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?

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The varied but usually recognisable church buildings, and preference on Catholic-flavoured education (i.e. provision of faith schools), offer an institutional and infrastructural marker; but where Catholics hold the reins of otherwise secular power, you would expect to find firm and conservative policies in force on such issues as abortion, contraception and euthanasia. Meanwhile individual Catholics will be socially and politically active, developing their performing talents, supporting and initiating charitable initiatives such as food-banks, and generally serving God wherever He has seen fit to lead them.

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  1. 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 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
  2. 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?
    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
  3. 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?
    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 ...
  4. 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?
    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
  5. 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?
    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
  6. 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?
    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
  7. What does CAFOD stand for, at the most literal level?
    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
  8. 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?
    Answer 4 is the only one that stands to gain (entirely false) traction among conspiracy theorists!
  9. 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, the University currently (2016) has a Catholic Chancellor, Lord Patten of Barnes, who has had a splendidly distinguished public life. Which of the following biographical snippets is the only NON-genuine one?
    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
  10. 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?
    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

Author: Ian Miles

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