“Informed” Catholics

What can we say about them? Are they defined by their ability to memorize and recite answers? Or quote their favorite cable tv guru? Or cut and paste from an internet site to their own site or into a combox? Or be in touch with their feelings in a spiritual sort of way? Or intimidate ordained clergy with their superior grasp of theology?

Ultimately, this is a subjective judgment: how well informed Catholics are in the faith and how today compares with ages past. My belief is that Catholics have advanced on some fronts, lost ground on others.  If Bible knowledge is king for you, then you would say Catholics are doing far better than fifty or a hundred years ago. If the expression of Catholic culture in prayer and social life is the most vital, then I’d say the ethnic parishes of yesterday were the head of the class.

My experience would include these three gains: Scripture knowledge across the board (the last thirty years) liturgical participation and singing (the past 20-40 years), and social justice (the past 50-100 years).

And these would be my observed losses: a sense of overarching Catholic culture, including a sense of the sacred, sacramental life (except for receiving Communion and Anointing of the Sick), and the secularization of many Catholic schools.

The one who judges our losses and gains will be more influenced by her or his own preferences for the “ideal” Church: education, liturgy, culture, orthodoxy, etc.. I think the best approach for any Catholic, liberal or conservative to take is to first look on the bright side and acknowledge God’s active presence among believers. If a person is convinced there’s little or nothing but gloom, I can’t say it more accurately than this: you are deceived.

Once Catholics of all sorts are prepared to build on existing foundations, then I think clear progress can be achieved in unity. Taking an initial stance that things are horrid strikes me as a sin against hope, if not against truth.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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5 Responses to “Informed” Catholics

  1. Gavin says:

    “I think the best approach for any Catholic… is to first look on the bright side and acknowledge God’s active presence among believers.”

    Great idea! Shame most people (on both side indeed) don’t follow that.

  2. Peter Nixon says:

    Todd:

    I think these are great points. I would say that the overall level of basic knowledge of the faith is “medium to fair” at the moment. I find this sentiment on both sides of the “Catholic Culture Wars.” Several of the folks I know through the Jesuit School (both professors and scholastics who have taught high school) have told me their horror stories of poorly catechized students.

    Now I’m not necessarily arguing that catechesis in the “old days” was significantly better. But the need for good catechesis has increased as the education level of the Catholic population has increased. I’m surprised myself how dated some of the materials I’m using in Adult Confirmation are, but since we have a whole stack of the leaflets in question, there is sort of an expectation that we’ll run through them before ordering anything new!

  3. Tony says:

    What can we say about them? Are they defined by their ability to memorize and recite answers? Or quote their favorite cable tv guru? Or cut and paste from an internet site to their own site or into a combox? Or be in touch with their feelings in a spiritual sort of way? Or intimidate ordained clergy with their superior grasp of theology?

    Wowie kazowie! I guess this liturgical ignoramus had better defer to an official “liturgist” in the future.

  4. I would tend to agree with your assessment of gains and losses. I think, however, that the losses go rather deeper than what you have expressed, as follows:

    i) A far greater ignorance of the languages of Sacred Tradition (e.g., Greek, Aramaic, Coptic, etc.), Sacred Scripture (e.g., Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek), or the teaching authority of the Church (e.g., Latin and Greek), especially among seminary and university teachers, priests, and bishops;

    ii) A concomitant inability or unwillingness of clergy or the professorate to immerse themselves in the fonts of Sacred Tradition (i.e., the writings of the Fathers, the lives and writings of the Saints, etc.) or the Teaching Authority of the Church (i.e., the Councils or the Encyclicals), either in the original languages or in translation;

    iii) The resultant inability of clergy or those teaching them to be able to understand or to speak to others of the spiritual life, and the spiritual paucity of most priests’ sermons.

    And please let us not get into a discussion of “the good old days weren’t all that good”: Yes, the state of learning of languages, or of patristics, etc., was not all that good before Vatican II. However, the fact that the Council Fathers in various of their writings called for greater learning of the languages of Scripture, Tradition, and Church Authority, and a greater devotion to those founts of the Holy Spirit, and the subsequent large scale abandonment of interest in those things after Vatican II, are worthy of remark.

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