Just in case you’d tired of my lefty Catholic screeds, I’ve decided it’s time to open a new “front” here on the Moveable Feast…and that is…Food. That’s right, the miraculous stuff that sustains us. Since most of the generous souls who read this blog happen to be friends, it will come as no surprise to many that I would turn to this topic eventually (once I’d tired of badgering bishops). It is a subject that preoccupies me perhaps too much. But fear not: I will continue to pop off on the stuff that aggravates papists like me. In the meantime, however, because it’s Sunday, and I’ve been fed by the Eucharist, as well as by a heckuva good bake of cod, it feels more appropriate to speak today about the ways in which our bodies and souls are fed.
First, a few words about how I cook, and what you will almost never hear me talk about: I cook what’s available and I rarely follow recipes with any precision. Cooking, for me, is an exercise in Providence and Prudence and Improvisation. Make what you got, use what you got, feed as many folks as you got, and waste as little as possible, while you’re at it. So that’s the philosophy, behind what I do in the kitchen, and behind what I’ll share with all of you, especially the young ones just learning to make their way round a cutting board. It’s probably the same approach my granny relied upon—and she fed 10 kids of her own, as well as a handful of others she raised—so it’s time-honored family feeding wisdom. I promise a few recipes will follow, but for now, some gastro-ground rules.
My “feastly” rules of thumb:
1. Look in your fridge every day, and notice what’s about to rot. The stuff that’s on the cusp of putrefying is often at its peak of flavor. The owner and chef of a favorite French restaurant is the person who taught me this. When we asked once why the portabello bisque his kitchen made tasted so good, he confided that it was because the mushrooms had just started to rot. So let his advice serve as a frugal inspiration and guide. And don’t be afraid to use what’s getting nasty. You can almost always do something with it, I don’t care what it is. Vegetables, stems, half-bad lettuce, leftover Chinese? Throw it in a pot of water, add chicken broth and sliced garlic and salt, maybe even some bones or scraps of whatever creature you recently ate, and just boil the bejayzus out of it, for half an hour or so. A rich and useful stock will result. The heads and tails of some trout I cooked on Friday, for example, made a serviceable fish stock on Saturday, the basis of a good enuf chowder on Sunday. Point is: almost everything we’re given can give again. And be turned into something else, for ourselves and others.
2. Look at what’s fresh around you. Whatever’s in season, local, available, and preferably picked quite recently. I don’t care what it is—just get it. This is the “daily bread” God gives us, and we can almost always use it. Somehow. Either with the semi-rotten juice we made the day before. Or as fodder for some rotten juice in the future (if you can’t, for some reason, eat it right away). But try not to procure more than you think you and your people can eat in one sitting, within the next three days.
3. Olive oil, salt, pepper. Lemon, garlic, onions and parsley. That is all. Just have these seven staples available, at all times. The rest is superfluous. Anything picked or dug or caught that day can be beautifully prepared with some combination of these essentials. Add others as you’re able and inspired.
4. Thirty minutes. Wonderful stuff can be made in half an hour, especially if you comply with the first three steps above. Try to have some almost rotten stuff that you’ve done something wise with; try to have some very fresh stuff that you could eat practically naked; try to have some some oil, salt, lemon, garlic and parsley, at the ready, and you can count on a decent meal.
Okay, so much for now. Consider this my spin on Mother Teresa’s advice that we do “what’s in front of us.” We can also chop and eat what’s in front of us, too.
Favorite Photo from the Counter Protests
Okay, maybe, at this midway point, it’s time to start showing more compassion toward the masterminds behind this boondoggle—because losers need love, too, and the “Fortnight for Freedom” appears, by most measures, to be a spectacular and costly fiasco.
Media coverage (the kind that has not been home-brewed) of the bishops’ bonnaroo continues to be almost non-existent. Elizabeth Tenety of the Washington Post’s On Faith forum did make an effort this week to report what, if anything, is happening on the ground with this whole offensive. She asked readers to post photos of how they are participating in the formidable Fortnight. Here’s what she got. Underwhelming. To put it charitably.
Washington D.C. Rally
Although the USCCB and diocesan websites are chock-full of events like “patriotic living rosaries,” the pews and parish halls remain largely empty. I am so very proud of my people. Even when mouthpieces like the Catholic News Service claim that thousands turned out at Fortnight-related protests nationwide, they neglect to report that those cumulative numbers amount to about one out of every 100,000 baptized U.S. Catholics. In other words, to the far, far right of any decimal point.
Of course, it may be too early to tell, especially since the real proof may be in November, when the ballots are counted. The hierarchs’ objections notwithstanding, the political motivations behind the bishops and their operatives’ faux campaign can scarcely be denied, especially when you watch videos like this jewel below. Braveheart meets The DaVinci Code. Destined to become an underground classic.
The resources that have been dedicated to this campaign have been simply remarkable. In addition to cult classics like Test of Fire, we’ve seen a deluge of liberty-related agitprop—productions such as the live nationally telecast “town hall” meeting that took place in Boston this week, complete with hand-picked, media-trained “actor-vists.” Check out Catholic Voices, a new academy manufacturing lay Catholic “spokespersons,” for a glimpse of the latest innovation in spin-control. The thinking behind it is that the “anti-Catholic” MSM might respond better to flacks who don’t wear robes. Anyway, given all this, it’s noteworthy how few rank-and-file Catholics have hit the streets. I mean, where is all the civil disobedience that’s been predicted? Where are the dogs and hoses and the wimpled nuns being carried off in chains? Weren’t we sort of looking forward to that, while we wait for the London Olympics to open?
Merciful heavens, what the prelates and their pundits continue to stubbornly overlook is just how skeptical (even immune) we sheep have become to all their obfuscation and bombast. It seems mathematically possible, in fact, that more Catholics may have walked out of Masses where thinly-veiled anti-Obama polemics were preached this past Sunday than marched in rallies.
Yet, perhaps the bishops are right about one thing: that “the age of martyrdom is not over,” as Cardinal Sean O’Malley pronounced on Monday. I think the silent majority in the pews understand a thing or two about “white martyrdom,” because we certainly are suffering for our faith, and we are bearing our crosses, under the misguided leadership of our petulant prelates.
Like our ancestors, we can’t wait to be free at last, free at last. From this Fortnight for Freedom. So let’s make sure to order more fireworks, people. We’ll have something to celebrate, for sure, when this “Fortnight” is over, on Independence Day.
Unless I missed it in my googlations, the US Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom has garnered not a second of television coverage so far. Except, of course, if you count EWTN and the agit-prop some of the dioceses have uploaded to YouTube. (I don’t.) This cannot bode well for the formidable fortnight. In fact, the conservative blogosphere is already grumbling about it, speculating that a “media blackout” has been imposed, part of a newly hatched conspiracy by the “Mainstream Liberal Media.”
The Nuns on the Bus, by contrast, have become media darlings. I mean, the cameras are positively loving the dozen or so sisters of Mercy and Charity tooling through the Midwest on a tricked-out Greyhound. Launched to draw attention to and protest the punitive impact Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget cuts will have on the poor, the bus tour organized by Sr. Simone Campbell’s Network Lobby has so far won meaningful airtime from: CBS News, USA Today, the Associated Press, MSNBC, The Washington Post, local ABC and CBS affiliates in Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin. To name just a few. And the tour is not even half over yet.
What’s more, judging from the video of some of the rallies, it looks like the nuns are winning in the turnout category as well.
Arguably, from a PR perspective, the nuns on the bus are just rolling all over the prelates. Even though their campaign’s budget probably pales by comparison. Heaven only knows what kind of retribution this might inspire. As we know, our magisterial teachers, spending millions to manipulate us into imagining we Catholics are an endangered religious minority, and a mere stone’s throw from martyrdom, don’t like to be eclipsed. And they’re unfailingly sore losers, so our bishops can’t appreciate the sisterly competition right now. One can’t help but wonder what the payback might be. I mean, the women religious have already been visitated, assessed, silenced and censured. What could be next? House arrest? Ankle bracelets? Maybe Nuns in the Docks?
The blog has been quiet, yes, this past week, in part because I decided to think more, before spouting further about the long-awaited Fortnight for Freedom that begins today. As you no doubt thank your Maker for everyday, this is the US bishops’ over-heated and over-funded religious liberty campaign against the HHS mandate.
The “Fortnight” officially begins this evening, on day two of a searing heat wave in the Northeast. Temperatures could reach 100 degrees in Baltimore, where the fevered festivities will commence with a Mass. How fitting that it should launch amid so much hot air. Friends, I do pity the priests and bishops who’ll suffer chasubles in this Hades.
So where did my week of radio silence and ruminations on this momentous matter take me? To the saints—specifically, Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, the chosen patrons of this two-week affair. Who were they? What do they have to do with religious freedom? And what might these holy men reckon of this spectacle unfolding today?
