Tears for Notre-Dame; Few for Sri Lanka

Do Catholics mourn sacred buildings more than each other? You will likely shout a dismissive “No! Of course not!” Nevertheless, the question occurs to me witnessing the significant contrast between the way Catholics have responded to the Notre-Dame fire and, within a week, the Sri Lanka massacre. While money floods in from around the world for the rebuilding of Notre-Dame, there is no such spontaneous rush to contribute to the lives of maimed and mourning Christians in Sri Lanka.   In great measure, veneration of Notre-Dame arises from reverence for symbols and abstractions. Continue Reading
Scattered Notes on Notre-Dame

My heart splintered watching Notre-Dame go up in flames. The disorder of my own responses—a jumble of dismay, anger, and foreboding—permits no tidy structure. What follows is a series of thoughts in no strict sequence. Bear with me. •    •    •    • “Somebody did something” on 9/11. Taking a cue from Ilhan Omar, can we wonder if somebody did something to Notre-Dame? It is a rational conjecture. Watching the cathedral tower burn, it was impossible for the mind’s eye not to go directly to the burning towers of the World Trade Center. Continue Reading
Notes on The Gates of Hell

The gates of hell are no closer than they ever have been. No matter the crumbling of our culture or the dereliction of a pope, they have not moved a millimeter. Immobile, they remain where—and what—they were when life first erupted on the planet: an ineluctable border between life and death. Yet we go on invoking them as a talisman against institutional rot or, alternately, as the default comfort in a waning civilization. What calls attention to the phrase just now is Cardinal Dolan’s February 3rd pastoral letter to all parishes in the New York Archdiocese. Continue Reading
Theodore McCarrick: From Cardinal to Commoner

Theodore McCarrick was demoted from cardinal to archbishop some months ago. Under pressure of media attention, the Vatican has upped the ante on penalties against him. Now he is simply Mr. McCarrick, forbidden to function as a priest in any but the most extreme emergency situations. He can still offer absolution to the dying victim of a hit-and-run. The rest is nil. Forgive me if I abstain from all the cheers of satisfaction over McCarrick’s defrocking. Certainly, I have no sympathy for the man. Continue Reading