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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Catholic Confusion

I have a co-worker who was raised by a Catholic and a Lutheran and by the time he grew up, his head was spinning. He made an observation today that I think we all need to consider; he noted that the Catholic family members in his life are completely "screwed up", that it has to do with Catholicism, and that they are all at one end or the other. They are either rabid dissenters or rabid traditionalists, and none of them agrees on anything the Church teaches.

This co-worker claims not to be anti-Catholic, and I really don't think he is, but without really listening to him, it's easy to miss his point. Initially I was a little offended in that he was blaming the problems of his family on the Church, but in listening further, I realized he was making the same complaint all of us are...that Catholics are confused. He loves his family, he encourages his faith, and when he learned in conversation that I am going to pursue a Master's in Catholic Studies, he told me, "Good! Somebody needs to get in there and fix this!"

I wholeheartedly agree, and you know what, friends and neighbors? It comes down to good, solid, catechesis. It comes down to losing the fear of correcting our "brother" for fear of retaliation or persecution, or hurt feelings. We have to get over ourselves and realize that it's more important to save souls than to be held in great esteem for allowing the same watered-down liturgies, watered-down "catechesis" and made-up "sacraments" (such as "Ashes" or "my work". Yes, I'm serious).

But the thing that both he and I discussed in our coversation was this: the Truth can be taught in charity, without accusation, without damnation, and without complete disregard for the value of the soul of another who may happen to disagree.

My friend is Lutheran but admitted that he doesn't really follow even his faith...he claimed he had to "pick something" and seeing the Catholics in his life at each other's throats made his choice obvious.

People, we are losing souls and we will all be held to account for our own behavior. I'm not saying to spare the words, but we should all take a lesson, no matter where we fall on the spectrum. Being hot under the coller only serves to make us look like a bunch of fools, and look here...I found someone to call us out.

Ultimately, though while the behavior involved belongs to the individuals, the cause of the confusion is the responsiblity of poor catechesis. While we cannot necessarily change a person, we CAN work to educate others, and we can do so in charity, by planting seeds and letting them fall where they may. We have to remember that it is not our job to convert others to Catholicism--that's God's job.

I do think it says a lot when an "outsider" can look through the window at the people he loves and put his finger on what's wrong with them and why they behave as they do...they are confused.

I know that confusion...I've been there, but not everyone knows where to go to find answers, and not everyone is ready to hear the truth or read it in black-and-white on the pages of the catechism.

That's why our own behavior, as well as knowledge, is SO IMPORTANT. St. Frances is famed to have said, "Preach the Gospel--if necessary, use words."

AMEN to that! I'm guilty of this, but sometimes words aren't enough, and most of the time, they fall on deaf ears. That's where "loving thy neighbor" comes in to play. It's hard to hug the lepers in our lives, but we have to do it...we have to learn to remain calm when maybe we are attacked, we have to learn to respond in love and charity when we feel anything but, and we need to be able to speak calmly when our faith is challenged--even when, in the confusion we inherited, we don't know the answers on the spot.

Y'all, the Catholics around us are confused. They don't know their faith, they don't know their history (how else would "Duh-Vinci" have taken such hold?), and when fighting against the culture's death to usurp morality, without strong catechesis, patience, and understanding, souls will continue to be lost.

Please pray for my co-worker. He's not anti-Catholic although he seems to be on the surface, as maybe many people do in our lives. Let's be prepared to hear them all out and take their criticism to heart in all humility. By listening to our critics, we might be able to see the issues we might have missed, and we may miss clues into how to "fix" the problem.

Let us all work to educate ourselves and each other, keep easy references on hand, and be prepared to defend our faith gently and with the authority Jesus passed on down to His Church. We do not need to be ordained in order to speak with authority...but we do need to be informed, and we do need to remember to listen before we speak. A soul may depend upon that.


RobKPhD said...

I have noticed the same kind of issue. But it is hard to solve.

As you say, the trick is getting the right information - adequate chatechesis.