Reading the lives of the saints is always illuminating, often inspiring, although also occasionally creepy. The mortifications, the mutilations, the martyrdoms—they can be a bit goth for modern sensibilities. But the sanctity and integrity of their lives seem ever present and evergreen to me.
I’ll spare you the lengthy hagiographies. Read Butler or Wikipedia or the Catholic Enyclopedia online, if you want more. You can also re-read Robert Bolt’s award-winning play, A Man for All Seasons, or watch the Oscar-winning film version, to revisit More’s drama. Instead, I’ll cut to the chase about a couple things that struck me and also surprised me about these two English martyrs.
Sir Thomas More, Hans Holbein Cardinal John Fisher, Hans Holbein
First, they truly loved and respected women. Like Jesus did. In a way that was extraordinary among men of their time.
Educated in the late Renaissance by reform-minded dons at Cambridge, Saint John Fisher was a priest, a scholar, a college president, a bishop and a cardinal. He was reportedly an exceptionally pastoral and deeply humble man, who led a backwater diocese in England for three decades and served as spiritual counselor and confidante to King Henry VII and his mother, Lady Margaret. All while building Cambridge University. He was close to Lady Margaret, who endowed his colleges, and he had tutored her grandson Prince Henry, the heir who would become the “Eighth.” As Cardinal, Fisher presided at the funerals of both Henry VII and Lady Margaret. In many ways, he seems to have been an intimate friend of the Tudors. When Henry VIII sought to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, however, Fisher objected. By all accounts, the Cardinal became a fearless protector and defender of the displaced Queen. Catherine’s champion as much as a counter-Reformation apologist for the Roman Catholic Church, the saintly Fisher, it seems to me, could be declared the patron saint of first wives.
Thomas More, a layman, lawyer and father, loved his daughters so much that he educated them to a degree unheard of for his time. Proud of his accomplished and brilliant daughters, he convinced other noble families to begin educating their girls. In fact, it’s fair to say More did more to openly “campaign for” the education of women than he did to openly “campaign against” the King and the Church of England. History suggests that he and Fisher, though both loyal to Rome, tried to avoid conflict with secular authority. They did refuse to swear oaths, but they did not take to the streets. Sir Thomas even took “the fifth,” so to speak, under trial.
So here we have two men of extraordinary intellect and integrity who managed to champion the cause of women in their lives and champion the Church, too. Both were executed by the state in 1535 and declared martyrs by the Church. How ironic is it that, today, those who advocate for women are more likely to be excommunicated by the Church than executed by the state?
I do have to wonder what Cardinal John Fisher and Sir Thomas More—each thoughtful, erudite and nuanced in what he wrote and did (although More was accused of torturing Protestants and denied it)—must think of the hoot-a-nanny about to hit high-gear down here in the mid-Atlantic swelter?
Would these proto-feminists—I’d argue that Fisher and More were both feminists—oppose the HHS policy mandating contraception coverage in our current context? Neither of them were particularly intemperate or exhibitionist about their disagreements with their king. Would they be indulging in the overblown rhetorical and confrontational tactics we’re seeing from our religious leaders today? Concerned about big questions—like the nature of marriage and the apostolic leadership of the Church—would Fisher or More be going to the mat over religious freedom now? On the issue of insured access to birth control?
The fact is, if these two heavenly citizens were walking among us today, and they did decide to join the march, they’d never be martyred for it. In this country, where our current episcopal leaders insist our religious freedom is so imperiled, dissent is actually more tolerated than it ever was in the court of Henry VIII and than it is even now in Vatican City. And Americans enjoy more religious liberty in their nation’s public square, than they do in the pews of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.
Saint John Fisher and Saint Thomas More, pray for us.
Here, in the United States, we will celebrate the Feast of the Body of Christ this Sunday—although the actual day was yesterday. Since it’s one of those “moveable feasts,” however, our bishops here bounce it from Thursday to Sunday, so more of us can mark it by attending Mass, I suppose. Anyway, I happen to love this one, since it celebrates the beloved Body and Blood of Our Risen Lord, in all its glory and in all its instantiations—mystical and mundane— in the Eucharist, in the People of God, and let’s face it: in the whole interconnected, mysterious mess that we know and love as the Church.
And, my, oh my, do we need to recall that we are, in fact, One Body, these days. We’re just a fortnight away from the so-called “Fortnight of Freedom,” after all, a stunt—and it is a manipulative stunt—that promises to veer dangerously close to partisan electioneering (read Henneberger in the Washington Post today and also Gibson’s post on dotCommonweal earlier this week) and to do jack-all to promote the “Communion” we revere on this feast day, and every other day.
