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Monday, February 24, 2014

How Catholic Are You, Anyway?

Just a momentary pause from the "featured blogs" to consider something that has just occurred to me: the assumptions we make about orthodoxy, conversion, knowledge, goodwill, etc.

I guess sometimes we (I) fail to realize that we are not all playing from the same rule book, have not all had the same experiences, have no lingua franca, so to speak. While we all profess that we are Catholic, we do not all mean precisely the same thing by that. I think we are too used to the situation where an expert blatantly defies Catholic teaching: Kung, Curran, etc., these people know what the Church teaches (better than most) and yet operate according to their private judgment about what they think it should teach. But this is not always the case, not even usually the case, and for the person I am thinking about today, it is not the case.

When I was a DRE at a parish many years ago, I remember one of the catechists asking me what confirmation is. I thought she was joking. Why would someone who doesn't know what confirmation is want to teach catechism? Because she thinks it's a good work, that's why. We are all learning.

I have met myriad Catholics who wish to sentire cum ecclesiam (think with the Church), but who do not, through basically no fault of their own. We err when we think that it must be willful disobedience. We err because we think the teachings of the Church are so obvious, nay, even self-evident. But they are not, especially in this pluralistic age. Sure, if you grew up in a very Catholic environment, they become like a second skin, but that is not everyone's experience. But what if you environment was basically Protestant, and so you figured Catholicism equals Protestantism plus some extras of secondary importance? A very likely scenario. Or, just as likely, liberalism plus a few extras? Even those of us who are very Catholic, and very well-educated in the Faith, there are innumerable things that can creep in from the world. I have many of these things, that I try to analyze and root out in prayer, if they are inimical to the Faith. A big one for people like me would be the relationship between haute culture and the Faith - were St. Francis and the Desert Fathers right about education? Is it a trap that inevitably leads one away from Christ? No, it isn't inevitably, but are some of its aspects inimical, and have I adopted them?

In this internet age people become public figures very quickly. Due to a number of factors, laymen are representing the Church in public. Most of the great Catholic bloggers are laymen (laywomen, actually). Where did they receive the commission to do so? Usually they received no such commission. This is not the Middle Ages, where literacy and clerical status usually went hand-in-hand. It would be impossible for the Church to exercise much oversight of who gets to speak for the Church. I run a list called "Society of Canadian Catholic Bloggers." No bishop said I can use the word Catholic. Catholic here is an adjective. It is simply true that the people on this list are Catholic, as it is that they are Canadian. This aggregator does not represent the Church in any official capacity. Nor does the Catholic Review of Books - it is simply a fact that this is a journal of Catholics reviewing books.

The problem is that we Catholics often tend to think that this type of representation implies accountability. I am not sure it always does quite in the way we might think. Most of the bloggers at the SCCB would not think that they are above reproach. Nor would most of them want to be scrutinized by the 'doctrine police.' Most of us just want to write about our thoughts as Catholics. We don't really want to hear whether they pass muster with others. We are not writing doctrine, we are not attempting to teach the Church universal. Most of us.

And yet there are those cases that are so public and when the person presents himself as so officially 'the Church' that one almost feels compelled to say something. If you do, my advice is, do not assume that they are maliciously defying the teaching of the Church. They probably just don't realize that this is not one of those negotiables. And the angry condemnation of a private blogger is not going to convince them that they are in defiance of the Church; only that they are in defiance of some guy who thinks he is the Church.

I'm not saying don't challenge anyone. I am saying that a great deal of respect needs to be shown people, and the internet isn't all that gifted with that.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to post on the topic yourself, and anonymously address the person who is in error. Like I am right here! ;-)

I am not unaware of the problem, my friends. I am just trying to be honey to the fly. You know I am vinegar by nature.

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