Care and Feeding of Your Catholic, part 4, Myths and urban legends
Welcome back to part 4 of “Care and Feeding of Your Catholic!” Sorry for the hiatus, but today’s episode deals with urban legends. With something as old and byzantine as the Catholic Church, there are bound to be odd superstitions and urban legends. Here’s a few I’ve heard over the years:
1.) Catholics are forbidden to read the Bible. False. They weren’t encouraged to before Vatican II in some circles, but we’ve had translations into Latin (St. Jerome, his vernacular for the time) and the vernacular (Douay-Rheims, New American, New Jerusalem, etc), like everyone else. We do have more books than the Protestant churches, so neener.
2.) The Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus. Nope. That would be Mary, who was conceived without original sin. (A priest at my parish likes to refer to the feast of the Immaculate Conception as “the feast of the Immaculate Confusion.”)
3.) We pray to saints. Nope. We ask them for prayers. You ask your friends and family to pray for you? We do, too. It’s just that we don’t think their intercession ends at death. Relics: do you keep pictures or hairs from people you love? Same thing.
4.) We worship Mary. Well…It depends on how you define “worship.” (See also the difference between doulia–honor paid to the saints–and latria–worship of God.)
5.) We’re cannibals. Not really. Look, the Eucharist is pure Aristotle. A thing can retain its accident and still be completely different in essence. If you burn the heck out of toast, it’s still toast, but burnt. If you forget that you’re supposed to be an EM and take antihistamines before Mass (since medicine is allowed for the Eucharistic fast), and then have to finish off a cup of consecrated wine, odds are you’ll experience the accident of the wine, even though its essence is different.
6.) *insert conspiracy theory here* I’d tell you, but then the people in black helicopters would have to find you.
7.) The pope is always infallible. Newp. It’s only within very specific situations that a papal writing or teaching is infallible, and that has to do with faith and morals and must specifically be stated to be infallible. It’s not as easy as it seems, and it’s not used often. Conversely not everything the pope says or writes is the same weight. For instance, if he were to write a book, it doesn’t have the same weight as an encyclical, an apostolic letter, etc. As we well know with our current pope, it’s easy to say something and have it taken wrong. If something official comes out, odds are it has had a lengthy drafting and revision process. And that’s just encyclicals. Something more important would have a much longer draft/revision time. (see also the new translation of the Mass or the recent motu proprio.)
8.) The pope doesn’t sin. Newp. He has to go to confession, like the rest of us.
9.) Priests hate women. I haven’t personally met any, but I’m sure they exist. They’re as diverse a population as the rest of us. Older generations tend to be more standoffish. Once I was an altar server for an older (visiting) priest. He didn’t say much to me getting ready, and I try to give them their space beforehand. (So they’ve got time to pray, deal with nerves, or whatever.) So after the recessional at the end of Mass, he turned to me, thanked me and said how wonderful it was that “young people” were involved in the Liturgy. (I was thrilled to be called young at 30.) So you meet all types.
10.) Catholics can buy their way to heaven. Nope. We’ve got to rely upon God’s grace and mercy like everyone else. Plenary indulgences–those which remove all temporal punishment of sin (not the sin itself) up to the time of the indulgence–are actually rare and difficult to do. (Try remaining in a state of non-attachment to sin, even venal sins sometime.)