Friday, March 29

I will be posting on and off over the next few days, but..I have so much work to do, it's not even funny. We leave for Atlantic City and the National Catholic Education Association gathering on Sunday, and I have columns to do, a book review and...uh...a talk that I'm giving on Wednesday. And I really did want the house to be clean before we left, but I dunno...

Good Friday reflections later.

Went to Mass last night. Not in our normal parish, but in a smaller church up the road. (This is so different from the south. Catholic churches every mile). Started out ten rows from the front. Gave Joseph missalettes to examine. Tore one up. Started talking. I took him to the vestibule and let him just walk, walk, walk. Until he discovered the stairs to the choir loft, which were like an irresistable road to El Dorado. Back into the church, let Michael have his turn. Michael strolled over to the other side, where the darkened cry room awaited. He found the door and went in. I stealthily followed, and there we sat for the rest of Mass, with Joseph careening around the cry room, perfecting his walking skills with every step. In the cry room, there was this strange row of bassinettes - looked to date from the early 1960's when the church was built - it was a block of attached wooden little cribs, on top of a set of cabinets. It was kind of cool looking, but when I walked in, I immediately thought "Romanian orphanage."

What is the point of having visitors to a parish introduce themselves? To help them feel "welcome," I suppose. To "build community." Yech. What it does is disrupt and force a false enthusiasm into the liturgy: "Oh..you're from Butte? Fabulous! Over from Terre Haute? Welcome! Wow - from Orlando, huh? Did you bring any sunshine with you?"

Gag, gag, gag. And not just because I'm an introvert.

Do you know what binds us together at Mass and as Church in general? Christ in Eucharist. That's it. No matter what we say or do, He is the one who unites us. Not facile exchanges of greetings and forced expressions of delight at a visitor's place of origin.

A Q & A with Harry Crocker, the author of Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church. I haven't had time to post my review of the book here, but in a nutshell:

Crocker's successful in accomplishing what he sets out to do: produce a corrective to accounts of RC Church history that serve "liberal" agendas. In the process, however, he minimizes problems - for example, he sets the record straight on Martin Luther, who was no saint, as Catholic religious educators try to tell their students, but he seriously minimizes the very real corruption in the church of the time.

In short, he does what all apologists for Catholic sins do: he seeks to set all the questionable Catholic matters "in context", but then doesn't treat the church's opponents the same way.

It's an interesting and knotty problem, one about which I've started writing several times, but never been able to tie up: Honesty compels us to see the events of the past in their context - we can't condemn people in the past for not living up to modern standards. But then we have to ask...if the Inquisition is going to be "explained" and excused by all sorts of contextual factors related to culture, does that not leave us in the curious position of having to answer the question: Our contemporary culture says all sorts of things are correct, from artificial contraception to non-marital sex, and so on. Would not our acceptance of those behaviors as moral be nothing more than an appropriate reaction within the "context"?

In other words, if you want to excuse the Church's involvement in violence and coercion because, well..those were violent times... then what's to stop the Church from enshrining sexual irresponsiblity as moral since....well...these are sexually irresponsible times....

My other huge problem with Crocker's book is that it's primarily political - a history of the decision-makers in the institution. There's not a word about the sacramental life of the Church, very little about spirituality or anything else that's not related to guys in big robes standing up to other guys in big robes.

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