Is CAF a good guide to theology, politics, and social attitudes among US Catholics?

Bishop Barron is a well-known name, as is the EWTN television network. Father Mike Schmitz probably comes next in line for being well-known. He is popular among young Catholics because of his YouTube channel and because he has been a speaker at the SEEK events (a huge every-other-year conference for Catholic college students put on by FOCUS). Father Z and Father Ripperger are known mostly only by a smaller group of the most traditional leaning Catholics.

I think Catholics passionate about their faith are at least somewhat likely to engage with non-Catholics and/or non-Christians about their faith. Catholic parishes are maybe somewhat less likely to get together for ecumenical events with other churches, but it’s not at all unheard of. (It’s a two-way street, though, because there are some protestant denominations that have no interest in doing things with Catholics. :smile:)

In my area, Catholic parishes are most likely to join with other churches not for liturgies but for charity, such as shelters and meals for the homeless.


It’s the internet, so people will come across as somewhat harsher than they would if they were discussing in real life. I think it is important to seek understanding of where others are coming from and what they believe, but also to strive for truth and to lovingly bring others to the truth found in Christ and his Church.

I was rather shocked by the photo of him kissing the Quran as well, when I first saw it. I believe one can show respect toward other religions without making gestures that appear to be reverence or worship. I think the criticism comes from people worried that the Catholic Church today is more concerned about ecumenism and being nice than about truth. (I’m not saying whether that is a valid criticism, just that many have that view.)

Well, that’s CAF. It isn’t talked about as much in real life, but there certainly is a movement afoot to return to traditional practices. (I would love to see more of these things, though I myself am usually not an Extraordinary Form attendee.)


I do not think it is clerical (whatever exactly that means) to call a priest “Father,” just common respect. Do people in the UK not call their priests “Father”? I never knew that. The standard form is “Father Surname,” but “Father First-Name” is very common as well, especially if one knows the priest personally. I definitely can’t imagine addressing a bishop or cardinal by their first name. :astonished::grin:

(Ok, that is all. Sorry for three posts in a row, but when I tried to post my first reply, it would not let me because it was too long.)


These are the approved texts for parish Rel Ed in the US. The Baltimore Catechism is used by some people at home, but, it is not a standard tool in US.

This varies from pastor to pastor. Our parish, our pastor, our Diocese/Bishop are very involved with ecumenism.

On CAF you get the sort of uber Catholic nerds (of which I am one!) who read obscure texts and Canon Law for fun. The other side of that is you get people who think this is an OFFICIAL outlet of the Catholic Church and they are afraid to approach their pastor.

Not even mentioning politics except to say #civilize-it


Long post, but I got through it. Maybe bullet points, numbering, or more paragraph spacing would grab reader attention (??) OK, moving on to my own long post . . . :smirk:

There is a small but very noisy streak of Catholicism in this country that tries to set itself apart for its moral superiority over everyone from the more “commoner” Catholics to even over the Pope himself. I meet them on CAF, and I meet them in my Catholic homeschooling community.

In both settings, I can feel despondent and isolated, but greater involvement in my home parish, as well as the occasional nuggets of wisdom on CAF, can help restore my hope. :slight_smile:

Also, I consult with clergy. My parish priests have been able to correct a LOT of misleading information, black-and-white thinking, and out-of-contexts statements that I hear from laity. In the interests of avoiding a rabbit trail, I’ll refrain from getting specific.

But yes, what you see on CAF is atypical even of American Catholicism. But then, I’m an atypical CAF user in that I agree with most of your post.

To address some of your individual points:

In nearly 20 years as an ordinary form Roman Catholic in the U.S., I’ve only met priests addressed as Father First-Name.

No. It is not standard. Most Catholics do not use it.

Your observation is true, and this can be a good and bad thing. I consider Bishop Barron a solid, level-headed evangelist. (Did I just use the “E” word??? :crazy_face:) I won’t comment on some of the others you listed.

For whatever it’s worth . . . In my offline life, I have one Catholic friend that I see may every couple of months. I have a small circle of friends containing atheists/agnostics and one Orthodox woman. Our mandate to share Christ’s love is incomplete unless we venture out of our immediate circles.

This is true, but from what I see, in the UK the balance is more in favour of the left than the right. We have right-wing Catholic politicians e.g. Rees-Mogg and Widdecombe, but they are a minority. The bishops have tended to support more the agenda of the Labour Party (pre-Corbyn) insofar as they support social justice, public services, international cooperation, human rights, environmentalism. That is how most Catholics have tended to vote. The Tablet is more liberal/progressive like the National Catholic Reporter. Interestingly, I have read some on CAF say the Reporter doesn’t deserve to be called Catholic! I wonder what they would make of The Tablet!

