Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wanted: Catholic Church in New Mexico Decoder Ring

I often talk about things I know little about. After all, I'm a schoolteacher. I also, rather inexplicably at times, make it a point to write about things I know nothing about. After all, I'm a "blogger". Perhaps as explanation of the inexplicable, it seems we are drawn toward that we know so little about.

Which gets me to the Catholic Church.

I really know pretty much damn close to nothing about being Catholic. I mean I know quite a bit of the history regarding the Church. When an entity is involved with everything from legitimizing the savage pseudo-attempt to "convert" Incas to running a huge, extremely helpful charity organization, it's not hard for even a dullard like me to find out a little something.

But there's another layer, and yeah it's kinda of a scary layer to someone outside the Catholic loop, that puzzles and intrigues me.

Two current blog posts and resulting comments are evidence of this additional, mysterious layer of meaning.

First is the reaction to Barb's post at "Democracy For New Mexico" about the tabling/defeat of the proposed Domestic Partnership Bill. Those will similar obscure interest in finding out "how Catholics think" are suggested to read the comments by someone going by the handle of "Larry". In addition to the words from "Larry", notice how the word "Catholic" has some sort of code meaning throughout many of the other comments in the thread. Curious.

What do people really think about when they say/write "Catholic"? It's obviously fraught with all kinds of nuanced, perhaps tortured meaning, but I'm left with the same feeling I get when I go to Slashdot and try to understand the lingo of those talking about "open source virtualization clients". It's the use of English as another language, one I just have to admit I don't get.

As this use of the language seems to have quite an impact on my life in the, supposedly, Catholic Church-controlled state of New Mexico, I want someone to break down the code, preferably by screaming out exactly what they mean by use of the word "Catholic".

Second is yesterday's post by former ABQ mayor Jim Baca. Mr. Baca has been on a roll in recent days, and his post entitled "Taxes! and the Seven Works of Mercy" is written with a sense of fury only possible by someone who's been there:
"Wasn't one of the "Seven Works of Mercy" we good Catholics were supposed to do called "Visit the Sick"? That was what I was taught at Our Lady of Fatima School as a child. Well, I guess that was only for certain people. Pedophile clergy were provided with health care and counseling I am sure. Of course one of the other works of mercy was "Bury the Dead" and maybe this fills in the gaps for not helping the sick."
Being from Texas, I understand a state run by Evangelicals. I know what that code word means. But the use of the word "Catholic" in New Mexico still escapes me after 15 years here. How can something so ridiculed, and whose followers say such ridiculously un-"Christian" things (like "Larry") still have such a hold on this place? Or is it really just a code word for something else less politically correct to bash (e.g., Hispanics)?

Inquiring refugee minds from Evangelical strongholds want to know. I'd love to see/hear/read some REAL dialogue by native New Mexicans (or close to it) on the subject. I need a Catholic mindset flowchart. I need an online translation program.

I just don't get it.


Natalie said...

I think Jim summed it up best with just one little (big!) word: hypocrisy.

I grew up Catholic. I went to a Catholic school. I'm even compelled to capitalize the word. (lol)

We were just welcomed into a Catholic school even though we (definitely) aren't Catholic. (Still recovering... yes, yes...)
Our eleven year old had a terrible incident at his APS elementary school. (I posted about it on my blog. Eh.) As a result, we withdrew him and enrolled him at the catholic school. They waived all of the parrish fees (if you don't go to church, which is highly encouraged, by the way) you have to pay into the basket somehow), registration fees, found a scholarship (read: he's bi-racial [Af/Am] and a good demographic) for him and practically gave him uniforms. (Not really; it cost us over $400 smackers.)
Why? Why would the welcome the young, bi-racial son of two lesbians?


And, there ya go. But they won't support our ability to have equal rights and have health care for us/our kids or be able to do all of those things a married (one man;one woman) can do legally.


This bling also comes in a diamond and gold shaped $ emblazoned with a cross and available on a nice, Italian gold chain. Bling, bling.

There's yer decoder ring... bling.. and so much more!

Anonymous said...

Hey Natalie,
I used to love your blog but thought you gave up on it. I Spy something? Where are you at now?
La Maestra

barbwire said...

I was raised as a Roman Catholic (!), as were most of the people I grew up among in the Chicago neighborhoods where the offspring of immigrants moved when their ethnic neighborhoods were razed for expressways or fell into ruin. Mostly Italians and Poles with a smattering of Irish and a handful of Lutheran Scandinavians and Germans. But the Church then and the attitudes of Catholics I knew were very different than they are today.

Oh the Church was, even then, railing about sexuality, but primarily in terms of scaring people about masturbation (impure thoughts and deeds), urging the faithful not to use contraception beyond the "rhythm" method and publishing lists of banned movies and books (which we all then made a point to see or read). We pretty much never heard the word "gay" or even "queer" in public.

Most Catholic adults I knew went through the motions of the religion, but didn't obey many of its tenets or take the Church very seriously. The grandmas were the most into the Church as they loved to sit and say their rosaries while Latin chants reverberated through the often beautiful cathedrals that provided worship space. Everybody celebrated baptisms, First Communions and Confirmations with parties, but families were small. Everyone seemed to ignore all the sermons about contraceptive devices.

Many years later, after the pedophilia scandals broke, the Church seemed to go apeshit over politics, especially in terms of GLBT crusades. I think it serves two purposes in their view: it shows they are against gays (conflating gays with pedophiles) and attracts new members by creating controversy. Notice that not much is demanded of the Church members beyond giving money and joining in the castigation of "outsider" sinners. It's good business, isn't it?

When I talk about the Catholic church, I'm primarily talking about members of the absurd hierarchy that rules it. They set the tone, they stir up the churchgoers, they organize the bigotry in the name of the Pope. The people who believe in the power and wisdom of the Church are just followers. Many of their kids will grow out of it, but enough still remain, and enough poorly educated newbies are being attracted so the Church still retains a lot of influence here and many other places.

Just by circumstance, many Hispanics here are also Catholics, but they could just as well be of other ethnicities that are heavily Catholic.

OK, I'm rambling now. But what I set out to say is that the Church is now a blatant political player -- very different from its role when I grew up in its cathechism classes in the 50s and 60s.

My relationship with the Church soured at a young age, when I was 14 and about to be Confirmed in a reddish gown and little red cap. A few weeks before, our parish had a visit from a Cardinal and we were all encouraged to welcome him. He arrived dressed in gold-threaded vestments, carrying a gold cross and gold holy water sprinkler, and riding on a gold litter carried by underlings, like a monarch. I took one look and thought, "what the hell does this have to do with Jesus Christ?" It was never the same for me.

I understand the sense of community and identity the Catholic Church provides in this state, but I'll never understand why the worshippers take it all so seriously, to the point of listening to what all these males who have (supposedly) sworn off sex have to say about family life, sex and love.