Thursday, January 3, 2013
Nine Things to Hate About Catholics
Philip Jenkins’s 2004 book The New Anti-Catholicism continues to rattle around inside me. In it the author distinguishes between opposing the Catholic Church as an institution (anti-clericalism) and opposing, distrusting, even hating Catholic people themselves (anti-Catholicism).
At first, it was hard for me to imagine that people would hate me for just being Catholic. But the more I thought about it, the more reasons I came up with.
1. Typically, Catholics have been immigrants, from the beginning of US history—poor Irish, Italians, Germans, and Poles in the nineteenth century, poor Asians and Africans today. The damn thing about Catholics is they’re everywhere. The only way of keeping them out is to keep everybody out.
2. We are poor when we arrive, so we start out as workers, not bosses; grunts and swabbies, not generals and admirals. To get along and make our way, we have followed authority, we follow orders. This makes people deride us as Papists. It also can make Catholics the first to go over barbed wire to take out machine-gun nests, and such like.
3. We follow because, in our purest form, we believe in the authority provided by tradition. We believe that wisdom is rooted in something deeper and longer lasting than the latest set of tweets from those you follow. We believe that the lessons of our ancestors are still worth learning, that in fact the deeper you go into human history and tradition the deeper the knowledge you’ll find. Humanity didn’t suddenly get smart five years ago. Humanity is a journey of ten billion souls, that has been going on now for several thousand years—a Camino toward one common destiny. We Catholics happily take part.
4. This traditional orientation leads us to think that when studying Christianity we would be best served by heeding those closest to the source, to Jesus—not just the Scripture writers of the first century but the Fathers of the first five, who were soon enough joined by Mothers as well. We think there's wisdom in studying the teachings of the saints over two thousand years, men and women named Augustine and Teresa, Thomas and Catherine. We think that there may be more value in listening to them than in reading the latest musings of “humanist theologians” or self-help experts.
5. You’ll probably think this is a bizarre notion, but we Catholics believe that men and women are different. We think that a daddy is not the same thing as a mommy. And we believe that this difference is God-given, that it is inherent in our creation, and we do so knowing that, all the way back to Adam and Eve, humanity has believed this. Until five years ago, that is.
6. We take sex seriously. We want to understand it, not just do it. We don’t see it as an isolated, consequence-free exercise in self-pleasuring but as something sacred connected with every aspect of our spiritual lives. We wonder how our sexual choices affect our spiritual lives, our physical health, our family dynamics, and the state of our culture. We wonder how the sexual choices we make today will affect tomorrow’s generation of children.
7. Some of us choose not to have sex for a living, call us crazy. The Catholic Church’s teaching about celibacy for priests and religious, and chastity even for those of us in the married state, means that we center our lives around something bigger than sex. We “identify” as something other than hetero, homo, bi, trans, or whatever you choose to call yourself today. This puts us at odds with much of society today, which has made sex the ultimate idol.
8. We think we’re pretty smart. Catholics built the universities and the cathedrals. Catholics created polyphonic music and the canon of Western literature: Chaucer, Dante, Cervantes, some say even Shakespeare. You can list lots of other smart stuff Catholics have written and composed and created, but I’m getting tired here, people.
9. When we get upset with the state of the world, we don’t blow things up, we pray.
For those offended by the title of this post, please note that one of my favorite films is titled “Ten Things I Hate About You,” and it’s a love story.
Unfortunately, I could think of only nine things to hate about Catholics, but I bet you can think of others.
NOTE: Thanks to Pat McNamara’s Patheos column for the classic anti-Catholic cartoon at the top of this post.