Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cultural Catholic?

Sunday’s Houston Chronicle contains a piece of filler from the NYT about Judge Sotomayor, stating that if confirmed she would be the sixth of nine judges who are Roman Catholic, but unlike four of the other five, who are “committed attenders [sic] of Mass, and ...make up the court’s solid conservative block”.... “indications are that Sotomayor is more like the majority of the U.S. Catholics” She is a “cultural Catholic”. That is “those who were raised in the faith and shaped by its values, but who do not attend Mass regularly and are not particularly active in religious life.

This comment surprised me, as I have never heard the term a “cultural Catholic”. I looked it up in Wikipedia:

A cultural Catholic is an individual who belongs to the Catholic Church but observes the religion's practices as a cultural tradition rather than a spiritual exercise. Cultural Catholics may not fully understand the theology that informs the religion's rituals, or may reject part or most of the theology as outdated or irrelevant to modern life. ... Cultural Catholics regard the sacraments of the Catholic Church (e.g. baptism, first communion, confirmation and a wedding in a Catholic Church) as important milestones in life, without necessarily attaching much spiritual significance to the events.
Anna Quindlen defined Cultural Catholics as, “Catholicism is to us now not so much as a system of beliefs or a set of laws but a shared history. It is not so much our faith as our past.”

On this Pentecostal Sunday I'm confused, how can a person define himself as Catholic without it being Spiritual? I’m asking for comments today. What do you think? How would you identify yourself under this definition?

1 comment:

  1. I think this kind of person is a lot like the Jewish person who has Jewish ethnicity but is not religious at all and still thinks they represent Judaism. I run into these types of Catholics a lot.

    One of my friends in library school went to Mass maybe once a year, did not observe the moral tenets of Catholicism, and still called himself a Catholic. When pressed on the issue, he cited some Scripture he had misinterpreted saying he had to do what was best for him, personally, thus turning Scripture into an argument for relativism.

    Cultural Catholics abound in our secular world. When I was in college, not that long ago, if I said I was a practicing Catholic, that meant to everyone around that I was against premarital sex, went to Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days, was pro-life and anti-abortion, was anti-euthanasia, loved the pope and believed that he was the Vicar of Christ on earth, followed the directions of my bishop, tried my hardest to keep the Ten Commandments and try to live the Beatitudes, and treated people with respect because I believed in the Golden Rule. People also understood when I did not eat meat on Fridays or when I did not party on Saturday night because I had to get up early for Mass the next morning. Now, saying I am Catholic just means I have some kind of cultural traditions, which I choose to follow piecemeal. This is not correct in my situation, but more and more non-Catholics believe that a Catholic is just someone who was raised Catholic but left the Church in pursuit of happiness and bliss, usually the physical kind.

    We see the same type of people in Governor (now Secretary) Sebelius, who is pro-abortion all the way but still calls herself Catholic. Also Rudolph Giuliani, most of the Kennedy clan, and others. They believe that support of homosexuals means support for homosexuality, when for the Church it means supporting the homosexuals but hating anything and everything having to do with homosexuality. These "cultural Catholics" believe that it is there own interpretation of the Bible that counts in their lives, when 2000+ years of Catholic tradition teaches us that it is the Church (having had 2000 years to work things out) that makes the decisions about what is right and what is wrong in our lives. Instead of relying on Tradition or tradition, they rely on their feelings, which are highly influenced by things not so Christian in origin or manifestation.

    Some people call these cultural Catholics "cafeteria Catholics." Growing up, we called them "C&E Catholics," meaning they only went to Mass on Christmas and Easter. Of course, you'd also see them at the baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation of their kids, but that was still just picking and choosing the practices they would practice and the beliefs they would believe.

    Cultural Catholics have at their disposal two popular and powerful secular maxims that they live by. The first is "if it feels good, then do it" and the second is "it is only illegal if I get caught." Those are recipes for disaster, of course, thus the proliferation of abortions, suicides, assisted suicides, murders, other crimes, drug use and addition, AIDS/HIV, STDs, and a general disregard for authority that these Catholics have. They are concerned only with "me" and damn everyone else. A very sad state of affairs, if you ask me.

    Regardless of what you call them, Shelly, they are still not Catholics. Catholic in name only is not Catholic. A Catholic is one who believes in the teachings of the Church and practices those teachings, trying their hardest to do what is right not for themselves but for their fellow human beings. Anything less is just fluff on a dandlion - what is important today may blow away and leave emptiness, which is filled with sin and depravity.

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