Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cafeteria Catholic?

It makes me feel better that I never shop at Home Depot:

A major Republican donor, Langone told CNBC in a story published online Monday that wealthy people such as himself might stop giving to charity if the Pope continues to make statements criticizing capitalism and income inequality.

Langone described the Pope's comments about a "culture of prosperity" as "exclusionary" statements that may make some of the rich "incapable of feeling compassion for the poor."

Langone, who is leading an effort to raise money for the restoration of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan said he relayed these concerns to Cardinal Timothy Dolan in New York. Specifically, Langone said he told the church leader he spoke to a donor who could give millions of dollars to the cathedral project but was worried about the Pope's "exclusionary" remarks.

Exclusionary?  You want exclusionary?

Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments:  'You are not to commit adultery; you must nor murder, or steal; and you are not to give false testimony; you are to honor your father and mother.'"

And he said, "I have observed all these since I was a child."

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You are still short one thing.  Sell everything you have and distribute (the proceeds) among the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  And then come, follow me."

But when he heard this, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

When Jesus observed that he had become very said, he said, "How difficult is it for those with real money to enter God's domain!  It's easier for a camel to squeeze through a needle's eye than for a wealthy person to get into God's domain."  (Luke 18:13-25, SV)

That Jesus; always making the rich incapable of feeling compassion for the poor.  Or for Jesus, for that matter, who wasn't rich, either.  And, just to pile on:

What keeps you from giving now? Isn't the poor person there? Aren't your own warehouses full? Isn't the reward promised? The command is clear: the hungry person is dying now, the naked person is freezing now, the person in debt is beaten now-and you want to wait until tomorrow? "I'm not doing any harm," you say. "I just want to keep what I own, that's all." You own! You are like someone who sits down in a theater and keeps everyone else away, saying that what is there for everyone's use is your own. . . . If everyone took only what they needed and gave the rest to those in need, there would be no such thing as rich and poor. After all, didn't you come into life naked, and won't you return naked to the earth?

The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry person; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help.

4th Century

The large rooms of which you are so proud are in fact your shame. They are big enough to hold crowds--and also big enough to shut out the voices of the poor....There is your sister or brother, naked, crying! And you stand confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering.

4th Century

The crowds would ask him, "What should we do?"

And he would answer them, "Whoever has two shirts should share with someone who has none; whoever has food should do the same....I baptize you with water; but someone more powerful than I is coming, whose sandal straps I am not fit to untie.  He'll baptize you with [holy] spirit and fire.  His pitchfork is in his hand, to make a clean sweep of his threshing floor and to gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he'll burn in a fire that can't be put out." (Luke 3:10-11, 16b-17, SV)

And then back to Jesus again:
There was a rich man whose fields produced a bumper crop.  "What do I do now?" he asked himself, "since I don't have any place to store my crops. I know!  I'll tear down my barns and build larger ones, so I can store all my grain and my goods.  Then I'll say to myself, "You have plenty put away for years to come.  Take it easy, eat, drink, enjoy yourself."  But God said to him, "You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded back from you.  All this stuff you've collected--whose will it be now?"  That's the way it is for those who save up for themselves, but aren't rich where God is concerned.

He said to his disciples, "That's why I tell you:  don't fret about life-what you're going to eat--or bout your body--what you're going to wear.  Remember, there is more to living than food and clothing.  Think about the crows:  they don't plant or harvest, they don't have storerooms or barns.  Yet God feeds them.  You're worth a lot more than the birds!" (Luke 12: 16b-24, SV)
There was this rich man who wore clothing fit for a king and who dined lavishly every day.  This poor man, named Lazarus, languished at his gate, all covered with sores.  He longed to eat what fell from the rich man's table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.  It so happened that the poor man died and was carried by the heavenly messengers to be with Abraham.  The rich man died too, and was buried.

From Hades, where he was being tortured, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off and Lazarus with him.  He called out, "Father Abraham, have pity on me!  Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue, for I am in torment in these flames."

But Abraham said, "My child, remember that you had good fortune in your lifetime, while Lazraus had it bad.  Now he is being comforted here, and you are in torment.  And besides all this, a great chasm has been set between us and you, so that even those who want to cross over from here to you cannot, and no one can cross over from that side to ours."

But he said, "Father, I beg you then, send him to my father's house--after all, I have five brothers--so that he can warn them not to wind up in this place of torture."

But Abraham says, "They have Moses and the prophets; why don't they listen to them?"

"But they won't do that, father Abraham," he said.  "However, if someone appears to them from the dead, they'll have a change of heart."

Abraham said to him, "If they don't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't be convinced even if someone were to rise from the dead." (Luke 16:19-31, SV)

Damn you rich!
You already have your consolation!

Damn you who are well-fed now!
You will know hunger.

Damn you who laugh now!
You will learn to weep and grieve.

Damn you when everyone speaks well of you!  Recall that their ancestors treated the phony prophets the same way.  (Luke 6:24-26, SV)
Jesus was such a buzz kill on the rich.  How are they expected to feel compassion for the poor now?  Good thing the cathedral is St. Patrick's, or rich people might not give any money to it at all.


