Some say the anti-Catholicism in S&H wasn’t so bad. My response.
Yesterday, when I posted my Letter to the Editor canceling my subscription to Spirituality & Health magazine over its anti-Catholic agenda, a few folks on Facebook declared one particular piece I mentioned “not that bad.” Another said how it was “stereotypical” and what did I expect from a spiritual-but-not-religious publication. Well, I expect not to have my faith insulted via lies and some of the most bizarre stories I’ve ever heard. And the fact that any Catholic could read all of those stories — taken as a whole, not dissected piece by piece — and shrug his or her shoulders and say it’s not that bad, or it’s what we should expect, is exactly the point of my outrage and disappointment.
Any magazine that bills itself as a bastion of peace and tolerance and love — and that’s what S&H does through its “coexist” mentality — shouldn’t get to have it both ways. You can’t pretend to be about inclusiveness if you are going to actively work against one (or several) religions, which is what S&H does on a regular basis.
So let’s look at this a little more closely…
Some folks didn’t have a problem with the rabbi Q&A section I mentioned, and maybe if you took a few lines or a single question here and there, you’d agree. But if you take the whole and you read it from where I’m standing, the anti-Catholic/anti-Christian attitude is beyond undeniable. And, if you’re honest with yourself, you have to admit that the whole thing is likely a fabrication. Those “questions” aren’t questions; they’re plants. No one reading S&H would think the way those alleged readers do. The two things simply don’t go together, especially when you put them all together and ask yourself, “Really? Did this many totally insane Christians happen to write to S&H this month?” Not likely.
“I raised my daughter to be a Christian, but she married a Jew and won’t baptize my newborn granddaughter and save her soul from God’s eternal hellfire. I’ve made arrangements to secretly baptize her at my church. I know you’re a Jew, but is this wrong?”
Really? We are to believe that someone who would use the term “God’s eternal hellfire” is actually reading S&H and writing letters to a rabbi. Those very things would qualify her for “God’s eternal hellfire” in her world, so we’ve got a bogus question designed to let the rabbi wax poetic about people who “believe in a God who burns the unbaptized.” See how they did that? Managed to tar and feather a faith over a teaching that doesn’t exist without mentioning the actual teaching or the actual faith. But that’s just the opening salvo.
Or how about this:
“Male Gods are bullies. Even if they don’t start out that way (Jesus of Nazareth) they become that way (Christ of the Church). I believe God is a loving mother rather than a sadistic father. Is this OK?”
Right. Some guy felt the need to write to the rabbi to get his approval for his belief in something other than the “Christ of the Church” and his sadistic father. Yeah, they didn’t use the word “Catholic,” but, uh, we kind of get the hint.
And then this one:
“Last Christmas, I fell off a ladder and broke my foot while hanging Christmas tree ornaments. My husband said God is punishing me. He insists he was joking, but I can’t shake the idea. Could I have offended God?” And the rabbi’s response: “Pedophiles offend God…” Wait. What? How did we start talking about pedophiles. Oh…right…we’re trying to subtly and not-so-subtly attack the Catholic Church and what better way than by mentioning our greatest modern sin and scandal rather than our belief in a loving and merciful God who does not punish people by knocking them off ladders.
And it goes on and on, like the alleged reader who writes about how if we don’t say “Jesus” when we pray, God doesn’t hear us, but Krishna says he answers all prayers and what, oh, what should he do? To which the rabbi responds that “belief in a God manipulated by a special name isn’t faith — it’s a form of magic.” Subtle, very subtle.
I really can’t write everything that annoys me, but I must also come to the defense of the Muslims, who are described by the rabbi as “fetishizing” women in a way that’s no different than the sexualized images we see in magazines through their insistence on women in traditional dress. Wait. Women in Muslim dress and women in sexualized magazine images are being equated here? Yeah, are you starting to see my point? If we pull one question out, we might say, “Oh well, what did you expect?” But if you put it all together, you have to start looking a little deeper.
