Hey everyone. I’m a new poster.
I’m a 28 year-old Catholic guy. I converted to Catholicism when I was 16, got baptized and confirmed and received first communion all in one go. I’m extremely well-read in Catholic theology – I’m ASD/Aspergers (yes, diagnosed) and theology is one of my obsessive interests. I was a daily communicant in college (when such a thing was possible) and I spent a year in seminary for the Diocese of Brooklyn, which I left due to the aforementioned autism making it an incredibly unpleasant experience, especially as it had not yet been diagnosed and I didn’t have what I suppose you might call the proper support. I’m an incoming graduate student in theology at Boston College.
All of that is to establish some credentials; I’m not a poorly-educated Catholic who wishes the church allowed abortion or didn’t teach that there was any such thing as truth or whatever. I take my Catholic faith exceedingly seriously as much as I can, I give great care to its teachings as much as I can, and, for what it’s worth, I really dig the pope.
So why am I considering becoming Episcopalian?
Honestly, I’m not even sure how to answer that, and that’s part of why I’m writing, to sort of hash it out and see what’s going on, and bounce some ideas around. See what’s up. Hope you guys are game.
Off the top of my head, I’d start with the following issues I’ve developed over the last few years.
- I’m not wholly sure I agree with the celibate, male-only priesthood, something that has developed over the last year-and-a-half of attending both mass and services at an Episcopal church with my Episcopalian fiancee. The female ministers there have proven exceedingly skilled at what they do, really just being spectacular ministers of the Gospels, who bring a pretty different perspective that I’ve found pretty refreshing. I’m well aware of the Church’s sacramental theology, about how the priest “stands in” as it were for Christ in a particular way which is understood as requiring physical male-ness, but it’s an argument I’m not wholly I find especially convincing anymore. Beyond that, the argument in favor of Christ having only chosen male apostles seems to hold as much weight as Paul never telling anybody to free their slaves.
Further, I am increasingly of the opinion that a married priesthood would be a valuable addition to Catholicism’s arsenal, and would do marvels by opening up the priesthood to a vast swathe of the population who had discounted it entirely. Those who say that the priestly ministry is designed in such a way as to make a married priesthood impractical need only be pointed to the numerous denominations – including some of our own autocephalous churches that employ a married ordained ministry quite successfully – to know that that is not the be-all and end-all of the argument. Obviously it can be done, and can be done very well, and our reluctance to try it is because we hold the delibate priesthood as a marker of Catholic identity.
- I find myself very uncomfortable with some aspects of Catholic teaching, perhaps not the usual ones. I have immense, immense difficulty with how we treat Mary officially – not even the sort of insane folk religion that surrounds her, but full-on doctrinal pronouncements. I’m at the point where if, as some would have it, Mary is ever proclaimed Co-redemptrix, I might simply bolt. I couldn’t accept that, I don’t think. I find much of the cultus surrounding her deeply upsetting. I think the rosary is treated like a magical charm, and the scapular, too. Prayers uttered like spells and glamours. The extent to which this goes on is very troubling.
I understand that maybe I just don’t get Mary. I’ve read True Devotion, and found it, aside from its baroque prose, pretty much everything I don’t like about Marian devotion distilled into a barely-readable tract.
In addition, while I like the pope, and even the papacy more or less, while I believe the pope to be the core and center of Christianity and the arbiter of Christian practice, infallibility really bothers me. Beyond the relatively late date for its claiming, and the intense controversy surrounding its adoption, the very idea of supernatural protections being handed to an institutional body which is itself historically contingent makes very little sense to me. Don’t get me wrong! I’m a big believer in sacred tradition, and I really dig how Yves Congar describes it as that which interprets the Scriptures and which is corrected by them, but I’m not sure how an infallible authority fits into that. To me, it seems we have a self-policing system; controversy will never, ever disappear, but the tradition checks one sort of excess, and the Scriptures another. The teaching body of the Church is the means by which it does this, expressed either corporately through ecumenical or regional councils/synods/whatever, or through the juridical authority of individual bishop, running as high as Rome. I don’t see where infallibility becomes any more necessary than simple obedience to authority.
Basically, neither infallibility of the ordinary magisterium nor of the extraordinary magisterium of the pope seem especially useful, necessary, or justified either from Scripture or Tradition.
I want to stress I am expressing some level of doubt on the matter, and have not reached a firm judgment in the negative.
[continued below because it wouldn’t let me post the whole thing in one go]