As we know, we have seen a whole lotta division here in the American branch of the Body of Christ—more than I care to recap here. But, to illustrate just one facet of the vigorous “discussion” that’s taking place within various quarters (organs?) of the stateside Corpus Christi, take a look at the letter my own parish is sending to the relevant dicasteries in Rome and to our chancery here in Boston. With the Vatileaks imbroglio, we’re also seeing serious internecine discord in Rome, as well. So the disharmony is more than an American syndrome. Yet, since I prefer to understand the Church as the People of God and the Living Body of Christ, my consolation, in the midst of so much feuding, comes from loving it as one big, not-always happy family, complete with drunk uncles and prodigal sons, levebrvrists and radical feminists. So, I’ll be sticking with St. Paul’s and James Joyce’s visions of this earthly Body of Christ. Even if the Letter to the Romans and Finnegan’s Wake could scarcely be more different, when the fervent convert Paul wrote “there are many parts, yet one body,” and the “lapsed” (or dissident) Joyce wrote “Catholic means ‘Here Comes Everybody’,” to my mind, they were essentially saying the same thing. Why would the Body of Christ ever embrace less?
Examination of a Witch, T.H. Matteson, 1853
After yesterday’s censuring of distinguished theologian, Sr. Margaret Farley RSM, to which there has been yet another wave of uproar, this time among the Catholic intelligentsia (see also this reaction from the Catholic Theological Society of America), there arises this crazy thought: Witch trials. Could it be that witch trials are back? It may have been 500 years or so since Rome conducted its last ones, but isn’t it starting to feel like deja vu all over again?
First, the current context: This winter and spring, in addition to the recent magisterial slap at Farley, we’ve seen the bullying of American nuns, an investigation of The Girl Scouts, and, of course, the continuing demonization of female contraception, under the guise of religious liberty.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, and there is no war on women being waged by the male hierarchs of the Church. But our excellencies and eminences have clearly become quite bewitched by our womanly wiles lately. And I’m beginning to suspect that witch hunts may constitute a real front of “renewal” in Rome.
Let’s just briefly consider a couple salient truths about witch hunts. Caveat: since my black magic is insufficient to do this in any length or depth this morning, my considerations will be necessarily brief. First: the witch hunts that arose in late-medieval Europe were, according to scholars, a response to religious sectarian conflict, pre- and post-Reformation. Battles over who owned religious truth were raging then. As now. Heresies were hot and there were tireless and violent campaigns against them. All too familiar, no? At the same time, half a millennium ago, interest in the world’s evils and errors was pretty feverish. New ideas about the nature of evil were emerging. In the sixteenth century, we saw the rise of the personal Satan. Now, we’re witnessing the demonization of the “isms”: feminism, pluralism, secularism, relativism. Boil it down and what we see is basically the villification of modern thought by the rear-guard in Rome. Particularly, any contemporary theological thought by women.
The fruits 500 years ago, in the first rounds of witch hunting, included: scapegoating, ideological purging, persecution and violence. New forms of torture were even invented to interrogate and punish the suspects (usually female) accused of practicing malevolent magic, such as heterodox thought. It may be that censuring, silencing and “renewing” represent the new face of abuse in the Church. We’ve evolved, it seems, to committing new forms of soul violence instead of brute bodily violence.
Since the morning is already too gray, though, let’s search for a ray of sunshine in all of this and recall that many historians regarded the early modern witch trials as the nails that sealed the coffin on theocracy in Europe and the nascent New World. Marion Starkey argued in The Devil in Massachusetts that our own scandal here in Salem forced greater democratization, ended the notion that only a chosen elect could monopolize power in the Bay Colony. Maybe, centuries later, it’s time these lessons were learned in Rome.
Some recommended reading:
Witch Craze, Anne Llewellyn Barstow
The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe, Brian Levack
The Devil in Massachusetts, Marion Starkey
What’s the matter with the American Catholic Church? Well, if you take Dr. Weigel’s diagnosis seriously (as it appears in today’s post in the National Review), it’s a delayed case of “Americanism,” first observed by Pope Leo XIII more than a century ago. Apparently latent until quite recently, this dreaded “Americanism,” thanks to Obama and Pelosi and Sebelius, has become suddenly acute. Even florid. Not that the eminent papal biographer is getting partisan or anything.
