Smile When You Say 'Starbucks'

Responses to Eugene McCarraher


We confess: The editors had a stiff argument about publishing Eugene McCarraher’s polemic on Starbucks Catholicism (“Smile When You Say ‘Laity’: The Hidden Triumph of the Consumer Ethos,” September 12, 1997). No pushing or shoving—of course! Some real incomprehension, some genuine disbelief, some utter perplexity, and, naturally, some genuine disagreement along with an insistent suspicion that maybe—just maybe—there was something here.

All of this led to the telling question: If we were arguing so heatedly about this, wouldn’t the rest of the Commonweal crew out there find it provocative? Indeed, many have. We asked some readers for their comments, from others came the spontaneous remark or letter of question or clarification. They follow on the next eight pages. Some respondents are annoyed, irritated, perplexed; some comprehending and sympathetic. Rest assured, nobody totally agrees with McCarraher’s analysis. The perfect Commonweal article!

Further reflection here in the editorial office leads us to think that “Smile When You Say ‘Laity’” has this to recommend it:

Its economic and cultural analysis of a triumphant laity stands outside the shopworn questions: When can the laity (that is, women and married men) get ordained? Can they...

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About the Author

Walter J. Ong, SJ, is university professor emeritus of humanities at Saint Louis University.