How Culture Affects How Catholics View the Pope


Five ordinary Catholics got together on Facebook recently to discuss this turbulent papacy – and found that their views were heavily influenced by their age and culture. Here’s what Zachary, 31, a security guard from California; Robert, 61, a lawyer from Maine; Malia is 44, an entrepreneur from LA; Sean, 34, a laboratory technician from Chicago, and Rosemary, 59, a substitute teacher from Jerome, Idaho had to say to REGINA MAGAZINE recently, in this fifth in a seven-part series.

MODERATOR: What effect do you think that different cultural contexts and history have on the way people address these turbulent times? As a European, I think that Americans are more quick to question authority. I currently live in South East Asia and the respect that people have towards their religious leaders is different to what I have experienced in the West.

Zachary: Being a citizen of a country rooted in one of the few successful rebellions in world history does give a certain anti-establishment vibe to being a American, I believe you are correct that we do question authority when we actually believe our religion is in fact the truth, I converted because I believe there was only one truth, and not the multiple “truths” of Protestantism, which “works” in a pluralistic, secular society as America currently is, I would say our only religion is the extreme respect and honor showed for the military. This however does not satisfy the divine law of Jesus Christ and of the One Holy Catholic & Apostolic Church, America needs conversion in this sense, Come Lord Jesus!

Robert: My experience happened in a particularly difficult time. My initial religious experience was in the last days of Catholic Tradition. I had First Friday confessions and Mass, Forty Hour Devotion, May Crownings, and a grandmother knowledgeable about the Faith and devout as practically anyone I have known since. The nuns taught from the Baltimore Catechism, and regaled us with stories from the saints and Sacred Scripture, both Old and New Testaments.

One summer, I went home on vacation, and in September I came back – it was all different. Nuns in “modified” habits…to start. No more incense and strains of Tantum Ergo. Instead? A revolutionary priest in the school basement with a guitar and spouting revolutionary nonsense.

Doubt and heresy by lay CCD teachers replaced the nuns. Of the few nuns remaining, the local bishop got to them too, as they halting expressed their doubt in spite of themselves. We literally had no place to turn. Of course I lost my Faith. They left us with no place to turn. I believe that among my Catholic school friends, a scant few still practice any form of Catholicism. I think that many simply became skeptical, and live their lives as secularist agnostics. Some others go to church.

I am a “baby-boomer.” When I was ten years old, I basically did not question authority. I might have tried to get away with something, but I knew I was doing wrong. By the late 1960s, I – all of us – questioned anyone over 30, and became imbued with the flattering, though vapid, sloganeering designed to allow us to question authority. I think I am the exception. I do NOT question authority, though I seek to recognize its shortcomings and legitimate limits. There is a difference.

Rosemary: America was founded because people didn’t like what the English crown demanded. So, yes, we Americans will always question authority. Americans are not afraid to speak up as individuals even if it means they may be labeled outspoken. East-Asians are a collective society and being outspoken is frowned upon. This collective society attitude is very slowly changing, in my opinion, with the younger generation. They are being influenced by western ideas and culture.

Malia: Absolutely! The U.S.A is a “cousin” so to speak of France and the “errors” that were aroused by the French Revolution spread throughout the continent. Those same errors are what is now fully “matured” in the 21st century and America is the last bulwark to fend it off. Communist countries have suffered brutally and their economies collapsed and/or controlled. Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba are just few examples, but they are powerful and are gaining momentum in ushering in destruction. The United States enjoyed some success throughout history, and became one of the greatest countries in the world. The unique type of governing system found in “capitalism”, coupled with “religious freedom” became an ideal and favorable existence. People from all over the world marveled at this idea and became infatuated by it.

Everyone came looking for the American Dream, including my own family. Distinction must be made here that my family was deeply rooted in the Faith and the Rosary was always the weapon. My parents were not easily deceived by the trappings that this country offered. It was always through hard work and struggling to adjust to the new adoptive culture. To date, our culture is very strong in the family and the Faith is stronger in the sense of defending it to its core.

Further, we are now at the turning point and in the process of major “ERUPTION”, simply because the claws of “communism”, “socialism”, “Marxism”, have found its way into the American system. In other words, it is eliminating God and putting man at the head and at the forefront. Everything is subject to the State, including the Church and the Church has been diluted with worldly attraction. This is the “maturing” state and conditions that we are living under.

We are fighting for an existence that once was when the Faith was strong and prosperous. This is what I remembered and it is precisely why I am reacting harshly to it. Seeing the debilitating state and the indifference to Sacred Worship and to God is alarming. Culture and generations seem to oppose one another, but in reality it is simply a fabrication of the driving forces of Godless men and their designs. The Church is the “conscience” voice in society, but lately, it is nowhere to be found. This is clearly a “sign” to discern and assess.

Sean: One’s “social being,” one’s place in history and society, affect nearly every aspect of life, affects most of what we think and feel.  There are interesting reflections on the Catholic experience in America, and Americans’ experience of Catholicism, to be found in Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic work, Democracy in America. De Tocqueville points out that, living in an environment where countless Protestant and post-Protestant sects flourished and vied with one another, Americans often turned to Catholicism as the definitive form of Christianity, and to the papacy as a definitive authority, even while believing firmly in the American traditions of self-reliance and republican government. 

My experience of the controversies connected with Pope Francis has been that American traditional Catholics, already accustomed to being at odds with the Church hierarchy and resisting its program, understood from the beginning of this pontificate that Pope Francis would be hostile to their traditional Catholic faith, and that his election and program as pope would embolden the American and Vatican hierarchy that consistently persecutes traditional Catholics wherever they are found, especially as these hierarchical figures and their retainers, followers and fellow-travelers had waited long and impatiently for a pope to lead them. 

American conservative Catholics, also known here as “neo-Catholics” because of their adherence to the ideas and program of the conservative wing of the “conciliar” hierarchy, were at first dismissive of any criticism of or concern about Pope Francis, and were determined to maintain among themselves a consensus that Pope Francis would be a man of their own persuasion, and that things would continue as they had done under the previous two popes. Only more recently, and especially after the 2015 Ordinary Synod and the promulgation of Amoris Laetitia have American conservative Catholics begun to openly criticize or resist the ongoing program of the pope and his associates and appointees.  Unused as they are to having a pope whom they find problematic, this element of the Church in America is in a state of disorientation and dismay.   

TOMORROW: How Do You Teach Catholics Who Are Poorly Catechized?

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