Catholicisms

12 04 2011

Every religion, even Catholicism (in fact, especially Catholicism, precisely because of its effort to maintain a superficial unity and not allow itself to be fragmented into national churches or along class lines) is really a multiplicity of religions that are distinct and often contradictory; there is a Catholicism of the peasant, a Catholicism of the petty bourgeoisie and urban workers, a Catholicism of women, and a Catholicism of the intellectuals.

-Antonio Gramsci, from The Prison Notebooks

Reading this quote now, I go back to my experiences in the Lefebvrist seminary, which I always say was just like an old fashioned seminary back in the good ol’ days. We actually had classes on how we needed to stand in church, genuflect, and even make the sign of the Cross. And of course, there were entire seminars on liturgical, social, and personal decorum. It was a bit militaristic at times, or maybe the military is a bit like a seminary. Shadows of Michel Foucault begin to haunt this post…

In any case, when describing this experience to someone recently, he said that the reason this was done was to prepare us to be part of a civil service class akin to the government bureaucracy of the old Chinese empire: it was to yank us out of our peasant, “undeveloped” Catholicism to put us squarely in the realm of “romanitas” (mind you, I went to seminary in Latin America, so Catholicism down there is much different than it is here). “Romanitas” in the old days was the string that held the Church together, the Catholicism of the clergy that bound so many disparate cultures into one Church. This was outlined to us one day in a spiritual conference, just as I have written it.

Now of course, we no longer have that, and seminary is not the right of passage and transformation that it once was. Now the clergyman is supposed to be just like the rest of the “People of God” (I really do cringe when I have to write that phrase) and Catholicism in many ways and places is indistinct from the modern culture around it. It appears that the way to resolve the problem that Gramsci posed is to dilute all of the “Catholicisms” to the point that they become a bland and amorphous mess with little positive content (other than obedience to the appropriate authority and keeping “it” in your pants). Maybe this is done unintentionally, but the result is still the same.

[This is a re-post. I am lazy this week]


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30 responses

22 04 2011
cantueso

To Alice C Linsley

Yes, I know what you mean, I know it really and truly well, because by training and vocation I am a translator.

Translation is a kind of advanced paraphrase exercise. So imagine what it feels like if you have to paraphrase that kind of stuff. Try. Try!

No, I never worked for theology magazines, but for the pharmaceutical industry and also for art magazines

…. !

20 04 2011
cantueso

As to re-posting:
You say you did it because you felt lazy, but it should be done even if one feels wide awake, because otherwise every new post that you write pushes your oldest posts further down into oblivion or a place where even Google cannot find it anymore.

Consider Ecclesiastes´”nihil novum”, look at your old posts, delete some and put the rest back up, one by one, if they are no longer being read (which you can see in your WordPress stats.)

18 04 2011
Alice C. Linsley

The phrase “people of God” is biblical, but I think Arturo is speaking about how the phrase is used these days. “Banal” is the word that comes to my mind. Rather like this: “living into the meaning of…” or this phrase: “to honor and reclaim the theology of…” When you hear phrases like these, evaluate the source and read behind the lines.

Here is an example from the Episcopal Church’s office of Economic and Environmental Affairs released statement:
“This year Earth Day falls within Holy Week, specifically on Good Friday, a profound coincidence,” said Mike Schut, a church spokesman. “To fully honor Earth Day, we need to reclaim the theology that knows Earth is ‘very good,’ is holy. When we fully recognize that, our actions just may begin to create a more sustainable, compassionate economy and way of life.”

“On Good Friday, the day we mark the crucifixion of Christ, God in the flesh, might we suggest that when Earth is degraded, when species go extinct, that another part of God’s body experiences yet another sort of crucifixion…”

18 04 2011
cantueso

In the Bible, the expression is found in Judges 20:2, 2 Samuel 14:13, Hebrews 4:9, 11:25.

