Monday, July 30, 2007

The Forgotten Virtue... Catholic Guilt
Helmet tip to Mary Martha of Back Home To Rome

I bumped into this refreshingly honest posting yesterday. Thought I'd share it with you...

People talk all the time about 'Catholic guilt'. I have even joked about it myself. But honestly, I just don't feel much Catholic guilt. After all, I was raised in the 'I'm ok, you're ok' spirit o'Vatican II Catholic Church. A 'post guilt' Catholicism as it were.

Last night as I was going through some family papers and found an echo of the old Catholic guilt machine in a church bulletin from 1957. The bulletin was saved because it includes the banns before my parent's wedding. However, what I really found fascinating was the window into the average 1950s parish on an average week.

The absolute best entry was this:

We wonder why forty public High School students have consistently missed the Religious Instruction Classes on Tuesday evening from 7:00 to 8:00 P.M. Their inconvenience in attending the classes could not be so much greater than that of the 110 faithful students each week. It is difficult to see how those students of their parents can lightly cast aside so serious an obligation of religious required by the laws of the Church. Can a detailed course of religion mean so little to them?

I can't imagine any parish including something like this today. It could be an interesting experiement to try... but I don't think the results would be pretty.

The first problem with an entry like that in a modern bulletin is that religious instruction for public school students in this diocese ends in 8th grade. The standard seems to be one hour a week during the school year until confirmation in 8th grade... and that's it. No further religious education offered - let alone encouraged. I wonder when it was decided that at age 13 we knew all we needed about Catholicism and were free to go.

Secondly, in my lifetime I have never seen any reference to the laws of the Church in a bulletin - let alone our obligation to follow them. Well, perhaps there have been references in the bulletin at St. John Cantius, but that's a special case. I am talking about the standard parish bulletin in a standard suburban parish. Try as I might, the only obligations I can recall being raised are to the building fund, and to volunteer with the local 'peace n' justice' organizations.

Finally, I am most impressed by the straight up 'calling out' of both students and parents for failing to attend religious education classes. I just don't think it would work in many parishes today. We are all too steeped in the post Vatican II world where nothing is really required of us by the Church. If a priest actually pointed out that we were failing in our obligations the Church the negative reaction would be swift.

I will admit that I often look back at the solidly Catholic world that my parents were raised in and I am nostalgic for something I never experienced (I was born in the 70s). However, I have to admit I am only nostalgic for half of that experience. I would have liked the religious education classes that lasted through high school... but I don't know if the Catholic guilt would suit me all that well.


Blogger PaulaB52 said...

At our parish, the 1st Communion kids have to get a current bulletin signed by the pastor as they leave Mass and turn it into their Religion teacher on Monday. I'm not sure how all that works since our kids don't attend the school attached to the Parish, but to another Catholic school closer to our home.

At least it's better than nothing.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Former Altar Boy said...


Another great commentary, mi amigo, that prompts my comments.

I hate the cop out, mostly used by fallen away Catholics, of "Catholic guilt." I always want to respond, "Listen, you fool, thank your parents for sacrificing to give or get you whatever Catholic education you received. It's called 'formation of conscience!' Do you think you feel guilt because maybe you are actually guilty, as in a state of sin? But because you can't seem to shake that nagging feeling in the depths of what soul you have left, you blame it on 'Catholic guilt.' Instead, you should fall on your knees and beg the Lord's forgiveness."

I was blessed to attend 12 years of Catholic grade school (religious Sisters) and high school (religious Brothers), including years as an altar boy, and never had a "guilt trip" laid on me (nor was I ever molested!). When I was accused of some offense, it was usually because I was the offender!

I don't see any "guilt trip" in the bulletin announcement you quoted, but rather a simple question -- asked publicly (peer pressure and one's attempt to maintain a "good name" can be powerful influences!).

Speaking of the Banns of Matrimony - another loss to the "springtime" of Vat2. The banns were often the first news the rest of the parish (outside immediate family and friends) had that a couple was planning marriage, with the expected joy to see it was two Catholics marrying within the Faith.

8:10 PM  
Blogger PaulaB52 said...

The term I hate more than "Catholic Guilt" is "Recovering Catholic". Like being a Catholic is a disease we need to recover from.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Mary Martha said...

Thanks for the link! It was a bit of a surprise (in a good way) to come across my post here.

Former Alter Boy -
I agree that the phrase 'Catholic guilt' is overused. Particularly by those under 40 (like me) who have likely never been made to feel guilty about a thing. I kind of wish I had a well formed conscience that would lead to a bit of guilt (which isn't all bad). Maybe I wouldn't struggle so much with confession.

As to the Banns of Matrimony... I am surprised you say it was lost to Vatican II. We still have them listed (for 3 or 4 weeks prior to the wedding) in the bulletin in my local suburban parish. I thought they were still listed everywhere.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Dymphna said...

I wish there was more "catholic guilt" we'd have a better society.

8:04 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home