Saturday, July 24, 2010

Great Big C

Hi Folks

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a concert by Great Big Sea,  who hails from Eastern Canada.

I wouldn't call myself a huge fan, but I did enjoy their music a few years back.  This concert was good.

It would seem that their songwriters have some issues with Catholic upbringing.

"Consequence Free" states:
"I could really stand to lose my Catholic conscience.  'Cuz I'm getting sick of feeling guilty all the time"

"When I am King" says this:

"Wake up, without a care. Your head's not heavy, conscience clear
Sins are all forgiven here, yours and mine
Fear has gone without a trace
It's the perfect time, it's the perfect place
Nothing hurting. Nothing sore. No one suffers anymore,
The doctor's found a simple cure.
Just in time"

To me, the aforementioned verse, up until the mention of 'the doctor' sounds like someone is describing Heaven.  Nah.

While the lyrics are about the same things that most popular music sings about, I find the mention of conscience and forgiven sin interesting.  It's a bit difficult to find mention of sin anywhere else in popular culture!

So, what is the 'Catholic conscience' that GBS is singing about?

 It sounds like what we hear so often...big Church inflicting guilt on its pathetic group of adherents by making everything fun a sin.

A few years back my daughter and I were a captive audience to a local merchant.  Finding out that my children had gone to the local Catholic high school, the merchant bluntly stated "I used to be Catholic, but I  left.  Too much guilt!"

My daughter later quipped to me that he really should just stop doing things that make him guilty!

That's my girl.

Guilt isn't what the Church teaches.  We do guilt to ourselves.

[As to using guilt as an excuse to leave the Church, please see here]

Catholics are expected to have a well-formed conscience.  Forming one's conscience is not an easy task!  The Church takes it way beyond the little voice in the head going "unh-uh".

To form ones conscience, one is required to learn what the Church teaches on moral matters.  Ideally, this begins in infancy in the Domestic Church...the home.  This is where we begin to learn right from wrong.

We often hear, sometimes even from within the Church, that we are to follow our consciences in all matters.  This would be fine, if we had well-formed consciences.  We are, however, a fallen people.  Left to our own devices, we incline toward sin. 

When we aren't sure, we have the Church to guide us.  That is the Catholic conscience.  If your conscience is giving you permission to act against Church teaching, you have work to do.  You're part of all humanity on that one.

Guilt is a way of knowing that we're messing up.  Getting rid of that involves correcting what we're doing wrong, and confessing our sins.

So where are sins forgiven?  Some can be forgiven through prayer, attending Mass, blessing oneself with Holy Water.  The mortal, or serious sins require confession to a Priest, who acts in Christ's place to absolve us (assuming we're of the correct disposition...feeling genuinely sorry for what we have done and wishing not to sin again).  Sins are all forgiven here.

Whether or not the Church makes everything fun a sin...that is for another day.


Anonymous said...

When Catholics or ex-Catholics refer to "Catholic guilt", they can mean a variety of things.

Those of us older ex-Catholics may use the term to refer to what we were taught as children. We were taught we are inherently bad, dirty, sinful by nature. The term especially refers to sex -- sex is bad, women are dirty, women are a necessary evil. Enjoying sex with your husband is wrong, bad, dirty. And so on.

When you're raised like that, you are filled with a sense of revulsion and guilt about your own body, about your relationship with your husband, etc.

It's not that you're doing anything that _ought_ to make you feel guilty. It's that you've been made to feel guilty for things no one should feel that way about.

Just because this hasn't been _your_ experience as a Catholic doesn't mean it wasn't someone else's.

I think teaching your daughter to be insensitive to what others may be feeling and judging them based on her misunderstanding of what they mean, or her interpretation of what they mean only perpetuates the problem.

Next time, why not use a moment like that to teach her not to be such a smug, holier-than-thou little Pharisee, eh? We've had enough of that from Catholics already.

JP said...

First off, as a catechist myself, allow me to apologize for the poor "Catholic" teaching you received.

I am well aware of what has been taught in the name of Catholicism. There has been much bunk generated over the years. It is actually interesting to note that the 'body is dirty' type of catechetics actually had its main proponent in Puritanism! It is a great shame that the Catholics perpetuated this line of thought, particularly as it had been declared heretical several times in Church history. But I know that unofficially the teaching did persist.

I received a fair bit bunk myself, although it was more of the insipid hearts-and-flowers catechetics. Either way, it encouraged people to leave the Church and endangered their souls, and perhaps their psyches as well.

The merchant mentioned is the same age I am. I can't know absolutely what he was taught, but I may have an idea.

