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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Self-Hating Catholics

Earlier this week Cathy_of_Alex had a great post about Catholics with an Inferiority Complex. Her post reminded me of an incident I witnessed a few months ago.

Early this summer I had to attend a meeting related in part to my work at a parish. This meeting encompassed both Catholics and Protestants, and we met over lunch, which of course, involved saying grace.

As a firmly practicing Catholic, I am accustomed to saying grace in public, including making the Sign of the Cross, and even given the "mixed company", although it was led by a Lutheran, I of course did as usual. At the completion of the prayer, as is our custom, I again made the Sign of the Cross. A woman sitting across from me hastily did the same, seeming embarrassed to be doing so.  As she finished, she apologized to the Protestants at the table, "I guess I'm still a little Catholic..." and a couple other words of apology.

I was quite taken aback. After all, this woman was there representing a Catholic parish, and her position is one in religious education! Was she not actually Catholic? To my knowledge, her position requires that her religious faith be Catholic, consistent with her teaching role. So...why was she apologizing!

Really, I had no idea how to respond so I just burst out, "I LOVE being Catholic!" *insert big smile here*.  She stared at me balefully, and as I later learned, badmouthed me to the co-worker I was actually covering for that day.

This isn't the first time I've come across someone apologizing for being Catholic, and it won't be the last. The Protestants at our table didn't bat an eye at my making the Sign of the Cross; they obviously would expect me to do so.

So....what is there to be embarrassed about?

I can't figure it out.

Why do some Catholics so hate their faith that they are embarrassed to share it in the simplest of ways?  

Some, of course, don't know much about their beliefs due to the lacking catechesis over the last 50 years or more (even prior to Vatican II religious education was lacking), and so when in the presence of Protestants, may be afraid they'll be questioned. Clearly, this should not have been the case at this particular event I detailed above.

Some Catholics may fear debate, for they are not debaters by nature (I am not a debater myself so I understand) and may think that in "mixed company" they may be forced into a debate or perhaps made to look foolish.

Some Catholics avidly disagree with Catholic teaching and yet are held in by the "cultural Catholic" connection, much like that of the infamous Kennedy's or the, sadly, average Catholic in the pew who attends Sunday Mass on occasion "because it's what my parents did".

I suspect some of the fear and the "self-hating" comes from a misunderstanding of ecumenism.  Having often sat through deanery and other archdiocesan meetings, I constantly have heard of parish "leaders" demanding we become more like the Protestants, doing what they are doing to be "relevant", not realizing in the least that the Church is not called to be "relevant" but TRANSCENDENT.

"Relevance" is according to whim. "Transcendence" absorbs relevance, elevates it, and in the end, creates holiness without ever having to become profane.

I don't really have an explanation for self-hating Catholics. I can only offer the fact that I am saddened by such an attitude and hope that those who find the need to apologize for something as simple as making the Sign of the Cross in public and in the presence of Protestants do some real soul-searching and find their way to a good Catholic education class, maybe even seeking out a good RCIA program that truly passes on the eternal Truths of our Faith.

Jesus isn't made present among us every day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that we may tuck our tails and apologize in embarrassment.

We are called to be Saints and Martyrs....not mangy curs. If you're going to act like a mangy cur and pledge shame for your "faith", then you aren't Catholic. Period.


Jeff Miller said...

I guess she didn't know that Luther recommends the sign of the cross in his little catechism.

Though show me a self-hating Catholic and I will show you a Catholic not faithful to the Magisterium. Like those Catholics continuing whining about Catholic guilt when the truth is their conscience was actually functioning.

For myself I love making the sign of the cross and saying grace over meals public or otherwise.

Adoro said...

Jeff ~ Amen, brother! I've never met a faithful, knowledgeable Catholic who apologized for being Catholic.

The apology itself reveals the nature of a mangy cur who SHOULD slink away.

Margaret said...

Ignorance, shyness, awkwardness,and just not sure how to be Catholic anymore, may make some Catholics apologetic. I see many Catholics who have rather lost their way in the post-Vatican turbulence and overwhelming pressures of living in our secular world, a world where it is becoming more difficult to be religious at all, to say nothing of being Catholic or Christian even, especially to make a public display of it. I see more confused and misdirected Catholics than self-hating one's. When I visit my Catholic family back home, they all sound like heretics and protestants, not to disparage protestants and heretics. It's a bit dispiriting. I find leading and teaching by example, with love and respect, and with a show of confidence in my faith and my love of being Catholic, may give others courage to follow.

MJ said...

I ,like you, always say grace along with the sign of the cross before meals whether I'm at home or out in a public place. However a friend of mine, who is a priest (not our friend of course), does not feel comfortable saying grace if we go to lunch or dinner at a restaurant. I've never understood that.

Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

Adoro: Good for you, dear.
I must admit, as a rather "in your face" convert (my poor great grannie and great aunt were weeping at my conversion), I revelled in making the Sign of the Cross at family gatherings; I hope not to my condemnation (outta pride and just plain nastiness!!)...
But why do WE have to make compromise over very simple things that identify us as Catholics?
It's one thing to be nasty and overbearing, condemning everybody else to hell (I did not do that, thanks be to God! I want to see my kin in the "kingdom of heaven"); but why do we have to give up our "identity"...we can talk with other Christians; but the ecumenical thing has become like "race relations"...put your tail between your legs, be sorry for existing, don't even utter any kind of correction, distinction, or difference.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: I know I "Sign" in public and at weddings, funerals and baptisms for family and friends who are Prots.

However, there have been times I have not and if I'm honest with myself it's because I'm embarrassed and ashamed to proclaim who I am and my relationship with Christ and His Church. I've Confessed many times that I am a poor evangelist for the Faith.

Adoro said...

Margaret ~ Yes, I agree, there are far more confused Catholics, but unfortunately I've been running into a LOT of self-hating ones...and they are employed in nearly every local parish. Maybe all of them. In education.

MJ ~ I remember you telling me about him. Shocking...really. very very sad. :-( Priests especially need prayers, and he...perhaps especially even more so. He's in a tough spot, from what you've described.

Cathy ~ No, you're not a "bad evangelist". You're a human being who struggles sometimes. Be a bit more compassionate with yourself, dear! Remember that expecting perfection all the time and being shocked at one's own sin is actually a form of pride.

Hard balance, though, isn't it?

Adoro said...

nazareth priest ~ yes, that's exactly it...we're the ones who are making the "compromises"! WHY? We have the fullness of truth!

Anonymous said...

Here's a comment from a Catholic musician (cantor, organist) who's tired of hearing from the people in the congregation that they would like more "upbeat songs" at Mass! Embarrassed, bored or otherwise need-to-be-entertained Catholics...would these same pew folks be embarassed to make the sign of the cross at dinner in a restaurant? I make the sign of the cross and I play traditional hymns, not songs, at Mass. I think that embarassed Catholics like to be entertained at Mass. I think I see a correlation...

Banshee said...

If you were Catholic from certain ethnic groups (German, for instance), you were probably taught not to "make a show" of devotion and thus "act like a whited sepulchre" who was "holier than thou". This is the same Apollonian mindset that instructs people not to look at the other people in church, not to move more than absolutely necessary, not to dress too fine or sing too loud, and not to be noticed. Holiness is littleness and invisibility, not daring to hinder others. Prayer and fasting should be hidden in your room.

If you were Catholic from a more effusively devoted ethnic group, you were taught that you had to be visibly devoted. Displays in front of the house, big gestures, big stuff. Not to be visibly devoted was to be some sort of atheist or heretic.

Then you get ethnic groups like the Irish, that had both kinds of devotion, depending on the subject.

And then you get people today, who aren't sure whether they're supposed to go hot or cold. Some people realize they're feeling confused and why; your person obviously didn't.

With the need for evangelization today, and the EWTN charismatic roots being such an influence, the "don't show off" brand of Catholicism really doesn't get any props or guidance. Which causes a lot of resentment -- which of course one is also forbidden to show or indulge in any way. (The first rule of no-showoff Catholicism is that you don't talk about no-showoff Catholicism.) So of course it tends to break out at the worst moment; and unfortunately, your person seems to have had that happen. It didn't really have anything to do with you, I bet; you were just the last straw.

Or it really could have been self-hatred, of course.... :)

Sigh. I really need to try and find some time to blog about these issues. But I don't know what words to use for it, honestly. How do you blog about the water when you're a fish?

Adoro said...

Suburbanbanshee ~ Thanks for your thoughts on this. It explains some people, but the ones you describe aren't "self-hating" Catholics that so plague the Church today.

Look again at the example I provided; the woman in question WORKS IN RELIGIOUS EDUCATION. Those you described DON'T work in that job because it REQUIRES having to lead prayer and show one's Catholicism. It's kind of an important element of the job. And what's further, she works in YOUTH MINISTRY which is charismatic to the max everywhere. (ugh!)

She also belongs to the badly-catechized baby-boomer class, works at a local parish known for not being quite as faithful as others yada yada yada.

So you see, the self-hating sort is a totally different type than what you described.

Not all non-demonstrative Catholics are "self-hating". When you see the self-haters, you know them, and you realize they aren't just German-raised reserved religious wallflowers. Their hatred is active and they spend their days appologizing for being Catholic, especially when they are in the presence of Protestants. (And when questioned at all, their beliefs don't tend to be Catholic, either....)

MargaretYo_ said...

Adoro, admittedly my experience is relatively limited as I have only come home to our Mother Church more fully this past year and my absence, I'm embarrassed to say, exceeded three decades. I love being back, I love being Catholic, and have much to learn, and have much spiritual growing ahead of me. I enjoy your blog, and follow your Tweets. Thank you for your faithful witness.