Anne Rice, the author of the popular “Vampire Chronicles” and two novels about Jesus, announced in July that she was leaving the Church.
In a series of postings on Facebook she gave a whole litany of reasons, charging among other issues that the Church is anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-artificial birth control, anti-secular humanism and anti-science.
Which means she was wrong in four out of five charges.
Rice’s pilgrimage is her pilgrimage. She has obviously gotten lost along the road. She needs prayer, not a lot of ad hominem attacks.
But the troublesome part of this personal business has been how her rhetorical flourishes have been exploited by the media meat grinder and anyone with an ax to grind against the Church. Rice’s litany fed fuel to a media caricature that has nothing to do with the reality of the faith lived.
A brief response to a few of her charges.
A Catholic believer cannot be “anti-gay” by the very definition of lived faith. A Catholic believer cannot be “anti” any person.
But in the world of gay marriage propaganda, Catholics are portrayed as anti-gay because Catholics embrace the concept of marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman. And they see efforts to fundamentally alter that definition as undermining the family, the very essence of society. This isn’t anti-anyone. It is pro-marriage.
A Catholic is not “anti-feminist.” That equation comes about only from those who define feminism by alleged abortion rights. It’s a false equation. The Catholic believer sees the destruction of innocent human life as a violation of the sacredness of every human life. That sacredness is the defining point of true feminism.
As to “anti-secular humanists,” Catholic believers are all humanists in the true sense of the word. They see in humanity the image and likeness of God. That which degrades and exploits humanity — such as poverty, racism, sexism, political tyranny, slavery of the body and slavery of the spirit, materialism, pornography — is contrary to Catholic humanism.
One of the great Catholic urban legends continuously regurgitated by media is that Catholic believers are anti-science. There is nothing in Catholic belief that contradicts science; there is nothing in true science that contradicts Catholic belief. Great scientists in the past, great scientists today, and great scientists tomorrow will be true Catholic believers.
Catholic concern comes in when science is confused with “scientism,” a crackpot philosophy that combines two tragic falsehoods: that there are no truths other than that which is scientifically verifiable; and that “scientism” should be the only acceptable means of running society.
Finally, the Catholic believer is anti-artificial birth control. Guilty. The Catholic believer does acknowledge that artificial birth control is morally wrong because it contradicts the openness to life which is at the heart of marital sexual expression.
We live in a world where media reflect the prejudices of the times. Frankly, media have always done that. The image portrayed of Catholics — anti-science, anti-gay, anti-humanism, anti-feminist — fits a convenient bigoted caricature, a picture of Catholics that has nothing to do with the reality of who Catholics are and why they believe what they believe.
There are two unfortunate results to Anne Rice’s public departure from the faith: She gave another excuse, as if media needs one, for their preconceived bigotry against Catholics; and she is no longer with us.
We need to respond to the first.
We need to pray for the second.
Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.