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I’ve been wrestling with this Catholic vs Anglican thing for a while now. I’m happily part of a thriving Anglican parish now and my wife and I are growing deeper in our relationships with Christ and each other.

But in the background I’ve continued to consider the claims of the Catholic church and wrestle with the problems of biblical authority, interpretation and so on. I’ve also paid some attention to the views of the Eastern Orthodox on the matter of the primacy of Rome.

After all of the arguments back and forth, pro and con, I think I’ve come to realize something. I can get on board with a lot of things. I could handle praying to the saints. Properly understood I know that it is simply asking saints in heaven to intercede in prayer for us just like we have people down here on earth pray for us. I see no reason why I couldn’t ask Peter or Mary or Augustine to remember me in prayer before the Lord. I don’t think it’s a requirement, but not a problem for me either. Obviously being in the Anglican church I don’t have a problem with liturgical worship. I can even handle things like transubstantiation. And though it would be a leap of faith I think I’d be able to come around to the Catholic view on contraception and related issues such as IVF.

The stumbling block that I cannot seem to get over is the Catholic position on divorce and remarriage. What makes it even more difficult is how I’ve seen annulments handled with certain prominent Catholics in politics for instance, where the bishop seems to hand out annulments like a PEZ dispenser. Meanwhile folks who don’t have that kind of influence or who don’t have a neat and tidy excuse to have their marriage annulled suffer. I know too many Godly people who love Christ and strive to follow him with all that they have who nonetheless through no fault of their own have been divorced. Either their spouse left them for a younger model, or was physically and emotionally abusive, or was a serial adulterer who’d been forgiven and taken back many times before, or sexually abused their children or the couple simply married when they were young and immature and were unprepared for what marriage requires but now one of them has gotten serious about their walk of faith…the list of reasons goes on and on. Under Catholic doctrine, unless they can show some arcane reason as to why their marriage wasn’t a “true” marriage to begin with…maybe the spouse was gay and never told them for instance…they are stuck. They can’t date and remarry and find love again unless the spouse who was at fault and left comes to their senses.

I simply can’t come to grips with that. I know what the interpretations of the passage from Matthew are according to Catholic doctrine. When Jesus said that except for sexual immorality, divorcing and remarrying is committing adultery, Protestants and Catholics see it differently. Catholics say that the Greek word “porneia” that is translated as sexual immorality doesn’t simply mean “fornication” or “adultery”, it means something more specific such as the aforementioned “secretly gay spouse” or perhaps a partner that entered the marriage already cheating on the other and having no intention of being faithful sexually in the marriage. Or it could be something more perverted. But it’s not simply having an affair.

What gives me reason to doubt the Catholic take on this is that Paul also addresses divorce in 1st Corinthians. Paul says that if an unbelieving spouse abandons a believing spouse, the believer who was abandoned is not “under bondage” in that situation any longer. What “bondage” would there be in that situation except continuing to be tied to a spouse that has left you with no intention of ever returning? Or perhaps even having remarried themselves? It would seem to me that Paul would not mention abandonment as a reason for divorce if Jesus was really restricting it just to very specific instances where a valid marriage never took place to begin with. You can’t choose what Jesus said but disregard Paul’s words because after all, Paul was speaking as the Holy Spirit directed him to speak. The letter to the Corinthians is just as binding as the Gospel of St. Matthew.

Don’t take me the wrong way, I hate divorce. I know God hates it. The best and most ideal outcome in these situations is to work to repair the relationship, bring the offending party to repentance and have a healthy marriage come out the other side. But it takes two to tango as the saying goes. I do not believe it was Christ’s intention to create a doctrinal situation where an adulterer essentially gets to put their spouse in a state of indefinite limbo while they whore around and go remarry one of their lovers.

For this reason, and the many people I’ve met over my life who are divorced for reasons the Catholic church would not deem worthy of an annulment, and who are repentant and hate that their previous marriage failed but have remarried and are committed and fully faithful to that marriage, I cannot be Catholic. I understand that to be Catholic means you sign up for everything they teach. I cannot assent to such a view.

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A book recommendation

So, it’s been quite a while since I posted. We’re still happily involved in our local Anglican parish. Nothing new to report there.

But I did want to post a book recommendation. I’ve always had a bit of difficulty praying in front of or with other people. I’m not otherwise shy, but for some reason prayer for me has always been a private thing and group prayer meetings were a struggle. Truth be known, regular prayer and devotional time with my wife wasn’t any easier. I find myself stammering or repeating myself too much, using a lot of “Christianese” and such because I’m too self conscious. I could muddle through in a pinch, but was never comfortable in my own skin doing it. This could be one reason that I enjoy the liturgy at church so much. The prayers in the Book of Common Prayer are beautifully written and “losing myself” in the liturgy and then inserting my own personal petitions during the times of silent prayer give me much needed structure and focus for the overall prayer time. But the BCP isn’t the easiest thing to incorporate into personal or family prayer times to me.

But I got Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals as a gift this past Christmas and my wife and I started using it in the mornings before the kids wake up. It’s really been wonderful. It works much like a morning or evening prayer you might find in a local Anglican or Catholic parish with call and response prayers, responsive readings from the Psalms, a “lectionary” of Old Testament and New Testament passages to read and short devotional passages that usually foces on a notable Christian or event in church history. The format is definitely best for groups or a couple, but I have used it alone a couple of evenings as well.

