Some objections to the concept of prayer to the saints betray restricted notions of heaven.
A new Pew Research survey of 5,122 U.S. adults, (including 1,016 self-identified Catholics) finds that the Catholic church’s share of the religious marketplace is down from 23.9 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in the new survey, conducted in May and June of 2015.
The new survey goes beyond the standard tally of how many people say their religious identity is Catholic. It asks many questions that Pew has not asked before.
Pew found that in addition to the 20 percent who are Catholics, 9 percent of U.S. adults are “cultural Catholics”. Reared as Catholics they no longer identify themselves as Catholic. However, they still consider themselves somewhat Catholic by culture, ancestry, ethnicity or family tradition.
Pew also identified another 9 percent of Americans as ex-Catholics — “lapsed” or “fallen-away” Catholics — who were reared in the church but have turned their backs on it. This would mean that almost one quarter (9 of 38) of cradle Catholics are no longer Catholic.
“We see enormous differences between cultural Catholics and ex-Catholics,” said Greg Smith, associate director of religion research at Pew.
“Cultural Catholics exhibit a significant degree of openness to the church,” he said, “whereas ex-Catholics have cut their ties. Asked directly, ‘Could you see yourself ever returning’ to a Catholic religious identity, 4 in 10 cultural Catholics say yes, but 90 percent of ex-Catholics say no”.
Many of the ex-Catholics have become evangelical Protestants; or Conservative or Reform Jews (almost half of all converts to Judaism are former Catholics).
While the Roman Catholic church is getting smaller, those who remain within the church are stronger in their faith: 7 in 10 U.S. Catholics say they cannot ever imagine leaving the Catholic Church, no matter what. That means that in the future losses should be less.
The Pew survey found that most remaining Catholics align church teachings they consider “essential” to what it means to be Catholic. Leading the list: 68 percent cite a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; 62 percent list helping the poor and needy; 54 percent cite receiving the sacraments and devotion to Mary.
But only a minority see addressing climate change (29 percent) or opposing abortion (33 percent) as “essential” to their Catholic identity. Catholics are evenly divided over whether it is sinful to spend money on luxuries without also giving to the poor. Neither do most see it as a sin to use energy without concern for the impact on the environment.
Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com
I converted to Catholicism in 2001. I did so for spiritual not political or social reasons. I felt tremendous power and graces within the church, like I’d never felt before. Maybe once or twice I experienced something similar in Protestant churches but never had I encountered anything as powerful and complete as within the Catholic setting. There’s more to the story than that but it’s not really worth going into.
What I would like to talk about it is Pope Francis’ most recent statement that married people who do not have children are selfish. I think that is a ludicrous statement. I also think it will turn off my married friends – without children – who might have otherwise considered going to Mass to see what it’s like. When non-Catholics read statements like that, it’s not going to attract them to the Catholic faith.
Not that my raison d’être is to bring people to the Catholic faith. It’s not. Anyone who knows me knows that I accept and respect people where they’re at. I don’t think Catholicism is appropriate for everyone. And I only encourage people to come with me or check out Mass for themselves if I think they might gain some benefit from it.
Now, to return to the Popes’s latest statement… Several objections came to mind, actually so many that I felt almost overwhelmed. I realized I could spend hours critiquing the Pope’s statement. Luckily, however, I found this blog.
I think the above post (and its comments) provide an excellent discussion on the issue. But there is one facet of the conversation that is not really included. And that is the element of money. Of making a living. Something, by the way, that functional priests and popes don’t really have to worry about.
As discussed at the above link, I agree that a couple could join in a holy relationship primarily for spiritual support, for companionship, to do good works, and to spread spirituality throughout the globe or in their neighborhoods. It is also far easier for two people to make a living and pay the bills than it is for a single person. The Catholic Church, the priests, the clergy—they only have a vicarious grasp of this. Sure, they must perform within a busy schedule (some might say a partially self-legitimizing one). But they also get what could be called “free money.” If the roof starts to leak, the furnace blows, the pipes burst or the walls start to crumble, they don’t really have to fret. The “free money” always seems to magically appear from somewhere. And the very best tradespersons always arrive, pronto.
