Rebels and Conformists

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Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, brings us this story that highlights one of the problems that the Church has these days with precious snowflakes who think they are heroic rebels:



Northwestern University student Kathleen Ferraro was RAISED CATHOLIC!! and thinks that it’s extremely important for all of you people to understand that fact:

My name is Kathleen and I am a little Catholic schoolgirl. I wore a sweater vest and knee-highs and a skirt that could be no more than two inches above my knees. Rogue nuns wandered the halls of my high school. We “left room for Jesus” at school dances, all of which were supervised by a resident priest. I come from a devoutly Roman Catholic family from a primarily Catholic community largely dominated by Catholic institutions, schools, values and beliefs.

Yet young Katie doesn’t consider herself Catholic any more.

And yet against all odds, I don’t fit into Catholicism. My Catholic upbringing and education seemed the perfect formula for a perfect Catholic. Nonetheless, I’ve developed values and beliefs that significantly diverge from this foundation.

Gee.  Wonder what those might be.

Whenever I think about this question, I always resort to my list-making ways, crafting an inventory of the reasons that Catholicism has not worked for me. Old-fashioned values and traditions, hesitation towards accepting the LGBTQ community and inherent political undertones of church leadership leave me feeling conflicted and uneasy. I will never understand why dressing up in a modest J.Crew dress and sitting in the first pew at church trumps participating in a climate march, or why accepting doctrine on faith alone beats independent thinking, questioning and customizing one’s religious life. For me, religion has been more a culture of privilege than of prayer, a competition of piety rather than a humble quest of personal growth and spiritual connection. These are all examples from my experience with religion that motivate me to reject Catholicism, but as I think about it, are these also reasons that Catholicism rejects me?

No, because that’s just stupid.

I believe it is. Speaking only for the Catholic institutions I come from, I do not fit the prototype of what a Catholic is supposed to be–the by the book churchgoer who accepts Catholicism because that is what is true.

Ya think?!!

I am pro-choice, don’t go to church on Sundays, don’t put stock in the Bible or doctrine, challenge traditional ideas of religion and spirituality and care infinitely more about trying to be a kind, humble person than actively worshipping.

In other words, an Episcopalian.

On one hand, this rejection validates my personal beliefs and their deliberate divergence from Catholicism. On the other hand, this rejection leaves me unfulfilled. I find myself an outsider, subject to the Catholic exclusivity that ostracizes other divergent thinkers and doers: the very exclusivity that prompts me to reject Catholicism in the first place. Its a perplexing paradox – my beliefs exclude me and define me as an independent. And because my beliefs disqualify me from active participation, I am consequently excluded from a community that I want to engage with, though not necessarily be a part of. I would say “its not you, its me,” but I think “its not me, its you” is equally appropriate.

Told you.

I’m not saying that my beliefs are right,

You are so.

but I am saying that I want to be heard, not just listened to.

Every Anglican in the world knows that means that we keep yammering until the Roman Catholic Church realizes that it’s wrong and I’m right.

For me, this conversation is not about stylizing religion to suit the tastes of young adults;


it’s about aligning all voices with the process of organized religion and earnestly engaging in different conceptualizations of faith.

Whatever that means.  Katie?  I’d like to tell you a little bit about my mom.

Over and over again, I’m amazed at what a visionary my mother was.  Mom was also RAISED CATHOLIC!! but had some sort of major conflict with the Catholic Church in the 40′s, the nature of which she never disclosed to any of us.

I suspect what it might have been but I don’t know for certain so I’m not going to speculate.  But to those of you whose parents are still with you, a word of warning; you find out quite a bit after they shuffle off this mortal coil.

Mom was always a little bit of a rebel.  She was born and raised in New York City and when she was in college at Adelphi, she vocally stood up for the Jews.  She’d married in the late 30′s, early 40′s, somewhere in there, and had a daughter shortly after that.  Her husband was killed during the war and after it, she was a single mom with a little girl to raise and she didn’t have any money coming in.

So Mom found herself a job.  In Montana.  She left New York City and never again entertained the idea of ever going back.

Anyway, Mom’s got this problem with the Roman Catholic Church.  Know what she did about it, Katie?

She left the Catholic Church and joined the Episcopalians.  My mom loved the Episcopal Church until the end of her life.  And as far as I know, she was the only one in her family who ever did anything like that.  Her brother, my Uncle Howard, remained Catholic until the end of his life.

Kid?  The Catholic Church is almost 2,000 years old; you’re not.  Your idea that the Catholic Church needs to conform itself to the bumper stickers beliefs of the Young PeopleTM is too absurd for any intelligent person to even begin to entertain.  So emulate my mother, grow a freaking spine and drop into one of Chicagoland’s many fine Episcopal parishes next Sunday.  You’ll be glad you did.

Go here to read the comments.  It should be noted that Mr. Johnson long ago left Episcopalianism as it became the Church of the Current Zeitgeist.

All human societies have a majority of people who largely go with the flow.  They simply accept, with little thought, what is taught in their schools, in their churches, in their families and what is promulgated by the  political parties that their families support.  The Catholic Church in the West long benefited from this arrangement.  Going with the flow since the nineteenth century usually meant that most people born Catholic would be Catholics in adulthood.  There were always a few rebels, but the rate of loss was usually small.  It took great upheavals like the Reformation to make much of a dent in the Church where the Church was proscribed, and then usually it took several generations before a new pattern of conformism was established and thus the State was essential in taking measures against the Church to largely eliminate her influence from society.

Since the late Fifties, the trends in society throughout the West have been in a pronounced anti-Catholic direction.  Simultaneously with this the Church, through the implementation of Vatican II, abandoned much of traditional Catholicism, thereby producing a timidity in the face of anti-Catholicism and a desire for Catholics to get along with the dominant forces in the West.  This has created a perfect storm, where conformism is all to the ideas that are trendy within the West, a conglomeration of the ideas embraced by Ms. Ferraro who no doubt misperceives herself as a heroic rebel instead of what she is, a member in good standing of the herd of independent thinkers who, mirabile dictu, just happen to agree on all the major issues of our day as if they came stamped with those opinions from a factory.  The Church today tends to draw her champions from born rebels, those who almost instinctively go against the tide and who are often truly independent thinkers.  Thus the Church that has been so long at the heart of the West is now, to use a buzzword of the current Pontificate, on the peripheries.  This may not be a bad thing in the fullness of time, as the current beliefs regnant in the West are so foolish and so destructive, that the Church may be in a prime position to pick up the pieces after enough disasters ensue.  This of course is assuming that those forces within the Church who wish to see the Church embrace the dominant zeitgeist of the West fail.  We shall see.

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  1. Go where you can hear the gospel…proclaimed in it’s purity…

    …and where the sacraments are administered in accordance with that pure gospel.

    Good luck being able to find that.

  2. “I find myself an outsider, subject to the Catholic exclusivity that ostracizes other divergent thinkers and doers:”
    I believe the faith teaches that heaven is an exclusive place, also.

    “Let’s hope and pray that she doesn’t continue with her self-absorption, and her unwillingness to serve (disguised as self-anointed intellegence and wisdom) that she may not spend eternity as a wilful “outsider”
    Lord help the minions of lapsed “Catholics” that are as confused as she.

  3. “the State was essential in taking measures against the Church to largely eliminate her influence from society.”

    But we just now have heard from our “on high” communications director who supports the take over of the internet (in violation of subsidiarity) that it is the culture of death and perverted morality “government” that will insure our freedom of religion.
    That line ought to be on SNL.

  4. Reminds me of an article I read once about a girl of similar age who grew up pro life then she read an article in the NYTimes and now she’s pro choice. It makes me wonder about her education. Did she engage in the arguments for the cause? Did she learn to have real sympathy for pro choicer and yet still have the courage to say why they are wrong? Probably not. She just didn’t think about it that much. Sounds like this girl’s “Catholicism” was largely about uniforms and school dance rules. I don’t know if I’d lay the blame at her parents or school, but somewhere she wasn’t taught our didn’t listen to the deeper truths of her faith. She’s not able to make a coherent rejection of her childhood faith. I feel bad for her.

  5. Note what’s missing: she never once mentions Jesus, except in the silly little anecdote about the school dances. The questions of whether she believes in Him, and whether the Church was founded by Him, and any thought of Grace or Redemption are completely incidental to the all-important issue of whether or not she feels ‘excluded.’

  6. I was exactly that dumb at that age, too. I’m glad there was no Huffington Post back then to record it. And the fact that it was published in HuffPo should tell you everything about conformity: would a similar article about a fallen-away Methodist get the same national platform? There are millions of people leaving mainline Protestantism for Evangelicalism, because they want something stricter and more biblical – do they get articles in HuffPo?

    I did see something more depressing last week, an article in the Daily Beast written by a gay former Jesuit. Google “gay Jesuit daily beast” and, hey, you get what you deserve. The thing about the article was that it reflected the same depth of Catholic understanding as this 22-year-old undergrad. That was mortifying. Gay Jesuits don’t surprise me. I know too well how human beings act when they’re tempted. But the ignorance of what the Church teaches, that shocked me. There’s a way you can go through Catholicism and come out in disagreement with the Church, but for you to take the positions that this former priest was taking, you’d have to have never gone through the process of learning and growing in the Faith at all.

