Friday, November 07, 2008

Catholics: robustly counter-cultural, or banal echoes of the world?

There were some bright spots in this election: the US bishops who stepped up to the plate to correct Biden and Pelosi on Church teaching concerning abortion, the Knights of Columbus and their strong clear voice on Church teaching, for example.

Whoever in the USCCB middle management was responsible for producing the "Novena for Faithful Citizenship" (2008), however, took a great idea (a novena before a presidential election) and smothered it under a fog of wanna-be-fashionable banalities. Like always, it's not that anything is explicitly wrong in what was said. Rather, it's what's in the subtext, which grandstands on issues that Hollywood would celebrate as moral high ground.

Take the following excerpts from the daily 'reflections' of the Novena:
  • First Day: How will I praise God today? How will I show respect for others, especially my neighbor or those in my community who are not like me?
  • Second Day: Who are the oppressed in your community? How am I helping secure justice?
  • Third Day: How am I healing the wounds of my community?
  • Seventh Day: What divisions exist in my community? What structures in society seem unjust? How am I striving to achieve justice and peace in my neighborhood, church, and nation?
You get the picture.

Now granted, the novena did mention "the right to life especially of the unborn and those near death" on the Fourth Day. But it's clear that's not where the accent falls.

Now what do you suppose the writer(s) had in mind in referring to "unjust structures," the "oppressed," and the need to show respect for "others," in particular to "those ... who are not like me"? Do you suppose for a moment that the writer(s) had in mind unborn babies? Of course not.

It is no less reasonable to discern lurking somewhere in the subtext an insinuation of the following kind:
"Listen, you white Anglo-Saxon gun-toting backwater Republican fat cats, you need to learn to show some respect for DIFFERENCE, dammit; to celebrate DIVERSITY! You need to learn to grovel before the altar of the marginalized victims of your collective corporate oppression and show some respect -- well, yes, for African-American descendants of the slaves your ancestors probably owned, and for the women you've helped to unjustly exclude from priestly ordination; but, even more, for the new Negroes: gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals and queer families, and -- dammit -- Nobel laureate Al Gore and ... Nancy Pelosi!"

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