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The problem of non-believing Catholics
Catholic Culture ^ | 1/17/14 | Phil Lawler

Posted on 01/17/2014 5:04:10 AM PST by markomalley

Back in September, Damon Linker wrote in the New Republic that liberal Catholics were likely to become disillusioned with Pope Francis, because the Pope was not likely to change Catholic doctrines. Now, writing in The Week, he reports that he’s even more concerned, because liberal Catholics don’t seem to care.

Linker, in case you’re wondering, is generally quite sympathetic to liberal Catholics. But he’s upset by the “gushing commentary” on the new Pope, because he sees no real prospects for the “doctrinal reforms” that are his fondest hope. There are too many “institutional obstacles,” he believes, to allow for changes in dogma.

(In case you couldn’t guess, the questions on which Linker wants “doctrinal reforms” are abortion, contraception, and the ordination of women. He also wants to see an end to priestly celibacy, but acknowledges that this is not a doctrinal issue.)

After making his argument that reform of the Roman Curia is not enough, and major doctrinal change is necessary, Linker participated in a radio call-in show, and was taken aback when one caller, “Trish from Kentucky,” took issue with his emphasis on formal Church teachings. “Doctrine for a Catholic, now, is not even an issue,” said Trish.

Linker suspects that Trish is not unusual: that many liberal Catholics take the same dismissive attitude toward dogma. And this worries him, because if liberals are not pressing for doctrinal change, change will not come about. It worries, him, too, that liberal Catholics maintain their affiliation with a Church whose doctrines they do not support. “Why do you continue to attend church and think of yourself as a Catholic?” he asks them.

Good question. The same question could be posed to Catholics who agree with Linker, however. If they are convinced that the Church must change her doctrines--if they disagree with the doctrines she now proclaims—then evidently they do not accept the teaching authority of the Church. Thus they believe that the Church is not what she claims to be: the authoritative voice of the truths passed down by Jesus Christ through his apostles. If they consider the Catholic Church a fraud, why do they continue to think of themselves as Catholics?

When the question is phrased that way, the homely pragmatism of Trish from Kentucky seems more plausible, and one understands why Linker is frightened that many other Catholics think like Trish. They are Catholics not because they profess what the Church teaches—in fact they would favor major changes—but because....Well, just because they’re Catholics. They feel an attachment to the faith. They might even enjoy attending Mass from time to time. They’re ready to talk about Pope Francis and the prospects for Vatican reform. But the truth is that they’re not terribly interested in matters of faith.

Matthew Schmitz, writing for First Things, offers an interesting response to Linker’s lament. It’s unfortunately true, he argues, that many Catholics take no interest in matters of doctrine. It has become a habit, he explains:

For the past fifty years, indifference to Church teaching has been actively encouraged by bishops, priests, and catechists. Official episcopal announcements, books from Catholic presses, winking homilies, and a culture of silence on moral matters not only gave room for dissent but made assent actively difficult. Catholics in the pews simply followed the cues.

There’s a good reason why liberal Catholics don’t care about dogma, Schmitz concludes: “it’s that the Church has taught them not to care.” That’s not quite right. It’s not “the Church”—the Body of Christ—that has taught indifference. But it’s all too true that prominent Church leaders and Church institutions have encouraged Catholics to view doctrines as optional. I tell the same sad story in my forthcoming book Countercultural Catholic.

In the early centuries of the Christian era, believing Catholics were ready to fight to the death over questions of doctrine. They cared. For them it was a question of integrity; they would not pretend to share a common faith with others who held different beliefs.

Today’s liberal Catholics, Damon Linker fears, don’t have the integrity to admit that they don’t believe what their Church teaches. They may recite the Nicene Creed, if and when they show up for Sunday Mass; but they don’t actually profess the faith. It’s not that they are heretics (although that’s a possibility); it’s rather that they don’t care.

So Linker’s question is a legitimate one. If liberal Catholics don’t believe what the Church proclaims, why do they still identify themselves as Catholics? From the opposite perspective, why does the Church not demand more of them, asking for a more credible form of assent? The closing line of Linker’s essay poses a question that should trouble us all: “When does a church without a doctrine cease to be a church at all?”


TOPICS: Catholic; Moral Issues
KEYWORDS: cafeteriacatholic

1 posted on 01/17/2014 5:04:10 AM PST by markomalley
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To: markomalley
Ahh Yes

Church is a Social Club
I want it to be more like Me
So It will be worthy of my greatness

It's ALL about my way, not God's Way

PRIDE

2 posted on 01/17/2014 5:15:51 AM PST by HangnJudge
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To: markomalley

Great post. Thanks for sharing it.


3 posted on 01/17/2014 5:24:08 AM PST by A Cyrenian (Don't worry about stuffing the bus or filling the fridge. Try filling the Church.)
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To: HangnJudge; markomalley
There’s a good reason why liberal Catholics don’t care about dogma, Schmitz concludes: “it’s that the Church has taught them not to care.”