True. And the right is always strongly supported and pretty extreme. This is the thing - how extreme it is. In the UK you have Catholics who vote Tory, but that is still moderate, e.g. supports the NHS. The American conservatives one finds on CAF would never support the Tories.

I actually don’t know. I think most Catholics probably do sympathise with the Palestinians, but I don’t know any Catholics who go as far as the Corbyn-type position and are actually anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. I would guess most Catholics here are fairly critical of both sides, think a two-state solution is needed, but feel that currently the Palestinians are suffering more than the Israelis. I guess in the US it’s more pro-Israel.

Quite possibly. But it’s the American politics I find intriguing. Like I said above, to us in Europe (not just Britain), and probably in Canada too, the American right seems quite extreme. Some of the right see themselves engaged in an existential struggle for the very survival of western civilisation, a cultural battle against the forces of socialism, feminism, political correctness, the gay agenda, the trans lobby, etc. Following on from your later post, I guess I thought US Catholics were more liberal than Southern Baptists (most people are…), but I hadn’t thought of US Catholics as liberal (e.g. supporting gun control, universal healthcare, amnesty for illegal immigrants, not being too worried if someone changes their pronouns, etc.)

Aha. From reading CAF I didn’t even realise that there were lefty Catholics in the US who were heavily involved in social justice. On CAF I see a lot more posts about gender pronouns and supporting Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby than I do about social justice.


Very interesting. I didn’t know this about British culture.

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Thank you for your very long response! Lots of very interesting points there that certainly clarify a few things. For example, from how often I have seen Fr. Z and Fr. Ripperger quoted on here I had assumed this was a mainstream position for US Catholics, but perhaps they get quoted disproportionately to how many people regularly read them.

Regarding ecumenism, that is encouraging. I had read several threads where Catholics were discouraged from attending Protestant churches at all.

And yes, you are probably right that people often sound very extreme here and perhaps are not as extreme in real life. Mostly it happens over on the News forum where if you mention Gorbachev’s role in ending communism in Europe you are told that Gorbachev was morally equivalent to Pol Pot and the Cold War was won single-handed by the USA. Also, if you mention climate change you are called an alarmist. One person was pretty cheerfully telling us that her husband is racist and refuses to employ people from a certain ethnic background and actually got a bit of support (as well as a lot of criticism, to be fair).

We certainly use the title Father, yes. It’s more that some people on CAF talk about priests as if they are superhuman.

Well, I have to say, @TheLittleLady, your posts on CAF are always extremely civilized and kind. The thing that upsets me about this site is that quite often, especially on the transgender issue, people feel the need to be really unkind. You will have seen the posts along the lines of “Why should I support a mentally ill person in his delusions? If I believed that I was the king of England, would you have to address me as Your Majesty? I will never call a 6-foot bearded man ‘Madam’. I will not deny reality.” Etc.

Yes, that is pretty much what I have picked up on. I have given up arguing with some people here, because when a random guy on the internet thinks that he understands the teaching of the Catholic Church better than the Pope does, you’re never going to win. E.g. on the death penalty, there are literally thousands of posts on here now about Pope Francis and the death penalty and it’s mind-boggling (to me at least) that people won’t accept that the Pope might just understand how to do his job as Pope.


Any change to the Catechism is going to cause some Catholics to be alarmed.
Any change by this Pope will cause many Catholics to be doubly alarmed.
Any change by this Pope to something that many in US hold dear, like putting a miniscule handful of criminals to death, will cause a handful of people to make hundreds of posts about it.
Most Catholics who aren’t bothered by Pope Francis’ actions won’t bother to post.

I would strongly caution you about assuming how most US Catholics feel based on the prevailing opinion of posts because of the number of people who just get tired of arguing with those who worry about or criticize everything this Pope does, and thus stopped posting responses to his critics long ago. It’s easier for me to just let those who would wring their hands alone to handwring to each other in peace.


I must say this one stood out for me. As a non-Catholic, non-American, I tend to view many forum related things simply as an observer, not as a participant. What I have read of the Amazon synod in the Catholic Register (Canadian edition) makes me wonder what the fuss is about among those who so seriously oppose it.

standing by for obligatory responses. :sweat_smile:


These are big issues that should be discussed. I am a New Zealander with ties to Britain and I am especially concerned with any doctrinal deviation.

I think the difference in approach between the two cultures is simply a cultural thing.

I think the average Catholic is a bit more liberal. Sadly, many polls show that catholics support abortion and gay marriage. The people that come here are, of course, about .000000000000000000000000001% of the population of the US Catholic, but I think we generally are more likely to support the church teachings on issues.


While many generally are inclined to support the church official position, any Catholic on this forum who has a different opinion on a Church teaching is unlikely to say so on here.

