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Catholicism - Catholics in Society
What does CAFOD stand for?

Catholicism - Catholics in Society

This GCSE RE quiz on Catholicism takes a look at Catholics in society. ‘Society’ across the world differs hugely in its composition and political complexion, yet the Catholic Church (by definition) maintains and expresses its presence pretty well everywhere ~ certainly in Europe (mainly its south, broadly around the shores of the Mediterranean, in lands where Latin-based languages are spoken) and those countries’ former colonies, notably ‘Latin’ America and the old French holdings in Africa and the Far East. In Russia the Orthodox Church has more traction, even since before the officially atheist period under communism (1917-90); in such places as the USA and Australia, Catholicism has on the whole a steady presence within the wider Christian mainstream.

How can, should and does the Catholic Church make its distinctive mark on people and peoples?

What does CAFOD stand for, at the most literal level?
CAtholic Fund for Opus Dei (= the Work of God)
Catholic Agency For Overseas Development
CAtholic Foundation for Oblationary Duties
Church Action Forum to Obvert Disasters
This fine organisation has been up and running since the 1960s. To dub it a 'Catholic counterpart to Oxfam' is perhaps a tad glib, but essentially not too far wide of the mark
It might be suggested by some people that (compared to 'wishy-washy liberal' Christianity) the Catholic Church takes a clear and generally uncompromising stand on its principles ~ not the same thing as being unsympathetic ~ and that as such, it and its adherents are in some ways visibly distinctive ... somewhere along a scale that would then include the ritual dress of hijabs, turbans, yarmulkim etc. among other religions. What is the distinctive item that virtually all Catholics have about their person?
A crucifix
A set of rosary beads
A Bible, watermarked (using holy water, of course) with their name and the sign of the Cross at the time of their Baptism
(None of the above)
There is no fixed obligation on Catholics to have any of these items about their person at all times, though many of them might appreciate having some such things
Concerned Catholics might well wish to come forward and make themselves discreetly available to support other people going through difficult times. With this sincerely charitable impulse in mind, why might they NOT feel comfortable acting on it in the context of becoming Samaritans (i.e. answering phone calls &/or meeting distressed people face-to-face)? ONE of the following clusters of factors is clearly more important than the others: which ONE?
A Catholic might yearn to help others, but have problems over dealing with their own 'fallout' from cases when they next went to Confessional
The ingrained Catholic view of Confession being integral to moving forward after a major 'life mistake', could on occasion make it hard for them to empathise with perplexed people who also seem to have a less developed sense of guilt or conscience; meanwhile as Samaritans they are not allowed to 'preach' any particular set of spiritual values, which is outside their remit in this case and could also be misread (by the enquirer) as smug and condescending
A Catholic (of either gender) might feel ill-at-ease suggesting, let alone offering, even the most gentle counselling on such personal issues as sexuality, contraception and abortion
Catholics are supposed to reach out to 'sinners' and the needy, but not on an anonymous basis through any other organisation
There is plenty for discussion here but your Author believes Ans.3 represents (as it were) the thorniest issue. He hastens to add that he knows of at least one Catholic who is a regular member of the local Street Pastor team (and also of his Gospel Choir) ~ which suggests that there certainly are channels for such initiative
It is sadly a matter of public record that within recent times as well as further ago, a number of Catholic priests have been found guilty of sexual and related abusive offences against children. Leaving aside (as far as possible) the inevitable visceral and emotional overtones of such cases; with neither fear nor favour to the Catholic Church (nor indeed any others active &/or complicit in such abuse); and treating the arguments as such entirely on their own merits, which would you say probably appears the WEAKEST or least helpful response on the part of the Church?
'God hates the sin, but not the sinner; no true penitent can ever be beyond His redeeming love and mercy; where our own have fallen short, we must do all we can to make amends'
'It is the Church's duty to do nothing but good by all who turn to it; so for the benefit of all concerned including ourselves, we pledge to overhaul our protection procedures with deep and immediate effect'
'It is our duty to apologise and put matters right wherever, and as far as can be achieved in this world; and to admonish and dismiss those who have besmirched our cause and name in such ways'
'However deep the impulses, and however strong the temptation, priests ~ on whom the Sacrament of Holy Orders has been conferred under God ~ must remain steadfast in their calling. Any prospect of the Vatican ever reconsidering the compatibility of priestly service with marriage (for reasons of 'healthier, monogamous sexual release' or anything else) remains out of the question'
