Monday, April 08, 2019

The appeal of Catholicism

I think the appeal of Catholicism for some cradle Catholics and converts to Catholicism is that you can lose yourself in Catholicism because it's so all-encompassing. There are Catholic philosophers, novelists, poets, painters, playwrights, composers, sculptors, filmmakers, mystics, architects, ethicists, &c. In that regard, Catholicism is one-stop shopping. There's a sense in which you could be intellectually and aesthetically fulfilled without ever leaving the Catholic compound, because there's Catholic everything. You'd never know what you were missing, because every slot has Catholic representation. So you never run out of Catholic trails to explore. You just keep going deeper into Catholicism. In a human lifespan, it's inexhaustible. Mind you, there are some problems with that:

i) It's quite possible for someone to be eclectic and cherry-pick the best from every culture. You can mix and match. You can like a lot of stuff by Catholics without any commitment to Catholic theology. We do that with ancient Greek and Roman art and literature, which is often pagan on the face of it. 

ii) A very impressive edifice can be built on nonsense. If there's enough talent feeding into Catholicism, it will build an impressive edifice, even if the foundation is legendary embellishment.

For instance, I enjoy Poulenc's Stabat Mater. Especially the performance conducted by Georges Prêtre with Régine Crespin as soloist. From somebody with my musical sensibilities, it's a powerful experience. The tonal aura of a dying world. Yet the text he set to music is pious nonsense. In principle, he could set a Buddhist poem to the same kind of music with the same elegiac effect. 

iii) In addition, you can lose yourself in something to the point where you never find your way out of the forest. You keep walking in circles, impervious to correctives, because you stopped reading the critics. You just go ever-deeper into error. 


  1. From my perspective, discernment can be very exhausting. To test everything and find God's perfect and pleasing will is often not easy. In Catholicism, I see a tendency to look for the "Pope approved" label, and stop discerning. There are a lot of good things in there, mixed in with the bad. After walking away from Catholicism over 20 years ago because I could never find Jesus in the ritual, I have gone back and looked at things, and there is amazing beauty in the rituals, but that beauty only comes out when know the one who inspired those rituals. When I went home to visit my parents, I remember sitting there in my parents church trying to discern the good from the bad. It was exhausting, so I complete understand the desire to just check out and accept it all.

  2. I have never understood how the doctrines of Transubstantiation and Marian dogmas and belief in looking at, touching, or kissing relics, statues, etc. can be "intellectually fulfilling".

    They seem the opposite of intellectual reason, logic, and sane thinking.