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Monday, April 14, 2014


mary martha

A slight correction - there is no such thing as 'Catholic by birth'. Catholicism is not an ethnicity.

If one is from a Catholic family and raised Catholic the generally used term is 'Cradle Catholic' indicating that one was baptized into the faith as a baby.

Dr X

MM. What you noticed my habitual avoidance of the term cradle Catholic. Some people consider it offensive, so I generally don't use it.

People seem to know that born catholic is just a verbal shorthand meaning born to Catholic parents and baptized as an infant. Personally, I don't care about the language. I know the "legalities," but certain habits of language have developed doing work for the Catholic Church. Sometimes I say baptized catholic as an infant, sometimes born Catholic/raised catholic. People know what I mean, but I have mostly dropped cradle Catholic because it's been met with objection on a few occasions. I think it's a trivial matter, but because it comes up in my work I try to avoid offending the subset it seems to bother.


Yikes, new ways I can offend people by inadvertently saying the wrong thing....As the Protestant mom of an EXTREMELY zealous recent Catholic convert I offend often enough as it is. There is much ribbing about burning at the stake at home, and filthy heretics and the Spanish Inquisition that she has to endure as our family is of primarily Puritan, Huguenot and Calvinist ancestry so we have a lot of material to draw on....But it's just in fun. I'm actually thrilled that she has drawn closer to God again, and bless the Church for being a haven for her...

To be more serious, this post stirred up a lot...probably only tangentially related to your friends...

As I get older, I find that I care less and less which faith or denomination a person belongs to, so long as they belong to something. That is to say, I gravitate towards devout Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Protestant Evangelicals, Mormons, because all are seeking the Divine, and have at least some sense that they aren't that Divinity. By contrast, I feel (this may be an illusion, I realize) that I have far less in common with my relatives and acquaintances who are nominal Christians but who are in practice apathetic about God, don't practice a religion, and don't belong to a religious community.

We had a discussion in seminary once when a close friend of mine from another graduate school there converted to Judaism when she married a Jewish doctor whose family insisted. She loved him, had never had much religious commitment to her Congregational home roots, and ended up very happy. Their kids were raised in a religious home without cultural splitting in two between Christianity and Judaism and it proved a happy marriage. I reflected on it before their wedding,and thought that domestic peace was more pleasing to God that doctrinal correctness and felt she had made the right decision. I wasn't sure if I would have been able to do it, as I'm stubborn, but I liked the idea of their kids being raised in the knowledge and love of God, rather than those pathetic spiritual orphans more and more couples are raising outside of any religious tradition.

When I later married a cradle Episcopalian who loathes church, and feels all religious people are hypocrites, who has no use for the Bible or the basic tenets of Christianity, I said rather ferociously that our kids would be raised in the faith, and that church would be mandatory for them until they were confirmed. This was not up for negotiation, and he put up with it, as I have compromised on other things equally important to him. He did observe frequently, with some surprise, how it seemed to have a good effect on them, but he was flummoxed by their piety and seriousness about applying their faith to everyday life...

In my view, children need to be taught about God before they can understand Him, much as we give them healthy food and vitamins LONG before they understand why good nutrition matters. We don't give kids choices before they are old enough to understand what might be good for them.

My long suffering brats are all believers to this day, tho they amused themselves baiting me and mocking my church when they hit 18, But the brainwashing took, and its most vivid manifestation now is in their passion for a non PC kind of social justice, in helping the underdog, denying oneself to help others. By contrast, I'm a greedy materialist with my camera gear and excessive possessions.

We do argue about religious identity, tho.

If I want to tease my kid, for example, I can say "But when I worked with the nuns, THEY always let me take communion even tho I was a Protty bastard. And MY church offers it to ALL baptized believers, so I think I will just go up and receive...." ( I am just teasing her, tho I think the Church's position churlish and uncharitable, and wonder WWJD about the issue. In fact, I defer to her feelings and the RC doctrine on the subject that we Protty jerks are all doomed to hellfire and have no right to receive because we don't belong to the elect. It isn't true, but I don't want to upset the faithful...The nuns, who worked tirelessly serving poor kids from the city who had been abused and neglected, had no patience with anybody who wanted to keep people from God. The nuns were, I think, more in tune with the current Holy Father...

But I digress...