Catholics themselves may well take a different view, but ~ for better or worse ~ in our modern world, the insistence on priestly celibacy may seem to be asking the almost impossible, in however otherwise impeccable a cause. If the Church automatically rejects the 50% of its people who happen to be female, and then also rejects whatever proportion of male would-be priests can be identified as a risk to their own integrity and those of the institution and their flock, the remaining pool of potential clergy might be dauntingly small. Meanwhile it perhaps bears pointing out that there are in fact (presumably temporarily) a number of married Catholic clergy ~ those who came across to Rome after leaving the Church of England on grounds of conscience (ironically, most usually over the C of E's acceptance and encouragement of female clergy), and who were already married before doing so. In this field as a whole there are no simplistic or compatible answers, but that sadly doesn't mean there haven't been life-changing 'issues' for various individuals
For many years the British Establishment has had a somewhat stand-offish relationship with Catholics in general: in 1581, for example, Oxford University specified that all members of its constituent colleges should subscribe to the 39 Articles of the Church of England (including a vow to eschew 'Popish practices'), which measure was not rescinded until 1871. However, in 2003 the University appointed a Catholic Chancellor, Lord Patten of Barnes, who had had a splendidly distinguished public life. Which of the following biographical snippets is the only NON-genuine one?
As an MP he sat in the (Margaret) Thatcher Cabinet and was Conservative Party Chairman
When ousted as an MP he became the last Governor General of the British colony of Hong Kong, through to and including its handover back to Chinese control in 1997
He was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the time of the Good Friday Agreement
He served as Chairman of the Trust (Board of Governors) of the BBC
Patten chaired the Independent Commission on Policing in Nothern Ireland, but this was under a Labour Government and some years since he had lost his seat. Meanwhile he was also a European Commissioner. His measured but sincere public statements in these many roles (e.g. over the Savile saga at the BBC), and in his various books, reveal him to be a man of great integrity whose faith and beliefs inform his actions, and he has the ongoing 'ear' of the Pope with regard to aspects of Catholic statesmanship and the modern media
The Catholic Church in an otherwise unremarkable Tyrolean village has been witnessing, regularly and on a substantial scale, to the Passion story (i.e. of the last days of Jesus' earthly life) for the better part of four centuries ~ having started in the 1630s, way back between the death of Shakespeare and the Great Fire of London. What was the origin of this ongoing act of corporate witness?
The people of Oberndorf found their church organ was not working on Palm Sunday, so they moved their Holy Week events into the open air as an act of wider witness and have kept the tradition ever since
The people of Oberammergau vowed that if God would halt the deaths from the Plague, they would reenact the Passion Play every tenth year forever in thanks (and they still do)
The people of Biberswald were so thankful to God for the election of a Pope from their village, that they did their own bit to maintain its place on the cultural map ~ way beyond his lifetime
There had been an Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a poor beggar as he arrived in the village, and She was carrying a crown of thorns, so the villagers decided that an ongoing public reenactment of Jesus' suffering for all should be organised to raise money for poor-relief
The Oberammergau story (of the village, as much as its amazing Passion project) is widely researchable and moving at many levels. Answer 1 is an off-beam reference to the origins of the carol 'Silent Night' (originally 'Stille Nacht') in 1818; Biberswald (Ans.3) was the fictional setting of a German-language textbook series from the 1970s (a kind of 'Tyrolean Ambridge'); Ans.4 may seem generically plausible and duly worthy, but is total invention
Catholicism as a whole has, down the centuries, sought to improve the general moral tone by keeping out of circulation any books or other materials it considers might deprave people exposed to them. ONE of the following is NOT a true statement about Catholicism and censorship: which one?
Catholic influence was strongly evident in establishing the Hays Code, which in turn informed and controlled what could be shown in films in the heyday of Hollywood. Anything shocking, suggestive or otherwise immoral was off-limits (though ways were found of suggesting ~ without explicitly showing ~ such fairly staple plot-drivers as murder and conflicted 'triangular' love-relationships)
There was for centuries an official Index of prohibited works, including major (or not infrequently, all) books by clearly significant authors and thinkers. This was formally discontinued in 1966
Coincidentally (perhaps?) with the institution of the Oberammergau Passion Play, Galileo Galilei was tried and placed under house arrest in 1634 ~ for having challenged the Catholic Church over its belief that the Earth was the centre of the universe, based on empirical measurements using his own telescope
There is an approved Catholic internet server which screens out all objectionable material (e.g. pornography). The location of this server is itself a secret, but believed to be somewhere in rural Italy, and its staff look after and update it remotely
