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Mysticism and Sainthood – Part 2 – Mysticism, Science and Politics

Luke Gattuso – Rosicrucians – The Science of Mysticism via Flickr

By Michael Clark

To continue from Part 1,  it’s simplistic to say that all forms of mysticism are identical.

They may seem the same to some. But, by way of analogy, people with a tin ear can’t tell the difference between the Beatles and the Bee Gees. In practically every field of human activity we find experts and novices. Experts usually discern differences, great and small, in their subject matter while novices tend to miss them. Why would mysticism be any different?

Rev. Sidney Spencer says,

Before we can fruitfully generalize, we must know something of the different forms which mysticism has assumed through the ages.¹

Having said this, the following is not a comparative study. Readers looking for a good comparative analysis should take a look at Spencer’s book, Mysticism in World Religion (1963).

One could spend a lifetime researching and writing about comparative religion, something I don’t feel called to do. So this post will be limited to a select few Catholic saints and laypersons deemed to have lead holy lives.

Science and Mysticism

Contemporary researchers and skeptics often try to scientifically test the claims of mystics. But choosing a scientific methodology appropriate to mysticism isn’t easy. Science, itself, takes several forms and is variously defined.

Many theologians, for instance, believe that theology is the Queen of all Sciences – a “master science” – because its truth claims originate from God.

Clinical psychologists, on the other hand, tend to emphasize controlled experimental models that involve hypothesized cause and effect, correlation and statistically based predictions.

And, as noted, some philosophers and postmoderns spend untold hours questioning just what science is. Some, like Michel Foucault, tend to see science as nothing more than a modern myth, a discourse created and perpetuated by power.

From this, it seems the best approach for putting interior perception to the test would to combine several models—psychological, medical, sociological, philosophical and theological. Some attempts have been made to move things in this direction, most notably the work of C. G. Jung. But nothing has really become mainstream. Not yet, anyhow.²

"It is love alone that gives worth to all...

“It is love alone that gives worth to all things.” – St. Teresa of Avila (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Saints Speak

My article Krishna, Buddha and Christ: The Same or Different? touches on the idea of universal salvation. Universal salvation suggests that hell isn’t eternal or, in some instances, that hell doesn’t exist.

Believers in universal salvation generally say that even cruel, perverse tyrants immediately (or eventually) enter into heaven along with those decent folk who’ve lead good lives.

This can be an intellectually attractive idea. After all, who really likes to think of souls suffering an eternal hellfire?

But after reading the diaries of Catholic saints and holy persons like St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Teresa of Avila, Sister Josefa Menéndez and the Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, among others, one might become skeptical of universal salvation.

These mystics relate their interior visions, which apparently reveal the state of souls on Earth and of souls in the afterlife. Some souls on Earth are inwardly seen as holy and deserving of heaven. But others are trapped within the snares of the devil and doomed to hell unless they repent and change for the better. These mystics also speak of souls residing somewhere between these two extremes. So-called “lukewarm” souls commit various venial sins, such as gossiping or indulging in dishonorable desires. And after death they will undergo purgatorial purification, which itself is no party but, at least, temporary.

These saintly, mystical perceptions are not always oriented towards others. St. Teresa of Avila, for instance, had a vision of a nasty spot in hell where she, herself, would apparently end up in if she didn’t change her ways. Teresa was very frank about her personal battle with evil. In her autobiography she recounts an incident where “my good angel prevailed over my evil one.”3

Josepha Menéndez had regular visions of the horrors of hell, visions which could only be described as disturbing.4

Anne Catherine Emmerich had interior perceptions of ordinary people who were saints, strategically placed by God near centers of great sin and corruption. According to Emmerich these unrecognized saints suffered dearly for others around them, calling to mind the two related ideas of intercession and the taking of sin.

Modern Catholics have picked up on this with the notion of “victim souls.” However, it seems that some fanatics use this as a crutch to make themselves look better than they really are, or as a kind of denial of their own shortcomings. It’s far more attractive for some to blame personal suffering on other people’s sins than to ask themselves what they are doing wrong.