  7. “I find myself an outsider, subject to the Catholic exclusivity that ostracizes other divergent thinkers and doers:”

    The notion she’s an outsider at Northwestern for an exposition like the one under review is worth one chuckle.

    She’s not able to make a coherent rejection of her childhood faith. I feel bad for her.
    As Ava Gardner put it, “Deep down, I’m pretty superficial”. Or, Allan Bloom on the sort of students he’d met at the University of Chicago ca. 1987, “In a word, ‘nice’, which is to say that nothing that’s happened to them has particularly hardened them”.

    The results from investing 20 years in childrearing can be a wretched surprise at times (as both my mother and two or three of my great-grandparents might have told you). However, you look at this woman’s LinkedIn profile, and what you see is familiar. There’s the signal and the noise. I’d lay a low four figure wager that the parents are fairly well-to-do professional-managerial types and the signal was to assure your ‘future’. The rest dissolved into static.

  8. When she faces her trial’s and disappointment’s she will be the one cursing her creator. That will be the extent of her “quest for spiritual connection.” How sweet.

  9. This young woman is an idiot. Perhaps it is not entirely her fault, as we don’t know all of the details of her upbringing. Nevertheless, she is an idiot, as she is an adult and is capable of discovering the truth, but would rather follow the crowd of idiotic young adults who get their news from Twitter, Jon Stewart, etc.

    I was naive at that age. I didn’t know a lot about my faith but I never abandoned it. Even in the 1980s I knew the media was filled with libtard brain dead slugs- as it is now – and they did not sway me.

    Piss-poor Catholic catechesis has driven away countless baptized Catholics. Other Catholics get a bug up their posteriors and blame the entire church for a bad priest, nun, etc. I have several relatives that fit into both of these examples.

  10. Penguins Fan: “Nevertheless, she is an idiot, as she is an adult and is capable of discovering the truth, but would rather follow the crowd of idiotic young adults who get their news from Twitter, Jon Stewart, etc.”
    From my own experience, I find that Jon Stewart and especially family members who ridicule, intimidate and consciously demean a religious perspective of life and demand that one abandons real love for God in order to become acceptable and in the “incrowd” inculcate a terror of being ostracized by them, like they are somebody to be feared, but they are cowards like the devil.
    A person must make a GIANT embrace for one’s own freedom and conscious search for truth in the one’s self and the Catholic Church to reverse the fear instilled in the quiet of one’s heart to be who one must be, to pursue one’s Happiness and find one’s destiny; to answer one’s vocation to be(…or not to be.)
    The Holy Spirit of God, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity responds to our plea for TRUTH and guidance. Nothing is lost except our own happiness if refuse to pray for grace.
    One day, the woman will write a book with much joy and comedy about her spiritual search and conquest of the truth as truth is.

  11. “I find myself an outsider, subject to the Catholic exclusivity that ostracizes other divergent thinkers and doers:”
    People are free to leave the church and when people leave the church, the church is always open to them as they have made a free will choice to reject eternal truth. If a persons holds the Church responsible for people’s leaving, than, it means that these people intended to impose their errors on the church. Heresy does not fulfill our vocation, destiny or happiness.

  12. My flippant reply to flippant pro-choicers:

    I’m pro-choice myself: Either choose to not have sex outside of marriage, or choose to live with the consequences.

  13. I tend to pity folks like Miss. Ferrarro more than I blame them– I suspect she
    has no idea what the Catholic Church teaches or what it is she’s rejecting when
    she turns up her nose at her patrimony.
    During my undergrad years I volunteered to teach CCD at my college parish–
    a very affluent, jaded, au courant parish run by an order of priests that
    has since become notorious for its dissidence. Think lots of National Catholic
    in the vestibule. I was aghast at the absolute bone ignorance of
    even the basics of Catholicism that these kids had– and these were kids whose
    parents had sent them to the parish’s elementary school, and were currently
    enrolled in the city’s “Catholic” high school. These were good kids, but they
    were utterly ignorant of the concept of the Real Presence, had never been taught
    about the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and had no idea who Jesus was.
    At one point, I asked the class to raise their hands if they thought Jesus was
    a man, but not God. Half raised their hands. God, but not a man? That got
    most of the rest of the class. Both God and man? One kid raised his hand, out
    of a class of two dozen kids whose parents cared enough to send them to
    CCD. And these were kids who had been in the tender care of the parochial
    school system for close to 12 years.
    I suspect that Miss Ferrarro is rejecting something she’s never actually been
    introduced to. And shame on us all for not passing on the Faith to kids like
    her. We’ve failed her.

