Yet the church leaders are right about one thing: there is often a liberal and secular snobbishness toward the church as a whole — and that is unfair.
It may be easy at a New York cocktail party to sniff derisively at a church whose apex is male chauvinist, homophobic and so out of touch that it bars the use of condoms even to curb AIDS. But what about Father Michael Barton, a Catholic priest from Indianapolis? I met Father Michael in the remote village of Nyamlell, 150 miles from any paved road here in southern Sudan. He runs four schools for children who would otherwise go without an education, and his graduates score at the top of statewide examinations.
Because the only reason to call attention to you as the only one who is standing up for the poor beleaguered "true" Catholic Church is to jerk yourself off, and the column would be better without making us all witness that. Close the bathroom door, for the love of God.
This is a particular journalist tic that is starting to piss me off in several contexts, and it takes exactly this form: Yes, there are problems, yes, all the liberal critics of X are correct, but I think liberal critics are using a nasty tone of voice and I'm going to make sure you notice ME ME ME ME ME pointing that out, so I can differentiate myself from them.
And by the way, could we criticize the church's stance on contraception or homosexuality or the role of women in ministry in such a way that WOULD please you, Nicky? Because last I fucking checked, the people leveling such criticism were also the ones trying to change those aspects of the church, and what you may see as "sniffing derisively," they see as, you know, advocacy of their positions. Maybe if they weren't so rude about it, or raised their pinky fingers while doing so.
It’s because of brave souls like these that I honor the Catholic Church. I understand why many Americans disdain a church whose leaders are linked to cover-ups and antediluvian stances on women, gays and condoms — but the Catholic Church is far larger than the Vatican.
And unless we’re willing to endure beatings alongside Father Michael, unless we’re willing to stand up to warlords with Sister Cathy, we have no right to disparage them or their true church.
Actually, we have every right to disparage their true church so long as that church continues to be complicit in covering up the systematic abuses of power that concealed the rape of children. We have every right to sniff derisively at a criminal enterprise that would make Tony Soprano say, "Whoa, dude." We have every right to scoff and scorn and I say that as a card-carrying member of the Roman cannibalistic crucifixion cult myself.
For defenders of the church to hold up examples of the people Kristof cites as some kind of shield against criticism should engender more outrage, not less, since these are the people whose work is being profaned. They should welcome every voice raised in opposition to the practices of the church, even if those voices come from very rude people.
And if you don't want to hear sniffing about the church at New York cocktail parties, there's a very easy way to avoid that. Stop going to them yourself, even if they do afford you the opportunity to be the most specialest nicest boy in the room.