Orthodox plus Non-Orthodox equals One Catholic Church

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Judging by their letters to the editor, Joe Wemhoff [Seeking fewer dissident Catholics, Viewpoints, July 6] and Virginia Seuffert [Orthodox Catholics produce more vocations, opposite page], seem to believe that if all Catholics were orthodox, the Church would be pure and perfect. It's just a matter of memorizing the doctrine and the rules, then strictly obeying. Simple. No mess.

If someone strays, there are consequences, of course, but if properly repentant, the prodigal sheep would be welcomed back into the fold. Chronic offenders, regrettably, must be cast out into the darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. If you don't want to be part of this very exclusive club, you're free to leave. Don't let the church door hit you on the way out.

Orthodox Catholics need things highly structured and very clear-cut. For someone like me, it's a straitjacket that smothers spirituality. For them, it's the friendly confines within which they lead their religious lives, secure in their certainty.

I respect their approach to Catholicism because I believe there are many ways to be a "good" Catholic. They, however, insist one approach (theirs) fits all. Extreme orthodoxy demands strict conformity, and to maintain that conformity you must impose it.

Which is why proponents can sound so haughty, even scornful toward the rest of us. Consider a quote from the Chicago section of the New York Times the Sunday before last by Rev. Anthony Brankin, pastor of St. Odilo in nearby Berwyn: "Really, when you think about what has happened in modern society, who but aging feminist nuns and their hangers-on clerics even cares whether women should be priests or not?" Ignorance and arrogance make a particularly nasty mix.

Wemhoff, in his July 6 letter, states that the Catholic priest shortage is "artificially contrived." That, no doubt, would come as a surprise to overworked priests or the many parishioners around the country who don't have a pastor. I guess it's all in their heads.

Seuffert, meanwhile, assures us that if everyone were orthodox, there would be a lot more vocations, just like the good old days before Vatican II — the golden age of orthodox Catholicism. And she's right.

The problem is, a large portion of the Catholic Church is not orthodox, doesn't want to be, and doesn't want priests who are.

Until the next ecumenical council rolls around, Vatican II remains the official position of the Catholic Church. And at the core of that council are two principles that undercut excessively rigid orthodoxy:

1) The Church is defined as "the people of God," not just as the institutional hierarchy, and

2) The individual Catholic's conscience takes precedence over all other forms of earthly authority, including the Pope. This principle is known as "primacy of conscience."

Granted, conscience should be "informed" by the teachings of the Church (the "magisterium"), but that guidance does not ultimately override or overrule an individual's conscience.

Orthodox Catholics cannot conceive of any person's conscience opposing official Church teaching because they believe the Church is never wrong. But the Catholic Church once condoned slavery. It insisted that the sun revolves around the Earth, in spite of all scientific evidence to the contrary. And many of the 95 criticisms that Martin Luther hammered to that church door in Germany at the start of the Protestant Reformation were right on the money. For most of its history, the institutional Church has been deeply corrupt and frequently wrong. Anyone who is a student of Church history knows that.

Currently, although the Church holds that artificial birth control is wrong, the consciences — and practice — of the vast majority of individual Catholics (orthodox and non-orthodox) hold otherwise. The present pope says the ordination of women is a sin. The majority of Catholics say that, according to their consciences, sexism is a sin.

Orthodox Catholics would say any conscience that disagrees with the Church hierarchy is not informed enough. The rest of us would say that subjugating one's conscience to hierarchical decrees makes you just as guilty when the hierarchy turns out to be wrong.

When the pedophilia scandal broke, the hierarchy chose to protect the institution instead of protecting the victims. They did so because they define the Church as an institutional structure, not as the people of God. As a result, they violated not only the spirit but the letter of Vatican II.

Orthodox Catholics reject primacy of conscience because they oppose all dissent, informed or otherwise. Effectively, therefore, they too stand in opposition to Vatican II, which encourages dialogue and discussion at all levels in the Church.

Wemhoff and Seuffert seem to think non-orthodox Catholics are lazy and uninformed. If only we were better educated, we would see the error of our ways.

Be careful what you wish for. Non-orthodox Catholics aren't lazy and they're a lot smarter than you give them credit for. I agree Catholics, in general, need to learn more about theology and Church history, and I urge all the laity to do just that because it will confirm how far off track the pre-Vatican II Church was, how badly we needed the Vatican II reforms, and how badly we need them still.

I urge all lay Catholics to learn as much as possible, especially about the years 1962-65. The 50th anniversary of Vatican II is coming up in October of 2012. There's just enough time to bone up. I have an excellent reading list to recommend if you're interested.