Examples of the continued use of the expression “people of God” are found in Augustine’s De civitate Dei 19:26 and Leo the Great’s Lenten Sermon 50:2.

(Wikipedia)

18 04 2011
cantueso

But don’t you think it is Biblical, i.e. from the Old Testament? And I do think Ratzinger uses it.

17 04 2011
Alice C. Linsley

Sorry, Owen, if I offended you. I don’t come to this blog as often as I once did. I enjoy Arturo’s posts about religious sects/cultic practices within Catholicism. They appeal to my anthropological interests. The only thing that annoys me more than Roman Catholic triumphalism (which I find here from time to time) is Eastern Orthodox triumphalism.

Que vayas con Dios.
Alicia

16 04 2011
Owen White

Alice, uh, I have in the past named more than a few people with regard to this sort of thing. On my blog.

No one has ever accused me of being nice to or holding back punches toward Catholics before, or even insinuated as much, so I will enjoy this moment. A question was asked about a particular canonical issue within Eastern Orthodoxy. I answered that question.

16 04 2011
Alice C. Linsley

Names? You’d actually name people on a blog? Does that include Antiochian Orthodox, Ukranian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, but not a single Roman Catholic hierarch?

I could reciprocate by naming cases of nepotic in Catholicism, especially among certain groups. I know of several instances on the island of Puerto Rico. There it is not considered a bad thing, necessarily. It is called “enchufe.”

16 04 2011
Owen White

Alice,

What are you talking about? Surely not Glorious Leader making exceptions to the canons regarding the remarriage of those already ordained (but only those in his inner circle or from families loyal to Philip who have bankrolled him over the years), as nobody seriously disputes this. If you need to know the names of some Ukrainian Orthodox clergy in irregular situations, I’ll be happy to provide them.

16 04 2011
Alice C. Linsley

Owen White, that is a ridiculous, unfounded claim.

14 04 2011
James O'Malley

Perhaps I am simply naive, but I find it reasonable to think that the overly-religious college student in Ireland, the father of five in Poland, and the pious old churchlady in Brazil all share a common belief in the dogmas of the Church.

12 04 2011
sortacatholic

Rome’s tried payola many times before. Don’t think we can go that way again.

I wonder if Latin-rite Rome holds on to priestly celibacy precisely because of the many priests that are in common-law marriages. If celibacy were made optional, these priests would have no licit avenue to legitimize their relationships. Maybe the Vatican thinks it’s easier to let priests have “irregular” relationships than try to rebuild a broken hiring and firing policy. Ironically, some priests with common-law spouses might seek laiciziation if celibacy were made optional.

12 04 2011
Owen White

“Orthodox/Eastern Catholic readers: is there any way to conditionally re-ordain a man (through vesting?) who has “fallen into sin with a woman” and wishes to legitimize the relationship through sacramental marriage?”

Sure. Donate a sizable sum to Met. Phillip and get your priesthood back via the AOANA.

I’ve also heard that the Ukrainians in North America will ordain anything with legs. The OCA and ROCOR have their share of stories of exceptions being made. With GOArch I think you have to be Greek and from the right family to get those sorts of brakes. They don’t just hand back 80k a year cush priest jobs to anybody.

12 04 2011
sortacatholic

Orthodox/Eastern Catholic readers: is there any way to conditionally re-ordain a man (through vesting?) who has “fallen into sin with a woman” and wishes to legitimize the relationship through sacramental marriage?

I know that the Armenians permit deacons to wed after ordination. Is there any way that this Oriental Orthodox discipline could be shaped into a Roman discipline?

Former Anglican priests and Lutheran pastors are most often ordained unconditionally. Rome admits them to orders in the same way as any seminarian save for their dispensation to remain married. This situation is not the same as a man who begins a common law relationship after ordination. Still, there has to be a way to solemnize these common-law relationships, particularly because they are so prevalent in many parts of the world.

12 04 2011
sortacatholic

Jason: And I believe in celibacy, but I thought it was a powerful argument for allowing married men to be ordained (not to be confused with allowing priests to marry).

