Monday, November 8, 2010

Kings, and Queens, and Awe-Filled Restorationist Catholicism: We're Baaack!

The headlines alone are almost worth the rollercoaster ride.  I'm talking about the rollercoaster ride of yet another top-dollar, resplendent-theater,* papal visit, with hundreds of thousands of papal cheerleaders rooting for God against the dirty, filthy secularists and their rag-tag band of gay supporters, survivors of clerical sexual abuse, women with countless reasons to find the Catholic church repulsive.  To show the world, you know, that Catholicism is not only alive and well: it's kicking some major butt in some major theatrical shows these days, just when its enemies are prematurely writing its obituary.

*On theatrical Catholicism, see Colleen Baker's latest incisive posting at Enlightened Catholicism.

And what a show.  What sturm.  What drang.  What fabulous costumes and glitzy sacred spaces to make those pesky little questions about abuse cover-ups and shady business with money laundering and money collected from hidden donors to attack disordered gays while churches are being closed and women's tedious litanies of their "rights" all vanish in an instant.  In a heavy cloud of pungent incense wafting its way to heaven.

In a heartbeat.  What theatrics to die for, in which we can instantly, magically, be transported back to an era when kings and queens, God's emissaries in the secular realm, still walked the earth.  And consorted with popes, God's sacred emissary on earth.

As I say, the headlines alone are worth the show.  How often anymore, for instance, do you read one like this: "King Tells Pope: 'We Will Not Forget Your Visit.'"  Heck, how often anymore, except when His Holiness heads to England or Spain, can you even find a king or a queen to dust off, bedeck with finery, and set up as a pretty stage prop for yet another shock-and-awe papal visit designed to renew our faith in the poor man of Nazareth, who . . . ?

Well, never mind about him and what became of him.  The focus of this theater is somewhere else entirely.

And speaking of awe, that resplendent theater in Barcelona's Sagrada Familia cathedral this weekend was awe-filled, I tell you.  Or awful.  Or something like that.

Well, awe-filled is what the Catholic cheering squad intends to go for.  In the breathless prose of Austen Ivereigh at America, the papal appearance at Sagrada Familia was "liturgy to die for."  There were more than a thousand (a thousand, I tell you!) celebrants for a Mass that included 6,500 layfolks.  And a king!  And a queen!  And more than 250,000 cheering, anti-modern, anti-secular, anti-gay, anti-women faithful (more than 250,000, I swear!) lining the streets to applaud this part of the papal show.

"A clutch of priests"; "a huge bronze urn of burning coal, which they placed on the oil-smeared altar"; "great clouds of fragrant smoke" obscuring His Holiness; "lusty, heartfelt singing"; "jaw-dropping beauty"; 150 bishops lunching at the archbishop's palace; a king!; a queen!; "he in a dark suit, she in white"; "an angelic chorus."  Why, even our old friend the pathetic fallacy made an appearance at this abfab liturgical show to die for, when the "sun again came out and danced along the aisles" right during the liturgy of the saints.

And an explosion of alleluias as His Holiness processes into the sacred space.  "I imagine that few ceremonies will ever quite have compared with this one."  Indeed.

Shock and awe, I tell you.  Awe-filled to the max.  

Or perhaps, for some of us who tend to be a tad bit unmoved by the papal theater these days, just plain awful.  

Here's how the wicked, atheistic secular media sum up the show that Fr. Imbelli at Commonweal found awe-filled and Mr. Ivereigh at America saw as "liturgy to die for": "Pope Rails Against Same-Sex Marriage in Spain, Gay Activists Stage 'Kiss-In' to Protest." Evidently one man's theater can be another man's poison.

And, though the papal cheerleaders want us to believe that true Catholics will be duly awed by such papal theatrics and anyone who finds the ugly words denying gay folks the right to have a family because holy families are headed by a man and a woman is an enemy of the church, I'm not so certain that the cheerleaders' reckoning of who is wheat and who chaff matches the reckoning of that poor man from Nazareth, who seems curiously circumvented these days, as kings in black and queens in white buss the papal hand, while the sun dances, the alleluias mount to the skies, and more than a thousand priests (and 150 bishops) stage the spectacle for fewer than 6,500 of the faithful, in what Mr. Ivereigh calls a "functioning church."

I can only conclude that the definition of "functioning" is very much in the eye of the beholder, and one woman's functioning, awe-filled church may well be another's awful nightmare. 

The graphic is a depiction of the Sagrada Familia by Peruvian artist Leoncio Tineo Ochoa, who was born in a barrio.

No comments: