Matthew Hennessey writes in First Thoughts: When an alcoholic finally gives up his booze, he no longer refers to himself as a drinker. When a nicotine addict quits puffing, she no longer calls herself a smoker. Yet for some reason, when a person who was raised Catholic stops going to Mass, ceases to accept the teaching authority of the Church, and publicly charges the institution and its hierarchy with both moral and criminal failures, that person is entirely free to continue calling him or herself a Catholic. He is referring, of course, to Nancy Pelosi and others who have defected from established Roman Catholic teaching and practice and yet still refer to themselves as "Catholics." But by extension we could probably include tens of millions of Americans who in identity and name think they are "Catholic" but who do not attend Mass. It is a conundrum.
I admit to having the same problem with Lutherans who insist they are Lutheran but have not darkened the door of a Lutheran congregation, knelt at the rail to receive the sacrament at a Lutheran altar, or done anything else that might identify them publicly as a member of a Lutheran parish. It is a growing problem. The numbers of those who think they are Lutheran but are not counted as members of any Lutheran congregation continues to expand (as it does with Roman Catholics). They are called by ex-churched or de-churched or even the un-churched. It matters not what you call them, what do we do with them?
It does them or us no good to have them think that they are Lutheran but have chosen to make membership or practice optional. We have an inflated sense of our own size -- which is not good. They have an inflated sense of their own identity -- which is not good.
Sometimes I get a cruel and malicious sort of delight when those non-practicing "Catholics" grab the media to exert their "Catholicism" -- we Lutherans are fortunate that so few of our ilk are in the public eye that we can largely avoid this public poke in the eye (and when they do get exposed - Michele Bachmann - they tend to quickly switch their membership). But I have no room to gloat. We have the same problem -- only more hidden.
If you are going to claim the name, then you need to be in the game. Being Lutheran or Roman Catholic or whatever is no private affiliation which is known only between you and God. Being Lutheran or Roman Catholic or whatever is a public identity -- in the pew, at the rail -- or no real identity at all.
I will let Mr. Hennessey have the final word:
These pseudo-Catholics are having a laugh at the expense of all those
who attend Mass, are committed to their faith, and respect the
magisterium. For Nancy Pelosi to call herself a Catholic, while accusing
actual Catholics of opposing abortion out of some desire
merely to hurt women simply beggars belief. The onus should be on Nancy
Pelosi and those like her to substantiate their claims of faith. To
paraphrase the Marx brothers: Who are you gonna believe, me or your
Lutheran in name only
Cultural Catholics are like cultural Jews, have long abandoned belief in the teachings of their respective bodies but hang on for various reasons. Pelosi is a politician and she is not going to give up having a public voice in attempting to convince other Catholics of her views.
No committed Catholic takes Pelosi seriously.
"we Lutherans are fortunate that so few of our ilk are in the public eye that we can largely avoid this public poke in the eye"
Not so sure that I would call it fortunate. Most people don't even know who the LCMS is.
Anonymous II (hey, I think we studied your compositions in school!) points to something very real as a phenomenon in Catholicism and Judaism, which goes well beyond the growing up Norwegian and Lutheran with lutefisk thing,
"The fallacy of belonging" operative here is that the central thing is belonging to a community, and it is from those who belong that the community fashions its identity. It's an existence precedes essence thing, and is quite common among liberal Catholics and Jews.
I was taught it myself at a Catholic university, one of the hotbeds of the so-called liturgical movement, in theology classes -- the church is the people of God, who continually deepen their self-understanding more profoundly, and what endures is the people of God, not any particular state of self-understanding. Therefore the people of God are not bound to previous forms or expressions of that self-understanding but called to participate in its present unfolding.
Within this mindset, which one does not have to know or articulate to be within, Pelosi is quite typical, different only in her public position. Doctrine or official positions or practice are not what defines Catholic or Jewish.
I hasten to add lest the anonymous contingent erupt, I am describing a position that I do not hold.
"These pseudo-Catholics are having a laugh at the expense of all those who attend Mass, are committed to their faith, and respect the magisterium."
Well, this is strictly speaking not a "Catholic" or "Lutheran" matter but applies to all pseudo-Christians.
Let them laugh. Who will have the last laugh when they hear those dreadedw words "Away from me, I never knew you."
Except that there have always been Christians who are merely culturally affiliated, long before the crazy 60's and 70's. Catholics and Jews are the products of two very family oriented traditions that that is what keeps even those who do not practice the religious tenets coming back for First Communions, Bar Mitzvahs, etc.
Protestants, as a rule, when they drop out just plain drop out.
"Doctrine or official positions or practice are not what defines Catholic"
You have got to be kidding! The Catholics I know take doctrine very seriously indeed.
Quite right Anonymous, don't forget Passover too!
Other Anonymous, get out more.
"Quite right Anonymous, don't forget Passover too"
I think you missed my point that the family attachments of Catholics and Jews makes them retain their cultural sensibilities even when they do not practice their faith, not your experiences at one Catholic institution.
Any serious Christian knows that "inheriting" a tradition is not enough to keep it viable. At some point we have to make it our own. It's not a "Catholic" thing.
Well, Jesus said by their fruits you will know them. That Pelosi is a counterfeit Catholic shouldn't be surprising. Her sputtering and dismay during a recent 60 Minutes interview about some alleged suspicious investments she made with her husband speaks volumes about her personal ethics.
If it walks like a duck . . .
I have a question as a non-Lutheran: If you meet a Lutheran, is it impolite to ask if they are LCMS or Evangelical? I'm always curious which one, since there seems to be such a big difference, but I feel like it would be rude of me to inquire. Thanks! Love your blog.
is it impolite to ask if they are LCMS or Evangelical?
