Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Going My Way," and Why Anti-Catholicism is a Good Sign

Sometimes a person has to ask, 'do I really want their approval?' Back in my youth, that was the sort of thing parents were expected to say, discussing peer pressure with their kids.

The desire to be accepted by whoever has power and prestige, to 'fit in,' can be very strong. But going along with the in crowd isn't always a good idea.

These are the "Good Old Days,' Eventually

Whatever happened to the 'good old days' when everything was nice and we had movies like "Going My Way" (1944) and "The Bells of Saint Mary" (1945)?

In a way, they're still here. "Sister Act" (1992) wasn't a remake of "Going My Way," but I think the movie 'got it' when it comes to Catholicism and the Catholic Church. (January 24, 2009)

Forty years from now, I think it's quite possible that a 20-something Catholic priest will be writing about the 'good old days' his parents told him about: the late 20th century, when heartwarming movies were made - like Sister Act.

I think we tend to remember what we want to recall. That's a very human thing to do. I also think it's a good idea to remember what really happened: good, bad, weird, and otherwise.

Which brings me to a post in The author, Dr. Jeff Mirus, did a pretty good job of outlining what's been happening in American culture over the last century - and gives a very plausible explanation for why the Catholic Church isn't well-liked by the establishment.

He starts out by recalling the literally-murderous hatred of priests and Catholics up to about 1930:
"...This led to more than one unpunished cold-blooded murder. See again my review of Sharon Davies extraordinary book Rising Road (The Murder of a Priest)...."
("No Longer an Ally: The New Anti-Catholicism"
Dr. Jeff Mirus, On the Culture, (November 11, 2010))
Never heard of that? I'm not surprised. America's education system doesn't think that sort of thing is important. And that's another topic. Almost.

Generic Niceness in the Movies, Catholic Values, and America's Elite

Dr. Mirus discussed nice movies that came out after the thirties, and then shows how - and why - things have changed. Essentially, the Catholic Church isn't as useful to the American establishment now. Picking up with Hollywood of the forties and fifties:
"...At this time, the Church and her clergy were generally perceived as allies of American culture, interested in education, helping people deal with ordinary human problems, and generally expressing well the natural but rather generic American respect for God, faith and family. This would change as the culture shifted in the 1960's and beyond, and especially as it became sex obsessed. In the 1970's and 1980's the lives of priests were much more likely to be explored from the point of view of passion or sexual deviance, as celibacy became increasingly difficult for the popular culture to understand.

"At the same time, however, the treason of the Catholic intellectuals beginning in the 1960s made it appear that the Catholic Church was deeply supportive of many causes held dear by the American cultural elite. The Church had always been a strong force against racial prejudice and in favor of civil rights for racial minorities, of course, but now many of her professors, priests, and nuns became leaders in the movement to rethink morality to justify sexual 'liberation', to sacrifice doctrine for more 'relevant' social action, and in general to justify rather than confront the new secularism that was sweeping America.

"Here again the Church was generally seen as an ally by our cultural elite. The media was pleased to highlight stories which showed the Church in the vanguard of movements for what 'everybody' believes or what 'everybody' wants. The 1970's and 1980's were boom times for Catholic socio-political acceptance and encouragement. And when some bishops and priests attempted to make the real Catholic position known, nobody worried too much about it, because it was instinctively understood that this 'old fashioned' vision of Catholicism posed no threat whatsoever...."
(Dr. Jeff Mirus, On the Culture, (November 11, 2010))
I don't know what it was like to be a Catholic during the seventies. I hadn't converted yet. I do know that there were Catholic clergy in this country who were - alternatively-correct I suppose you could say - in their stated beliefs.

That's one reason that I'm very, very slightly sympathetic for Catholics who apparently decided that they were holier than the Pope, and set up their own little 'genuine original Catholic Church' down at the end of some dirt track. The last half-century has not been one of America's better periods, in many ways.

Please note: I said I'm "very, very slightly sympathetic" with folks who liked the good old-fashioned routine they'd gotten used to at Mass. That doesn't mean that I think they were right to jump ship. Wacky priests who vandalized churches 'in the spirit of Vatican II?' That's yet another topic.

Still, as we say here in Minnesota: it could be worse.

"Decide Today Whom You will Serve"

More from Dr. Mirus:
"...But since then, the long pontificate of John Paul II slowly and inexorably changed everything. While John Paul II was enormously popular and inspirational among committed Catholics (and his travels proved to innumerable weak local Catholic communities how many of these there still are), he created enormous problems for opinion makers in both the Church and the world, who could not stop talking about his provincial Polish myopia, so out of step with contemporary reality. But what had happened by the 1990's, or at least by the 2000's, is that Pope John Paul II had managed to strengthen the episcopate and inspire a fresh generation of priests who know the difference between the mind of the culture and the mind of Christ.

"This was a critical change. American (and I think European) elites realize once again that they can no longer count on the Church to endorse what 'everybody' knows and to favor what 'everybody' wants. The Church has ceased to be a reliable ally, and it is instinctively understood that this can only get worse—that the Catholic Church is slowly gearing up for a fight to take back its own...."
(Dr. Jeff Mirus, On the Culture, (November 11, 2010))
Personally, I rather liked seeing a tough-minded Pole in Peter's robes. Metaphorically speaking. Catholic uniforms tend to be old - but they're not quite that old. Yet again another topic.

I'm also on the same page with Dr. Mirus, when he looks at the Church's position in today's America:
"...You can see the results. Everywhere she is misreported, mocked, dismissed and condemned. Once again, Catholics need not apply. But given what it signifies, this shift back to blatant anti-Catholicism is really a very good thing. It is enormously reassuring, and it inspires hope."
(Dr. Jeff Mirus, On the Culture, (November 11, 2010))
It's not that I'm a masochist. There's part of me that would like to be considered 'intelligent' and 'open-minded' for marching in mental lockstep with whatever intellectual fashion is current.

But I agree with Dr. Mirus. Being "misreported, mocked, dismissed and condemned" is "a very good thing." The way I see it, it means that we're doing our job:
"Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, 9 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. 10 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
(Matthew 5:10-12)
Choosing whether to follow cultural norms, or God, isn't something new. Check out Joshua 24. Me? It's like the man said: "...'...As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.' " (Joshua 24:15)

Related posts:

A tip of the hat to crsmith89, on Twitter, for the heads-up on Dr. Mirus' post.


Brigid said...

Two little problems: A missing end quote in the first sentence: "Sometimes a person has to ask, 'do I really want their approval? Back in"

Also, the name of the person you're tipping your hat too is missing at the bottom.

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


[sound of palm slapping forehead]

Right! Found them, fixed them. Thanks!

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