In the meantime, I'm tired of hearing orthodox Catholics tell the rest of us that we're not good enough Catholics — or not Catholics at all. They need to recognize that there are other, equally valid ways to be a "good" Catholic. This is a universal Church, not a country club with select membership.

I have no difficulty respecting John Paul II Catholics as long as they respect John XXIII Catholics. The Vatican II Church is big enough for both.

If you can't live with that, then a divided Church is entirely your responsibility.

Anytime you want to rejoin us, however, we're here to welcome you with open arms.

Email: ktrainor@wjinc.com

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john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 6:47 PM

Dan, please Dan - Can there be a moratorium on Ken's lectures so I can take some Theology course and participate. How about some Jewish, Jehovah's Witnesses,Buddist,etc. dogma interpretation during the moratorium? As a practicing Catholic I am sick of Ken and his posters never ending discussion of Catholic Church policy.

Dutch Elm  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 6:22 PM

I am so tired of Ken's BS. The next generation of Catholic leaders -The Millennials - are very traditional. Ken and his cohort are fading away. PLEASE READ: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-08-14-millennials-religion-catholic_n.htm?loc=interstitialskip

Gerry from Derry  

Posted: August 12th, 2011 12:27 PM

Thanks for your comments, Lumen. You have succinctly backed up the point that I was making. The Christian Sabbath evolved from the Judaic Sabbath without replacing it. Although Christians are not bound by the Mosaic laws of the OT, there is still an onus on them to worship the Lord Their God on the designated day i.e Sunday(Christian Sabbath)


Posted: August 12th, 2011 10:01 AM

epic, guessing from the arrogant way you treat fellow commenters, I doubt you listen to Jesus very much. Garret is pointing to a moral principle here, also touched on by Phil: "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's". Going to Church on Sunday is the second part. The reason it's Sunday instead of Saturday is because God led His Church in that direction so clearly it's cool with Him.

epic lulz  

Posted: August 12th, 2011 12:06 AM

"I was just explaining..." No, Garret, you were caught trying to be a big theological bully, when really you have no effing idea what you're talking about, and now you're tap dancing as fast as possible, hoping to distract us. And I'm sure I speak for most when I say it's all quite entertaining. Oh, and in case you missed it, you're still going to hell. Jesus tells me to tell you, "Ha ha!"


Posted: August 11th, 2011 11:49 PM

Garrett et al, given that the Christians of the time were Jews, your understanding of the changes regarding the day of Sabbath observance is not quite complete. I encourage you to read the material offered at the site of the link I previously sent out. Also, there is what is called the Noahidic code. That link is:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Laws_of_Noah


Posted: August 11th, 2011 11:31 PM

Please read the literature offered via the following link. It will give you insight into the changes made to the Sabbath day observance question: http://www.logosapostolic.org/bible_study/RP208-5SabbathtoSunday.htm?gclid=CMPgiJj0yKoCFQfd4AodkAq-yg


Posted: August 11th, 2011 11:04 PM

Neither shall you desire your neighbour's house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. UNLESS THEY ARE RICH, THEN YOU CAN COVET THEIR INCOME

Garret from Derry  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 10:33 PM

I was just explaining that since the earliest centuries that Christians have kept holy the Sabbath day, namely Sunday. It is both a day of rest and worship. People will have their own routines concerning Sunday. A lot of Christians will attend a service of worship of some kind while others will use it as a day of rest. It is just ingrained in me to expect followers of Christ to give praise to Him on Sunday.

Jg Morales  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 9:58 PM

@Garret- You stated very plainly that Phil would be defying the Creator who made him by not keeping the weekly sabbath, quoting Exodus. Now you say you don't have to follow the OT law but "in principle" you should? Which one is it? These are the types of things that put people at odds with the church. Revelations 3:16. Unless you were just yanking his chain... You told a man he was doing wrong in they eyes of G-D according to the OT, only to say "Well, not really, but kinda." If you're gonna go for the jugular, remember to sharpen your knife first.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 7:41 PM

Check out the film "Religoulous". It's Bill Maher's take on many of our religious beliefs.

Garret from Derry  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 7:03 PM

Sorry to disappoint you, epic. You are either misunderstanding or distorting my words. My main point was concerning the impact that the coming of the Messiah had in the NT for observance of Christians of the 10 commandments as contained in the Mosaic law of the O.T. I made the relevant point that as the 10 commandments were strictly speaking for Jewish observance that technically Christians were not under them. But I further stated in principle that Christians should follow them which I do.

epic lulz  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 4:41 PM

I'm glad to see Garret finally admit that he doesn't actually bother following the Ten Commandments. Few Christians are anywhere near as honest. What this also means is that we can ignore every bloviating theological argument that he has made is this thread so far.