Alas, there is something magical, almost Houdini-like in the way that Weigel and other intellectual factoti of the religious right will so blithely and selectively reach back and utterly pretzel some historical tidbit in order to cast their highly-refracted light on a present moment.
That’s what I think Wiegel does, once again, in this instance. The current maelstroms in the American Church have more to do with the tyranny of individualism and conscience, he argues, than any tyranny of the magisterium. Our freedom of conscience, it seems, has enslaved us to a magisterium of “me.” Which is okay, of course, if you happen to wear a mitre. Or if you happen to belong to a schismatic sect like the Society of Saint Pius X. But not so much, if you happen to be the vast rest of us.
Anyway, much as I enjoy his erudition, reading brother Weigel is sort of like watching a savant make elegant balloon animals. Artful. Inimitable. The results? Easily popped.
Because, as you’ll notice, Wiegel just positively glides over an entire century of not just American Catholic, but global Catholic history. Isn’t it interesting that he would write about “Americanism” (Mamma mia, those vaticani surely love their “isms”…but that’s a fetish for another post…), yet fast-forward past that most ”American” of centuries, the 20th, and barely mention Vatican II, which was, of course, a landmark worldwide council, called by an Italian pope?
Why just just elide the most significant event of the last 100 years of Catholic history? Especially when many of the documents that came out of that council—on the Church in the modern world, on human liberty, on the laity, on liturgy—all happen to address the very same issues and, in some cases, the precise points Weigel decides bear his consideration (and ours) in his article today. It’s one heckuva lacuna, in my opinion. And artful, to be sure.
Maybe such selective amnesia constitutes a symptom of an entirely different syndrome: Let’s call it Aggiornamento-phobia. Perhaps what ails the American Church isn’t so much “Americanism,” as Dr. Weigel suspects, but a serious case of Aggiornamento. And maybe what besets brother Wiegel, and many other sufferers like him, is a chronic case of dis-ease with Vatican II and all that it taught and all that it hoped to change.
The Capture of Jeanne d’Arc, by Dillens Adolphe-Alexandre
Today is the 581st anniversary of the day the indomitable Maid of Orleans was martyred, burned at the stake as a heretic, in Rouen, France. At the age of 19. This year also happens to mark the 600th anniversary of her birth, but we Catholics often prefer to declare a saint’s death, instead of birth, as his or her Feast day. Just another one of those quirky-morbid-heavenly sorta things about how we like to roll.
Anyhow, as most of us probably know, Joan is one of the most celebrated visionaries and martyrs among the Communion of the Saints. She’s a starlet, really, whose story comes straight out of central casting. The martyred maid’s brief life has inspired its share of movies, in fact. Ingrid Bergman played her in the 1948 version. Supermodel Milla Jovovich, in the 1999 re-make.
The daughter of pious peasants, Joan claimed to have been directed by God, late in the Hundred Years’ War, to lead the French Army against the English. Young Joan not only convinced skeptical commanders and soldiers to follow her—a teenage girl, for heaven’s sake—into battle, but she notched important victories, ending the siege of Orleans, for example, in nine days. Joan’s valor and her military success led to the liberation of France and the coronation of Charles VII as French king.
Of course, like a lot of intrepid and Godly women, Joan was declared “heterodox” and disobedient by a bishop, who tried and condemned her to death. Her death is probably one of the most documented in martyrdom, because the witnesses—many of them so moved by her faith in the face of death that they sought baptism afterward—also happened to record their testimonies. Read some of the eyewitness accounts here.
Twenty-five years after her death, Joan was exonerated and declared a martyr by Pope Callixtus III. A patron saint of France, the Maid of Orleans has been lionized by Shakespeare, Mark Twain and revered by half a millenium’s worth of Christians. Since I am an American devotee, I will quote what Twain had to say about brave Jeanne:
“Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.”
Perhaps it’s only appropriate, then, to wonder what Joan would be fighting for today, if she were still marching among us. At what contemporary battlefronts would she be found? What risks would she be taking? Whom would she be seeking to set free, today?
Blessed Joan, who listened faithfully to the holy voices you heard, let us hear yours and help us to hear our own. What would you have us fight for?
New York March Yesterday
As the elected leaders of the LCWR convene in Washington this week, in the aftermath of the Vatican rebuke last month, to try to discern a response to the hostile takeover of their conference, it’s interesting to see how this story is being covered beyond our own shores. To illustrate, I will paste in just a couple links, to give you a flavor for it.
