Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

When Elitism Is the Eighth Deadly Sin

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

When Elitism Is the Eighth Deadly Sin

Article excerpt


DEADLY sin number eight is being added to the roster of do-nots by American Catholics. It stands somewhere between pride and greed, and its name is elitism. If the church is to be Americanised, a word increasingly heard in the wake of the terrible sex scandal engulfing it, the eighth sin must be confronted and brought under control. Elitism, that most un-American of attitudes, was behind the quaint decision by the Vatican, during the Pope's meeting with his American cardinals, to order a stop to the twice-daily press briefings by the US side.

Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the US delegation and possessor of an impressive pair of lungs, had to shout at Vatican officials to have the order reversed. And elitism reared its head at a different level: there were banks of vacant seats at the Vatican press conference - only two cardinals condescended to show up.

"As American Catholics waited and prayed for a glimmer of humility, the princes of the church strutted off to what one church official called 'other obligations', as if there were something more pressing than the rape of children," commented New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

This scandal has brought home to Americans that the Roman Catholic Church is first and foremost a hierarchy, and Rome is in charge. " Americanisation", a word that is newly in vogue here, was specifically tabooed by Pope Leo XIII, who wrote to his US bishops condemning Americanism, with its dangerous doctrines of egalitarianism and freedom to be irreverent to authority.

In times of social upheaval, the US Catholic Church commendably stayed put in the poorer parts of America's decaying cities, while other denominations left for more salubrious sites. But one consequence was that some ghetto priests acquired an inflated sense of their own superiority: intellectual and cultural. …

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