A Dictatorship of Sentimentalism

In my column over at First Things, today, I recall Ann Rice “quitting Christianity” just about a year ago, and ponder why that might have happened:

At the time Rice was writing, we were well into the summer of Tea Party unrest preceding the 2010 elections, and mainstream media were disseminating the usual mean Christian caricatures spouted in any election year. In 2010 patently false claims that Christians hate gays, women, and science had been given new force by the Proposition 8 drama in California and the identification of prominent Christians as Tea Party supporters.

Some were quick to dismiss Rice’s resignation as the result of a “re-version,” the nearly inevitable outcome of her long formation as a secular humanist. After all, in Called Out…, Rice expressed surprise that it might be thought radical “for a deeply orthodox Catholic to hope for the eventual ordination of women, of for a Catholic to believe that our gay Christian brothers and sisters would soon be accepted into the fold . . . but these did prove to be radical suggestions.”

Others wondered if Rice was simply falling victim to a shoddy catechesis that had failed to fully articulate the carefully nuanced, generous and supernaturally grounded reasoning behind the Church’s counter-cultural positions.

Certainly, both of those explanations are possible, and even likely. It is also likely, because caricatures and stereotypes are distortions often founded upon realities, that Rice had encountered the sorts of Christians who seek constantly to confront and correct others, forgetting that the key to the Christian life begins with confronting and “fixing” the self—a job for grace, if ever there was one—and found them off-putting in the extreme.

But I suspect the largest part of Rice’s boisterous resignation has to do with the dictatorship of sentimentalism…

You can read the rest, here

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • dwiss

    Catechesis – yes!

    But how? I teach Confirmation in my parish to high school sophomores, most of whom are not at all catechised. And I mean “not at all” – that is not hyperbole.

    I offered to lead a catechism starter course this fall using Youcat. Very tepid reception. Maybe I can make it happen, but I’ve been warned that it won’t be well attended.

    We regularly Confirm kids who have no idea what their faith is. A few only get Confirmed to please their parents but can’t wait to be done with it all. People can reasonably reject Catholicism, but it would be nice if they knew what they were rejecting.

    So, who has some ideas about how to get our parishes motivated to offer cathechism classes?

    [Perhaps begin with YOUCAT study groups offered around the 7th or 8th grade -- that is one powerful evangelical and catechetical tool and I CANNOT RECOMMEND IT ENOUGH.]

  • chris-2-4

    “We regularly Confirm kids who have no idea what their faith is. A few only get Confirmed to please their parents but can’t wait to be done with it all. People can reasonably reject Catholicism, but it would be nice if they knew what they were rejecting.”

    So? I mean, that’s a shame, but the sacrament is received nonetheless, just as it does in an infant baptism or the Eucharist in the mouth of a 2nd grader who can’t possibly comprehend transubstantiation.

    I’m sure dwiss, as a catechist, did not mean to suggest that the sacrament is something wherein the kids themselves “confirm” their understanding of the faith, but that is sort of what you imply above and it’s a wide misunderstanding, isn’t it?

  • kenneth

    Why is it that Catholic apologetics assumes that anyone who refuses to join or stay must be the victim of disordered thinking, sinister societal brainwashing or poor catechesis? Not everyone wants to be Catholic and I would think with all the griping about “cafeteria” Catholics that you would at least respect our honesty. Not all of us are making ill-informed decisions. Many of us understand the faith more deeply than many of its most devout. It’s just that we don’t believe it and are not called to it.

  • greta

    Our parish has long made confirmation a very important part of faith formation and kids who do not know their faith are not confirmed with the rest. Of course we also refuse to marry certain couples such as those living together or who fail to attend the full programs required by the parish including the 6 week course in Natural Family Planning. Got to love the Dominicans. Our parish is where the incoming novices spend their first year and we have 18 this year surviving out the 21 who entered.

    Anchoress is right on the YOUCAT. Might be nice to see how many of those who really know their faith remain Catholic for life, but I suspect it is high. We want to make sure they know their faith when they leave our grade schools and have a very strong youth program in the hundreds who continue through high school and then come back to help when they hit university level.

    We are blessed. Of course many drive up to an hour each way or more for mass each Sunday because of what we offer. Starting an 8 week program by the Dominicans on the wonderful changes at mass, and taking advantage of the changes to educate everyone on the full wonder of the Catholic Mass. It is a pity to see how few know the what and why of every part of the mass.

    One of the most uneducated groups is the adults and we have started group programs where our most educated Catholics are having weekly groups in their homes with up to 10 adults in each. So far, we have over 100 groups active in the parish and will hold our annual meeting this year with a retreat starting right before advent to kickoff the new year.

  • dwiss

    Chris, you are right in what you say, and for that reason I always encourage even the most reluctant candidate to get Confirmed even if he or she has serious doubts. Who knows when in life the Holy Spirit will be recognized?

    But when those kids say “Amen” to the Bishop I want to know that they understand what they’re saying amen to. The Catholic faith is a wonder, and the more we learn about it the more childlike our faith can become. The constant questioning slows down and that’s when the love, peace and wonder are experienced.

  • dwiss

    Anchoress, thank you for your suggestion. It’s a good one, and I agree that grades 7 & 8 are a better age to hear Youcat.