Irony alert: Catholic website quizzes readers on whether they can "recognize superstition"
There's no way any of you will pass this test
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You know things are not going to end well when a Catholic website posts a quiz to determine if readers can recognize superstition when they see it.
The lack of self-awareness is incredible.
If they’re practicing Catholics, the answer is already a hard no. We know they treat fiction as fact. That’s how Church works! So how can they possibly draw a line between religious mythology and other forms of nonsense?
The National Catholic Register ran the quiz anyway, so I figured we’d take it together and find out if our bullshit detectors are working properly.
Patti Maguire Armstrong, who wrote the quiz, explains that she wants to help Catholics “identify common spiritual traps,” so she came up with these questions after consulting several exorcists. (Seriously.)
All 10 questions are either True or False, so this should be fairly easy… Let’s do it.
(1) Reading horoscopes just for fun is not a problem if you don’t believe in them.
I have no clue why horoscopes would be “fun” to read if you don’t believe in them, but at best, they’re harmless. They’re meaningless. They’re written by people who literally make things up, even if they insist they used a star chart or some other form of New Age-y nonsense. But the correct answer here should be “True.”
The NCR answer?
(1) Catholic Answers explains that horoscopes go against the First Commandment. If you read them “just for fun,” find a new hobby.
Jesus... That’s harsh. Horoscopes apparently violate the rule saying, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” which implies some people treat horoscopes as their personal God. What happened to reading them for fun and not believing in them?! Yikes.
So… we got the right answer, but our reasoning was all wrong.
Let’s keep going.
(3) Blessed medals can be used for spiritual protection.
That’s clearly superstitious. Blessed medals are just like “lucky” shirts, the subject of Question #2. You can pretend they confer some helpful power to you, but they don’t. Medals cannot be blessed. And blessed medals don’t give you spiritual (or any other kind of) protection. The answer is False.
(3) Once blessed, medals are sacramentals that really do offer protection. Catholic Answers explains: “It is only the power of God that can protect us. It so happens that at times God has revealed either directly or through one of his saints that he will grant protection or healing by the wearing of a medal that represents our faith in his love for us.”
Whoops. Blessed medals really are magical. Who knew. We’re doing very poorly on this exam. After Question #4 acknowledges that throwing pennies in a wishing well is superstitious, Question #5 deals with curses:
(5) Curses are real and can harm you.
False. Obviously false. Curses are not real. They can’t harm you. It’s all psychological. But these are Catholics we’re talking about so I’m guessing they’re going to say Fact… and yet they don’t do that! They give a wishy-washy answer that boils down to: It depends.
(5) Whether you should be afraid if someone puts a curse on you depends on you. Exorcists frequently see people suffering from curses. In an interview for a previous article, Father Vincent Lampert, an exorcist in the diocese of Indianapolis, said that with faith, we need not fear evil.
So curses are real… but they don’t have to harm you? I feel like that’s a trick question that still yields a wrong answer. Somehow.
Moving on. There’s a question about whether “burying a St. Joseph statue is an acceptable Catholic practice,” and everyone’s on the same page. It’s False. This is one of those silly superstitions that some Catholics do when they’re trying to sell a house, but it’s not religious and there’s nothing biblical about it. Then we get to Question #7:
(7) Praying the same short prayer over and over like a mantra is more superstitious than prayerful.
Yes. True. Of course it’s True. If you’re repeating a prayer over and over, it’s not like God suddenly hears you the 57th time. If repetition mattered, then what does it say about the Christian God that a single prayer didn’t work? Why can’t God hear the first one? For that matter, why do you even need to say a prayer at all? Shouldn’t it be enough for believers to just think about it?
Nope. Apparently we’re all wrong.
(7) Repeating a short prayer over and over connects you with God. Mantras not connecting with God but believing it has some power is occult.
Ah. You see, if it’s a True Prayer™, then repeating it ad nauseam is fine. If it’s anything else, repeating it is OF THE DEVIL.
After another question about how “knocking on wood” isn’t biblical, Question #9 asks about holy water.
(9) Holy water is only a symbol not something with power attached to it. If you treat it as having power, you are superstitious.
Ooooh, tricky. The correct answer is True. “Holy” water, which is just… water, is not special. There’s no power to it. But Catholics definitely believe in magical incantations that involve communion wafers and wine, so let’s go with False just to get a correct answer.
(9) Holy water blessed by a priest is blessed by God in virtue of Christ's baptism. The Catholic Church possesses the power to impart sacramental grace. Holy water as a sacramental receives its power through the prayer and authority of the Church.
Why can’t they just give a straightforward answer…? This response seems to want it both ways. It says the water is blessed… but only through the power of prayer and because the Church says so. Which is another way of saying it’s symbolic. Even though it all implies the answer is False (and not merely a symbol). Very confusing.
(10) Chalking a door with an Epiphany blessing is like placing a horseshoe over your door — both are simply symbols of protection.
I’ve never heard of chalking your door, but whatever the chalking involves, that’s gotta be superstitious, right?
Chalking your door means inscribing 23 + C + M + B + 23 in chalk over a doorway. It looks superstitious but it’s not. The letters represent the initials of the Magi — Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar — who came to visit Jesus. It is also an abbreviation of the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat: “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross, and the number at the beginning and the end mark the year.
What the hell. If that’s not superstitious, then nothing is superstitious. It’s just a string of numbers and letters. You can’t say horoscopes are evil, and throwing pennies in a wishing well is harmless fun, but then insist this Catholic code is legit!
Ultimately, they’re just picking and choosing which forms of bullshit to accept. There’s no logical consistency here. Some traditions are considered silly, while others are very, very serious. There’s no way of knowing which is which because it just depends on the last exorcist you talked to. If actual Catholics are trying to make sense of superstitions after this article, good luck to them when it comes to not angering their God.
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