I wouldn’t be surprised if many of these priests have a common-law wife. This is common throughout the Catholic sphere in time and space.

I’m not judgmental at all. In some cultures, a man who does not wed has little or no power in the community. Catholic priests, then, are at a distinct social disadvantage. The Tridentine model of ideological control through celibacy has failed miserably in its colonial and post-colonial incarnations.

What saddens me is that these priests will not be able to keep their wives (yes, I mean ‘wives’) if optional celibacy ever reaches approval. The Church will not be able to “legitimize” their marriages since many, if not most, of these common-law unions have been contracted after ordination. If only the Vatican had the sense to in the very least permit marriage before ordination for certain cultures. Holy Mother just can’t give up the ideological control, eh?

12 04 2011
+Wulfila

I haven’t read the complete book yet (just chapters reprinted elsewhere) because it’s so expensive and our library doesn’t have it, but it’s on the top of the list for interlibrary loan! (Which reminds me to go to the ILL page to request it – thank you!)

12 04 2011
Turmarion

The “Catholicism of the apologists” almost destroyed my faith. When I converted I was your typical “subscribe to this apologist magazine and quote this apologist to refute this sketchy personage” American Catholic.

My experience was very much similar to this, and after 21 years I have no use for “professional converts”, to say nothing of apologists.

Oh, and I also noticed that there were quite a good number of people refraining from communion, something you don’t see in the United States.

Actually, among Hispanics, especially 1st-generation, it is still common even in the States. Our parish has a large Hispanic contingent, and I’d say that the bulk of the older, immigrant group rarely take Communion at all. Those born in this country commune much more frequently, though still perhaps less than average.

12 04 2011
Charlie Jackson

I’m wary of apologists who try to construct a kind of all-embracing “metacatholicism” — they risk turning the faith into what you called a “bland and amorphous mess with little positive content”.

I don’t really know what I believe exactly, except that I’m Catholic. The cafeteria variety. I stick to the morning prayers and weekly mass when I’m not working, but I’m pulled between atheism and overly attracted to folk magic.

Weird combo, but it’s perfectly American to sample from the buffet.

12 04 2011
Jason

Oh, and I also noticed that there were quite a good number of people refraining from communion, something you don’t see in the United States.

12 04 2011
Jason

Yeah, I had the same concern. I didn’t receive communion, but even if I were in a state to do so I don’t know if I would have. It was a small church, they probably had about 200 people there, and they only have one communion service on Sundays, so I can imagine that if the priest comes once a month they could have 800-1000 hosts consecrated…but who knows.

But it certainly drove the point home to discover that they have a priest once a month. And I believe in celibacy, but I thought it was a powerful argument for allowing married men to be ordained (not to be confused with allowing priests to marry). I’m sure there are married men there who could serve as fine priests. They wouldn’t have a sophisticated seminary education, but neither did the Apostles.

12 04 2011
sortacatholic

Jason: It was basically a “Mass” without a consecration, but they distributed the Eucharist as usual.

Practical question: how much Sacrament did they have reserved?

A friend of mine from Cameroon, who is evangelical Christian, once noted that the priests at his Catholic high school would consecrate invalid matter (i.e. cornbread) for lack of hosts. Where faith supplies, hopefully.

12 04 2011
Jason

I went to a Catholic service on a recent Sunday in Central America. I honestly set out for the Church thinking I was going to Mass. It never occurred to me that there would be no priest there. It was an interesting experience. A modest young lady talked where the homily would be (the next week I went it was an older lady). The absence of a man was noteworthy to me (and, in my opinion, quite unfortunate). The singing was the style you might find in any Latin American country (you know the style). There were young girls with hoop earrings in the pews. An old decrepit lady with a veil kneeling on the floor (she must have been at least 90, I admired her piety!) There were a few men men scattered about, but mostly women. There were sisters fussing with siblings, babies trying to crawl. It was basically a “Mass” without a consecration, but they distributed the Eucharist as usual.

