"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, February 19, 2006

When a martyr shouldn't be called one

You gotta hand it to Joan Chittister. Amid the worldwide furor about a Danish cartoon of Muhammad, a 60-year-old Catholic priest, Andrea Santoro, is killed by a Muslim in Turkey just for representing Christianity, and is accordingly acclaimed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar of Rome, as a martyr. So, what is her reaction? Does she finally take the occasion to applaud the Catholic hierarchy? Of course not—save to applaud another cleric's caution about Santoro's cause for beatification. The martyr bit isn't PC, after all. Temptation against the PC norm must be resisted. Such is true fortitude in spiritual combat.

Instead, she says:
From where I stand, this does not seem the time to elevate the present political situation to the level of religious warfare by incorrectly declaring our own dead, like those of Islamic fundamentalists, to be "martyrs." All we need is to trigger another century of Crusades by beginning a competition of martyrs. It's time to watch our language. This obscure little article may be all the warning we get.
Geez, we wouldn't want to begin a martyr competition now, would we? That would just make things worse. And anyhow Fr. Santoro wasn't really a martyr; he was just the victim of a nutjob caught up in "tensions" generated by—the West, of course. It's really our fault, you see. No martyrdom here, except perhaps to our own boorish insensitivity.

The only orthodoxy Chittister does not question is that of the secular political Left. I have pointed out her true theological colors in an article published elsewhere. She is institutionally Catholic, of course, and why shouldn't she be? She was raised Catholic and became a nun; she has good reason to remain both, because the Church, in Rosemary Radford Reuther's words, is "where the copy machines are." But theologically, she is not Catholic. It remains a mystery to me why the hierarchy does not make that clear, as it has done in the case of other nuns such as Jeannine Gramick. Perhaps they just don't want to make a martyr out of somebody as ubiquitous as Chittister. After all, if they took action, she would certainly pose as one.
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