Where Logic Meets Love

No, "I" Don't Believe He Died Only for "Many"

Sunday, April 3, 2011

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No, 'I' Don't Believe He Died Only for 'Many' | Faith Permeating Life
Although it may not seem like it, there are actually very few aspects of what's generally called "Catholic teaching" that I disagree with.
  • I believe that we should allow same-sex individuals to marry.
  • I believe that while artificial contraceptives aren't great, they really shouldn't be the main focus of attack if our goal is for people to have a healthier, God-centered understanding of sexuality.
  • And I believe, clearly, that it's OK to seek your own best understanding of what living a Christian life means, as long as that's really what you're trying to do and you're not just trying to make things more comfortable for or easier on yourself.
(As a side note, I find it interesting that when Catholics say they disagree with what I write on here, they often have no actual basis for disagreement other than "You don't agree 100% with everything the Church says." Well, no shit, Sherlock.)

Being a good Christian, in my mind, doesn't mean waiting for the Church to tell you what to think about everything because, let's be honest, the Church doesn't always get things right the first time. No shame in that, it's just the truth.

Somehow I had missed the notice that the International Commission on English in the Liturgy had finally (after 10 years) agreed on a new English translation of the Latin version of the Mass, until an explanation of some of the changes appeared in our bulletin this weekend. Well, now you can add a few more disagreements to my list. (I should emphasize that this isn't exactly a disagreement with "the Church" or the Pope per se, but simply with the English-speaking bishops who agreed on this new translation.)

From what I can tell, most of the (negative) buzz surrounding the changes has to do with the fact that they've moved away from the vernacular into more stodgy-sounding language. That, I don't care about. I'm fine saying that Jesus is "consubstantial with the Father" and "incarnate of the Virgin Mary." And saying "And with your spirit" to the priest instead of "And also with you." The things we say now seem natural, to some extent, because we've been saying them for so long, and if these are somehow more accurate word choices, then fine.

I haven't found a full list of the changes anywhere -- if anyone could provide a link, I'd be grateful -- but there are two I've uncovered that don't sit right with me. In trying to find a list of changes, I came across this article from America magazine about one of the changes from the Liturgy of the Eucharist: the priest now will say Jesus shed his blood "for you and for many" instead "for you and for all."

I won't go into all the arguments in the article (or on this priest's blog post), but suffice it to say, this is a big change. You could try to argue that it's not a theological change because the original Latin it's based on hasn't changed, but for English-speaking churchgoers, there is a huge difference between these two words and the implications for salvation. "Many" is by definition fewer than "all," which means that there are people who are not included in that "many." How can we say there are people Jesus didn't die for? Maybe theologically we're not saying that, but literally, in English, that is what we are saying.

The other change, which was listed in our bulletin and which was the first to upset me, is a change at the beginning of recitation of the Creed. Rather than starting with "We believe," we will now say "I believe." The explanation in the bulletin was that, well, we're all saying it together anyway, so that community part is taken care of and we can emphasize that it's a personal expression of faith.

But it's not! The whole point is that it's a communal expression of faith. It's not something we each came up with on our own. It's saying that we may each come from different backgrounds and be at different places in our relationship with God, but these are the things that we all believe. It's why we're here, worshipping together, because there are things we all believe to be true, and we're coming together around that and because of that.

One of the major reasons I connect with Catholicism over other denominations is that most Protestant churches I've been to put an emphasis on one's personal faith. Most songs we sing in church, in any Catholic church, sing about "we" and "us." Most songs in the Protestant services I've been to are about "I" and "me." In many other churches that have communion, you drink out of your own individual tiny cup instead of a shared cup. In my time at a Catholic university (especially in the Catholic scholars program I was in), and in many of the Catholic books I've read, there is a lot of emphasis on the "we" and the community as a defining aspect of Catholicism. It comes up in the explanation of why we confess our sins to a priest and not just to God. It's why we do the same motions and say the same words together. It's one of the main reasons I've stayed connected to the Church, continuing to attend Mass rather than retreating into my own private prayer bubble. In essence, it's one of the key reasons I love being Catholic.

So now we're not saying "We believe" anymore, but "I believe"? Can you see why this seems wrong to me?

The irony is that when people find out I don't agree with 100% of Church teaching, they accuse me of putting my own beliefs first and believing I know better, when really I think it's important to always look outside oneself for the truth. When I say "We believe" it's an acknowledgement that my own personal beliefs are superseded by being part of a community that has a strong history and knows a lot more than I do personally. The few things that I disagree with, listed above, come not from my own "armchair thinking" about whether the Church is wrong, but from the totality of all the people I know and learning from their experiences and seeing a larger truth about life than what Church teaching seems to acknowledge.

I know there are a lot of people who will think I'm a "bad Catholic" for not swallowing this new translation without complaint, but changes are never made within the Church without controversy, even from within Church leadership, and this is no exception. Yet as always, I have the choice either to leave or to stay and fall in step with the changes, and for now I will stay.

