Christ the Despot?
They Only Love Me For My Advent Candles

"I'm a devout Catholic..."

I've come to expect that when I hear someone say this it will be followed by something dumb and probably nasty about the Church. Nancy Pelosi delivers. Pelosi strikes me as one of the more odious politicians around, and there's a lot of competition. 

I don't think I've ever heard an actual devout Catholic say "I'm a devout Catholic." They might say "committed" or "staunch," which describe their intention to be faithful, or "orthodox" or "progressive" to describe their theology. But "I'm devout" is similar to "I'm humble," at least in my experience of the word. You don't say it if you are it.


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Well now, this is interesting because I'm going to say about the same thing here that I just said on the other thread. I think that when I was growing up, Catholics used that phrase all the time. I'm not sure that they gave any thought, really, to exactly what "devout" meant, but what they meant was that they went to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days and said the Rosary and didn't eat meat on Friday. I'm sure that it wasn't overly pious or anything, or akin to saying, "I'm humble." It was just common parlance.

Now, I'm not going to defend the horrible things that Pelosi does and says, but I do think that she probably grew up hearing that phrase used all the time and doesn't even think about what it means too much.

I do agree with you, though, that nowadays that phrase is generally followed by something dumb and nasty about the Church.


I guess mine is the perspective of the post-culture-wars convert. I wasn't around Catholics at all until the Cuomos, Kungs, were using their public position as Catholics to undermine the Church. I think I first noticed the "I'm a devout Catholic..." pattern was a few years ago when The Da Vinci Code was the big controversy. "I'm a devout Catholic, and this book is the truth."

Another phrase that often precedes something obnoxious is "I went to Catholic school..." "I went to Catholic school for 12 years, and I know Catholics worship Mary."

Gee. I didn't know "devout" was loaded like that. I use it matter of factly and can't think of a time it preceeded an criticism of anything Catholic. I do remember it preceeding something like just today "...and I would have voted for the referendum in Mississippi. I think we are human at conception and I think it's the state's role to defend all human's rights.

Well, maybe it's just my experience. Though I'm pretty sure I've heard other people remark on it.

For me the phrase ("devout Catholic") has connotations similar to what Mac describes. I've heard it used of a third party ("He's a devout Catholic") without anything in particular being implied other than that the person in question goes to church, etc. I've had people ask me, "Are you devout?" I'm never quite sure what to say. Answering "yes" feels, as Mac says, a little like answering "yes" to "Are you humble?" It doesn't feel right. It's like I'm claiming too much. Thinking of the saints, I sometimes answer, "Compared to who?" That is probably not helpful though.

Very interesting, as you and I are both converts and Janet & Dave are cradle Catholics. The word definitely carries a connotation of virtue for me, not just practice. I don't think I've ever been asked whether I'm devout, but I think my first response would be laughter, and my second would be the same as yours, or something like "I'm working on it." Or maybe the ever-handy "Depends on what you mean by..."

Yeah, I think it's really just a matter of it meaning something totally different to pre-Vatican II Catholics.


Maybe it has something to do with St. Francis de Sales.


Who has probably not been read nearly as much since 1970 or so.

From The Moviegoer "My mother is a Catholic, what is called in my aunt's circle a "devout Catholic," which is to say only that she is a practicing Catholic since I do not think she is devout.

I don't know why it entered my head to Google-devout catholic Walker Percy--but anyway, this is the way that I mean that Catholics used that term.


Sorry about missing those closing quotation marks.


That was a strange thing to go looking for. Very informative, though.:-)

I was trying to think of a writer who might have used that term. Hit it first time.


My sentiments are identical to Maclin's although I can believe there have been other times and places where the word was used in a straight forward way meaning practicing or committed. I normally just say I'm Catholic but sometimes add practicing.

I agree with Mac. I'm a cradle Catholic but born after Vatican II.

"I'm a devout Catholic..." engenders in me the same anticipation of contradiction as does "No offense, but...."

I'm not disagreeing with that at all, I'm just saying that when someone older that's a cradle Catholic says that, they mean something other than what you would mean.


In other words:


Yeah, but what does it mean? :-)

'the same anticipation of contradiction as does "No offense, but...."'


You're all quite right about "devout" claiming too much. Normally when I use it, I am speaking to people who would not value devotion very highly. My intention is never to say I am holier than they and I think I make that clear. My intention is simply to let them know who I am, plainly and concisely, in a way that they'll understand.

In this crowd, I would not make such a claim.

Don't worry, I never would have thought you were being holier-than-thou.

It just struck me that if someone asked "Are you devout?" then I would certainly demure in much the same way as y'all mention. In that case, the audience could be presumed to care about such things and then I'd want to answer in a way that they would not misunderstand.

The objectivists you had here some years ago struck me as a bit holier than thou, but otherwise I'm confident no one here would think that of anyone else here. It's trickier to avoid that while speaking to more secular folks while trying to be truthful about my own faith.

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