I recently read a bit of an online article by Maureen Scott. One sentence -- a question she asked -- made me think: "Have we ever heard Obama speak lovingly of the U.S. or its people, with deep appreciation and genuine respect for our history, our customs, our sufferings and our blessings?" she asked.
This question may deserve some pondering in its own right -- particularly the increasing anti-Americanism of Americans, and the wholesale disdain for America and its traditions that we see throughout the country, from the highest political offices down to popular culture. But it also got me thinking about something else.
One could just as well ask: "How often have we head our pope, bishops, and priests, or rank-and-file Catholics, speak lovingly of Mother Church, with deep appreciation and genuine respect for our history, our traditions, our customs, our sufferings and our blessings?"
Now here is an irony every bit as deep as that of American anti-Americanism, namely, Catholic anti-Catholicism.
One of the first puzzles I faced upon being received into the Church on that blessed Holy Week exactly twenty years ago, was the bizarre spectacle of Catholics who despised their own traditions. What was more, they often seemed to despise these traditions in direct proportion to their ignorance of them. It was the Church's historical credentials that first commended themselves to my mind, just as it was her traditional devotions that first commended themselves to my heart. How then could Catholics despise their own historical credentials and religious traditions? I was intrigued and perplexed by the perverse irony of it.
While it may have been a long time coming, there is something deeply twisted about the turn our society took some half-century ago in the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Even in the most superficial terms of popular culture there is something of this to be found, I think, in the euphemisms, memes, and metaphors we hear used in common speech these days.
When a pianist is exceptionally good, someone may remark, "He plays a WICKED piano." When someone wants to describe himself as very good at something, he may say, with a grin, "Hey, I'm BAD, man!" When some vulgar philistine sees an attractive woman, he may say "She's the SH__!" What's up with this? Since when did it become uncool to describe anything as "good," "true," or "beautiful"?
But back to the Americans and Catholics. It may be easy enough to dismiss American anti-Americanism by observing that this set of Americans has broken faith with the principles of the American founding fathers, that it represents a post-modern and post-Christian people.
But what about Catholic anti-Catholics? What can we say of them?