I started reading this editorial by Michele Madigan Somerville in the New York Times.
About a decade ago, moved by a convergence of my longstanding fascination with religion and a time of great personal loss, I embarked on a search for a church and wound up a born-again Catholic. It was not a straight or untroubled path, guided as it was by both my attraction to and enmity for the Roman Catholic Church into which I was born and baptized.
Okay, I thought, so far I can see her viewpoint. The "enmity" for many a cradle Cathlic stems from the habit of youth, I believe, to go through a period of rebellion, and since the rebellion is usually aimed against institutions that try to provide structure to the their lives, the Catholic Church is often an easy target.
But then things started getting fuzzy . . .
But a radical nun was the first person to teach me anything sophisticated about poetry.
While I consider the brutality of the papacy, now and throughout history, a source of shame, Roman Catholic art, often commissioned by those very same bad popes is a source of pride, and comprises a tradition in which I, as a poet, often work.
The papacy has been tarnished throuhg history by bad men, which I argue is a testament to the Holy Spirit that we are still here some 2000+ years later. But I am at a loss to figure out why the current Pope is "brutal." Unless . . .
I liked parishes that were racially and socio-economically diverse, houses of worship that were beautiful, the presence of women priests when I was lucky enough to encounter it. I had zero tolerance for folk masses, anti-abortion diatribes, ecclesiastical greed, rote reciters of scripture and congregants who refused to sing. (After all, as St. Augustine said, “singing is twice praying.”) When people in the pews were unkind to my generally well-mannered children, I crossed their church off my list. I preferred my homilists witty, lyrical and learned. A brilliant theologian and Dante maven who used to celebrate mass a few mornings a week in my neighborhood helped hook and reel me in. Most of all it was another — a lyrical priest I successfully hectored and charmed into serving as my de facto guru — who presided over my rebirth a s Catholic. And so I began to regularly attend Roman Catholic mass.
Ah, I see . . . the Catholic Church that Michele "came home" to is the one she wants - and not the one established by Jesus, with both its inordinate beauty and its warts. What a selfish and narrow-minded person. She has "zero tolerance" in judging congregants who refuse to sing (so please, no sore throats in her church - gargle at home and be prepared to make a joyful noise) while "crossing off" the churches where people were "unkind" to her "generally well-mannered children" - perhaps the "unkindness was aimed more at her as she ignored the mischief of her children, caught up in the rapture, as she was, of "witty, lyrical and learned" homilists. And those homilists who might be muttering a mea culpa as he delivered a less-than-inspired homily because that week the Bishop wanted his parish's profit and loss statement and he had sat up the night before with a family whose 16-year-old was gunned down . . . sorry, dude, you don't make the cut and "Born Again" here is writing you off her list.
I am also struck by Michele's ignorance with her statement about women priests. Does she realize the Church does not ordain women? So, it is not a question of being "lucky enough" - sweetie, if a woman is playing Mass, it's not a Catholic Church.
Once I accepted that being Roman Catholic did not require that I be a papist — once I understood that it was possible to be simultaneously outraged by and in love with the Church — I saw the obstacles to being a practicing Catholic in a new way.
Oh Lordy - darling, you did not come home. I do not know what house you are in, but wherever it is, you are home alone, in the Church of Michele Madigan Somerville.
Pray for her and respond at the Times.