.

    But we do have to care for what is true and make an attempt to find it even though it's painful. I guess what you are saying Bear is that we should trust that God has placed us in this morality play we call life to do the best we can and not get 'bent out of shape' in the process.

    God Bless the Bear.

    PS: Walker Percy thought himself a bad Catholic, too.

    1. I started Love in the Ruins but couldn’t get through it, although the mordantly skewed take on a fundamentally Catholic universe is thematically similar to my own novel, so you’d think... but I just don’t care for writing once I detect a “style” beyond vanilla storytelling. That’s just me, though. I’m sure if I had kept reading it would have grown on me.

    2. Bear--Could you provide a few words of explanation about your comment "but I just don’t care for writing once I detect a “style” beyond vanilla storytelling."

      Don't all writers have a style?

    3. Sure, I'd be happy to, but this is more of a personal thing rather than me holding forth on writing, just because I have happend to have written my own Catholic novel, Judging Angels, available from me & Amazon in print & ebook. (Ha, a good writer never misses an opportunity to pimp his novel.)

      You are right that every writer has a style, and, obviously, that is not only unavoidable, but part of why we enjoy the writers we like. Sometimes, though, I read a book that seems to be self-consciously "different" in a way that is very distinctive from other writers. Personally, I find that can be intrusive.

      An extreme example is Joyce's Ulysses. It is a language puzzle that goes beyond telling a story. It IS pure style, and if there's anything more, someone with more patience than I will have to figure it out.

      Just to pick a counter-example at random, Dune by Frank Herbert. I can remember the story very well, and it is very vivid and is a well-thought-out, complex exercise in world-building. However, I can't remember any particular "style," although he, like any author, certainly must have had one.

      Compare that with The Catcher in the Rye, beloved by assassins and nearly everyone else. The distinctive way of telling the story - the voice of a young man learning what it means to grow up - appeals to many. But I found it intrusive. I wind up thinking about the style, rather than the story. For the same reason, I can't read Cormac McCarthy, either.

      And Walker Percy's obsessive repetition of the word "buboes" finally grated on my nerves. It seemed to me here is a writer deliberately trying to be distinctive in some way, and, maybe because I am a writer myself and notice these things, it bothers me.

      Raymond Chandler. Oh, goodness, what a style he has! I wouldn't say his books have aged well (for the casual racism, if nothing else) but boy, when I read one of his books, I just have to forgive him and grin, because here is a writer who his having one Hell of a good time with his over-the-top hardboiled noir style! Every sentence is almost... what? A "language joke," and he's winking at the reader, not saying "Look at me!" I don't get the idea he's showing off, just saying, "to Hell with, it, hang on and enjoy the ride!"

      Chesterton is another writer with a very distinctive style. But, I find it works much better in his non-fiction than his fiction, which, other than Father Brown stories, I find difficult to finish.

      Charles Williams, an Inkling, wrote several novels with decent enough themes, but his style of writing is so dense, they, too, are hard for me to get through, although I don't think he was deliberately creating a "style," - I just think he just should have learned something from his fellow Inklings. Surely at some point they must have said, "Charles, old chap, this is really terrible." C.S. Lewis, on the other hand, is still loved because he also dealt with Christian themes, but in a plain and accessible, but very effective style. (The Screwtape Letters is obviously written in a self-conscious style, but that is part of the literary conceit - this is a devil writing.)

      So, as always, if you ask the Bear for a fish, he gives you fifty pounds of Salmon, but that's my personal feeling behind my aversion to writers who seem to me - fairly or not - to be deliberately creating a unique style, of being stylists first and storytellers second, if that makes any sense.

      And Walker Percy is famous and respected, and I'm a hack paperback writer, so who am I to criticize him?

    4. P.S. - Correction: I meant Joyce's Finnegan's Wake.

    5. ...C.S. Lewis...so good you feel you know him after reading him, and pine for his company as you would a beloved friend.

    6. If you click over to the Bear's writing blog (upper right sidebar) he talks about his own style. Funny, I've never thought about it before! I realize I write like a criminal defense lawyer in a trial. I thought that was interesting!

      But my novels end exactly the way I want, unlike my trials!

  4. Well written and very fertile ground to reflect upon, Great Bear.

    Why is Owl Catholic? Owl doesn't see "Catholic" as a thing of choice, as if one choose to wear a blue shirt or a red shirt today, but rather a thing of ontology. Owl IS Catholic like Owl IS Owl or fish is fish. The question for Owl is not whether Owl should dress as a Catholic today but rather how should Owl be more constitutively Catholic today?

    There was a time when Owl "chose" to become Catholic, however that choice only extended so far. Only the Good God could make Owl Catholic. Owl could wish all night long think all night long and act akin to Catholics but none of that could ever make Owl Catholic. Only the Good God did that for only the Good God can remake the very nature of a creature.

    1. Exactly. Bear knows what he is, even if he can't give a very good answer, and even if he can, as a practical matter, remain Catholic only by maintaining a certain distance and not being officially perfect. In other words, if I'm going to do this, I have to accept there are things I'm going to have to look at and say, "Hmm, okay," and move on. So call Bear a cafeteria Catholic or a bad Catholic or whatever. Bear does not require certitude to be comfortable. He is certain of "Mere Christianity."

      Beyond that, he's not going to get wrapped around the axle of "the Church is perfect, this statement does not jibe, how can I possibly resolve this paradox?" Bear has seen the mental gymnastics people are putting themselves through and very much doubts it would be psychologically or spiritually healthy for him to continue to try to do the same.

