Monday, November 26, 2012

"The church seems to be going out of its way to hide its real treasure" (E. J. Dionne Jr.)

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Thanksgiving dinner at St. Francis de Sales Parish
in Belle Harbor, in New York's ravaged Rockaways

"The fallout [from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' recent meeting in Baltimore]: disarray in the Bishops' Conference. This is actually good news. One person’s disarray is another’s openness. There is now new space for debate and a rethinking of the church’s tilt rightward over the past several years. . . .

"Politics divides Catholics. The works of mercy bring us together and also show the world what the power of faith can achieve."

-- E. J. Dionne Jr., in his WaPo column,
"Hiding the church's treasure"

by Ken

As regular readers know, I am an immoderate admirer of the calm-voiced but powerfully eloquent Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr., not least for the deep humanity he draws from his Catholic faith, which he seems never to find in any way inconsistent with his human liberal views. The only problem he has, to his credit, is with the primitive, often anti-Christian specimens who run the church.

In his column today, "Hiding the church's treasure," E.J. passes on reports of "disarray" within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at their conference in Baltimore, following an election in which "many bishops, though by no means all, seemed to enlist firmly on one side."

E.J. cites in particular the case of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, "who was about as clear as he could be short of putting a Romney-Ryan sticker on his car," telling the National Catholic Reporter, "I certainly can't vote for somebody who's either pro-choice or pro-abortion," while giving his blessing to anti-tax right-wingers: "You can't say that somebody's not Christian because they want to limit taxation." E.J. addes, "No doubt Paul Ryan smiled."

"For such bishops," E.J. writes, "the election came as a shock."
I'm told by people who attended the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops post-election meeting this month in Baltimore that many of them had been convinced Romney would win. Yet Romney not only lost; he also narrowly lost the Catholic vote, partly because of overwhelming support for Obama among Latinos, the fastest-growing group in the church.

The fallout: disarray in the Bishops' Conference. This is actually good news. One person’s disarray is another’s openness. There is now new space for debate and a rethinking of the church’s tilt rightward over the past several years.

One surprising result in Baltimore was the refusal to endorse a vague statement on the economy after the document came under attack from more progressive bishops for failing to deal adequately with inequality, the rights of unions and poverty. Rarely does a document reach the floor of the conference and then fail to win the two-thirds majority necessary for approval. Something is stirring.
As it happens, I've jumped over the human heart of the story in this column, to its religio-political heart. I certainly can't tell this story better than E.J. does, so I think we need to hear it in his own voice.
To say that the Belle Harbor neighborhood on New York City’s Rockaway Peninsula was slammed by Hurricane Sandy understates the case. Like many other parts of the region, it has suffered the kind of devastation we usually associate with wars.

In these circumstances, people turn to government, yes, but they look first to trusted friends and to neighborhood institutions that combine deep local knowledge with a degree of empathy that arises only from a long connection with residents of a particular place.

Two of my brothers-in-law who have been washed out of their homes are involved in one such group, the Graybeards, a local nonprofit recently featured on the “NBC Nightly News.” They immediately took up the task of restoring the city blocks they love.

And at the heart of the relief effort is the Roman Catholic parish of St. Francis de Sales, the epicenter of so many practical works of mercy that it has received a mountain of earned media attention. The Post published a photo last week of a big Thanksgiving dinner organized in the parish gym where I once watched my nephews and my niece compete fiercely on the basketball court. Last week, for a moment anyway, competition gave way to fellowship.

I intend to come back again to the determined struggle of this neighborhood to rebuild. But I also hope that the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops contemplating the future of the church’s public and political engagement notice how the witness of this parish has inspired people far beyond the confines of Catholicism.
It's only then that E.J. turns his attention to the "thinking" of the U.S. bishops. Eventually he returns to his subject.
[A]bove all, the bishops need to learn what I'll call the St. Francis de Sales lesson. A church looking to halt defections among so many younger Catholics should understand that casting itself as a militantly right-wing political organization -- which, face it, is what some of the bishops are doing -- clouds its Christian message. Worse, the church seems to be going out of its way to hide its real treasure: the extraordinary examples of generosity and social reconstruction visible every day in parishes such as St. Francis and in the homeless shelters, schools, hospices and countless other Catholic entities all over the nation.

Politics divides Catholics. The works of mercy bring us together and also show the world what the power of faith can achieve.
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2 Comments:

At 3:57 AM, Anonymous me said...

his Catholic faith, which he seems never to find in any way inconsistent with his human liberal views

And that is why I do not trust him. In my opinion, religious belief is inherently conservative. Can you find an example, anywhere in the world, at any time in history, of a country that was religious and NOT conservative? On the contrary, the overwhelming observation is that the more religious a country is, the more conservative it is. (Saudi Arabia comes to mind, but it is hardly alone in this regard.) Conservatism and religiosity are two sides of the same coin.

Religious belief indicates a willingness to ignore reality in favor of an imaginary (and totalitarian) world. To imagine how we might improve the world we have is productive and commendable, but to claim that the real world is subordinate to an imaginary one is very, very different.

You never know when someone like EJ Dionne will turn on you.

 
At 4:05 PM, Anonymous bill Mahr said...

Religion is truly the scourge of humanity. Anything based on lies is never a good thing. The catholic church over the years is a completely evil institution indulging in torture, murder, rape and pedophilia.

E. J. Dionne Jr. is totally full of shit.

I kid the former Nazi pope.

 

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