Friday, July 15, 2005

Mrs. O'Leary's son

There is a priest in Japan named Fr. Joseph O'Leary whose prodigious blogging has gotten some attention from other bloggers, specifically since he posts so very often on Dr. Phillip Blosser's blog. The Angry Twins wrote about his posting on Dr. Blosser's blog as well a few weeks ago.

The twins posted a link in a since-deleted (I think) entry to a post Fr. O'Leary wrote about the "Neo-Caths." I found a number of things disturbing about this post (my "My Generation" post below was a first response to his writng). To begin, he paints Pope John Paul II to be what I can only term a cult leader of the ilk of Hitler and David Koresh: self-seeking and manipulative, not the Vicar of Christ on Earth. He paints people of this "Neo-Cath" generation (me and many others descended from the baby boomer generation of Catholics that he calls the "Vatican II Catholics") as hateful, decidedly un-Christan, unthinking, unsympathetic morons.

Since I can only speak for myself (Though I cannot imagine that my take on his opinion of people of my generation isn't shared with other "Neo-Caths"), I have to say that I have given what the Church has taught through the centuries a lot of thought and have struggled with some of it. The fact that I and others like me do not worship our own intellects before The Lord does not make us stupid. It makes us humble, even if my saying so doesn't make it sound like I'm trying to be.

What Fr. O'Leary charcterizes among the youth as militantism (is that a word?) or an unwillingness to think for ourselves is in fact a response to the relativism ushered in during the botched catchesis of the late '60's and 70's (and even '80's. I thank God for the Sisters of Immaculate Heart of Mary of Philadelphia for their teaching me the right stuff when I was in Catholic elementary school in the '80's).

The youth of today look around and see that our culture tells us is that there are no absolutes. And in our hearts we know that is false. Our grandparents know that there is good and evil: not everything is smudged gray. These men and women sacrificed much to rid the world of the Axis powers of world War II. Theirs is a generation of, yes, flawed (aren't we all?), but selfless poeple who suffered during the great Depression and who saw heavy combat in Asia and Europe and then did not discuss it when they got home. They wanted to save us and spare us.

By contrast, the parents of this "Neo-Cath" generation are selfish, ushering in an untold era of consumerism and waste in every facet of their lives: from the gas-guzzling cars they drive to the babies they killed for convenience's sake. This is a generation of women who bought into the myth of "having it all:" career, children, and a husband. The spouse and the kids became a symbol of status for some, while most other women struggle with the daily grind of trying to do the job of two women. Marriages have suffered and ended leaving an unprecedented number of children without strong male and female parent figures present to them on a consistent basis. They have brought up children who feel entitled to everything. "Who works for anything anymore? If mom or dad whine long enough or yell loud enough I won't have to do this or I'll just get that."

This is a generation craving boundaries and Orthodox Catholicism provides that. Othrodox Catholicsm provides absolutes and structure for a generation adrift. And Pope John Paul II was a powerful, holy grandfather figure: a member of the Greatest Generation (to use a popular phrase) who loved us not just for who we are, but for who we could be if we would turn away from what we know in our core is false and embrace Christ, the Truth, and the Church, His Bride. He helped us all see that happpiness comes from thinking of others first, not simply of ourselves and he challenged us to a humility many have not seen modeled by their parents.

And we do not all seek a return to the Church of the Lateran Council. We know that the Second Vatican Council did indeed breathe new life into the Catholic Church, and we could not go back even if we wanted to. And our hero, Pope John Paul II, was a driving force behind Vatican II and a major contributor to "Gaudeum et Spes."

Our problem is not with the Council. Our problem is that the wonderful roots of the Council were torn up and transplanted into some questionable soil. The tree is bearing some bad fruit and it's time to transplant it into good soil again. Eucmenism, in the sense of reuniting the Christian Churches, is good. Trying to splice non-christian faith practices into Holy Mother Church can only make her ill. We may have soemthing to learn from EAstern religions, Fr. O'Leary, but transplanting shades of Buddhism into the Catholic Church borders the heretical (See Fr. O'Leary's blogs for his Buddhism and forgiveness post, which I cannot insert since Blogger can't make that happen on a Mac).

