Taking apart MyCatholic consciousness


[Note : no accidental omission of the space between my and Catholic, it’s very personal and very attached, the personalness and the consciousness, very much like MySpace, MyPhone, etc. ]

IT SEEMS a bit ironic and awkward that I talk about this on Easter Sunday, right before Easter Mass and waiting for esposa hermosa to get ready.  I’m not one to pass judgment, especially on the faith of our forefathers, our fathers and our peers.  I respect the beliefs of others, in fact I attend Filipino Mass once a month and ordinary mass whenever I can, but I can’t for the life of me continue to believe that salvation and righteous living is the monopoly of a religious and demogogic elite, dispensing their services and teachings in gorgeous robes to its obedient faithful.

Because in an irreverent nutshell, that’s what Catholicism is.  Suspending your rational thought and substituting it with faith of a very specific sort in the hope that you will be rewarded in the afterlife.  I know that I’ve done more than raise eyebrows and elicit indignant outrage among some of you dear readers, after all we Pinoys aren’t known for being sagradong Katoliko (or even saradong Katoliko) for nothing.

As disclaimer, I’ve always believed in a Higher Being and a plane of existence other than the one we’re currently on, but something about my Catholic consciousness, the one I’ve been brought up in, conjures images of intolerance against other ways of thinking, resistance against modern and enlightened thought, and an affront to the coexistence of different and diverse philosophies for both this world and the next (assuming you believe in one).

Sorry for that mouthful.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I get struck down by lightning on this otherwise cloudless and sunblessed day.  If it helps any, I make a slight distinction between Catholic faith and Catholic consciousness, notice I said slight, but a distinction nonetheless.  I acknowledge and admit the faith-based value and traditions preserved in Catholic teachings and canons, it’s the consciousness imbedded for generations and in whole families that I’m taking note of :

That just as there’s a God to adore, there’s the Devil to pay – It’s no accident that an important pillar of cathechism is putting the fear of the devil, as well as the fear of God, in the psyche of each Catholic youth. I think this is a vestige of the Spanish tradition of emphasizing Divine retribution, in the form of fire and brimstone, as a focus of Catholic schools.  That red-skinned, goat-horned creature with the cloven hoofs and pitchfork you see on the bottom of the most famous triptych-like label in Philippine liquor, and that all-time scariest movie The Exorcist were the embodiment of all the bogeymen and skeletons of my childhood field of dreams, but it was damn (pun intended) effective.  In so many words, the priests, nuns and religion teachers were telling us it’s all very good if you follow the Ten Commandments and avoid the Seven Capital Sins, but can you conceive of an eternity in Hell if you did otherwise?  That was enough for me.

Ten Commandments, Seven Capital Sins, mortal and venial sins – And talking about God’s laws, it wasn’t just the Bible that guided you but Church-made laws that might’ve made sense a century ago (and even then it was stretching it), but definitely not today.  I remember a school Missal we had that contained as part of its supplement, a checklist for act/s that fell afoul of the various rules and regulations of the Catholic Church.  For example : Under the Capital Sin Lust , there were the following guidelines : (1) Do I look at impure pictures?  (check.)  (2)  Do I laugh at impure jokes? (check.)  (3)  Do I think impure thoughts?  (check.) And the awkwardest , (4) Do I do impure acts? (Well… )  If ever anyone got to take a peek at all those check marks in that missal, boy would it make me blush.  But you get what I mean, right?  It’s almost as if Nature designed  your body to go one way, and the Church is designed to make your body go another way.  There’s even a term for it, Catholic guilt, which has controlled the hearts and minds of Catholic men and women long after they’ve graduated from Catholic school, and which has gone a long way towards fomenting and nurturing a million-and-one dysfunctions that we may or may not, eventually, overcome.

[ I just had to add this, but if memory serves, you could receive the sacraments if you committed a venial sin, but not if you committed a mortal sin, right?  But a number of venials added up to be equivalent to a mortal ??  We’re supposed to keep track of both quality and quantity?  Sorry to nitpick, but hmm… ]

Standing fast against the march of modernity, gender equality, and homosexuality.  I’ve nothing against the institution of marriage, which is the cornerstone of the family and society maybe one hundred years ago, but today?  And especially when spouses have fallen out of love and are no longer the same persons they are when they married?  It has to coexist with common sense and compassion, but it seems these concepts do not always converge with Catholic teaching.  Bonds of marriage are supposed to remain strong until and after death.  Now, how messed up is that?  Women in the priesthood?  Ladies have just as much right to administer God’s sacraments and provide leadership to His flock, and have done so in other churches, but not over St Peter‘s and his successors, the so-called Holy Mother Church (how ironic is that?)  And I’m not trying to be controversial or politically correct, one way or another, but I’ve never heard of salvation being the exclusive province of heterosexuals and straight men and women.  I’m not gonna elaborate, but these and other jurassic ideas were very much part of the program when I was in high school.

Infallibility, power to forgive sins, and other Harry Potter-like wonders.  But the thing that continues to amaze me most is that people still believe that someone can be free from the human trait of making mistakes which is essentially what the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI enjoys whenever he issues his papal encyclicals.  I admire the man, I believe he has done a lot of good for the Catholic church, but really, imposing on millions of believers the doctrine that a chosen leader is incapable of making mistakes reminds me of the time people were tortured for what they believed, or didn’t believe.  On the whole, it probably does more harm than good.  And that is no mistake.

Believe it or not, these were considered, pardon the pun, basic Gospel truths in our schools, and they are still taught today.  I believe in God and the goodness of man, and that we continue to exist after our earthly selves wither away.  But my consciousness has in part been shaped by a Catholic teaching that molded those basic beliefs to suit their worldly interests, their referring of course to the Catholic Church.  Whether or not you agree with me, and especially if you disagree with me, I don’t mind, but I will always defend your right to do so.  That’s something you might not have enjoyed from your Church elders a few hundred years ago.

Thanks for reading, and I do mean it when I say Maligayang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay, Happy Easter !

Noel

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