Thursday, May 20, 2010

Unhealthy Devotions

This website on "Unhealthy Devotions" is interesting, if rather directly opposed to the sort of Folk Catholicism that a blog like Reditus (which I love) is interested in.

Still, I am always wary of when Catholics (often middle-aged women) start to get all involved with private apparitions and apocalyptic devotions. In third world countries or medieval Europe it could be "quaint." In modern American suburbia, it's often just weird and kitschy.

And sometimes it is just a matter of emphasis. It gets bad when people start to make a gnostic "religion within the religion" surrounding some particular private devotion or apparition, even when it is something good in itself like the Rosary or Divine Mercy.

Very often I get irked when people speak of their favorite private devotions on the same level as the truths of the Faith. This is one trait that distinguishes this phenomenon from folk devotions, which at least always seem to have some implicit sense of their own inherently local and contingent character...whereas the modern superstitions tend to have universalizing claims made about themselves.

So their devotees will treat it like it is better than all the others objectively or as universally applicable (when the whole point of private apparitions is that they are meant for a particular historical context) or as practically essential to the Faith (we saw this once again with the conspiracy-theory Fatimites during the Pope's recent trip). It also should raise some red flags when people get legalistic about complicated processes or rituals associated with various devotions (which, if there is any proper way to understand them, is only ever as an incentive to prayer).

The Unhealthy Devotions site is also associated with a site on suspicious "apparitions" and one that warns against "consecration vows" (including, somewhat surprisingly, the St. Louis de Montfort one; which I'll admit has likewise given me a bad vibe in the past, even though it is by a Saint).

However, some of the site's own "warnings" seem a bit weird in themselves. For example, a lot of their concern with avoiding the occult seems to be based on the fear of demons rather than just opposition to superstition on an intellectual level. In other words, they seem to oppose superstitious practices because they are actually afraid they might work in some dark sense, whereas I oppose them simply because I don't believe they have any effect (at least generally) and are irrational.

So take it with a grain of salt. I'm not endorsing them fully, just thought it was interesting.


Agostino Taumaturgo said...

Okay, I've got to ask, is this guy/girl a convert? The site's tone has that "annoying in-your-face" tendency that usually indicates one. The section on the "St. Joseph Real Estate" also makes me wonder, because the entire argument against it straight-up Solus Christus and Soli Deo Gloria.

I agree about the grain of salt, but I wouldn't say the site owner(s) is(are) primarily trying to oppose the practices that Arturo usually talks about. The links for Astrology, Astral-Projection, and so on, make me think he/she/they're going primarily after the occultism you find printed by Llewellyn, Weiser, and friends. My impression is that il cattolicismo del popolo is just lumped in because it can be. Indeed, I get the impression that to this particular webmaster, there's no difference between the LBRP, the 48 Enochian Keys, the Black Pullet, traditional Malocchio removal, and the 54-Day Novena of Pompeii.

In the main, I agree that outright occult practices are to be avoided, but I'm not too sure that all folk Catholicism fits under the category of occultism (as Arturo's said before, it's mostly pre-industrial medicine), not to mention St' Louis' and St. Maximillian's prayers of Consecration (which are definitely not occult). The brush is just too broad for comfort.

A Sinner said...

Some sort of neocon, I'm sure, very possibly an evangelical convert.

Like I said, I'm not endorsing them. I just said it was "interesting" to see this sort of extreme, as it were, as it is exemplary of a certain type of attitude that exists.