Sunday, September 25, 2011

American religion
Echoing Hauerwas

Fr C:
In many dioceses [in Europe], there is a long tradition of the Bishop being elected by the Chapter of Canons and then ratified by the Pope. There is also the Kirchengemeinde (church association) tradition in the German-speaking countries, where the laity are very powerful in the parishes and limit the authority of the priest. Here in France, since the separation of Church and State in 1905, each diocese and parish is constituted as an association, and that implies lay participation. In the German-speaking countries, the Kirchengemeinde is often very liberal as is seen by the present schismatic tendencies in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Of itself, the church association is not inspired by Congregationalism. Congregational polity – strictly, each local congregation at “parish” level is totally autonomous and there is no diocesan hierarchy of any kind.
Theologically no problem; practically it can go very well (the grassroots traditionalism of ethnic national parishes and of the Orthodox at their best, under which system a Novus Ordo is impossible) or very badly (the liberals in the German-speaking countries).

Rome normally doesn’t run that way except in a few historical cases of lay trusteeship in immigrant parishes that were struck down with a struggle; the Slavic Greek Catholics in America did it as a hedge against the local hostile Roman Rite authorities, and when that was suppressed, that and reneging on the custom of ordaining the married caused a schism of some Ruthenians to the Greeks more than 70 years ago.

I mentioned the grassroots traditionalism of the Orthodox at their best. A wag once said that in Americanized Orthodoxy (the main, ethnic kind, not the convert kind) every parish priest is his own bishop and every parish council its own patriarch!

An aspect of the Nats (about 110-year-old Polish immigrant schism vs hostile local Irish, like many Ruthenians going to the Russians 110 years ago and to the Greeks 70) that appeals to Deacon Jim as it does, up to a point, to me: the Poles wanted to be left in peace to do what they’d always done. The troubles were and are Hodur was a liberal wacko and his schismatic church never made theological sense.

Semi-congregationalism was also, ironically given high churchmen’s high view of church authority (they thought they were a branch of the infallible Catholic Church), why traditional Anglo-Catholicism existed in some Anglican parishes unlike their bishop or the rest of their diocese.

Dr Tighe:
Some years ago an ACA bishop (whom I will not name) told me that many of his faithful, even those who go to confession regularly or who frequent Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, embrace, if not always consciously at any rate in practice, a Protestant “denominationalist” ecclesiology — as no doubt do many American Roman Catholics. Given that the religious outlook of many Americans, even those that are not particularly religious, is a kind of secularized debased Protestantism, in which America (the United States) is itself their (capital C) Church, and their denomination or congregation a kind of “religious society” which (as they seem to think or assume) ought to embody and reflect their own social and cultural outlooks and predilections, this should come as no surprise.
Fr C:
You really have hit it on the head here! I was commenting about the question of religion and culture. So-called “cultural” Catholics are known not to take religious obligations very seriously, but there is something more deeply rooted than the “American” outlook you characterise. Americans seem to be “converts” from one church to another church and so enthusiastic about everything, but rooted in little other than secular values. I don’t want to seem anti-American, as many of my friends are Americans. I have a lot of sympathy for their optimism and “let’s get on with it” approach. Our cultural religion in Europe is just about over, so what is better, enthusiastic “congregationalist” religion or cultural death in the European way?

Here in Europe, the attitude is “I’m a Catholic but not a practising one, and certainly not interested in going to church, but I would never leave the true Church”.
[What I call Bad Catholics. Not Protestants or Modernists.] It’s a one-shot deal, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

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