Salt of the Earth

November 13, 2012

Last weekend a dozen Mormon volunteers helped me to clear out my mother’s flooded home in Belle Harbor (Rockaway Beach) New York. Not only did we talk about religion but politics as well. One of the volunteers mentioned that not all Mormons voted for Romney. In Sunday’s newspaper a cursory read indicates several direct references to Catholicism. One of the most blatant is the statistic of Catholic voters: 50% for Obama and 48% for Romney. It is a final nail in the coffin for any who still believed in the “Catholic vote,” the idea that Catholics form a cohesive voting bloc. However, if one concludes that the tension between the Church and the dominant American culture is a simple zero-sum game then the hasty reading of Sunday’s paper is an inadequate one. The newspaper is filled with countless Catholic references and themes that are evidence of a culture in a state of severe hunger for the Gospel. It also unwittingly displays a heroic Church that will not compromise her principles. Entire sections of the New York Times are riddled with examples of Catholics providing a witness for their faith. Just for starters: Marriage. The “Wedding” section of the New York Times is a fascinating cultural portrait of New York. Catholic, protestant, Jewish, inter-religious, non-religious and inter-ethnic couples are photographed and given a brief description. There was a number of beaming Catholic couples that are now living testaments of the Church’s sacrament of marriage. They were in stark contrast to the same sex “couple” highlighted in the marriage section who held their wedding ceremony at Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal church with the reverend’s blessing. This is something that will never happen in a Roman Catholic Church. Every week, the New York Times does a great service in providing its readers with photographic proof that the Catholic Church will not surrender to the cultural mainstream’s belief in same sex unions. While they are sincere in their conviction it is possible to be sincerely wrong. Art. It is doubtful whether the “Art” section of the New York Times could inspire without Catholic art. Consuming nearly the entire front page of this Sunday’s edition is a featured image of Saint Benedict of Palermo, patron of the African Missions. The article spills on to another page with a painting of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. Also, “The Penitent Saint Peter” owns the second page. The list goes on. In the “Book Review” section the Virgin Mary is given a full-page written profile, however distorted; the subject of a front page “Sunday Styles” article is “a traditional Catholic” wedding ceremony; Mary gets another photograph in the “Film” section; and the Catholic archdiocese of Atlanta receives the honored position of embodying the opposition to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s funding of Planned Parenthood. Even the “Sports” section begins and ends with the significance of Notre Dame football in representing Catholics, and how Jerry Falwell, Jr. is attempting to emulate it for his university of evangelicals. None of this changes the fact that a majority of Americans, including Catholics, sanctioned with their ballots a healthcare mandate that requires nearly everyone to pay for abortion. That is a sobering reality. But to reduce Catholicism to a statistic denies its unique strength of universality. The Catholic Church is not a political party. Take a look at last Sunday’s New York Times if you need proof that the Catholic Church is present in nearly every facet of American culture.

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