Author Donald F. Fausel was raised in the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church, when prescribed beliefs were rarely questioned and blind obedience to authority trumped following one’s conscience. Through a process of developing an informed conscience and learning to think critically, his journey led him to a more responsible faith, while remaining in his Catholic tradition. This memoir recalls Fausel’s life experiences, his reflections on those events, and how they affected his spiritual journey-from his birth in 1929; his formative years; his life in the seminary and ordination in 1957; his nine years in the active ministry, ending with a dispensation from the Vatican in 1972; and his continued journey as a married Catholic. Dr. Fausel reflects on a range of faith-related issues: the differences between faith and beliefs; abortion and artificial birth control; the doctrine of infallibility; the danger of relying solely on the magisterium; the charism of celibacy and mandatory celibacy; the place of women in the church and the ordination of women; the effect of the new cosmology on our image of God and on our place in the Universe. Not only does his memoir frame the events that shaped his life, but it provides reflections to help others in their faith journey.
About the Author:
Donald F. Fausel is a professor emeritus at Arizona State University’s School of Public Program, where he taught and held administrative posts for thirty years. After his retirement in 1998 he was a faculty member at Walden University, where he taught in their Health and Human Services PhD program. He received his licentiate degree in sacred theology (STL) from St. Mary’s Seminary and Pontifical University in Baltimore, MD, and his doctoral degree from Columbia University in New York City. Fausel lives at the Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix with his wife Jane. He can be reached at email@example.com or on his website: www.ReponsibleFaith.com
Customer Reviews from amazon.com
5.0 out of 5 stars This review is from: From Blind Obedience to a Responsible Faith: The Memoir of a Cradle Catholic (Paperback)
This is a great book to be read by all, not only those who grew up in the era of BLIND OBEDIENCE. Those of us who did, never questioned what we were told, because we were afraid to. I agree totally with the author’s view on the “Primacy of Conscience”, something I have come to realize in my own life, as a practicing Catholic. I have recommended the book to many of my friends.
Dr. Donald F. Fausel has provided a crisp examination of his early Catholic upbringing, life as a priest, husband, stepfather, and professor. His efforts have produced an interesting, reflective, personal story of his trials with leading a celibate life and his adventures after leaving the clergy. He integrates in his memoir world events that shaped his views of the church and his hopes for change within the church. His topics include issues of faith and beliefs, the primacy of conscience and related sociological problems. This memoir is a must read for Catholics and others looking for a delightful read that is both thought provoking and an insider’s view of life within the Catholic Church and much more.
The book is about one man’s spiritual journey. His beginning was initiated within a traditional, religious ethnic worldview of his time, in the author’s case: an Irish Catholic culture of the 1930s and enclosed from the larger American experience. In this restricted culture, Don Fausel received and accepted certain beliefs about all the important questions of life required to progress in his journey through life. The only requirement was blind obedience which was role-modeled by his family, at Catholic schools, and in his parish. There is no doubt that he thrived in those early formative years and then, after high school, chose to be its leader by entering the seminary. After being ordained, he was given the opportunity to pursue further education in Social Work in a New York City University where he was introduced to critical thinking and experienced a larger cultural environment of the 60s that was in dramatic change. The path of his journey began to take a turn from accepting beliefs about life blindly to searching for a responsible faith. This path led him out of the official church into the world of the university and involvement with social action organizations as well as to explore personal and family relationships. At eighty, he is still asking the questions which continue to provide vitality to his living faith.
As I read about Don Fausel’s journey, I was reminded of my own spiritual path, if you will. I would expect any person intent on living a more aware and responsible life would enjoy and benefit from reading this memoir. The path that is described is a path which many of us are on and this story can provide inspiration and motivation to continue walking.. The chapters are divided into two parts: a description of various periods, which include the facts of the author’s life and the second part is his reflections on each period listing the subjective changes that he experienced. The book is an easy read because Dr. Fausel is an accomplished writer.
