Self-described way-devoted super-Catholics and the press

Self-described way-devoted super-Catholics and the press March 2, 2013

I already used this YouTube as art in a post last week but it really fits for this story. Really fits. In the clip above, Lutheran Satire makes fun of the type of “Catholic” used by the media in stories about the Roman Catholic Church.

Somehow this video was stripped of satire, transformed into print and placed directly onto the pages of the Washington Post. It’s uncanny.

You can watch the video above but some people had trouble hearing the dialogue, so I’ll sum up and quote from it. The premise is that we’re watching “the latest edition of everybody’s favorite ecclesiastical game show Choose Your Pope: the game where bishops compete for the right to be selected the supreme pontiff by a representative from the uneducated court of public opinion.”

The contestant is Kaylee McMurphy:

A recent college graduate, Kaylee earned a BA in Advanced Feng-Shui Marketing. A self-described way-devoted super-Catholic, Kaylee has attended mass almost 7 times — therefore making her opinions on the theological direction of the Catholic church entirely valid and perfectly worthy of public attention.

The contestants are Cardinals Ouellet, Turkson and Scola.

McMurphy: “Question #1: Since I have absolutely no interest in knowing the scriptural and historical reasons for the male only priesthood, and since my Religious Worldviews in the Feminist Paradigm professor told me that, like, five of the apostles were totally women, I think the Catholic Church is finally ready for women priests. You guys agree, right?”

Ouellet: “No.”
Turkson: “No.”
Scola: “No.”

McMurphy: “Whatever. Question #2: Like most devout Catholic women who don’t go to Mass and don’t believe anything the Church says, I use birth control because babies are a lot of work and my boyfriend and I totally need to re-tile our master bathroom. That’s cool with you guys, right?”

Ouellet: “No.”
Turkson: “No.”
Scola: “No.”

McMurphy: “You guys are lame. Question #3: I like the aesthetics of the Catholic Church but don’t like its theology. I support no-fault divorce, abortion rights, gay marriage, gender-neutral language, and think that it’s mean to criticize Islam. I couldn’t be more of a liberal Episcopalian if Katherine Jefferts-Schiori formed me from the dust from the ground, and yet I still inexplicably identify myself as a Catholic.”

Ouellet: “Is there a question coming any time soon?”

McMurphy: “Unless you want to be elected bishop of misogyny, don’t interrupt me! My question is this: even though my utter indifference towards the church that perfectly represents my theology clearly reveals that there’s no way that I’ll ever come back to the Catholic faith, you guys will still cast aside your vows to be faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church unto death and uproot 2000 years of tradition in a pathetic attempt to woo me, right?”

Ouellet: “No.”
Turkson: “No.”
Scola: “No.”

McMurphy: “Well then, I’m not picking any of you guys to be pope.”

Turkson: “That’s OK, since you don’t actually get a vote.”

McMurphy: “Will the Catholic Church’s war on women ever end?”

OK, so the Washington Post “Style” (sigh) section has a piece today featuring Kaylee and her friends! A group of women just as devoted to the church of Rome is playing a board game called Choose Your Pope! Vatican: Unlock the Secrets of How Men Become Pope. And their manner of play is going to sound very familiar to folks who watched the above video. The Post tut-tuts along with the women playing the game that the enclave is “100 percent male and 100 percent wrinkled.” They talk a lot about needing to have female priests, and trying to send pink smoke bombs to the Vatican, and how awful Catholic teaching is on … well, everything.

Here’s a completely typical section of the story:

“I was driving to work when I first heard the pope had resigned, and I literally swerved my car.” Before the pope party, [Kate Childs] Graham — short hair, glasses, 28 — talks a little about her faith.

She loves being Catholic. She was raised Catholic. She went to Catholic University. She and her partner, Ariana, were married by an ex-nun, and their toddler, Asher, was baptized in a Catholic church.

Still, it’s a struggle and a cognitive disconnect to love something so deeply that sometimes seems not to love her back. She was devastated when the bishops of Maryland — her adopted home state — banded together last fall to oppose same-sex marriage.

“Seems not to love her back.” Excuse me? Other than showing us what a sad, contradictory and narrow view of love the Post has, this is entirely inappropriate campaign rhetoric for a newspaper to engage in, even if it’s in the juvenile Style section.

