Saturday, February 25, 2017

American Catholic or a Catholic American?

“What’s the difference?” you ask. It’s a matter of attitude.

An "American Catholic" is someone fully immersed in the American culture and attends Church when and if it makes them feel good.

Americans value freedom first and foremost; especially the freedom of choice and freedom of speech. We are independent, individualistic, and are completely at ease with being different from each other. American Catholics are becoming extremely informal in their lifestyle and their views toward practicing the faith. They attend Church when they feel like it, and it's convenient.

In our American culture, we work hard – too hard sometimes – and we believe that time is money. Our laws protect homosexuality in the United States and, for the most part, homosexuality is not looked upon as deviant.  In fact, our sense of freedom labels very little as deviant.  Personal freedom is our most prized characteristic  We are a culture obsessed with technology, sex, and success. When you are an American Catholic, you bring all of the above to your faith.  You celebrate the freedom of the culture and tap into the faith only to the point that it affirm your beliefs.  If you are challenged by the Church on your cultural views it makes you uncomfortable, and when that happens an American Catholic will often choose avoidance rather than compliance.  Many Catholics are leaving the church over the issue of same-sex marriage and treatment of gay and lesbian people. The fact that the Church was so active in promoting opposition to same-sex marriage at a time when the public — in particular, young people — were voicing strong support, certainly hurt the Church and presents a continuing challenge in trying to get millennials involved.  It may be a contributing factor in Church attendance shrinking at alarming rates.

A "Catholic American" is someone whose faith is first in their life, and that faith influences how they view everything else.

Catholic American's are those Catholics who have a strong sense of their faith forming them deeply. They are more often quite active in their faith and thus, have a slightly different slant on faith and culture.  The culture of excess is a challenge to Catholic Americans.  They tend to be charitable at their core.  They embrace the teachings of the Church that call for us to be full of love for and goodwill toward others. Their attitude tends to be less selfish and shows a deep concern for the welfare of others. They view supporting the needy, being generous to those with less, as a core cultural attribute. Working to help the poor and needy is essential to what being Catholic means to them. Catholic Americans attend Mass at least weekly.

That does not mean that Catholic Americans don't think for themselves. While they are more likely than other Catholics to have opinions that align with church policies and teachings; many of them disagree with church teaching about what constitutes a sin in some sexual and family-related areas. Many do not agree with the Church’s stand on the use of contraceptives.  Some believe living with a romantic partner outside of marriage does not constitute a sin. Still others believe we need a more welcoming attitude toward those who have remarried after a divorce without an annulment. And even quite a few Catholic Americans feel homosexual behavior is not a sin.  If they do embrace these views, they harbor them close to the vest.  Their goal is first and foremost to be a good Catholic, and they keep their personal opinions to themselves.

If you had to point to the biggest difference between an American Catholic and a Catholic American, it would seem to be their sense of mission.  A Catholic American sees it a fundamental responsibility to represent their faith in a public way.  They feel a mission to impact society in a positive way through the sharing of their faith.  They want to be a force for good in our society and the Church.

An American Catholic, on the other hand, is swimming along in the culture just trying to fit in.  They have little or no impact on society or the Chruch.

Which are you?

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