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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Arguing About Names

I read a Facebook thread today that really turned my stomach. In it some clergy from an Independent Catholic denomination had advertised that in their denomination divorced people can receive Communion. Some Roman Catholics took umbrage and tried to tell the Independent Catholics that because they weren't Roman Catholic they couldn't identify as Catholic. The Independent Catholics answered back that Romans aren't the only Catholics and pointed to the Orthodox Churches which identify as Catholic without receiving any grief from Roman Catholics. In this they were factually correct - the term "Catholic" is not the exclusive possession of the Vatican. In fact, if we don't capitalize "catholic" we now have a term which is applied to the Church universal - even in its Protestant forms. However, just because you are factually correct doesn't mean it's a good idea to throw gasoline on a fire.

The accusations from the Roman Catholic side escalated with the Independent Catholics remaining rather calm but holding their ground. The Romans attacked the Independent Catholic clergy as less than legitimate, their sacraments as invalid, their Church as no Church because in their view the only true Church is the Roman Catholic Church, and recommended they all join the Episcopal Church - apparently in their minds the equivalent of casting them into hell. It's really a tired old argument that has been rehearsed and rehashed at least tens of thousands of times both in public and in private, and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth and two questions: (1) Who cares? and (2) Does anybody believe these exchanges are attractive to anyone on the outside?

Honestly, who cares what anybody calls themselves as long as they aren't defrauding anyone in the process? I could call myself the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the only way it would bother anyone would be if they decided to let it bother them. The Roman Catholic Church and her members is no more impacted by some group calling itself The Cleveland Catholic Church than I am impacted by that decision - unless and until they decide to make a big stink about it! I could call myself the King of Wisconsin, and it wouldn't give me any more power or notoriety than I already have. The only thing people getting all upset about my self promotion would accomplish is to get me more attention, which is probably what I wanted when I anointed myself King! Only a moron would play into that game, and apparently more than a few morons can be found inside the conservative wing of Roman Catholic Church!

Meanwhile, as the two sides flung vindictive at one another I couldn't help but wonder if anyone but the most committed masochist would be attracted by their display of peeing on trees like dogs on a walk in a new neighborhood. Who would want to be a part of a Church that seemed more intent on marking its territory - whether Roman or Independent - than in reaching out in love and compassion? I thought about it for a long time, and realized the only kind of small minded asshat who would be intrigued by such childish behavior is most likely already a member of one or the other Catholic Churches. I suppose the advantage is they don't have to worry about running out of seats!

In the end, why do we care how anybody else identifies themselves - spiritually or otherwise? The answer is that we might just find our own sense of being somehow special and better than the public at large violated if someone starts using a name similar to the one that we believe makes us special. Our fragile egos get trampled, and our own insecurity flares when someone (in our mind) misappropriates our special name. Can we see that names in themselves are completely arbitrary? There is nothing inherently "Catholic" unless we can get enough people to agree on what that might be - and even then it is a purely subjective and assignment of meaning we could equally well assign to the word "umbrella." Despite that, many people are willing to fight to the death for their piece of a completely insubstantial and arbitrary definition of a random word.

Somewhere Jesus is shouting, "Get a life, would you?"

1 comment:

  1. from the very beginning whiney disciples groused about people doing miracles in Jesus' name without proper credentials. He blew them off and told them to mind their own business. What is old is new again.