“The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side.” G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Fortnight Closing Mass--An Eyewitness Perspective

 This is a nice, accurate summary of the closing mass yesterday.  

Bishops' 'Fortnight' focuses on health law - Washington Times

On the other hand, Washington DC's other newspaper apparently ignored the mass, except for reproducing Archbishop Chaput's homily online.

The Washington Blade, DC's GLBT newspaper, gave more coverage on their website than the Post did--of course focusing on the protesters.  All dozen of them.

 The media insists on trying to portray the Catholic church as hopelessly divided, with the Bishops and the Vatican at odds with the laity.  The Bishops, according to the secular mainstream media,  are trying to move the Church to the right, as this NPR article states; the implication is that they are doing so against the wishes of the vast majority of Catholics in America.  If this is so, how would they explain the numbers of protesters shown above with the thousands of participants outside the Basilica...

...and inside...

with the four protesters I saw.

(In case you can't tell from the picture, they were holding handmade signs with sayings such as "Bishops, You Don't Speak for Me" and "WWJD--What Would JEFFERSON Do".  I was particularly amused by the last, because it portrayed an absolute ignorance of the view of government held by the author of the Declaration of Independence;  Jefferson would point out that the Constitution no place empowered Congress to pass a law distributing free anything to anybody for any reason.)

I look at the photographs of the protesters and read their words and I see people who are very angry and--significantly--very white and very privileged.  They see the Bishop's activities as personally offensive, a threat to their hard-won rights to contraception--not just free contraception, but contraception at all.  But at a deeper level, they see their privileged position in American society threatened by the Bishops.  For decades, a privileged and predominately (but not exclusively) white cultural elite has, from their insular positions in academia, government, mass media, and arts and culture, has pushed an agenda that included the displacement of traditional sources of moral authority (the Church) with new sources grounded in a thoroughly secular understanding of the world.  (Note:  a broad and well-received survey of this trend is Charles Murray's latest book, Coming Apart:  The State of White America).  Such an understanding is accepted by this elite and is seen by them as the new consensus.  Any challenges to this consensus are characterized as bigoted, sexist, homophobic, backward, ignorant.  

Now comes along the Catholic Bishops of the United States to oppose a cornerstone of this new consensus--not contraception per se, but that America is now a secular society and government is to decide what is right and wrong.  What the Bishops are challenging is the idea that what is moral is subject to popular vote; that everything in society is subject to the state; and that rights and freedoms are something granted--or taken away--by the government.  No, they say, there is something greater than the United States Government that is the source of all life, all liberty, all true happiness--the transcendent Triune God.  What is moral is not changed according to popular opinion or bureaucratic edict, but is eternal and grounded in the transcendent.  The authority for teaching these transcendent truths is given by God to His Church, in the person of the Bishops in communion with the Pope.  Each of these assertions challenges the elite's secular consensus, and thus their privilege position as the new authorities for the new culture.  Hence, the characterization of the Bishop's opposition to the HHS mandate as a "war on women"; the challenging of their moral authority because of the response to the incidents of pedophile priests; and  the assertion that the Bishop's views are at odds with the vast majority of the Catholic laity.  Hence, the anger and vitriol.

What I saw outside and inside the Basilica on the 4th was a sharp contrast.  Thousands of people, many standing in 100 degree heat outside for two hours when inside filled to capacity.  There were the characteristic large families with children like stair steps dressed in their Sunday best.  There were elderly religious in their habits.  I saw old and young, married and single.  I saw white Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, Africans, Asians, Indians, people of Middle Eastern descent, and at least one Native American (Archbishop Chaput).  What I saw was truly diverse, truly Catholic.  There was no anger, but joy.  There was no fear, but hope.  Here, I thought, is the Church.  Here is what our opponents fear the most--not the Bishops themselves , but we the people who recognize their authority. 

The Mass was more than a fitting end to the Fortnight for Freedom.  It was a reminder of what we as Catholic are.  We are members of the Church established by Jesus Christ, who promised to draw all men to Himself.  We are members of the Church against which the gates of Hell would not prevail.  If we were promised by Our Lord that Satan could not stand, then our victory in this fight for our freedoms is assured.  It will not be easy.  There will certainly be more suffering, even white martyrdom for some of us.  But in the end, the Catholic Church will stand as one.

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