Friday, June 29, 2007

Don't Give Up The Ship! - It's Metaphor Friday!

There is a renegade priest saying Mass in San Diego, who is married with two children, and this has the Catholic Church hierarchy alarmed. A picture in the current New York Times Magazine shows only the rogue priest's vestments and hands, wearing a wedding ring, as well as an engagement ring and a very nice manicure. Yes, Jane Via, a lawyer with a PhD in religious studies, wife and mother of two, is acting as an ordained Catholic priest, holding Mass and giving communion.

Taking it to the street, as we used to say.

Mrs. Via, as depicted in the piece by Jan Jarboe Russell, is well prepared for her new role as an internal (sort of) agent provocateur and voice for change. The controversy here is centered more on Mrs. Via's status as a woman than her qualifications or being married or having children. Apparently, the Church position is that only men can "symbolically represent Jesus." Feel free to make up your own joke here.

But Mrs. Via's story also speaks to a larger sense of moral duty and moral courage that is not discussed much these days. For lack of a better term, let's call it Pillar Duty. As in a "pillar of society." Pillar duty is a citizen's duty to stand for and uphold the moral and ethical principles of our social institutions. Sounds BOOOORING! Well, it's not as boring as it sounds.

Many years ago, as a young man, I was leaving active Naval service, and a senior officer talked to me about staying. Now, the Navy is a big institution, and you will find a variety of types like true patriots, men/women of action, no-risk careerists, low profile pension lovers, and guys just hanging out to work off their college scholarships. The particular point of that talk that stuck with me all this time was that part of our duty was to stay and maintain the mission, and not leave the job to those who were there for their own reasons. He was true believer. It was, if you will pardon the expression, kind of a revelation to me.

And now I see
that true believers
we should all be.

In something. Something that we actually do. Be it job, family, charity, church, civic work, avocation. You can't do everything. Just pick one thing.

So what of Mrs. Via. Why doesn't she get herself ordained by those women-loving Episcopalians? They have apostolic succession without the penis infatuation. Frankly, that is what I would do in her shoes. (Not that I am interested in wearing her shoes.)

But Mrs. Via appears to be a better man than I. She's hanging in there. No easy exit for greener pastures. No giving up the ship. The Church is her Church, too. She's staying and taking a stand. Nothing boring about that.

You may not agree with what Mrs. Via is doing. But having the courage of her convictions to stay and be a living and present witness to her convictions is the moral of this story. And it applies to us as a society and a nation.

Back in the 1970's, a lot of folks where I lived (the Northeast) were fed up with the Viet Nam War and the CIA hijinks that is back in news now as the "family jewels." One result of this was that many schools, notably including Harvard, banned military and CIA recruitment on campus. This is a big mistake.

The effect of this self purification stance is to surrender control of two of our major social institutions to others. Guess what? The Army and the CIA are still our Army and CIA. They don't become someone else's problem just because we throw up our hands and walk away when we don't like how they are run. The Ivies' abandonment of them is misguided and not morally courageous. It is time for them to get back into the ring.

And so it is with many things. Mrs. Via is an inspiration. This is our society, our government, our world. Let's keep working it.

Get up, stand up:
stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up:
don't give up the fight!