Also, is someone thinking about how difficult the next month is going to be for some of the journalists weighing in on covering the papal enclave? I worry about how they’re going to handle the news that the next pope really will be not just male, but also Catholic.

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26 responses to “Self-described way-devoted super-Catholics and the press”

  1. One of the schadenfreudesque jokes making the rounds in the Catholic blogosphere is a wish for Cardinal Turkson to be elected Pope, to then watch a good fraction of journalists jump the shark as they will not be able to reconcile all their arsenal of stereotypes that they would apply to the Cardinal. Have not seen any serious suggestions that this is a good reason to elect Turkson, but agree that if he is elected, you GR folk should make a big bowl of popcorn and get a front row seat for the subsequent spectacles.

    While it is somewhat disconcerting to see (and anticipate) so much hackery, at least the cat is out of the bag now… Bill Keller admitted last year that they jettison objectivity for the sake of their intended audience, and just recently WaPo admitted they jettison objectivity for the sake of WaPo.

    • The piece above had this choice related paragraph:

      Shortly after Benedict announced his resignation, she polled several friends in the progressive Catholic movement on what qualities they’d hope to see in a new pope. She turned these thoughts into an article for the National Catholic Reporter: They wanted someone who was willing to open Vatican decision making to new voices. Someone who was transparent. Someone who was open to dialogue on controversial issues such as sexuality and gender. A non-white man would be nice, to force European and North American Catholics to look beyond their positions of privilege.

      • Oh, God forgive me for vindictiveness, but I would love if she got her wish. A non-white man to be the next pope – like Cardinal Turkson, or Cardinal Tagle, or the Patriarchs of the Coptic and Maronite Churches, or Cardinal Dias of India. or any of the others.

        I very much would love to see that happen, and then see the heads spinning when the new, non-white, non-European pope does not make wholesale changes along the lines of dumping the teachings of the Church and adopting the “here’s what you should do” lists created by the white, middle-class, European and North American media. They certainly couldn’t approve of that, but on the other hand, any criticism along the lines of being mediaeval or backwards or tribal would be construed as racism and white privilege. The cognitive dissonance would be visible from space.

  2. “Whoever the new pope is, he will have been selected by an electorate that is 100 percent male and 100 percent wrinkled. ”

    Since the group of women in the article were described as “20 and 30-somethings”, does that mean that even if there were women cardinals with a vote at the conclave, they would also have to pass an age-test? Nobody over 40 please, you’re too ancient! (Er, has anyone told Sally Quinn – 72 next birthday – that she should scrap her “On Religion” gig for the “Washington Post” as her employers think she’s past it to be opining on spiritual matters?)

    Yes, how unlike the Board of the Directors at the “Washington Post” the College of Cardinals is! The WaPo board is not 100% male, merely 82% (rounding off 9 out of 11 directors) male. They have a whole two women (one of whom is the great-granddaughter of the man who bought the Post back in the 30s, but far be it from me to suggest nepotism or the likes!)

    And their ages range from a sprightly 72 to a positively infantile 47 (two of the directors, both male, and both younger males at that, were very coy about giving their year of birth and I couldn’t find it online in the quick search I did). Take that, aged cardinals who have to be under 80 to vote! Only some of you could have a seat on the board!

    I had to laugh at the description of the “small group of faithful Catholics”. How do we know these ladies are devout and devoted? Is it their mantillas, the extra decades of the Rosary they say during Lent, the three-times a week fasting? Don’t be silly! It’s the woman who loves being Catholic so much, “She and her partner, Ariana, were married by an ex-nun”. You can’t get more Catholic than that, can you?

    And the woman who wins the pope game and wishes to take the regnal name of Dorothy, after Dorothy Day. You know, the same Dorothy Day who wrote in a diary entry for 1978:

    “It is good to see the winter months slip by. First glimmer of sun was at 7:40 a.m. on the window panes across the street, and on the pigeons flying past my window. Reading St. Ignatius of Antioch on submission to bishops prompted a breakfast discussion on obedience. One of us said she would move to another diocese (if told to close the Worker). I said I would obey, thinking of “man’s first disobedience.” The Lord would straighten things out, I am sure.”

    Yes, there we can see the radical social justice feminist firebrand Dorothy Day striking a blow for equality and empowerment of the laity in a hypothetical exercise of conscience by boldly defying the hierarchy and, er, bowing to their wishes in a spirit of filial obedience.