English: Saint Faustina Polski: Św. Faustyna K...

Saint Faustina Polski: Św. Faustyna Kowalska (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Polish Saint Faustina Kowalska, currently favored in Catholic circles, claimed to inwardly perceive and intercede for others in spiritual distress. She often suffered and prayed for, she writes, for other people located at a significant physical distance.

Critics of mystical diaries like Kowalska’s contend that Catholic copyists or editors probably added and deleted passages to conform to their Church’s teachings about the eternity of hell. The grand ideological scheme of the Church, critics say, would encourage clerics to meddle with autobiographical texts. In their minds this would be a justified means to an end—a “necessary sin.”

This, of course, is possible but seems doubtful, especially with the more recent saints like St. Kowalska.

The original handwritten pages of St. Kowalska’s diary are available for public scrutiny and not all that she writes about clerics and her religious sisters in the typed and published Divine Mercy Diary is complimentary by any stretch of the imagination. Faustina tells how her religious superiors regularly checked her bedsheets to make sure, so she implies, she wasn’t masturbating or having wet dreams. And she does this humorously, making her sisters conform to the old stereotype of the repressed and suspicious nun. She also tells of impure priests who aren’t worthy to hear a full, uncensored confession.

If covert editing was condoned to put a nice gloss on the Church and its often challenged teachings, why wouldn’t the alleged backroom editors have removed this unflattering material from St. Kowalska’s Diary?

Other critics rightly note that the religious diaries of saints would have been read by a Superior and ultimately by the Catholic hierarchy. The saints, so their argument goes, had to appease the known and imagined biases of their religious superiors, so wrote accordingly.

A good example of this might be found in the medieval saints’ intense disdain for women:

If God loves men and women equally, the critics contend, why would a leading mystic like St. Teresa of Avila – who apparently saw through the veil separating heaven from mere worldly appearances and social conventions – write about her female inferiority?

It is enough that I am a woman to make my sails droop: how much more, then, when I am a woman, and a wicked one?5

Did Teresa really believe in gender inequality or was she just conforming to the prevailing chauvinism of her times?

The idea that saints tailor their writings to please Catholic authorities could also apply to those passages describing the nature of heaven and hell.

Proponents of this view maintain that the medieval saints knew full well they would be risking a fiery death at the stake if they contradicted the Church’s teachings, enforced by the Holy Inquisition.

In a nutshell, some believe that saintly discourse was not just spiritually but also politically motivated. And who knows. In some instances they may be right.

¹ Sidney Spencer, Mysticism in World Religion (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963: Preface)

² In Intuition and Insight: Toward a Practical Theory of Knowledge I made a rough attempt to develop a working method to assess truth claims derived from interior perception, and to understand some of the factors that could contribute to error. This was an ambitious and daunting task, and the piece is currently in revision.

3 Follow this link » The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus and search for the relevant quotation.

4 http://goo.gl/oi5VBa

5 Follow this link » The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus and search for the relevant quotation.

Part 1 – One or Many? | Part 3 – coming soon…


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The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition – 5 – Psychological reasons

Big Bad Wolf

Big Bad Wolf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Projection onto the Big Bad Wolf

Now we turn to those who dislike Catholicism mostly because of their baggage—that is, their unresolved psychological issues.

Some Christians routinely advocate angry, hateful behavior. And if they see any vice among individual Catholics they arguably project their own anger – and other shortcomings – onto Catholicism as a whole. This type of Christian is self-perceived as genuine and true while Catholics are deemed invalid.

The self-righteous Christian may try to engage others in heated messaging wars over specific points of doctrine. With these individuals, the ideal of loving within the mystical body of Christ gets twisted into something more like negative attention seeking, stemming from an unresolved personal issue.

Non-Catholic Christians certainly are not the only folks who project their personal issues onto Big Religion. All sorts of people are prone to projection. Projection is a convenient way to ignore the inside by blaming something outside.¹

For instance, individuals and groups from non-US countries often single out the US as the Big Bad Wolf, as if other nations aren’t acting in their own self interest and, perhaps, less humanely than the US.

