Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Numbers Game Flops in Spain, Papal Apologists Still Spin

And so here's what happens when you play the numbers game (and here) to prove how well the church  is kicking butt through its stellar anti-secularist theatrical papal visits: when the numbers don't shake down in the right direction, you torture your interpretation of a papal visit to explain how it's still a stunning success.

Though adoring cheerleaders didn't line the streets six deep to shout down God's opposition.  Even when the numbers disappointed in Spain, there was still that "rare spectacle" of a power liturgy in two iconic cathedrals.

A clutch of 1,000 priests!  150 bishops lunching at the episcopal palace!  My censer's bigger than yours!  And so: "The Church was happy with the turnouts."

The Church who?  The layfolks who didn't turn out along with kings in black and queens in white to buss the papal ring?  The Church, as in the thousands on thousands of Catholics who have now walked away from Catholicism in Austria, Germany, Ireland, the U.S., and other countries due to the abuse revelations? The gays and lesbians who have been systematically driven off since the "Church" declared them disordered?  The millions of people in places like Latin America living on the economic margins who'd give their right arms to have just a fragment of the funds spent to mount these cynical spectacles?  All the women who are told day in and day out by the pastoral leaders of Catholicism that they are and can expect to remain second-class citizens?

The Church was happy with the turnouts.  Says who?  For whom is Mr. Ivereigh reporting, and as whose mouthpiece is he acting when he files his breathless reports about these papal events?

When we have to scramble around to find  tortured justifications for low crowd turn-out, justifications like the inhibiting effect of tight security--since we've premised our arguments for the effectiveness of the church in the world today on huge, costly papal shows and screaming adulatory crowds six deep--we're moving into morally shaky terrain, indeed.

It might be better simply to admit that the success of a Christian faith community ought not to be measured by its ability to stage liturgy to die for featuring black-clad kings and white-clothed queens; that defining success  by the mine's-larger-than-yours big stick of numbers is juvenile; and that Christian religious groups which need to postulate and define themselves over against enemies whose humiliation is a church's standard of achievement are significantly ignoring the gospels that ought to be their constant standard as they consider the effectiveness of their mission.

There were no adoring crowds standing beside the cross to acknowledge the success of Jesus's life and mission.  Only the women among his followers stood with him to the end.  Jesus lived and died a poor man, a failure, a marginal person in a marginal section of a very marginal part of the Roman Empire.

Perhaps the "Church" that, Mr. Ivereigh reports, is so pleased with the recent papal visit to Spain despite the lack of turnout for its spectacles would be better served if it spent more time meditating on the example of the One whose life and teaching are at the center of it all.  Who was about anything but expensive empty shows and playing to adoring crowds--but, rather, was about reaching out to those on the margins and drawing them into the embrace of divine love.

P.S. Check out the thread following the America posting to which I link above.  Wow.  Remember what I've been saying about the Catholic right's penchant for the term "homosexual" rather than "gay," and why they intend to keep using the former term?

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