Readers are probably aware of the common quip that the Catholic church in Latin America decided to have a preferential option for the poor, and the poor decided to have a preferential option for Pentecostalism. Conservotrads and traditionalists use the huge inroads made by Pentecostalism and evangelicalism in general in Latin America as proof that the liturgical and theological laxness of the post-Vatican II church was/is driving away people who just wanted Jesus and not Marxism in Christian clothing (i.e., liberation theology). But is this a correct assessment? Let’s take a look.
Last week, I went to a planning session of a “Pizza and Politics” group at Boston University, where graduate students and professor talk about religion and politics over lunch. We did the usual introductions thing, and unsurprisingly, most of the other students listed Islam as their primary research interest. When my turn came around, I mentioned that I was interested in studying the Society of St. Pius X and the Catholic church’s response to modernity, particularly liberal democracy. Crickets from the others. I gave a quick and dirty explanation of the SSPX for the perplexed, but once again, it illustrated to me that outside of the Catholic blogosphere, nobody really knows or cares about the SSPX
A common meme among conservotrads and traditionalists is that millenials who were raised in “traditional” parishes are keeping the proverbial faith, while young people who were raised in “Novus Ordo” parishes are leaving Catholicism for Protestantism, atheism, or who knows what else. A variation on this theme is that “traditional” liturgical churches are gaining more millenial converts, while liberal mainline churches wither and die. As a member of one of those “traditional” parishes for three years and a former convert, I feel uniquely qualified to comment on these propositions.
As I’ve mentioned before with my posts on the “Obama Drama” and MLK, Catholic traditionalism assumes (or desires at least) a completely Catholic environment as much as possible and takes a dim view of those religious movements outside of the Church. A traditional Catholic should think like the Church and do what the Church says. In short, the Church should be “your everything,” if I may quote a popular song from the 1970s. However, I soon realized that as a black American that the Church simply couldn’t be my “everything,” because all of the most important figures in black history were non-Catholics. The Church wasn’t involved in abolitionism and was only marginally involved in the Civil Rights Movement. If the Catholic Church really believes in “the dignity of human life,” how could it be such a no-show for one of the most important and influential social movement in history? Furthermore, if the Catholic Church is the “True Church,” shouldn’t the Holy Spirit or someone alerted the hierarchy that this was something they needed to give their stamp of approval to? Or am I to believe that the Church was too occupied with more important things, like shuffling around child molesters (yeah, I just went there, but someone had to say it)?
Growing up in Atlanta, MLK was always there for me, just like sweet tea and dogwood trees. His name was on streets and public buildings, his image peered from murals and other works of art, and his former associates appeared on TV to pontificate about the world’s ills. In my previous entry, I said that MLK is bigger than Jesus to blacks, and that’s not a lie; it’s just the way things are, and if you’ve grown up with it, then it’s not really something you think about.