‘CCs’ and the ‘Signs of the Times’
There used to be only one “CC” — Catolico Cerrado. Now there are four more: Catolico Candado, Cafe Catholic, Cafeteria Catholic, and the latest, Cappuccino Catholic, mostly youth who socialize in “bars, coffee shops, parks, gyms, stadiums and any other popular cultural center” (Inquirer, 3/26/18).
Why the fragmenting? Maybe people used their heads, matured and chose their paths. If traceable to the Church’s inability to “connect,” or unwillingness to admit “the ‘fracture’ between the Church and contemporary culture,” that’s sad because a main goal of Pope St. John XXIII for Vatican II was precisely to connect with the modern world and read the “Signs of the Times,” now reduced to cliché.
“Reading the signs” is a 3-step effort (here, with a flippant example to show its pitfalls): 1) spotting the sign (churches are full every Sunday); 2) interpreting it (this country is very Catholic); and 3) handling it (build and air-condition more churches).
Spotting the signs. Jesus watched the signs of His times—how fishers fished, how sowers sowed. He knew the workings of scribes and pharisees and the imperial Roman presence. Now we see the increasing shades and numbers of LGBT; the mall culture sucking in clinics and Mass with shopping, playing, eating; a consuming attachment with gadgets, like a boy who played on his cell phone throughout a Mass, never once looking up. Hugely visible is a president who attracts and repels.
Archbishop Soc Villegas notes the “decoupling of space and time” (“The Church at the Crossroads,” 1/28/17), whereby work and play, waking and sleeping, time and place go awry. Michael Tan in “Irregular families” (Inquirer, 3/23/18) spots the “never married” nanays, live-ins, blended families, same-sex couples, boomerang parents and grandparents, single moms and dads.
Interpreting the signs. What does the sign mean? For the mall culture, shall we immediately cry “materialism” or “consumerism”? For the boy glued to his cell phone, will a Mass ever mean anything? For “irregular families,” is Tan off- or on-track to surmise that these may now be the norm? For Rodrigo Duterte, what kind of a man is he? What are we to make of his presidency? What are these signs doing to the character of child and adult, individually and collectively? What indelible mark/s will they implant in our culture?
In the process of discernment, two factors come into play: context and conflict between flexibility and rigidity. Context here means the historical-socioeconomic-political-cultural background in which something is happening. It is the locus of any reality; ours is one of escalating complexity. But context that may shift positions and paradigms can be irreconcilable with “the same yesterday, today and forever” dogmatists, as happens in the battle royale over RH.
Fr. Antonio Maria Rosales’ “Divorce measure challenges Catholics” (Inquirer, 3/14/18) reflects this push-and-pull between movable context and immovable doctrine. “[W]hy are we so absolutely against divorce?” “[S]hould we not adjust to the reality of our people and not to an ideal that is desired, but not within the reach of so many…?” The commentary is open-ended and invites dialogue.
Handling the signs. Given Steps 1-3, how do we implement, maximize, resist, reteach, steer toward “connecting”? How should we react to the signs? The superficiality of the example I started with, full churches (solid Catholic PH) and more air-conditioned churches becomes obvious.
In religious language, “new evangelization” is the new call. What is it? We are exhorted to do all in the “light of the Gospel.” Sometimes I feel that we “pietize” the Gospel too much when Jesus was in fact a militant with the poor, with justice, peace, and teaching, permeating His life and words.
Here are points that may help:
The majority of CCs are doing the three steps by themselves.
Laity and clergy often see the signs and situations in different ways.
“The real experts on family are those actually living it….” (The Tablet, 9/24/15). Who can know more of the clerical state than priests themselves?
Dialogue. Laity of all stripes and genders and sociologists, historians, etc. can contribute much. Are they ever asked on a peer basis?
What CC are you? Dear Church, the questioning CCs are not less Catholic. We are all serious Catholics.
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Asuncion David Maramba is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist.
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