  1. The Confession of St. Patrick is a lot more in line with those quotes from the scriptures and church fathers than it is Langone or Dolan, for that matter.
    So pious, blackmailing Pope Francis to suppress the gospel.

  2. So pious, blackmailing Pope Francis to suppress the gospel.

    That is EXACTLY how my wife put it when she heard this story.

    I can't imagine what religion Langone and his wealthy peers belong to in which their ability to feel compassion for those in need depends on their egos being stroked, but it surely isn't any religion that has sprung from the authentic teachings of Christ.

  3. I've known a lot of people whose treasure was where their heart was, too, and that treasure was not fully lodged in the teachings of Jesus.

    It's one of the complications of ministry: it's not exactly the best pastoral practice to respond to opinions like Langone's with a hearty "F*ck off!, Failed Christian!"

    I mean, even Jesus felt for the guy who couldn't sell all he had and give the proceeds to the poor.

    So I don't like Langone's words, but I hesitate to condemn Langone(hate the sin, love the sinner? Well, not really, but that's another argument). I would prefer to correct him, though not necessarily in the way Dolan would.

    On the other hand, what does paying for renovations to St. Patrick's have to do with compassion for the poor?

  4. I agree in general with this approach and defer to your pastoral experience, wisdom, and general restraint that I certainly lack. I do feel this is a pretty special case, however, because the ability to feel compassion towards others is foundational: it's innate in humans and even many animals. We're not talking about some abstract dispute over the nature of the persons in the Trinity or some quibble over a liturgical matter, this is literally about the ability to see those with less money than you as equal humans.

    As far as I'm concerned if you don't possess that or you peg your ability to express it to how much adulation you receive - which just means that you don't have it, Caligula - you've just failed Christianity 101. Along with Intro to Humanity.

    And this isn't about Langone or his fellow princes of this world being asked to give up all their billions and their mansions and jets and follow Christ in sackcloth doing the thankless work of preaching the Gospel while enduring hunger and the elements. It's about a vanity project to which they will contribute the tiniest mite of their income, much of it received unfairly or unjustly, in exchange for their name in highlights in perpetuity and a generous tax credit they would have taken one way or another. In other words, it costs them nothing.

    And still they want to blackmail the church over it in exchange for suppressing the parts of the Gospel that offend their delicate sensibilities while working tirelessly to cut off aid to the poor through buying politicians. So if I were his cardinal or pope or parish priest or doorman, I think I would feel pretty comfortable telling Ken to fuck off with his pretensions to Christianity. HIs career and involvement in politics and social issues makes it pretty clear that his god is mammon.

    If nothing else it might open up the opportunity for some constructive dialogue....


    (yeah, I know the moniker says "trex," I just don't know how to change that now that we have to sign in to comment)

  5. On the other hand, what does paying for renovations to St. Patrick's have to do with compassion for the poor?

    My thought exactly. What are the priorities?

  6. I had a church member try to blackmail me by withholding money from the church, over something I said or did or didn't say or didn't do.

    I had all but forgotten about it. I think it had something to do with the amount of attention I paid to him, or maybe because I eliminated the "Children's Sermon," that Art LInkletter-moment in worship that came along sometime while I was in college or after, and not attending church much. I despised it, anyway, and I have a memory that his displeasure was tied to it.

    Whatever it was, I didn't meet his threat with conciliation, and probably it was one more count against me when it came time for the powers that be in the congregation to insist I leave (ah, well, the church had a history of it; I was there for the average length of time of any pastor in that church's history. Had I had more confidence at the time in the church at large, I would have simply moved on to another pulpit.)

    This is why pastor's tell each other their churches are filled with baptized heathens, though. Unless certainly people are happy, the pastor (usually) is to blame. I had another couple withdraw from the church when they learned the UCC was actively working to abolish the death penalty. Their only son had been shot to death in a robbery, they were waiting for the murderer to meet his execution date in Huntsville. Perhaps that is more analogous to this, but their pain was personal and they kept it as private as they could (only telling the church, quite publicly, that I was not the problem. They were good people in many ways.).

    I like to think I'd be less inclined to be as conciliatory as Dolan; then again, that's why I don't have a church, and he is a Cardinal. That doesn't make me superior to him; or make him right.

    OTOH, I'd be pretty comfortable with handing Mr. Langone all the passages I've quoted above, and asking him to reflect on them, and his relationship to God, rather than reassuring him that God loves his money and really, really wants it for St. Patrick's Cathedral. Which, again, is why I'm not a Cardinal responsible for the maintenance of a cathedral.

    Mimi--I know, right?

  7. Rmj, I've always thought it was the church's loss that you are not in full-time ministry, but I consider what you do here a ministry. And perhaps you are more of an influence for good in your second choice of professions.

  8. Thank you, Mimi. What a wonderful way to start the New Year.

  9. Come to think of it, Jesus was never made Cardinal either.


  10. Come to think of it, Jesus was never made Cardinal either.

    As I've always said, he wasn't crucified for being too popular.