Religious Education Congress

Religious Education Congress March 19, 2014

So I didn’t get any fiction written last week; Jane got the flu, and then I spent Saturday (prime fiction-writing time) at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, which is the big yearly archdiocesan shindig here in Los Angeles.

“Congress,” as it is familiarly known, has a certain reputation for heterodoxy in the wider Catholic community, as indicated by a number of tweets I saw last Friday; but I’m pleased to say that the only Catholic heterodoxy I encountered personally was represented by the protestors for women’s ordination outside the convention center. They weren’t doing much, just sitting or standing there quietly; I never heard any of them say anything.

There was also a small group from some fundamentalist congregation or other (it wasn’t clear which, or what large group they might be associated with) who were haranguing the crowd about the evil of certain Catholic doctrines; they had video cameras and microphones and, peculiarly, two booms from which were hanging red-stained sanitary napkins. I imagine they were trying to provoke an angry reaction from the crowd, but the most I saw in response was a half-circle of twenty or so Catholics chanting “MA-RI-A! MA-RI-A!”

There was one lady—I don’t know what group she was with—who walked up and down the walkway outside the convention center calling out that she had “bi-lingual flyers”. She never said anything about what was on the fliers, and I still don’t know. She wasn’t wearing any kind of uniform, and I kind of figured that it was protest material of some sort.

But all of that was outside the convention center. I wasn’t disturbed by anything I saw or heard inside the doors. Mind you, I didn’t attend any of the liturgies (I arrived after the morning mass and headed home before the evening mass), so I don’t have any opinions about those. I only attended one talk, which was less interesting than I’d hoped, but there was nothing wrong with it. Fr. Barron, who I respect greatly, gave the keynote, and hit a home run from the commentary I’ve see on the ‘net.

Were there workshops with problematic content? Probably so, here and there; but I like what I’ve seen of Archbishop Gomez, and it can take a few years for a behemoth like Congress to change its course. The Archdiocese of L.A. is huge, and herding Catholics is worse than herding cats.

Be all that as it may…the main reason I went to Congress, other than to wander around the exhibition hall and look at books and tchotskes, was to spend time chatting with Lisa Hendey and Sarah Reinhard, who together were giving a couple of talks. Lisa is the driving force beyond CatholicMom, to which I contribute every month; Sarah’s sharing editorial duties with her these days, as well as blogging at SnoringScholar. I had the pleasure of meeting both of them at the Catholic New Media Conference in Dallas a couple of years ago, and as neither them of lives in L.A. (Sarah lives in a cornfield in Ohio) I jumped at the chance for a visit.

The Internet is a fascinating place; it’s amazing to me the number of friends I’ve acquired, all of who are fascinating to sit down and have a conversation with, that I’ve only every met a handful of times. I’m glad that I was able to increment that counter this past weekend.

In the meantime, writing shall continue; though I find that I might have to do something to flesh out that bit of Wodehouse/Lovecraft pastiche I posted on Saturday. There seems to be a deep unmet need there.

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