Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
I suspect the Benedict-on-Jesus debate will continue, as it should. But I’d like to propose a brief interlude for a bit of entertainment–and because it doesn’t seem right to go a whole day without citing or bashing The New York Times. I was certain the item I have in mind would be up on this blog at dawn, so maybe I’m overreacting, or once again angling for Bill Donohue’s job. But David Brooks’ column today, “The Catholic Boom” [http://select.nytimes.com/2007/05/25/opinion/25brooks.html?hp Subscription required, I believe] seems like a big slow pitch someone should swing at.
Brooks writes in praise of the “quasi-religious,” hailing Catholics in particular as evidence of those who have cast aside their benighted beliefs to Protestantize and thereby profit not only themselves, but also the nation:
“How have they done it?” Brooks writes…
“Well, they started from their traditional Catholic cultural base. That meant, in the 1950s and early ’60s, a strong emphasis on neighborhood cohesion and family, and a strong preference for obedience and solidarity over autonomy and rebellion.
Then over the decades, the authority of the church weakened and young Catholics assimilated. Catholic values began to converge with Protestant values. Catholic adults were more likely to use contraceptives and fertility rates plummeted. They raised their children to value autonomy more and obedience less.
The process created a crisis for the church, as it struggled to maintain authority over its American flock. But the shift was an economic boon to Catholics themselves. They found themselves in a quasi-religious sweet spot.”
And that is a good thing, Brooks, says, a very good thing, because Catholicism and capitalism apparently cannot co-exist. His column has all manner of unexamined assumptions. But the oddest is the (apparent) thesis that Catholics are the new Calvinists because they have dissed Rome. Viva Weber? I was going to take the high road and view Brooks’ column as an improvement on Samuel Huntington’s recent blast against all those Catholic Mexicans in “Who Are We: The Challenges to America’s National Identity.” But I’m not so sure. I just can’t see “Catholic” and “Gospel of Wealth” in the same sentence. Also, I can’t resist the view from the low road.