Thing is, guilt is not what the Church teaches. That guilt exists is inarguable, but it's not Church teaching.

My daughter is not insensitive...most of the time. But she is observant and knows as well as I do that guilt is often used as an excuse for leaving the Church.

What do Pharisees have to do with this?

In telling her not to judge, and calling her 'smug and holier than thou' you have judged her in exactly the way Scripture tells us is wrong.

Recognizing sin is not judging. It is what we are called to do, in love, for each other (admonishing the sinner) so our consciences can continue to be well-formed. It in no way implies that the "admonisher" thinks himself sinless.

If Church teaching were properly disseminated,many of these discussions would not have to happen. There would still be people who disagree, but at least we'd have a solid place from which to begin discussions.

Anonymous said...

Actually, my use of those terms was more an indictment of your parenting.

I'm sure you don't officially teach her to be judgmental or smug or holier than thou, but when you say "that's my girl!" when she automatically jumps to the conclusion that this person -- someone she does not know -- is guilty of sinful acts, hence he ought to be feeling guilt, you have actually taught her to be just those things.

It is insensitive to take one comment from a stranger out of context and jump to conclusions. It reduces the stranger to the "other". It dehumanizes him.

It's one thing to recognize sin and charitably guide them back to the right path. It's quite another to assume sin and judge accordingly, which is essentially what this anecdote does.

Also, I've found when people make offhanded, half-humorous comments such as this person's, those comment often hide a lot of pain.
Who knows what he was made to feel guilty about? Why the assumption he's the one in the wrong?

Anyway, he did quit doing what was making him feel guilty -- he quit being Catholic. You and your daughter ought to be thrilled.

JP said...

So I'm not allowed to appreciate a child's observation about someone (and I remind you you know nothing about how well we know the person), but you can condemn the parenting of someone you've never even MET?

May God bless you!

Anonymous said...

You can appreciate a child's observation, but wouldn't it have been better to temper her observation with a little compassion and humility?

You already said you didn't know absolutely what this person may have been taught.

Now you're changing your story to make yourself look good?


You Catholics never change. You're all a bunch of holier-than-thou hypocrites to the core. All while really, truly ingesting the real, true, actual flesh and blood of Jesus Christ Himself all the time.

Fine. Just don't expect me to beleive that pile of horse manure when it's so stunningly obvious you don't really believe it any further than how it serves you personally when you want to rip on someone else for the sake of puffing up your own ego.


joy said...

I remember the nuns & my Mother trying to instill a sense of sin especially regarding "personal" sin. They evidently failed, because I went on to live a pagan life for several years. I never did understand how my sin could reflect on anyone, let alone the whole world! I think guilt is sometimes expressed as, & mistaken for, remorse, which I have loads of now when looking back on those times. I can see "now" how what I did, & how I lived, had profound effect on those I love, even those who were not yet born.
So, I guess what I am actually saying is that I would have benefited from knowing at an early age ( about the age of your daughter
?) to stop doing stuff (sin) that made me feel guilt ( remorse)!

Donna Ruth said...

I shed my so-called Catholic "guilt" for a dozen years - the unhappiest time of my life, seeking happiness in the material and physical things of the world. The only thing it did for me was make me want more - and that more never brought satisfaction. It is only when I permitted the grace of God to permeate my dismal soul did I know peace once more. I came home to the Catholic Church. What a blessed relief!

Anonymous writes well and enunciates her thoughts clearly, but the writer's premise is that JP was an insensitive mom because of how she interacted with her daughter. That is not how I read it. It was quite simply the remark of a mom who was pleased with her daughter's bon mot. We are always thrilled when our kids show flashes of brilliance.

In speaking with ex-Catholics, I am often struck with their lack of fundamental knowledge of the Church's teachings. I can attest to that; when I too was an ex-Catholic, I ranted and railed against what I thought were Church teachings - and discovered later they were not. The late Abp Fulton J Sheen wrote: "There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing."

I expect more than a few of us Catholics picked up on some poor teaching and catechetics from zealous nuns and parish priests who may not have been fully formed in Catholic teaching, or exaggerated to make a point. Were they wrong in doing so? Yes. Malicious? No.

I invite Anonymous to pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church published in 1992 and read, not just what the Church teaches, but why.

And maybe Anonymous would find something thoughtful in the commercial for the Catholics Come Home network:
Check out the Epic commercial - it is a bit of an eye opener. There is also a free book titled, Rediscovering Catholicism.

The world feeds us the story that it is a big bad archaic institutional Church. Coming home to her and finding out about her is manna for the hungry soul.