Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What Has Become of Catholic Guilt?

The attractive, but despicable, Nicole Pandolfo.
A reader has pointed out to me that the Westians share a false view of Church history with the liberals.

Fr. Z. touches upon the liberal confusion in a post in which he quotes Nicole Pandolfo who makes the claim, in the Washington Times, that the CCD classes she endured as a young Catholic taught her to "obsess over guilt feelings".

Fr. Z. replies

Are you kidding me?  Where was that CCD class?  I ‘d like to send the teachers an award.  Is there anyone who believes a word of this woman’s tripe? In the last 30-40 years NO ONE who has done CCD was “taught to obsess over guilty feelings.” That era ended long before this young woman was born. 

Indeed, what has become of "Catholic Guilt"?  If this woman was obsessing over guilt feelings, she didn't get that from any CCD class.  Most Catholic schools and almost all Directors of Religious Education and Catholic Education Programs have gotten the memo - sin no longer exists - so why feel guilty?

In the same manner, the Westians seem to be fighting the imagined Puritans within the Catholic Church or the make-believe Manicheans who are telling us that the body is evil.  Where are all these Puritans and Manicheans?  I've met a few, but they are a fringe group and no one takes them seriously.  I know of no one in my large circle of acquaintances who despises the body or denigrates the function of sex.

But my point here is not about the strange ghosts the followers of Christopher West are fighting, but about why we lash out at straw men in general, and why, when it comes to morality, the straw man is always the Catholic Church.

Might I suggest, as I have before, that conscience is a much more powerful force than we give it credit for being?  Granted, nobody likes to follow his or her conscience, so instead people write articles for the Washington Times in which they brag that they're pro-abortion, pro-sodomy, anti-marriage, anti-family and yet proudly Catholic without all that guilt.

Don't believe it for a minute.

Nicole Pandolfo didn't get any Catholic guilt from her CCD classes, but she got it the way we all do on matters of Natural Law - she got it directly from God.  No one can live content with herself if she supports the killing of babies, if she turns a blind eye to the misery of the "gay" lifestyle, if she asserts that a selfish unmarried single life filled with promiscuity and sterile sex is a pleasing way to live; no one can do that without that little nagging voice causing problems here and there.

If we simply enjoyed sin so much, we'd simply enjoy it and shut up about how all those judgmental people in the Catholic Church keep picking on us - especially when they never really do.


jvc said...

I know of no one in my large circle of acquaintances who despises the body or denigrates the function of sex.

I would even take this a step further. By denying positive shame, the same people who accuse their theological enemies of Manicheanism seem to be under the same belief that there is nothing worth valuing or saving in terms of the body and sexuality. Perhaps this is why Paul Stilwell, among others, has indicated that the Westians are themselves Manichean.

Kevin said...

I honestly just wish everyone would stop tossing around the Manichean word. I tend to follow the rule that when it comes to declaring who does or doesn't hold heretical beliefs, that's for the Church to decide. Fight against the arguments as they are, and leave the H word out of it.

Not to mention in my extensive dealings with the Westian school of thought (hey, millenial Catholic men have to be very conversant with it if they ever hope a date!), I really don't see that in them. They are mistaken, but not Manichean.

Kevin O'Brien said...

"Mistaken" is also an M word, Kevin.

But are you saying that young Catholic guys have to speak Westspeak in order to get a date? It's not that bad, is it?

"Hey, baby, if I said your breasts are like towers, I'd just be quoting 'Song of Solomon'; and if I said I wanted to climb those towers, I'd just be expressing my intense spiritual desire, hidden beneath my physical urges; and have you taken a "second look" at porn? well, I could help you there - say, let's go over to my place for a bit."

Is that what you mean?

Rosemarie said...


During the 1970s and 80s I went to CCD classes from preschool through seventh grade, then in Catholic school I received religious education through high school. Never once did any teacher make me feel guilty like that. In fact, in my Catholic high school they taught us about contraception, claiming that the Church said it was a sin but still let us follow our conscience on that (which seemed contradictory). Anyone my age or younger, who was brought up in the same American Catholic milieu as myself, who claims that CCD made them feel guilty about sex, is just not credible in my eyes.

jvc said...

Kevin O,

I've often thought of a certain quote from one of the two autobiographies by Obama in the context of thinking about West. At one point he admits that he acts as a projection upon which people put up their hopes and dreams and goals.

I think that some of that is at play with what Kevin T. is saying. Most "conservative" Catholics have no idea what West and his followers really believe, having bought into the Catholic advertising campaign that sells him as today's authentic Catholic speaker on the subject of sexuality.

Since they don't care to look too deeply into what he believes, nor investigate his shortcomings, they fall back on assuming him to be authentic. West has been very successful at self-promotion (not a bad thing when you're legit). People buy into it, even if they couldn't care much what "it" is.

So, a guy like Kevin or myself or any of the other younger Catholics who do know the problems of West can sound like a bit of an oddball, bringing up issues against a guy that most Catholics assume is orthodox. Some assume you're overly traditional, etc.

If the subject comes up with the typical mostly conservative Catholic who is ignorant that there is a problem with West, I will gently point out the nature of the flaws without trying to make too big a deal out of it.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Well, you're a better man than I am, jvc. I would simply froth at the mouth and start swearing.

What you're saying is about the difference between seeing the Church as a kind of worldly institution that we buy into, and thinking with the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).

Since incorporation into the Body of Christ makes us its members, then we have the opportunity to understand things from within, and not from without, not from marketing or spin or hype. Certainly, anyone casually unaware of people or issues in the Church must, at first glance, accept things at face value, but Catholics have the supernatural grace to perceive more deeply, should we care to take the trouble.

jvc said...

That's sometimes still my response, at least with the true believers. You need to say something to shock them out of complacence. (Kind of like how West needs to shake us out of our old, worn traditions like custody of the eyes.)

Most people, unfortunately, are ignorant or naive. I'm sure we all are about a lot of topics. I try not to hold it against someone that he holds a poor position, if he does so naively.

I do thing a stronger tone needs to be struck with the people deliberately misleading others, however.

Paul Stilwell said...

Ignorance and naivety have a play certainly, but what ultimately makes people buy into West is something else. It is impressionism. And that is something spiritually particular to our age. People today are out-and-out impressionists and they don't pay attention to structure.

On the surface, in a constant decontextualized lava-lamp-like squishiness, what West says and writes is perfectly "orthodox".

It's the structure and where it takes you and what it does to your underlying beliefs without hardly making a signal on your radar that matters.

Ever read one of West's articles backwards? It's great fun. Pick any article of his. Start with the last paragraph. Read the last paragraph, from first sentence to last sentence. Then read the second-to-last paragraph. Then the third-to-last paragraph, and so on, until you reach the first paragraph.

Structure. It's where you see what a person is actually saying.

Anonymous said...

Wow thanks for sharing Nicole's article. She was able to put the way I have felt for years into words. Nicole should be commended for speaking the truth