Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Being Catholic Because We Know Why We Believe

From the Department of Pouring Oil on Troubled Fires

Agonized hand-wringing may be a human trait. It's certainly been popular among quite a few American subcultures for the last half-century or so.

One of the plaintive cries I hear and read fairly often is how many Catholic youth, adults, whatever, are leaving the Church.

I realize that, for the individuals involved, this is a really imprudent decision. But I also find it quite hard to work up any real urge to moan and groan over the situation.

That's because I don't see a problem with having fewer Catholics - on paper.

America, Nigeria, the Envelope System, and Parishioners

Catholic parishes in America use the "envelope system" to tell how many households are in the parish. The system has its advantages: it leaves a clear, traceable paper trail for auditors; and it fits our culture's bureaucratic values.

But it's not the only way for Catholic parishes to keep track of who's Catholic and who's not.

Catholics in Nigeria, for example, assume that folks who come to Mass and are involved in parish activities are members of the parish: and those who don't, aren't. (July 5, 2010)

I think Catholics living in America could learn from our fellow-Catholics in Nigeria.

I also think that what we're seeing in America is what happens when bishops start insisting that Catholic churches start acting as if they're Catholic.

Catholic teachings aren't a particularly good fit with what America's dominant culture wants.
  • We believe that it's wrong to kill your children
    • Even if it's legal
  • We even say that it's wrong to cheat on your wife
    • Even if she said it's okay
In a way, we're very restrictive.

About things that matter. Apart from core beliefs, we're actually pretty - well, catholic. Lower case "c." I'll get back to that.

Maybe it's time that we find out who really wants to be Catholic, and who just wants their name on the envelope list.

I Remember the Good Old Days: That's the Trouble

I'm occasionally nostalgic - until my memory kicks in and I remember what "the good old days" were really like. I'm a convert to Catholicism, by the way, so I don't have fond memories of 'pre-Vatican-II' American Catholicism.

I do, however, remember the trailing edge of the fifties, those "Happy Days" when Americans were proud to be seen going to church.

Provided, of course, that it was the 'right' church. They were also proud to be seen:
  • Going to the 'right' country club
  • Driving the 'right' car
  • Throwing parties at a big house in the 'right' neighborhood
Going to a church because it's a status symbol, to get business contacts, or to conform to some cultural standard didn't sit well with me then, and still doesn't. I've written about this before.

Catholics Deciding to be Catholics

In a way, I'm glad to be living now. This is a time in America's history when people in my culture are, to what I think is an increasing extent, saying that they're Catholic because they want to be Catholics. I think the Church will be stronger for having parishioners who made a conscious, informed decision to follow Catholic teachings.

I hope that, in time, folks who didn't like the flower arrangements will reconsider their decision and get back in the Bark of Peter.

The Catholic Church is Catholic

I'm a devout Catholic: upper case "C." That means that I'm a member of the Catholic Church who takes God and His Church seriously. The Catholic Church is also catholic. Lower case "c." In other words, we're "free from provincial prejudices or attachments." (Princeton's WordNet)

Individual Catholics may be convinced that the only 'real' music is country, or rock, or classical, or bluegrass. Or be horrified at the sight of someone eating spaghetti. We're all over the world - and not all cultures are alike, much less all people. Personal and cultural tastes will vary.

Even in a comparatively small enclave like the United States of America, we've got quite a lot of variety. Here's how I wrapped up a discussion of why I became a Catholic:
  • You want rousing music?
    • We got rousing music!
  • You want quiet meditation?
    • We got quiet meditation!
  • You want ancient rites?
    • We got ancient rites!
  • You want polka with your Mass?
    • We got polka with your Mass!
  • You name it?
    • We got it!
    "Why I Became a Catholic" (May 23, 2010)
I like polka with my Mass. But if the Holy See ruled that polka must not be played during Mass, I'd still be a Catholic.

Because I understand why I believe what I believe.

Today, I think a greater percentage of Catholics can say that.

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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.