Yay, Catholics win, Yay! — UPDATED

I have concluded that Max Lindenman’s job in life is to be faithfully irreverent. He does it brilliantly, and hilariously in this response to a review in the NY Times:

Keller must be paying too much attention to the Church’s cheering section — people like George Weigel (at the top) and Bill Donahue (at the bottom), who spill gallons of sweat and ink in defense of her good name. Well, it’s a living, I guess, but it’s never made any nevermind to me, nor, I suspect, to most Catholics. There’s real pride to be taken in knowing that even our screw-ups are epic and spectacular.

What’s the worst thing a fundie pastor’s ever done? Kiss another guy? Smoke some glass? Rip off the faithful? Junior varsity. Nickel and dime. Amateur hour. When one of our popes feels like living in infamy, he sells an entire hemisphere into slavery. That goes for their kids, too. You say Franklin Graham was a real hell-raiser? Cesare Borgia could have stolen his Harley and his girl, gotten his blue-tick hound in the family way, and carved “AUT CAESAR AUT NULLUS” in his forehead with a stiletto before Lucrezia finished pouring arsenic in his grits

Max Weber links the rise of the middle class to the emergence of the Calvinist work ethic. Historians and sociologists may dispute the point; what is indisputable is that scandals involving Protestant clergy are dreary and cheesy in a unmistakably middle-class way. Take the PTL thing. Jim Bakker makes a few million ripping off hayseeds and pays a quarter-million in hush money to a secretary who later becomes a Howard Stern regular. And what does he have to show for it? Heritage U.S.A. Not even PJ. O’Rourke had the heart to make fun of the guests there. As he put it, “it would be like hunting dairy cattle with a high-powered rifle.”

When we put our hand to shady direct-marketing campaigns, we get St. Peter’s, the Pieta and the Sistine Chapel. Game, set and match to us.

The boldest and best defenses of the church are the ones that thrust up the chin and say, “yeah, we’ve got our scandals, yeah, we’re imperfect fools administering a church that — were it not for the grace of the Holy Spirit — would have collapsed from our own folly and ambition centuries ago…so? That’s all you’ve got?”

UPDATE: And of course, only Max would call Malta Nantucket with flying skulls

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • CV

    Max is not always my cup of tea, but this column cracked me up. Funny stuff!

    It’s interesting that Keller (a self-described “collapsed Catholic”) along with the author of the pope book he was reviewing, clearly see themselves as intellectuals yet both are stuck on the notion that the truth of what the Church teaches has anything at ALL to do with the personal holiness of its members.

    Once I figured this out, it was a real revelation to me.

    Keller (who seems to love writing about his childhood faith even if he’s too smart for all that now) is going to have to expand his reading beyond the “bad pope”-type books if he’s ever to become “an adult in the faith,” as Pope Benedict would put it. I’m not optimistic.

    Pope Benedict retold a story in one of his books (God and the World, perhaps?) in which a non-Christian in the Middle Ages was on his way to Rome to convert to Catholicism. He told his plans to a fellow traveler who asked him something along the lines of, Why on Earth would you want to do that? Don’t you know about all the terrible things people in the Vatican are doing these days? The aspiring convert replied, yes I know all about it, people are doing terrible things there, but I’m going there to convert anyway. When asked why, he said, if the Church can survive in light of all that, it makes me all the more certain that Someone is holding the whole thing up!

    So I’m paraphrasing big time but you get the point :-)

  • Regina

    Max is absolutely positively laugh out loud funny!

  • boaz

    So, sin boldly?

  • nan

    Or don’t sin at all? HA!

  • Gregg the Obscure

    Not a Max fan either (I think he’d better fit the “progressive” section of Patheos), but no one’s fixed the glaring “smoke some glass”?

    [Max is quite a faithful Catholic; it is extremely distressing to me that so many Catholics are willing to make a decision about our fellows, stick a label on them and figure they know all about them and can ever-dismiss them as "that sort" of Catholic, or not as good a Catholic or the wrong sort of Catholic than you know..."better" Catholics. He's having some eye problems and likely didn't see the typo, which I missed, too. But thanks for the heads-up on it. I'll let him know. -admin]

  • Deb

    I love everything I’ve read by Max, he does something that very few Catholic writers can, make me laugh and think at the same time. Seriously, he is brilliant and thank you Elizabeth for introducing him to us when you had to travel.

  • James

    (Anchoress wrote – “it is extremely distressing to me that so many Catholics are willing to make a decision about our fellows, stick a label on them and figure they know all about them and can ever-dismiss them as “that sort” of Catholic, or not as good a Catholic or the wrong sort of Catholic than you know…”better” Catholics.”)

    This is where you completely lose me. (I’m not specifically referring to Max here) but a broad question in general: Are you asserting that there is no such thing as a heretic?

    Is a “catholic” who openly opposes The Church on matters such as gay-marriage, birth-control, abortion, women priests, masturbation….etc, a “good” Catholic, or a bad Catholic? And if we can’t label what is “bad”- then how can we possible recognize what is “good”?

    This “no labels” business smacks of the root cause of most of our societal ills. It is (I believe) the calling card of progressive moral relativism. Where am I wrong here?

    [Well, if believe I am either a progressive or a moral relativist, then you are quite wrong. You're getting caught up in a "no labels" movement and applying this to what I have said, which has nothing at all to do with that movement. In a way, you've actually demonstrated my concern. I used the world "labels" and you immediately associated that with something you distrust, and began to assign the worst possible motives to this. I appreciate, though, that you've actually said, "clarify" rather than calling me a name and stomping off, your mind all made up! :-) Look for a post on this subject, very soon, which will address that question. -admin]

  • Gregg the Obscure

    “Max is quite a faithful Catholic; it is extremely distressing to me that so many Catholics are willing to make a decision about our fellows, stick a label on them and figure they know all about them and can ever-dismiss them as “that sort” of Catholic, or not as good a Catholic or the wrong sort of Catholic than you know…”better” Catholics. ”

    Didn’t say he wasn’t a faithful Catholic. Didn’t mean to imply it either. Just meant that much of what he writes is from a perspective that seems very highly engaged with contemporary progressive ideas.

    [I apologize if I misunderstood you; my hatemail has been running high lately, and that may have colored my understanding. I still would not call Max a "progressive" though. More a work in progress, like the rest of us. -admin]

  • James

    Thank you for the reply Anchoress. I look forward to your upcoming post.

  • Emkay

    Max’s writing is often breathtaking. What gifts he has! What gifts he offers us, his readers! Thank you, Max and Anchoress Lizzie.


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