Monday, December 09, 2013

(Old) Catholic Thoughts on the Feast of the Theotokos

When I started The Wild Reed in May of 2006 it was to share "thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective." This remains true today as it was back then. However, over the years I've discovered that the "Catholic" is actually more Old Catholic than Roman Catholic. I have my good friend Bob, an Old Catholic priest whom I first meet back in July 2007, to thank for this discovery. Bob recently married his longtime partner John. (Yes, Old Catholicism, despite its name, is a very progressive, inclusive, and thus authentic expression of Catholicism!) Currently, Bob is serving as an Old Catholic military chaplain in Kuwait. (Yes, a married gay Catholic priest serving openly in the U.S. military. When I first met Bob in 2007, this was pretty much unthinkable. How far we've come in such a short time!)

In short, thanks to Bob and in particular his authoring of the book on Old Catholicism in America, I've come to understand and greatly appreciate Old Catholicism and the ways it aligns with and differs from Roman Catholicism.

I share all of this as a way of introducing the following reflection that Bob wrote earlier today and shared on Facebook. It's a reflection on the feast of the Theotokos (Mary the Mother of God), a feast that Old Catholics, Orthodox, and Roman Catholics celebrate today.

Old Catholics and Orthodox view Mary's role differently from the Roman Catholic Church, theologically speaking.

The use of the term "the stain of Original Sin" is exclusive Roman Catholic Church terminology and is NOT the language of Old Catholic or Orthodox Christians.

The Old Catholic and Orthodox doctrinal belief is we are all born into a sinful world made sinful by the Fall/Pride of Adam. No one is or ever has been conceived and born with a “stain” resulting from Adam’s sin. In her lifetime, the Blessed Virgin Mary chose the good and holy with the help of the Holy Spirit. The most perfect example of this is when she allowed the Holy Spirit to overshadow her at the annunciation.

Because Roman Catholic doctrine teaches that all people bear the stain and guilt of original sin from the moment of their conception in the womb, the Roman Catholic Church had to devise a “Doctrine of Immaculate Conception” (a product of the infallibility doctrine) to confirm that the Holy Mother was sinless because, the Vatican rationalized, our Lord could not be born of someone sinful.

The Old Catholic and Orthodox way (because there is a strong emphasis of Christian freedom of conscience in both churches) assert that the immaculate conception doctrine makes Mary different from the rest of humankind; it makes her not fully human because she was not by her own choice sinless but by the will of God. If Mary were sinless by God’s choice, not hers, then by virtue of the fact that she was as fully human as all of humankind is and has been, then God could make us all sinless and take away the free will given to us by our being created in His image and likeness. The immaculate conception is altogether a different teaching from that of the Early Church fathers about Mary's importance in God's plan of salvation.

For further reading, see Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, by Blessed John Maximovitch, published by Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, CA.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Old Catholic Church: Catholicism Beyond Rome
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 1)
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 2)
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 3)
Robert Caruso's Scholarly Introduction to Old Catholicism
The Declaration of Utrecht
Celebrating the Dormition of Mary
Celebrating the Risen Christ – Old Catholic Style
Robert Caruso on the Pentecost Rainbow Sash Presence at the Cathedral
An Old Catholic Perspective on the Roman Hierarchy's "Dumbing Down" of the Catholic Church
An Old Catholic Perspective on the Papacy
Adventures in Mississippi River Bluff Country

Image: Theotokos of Vladimir.

1 comment:

Paula said...

Thanks for this note from Robert. I am happy for him and Jon. Interesting about the Old Catholic view of Mary's sinlessness. I wonder how the Old Catholic Church thinks of the "sin of Adam" in the light of evolution? I also wonder if there is an Old Catholic "magisterium" or if Old Catholics are free to theologize about original sin and what that means for being human?