English: Photo of graffiti: "MI5 train ps...

Photo of graffiti: “MI5 train psychic mind readers – fact!!” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Religion and Spirituality – mutually exclusive?

Some New Age believers and talk show psychics believe they have paranormal abilities or enhanced knowledge about unusual phenomena like aliens and UFOs.

These folks typically see religion and spirituality as categorically different. Religion is all bad. Spirituality, great. And there’s no overlap for these black and white thinkers.

If the perceptions of alleged psychics critical of Catholicism originate from God, it seems that their impressions, insights and intuitions would be accurate and applied to the common good. But often with alleged psychics we find arrogance, self-absorption, hypocrisy and really moronic science. Little or no attempt is made to verify their claims, even though boldly proclaimed through the media. And the possibility of analytic overlay remains unchecked. Analytic overlay is a concept used by Remote Viewers but it could apply to the general idea of psi.

Remote viewing also involves the awareness that we can incorrectly interpret incoming data. A misperception can occur when our conscious minds get in the way and our imagination or existing mindset fills in the blanks or jumps to a conclusion about a remote viewing impression. Remote viewers call this “analytic overlay” and good remote viewers take steps to minimize it.²

Some psychics seem so entrenched in their paranormal, imaginative, deluded or perhaps pretend world that they show no appreciation for Catholic mysticism. The self-important psychic knows best. And that’s all. Most mature Catholics, however, don’t flaunt or advertise their spiritual gifts for profit or self-aggrandizement. St. Paul says that any such gifts are meaningless without true, unselfish love.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13: 1-4).³

Debate between Catholics and Oriental Christia...

Debate between Catholics and Oriental Christians in the 13th century, Acre 1290. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fallen Away Catholics

Another consideration is the so-called fallen away Catholic who dislikes Catholicism. “Fallen away” is a recent Catholic phrase. It’s the Church’s way of correcting itself over the old phrase, “lapsed Catholic,” which sounds a bit nastier.

Assuming fallen away Catholics did not suffer some kind of abuse in their past experience with the Church, it seems probable that some – certainly not all – began as cradle Catholics who routinely went to church, possibly coerced by their families. From their early conditioning, personality and other factors, these individuals might never have become firmly established in the Holy Spirit. Catholicism just didn’t work for them. And later in life they embrace something else that provides tangible numinous experience and communal support—for example, a non-Catholic religion or cult.

These individuals might remain happy with their newly chosen path for their entire lives. And memories of Catholicism might only serve to conjure up negative feelings of familial coercion, boredom, and so on. No wonder they’d dislike Catholicism as adults. Quite possibly they never felt the Holy within the Church. And if they once did, bad memories and new interests, together, could trump their recollection of positive Catholic spirituality.

The parable in Mark 4: 2-9 of seeds planted on a path, rocks, thorns and good soil seems to apply here:

In his teaching he said, “Listen! A farmer went out to plant his seed. He scattered the seed on the ground. Some fell on a path. Birds came and ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky places, where there wasn’t much soil. The plants came up quickly, because the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, it burned the plants. They dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorns. The thorns grew up and crowded out the plants. So the plants did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It grew up and produced a crop 30, 60, or even 100 times more than the farmer planted.” Then Jesus said, “Those who have ears should listen.”

But let’s not jump to conclusions nor generalize unfairly. No doubt many who leave Catholicism continue to experience God in their lives. And many could be on an extremely healthy path, according to God’s plan. Some Catholics might stop attending Mass simply because it no longer speaks to them. Or maybe it’s something as simple as vocational demands conflicting with a desire to attend. In their heart, mind and soul, however, these individuals still see themselves as true Catholics or, at least, as God-fearing persons.

¹ Projection can be adaptive to a point. But when a person matures, it becomes necessarily to strip as many projections as possible.

² Steve Hammons, ‘Remote Viewing’ has Basis in Science, Military Intelligence.

