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Thursday, June 03, 2004

"Andrew Sullivan liked the homily," I thought...

So, of course, I didn't.

This is "insightful"?

Yeesh. Then I'd hate to see his example of cliched pablum. It's the same ol' inclusivity-as-next-to-godliness, don't-get-hung-up-on-dogma, Thou-Shalt-Not-Be-Self-Righteous-Like-Those-Conservatives, All-That-Matters-Is-Community uber-twaddle that's been spewed for the past two generations.

Far from being insightful, it's hackneyed. In fact, you have a better than even chance of hearing the sentiments of Fr. Radcliffe's opus regurgitated--verbatim--on any given Sunday.

I think similar thoughts come with the adult Happy Meals these days. On a related note: read this and try imagining if any of it would offend an Oprah audience or a devout NPR listener.

Me neither.

'If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.' So the Church is our home. It is where God is at home in us and we are at home in God. It is where we belong, at ease, with untroubled hearts. What does this mean?

A fair read of Fr. Radcliffe's affirmation anathema is that you can do whatever the Hell you want 167 hours a week and still feel all nice and welcome and warmly communitarian at the Eucharistic Celebration. With that "untroubled", if coal-black, heart beating contentedly in your breast. Unless I missed the big call to repentance in the speech--but I did check it twice.

We can see what it does not mean in the first reading from Acts, these busy bodies are going around telling the Gentiles that unless they are circumcised, then they will not be saved. They do not really belong in the Church. The Church is not their home unless they become Jews. They are not proper Christians.

Behold the classic set-up: the warm and fuzzy, if incomplete, biblical example against which he will bash the orthodox strawman. Usually it's the Pharisees, but the Judaizers are a popular silver medalist.

So the apostles gather for the first Council in the history of the Church and they decide that these Gentiles belong as they are. These presumptuous people had been acting without any authority, unsettling people.

Except, alas, Father, that those uninclusive (Boo! Hiss! Fart in their general direction!) Judaizers did have a skosh of authority for their position. It's currently referred to as the Pentateuch. What's more, the Lord Himself did not speak against the practice. So let's cut the fellows a little slack on this one.

The very first major decision that the Church ever takes is to guarantee that the Church remains a large, capacious home, with room for us. The first exercise of authority by the Church is to oppose those who want to push other people out of the community.

If you'd rather read the entire account of the Council of Jerusalem without it going through the HappyTalk™ Filter first, go here. It's not like the Council gave the gentiles free reign, now, is it? [Hint--check verses 23-29.]

The whole history of the Church is marked disputes, arguments and quarrels. And that is fine. It is a sign of being at home that one can argue and disagree without destroying the household.

The first two sentences had such potential, too. But the last wrecks it. All that matters is the label for the Fr. Radcliffes of the Church. As long as we all call each other Catholic, we're one big happy family. The label, apparently, is a big band-aid that papers over all the other problems.

Using the "family" analogy, I for one wouldn't think much of the "But we're a family!" protestation coming out of Little Brother if Elder Brother had pawned the family silver, called Dad a retard, flipped Mom the bird to her face and was still allowed to crash at the house every week with a different hooker.

But that's just me.

Even Dominicans squabble sometimes! But occasionally there are militant groups who want to decide who are proper Catholics, and to push out others out of nest, like a bloated cuckoo.

And I still like the Dominicans better than the other religious orders. I just have to keep reminding myself that religious whose theology was formed by Disney movies are a fairly widespread phenomenon.

Nice use of the word "militant," there, too. Hmmm. It's the same word used by the media to describe Palestinians who detonate explosives studded with rat-poison-dipped nails in pizzerias and organize machine-gun ambushes of children and pregnant women.

Coincidence? You decide!

You may have read in the newspapers that there are very conservative groups of lay Catholics in the States who are campaigning that any politician who does not give political support to the Church?s teaching, on such issues as abortion or gay unions, must be turned away from communion. They must be rejected at the altar.

Eek! Beware the Very Conservatives! They're everywhere!

Whereas the Very Progressives are mythical. In the meantime, Moderates Like Ourselves are standing guard.

More importantly, it's a subtle, but important, misstatement. It's not that they are asking the politicians to give support to the Church teaching, but rather that their lockstep enthusiastic opposition to those parts of the faith they feel uncomfortable with be abated.

Here's an idea: Couldn't the John Kerrys abstain on those issues where they claim to be "personally [not very] opposed" once in a great while? Is that too much to ask? That way, they can hardly be accused of imposing their faith, while at the same time not standing in consistent opposition to those teachings they claim to support.

Pretty hard to imagine the pressure on the communion issue continuing on a legislator who did that.

Cardinal McCarrick, the Archbishop of Washington, is resisting the pressure.

Our hero.

He says that he would be uncomfortable with denying people communion.

As Jesus said, "Thou shalt not discomfit the clergy."

Who are we to say whether someone is in a state of grace?

Asks Fr. Radcliffe as he stumbles across Jeffrey Dahmer in the middle of brunch.

And so this militant group have placed advertisements in newspapers such as The Washington Times, implying that the Cardinal is not a sound, proper Catholic either.

"Militants," again. While I'm not a member of the Judie Brown Fan Club, comparing her to a terrorist seems a little out of order. And bonus points for a direct reference to the Times, which all good Washingtonians must avoid like the subliminally-broadcasting Moonie tabloid it surely is.

Clearly the issues are different from those of the first reading. The Council will decide that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised. There is no question of the Church going back on its opposition to abortion.

