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under false colors

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 03, 2005

Isn't it about time someone threw an open-field block into the knees of U.S. Catholic? In its faux-folksy, Parade Magazine way, it gets up to as much mischief as America.

The standard U.S. Catholic formula is the What Are Half-Catholics Saying About Sin? sociological approach, presenting a spectrum of "viewpoints" of the supermarket survey variety. The damage comes not from the survey or its findings, but from U.S. Catholic's consistent failure to distinguish Catholic perspectives from counter-Catholic ones. The result is invariably a weakening of the intelligibility of authentic doctrine and a covert plug for heterodox alternatives. This month the target is Confession.

Though [39-year-old Massachusetts Catholic Sean Going] appreciated his parish's presentation on Reconciliation, he has no plans to make it a regular part of his life.

"I am so comfortable with my relationship with God that I don't believe I need an intermediary," he says. "I'm a big fan of Eastern philosophies that focus more on self-examination or meditation. It's not that I don't like talking to priests; I just don't feel the need to do that. But I think it's great to have as an option."

Going has discussed this approach with his 7-year-old son and plans to teach his 5-year-old daughter in the same manner. "I want them to have that option," he says. "I tell them that it is a way of communicating with God while having a priest there to focus that communication."

Isn't he cute? You can picture the sentimentalist M*A*S*H fans nodding along in agreement, largely if not wholly oblivious to the manner in which their faith is being filched away by subterfuge. Mr. Going, we are given to believe, is a Catholic in good standing, whence his opinion is to be understood as a Catholic opinion. The self-serving and superficially plausible "I don't need an intermediary" line will strike a chord with lots of folks who have disquieting memories of their compromises with the world -- compromises they'd just as soon remained secret -- and will help keep them away from Confession for years. Because the orthodox doctrine on absolution has been proven false? No, but because they've been presented with a very attractive option which, in context, the audience assumes to be permissibly Catholic. C.S. Lewis once remarked on how authors of school textbooks can dupe the reader in the same way:

It is not a theory [the authors] put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all.

Nor is U.S. Catholic really neutral, its plurality of voices and survey-centered approach notwithstanding. There's always a moral defeatism at work, in which the (again, unspoken) assumption is that Catholic demands are too hard to meet -- at least for you and me -- so the game is how to cope once we've given in to modernity. We rarely get testimony of the kind that pulls us closer to the center of the Church, testimony of the kind wherein a Catholic faces some grievous moral challenge and says, "Here's how God's grace delivered me from a hardship I found unconquerable by my own devices." The magazine's cover from the previous issue is typical. The featured article is "How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex," and the photo shows a steamed-up window of a parked car with the words INTIMATE CONVERSATIONS playfully written by a fingertip. The thrust is clear: We've already lost the war. We can't expect kids to live as Catholics. So let's cut our losses, since they'll be sexually misbehaving whether we approve or not, and at least keep them disease and depression-free. What can be fairer than that?

Well, one step in the direction of fairness is "truth in labeling," and by that standard the word "Catholic" has no place on the magazine's masthead. Every war produces its own crop of collaborators -- Vichyites and Quislings who side with the adversary when his strength is uppermost -- and the culture wars are no different. U.S. Catholic's editors, writers, and readers alike may sincerely believe that appeasement is the only answer. But they should at least put down the flag of their former allegiance and raise a white one instead.

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Show 9 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Sophia - Nov. 04, 2005 11:23 AM ET USA

    Issue after issue, US Catholic presents the latest heretical spin on doctrines and practices most distasteful to the theological fifth columnists. Note the names of those who have received its awards over the years. See how traditional piety is constantly undermined. Contraception is presented as given, as are women priests, remarriage, inter-communion, fanatic ecumenism, New Age eco-feminism. There's a continuing sneer at "Catholic guilt." Just vote for liberals. This is no accident.

  • Posted by: Sophia - Nov. 04, 2005 11:09 AM ET USA

    I'm very glad you brought the subject up. As I have moved around for 20 years, I've tried to get pastors to stop carrying this colorful, glossy, despicable version of National Catholic Reporter. (without even the recent and somewhat redeeming balance NCR is permitting in John Allen). Only once have I succeeded, and I fear even that wasn't because the pastor saw what's wrong with it. I don't believe US Catholic is sincere in anything except a determination to subvert the faithful.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 03, 2005 11:51 PM ET USA

    Hey, don't leave out the Redemptorists (Liguori), the Franciscans (St. Anthony Messenger), or the Paulists! They deserve their time in the spotlight, too!

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Nov. 03, 2005 10:37 PM ET USA

    Indeed Diogenes... the folks at "U.S. Catholic" are not Roman Catholic... and therefore not Catholic at all, but some American amalgamated version of some Protestant religion -- it's just that they have not yet admitted that they're Protestant. And, yes, Gil, where are the bishops on this one? Saint Josemaria Escriva, pray for us.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Nov. 03, 2005 8:53 PM ET USA

    I like the "Lets not be so devoted to devotions" subtag line. Indeed.

  • Posted by: patriot6908 - Nov. 03, 2005 7:23 PM ET USA

    It's a shame about the Claretians. They operated a bookstore in Chicago's Loop that became transformed into an utterly New Age center where one could easily become Jung again and easily Freudaned. As they moved ever more into the amorphous hole of Madonna-type spirituality, they lost business. One could buy cd's, incense, and candles in other places. Then they vanished. Around the corner, St. Paul's bookstore was booming.

  • Posted by: Venerable Aussie - Nov. 03, 2005 6:11 PM ET USA

    Diogenes, you're being very uncharitable to this apostolate of the Claretians. Why, this issue has some wonderful winter-warmer books to confirm readers in the decisions regarding faith and morals which they have already made, and their "Busy Christian's Guide to Catholic Social Teaching" has a great run-down of 100 years of encyclicals. I'm sure they just ran out of space to include HV and Evangelium Vitae. Did I spell "apostolate" correctly? (I always confuse it with "apostate".)

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Nov. 03, 2005 6:07 PM ET USA

    And the bishops are...? Where?

  • Posted by: Catholicity - Nov. 03, 2005 5:55 PM ET USA

    The cover of the magazine you presented with the post says it all, Uncle Di. If you missed it, there's a car parked in the dark, with a foggy back window and the phrase "Intimate Conversations" printed with a finger in the mist. Over the trunk of the car is this caption: "How to talk to your kids about sex." One comes to the conclusion that U.S. Catholics answer to the question is to get them in the back seat and fog up the window.

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