A lot of guys can tell you stories about this girl that they liked that confided in him what a jerk her boyfriend was wherein the confidee silently asked “What about meeeee? I wouldn’t treat you like that!” But no, she stays with the jerk while saying that she just wishes that she could find a guy that’s not like the jerk at all. Some believe it happens all the time and some believe it really truly happens rarely, but whatever we believe about it, we’ve heard it.

Sometimes I feel like the whiny jilted guy when it comes to religion. As most of you know, I am a member of the Episcopal Church, which has been struggling lately. There is the recent schism, of course, but it goes beyond that. Church attendance numbers aren’t very good and growth in the United States is anemic.

Yet at the same time The Episcopal Church is precisely what a lot of people say that they want. Specifically, there is a target group that TEC seems incapable of picking off: disaffected Catholics.

Now there are two kinds of disaffected Catholics: disaffected liberals and disaffected conservatives. I haven’t much advice for the conservatives that are upset about the litergical changes of Vatican II and the like or like my Webmaster are upset about the liberal political positions that the church has taken on issues such as immigration and welfare. Other than perhaps the Orthodox Churches, they really don’t have a whole lot of options.

But the liberal Catholics are a different matter. They have the church that was founded as a reaction to the rigidity of the Catholic Church: My church. I hear a lot of Catholics complain about how the church won’t open its eyes on celibate priests, women priests, homosexuality, contraception, or a host of otherwise. Or else I hear complaints that the church doesn’t respect differences in theological opinion and has such a top-down view on everything.

These are areas in which the Episcopal Church is not necessarily perfect by their reckoning, but at the very least it’s closer to what they say they want than their own church is. Yet they continue to go to Catholic Mass (or make a point of Refusing To Go) and most are dismissive of the idea of converting to Episcopalianism.

This may sound like my simply trying to boost my own church, but it really isn’t that. It isn’t about the virtue of TEC at all. Who am I to say anything? I barely go to church myself. But what I find notable is that I’m not blaming the church for my failure to attend or going despite making a big point about how dissatisfied I am with it. If I wanted more energetic sermons I could go to a Baptist or otherwise charismatic church. If I wanted more rigid doctrine I could convert to Catholicism. But what I wouldn’t do is sit here and complain about how my church has failed me as if it were my only option.

But Catholics, like Pygmalion Girls, often prefer to seek to change what they got rather than admit what they have is not necessarily right for them. Or perhaps more precisely they (and by “they” I am referring most specifically to liberal Catholics as I concede that conservative Catholics are more limited in their options) would rather be indignant than satisfied.

This is all how it seems sometimes, though on a separate level I know that it’s not quite that simple. Catholicism is as much a tradition as a specific belief. So while on one hand it seems to me that to say that the Pope is wrong is to be a 0 in the binary world of Catholicism (in which the Pope is infallible)… on the other hand I can see Catholicism as much a tradition of heritage as it is a tradition of theology. I can move as far away from the south as can be if I find New England to be more to my liking… but it doesn’t stop me from wanting the south to correct its various faults and wherever I live a part of me will always be a southerner.

Nonetheless, it just remains frustrating to me that a great Sorting hasn’t taken place with the rabble-rousing angry conservative Episcopalians joining the Orthodox churches where they belong, liberal heretical Catholics joining the Episcopal Church, and so on and so on.

Category: Church

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5 Responses to Catholics & Pygmalion Girls

  1. Peter says:

    What might be a factor keeping liberal Catholics within the church’s fold is that Catholicism has quite a split between theory and practice. Church doctrine bans artificial contraception, to use a particularly relevant example, but church officials make no attempt to search out and expel contraceptive-users. Divorced people similarly are tolerated on a de facto basis. The issue of married and/or women priests is not really relevant to most parishoners.

  2. Webmaster says:

    Catholics trying to move to a “different” church really do have few options, and you’re pretty much right that the only two realistic ones are the Episcopal and Orthodox churches, because those are the only ones where the recognized sacraments match up.

    “Papal Infallibility” – actually, you (like most people in the world, including most Catholics) get this one wrong. The Pope is not infallible in daily life, nor infallible even when giving a sermon. “Papal Infallibility” is limited to when:

    -Giving a specific statement
    -On a specific subject
    -That is definitely a matter of Faith
    -That has been discussed and researched and agreed upon by the College of Cardinals as well
    -Phrased in a way that there can be no doubt that it is intended to be a binding, infallible doctrine for the whole Church (basically a big ecumenical “simon says”).

    On no point (as of yet) has the Catholic Church made a true “infallible” statement on any of the points I disagree with, so from that perspective I can’t simply say “fine, I’m not Catholic because I think Supposedly-Infallible Position X is a load of hooey.”

    Oddly enough, I fall into the middle of what you defined, not quite being a “disaffected conservative” or a “disaffected liberal” Catholic. To wit:

    – I think the church has its head up its rear when it comes to illegal immigration, because their position amounts to sanctioning fraud, theft, violence, and abuse of others as well as helping to shore up the abysmal and corrupt government of Mexico that should have been overthrown long ago.

    – I think the church’s position on welfare is somewhat problematic, because the church supports the (very broken) US public welfare system rather than agitating for changes that would lift more people out of poverty and into careers as productive members of society.

