Cultural Catholicism v. a Church of faith

Cultural Catholicism v. a Church of faith

Both Rocco and “Uncle Andrew” (as Rocco calls him) praise this letter to the Washington Post from a lapsed Catholic. Its a woman who starts out by saying she was “born Catholic”—yes, when someone starts off by saying “I was born Catholic,” you know where it ends up. She left the Church and was married in a Unitarian service because she dissents from Church teaching on homosexuality, the ordination of women, and “a handful of other social issues.” Gee, I wonder which ones. At least she didn’t insist on a Catholic wedding.

However, she now says that she will raise her kids Catholic, not because she believes what the Church teaches.

I may not believe everything the Church believes and may even actively oppose some of its positions. But as time has passed, I’ve come to see that, for me, Catholic isn’t so much my faith but my culture. It’s who I am.

It’s 13 years of Catholic schooling. It’s praying the rosary while crouched down in the hallway, hands over head, tornado sirens blaring. It’s the Ursuline Sisters, with their quick laughs, steady guidance and humble intelligence, who acted as teachers, mentors and friends. It’s ashes on my forehead on the first day of Lent, midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, Stations of the Cross, summer church picnics, “The Lives of the Saints,” fish on Fridays and “Ave Maria.” It’s so many pieces of me that I would not be who I am if I took any of them away.

Unlike Rocco and his “Uncle Andy”, I’m taking a different tack. I don’t think is a wonderful expression of “love for the Church.” This is like telling your mother that you can’t stand any of her values or beliefs, but since you like her cooking and the way she makes your bed and the way she cleans her house, you’re moving back in. Every day, you’ll tell her how wrong she is about everything over the waffles and eggs she makes for your breakfast and just before she starts your laundry.

“Accidents” v. “substance”

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  • But she does say that for her being Catholic isn’t about the faith, it’s about the culture. In other words, it’s not about what being Catholic is actually about, the “substance;” it’s about the externals, the “accidents.” I hardly think that qualifies as leaping to conclusions.

    Nor am I damning Teresa for her views. I’m offering the truth as opposed to the “happy-clappy, aren’t we all just nice” cafeteria Catholicism that would tell her she’s just fine where she is.

    And I didn’t address myself to Theresa, since I don’t know her, but to those who read this blog who might have an encounter with someone like Theresa.

    You’re right that we shouldn’t cut people off as nonbelievers. We should engage them in dialogue and offer them the truth that they’re missing. The Church of faith is so much more fulfilling and rewarding than the Church of culture that she thinks fulfills her needs.

  • Dom and others,

    There is no question that “Theresa’s position” is not enough. Cultural Catholicism of any stripe (the older form ‘I am Irish/Italian/French Canadian/Polish-therefore I am Catholic’ or this new form of American cultural Catholicism that Theresa represents) is NOT enough. I also firmly believe the Holy Father’s words concerning the ‘cafeteria Catholic’ stance in the above quote.

    All that being said however, I must say I still disagree Dom with your take on this piece. You are right on the money that ‘your position’ of Catholic faith is what we need to strive for on all levels of the Church and her life, but Jesus Himself and the practice of the Catholic Church over the years does not bear this out as the ‘way to go’.

    Let’s see if I can put this another way. Pre-Vatican II you either were Catholic or non-Catholic. As those old enough to remember well know-the non-Catholic were the ‘great unwashed’ [some even going so far as saying (wrongly) that all would go to hell] In those days there was not a great amount of difference between Protestant and Pagan in peoples’ minds. All were non-Catholic 🙁  The pre-Vatican II mindset, seeing the Church as a perfect society/institution also saw practicing/non-practicing Catholics. Of course non-practicing Catholics were considered ‘bad Catholics’ (and felt that way) BUT there was always ‘extreme unction’ last minute confessions, purgatory and Requiem Masses [I am not denying the realities or benefits here merely criticizing the excessive dependence on them as crutches] to assist them. BUT THEY WERE STILL CATHOLIC and NOT PROTESTANTS etc.

    The Church in her renewal seeks to act as Jesus Christ Who said “All the Father gives Me will come to Me; and Him who comes to me I will not cast out. For I have come…not to do My own will but the will of Him Who sent Me and it is the will of Him Who sent Me that I should NOTHING that He has given Me” (John 6.37-39)
    Now we speak of COMMUNION levels of communion and participation in the Church. Now obviously a person like Theresa is not in full communion with the Church-she apparently has ‘trouble’ with some Church teaching, she apparently does not participate in the Eucharist regularly. She definitely needs to hear the call to conversion BUT before she ever hears that, or accepts it, she needs to feel welcomed-by disciples in communion with the Church- an outreach if possible and welcoming at the local parish, and welcoming words even here. Remember here we too are Church.

    I used to bluster loudly about this kind of thing myself. I am not condemning anyone who has criticized ‘her’, for I too have erred in this manner. But then one day at Mass I was proclaiming the Gospel and I read
        “He will not wrangle or cry aloud
        nor will any one hear His voice
            in the streets.
        He will not break a bruised reed
        or quench a smoldering wick,
        til He brings justice to victory
        and in His Name will Gentiles hope”
            (Isaiah 42.1-4-Matthew 12.19-21)

    After ending the Gospel I gulped and tears welled up in my eyes…….

    Pax vobiscum

  • I’m not suggesting that Theresa and those like her are unclean sinners who must be shunned and never admitted into the community until they fully repent and embrace the totality of the faith.

    What I’m saying is that it does not do her or anyone in her position any good to praise them for their “cultural” Catholicism and fail to tell them that what they love is the external evidence of an inward reality.