Monday, May 10, 2010

Catholics are Different: No Argument There

Catholics tend to stand out in America. Sometimes it's because we're immigrants. Often it's because - we're different.

Like me, for example. I've got a small sculpture of a corpse hung around my neck. We don't have to do this - but quite a few Catholics do. ("Catholics aren't Klingons" (April 27, 2010))

Wearing a crucifix is (usually) optional - many other things aren't.

No Cheating on Your Spouse? No Stealing? No Torturing Animals? Why All These Rules?

A fair number of Americans assume that Catholics have to follow a whole lot of rules. That's true, in a way. We've got rules: we've even got rules about rules.

Two Big, Simple, Easy-to-Remember Rules

Actually, there are only two rules that a Catholic must follow. It's that Mark 12:28-31 thing: Love God, love your neighbor. Simple, right?

Not so much. Like anything else involving human beings, the nuts and bolts of applying a simple principle gets very complicated, very fast. (June 14, 2009)

Love God, love your neighbor - that's easy to remember. Easy to do? No. Not for me. I'm a member of a fallen race: "...a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips...." (Isaiah 6:5)

This post got started while I was writing for another blog, about emoting mice (Apathetic Lemming of the North). What I have to say about the mice should be available tomorrow morning (May 11, 2010), around 8:00 a.m. Central. That's -6:00 UTC during winter and -5:00 UTC during summer. (American saves the world with Daylight Saving Time: You'd think Congress would have realized that it's no longer 1918, but that's another topic.)

The Decalogue, Distressed Mice, Bioethics, and a Dolphin With A Rubber Tail

Earlier, I'd read another of those 'there would be less trouble if everybody followed the 10 Commandments' remarks on Twitter. I agree: but the problem is that people either can't or won't follow the Decalogue. Bottom line - we don't. Not consistently.

That doesn't let us off the responsibility to try following God's law perfectly. My take on it is that God doesn't expect us to be perfect: but He expects us to try. I've mentioned this before: Catholicism isn't a 'feel-good' religion.

The distressed mice got me to thinking about bioethics - and I'd written the first few paragraphs of this post, in another blog, before I realized how off-topic I'd gotten.

I've discussed bioethics, and what I think about using people as experimental animals - without telling them - before. And I probably will again. The sort of mindset that gave us the famous hypothermia experiments at Dachau and the Tuskegee study are still with us.

That's one situation where I sincerely wish I didn't have so much to write about.

I put this link list together, as a sort of reference for my take on bioethics:
Stem cell research - backed by the Vatican?! Yeah: It's sort of like organ transplants. The Church is fine with organ transplants: providing the benefit/risk ratio is acceptable. There are other factors, too: like the prohibition on dry-gulching someone for his or her organs.

Experiments on Animals? Check out that 'rules about animals' post, above. It's because we're in charge that we must act responsibly when we use animals - or anything else.
Kindness to Animals is Okay
Provided that we don't start lavishing on animals affection and resources that properly should be used for people, being kind to animals is okay:About experimenting on human beings? Finding a volunteer who's crazy or desperate enough to be fiddled with isn't good enough.
"...Experimentation on human beings is not morally legitimate if it exposes the subject's life or physical and psychological integrity to disproportionate or avoidable risks...."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2295)

The Catholic Church Doesn't Know Everything: But We've Learned a Lot

Deciding what's "disproportionate" is where it gets tricky, of course. Which is why the Catholic Church has all those rules. Between the revealed Word of God and almost 2,000 years of dealing with people, the Catholic Church has learned a lot about what works and what doesn't - and what's right and what may seem right, but isn't.

I like to stay 'in control,' and don't particularly like following someone else's rules. But with the Catholic Church - When I realized that God was in charge: not even my ego would let me think I could win in a head-to-head battle of wits with the Almighty.

Think about it. Which is Better:
  • One Fellow's Half-Century of Experience and Wisdom?
  • What saints and sages learned, as Empires Rose and Fell?
I can draw on the wisdom of almost two millennia: accumulated and discussed by some of the best minds in the world. I don't feel ashamed to defer to an outfit that's had people like Thomas Aquinas and Catherine of Siena working on answers for 'what does God want me to do?'

Being a Conventional Non-Conformist, Being Different

I remember the sixties: when many of my contemporaries decided to rebel and be an individual. So they let their hair grow long, and wore jeans and tie-died shirts. That fashion has changed, but America's dominant culture still expects people to 'be themselves' - as long as they do it the 'right' way.

I could be fairly comfortable as a conventional non-conformist: if I didn't have a habit of looking at the big picture.
Choosing Sides on Firebase Earth
My Lord is Jesus of Nazareth; Son of God the Father Almighty; Savior of Humanity; God and Man; who was crucified, died and was buried.

So far, Jesus sounds like many other cult leaders: wild claims; devoted followers; and then he dies.

Here's where it gets interesting:
"...on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen...."
(Roman Missal, Third Edition)
After I did the research and discovered what's been happening over the last few thousand years - and that 'those Catholics over there' belonged to the organization that the Son of God had founded: I had a choice, of sorts.

One option had obvious short-term benefits: acceptance by the 'right sort,' for starters. I could have muttered "free to be me," sung "I Did It My Way," and told the Second Person of the Trinity that I didn't think much of him, or his outfit.

Or, I could have decided that, like it or not:
  • God is bigger than me
  • His Son commissioned Peter to run His church
  • The authority given Peter has been passed down in unbroken succession
    • Down through the hierarchy to the local priest
On consideration, I decided that I'd rather be for God, than against Him.

"Firebase Earth?" That's something I wrote. It's part of an explanation for why I decided to convert to Catholicism. (April 5, 2009)


Patrice Egging said...

For all the same reasons, I too, am so relieved that I am a Catholic!

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Patrice Egging,

"Relieved." That's a good way to put it.

Thanks for the comment.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.