The “Catholicism of the apologists” almost destroyed my faith. When I converted I was your typical “subscribe to this apologist magazine and quote this apologist to refute this sketchy personage” American Catholic. Once I saw how shallow and one-dimensional their arguments were compared to real life, I was on the verge of atheism. But, the simply pious Catholicism saved my faith. Sitting in a church and praying the rosary, going to Mass, saying my morning prayers, hearing “Immaculate Mary” sung as a processional hymn. Those are the simple things I love and cling to.

12 04 2011
12 04 2011
+Wulfila

I’ve been thinking about the issue of “Catholicisms” lately, mostly in reference to either 1. casuistry (the kind of probabilistic calculus about the rightness or wrongness of actions you need to engage in when you are confused by the co-existence of more than one “Catholicism” in your personal or professional sphere of operation) or 2. the professional study of global expressions of Catholicism (for me, a reason to engage I often need to engage in casuistry). There is obviously some overlap.

I found a book you might want to add to the pile of books you’re reading right next to Raj and Dempsey’s “Popular Christianity in India”. It’s a very good recent volume edited by Selva Raj and another individual called “South Asian Christian Diaspora” put out by Ashgate. Many unique expressions of Catholicism are explored in the volume. Tantalizing tidbit: in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora community in Germany, 8.1% of the population self-identifies as belonging to more than one religion. Catholics are a tiny percent of the overall Sri Lankan Tamil population in Germany and when you look only at them, it’s 67% who belong to more than one religion (usually Catholic/Hindu but sometimes Catholic/Protestant/Hindu). I sensed that something like this was likely to be the case amongst the Tamil Catholics I researched last summer in India but I was not equipped at that time to do a proper demographic analysis. Moral of the story: Tamil Catholicism is a very strange and idiosyncratic expression of Catholicism, and rewards investigation.

12 04 2011
evagrius

The defense of heteronomy is always intriguing but ultimately meaningless.

27 10 2008
vito

Recently Fr. Mark Gruber O.S.B. spoke to our Youngstown-Warren Chapter of the Society of St. John Chrysostom. After 9 pm he headed back to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, about a 2 hour drive, to speak with a group of young men considering entering seminary. Our audience was so impressed with his intellect and humble manner as a holy priest; his example gave us encouragement for the future. That evening I purchased his “Journey Back to Eden,” and found it one of those books difficult to put down. IMHO Pope Shenouda wouldn’t be risking much scandal or confusion by speaking about union or intercommunion with his brother Pope Benedict.

26 10 2008
Alice C. Linsley

Reading this yesterday reminded me of something I’d read recently in Fr. Mark Gruber’s journal of his year-long experiences among the Copts. He had the opportunity to take a walk with His Holiness Pope Shenouda on Dec. 1999. Fr. Gruber wrote that His Holiness “has anxieties about Catholicism in this respect: with which Catholicism should he reconcile? From what he has read, there are now several voices claiming to represent the Catholic Church, even about essential matters of doctrine. So how could he speak about a union or intecommunion between his Church and the Catholic Church when that might cause members of his Church to be scandalized or confused?” (Gruber, Journey Back to Eden, Orbis Books, 2001, p. 76)

25 10 2008
Alice C. Linsley

And in traditional societies things are hierarchical and ordered.

I taught for 2 years in a military school. It was an orderly, hierarchical and generally productive place to teach. Much more so than the public schools where I have taught. In the public schools I sensed that the faculty and students were perched on the edge of a great abyss about to fall off.

25 10 2008
Arturo Vasquez

I cringe at it primarily because it is one of those modern terms that doesn’t mean anything. It smacks of universalism and liberal democratic ideology, which have nothing to do with traditional hierarchical religion.

25 10 2008
FrGregACCA

While I can’t disagree with this, I do wonder why you cringe at the phrase, “The People of God.”

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