Got an email from someone asking me to respond to this rant by Maureen Dowd, about the horrible, rotten, no-good, very bad, “un-catholic” Church.
Dowd has demonstrated that she really doesn’t understand much about Catholicism and its unending, beautifully nuanced and constant move toward God’s ever-present “Yes” — a fundamentally sophisticated and paradoxical means toward true freedom. As with many other issues, she has completely bought into the arrested-adolescent perspective, which can only perceive the church as a numbing “no.” Since Dowd is unwilling to plumb the depths of the church in order to seek out its richness, there are absolutely no surprises in the piece, and I was ready to push it aside until she hauled out Mario Cuomo, as she is wont to do from time-to-time.
Just as Nancy Pelosi recently (and badly) tried to give talking points to Catholics who support gay marriage, nearly 30 years ago Cuomo helped give Catholic politicians and pundits cover and talking points to assist in their dissent on abortion. Now, Dowd was turning to Cuomo again, looking for something cleverer and less ham-handed than Pelosi’s try. Cuomo served up this:
“If the church were my religion, I would have given it up a long time ago,” he said. “All the mad and crazy popes we’ve had through history, decapitating the husbands of women they’d taken. All the terrible things the church has done. Christ is my religion, the church is not.
Oh, heavens, Mario, when did you start channeling Anne Rice? You’re running on the cheap and inefficient fuel of emotionalism, here! There is not a church man or church woman alive — including, I would wager, Pope Benedict XVI — who would not agree that if the institutional church were not surviving by the grace of the Holy Spirit it would have long-sinced ceased to be, because its human administrators have always been faulty, sinful, broken but redeemed people. But to say “Christ is my religion, the church is not,” is both ignorant and laughably self-serving. As then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan has recently and ably demonstrated Jesus and the Church are One:
Saul, the raging persecutor of the followers of Jesus, literally “knocked off his high horse” by the radiance of Jesus, the “light of the world,” transformed into a passionate apostle of Christ and His new Church, whom we now venerate as St. Paul.
And what question does Jesus bellow out to the shocked Saul? “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Parse that very carefully. Saul, of course, has been harassing the Church, killing the followers of Jesus.
Yet, note well: Jesus does not inquire, “Why are you persecuting my Church” or “my people” or “my followers.” No! The Lord asks, “Why are you persecuting me?”
Get it? The Lord is saying, “You hurt my Church, you hurt me. The Church and I are one.”
Dowd, emboldened by her chat with Cuomo, tries for her own smackdown, and to read it is to laugh until one’s sides hurt:
Absolute intolerance is always a sign of uncertainty and panic. Why do you have to hunt down everyone unless you’re weak? The church doesn’t seem to care if its members’ beliefs are based on faith or fear, conviction or coercion. But what is the quality of a belief that exists simply because it’s enforced?
The last part is simply banal sophistry — of course the church cares that its members beliefs are based on faith, but in a faith that is understood in its fullness; whether the church succeeds in teaching its fullness is a very valid question — if Dowd is an example, the answer must be “no” — but on the other hand, in order to be taught anything in its fullness, one must be willing to actually hear a lesson, and absorb it enough to repeat it back with some accuracy; that cannot be done if one is inclined to a kneejerk “la-la-la, I can’t year you” over its often subtle points. But it’s the first part of that quote that killed me: “Absolute intolerance is always a sign of uncertainty and panic. Why do you have to hunt down everyone, unless you’re weak?”
Gosh, Maureen, I agree with you! that intolerance is sign of weakness, and that hunting down part — that’s a question I’ve wondered myself. Since you’re so well connected, perhaps you could ask it for me? Ask Ms. Steinem and Ms. Fonda, please, why free speech should not be tolerated by some; ask some college groups why a free expression of opinion is so unendurable to them that they will steal newspapers rather than allow others to read it; ask this teacher why her students are not allowed to criticize “this” president.; ask Bev Perdue why “some” elections should be suspended; ask Eric Holder why governments should force churches to give up their right to define ministers or ministry; ask President Obama why churches should be coerced into betraying their own consciences; ask why churches must conform to the lights of mere men or face consequences. Ask the people who know everything how come they can’t “tolerate” hearing someone refer to their spouse as a “husband” or a “wife”.
Dowd throws one more quote into her mix:
“To be narrowing the discussion and instilling fear in people seems to be exactly the opposite of what’s called for these days,” says the noted religion writer Kenneth Briggs. “All this foot-stomping just diminishes the church’s credibility even more.”
It’s just too funny, that’s all. The church forces no one into her pews and dares to claim the right to be who she is and to practice her faith and her mission, as guaranteed her under the Constitution, and this “diminishes her credibility.”
Yes, she’d be much more credible if she recanted her teachings of the past 2000 years, if she said, “hey, all that stuff we’ve always taught about chastity, divorce, abortion, and all that? Yeah, none of that really matters.” She’d be more credible if only she conformed to the deconstructionists who would have her teach the passing times to the faith, rather than teach the eternal faith to the times.
Dowd concludes by giving her imprimatur on the coming formation of the Catholic Church of America:
This is America. We don’t hunt heresies here. We welcome them.
Well….apparently Mo Dowd and her folk don’t welcome political heresy,…but the Catholic kind? They love it.
Walker Percy could not have written it more precisely.
Re the Pauline Kael-ish “Here comes nobody”: Well, Not quite