After reading yesterday’s post to my husband, Rick, he commented that readers will think I’m a Catholic. He had a point – two of my first three posts had to do with a nun and a priest; and there will be more. My life is intertwined with the Holy Roman Catholic Church. It’s true: I have incense and candlelight in my blood, Latin coursing though my axons, and Gregorian chant in my DNA. ‘Intertwined’ doesn’t quite describe it, however. ‘Locked in battle’ might be a more apt description.
I am not a Roman Catholic by definition – at least by the definitions of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, the American Episcopal Church, my mother, my brother-in-law the deacon, and countless others who embrace a more rigid rubric for righteousness in the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Michel Foucault, the French Philosopher, taught us that power carries with it the right to define. A government, for example, might erect laws which, once broken, carry a punishment. Cross the border to another country and the broken law, for which one might have been punished in the first, is of no consequence in the next. In addition there may be some confusion on whose jurisdiction (note the Latin origins of this word: law + to say) is primary. Borders and boundaries of this sort have been topics of human disagreement, argument, and war from time immemorial.
(Foucault also gives us an explanation of Bentham’s Panopticon – which internalizes the function of control. Those in control of the the system let you know that they can turn on the camera and see you at any time – so you better be good – you’ll never know if we’re watching. A rather sinister Santa Claus, so to speak. We’ll continue that idea another day.)
One has no power unless another agrees with him or her. The ‘agree-er’ subsequently exchanges independence and vulnerability for the umbrella of safety and protection of the first, and attributes to him or her the title of leader; thereby subsuming the agree-er’s right of self-definition. Not only is there ‘safety in numbers’, but ‘power of numbers’ as well. Thus Power, being intimately tied to control as well as consensus, retains the right to say by acclamation. I wonder if this principal undergirds the British expression I say! They most surely did say for a very long time in history.
If I look in my wallet, I would be a card-carrying Episcopalian (an Episco-Pal, I used to joke). That was the last denomination with whom I had congress. I have also been Lutheran (ELCA) and, for a while, considered becoming Jewish (but I missed Jesus there). As of last February, I moved on to become a member of the clergy in the Universal Life Church. But most of my life I have been an American Roman Catholic.
I am still catholic by my own definition. Just as by DNA I cannot not be Irish, I cannot not be catholic. Catholicism is the lens through which my lived experience is filtered – for better or worse. I find myself to be less reactionary to it as I age – which may be helpful as I sift through the implications of what I think I know and what I perceive to be true.
I acknowledge that I do not fit into the varying definitions of Catholic that are embraced by the people and church governments listed above. But, to quote Gandalf: “that is not for them to say.”
I believe God agrees with me.