Against the advice of its self-appointed marketing consultants in the media, the Vatican has once again lost a strategic opportunity to reinvent itself as the new improved religious brand of politically-correct liberal hipsters. You know, the same strategy that’s been such a boffo box office hit for the Episcopalians.
Hope spring eternal, though. Reporters are still forwarding the latest Gallup results to the new Il Papa, under the assumption that a guy who wears a 2 foot tall hat, golden robes, and answers to “Your Holiness” pays attention to opinion polls or the NY Times Op-Ed page.
I almost never discuss my own personal religious views but I’ll out myself here as an ex-Catholic. Well, I suppose, in all honesty, an ex-Christian. I don’t state this as a point of pride; it was the result of lengthy introspection, but unlike a lot of dogmatic atheists I consider people of faith neither stupid nor scary. In fact most all of the smartest people I know are religiously observant. And, I might add, some of my closest parents are Catholic.
The point is I didn’t abandon Catholicism over “church policy” on “social issues” and/or “modernization,” but rather because I could no longer repeat the Apostles’ Creed and honestly mean it. In that respect I think I am like most former Catholics. If I were a Catholic lefty who didn’t like the church’s stance on social issues, there are already any number of boutique churches I could switch to – ones in complete harmony with my politics while still providing a comforting veneer of Christianity.
And, for those churches who have kept trendy and relevant, we can see how that strategy has worked out. The Unitarians and Presbyterians and Episcopalians have relevant-ized themselves into near extinction, like modern day Prius-driving Shakers, earning kudos from NPR and the NY Times while their remaining members shuffle out the door.
Ultimately, the only way a religion remains truly relevant is by remaining constant. I may be an ex-Catholic, but give me a Latin High Mass with Bach booming on a pipe organ over Reverend Ted warbling a folk song about Gaia. Any day.