I am not a “cradle Catholic”, or even a latter-day Catholic, but I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir of a priest who left the priesthood, partly because of the requirement of mandatory celibacy, but mainly because of his disagreement with other beliefs of the Church. Dr. ausel shares his soul-searching memories of his life as a Catholic from birth throughout his entire life as he approached his 80th birthday. He describes in great detail (with photos) his intimate journey through his times of becoming a priest, his life as a priest (including his first sexual adventures), his growing disenchantment with Church teachings and structure, his separation from the priesthood, his life as a professor and associate dean of social work at Arizona State University, and his varied experiences as husband and step-father. Dr. Fausel shares with the reader his intellectual and emotional struggles with such difficult issues as contraception, abortion, celibacy, dogmatism, and authoritarianism in terms of Church structure.
While I believe this book will have special appeal to Catholic priests who have left the priesthood and for those who want to bring structural and doctrinal change to the Church, I think non-Catholics like me also will find much to like about the book. Only a tiny portion of the population become priests and the world of the priest is a bit mysterious to most non-Catholics. Dr. Fausel’s life as a priest, and later as a family man, reveals that he struggled deeply with the same issues and challenges that almost everyone faces. The chapters move back and forth between recollections and reflections. I found the movement back and forth disconcerting and, at times, jolting. In my opinion, this book could be two books. But think of it this way: the reader gets two books for the price of one!
I highly recommend the book to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Have you noticed that an increasing number of formerly “religious” people identify themselves by saying, “I’m not religious but I am spiritual,”? I suspect that for many it’s because they’d rather say that, than identify themselves as an atheist or agnostic. Perhaps it’s because they have become disenchanted with organized religions for any number of reasons, but still believe in God and have a need to acknowledge a higher power, without having to profess a particular faith tradition.
I read in a recent report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, that approximately one-third of those who say they were raised Catholic no longer describe themselves as Catholic; which means that roughly 10% of all Americans are former Catholics. I’m not sure how many of those “ex-catholics” call themselves spiritual, but I suspect it is a high percentage.
My own experiences in speaking to many folks who do not identify themselves with any religion but identify themselves as spiritual, is that there is often confusion between religious and spirituality. A person I spoke to recently told me, “I suppose if I were being admitted to a hospital and they asked my religion, I’d tell them I’m catholic, even though I haven’t gone to church in years. If I were to say I’m a spiritual person, it might take too much explaining.” I’ve heard others say, “I’d tell them I’m a ‘recovering catholic’.” It’s this kind of ambivalence or confusion that prompted me to pursue this topic both here and on my blog.
Below, I have a number of links to the topic that I believe will be helpful in our dialoguing on religion and spirituality. I have them here as references that you may use when I bring up the topic on my blog. Or if you just want to explore the topic on your own, hopefully these articles and essays will be useful.
- Religion versus Spirituality a Spiritual Problem: Reconnecting Experience with Tradition by David Tacey – I suggest that this article by Dr. David Tacey be read first. I found it very helpful in distinguishing between religion and spirituality and realizing how they can work better together than separately. He argues that Spirituality and Religion are becoming disconnected and they need to be re-connected., since they both rely on the other. In his opinion, Religion focuses more on community and worship and, spirituality is usually, but not always, based more on an individual’s experience. I personally have a need for both a sense of community and my own sense of awe, when I meditate, read inspirational book, or just discuss a specific topic with someone else. All of these spiritual experiences can lead to feeling of awe.
- This is an article by Emmy Silvius, a lay theologian, that appeared in the Australian website Catholica – Her commentary is based mainly on Dr. Tacey’s premise of how religion and spirituality might be reconnected. Her belief is that Spirituality is not just a selfish, individualistic pursuit, but that it has a community aspect.
- The author of this web page asks the question: “I think that Spirituality is believing the universe is alive, and Religion is believing it expects something of you. What do you think?” Good question! Basically, it’s a position the Creation Spirituality believers embrace. (see Mathew Fox’s website) So, what do you think?
- The Journal of Religion and Spirituality – This journal has a number of resources that can be very helpful.
- Enlightened-Spirituality. There are a number of interesting web pages on this web site. For example if you scroll down the main page, you’ll find information about how a variety of religions describe and practice spirituality: Buddhism, traditions of the Jewish Kabbalah, Hinduism, Islam etc.
