Friday, October 23, 2009

We are all beggars

Kristin Moulton, a religion reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune writes about panhandling in Salt Lake City. People in need always present us with a challenge that we ignore at the expense of a troubled conscience, but what should we do? Once again, she gave me the opportunity to share a few of my thoughts- Can believers really pass by the beggar?: Panhandling & piety » For clergy and congregants, it's not always an easy call.

While I am on matters of relevance to Utah Catholics, Fr. Erik posts Moulton's balanced and informative Trib article on Judge Memorial's production of the musical Rent. He adds some concise commentary afterwards. I not only agree that what is true is not dependent upon how many people object or approve, we judge by a different criteria, but I take issue with Principal Bartman's statement that he did not receive "one negative comment from students and parents in the Judge community," a tack he also took on Doug Wright's radio show. This not only falls to prey to the idea of truth by committee, but shows an incomplete understanding of what it means to be a Catholic institution, which means to be in communion with the whole church. Let's be clear and, while we're at it, fair: nobody is arguing against the requirement to love, to understand, to serve, or be compassionate toward anyone, let alone those in need. Maybe we need to be clearer on what love concretely demands of us. It seems to me, as Pope Benedict taught in Deus Caritas Est, that charity requires telling the truth, which must be done in love. This is always a challenge. I want to be clear: my objection to Rent is that it is ideology disguised as art, or art reduced to politics, and all the catchy tunes in the world doesn't change that fact.

Apropos to both issues, it was Don Giussani, giving testimony before Pope John Paul II, who said, "Existence expresses itself, as ultimate ideal, in begging. The real protagonist of history is the beggar: Christ who begs for man's heart, and man's heart that begs for Christ."

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.


  1. You judge too much. And that is really not very nice.

  2. Yeah, but I'm a jew. You're supposedly Catholic.

  3. Selective discussion I guess :-) (resident salt lake jew wonders why Deacon Scott chooses one mundane post over another? guess this blog ain't big enough for the both of us comedians!)

  4. FYI, the link to the panhandling article is broken - I went and looked it up on the Trib's website. It was interesting but I think a couple of factors were downplayed or left out - first of all, a lot of people don't carry cash anymore - so "Stingy or prudent" aren't the only options for not giving. Secondly, while seeing the man and not the motive is admirable, I think that being female it's sometimes very difficult to make eye contact/say hello without worrying about what this might be implying to someone who's not entirely sane. 99% of the beggars I've encountered have been fine, but the ones who stick in my memory are the ones who (1) tried to pull me into an empty building when I was fifteen and (2) stalked me through the grocery store berating me for more money after I said hello and gave him a dollar. I was pregnant at the time and had my three-year-old with me. At present I'll give someone some cash if I'm with other people, but if I'm alone or only have my children with me, I'm not slowing down.

  5. Sonetka:

    The concerns you raise did come up in the fairly lengthy conversation I had with Kristin, but probably didn't make it in due to length of the article. These issues are certainly valid and something to be taken into consideration. Such concerns do not denote a lack of charity or concern.

    We also spent time talking about how many mentally ill people, who are unable to take care of themselves, are on the street, which is an injustice to these people, not to mention a public safety concern.

    So, thanks for your perspective, which sheds light on some aspects not addressed in the article.

    I also restored the links- thanks for letting me know it was broken.

  6. Oh no! Latin! Honestly, I prefer the phrase, tongue-and-cheek, myself. :-)

    Thank you, Deacon Scott. Though we don't agree on the subject of impact that a high school musical can play in the mindset of daily America (you seem to think the sky is falling, I tend to think, why did they have to take out all the good stuff?!), I'm well sure you're a pretty great guy when all is said and done.

    Me, on the other hand, I have been suffering the effects of irritable hemorrhoids the size of Canada, so you'll need to pardon my snappiness. But you're Catholic and believe in forgiveness; I'll assume we're good here. ;-)

  7. While we may disagree on the impact a high school musical can have the young people who perform it and the school that produces it, I certainly don't think the sky is falling. I don't think anything I've written on the subject would indicate that I do. It is important that you don't attribute to me the views expressed by others unless I indicate my agreement with them, as in the case of agreeing that truth is not decided by how many are for or against. I think Jews and Christians understand truth in a similarly objective way.

    I do not object to addressing serious issues, even in extreme ways (see my recent posts on Catherine Breillat's Anatomy of Hell). I do think how such issues are engaged matters a great deal. Again, my primary objection to Rent is that it is just bad art, everything else flows from there. I recognize that we have a deep need to understand those who are different from us and that art, particularly literature, film, and theater are powerful media for just the kind of insights a truly human education requires.

    John, please know that there wasn't a time when we weren't good here. I am always happy to engage here on my blog and do not limit my engagements to those who agree with me. So, feel free to chime in, but do so knowing that I don't often let assumptions go unchallenged.

  8. This may be a little late but I think that anyone who feels that they are in a position that forces them to ask for help is in need. The question for me isn't whether my help is going to cause them harm, who am I to decide arbitrarily, that what someone is doing with their own life is wrong.
    I try to give what I have whenever anyone asks. Of course I rarely have much. I think we make a mistake when we refuse to give just becuase the person may or may not harm themselves. It is not my decision. What is my decision is whether or not it is within my capability to offer them the help that they need. If I can't do that then the least I could do is offer them the help they want.

  9. As for 'Rent'. I thought the music was nice but as for catching an era...'Hair' was better.

  10. Eric:

    Knowing where are coming from, I appreciate your comments. Thanks

  11. Deacon Scott,

    Thank youf ro your comments about this issue. It reminds me of when I almost went to Judge Memorial, back in 1999, but was definitely discouraged after noticing the promotion of the local Planned Parenthood in the pamphlet distributed to prospective students. Luckily, we borught this matter to the attention of Bishop Niederauer, who took care of the issue.

    Unfortuantely, this performance, which has not fallen on deaf ears in the media in Utah, and elsewhere, shows that not much has changed for the better at Judge. The performance of these second-rate "artistic" pieces, is as you say, none other than the desire to promote a certain agenda and instill counter-values to those that uphold the true dignity of the person.

    Thanks for your reasoned and balanced responses.