This is absolutely the truth. As the author says, not "the Church" in a greater sense, but the Church in the person of the local bishops, religious and lay teachers, writers and preachers.

Homilies are nothing but the priest giggling about how cute it is that he watched some trashy TV program and "learned" something from it, or mindless leftwing ramblings about "social justice." Catholic schools ceased to teach doctrine long ago, and RCIA programs are nothing but teaching people that it's nice to be nice.

4 posted on 01/17/2014 5:26:05 AM PST by livius
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To: markomalley; NYer; Salvation

A thought in response to the author’s sentence: “If liberal Catholics don’t believe what the Church proclaims, why do they still identify themselves as Catholics?”

Perhaps it is that they are becoming/morphing into considering Catholicism as a racial/ethnic group similar to those Jewish people who consider themselves “Jewish by heritage/genetics” but do not practice the Jewish faith.

Sort of like those whites who are have a Spanish surname or speak Spanish are now classified as “Hispanic.”


5 posted on 01/17/2014 5:39:25 AM PST by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: markomalley; Gamecock; daniel1212
The problem of non-believing Catholics

...i.e. the "CINOs", "cafeteria Catholics", "not 'real' Catholics" etc, is IMO that the Catholic church still counts and reports them as being Catholic.

...let me once again share the four-pronged typology that a veteran priest here in Washington, D.C., gave me a few years ago. There are, he said, four kinds of Catholics in this country and, thus, four “Catholic votes” on almost any issue. Any news report that lumps these groups together isn’t worth very much.

* Ex-Catholics. Solid for the Democrats. Cultural conservatives have no chance.

* Cultural Catholics who may go to church a few times a year. This may be one of those all-important undecided voters” depending on what’s happening with the economy, foreign policy, etc. Leans to Democrats.

* Sunday-morning American Catholics. This voter is a regular in the pew and may even play some leadership role in the parish. This is the Catholic voter that is really up for grabs, the true swing voter that the candidates are after.

* The “sweats the details” Roman Catholic who goes to confession. Is active in the full sacramental life of the parish and almost always backs the Vatican, when it comes to matters of faith and practice. This is a very small slice of the American Catholic pie.
-- from the thread Bare Minimum Catholicism

They may call themselves Catholics, and they may even go to Mass, but when it comes to life choices they are virtually indistinguishable from everyone else in America. They don’t live radical Christianity out in any real sort of way. Their lives look just like the lives of their worldly neighbors. They don’t give any more than the average joe. They seem just as likely to divorce their spouses, have only 2.5 children as their non Catholic neighbors and they seem just as materialistic as everyone else. They attend church if they feel like it, but if there’s a weekend football game or the call of the beach house they’re just as likely to respond to that demand. When it comes to voting, they’ll vote as they wish according to wherever they get their opinions from–TV, the newspaper, the mass media–just like their neighbors. The one source they won’t consider when informing their vote is their priests and bishops.
— from the thread Catholic Vote?

Are Catholics now so “successfully” assimilated into American political life that they are without political impact—that there really is no such thing as a “Catholic vote”? Unfortunately enough, Catholics are largely indistinguishable from non-Catholics and, despite a few pundits, no, there really is no “Catholic vote.” This obvious conclusion—clear enough from the fact that the vote for the winning candidates in the last national election was approximately the same for Catholics and non-Catholics—has serious current implications....

....Compare two lists: According to the USCCB, the five most Catholic states, in population, are: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. According to the American Life League, the states with the most pro-life legislation (i.e., inhibiting abortion in various ways) are: Oklahoma, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Texas. This is a shocker. In short, there is no Catholic political impact in support of life in those states reportedly having the most Catholics. As Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia put it, after the 2008 election, “[w]e need to stop overcounting our numbers, our influence, our institutions, and our resources, because they are not real.”
— from the thread The Mythical Catholic Vote: The Harmful Consequences of Political Assimilation

Related threads:
Bare Minimum Catholicism
Those consistently complex “Catholic voters”
When It Comes to Church Membership Numbers, the Devil's in the Details

6 posted on 01/17/2014 5:50:25 AM PST by Alex Murphy ("the defacto Leader of the FR Calvinist Protestant Brigades")
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To: markomalley

For the past fifty years, indifference to Church teaching has been actively encouraged by bishops, priests, and catechists. Official episcopal announcements, books from Catholic presses, winking homilies, and a culture of silence on moral matters not only gave room for dissent but made assent actively difficult. Catholics in the pews simply followed the cues.

&&&
Spot on!


7 posted on 01/17/2014 6:26:11 AM PST by Bigg Red (O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Ps 8)
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To: livius

Catholic schools ceased to teach doctrine long ago, and RCIA programs are nothing but teaching people that it’s nice to be nice.

