From the New Breed of Catholics, O Lord, Deliver Us

January 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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To fully understand this post, there are some things about me that you should know. To wit, I am an “Irish-Catholic” of  a certain sort. My father’s mother, Rose Ronan, was an Irish immigrant who died when he was nine, at which time his father, the rotter Tom, vanished. Dad dropped out of high school after the ninth grade to join the Civilian Conservation Corps; the Irish aunts who had been raising him could no longer afford to feed him. After “The War” Dad worked shifts at the Philadelphia Electric Company, and eventually became the president of his IBEW local. Sometimes, at the dinner table, he would announce to my brother and me, “If you ever vote Republican, or cross a picket line, you will go to hell.” I consider this the beginning of my theological education. I was well into high school before it dawned on me that being Irish, being Catholic, being a Democrat, and being pro-union were not all one thing. One of my favorite stories from all of US history is how the Bronx’s Ed Flynn, one of the last great Tammany Hall bosses, worked to get FDR elected and to establish the New Deal, a program modeled on the social welfare that the Irish/ Democratic/Catholic machine delivered to its own.

So when, back in December, I came across an article in the Times titled “Newt Gingrich Represents New Political Era for Catholics,” I very nearly retched. I leave it to the pundits to comment on Newt’s six-year affair with the woman who eventually led him into the RCC and will  stick to Newt’s social positions, nearly all of which are at odds with Catholic social teaching. Take for example his advocacy of child labor as a means of undercutting the janitor’s union (perhaps he thinks that if my Dad had done more janitoring in grade school he wouldn’t have had to live off  government give-aways in the CCC ). Then there’s Newt’s deleting a chapter on climate change from his latest book even as the current “green pope,” Benedict XVI, calls on all people of good will to work to stop it. Or consider Newt’s $30,000 an hour non-lobbyist income from Freddie Mac; this is not, let me assure you, what the church means by a “living wage.”   Newt, baptized by a cardinal, seems to be more like the Piccolomini princes of the Renaissance, seduced by the church’s power and intellectual grandeur,  than like the nuns and priests and laypeople of my father’s generation of Catholics (and of my own)  laboring, as Jesus said, to bring “good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18).

Newt, of course, is not the only instance of this new breed of Catholics, or the Times article wouldn’t speak of a “new political era.” There are lots of others. Take, for example, Paul Ryan. Ryan’s budget is based in the same neo-liberal economic assumptions that inspired the British government to let a million Irish starve during the Potato Famine, so as to protect them from the dangerous notion that the world owed them a living. But Newt, somehow, is more offensive to me than all the others, sitting in basilicas listening to his wife sing in massed choirs before he goes out to preach a gospel of greed and dishonesty across the US.

I suppose I should just count my blessings: Sarah Palin, at least,  has abandoned holy mother church to share her wisdom and example with “Bible-believing” Christians around the world.

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  1. […] year, on the Democratic candidate for president, genuinely stunning. Now as I detailed in an earlier blog-post, I am an Irish-American Catholic of a certain sort. My father told my brother and me that if we […]

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