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A Cultural Shift

I was once introduced to someone I had never met before. I quickly noticed a strong resemblance to a man that I did know. The person admitted that he was the oldest son who had been away at college for a while. It was no surprise to me that he was related. If we are familiar with something we can quickly recognize other things that are similar, even if others do not see the connection.

Cultures are like that; one culture may derive from another and you will be able to see the relationship if you know one of them well. Societies have a culture, families have a culture, and Catholic parishes have a culture. Those cultures are not always clear to those present in them, especially if they were brought up in that culture. Sometimes you need to be able to step away from things in order to see them clearly, and that is hard to do when we are speaking about the culture of a parish.

There are a number of Catholic parishes in the world that have a culture that is decidedly not Catholic; it is protestant. This is not just me being grumpy, this is me saying, "I have been there (about 25 years a practicing protestant, and 16 of those as a protestant pastor) and I recognize the relationship." The culture of protestantism is pretty much the same in every protestant congregation (high church/low church, modernist/traditional, denominational/independent; it does not make a difference).

It is this "cultural shift" that occurred in the 1960's and 1970's in Catholic parishes that most today do not know happened. They were brought up in the "protestantized" culture of Catholic parishes and they do not know anything different. If I try to tell them, "you're practicing the faith like a protestant, not like a Catholic" most are offended, and a few say, "so what?" I am not speaking about the specifics of liturgy, doctrine or morality (that is an entirely different issue), but about the attitude and manner in which people live out their Catholic faith.

A general overview of the "protestant culture" would encompass the following: a toleration of secular things as "neutral"; an attitude that is soft on sin and compromises standards quickly; no discomfort at laughing at sins; presumption of its own superiority without any true grounds; a rejection of faithful diligence as being stuffy; and finally a suspicion of tradition as old and outdated. (I know a few of protestant friends will tell me about differences in their congregations, but since those differences accord with the Catholic practice that goes back to the early middle ages, it just goes to prove my point: Catholic culture is the original pattern of parish life, and protestantism is the deviation).

One of my responsibilities as the parish Priest at St. George is to inform my people about what is sinful and errant, and also to show them true righteousness. One of the ways that I have been doing this, and will continue as long as I am able, is to work to eradicate any sense of protestant culture that might creep into the community. This does not always make people happy, and it might even cause someone to choose another parish because they do not like the traditional Catholic culture that is being promoted, but I must continue because I am accountable before God to lead my people to Christ.


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