The State of American Catholicism

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

A traditional Anglican priest-theologian observing the internal life of the American Catholic Church from the outside commented that American Catholicism is becoming increasingly just another form of Protestant Christianity. This suggestion gave me pause and in fact, for quite some time, this observation has remained in the forefront of my thoughts.

The Anglican clergyman in question observed that the America, as far as he could ascertain, really had no cultural identity. What does it mean to be an American? What exactly are “American values?” There probably are as many answers to this question as there are American people. “We the people…” have never been monolithic in our way of life.

The American political experiment and social ethos is by and large a Protestant experiment. There was never a point where Protestant Christianity had to establish itself against innumerable generations of Catholic intellectual, spiritual, and moral heritage as was the case in Europe. This is a characteristic that is very unique to America, both for good and for ill. Protestant Christians share with Roman Catholics a great deal, but certain Protestant tendencies, for the lack of a better term, such as an emphasis on freedom, individual conscience, self-determination (versus self-discovery), etc, which sets itself against, historically speaking, the authority of the Church with a sola scriptura mentality has imprinted a certain social individualist ethos on the American experiment. This, of course, inevitably affects Catholics living within the United States.

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Fides Quaerens Intellectum

Friday, July 3, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

I suppose this is a very belated Lenten reflection, and with reason too. I certainly do not know the worth or value of any spiritual reflection I have to give, so I will not dare to assign one. All I can is say is that in the past few months I have come a long way, certainly not far enough, but conversion is always a process and not a destination.

In the liturgical season of Lent, for the past two years, I have kept the Ramadan fast strictly following the rules as practiced by Muslims. In place of the prescribed Islamic prayers throughout the day, I prayed the Divine Office. For forty days, at least, my life was completely and utterly centered on God and awareness of His presence in a way that it normally is not, sad as it is. This second year in keeping the fast I felt more than a spiritual solidarity with the poor as I had the year before. I learned much more about fasting, so much that it bothers me greatly that this potent tool has been diminished in the contemporary Church.

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