Catholicism “Lite”: Less Fulfilling?

31 Jan

Catholic liteBack in the 1990s, when I was the editor of Lay Witness magazine, we were creating an ad for the (then) new Catechism of the Catholic Church, opposing it to a fictitious “Catechism ‘Lite.’” You know what I’m talking about: only half the commandments of the regular Catechism, and one-third the doctrines.

Over the past couple decades we’ve seen countless variations of this humorous (and, to our sorrow, often accurate) description of an approach to Catholic faith and life that is watered down, minimalistic, and largely uninspiring. In fact, we might say “Catechism lite” or “Catholicism lite” and not have to complete the thought. One goal of the “Year of Faith” is that all of us would embrace the fullness of the faith with renewed zeal and joy.

At the same time, I’ve found that while most practicing Catholics would take the “Catechism” over “Catechism lite” in theory, the real-life situation can seem unduly complicated. As I discussed earlier this week, those who want to believe, celebrate, and live the Catholic faith in its fullness are often labelled, sometimes pejoratively, as “conservatives” and not simply as “Catholics.”

I realize this is a game played largely by dissident Catholics who are trying to legitimize their own brand of Catholicism or political agenda. Yet not only do political terms like “conservative” and ”liberal” not fit in Church discussions (really they’re only alienating stereotypes), but there′s something else: Calling the full embrace of the Catholic faith “conservative” makes it seem as though it’s only one of a spectrum of equally acceptable ways of being Catholic.

In fact, it suggests that the goal would be somewhere between the extremes of “conservative” and “liberal.” Let’s split the difference and go with eight of the ten commandments (I think many would suggest the 6th and 9th for exclusion!) and three-fourths of the doctrines. For some, that may not be “Catholic lite,” but surely Catholic “enough.”

Obviously this is a big challenge that I can’t fully address in one brief blog post. But I do want us to think about other ways we can express the progression from a nominal or dissident form of dabbling in the Catholic faith to a full commitment to all that the Church proposes for belief.
The models I’ve thought of most recently don’t quite “fit” for one reason or another–I guess that’s true of most analogies–but I thought I would offer them for our readers’ consideration.

When it comes to coffee, perhaps the proverbial “Catechism lite” would be decaf, and those who don’t want to be too ”extreme” might go for the caff-lite. Perhaps the “fullness” would be a triple-shot of espresso from the Mystic Monks!

Or, when it comes to milk, we have different watered down versions that we gradually get used to (skim, 1%, 2%, etc.), or perhaps we’ll add chocolate or even ice cream to make it all more palatable. While whole, unadulterated milk may not be goal when it comes to dairy-based beverages, we do want the whole, unadulterated faith if Christ is truly the Lord of our lives.

With apologies to the milk intolerant, we might then say that soy milk would represent the false forms of faith and spirituality that pass themselves off as Catholic, but really aren’t, just as soy milk isn’t really “milk.” While there are good reasons for people to choose alternatives to dairy, there is no good reason to choose alternatives to Christ and the fullness of the Catholic faith proclaimed by the Church!

To take it a step further, we might say that the saints are the “cream” of the crop!

What images can you think of? Whatever they may be, the fullness of the faith, what St. Paul called the “full stature” of Christ (see Ephesians 4:13 and surrounding verses), must always be the goal for all.

3 Responses to “Catholicism “Lite”: Less Fulfilling?”

  1. Michael F. February 1, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    Amen! It seems to me that the problem you cite is just another facet of moral relativism, a central error of modernity. Many people today just aren’t comfortable with concepts like “morally right and morally wrong” and “correct and incorrect”. In fact, it has actually become conceptually foreign to many. It’s doesn’t even quite compute. Today, “right” means “right for you” or “right for me.” “Liberal” and “conservative” are much more palatable. They’re also intellectually lazy terms in the context of the Catholic faith – not requiring serious, critical thinking. Thank God (quite literally!) for the Church and the Truth – Who is a Person.

  2. Erin Pascal February 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    As it says in the Bible, “My people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners, picking up their evil ways. Now they have become as worthless as a half-baked cake.” (Hosea 7:1-10). Satan is cunningly working his way through the lives of many people who call themselves Christians. God’s laws never change so there should be no reason for our principles, values and beliefs to change. I read one passage that says, “I looked for the church and found it in the world. I looked for the world and found it in the church.” When the our actions change in favor of the world or the crowd, we are most likely going in the wrong direction.


  1. Fully Embracing the Catholic Faith - February 1, 2013

    […] post from the blog of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas titled Catholicism “Lite”: Less Fulfilling? made me evaluate my Catholic faith. The entry presented brilliant analogies that prompted me […]

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