³ A similar idea crops up in Hinduism, where the holy person follows the dictum of “action without fruit.” This means that worldly reward (preya) is not sought nor expected for one’s good deeds. However, seeking spiritual reward (sreya) is okay in Hinduism. The key is to align the personal will with God’s will.

Copyright © Michael Clark, 2014.

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The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition – 3 – Theological reasons

Soufrière Catholic Church

Soufrière Catholic Church (Photo credit: waywuwei)

Theological reasons

Sociologists and philosophers, alike, say that Catholicism creates and legitimizes “truth claims.” The idea of a truth claim provides a good way to talk about beliefs without necessarily advocating or dismissing them.

Most non-Catholics will say that Catholic truth claims are not eternal but, rather, culturally and politically motivated—that is, relative truths. And some non-Catholics believe that all Catholic teachings are Satanic. These people often describe the Church as “The Whore of Babylon” or use some other shocking and alarmist, not to mention sexist, epithet.

Infallibility

The idea of Papal infallibility is probably one of the biggest reasons why people dislike Catholicism. But informed Catholics realize that only two Catholic truth claims are deemed infallible. Most others are less authoritative, and merely disseminated as general guidelines for good moral behavior. Many critics of Catholicism are unaware that not all Catholic teachings are said to be eternal, unchangeable truths.

Catholic theologians say the Church’s teachings have various levels of certainty. And Papal infallibility only applies to these two dogmas:

1 – The Blessed Virgin Mary’s sinless birth (Dogma of the Immaculate Conception)

2 – Her bodily assumption into heaven (Dogma of The Assumption)

All other Catholic teachings are not infallible.¹ So it’s incorrect believe that all Catholic teachings are infallible when they’re not. True, some Catholics say that infallibility includes all of the Church’s teachings. But I believe these people are misguided. And thankfully, they represent a vocal minority that the majority of sober theologians, Catholic or not, would readily dismiss.

Emblem of the Papacy

Emblem of the Papacy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Papal Authority

For some non-Catholics, even two (allegedly) infallible declarations are good enough reason to dislike Catholicism. From their perspective, Popes are mere pretenders to the throne of truth. So these critics don’t believe in any kind of Papal infallibility, whatsoever. And the fact that only two dogmas are deemed infallible makes no difference. These people simply want none of it.

Christianity as a Stereotype

Another theological reason people dislike Catholicism is based on a misunderstanding and, arguably, unclear thinking.

Many use “Christianity” as a blanket term for all types of Churches, organizations and individuals calling themselves Christian. If I say “I’m a Catholic,” sometimes it’s like waving a red flag in front of people who dislike Evangelicals, Fundamentalists and Televangelists, and who don’t know the difference among different types of Christians. It’s just one big amorphous dislike for all things Christian.

However, differences among Christian denominations (and even among individual believers within each denomination) are significant. In Ireland, for instance, Protestant and Catholic youth gangs engage in violent clashes. And as CNN’s Anderson Cooper has pointed out, some Christians align themselves with the Green movement while others are out to make greenbacks.

Falling Short of the Ideal

People also dislike Catholicism because clergy and churchgoers inevitably fall short of the Christian ideal. Some Catholics criticize and even denounce one another. Mean-minded gossip and talking behind another’s back is not unheard of in Catholicism, even though Jesus teaches us to love one another. As in most spheres of humanity, pettiness and hypocrisy are alive and unwell in Catholicism. Not surprisingly, this can be a huge turn off for non-Catholics.

Counter protesters to the Westboro Baptist Chu...

Counter protesters to the Westboro Baptist Church demonstration at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, on the day of Pope Benedict’s address to the UN General Assembly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Private and Public

With a little probing sometimes it becomes clear that a given Catholic’s private beliefs differ from his or her apparent beliefs as publicly expressed at the Mass. After all, human beings are social animals who normally don’t want to rock the boat. But arguably just as important, most Catholics believe in the necessity of liturgical structure. Structure affords unity and continuity amidst inevitable points of disagreement. So Catholics concealing their own private beliefs are not necessarily being hypocritical at the Mass. They might be respecting the need for structure while perhaps secretly believing in (and doing) their own thing—e.g. engaging in homosexual, premarital or extramarital sex, or practicing birth control.

