Thursday, May 11, 2006

Catholic burnout

I've actually found a number of things I'd like to talk about, but I'm leaving town again, heading up Ellyn vonHuben's way - and Chris Lugardo's too, I think - so, again, I don't have time.

One item that caught my attention was TSO quoting Zippy (who is occasionally worth quoting) who in turn sent me to a place I've never been before where I found out a most curious thing: a Catholic journalist is thinking of leaving the Catholic Church. The one with a capital C. Sometimes the Catholic has a 'Roman' in front of it. The journalist's name is Rod Dreher, which will be of interest if you know who he is. My guess is that most Catholics in this country do not. If you're a reader of National Review or the Shea and Welborn blogs, you do know him, because he's not happy with the Church's governance and screams real loud about it. In fact, he says he's "burnt out" on it, Catholicism, that is. That's what happened with me and MacDonald's, so I switched to Steak 'n Shake, but the service was slow, so I cook a lot at home now.

It must be a pretty important event because there are over 250 comments in the box. I'd wade through them if you paid me cash money. You won't, so I'm safe. It reminds me of the longing I've seen expressed in some quarters (by Dreher among others) for the conversion of Christopher Hitchens. You'd think they were anticipating the second coming of G.K. Chesterton. Maybe some of us need to re-read G.K. - who considered himself a journalist - to remind ourselves of the enormous gap in talent, sensibility, and intellect that separates him from our modern practitioners.

A few things occurred to me while reading his...article, I guess you'd call it, though it's more like a diary entry thrown open to the public. First of all, who cares? (That wasn't in the article; it was just a thought that plagued me while reading it.) I would expect those close to him to care, but over at Zippy's Mr. Disputations makes a decent point: "I confess to being puzzled by the number of bytes uploaded on this... who would think he is representative of any measurable number of Catholics? How many people are there, really, who will become Orthodox if Rod does first?" Not me. And not you either.

Now if TSO or Zippy or Riddle or Terry or Ellyn or Peony and some others went haywire, I'd be upset because I feel I know them in some limited way. If Culbreath went, I'd know the world was coming to an end. But they wouldn't get much sympathy from me. If you can't keep a promise, you're either a weakling or you didn't make it in the first place. Maybe what Dreher needs is an annulment. Too bad we don't give them out for schism and apostasy, which in today's world looks like another therapeutic cry for help.

Second, Dreher says "that Julie and I are considering Orthodoxy." Some guys have all the luck. It's a team thing. If I told my wife that I would in future be attending a church different than the one with a Pope at the top, she'd collapse to the floor in a weeping heap of despair - before rising to perpetrate some violence against my person.

"I became enamored of Eastern Christianity as a parishioner at the Maronite cathedral in Brooklyn, and came to value the intensely poetic and mystical Eastern Rite liturgy." (I had thought the Maronites were in union with Rome, but maybe I'm misremembering.) Enamored? I've been enamored of lots of things (especially girls) in life, but it's not the word I'd use to describe my devotion to the liturgy, however mystical or moribund.

- Then there's the matter of perspective: our boys are dying in Iraq; my mother is chronically afflicted with one thing or another; a blogger I've never met is suffering from a pernicious affliction to which he can see no end; another, a very talented Catholic wife and mother, is being crushed underfoot by a husband who will not allow her to exchange emails with fellow Catholics or to practice her faith; there is genocide in Darfur - but what say let's all take some time out of our day to write long, sympathetic comments in commiseration with someone who likes one religion one day and another the next, whose moral seriousness in his outrage (as a Catholic) over the Church's governance during the scandals has now been totally eviscerated because he was never one of us to begin with.

- I love this part: "The point is, wherever I end up, if I am saved, it will be because of Christ, not because I entered communion with this or that Church. The Church is the Way; it is not the Destination." (An obvious question occurs: if the Church is the Way, how can one be sure of getting to Christ outside of it?) But lots of "churches" claim to worship Christ 'in spirit and in truth.' I wonder which one is the "Way." And just the sentence before he decries religious relativism. Suppose I complete his phrasing as follows: the Church is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. That would be to identify it, in its holiness (as in one, holy, etc.), with Christ Himself. Which, from the moment of my swearing in, I have always done. To betray the Church is to betray Him. If the Pope's a nazi and all the cardinals visit whorehouses on the weekend, I have nowhere else to go.