The more I read his posts, the more I am reminded of a play I read in college. The name of it escapes me right now (apologies to DeSales Humanities chair Dr. Steve Myers, since I think I read the play for his class-maybe someone else can help a sister out?). It's an Irish play about a family of 2 sisters and a brother. The brother was a missionary priest who returns home pretty suddenly. Everyone wonders why. He seems a little off, buy physically he's pretty ok. Turns out, the priest assimilated the African tribal religions he encountered on his missions into Catholicsm and he was removed by his bishop. The problem with the priest in the play is that he chose to forget that there is "one holy catholic and apostolic church," and that not all faith traditions are created equal. Christianity is the true faith, the Catholic Church (Eastern Orthodox and Roman being each one of "two lungs," to quote JPII) is the one true Church. It is our duty as Christians to bring the good news of Chirst to our brothers and sisters the world over, but we are not to dilute the truth to get numbers.

I'm probably not as smart as Fr. O'Leary, and I am certainly not as well-studied as he is, but I think I make my point. I am not calling him out. I am simply defending my own good name, as well as the good names of the other "Neo-Caths." And while we're talking about it, can we please come up with a better nickname for ourselves?

Viva Christo Rey!


Mark Mossa, SJ said...

I like your passion!

Much of what you say is true. Though I'm scared of an orthodoxy embraced simply out of a need to have boundaries. Orthodoxy should not bind, but set one free. It shouldn't be static, but dynamic. Otherwise there is the danger of it becoming a "check your mind at the door" kind of dogmatism. The irony of much of what claims to be orthodoxy today is not that it is not intellectual, but that it is too intellectual, and too caught up in intellectual categories to engage the messiness of life. In our desire to discover absolute truths--and I believe there are absolute truths--we have to be careful, I think, not to be too confident in those we arrive at. Just because we claim something to be true, doesn't mean that sometimes a seemingly contradictory thing cannot also be true. Indeed, we have evidence of that in our tradition. Jesus is at once fully human and fully divine. How could that be, if we think only in "absolute" categories? God is both transcendent and immanent--God comes uncomfortably close, even dwells in us, yet remains incomprehensibly other. Could it be that the uncertainties and relativism we knew growing up are not something to escape from so much as an invitation to appreciate the paradoxes that lie at the heart of our tradition? And can that help lead us beyond unsatisfactory labels like liberal, conservative, neocon, neoCath, or whatever?

Don't know if that makes any sense, but I think that all the typical arguments being made these days about things are missing something. I've had that sense nearly my entire adult life.

Thanks for taking a stand for our generation!


Amy Giglio said...

The really really smart guys become Jesuits. That's one of the reasons why I like your order so much.

I think that your comment that "Orthodoxy should set you free." is what I'm getting at. People of our generation, and those younger than us (generation Y?) have found or are finding that a lack of structure is enslaving..not freeing as so many in our culture would have us believe.

And I don't think anyone should check their mind at the door. In fact. I think that humble, critical consideration of the truths of our faith can only lead to deeper understanding and deeper faith.

One of the things I love about Catholicism is that there is so much mystery and contradiction. You cite three perfect examples (a trinity!). In the final analysis, there are some things we can only take on faith. There are some things which rational consideration cannot reslove. There is a harmony of the rational and the irrational in Catholicism which is one of the things which is so attractive about our faith. There is room for poets and scientists here.

I'm also not so sure that any labels are really useful for us. Are we not all Children of God? Isn't that really the only label any of us need?

What really got my Irish up was O'Leary's comments on JP2. One thing That I think he was getting at, and I am going to go against the grain of many in our generation here in agreeing with it , is that there ought to be more distance between his death and his beatification or canonization. These are heady days so close to his death and I think time can make us more objective. Any evidence for his canonization would still be there in 5 years, and the cause may indeed be even stronger then. His legacy deserves an objective analysis that only time can provide. And I don't think he would have wanted the exception for himself.

I am not a scholar, and there are some things which I have in my head and am unable to articulate because i have only started higher studies of our faith. That's why I'm so grateful that you and others like you read what I post (here and elsewhere). You make me think better. :)

Amy Giglio said...

Tony, I love Catholic Pillow Fight. And I loved your rebuttal.

And I Think "Catholic" is the only name that fits. :)

Anonymous said...

I linked both yours and Tony's rebuttals through my blog. Well said ma'am! Your parish is lucky to have you as a DRE. I teach 8th grade CCD, (Confirmation.) It is more rewarding than I ever could have imagined.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, concernedcatholic, I just noticed this site now. I will say that to embrace Buddhist ideas on forgiveness is very much in line with the spirit of Vatican II and with such excellent figures as Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan etc. The world direly needs any wisdom on forgiveness that the great religious traditions present. To call me a heretic for this is to betray that extreme anxiety about boundaries and definitions that is characteristic of neocathism. JSOL

Amy Giglio said...

Fr. O'Leary, so nice to have you stop by! God bless you!