My post on the Orthosphere prompted this insightful comment from “Rob”:
I am wondering whether or not this is a tall order though, to seek a tribalistic character to Catholicism in se. Tribalism to me, suggests a defensiveness, defending one’s own. Catholicism has certainly served as an attribute of in or out of tribe. E.g., to be English is to be Protestant; to be French is to be Catholic. But how sincerely does one feel that this attribute is really of the essence of the “in”?
Catholicism in itself seems to me to be purely an “offensive,” rather than a “defensive” spirit?
A very good point. “Tribal” categories only come to the fore when the group is imperiled. To me, the destruction of the Catholic Church in one generation is a live possibility, while a successful offensive against the world is fantasy. Of course, the truths Catholicism teaches can’t be destroyed, but it can become the case that no one will believe them, and no one will positively identify with the people whom history calls “Catholic”.
That’s the defensive tribal attitude. We’re under attack, and if we don’t respond effectively now, we’re going to be eliminated.
Now the opposite attitude, quite widespread on the Catholic blogosphere, which I call “pious humbug”, abbreviated “pious BS”. Pious BS is how we rationalize taking the war against the Church in a way less seriously than secular pursuits. Before anybody gets offended, remember that as a pseudonymous, self-described bad Catholic, I’m not claiming to be better than anyone. I do almost nothing for the Church, while many people devote their lives to the service of the Church without ever thinking about the war in a serious way. Thinking seriously is not about effort; it’s about strategy.
“Victory is in God’s hands, and all He asks is that we try.” If you believe that, you won’t really try. “Making an effort” means expending resources like time and money, but since there’s no connection between cause and effect in this way of thinking, there’s no need to strategize, no need to think about how to make most effective use of limited resources, no need to anticipate the enemy’s moves, no need to analyze the effectiveness of our current tactics. “It’s in God’s hands”, thus we become occasionalists on this one matter–the war in Heaven on Earth. What the pious BSer ignores is that his intelligence is itself something he has a duty to offer to God’s cause.
Some examples of pious BS:
expending all our missionary effort on people who are the least likely to convert
dismissing the “ghetto option” because it means we won’t be evangelizing the world, even when it’s clear that in conditions of openness the world is gaining more converts from us than we are from them
- claiming to have exclusively “pastoral” interests and then showing little interest in how people are to know or whether they are likely to believe the basic doctrines of the faith
- worrying more about extinct heresies (e.g. “Jansenism”) than live ones
- responding to ecclesial crises with meaningless commemorative events (e.g. responding to widespread loss of faith by declaring a “Year of Faith” or suchlike)
- reckless lack of concern on the part of prelates for how their statements, often made while seeking favor from small groups already hostile to the faith, can be exploited by the Church’s enemies
Most sentences with the phrases “promise” and “gates of Hell” are pious BS. That the Church will endure perpetually is guaranteed by the present existence of souls in heaven and purgatory. Our Lord Himself treated the question of whether He would find faith on the Earth on His return as an open one.
Most pastoral uses of the parable of the shepherd who left his 99 sheep to find the one lost one are pious BS, an excuse to ignore the needs of the average parishioner (who is also lost, or in danger of being lost, in his own less glamorous way) to pursue favor with the ones with high secular status.
Devout Protestants rightly criticize the importation of business models into their churches, but it often feels like Catholic leaders take their job less seriously than someone would a business enterprise.
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