Like Dreher, "I see no real prospect of things getting significantly better in my lifetime." Well, tough. Even if I can't be a saint (or won't be, that matter of the will), I'd like to think that during the several hundred years of the Arian heresy I might have done one thing right and clung to the true faith - maybe even fought for it, died for it; and it was in fact the faith of the people that kept it alive during the reign of those heretical bishops. But Dreher would not have been among them; he can't even make it through twenty.

These days, based on personal observation and the nature of much catechesis, when someone tells me he's converting to the Faith, I'm tempted to ask, "So, how long you planning on staying?" I'm tired of this already, so pathetic it all seems. I'm burned out on burn-outs.


alicia said...

You know, I'm burnt out on a lot of things but my church isn't one of them. Some of the people in the church, well, that's another story, but I bet that some of them are pretty burnt out on me too.
You know, I really miss KTC too, and I offer up a plea to Elizabeth LeSeur whenever I think about her situation. And I think about other Catholic moms who face daily ridicule from those who condemn their choice to be open to life and accept the many children that God has given them.
BTW, the Maronite rite is in full communion with the church of Rome. But if Rod really wants a church that has beautiful liturgy and not much else, he could try the Anglicans. Me, I'm not going to waste electrons trying to persuade him that leaving the church isn't the answer. As at least one other convert has said, "Come on in - it's perfectly awful". Yep, it is, isn't it?
BTW, will you have a chance to drop in on Ellyn while you are in the neighborhood? She has often felt to me like my lost twin sister.

Nârwen said...

The Maronites are in union with Rome. In fact, they tend to take pride in being the only Eastern Church which never officially cut ties with Rome. (They were cut off from communication with other Christians for several centuries by the rise of Islam. When the Crusades happened, the Crusaders asked them to come back into communion with the Holy See, wherupon they responded, "We never left !" )

Nârwen said...

BTW, I find KTC's situation sad- actually I find it appalling. If it were me, I'd probably be telling him "Don't let the door hit you in the backside on your way out, sweetheart. Oh, and leave an address where I can forward the divorce papers. " Elizabeth LeSeur I'm not.

William Luse said...

Thanks, ladies. Donna Marie, I tend toward the position in your latter remark, but it's easy for me to say, not having to walk in her shoes.

Alicia, don't think I'll get to see her unless she makes it to the ballet performance Saturday night. I'll be there only two days and they're pretty full. It would be a treat, though, if it could happen.

TS said...

Nail...hammmer...head. You have a talent for saying aloud what many of us are thinking.

Dreher does seem to recognize the hopelessness of his situation when he says that he can run but he can't hide. When he finds a perfect church I'm sure he'll let us know. Meanwhile I won't hold my breath.

It seems like he was terribly scandalized by the pedophilia scandals, which strikes me as being too lopsidedly in favor of focusing on others sins versus our own.(And of course even as I say that I recognize this comment helps the lopsidedness of my own ratio.)

Chris said...

Though we currently reside about 150 miles south, I still think of her as my city. Enjoy her, and if you need a suggestion on some good places to eat, drop a line.

[[odragul]] [[at]] [[juno]] [[dot]][[com]]

As for Mr. Dreher, I respect the fact that he never had the shrugging-the-shoulders, clericalist response to the abuse scandals that so many seemed to, but I also thought he took it too far with his laying the responsibility on the shoulders of the 80+ year old guy in Rome. He never seemed to get past the idea of pope-as CEO, which is the kind of poor ecclesiology that could cause one to fall into schism.

If he does convert, however, that will be one more millstone around the neck of many shepherds who already have much for which they will have to give account.

William Luse said...

TS, we are all scandalized by sexually and liturgically abusive priests. I just wonder why he thinks it affects him more than the rest of us. Because it doesn't.

Ellyn said...

Very well said.

(PS - You should've stopped by. The house is a tad chaotic -i.e we're still packing away the Easter decorations with a few St. Patrick's do-dads popping up here and there - but the door is always open! :) )

William Luse said...

I know it is, because that's the kind of woman you are; but each day was full and I had to hurry back so I could get ready to leave town again.

Nârwen said...

Believe me, I'm not judging KTC. I admire people who have such patience. I'm just aware that I don't have it !

William Luse said...

Me either.