Friday, June 10, 2011

Marginalizing and Stereotyping in the Catholic Church

I may not win any popularity contests with this post but I would like to address another issue that has come to my attention since entering the Catholic blogging community and this is: the marginalization and stereotyping of certain groups within the Catholic Church. In my last post I brought up the infighting among Catholics that one can't help but notice in the Catholic blogging community and, I am guessing, that many of my fellow bloggers have also noticed the stereotyping and marginalization of various groups within the Catholic Church. The groups where I find this stereotyping and marginalization aimed at most often is:

"Charismatic Catholics" - I put quotes around this one because though I use this term for lack of a better one,  the truth of the matter is that most of the people who are categorized in this manner are Catholics who simply believe or have had it brought to their attention that the Holy Spirit still shares these "gratuitous" gifts with us in our times. The majority do not confuse these gifts with the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit, they know their faith and they understand the difference between the Holy Spirit's gifts that are  given to all  and which are necessary for our salvation and the charisms which Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians. They also realize that the charisms are "helping gifts" and while not necessary for salvation, useful nonetheless.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St Paul and meaning "favor," "gratuitous gift," "benefit." Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church."  CCC 2003 (2004 also goes on to discuss these gifts.)

There are some who compartmentalize those who have charisms as people who, during Mass, wave their hands in the air, shout out alleluias, and pray in tongues out loud. I have yet to meet a "charismatic" who does this. Oh, I'm not saying there aren't those who may do this...there are all kinds of liturgical abuses these days, but they are the exception not the rule. The majority of the "charismatics" that I know are extremely reverent, have a tremendous love for the Eucharist, and follow the Magisterium of the Catholic Church completely.  I also see many, many of them at daily Mass, which, to me, is a point in their favor as it shows they deeply understand the significance of the Mass and Holy Eucharist.

Earlier today I read a comment on a blog which, out of charity, I will not name, which mentioned "demonic activity such as slaying in the spirit". That is a direct quote, and certainly offensive to one who has been "slain in the spirit" by a priest and received a major physical and spiritual healing at the same time. While the devil can certainly mimic things like this, it is, again, more than likely the exception, not the rule. Man cannot limit the power of God, nor can he claim something to be of the devil when its fruits point toward God. God may certainly "slay" in the spirit whomever He wishes if He so chooses. Just because man may not understand things doesn't mean they don't exist, nor does it necessarily mean they are demonic. I've never seen an angel in real life yet I believe they exist.

Another group which are often marginalized are those who believe in apparitions. I have even seen the same type of criticism aimed at folks who believe in apparitions (even those that have been approved by the Catholic Church such as Fatima) as that which is aimed at the "charismatics".  A word of advice to those who believe that Our Lady is appearing at Medjugorje: tread carefully if you leave a comment about these apparitions on some blogs because you might just get your head bitten off! Lol!  Whether or not Mary is appearing in Medjugorje isn't the issue here (that is for the Church to decide) : the point is the animosity aimed at the folks who dare mention that these apparitions just might be of God. The question I have to ask is:
Why? Why such fiery darts aimed at unsuspecting souls who simply comment on what they feel is a tremendous gift of grace to the world? For a moment let's suppose that it IS from the devil...well, even if this be the case, millions of your fellow Catholics, not to mention other denominations, have turned to God because of Medjugorje so God's loving hand is at work no matter what! Those who have great faith and trust in God are safe in his hands and well protected and He will guide them safely home regardless of any accidental missteps they may take. Personally, I believe that Our Lady IS appearing in Medjugorje but I respect the opinions of those who think otherwise. And I guess RESPECT is what it all boils down to when it comes to folks who believe a bit differently than you do. Whether we are people who love the Traditional Latin Mass, The Novus Ordo Mass, or believe in apparitions or charisms, we are ONE CHURCH and are all part of the Mystical Body of Christ.



  1. Yes, we cease to be what Christ calls us to be to one another (that which is LOVE) when we start thinking we are holier than another. We are not! We must be HUMBLE and REVERENT and LOVE ONE ANOTHER. We must be concerned about our brothers and sisters, yes, but to the extent that we forget our own salvation is also in question, shows a lack of humility and love (even for our self). We must do as St. Francis of Assisi: preach (live) without words. Love without condition.

  2. Amen sister! I often wonder if this criticism and marginalization comes from jealousy on the part of those doing the criticizing.
    Mary thanks for having the courage and following the Holy Spirit's promptings to post this.

  3. As I was enjoying my Friday scones with a dash of ginger marmalade I happened to peruse your Blog and came upon your post. Imagine my surprise as I read what you wrote ... I was so engrossed in what you were saying that I dropped marmalade all over my tie and new shirt ...

    The thing is Mary, that not only Catholics but the Christian community in general seems to spend too much time arguing and debating amongst itself rather than focussing on God and His Commandments. Instead of rejoicing in what unites us we just waste precious time and energy in our short lifetime in arguing on what dogma and beliefs which divide us.

    And the devils laughs!

    I agree with you that all this is wrong. But you might as well be talking to a brick wall because humans, especially bigoted, self-opinionated humans, will never listen. They believe they know better and they will challenge any authority just to prove they are right ... whilst still proudly calling themselves Catholic ... or any other denomination you might care to name.

    I'm sure all this makes God sad. It certainly makes me sad ... sad enough to drop marmalade on my tie.

    The remedy I suggest is prayer; over and over again.

    God bless.

  4. Sarah,
    Thank you for commenting. There are times discussions about our faith sound more like gang wars - Traddies versus N.O Catholics (Google it and you'll see what I mean.) People forget that we are on the same side - Christ's side. All these Catholic battles remind me of those highschool "cliques" where some exclude others for petty differences. It definitely lacks charity. None of us are holy or we'd unlikely still be here :) Humilty, reverence and love are great answers to this problem, Sarah.

