My Father, Daniel G. Dugan, died thirty-eight years ago today. At Mass for him this morning, I thought about what he would think of this world we are living in. Now if anyone were a Devout Catholic, it was him. He died saying the Rosary. It broke when a sudden heart attack knocked him to the ground. The ER nurse gave me the pieces she took from his cold hand. I treasure it still. He could not walk without canes or a walker, depending on how bad his arthritis pain was on a given day. He never missed daily Mass. After his funeral I got letters from other daily Mass goers who knew him, telling me what an inspiration he was. And yes, they referred to him as a Devout Catholic. It didn’t bother me then.
I had not heard that title bestowed on anyone since then. I certainly am not as that may describe. I am a practicing Catholic and a definite work in progress. But now the Devout Catholic title is being bandied about in so many ways. Supreme Court nominee was the most recent. Today I saw a story in a Catholic press piece about how the woman running against the Senate majority leader relies heavily on her Catholic faith in her run. I get huge pieces of junk mail every other day telling me how I must vote because I am Catholic. I don’t open it because I am sure It will tell me how quickly I am going to hell, like those chain letters, emails and Facebook messages we get so often. Did they get my name from one of those Mass card sales lists? I buy a lot of those, but I don’t think that anoints me a Devout Catholic.
The Code of Canon Law has no mention of Devout Catholic. Nor even a lapsed Catholic (I will get to that another day). There are Bishops and Archbishops, Metropolitan Bishops and three degrees of Cardinals to mention only a few. All titles go to priests and most to clerical hierarchy. There are no special degrees or titles for lay people. Outside of the Code there are a few special awards lay folks can get. Those are usually handed out to big money donors, like the ones who get the front seats at the Papal Audiences. And those shiny awards and any other tid bits thrown to lay people are not in the Code. And no Devout Catholic anywhere.
So, it looks to me like the media must have resurrected the Devout Catholic accolade or insult. And they use it a lot, sometimes positive and sometimes negative. It makes me cringe now. Because even without a legal definition, I am sure I don’t know anyone who qualifies. And even without a definition, I feel secure warning that if someone self-describes as a Devout Catholic, run.