Most of us don’t have that kind of luxurious financial backup. And anyone who gets “free money” like that and harshly judges others who don’t, well I really think they should ask themselves if they’re in touch with the reality of living, and of making a living, in the 21st century.
Special to Earthpages.org
Vatican assembly on women’s equality in Rome from February 4-7 despite big fanfare seemed like a joke as there was no discussion proposed on women priesthood, Rajan Zed said in Nevada (USA) today.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that the outline document of this “equality” assembly clearly stated that “There is no discussion here of women priests, which according to statistics is not something that women want,” without mentioning the source of such “statistics”. But this document irrelevantly and strongly denounced plastic surgery, quoting it as “burqa made of flesh”.
Zed further said that Holy See being the largest religious organization in the world with about 1.2 billion adherents should show exemplary leadership in women equality to the rest of the planet by ordaining women priests.
When Church of England could consecrate a female bishop (January 26) overturning centuries of tradition, why can’t Roman Catholic Church ordain women? Zed asked.
Zed stressed that women could disseminate God’s message as skillfully as men and deserved equal and full participation and access in religion. What was the relevance of such assemblies on “equality” when the Church’s Cannon Law 1024 clearly said—Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination.
Zed urged His Holiness Pope Francis to introduce some “real equality” by reconsidering favorably the ordination of women priests. As women were equal partners in the society, they should be equal partners in Church also, Zed added. He urged Vatican to be more kind to Roman Catholic women as exclusion of women from some religious services, just because they were female, was very unfair and ungodly.
Quoting Hindu scriptures, Rajan Zed says: Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased. Men and women are equal in the eyes of God and religions should respect that, Zed notes and adds that time has now come for the women priests and bishops.
Zed suggested that theologians and canonists of the Church needed to address women ordination issue urgently; re-evaluate Church doctrine, theology, male hierarchy and history; and give women a chance. Women should be ordained to priesthood and should perform the same functions as male priests. Treating women as not equal to men was clearly a case of discrimination promoting gender inequality.
Even the image illustrating this Vatican “equality” assembly was disturbing, which showed a naked woman without head-arms-legs in bondage bound with rope, which seemed some kind of erotic fantasy. Vatican should display more maturity, seriousness and responsibility towards women, Rajan Zed indicated.
Philosophy is an ancient pursuit that has branched out in different, sometimes conflicting directions. So it’s difficult to write just a few lines about why people dislike Catholicism from a philosophical perspective.
Having said that, a broad distinction can be made between two types of philosophers:
- those who rely solely on conceptual thinking, or believe they do
- those who believe that reason should follow divine revelation or that reason, itself, may be inspired by God
For convenience I’ll call the first type A philosophers. These thinkers often seem entangled in a web of concepts, perhaps never learning anything beyond the range of their own abstract thought processes. They take great pains to define certain concepts – e.g. love, meaning, being, knowing, caring, commitment – and then say why their definitions and elaborations are best.
Type A philosophers may address the importance of experience, but their experience is mostly gained from the five senses. Type A individuals may or may not believe in God. Any kind of unconventional experience informing their ideas tends to fall within a limited form of the numinous (say, through drug use).
The latter group, type B, believe that thought may be informed not just by the senses but also by religious or numinous experience. Type B believe in some notion of God, a higher power or a divinity within. Their beliefs may be pantheistic or theistic. Even so, their ideas and convictions are often colored by their interpretation of a particular numinous experience (or series of experiences).¹
Concerning the dislike of Catholicism, if neither A nor B had experienced the numinous within a Catholic setting, they’d have no direct way of understanding Catholic spirituality. On the other hand, many Catholics do consciously sense the Holy Spirit upon entering a Church and through the sacraments (such as the Eucharist), so they have reason to believe in Catholic spirituality.
Catholics may not agree with all aspects of Catholic teachings at this point in history, but they do believe in the core elements. After all, the true elements of Catholicism, if they really are true, must be holy and everlasting. And any spiritually sensitive person should pick up on that, provided they meet with the opportunity.
Finally, there are historical factors contributing to the dislike of Catholicism.
