Saturday, April 02, 2005

Bloopers are so fun

Oh sigh. I shower some praise on the NYT and then today they go and print this about the pope dying:

"Even as his own voice faded away, his views on the sanctity of all human life echoed unambiguously among Catholics and Christian evangelicals in the United States on issues from abortion to the end of life.

need some quote from supporter

John Paul II's admirers were as passionate as his detractors, for whom his long illness served as a symbol for what they said was a decrepit, tradition-bound papacy in need of rejuvenation and a bolder connection with modern life. "

20 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The nice thing about the web is the way institutions like the Times get caught without their make-up and/or their pants.

A different view of this papacy from Christopher Hitchins:

http://www.slate.com/id/2116085

Rick

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a pretty venomous little column by Hitchens, there. I realise a lot of people have "Catholic damage", that thing where someone grows up in the church and falls out with it and spends the rest of his life being fanatically anti-Catholic. I can see how it happens, but speaking as someone on the outside of the whole Christian experience, I find Catholicism really interesting and troubling and sometimes scary and sometimes gorgeous. I wish more people could talk/write on the subject without getting all dogmatic about how it's either The One Godly Truth, or Eeevil.

Karen M

10:10 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

I wish so, too, Karen, although I have to admit, I'm not Catholic and this Pope makes me feel like I've experienced "Catholic damage" of a sort. He did a lot of good things, but he did some really outrightly nasty things that I would categorize as if not evil then hateful, and so upon his death I have a very mixed reaction. I've noticed most people react one way or the other when someone like the pope dies, or Ronald Reagan for instance. Some are ready to immortalize how wonderful they were without recognizing any of their bad sides, and then others are ready to do nothing but comb through the horrors the person left in their wake and not look at any of the good things they did. I for one can't make myself go one hundred percent in either direction. I wish I could do the whole thing where I say, no matter what he meant well and did many good things and had faith etc. etc., but then I think about the prejudices someone like the pope has validated and encourage and the dangerous laws he's declared is supported by his god, etc, and I shiver also. So mainly the way I think about the pope's death is the way I would about anyone's. I don't think he deserves to be raised up or driven into the ground completely either. It is a shame we don't have more people who could write more objectively about subjects like his and religion. Too often the people who could do that, though, probably don't have enough interest in that subject. Just a hunch, but possibly true.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, Catholicism as a religious force in the secular world is definitely something that affects all of us, and the Pope should be held responsible. I think the thing that bothers me about articles like this one is that it feels to me like the author's personal antipathy toward Catholicism actually gets in the way of the points he's trying to make.

Karen

11:48 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

There does seem to be a sense of that, reading this article. He would have been better off not being as vitriolic and bit more persuasive. I sometimes wonder what the point is to write articles that aren't going to reach toward people who don't already think the same way you do.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hitchins is a rabid attack dog. What makes this particular column interesting is that he has recently been taken up by the right for his wildly pro-war stance.

The coverage that this Pope's death will receive will be almost entirely adulatory and few will consider that to be mindlessly pro-Catholic nor say that the creators of that material should recast it in a way that would appeal to a wider audience.

Rick

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am curious about the Catholic experience, maybe because it's a neat paradigm for other questions.

Like: for an individual person who finds personal good (strength, spiritual guidance, group belonging, etc) within a group, to what extent is your ability to identify as a member of that group undermined when some of its authorities do things that horrify you, and take the entire group along for the ride? Especially in Catholicism, with its belief in hierarchical structure and the idea of infallible authority. And it's hardly the first time over the centuries that the church has been involved in seriously problematic actions.

I suppose it's a bit like being a citizen of a country whose leaders are enacting laws and wars that horrify you. Except that there's plenty of room to dissent with a revolving roster of politicians and still remain loyal to the body/idea of the state. Whereas my understanding of Catholicism is that it requires you to accept the words and actions of its leaders as official doctrine, and there's a fairly limited amount of space to criticize from within and still claim group membership.

I just, I don't know how people reconcile these things, and I'm still trying to figure out what it means to be a citizen of a country that does things I don't want to stand behind. To what extent are each of us responsible for allowing our leaders to do things in our name that we don't agree with? To what extent do you accept the flaws of the system and say "there's bad stuff but also good stuff in this group, and I'll try to help us work toward the good"?

It's a complex world.