Something I have seen is that so often, those ready to tell others are either a. misinformed or b. come off as condescending or "preachy". Sometimes both!

Basically, I am saying we need to have adequate education in our faith AND (and perhaps more importantly), live it. I saw a quote from Cherston today, that fits - it is for Christianaty, but it can fits here "the only good argument against Christianity is Christians." If we actually knew and lived our faith, there is argument that could stand and the truth would be obvious for all to see.

But even prior to education and action, must come a solid prayer life. Only here can we mature in our faith. As St. Francis wrote to St. Anthony "It pleases me that you teach sacred theology to the brothers, as long as in the words of the Rule you "do not extinguish the Spirit of prayer and devotion" with study of this kind."

BTW, I really enjoy your blog!

bookstopper said...

The root of the issue is the liberals who want to remake the church according to their own ideals rather than reconforming their ideals to the magesterial teachings. Often, they ignore or misrepresent teachings of the church. Many traditionalists have bought this disinformation as accurate of the church true stances and rebelled against them, leading them to be suspicious of the bishops and the rest of the church.

Unknown said...

I think another problem is those who go out to "teach the faith" with a sledge hammer. They tear people down in order (they say) to weed out the untruth.

If you look through the bible very rarely does Jesus tear down any but the worst sinners.

The well meaning ones he heals with hope and grace and patience.

I have seen more damage done in the name of the church by well meaning catechists because they don't try to meet people where they are and lead them to the truth, but rather they hit them over the head with self righteous indignation that they aren't living rightly right now.

God is love, Love sent His Son to die for us. If we can't teach in Love then nothing we teach will ever have meaning.

just my .02 from someone who is also learning, growing and wants to evangelize the world starting with the people in the pews.

Larry007 said...

First, I congratulate you on your pursuit of your Masters degree. Welcome back from your searches and banging the Church. I take it you're single and trying to decide what you might do with the rest of your life. I hope you can discern it well.

I think your co-worker has a unique position - living with those who were involved in the Catholic church (to some lesser or greater degree) and with Lutherans the group that started the rebellion so many centuries ago. They are close but no cigar - its only been recently that Lutheran and Catholic ides have started to be clarified and agreement on some basic issues been considered.

It's not Catholicism that made them this way (liberal or traditional) but a misunderstanding of what Catholicism stands for and what it says. In the USA, too many people have a tradition of thinking that - well, that's right for you but I will believe or do what's right for me. They take that attitude and apply it to the church - some call them cafeteria Catholics - picking and choosing what they think is important to believe and even what the truths of the church mean, according to their feelings or view of the world. If they don't like what the official church says, they give their opinion of what it should be and then pretend that is what it is, even though they have little background about Catholic teachings other than what they vaguely remember what they learned in CCD, bible study, religious education, Confirmation classes, etc. so many years ago. They might even get some backing to their view from one priest or nun/ sister who agrees with one of their views and act like that is the official Catholic view.

Catholics may be mixed up for several reasons -
They never learned well what the Catholic church teaches to begin with
There have been so many different ideas of what is acceptable in the last 30 - 40 years even when the pope speaks, they just remember what they like from what someone said years ago
We have so much contact with non-Catholics (Protestants, other religions, cultures, etc.) and we have this idea that all faiths are of equal value so one ideas is as good as another (Multiculturalism) that they accept other ideas they here from others, not knowing how they fit or don't fit
Some people rebel when reigns are tightened and leaders want to get ideas organized again. They just don't like restraint. In the USA, it reflects the individualism and focus on freedom and personal rights that gets in the way of understanding how what the Church teaches gives us life and freedom for ourselves with consideration of others.

When the world was us vs. them (After the Reformation and the time up until th 1950s) it was easier to have everyone hold on to the same ideas of the Church. The Baltimore Catechism was simple enough to use. Now we have a more complete and deeper understanding of the world and our place in it - New Catholic Catechism - our beliefs are not as simple as the Baltimore gave - but a lot of it is still the backbone idesa. We fight about what is and what should be - (male only priests vs. women as priests) we forget to understand what's behind our beliefs (Immaculate Conception) and what holding those beliefs says about the Chruch and about us as believers.

