So. I was asked in another thread about older Catholic women coming to an “age of enlightenment” and beginning to pray to a goddess. I don’t know anything about that specifically, but my friends (Christian and otherwise) and I have discussed the Catholic-Pagan connection before, and I do think it’s an interesting comparison.
Disclaimer: I do know that Protestants have, in the past, accused Catholics of being somehow less Christian precisely because of these similarities. I don’t want to poke at sore points, but please do understand that I’m coming at it from a different perspective. As a Pagan, I actually feel more of a kinship with Catholics than other Christians because of certain shared beliefs and practices. I approve. And while I know that some people will probably get offended at me for pointing it out regardless of how I preface it, please know that my intent isn’t to be offensive.
Point A: Catholics, unlike other Christians, venerate a mother-figure. Mary isn’t named as a Goddess, but she is revered and prayed to. And yes, Pagans worship a Goddess, but it goes beyond that. It shows a respect for the feminine, and a recognition of balance between feminine and masculine in divinity, that is missing from other denominations of Christianity. (It’s also worth noting that, among Pagan traditions that recognize both a God and a Goddess, She is often the consort of the God, but just as often She is His mother.)
Point B: Many Pagans are polytheistic, but what that means is rarely straightforward. Often, it refers to a God (or Goddess, or both) who wears many faces and names for different people and different purposes, all of whom are ultimately the same Deity. Another variation is a God/dess who is the Supreme Creator but doesn’t actually interact directly with humanity, and a host of lesser deities who serve as intermediaries. Compare with the Catholic saints and angels.
Point C: Ritual. I heard a Wiccan once compare magic to “prayer with props.” Now, I’m not saying for sure that I agree with that assessment, but I do believe that ritual is something that’s very important to the human psyche. We worship with ritual, whether that be song or chant or incense or candles or fancy vestments or whatever, not because God needs it, but because we need it. It’s a shortcut for our brains to bring us to the worshipful, reverent state necessary to commune with the Divine. Many, many Protestant churches have tried to do away with ritual as much as possible, and I think that’s detrimental to the understanding of the sacredness of worship. Catholic churches, even progressive ones, still (by and large) include some form of stylized ritual.
I could go on, but my intent isn’t to give a lecture; it’s to toss out an observation and get feedback. So. Feedback? Agreement, disagreement, questions, counterarguments, further examples?