Thursday, April 2, 2009

Obama, Notre Dame and the Ghetto Catholic mentality

Notre Dame has invited President Obama to speak and the radical right wing of the Church is having a cow. How a Catholic University invite the President of the United States to address its commencement. A recent comment on this by editor Joan Walsh, engendered a flurry of responses.

I am saddened by the number of her readers who described themselves as Ex-Catholics, even atheists. For all of its two millennia of folly, the fact is that the Catholic Church is still the most direct route back to the preacher who lived and died in the land between the seas, and taught us what love meant.

The Church has always been much bigger and more diverse an institution than the Vatican likes to admit. Umberto Eco's masterpiece, “The Name of the Rose,” was much more than a medieval mystery story. It was a snapshot of the ferment, and intellectual diversity, of the Church in the Middle Ages. That ferment and diversity persists.

It was also a paean of praise for St. Francis who single-handily staved off the reformation for two centuries. I remain a Catholic because the essential issue of the Reformation was salvation by faith alone. Luther was reacting to the scandal of the Church pedaling indulgences. He ignores St. Paul. I believe that love engenders faith and I am one with St. Paul: I can have faith so as to move mountains, but without love, I am nothing. Only I believe that literally: without love there is only oblivion.

I attended a Catholic High School and we had to spend a buck to get a black bound copy of the New Testament. More than fifty years later, I still have it, and refer to it. I once remarked to one of my sons and a friend of his that the trouble was nobody feared the judgment of God anymore and they laughed. But that was before I could explain what I meant by the judgment of God. It's all there in my little black book.

There is but one commandment, one truth and one existence. It is love. When we love, we play with eternal fire. If we don't love, we lapse into the hell of oblivion. I believe that. I also believe that it is the essence of a Catholic life.

The problem with Donahue, Opus Dei, the new Newman Society et al, is that there is no love in them. Only an intellectual self-indulgence pointing the way to oblivion.