I was recently mentioned in a curiously disjointed and rambling article at Church Militant. I don’t recommend you look it up. In the article I was accused of being part of a left-wing cabal of alumnae of Franciscan University, even though I’ve stated multiple times that I dropped out of Franciscan’s MA program. The only degree I possess is my BA from Otterbein, a fine school in Westerville, Ohio. I was also accused of being demure, which I trust is nonsense to anyone who knows me, and of being in something called a “gay lobby.” A cursory glance at this author’s oeuvre reveals that he rarely writes about anything except his notions about gay people and a gay lobby.
I only wish I were in a gay lobby. When I was in Pittsburgh for the Convivium Conference, I stayed in the Residence Inn, which has a lobby gayer than springtime. They had a little cooler where you could buy Haagen Daas; they had a big-screen TV; there was a beautiful pool just down the hall where I swam laps; there was a balcony where you could look out at what every balcony in Pittsburgh looks out at: a steep gray hill with Orthodox churches on it. I have never felt so gay and frolicsome as I felt in Pittsburgh. I wish I lived in fancy hotels all the time like Kay Thompson’s Eloise. Unfortunately, I’m in Steubenville, in a drafty rental house, and I don’t feel gay. I feel morose.
Speaking of morose, many of my friends are sharing an article from Crisis Magazine from years ago, warning us about the evils of reading Flannery O’Connor. And not because she’s not as good a novelist as Toni Morrison, either– it’s because her stories are so dark. My friend Mark Shea quipped that pretty soon all that Catholics of that stripe will be able to read is The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and Little House on the Prairie. But then somebody pointed out that Rorate Caeli published an attack on C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein awhile back, so that leaves only Little House, until they find out that Ma and Pa were Protestants. Meanwhile, my friend the wonderful Marie Kopp of The Shoeless Banshee was arguing with a woman on Twitter who grudgingly conceded that it might be okay for Catholics to read Plato, sometimes– even if he is, in her words, “a heretic.”
There’s a certain brand of thought which calls itself Catholic, and which serves as a kind of reverse Marie Kondo: they hold that if a thing does not spark joy, you should keep it close, fixate on it, obsess over it, stay up all night thinking about how bad it is and write articles on it. However, if a thing is fun or wise or makes you happy, it’s of the devil. Write about gay lobbies or secret liberal conspiracies or how much you hate the Novus Ordo until your fingers fall off, but if you like to read Southern Gothic novels you must be perverted. Fun things like fantasy stories and role-playing games are clearly from hell because nobody’s allowed to have an imagination. But it’s righteous of you to pen article after article obsessing about how disgusting other people who sin differently than you are. Yoga and dancing and mandala coloring books are demonic– but you’re a warrior for truth if you are constantly launching campaigns to attack and hurt people, from private citizens all the way up to the Pope, by claiming they’re secretly conspiring to destroy the Church. All kinds of people do this and all kinds of media encourage it, claiming that it is real, authentic Catholicism and anything else is tainted by the world.
Catholicism is a Faith that teaches that God created the world because He loves it and created us to live here and learn about Him in it because He loves us. It’s not a faith that tells us to constantly seek out the bad and emote at it. Yes, there’s merit in denouncing a public scandal or warning people about a person you believe to be really dangerous, and there’s nothing wrong with correcting the errors of someone who’s publicly misrepresenting the Faith– bloggers like me would be out of a job if there weren’t. But it’s a sin to fixate on and gossip over other people’s real or imagined sins and expose them to shame from others just for shame’s sake. The Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love our neighbor as our self. To love is to rejoice in everything there is that is good about the beloved. And if your Beloved is God– everything there is to love about God is everything there is, because everything there is comes from God. We should only take the time to weep over sin because sin is a lack or perversion of some good thing that ought to be there; not to wallow in it as if it was what really mattered in the end.
Grace is what matters in the end, and as the Doctor of the Church Saint Therese said on her deathbed, everything is grace. To be Catholic is to recognize that everything is grace– no matter how dark sin becomes, no matter where you find yourself, everything is grace.
Still, I wish I were back in Pittsburgh. Or at least Westerville.
(image via Pixabay)