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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel S.J. Scheid SCP

What is Father Dan Thinking? 12-3-23

“Catholic-lite?”


This morning I was in front of church, in my cap, collar, and cassock as usual. A passer-by crossed the street to ask me my denomination. I gestured to our church sign and said, “I’m Episcopalian, and this is our church.” To which she replied as she smiled and kept walking, “Oh. Catholic-lite.”


If you’ve been an Episcopalian for a while, you likely have heard this description of our tradition. Perhaps you’ve used it yourself when explaining to family or friends the difference between us and the Romans, who also claim the term Catholic. Maybe, if you’ve come from the “heavy” tradition, “lite” appeals to you. Sometimes I’ll hear “Catholic, but with less (or without) guilt.” Perhaps that’s where the add-on “lite” comes from. Whenever I hear it, I’m not sure if it’s a compliment or a criticism. I guess it depends on who’s saying it. Regardless, I hear it as a diminishment of who we are.


You see, there’s nothing lite about our Episcopalian democratic polity, whereby lay people, deacons, priests, and bishops gather in a multitude of governing bodies to engage in challenging conversations about contentious topics. It’s in the multiplicity of voices – some we agree with, some we don’t – that we believe the Holy Spirit makes Herself known.


There’s nothing lite about Episcopalians working and worshipping with other Churches in the Anglican Communion who often disagree with the progressive and inclusive social and sacramental stands we make.


There’s nothing lite about the role the individual’s Episcopalians conscience plays in how we wrestle with issues of secular public policy – a conscience that’s formed by how we worship together, how we read scripture together, and how we bring to the fore our traditions that are both Catholic and Reformed.


There’s nothing lite about Episcopalians recognizing and celebrating saintliness in faithful people outside our own denomination.


What about us isn’t “lite” to you?


I think that most of the times that people say, “Oh, Catholic-lite” it’s a throwaway line. I suspect not many are looking for conversation, education, or to be won over. I tend to smile when I hear it and say something like, “Perhaps. Perhaps not.” or “In some ways, yes. In other ways, no.” If that sparks further exchange, all well and good. If it sparks curiosity in the person who keeps walking, that’s good, too.


God’s blessings and peace,


Dan+

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