    2. There is not a lick that Pope Francis can do to change the Church.

      Owl has never bought into the "got to resolve the paradox". Owl finds that 'interpreting' people's theological words in a way other than what they meant does violence to the man. Owl has never had to deal with "that doesn't sound Catholic, how do I make that Catholic?" as a result. A man's words are a man's and another shouldn't subtract or add to their worth.

      Perhaps it makes Owl a bad Catholic, but interpreting another's words charitably doesn't mean make them mean what I think they should mean but rather report them accurately and convey their meaning as intended.

      Just Owl's path.

    3. There's plenty that Bergoglio can do to change the Church, and he's already done it by stating the death penalty is contrary to Sacred Scripture. By his wholesale attempts to rewrite Catholic moral teaching, he's throwing the Church into the worst crisis of faith since perhaps Arianism -- which took centuries to overcome.


    4. Landshark~

      That is only if you think the Church is Pope Francis' Church. It is not. He belongs to the Church, same as you and me, but it is not his. Pope Francis also isn't some tip of the spear revolutionary -- we are well past that point. He is just a dime a dozen South American Jesuit. No more no less.

      One you see the common place banality of it all, it is no longer scary, and you can get down to brass tacks and get to work. Nobody is coming to save you or your family. There is going to be no divine intervention, nothing but hellish hard work, blood, sweat, and tears that keep that candle of faith alive during the dark ages for those that will come after us.

      You are a landshark -- curling up and dying isn't an option. Sharks keep going and going, never stopping -- so never ever stop telling everyone you meet (including your local Priest) about Christ Crucified.

    5. Well said, wise old owl.


  5. Indeed, I do believe that some day, we may not be privy to a valid Mass nor the sacraments, at least not on a regular basis. All has been prophesied, and it looks like we are coming perilously close to that time. Unless we vow to the humanist agenda and 'religion' of the anti Church we will be barred from entering their buildings. (which we wouldn't be clamoring to enter anyway) But Our Lady said to St. Dominic: "Some day through the Rosary and the Scapular, I will save the world." Wear your scapulars and pray the Rosary EVERY DAY, and even though you have 'one foot in hell' and your sins be black as night She will rectify all and you will make it to Heaven! Even if we cannot go to Mass, Confession, Communion nor have the last rites Our Lady promised she would save us through her Rosary and her Scapular. I do believe She absolutely WILL. My H is reading a book now that kind of exemplifies this very point. In parts of Japan centuries ago the people had been converted and catechized to the faith through missionaries. After the missionaries' departure they went for 200 years without a Priest. When new Priests finally arrived, they were totally amazed that these people were still living their faith to the best of their ability. They were praying the Rosary, and living to the best of their ability the precepts of the Church. The exclaimed that: "These people are STILL Catholic after 200 years of no Priest, NO SACRAMENTS!!" God is very well aware of the circumstances His people find themselves in through no fault of their own, and HE DOES INDEED PROVIDE FOR THEM. Have no fear, He will NEVER leave us! You can take that to the bank. And the Bear is correct....Don't get out of the boat!! Stay IN THE BOAT no matter what!!

  6. I expected everyone to hate this one, so I’m surprised and pleased with the positive comments. Maybe I’m not alone in giving up making sense of everything and getting back to Christian basics. Unfortunately, that means I am putting away my pope beatin’ stick for awhile, and will have to work harder to keep things lively. Honestly, Pope Francis is one one hanging curve ball after another and it is hard for bloggers to resist taking a swing. It is just so easy to crush a piece over the fences.

    But someday I am going to have to account for every word. God forbid I am shown some poor soul in Hell and told: “This child lost her faith from reading you.”

    More Jesus, more St. Corbinian, less awful Bear.

  7. This reminds me, quite vividly, of the closing scene in Voltaire's, "Candide", a work I haven't visited in over 20 years:

    "Pangloss used now and then to say to Candide, “There is a concatenation of all events in the best of possible worlds; for, in short, had you not been kicked out of a fine castle for the love of Miss Cunegund; had you not been put into the Inquisition; had you not travelled over America on foot; had you not run the baron through the body; and had you not lost all your sheep, which you brought from the good country of El Dorado, you would not have been here to eat preserved citrons and pistachio nuts.” “Excellently observed,” answered Candide; “but let us take care of our garden.”

  8. Great post. Written with the voice of experience, from which cometh wisdom.
    btw, the post reminds me of the best definition of happiness: the difference between what you expect, and what you get.

  9. Awesome.

    Of course, I must disagree with you about Chesterton's fiction... he is so damn witty and relevant I find myself bursting out laughing a little too often, and learning something about the nature of man in the process. He is, without a doubt, my favorite author.
    Yes, and Cormac shouldn't have been allowed to own a typewriter. Or pens. Or paper.

    1. NCFOM was awesome.


  10. Da. In like 4 days. ;)

    It was fantastic, and strangely difficult to explain to my husband when I had to talk about it with someone. Did you know it sounds a little crazy out loud? Tee hee.

    1. Yes, I know. Imagine trying to write an elevator pitch for it! (Authors are supposed to be able to pitch their novel in the length of time they would have with a putative agent or publisher during an elevator ride.)

      In the sequel, I have a complete summary of the main action related by one character to another in a couple of long paragraphs. Yes, it sounds totally ridiculous.

      The reality is that it's supposed to be a jaw-dropping and audacious Turkish Seal Show not quite anything else so you don't notice the serious themes that are being presented.


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