    Just today I read this post by Elizabeth Scalia about a forthcoming editorial to be published in a major U.S. newspaper, which asked her for a brief rebuttal of the points that would be made, and she gave her reasons why she wouldn’t do it. Mollie, your post here on yet another sample of the kind of coverage in the mainstream press has me fascinated to know what paper it might be, and who they might get to replace the Anchoress – if they bother to get a replacement at all!

  3. One of the many complaints we Mormons have to deal with is the fact that the senior leadership – the First Presidency and the Apostles – are all white. People accuse us of covert racism because of it, and constantly demand that we appoint a minority as soon as possible.

    Thing is, they almost inevitably fail to consider just who happens to be in charge.

    President Thomas S. Monson? A peacemaker most notable for his sense of humor.

    First Counselor Henry B. Eyring? A quiet scholar who followed his famous physicist father into academia.

    Second Counselor Dieter F. Uchtdorf? A gentle man who serves as a living success story (he went from “born on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain” to “corporate vice president” before accepting his position) and who uses his time as a pilot to help craft analogies.

    In other words, we have men notable for their calmness and peaceful natures leading the church in what is, I think most of you will agree, a rather turbulent time. So while they might not be politically correct, they have the attributes and competencies needed for their positions.

    So it is with the Papacy. JPII was the world’s Pope in that, no matter what your religion, he did his best to try and reach you in order to find both common ground and an acceptable moral standard for the planet. Benedict did what he could to clean house and initiate needed reforms; if he was a decade younger, then he could have easily seen everything through. Hopefully, the next Pope will also be a man selected for his qualifications and not just his skin color. Either way, I wish this person the best of luck.

  4. Posts like this are starting to feel like you are setting up strawmen liberal Catholics. There were intellectuals within the Catholic Church who saw possibilities in Vatican II and have been disappointed by the direction things turned under the last two popes with respect to that Council. Are there any articles that you can highlight that lay out those frustrations seriously and in a balanced way? Or done in an imbalanced way that you can provide context for? I’m just not learning a heck of a lot with more pot shots against Sally and the Style gang. I want to hear about Kung and Rahner and John 23, etc.

    • Here’s the thing. JPII and B16 actually both did follow the documents of Vatican II. The problem is, the dissenters within the Church, with the secular media as their willing accomplice, promulgated this mysterious and ridiculous “Spirit of Vatican II” nonsense that became a poison within the Church. Thankfully, the purging has begun and will continue.

      Please read the actual documents of Vatican II, instead of what the media and Church dissenters tell you about them. You’ll find they’re all in line with the coherent, consistent teaching of the Church for the past 2,000 years.

    • But that’s the trouble, Ben. The majority of articles and editorials and columns are all on the level of “Next Pope Must Be Western Liberal” because they’re written by those more accustomed to turning out articles on “What Shade of Red Should Your Lipstick Be?”.

      They’re not interested in the theology or the documents of the Council or the currents of Augustinian versus Thomist thought; they operate on the level of “Next pope should be non-European because surely a guy from Africa, South America or Asia will agree with us that contraception is not just okay but vital since there are too many of those black and brown folk who are cluttering up the planet”.

      I’d love to see a piece quoting Hans Kung’s theology, not just “Hans Kung thinks the church has failed since Vatican II” and not telling us why he thinks that.

  5. Why did the Post pick these women?

    I think it’s because liberal voices make a more interesting consumable for liberals – and conservatives. The idiosyncratic, the paradoxical, voice (Catholic in this case), is reassuring reading for everyone – and therefore also suitable for the Style section – because their opinions invariably make us self-conscious, and we chatter amongst ourselves. It’s precisely because nobody can imagine how a practicing lesbian, married by an ex-nun, could be in “love” with the Catholic church, that makes liberals sympathetic and conservatives defensive – which is, for lack of a better term, “newsworthy”.

    On the other hand, listening to a bunch of practicing Catholics (or Lutherans..) take the Pope seriously is NOT reassuring reading for anyone; it’s aloof inside-baseball at best, and will seem discordant and earnest at least – and taking serious people seriously seems to violate a certain skepticism newspapers think they practice. The Post goes to absurd lengths to seek the opinions of absurd people on all things religion, and I think this is not just because of partisanship. I bet their web page analytics would tell the rest of the story. Conservatives don’t want to listen to people like themselves; I think they enjoy the salaciousness of being contradicted enough to keep coming back.

