Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Divine rights

A photograph on the front page of a recent NYTimes showed Pope Benedict XVI conferring the accoutrements of cardinal on Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, one of 22 new cardinals created by the pope. Dolan, dressed in scarlet regalia, kneels at the foot of Benedict's lavish throne, surrounded by acolytes, some kneeling like adoring angels in a Renaissance painting, all male.

Yes, special occasions invite dressing up and ceremony. But this scene struck me as strikingly out of temper with the 21st century. Or the 19th or 20th, for that matter. One would have to go back to the Sun King, Louis XIV, for such monarchical trappings and obsequiousness, or to one of the palaces of a megalomaniacal dictator like Saddam Hussein.

Oh, there you go again, Raymo, carping on about Catholicism, a disgruntled former altar boy. Let it go.

It's not about being disgruntled. I long ago lapsed from any sort of supernaturalist theology, but I have spent most of my life in a Catholic milieu and have nothing but affection for the Church. I don't begrudge her the supernaturalism; if it weren't for the supernaturalist doctrines of the faith -- incarnation, resurrection, immortality, etc.. -- there would be no Church. But a Church that pomps itself out with ring kissing and golden thrones makes me cringe with embarrassment. Never mind the sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and triumphalism.

So I toddle on toward oblivion, bearing the unerasable marks of a sacramental faith, born and steeped in mystery, Catholic to the toes of my fleshy feet, wedded to the world in all of its material grandeur -- bread and wine, light and dark, fire and water. The fierce, fine grace of what is.

But, please, leave the ruby slippers to Dorothy.