It’s official: I’m a member of New York’s hottest club
It's taken nearly 2,000 years, but Catholicism is back in fashion
I don’t think even my closest or most loyal friends would accuse me of being at the cutting edge of fashion, in any sphere: intellectual, sartorial or cultural. As I write this I am wearing a twenty-year-old shirt; my favourite band is Dire Straits, while many of my political opinions are, as they say, not appropriate in this day and age.
However, it appears that I may after all have been an early adopter of this season’s hot new trend out of New York, namely Catholicism. I entered the Church in 2006. Now, a mere decade and a half later, this opinion piece in the New York Times claims that hip young gunslingers across NYC are showing up to Mass and Confession, praying the Rosary (a Catholic devotion dating back centuries), and adopting decidedly traditional views on abortion and divorce. This is supposedly an act of youthful rebellion against the insipid, shallow moralism of contemporary progressives.
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We should probably not put too much stock in this supposed mini-revival, as the author herself recognises when she notes that full-blooded Catholicism is a demanding way of life, not merely a means of sticking up two fingers at a suffocating liberal consensus — fun as that is — or adopting a transgressive new aesthetic. The whole point about the kind of micro-trends that journalists love to identify is that they don’t last very long.
All the same, no matter how small the absolute numbers, we should not underestimate the enduring appeal of serious, crunchy religion to people who have become discontented by the triviality and emptiness of modern consumer societies. The NYT article mentions the Decadents, a loose association of late Victorian painters and poets which included Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley, many of whom ended up becoming Christians as a repudiation of the excess of their early lives. Bosie Douglas, Wilde’s lover, converted to Catholicism a few years before the First World War, as did Wilde himself on his deathbed.
Later, there was another wave of intellectual conversions between the wars, including the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe and the writers C.S. Lewis, Siegfried Sassoon, and T.S. Eliot, and ever since there has been a steady procession of erstwhile atheists or nominal believers finding their way to the Christian faith after the realisation that the alternative worldviews on offer — whether rooted in art, politics, or social reform — were unsatisfactory. Malcolm Muggeridge and Sir Kenneth Clark, two notable Catholic converts of the later twentieth century, had both had complicated personal lives before their reception, as did the American activist Dorothy Day.
You need not be a believing Christian to understand the reasons why people might become alienated from a society which manages to be at once both insistently libertine, and cruelly unforgiving in the application of an ever-shifting and vague moral code. We have blended the worst characteristics of Cavaliers & Roundheads, without their compensating virtues; we have indulgence without joie de vivre and tolerance, and grim censoriousness without moral seriousness.
I suspect that, whether or not they ultimately persist in adherence to Catholicism, what draws those young New Yorkers to the very ancient faith is its combination of rigour and mercy; a sense of weight and grandeur, coupled with a deeply humanistic understanding of our weakness and failures.
Some things never go out of fashion.
The trouble for many of us in the West is that the Church we so readily abandoned in our youth is now hollowed–out by an infestation of Marxist milksops and bourgie old biddies. This became painfully apparent during the Wu ’flu crisis of recent times with the ready closure of churches and schools, the Vatican’s mandate of snake oil cures for all within its walls, the Pope’s failure to firmly and unequivocally uphold the sanctity of human life in the recent Roe v. Wade controversy and a generally flaccid response to LGBQWERTY heresies.
Mea culpa. We have only ourselves to blame.
Spot on brother!
Oh for the good old days when the Church wasn’t subject to outside scrutiny and the Priesthood was free to pursue any interest with the full protection of the Bishops, marvellous.
Well it is a hierarchy of priests and bishops after all, which I view as an intrinsically good thing. But your sarcasm is duly noted: like all works of man, large institutions inevitably have to contend with their own demons.
It is an eternal battle.
It’s an eternal battle trying to put the spotlight where it truly belongs, with those young people whose lives are irretrievably damaged by the evil predatory acts condoned by the Catholic church and its hierarchy. It’s institutionally corrupt, and slways will be, since its based on trying to manipulate people by preying on their deepest fears around life and death.
Fashionable in New York? And rotten to the core. This is what the truth looks like.
Covered up, yes, condoned, no.
I appreciate the civil reply. I still think that you are in a glass house, on awfully thin ice, and throwing stones at others. The Catholic Church of your youth was riddled with problems – I have heard many Irish friends echo Gabriel Byrne’s experiences of emotional, intellectual abuse; the World over is increasingly rejecting bans on contraception, abortion, divorce and gay marriage, and the moral reasoning (in intricate detail) behind them. ‘God doesn’t like it’ is not sound reasoning, even in strictly theological terms, it seems arrogant to assume you know Jesus’s mind – unless He explicitly said so, on record. I limit that point to Jesus, not God, because God, according to the Old Testament, said just about everything and anything – an incoherent mess.
