A New Look For CatholicismA "Lost" Religion Rears Its New and Modern HeadFrom an image standpoint, the hundred thousand or so "free, old, or independent" catholics in this country fall between the proverbial rock and hard place. Scorned by hard line Protestants because of the "catholic" word and snubbed by Roman Catholics because of the "old, free, independent" word, alternative catholics have nonetheless quietly survived and flourished in small to medium sized communities throughout the nation. And yet non-Roman Catholicism is one of the oldest rites of worship in the Christian Church, having remained relatively steady on the theological course set by the Apostles. The Roman Catholics, on the other hand, have over the centuries veered off in other directions, embellishing their Church with a variety of bells and whistles, do’s and don’ts, and politically motivated twists and turns. It was in the 12th century, well before the Reformation, that some catholics started voicing their displeasure with the Papal System. This resulted in a perpetuation of alternative catholic theologies, while the Roman church evolved in other directions. Today, alternative catholicism is a traditional force, with historical theology that includes such ideals as sacraments and apostolic succession but foregoes Papal infallibility. In fact, although many rites and beliefs are shared by both alternative and Roman Catholics due to their common beginnings, the denominations (or jurisdictions) are not connected in any way. Enter the 20th Century, with the Roman Catholic Church attempting to deal with social concepts and lifestyles that were totally nonexistent at the time of the Bible, and denying the fundamental gifts of God to many based on theology that evolved much later. Then, add to the equation the many protestant denominations, who split from the Roman Church but carried with them excess baggage in the form of many of these issues. The resulting morass of confusion and misinformation accomplishes exactly what Christ and the early church did not want to do; denying the grace of God and the promise of salvation. Many alternative catholics, an accumulation of many different "branches" or "denominations," each under an independent Archbishop, do not have these problems. Being in essence a more pure form of the Church and unadulterated by politicking and manipulation, they simply do not have these restrictions in their structure. Also central to many non Roman catholics is the understanding that the bible can never be fully translated from its original language. This position has, in recent times also been taken up by some other religions, who argue that no accurate translation is possible without considering historical and social context . The reversion to 11th century church "status quo" ignores many of modern religion’s "do not’s" by simply not considering them as pertinent to the original Church. Thus, there is no proscribing of the sacraments to a divorcé or to a woman who has undergone an abortion. There is no interdiction of a person because of his or her sexual orientation. There is, in most cases, no problem with ordaining women as clergy, or in clergy being married or having to remain celibate. "It is inconceivable to me," said a prominant independent priest, "that people can take faith and religion as matters of conscience, and then subject themselves to contempt and intolerance by those very same men who have been destined by God to preach His unconditional love." He adds, "Many people continue to worship under a shroud of guilt, made to feel less than worthy by those who pervert the intentions of Christ. Their suffering and torment is real, extreme, and totally unnecessary. We must strive for a worship environment that celebrates our love of God, the knowledge that we have all been made in God’s image, and that Christ’s suffering was so that we could all attain salvation." This is the ideal that we at Ascension by the Sea strive for, to become a spiritual home to a diverse and welcoming population. Come join our family!