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┬ájust 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]