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A call for dialogue

On 5-DEC-1995 a new subscriber wrote that he was signing off because he had joined the list by mistake and considered us all heretics. John Smurthwaite, one of our members, wrote the following response:

Date: Tue, 5 Dec 1995 16:52:52 EDT
From: "John S. Smurthwaite"
Subject: Re: Leaving Vatican2 List
To: Multiple recipients of list VATICAN2

I hope, James, that you will bear with us in tolerance and love a bit longer so that we might all benefit from your perspective and concerns and that you might also understand that far from being a group of schismatics, we are a group of Catholics who love our church, its doctrines and traditions. Certainly not all who subscribe to Vatican II are of the same ilk; there are a great number of viewpoints, some obviously more radical that others, some clearly more conservative, but from my experience the spirit of the list is one of love and devotion.

As a trained medievalist my involvement with the institutional church is a daily professional concern. My studies, which have brought me into contact with both the devout and not so devout, have taught me to respect and also cherish our traditions. My studies have also helped me to understand why one of the most common images, "types," used to identify characteristics of Mother Church, was Rahab the whore, the helpful prostitute of Jericho. The religious scholars, theologians, regulars, cloistered, etc. understood just how the "chaste whore" was a perfect image of the church. She is imperfect but redeemed. I have taken this type into my personal understanding of my my beloved institution and used it to guide much of my thinking about all that has grown up around and often in seeming opposition to the simple doctrines and practices of Jesus of Nazareth. The church isn't perfect and we shouldn't expect it to be. Nor is she immaculate and changeless. And often, just as the whore, she needs to be chastened. (Dear sisters, please forgive this bit of historical analysis. It in no wise reflects my view of women in the church, but rather to us ALL, and especially to institutions and beliefs that are AT BEST tangential to my faith in God.

It also took a good Protestant historian, Jaroslav Pelikan, in his book, _The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600)_, to flesh out this notion of Institution and help me understand that love, faith and devotion often lead us to question traditional practices and answers and to seek new solutions. Pelikan wrote (p. 9) that "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living." Vatican II [the council II :)] gave us all reason, authoritative reason to examine our faith, from top to bottom, and let new light shine on the institutions of the church that had been formed and informed by centuries of very human and not always christ-like concerns (such as power, greed, jealously, the siege mentality of the counter reformation, etc.).

In short, I learned to maintain my love and faith, while increasing my understanding that church meant ME, meant my family, meant the community of faithful and not an ever-growing body of laws and decrees and encyclicals, bulls, etc., which often tend to hinder worship and faith than help. Through it all I have learned that despite what our institution would have us believe, our capacity to understand the things of God increases over time; just as our potential to understand nature has increased and helped inform our judgments and understanding has been influenced by science and technology and reason, so too has out ability to understand God! There are, in short, no final opinions as long as we are in this mortal state, no conclusive truths beyond belief in God, in his son, the resurrection, the need for sacraments and the life to come. Why do we think that 13th century canon lawyers understand our predicaments better than we? Why do we think that 14th century (or earlier) theologians, using the logic of their age, using the rhetoric and language of their age, understand God and god's workings among us better than we? I strongly believe in revealed truth, but not infallible truth. That is, revelation will come to the Church, to the body of faithful, to all believing Christians, according to our ability to understand and learn, to question and listen. This is the most exciting time I can imagine! And why not? It's OUR time. We must live in our world and among our challenges and worries. God is speaking to us about or concerns.

The Whore of Jerico is in constant need of chastening, or constant need of reformation. To do otherwise would be to deny the Spirit. Schismatics? I don't think so. Concerned and caring children of a loving Father who believes in waiting upon God to answer our knocks, our calls, our seeking minds would better, at least from my experience on this list, describe this membership.

Please stay and share with us.

Yours in Christ,

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