One caveat that some might be bothered by, though I wasn’t: a few of the devotional passages will touch on a political issue that corresponds to that day in history. Most probably wouldn’t register as an issue for people, but a couple like a positive reference to the Kyoto Protocol or a reflection on Gandhi might raise an eyebrow for more conservative readers. I didn’t have a problem with either in context but just letting you know they are there. The vast, vast majority are about various notable Christians.

Also, so far I’ve only run into one day where I felt like the prayers were a bit too hip for their own good. Most are classic and beautifully written, but there was one talking about peace where instead of the classic line “beating their swords into plows”, we got “turning their guns into tractors” or some such. A minor ding on the book in the grand scheme of things.

At any rate, there’s my recommendation. My wife and I finally have a morning prayer time together and it has deeply enriched our lives. I’m not sure if it would have occurred without the help of a book like this to give us a framework of sorts to work within. I highly recommend the book for people used to liturgy or those who might like to dip their toe in the water of liturgical prayer.

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Lord hear our prayer for Michael. We need a miracle.

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-update—32310

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Well, I’m still alive folks. Sorry about the lack of posting, but it’s just been hard to get on here and do anything in depth.

A quick update though. The Methodist church we’ve been attending has been going through some turmoil of sorts. Nothing catastrophic, but some of the teaching pastors are moving on to new endeavors, there’s been a issue with the children’s ministry that we’re just not satisfied with, even after approaching the leadership and talking things through with them. So we’re likely moving on to another church soon.

At first, I thought my wife was ready to go back to the Anglican church again because of some encouraging conversations with a member I know there regarding their children’s and youth programs. She hinted that the next Sunday could be our last where we are and then we could talk to my friend about meeting up with them at the Anglican church the following Sunday. But alas, I think she got cold feet and she wants to wait until they’re in their new building (the original plan). I was hoping we’d get to celebrate the advent season there but it’s not to be. Keep us in your prayers. This is a difficult transition time for us.

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I sat listening to the President last night deliver what I believe to be a long overdue speech on health care and the direction he wants a proposed bill to go.  My wife and I have talked about this some and I told her almost from the get-go that he was making a mistake not to hand Congress at least the skeleton of an actual bill to work from, instead allowing that bickering bunch to cobble something together on their own.  People need direction and Congress has demonstrated they are incapable of rising above party ideology to get anything significant accomplished.  But anyway, I thought Obama delivered the speech well and did a good job of explaining why health care reform is needed.

First of all, I’ll reveal my biases, both past and present.  I’ve grown up Republican.  I’ve never voted for a Democrat for President and can’t think of one I would have supported in the elections that have occurred in my lifetime.  My default switch is set toward finding a way for private entities and the free market to solve problems.  In my experience, when the government takes over something, it tends to get mired down in red tape and bureaucracy, is terribly inefficient and doesn’t deliver the same quality of service as a private entity does.  On the other hand, health care seems to be in a totally different category than other things for me.  I have a hard time believing that if someone posed the question “Is health care a right or a privilege” to Jesus, that He’d come down on the side of  “privilege” and expect people who can’t afford decent insurance coverage to just go bankrupt or throw themselves on the mercy of a (hopefully) charitable doctor or hospital.  So to that end, I believe universal health care coverage is a worthwhile and noble goal.  I’m just not sure how to get there.  The systems in Britain and Canada don’t impress me because as with all things that are free (or at least are perceived to be free since there’s no transaction at the point of service), supply can’t keep up with demand and rationing begins either in the form of long waits or some treatments simply being unavailable.

So when President Obama talked last night I found myself agreeing with him on a lot of what he said.  Those of us who have health insurance are still seeing it increase by way too much each year.  There are the headaches with “gotcha” clauses in the coverage.  People get dropped over technicalities when it appears the insurance is about to have to cover some expensive treatments.  A person changes jobs and their new health plan won’t cover them because of a preexisting condition that the previous employers plan was covering.  Coverage is expensive even when the employer pays most of the cost, so people who don’t make enough money can’t afford coverage.  Others work for employers that don’t offer coverage at all.  The self employed find it extremely expensive to pay for a good health plan.  It’s a tough situation.  And I thought he did a good job of compromising and being pragmatic as to how to achieve what he laid out as his ultimate goals, drawing from ideas originating on both sides of the political aisle.

But in the end, we have to look at cost.  Almost $1 trillion over the next 10 years.  And such estimates are notoriously low when it comes to major government spending programs.  Even assuming that Obama’s figures are right on the money, can we actually pay for this simply with cutting out waste, fraud and abuse and increasing efficiencies in the current health care system?  No tax increases?  Really?  Not sure I believe that.  And if the projections for the next ten years of cost are accurate, how do we avoid the bloat and explosion of growth in costs that inevitably seem to follow government programs that have been around for a while?  Because such programs are also notoriously hard to get rid of once they’re in place and people are dependent on them.

I’m all for insuring everyone in a manner they can afford and gives them good coverage.  I do think that Christ would have us figure out a way to help “the least of these” in such a manner if it’s within our power to do so.  But the question is, is it really within our budget and capabilities to pull it off without demand vastly outstripping supply, the quality of care overall going down and the costs shooting through the roof?

What do you think?

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We had a death in the family this past week and things have been rather nutty. I’ll finish my thought started with the last post in the next few days.

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