Perhaps the two most absurd things I hear from the Paladins of Family and Life at St. Blogs are these:
1. It was “scandalous” that a Catholic writer should tell a bawdy joke about a thrice-married, draft-dodging strip club owner who brags that his years of dodging sexually transmitted diseases were his “personal Vietnam” as he stands next to his porn star wife and poses for pictures with his Playboy cover shoot proudly framed on the wall behind him, fondly recalling the fact that he is the first presidential candidate ever to boast about the size of his male member during a national debate.
2. That said “scandal” was so awful because, good golly, what will those tender souls looking at the Catholic Church and considering conversion think if they discover that Catholics use rude language in making fun of Trump?
Please. The *only* people who care about this trivial prudery are a small but influential group of Puritanized Catholics, and that only because the butt of the joke was the Republican candidate they have convinced themselves is a rough new Constantine who will deliver them from Hillary, ISIS, teh Gayz, and abortion. The same people hyperventilating over Simcha’s Scandalous Bad Words are people who think “Trump That Bitch” t-shirts are HIGHlarious and circulate jokes on FB about Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades and Michelle Obama being transgender (yeah, that’s apparently a real thing in the fever swamps of the Right). (Personal Fave Moment from last week: Reader writing to the effect that “Shea’s bad language just shows what a piece of shit he is” and a blogger denouncing Simcha as a “whore” because she told a bawdy joke. Irony deficiency is a serious health issue in America.)
Meanwhile, here’s reality: I’ve been having conversations about the Faith with non-Catholics, some of them atheists, who are quite interested in learning more and reading guys like Chesterton and Benedict. Serious folks trying to come to grips with gospel. Not once have I ever met a non-Catholic who has had the vapors and reached for their fainting couch over a bawdy joke. There simply is no “scandal” about Simcha’s (or my) use of Naughty Words.
There has however, been great scandal over the firing of Simcha Fisher. And by scandal I do not “offended Puritan sensibilities among control freaks” (which is not scandal at all), but scandal in the biblical sense: a stumbling block thrown before the feet of the weak which tempts them to abandon following Jesus Christ.
When Good Prolife Catholics so distort their faith as to vengefully rejoice when a good and faithful Catholic mother of ten has food taken out of the mouths of her children, that’s a scandal–a stumbling block to those with shaky faith and those who are trying to understand what the Faith is all about. It is that, not a bit of earthy humor, that has, in the actual event, prompted unbelievers to say, “What the hell? Screw that!” and shaky believers to write me that they were contemplating leaving the Church. It is an even greater scandal that the response of the Righteous to such expressions of scandal from decent people is not, “Wait! Don’t go! Let’s talk!” but “Good riddance! Who needs you!”
To people who offer such responses to the scandalized, our Lord’s words on millstone neckties are worth contemplating. Because you are offering not the scandal of the gospel, but merely human shibboleths and human traditions as excuses for turning the Church into your private club.
To those outside the Church looking in and those inside the Church struggling with their Faith, I beg you, “Please do not let this teapot tempest turn you from pursuing Jesus Christ in his Holy Church. All such ugliness toward Simcha demonstrates is that the Church is composed of sinners and blockheads. It demonstrates the truth, not the falsity, of the gospel’s charge that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And it means precisely nothing about the falsity of Jesus’ claim to be the way, the truth, and the life. The Church is a hospital for sinners and that hospital contains a psych ward full of people who imagine they are bishops but are, in fact, very sick patients. Their awful behavior in cyberspace reveals nothing about Jesus except his incredible patience. Do not, I beg you, allow them to persuade you that Jesus is a liar. He has never lied and will never lie to us.”
Nor has he abandoned Simcha, who is surrounded by love and consolation and support from people acting with the love of the Holy Spirit and who is taking this with her customary humility and good humor. It is that love and truth and goodness from the Spirit that is at the heart of the Faith, not the fulminations of broken people who need to gloat over a good woman’s suffering.
The focus of the Christian life is Jesus Christ. Don’t get distracted from him by human weaknesses and sins. Fellow Christians are people on the way, not people who have arrived. They will sometimes surprise you with their astonishing goodness and other times amaze you with their malice or cowardice. But in Christ alone is salvation. Holy Church is holy, not because of the holiness of its members, but because the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ¶ What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you. (Php 4:8–9).