I have lost count this past week how many times I have been told to "just be Roman Catholic." I'm not known for my patience, sadly, although I think I'm improving. But the kindest thing I can muster on this particular day is to state that I'm Anglo-Catholic and you will just have to deal with it.
We Christians spend a lot of time trying to convince other Christians, and I personally believe the Endarkenment and Scientism are to blame. Since when did we accept that formal argument and intellectual cognizance was the most important way of being a Christian? What does that say about my friend's down-syndrome baby? Too bad about her extra chromosome that prevents her from discovering that the Roman Catholic Church is the one that Christ founded and not any other? And I am not in the mood for Vatican II platitudes. I am, however, in a mood to comment on our intellectual debates:
Abusus non tollit usum. This always gets tossed around in the scummiest of Roman Catholic debates. Usually a non-Roman Catholic approaches the whole thing from the bottom up and thinks that if he can prove abuse in the Church's practice then he can therefore disprove the authority. Roman Catholics retort that abuse does not negate its use, and they're right. But also wrong.
Yes, we should say with G. K. Chesterton that the Church is a hospital for sinners. But if outsiders see only constant mess and no improvement than a good Roman Catholic should pause and consider if they're going about things rightly. If we are called to be holy, and we are, and yet there is no evidence of this, then some housekeeping is in order. (I personally do not agree with this argument against the Roman Catholic Church. There are many good fruits there).
But secondly and more importantly is the hypocrisy. If abuse does not negate its use then it's the Roman Catholics who need to answer why other churches are therefore invalid. And they should start with the first schism before they move to the file labeled "Luther, M." So, my dear Catholic brethren, stop pointing to women's ordination and homosexuality and countless other things and saying "Look! Evil fruit! This is what happens with solo scriptura. False authority!" Don't cast those stones, my friends.
Arguing from the bottom up doesn't solve anything. It always comes back to authority. Except when it doesn't. It is circular reasoning to try to disprove the Roman Catholic Church by pointing to practice, but it is also circular when debating the papacy and the magisterium. These "from the top down" arguments (instead of from the bottom up) are essentially the same. Each only leads to the other. It goes nowhere.
Which is why I have no desire to disprove the Roman Catholic Church. I only desire that it reform. The issue at hand is not so much the church itself but its dogma. As Dorothy Sayers so brilliantly demonstrates in her book Creed or Chaos? "the dogma is the drama." It's where the rubber hits the road. In other words, authority and practice taken together as one thing -- de fide. Everything else is irrelevant.
I try to stick to Sayers' "Highest Common Factor of Consent" in an attempt to be kind and patient not for the sake of my own soul but because you are, each of you, too precious to dismiss.
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:35