There, I've said it.
Which isn't quite the same as saying that the Catholic Church is un-American, with connotations in American English that go back at least as far as the days when McCarthyism was in flower.Thomas Nast quite unintentionally did some cultural Catholics a favor by popularizing wild stories about Catholic orgies and plots.
Tales of secret tunnels between nunneries and rectories, clandestine burial sites hiding the corpses of babies conceived by priests and nuns, and all the rest of the anti-Catholic mythos became a part of America's cultural background noise.
It's the old 'boy who cries wolf' principle. With a couple centuries of crazy stories about Catholic debauchery - that many Americans didn't take seriously - coming from America, is it any wonder that it took the while for the Vatican to realize that a few priests really had been raping boys?
And, that it's taken the Vatican a long time (by American standards) to get around to taking a serious look at what presumably-Catholic organizations in America have actually been up to?
But, although I can't prove it, I didn't convert to 'fit in.' The conversion process had started many years ago, as I tried to make sense of the virulently anti-Catholic sentiments endemic to where I grew up.
Many Catholics who came to America found the same sort of 'Monk and Nast' attitude. They quite understandably wanted to be employable and, if possible, convince the (largely Protestant) Americans around them that they were 'real' Americans, too.
I think that may have contributed to many originally-Catholic families concentrating more on making sure that their children grew up to be 'real' Americans, and perhaps a bit less on seeing to it that Catholic beliefs were passed on as well.
There's more to it than that, of course.
I'm pretty sure that quite a few of the people in those institutions aren't going to like it.
The SNAFU with Notre Dame, where the leadership of that (allegedly Catholic) school told the bishops of this country that they were wrong about President Obama being honored and tacitly endorsed is, I think, among the first sign that there's change coming.
I think it's only a matter of time before a more serious effort to impose quality control on Catholic institutions gets into mainstream media.
A few, like Blessed Mother Teresa are famous. (She was beatified on October 19, 2003.)
Most live, work, and pray without getting much - if any - attention. Some are in cloistered orders; some, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, get their jobs done in a more public setting.
And a few are definitely off the 50th percentile. Like a pair who were fingered by Maryland police last year as 'suspected terrorists.' Reading about the case in mainstream news, I didn't know what to think. America has never been a Catholic country, and these days there are secular zealots who seem to believe that America should be made safe from Christianity in general. Odd things have happened: like Bible studies getting banned for goofy reasons.
After a little digging, I discovered that someone in Maryland's police force had made a (stupid) mistake, and that it was being corrected. I also found out why the nuns had been suspected of being terrorists. They'd broken into a nuclear missile site in Colorado "and, in rather loud taste, painted crosses on the silo with their own blood...." (October 11, 2008)
They also seem to have a very 'relevant' view of America:
"...I doubt that they should have gone on a 'suspected terrorist' list, these Jonah House nuns were involved with an organization that says "...we believe that the US is the world's number one terrorist." On the home page of their website, above the fold...."I'm no expert, but it does look like Jonah House has bought into Liberation Theology. And, although the Catholic Church isn't a running-dog lackey of the capitalistic oppressor, it isn't a hero of the people's revolution, either.
(October 11, 2008)
I've made the point before: The Catholic Church is the universal church. It's been around for almost two thousand years, so far, and barring orders from higher up I expect it will be around for another two millennia. By then, not many people are likely to have heard terms like populares and optimates, or liberal and conservative, unless they're students of history.
That means that what the Catholic Church teaches isn't "relevant" in the good old sixties meaning of the term. It doesn't conform to a contemporary ideological fashion.
"Leaders representing 59,000 women religious are questioning what they say is a lack of full disclosure about what is motivating the Vatican's apostolic visitation that will study the contemporary practices of U.S. women's religious orders.The LCWR has what may be legitimate points, about where funding for the Vatican representatives will be handled.
"In an Aug. 17 press statement, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious also said the leaders 'object to the fact that their orders will not be permitted to see the investigative reports about them' when they are submitted in 2011 to the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and its prefect, Cardinal Franc Rode...."
(August 18, 2009)
I think there's a possibility that at least some of the objection comes from a realization that Americans who like to be Catholic their way have finally attracted the attention of the Holy See - and that the Catholic Church is not a democracy.
A final point: Jonah House appears to be an anything-but-conservative enclave in America. Not all Catholics who like to roll their own religion are liberal, a point I discussed in June
- "Medjugorje: 'Pope defrocks priest' (Fr. Tomislav Vlasic Laicized)"
(July 29, 2009)
- "'Cafeteria Catholics' and a Diverse Church"
(June 8, 2009)
- "Mother Teresa of Calcutta: She's No Princess Di"
(May 8, 2009)
- "Notre Dame: Lots of Prestige, Lots of History, About as Catholic as Harry Blackmun"
(May 3, 2009)
- "Doctrinal Assessment for Leadership Conference of Women Religious - Having Standards"
(April 15, 2009)
- "The Catholic Church: 19 Centuries of the Great Commission"
(March 21, 2009)
- "Not All Catholics are Like Me - Thank God"
(March 18, 2009)
- "Being Counter-Cultural in 21st Century America"
(March 17, 2009)
- "Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas: Nancy Pelosi Isn't Alone"
(March 8, 2009)
- "The Roman Catholic Church isn't a Democracy"
(February 19, 2009)
- "Conservative? Liberal? Democrat? Republican? No, I'm Catholic"
(November 3, 2008)
- "LCWR says Vatican has not fully disclosed reasons for US visitation"
Catholic News Service (August 18, 2009)
- "Vatican Issues Letter to Permanent Deacons"
Catholic World News Brief, via EWTN (August 17, 2009)
- "Pro-Life? You May be a Dangerous Domestic Terrorist! MIAC Says So"
(March 23, 2009)
- "Maryland State Police to 'Terrorist' Nuns: Oops, Our Bad"
Another War-on-Terror Blog (October 11, 2008)
- paragraphs discussing Jonah House
A tip of the hat to DiscernMyCall, on Twitter, for the heads-up on today's CNS article.