Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It’s Tough Being Catholic. It Always Has Been. (CCCC #4)*

A benefit of digging into the catechism in its long format—all 2,865 footnoted, cross-referenced paragraphs—is the chance it gives to drill down into the underlying documents: sermons of the Early Fathers, letters of the saints, papal encyclicals, and the like. It’s a great big lesson in the history of the Church and world.

Paragraphs 37-38 of the CCC answer the question, Is the light of reason alone sufficient to know the mystery of God? Suddenly, you can be back in 1950, reading Humani Generis (HG), Pope Pius XII’s encyclical “concerning some false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of Catholic doctrine.” It has always been hard being Catholic, but seldom harder than then. Or now.

That’s PXII in the picture. Is he praying for help with the forces of modernity, including evolutionists, pantheists, and Communists (all covered in paragraph 5 of HG), existentialism (6), historicism (7), rogue philosophers and theologians spreading “La Nouvelle Théologie” (8–10), and “eirenists,” those who want an easy peace with dissenting Christians (11-12)?

It was an era of isms.

Pius was putting it mildly when he answered the question about reason: “There are not a few obstacles to prevent reason from making efficient and fruitful use of its natural ability. The truths that have to do with God and the relations between God and men completely surpass the sensible order and demand self-surrender and self-abnegation in order to be put into practice and to influence practical life.”

So the problem isn’t really with reason, but with things like self-surrender, self-abnegation, and getting rid of disordered appetites!

Self-surrender and self-abnegation are two attitudes that fell out of favor in Eden. They aren’t that common in modern man. This matter of surrendering one’s will, of bowing to the received tradition of the Church built up over two thousand years, makes being a Catholic today so difficult, and so unpopular. That and the Church’s position on disordered appetites, which, according to Pius, make it so that men “easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at least doubtful.”

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells the crowd to sit down. Then he will feed them.

We need to sit down. And maybe shut up.

* NOTE: This post is one in a series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, begun on the First Sunday in Advent in honor of the new liturgical year and to do my small bit to evangelize in this Year of Faith declared by Pope Benedict. To guide myself through the CCC, I am using the question-answer format of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (that makes 4C’s). I am no expert and apologize in advance for any misunderstandings, of which there are certain to be some. I am trying only to make some kind of personal sense of the Catechism by relating it to the experience of each passing day. If it’s useful to you, then cool. Meanwhile, it helps me.


  1. Webster,

    You might have mentioned this in a previous post, but it might be of interest to your readers that the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCCC) is available in book form (paper and electronics). I also did a quick search and found it available on the Vatican website.
    I tried to read the CCC all the way through about 5 years ago, but fizzled out after 3-4 months. I am willing to try again with the CCCC and your blog as a guide. Should be interesting.


  2. Thanks Brent. The Compendium is available in paperback for $14.95, and usually marked down at Amazon. I have also now added a hot link to the on-line version in the footnote at the end of this post.

    Please feel free to add your own commentaries to sections of the CCC since mine are likely to be more or less subjective, depending.

    1. Have you tried Youcat. Very brief and to the point. Brilliant.


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