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.
YOU HAVE TO BE SOME DAMNED THING.
WHY NOT CATHOLIC?