  14. The American Catholic Educational system turned out girls and guys like her in droves in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. It is only now changing. However, the biggest mystery to her piece is how she could reject something she knows nothing about. As stated above, “I’d lay a low four figure wager” that she couldn’t begin to discuss the scriptural basis for the real presence. That’s the “signal” most Catholic schools used to miss. Instead, kids like her just got the “noise”.

  15. “Mary De Voe:” “…I find that Jon Stewart and especially family members who ridicule, intimidate and consciously demean a religious perspective of life and demand that one abandons real love for God in order to become acceptable and in the “incrowd” inculcate a terror of being ostracized by them, like they are somebody to be feared…”

    I would remind all that this evil only works, as the diabolical well knows, because that “terror” is but “pride” the foundation of most sin.
    Humble people, who know and live by God’s truth, are able to resist this–will they like me if I do/don’t–weapon. Catechesis and Sacramental Grace is the cure.

  16. I believe the catholic school girl shtick appeals to her. She believes she was raised catholic, no doubt. If she was really raised catholic she would not have left. She is seeking fulfillment and just may find it in the revolutionary group working against the church.

  17. I wonder about her (home-schooling.)
    Whay I mean is did her parents believe that buying her a dress and enrolling her in Catholic school was sufficient enough? My guess is yes. They participated as if dropping one off to soccer practice.

    If the parents are not engaged and living their lives in sanctifying grace then the development of any true spiritual life for her would be undermined. I’m not suggesting that this is the complete cause of her ignorance but that it certainly didn’t help her come to her conclusions.

    The most influential church is home.

  18. RicK, Don Lord and Philip, my friend: Miss Ferraro sticks to the school girl shtick because it most brings her to the reality that she is a minor child spiritually. As a minor child who ought to have been given the Faith, she was disconnected by others, who, in their pride, laziness, ignorance and all the rest of the capital sins abandoned her soul to the Prince of Darkness. That darkness is terrifying. Looking around and seeing others just as terrified, three generations since Vatican II, lost souls, only confirms one’s terror. Lucifer, the great angel of light possesses the soul, leaving that person bereft of any Faith, Hope and therefore, not exercising their charity in handing on the Faith, the gift of life and love, the fourth generation of lost souls.

  19. Bob Tanaka, You beat me to the punch. While extolling climate marches over attending Mass, the poor dear never mentioned praising and worshipping God or the saving graces of the sacraments. A brief synopsis of her attitude might be, “Me, My & I”.

  20. . I was aghast at the absolute bone ignorance of
    even the basics of Catholicism that these kids had– and these were kids whose
    parents had sent them to the parish’s elementary school, and were currently
    enrolled in the city’s “Catholic” high school.

    And the horrible thing is, the folks who are responsible for teaching them might think they were teaching them.
    My mom was horrified when she found out that I’d never heard of the catechism before I was an adult– she assumed that we were actually being taught stuff at our CCD and similar classes, including youth group.
    And even that isn’t because she was willfully abandoning her responsibility to teach us– she was told all of her training was wrong because of Vatican II. She was teaching CCD to high school students, and told them sex outside of marriage was wrong in the hearing of the priest. Who then publicly chewed her out as hateful and ignorant, because it was fine if you “really loved” the other person. (She naturally quit teaching, because he’d know, and she’d hate to lead kids astray.)
    I’ve since found out there were shockingly horribly taught folks before that– ever have a theological argument with someone’s grandmother, and the agnostic is defending Catholic teaching from the lady who goes every week?– but without stuff like Jimmy Akin’s blog, I would probably not be Catholic, and would be as miserable as some of the other “raised Catholic” folks I know.
    It’s sad.

  21. Foxfier.

    Your dear mom. Trying to do the right thing and hearing the great lie; “Vatican II states it differently.” The pigs who knowingly spread lies to promote their agenda’s will have to pay for their offenses. They may receive Gods mercy however they may have a very very very long wait in Purgatory prior to entrance into His Kingdom.

    Vatican II was certainly highjacked and misinterpreted to foster division and corrode the teachings of the Holy Church. To liberalize as a means to create freedom to sin without consequences.

    God bless your mom and others that ran into similar atrocities.

  22. Do you think that catechesis worse now? I know it’s not ideal now, but I worry that we idealize the past. In the modern era of literacy and mass communication, the ignorance is less justifiable, sure. But there have always been places with no priests, or untrained and/or heretical priests. How deep was the understanding of the faith? My suspicion is that the peaks were higher and the valleys were lower – which calls to mind Rev 3:16: “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

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