My Catholic Faith

6 09 2010

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The personal is only good when it becomes the impersonal. On that note, I continue with some trepidation.

But this solution is problematic in Hegel’s own terms: the problem is that, in the modern times of Reason, religion can no longer fulfill this function of the organic binding force of social substance – today, religion has irretrievably lost this power not only for scientists and philosophers, but also for the wider circle of “ordinary” people. In his Lectures on Aesthetics, Hegel claims that in the modern age, as much as we admire art, we no longer bend the knee before it – the same holds for religion.

-Slavoj Zizek, The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity

MGR RONALD KNOX, somewhere, illustrates a salient difference between Protestantism and Catholicism by means of an “umbrella test”: if a man leaves an umbrella behind in a Catholic or a Methodist chapel, in which of these can he be confident of finding it, just where he left it, on the following week? We know the answer – or at least we used to: if you leave an item of property behind in a Methodist chapel, it will remain untouched until you retrieve it, except insofar as some kind soul may have set it aside for safekeeping until your return. Anything left in a Catholic Church will be nicked – full stop.

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If there something that I have most feared about Catholicism, it is that it will become a church of respectable people. If it has already become that, perhaps I am in denial somehow. In this country, the tug-o-war seems to be to try to make the Roman Catholic Church into the Republican or Democratic Party at prayer, with the bishops in the middle trying to mediate the contest. In other countries, you have lay movements and the Opus Dei (“the dollarization of Catholicism”) trying to spread the good news about the deep involvement of laity in the Church and “evangelization”. The laity should no longer be the bumps on a log in a pew that they once were. They need to go out there and present a clean-cut, united front against the culture of death. But such rhetoric, though largely ineffective and widely ignored, still murders the spirit on an important level. Often in these campaigns, collective eccentricity becomes the mark of holiness, and though unspoken, it becomes the mark of a “real Catholic”.
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