August 27, 2013

Front Page Drive-In News

Riveted by the Jody Bottum bombshell in which he appears to counsel not putting up a fight against gay marriage. It's hyp-mo-tizing to see such glittering Catholic stars as Brendan H. and Betty Duffy at contretemps on JB's essay. It's the Catholic world equivalent of the “wardrobe malfunction”. Nothing to see here folks, so quit refreshing Elizabeth's Facebook page.

[Hits refresh.]

And gosh was it fascinating to read Robert Royal's rejoinder (say five times fast) about beauty and how its transcendence doesn't seem to be saving the world. All the glorious cathedrals in Europe being empty, etc… Although the tone of it was awfully off-putting.

Unfortunately I read Bottum's piece after the well was poisoned and couldn't bring fresh eyes to it. Be interesting to see how I would've reacted had I not seen the negative reviews (although the subtitle alone might've put me off).

I agree with Eliz that it is annoying to read people annoyed by the length or discursiveness. It seems a gratuitous piling-on representative of a mild hysteria.  It's like reading a critique of the prose stylings of Marx in the Communist Manifesto or reading a review of Playboy magazine that went on about the articles.

Regardless, it's always good to reach a secular audience and even in Bottum's seeming capitulation there is the core criticism, which may smart the jet set, of the re-framing of the sexual revolution from one of liberty to that of a dramatic drainage of meaning. That can't be all bad.

Initially I thought it was beholden upon me to choose sides though that's utterly not the case, although sure as shooting I'm interested to see what sides others have chosen.  Thank God no one put up a poll because I seem to reflexively respond to online polls. I was, though, a bit surprised by Mark Shea's “burn the heretic!” post given the relatively recent declaration of a kindler/gentler Shea. But then we all fight long battles. I'm also dismayed by the incredible restraint of Jeff Miller aka "Curt Jester" on this subject. Very wise no doubt.

Ultimately, I'm not sure that the success or failure of the truth in the world at large is in our purview - didn't Mother Teresa say that we're not called to success but to faithfulness? That the Church is utterly failing in terms of influence does not automatically mean the Church is wrong in approach let alone content. There's an aspect of Rodney King sentiment in Bottum's essay: “can't we all just get along (and sing folk songs)?” I'm wondering about this in connection with the book Boundaries by Clay and co-dependency in general and how we tend to think that we are automatically at fault if there's human discord. Co-dependency is defined as “a psychological condition of a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition - typically narcissism or addiction, and in broader terms, it refers to the dependence on the needs of, or control of, another.” Sadly, this ex-friend of Mr. Bottum's sounds like he has issues. Just as we have to come to see atheists, for example, as not the enemy but having something to offer us, so too does this apply to Bottum's old friend. (Recall Jesus letting those go who couldn't accept his teaching on the Eucharist in John 6.)

This is not to suggest we shouldn't lighten the burden as much as possible of our fellow travelers and given the premise of the world view on sex, i.e. that it's not infused with meaning, the Church's position on homosexuality must seem bigoted. And Bottum makes an excellent point about how divorce has undermined marriage to the point of near parody. One can readily understand and sympathize the incredible difficulty gay people must have with a Church that seems to have a different stricture for heterosexuals as homosexuals. The words of Flannery O'Connor ring true, about how all voluntary baptisms are miraculous.

I know the gospel tells us to be “shrewd as snakes” but given all the variables and complexities involved, I'm extremely skeptical of the efficacy of longterm strategic thinking such that we give up on this issue in order to gain traction elsewhere. I came to this view late, and once upon a time naively thought “oh I know! We'll give you the abolition of the death penalty in exchange for the right to life of the unborn!”. Aw, 'twould such problems be so easily solved (and with such an advantageous swap for our side). Pope John Paul II pretty much made that swap and we see how well that's gone.

The Church is said to think in terms of centuries but that may simply be due to the famous Roman slowness to react or perhaps the gift of the Holy Spirit, but rarely do I think of it as the sweat equity of human intelligence. Perhaps I'm wrong but if I was wrong, would I be a blogger and thus protected from error?


Tom said...

"Regardless, it's always good to reach a secular audience...."

Hence, Commonweal.

TS said...

High-laire, with the added benefit o being true!