Monday, August 29, 2011

Content in Ignorance?

Recently, I felt compelled to respond to a post on a website that had published a link to an online class being given to high school students to learn about various approaches to the Bible and different religious charism, if -you -will.

I was astounded and shocked (and saddened) to see that instead of listing "Catholic" as a subtopic, our Faith had been labeled as "Romanism".

Initially, I responded to the writer of the post to let her know that this is considered a highly derogatory and offensive term; and, as such, is defined as just that in many dictionaries.  I suggested she look up the word in an online dictionary where she will most likely find a definition similar to: Romanism ~ An offensive term used to describe Catholicism.

The incident grew more troubling in nature, when I downloaded the suggest online class and proceeded to find page five (the section on "Romanism") to be wrought with inaccuracies and falsehoods about Catholic beliefs and teachings.

All was written with intermittent grains of truth, thereby skewing the underlying falsehoods unless a trained and observant reader (such as a devout Catholic or one who has studied the Catholic faith at-length) would be able to pick up on them.

I ended up writing a post on my personal blog, Benmakesten, and you can visit there if you'd like to read more about that particular story...but what I'd like to discuss here in our new Catholic Community is this:

Why is it that many people seem so "content in their ignorance"?  Here are some questions that I'd like you to share your thoughts about, please:

1) Why are so many so inadequately educated about Catholic belief? Is it because they were raised and taught falsehood? Is it because our Church has done a poor job in explaining Her beliefs to the world at large? Is it because people would rather assume an explanation than take the time to do some leg work and really research a topic...or simply ASK a reliable source?

2) Is it just me, or do others notice that it seems to be more prominent (misconceptions, false assumptions, inaccurate teaching) with regard to the Catholic Faith more than other faith backgrounds?

3) Are we not responsible, as Christians (no matter what our specific affiliation might be) to make sure that when we are teaching others or writing in a public forum, that we have our facts straight?

4) Finally, how can we help to correct this seemingly growing problem?  I can't get the high school students who have taken this class out of my mind...I wish I could contact each one of them (which probably numbers in the hundreds if not thousands) to let them know that they have been taught incorrectly regarding Catholic belief.

I am so thankful for this blog and the community of believers who visit and write here. I look forward to reading your replies to this post:)


  1. Judy, I do not know many Roman Catholics under the age of 50, outside of this online community, that were either taught their faith corectly, or if taught correctly retain the truths of what they were taught. For myself I simply always loved Religion class and learning about God, the Sacraments, the saints. Though exposed to Protestants I loved our church, our priests and nuns. Other Catholics my age in real life seem to not have as good a memory and/or not as much in self-education as adult catechisis is not widespread. On the Protestant side, there is a pervasive Catholic bias. My kids go to a non-denominational Christian school where we are very well accepted. So much so that occasionally friends forget we are Catholic, and sometimes make remarks that betray that bias. Sometimes they remember right after the words leave their mouths as the whoops expression comes across their face. All we can do is make sure we get our own kids the true doctrine, church history, Catholic scripture commentary apologetic support and pass on to them the enthusiam for our faith. It is up to us individuals to know our faith and explain it well when questions and comments come up which they do. This past year I had opportunity to witness to some of the church's teachings more than ever before. That is what I hope my kids will do with the Holy Spirit's help, only at a younger age!

  2. I agree, Colleen. Poor Catechesis in the past plays a part in the misconceptions that continue to be perpetuated about our Faith.
    However, I do believe that if an adult is going to write something in an official capacity (such a high school class online) then that adult should be mature and responsible enough to research his/her material and make certain that what she/he is teaching is factual, correct, and true.
    I am glad to hear that your children enjoy fellowship at their school.
    I do see that the Catholic youth (who are being taught and have parents that are active in the Faith) are able to use Apologetics at a much earlier age. They understand their Faith and are able to defend it in an articulate manner.
    This is good:)

  3. I have an issue with this, but more with my husband's family. It is quite apparent that many are falling from the Catholic faith and going to something that seems "less confusing" I suppose. I cannot think of a better term now. But, my husband and I are Catholics and will raise our children as such, but as for the family he was raised in? I am sure that misunderstandings happened somewhere and nothing was ever corrected. His brother (confirmed Catholic) left the faith to go to a Baptist seminary (not that anything is wrong with that - it just confuses me since he asks 500 questions about Mary and yet was "raised Catholic). Plus, somehow, he converted their parents too - who were raised/married/etc Catholic and now go to some non-denomination church (again to each his own...I do not want to offend anyone, but again - confusing).

