And it's encouraging to see some of the frustrations many of us now have going back to the earliest days of the Church. I loved the story of Tertullian who saw both sides of orthodoxy and dissent:
Not long afterward, Tertullian, already famous as a champion of orthodoxy, himself joined the new prophecy and defended its members as genuinely spirit-filled Christians. Although to this day, Tertullian stands among the "fathers of the church," at the end of his life he turned against what, at this point, he now began to call "the church of a bunch of bishops."
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Well, this is sort of what some of us have been saying all along...if you want to understand this Church, you have to understand history. However, Pagels' account of Tertullian is problematic, to say the least (especially if what Sullivan quotes is all there is to it.) For of course, the group that Tertullian associated himself with - the Montanists - was a rigorist group, and Tertullian was drawn to it because of that, and because he deplored what he perceived as moral laxity among Christians. I fail to see how he could possibly be a hero to anyone who proposes that Christianity would be better off if it only bought into a more worldly ethos.
And so what? One could site Origen as another figure who is grouped with as an early Church father, but also produced problematic works. Heck, you could even say that about Augustine - those later anti-Pelagian works are pretty harsh and were rather inspirational to the likes of John Calvin and are still not really part of his Greatest Hits for Catholics.
And lots and lots of Catholics have had multitudes of problems with bishops and religious superiors, as well. This is not news. It is not news that Catholics are a diverse lot, constantly stretching, and pulling and pushing, and running back home. (and sometimes not) What is news is that so many of us moderns have become completely untethered from any center at all, having declared that neither Scripture nor the wisdom of the past are of any value, and that we, at last, have reached a level of wisdom that gives us the privilege of being judges, rather than laying our lives out in front of Christ and submitting ourselves to Him, trusting in His mercy, but also trusting in His Truth, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.