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

5 thoughts on “Taking apart MyCatholic consciousness

  1. Pingback: Can you aid me make a checklist of Ten Commandments?

  2. 09 April 2012

    Hi Noel,
    Thank you for your most interesting and enlightening blog.
    Everyday, from centuries ago to the present, many people have spoken and written, with due reason, against the Catholic Church and its teachings. I, personally, have read and listened attentively to a lot of these most especially those written and spoken during the mid 80s when the born again movement was on the rise here in the Philippines and now in the times of Ely Soriano of Ang Dating Daan.
    Normally, the church tolerates and allows her children and those who are not part of the church to have a healthy exercise of their reason without interference, giving due respect to every person’s right to his opinion. However, there are times, like in this case, when a blog is written and people are invited to read the blog, the writing becomes not only an opinion but a source that has the power to influence other people, thus becoming the writing of a demagogue. It is in this regard that, as a baptized member of the Catholic Church and in that position, an unofficial but obligated fidei defensor, do I feel it is my duty and obligation to explain the different points or issues that have been made. I don’t write blogs, but I do answer people’s concerns when it is about the teachings that the Church has put forth.
    1. 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

    Basic logic would define this in Latin as “Argumentum ad hominem.” Because of this, would it be correct to identify the writer as also demagogic but demagogic middle class? To continue, here in the Philippines, the pastors of Iglesia ni Cristo would point out in the bible that to be saved one must be a member of the church of Christ, which translated would mean Iglesia ni Cristo. It is for this reason that they aver all those who are not members of their church will not be saved. The born again protestants claim that one must be born again to be saved as they point out also in the Bible. Anyone who is not a member of the born again group will not be saved. The muslims claim that to be saved one must accept Allah and his teachings and recognize the prophet Mohammed. If one does not, he is a heathen and will not go to heaven. What can be deduced from these and more? From an objective standpoint, every religion would lay claim to be the way to salvation and righteous living. It would be unfair to pinpoint the Catholic Church in a definite manner or an implied manner without referring to the other religions with regard to this matter.
    In any case, the Catholic Church declared through Vatican II: “ The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions. She looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.” ( Vatican II, Non Christian Religions, 2).

    2. 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.

    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

    “Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason. Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God’s revelation. Man has this capacity because he is created in the image of God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Knowledge of God according to the Church, Chapter 1 of The profession of Faith)

    “In defending the ability of human reason to know God, the Church is expressing her confidence in the possibility of speaking about him to all men and with all men, and therefore of dialogue with other religions, with philosophy and science, as well as with unbelievers and atheists.”
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, How Can We Speak About God?, Chapter 1 of The profession of Faith)

    3. 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.

    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?

    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.

    Being a part of any group or company or society whether New Zealand, the Philippines, IBM, Chase Manhattan, or the society of the just in heaven requires certain laws and qualifications that must be followed. It is the prerogative of that society to impose these rules and regulations on people who wish to enter into their presence. It is not the prerogative of the applicant to determine what that society as a whole should be. If the applicant does not want to follow these rules and regulations, then he should not be part of the society he wishes to enter.
    In 1993, a pregnant woman was stabbed by a man who couldn’t get to rape her. The knife went through her and straight to the baby so both mother and child died. The man was jailed but by some accident of nature he managed to escape. He ran across the street but was run over by a speeding truck. Can you conceive of an eternity of happiness in Heaven for this murderer and countless others, especially if the victim were a loved one?
    That is why the church and other religions have determined the rules and regulations that one must follow in order to attain this eternal happiness. Even Buddhism dictates that it is possible that one would reincarnate into a roach if one’s life were not in accord with the teachings of Buddha.
    How would we know with absolute certainty that these rules and regulations are the ones which we should follow in order to attain eternal Heaven? I cannot answer that in one sentence. One must take catechism in order to know how these came about. It may take time, but all religions, whether Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Anglican, etc. etc. etc. require this type of training to gain understanding of its tenets. No catechism no understanding, but misunderstanding. This is true for all religions.