    I hope to raise our children Catholic and teach them the right ways of our faith. I hope to not confuse them or misguide them in any way. My husband and I are even becoming more involved in our Church, too! I wish people would just ask if they don't get something instead of ridicule us. Our faith is a beautiful one and I am proud to be a part of it!

  4. Judy,

    You raise so many issues that for me to answer them all would take a long time and I'd probably fall asleep whilst writing.

    Here are some views nonetheless.

    Speaking of my experiences in the UK; there is not so much an anti-Catholic trend here; more an anti-Christian, or anti-God modernistic culture. Often the very existence of God is mocked on TV and it is fashionable for celebrities and opinion-formers to proclaim proudly that they don't believe in God, and that to do so (believe in God) is worthy of ridicule.

    But to focus on your point. The Catholic Church has over the years toned down its message to the world at large, both Catholics and non-Catholics, and the ensuing "confusion" is precisely because the Church does not speak loudly, and clearly, about what it stands for, or indeed about the basics of Christianity per se.

    I can't remember the last time I heard a sermon from the pulpit about such basics as sin, Heaven and hell, Purgatory, The Real Presence in the Eucharist, the meaning of the Trinity, why Christ had to die and similar issues taught many years ago in the Catechism. Sermons these days tend to be somewhat non-descript and carefully crafted not to upset the congregation and lose a few more bums on seats, with resultant reduction in the collection plate.

    As you say, many older people have forgotten what they learnt at Catechism classes, and younger ones are probably not taught Catechism unless they attend (in the UK) Catholic schools.

    There are many misconceptions about Catholics. And again, perhaps we're to blame. Things like our devotion to the Virgin Mary, praying to Saints, having Saints, the various stages involved before becoming a Saint - e.g. beatification, lighting candles, burning incense, abstaining from eating meat on Friday and so on. I bet many Catholics don't know much about these and the reasons for them, let alone non-Catholics.

    Yet again, the Church does not help. For example, in England (note, England, not the UK) the Bishops have decided that Catholics should abstain from eating meat on Fridays as from September 2011. This means a Catholic in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Europe and no doubt the US can continue to eat meat if they wish. I challenged my priest about this and he explained that it was a campaign by English Bishops to show a secular world that we Catholics are different. Confusing more like! I asked him if I ate meat whilst in England would this be a mortal or venial sin. He said: Oh no ... no sin at all. Just don't eat meat on Friday if you possibly can. Or abstain from something else if you already don't eat meat on Fridays.

    You're right that we as Catholic Bloggers should be extra careful as we write not to mislead our readers. I've covered most of the issues I mentioned in this comment in my Blog as short stories about a fictional priest - Father Ignatius. I make a point of checking Catechisms and other sources for accuracy in my stories. I know that many contributors to this Community Blog are just as careful in what they write here and on their personal Blogs.

    God bless.

  5. "that adult should be mature and responsible enough to research his/her material and make certain that what she/he is teaching is factual, correct, and true."

    This is a good expectation, and you as a homeschooling mother probably expend considerable effort to do so, so as not to let down your kids that you will teach them the truth and expend as much energy and diligence as necessary to do so.

    I currently only teach 1st and 2nd graders at our church school, but I too do a ton of preparation each week to make sure I have the teaching correct and so as to find the angles that might stick in the children's memories and touch their hearts.

    If an individual is trying to save souls, including those children of the Romanists (sic.) who some Protestants believe are destined to hell if they are not saved and taught the sola grace and recite the sinner's prayer, the emphasis is going to be on preparing with those Bible verses that get this message across--often at the exclusion of others so that the student only hears the one desired message. The teacher further prepares by having a question, answer apologetic supporting the view that what is necessary is the recitation of the sinner's prayer. This is their 'calling' and they believe that they are truly serving Christ by approaching it this way. It is not their opinion that it is important to understand the Catholic religion in more detail. Some of these adults have been inculcated in the same way as Jewish people have from the time of their earliest childhood. Just as Jews believe Jesus was a prophet, somewhat inferior to Moses, Protestants--some denominations teach their youngsters from a young age that Catholics that do not believe on Jesus and become saved are in for a rude and hot awakening upon death.

  6. Judy, I just read the related post on Benmakesten. I didn't realize the class was to teach other religions. Then, yes, I would expect the teacher to do better research!

  7. Victor and Colleen, thank you! Both of your insights and writings are a blessing and thought-provoking, as well. Colleen, I take note of your mention that some others do not feel it important to understand the Catholic faith better...that is a very good point and true, I'm sure...I guess, personally, I don't understand it though as I am always interested in understanding others faiths better...for though we are separated brethren, we are ALL on one earth under God and it seems to understand others better is to understand HIM, also:)