Once in a while, I run into the phrase, "American Catholic Church." The writer usually means either people who call themselves Catholic and live in the United States of America, or the parishes, dioceses, and archdioceses of the Catholic Church which are in the United States of America.
Writing "American Catholic Church" involves a few less keystrokes than "Catholic Church in America:" But I think it gives the wrong impression.
The Catholic Church is Universal: ReallyThere isn't an "American Catholic Church." There are units of the Catholic Church in America, and those units are staffed mostly with folks who live in this country, but the Catholic Church is - literally - universal. We're not part of any one country.
I was born and grew up in America, on that (roughly) 3,000-mile-wide swath of continent we call the 48 contiguous states. This country is geographically huge. And not exactly under-populated. As of July of this year, there were upwards of 310,000,000 folks living here. (United States, CIA World Factbook (last updated November 3, 2010))
I can see how someone living here might assume that most things that are important are here in America. That's silly - but I've gotten the impression that we're not the only nationality with a few parochialists in our midst.
I suspect that folks living in, say, Liechtenstein, Timor-Leste, or Kiribati may be less inclined to think of the Catholic Church in their country as 'the' Catholic Church they belong to. (I did a quick check, and yes: there's at least one archdiocese each in Liechtenstein and Timor-Leste, and at least one diocese in Kiribati.) Those aren't particularly large countries - and the folks living there may have more opportunities for learning that the world doesn't end at their borders than folks living in America.
One of the things I learned about in college, multiculturalism, made quite a lot of sense. I was able to embrace the idea that no one nation or culture represented the one, true, perfect and right way for people to live.
What made me something of a misfit is that I took multiculturalism seriously. I thought that even American culture had some admirable qualities. Don't be too impressed. I think the same of cultures in Kenya, China, and India.
I've discussed multiculturalism and me before. (August 17, 2010) Also unity, diversity, and the Catholic Church. (August 26, 2010)
Cultural Values, Catholic TeachingsSome religious groups seem indistinguishable from the culture they are a part of. Sometimes it's all too easy to think that the imam or preacher is, in effect, saying something like: "I like things being done this way, and so that's what God demands." Somewhat more often, I think, it looks like the local or regional culture has determined what one of its churches or other religious units say 'must' be done. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (November 26, 2007))
If you live in America, the odds are really good, I think, that you've run into a Catholic who seems convinced that God is an American. And seems to feel that God supports some particular political party.
Sometimes it isn't that bad. Some folks with that sort of view realize that God cares for all people - but seem to think that He prefers that people dress the way they did, back in their late teens. Or the way they imagine it was, back in the 'good old days.' Which often is the fifties.
I remember the fifties. They weren't the 'good old days,' and that's another topic.
Then there are other folks who live in America and think this country is icky. Some of them are college professors, some are pastors. Yet another topic.
And there are folks who acted as if they're holier than the Pope and set up what they seem convinced is the one, true, 'real' Catholic church: at the end of some dirt road in one of the Midwestern states. Yet again another topic.
Me? I am a convert to Catholicism. I decided that I'd sign up with the outfit that my Lord established, almost 2,000 years back now: the Church that's rooted in Eternity; marching through time under the orders of whoever holds the authority of Peter at the current moment.
Quite a few Catholics are Americans. Most of us aren't. We're all supposed to follow the lead of the Magisterium, no matter what the local shaman, chairman, or senator says.
And if anyone sets up an "American Catholic Church," that's strictly American in its focus? God willing, I won't be part of it.
Finally, there's a section in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, about the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. It's a pretty good place to start seeing why I call the Catholic Church "universal." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 811-870, particularly 816, 830-831, 835, 849)
Revised/Corrected (7:27 p.m. Central Time November 9, 2010)
If you read this earlier today, you'll notice that I've cleaned up some typos. I've also added a few sentences that I really should have put in the original post.
Sorry about that: It's been an - interesting - day here. No big deal, just a lot of little ones back-to-back.
- "Tartans, Scotland, the Pope, and a Universal Church"
(September 12, 2010)
- " 'Army of Oppression,' Unmentionables, and Being Catholic in America"
(August 17, 2010)
- "A 'Traditional' Catholic? Yes and No"
(July 31, 2010)
- " 'Those Immigrants,' Assumptions, and the Catholic Church"
(May 18, 2010)
- "Living in America and Living a Catholic Life"
(April 29, 2010)
- "The Catholic Church: Universal. Really"
(April 19, 2010)
- "Islam, Christianity, Culture, and Kooks"
Another War-on-Terror Blog (November 26, 2007)