Faithful Catholics are Neither Brainwashed Nor Mindless Robots

Critical thinking, like common sense, is not very common. Instead of reasoned discourse when refuting an argument, an appeal to feelings is employed.  Often  an attack is made against the person expressing a point of view (ad hominem) instead of the argument. This is a common, and decidedly uncivil, tactic by bloggers who disagree with the Catholic Church’s moral teaching especially on the hot button issue of same sex marriage.

Instead of attempting to learn what the Church actually teaches about human sexuality and marriage  and why, the charge Catholics are bigots and stupid is made.

I have had people accusing me  of needing  an authority to “tell me what to do”, because I am insecure or  lack something in my character.

Well poor Christian that I am, I most certainly am lacking in many of the virtues. Maybe even all of them. But I accept the teaching of the Catholic Church because it is true and not because I am a needy dependent person. I recognize my total dependence on God, but that does not mean that I left my brains in the baptismal font.

Then there is the lovely condescending accusation that, because I trust in the teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ, I am blindly following. In other words I am not very bright. Never mind that I read my way back into the Church beginning with the Catechism and that I have never stopped studying for even one day since, I must be lacking in intellectual rigor.

This is because what, too often, passes for intellectual rigor in our ever so enlightened culture is to have an open mind.  This means that asking questions is the highest good. But finding answers is not.  You must seek but not find.

But all that such a perpetually open mind leads to is uncertainty and doubt without end. It leads to dissent and sin.

Seeking truth leads to the discovery that truth is absolute because Jesus Christ is truth. Everything else is a lie.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker of Standing on my Head has a great post up, Dissent or discovery?, he addresses the misconception that Catholics no longer have to think”

“Err. I guess that would make SS Augustine, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Albert the Great, Maritain, Dawson, vonHildebrand, Edith Stein, von Balthasar etc etc  the greatest philosophers, theologians and faithful Catholic thinkers of every age to be non thinking, brainwashed dummies.

No, it doesn’t wash. The Catholic Church does not demand that her members be brainwashed zombie cult members. There is a difference between dissent and discovery. The Church calls us to use our reason to explore the richness of the Church’s teachings. Even when it is difficult especially when it is difficult we are called to engage with the teachings of the church with an enquiring and questing mind. The questions are not the problem. Questions are good. The attitude is the problem.”

Heh. I am relieved to know that the Church is not a zombie cult!

Faith is indeed a struggle. Belief in something greater than ourselves is a struggle. I sometimes have moments of doubt. But I refuse to feed the doubt. I persevere in prayer and faith.

Fr. Longenecker ends his post thus:

“Nevertheless, from the emails and comments I get from around the country it seems that a very large proportion of the American Catholic Church are still locked in the downward spiral of dissent and doubt. This attitude goes nowhere at all, and all people get from it is a false freedom. The call license ‘liberty’. Lack of discipline they call ‘freedom of conscience’ and disregard for the sacred tradition they call ‘creativity.’ The dissenting Catholics in this country are basically making up their own religion, and whenever we make up our own religion we only end up worshipping one thing: ourselves.”   Do read the entire post here.

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry was ordained in 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren.. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
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1 Response to Faithful Catholics are Neither Brainwashed Nor Mindless Robots

  1. Busqueda says:

    This is most certainly something that needs to be addressed in schools, especially catholic schools.

    I call it “Beware of auto pilot”. Its easy to live in a routine and go thought the motions, people who are devout, practicing catholics, can definately fall prey to mindlessness. What we think might be devout, may only be a “spiritual immaturity”. What I mean by that is, people think that they are living a good life, consider themselves sinners and live like that for years and years.
    I like what was stated, what is the point of “searching” if you don’t plan on “finding something”. And if something is “found”, or the beginnings of something, why are we afraid to call it for what it is, “Hey, this is making sense!” This is when people will probably jump out and say, “you don’t have an open mind!”, I think people like to dabble in the realms of uncertainty and nuetrality because its easy and doesn’t require you to stand up and defend.
    Dealing with truth and its components is not a light hearted thing as one would think it to be, but then again, like stated before, could it be the attitude thing? Dealing with what may be true be an experience described as something difficult?

    I always like to think, if I were remote control toy car designer, I would be very much dissappointed if the remote was unable to move the toy car, or at least turn it in the directions that the remote was designed to move it. I would think likewise with our brains and God. I believe he gave us brains for a reason and all the functions that accompany the brain such as inqueries, critical thinking, reasoning, etc. Not only are these abilities “natural” but if we believe that all of our faculties came from a “high power”, than would they not also be consider very good and in the words of the religious, “blessed”?
    Furthermore if such faculties were not cultured, nourished or utilized, would this not contradict their presence, the presence of reasoning, rationalizing, and so on, in the first place? Would this not only be using half the energy of a great weapon?
    If someone were to play with the toy car I had made only using but one of its MANY assets, would I not be dissatisfied as the designer? Maybe even say, insulted? Would this not perhaps convey something that goes on with many God believing, religious practicing people? To not use our thinking mind would be a sin, would be equivilated to an insult to God.

    Like said before, maybe yes, you are going to church every Sunday, you don’t cheat God and keep the commandments, pray for the most part, even if it is all mechanical, you still do it, maybe even with some feeling of holiness. We are all different, God created us all different, thats a fact. Its hard to say what each individual “religious” feels. However, I am convinced at some point in every one of our lives, we have to go through a mental/spiritual coming of age, not so much like hanakuh or confirmation at 14 yrs, but rather, the actually rediscovering the truth, looking at the faith with a genuine glance, with the adult mind and its capabilities given by God.
    It is not wrong to question faith, it is not wrong to ask questions, even of the church. True believers of the church ask questions, they aren’t afraid. If we truly believe the church is “truth”, what fear does she have from questions? Has she not stood the test of time, is she not all encompassing, found around the world, embraced within the context of a variety of cultures?

    The church, belief, the world, God is bigger than ourselves.

    Ask away.


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