Friday, May 9, 2014

The Church ain't no Party

Yes, I think this is a pretty good summary of things right now.  Rod Dreher quotes Michael Brendan Doughterty, who says that "Catholics must learn to resist their popes — even Pope Francis." Dougherty, writes Dreher, is "a conservative Catholic who says that the habit orthodox Catholics have gotten into of hero-worshiping the Pope is ahistorical and, well, un-Catholic."  It is as if the Pontiff were the head, not of the Catholic Church, but the Catholic Party.

Let's carry the political analogy just a moment further.  What is it that so many political activists rebel against? That's right: The Establishment.  Conservatives and Tea Partiers, for example, are perpetually at war with what they see as the autocratic condensation from the party establishment.*  Even if the activists are wrong, even if there are very good reasons for the party organization to put the breaks on them, the manner in which they engage the activists is often so off-putting that the words go in one ear, out the other.

*And lest you think I'm ignoring liberals in this analogy, I have two words for you: Chicago 1968.

Now, for the party hierarchy, let's substitute, say, Ultramontainists.  There are many of them in the Catholic blogosphere - I don't think I'll single them out by name right now, but you might know who they are* - but their repeated use of phrases like "those of us who get Francis" (emphasis mine) and "I love this guy" can't help but be seen as a deliberate provocation by those who harbor concerns about the future of the Church.  (And if they're not deliberate, then they might want to consider some kind of remedial course in communications.)  Let's just pour some more fuel on the fire, shall we?  I've made this point before, but I cannot imaging a language and tenor that would be more inflammatory.  It makes one wonder if their purpose really is to educate and enlighten, or merely to antagonize.

*If you're still not sure, send me an email and I'll tell you more.

Anyway, I think there's something to this that bears further consideration from parties on both sides.  If you want to be an apologist for the pope (sarcasm noted), then consider who you're talking to and tailor your message accordingly.  Act as if you're trying to convert them, not preach down to them.  And if you think the pope should be put on trial for heresy (sarcasm once again noted), don't be so inflammatory in your rhetoric that people tune you out before you've even gotten to your points. In any event, stop acting like politicians on Crossfire.  The Church is political enough without having to resort to that.

Of course, it might help if the pope went on a silent retreat for awhile...


  1. " ... the autocratic condensation from the party establishment ... "

    You mean, they're making you smaller?

    I think the word you're going for is condescension.
    As in talking down to people.
    The lingua franca of all political bloggers, left and right.
    Which is why I usually avoid all such blogs with impunity.

    As it happens, I'm old enough to remember "liberation theology" from the '60s:
    " ... and when the radical priest came to get us released,
    we was all on the cover of Newsweek!"
    = Paul Simon's Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard.

    I wasn't buying then, and I'm not buying the not-so-new "Catholic farRight" nowadays.
    It's the politics that's driving people away from religions -all religions - more than anything else these days.
    Last time I was in a church was for my mother's funeral, twelve years ago.
    Last time before that, my father's funeral, ten years before that.
    Sunday Mass had become a rote ritual; I was getting nothing out of it, and so I just stopped going.
    My father had stopped going years before that; my mother went almost daily, until she became housebound with emphysema.
    When she died on a Saturday, it fell to me to tell her old friend, a lay minister of Communion, when he came by the next morning.
    The interesting thing about all this is that we all still thought of ourselves as Catholics, whether we attended church regularly or not'
    Kind of like what Father Andrew Greeley always said: We liked being Catholic
    I guess those are the breaks.

    Oh, by the way:
    When you want to slow down or stop your car -
    - you put on the brakes.
    (Using the right word always makes the argument go better.)

    1. Yes. Unless I was so worked up in a sweat about this that I actually was experiencing condensation. Excellent points, as always!

  2. Right on cue:


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