One: Fraudulent Catholics

June 14, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In my last post, I mentioned that in May I had spent a week in western Massachusetts at a cabin on a lake near our grandkids, Wylliam and Nora. We had a pretty good time with them, though I do tend to think, after a week with a three-year-old and a five-year-old, that parents who manage not to be truly violent deserve a medal.

I also mentioned that on Pentecost Sunday I went to the Catholic church near Wales, the Massachusetts town where we were staying. I am generally wary about churches I’m not familiar with, but it was Pentecost, for Pete’s sake, so I decided to take my chances.

The service itself was unmemorable, except for the fact that it could have passed for a perfectly good Mass at the parish I grew up in just over the city line from Philadelphia circa 1959. In the sermon, most of which has mercifully left my memory, the pastor referred to the disciples at the Last Supper as “Jesus’ first priests.” This reminded me of a pronouncement by the ever-retiring Sister Elizabeth Johnson, back at, I believe, the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Francisco in 1997. “Let’s be clear,” EJ announced. ” Jesus didn’t ordain anybody.” And at the end of the Mass, before he left he altar, the priest and the congregation together prayed a lengthy prayer to the Virgin Mary–maybe it was the “Hail Holy Queen”–and a second prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel that I had totally forgotten., though I knew every word of it. Both were in English, I’m pleased to report.

The striking part of my visit to St. Christopher’s, however, took place while I was hanging out in the lobby waiting for my husband the Baptist to pick me up. There was a  poster on the bulletin board titled “Fraudulent Catholics.” That sounded pretty interesting, so I sauntered over and gave it a read.

It was a poster warning Catholics about US politicians who claim to be Catholics but actually aren’t because of their voting record. There were either sixteen or twenty photographs of people like Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sibelius, Barbara Mikulski and John Kerry, Ken Salazar and a bunch more–folks you’d be quite familiar with. 

The poster, it turns out, was published by the American Life League, a pro-life group. I wondered why a group called the “American” Life League gets to decide who is and is not a Catholic, but it turns out, it’s a “Catholic” group, if not a very catholic one. I tried to find the poster on their web page after I came home but it wasn’t there. I wrote to their contact email address asking for a copy but never heard back from them. Guess they don’t reach out to the likes of me.

Myself, I have thought from time to time of writing something about “bad Catholics,” by which I mean Catholics like the people in my family, and families like ours, who did their best, but were not exactly saints. Like my my great-grandmother, Hannah Kelly, an Irish domestic, for example, who married an Episcopalian and sat saying the rosary in her rocking chair every Sunday while her husband took the kids to church.

“Fraudulent” is another matter, though. Has kind of a nasty edge to it. Hard to fit it in with the things Jesus was given to saying about loving your enemy. Clearly, these American Life League folks are offering a variation on the kind of Catholicism I was writing about in my post, “Only Sex Matters,” except this time the title can be narrowed even further: “Only Abortion Matters.” As for Nancy Pelosi, who worked her butt off to secure health coverage for thirty million or so Americans, a good number of whom won’t need to have abortions because they’ll finally have access to regular medical check-ups as well as contraceptives, who cares about her?

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