- Interesting interview with Dr. Micael Ledwith – Since he retired as a catholic priest he has gone on to appear in the groundbreaking film, What the Bleep Do We Know? He has also produced three volumes so far in his own series of DVDs that deal with fundamental matters in relation to spiritual evolution, and three more of which were scheduled for release in 2010/2011. In 2008 Ledwith published The Orb Project, a book detailing his intensive five-year study of orbs, which was co-authored with German physicist Klaus Heinemann. He is currently working on a new series of books titled Forbidden Truth, a three-volume work that focuses on human destiny and the mechanics of spiritual evolution. The interview with Dr. Ledwith and SuperConsciousness Magazine speaks at length about his life, his choices, and his passion to know God as himself.
- The following reading illustrates some parallels between Native American spirituality and the Buddhist way of life. The authors of this web site chose themes and readings for their proximity to Buddhist teachings. They are not meant to suggest that Native American spirituality and Buddhism are the same or share similar historical source, both are different from one another but share some similar viewpoints and religious experiences.
- This web site is authored by Orrin Lewis, a Cherokee. He says in his introduction that, “This is my personal homepage – I am old-fashioned and I don’t like to put my picture on the Internet.” He might be old fashioned, but his web site contains a wealth of information besides this article entitled Seeking Native American Spirituality: Start Here.
- This article by Jody A. Long, J.D., Near Death Experience, Religion and Spirituality, is described by the author as one of the last frontiers of study surrounds spirituality and Near Death Experience (NDE). She also suggests that this is a highly sensitive issue due to the nature of religion. What this study attempts to do is to objectively look at the data submitted by NDErs to the website and to categorize the answers. Questions that are analyzed include pre and post NDE religious preference, and changed beliefs. There are some surprising results that focus on universal purpose and order gained from NDE understandings.
- There are a number of rich spiritualities within the catholic tradition. These spiritualities have their origin in great spiritual leaders after whom they are named; for example, Franciscan spirituality is attributed to teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, and so on. A particular spirituality is a system, or schema of beliefs, virtues, ideals and principles which form a particular way to approach God and therefore all life in general.Even though these spiritualities are different, does not mean they are contradictory. They all have their roots in the same Christian heritage and they all aim at the same goal – to love as Jesus loved. The difference is a matter of emphasis. The differences give each approach its unique character traits.To mention just a few of the more familiar: Ingnatian Spirituality, Franciscan Spirituality, Benedictine Spirituality and Dominican Spirituality.
- In addition to those from the catholic tradition, here is a website that provides spirituality from other faith traditions including: Protestant, Jewish, Orthodox Christianity, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslin.
I believe that since faith and beliefs are so often confused, it’s important for us to have a clear understanding of the differences. If I were to design a bumper sticker for this topic, it would be, Keep the Faith but Question the Beliefs.
Theologian and Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, Harvey Cox, in his book, The Future of Faith, describes a conversation he had with a friend, who described himself as “a practicing Christian but not always a believing one.” Initially Cox was surprised with his friend’s statement, but the more he thought about it, he came to the conclusion that to call oneself a practicing Christian but not a believing one acknowledges the certainties and uncertainties that mark the life of any religious person. When I read his book, I realized I had come to the same conclusion about the differences between faith and beliefs a number of years ago, but I just wasn’t able to articulate it as well as he did. In my case, the more I studied the magisterium tradition of the Catholic Church, and the fathers of the church, the more I came to the conclusion that many of the beliefs of my pre-Vatican II background did not pass the litmus test of my conscience.
My faith was in the Jesus of what Cox calls the Age of Faith, the first three centuries after Jesus died, when the early church was more interested in following Jesus’ teachings than making obligatory what to belief about Jesus. The Jesus that I believe in and in whom my faith is grounded in is: the Jesus who gave us the Beatitudes and his example of how to live; the Jesus who focused on compassion for the disenfranchised. As Dr. Cox observed, when he realized how faith and beliefs were not the same,
“To focus the Christian life on beliefs rather than on faith is simply a mistake. We have been misled for many centuries by theologians who taught ‘faith’ consists of dutifully believing the articles listed in one of the countless creeds, this came as a welcomed liberation.” Amen!
