[Update: Important link added for context. Perhaps it will help you get my perspective. Maybe, maybe not. But still.]
I recognize that the blog has become painfully self-absorbed, and understand fully if you are sick and tired of it. I sympathize, really. I'd rather be posting about the Byzantine Empire myself. Or the latest Steve Stirling book.
Which I've finished, by the way, and is really well done. The flash-forward ending is a transitional classic, he says obliquely. Later, though.
Yeah, I'm sick and tired of me, and I have to imagine God is, too. Frankly, this has become my way of dealing with the worst case of spiritual chaos I've had since the revelations of the abuse crisis started hitting with wave-like repetition a few years back. Some days, I feel shoved halfway out the door. Today, it's three-quarters.
I think I have isolated the problem, and it involves certitudes. Not mine, obviously. I don't have much in the certainty department these days.
No, rather the problem is the certitude of those who genuinely love the Pope. That the Holy Spirit is clearly on the move. Deacon Greg Kandra posted this on his popular blog, without any framing commentary.
I guess this sort of thing is supposed to be good news now, in the sense of "there is no such thing as bad publicity." The Times is paying attention to us!
Note that the only person quoted is Seattle University's Jesuit president, happy that the more secularized locals think well of him now. Apparently, being one of the zeitgeist's collared batmen wasn't sufficient to win over the lefty locals. I guess his Stuart Smalley moment makes it all worthwhile.
No, I suppose the real reason the essay was posted was that it was, somehow, emblematic of the "Second Look at Catholicism" caused by the Pope.
Which would be fine if, in the essay, there was some evidence for it other than a Land O'Lakes apparatchik's self-esteem boost. Sadly, there is is not.
It is a remarkably nasty piece, so linking to it with silent approval left my jaw dropping. A bitter taste:
It’s long been known that most North American and European Catholics ignore church teachings on gays, contraception and abortion. These teachings range from absurd to unscientific to outright hateful. Without specifically changing the official line, Francis prompted millions of Catholics to give the church a second look when he criticized the hierarchy for being “obsessed” with those issues. Amen, said nearly 70 percent American Catholics who agreed with him in a Quinnipiac poll.
The anecdotal reaction is equally intriguing. “People come up to me all the time on the street or at a restaurant and say things like, ‘I just need to tell someone how much I like this pope of yours,’” said Father Stephen Sundborg, a Jesuit (like Francis) who is president of Seattle University, based in one of the most secular cities in the United States. “Suddenly, it seems O.K. to be a priest out there.”
All of this is by design. Francis is working two broad strategies. The first is aimed at lapsed Catholics, and those who are open to a spiritual life with an intellectual framework. Thus, he dismissed proselytizing as “solemn nonsense,” in a recent interview. “It makes no sense,” he said of the blunt harangues over whose God is better.
The Jesuits have always tried to get people to think for themselves, to arrive at belief through an arduous process. When bishops started telling parishioners that their gay and lesbian siblings were sinners, and that family planning was a grievous wrong, people stopped listening to them — for good reason.
This father of six thanks you for the gut punch. Which are my wife and I: absurd, unscientific or outright hateful? No, really--Get bent, you smug prick.
And, really--the Church had no intellectual framework in the bleak years Before Francis? Waiter, my essay has a Pseud in it--please take it back.
I'd point out the obvious, that Mr. Egan is obsessed with pelvic issues, but apparently this represents an Important Sign. And the home office has said ixnay on that strategy, so there you have it.
On one point, at least, the Era of Francis in America has one point of continuity with pre-Francis times: the desperate craving of American Catholics for validation from non-Catholics. Starting with Rev. Sundborg, but also, apparently, with more grounded members of the church, willing to post screeds like Egan's without a murmur of protest.
Proselytism may be solemn nonsense, but self-flagellation is in, baby.
If I am coming across as out of sorts, it is simply because I am. In the face of mounting personal stresses, the sense that I am one of the Pope’s redheaded stepsons is a burden I never imagined I’d encounter. Not having any money coming in assuredly plays into my mental state these days, but I've been out of kilter since the first faboo interview. Seeing Catholics cite sneering contempt as--I don't know, the Spirit in motion?-- is something I can't begin to process.
More encounters with the Spirit? Stay tuned!
I feel profoundly out of step with other Catholics, so much so that I haven’t taken communion in three weeks. Frankly, it would feel like a lie, even if I was otherwise disposed to receive. It's not getting better.