Different strokes?

THERE WAS a TV show with this title, but it is apt for today’s topic from an interesting article in the August 4 issue of Church Militant. Although observed in the United States nevertheless they reflect similar situations here. In a way these observations explain some of the puzzles in the Philippine Catholic Church. As the Diocese of Bacolod prepares to hold its Pastoral Assembly these reports may provide insights into opinions and feelings that are also confusing some of our Catholic faithful but never expressed, given our traditional deference to ecclesiastical authority or reticence in confronting issues particularly of his nature.

On the other hand, to remain silent or ignore the situation on the ground is also unhealthy for the growth of the faith and undermines the fealty of the Catholics.

The similarities and contradictions are expected because we are influenced by the Americans even in matters of faith interpretation and application. In fact, many of our “modern Catholics” tend to go the way of the Americans, in the process eschewing even our religious traditions and values. Moreover, the Catholic Church is universal, one body and thus interaction is common among its parts. We learn from each other.

According to this article, in the Catholic Church in America these days, “one would find not two, but three distinct groups who still self-identify as Catholic in meaningful ways. First, there are the Dissenters, well situated on the political and “theological Left.” Then, we have the Traditionalists, occupying the other end of the spectrum, which is the correct end and who are certainly theologically accurate, as well as largely politically conservative. And then there are what could charitably be termed the Emotionals – a crowd typified by sharing some aspects of orthodoxy, yet having been brainwashed into a type of Protestant worship style, as well as being largely unaware of the Dissenters.”

They are not CINOs (Catholic in Name Only) who are in camouflage and practicing but who exhibit behavior and that are contrary to Catholic doctrine and code of conduct. Their focus and public actuation make them characteristically identifiable.

The article continues. “Indeed, some of what the Dissenters have preached and pushed for decades has been fully absorbed and accepted unquestioningly by the Emotionals particularly in areas of liturgy – from music, and reception of Holy Communion in the hand, to girl altar boys, to reception under both species, to the priest facing the people to name but a few.”

We have plenty of examples of this observation in the Philippines, some even going overboard though we have not adopted “girl altar boys”. At least not yet if we believe how ridiculous this oxymoron would be.

Who are the Emotionals of which we have also aplenty? “The Emotionals crowd defines itself by, as the name implies, how they feel with regard to issues of the Faith. Attitudes about the Church are based on things they like. So, for example, they will go to such and such a Mass because they like Father or the band or the feeling of community. Issues like reverence, theological import of the sermon/homily etc. barely register with them as issues at all, much less as a determinant of importance. Small “T” traditions don’t hold anywhere near the significance they should for the Emotionals, if they are even recognized at all. What they don’t realize is that the loss of the small “T” traditions is how their children have come to lose the big “T” traditions and are falling away from the Faith.”

We call the Emotionals as “cafeteria or fast foods Catholics” because they choose what doctrines to believe, which priest to respect or support, and what trends or traditions to follow depending on their momentary convenience and what excuses would be plausible. They bring their children to Masses of their favorite priests and thinking far out during the homily so much so that they are unable to follow through with the Gospel message to their children. Their behavior, choices mainly, are passed on to their children.

“One of the most clever tactics used by the Dissenters was to introduce ‘novelty’ into Catholic identity – innovation that was passed off as ‘making things better,’ ultimately, meaning relevant.”

What novelty? Let’s see on August 19.

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