Posters, especially Catholics, who express a position that appears the least bit contrary to Church teaching to someone (even if that someone is a hardcore conservative traditionalist) are likely to have their post flagged and removed (Even if the post gathers a large number of “Likes”) and sometimes they get further discipline like a suspension. They also run the risk of other posters telling them they’re going to hell or making other unpleasant remarks.

I have a whole list of “hot button issues” that I know not to express myself about on here because it will lead to no good if I do.


Great post, simple summary, very easy to read, thank you.
The readers digest condensed version of CAF vs Catholicism in the broader community.

How do you want us to respond.

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Respectfully . . . based on what? There’s actually a pretty wide array of Catholics who love Father James Martin, read America magazine, openly discuss the “preferential option for the poor,” take leading roles on parish social justice committees, donate to Democrats for Life, and pretty much tear their hair out every election season. (Hint: I’m tugging at my collar and nervously clearing my throat . . . ) :wink:

Have you been to the U.S.? Attended Mass at more than one parish?

I’m not trying to sound combative - honest - but I don’t want our brothers and sisters around the globe getting the wrong impression of U.S. Catholicism based on CAF.


Here’s my opinion (as a young male from NZ):

Firstly, do the Catholics you know go to church? I’m assuming they do, but I just wanted to ask. I think that Catholics here in NZ and the UK (as in Mass attending practising Catholics) tend to support all the Church’s teachings but take a softer approach. There is nothing wrong with this, but that is just an observation.

All of these sources are very important and valuable.

We do like Jesuits, but we utterly condemn any attempts to change doctrine that cannot be changed. The Jesuits are not the issue, just the views of Fr James Martin on certain issues.

We are ecumenical. I condemned the hostility towards Islam (especially considering the attacks in Christchurch earlier this year) and I am very open to ecumenism, but we must not compromise Church doctrine.

We respect and admire our clergy. If a priest or bishop doesn’t want to be treated differently, then that’s fine (the Cardinal-Archbishop of Wellington is fine just being called ‘John’ rather than ‘Your Eminence’), but we believe that they deserve the utmost respect. I admire my parish priest and archbishop more than any other NZers to be frank. They should be respected and held in high regard. Many priests like the ‘equal’ approach, which is fine. Just saying that many understandably want some respect and we give it to them because their ministry warrants is.

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Nor am I.

My ideal system is ‘Christian democracy’, quite popular on the continent and in Latin America. It favours social conservatism and social justice. Us Catholics tend to like Trump because he is pro life compared to the abortionist democrats. No Catholics like Duterte. He said he wanted to kill bishops and priests. Franco is more complicated, but he did promote the Church in Spain.

I agree that this is quite a shock. In NZ, even our conservative party (the National Party whose former leader and Prime Minister is a Catholic who goes to my parish) supports this, it is a given and I support public services. I think that it is just so ingrained into American culture to oppose it, so many are opposed.

The Church supports taking action on climate change. I do and the Church does.

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I am a brexiteer, and I like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ann Widdecombe.

These are all valid concerns. Cardinal-Archbishop Thomas Williams of Wellington said in 2004 that homosexual “civil unions” would turn NZ into a ‘moral wasteland’. He was right.

I support gun control. Again, support of the Second Amendment is so ingrained into American culture.

The Holy Father has condemned this, so we must as well.

The same in NZ. That’s fine. But I think we should default to showing the clergy the utmost respect.

It’a fine for a Catholic to uphold doctrine but have more left leaning social justice opinions. Again, I think it’s a cultural divide.

These are all important issues.

They are good men who uphold Church doctrine. There is no reason not to quote them.

They aren’t superhumans. They’re just humble men who we must respect.

I think that’s something I don’t entirely understand. Nick Donnelly, a permanent deacon up in the northwest of England, public describes himself as “Catholic, not Bergoglian”. He insists on calling the Pope “Jorge Bergoglio”, not “Pope Francis”. He posts things suggesting that Benedict XVI may still be the legitimate Pope (even though he himself says that he’s not). I find it really odd that some Catholics place their own personal opinions above the authority of the Pope.

Yes, probably very true. I’m afraid I tend to argue with people when I think they’re wrong. Not so much on points of theology, oddly enough. But I get very wound up, for example, when people post stuff about vaccines that I know is contradicted by all reputable scientists. I want to try to convince them that vaccines are safe and work. The fact that nobody else joins the argument leads me to assume that most Catholics are anti-vaccines, whereas in fact they may simply not have the energy to argue about it.

I don’t disagree. But, as you yourself acknowledge, it’s a matter of tone.

Please respond however you wish!

You see, that’s the group of Catholics I was wondering about. So they do exist! I was just puzzled that they don’t seem to exist on CAF (or exist in very small numbers). That’s more the kind of Catholicism I am used to. It’s very alien to me, the kind of Catholicism where people quote stories from Breitbart.

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I love America. I’m just saying that there are cultural differences that have certainly influenced American Catholics.

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