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Friday, June 22, 2012

Culturally Catholic

I found this intriguing blog post today while wandering over to Charmed I'm Sure.  Deborah Castellano is an excellent writer -  I found her moral compass article on Witchvox, which of course lead me to her blog, which leads me here. (As an aside, I've been trying to follow her blog for a while now but was being technologically challenged and just couldn't figure out how to do that from my phone. Blogger = not so phone friendly. Glad I finally managed to wander over on a real computer!).

Anyways, Debora wrote this great little piece on doing the Catholicism to Pagan thing, and trying to find peace and balance with your Catholic roots. She brought up this concept of being culturally Catholic, much like people are culturally Jewish though they may not actively practice the religion. It's an interesting concept, and one I had never considered before. I had a roommate in university who had a Jewish background one side of her family, but never practiced as far as I knew. I couldn't understand how she could classify herself as Jewish but not practice that religion, though I knew people did it all the time. A few years down the road, I can now see what she was saying. As Andrew B Watt, one of the commenters on the blog post said, "[It's] like belonging to a particular tribe. Which we do. It’s not necessarily the set of religious obligations we hold to throughout our lives, but it’s the set of rituals and ceremonies we were initiated in, and it’s hard to let go of that."
I had never considered the possibility of this applying to my own heritage - that I could be culturally Catholic and religiously ambiguous.

Unlike Deborah, I don't have nieces and nephews to godparent yet, but I can see this concept as helping me reconcile my faith choices with my Italian Catholic family. It's a way of saying "I respect and honour the values of our family's religion. I do not reject this common bond that is so important in your life. I respect your commitment and your efforts to bring me up to be a upstanding member of our (non-religious) community and society. I accept the values you have instilled in me and will bring them with me as I progress through life, and pass them on to future generations."

Catholicism was such an integral part of my life for the first 18-odd years, it has made me the person I am today. I had a pretty good relationship with the Church, we just differed on certain topics (e.g. birth control) and the priests I was exposed to just seemed out of touch with the world I lived in. My real turning point was when, in confession one day, I told the priest that I didn't agree with the Church on some things, like homosexuality, and he took it as "I'm a lesbian" and started talking vaguely about how we should resist the urges and pray for guidance...he totally missed the mark and wasn't listening to what I had to say. At which point, I stopped making regular efforts to go to church. One misunderstanding priest was obviously not the whole reason, but the trigger. But I'm getting off-topic. Such an important part of one's life cannot be dismissed away by conversion from one religion to another, or even by rejecting religion altogether.

Has anyone else heard of the idea of being culturally Catholic/Christian? How have you been able to integrate that into your identity? I'm intrigued by this idea, and would love to hear input from others.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the mention, Summer.

    I'd mention Kinglsey Amis, who has a line in one of his books (I wish I knew which one) that goes, "He was of the faith chiefly in the sense that the church which he did not attend was Catholic." And that gets further modified in a Neil Gaiman book (I believe Good Omens), where a character, deep in the leather armchair of his soul is described as being staunchly C of E (Church of England) if he had to describe himself as being a member of a church.

    If Tribe is a combination of food, celebrations, community, ritual, and social interactions, we're all culturally Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic, whatever... it's just that because of literacy, because of the Internet and corner bookshops, and because there's this general emphasis on 'what works for us', we're able to be part of a major generation of pick-and-choose, and find materials to draw upon outside our birthright and heritage. And that's exciting, but it's also complicating, because we're not always called upon to throw the bathtub out with the bathwater — which is to say, we can drain away the dirty and the toxic from our cultural upbringing, but that doesn't mean there isn't a foundation underneath all that which is worth holding onto, even as we stumble into the world as our freshly-clean, neat and beautiful selves. :-)