Saturday, August 02, 2008
Flagellants, (circa 1349?)
Those of us who are older than 45 can probably tell you a thing or two about Catholic guilt.
In the media, it's a sort of tiresome cliche, as if it's a given for everyone who's Catholic. Among those younger than 45, however, I don't think it's there to any extent at all. They carry around something very different indeed, which may be even heavier to bear, even if in some cases it's covered up by a sort of bravado.
Recently I read a book called The Faith Between Us: A Jew and a Catholic Search for the Meaning of God, by Scott Korb & Peter Bebergal. It was an unremarkable read as far as I was concerned, but I did see an interesting quote in there attributed to the Catholic writer Paul Elie. I think I do see a lot of this going around...
Among the church's younger members, Catholic guilt has been supplanted by Catholic shame - a deep embarrassment about our church and its presence in the culture. In part we are ashamed for the reasons Christians have always felt ashamed: we associate faith with childhood and are eager to throw off childish ways; we disapprove of the church's doings; we appraise the church by its own standards and it doesn't measure up; or we appraise ourselves and realize we don't live up to what Christ and the church demand of us.
Mostly, though, we are ashamed because we lack the resources of Catholic tradition that might enable us to reconcile seeming opposites and make sense of the absurdity we confront.