Sometimes when I mention words like Mass, Church or Eucharist, those disliking Catholicism instantly point out the dark aspects of Catholic history. To outline a few:
- the Crusades and the murders, robberies and rapes committed during them, crimes that had nothing to do with any supposed holy war
- the Inquisitions and the cruel torture and murder of so-called witches, which some say had more to do with the Church seizing property for economic gain
- greedy, reprobate Popes
- the silly trial, condemnation and house arrest of Galileo when he saw four moons around Jupiter with his telescope and advocated a heliocentric cosmology
Clearly the Catholic Church has made more than a few dark blunders throughout history. While it’s important to acknowledge past atrocities of any social or religious institution, it’s also important to recognize how things have changed for the better.
History deals mostly with recorded events. Another side of the coin is psychohistory. Psychohistory is an odd sounding discipline. Rest assured it has nothing to do with Norman Bates or disturbed individuals and their violent rampages. Instead, psychohistory combines psychology and history in suggesting that past generations influence contemporary individuals through a mix of genetic and socio-historical factors. In other words, psychohistory does not assume we are born into this world with a blank slate.
From the perspective of psychohistory, it’s noteworthy that many individuals come from non-Catholic families. And these families might go back for centuries. When family roots are deeply entrenched in a given tradition, it’s more difficult to adopt a new set of beliefs. Not impossible, of course. But difficult. So for psychohistorians, some individuals dislike Catholicism because they’re biased by their non-Catholic genealogy. They may see themselves as open-minded, but longstanding biases, stemming back generations, close them off from exploring Catholicism in the 21st century.
Some self-perceived freethinkers maybe aren’t quite as hip, liberated and progressive as they seem to be. Many shut down when it comes to talking about Catholicism in a mature, adult way. They’ve got it all figured out. At least, they think so.
But to be truly open-minded, we have to consider things we don’t like. For me, converting to Catholicism was about coming full-circle and getting past my preconceived beliefs about intellectual and spiritual freedom.
I realize these articles only scratch the surface. People dislike Catholicism for many reasons. And this series only covers a handful of those reasons. I had little interest in covering many of the known objections to Catholicism. A quick web search will reveal several non-Catholic sites opposing Catholicism. Instead of regurgitating all the known objections, I wanted a fresh approach. One that came from my own personal involvement within this, at times, irritating but also magnificent spiritual tradition.
¹ For instance, some Christians in the first century believed that Jesus would return in their lifetimes. For them, the end of the world was near.
Copyright © Michael Clark, 2014
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.
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
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.
Earlier in this series about the dislike of some Catholic elements being a separate issue from the presence of the Holy within Catholicism, we saw that Niccolò Machievelli’s The Prince advocates deception.
According to Machievelli, lying to the masses is necessary for public leadership. Some believe this isn’t a cynical but, rather, a realistic approach. For example, in postwar times government officials tend to paint a different picture about a given conflict than that of actual wartime reports. During wartime it seems that disinformation is standard procedure.
If you went to the C.I.A. and said “How is the situation today in South Vietnam?” I think they would say it’s worse. You see it in the desertion rate, you see it in the morale. You see it in the difficulty to recruit people. You see it in the gradual loss of population control. Many of us in private would say that things are not good, they’ve gotten worse. Now while we say this in private and not public, there are facts available that find their way in the press. If we’re going to stay in there, if we’re going to go up the escalating chain, we’re going to have to educate the people, Mr. President. We haven’t done so yet. I’m not sure now is exactly the right time.
From Morris’ perspective, it seems that former US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara believed he was acting in good faith, given the political realities of the Vietnam war. Hindsight is 20/20. But those in power don’t have the benefit of hindsight and must make tough decisions, usually with scant information. So McNamara, now in a safe place to do so, admits to having made egregious mistakes.
Cover-ups and Sin
What does wartime leadership and disinformation have to do with the dislike of Catholicism? To answer this question, consider the Catholic hierarchy’s response to the sad fact that not a few priests sexually abused young people.
