That quote taken from Matthew Archbold's relevant piece, a quote I'll come back to in moments (so bear with me).
A few days ago, the WaPo covered the story of Catholics in the Diocese of Arlington refusing to sign a pledge committing themselves to Catholic teaching prior to signing up to be Sunday School teachers of children:
Kathleen Riley knows her beliefs on the male-only priesthood and contraception put her at odds with leaders of her church. But as a fifth-generation Catholic who went to a Catholic school and grew up to teach in one, Riley feels the faith deeply woven through her. So when her Arlington parish asked for volunteers last summer to teach Sunday school, she felt called by the Holy Spirit to say yes.
A year later, the 52-year-old computer scientist feels the same spirit calling her to say no.
Last month, Riley joined at least four other Sunday school teachers and resigned from her post at St. Ann’s parish after a letter arrived at her home requiring her — and all teachers in the Arlington Catholic Diocese — to submit “of will and intellect” to all of the teachings of church leaders.
Although the St. Ann’s teachers represent a tiny fraction of the diocese’s 5,000 Sunday and parochial school teachers, the letter went out to parishes just as classes were finishing for the summer and diocese officials says they do not know how many teachers have received it.
The Arlington Diocese, which includes nearly a half-million Catholics across northern and eastern Virginia, is one of a small but growing number that are starting to demand fidelity oaths. The oaths reflect a churchwide push in recent years to revive orthodoxy that has sharply divided Catholics.
Terry Mattingly at GetReligion made some interesting points when covering the story:
Let’s start with three basic observations, after mulling over the contents of this story:
(1) It appears that liberal Catholics listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Conservative Catholics prefer, for some reason, to listen to fallible men called “bishops.”
(2) The Post seems to love, love, love believers whose approach to doctrine and church history mirrors that of the modernized Episcopal Church, especially when those people are billed as reformers in the Roman Catholic Church.
(3) Based on years of reading Post coverage of the many doctrinal battles between liberal and conservative Episcopalians, it appears that it absolutely crucial for conservative Episcopalians to obey their liberal bishops (and everyone heads to secular courts if they cannot work things out), but it isn’t terribly important for liberal Catholics to obey their conservative bishops, even when those bishops are acting in obedience to that Bishop of Rome guy.
The press' coverage on this is typically thin but especially so when it comes to understanding Catholicism. No surprise. The faith is deep and not subject to the shallowness so pervasive in what passes today as critical thought, especially that thought so often expressed by the culture's progressive know-it-alls.
During my many years as a Episcopagan--yes, that's how I identified myself--, I argued that it was crucial for traditionalists in the Episcopal Church to obey the revisionist decisions of the democratically elected General Convention.
The Holy Spirit was always Do Something New and we couldn't allow obstinate worshipers of nostalgia to prevent us fromMoving Forward. The very idea that 20th century Christians would look backwards for inspiration was abhorrent.
Every decision of the GC that opened up the church to Our Future, every vote that brought us closer to the Wonders of Full Inclusion made me tingle all over!
It wasn't until I heard that the Great Process of Revision was leading us to discussions about scraping the Book of Common Prayer in favor of a three-ring binder that I began to question the Wisdom of Permanent Theological Revolution.
When I sheepishly pointed out to my fellow revolutionaries that the Great Process endangered the one thing that all of us--revisionists and traditionalists--revered, the BCP, I was told that the BCP is oppressive, exclusive, narrow, and a tool of racism/sexism/homophobia. Not only must we revise the BCP, we must destroy it to serve the Permanent Revolution!
My friends in the Church, the ones who had preached disobedience to authority and the glories of diversity, difference, and full-inclusion, shut me down and beat me with demands for silence. I learned that diversity and difference really means "diversity and difference that agrees with our agenda."
That's when I put on my swimsuit and came across the Tiber. And on this side of the river, I found more than a few Episcopagans disguised as Catholics. They did little to actually hide themselves and behaved exactly like my former friends.
They rail against institutional authority while using their institutional authority to shut down opposition. They decry the abuse of power while abusing their own power. They cast themselves as The Oppressed while happily opposing anyone who disagreed with them. And they snark against the shadowy workings of Old Men in Rome while working in the shadows as a clique all their own.
Which brings us back to where we started and words written by Mr. Archbold that puts things simply and plainly:
I know that a strong streak of "Don't tread on me" is woven into the American DNA. And there's something about oaths of fidelity that just strikes Americans as being put under someone's thumb, despite them being so commonplace.
In a weird way, I applaud these women for at least taking the oath seriously and realizing that they don't truck with Church teaching in some areas and therefore refusing to take the oath.
But on the other hand, they should realize what that says about their faith. I think many people believe they are Catholic because they were born into a Catholic family, or they went to a Catholic grammar school, or they took a Latin class in high school.
I think many people believe that they're Catholic but they build their own personal Catholic Church in which their uninformed conscience serves as their Magisterium and every whim as their catechism.
Everyone is free to do that but you can't call it Catholicism. And you don't have a right to teach children that it is.
Many of my own personal beliefs have clashed with Catholic teaching over the years. Some of them on minor points, some of them on central doctrines. But every time I've gone deeper, every time I've taken the onus of checking into them further, my position has been shown to have been flawed and the position of the Church to have been thought through, substantiated and solidly grounded.
I'm sure there are things out there I'll struggle with, things I'll clash with the Church on, it's inevitable. But one thing I can no longer do is default to the position of embracing that which would in essence create my own personal Catholic Church.
I already know that Church is deeply flawed and prone to go it's own way.