Stefani Germanotta, known as Lady Gaga, posted a photo on social media of herself praying the rosary on Sept. 18. Image from Instagram/Lady Gaga

Comment: Are we a Church of slobs and mediocrity?

  • October 6, 2017

Mark Shea thinks the Catholic Church is a vast accumulation of slobs and mediocrities. He means it as a compliment. He contends it brings us closer to Christ.

At the risk of sounding like a certain former Catholic columnist who once presumed to know Why Catholics Are Right, I think Shea’s right.

“The Church has many extraordinary saints, but it has vastly more slobs, mediocrities and sinners just barely starting a journey toward Jesus that they barely understand and cannot foresee,” he blogs on the web site The Catholic Weekly. “Since when did God tell any of us, ‘Make it as hard as possible for them to feel welcome, and do your best to drive them away’?”

Since when, indeed? As Shea notes, the Church that Christ founded was meant to comfort the world with the light of its love, not provide a haven for a “club of the Perfecti” to huddle behind fortress gates. Its genesis was as a home for all who are heavy burdened slobs and mediocrities, and everyone crawling on their knees toward Our Lord, however imperfect their path. Far too often, he argues, we make it the opposite.

Brilliantly, he cites the situation of Lady Gaga to make his point. Given her raging success in the music industry, Lady Gaga might not be everyone’s prime image of either a slob or a mediocrity. Nor, given the morality-flouting by which she attained that pop-culture status, would she be most people’s perfect picture of a Catholic. But Shea says it’s precisely in the spiritual mediocrity Lady Gaga shares — and suffers — with the rest of us of slobs that her need for Holy Mother Church is most vivid.

Recently, the erstwhile Catholic school girl born Stefani Germanotta posted photos on social media of herself praying the rosary, and in the company of a priest she calls a good friend. She professes herself “moved” by a homily in which Fr. John Duffell emphasized: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but the food that God gives us.”

Some holier-than-Him Catholics elected to doubt her words, scorn her sincerity, and even warn of her apparently self-evident evil intentions.

“The message, again and again, from people reacting to the sight of her with the rosary and the priest,” Shea writes, “is that she is an enemy virus, a thing to be expelled and rejected, not somebody who might be imperfectly seeking Christ, a wounded fellow sinner, somebody in confusion or pain... doing her best to seek Christ under God knows what circumstances or bad catechesis, or suffering.”

The failure to recognize a wounded fellow sinner is the religious mirror image of a most pernicious trait in contemporary secular culture: the mindless separating of every human being into the categories of friend or foe, threatening or useful, sheep or goat. Our politics are the most flagrant example. They seem to function now on little but implacable division into “certified pure” and “enemy virus.”

We saw this in the ridiculous antics of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women, when Liberal and New Democrat MPs walked out of a meeting after Conservative MP Rachael Harder was nominated chair. Harder hadn’t even opened her mouth to speak, yet she was cruelly made a pariah because of public positions that were deemed pro-life.

Before those of us who are pro-life Catholics fluff ourselves as superior to such behaviour, however, we might pause. We might ask if we’ve treated those on the other side in a similarly dehumanizing manner. We might remember when we justified such ostracism with the presumption of Christ’s blessing. As Shea points out, we might recognize there our own mediocrity as evangelizers — and Catholics.

“Merely barking at (someone) that she is a damned pro-abort is not catechesis,” he writes.

In truth, it’s not even good Catholicism because it inherently fails to recognize our own failings first.

“Lady Gaga is a Bad Catholic,” Shea says. “So... was St. Peter when he provoked Jesus to call him ‘Satan.’ There are a lot of Lady Gagas: people who fail to measure up to the requirements of sanctity. One of them may be you and one of them is most certainly me.”

On that, I think he’s absolutely right. Especially the “me” part.

(Stockland is publisher of and a senior fellow with Cardus.)

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