&&&
You are so right.

Admitting non-Catholic students to Catholic schools did not help, either, as teachers often take pains to water down the Catholicism so as not to offend them.


8 posted on 01/17/2014 6:29:05 AM PST by Bigg Red (O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Ps 8)
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To: markomalley

Wow! Our Pastoral Council broached this subject just last night.


9 posted on 01/17/2014 7:05:50 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: livius

**As the author says, not “the Church” in a greater sense, but the Church in the person of the local bishops, religious and lay teachers, writers and preachers. **

BTTT!


10 posted on 01/17/2014 7:06:52 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: markomalley
In the early centuries of the Christian era, believing Catholics were ready to fight to the death over questions of doctrine. They cared. For them it was a question of integrity; they would not pretend to share a common faith with others who held different beliefs.

You don't say? But I thought that Catholics considered such an attitude "extreme" and one of the "errors" of Fundamentalist Protestantism?

Don't tell me the unchanging church has changed???

11 posted on 01/17/2014 7:10:23 AM PST by Zionist Conspirator (The Left: speaking power to truth since Shevirat HaKelim.)
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To: Alex Murphy
Unfortunately enough, Catholics are largely indistinguishable from non-Catholics and, despite a few pundits, no, there really is no “Catholic vote.” This obvious conclusion—clear enough from the fact that the vote for the winning candidates in the last national election was approximately the same for Catholics and non-Catholics—has serious current implications....

Thta's true. There is no such thing as the 'Catholic vote'.

12 posted on 01/17/2014 7:21:40 AM PST by pgkdan
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To: pgkdan
Thta's true. There is no such thing as the 'Catholic vote'.
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."
-- Matthew 5:13

13 posted on 01/17/2014 7:29:40 AM PST by Alex Murphy ("the defacto Leader of the FR Calvinist Protestant Brigades")
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To: Bigg Red
Admitting non-Catholic students to Catholic schools did not help

Very true. Once upon a time, when non-Catholics did for some reason or another attend a Catholic school, they were actually required to go to mass (which used to be daily in many schools) even though they couldn't go to Communion, etc. The schools stopped requiring even this much because, believe it or not, the non-Catholic parents whose kids were getting a good private education objected to this minimal demand.

In fact in some areas, I think you'd find that the majority of students in the supposed Catholic school aren't Catholic and many of the teachers are not Catholic either. And we won't even get into things like the Canadian Catholic school that has a lot of Muslim students and is permitting Muslim religious classes in the school...

14 posted on 01/17/2014 9:40:19 AM PST by livius
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To: Salvation

What did your parish council decide?


15 posted on 01/17/2014 9:41:25 AM PST by livius
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To: markomalley

Unfortunately, Protestant churches are undergoing the same kind of indifference to doctrine.


16 posted on 01/17/2014 10:05:45 AM PST by chesley
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To: livius

We put forth the topics of contraception, sanctity of marriage, abortion, euthanasia, miracles, etc. along with many others that weren’t so controversial.


17 posted on 01/17/2014 10:09:50 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: chesley
Unfortunately, Protestant churches are undergoing the same kind of indifference to doctrine.

Which Protestant church, yours, some other, one we read about? Just as the Catholic denomination is a denomination, so are the various Protestant denominations, a blanket statement like yours might as well just say Christianity.

18 posted on 01/17/2014 11:28:11 AM PST by ansel12 (Ben Bradlee -- JFK told me that "he was all for people's solving their problems by abortion".)
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To: ansel12

Well, I seem to notice it some in mine, the Southern Baptists. However, I was mainly referring to the mainline denominations, which have been drifing for decades, and also, the non-denominational mega-churches.

But, yeah, I was indicting Christianity in general, as it crosses a lot of denominations, moreso in some than in others. At least, that is the way I read the tea leaves.


19 posted on 01/17/2014 11:38:17 AM PST by chesley
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To: chesley
Well, I seem to notice it some in mine, the Southern Baptists.

If only we could get Christians to vote like Southern Baptists, our second largest denomination.

20 posted on 01/17/2014 11:48:00 AM PST by ansel12 (Ben Bradlee -- JFK told me that "he was all for people's solving their problems by abortion".)
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To: markomalley

Anyone who expects a “non-believing Catholic” to be concerned about a doctrinal revolution in the Catholic Church is missing the point entirely. A “non-believing Catholic” doesn’t care any more about Catholic doctrine than he or she does about the rituals and traditions of Judaism or Islam.


21 posted on 01/17/2014 7:22:25 PM PST by Alberta's Child ("I've never seen such a conclave of minstrels in my life.")
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To: livius

Yes, a very sad state of affairs.


22 posted on 01/17/2014 7:30:33 PM PST by Bigg Red (O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Ps 8)
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