But none of this was the worst of it. As I said in my letter, I read the stuff above, got annoyed, thought about canceling my subscription, but decided to let it go and give it another month. What arrived in my mailbox a few days ago was so offensive I could do nothing but cancel the subscription. This issue specifically targets Catholics in multiple stories. The first story (“In Good Faith”) has no byline and is another one of these stories — like the questions posted to the rabbi — that really make you wonder who’s creating this stuff and where they’re getting their information on Catholicism.
In this story, a teenager decides to become Catholic, according to his alleged aunt, who is Episcopal. Here’s what she “writes”:
“And disagree we did. For he hadn’t chosen just Catholicism but the most conservative, ritualistic elements of the One True Church, as he called it. He hung crucifixes on his bedroom wall and word clerical vestments to chant Latin in his bedroom. He quoted canon law to defend his views against the ordination of women (‘priestesses’) and liberation theology (‘not a real theology’). Shortly before he left for college, when I suggested that he keep condoms on hand, just in case, his nostrils flared. Did I really think he’d go against the teachers of his church? I reasoned, bristled, and more than once — usually after he defended the Inquisition — lost my temper. He baited me, yes, and the more opposition I showed, the farther to the extreme he ran. He’ll grow out of it, I told myself. Please.”
Where, oh, where to begin? By a show of hands how many Catholics know any lay person out there — liberal, conservation, or the most traditional you’ve ever met — who wore “clerical vestments” while chanting Latin anywhere? Or how many people have struck up a defense of the Inquisition during casual conversation. I mean, this stuff is so crazy, it’s hard not to think it’s an Onion story. All of this, of course, was to make a point about how lovely Zen Buddhism is (and I myself think Zen Buddhism is lovely, but, come on) and, in case you were worried, her nephew was saved from the horrors of the Roman Catholic faith when he found his true home in Russian Orthodoxy, which I guess in this non-existent writer’s mind is acceptable because it sounds so cool, doesn’t it? Because, as she said, it offers a “more ornate, traditional liturgy than do our local guitar-strumming Catholic parishes.”
Wait, wait, wait. No way was the vestment-wearing, Latin-chanting, Inquisition-defending convert going to a guitar-strumming parish anywhere in the Catholic universe. And I thought the “ornate, traditional” stuff was her problem, or is it just the Catholic Church that’s her problem? Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.
So let’s turn to page 54 for the story entitled “In Pursuit of Sacred Sex,” in which our Mormon hero John goes off without his wife to learn about tantric sex, has a sexual encounter and discovers his “sexual-spiritual bliss.” We then hear about all the bad things theology and religion do to people when it comes to sex, like making them think perhaps they should honor their marital vows and not have tantric sex with a total stranger, but I digress. Then we get to the jackpot: an entire page devoted to the nastiness of the Roman Catholic Church. They cover everything from the Church’s antiquated views of sex as being something that should happen only between a married man and woman, its position on birth control, its views on homosexuality, and quote a Catholic professor who describes the Scriptural scene of the penitent woman washing Jesus’ feet as a “tremendously sensual image.” She goes on to say that Jesus “celebrates that.” Oh, that Scripture scene was about sensuality. Wow, I SO missed that in my reading of that passage all these years.
The final tirade focuses on a gay sex columnist who was raised Catholic and talks about the Big Bad Church and how it has “pathologized (sex) and have been reaping the rewards ever since. It’s a scam, and it goes all the way back to the roots of the Church.”
Well, yes, but look at all the rewards we’ve been reaping because of the Church’s position on sex: Catholics are super popular, everyone wants to join the club, it’s the in place to be…Oh, wait. What were those rewards again?
Okay, I’m kind of worn out from all this. It really took way more of my energy than it deserved, but since people raised questions yesterday about whether this was really all that bad, I felt I had to do this. And again, you also have to remember, that these aren’t isolated incidents. This is an accumulation that makes my Catholic head spin. I really wanted to like this magazine, and I don’t buy the idea that because they’re spiritual-but-not-religious they are exempt from showing respect and tolerance if that is what they say they do (and it is). This is a magazine that promotes shamanism and paganism and Buddhism and every other “ism” you can imagine and probably a few you can’t. But you don’t get to say you’re tolerant and open and loving and looking for a peaceful coexistence if you are filled with hatred and venom toward a specific people or faith.