Cognitive Monority

Sometime ago I heard a remark that I have heard so many times before. My friend said, “The one ‘ism’ that is totally acceptable today in America is anti-Catholicism. The one group you can ridicule and get away with is the Catholic Church.” Even though I fully concurred with her observation, my mind went in a different direction. I feel that anti-Catholic feelings will continue to persist because of what we stand for and because of what the world prefers to espouse.


Many years ago a well-known sociologist of religion, Peter Berger, coined the term “cognitive minority” to refer to a group that subscribes to views not accepted by most people. Even though the minority is right with regard to its beliefs, the majority dismisses those beliefs and even makes fun of them. For instance, at the time of Galileo the people who believed the sun to be the center of the solar system and not the earth belonged to a cognitive minority. The majority, including the Church, discredited them. Once the minority opinion was proved to be right the majority also embraced the view.

On many issues – especially those revolving around sexuality and reproduction – we, Catholics, belong to the cognitive minority. The majority of the American society does not agree with us and they even ridicule us for our views. Some years ago one website even called Pope Benedict XVI bigoted because of his stance on marriage. This difference stems from the very understanding of what sexuality is. For many in our secular society, it is a drive, just like hunger and thirst. On the contrary, for us in the Church, sexuality is a God-given gift for a man and woman to seal their love and commitment in the permanent union of marriage with openness to new life. Unfortunately some who call themselves Catholic often side with the secular society and dissent from the teachings of the Church. They prefer to belong to the majority than to the cognitive minority.

Our human tendency is to rely on the strength of numbers. Almost every day we are bombarded by polls and surveys. We think that we are right because many people agree with us. Morality or faith is not the result of a consensus. It is the fruit of God’s revelation. Growing up in a country where Catholics were a tiny minority, I was convinced that the rest of the world did not agree with us. I knew that we, Catholics, stood alone. However, when I came to America I expected that in a predominantly Christian nation, the majority of our society would at least nominally embrace Judeo-Christian values. It would appear that my expectation was baseless.

The civil society functions differently and it follows different criteria. Issues are settled based on majority vote and popular opinion. Many forces in society – opinion makers, media, political pundits, movie stars, so-called philosophers and others with significant cultural capital – succeed in slowly desensitizing the populace to long-considered taboos. Mass Media, as agents of pop culture, appeal to our basest instincts so that they may get better ratings. They have no regard for moral values or sacred traditions. As a result, certain beliefs that were held sacred are no longer so. This is what is happening in our own society.

If we remain true to our faith, we cannot be swayed by every wind of popular opinion and fashionable trend. We may be the object of ridicule by comedians and may even be scorned by the larger society. We need to remain steadfast. The Lord never promised us that the world would agree with us. In fact He told us that if the world hated Him, it will hate us too. The Church must not bemoan the lack of secular support. Politicians, on both sides of the aisle, use us for their own political gain. If a Church leader overtly courts the support of secular power while diluting our commitment to Jesus’ teachings, that person must be suspect. Just like the Master, all of us must learn to suffer for our beliefs.

The winds of change are upon us. I do believe that in the coming years as disciples we will be called upon to suffer for the sake of His name. Are we ready? Are we prepared to stand alone, knowing that the majority is not on our side? The world will not acclaim us or give us awards and recognition. Often it will contradict us and sometimes even challenge us.

In one of his letters, Paul said that we are placed at the end of the victory parade. In America if we are at the end of the parade, we would be considered the most important. Paul was speaking about something else. When the Roman legions came back to Rome after a military victory, the vanquished were brought in chains at the end of the parade. Paul warns his Christians that they will be like the vanquished and slaves in a Roman victory parade. It is so easy to forget that our victory parade will be in the next world. Only at the end of time the majority will recognize that we are right.

Please hold the Church and her leaders in prayer. May we all have the strength and the wisdom to stand steadfast!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

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