Live long enough, the old saying goes, and you’ll see everything.
But even old Methuselah from the Bible, who lived to be about 1,000, according to the good book, probably never thought he’d live long enough to see a headline like this in The New York Times: “New York’s Hottest Club Is the Catholic Church.”
Maybe in a story about a couple of priests who, uh, accidentally (wink, wink) wandered into a certain kind of night spot at a very late hour. Because the Times, as brainy and impressive as it is, rarely misses a chance to throw some shade Rome’s way.
And now, here’s the always-righteous Times allowing a “senior editor” from the super-conservative, super-Catholic magazine First Things, to write about a small group of highly-educated youngsters who see their peers hating on Trump and – yawn – making sure you know their pronouns and are, like, “Nah. I need me some Vatican and catechism.”
“Disaffection with the progressive moral majority combined with Catholicism’s historic ability to accommodate cultural subversion has produced an in-your-face style of traditionalism,” Julia Yost wrote. “This is not your grandmother’s church.”
No, it’s not. There was a kindly Irish American priest at my parish growing up who was famous for talking about – and even using stuffed dolls from – the Charlie Brown Peanuts cartoons. He had many fans. My grandma, born Anne Murphy to parents from Cork, was not among them.
But that’s the appeal for at least some folks out there, who have grown up endlessly inundated with hip, social justice appeals, online and in real life.
After a while, the least hip religion in the world starts to look... kind of hip.
This is partly why this neo-Papism is interesting. But also kind of silly.
It “might suggest,” Yost admits, “that the rising interest in Catholicism in certain social circles is just another way of being ironic or chasing a trend.”
One of these pretty, young, devout things, Succession actress Dasha Nekrasova, “was once better known for her irreverent socialist critiques,” Yost writes, and now refers to herself as “Catholic, like Andy Warhol.”
I’m pretty sure this is still not my grandmother’s religion. But there are still important things to consider here.
The Supreme Court’s recent abortion decision was another opportunity to drag out the red robes from Handmaid’s Tale and wax horrific about the looming enslavement of women and blah, blah, blah.
This is precisely what such critiques might sound like to those stuck in certain kinds of social (and social media) circles.
They see long, scary 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 folks get to thinking that if this is the kind of stuff that freaks out the socially just crowd, I’d like to sign up for some more, please.
It’s a memo Democrats and other lefty types never quite receive. They are so proud to be fighting for the underdog, that they fail to see that their messages are kind of everywhere.
And after a while, some people get a little sick of hearing even a righteous message.
Or they want a different flavor of righteousness. Hence the strange but undeniable popularity of Catholic podcaster Father Mike Schmitz, whose shows have sometimes been downloaded well over half a million times a day.
Which does go to show there is a craving out there – particularly among young people – for something more than #resistance and an iPhone upgrade.
This is not to let these onetime socialists who now think even the Latin Mass is not Catholic enough off the hook.
If you’re going to visit Planet Catholicism, don’t just go to the tourist traps. The Tik Tok crowd calls that “cultural appropriation.”
Search out the places and ideas that turn even a noble sad sack like Charlie Brown into a troublemaking subversive.
If you have trouble finding such places, let me tell you more about my grandma.
(On Twitter: @TomDeignan)