First, this report from the UCANews, which is an Asian Catholic newswire. Their angle is the grassroots response, including vigils, marches and a public critique by a Cleveland priest. Cleveland seems to be in revolt, by the way, given the anti-Lennon movement that is afoot out there. See this story and also this account of the root cause of the restiveness for more on the Cleveland situation. I mean, there’s even a website now dedicated to ousting Bishop Richard Lennon. Those of us who knew Bishop Lennon when he was an auxiliary in Boston may be unsurprised that his tenure in Ohio has been marked by a lack of transparency and collegiality.
But I digress. The UK’s Tablet has called for bridge-building from the Vatican and Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, who was appointed in April to lead the “renewal” of the LCWR.
So this is just a tiny sampling from the East and the West of what the world is reading and saying about our American nun-gate. There’s more out there. In lots of different languages. And here at home, as the LCWR meets, the marches and vigils continue (in English and Spanish) in Washington and elsewhere. Social media campaigns such as the Nun Justice Project are also organizing pretty sophisticated resistance efforts.
I find two things noteworthy: first, that this is an international story, at all, and not simply an American contretemps. And secondly, the rare, and even somewhat uncharacteristic unity evident in the response that the Catholic media, the social media and the “local churches,” on the ground, and around the world, are having to this controversy.
Since it’s Pentecost week, and we’ve just heard the readings from the Acts of the Apostles about how, through the power of the Holy Spirit, crowds who spoke many languages were able to understand the Galilean preachers, and how each managed to hear the “good news” in his or her native tongue, maybe there’s a similar miracle of “translation” to be found in the People of God’s “assessment” of their leaders’ treatment of American nuns.
There may be no equivalent in Latin, but I think I’ll google-translate the word “backfire” now.
Forgive the half-cockedness of this post—the thesis I’m about to propose merits deeper consideration and research, for sure—but chalk it up to the Holy Spirit, or to my penchant for drawing hasty conclusions, when I tell you I keep noticing lately how much of what’s being said about Catholicism and who’s being spoken to by our Catholic leaders are really NOT all that Catholic. Not in that old-school, dunked-in-a-diaper, cradle Catholic sense, at least.
Consider this report in the Christian Post, an Evangelical paper, about the overtures that are being made to recruit Evangelical Christians to the marches and protests planned for the “Fortnight for Freedom,” the Catholic bishops’ two-week-long pique-a-pa-looza scheduled to open in three weeks.
Now maybe this is just in the spirit of coalition-building, but I do have to wonder if it’s not also a backstop maneuver to call in reinforcements, in case the Catholics don’t show. The bishops need bodies more than anything to make their campaign for religious liberty at least “look” like a success. And since Catholics, even under the pain of mortal sin, rarely show up to a Sunday Mass these days, what are the odds that they’ll turn out in force for the “Fortnight?”
I also keep noticing how many prominent Catholic bloggers out there are converts. Former Baptists, Evangelicals, even one Jew. It’s just strikingly disproportionate. There are about 77 million Catholics in the United States. (Former Catholics constitute the second largest US denomination, after Catholics). Lately, about 100,000 Americans convert to Catholicism each year. And not all of them stay, so it’s fair to estimate that converts represent a single-digit share of the Catholic population, though perhaps a somewhat larger share of Mass-goers. Yet it’s converts who are frequently the most earnest digital mouthpieces for a lot of what the magisterium is arguing these days. Yes, we recognize that converts are often more ardent and enthusiastic than your average papist, anyway, so perhaps that does account for some of their over-representation among the spokesmen (and they are usually men) in the blogosphere. And there are others who are either ordained, or third-order religious, or married to the ordained, blogging on channels such as Patheos. There’s even one 18-year-old boy who likes to extoll the Church’s teachings on sexuality on his blog. Honestly. I pray for him. The rest of us, in the messier categories, are noticeably absent. I’ve come across only three lay women, for example, who blog for and about RC’s.
Maybe this is a self-serving observation, since I am wondering if I ought to continue with my own meager efforts in this sphere. But I am curious to know whether anyone else has begun to take note of these things and ponder them. I mean, even one of the Catholic candidates for the Republican nomination for President—the thrice-wed Newt Gingrich—is a convert. The other was closer to an Evangelical than most of the Catholics I played CYO ball with back in the day or share a pew with today. So what gives? Are we cradle Catholics too uncooperative and too unorthodox these days to bother courting? Are we being cast aside, like first wives, for a later model? A more adoring and docile and conservative flock? Maybe our bishops are looking for an upgrade? Do we need a makeover and a good lawyer? You tell me.