Some argue that Catholic officials tried to cover up priests’ transgressions with dubious politics reminiscent of a medieval kingdom. Pedophile priests were shuffled around to different parishes with hardly a slap on the wrist. And some victims were allegedly paid off to keep quiet. Most likely disturbed religious officials believed they were doing the right thing. Why else would they have done it? For them, the Church’s public image was more important than the reality of its scandalous practices. Either that, or their own jobs were on the line. It’s hard to know the potential complexity of the situation.
As reprehensible as all this is, it does not in any way diminish the holy within Catholicism. Instead, it’s an example of human sin and corruption. And practically every human organization contains some degree of sin and corruption. If we upheld sin and corruption as a key indicator for worthlessness, then virtually no human enterprise would be of any value.
The parable of the good and bad seed (Matthew 13:24-29) suggests that God knows about and permits evil for some mysterious reason.
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'”
Another reason some people dislike Catholicism has to do with the belief that Catholics perpetuate outdated teachings that are legitimized under the guise of sacred Tradition.
For those unfamiliar with Catholicism, the idea of Tradition refers to Church teachings that are said to complement biblical scripture with equal weight and authority. Tradition and scripture are “like two branches of the same tree,” to quote a popular Catholic saying.
At odds with the Catholic Tradition is sola scriptura. Sola scriptura means the Bible is the only source of God’s revelation to mankind. One form of sola scriptura, sometimes called solo scriptura, selects individual passages from the Bible to apparently prove a particular perspective.
We’ve probably all encountered this approach. Believers in solo scriptura uphold the Old Testament book of Leviticus, for instance, to allegedly prove the evils of homosexuality and gay marriage.
If a man lies with a male as a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them (Lev. 20:13).
But these same people often overlook other passages from the Old Testament concerning the evils of usury.
You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit (Leviticus 25:35-37).
So Christians earning interest from a bank or any other kind of investment would be sinning if this Bible passage were taken as an eternal truth. But it’s convenient for some hypocrites to rant and rave about prohibited behaviors that they don’t practice, and to completely ignore prohibitions that they do break 24/7.
Another dislike of Catholicism involves the exclusion of women from the upper end of the Catholic hierarchy. For critics, the absence of female priests leaves the entire faith assembly with a lopsided, dry feeling. That yin-yang sense of balance and complementarity just isn’t there.
By way of contrast, the depth psychologist Carl Jung, coming from a Protestant background, argued that the visible presence of the Virgin Mary in Catholic dogma was a step in the right direction. Jung believed that Mary played an important compensatory role for Catholics’ psychological needs.
But some feminists don’t buy it. They point out that the Virgin Mary doesn’t help real flesh and blood women who yearn to enter the priesthood. Nor does it help women and men who are bored of the mostly male presence at the Catholic altar.
Celibacy and the Perception of Women
Critics of Catholicism also believe that celibate priests conforming to pre-established, chauvinistic religious routines essentially avoid dealing with women as equals.
As far back as 1972, the US Catholic bishops conducted a Freudian study indicating that many priests are psychologically arrested at a young adult stage of emotional development.
This and other studies have been cited as alleged proof that arrested emotional development is a by-product of celibacy, the exclusion of women, repressed or clandestine homosexuality, or some combination of these factors.
Questioning the validity of this study, Patrick Guinan, M.D. says
Freudian theory is incapable of acknowledging religious experience or integrating the concept of chastity or asceticism into its idea of healthy human development.
Likewise, the Canadian writer and historian Elizabeth Abbott argues that celibacy can be a healthy choice. She points out that cultural attitudes about celibacy are quickly changing, especially with the drastic and sometimes deadly increase of sexually transmitted diseases.
Meanwhile, the Church maintains its stance on gender equality. Men and women are equal but different. Obviously this idea does not sit well with those deploring the absence of women in the upper register of the Catholic hierarchy. Critics tend to see this as culturally backward sexism based on sexist scripture and Tradition. The Bible, they point out, was written during sexist times. So it’s no surprise that many of its supposed eternal truths are, in fact, cultural.
For these critics, the Church’s stance on gender difference perpetuates sexist ideologies that serves to exclude women from positions of power. It also contributes to the dire shortage of newly ordained priests.
Copyright © Michael W. Clark, 2014.