|Left: sinful! Right: holy! Salvation by Photoshop.|
Many of my readers are unable to make sense of the situation in Chile, a situation where Pope Francis made the inexplicable decision to appoint as bishop a man who was the protege and confidant (and, according to some, the gay lover) of a known and canonically punished priest who spent five decades abusing altar boys. This appointment by Francis, of Bishop Juan Barros, was greeted with strong opposition by Catholics in Chile, about a thousand of whom rioted at the cathedral in Osorno in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Barros' installation ceremony. The charge is that Barros would participate in the sexual abuse of altar boys by being physically present and watching it happen. He denies this charge, and we don't know if it's true, but we do know that the pope has picked a man from inside the inner circle of an appallingly corrupt cult-leader, the right hand man of a priest that the Vatican itself has sanctioned. Nobody knows quite what to make of this politically insane and insensitive appointment, although a popular Catholic blogger who's very pro-Francis has solved the problem by saying (in effect), "Don't know a thing about this situation, so I simply can't judge!!! Go Francis!" A less than honest solution, I'm afraid.
Meanwhile, I offended some Catholic friends of mine by making a joke about a woman who had posted a rather revealing photo of herself on Facebook (not the one above). I shared the picture privately and made fun of it - but also enjoyed sharing it because the gal is a knockout. I was told by my offended friends that I was (in effect) a judgmental jerk who was behaving in a less-than-saintly manner by finding humor in an attractive woman showing off her body in a somewhat inappropriate way. I was being very unholy here. The Catholic Faith had apparently worked on my friends and failed to work on me, it seems. As with the picture above, I was in need of a spiritual Photoshop to blur over my sinful tendencies.
And elsewhere (but on this same topic - a topic that includes both riots in the cathedral and cleavage), Rod Dreher quotes a filmmaker on the difference between legitimate Faith Films and Cheesy and Contrived Faith Films (my emphasis) ...
One of the featured events at Sundance this year was a panel on faith-based films. Several attendees I spoke with were disappointed that panelists focused predominately, once again, on the “faith and family” audience—the same underlying market confusion I’d observed all year. One attendee, Ryan Daniel Dobson, is a Christian filmmaker developing a project based on the Biblical story of Hosea, in which the prophet is told by God to marry a prostitute, who repeatedly abandons him. A project like this will likely interest many people of faith, but not those looking for a “family film.” Like a growing number of Christians who work outside both the Hollywood system and the Christian film industry, Dobson sees films like God’s Not Dead as nearly antithetical to his understanding of what film ought to do and what faith ought to look like.“Several times ‘faith films’ were compared to superhero movies, where a studio can’t stray from what their fanboy audience wants, because it would guarantee a box office fail.” Dobson told me.
Dreher expounds on this by pointing toward Dante (again, my emphasis) ...
Dante did not become the towering figure we know from literature and history until they made him an outcast, and he had to confront the mess he had made of his life and make sense of it. The Divine Comedy is, of course, the most profound and penetrating Christian story ever written outside the Bible. Yet it is a long poem in which some villains make it to heaven, other friends of the poet’s who weren’t especially bad people in life end up in Hell, and one of the great archfiends of the play is the Pope of the very Catholic faith that the poet passionately believes in. There is nothing — nothing — simplistic or moralistic about the Divine Comedy — and this is why it reached me in the depths of my despair like nothing else could have done.***
We want the Faith to give us simple answers, but God's reality is much more complex.
If we pull the old Catholic "see no evil, hear no evil" nonsense, by both refusing to acknowledge things like the situation in Chile and what it tells us about Pope Francis - who is a more complex man, and apparently a more confusing mixture of good and bad, than either his supporters or his critics make him out to be - and if we want our relationship with Christ to consist of a simple formula like "once save always saved" or "cleavage is evil, how dare you make fun of it", or "art for propaganda's sake" we forget that our Unreality, much as we like to promote it, pales in comparison with the Reality God continues to reveal to us.
God is bigger than we like to make Him out to be, and so is His reality, a reality that we keep using our Faith to gimmick and put in our back pockets.