On the need for structure, learned Catholics point out that the very first Christian disciples disagreed on certain issues (Acts 15: 1-21; Galatians 2: 11-14; 1 Corinthians 3: 1-23). So there’s a need, they believe, to clearly outline a set of teachings to carry the Catholic ship of salvation through all storms of disagreement which likely will arise in centuries to come.

English: Pope Leo XIII guides the ship of God'...

Pope Leo XIII guides the ship of God’s Church. Painting in shrine Kevelaer from Friedrich Stummel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judging a Book by its Cover

Another reason people dislike Catholicism has to do with their perception of being spiritually “alive.” Some non-Catholics say the Catholic Mass looks and feels dead or depressing. To them, Catholic parishioners behave like robots or maybe zombies; they’re victims of a Roman cult, just going through the motions, not really thinking nor believing in what they profess during the Mass.

With few outward signs of ecstatic joy or other grandiose emotional displays, critics wrongly assume that Catholics are spiritually dry and unhappy. These critics have no appreciation for the Catholic possibility of experiencing a high and delicate form of interior sweetness, healing and joy.

By way of contrast, Catholics, especially the more contemplative, may see non-Catholic displays of easily recognizable joy as commendable and perhaps even of Christ. But if possible, these manifestations of the spirit should be subjected to a process of discernment. Generally speaking, discernment aims to determine if spiritual experiences are from God or some other source. More specifically, discernment also tries to distinguish among different spiritual qualities, textures or environments, if you will, to find out if they differ from the sacramental graces conveyed through the Catholic sacraments.

Catholics are instructed to respect most other religions. The late Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said she “loved” all religions but was “in love” with her own religion. Along these lines, the existence of worldwide Catholic missions speaks volumes. Why would Catholic missions exist if Catholics did not have some reason to believe that their religion was best? And even though they may look dead on the outside, many Catholics base that belief on how their religion makes them feel–on the inside.

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus as another teacher

Another theological reason some non-Catholics dislike Catholicism is that Christ is viewed as just another teacher. For these people, Christ is no different from the Buddha or the Hindu god Krishna. They overlook (or don’t know about) the Buddhist denial of a willful God, along with Krishna’s advocacy of physical killing in the Bhagavad Gita.

The view that Jesus is just another teacher often comes from contemporary gnostics, or those interested in gnosticism. These folks cherry pick from various traditions, believing they perceive some higher code or deeper order among them. For them it’s a mistake to insist on Jesus’ uniqueness. And the structured Catholic liturgy just gets in the way of supposedly genuine, gnostic spiritual experience.

In response, the Vatican claims to recognize any truths or partial truths in non-Christian teachings but firmly disagrees with the belief that Buddha or Krishna, for example, are equal to Christ. It’s as simple as that. And it’s doubtful that any politically correct, sugar-coated interfaith dialogue will lessen this firm point of disagreement. From a Catholic standpoint, it’s possible that some non-Catholic critics have yet to reach a point in their spiritual formation to fully appreciate the heavenly body of Christ as conveyed through the sacraments.

Intercession of Charles Borromeo supported by ...

Intercession of Charles Borromeo supported by the Virgin Mary (1714), the Karlskirche, Vienna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary and the Saints

Another theological reason people dislike Catholicism relates to Saint Mary and the remaining Catholic saints. Misinformed Christians often dispute the supposed Catholic ‘paganism’ of praying for the saints’ intercession.

As outlined at Earthpages.ca:

Some Protestants and Fundamentalists believe that Catholics have got it wrong because, so they assert, Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and Man. But, quite ironically, many of these very same people freely ask their friends and associates to “pray for them,” which clearly is a request for intercession.

Catholics often reply to this Protestant and Fundamentalist charge by asking, “If we can ask souls on Earth to pray for us, why not souls in heaven?”²

Catholicism clearly outlines its stand on intercession. Asking the saints to pray for us does not elevate them to the status of gods and goddesses, as so many non-Catholic detractors would have it. This is just theologically wrong and an entirely groundless reason for disliking Catholicism.

