Tuesday, July 8, 2003

You may have noticed that I rarely post entries that are complete, airtight arguments from beginning to end. That's mostly because I don't have time to think blogthings through from beginning to end, especially when other writings call (hey - I wrote an 1100 word book review and a 700-word column today! Give me a break!), but also because I know I can always depend on you folks to help me follow trains of thought, discard others, consider implications and really figure out what I'm really trying to say.

In musing here about Catholics Without Qualifiers, I think I'm looking at three points.

The first is personal. As for me and my house, I'm saying, we're out of the label business. I won't be pinned down for the reasons I articulated below. I'm a Catholic, I'm deeply comfortable with saying that, and I feel no need to distinguish myself from other Catholics.

Secondly, I'm trying to understand why this labeling happened. And oh, by the way, I mispoke a couple of days ago when I said that used to be the only "kinds" of Catholics were lapsed and ethnic. Actually, that's not correct. There were "bad" Catholics, many cheerily self-acknowledged. How could I forget Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World...

Third, I'm trying to find a way beyond it. Not, please note, for the sake of pretending that all is well or false unity, but simply because it's vital that we do. It's not that the other tasks - the clarification and presentation of truth and the mutual, fraternal correction don't need to happen. Jesus told us that they must. The content of faith is irreplacable. I just spent some time today dissecting a book that suggests the opposite, and it was a fairly simple and obvious procedure.

But along with voices that are clearly teaching, firmly correcting and engagingly preaching we need voices that call us to simply heed the Good News and act on it as Jesus tells us to, voices that can cut through our politicized discourse, despite our own pride and our own resistance. Voices that are dedicated to just that task. And that's what I don't see in Western Catholicism at this moment. All the periodicals fall along ideological fault lines, and all the books that get any kind of wider PR press and are the subject of broad discussion among Catholics do the same. Spiritual movements by nature appeal to particular types, gathering the like-minded, but is there any spiritual movement today in the American Church that is not viewed, at some level, in political terms? Apologetics movements, perpetual adoration, peace and justice, respect life, Opus Dei...I ask you - is there any lay movement in the US church that isn't the object of suspicion by at least half of the engaged Catholic population? Is there even one Catholic college or university that's respected academcially and spiritually by all "sides" in this country? (Maybe CUA? I don't know) And what about people? Is there an American Catholic leader, thinker or activist who is respected and inspires by most of us? Or do they all, once again, fall along these divides, either by intention or, quite frequently (as is the case with the Pope, I'd argue) because of the stubbornness of listeners who won't hear what he has to say on its own terms, but only through ideologically-framed earpieces.

Do you see what I'm saying? Does it make sense? Do you see the need?