Religious Mockery

Yesterday was a busy day so I didn’t have time to do more than register a blog pooh-poohing the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist and the Church’s canonisation process. They are hardly to be equated, but the blogger took her information from a former Catholic and seemed to think that was good enough to link them both in the magical mystery realm.

Quite apart from the fact that I don’t think it’s a very good idea to take one’s understanding of anything theological from someone who has rejected both the theology and its presuppositions, I was surprised to find I was upset (about the Eucharist, not the canonisation error where the ignorance shown was laughable and did indeed make me smile hugely). Religious debate has always seemed to me good and valuable but mockery is hard to take when what is being mocked is God himself. I can’t think what the equivalent of  the title “Transubstantiation and Santa Claus” would be, but I know no one in the monastery would use it of anyone’s religious beliefs. The blogger did not mean to give offence or cause hurt, which is important to remember. I wish I had had time to go into the questions raised but I didn’t, and it is the nature of blogging that yesterday’s post is one with eternity.

So why am I going on about religious mockery today? In this Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, that blog post was a reminder that we have a long way to go before we Christians really understand and respect one another. St Benedict in his Rule never lets us forget that reverence for God must spill over into reverence for people and for all that is. Even the goods and utensils of the monastery are to be regarded as sacred altar vessels, capable of holding the mystery of God. Mockery, scurillitas, is something he condemns again and again because it is fundamentally opposed to reverence. If we are to to learn how to appreciate the gifts God has bestowed on us, we must learn how to revere one another, how to respect one another’s beliefs.

Yesterday I really understood why.


12 thoughts on “Religious Mockery”

    • No, I know you didn’t, Lesley; but you’ve helped me and probably others to see that the way in which we approach some questions may have effects beyond those intended. I can assure you, I’ve done some searching of my own conscience, so you’ve done me a good turn! Thank you.

  1. How very telling.
    I grieve that quite a few of the ex-catholics I have been in contact with have been so poorly catechised that they really did not, and still do not understand the faith. I wonder that if they had been properly instructed, whether they would have left the Church at all. I often hear the same misinformation when talking about the faith with those unfamilliar with what the Church actually teaches. If I remember correctly the origin of the term ‘hocus pocus’ was a play on the latin words of Mass*, suggesting the use of magic. I think this is where this idea came from.* My very poor latin does not permit me to quote.
    I was a convert to the faith – but I rejoice that by the Grace of God, the faith I had in my pre Catholic days led me eventually to the fullness of Truth.

  2. I do find ‘ex-catholics’ fascinating. They ‘educate’ me with all of the ‘beliefs’ of the Roman Catholic Church and why they must be rejected. Then I ask the killer question available to the Anglican “Have you read the Catechism?” Very innocent. The answer is always “No.’ I then follow this up with “I have, and what’s more I agree with it!”

    This starts a Catholic apologia on my part and surprises our poor pilgrim who assumes that those outside of the RCC condemn it also. I don’t!

  3. Sorry, forgot to hit the ‘subscribe to comments’ button. You are wrong about my friend. He went to a very strict Catholic Covent School where the had to learn the Catechism by heart, and when the Bishop came he grilled them and if they got it right they were given a sweet and if they got it wrong they got corporal punishment.

  4. Lesley – your friend had the catechism beaten into him? That was not what I was meaning either when I said ‘properly catechised’.
    I used to belong to a catholic teaching order (in a very junior capacity and not for long -another story but I digress)…there were several boarding schools which the order ran. Both of the Schools that I had experience of required the children to do what Mother Church requests us to do re Mass attendance, Confession and Communion. One required (in addition) compulsory attendance at two other Masses and Benediction on Sunday, and sundry other compulsory devotions . The other invited the children to attend Mass with the Sisters at 07:00 whenever they wanted, a holy hour (Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) every Thursday was attended by more than half the School without fail. Confession was well attended with no compulsion. There were an abundance of vocations from the latter and little from the former, indeed many girls returning to Old Girls days had entirely given up the practice of their faith. ‘Catechising’ by ramming down the throat tends not to be successful in my experience, a) because children and particularly teenagers intinctively rebel against such treatment and b) it does not mean that the child understands it. It is the difference between what I call ‘head knowledge’ and ‘heart knowledge’. Plus young people are particularly adept at seeing the divergence between a gospel preached and that actually lived. I think it was St Francis who said ‘Preach the Gospel at all times and if neccessary use words’.
    Of course there has to be some degree of formal guidance otherwise there would be anarchy, but catechising must always be done in love and with a great deal of prayer – the catechist trying, as we all should, to live the christian life, as much as trying to pass on the Faith.

  5. Oh dear! No possibilityof him trying to see past that experience to see the veracity of the Truth expressed in it? The only thing to do is pray for him then I think.

  6. I’m not so sure that such experiences are the reason that people don’t engage with faith in and of themselves (as horrible as they may be). Often, if one really examines ones own conscience these things become excuses.

    If I meet one corrupt policeman does that make them all corrupt? If a shop assistant is rude to me do I never shop again?

    Bad experiences are sometimes a bone thrown for us to chew on as the person simply does not feel ready to deal with the big issues of life; or even, does not wish to discuss them with us.

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