Sunday, February 02, 2014

John Zmirak The Catholic Sub-Culture

John Zmirak writes a provocative article on the clique of us orthodox Catholics.

John writes that in today's Church, only about five per cent of Catholics are genuinely orthodox, but that causes problems. He says "It is as inbred as a pack of captive cheetahs, with all the dangers of deformity and disease that that implies." And "We need to encounter a broader range of humanity than can be found in that doctrine-conscious 5 percent."

Hey, great idea!

I've had similar thoughts.

We have to get out there.

I think part of the problem is that Catholics are so fed up with being condescended to and picked on by professional Catholics and the outside world that they're so glad to find refuge among like-minded individuals and want to be able to argue over things like Communion in the Hand.

But I think his solution is short-sighted:

What’s the answer to all of this? We need that other 95 percent. And given that the key issue on which most dissent hinges today is contraception, we need to do a much better job conveying the Church’s position to ordinary people.   
He goes on to say that we have to explain teleology and natural law.

Now, I've been having similar thoughts. I've been thinking about how our culture completely rejects any metaphysics, and that this is becoming very dangerous.

The thing is, people's minds don't operate on that level.

My theory is that mass opinion isn't made by "persuading" the masses.

The masses are not so much "persuaded" by good arguments, so much as they follow the trends. Most people don't have the intellectual apparatus to deal with anything close to such matters.

So what we must do is be opinion makers and convince opinion makers.

Because ultimately that's who the people get their opinions  from.

It is true that people don't accept arguments from Church authority, but they use the mass media as an authority.

And in that sense, we must learn to create our own narratives. So talking to each other is important. That's how powerful sub-cultures are built. 

That being said, I think Pope Francis' style is the right approach for the right time.

Now it's true that many liberals love to twist Pope Francis' words. They like his style, they like the narrative he provides (i.e. what a cool pope, he's going to change everything!)

This narrative, false as it is, opens the door to people's hearts.

The reason people love Pope Francis is that he cares. He honest-to-goodness cares. He phones people. He writes people. He meets with people.

He's just such a loving pope.

Contrast that to the style of many orthodox Catholics. Many of us came to the faith through a more intellectual approach. There's nothing wrong with reading our way into the Church, but many people don't relate. For them, faith is a person-to-person thing.

And it seems we're a little deficient on that front.

While it's true that we want to help, the truth is, a lot of the social justice/charity ministries are left to the dissidents (or otherwise orthodox Catholics don't want to be part of that kind of outfit).

So people get the impression that our faith is a bunch of abstractions.

And it's not that we don't want to live our faith. 

But a lot of us are busy raising the children that the rest of the world won't have, fighting for the babies the rest of the world wants to kill, and generally being absent from "normal" people and their activities.

This is not a moral reproach. Orthodox Catholics tend to be head people. With them, two plus two equals four,not five, as my dad would say.

And frankly, the culture needs a heck of a lot more of that.

But if we want to reach people, we can't think strictly in terms of concepts. We have to think in terms of actions and how we make people feel.

Now I don't want to enhance the cult of feelings in our society. But there's nothing wrong with the goal of making people feel good if it's done with the right means and for the right purpose.

We should consider that caring for people might be the way to introduce them to the Catholic Faith.

Just a thought.