You'll get a different answer depending if they are LCMS, ELCA, ELS, WELS, ELDONA, or a couple other Lutheran denominations.
As far a the LCMS goes, you will find the run of "evangelical" congregations who identify more with the Willow Creek style and those who consider themselves "evangelical catholics" and worship liturgically.
But I can't imagine any Lutheran getting offended if asked about this kind of stuff.
No Anon, I did not miss your point and was agreeing with, simply offering Passover too as an example of retaining culture in the absence of faith. My experience and/or die Abtei have nothing to do with it, although you remind me of someone I know in trying to make it so.
Most of the young Roman Catholics
do not believe the official dogma
of their church.
85 percent practice birth control
60 percent deny there is purgatory
75 percent deny pope is infallible
The reason ex-Roman Catholics make
good Lutherans is that they believe
when they die their soul goes to
Excuse me? You went on and on about how your attended a Catholic institution that was a hotbed of the liturgical movement while I was simply stating that Jews and Catholics are very family oriented which explains why they often attend religious events even if they fall away from their faith.
Nothing to do with whatever crap you encountered at that university. So what was the point of bringing it up?
I know it, you know it, and the
American people know it, most
Roman Catholics are Cafeteria
Catholics. They pick and choose
what they want to believe from the
Roman Catholic Catechism of 1994.
The same could be said of Lutherans,
Presbyterians, and Methodists. This
is the reason the mainline Protestant
denominations are dying. There are
no strong beliefs anymore.
To answer Julia's question, I'm not sure whether you mean "Evangelical" in the sense of American evangelicalism (think televangelists) or the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). If the former, there are plenty of LCMS churches that are more evangelical than Lutheran in practice, but a member of one is not likely to understand your reference to "evangelical," so you probably won't get an accurate answer. If the latter, it's perfectly okay to ask "What kind of Lutheran?" or "Which Lutheran church?" The person will likely be flattered (and perhaps amazed) that you know there is more than one.
Of course, said person might be embarrassed if he or she hasn't the foggiest idea of the answer. I've seen it happen. :)
Here's a statistic from the Pew survey: Hispanics now account for 29% of the Catholics in the US, and nearly half of those under the age of 40.
And as is true of all denominations, Catholics who attend Mass weekly have more conservative views on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, etc.
All Christian churches seem to be in a "faithful remnant" mode.
The fallacy of self identification.
Self identification allows people to just ignore the truth as though it doesn't exist and just invent their own personal reality for their own purposes.
All depends through which lens the truth is seen.
Can the Anonymous a few comments up explain why I see so many grey heads in our LCMS congregations and so many children and young families in the Catholic parishes?
Excuse you, whichever of the many here who won't put their names to what they write you are?
The point it, no, being family oriented does not of itself account for the phenomenon particularly evidenced by Catholics and Jews of maintaining an identification as such while not sharing the religious convictions of that identity.
Nancy Pelosi and the millions more less public but like her are not as they are because they are family oriented and attend Christmas and Easter and family and friends weddings and baptisms.
The fact is, there is are cultural and sociological phenomena associated with being either Catholic or Jewish that are just not found to nearly that extent in Protestant Christianity, phenomena which, should one pursue it, one can find theologised and defended in Catholic or for that matter Jewish institutions.
Yeah, Protestants are much cooler about this, like my nephew who went to the university and lost his faith after taking philosophy classes. His poor parents, try to attend church every Sunday but none of their kids attend Lutheran services anymore.
Well, Anonymous -- numbers should be assigned, since so few will put their names to their words -- loss of faith was not the point.
Does your nephew still consider himself a "good" Lutheran, and consider his present views as validly Lutheran as his former ones?
That's the kind of scenario being discussed.
Catholicism and Judaism are also much more communal and ethnic than most American Protestantism. That can certainly degenerate into mere outward observance but it is not necessarily the case. There are Italians, Germans, Poles, etc. who embrace both their cultural and religious heritage.
I think Brother Boris explained it well on his comments about Russian Orthodoxy. Americans are so judgmental about how others see themselves.
Does your nephew still consider himself a "good" Lutheran, and consider his present views as validly Lutheran as his former ones?
Oh hell no! When asked if he is still a Christian (much less a Lutheran) he smiles and says "no one believes that stuff anymore.
His sister will still happily attend Christmas services with the family but she is just as enthralled with Asian philosophies. Her college education didn't quite keep her in the faith either.
Talk is cheap. Whether Catholic, Lutheran, whatever, one can call oneself whatever they like. It's how they walk the walk that tells the real story.
If you're gonna assign numbers I want to be number one!
Well fine and true, but again, not the point. Loss of faith with understands itself as loss of faith is not what was being discussed. It is the situation of those who do not hold to a faith's doctrine and/or practice but consider it not lip service or outward observance when they self-identify as members of that faith that is the discussion here. And exactly re "communal", which I said before, which is not only a phenomenon but one can find actually taught as well, that community is the foundation and from there the community determines its nature. So again, Pelosi is not remarkable at all, quite typical, which is not to say universal, different only in being a public figure.
But of course Pelosi is different because public is always different than private in consequence and scope.
Are you Catholic, Anonymous Whichever? I ask because one rarely sees such persistent flights of illogic and missing the point re nominal Catholics elsewhere.
I did not say Pelosi was different, but the same -- the same as millions more Catholics who do not hold public office and who unlike her due to her position will not attract attention for being nominally Catholic and insisting on an identification as Catholic.
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