Showing posts with label Boarding School Juliet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boarding School Juliet. Show all posts

Sunday, September 1, 2019

False Meaning From a Failure to Understand

One of the annoyances in daily Catholic life is encountering people who have no comprehension of what Catholics believe and instead insert their own meaning into what they see Catholics do. The result is a wild claim that the Catholic Church teaches something that actually no informed Catholic believes.

Let’s start with something obvious. The manga panel to the left is a ridiculous version of that behavior [#]. Catholics don’t believe that rosaries are a “protective charm” which holds a reservoir of prayers. A Rosary is a sacramental. A sacramental is something which prepares us to “receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.” (CCC #1670). 

A Catholic who has forgotten his Rosary can certainly use his fingers instead. A simple set of Rosary beads made out  of knotted cord is no less efficacious than a set of Rosary beads made out of gold beads and silver chain [§]. The person who would be foolish enough to think that Catholics view Rosaries as having some sort of “magical” power based on the meaning a person gives it is grossly mistaken and guilty of superstition. If anyone were to to spread that view, they would be guilty of spreading a falsehood.

As I said above, the manga panel is just being cited as a ridiculous example. I strongly doubt Yosuke Kaneda intended anything other than using a convenient mysterious Western spiritual image [@]. But let’s look at something real—the anti-Catholic attacks which are just as ridiculous as Kaneda’s version of the Rosary but done with the intent of discrediting the Catholic Church in order to make their own theology look better. 

When I read writings of Calvin, Luther, or certain Eastern Orthodox theologians [*], the significant thing I notice is not the explanation of what they profess. It’s how they portray the beliefs of the Catholic Church to justify their divergence. The portrayals of the Catholic Church take local abuses (for example, the misuse of indulgences) and accuse us of inventing a “doctrine” that the Church not only never taught, but actually condemned. Those anti-Catholics who proselytize, often target uneducated Catholics by contrasting these false claims about the Church with their own beliefs to make them seem reasonable in comparison [£]

Catholics don’t believe that we’re saved by our own merits or that we earn our salvation through works. We don’t worship Mary or the saints. We don’t believe that the Pope is impeccable. Indeed, our view of Papal infallibility is much more limited than the authority given by some non-Catholics to “personal interpretation” of the Bible. We don’t rely on forged writings to justify the authority of the Church. But those hostile to the Catholic Church turn their lack of understanding about what we believe and the personal error by some in the Church into a “theology” that the Church never taught in the first place.

If you’re familiar with my blog, you are probably expecting a “bait and switch” at this point. And you’re right. I’m not interested in writing polemics against non-Catholics. But I am interested in writing about attitudes that Catholics deplore when used against them but risk falling into when they dislike something that the Pope or bishops say.

The fact is, some Catholics who are offended by the misrepresentation that some non-Catholics make against us, do use those tactics in dissenting from what the Pope and bishops teach. Whether they don’t understand what the Church teaches or whether they do understand, but want to justify their rejection of the Catholic Church, they misrepresent what the Church teaches, or what the Pope said, and claim that the (misrepresented) view of the Pope contradicts Catholic teaching. Because of this redefinition by the dissenters, they claim that they are justified in refusing religious submission of intellect and will. And, just like those anti-Catholic proselytizers, these dissenting proselytizers also use misrepresentation to target uneducated Catholics by making false claims about the Pope or the Church to make their own claims seem reasonable in comparison.

If we deplore the misrepresentations made against the Catholic Church from those outside of it, we should make sure we do not focus on the misrepresentations that come from the mote of ignorance in the anti-Catholic’s eye while ignoring the beam of culpable ignorance or knowing misrepresentation in our own. Because if we profess that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Christ—something other groups do not believe—we have more culpability if we misinterpret or misrepresent the teachings and act in defiance on that basis.


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[#] Boarding School Juliet is a pretty awful story, even setting aside the issues of cheap fanservice. I gave up after two chapters and don’t recommend it. Other notorious examples include One Pound Gospel where nuns hear confessions, or the “anime Catholicism” of Negima.

[@] Japan has many misconceptions and negative understanding of Catholicism dating back to the Tokugawa era. As a result their portrayal of Catholics (TV Tropes calls it “Anime Catholicism”) is heavy on the trappings but devoid of actual understanding, portraying it as mysterious and slightly sinister. It’s similar to how early to mid 20th century pulp fiction portrayed Eastern culture and religion.

[§] If you’re curious about my own Rosary, for years I used one with knotted cords and plastic beads. My current one is made out of knotted cords and wooden beads that came from Jerusalem. I don’t think that one is holier by nature than my plastic one or that it “works better.”

[*] I would like to make clear that the described behaviors do not mean that I accuse Protestants or Eastern Orthodox in general of being guilty of what is described here and this article should not be interpreted in this way. Also, what I describe is based on the actual works of Calvin, Luther, and Eastern Orthodox theologians (post AD 1054), not what some Catholics claim that they say.

[£] For example, in Luther’s Large Catechism, he writes:

There is, moreover, another false worship. This is the greatest idolatry that we have practiced up until now, and it is still rampant in the world. All the religious orders are founded upon it. This kind of worship involves only the kind of conscience that seeks help, comfort, and salvation in its own works and presumes to wrest heaven from God. (The Annotated Luther, vol. 2, page 303)

This statement is manifestly false. If Luther was unaware of that fact, it means he grossly missed the point of his religious life as a monk and could be no reliable authority against the Catholic Church. If he was aware of that fact, it makes him a liar. Either way, he would not be an “expert witness” to cite against what Catholics believe.