But is it just me, or do too many ecclesiastical conversations these days run along the polarized premise of "You must be the change I seek in the church"?
The left hates Latin, the right hates liturgical ukeleles; the left wants women priests, the right wants men in lace; the left rallies around Frances Kissling, the right rallies around Deal Hudson -- and it's always one side against the other, trying to score points, set an ideological agenda and set a narrow-band litmus test for what makes a Catholic. Literally, both sides see themselves as more Catholic than the pope.
It's wrong, it's counterproductive, and it has to stop.
I love getting those e.mails from people on the right -- the same people who got drunk with triumph at B16's election, telling John Allen that NCR would be eviscerated -- who tell me, "You're getting what you deserve." Please... at least people on the left seek a dialogue and ask questions when they get upset as opposed to casting aspersions.
I get asked why I'm so hard on the Catholic right. It's ironic because one of my toughest treatments ever dealt with Voice of the Faithful, which has basically become Call to Action lite. In big part, it's a product of the hard left having taken itself out of the game in the States because, way too often, it has no savvy whatsoever about how to operate in this system. It has no patience, no nuance, no respect for those indispensable elements it doesn't agree with -- say the word Magisterium to a Catholic liberal. Stand back and watch the consternation.
In short, most American Catholic progressives much to learn from Sant'Egidio, which possibly has the most eminent respect and contacts of any lay group in Rome.
Think of this baseball analogy: the whole goal of hitting is to keep the ball in fair ground. Well, the state of the church is such that we've got people hanging off the foul poles, trying to hit foul balls back into play as if the fair zone is three inches wide. And then there's Novus Ordo Watch and its ilk, people so far-right they've called Chaput a heretic. They're trying to catch fair balls from behind home plate. Good luck.
Moral of the story: Hit to the middle where you're safe, not the poles where it's questionable -- and baptizing political rhetoric from either partisan extreme is questionable. When Levada speaks of "interfac[ing] with a complex political world in a pluralistic society," the man is onto something.
I needle, prod and challenge not to be threatened, but so we can talk to each other and push each other beyond the limits we've set for ourselves. That I get threatened and harrassed in the task is a tragic commentary on how closed people really are. What kind of spiritual life is that?
As I write this, Howard Stern's announcing that the Thomas More Law Center (God knows where that is) is sponsoring a cruise with Bill O'Reilly, where they'll be hosting a session on "How to Combat the ACLU."
Further proof that we've got a long way to go....