Monday, September 28, 2009

"On Being Catholic"

I just read the article, On Being a Catholic: 'Back to School' on Catholic Online by Canadian journalist David Warren. It reminded me of a homily that I heard recently that I have been going over again and again in my head (the homilies point was actually the exact opposite of the point of this article, which is why I'm still thinking about it). It bothered me quite a bit, but I'm not going to go into that just yet, because I want to think it over a little bit more. If you don't make it over to read the entire article, here are my favorite highlights.

"Yet we have today, at least in the more progressive and nominal Christians of North America and Europe -- most certainly including Catholics -- the curious notion that Christianity is compatible with Islam. That it is likewise compatible with all other religions. That it is compatible with a Darwinian cosmology, and therefore with atheist materialism. That it is part of "diversity"; and so on. "

This is the part that reminded me of the homily... The phrase "Fullness of Truth" kept going through my head on repeat... It seemed like that what was missing. I felt like the Catholic Church was being reduced to "just another church" on line with any other church in the world. But now I'm doing what I promised not to do and writing about the homily before I've thought it through. Let's just say that this is a preview of the post I'm working out in my head.

"I have a day job writing newspaper columns. I make clear that I am a Catholic. ("The worst kind, a convert," as Marshall McLuhan used to say.) I get a lot of mail. And whatever our bishops and bureaucracies may think they have achieved, in the way of teaching the faith, I get to see their results.

For sure, some of the Catholics who write to me are well-educated and well-formed. But on inquiry, I find a large proportion of these are also converts; and that even among those who are not, most have learnt the Faith by their own efforts. Many of these are, as one can see by the way they phrase religious ideas, careful to avoid heresies.

But many other correspondents, declaring themselves to be ‘cradle Catholics’, are at no pains at all.

I often wonder what the Church is for such people. A nice venue for a wedding, to be sure; a bit of formal "closure" for a funeral. A building that may be worth including on an architectural preservation list, since no one is ever going to build another like it. Beyond this, some vague sense of an ethnic identity.

"I was born a Catholic," someone wrote to me recently (already in error: Nobody is born Catholic), "unlike you. Don't you dare tell me what a Catholic should believe!"

The sense of some Catholic ethnicity -- hyphenated Irish, Polish, or whatever -- goes with other sentimental thoughts. But Catholic means "universal," so there is a problem when we find nostalgic mush on both sides of the hyphen. They may or may not vaguely remember a rather cumbersome Catechism."

Okay, this part probably really spoke to me because I have so many "Cradle Catholic" friends from my "Catholic" College that this really applies to. Being Catholic for some seems like more of an ethnicity than a religion.

"But the whole thing may now apparently be reduced to a "bottom line." It comes down to being nice to people and trying not to notice if anyone is mean. It is about being open-minded, and accepting people as they are, unless they happen to be very religious.

Indeed, whatever else Christ may have done, according to this very common view, He reduced all the Ten Commandments to just One Commandment: that "you mustn't judge people."

I wish that were a parody of what I am told in e-mail so often, by self-described Catholics -- who then go on to judge me. I've been told these things not only by the laity, but even by several "modern" Catholic priests, one of whom was clever enough to add the word "misogynistic" to describe my opposition to abortion. "

This one gets me into more debates on the forums. "You're not supposed to judge" is an excuse for any sin under the sun and is usually followed by a judgement about exactly what sort of person I am. The argument "what exactly do you think they mean when they say that "reproving the sinner" is a spiritual work of mercy?" usually doesn't get any response. But you really should check out the entire article! It makes more sense altogether without my scattered thoughts in the middle!


  1. You and I always seem to end up reading the same articles online! I wonder if we're using the same source? I have my homepage set up as, and it lists all the headlines for the Catholic News Agency,, Catholic World News, and Catholic Education Resource Center... It was a good article. I really enjoy getting to read these. Much better than most homepages that shove the secular (and usually celeb) news in your face.

  2. Hi Brooke-

    I usually go to, but when Sadie's asleep I surf around to the others, especially Catholic World News and Catholic News Agency. And then I get tons of links from the various blogs. It seems like whenever anything dramatic happens in the Catholic world it suddenly comes up on a half dozen different blogs on my blogger homepage. It's so refreshing to read news without the secular, anti-Christian slant!

  3. Great article. Thanks for the link.



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