I had what I consider a productive discussion with whomever runs the Catholics United feed on Twitter. Granted, I am by nature more combative than most—St. Jerome is my hope—so others might not have found it so productive.
The Tweeter claimed not to understand what could possibly be offensive in the Sister Simone-for-Pope ads and accompanying text. He* insisted they were simply intended to promote an initiative, working to get their membership to send a message to Rome concerning who the next pope should be—or at least what the next pope should care about.
Fair enough. I can buy that that was all the ads were intended to do and they really did not mean any offense.
But that, I argued, was part of the problem.
The problem, and I wrote most of this (tough to get it all in in 140-characters), was first that they actually touted a nun for pope in a day and age when a certain sector—a sector more likely to be members of Catholics United—thinks the Church horribly unjust for refusing to ordain women. That heretical notion should not be entertained or teased, especially by a “progressive” group: the possibility for deeper confusion, further scandal, greater bitterness, all over a lie, is too great and ought not be toyed with. Second, the accompanying text that basically pooh-pooed the notion that the cardinals could possibly elect a pope who cared as much about the poor and marginalized as does Sister Simone. The implication being neither Benedict XVI, nor John Paul II, nor any other recent pope, cared. Balderdash.
In the offending ads in question they wrote: “Do you long for a pope who is a social justice hero like Sister Simone and Nuns on the Bus?,” “If you’re like us, you’ve hoped and prayed for a new pope who will usher in an era of radical renewal and care for the least among us.,” and “do 21st-Century Catholics have any hope for a Social Justice Pope?” Laying aside the capitalization disaster that last question is, these three imply a hope for something we have not had and cannot realistically expect—that the cardinals could not possibly elect a man who cares about the poor, just as the last few guys did not care about the poor. I believe that is a terribly unhealthy sentiment, and a dangerous one, for an organization that purports to love the Church to promote to its membership. That they did not see the possibility for scandal is itself a problem.
I must note, in fairness: He pointed out that the executive director of Catholics United, James Salt, had specifically named Cardinal Bergoglio as a preferred papabile three weeks prior on CNN. I had not seen that, and it is to Salt’s credit. But it prompted me to ask the Tweeter why, then, didn’t Catholics United feature Cardinal Bergoglio in their ads rather than Sister Simone? Cardinal Bergoglio was already the model of what they wanted: truly a champion of serving the least among us, and a person with the bare minimum requirements to be considered for pope: a Catholic male, ordained, and even a respected cardinal elector. Sister Simone, who is not in any way eligible for the papacy, is better known and is a real inspiration in this country so they used her, he said.
The conversation moved more specifically to what should be the primary focus of the American bishops. After a bit of back and forth I said “No. 1 must always be defense of life—the right without which no others are.” They responded, “So Catholicism isn’t a both/and faith? We must EITHER be for social justice issues or pro-life issues, not both?”
Naturally, I said: “Why did you make that distinction? (and *you* did, not I) Ending abortion is the ULTIMATE social justice issue. … It is not extraneous to social justice, it is the beginning of social justice.”
They went back to asking a previous question I had intentionally dodged to lay some ground work. It was about the Church only *being known* for certain issues like opposition to abortion but not being known for aiding the least among us. Naturally, not “being known” for something is a separate issue from whether you are “doing” the thing. While the Church—that means you and me—can certainly, always do more, the truth remains that no organization on earth does as much for the least among us as does the Catholic Church through religious orders, charities, and random acts of kindness of her members. The problem is not that we aren’t doing anything, but that the media is more interested in talking about controversy and sex than a soup kitchen, and we are terrible at self-promotion and PR.
It ended when he said, “of course, pro-life issues and religious liberty are very important, but so is inspiring a culture in ALL the rich traditions.”
With the proper understanding of certain things there, I completely, totally agree. So I said so. He, jokingly, said, “…Well,,,this just can’t stand. I retract my statement.” I laughed. “HA!”
And we sheathed our swords, virtually shook hands, congratulated each other on having a new, holy, humble pope who loves the least among us so tenderly, and that was that.
Amazing the conversations possible with people you’ve never met and may never meet, because of the digital continent.
We moved to
I have no idea who runs the account, so I think I can be forgiven for using the masculine pronouns (in the general non-specific person sense) should it have been a woman.