  5. Karin,
    When I first started blogging I remember how shocked I was when I would stumble across blogs that seemed to nitpick and criticise people for all kinds of things - nothing was held sacred or kept immune from this criticism. For so long I just ignored it and kept my mouth shut - but when I started coming upon posts which doubted the validity of the Eucharist it really started upsetting me and I knew I had to speak up. That Jesus humbles himself to share the tremendous gift of himself with us and that there are actually Catholics who mock this precious gift left me feeling stunned and horrified and I couldn't help but think of the sorrow that this must cause Our Lord. They may not understand how they sound to others and there may be those who just don't care. I don't know. What I do know is that it sets a poor example and may even drive away people who are searching and genuinely interested in learning about our faith. It also may confirm to Catholics that have left the Church that they were right to do so and instead of bringing them home it just pushes them further away. Thanks for commenting :)

  6. You always have a quick comeback, don't you Victor? Lol! I suppose I owe you a new tie since it was my blog you were reading :) To be honest, ginger marmalade sounds worse than your figgy puddings and mutton, maybe your tie and shirt are the best place for it ;)
    You are right, it is not just Catholics who do this so I don't know why I let it get to me. Meanwhile, as you say, the devil laughs. If he can get us wasting our time in petty warfare we will forget that our God is a God of love and created each and every person in his image.
    Yes, prayer is a great remedy :)

    Oh, alright...send me the cleaning bill. But know this - I will send you the cash in American dollars which are worthless anyway :) Kind of like Monopoly money. You do play Monopoly over there, don't you?

  7. Sigh. I know what you mean about the charismatics. I have heard the same things. One day I will write a post on my own experience with the charismatic renewal.
    The truth of the matter is - we are all supposed to be charismatic, in the sense that we need to follow the Holy Spirit's direction and live in the Spirit and use our gifts.
    As for the charismatic gifts, they are listed in scripture for heaven's sake.
    I have always believed that you judge the tree by its fruit. As in Medjugorje - see all the conversions and tell me that God is not active and present there.
    See the healings that take place at a charismatic healing service.
    It was at a charismatic meeting that I first witnessed about being a sexual abuse survivor.The very time I ever spoke about it at all in public. Why there? Because I felt "safe" there and knew I would not be judged. Funny how charismatics don't judge how others pray. They just say - follow the Spirit.

  8. Mary I completely agree with Victor and I also will add that many Catholics do not (for example) understand the Charismatic movement and it frightens them, fear always brings out the worst in people. I am unable to speak in tongues and I have been uncomfortable when attending Catholic events and people speak this way. Uncomfortable yes, frightened no, not at all. I think it is a gift. We mustn't judge what we don't know or understand, we must love and pray for each other especially for our differences. I believe we are more alike than we are different. Sending much love, many hugs and tons of prayers.......:-)

  9. Colleen,
    Yes, you can't help but run across negative remarks about "Charismatic Catholics" especially since they are often found on some of the larger blogs. You go because you want to read about the beauty of your faith and, instead, end up cringing at the poisonous remarks aimed at yourself or others that have been blessed through the charismatics. It makes you feel like a little David in a land of Goliaths. I'm sighing with you. Sometimes these remarks are in the comment section and just go on and on.
    What's wrong with believing St. Paul, anyway? He wouldn't have written about these charisms were they not truly given to Christian. I'll believe St Paul, his writing on these gifts are very clear.
    I know what you mean about feeling safe and knowing you will not be judged. Most of the charismatics I have met are loving, Spirit filled people and their kindness (at least in our local group) is unsurpassed.

  10. Bernie,
    Yes, I know it frightens some people, me included years ago. The fear comes from lack of understanding and it's not as if I can't relate to this - I wrote a post on this once called, "If Anyone Lays Hands on Me I'm Outta Here" about this fear (lol). Here's the thing: after my experience before the Lord I ended up with charisms and did not understand what was going on until I finally got the courage to meet with others who understood these things and explained them. Sometimes these gifts are placed upon people unexpectedly and the person has no idea how to use them - this was the case with me. I could not speak in tongues at the time but our local group is unconcerned about things like that. The comment they make is "The Lord loves English, too." And He does :) Anyway, It's not about whether a person speaks another language, it's all about love! God bless you, Bernie! I am sending hugs and prayers to you, too :)

  11. I had to laugh when I read this post because just last night, before reading this post, I put up this

    on the same topic. It's either 'great minds' or the Holy Spirit :-) At any rate, I was very happy to read your thoughts on this. I emailed another blogger this week about the virulent comments on his blog (NOT his posts at all). It tends to foster a mob mentality after awhile, I think. He responded that he agreed & knew that some of them are just paid commentors who are trying to sow discord in the Cath community. I guess that doesn't surprise me much, esp now that it's come out that Planned Parenthood is paying people to do comment/blog. So I guess we need to be aware of that dynamic too.
    Nice to remember, on the Church's Birthday, that God's bigger than all that, isn't it?

  12. Mary - I am saving this line to use in future "conversations" ;)

    "Man cannot limit the power of God, nor can he claim something to be of the devil when its fruits point toward God."

    God Bless you.

  13. Therese,
    I'm popping over right now to read it!
    Thanks for the information you mention here. Some may be paid commentors but others are not because they have their own blogs and I've read some of their posts and many are simply Catholics like us.
    I didn't know this about Planned Parenthood, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me!
    I loved your comment about God being bigger than all this and, yes, it is nice to remember this fact :)

  14. Michael,
    It's true, right? Glad you liked it :)