For the next while, I will be stepping away from the Catholic/Protestant question, at least in the public forum of this blog. I will finish my post series on Giussani, and will still undoubtedly speak out of the broadly catholic tradition that so shapes my faith. But for the moment I would like to set aside the back-and-forth debate that I, admissibly, am responsible for – not because bad things have come out of this (far from it), or because my fellow interlocutors have been unfair or graceless, but simply because it exhausts me emotionally, and seems not to be what I am in need of right now spiritually. If you are thinking to yourself right now that this is very escapist of me, you are thinking exactly what I feel – I hate setting aside any question, and moreso because I have OCD, which insists that I should deal with such questions 24/7, if possible to the detriment of all other duties and responsibilities. So, yes, I too feel like it is escapist, but, as J. R. R. Tolkien wisely pointed out, sometimes those most concerned about escapism are the jailers.
I started this set of posts for two reasons. The first is that I feel like decisions like this neither can nor should be made in a dark corner. I appreciate Christ’s response when he is arrested, that he does not have some deep, dark secret conspiracy – if anyone had wanted to know his “secret” plans, they had only to listen to him when he taught publically. I have a deep respect for this kind of openness. Hiding in such cases may indeed mean one is hiding as much from oneself as from everyone else. And a decision made wisely should be able to stand up to external criticism.
But perhaps it is my second reason that has got me into trouble. This is that, having just moved to a new city, being painfully introverted, and in any case having a theological and spiritual past that makes Christian community difficult for me (I usually end up either saying nothing or rocking the boat), I figured I would spare those around me by blogging rather than making others talk about these things with me. In some ways this was necessary because it has constantly been hard to know who to talk to and how. But in others ways it has made things worse because the alchemy that occurs in writing – the transformation of thoughts and impulses into polished and sensible prose – leaves behind the raw emotion and pain that is behind much of this crisis. To be very, very clear, I do not in the least fault anyone for responding reasonably to my reasonably put arguments and musings – it is not fair to expect people to read the emotions behind arguments. But for my own sake – for the sake of a heart that seems inextricably woven into my brain – I need to step back. I cannot pretend to be arguing with disinterest, that the things I am saying are not in some way the lowings of a brazen bull.
Of course, I don’t know how well I will be able to maintain this stepping back process, because the particular difficulty is that for me everything is connected. My impulse is to say that I will on this blog turn my attention to more pastoral matters – such as, for instance, the Christian response to mental illness – but I feel that even this, like the most practical and simple good, cannot be talked about apart from doctrine. My response, I think, must differ, depending on what we think Christians are, and how we think about the visible and invisible church. My mind is a quaking bog – unsettle one bit and the whole body trembles.
This, of course, does not mean I am going to stop pursuing the questions I have been pursuing, or thinking about the Catholic church – I will. The difference, though, I hope, will be that I am more honest, and find communities in which to practice such honesty, and avoid the pretense that this is something that I can engage with anything less than my entire person. And so – as I did when I shared on Facebook my first post on this subject – I request prayer – I know not for what – I can only pray that the Spirit intercedes for me with groans, and that I somehow survive.