Being Catholic is harder but more fulfilling if you understand the system and how it helps us. Rules for success in the secular world you can read in business books helps you see - efficient and effective ways; how to handle problems; what to do after you start to grow; how to grow a company; what to do when your sales fall; how to handle over-abundance; seeing the future and planning today, etc. There are rules even though the rules for today change from what existed yesterday or 10 years ago. They give you tools to use and discover new tools or use different tools at different points of success. The church gives us the tools if we will use them. Beliefs are one thing, practicies are another, disicplines are another, and local practices are another. We have a great system - we just have to understand it better.

I admire your effort. Blessings on your life and studies. May God give you the right 2 x 4. Enjoy yourself in the festival of life in God.

Adoro said...

Wow, everyone, great comments! Keep 'em coming. As your hostess, allow me to attempt to address them all....

robk-- you and I completely agree, and thanks for the compliment. And I'm going to respond to your meme- thanks for the tag! :-)

bookstopper-- my first inclination is to disagree with you, which I've begun to learn usually means I don't have the whole story. Can you expound a bit on your answer and how you arrived at that conclusion? (I realize this is a combox). This topic really is one for a dissertaion all by itself, but we all have to start somewhere!

angelmeg-- I agree with you, too. I've seen the same thing and I've been on the wrong end of it several times. I also see it in our Protestant brothers and sisters, so any time this kind of thing happens I've learned it does more to chase people away than draw them in.

lobo -- My first comment goes to the end of your post. Do you mean a wooden 2x4 used for construction, or a sterile bandage used by the medical community by the same term, used to help cover wounds and protect them from infection? Or both?

You're right, I am single and trying to discern...I think I am a "Sister of Perpetual Discernment". About a year and a half ago I realized the Lord was calling me and initially I thought it was to religious life. While sometimes the prospect is attractive, at heart I don't think that I have been designed for that lifestyle...but I know that God IS calling me to something and as of yet I'm not fulfilling this call. Thus the need to jump in with both feet and worry about where the money will come from later. It worked for Mother Angelica, and if I'm doing God's will, He'll write the checks, even if someone else's name is the one on the check.

Honestly, though, since I'm not entering religious life it's hard to imagine someone just writing a check for a Catholic lay woman in her 30's who hasn't figured out yet where she belongs. But it's God's will and God's mystery and He is the author of supreme authority in this story. I can't wait to see how this turns out!

Anyway, you and I also agree and I think you expressed it very well. People really don't understand, they've been mistaught, and now we are all paying for that. "Multiculturalism" is really another word for "rhetoric" in trying to force us to become "tolerant" while in reality, the culture is trying to change all of us into a bunch of secular clones with different colored labels all reading the same thing.

That's not Truth and we need to go back to our roots, our history, and understand the structure in order to remove the glaze from people's eyes and help them back to the Church and the Sacraments.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how well you know him but it seems to me growing up in the midst of this conflict and being a supposed believer in Christ has he ever bothered to ask Christ what He would have him do?
That seems to be missing from his complaints and searching.
Regardless of his family situation and the various ways other's live etc. it is all up to him just as it is always up to us to choose. Maybe if he asked Christ to show him what Christ would prefer for him his whole life would change--mine did.
I was raised anti-catholic and and I am a Catholic bizarre! ha. It really wasn't anyone else that got me there--except my mom praying for me--she was the anti-catholic who converted too!--from Lutheranism--but it was Jesus. Once you have known him in any sort of a real way you can't ever get Him out of your life and finally I just very minimally opened myself up and He said I was to be a Catholic. I have little coinsidences and big coincedences that confimed my decision along the way--some to me were almost miraculous--but it was a very personal and specifically designed path the Lord led me on and I have the feeling it is that way for everyone.
He should ask the Lord where the Lord wants him and not lean unto his own ideas so much. Our ideas are so small and so limited.
I will remember him today in my rosary.
God bless you Adoro!