Catholics Full Of Show On Illegal Immigration
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 18, 2006
By Mary Grabar
Church's support of illegal aliens is simply another ploy to build up underpopulated congregations
with Hispanic, largely Catholic, immigrants.
Well, that's the
way the cynical part of me sees it.
The less cynical
part of me sees it as another misguided attempt at charity by the church in its ongoing efforts
to catch up with the modern world.
But my gut
reaction is the same as it was in the late 1960s when the church introduced nuns in knee-length
skirts strumming guitars alongside
blue-jean-clad, long-haired youths
in "folk Masses."
There is something
wrong with this picture.
I knew it as a
girl who had just completed her confirmation, and it's something I know now.
Back in the 1960s,
the American Catholic Church lost sight of the idea that Christians should leave unto Caesar
what is Caesar's. It has confused ideology with religion. And as it has done
so, it has displayed the worst kind of Pharisee-ism. Catholic leaders have
exhibited a public piety through their agitation for certain popular
causes. Like the Pharisees who loudly prayed to get attention, priests and nuns
have taken up placards and marched. This is a sort of public prayer, and a
capitulation to the new secular order that disallows real prayer and replaces
it with political speech.
groups on whose behalf the church demonstrates are usually very visible, by
their skin color. Such gestures make great photo ops with the "underprivileged." Secular leftists pride themselves on the basis of such displays, a fact that Catholic
writer Flannery O'Connor dramatized in her short story, "Everything That Rises
leaders heed O'Connor's message? Apparently not. I saw such pandering at St. Michael's parish
in Rochester, N.Y., where I grew up. Along with the folk Masses, that church
installed a special Spanish Mass between the two other Masses on Sunday. I remember
my parents, who themselves barely understood any of the Mass in
English, grumbling about how this time (around 10:30 a.m.) was taken away from
them. We had to attend the later Mass.
But aside from
this inconvenience to all other parishioners, including those who spoke a language other than
English, such as the Slovenian my parents spoke, or Italian, or Polish, the church sent
a clear message: Only certain ethnic groups deserve special treatment.
When I drove
through the old neighborhood a few years ago, I noticed that St. Michael's church was boarded and
I think of a
neighbor, someone my son called Mee-Maw, a name he took up when he heard her
grandson call her that, when I think of real Christian charity.
I have a picture
of a woman riding a lawn mower, dressed in skirt and hose, and hair pinned up. As a Pentecostal,
Mee-Maw does not believe women should wear pants or cut their hair.
I was in graduate
school, working in the converted porch that served as my office in my house in Grant Park,
when I heard the sound of a lawn mower in my backyard. I was either grading
papers from my freshman composition classes or working on my own paper. The grass
had not adjusted for my hectic schedule, and Mee-Maw, seeing a need, simply rode
her lawn mower across the street and mowed my backyard. I once walked home
from the bus stop after a late afternoon class to see her with my young son raking
up the grass in the front yard.
Of course, I
thanked her, but Mee-Maw casually waved it away, saying that was what Christ said to do in the Bible
and that she was simply trying to do what He taught her.
priests and nuns would do well to put down their placards and follow Mee-Maw's example.