    – I think the church has problems justifying the celibate/unmarried priest doctrine. Quite simply, it’s something that evolved out of the moving of priestly training into monastic orders, it has no basis in scripture (in fact, it contradicts many scriptural passages), and it’s doing much more harm than good these days.

    – I’m not sure on women priests. I see where the Catholic church has a problem the episcopal/anglican crowd and even Orthodox don’t, in that the Catholic church is worldwide and thus lacks the luxury of compartmentalization. If the Anglican/Episcopals have a difference of opinion, they have split (this has resulted, sometimes, in a few A/E churches coming back to the Catholic fold and actually created an exception whereby married Anglican priests were allowed to stay married, and remain priests within the Catholic church, when they came back).

    Meanwhile, while the Europeans and Americans would be (mostly) happy with female ordination, the Asian and African churches would probably face holy hell from their constituencies, and might even drive people away into misogynist religions like Islam.

    -As far as homosexuality, the church’s position hasn’t changed: it’s “go, and sin no more[John 8:1-11]” not “have fun and keep sinning.” They are also very clear that homosexual thoughts/urges are not sinful, but that acting upon them is most definitely a sin.

    If it is your view that homosexual acts are not a sin, then as such you are actually in contradiction of one of the Church’s “infallible doctrines” (see above on Papal Infallibility), and that’s something that simply isn’t subject to change.

    -As far as contraception: a lot of churches actually have this sort of doctrine on paper. They just don’t talk about it much.

    I will say this: the Catholic church is at least consistent (in modern times) on one score, which is their position that no human has the right to take the life of another human, from conception to natural death. I don’t agree with said position, but I can respect it.

    On the other hand, having attended both types of Mass, I greatly prefer the changes brought about by Vatican II.

  3. Gannon says:

    You won a lot of points with me today webmaster. You are right: the Pope is infallible in church doctrine, but not on eartly matters: {Webmaster: comment edited for relevance’s sake. Will has been very clear on this.}

  4. Webmaster says:


    Church doctrine typically holds that it’s the responsibility of people to admit to – and atone for – their sins on their own. Only in extreme cases (mostly where someone is extremely publicly contradicting Catholic doctrine, like public officials who make speeches pushing for legalization of abortion) will the Catholic church make a public stand such as denying them participation in Communion.

    The other portion of the Catholic church’s bit on contraception is that contraception/contraceptive devices for the purpose of contraception are not allowed, but contraception for other medical reasons is.

    So, if you are medically advised not to have children (my mother was after three successive C-sections), or a doctor has prescribed hormonal therapy (read: The Pill) in order to help you deal with debilitating monthly cramps, or for some other medical reason you need a contraceptive of some sort, then the Catholic church is okay with it. Since you have to have a prescription to be on the pill anyways, most Catholics in America tend to go with it on that one.

    On divorce, it gets a little weirder. Someone who’s gone through the civil ceremony of divorce isn’t considered divorced in the Catholic church, presuming their marriage was sanctioned in the Church to start with. “Ending” a Catholic marriage actually requires an annulment, or declaration by the Church that for whatever reason, the sacrament of Marriage was not actually valid as performed. Usually, this requires proof that one or the other in the marriage was actually acting in bad faith (in the form of proof that they cheated on their spouse, were abusive, had another marriage either civil or in another church, or something else).

    “Divorce” is not grounds for excommunication from the church – the church recognizes that there are indeed situations where separation is necessary. People are flawed, after all.

    Where it gets tricky is when someone gets married in the church, gets a civil divorce, doesn’t get an annulment, and then goes and gets a civil remarriage anyways. At that point, the Church has a problem. As of 1983 it’s no longer automatic grounds for excommunication. Only the following things are:

    -Apostasy (leaving the church)
    -Schism (trying to split the church from within)
    -Ordaining female priests (at the moment; much conjecture even within the church exists as to whether the prohibition on female priests is infallible or not)
    -Desecration of the Eucharist (deliberately,knowingly and willingly that is, not simple accidents)
    -Physical violence against the Pope
    -A priest who attempts absolution of an adulterer (except in cases where the person is in imminent danger of death) is excommunicated automatically for abuse of his office; adultery requires more serious action from higher-ranking Church officials for absolution and should be referred to same.
    -Ordaining a bishop without Papal mandate (such as the people who ordained the “Bishops” of Communist China’s government-run shill-church).
    -Direct violation of the seal of confession by a confessor (in other words, telling others what was confessed).
    -Procurement of a completed abortion, or being a participant/accomplice thereof.

    Also keep in mind: When they say “Excommunication”, they don’t mean nobody in the church can speak to the person. Far from it, the Church really wants those people to repent, make amends, and return.

    It simply means that the person cannot participate in any of the seven Sacraments of the Church until such time as they have made their amends and the church has recognized this in an official manner.

    Adding to the intrigue, the Church has two forms of excommunication: automatic (the categories above) and as a sentence passed by Church tribunals. According to a few lawyers, Catholic politicians (most famously John Kerry) who claim they “personally” abhor abortion but support “a woman’s right to choose” are committing public heresy (see above) and thus are already under automatic excommunication, though the Church takes a while to “officially” recognize such status especially due to the strain of appearing that they are getting into exerting direct influence on civil politics.

  5. Gannon says:

    {redacted by Webmaster: I’ll thank you not to misrepresent canon law, Gannon.}

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