¹ Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Rockford, Illinois: 1974 [1960], Tan Books, pp. 8-10 » See online discussion at socrates58.blogspot.com

² http://earthpages.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/virgin-mary-the-blessed

Copyright © Michael W. Clark, 2014

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The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition – 2 – What is truth?

Famous posthumous portrait of Niccolò Machiave...

Posthumous portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is truth?

Religion deals with beliefs and practices concerned with truth.

Most religious leaders appear open to interfaith dialogue but many, it seems, aren’t too keen to alter their core beliefs. They’ve invested their entire lives in a given belief system. It not only provides a comfortable living. It also gives them an identity. An importance. And some might say, a bit more sympathetically, a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.

Unless religious leaders are utter charlatans, like some TV evangelists, their sense of truth keeps them on track. To deviate from their cherished beliefs would be, in most instances, too psychologically and economically disruptive.

So after all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with interfaith conferences has subsided, many religious leaders probably walk away virtually unchanged, each still believing, my way is best.

This might seem cynical. But clearly there’s a politically correct aspect to religion.

In his classic The Prince Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) wrote that good ruling means

It is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic, and to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.¹

But what would a Machiavellian ruler have to do with religious leadership? The one works in the world of realpolitik while the other addresses the realm of the spirit. At least, this is the image that many religious leaders tend to portray. In reality, however, we can’t separate religion from the world. Consider the Vatican Bank, a global institution worth about $8 billion.

Not only that. There have been allegations about money laundering in the Vatican.² And other stories about Church payoffs to keep victims of sexual abuse quiet.³ Corruption and sexual abuse happen everywhere, in all corners of human experience. They are not only Catholic concerns. Still, Catholic leaders must publicly manage the weak side of human nature as it manifests within the Church.

During the Pope Benedict years, especially, Catholics heard a lot about homosexuality, abortion and other easy targets. But they almost never heard about the alleged corruption, closet homosexuality, and proven perversions within the Church. This arguably was a kind of lie by omission. But it wasn’t just a lie. It was pointing the finger to individuals less powerful, more vulnerable, and who, for the most part, couldn’t fight back.

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The French postmodern historian and thinker Michel Foucault wrote volumes about truth and morality. Foucault wasn’t interested in declaring truth or the good moral life. Instead, he was quick to point out how some discourses about truth and morality are highlighted while others are buried. Foucault believed that power, itself, was the key agent.4 Power either makes or breaks a given discourse about truth and morality.

This may be the case with most organizations, religious or not. But we should be careful when talking about power. What exactly is power? Isn’t there a negative, controlling type along with a positive, liberating form of power? Could a given institution, like the Catholic Church, express some combination of these two fundamental types of power?

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1. See XVIII – CONCERNING THE WAY IN WHICH PRINCES SHOULD KEEP FAITH

2. http://onforb.es/1hmS43i

3. http://goo.gl/XSR9rT

4 See Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon, trans. C. Gordon et al. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980.

Copyright © Michael Clark, 2014.


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The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition

Jesus le nazaréen by *Katch* via Flickr

Introduction

If you ask someone on the street about the difference between a Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian, chances are they’ll smile and admit ignorance.

Back in the 1990s, a fellow student of Religious Studies raised an interesting point in one of those mandatory seminars that everyone attends but secretly wishes they didn’t have to. He said humanities researchers should state their personal biases at the outset of a study instead of presuming they’re objective observers.

These days, the whole idea of objectivity is under fire, and rightly so. Any academic or scientist worth their salt will admit we can’t escape bias. The sciences have emerging concepts like “confirmation bias” and “experimenter bias.” And spiritual persons believing they’ve had a divine revelation should step back and ask if their apparent truth belongs within a given context. Is their revelation merely one that is appropriate for a given moment? It may be powerful. But it is universal? The highest?

This much said, and in keeping with my classmate’s prescription, I’ll tell a bit about myself to illustrate where I’m coming from.

