A reader is concerned that Patti Smith will do a concert at the Vatican

A reader is concerned that Patti Smith will do a concert at the Vatican November 20, 2014

She writes:

Now I know this is written from a charmingly anti-Catholic perspective–and that indeed the whole intent of this piece is to smear Catholicism–but I have to point this out as a tiny smidge of why certain Catholics are reacting to the Pope the way they are. There’s just no reason to have Patti Smith performing at the Vatican….although the facts on this should be checked to see if this really is a Vatican sponsored concert.

It’s a prudential and aesthetic call, not a moral one. A tradition that has room to honor a great artist like Caravaggio, even though he was a murderer, is a tradition that has room for Patti Smith.

I, for one, am glad that we don’t have to have our tastes dictated by American Puritans whose highest achievements in the arts are Precious Moment figurines.

Beyond that, I think two things are important to keep in mind:

1. This really is an actual, real prudential judgment that people can disagree about. I’m not especially big on punk and Smith has never been my cup of tea. But at the same time, I recognize that many people consider her a great artist. Given that prudential judgment is precisely that place where Catholics can differ without questioning the quality of their faith, I operate on the principle “In essential things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.” After wrestling for years with Catholics who tried to argue that torture was a “prudential judgment” when in fact it is and always will be a mortal sin, I’m rather enjoying the sensation of having a genuine bona fide prudential judgment to argue about. And though my reader, whom I know, absolutely would not stand for a second for the torture excuse-making, I am very well aware that many who thought nothing of blowing off the use of torture as something we should all agree to disagree about would also treat this completely prudential judgment as though it is somehow indicative of heresy. Such gnat/camel inversions are increasingly common in conservative spheres. They should stop.

2. I again regard this as a net win from the perspective of evangelism. Smith famously once sang that Jesus did not die for her sins. Now she sings “O Holy Night” with conviction and does so in the presence of the Successor of Peter. I see that as an opportunity, not a problem; a step forward for her, not a step back for the Church; a softening of her heart, not a softening of the Church’s head.

Update: A reader sends along this interview with Smith. I’m impressed. Clearly, she is a seeker:

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