This webpage provides a number of references to faith and beliefs. It primarily focuses on the Christian tradition. It does not pretend to be all inclusive. The references are meant to be background for future discussions on my blog or as possible sources for your spiritual reading.
From Blind Belief to Enlightened Faith – Reprint from the Theosophical Movement. The following is a quote from the article that is characteristic of the author’s position.
“Blind belief passing through the fire of reason emerges as enlightened faith, casting off the ashes of exclusiveness, fanaticism and bigotry. If a man of religious belief passed from blind belief to real knowledge and practised the ethics of his own creed, he would soon be forced to discard the exclusiveness of that creed and to embody its universal aspects. Thus enlightened faith comes to birth.”
- Faith Versus Belief. Posted in The Thinker by Jeffrey Ellis. In addition to this article there are a number of interesting topics that the website covers.
- The Omega Connection – Faith and Belief. A brief but interesting article.
- Bill Moyer’s website Faith and Reason, contains a wealth of information about faith and beliefs. It contains dozens of interview of religious leaders from every denomination, scientists who have positive and negative views about religion and in depth articles and programs both in text format or tapes of actual intervies. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/faithandreason/index.html
- Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith (New York: Harper, 2009). 16. The author of classic, The Secular City, writes his last book before retiring from Harvard University, on the difference between faith and beliefs and how important this distinction is for the future of faith.
- Donald F. Fausel, From Blind Obedience to a Responsible Faith: The Memoir of a Cradle Catholic. (Bloomington, IN. 2010 iUniverse) Fausel’s Memoir is a combination of stories of his life pre and post-Vatican II, including his time as a catholic priest, his struggles with many beliefs of the church, his dispensation from the priesthood and his reflections on his life’s journey, back to a responsible faith in his catholic tradition.
- Judy J. Johnson. What’s So Wrong about Being Absolutely Right: The Dangerous Nature of Dogmatic Beliefs – This webpage is a commentary that Johnson contributed to her book in the Australian website Catholica. After considering some of the major features of dogmatism: the power of dogmatism and its psychological aspects, its intolerance of ambiguity and its authoritarian positions, the author concludes that “It seems reasonable to conclude that, given that features of dogmatism become manifest in social institutions, the challenge for scientists, religious leaders, and politicians – indeed, for all of us – is to open our minds about dogmatic thought; first and foremost our own.”
- Faith and Foolishness: When Religious Beliefs Become Dangerous – This is an article in Scientific America, by Lawerence M. Krauss, that offers statistics about the high percentage of respondent who discard scientific facts in favor of their religious beliefs.
- What is Belief, What is Faith? This is a video on YouTube by Randall Niles.
He suggests that beliefs are something we arrive at after a period of time when we intellectually accept a premise, either because of a preponderance of the evidence or evidence beyond a reasonable time, while Faith is when we put our beliefs into action. He provides an interesting but simple example (parable) of a tight rope walker who successfully walks across Niagara to the amazement of large crowd of on-lookers. When he finishes, he ask the crowd if they believe he can walk across Niagara Falls. They all shout yes! He then pushes a barrel across the falls and ask the same question and get the same answer. Next he puts a friend in the barrel and pushes the barrel across the falls. When he finishes he asks if they believe he can push someone across the falls in a barrel. They all respond excitedly, “we believe,” his response to the crowd is, “whose next?” That, says Randall, is the difference between Belief and Faith. Faith requires putting beliefs into action.
- Here’s a summary by Meghan Smith, News Editor, of The Gavel Online on March 25, 2011, of an address at Boston College by Vicki Kennedy, the wife of the late senator, Ted Kennedy. It is on faith and political beliefs. She said at one point, as a young girl, growing up in a Democratic family, she actually thought that Jesus must have been a Democrat, because He advocated for all the things that she learned growing up: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and reach out to the poor and disadvantage, all things that were a vital part of her family’s beliefs.
- Mark Powel, on Faith vs. Beliefs
This is a video on YouTube by Mark Powell giving his views of the French Theologian Jacques Ellul on faith and beliefs. On the same You Tube page there are a number of other spiritual topics that Jacques Ellul presents, that are worth listening to.