Live long enough, the old saying goes, and you’ll see it all.
But even the old Methuselah of the Bible, who lived to be around 1,000 years old, according to the good book, probably never thought he’d live long enough to see a headline like this in the New York Times. : “The hottest club in New York is the Catholic Church.”
Maybe in a story about a couple of priests who, uh, accidentally (wink, wink) wandered into some type of nightclub at a very late hour. Because the Times, as clever and impressive as it is, rarely misses an opportunity to throw a little shade in the way of Rome.
And now here’s the ever-fair Times allowing an “editor” of the super-conservative, super-Catholic magazine First Things to write about a small group of highly educated young people who see their peers hating Trump and – yawn – making sure you know their pronouns and you’re, like, “Nah. I need some Vatican and catechism.
“The disaffection with the progressive moral majority, combined with Catholicism’s historic ability to adapt to cultural subversion, has produced an opposite style of traditionalism,” wrote Julia Yost. “It’s not your grandmother’s church.”
No it is not. There was a nice Irish American priest in my parish who was famous for talking about – and even using stuffed dolls – Charlie Brown Peanuts cartoons. He had many fans. My grandmother, born Anne Murphy of parents from Cork, was not among them.
But that’s the call for at least some people, who have grown up endlessly inundated with hip calls and social justice, online and in real life.
After a while, the least hip religion in the world starts to look… a little hip.
This is partly why this neo-papism is interesting. But also a bit silly.
This “could suggest,” admits Yost, “that the growing interest in Catholicism in certain social circles is just another way of ironizing or continuing a trend.”
One of those devout pretty young things, Succession actress Dasha Nekrasova, “was once best known for her irreverent socialist critiques,” writes Yost, and now refers to herself as “Catholic, like Andy Warhol.”
I’m pretty sure it still isn’t my grandmother’s religion. But there are still important things to consider here.
The recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion was another opportunity to pull out the Handmaid’s Tale red robes and get horrific about the impending enslavement of women and blah, blah, blah.
This is precisely what these reviews might look like to those stuck in certain types of social circles (and social media).
They see lengthy, chilling New Yorker articles about Supreme Court justices like Amy Coney Barrett, who “isn’t just conservative — she’s the product of a Christian legal movement to remake America.”
And some of these young people start thinking that if that’s the kind of thing that scares the socially righteous crowd, I’d like to sign up for others, please.
It’s a memo that Democrats and other left-leaning types never really get. They’re so proud to fight for the underdogs that they don’t see their messages are all over the place.
And after a while, some people get a little tired of even hearing a righteous message.
Or they want a different flavor of justice. Hence the odd but undeniable popularity of Catholic podcaster Father Mike Schmitz, whose shows have sometimes been downloaded more than half a million times a day.
Which shows that there’s a need – especially among young people – for something more than #resistance and an iPhone upgrade.
It’s not about letting those former socialists who now think even the Latin Mass isn’t Catholic enough off the hook.
If you are going to visit Planet Catholicism, don’t just go to the tourist traps. The Tik Tok crowd calls it “cultural appropriation”.
Look for the places and ideas that turn even a noble, sad bag like Charlie Brown into a subversive troublemaker.
If you have trouble finding such places, let me tell you more about my grandmother.
(On Twitter: @TomDeignan)