Karen

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karen

Especially in the U.S. individual Catholic belief has become much more "cafeteria style" with people accepting or rejecting beliefs as concience or convenience lead them. Most Catholics don't support Church oppositon to birth control or capital punishment, for instance. The Church in which I was raised has largely disappeared and been replaced for bad and good. It's a great source for fictional material, though!

Rick

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really is a subculture that fascinates me, a whole self-contained little world that co-exists with the wider world but has its own internal rules and laws of nature.

I know a couple of Catholics who still subscribe to the more old-school religion, and I think to them it's like a layer of secret ancient magic that runs through everything in life. The way they talk about it sounds a bit like what I get out of reading high fantasy novels.

Karen

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, on some level Catholicism is high camp. Makes its anti-gay stance even more perverse.

Rick

3:05 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

I never thought about it that way. That is so true! hehe

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Benjamin Rosenbaum said...

That's not even the beginning of the perversity of the Church's relationship with queerness. Until the 13th century, the clergy was explicitly tolerant of homosexuality, and I think it's a fair assumption that the Catholic clergy is still predominantly gay.

Indeed, if you read between the lines of the Church's stance on gays, their attitude is clearly that if you have such unnatural desires, the best thing to do with them is to "give them up to God", living a life of committed, ascetic celibacy and getting mileage out of your frustrated physical needs in the form of penance. What better place to do so than in a solid, single-sex community of equally committed brethren, most of whom have the same issue, within a strict regimen of religious practice to keep you on the straight and narrow? Indeed, having such inexpressible lusts makes you an ideal candidate -- one would even say a specially chosen one -- for immersing yourself wholly in religious duty and self-abnegation. From there it's a short hop to realizing that (nonpracticing) gay people are actually *chosen and elected* to be priests, monks, and nuns.

So you can see the otherwise bizarre anti-gay (anti the practice of gay sex) stance of the church as a very smart way of ensuring a ready pool of non-family-establishing, ideologically committed recruits to staff its amazing, ancient global bureaucracy.

Thus, really, the battle between modern gays and the Catholic Church is actually a battle within the gay community... broadly defined. Between two gay communities, perhaps.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, between the gay community and a community with a large number of repressed homosexuals who do not, especially these days, admit that they are gay and who live in an atmosphere or homophobia. There is a difference.

Rick

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant to type "atmosphere of" not "or".

Also historicaly the trick was not to remain celibate but not to get caught.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Benjamin Rosenbaum said...

Isn't members of the Catholic clergy being unwilling to admit their desire for people of the same sex is a relatively recent phenomenon? One certainly reads lots of angst-ridden accounts of monks of earlier times wrestling with their desires. I wonder if it's just in modern America, where the issue is so charged, that don't talk about it to outsiders -- and if the institution of the confessional ensures that it's talked about within that community.

Is someone who says "I am beset by the desire to have sex with men, and am praying for the strength to resist" in the closet? I'd say no... at least not if they say it to a whole bunch of people.

And before the thirteenth century, the deal was not even not getting caught, but just making sure you did your penance and said your Hail Marys afterwards, cf Boswell. In the Middle Ages, the church was a great haven for gay people.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boswell shed a lot of new light on church attitudes. But he is very selective in the documentation that he uses and very inclined to find the interpretation that he wants (in other words he's an academic historian). His book on same sex marriage, for instance, seemed more wishful thinking than substance. In the Church both East and West there were persecutions of gay clerics, nuns and monks from very early on. Sexual rules were a major difference in the pagan view and the Christian. There were also times and places where there was tolerance.

I would not put Boswell in the same class as, for instance, Dover with his Greek Homosexuality. But then Dover got to work from Greek and Roman texts in which there is a rational basis not necessarily found in early Christian accounts -of anything.

I think that Boswell's point - that there was a place in Christianity for the non-practicing homosexual - is well taken. I think that covert and institutionalized abuse accompanied this throughout. And, yes, that's the closet.



Rick

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben

This has been an interesting thread for me and I wouldn't mind continuing, but I think it clashes with the general cuteness and light theme and tone of the Barzak blog.

Rick

6:25 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Are you inferring that I'm not a serious-minded person?

You're right. Take this discussion to David Moles' blog. He's got this kind of thing going on over there all the time.

;-)

4:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But without all the cuteness and sluttiness that are available here.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Benjamin Rosenbaum said...

But what about those dishy bishop's hats? :-)

[Sounds like you've done your homework, Rick... that will teach me to rely on academic historians!]

2:29 PM  

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