WHAT IS A CATHOLIC ?
And Other Matters
By DONALD ATT WATER UPON being invited to contribute to this series my first reaction was that I generally speak and write my mind pretty freely and that I am not conscious of suffering from any
painful repressions. My second reaction was that I would ask the editor of the Catholic Herald to put a whole issue of the paper at my disposal, Then I went down to breakfast; and while eating my sausage (note for nervous readers: It was not a Friday) I read that the Holy Office (" the Inquisition " it' you please) had instructed the bishops of the world not to tolerate certain " new and often silly forms of worship and devotion," noting, among other things, that the matter is " a great scandal to non-Catholics, who are particularly sensitive in these matters."
It was nice to find the Holy Office trumpeting frOrn the housetops something that I might have murmured in a corner of the Catholic Herald.—and particularly gratifying to read that reference to non-Catholics. Incidentally, it raises the question: What is a non-Catholic? And that can be turned round and put in the form: What is a Catholic?
" Real " and " Unreal"
It appears that there are several categories among others " real" and " unreal" or " not-real."
A correspondent of the Catholic Herald has recently declared that " Real Catholics do not argue with the Pope's encyclicals."
Ignoring the use In a depreciatory sense of the word " argue," it is not unknown for men who are admittedly conscientious Catholics heavily to criticise and in practise to ignore certain parts of Rerum novarurn and Quadragesimo anrin,.. many choirmasters (with Or without the approval of their parish priests) habitually disregard Pope Pius X's instructions about ecclesiastical music; from the day of its publication down to our own, Catholics whom no one would dare to qualify as "unreal " have commented unfavourably on Pope St. Pius VS hull Rearms in excelsis (and a bull is, I believe, heavier artillery than an encyclical letter.)
Probably yet more striking examples could be found—but that's not what I am really after. Cardinal Gasparri's Catech ism says that: • "Those are members of the Church founded by Jesus Christ who have been baptized and are joined together in the bonds of unity, faith and Catholic fellowship."
A study of the meaning and implication of each operative word in that definition, and of the meaning and implication of the whole, discourages one from trying to make facile distinctions between " real " and " unreal " Catholics, from as it were " unchurching " a Man, when all that one is entitled to say is that he appears to be, or is, mietaken.
Simply " Wrong "
And why do we so often say that suchand-such an opinion is "non-catholic " or " uncatholic," instead of saying simply that it is " wrong " or "riot true" ?
To do so encourages the absurd idea, already common, that we make a distinction between what is Catholic and what is true. Moreover, to speak of a view or policy as being Catholic or uncatholic, rather than as being true or untrue. permissible or not permissible, introduces an emotional appeal (for or against) that distorts the speaker's argument: it ought not to, of course, but in my experience it does —definitely, as they say, Going bark to the Holy Office's solicitude lest non-Catholics he shocked, I know that many Such have lately experienced pained surprise at unguarded words of Catholics that suggest we are unmindful of the indefectibility of the Church. " If Fascism (or Communism or Nineteenth-century Liberal Democracy, according to taste) get the upper hand, that will be the end of Christianity."
Will it, indeed? It may be the end of worshipping in grand and solemn churches, of protest-meetings in the Albert Hall, of our schools and of our rights and liberties generally—but the Church militant lived before any of those things and, if they go, she will continue to live on afterwards.
Were active persecution to come I should run away so quickly that my back-view would be obscured by dust (for I am a coward—but that's not why I object to war); but even in my apostasy I should be sorry if the faithful ones suffered martyrdom without a firm assurance that after they had gone others would rise up in their place, and so on to seventy-times seven.
The Five Sparrows
In this connection there was a very moving passage in the gospel pericope at Mass the other day: unfortunately it was read at the altar in a low voice, and in a foreign tongue, and few of the worshippers had books wherein to follow it in their own: and being a weekday it was not repeated in English. It is well known, and it is worth repeating: " Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings?—and not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, the very hairs of your head arc all numbered, Therefore fear not: you are of more value than many sparrows. And I say to you that whosoever shall confess me before men, him also shall the Son of man confess before the angels of God."
Talking about confessing before men, the editorial comments or the July Month say: " Whilst awaiting the Church's more explicit guidance. it remains a matter for the individual conscience to decide whether one can join in a war carried on by indiscriminate bombing, which all agree will be the main feature of the next international out break." Which is practically what the " Pax " society was so loudly abused for saying some months back.
The next Writer in this series will be the American, Carl Schmidt.