English: Catholic church in Tehran

Catholic church in Tehran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before converting to Catholicism in 2001, I had little interest in organized religion. Childhood summers were spent enjoying the natural environment of Georgian Bay’s eastern shores. In winters I downhill skied at a resort overlooking the south side of Georgian Bay. So, in a sense, the great outdoors was my religion.

As for religion, itself, I was baptized in the Anglican church but never attended regular services. Weddings and funerals, that was it.

Like many kids, I asked the big questions. Why are we here? What is infinity? I never really got any answers but I kept on asking.

Eventually, I went to university and had summer jobs to help defray the cost. By that time I’d gravitated toward Freud, Jung and sociologists like G. H. Mead and Emile Durkheim. Later, I studied East-West philosophy, New Age and non-Christian religions. In 2001 I became a bona fide Catholic. But a free thinking one.

Since then I’ve met many critics of Catholicism. Instead of ignoring their views, I’ve talked with those honest enough to say what they really think. And from this I have a pretty good picture as to why some folks dislike Catholicism.

yesterdays_6

High Rock Island, Georgian Bay

Before writing this article, I told a Catholic friend about my plan to do so. She suggested I call it “Why people like Catholicism.” But I feel that dislike is the better term, because I’m mostly responding to the critics. And I’m not trying to put a positive spin on the all-too-human side of the Church. God knows, there are many issues in the Catholic Church.

Despite its real and pressing problems, I continue to experience the holy within the Church. And it’s not just because I was brainwashed as a kid. As mentioned, I wasn’t even a Catholic, and as a Protestant, I never went to church. I skied. I swam. But church? Nahhh.

Copyright © Michael Clark, 2014.

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Religious Americans view others

In this Rosh Hashana greeting card from the ea...

In this Rosh Hashana greeting card from the early 1900s, Russian Jews, packs in hand, gaze at the American relatives beckoning them to the United States. Over two million Jews fled the pogroms of the Russian Empire to the safety of the U.S. from 1881-1924. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

It is only human for most people to think more highly of themselves and the groups (academic, professional, social, religious, political and national) that they identify with, than they think of others. It is only natural to notice more of your own and your own groups virtues than the virtues of others; and it is only normal to to be less aware of your own groups vices and prejudices than those of others groups.

Thus, it is not surprising that a survey last week by Pew Research, found that Evangelical Protestants, who are confident that they are going to Heaven, score a warm rating of 79 with people who called themselves “born-again” or evangelical, but only receive a rating of 52 from others, a 27 point difference.

Catholics also give themselves a similar warm 80 score, while non-Catholics give them a six point warmer score than Evangelical Protestants rating at 58. but that still is a 22 point difference.

And Jews, who do not fear original sin and eternal damnation, rate themselves at a very warm 89, while non-Jews rate Jews as a warm 63, which is 5 points warmer than Catholics, and 11 points above Evangelical Protestants, but still a 26 point difference between self and others ratings.

On the other hand while Atheists gave themselves a 62 rating, others gave them a cool 41 rating, a 21 point difference.

White Evangelical Protestants rank Buddhists at 39, Hindus at 38, Muslims at 30, and atheists at only 25; the lowest score of any group.

Atheists give evangelicals an equally low overall rating of 28. But Atheists give much warmer ratings to Buddhists 69, Jews 61 and Hindus 58.

Americans are somewhat polarized about evangelicals. The survey found that, “roughly as many people give evangelicals a cold rating (27 percent) as give them a warm rating (30 percent).”

The most important results for Jews in this study is the very positive views Americans have of Jews and Judaism. Jewish anxieties about religious anti-semitism are greatly exaggerated.

On the other hand, many Jews need to examine their own negative attitudes toward evangelical Protestants who clearly differ with us in as many areas as we differ with them, yet still have a warmer view of us then we have of them.

White evangelicals rated Jews at a very warm 69, while Jewish respondents gave evangelical Protestants a very cool 34. Most people explain this as due to their ‘southern style’ and Evangelical Protestant Missionary efforts to convert Jews; which acts to offset their support for Israel.

