Of all of the celebrations that rang out after the death of Osama bin Laden was announced, the festivities that erupted on U.S. college campuses were particularly intriguing.
Grace on the Margins
John Paul II’s imminent beatification has led both secular and religious media to make an old idea like sainthood new again.
For most of us, saints seem otherworldly, far removed from ordinary existence. We get images of a perfect, selfless saint or an ecstatic, medieval mystic with an oozing stigmata. They are angelic beings, far easier to pray to than relate to. It’s no wonder that Dorothy Day famously quipped “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”
I’ve had more than one Catholic who grew up either before or on the cusp of Vatican II tell me horror stories of how they were taught that Jesus died because of their sins.
This was a particularly heavy-handed way for priests and nuns to lay an even thicker coat of guilt on impressionable Catholic school children. Because they were sinners, Jesus had to suffer and die to redeem them. It was one rendering of the traditional theological interpretations of the crucifixion -- that Jesus had to die to fulfill the Scriptures and that his death atoned for the sins of the world.
One of my earliest memories of church is watching my mother being forced to abstain from the Eucharist during my First Holy Communion. The scene is still vivid for me.
I sat in the third pew, squirming in the frilly, miniature bridal gown and veil that we were required to wear. When I returned from my first taste of the host and sacramental wine, I turned around to watch my family receive communion.
He won a purple heart for his service in Vietnam. He lived and worked among the poor in Bolivia for five years. He has served nearly five years in federal prison for non-violent protests, calling attention to U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. And now Fr. Roy Bourgeois has been told that he no longer has a place in the community of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.
When I questioned my students at an area college class about their feelings on religious hierarchy, I received many of the same answers. They do not trust religious leadership. Why? Because they believe that religious leaders are not living out the morality they espouse.
Not only do these students believe that they do not need a mediator between themselves and God, many believe that the mediator may actually taint or obstruct their relationships with the holy.
If these same students tuned into Morley Safer’s interview with Archbishop Dolan on Sunday night, I wonder if any of their opinions might be amended.
This past Ash Wednesday, while most Catholics were being told to turn away from sin, the faithful in Philadelphia were informed that the hierarchy had, once again, failed to do so themselves. After reading the details of this latest fallout of the church’s sex abuse epidemic, I am starting to wonder if there is anything left to say. Even with so much already said, there is still one question that troubles me. Why are we, the Catholic laity, still letting the hierarchy get away with it?
I’m not sure if it made national news, but two weeks ago a three-storey billboard posted in the Soho section of Manhattan caused a bit of controversy here.
The billboard featured a picture of an African American girl. Above her head read: “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
The billboard was sponsored by the organization , which apparently is led by an African American. Nevertheless, the sign was quickly condemned for its inherently racist tone and its blatant shaming of African American women.
The billboard was removed within a week, sparking a characteristically hysterical reaction from the Catholic League’s William Donohue, who decried the action as “an exercise in urban fascism.”
The abortion rate in New York City, which by some estimates is as high as 41 percent, has received particular attention lately. But other statistics in the city seem to garner less publicity.
As I continue to reflect on the “Lost? Twenty-Somethings and the Catholic Church” conference hosted at Fordham University last month, I keep returning to the opinions of Robert Putnam on the vital importance of the church for immigrant communities.
Late last week, a new iPhone app designed to help Catholics prepare for the confessional made its debut. The app tailors its questions to a person’s gender and vocation. So if you punch in both “female” and “priest,” you immediately receive the message “sex and vocation are incompatible.”
The women and men featured in the new documentary Pink Smoke would beg to differ.