Garret from Derry  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 3:16 PM

I see what you mean't by my quotation from Exodus regarding the Sabbath. I should have qualified my comments regarding this, vis-a-vis Christian obligations. The Ten Commandments were set specifically by God for His Chosen people and Christians are technically not ruled by them. But in principle they should follow them as by extension they are joined to the same roots as Judaism by the birth, life, death and Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 3:10 PM

Nothing like a theology debate to slow a posting day. See you all. I am switching to the Food Blog. It's more exciting than this point/counterpoint stuff.

Garret from Derry  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 2:57 PM

Hi Jg, I mean that Christians are not legally bound by the O.T laws which were really tied up with the Covenantal relationship that existed between God and the Jewish people. For Christians, this was superseded by the new dispensation granted by the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The choice of Sunday for the Christian Sabbath was never mean't to alter or erase the Jewish Sabbath. It stood on it's own intrinsic worth as the special day which marked the Resurrection of the Saviour.

David, Chicago from Chicago  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 2:51 PM

Thanks, Ken. Excellent! What astounds me is that self-styled "orthodox" Catholics actually set themselves up as an independent magisterium. Whereas canon law clearly defines what it means to be a Catholic in good standing, whereas an individual's bishop or perhaps pastor are delegated with determining whether a Catholic in their care meets those criteria, these folks seem to think that they have been appointed by God to decide whether or not their fellow Catholics are kosher or not.

Jg Morales  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 2:24 PM

@Garret - You just quoted Exodus below about the weekly sabbath, but say Christians aren't bound to the laws of the OT? Which is it? The Christian observance of Sunday came about as not to "judaize" the church.

Garret from Derry  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 2:06 PM

Well, Epic, Christian observance of the Sabbath on Sunday is connected to the resurrection of Jesus Christ while Jews observe their Sabbath on a Saturday, as it is related to the Creation story in the book of Genesis. Christians are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament and there is no mandate in the New Testament concerning observing it on a particular day. Well, Phil, rendering Caesar his due, does not mean that God can be marginalized. Caesar in turn will have to give God His.

epic lulz  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 1:21 PM

Uh, Garret, you heathen, Saturday is the sabbath, the seventh day referred to in the Pentateuch. Just ask any Jew, you know, the people who actually wrote it. Or just look at your calendar (SMTWTFSaturday). So, you see, you've been breaking God's commandments your entire life. Defying the Creator who made you. Hahah. Enjoy hell, sinner.

Phil of Ideas  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 11:45 AM

The Ten Commandments story is in the Bible, which was written by men. It is strictly your belief that it stands above other texts. More infuential, perhaps, but that doesnt make it more true or "of God." I believe in God, just not religion. To paraphrase the Bible, render unto Caesar.

Garret from Derry  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 11:15 AM

The Bible was indeed written by men under the inspiration of their Creator. It is not simply one work among many but factually the most influential religious, master-reference book of all time since it's canon of texts were unified and codified in the 3rd-4th centuries by the universal Church. Keeping holy the Sabbath day is a commandment given to mankind by God as distinct from a lenten discipline like eating Fish on a Friday. Thus there is a huge difference between them.


Posted: August 11th, 2011 11:03 AM

1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin."59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.


Posted: August 11th, 2011 11:01 AM

Re: quote2, the phrase "primacy of conscience" is never found in CCC but these are:1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.


Posted: August 11th, 2011 10:50 AM

Quote:1) The Church is defined as "the people of God," not just as the institutional hierarchy IN regard to incomplete assertion No.1 - V2 nor any other Council EXCLUDES the hierarchy from also belonging to the "people of God", neither does it state that every opinion of each person belongs on equal footing. (continued..)

Phil of Ideas  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 10:46 AM

I honor God on Sundays by enjoying the kids, which He (She?)has blessed me with. I dont usually consider it labor (usually). The Bible you quote (along with Quran, etc.)are written by man, regardless of who the writers claim inspired them. Keep Sabbath. Eat fish on Friday. What's the difference?

Garret from Derry  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 10:13 AM

Well, Phil, If you call the whole thing off, you would be defying the Creator who made you. As for treating Sunday as just another day, maybe the 3rd command in the Decalogue might help to change your priorities- "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work.90(Ex 20:8-10)

Phil of Ideas  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 9:00 AM

Orthodox. Non-orthodox. Let's call the whole thing off. The child rape scandal has taken whatever credibilty the Church has on moral issues. People don't need religion to pray and go to Heaven (or whatever you wish to call it). I mean, when's the last time you used a travel agent to book a vacation? Sleep in on Sundays and then play with your kids. God smiles on that, too.

