The catalyst for my departure from the Catholic fold was none other than Joseph Ratzinger, back in the mid 80's. I say catalyst, not reason, because even though he had his own personal tone, he spoke for mainstream* Catholicism. And so, gentleman that I am, I took my leave.
In the last few months, I have been reading and occasionally commenting on the PrayTell** blog, where a testy mix of liberal and conservative Catholics slog it out over the liturgy. Most folks fall to the liberal side of things. Some are very bright indeed, others are an example of "a little knowledge" and the religious equivalent of thinking in bumper stickers.
One woman stands out by her passionate idiocy. I called her "the love child of Oliver Cromwell and Matthew Fox" because she combines a populist loathing of prelacy with a New Age feminist fantasy life. In a discussion of trends in church architecture, she recently blasted the return of the communion rail because there was no such barrier in the stable at Bethlehem. The Catholic equivalent of proof-texting: take one image, word, slogan, etc and build your whole case on it. The liberal obsession with equality uber alles marbles most discussions there.
I titled my post "Who'd a thunk it?" because, reading the folks over there the other day, I thunk the following, "Well, I'm glad Benedict XVI is in charge of the liturgy and not any of them!"
Having read over some of the new translations of the Mass, I think they could have been better done, but the general tone --castigated as "sacral" and "hierarchical"-- beats out the kindergarten prose of what's being replaced.
The purchase that feminist issues still have in that discussion is particularly noticeable. None of the men seem able stand up and say out loud that feminism is a secular ideology which, when taken past a certain point, comes into destructive conflict with Catholicism. A Trojan mare.
And the attitudes of most of the women support that reading. Plus, as one of their regular lights admitted to me, they really want to turn the Church of Rome into the Episcopal Church USA. And that Unitarianism in drag has no future.
As I've said, I am not interested in returning to the practice of the Roman faith --although I recognize that it's in my DNA. But my general concern with the health of The West includes, in my case, a concern with strong Western religions. If that strength includes, for example, an inability to celebrate same-sex love, that's something I can live with. When the barbarians are at the gate --and in our case, very often well inside it-- you make your stand with the people who can fight them, even if you have your differences.
And liberal religious types, of whatever stripe, seem distinctly unwilling to make that stand. In Burnham's telling phrase, they "find themselves morally disarmed when in the presence of anyone they deem less well off than themselves." This means that whoever gains or its granted victim status runs the show. While it can be played out as the victory of compassion or justice, it is really about vanity and weakness.
*I say that because a lot of "progressive" Catholics keep imagining a church which is not going to exist, the one that the mosh pit commentors at the National Catholic Reporter and the American Catholic Council make believe is going to show up some day....(1968 was a long time ago, boyz and girls.)
**The blog is subtitled, "Worship, wit and wisdom".The wit part is in especially short supply.