At which point, Fr. should have mumbled embarrassedly about the inaptness of the analogy undergirding his homily and sat down. As a Methodist and now a Catholic, I have sat through my share of Homilies/Sermons That Went Nowhere And Took A Long Time To Do It, I can assure you that the baffled congregants would have been none the worse for wear.

But in both cases we see people who wish to shut people out of the Church, expel those who are not sound, proper Catholics in their own eyes.

Ah, but Fr. Radcliffe's logic is delightfully self-refuting: by elevating standardless inclusivity to a dogma, he then fails to see how the Patakis, Schwarzeneggers, Kerrys and Boxers proceed to wreck that "dogma," too. If it is the ultimate "uninclusive" act to bar someone from membership in the HappyCatholicFamilyCommunity, then the Catholics who exclude those whose only blemish is a failure to fully emerge from the womb are guilty of a similar uninclusiveness.

Only way more fatal.

Hmmm. "HappyCatholicFamilyCommunity." Speaking of Moonies...

Jesus speaks the words to the disciples at the Last Supper. Peter was about to deny him. Most of the other disciples would run away in fear. He promises that the Father and he will make their home precisely with these weak and fearful people, who are not, at this moment, exactly model Christians.

Another flawed analogy--Peter and ten of the others (1) stopped denying Him and (2) stopped running.

In other words, they repented. Not exactly a trivial thing here.

And what happened to the one who betrayed Him, again?

So we should all feel at home in the Church, even though, like these apostles, we may not feel that we are 'good Catholics'.

To the extent he's saying the Church is a hospital for sinners--amen. If I had to categorize what kind of Catholic I am, "good" would not likely be the word immediately preceding.

We may have doubts and uncertainties; we may disagree with the Church on some issues; we may be angry with the Church about other things.

Argh. The inevitable descent into fluff. I wonder how long Fr. Radcliffe would continue in Sanguine Welcomer mode if one of his parishioners revealed her disagreement with the Church's stance on racial equality and the integration of Catholic schools?

We may be living in what are called 'irregular situations', although they are more and more regular.

Way to boldly stand against the cultural tide, Father! Guess we know where you really stand on the Gospel According to Goodridge.

But Jesus still invites us to be at home here. It is part of the beauty of Catholicism that so-called bad Catholics belong just as much as anyone else. Perhaps even more so. Jesus came to call sinners and not the just. The only people who might feel a little uneasy in this our home are the self-righteous.

Oh, dear Lord. Yes, as we all know, the only sin Jesus mentioned apart from clergy irritation was self-righteousness. Yes, really insightful. If only I could get my eyes to roll back down.

[Pop!] Ah--there!

Saccharine might not be carcinogenic, but, like laxatives, you can still OD on it. Especially in its verbal form. I can even picture how he delivered this tripe--with a wink and an Eric Idle-ish nudge-nudge.

NAMHLA (North American Man-Horse Love Association) members, I've found your parish.

Not that we would wish to expel them!

Well, maybe some. Especially the militants.

Home is where you do not have to justify your presence. Blackfriars is my home. I do not have to give any reason for being here. I do not have to merit my place in the community, or establish that I am an upright friar with the correct views. I just belong.

Sounds like the John Walker household to me.

In my home, I was (and am) expected to honor my parents, to do my part to help out, and to eventually grow into a responsible adult doing credit to my family name. While I might not have to "justify my presence", I can hardly presume to renounce by word and deed everything that my family stands for and expect to continue on my merry way without repercussions.

Would that more Catholics felt the same way about the Body of Christ.

Jesus says, to the disciples, 'the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father's, who sent me.' Jesus does not own the words he speaks. They belong to his Father. And if he does not own them, then nor do we. We cannot claim possession of the word of God and use it to beat up other people and expel them from their home. The truth of the gospel is in no one's mastery.

"We don't possess the truth, the truth possesses us," or insert your favorite stunted spiritual platitude here. The fact is, authority is given to do some pretty...uncomfortable things to the equanimity of fellow believers. No, really. The first passage is especially uncongenial to the "come and stay as you are" approach to pastoral ministry exemplified by this homily.

We are preparing for the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit will dwell with us. Jesus says, 'The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.' This does not mean that each of the apostles will remember everything. Some may remember Jesus' compassion; others will remember his justice or his preaching of the Kingdom. Some will remember parables and others miracles. We have four gospels, four memories.

The Holy Spirit is poured upon us too. We each cherish some aspect of the gospel. But none of us has the right to claim that his or her memory is the only one and threaten people who cherish another. We need each other?' memories if we are to get a small glimpse of the whole truth.

I, for one, am simply fascinated with Kerry's memory of Pope Pius XXIII. Sounds really, really cool, to be able to see into the future like that. That, and all the rah-rah speeches he routinely gives to NARAL & Co. Ah, good times, good times.

This is not wish washy relativism.

Oh, yes it is.

It is building the home in which God may dwell.

I don't think you're going to like the Almighty's code inspection. No, not at all.

'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.' Let us try to build the Church as our common home in God. Here we should be untroubled and unafraid. The Church should be a large, capacious home for all sorts of oddbods, saints and sinners, progressives and conservatives, the convinced and the searching. It is Catholic, which means Universal. Let us not shrink it to the size of our own small hearts and minds.

Father later revealed there was a small typo in this last paragraph. Six words from the end, there was supposed to be a "y" in front of the "our."

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