Jews and Catholics have warmer views of each other than Jews and evangelical Protestants have because Catholics have no active missionary activities directed toward Jews, and Jews are more likely to know Catholics then they are likely to know evangelical Protestants.

Thus, Catholics are viewed more warmly than evangelical Protestants (58 vs 34), and this is only a little less than the Catholic view of Jews at 61.

These ratings are not a fluke. The Pew results match closely with a similar study in 2007 by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell for their 2010 book, ”American Grace.” The overall order of warm-to-cold views for religious groups is unchanged between the two studies.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com


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Our Meeting With Blessed Pope John Paul II

English: First appearance of Pope John Paul II...

First appearance of Pope John Paul II in 1978 via Wikipedia

by: Bob and Penny Lord

In the Spring of 1994, the four of us from Holy Family Mission had just arrived in Rome for an audience with Blessed Pope John Paul II.

We had previously been traveling throughout Poland gathering information and taping the lives of the Polish Saints and Martyrs. Saints like Faustina Kowalska and Martyrs like Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko and the Nuns of Nowogrodek were part of the schedule. In addition we had traveled throughout Poland and Lithuania gathering information on Shrines like Our Lady of Czestochowa and Saint Maximilian Kolbe.

We even had the fortunate experience to go to Mass with President Lech Walesa in his private chapel during the trip.

While we were there we had an audience with Cardinal Glemp, the Primate of Poland and he told us a lot about the Polish people and his friend Pope John Paul II. We went to Wadowice the hometown of Pope John Paul II and gathered information and tape on his early years and childhood in Wadowice. Subsequently, we made a documentary on his life.

Cardinal Glemp explained how Blessed Pope John Paul understood the soul of the Polish people and also understood the workings and minds of the Soviet enforcers.

One particular account comes to mind to clearly point out the situation at that time. John Paul as the Cardinal of Kradow was kept up to date about the plans of the authorities in regards to his flock. On one occasion, he was informed that the authorities wanted to reduce the number of Catholic Churches in Poland by 50%. So John Paul devised a plan. He immediately asked for a meeting with the top level authorities to talk about the Catholic Churches in Poland. The authorities were jubilant – those in charge believed this would be their chance to accomplish the goal. At the start of the meeting John Paul immediately asked for an additional 1000 Catholic Churches to be built right away. The authorities were upset and proceeded to do what they always did compromise – compromise! They negotiated John Paul down to 500 additional Catholic Churches to be built! Blessed John Paul was a genius and the authorities thought they won that battle!

Let us now share one more account before returning to the account of the audience: This account will give you great incites into the Polish mindset. The Catholics in Czestochowa wanted to have a procession with the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The authorities did not want to permit the procession, but also knew they had to obey the laws. Next the Catholics petitioned the authorities for a permit to process the Image in the back of a truck. The authorities were jubilant again, and this time they issued the permit, then refused to permit a driver for the truck. The Catholics simply placed two large wooden poles under the truck and carried the truck with the Image of Our Lady of Czestochowa processing through the streets as planned.

Now back to the audience. We had arranged to be in the Polish group for the audience and were very excited with the Archbishop asked us to step out of the crowd and go to a special place where Pope John Paul II would greet each one of us individually.

Our most memorable moment is when he spoke to each one of us individually. He told the four of us to continue to make television programs for Mother Angelica and EWTN Eternal Word Global Television Network. He stated that television and media was very important.

He stated over and over how important television and media was and we responded that we would heed his advice. Since then we have produced over 200 television ready programs and to this day we continue with that commitment.

The meeting was literally out of this world! Wow!!

We have never lost the determination to produce more media for evangelization.

Copyright (c) 2011 Bob and Penny Lord’s Site

About The Author

Bob and Penny Lord are renowned Catholic authors and television hosts on EWTN, Global Catholic television. They are prolific writers about the Catholic faith, especially the Saints for which they have been dubbed “experts on the Saints.” For more information about Saints in the Catholic Church like Blessed John Paul II go here http://www.bobandpennylord.com

The author invites you to visit: http://www.bobandpennylord.com

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