Answer 4 is the only one that stands to gain (entirely false) traction among conspiracy theorists!
At one time or another, Catholics have probably demonstrated singly or en-masse at all manner of places and occasions. Knowing what you probably do of their precepts, principles and priorities, which of the following would you expect to be the LEAST likely target for such a peaceable expression of their convictions?
Outside the offices &/or press-plant of a newspaper that had published cartoons critical of Catholic policies, e.g. that the Church and its associated charities do not distribute condoms in AIDS-affected regions of Africa
Outside an abortion clinic
Outside a cinema where a deeply objectionable film was being shown (e.g. one strongly suggesting that Jesus was homosexual, or whatever)
Around the perimeter &/or gates of a military camp where nuclear or chemical weapons were known to be stored, handled and deployed
Catholics may feel strongly about opposition to the practical implications of their own moral stance, but we are not thinking here of them contemplating such a vicious response as happened with the Scandinavian paper which found fit to publish cartoons representing the Muslim Prophet. The remaining three answers and their associated issues have certainly been known to attract a Catholic presence
It may (to non-Catholics and some others) seem to be a lot to ask Catholics to maintain and abide by their principles, while so much of the pressure in modern society seems to be in opposing directions: pledging collectively in church is one thing, standing up alone amid fraught circumstances is another. In which of these situations would the believer's fortitude probably come under the severest strain?
Actively to shun 'unworthy / unhelpful' behaviours such as teasing / gossip, casual sexism &/or use of pornography, even when others confidently assume you are happy to go along with this
To take a principled stand against injustice in one's workplace (victimisation, coercion, slavery, harassment etc.) even when others are colluding or turning a 'blind eye'
As a teenager, to conform to peer pressure and indulge in potentially destructive (and certainly inappropriate, selfish and therefore 'sinful') individual behaviour relating to sex and/or drugs
To honour a sincere promise even when circumstances have changed
For many quizzers answer 3 may loom as a personal hurdle; but answer 2 could put one's livelihood in jeopardy, which is also potentially liable to create knock-on difficulties for one's nearest and dearest
It would possibly not surprise you to learn that the chart-busting singer Madonna (whatever her subsequent exploits) was born and raised a Catholic. As a Catholic 'yourself' (at least temporarily, for example's sake) ~ but not necessarily a fan of Madonna or her music or other output ~ what would you probably regard as the most outrageous aspect of her fame?
She grew up as one of 6 children (a healthily fecund Catholic family ... ) in what is now the 'rust-belt' of Detroit and was confirmed in 1966. The loss of her beloved mother to breast cancer came as a hard blow to her but she did well in school, while joining the cheerleader troupe and at other times gleefully dressing in ways to challenge convention. Her performance career only really took off once she had dropped out of local dance school and gone to New York ~ with (so she says) just $35 in her pocket
The amount of money she has since made from her various performances and exploits is troubling, even from the viewpoint of the Catholic Church ~ which itself holds considerable funds and property (though the latter, in the form of church premises, could never be traded-in for all sorts of reasons)
She published a number of picture-books with blatantly uncompromising titles, and which could only have served (apart from fomenting controversy and earning her more money) to titillate and outrage public decency
Her birthname 'Madonna' refers directly to the Virgin Mary (you can easily ~ though carefully, please ... ! ~ find sacred pictures and sculptures under that title). To self-publicise in any way or scale so out of keeping with spirit of this very special name, represents at very least a shocking disregard for the sacred traditions of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. (Just imagine the outcry if anyone had tried similarly around the identity of one of the great Muslim women, such as the Prophet's young wife Aisha ... )
As ever, we are open to persuasion &/or correction, but we suspect that the nub of answer 4 is probably what would rankle the most in the eyes and ears of a traditional Catholic. Your author (a lifelong active Anglican ~ and, as it happens, contemporary of Madonna to within about 10 weeks) has in the course of 30+ years' teaching had the disconcerting experience of showing a ('conventional') picture or icon of the ('original') Madonna in the context of an RE lesson, and been challenged 'Why doesn't that look like the real Madonna?' (clearly in the sense of the modern performer). One might at least fairly say she 'has made the brand her own' ~ but whether for the longer-term good of the interests of the original individual by that name, would be at best a moot point. She might herself claim that in an age when fewer people go to church of any kind, at least in her somewhat roundabout way she's been keeping the name in the public awareness ...
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - Role of the Church in contemporary society

Author:  Ian Miles

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