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A Lament for Ordinary Time

The Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar is comprised of seasons. Some Catholics love Christmas, some love Easter. I love Ordinary Time. 

Ordinary Time is the season that just ended with Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Ordinary Time is the in-between stuff. It’s cruising altitude for the Church. I love Ordinary Time for the same reason I love being an American—I like being left alone. I don’t want The New York Times publishing editorials about my Church. I don’t want every irreligious pundit with a blog opining on the history of the papacy and the future of the priesthood. 

But that’s not where we are now. This is not Ordinary Time. This is Extraordinary Time. And Catholic lovers of Ordinary Time will simply have to deal with the bonanza of hostile media scrutiny and ill-informed opinion journalism that the next several weeks are sure to bring.

The usual suspects have already used Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation to call for a liberalization of the Church’s social teaching on a host of hot-button issues, from gay marriage to women priests. But these folks don’t typically need an excuse to issue such calls. Every mention of the Church is an opportunity to bash the hierarchy as too insular, too male, too Italian, or too conservative. 

Writing in The New York Times, playwright John Patrick Shanley had this to say:

Pope Benedict XVI quit. Good. He was utterly bereft of charm, tone-deaf and a protector of priests who abused children. He’d been a member of the Hitler Youth. In addition to this woeful résumé, he had no use for women.

That such unhinged, bilious ravings should find their way onto the editorial pages of The New York Times provides ample evidence—if more was needed—of just how poisonously anti-Catholic our “elite” media institutions have become.

The editors of The New York Times are true religious nuts. Mention of religion makes them nuts. What’s the definition of a fanatic? Someone who not only can’t change his mind, he can’t change the subject.

In some corners it has been suggested that the pope’s resignation is a smokescreen, a ploy to distract attention from some as yet unrevealed Vatican scandal or salacious misdeed. These are the residual effects of The DaVinci Code. Smears and insinuation about the Church are absorbed into the culture like so much second-hand smoke.

I would like to announce my ambivalence about the whole resignation affair. It’s not that I don’t care about the papacy, or the leadership of the Catholic Church. On the contrary, I care a great deal. But I much prefer it when the leadership and future of the Catholic Church is not a trending topic on Twitter.

I’m the type who likes to lay low. There are a lot of us out here. Nothing would make us happier than simply going about our business, raising our families, and practicing our religion in blessed, heavenly peace. 

But these Obama years have not been blessed, heavenly peace for American Catholics. The administration has repeatedly and deliberately picked fights with us. The terms they offer are stark: play by our rules or get out of the public square. Their reasons are their own, but it’s clear that they see Catholics as backward and out-of-step with enlightened, progressive modernity. 

I have to confess—they are right. Catholics are out of step with modernity. But the founding law of this great land gives us the right to be out of step, as does the supreme law, the word of God:

If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. (John 15:19)

American Catholics I know are praying for the health of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. They are praying for an end to this persecution at the hands of the Obama administration. And they are praying for God to grant our Church a wise, holy, and steadfast new pope. 

I am praying for a return to Ordinary Time.