Garret from Derry  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 8:25 AM

Ken creates the false dichotomy between a pre and post-Vatican 11 Church. Vatican 11 was not an abrupt discontinuation of the past in terms of Church doctrine or beliefs. Rather it was an Aggiornamento(updating)of the Church in terms of opening up to the wider world without compromising on her essential teachings. The divisions which exist at present has been down to the distorted interpretations of the work of this great Council by those who evoke the "Spirit of Vatican 11".

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 10:46 PM

Epic, the battle with who? One side wants to go back to pre-Vatican II. The other side wants to ensure that won't happen. There are real issues between the two birth control, women in priesthood, etc. Those issue can only be addressed by the Vatican and the Pope's conservative governors around the world. Problem is every time the Vatican foist its dull policy ax, people leave the church. Should we pursue a schism? Pragmatically No. None of us would live long enough to see the result.

epic lulz  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 9:59 PM

Kudos to Ken for continuing to battle on this front.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 9:57 PM

The Catholic Church has an incredibly wide range of churches in Chicago. They range from pre Vatican II to post Vatican II reform. For example; St John Cantius offers a religious experience that is as close to pre Vatican ll as possible and Old St. Pat's religious experience would not be recognized by anyone who went to church in the 50's. Between these two churches is nearly 190 churches with an incredible variety of Cath. cultures & religious expression. All use the same path to Hea

Linda from California  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 9:12 PM

Amen, Amen I say to you Ken. I see division in my Catholic Faith. Vat 2 vs Orthodox. Respect & treat each other kindly. Trust the Holy Spirit to work on the devout souls and pray for unity. We are so blessed to live in a country which allows us to worship as a group. Do not take this for granted! God Bless You

Defending the Church from Oak Park  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 6:43 PM

As a young man I thought that the Church's view on birth control was foolish too. As an older man, I regret this view. If I would have followed Church teachings, I would have married earlier and enjoyed more of a most human experience - raising kids. What is greater than witnessing the miracle of life and the selflessness of parenting? This also relates to the nobility of family from infant to aging elder. The Church is wise here. PC values are a poor substitute for humble Christian va

Defending the Church from Oak Park  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 6:23 PM

The Church gets a bad rap as being anti-science, when it gave birth to science. Only monotheism - a belief in an all powerful Creator - would so induce religious men to so diligently study the laws of their God. Galileo was condemned for his views years after the Copernicus hypothesis. However, he was not condemned as a heretic, but because he wanted to push his views without what some considered inconclusive proof. Therefore this was as much a scientific argument as a theological one.

Defending the church from Oak Park  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 6:06 PM

"The Catholic Church once condoned slavery." Slavery existed before, during and after Jesus' time. In fact, the Church and its influence on the West, ended slavery. No other civilization did this. Natural law (every man has a soul) was a new concept that did not exist before Christ time, and it developed from Christian teachings to ultimately end slavery. As one example, the Church championed this value thanks to men like las Casas who became the conscience of the West in the 16t

Ryan from Chicago  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 3:58 PM

I would suggest some reading too in the upcoming anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The Sixteen Documents of the Second Vatican Council would be a good start. Maybe reading the documents themselves will help people come to realize what is truly said in the Council as opposed to let's say, a "theologian" who bases his whole thesis on his interpretation of what the "spirit" of the Council means to him. We must get back to basics and read and pray over the actual texts from Our Church.


Posted: August 10th, 2011 11:30 AM

I am a convert to the faith, not a cradle Catholic. Without question the spirit and principals of V2 are what allowed me to enter the faith and are what keep me there. As a convert, I am amazed at how little cradle Catholics know of the faith and how little they question. In many ways, it seems The Church thinks it is superior to God and to His Son, and that is wrong. The words at the tomb to go and tell the good news were addressed to the women that were there. No men were present.


Posted: August 10th, 2011 10:29 AM

Ken, as a young 'orthodox' Catholic I'd like to point out that you trivialize the 'orthodox position' as you call it. Of course, even if one holds the correct doctrines and piously participates in the sacraments of the Church, one is still subject to their own concupiscence. The problem is not that people have opinions that differ from the Church; it is something deeper: the perpetual rebellion against the Church's teaching authority that cleanses us free from the lies of sin.

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