Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Theology Prof Takes on the Last Acceptable Prejudice

In an excellent piece at The Catholic Thing, theology professor Randall Smith at the University of St. Thomas in Houston writes that when some speak of tolerance they really mean freedom from the possibility of Catholicism.

I know a young man who is heartbroken and devastated because his fiancée’s Catholic mother informed her daughter she would absolutely refuse to attend their wedding unless the couple agreed to use contraception. “I raised an intelligent, independent daughter,” this woman insisted, “smart enough to get into [a prominent Ivy League School]. That daughter should be smart enough not to become enslaved to the rules of a bunch of old celibate white guys wearing dresses in Rome.”

Well, isn’t that nice? And so tolerant, too.

I suppose we should pass over the obvious fact that a cassock is not really a “dress,” any more than an African man’s traditional gown is a “dress.” Would she have dared call an African “Grand Boubou” a “dress”? Not likely if she sent her daughter to an ivy-league school. And as far as that goes, I suppose we’ll have to pass over the even-more obvious fact, to anyone who’s been there, that not everyone who works in the Vatican is a “white guy.” Would she have dared say: “How can you listen to a bunch of old African and Asian and Latin American guys in Rome?” Not likely.

As for “celibate,” well, I’ll give her that. But criticizing people who take advice from celibate priests in Rome about sex is like criticizing people who take advice from Tibetan monks about consumerism. Do people say: “Hey, how can you take advice from that Buddhist monk in Tibet about shopping; he doesn’t ever even go to the shopping mall”? No, they don’t. Why not?

Well, because anti-Catholicism is one of the last acceptable prejudices in the country. Things people would never dream of saying about other groups, they’ll say without reserve about Catholics. And a degree of ignorance that would be downright embarrassing in other contexts – on the level of: “But don’t all black people eat watermelon?” — will cause no public embarrassment whatsoever when the ignorant comment is about Catholics and Catholicism.

But here’s my question: Where’s the much-vaunted “tolerance”? Who’s forcing what on whom? Is it really the Catholic priests in Rome who are “policing” this young woman’s bedroom, or is it her mother? Who is the party willing to engage in a dialogue: the Magisterium whose members have written literally hundreds of well-reasoned pages on the topic; or the mother who in no uncertain terms condemns her daughter for being “stupid” for even thinking about not contracepting?

Continue reading at The Catholic Thing.

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