et moi, à quoi je crois?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 01, 2007

Now this is sad.

"Toupie" is a serialized French picture-book ("for ages two through four"), of which I came upon a ten-year-old Christmas-themed issue. One of the vignettes (click here and here) shows a living-room scene with the kitten Pikou cozily enjoying Christmas Eve with Momma and Poppa cat. The following dialogue takes place:

-- Why have Grandma and Grandpa gone out tonight? asked Pikou.
-- Grandma and Grandpa go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
-- Why don't we go with them, Momma?
-- Because I don't share their religion, said Momma.
-- What? There's more than one religion?
-- Yes, said Poppa, there are many religions.
-- And, added Momma, there are people like me who don't believe in God.
-- Do you believe, Poppa?
-- Yes, I believe in God, but I don't feel their need to go to church.
-- What about me, when I grow up? asked Pikou.
-- When you grow up, it's you who make the choice. Your ideas are your own.
-- OK, said Pikou. As for me, I'll just wait for Santa Claus!

The moral falsity of this vignette hinges on its ostensible purpose, i.e., to address (and satisfy) a child's naive curiosity about religion. But it doesn't do that at all. In reality the rationalizations are addressed to heathen parents -- no practicing Catholic would read this tripe to his children -- and intended to comfort prosperous and lazy post-Christians vexed with a bad conscience about their own captious laicism and spiritual sloth.

It's noteworthy that the Pikou Curieux of this fiction is conveniently incurious about the Why of his parents' belief and non-belief, and so the truly awkward questions remain unasked. Further, beyond the inert sociological datum that different people believe different things about God, the child-hearer of this story is given no help to understand the mystery that pulls his grandparents out of the house at midnight and is somehow connected with the unusual festiveness of the season. Framed in a context of self-congratulatory tolerance ("it's you who make the choice ..."), the lesson in fact insinuates an agnostic point of view, inasmuch as every young child intuitively understands his parents would never withhold anything they believed was really important to his well-being. God can't be a big deal, if those who love me most are so comfortable in their contradictions about Him.

In posting Pikou I'm less concerned about its effect on the faith-lives of French toddlers than about a subject closer to home: the way in which its clandestine agnosticism mirrors the hesitations of the typical Catholic university -- hesitations deftly summarized by R.R. Reno in this excellent post on the First Things blog. In brief: if the academics who govern and comprise the faculty of Catholic universities cannot affirm that reason leads us to God and godliness, then the students who sit at their feet must draw one of two conclusions: 1) God is not important enough to matter; or 2), the university's "search for truth" is a scam. Those Doctors of Philosophy, after all, have scaled the academic peak and are perched at the top. If they tell us there's nothing reason can see from that vantage point, why should we bother to make the ascent ourselves?

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  • Posted by: - Sep. 10, 2007 10:55 AM ET USA

    Also, it's interesting that Momma and Poppa have obviously had no compunction about tricking their child - er, kitten - into believing in Santa Claus

  • Posted by: - Sep. 10, 2007 10:53 AM ET USA

    Di, you and your respondents are so critical! I think Momma and Poppa showed excellent powers of reason, being that they are cats.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 10, 2007 9:35 AM ET USA

    "-- and intended to comfort prosperous and lazy post-Christians vexed with a bad conscience about their own captious laicism and spiritual sloth." I think you nailed it right here. Spiritual Sloth masquerading as tolerance. The parents don't want to go into the Kingdom, and they make it harder for their own children to enter too.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 04, 2007 2:56 PM ET USA

    This item is outstanding! That our Catholic colleges and universities are fast becoming secular in subscribing to similar notions is evidenced by the choices made choosing speakers at graduation. People leading lives according to principals directly opposed to Catholic have been honored time and time again by supposed Catholic institutions. Academic freedom does not give Satan equal time and access. Ex Cordae Ecclesiae issued by JPII is clearly being ignored. Maybe B16 can drop a bomb on them.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 03, 2007 5:51 PM ET USA

    This "Wait to make your own decisions" re: the child's faith, emanates out of the 60's counter culture when those "God is dead" propositions were advanced. Sadly far too many "enlightened" remnants of those "ne're-do-well" spiritual mutants are still making our lives miserable. (Witness Bill and Hillary) Lastly, it should be mentioned in passing that, by the time our fictional little Pikou grows up, he would be "sifted like wheat," and we could chalk up one more lost soul to the netherworld.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 03, 2007 12:10 PM ET USA

    Atheist mom + lapsed Catholic dad = confused child, and undoubtedly distressed grandparents praying for all three. At least there is still a Midnight Mass to attend! Will the child's affectionate curiosity about his grandparents' absence lead him to seek out instruction someday and find out what all the fuss is about? We can only pray.... The most likely scenario for this child coming to know Christ is for his grandparents to take the child with them to Mass, preferably to the extraordinary form

  • Posted by: - Sep. 02, 2007 8:49 AM ET USA

    Excellent piece, and excellent question from Normnuke: from whence comes the energy to secularize? I think it derives from two sources. First,money. At Notre Dame, for example, what stikes the observor is not Catholicity, but football, new buildings, fund raising, and guards at the Basilica to prohibit entry to worshipers because it was rented. Secondly, acceptance. Better to be accepted by a Harvard skeptic, than by Christ. Like teenagers, peer, rather than the Father's, acceptance rules.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 02, 2007 4:32 AM ET USA

    Well done! This brief reflection is so marvellously on target that I plan to share it with everyone in my immediate circle of family and friends. I hope that it will do some good for the ones that need it. Thank you.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 01, 2007 9:43 PM ET USA

    Di, you're right as usual. It is sad. We are seeing the expulsion of everything decent from our civilization. And, you're right that the nexus is the 'Catholic' University. The real question is, where do the Gauleiterin of the anti-Catholic agendas in the Provost's office get their phenomenal energy?