Friday, April 1, 2011

The one deadly sin you can't hide

Your humble blogger, Halloween 2009. Yikes.

Over at Catholic Exchange, I just finished reading Mark Shea's post "It's Time You People Confronted Your Obesophobia", which I will swear has been published before but is worth the revisit. Not three minutes after I clicked out of that page, I came across Fr. Jay Toborowski's entry in Young Fogeys, "Is this an 'Oprah moment'?"

Okay, yeah ... I'm fat, too. Say what you will about gluttony, it's the one deadly sin you can't keep secret for very long.

Now, recently the Chicago Sun-Times ran a story on a study done out at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine linking regular church attendance to obesity. The lead investigator, Matthew Feinstein, did note however that "the study’s results shouldn’t be a cause for alarm because previous studies have shown that regular churchgoers tend to smoke less, have better mental health and live longer than those who don’t go to church."

I can't afford to be an atheist ... I already smoke a pack and a half a day.

As of now, the researchers aren't sure why there's a link between church attendance and obesity. Kevin Knight at New Advent has already suggested the answer: Buddhists don't have Sunday potlucks. And LarryD at Acts of the Apostasy mulled: "...  [Y]ou've got Lenten Fish Fries, donuts after Sunday Mass, funeral luncheons, bake sales ... hmmm. Maybe there is something to this study after all." 

What we don't have? Pole dancing for Jesus. Frankly, all the standing, sitting and kneeling we do at Mass isn't an efficient cardio workout, so we can skip the "Catholic calisthenics" jokes here.

Who do we invoke as a patron saint? A quick check doesn't pull anybody specifically marked for obesity. However, there is St. Ubald of Gubbio (obsessive-compulsive disorders), as well as St. Paulina (diabetes — type 2 is often triggered by obesity). Or, if you're really having trouble with the diet and exercise, there are Ss. Rita of Cascia and Jude (lost or impossible causes).

G. K. Chesterton said it better, but here goes: Given what we believe about the presence of sin in the world, it would be nothing short of miraculous if the membership of the Catholic Church only comprised saints. We wouldn't be the largest church in the world ... we would be the smallest. The only church without sinners is an empty church. "The Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do."

At the end of the day, the race to sainthood isn't an individual event but a team sport. Not only do we need God's help, we need the help of other people who are also struggling to cross the line. If you wait until you're perfect to help out, you never will: helping out is part of the perfecting process.


  1. "I can't afford to be an atheist ... I already smoke a pack and a half a day."

    OK, I'm sitting down to do some work I've been putting off, with my one cup of coffee dreading the day...and I just busted up laughing when I read this. Thank you from grouchy sinner Stacy!

  2. (Disclaimer: I'm fifty pounds overweight myself.)

    This is a weighty matter indeed. But the straight skinny on it is that carrying extra poundage doesn't automatically exclude you from Heaven. Case in point: The Dumb OX aka St. Thomas Aquinas. He didn't get that nickname from being a Bony Maroni type.

    Obesity as a problem isn't confined to our church or nation, in fact it girdles the globe. Even Saudi Arabia is seeing an increase in Type 2 diabetes on a previously unseen scale.

    Gluttony IS still recognized as a cardinal sin, but IMO if we beef up our prayer lives, gorge our souls on the sacraments and hold fast to the Catechism we'll eventually squeeze through the Pearly Gates.

    Even if it takes St. Peter greasing up the posts and hanging a Twinkie on the other side.

    Just my opinion, thats a fat.

  3. @ Stacy: Glad I could help.

    @ Subvet: I'm sure you missed a pun or two there, but I can't think what they were. Probably because my brain is fried, giving me a glazed look in my eyes. But your comment was the icing on the cake!

  4. Subvet -

    "Even if it takes St. Peter greasing up the posts and hanging a Twinkie on the other side."

    You know you're in heaven when you see the twinkies! They are heaven scent, right?


    Seriously though, it is a problem. My Church has a 'light weigh' program that is very successful.

    I do think there is something to what Larry D said about the social gatherings and food. People who don't go to Church are too busy worshiping themselves while the Church goers are too busy living in a community with God. Hmm.... I think I'll take the obesity any day!

  5. I know what you mean, VJ, though there is an argument to be made for keeping the body fit as a "temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 6:19-20). It's one of those "balance" things, though: which is worse, vanity or gluttony?

  6. I was in the middle of writing a post for my blog about the spiritual aspect of my decision to lose weight. I Googled' "obesity, sin, Catholic" and found your post.

    I have two thoughts on potential patrons for those of us who are overweight: St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Pope John XXIII. There is some debate about whether or not St Thomas was obese, but there is no question that Pope John was. I have chosen him to intercede for me in my fight to get fit. Not to look good, but to be healthier so I can serve Him better.

  7. Thanks for suggesting Bl. J23, Don.

    I noticed you're from Carrollton; I've only been in Denton 5 years. Seems to me the biggest obstacle to svelteness is Babe's Fried Chicken. Surely a trap set for us by Satan! :^)=)