I won’t address your mixture of metaphors — or the parade of assumptions you make about my approach to faith.
However, while I have every sympathy for anyone who has been abused by the Church, the Social Services, the Health Services, the armed forces, the prison system, their parents, their schoolteachers, their lovers, our Government, the media, themselves (the list is endless but you get the picture) I at least have never met abuse from any representative of the Church so forgive me if I see no reason to engage in a gratuitous struggle session on the matter.
As for those teachings of the Church that the World over is increasingly rejecting — I refer you to the Marxist milksops and bourgie old biddies referenced in my original post for they are everywhere, both within the Church and without it.
And I am sick to the death of them.
I did not mix metaphors, I used two in tandem, which are appropriately compatible. By mentioning it you did begin to address it…though without making any clear point.
I made no ‘parade of assumptions’ about you, I merely talked about real problems within the church. What I did say you were doing, is contained within the double metaphor. Here’s another one, from the Bible: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
The excesses of secular organisations do not neutralise those of religion. Two wrongs don’t make a right. That’s ‘whataboutery’, no?
Regardless of whether the problems were unique to the Catholic Church or not, as long as humans are involved, there will be corruption and immorality. Sort of the point of Jesus’s death in the first place. We are all sinners.
But in the end, when the world has abandoned all civility and codes of morality, when the harsh dystopian landscape is ruled by the most ruthless of men, I would prefer to come across a Christian, who would likely give me water to drink vs. someone who would enjoy raping my family and disemboweling me for pleasure. I would guess that you would also.
Wow. So the only decent people are Christians and all else will end up raping and disembowling …for fun. I think this must be the kind of perverse thinking that so disturbed my Irish friends.
The Church needs us all the more because of the failings you describe. Let’s pray the prodigal sons return and the older brothers welcome them.
It was already going that way in our youth with the church ready to adopt any old bol****ks to may itself more accessible.
Even as a five year old child I thought this God cannot be much cop and that his representatives on Earth are a bunch feeble, spineless milksops
Perhaps this trend will help reverse the decline of the Latin Mass, now it seems being put on the fast track by the current Pope. TLM is not for me personally but it deserves to keep its place as part of the rich tradition of the Catholic Church. And yes Catholicism does offer a serious and meaningful alternative to the hollow secularism on offer today.
After living in NYC for 35 plus years, just about any religion is a requisite to surviving with one’s spirit intact.
“It’s taken nearly 2,000 years, but Catholicism is back in fashion”What a weird subheading. Catholicism is only about 2,000 years old, probably less. When did it go out of fashion? As soon as it was created? I would have thought that either the Reformation or the Enlightenment would be a more realistic reference point.
“We should probably not put too much stock in……”
anything printed in the New York Times I would say.
T S Eliot didn’t convert to Catholicism did he?
Famously converted to high CofE, also described as “Anglo Catholic” which may have confused the author.
I’m sure the author is aware of the distinction. Re-reading it, the article confuses a little, since it purports to be about Catholic converts, but then brings in others who converted to Christianity but not necessarily to Catholicism. Eliot was one and CS Lewis -also mentioned – another; he stayed resolutely on the ‘Anglo’ side of the Tiber (some say he was held back by the Ulster Protestantism which he drank in with his mother’s milk).
This trend may take some time to catch on elsewhere!
Hopefully those finding a cool club in revealed religion are not just the (limited) offspring of those who sought in it a concession cafeteria. What is on the non-optional core menu is real food for the soul !
Yes, the concept of “Cafeteria Catholicism” has hastened their decline. Humans always want to be our own gods.
Here we have The Scots Guards Officers Mess!!!
hip to be catholic, that´s a funny one…most people I know are retired catholics…the indoctrination was/is heavy growing up…in my case heavy nuns, Jesuits, Latin, the entire show back before and after the Ecumenical council…anyway, if you want to get a good view of catholicism, read Portrait of the Artist
l became totally disorientated with the Catholic church when it hid and still employed kiddy fiddlers .
“the enduring appeal of serious, crunchy religion…”
Serious? In what sense?
Adopting a crusty, anti-women dictatorship to salve your meaningless fad of a life?
It’s still fairytales and authority-peddling for the spineless thinker.
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