Comments and reactions welcome -- as always, it's possible I got some fact or other wrong, and I appreciate correction before I go make a fool of myself elsewhere :)

UPDATE: I had a conversation with our priest about the changes.


  1. OK I didn't read past the first paragraph (yet) but I just had to post a comment in support of this post. From what I've heard straight from priest's mouths, not all of THEM agree with what the Church says. Heard something this very morning!

    Just skimmed some more of the post. I'm not trying to be lazy, I swear. I think in our rite, we say "for you and for many." I can't remember off the top of my head right now though, LOL.

    One correction though. The Creed is not the same as the Prayer of the Faithful. That is the "we pray to the Lord, Lord hear our prayer" prayer.

    The old school creed, in Latin, was "credo" or "I believe." I only know this from singing a Mass in (public) high school.

    I might have more to say later, after I really read and digest what you wrote ;-)

  2. @Rabbit
    One correction though. The Creed is not the same as the Prayer of the Faithful. That is the "we pray to the Lord, Lord hear our prayer" prayer.
    I thought that, too, but then I found an announcement about the changes saying that they were the same... but that was probably stupid to just base it on that one reference :) So thanks. I'll go change it so as not to confuse anyone else.

    I will be interested to hear what our main priest says about the changes. Our parish is mostly old people, and I wonder how they'll feel about having to re-learn all of this stuff.

    Definitely comment again if you have more to say! Thanks!

  3. Some more thoughts on the run!

    You know what's funny, both the Apostles' & Nicene Creed are acceptable in the Roman Rite--the difference is that Apostles' = I believe, Nicene = we believe. I know for SURE we say the Nicene Creed at a Byzantine Liturgy, but we say "I believe." Gah! So confusing!

    Man, I feel sorry for the older people who already went through HUGE changes w/ Vatican II, NOW this! At least we weren't alive back then.

    BTW, the change in Roman Rite to "and with your spirit" is what we say in the Byzantine Rite. That's pretty cool :) My husband has looked at some of the other changes (I haven't) and it looks as if they are trying to realign the Roman Rite with some of the Eastern Rites, probably to start a verrrrry sloooowwww reunification process.

  4. @Rabbit
    I'm so glad to have you as a reader, because I probably would never have known that the changes were in alignment with what the Byzantine Rite already says. I still really dislike "for you and for many" because I think it has huge theological implications (and if that's what they say in Latin, that should be re-thought), but I've calmed down a bit about the "I believe" thing. I still greatly prefer "We believe," but... ah, well :)

    Agreed about the people who went through Vatican II. And people say the Church never changes anything...

    Thanks as always for your insightful comments and for challenging my assumptions!

  5. Hope you might consider that contraception is more than a minor issue and here's one reason why:


    Also, the moral law on sexuality is not a discipline that can be changed, but part of the Deposit of Faith:


    So many of us Catholics just don't know this stuff.


  6. @Leila @ Little Catholic Bubble
    Hi Leila,

    You seem to be operating under the assumption that because I call myself Catholic, yet disagree with some of the Church's teachings, that I am ignorant of Church teaching or how the Church works. If you had read more than two of my posts, you would probably come to understand that I know a lot about the Church, but I choose not to agree with everything the Church teaches because of my own life experiences. Also, as I attempted to explain briefly in this post, I am not an advocate of artificial contraception per se, but I think that making contraception the focus of attack is misguided. Banning things doesn't address the root problems that lead to their use in the first place.

    Perhaps you will say that I shouldn't call myself Catholic because I don't want to be in a "Catholic bubble" of living with the confines of Church teaching. I'm not sure what else to call myself, though, since I will continue to be a registered member of my local Catholic church and attend Mass, where I can worship God in the way that most resonates with my heart.

  7. Old post, but I found it off of a link from one of your more recent posts.

    Personality differences notwithstanding, I actually do agree with you most of the time.

    I believe gay people should be able to get legally married. Whether you call it a "civil union" or a "civil marriage", I don't care. But I do agree with the Catholic Church about what God intended marriage to be, and same sex couples can never meet this definition. (Plenty of heterosexual couples fail to actually meet it, thus the high annulment rate).

    What I reject is a certain form of Catholic political theory, which is NOT a part of the faith. Instead, I agree with C.S. Lewis: Keep civil marriage and holy matrimony separate and distinct.

    I agree that artificial contraceptives really shouldn't be the main focus of attack if our goal is for people to have a healthier, God-centered understanding of sexuality. There are no shortage of couples who don't use contraception but have horribly dysfunctional sex lives. But at the same time, my own life experience has taught me that artificial contraceptives (especially hormonal contraceptives) do prevent couples from having a truly healthy sexuality (whether the couple realizes it or not) and that problem shouldn't be downplayed.

    And I do understand that the Church doesn't always get things right the first time, but then again, my life experiences have shown that my record is no better.

    But above all, I do believe that God wants a relationship with all of us. And relationships involve work, and dialog, and understanding. Those who want to make faith all about a set of rules (and threats of hellfire and brimstone if you break them) completely miss the point.


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