[quote:2jg57q6i]-how much, or better put, to what extent does the Catholic church allow cultural and contextual experience (Gunkel’s sitz em liben) to bend (relax) some of their stipulations (such as the sacrament of marriage for example)?[/quote:2jg57q6i]
I am not certain in particulars, but I do know either the reason for or the beauty in leaving the decision to the bishop means that such cultural experiences can be and are taken into consideration and honored.
I remember once hearing an objection to the long line of Italian popes. It was posited that it was unfair for the Italians to have such control of the papacy. I responded that the Pope is also the Bishop of Rome and the Romans, being Italian, had a right to an Italian bishop.
[quote:2jg57q6i]Another way of saying what I’m thinking is that I’m uncomfortable with the idea that an institution (papal or presbyterical or anything else) can exercise such practice, dispensation, especially with one who was baptized into the community of faith.[/quote:2jg57q6i]
This is the second time you have used dispensation in a way that confuses me.
A dispensation is just an excusal from a particular rule. So the institution that instituted the rule in the first place should, of course, be able to excuse its members from that rule as it chooses.
[quote:2jg57q6i]Where are the notions that a believing wife/husband would be able to win the ubelieving spouse to the Lord?[/quote:2jg57q6i]
They are pastoral notions. For someone who is zealous, or at least grounded, in the faith, a dispensation would be easily forthcoming. For a nominal Catholic, however, the rule is there to protect them from being led further from practing their faith.
[quote:2jg57q6i]You capitalized “Church’s” jurisdiction.[/quote:2jg57q6i]
Whenever I refer to the Catholic Church as an institution, I capitalize Catholic and Church because it is a proper noun. When I refer to a particular church building I use lower case, so a particular Catholic church is in union with the Church.
[quote:2jg57q6i]Is it still common practice (not tradition!) in the Catholic church to assume that being completely disconnected with the Cathlic Church results in spiritual disconnection with the Kingdom of God (i.e., failure to obtain saving grace)?[/quote:2jg57q6i]
From a Catholic understanding, to be completely disconnected with the Church is to be without spiritual connection to Christ.
Any believer baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity is joined to the Catholic Church by virtue of his baptism. He is beholden to the universal rules of the Church as they apply to all Christians but he is not beholden to the particular rules of the Church as they apply to Catholics. These universal rules are pretty much part and parcel of what one expects of a Christian believer so it is nothing that will come as a big surprise.
For the unbaptized believer, they are joined to the Church insofar as they follow God in their lives. We believe that those who do not have the chance to know Christ by name nevertheless hear God’s voice in their lives and [u:2jg57q6i]can[/u:2jg57q6i] come to salvation through His infinite mercy (although it is much more difficult than if one knows God and His Church).
[quote:2jg57q6i]As I have encountered, the Catholic Church has been making a lot of changes (Ratzinger behind this?) and I don’t think a lot of your scholarly Catholics would be comfortable anymore with the idea that their is a loss of faith with a loss of Catholic identity.[/quote:2jg57q6i]
To answer what was probably your question, to leave the Catholic Church while remaining Christian is the sin of schism while to leave the Catholic Church and the Christian faith is the graver sin of apostasy.
To commit apostasy is a cut-off from salvific grace. I am sure there is no question to that.
As for schismatics, they retain hope of salvation, although without the grace and help offered through His Church it is a needlessly more difficult path. For someone who knows in his heart that the Catholic Church is the True Church but, for some reason, still leaves Her, even for another Christian community, he is in trouble (apparently I love commas).