I'm sure your friends are nice people, but I don't care that much myself about the external observances and making nice on ANY holidays. As far as I;m concerned, all these holidays are about drawing closer to the Holy One who calls all of us out of bondage into freedom and demands that we serve others lovingly in His name. Tablecloths and decoration and menus are frills and furbelows.

The most meaningful Passover Seder I went to was with a roommate from college's family after I had just had a beau dump me because I wasn't Jewish (his relatives were survivors). "Yeah right!" was what I thought, figuring that his talk about not wanting to break his grandparents' heart was just BS and that he had probably just found someone hotter... I was cranky as a result, and not especially close to the randomly assigned roommate. Despite this, I was simply blown away by the warm welcome I received from her family (balm after the romantic rejection) and the fervor with which ordinary secular suburbanites read the bits from the story. I didn't like the food much, either, but I was entranced by the story as remembered in a home. It was right at a point when I was very fed up with church, and formal religion, and I loved a faith that was primarily practiced in the family, at home. Years later, after I had dropped out of church for a while, what brought me back was an evangelical Baptist group that was trying to convert us godless Harvard types with meetings in a house church with fellowship and prayers and food. It roped me in, and I've been part of churches with that kind of close community ever since, to the extent possible.

Pierre Corneille

Dr. X,

My wife, who is Jewish but doesn't go to synagogue, and I occasionally go to Passover or Yom Kippur or Rosh Hoshannah when we're invited by friends. I gotta say....I probably don't mind the food as much as you do, but I really don't like that much either. There's something that tastes like a nice apple crisp, and then there's this big lasagna noodle in the middle of it? And doesn't taste that bad, but it looks disgusting. (I apologize if I'm mixing up foods for each holiday.)

Re, "born Catholic": I do often say I was "raised Catholic," but the "born" vs. "raised" distinction doesn't really raise my concern. Maybe it would if I were still a practicing Catholic. I do think that in some cases, being Catholic does work as a quasi-ethnicity. Or if "quasi-ethnicity" is going to far, it often has a quality as an identity that seems to go beyond belief and practice. That's only for my experience, perhaps from going to a high school where I was a majority-minority (I'm white, but most of the students there were Latino or East Asian), and often the main cultural thing I had in common with most of them was that I had been raised Catholic.

@Retriever: "That is to say, I gravitate towards devout Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Protestant Evangelicals, Mormons, because all are seeking the Divine, and have at least some sense that they aren't that Divinity."

Temperamentally, I'm kind of the same way. But I do believe that people can be agnostic or atheist (I identify as agnostic, or more precisely apophatic....a word I always spell wrong) and still seek something that functions as the "divine"....maybe it's "truth" or "beauty" or "love." I do encounter sometimes rationalist bigots who believe that "religion poisons everything," and I think they're just as bad as religious bigots. The problem, I believe, is that we're all one or the other, or both, kind of bigot, so I try to keep in mind "casting first stones" and all that.


Pierre, I do agree with your comments, especially your last paragraph. I'm overly vehement (even more so than usual) this week with Holy Week, and fighting off something

In my family of origin I was viewed as a rabble rousing excoriator of tyrants and fascist regime (human rights work in youth), who went a little soft in the head when I got religion and began mouthing off about how God loved everyone and wanted to draw everyone to HIm. They viewed me as too tolerant, and too warm and fuzzy, as I had no interest in doctrine or church discipline, only in preaching about the Good Shepherd and Jesus as the Great Physician and the Church as open to everyone, no matter what they' d done....

But in my current family, I have the role of religious hard liner who exclaims furiously that YOU and YOU are going to burn in hell for dissing God, and for not going to church, and for not being willing to confess your sins. I rant in a quite hateful way at home sometimes in my disappointment at worshipping alone while one's family lolls in sloth and mocks one's beliefs.

But with outsiders (who I am not so close to or invested in as my loved ones), I am far more tolerant and likely to say (and believe) in concepts like virtuous pagans or agnostics and theists who please a God they may not recognize or believe in, simply because their lives are gracious and full of love, and help to brighten and lighten the load of suffering people around them.

One tends to take one's loved ones virtues for granted and see their flaws in high relief. I do know that I am so often wrong myself, and say and do such dreadful things so often (and there is no health in us, I remember from services...) --knowing myself loved by a God who forgives my sins, leaves me flummoxed by people sure that they know it all, and that they are right. It's lack of humility in a person, the setting oneself up as God, that

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