The Patron Saint of TV and the Vegetarian Antichrist
By Catherine Clyne
Recently, I received an unexpected package in
the mail. It was the night before I was planning to get plugged into
the 20th century: I was expecting the cable guy the next day to hook
me up. I had finally admitted to myself that I enjoy a little prime
time and realized I was tired of standing on my head to make sense of
my fuzzy reception.
The envelope contained a small statue of Saint Clare of Assisi and the
snazzy packaging informed me that Clare is the Patron Saint of
Television (this, by the way, from an old friend who had no idea
that I was getting cable). Clare, following the example of her mentor
St. Francis, renounced a life of privilege, cut off her hair, took a
vow of poverty, and founded the Order of Poor Ladies. A
blurb explained that once Clare could not attend mass while ailing on
her sick bed. Miraculously, however, the image of the service appeared
on the wall of her cell accompanied by the singing of the choir. Hence,
in 1958, Roman Catholic Pope Pious XII declared her the Patron Saint
The chain of logic may be somewhat ironic, since Clare lived in a small
town during the 13th century, where no such technology was even imagined.
Sure, television beams religious services into living rooms; but it
acts more as a source for the ubiquity of American capitalism, and the
majority of shows are uninspired and insipid. I used to feel that TV
was the evil opiate of the masses (as Karl Marx said of
religion), brainwashing people with commercials and dulling the imagination,
sending us distorted images of American society, and discouraging childrenand
adultsfrom reading or getting out in the world.
It seems unlikely that, if she were living today, Clare would have a
TV in her cell. Somehow, noisy images of Big Macs and hyper-sexed car
commercials just dont jibe with the hermetic life of contemplative
poverty. But then, Joan of Arc is the Patron Saint of the Telephone
because, as we all know, she heard voices in her head, and look how
successful she was when she listened to them (granted, she was executed
for heresybut she did liberate France). Am I missing something?
As telecommunication takes over every aspect of our lives, we could
use a little divine intervention to help us deal with it all. Does this
mean that I should return the cable box and that if I position my plastic
(glow-in-the-dark even!) figurine on top of my TV that Clare will bring
me clear reception?
Pizza and Coke: WWJD?
Every religion or philosophy experiences moments of discord, particularly
when faced with circumstances in uncharted territory. Case in point:
one of the contenders for the papacy, should (heaven forbid) the position
become available, is Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, aged 71, the conservative
and outspoken Archbishop of Bologna. Cardinal Biffi (pronounced beef-y)
has observed that ordaining women as priests would be like having
pizza and Coke instead of bread and wine at the Eucharist. (Im
not kidding.) Now, thats an idea.
A popular way to determine the right course of action these
days is to apply wwjd or what would Jesus do?
One imagines what Jesus would do if he were in your shoes. So, its
not hard to imagine that if traveling the American countryside and sitting
down to a meal with a group of people today, Jesus might be more likely
to share pizza and Coke rather than bread and wine. It is, after all,
the common fare of the day.
Another choice observation of Biffis is his belief
that the Antichrist is among us and is a fascinating and
charming personality who advocates vegetarianism, nonviolence,
environmentalism and animal rights. He also has identified the Antichrist
as a biblical expert who promotes vague and fashionable spiritual
values rather than actual scripture. Even more outrageous is that
he (of course the Antichrist is a he) encourages dialogue between the
Catholic Church and other Christian denominations, Could this perhaps
be someone we know? The cardinal has not said whether he has a particular
individual in mind. But, according to Biffi, seemingly honorable issues,
such as ecology and humanitarian aid, are really feel good
causes that are being substituted for true religion with
the end goal being to undermine Catholicism and bring about its collapse.
Does this mean that the Antichrist eats (vegetarian) pizza and drinks
Coke? Is it coincidental that Beefy is from Baloney?
Need vs. Greed
She may not be a candidate for papal successor, but Marie Hendrickx,
a Vatican official, recently authored an article entitled For
a More Just Relationship With Animals, which appeared in
the Vatican newspaper, LOsservatore Romano (12/7/00). In it she
asserted that human dominion over the natural world does
not mean indiscriminate killing or the infliction of needless suffering
on animals. Hendrickx questioned the morality of the modern treatment
of animals, such as the methods of the food industry, animal experimentation,
the wearing of fur, and bull fighting.
In light of the growing awareness and popularity of animal rights movements,
Hendrickx said that the Church needs to assess to what extent the dictum
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
can be applied to the animal world. Official Catholic teaching says
that humans can use animals for food and clothing, and allows for the
domestication of animals for labor or leisure. But Hendrickx is asking
to what extent? Catholic catechism also says that in general it is contrary
to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.
With regard to the use of animals for medical experimentation it is
deemed morally acceptable only if it contributes to the caring for or
saving of human lives. Hendrickx questions the moral acceptability of
factory farming practices: the terribly cramped cages of chickens, the
tiny boxes in which veal calves are incarcerated, and the restraining
of sows by pinning them down to the floor so their piglets can constantly
feed. She also asks whether the right to wear fur allows
for the torture of fur-bearing creatures. These are promising words
In short, a Vatican official is questioning the legitimacy of need versus
the use of cruelty for those needs, a crucial distinction when it comes
to the suffering of animals. Hendrickx reminds Catholics that they should
avoid causing suffering to animals unless there are legitimate reasons
to do so. Feeding ones family is one thing, inflicting pain for
profit is another. It seems rather obvious. Just think: wwjd?