January 5, 2013 by lucieromarin
I’ve a number of friends who have been hurt by conservative Catholics with an inexplicable sense of entitlement to other people’s time, talents, or property.
For example; I know a couple of booksellers who had to deal with characters from an adjoining Catholic agency who were in the habit of just taking books from the shop whenever they felt like it. Now, it’s true that said characters saw themselves as borrowing rather than stealing, and they certainly intended to return the books at some point. What never occurred to them was the possibility that identifying someone else’s property as Useful to a Good Catholic might not be in itself sufficient reason for making off with that property. Similarly, I once worked with a woman who, like many people in her building, attended the daily Mass offered there. However, unlike everyone else, she took a full hour’s lunch break after that Mass, which meant that other staff members had shorten their own lunch breaks in order to take her phone calls. Complaints were made to her boss…who ruled that the complainants were obviously modernists trying to crush the devotion of this young girl from his own parish. (He did not offer to shorten his own lunch break to take her calls, though). Again, I knew a Catholic employer who was genuinely surprised by the discovery that one of his employees did not want him to phone her at home, at ten o’clock at night, with instructions for the next day. Her reluctance to be available at all hours was construed as lack of commitment to the apostolate rather than as a sign that management was unprofessional.
I used to think that this sort of behaviour came from an attitude put to me by one young gyrovague: “We’re the Catholic Church! We can do what we like!” Then I thought it was the Gen-Y sense of entitlement merging with the conservative sense that the mere fact of being conservative absolves one from the practice of natural virtue. Then I thought it had something to do with cholerics. Then I realised that, true as this all is, there’s something else behind it, too.
It’s commonly observed that an only child can suffer from a reduced capacity for teamwork or community life. He’s had a whole lot less experience of sharing, of negotiating, of noticing what other people need. It’s particularly noticeable where the only-child is also a choleric, and naturally inclined to dominate. Right?
Well – here’s what I realised. Many conservative Catholics have grown up as some kind of only-child, either as the only seriously-committed Catholic in their families; the only real Catholic at school; the only large family in their parish (and sometimes a family acts as a unit with that sense of entitlement over other families). They have been told, not that their only-child-ness means they need extra training in certain natural virtues, but they are the New Springtime in the Church. They’re relating to other people’s time, talents, and property as an only-child relates to other children’s toys; there’s a vague sense that there are some boundaries somewhere, but those boundaries are subordinated to the greater sense that Things Exist for the Sake of Me and My Project.
Of course not every only-Catholic ends up like this, any more than every only-child ends up as a brat. I just think that part of the reason such persons act as they do is not just youth or triumphalism, but is also the fact that they don’t start saving the Church until they’re somewhere in their twenties, by which time the entitlement-habit is well and truly ingrained.
Still, it could be worse. They could have ended up like this!