    4. 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.

    This is the right observation from an anthropological standpoint. It is human nature to feel these things and others. From the religious standpoint we were made in the image and likeness of God but because of the first sin by Adam and Eve we were thrust into these bodies which were really not part of us in the first place. It is the tendency of the body to do what is opposite of what the spirit should do. It does what all animals do.
    The 7 cardinal sins are the beginning of all sins. These are pride, avarice, lust, anger, greed, envy, and sloth. It is human nature to have lust, but from here come all sorts of sins including rape, debasement, adultery, and a host of others. From unchecked anger comes murder, hatred, defiance, and others. Envy can also produce murder. Avarice can lead to usury, taking advantage of other people, cheating, etc. Pride leads one to disrespect other people.
    However, it is correct that people feel these things. But God through the ministry of his Church wishes his children to be purified of these things, not to be animals, but to be true children of God and merit eternal life and His Beatific presence. No animal or anyone who behaves like one will merit this. This is also the teachings of other faiths. Even Buddhism teaches that one cannot attain nirvana without the removal of bad things.

    5. 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.

    The Catholic Church has never issued a statement that the Pope is free from the human trait of making mistakes. History has shown that the Pope did make mistakes countless times. However, in matters of religion, because of the keys given to him, the Pope is infallible with regard to matters of faith. Again catechism would help iron out key issues in this. And again, no catechism, no understanding but misunderstanding.

    6.
    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?)
    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.

    Logically, it is true that ladies have as much right as men. However, according to the Catholic Church, since Mary the mother of God was not even given this right, the church will continue this tradition.

    As for homosexuals I would like to quote again a passage from the Catholic Catechism:
    “The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are sins that cry to heaven: the blood of Abel, the sins of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner.(Catechecism of the Catholic Church, no.1867)

    I hope in some little way things would be clear. I know by experience and through the teachings of the Catholic church that one does not get easily convinced even through reason but I do pray that this would be of some help to a greater understanding of the Church and its teachings.

    Best Regards
    Ronald

    • hey Ronald, thank you very much for your kind comment. It is this kind of comment that encourages healthy discussiion among friends and strangers about things that matter to us. As I mentioned above, your opinion is important, as is everyone else’s. Like you say, it’s a blog, which is supposed to express a personal opinion. I would love to add something to the discussion, but it’s already up there in the original blog. Thanks again !

  3. I guess the most important question has been missed, while all religions do teach good rather than evil and the belief that there is only one eternal God that we owe obeisance and worship to, on what/who’s authority are we looking to for guidance as to whether which religion has divine approval?

    Jesus warned us on Matthew 24: 4, 5, 23 – 25 that on the last days, there will rise false Christians and false prophets. Also he mentioned that not everyone calling his name will be saved but the one doing his Father’s will would be. So, who is doing the Father’s will and on what basis can we be certain that what we are doing IS the Father’s will?

    I believe that we will only know the answer through a consistent and in-depth study of God’s word, the Bible. It’s what Jesus did when he was on earth. He would always refer to the written scripturs in all his teachings. Learning what the Bible teaches us will not only bring enlightenment but also bring us hope for the future.

    http://www.watchtower.org/e/20051108a/article_01.htm
    http://www.watchtower.org/e/200904a/article_01.htm
    http://www.watchtower.org/e/20020708a/article_01.htm
    http://www.watchtower.org/e/200601b/article_01.htm
    http://www.watchtower.org/e/20040508a/article_01.htm
    http://www.watchtower.org/e/200602b/article_01.htm
    http://www.watchtower.org/e/20050408a/article_01.htm
    http://www.jw.org/index.html?option=QrYQZRQVNlBBX

    • hi Marji, I’m grateful for your comment, and thanks for the dispassionate and tolerant tone. Regards to you and your family, and may you be always blessed!

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