Wednesday, 28 August 2013

What sort of Catholic are you?

After my last post it was drawn to my attention that a new phrase to describe the lapsed has entered the politically correct lexicon of our PC aware Church.  The materials for Home Mission Sunday now refer to "Non-Church going Catholics".  

It seems that those who composed the materials are not completely sure that this phrase will be understood by the average person in the pew as it is sometimes used in conjunction (in brackets) with the explanation "lapsed".   I'm uneasy with it as it seems another little nudge to making lapsation acceptable.  (Ironic, considering the context.)

Let us call a spade a spade.  A Catholic who is non-churchgoing is a sinner (I cast no stones in that direction, as I would not like the number that could be thrown back at me!)  Calling the sinner to repent has the pre-requisite that the sin is named, recognised and owned before it can be repented, confessed and forgiven.  

The phrase "non-Churchgoing Catholic" seems to make the lapsed just another variety of Catholic. There are liberal Catholics, Traditional Catholics, cradle Catholics, Charismatic Catholics and ... non-Churchgoing Catholics.  To be non-Churchgoing is a fundamental denial of one's Faith.  Whatever a person's relationship to the Church is, every catholic should be Church-going. They may not be able to or feel able to go to Communion but they should be at Church - that is to say at Mass.  In fact, attending Mass while not receiving communion (for the variety of reasons there can be for that) seems to me to be a truly humble act.  It speaks of someone recognising their sin and taking it seriously.  The non-Churchgoing are often those who feel quite free to walk up to the communion rail and receive at first Communions, Confirmations, weddings and funerals even though it was the last such event that they crossed the threshold.  Often this is not their fault.  They learnt at school that though they never went to Mass from one month to the next with their families on a Sunday, they must all come up to receive Communion at the end of year school Mass (on the grounds that it's not their fault parents didn't take them to Mass and no-one must feel left out).  But if they are not taught the lesson at school the ignorance persists and the lesson they learn from their practical experience is that it's fine to receive Holy Communion whenever you are at Mass, even if you haven't given the Faith a thought for months or years.

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't use gentle persuasion and pastoral care when calling home the lost.  I am suggesting that we should be teaching that to be lost is a threat to the life of the immortal soul and a tragedy.  An American friend of mine calls lapsed Catholics "failed Catholics" (he should know, he was "failed" for may years).  That might appear a tad judgemental as description but perhaps brings my thoughts to the fact that we're all failed Catholics in one way or another.

I think in a general way we need some more emphasis on a brand of Catholic that is much more prevalent in the Church, a category that is the ultimately politically correct one, as it excludes no-one. What category is that?

Sinning Catholics!

Here are some other materials praying for the return of sinners.

Almighty Father, 
You desire not the death of the sinner, but that he may be converted and live.

Pour out upon us Your mercy and hear the prayers of Your servants. 
Soften the hearts of Your children who have strayed from the true path which You established for their salvation. 
They are now forgetful of their duties as Catholics,
and pursue the pleasures of the world. 
Grant that they may quickly return to the practice of every Christian virtue,
so that their lives may shine with the integrity of faith,
the fervour of piety, and the ardour of charity. 
Restore them all to Your sacraments and the life of Your grace,
through the merits of the most precious blood of Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.



GOR said...

It has long been my conviction that if I stop going to Mass on Sundays (and Holy Days of Obligation) according to the Commandments of the Church (remember them…?) it is the beginning of the end or - perhaps more accurately – a Churchillian “end of the beginning”.

Losing the ‘habit’ of the Mass Obligation usually doesn’t happen overnight. It starts out small, but becomes cumulative. I miss Mass once without good reason. I may feel some remorse, knowing that it was a Mortal Sin, and have the intention of going to confession but put it off. Then I miss Mass again and, though I have a twinge of conscience, I suppress it.

Soon my conscience becomes hardened and I miss Mass more frequently. My rationale at first is that as I’m already in Mortal Sin, what’s one more? I will makes things right eventually…some day…on my deathbed. Whatever.

Soon the habit of always going becomes the habit of not going at all. I have become a full blown lapsed Catholic. And that’s for someone who was once faithful. For those who were never properly instructed or given good example by parents, teachers, etc. it is even more difficult.

Only God’s grace, prayer and the example of others will bring them back – please God before it’s too late…

Celia said...

In the bad old days (any time before 1965)'lapsing'and failing to go to Sunday Mass was a serious matter, which in any well-run parish resulted in a home visit from, at the least, a nervous young curate to find out why. Nowadays, well it's all down to that convenient appendage, your 'conscience', which may well tell you to stay in bed or take the family out for the day and of course 'God won't mind'. And I'm afraid that most priests simply don't spell out the obligation and the consequences of deliberately absenting yourself, for fear of 'driving away' people who are at least no worse than semi-detached.

It might help if a firm line were taken over entry to Catholic schools (although I suppose the government would intervene there) or First Communion: your child will not be considered if you have not attended Mass regularly in the past. It would be condemned as cruel and heartless, of course, but the Church is sooner or later going to have to pull itself together and stop pandering to those who want whatever benefit they think it is they gain from being vaguely Catholic without the commitment and belief needed for salvation. They're not being done any favours by a church that rather lamely hopes they'll come round if they're left alone.

Damask Rose said...

"Non-Church going Catholics" is a little dishonest because it places together lapsed Catholics with the old and infirm who cannot get to Mass but perhaps have Communion brought home to them.

So Fr Henry is right in a way. It does seem to soften the sin of being a lapsed Catholic.

It's like the PC, comfortable euphemism "divorced and remarried" for adulterer. Why say three words when you can say one...?

Kenny said...

Well said Simon, as a priest I try to encourage the lapsed to come to Mass especially those parents desiring sacraments for their children. When I mentioned this fact at a recent deanery meeting I was slated by my brother priests. They find it very unreasonable to ask parents of first communion children to come to mass.I pointed out that the grace of the sacrifice of the Mass is far more powerful than any PC preparation course. I feel totally frustrated

Anonymous said...

I was always under the impression that to be a catholic one had to be obedient to ones Bishop and the Holy Father who happens to be the legitimate successor to St Peter. Evangelii Gaudium is a document that challenges a narrow view of the deposit of faith which interprets everything as condemnation. To ignore this teaching from Peter is in my opinion another category of "catholic" disobedient.

Fr John Doe