The following bit of dialog takes place inside a confessional booth in the opening chapter of the manuscript I am currently writing. In this scene, Father Thucydides is the great-grandnephew of Menelaus, who has woken from suspended animation to make his confession:
“Blessed are the poor, indeed, but taking a man’s things to impose a blessing on him may violate a commandment.”
“Listen, Father, you ain’t worried about your own stuff, are you?”
“Mine? Even the robes on my back belong to the Curial Office, not to me. I am of the Society of Jesus.”
“What is that, like a sewing circle?”
“I had my doubts whether you were truly a Catholic, my son. I see now that you must be. No one knows less of our catechism and orders than one of our flock.”
“It was kind of a — I was unconscious at the time, and your grandpa had me watered down, enlisted, or whatever you call it—”
The woeful ignorance of the penitent in that scene No one knows less of our catechism than one of our flock was meant to be a bit of a joke, or perhaps a bit of a rebuke.
Unfortunately, it is not a joke, or, at least, not a funny one. As far as I can see, the Fundamentalists grasp the fundamentals of the Christian religion, but the Catholics do not have a catholic knowledge of the teachings of the Holy Mother Church.
Case in point. This piece from eChurch blog (via First Things) I reprint the whole piece.
The words below the cut are those of eChurch. Make of this what you will.
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I must say this new report from the Public Religion Research Institute has taken me by surprise.
This research is US and Catholic specific.
Here’s the executive summary:
Catholics are more supportive of legal recognitions of same-sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition and Americans overall. Nearly three-quarters of Catholics favor either allowing gay and lesbian people to marry (43%) or allowing them to form civil unions (31%). Only 22% of Catholics say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.
When same-sex marriage is defined explicitly as a civil marriage, support is dramatically higher among Catholics. If marriage for gay couples is defined as a civil marriage “like you get at city hall,” Catholic support for allowing gay couples to marry increases by 28 points, from 43% to 71%. A similar pattern exists in the general population, but the Catholic increase is more pronounced.
Beyond the issue of same-sex marriage, Catholic support for rights for gays and lesbian people is strong and slightly higher than the general public. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics favor laws that would protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination in the workplace; 63% of Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the military; and 6-in-10 (60%) Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.
Compared to the general church-going public, Catholics are significantly less likely to hear about the issue of homosexuality from their clergy, but those who do are much more likely to hear negative messages. Only about 1-in-4 (27%) Catholics who attend church services regularly say their clergy speak about the issue of homosexuality, but nearly two-thirds (63%) of this group say the messages they hear are negative.
Compared to other religious groups, Catholics are significantly more likely to give their church poor marks for how it is handling the issue of homosexuality. Less than 4-in-10 (39%) Catholics give their own church top marks (a grade of either an A or a B) on its handling of the issue of homosexuality.
Seven-in-ten Catholics say that messages from America’s places of worship contribute a lot (33%) or a little (37%) to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.
Catholics overwhelmingly reject the idea that sexual orientation can be changed. Nearly 7-in-10 (69%) Catholics disagree that homosexual orientation can be changed; less than 1-in-4 (23%) believe that it can be changed.
A majority of Catholics (56%) believe that sexual relations between two adults of the same gender is not a sin. Among the general population, less than half (46%) believe it is not a sin (PRRI, Religion & Politics Tracking Survey, October 2010).
You can download the full report in PDF format here.
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My comment: Even as we speak, all four branches of the service are being instructed on proper military protocol if an officer sees his men kissing each other offpost, or if a serviceman refuses to shower with another because he is gay, or if a Chaplain criticizes the homosex lifestyle. Whether or not Christians will remain welcome to serve in the military hereafter remains to be seen.
Myself, I am not sure what is the point of joining nor remaining in a Church who has a Magisterium, that is, an authority that binds the conscience on matters of morals and faith, if one does not acknowledge that authority as binding.
After all, the ‘Church of What’s Happening Now’ is just down the street, and its doors are open, and they have lesbian polygamous priestesses who will perform abortions on the altar, and you don’t have to go to confession, and don’t have to pray your beads every day, and don’t have to keep Lent, and their bread and wine is just bread and wine, and they claim no different.
In a sort of dim and dreamlike way, I can imagine someone being Catholic who has no interest in the Church, no idea of what she teaches, and who is a Protestant, or an agnostic, in all but name. They either believe their private opinion is not obligated to follow the teaching of the Church (in which case they are protestants) or they believe the Word of God is not divine (in which case they are agnostics). Maybe such persons just like the smells and bells, or maybe religion is merely a matter of habit to them.
I can imagine it, but I tremble. Those who read scripture will not be surprised to find goats mingling with the sheep, or tares among the wheat, or the blind leading the blind into a ditch. Appalled, but not surprised.
Again, what is the point of joining or remaining in a Church that preaches that hellfire awaits the unbeliever if you are an unbeliever when it comes to hellfire? The ‘Church of What’s Happening Now’ takes no strong position on the existence of Hell, and some of the members are convinced the reincarnation is one possibility after death, or a flight on a winged UFO to the astral water-planets orbiting Alpha Draconis.
Do you know why I like Libertarians and Objectivists, even if I disagree most sharply with thier doctrines? Because they take ideas seriously. They think ideas have consequences.
Do you know why I hate Marxists and Semi-Marxist-style Leftists with a passion, even if I happen to agree that peace and care for the poor are paramount concerns? Because they are liars. They use a politically correct double-think, eupehmism, agitprop and bafflegab merely to avoid thinking, and to ellude seeing the consequences of their ideas. Most say all things are merely matter in motion, and ideas are merely the epiphenomena of blind and meaningless brain-atom collisions. They do not take ideas seriously. (Those that do can usually be talked out of Leftist dogmas if one is patient and polite with them.)
So what am I to make of congregations in my Church who do not take the ideas of the Church seriously?
How can any man call himself a Christian and not be terrified by the words of Christ?
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
When I was an atheist, I argued, evangelized, preached atheism at my every opportunity. I took religion as an enemy quite seriously. I thought believers believed what they said and took it seriously as well. But it seems as if more than half of the faithful regard the faith as a fashion accessory.
Rejoice, ye Atheists! The Church is much smaller than she appears, and much more willing to worship Obama, the world’s Messiah, than Jesus the Christ, heaven’s Messiah. 54% of “Catholics” voted for Obama, the Abortion President. Praise Moloch!
And weep, ye faithful, as befits this seasons of Lent. We are fewer than we seem.
Let me in closing repeat a comment from the comments box at First Things:
…if the only Catholics who should count as Catholic are those who actually practice their faith by fulfilling their Sunday mass obligation, the Catholic Church is a lot smaller than people think (and the Church claims). According to a 2008 study by Georgetown, one authorized by the USCCB, only 23 percent of American Catholics go to mass weekly. That means there are about 20 million Catholics, by that standard, than the 68 million in the official number.