Be careful what


Be careful what word you use.

January 24, 2017

[ Emphasis and {commentary} in red type by Abyssum ]

There’s a famous pop culture line from the goofy cult movie Princess Bride. The line is: “You keep using that word {“incredible”}. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Unfortunately, this thought could be applied to the label “Catholic.”

Many people use it. Many inside the Church use it. But to many of those people, we say, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” The reason we say this is because the current crisis in the Church now demands a modifier in front of the word “Catholic” — a descriptor, an adjective. Think about it: charismatic Catholic, social justice Catholic, traditional Catholic, liberal Catholic, progressive Catholic and so on.

What the term “Catholic” means is extremely difficult to determine without the adjective in front of it. And why is this?  Because Church leaders have allowed all sorts of nonsense to fly under the radar and dilute the Catholic brand, Catholic identity, so much so that Catholics don’t even know each other anymore; that is, if you could even call some of those subdivisions of Catholics actually Catholic.

There is the standard baseline understanding of Catholic, and that is one who is baptized into the Church. And after that, it’s a free-for-all. A common unofficial understanding would include a number of factors, one would think, including actually believing what the Church teaches and participating in the sacramental life — meaning attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. Seems like those activities would be a bare minimum, beyond baptism.

However, if we would consider those things — which are requirements of Jesus Christ to be considered living members of His Mystical Body — if we consider those minimum, then “Houston, we have a problem.”

Most of the U.S. bishops are in complete denial about this. The way they do a headcount is: Anyone who is baptized is Catholic ,and that’s that, even if they later formally reject the Faith by joining another religion. Doesn’t matter; once a Catholic always a Catholic — which is true on the face of it, but in practice is completely worthless for assessing the reality of Catholicism in modern-day America, or any other country, for that fact.

We know that more than 75 percent of Catholics do not attend Mass. We know that many of those who do do not believe in all of the Church’s teachings, which you need to. We also know that many who attend Mass haven’t gone to confession in a very long time, yet still go up to receive Holy Communion every Sunday, meaning they are committing sacrilege — again, something you would consider a disqualifier from being counted as a “Catholic.”

Best-guess estimates are that there about 73 million Catholics in the United States. We know that 30 million no longer identify as Catholic. We also know that about 23 percent attend Mass, meaning only about 17 million out of the 73 million. And again, many of those 17 million don’t believe what the Church teaches, don’t go to confession except very infrequently, if at all, support abortion, support homosexuality, believe Catholicism is just one path to salvation among many, support contraception, and so forth.

The ways to part from the Church are many. The ways to conform to the Church and be Catholic are just one — very narrow — and that is, completely. There are a heck of a lot  fewer Catholics walking around than most of us care to contemplate. We could venture a reasonable guess and say less than 10 percent, maybe even closer to 5 percent. That’s probably not far off.

That word “Catholic” — I do not think it means what you think it means.

Pray for the Church and all these “Catholics.”

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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