    • Well, perhaps Patrick is right and conservatives don’t want to have people who share their views represented substantially in news stories. If so, that’s a good thing for them, because if they indeed “enjoy the salaciousness of being contradicted,” they make out fine. If they want to hear from people like themselves, however, they are usually out of luck, unless they have the patience to follow the jump and read to the last few grafs of the story. I do have one question, though. What do liberals do who “enjoy the salaciousness of being contradicted”? It’s certain they don’t subscribe to the Times or the Post, or watch the major networks. No contradictions are ever offered up to satisfy their desires there.

    • Patrick, I look forward to the “Style” section featuring a selection of meat-eating vegetarians (who are PETA to say who is and is not a vegetarian, and that you can’t be an angler and be a member?), organic farmers who use artificial pesticides and intensive cultivation (those pesky Soil Association rules about who is entitled to use the certification mark are just denying them their rights to be represented as organic farmers), Yellow Dog Democrats who have voted the straight Republican ticket since they were of age to exercise their franchise, and Haredi Jewish men who have not been circumcised or seen the inside of a synagogue, well, ever but they’re pretty sure their granny came from the Old Country.

  6. The possibilities some within the Church saw respecting Vatican II were fantasies. The Catholic Church was not going to become another liberal protestant denomination in thrall to the gospel according to the New York Times. As noted above, the texts of the Council simply don’t support an Episcopalian version of Catholicism.

    And yes, it’s fun to read people who disagree with me, since it’s sharpens the wit. But that presumes serious adult discussion, not the silly juvenile fluff the Post gives us.

  7. Though, on mature reflection, I think this story does the women no favours. Why do I think that?

    Because it recounts how some of them wanted to send pink smoke bombs to the Vatican, but they gave up because it was just too hard.

    And these are the ones who want to institute a new regime of social justice affecting billions globally? They haven’t even got the perseverance of the mentally-troubled types who manage to send letterbombs or even just packets with suspicious white powder through the post? No, our capable, smart, progressive future-leaders of the world were stymied by having to send a package through a special delivery service!

    WaPo Style section, I salute you. You’ve made them sound even sillier than they made themselves.

  8. I think this merely proves that certain large segments of the MSM are actually beyond parody. Not unlike Joe Biden.


  9. I think this merely proves that certain large segments of the MSM are actually beyond parody.


  10. The story wasn’t nearly as funny as the video. Before reading, I was quite interested to see how the author would incorporate such severe satire into a news piece. The board game foil is, somewhat similar in character, but totally misses the video’s razored edge: is it mocking Catholics or liberal Catholics themselves? If the news article would have been much stronger if it had taken at least one dig at the perils of self-righteousness. Instead it comes across as a huge agenda piece.

    Balance isn’t made from the sum of news stories, it is made from balance within each story. I always worry that post-modernism’s influence has helped many people to forget that distinction (or rationalize it away).

  11. Sorry for the double posts, folks. I’m continuing to periodically get the “we couldn’t post your comment. Maybe it was too short?” error message. Apparently in this case it was erroneous in addition to irritating.


    • I wish to complain about the blatant sexism and misogyny demonstrated by the Patheos blog comment regulation system, as evidenced in the preferential treatment John M. gets when he tries to post.

      He gets told his comments are too short – in other words, “Keep speaking, male person, we want more of your insight and wisdom”. I get told I’m posting too quickly and to slow down – in other words, “Shut up woman and go back to the kitchen!”

      Unfair, unjust and biased! Does the “Washington Post” know Patheos is doing this?


  12. Actually, the mainstream press tends to do a lousy job of covering the Catholic left, as well. All too often the theological views on that side of the aisle are crunched down into mere liberal politics, which isn’t really fair.

    Your GetReligionistas — since the day we opened nearly a decade ago — have been calling for more press attention the DOCTRINAL CONTENT of the religious left, Catholic and otherwise. Liberal Catholics deserve accurate and balanced coverage, as well.

  13. Did anybody else get the impression from the WaPo article that the idea of Mary as co-redeemer was “liberal” and feminist? I thought that was Catholic doctrine.

  14. Thanks for the transcript. These old ears can’t keep up with people who speak at warp speed. Did you mean to leave out question 4?

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