I am a Catholic peculiarly possessed of the modern consciousness, that thing Jung describes as unhistorical, solitary, and guilty.
–Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being
Catholics are a unique facet of the residually religious, because Catholics are not Christians. Well, technically they are, but culturally they’re not. “Christian” has come to mean Protestant, evangelical, right wing. They have established a subculture with their megachurches and promise rings, Sarah Palin rallies and “Left Behind” books. The Christian shelf at Barnes & Noble is always all about them. (Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!)
Catholics are not a part of this subculture, generally speaking, and do not have a subculture of their own. Most of them are pretty mainstream. Young Catholics are now two or three generations removed from the largely immigrant, devout populations of their grandparents. Well-educated and upwardly mobile, they are participating fully in the “secular” world and making all kinds of heathen and humanist friends. (Compared to evangelicals, Catholics are a lot less sectarian and insular. We like to mix it up!)
Nationally, about one in four Americans is Catholic; they comprise the nation’s largest Christian group. This means there are a lot of people out there who would identify themselves as Catholics who are no different, seen from the outside, than anyone else. They never go to confession. They “live in sin.” They like gays. They like sex. They don’t mind if gays like sex. So why, in surveys, do they continue to call themselves Catholics? Ask and many of them will say it is hard to explain, something they have simply found impossible to scrape off (though they have tried, really they have… damn you, organized religion!) Ask them if they believe in everything the Church teaches, however, and they will rattle off a laundry list of exceptions, objections, and qualifiers.
Now, based on popular culture, you would think there are only two kinds of people in this country and that they can be divided into two, neat, mutually exclusive groups: religious and nonreligious. I wanted to write a book about the “me years” for the residually (or vaguely) religious and the peculiarly possessed, whether Catholics peculiarly possessed of the modern consciousness or, as might be more common these days, moderns peculiarly possessed of the Catholic consciousness.
Click “Next” to Purchase the Me Years.