Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Religious pecking order

There's been a lot of ruckus about the Vatican'sstatement on the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church. Why people are surprised, hurt, outraged, or whatever, I don't know. What would people expect the Pope to say? "Jesus is our vehicle to the divine" or something?

Well, of course this has stirred up many old stories and jokes (not least of which is the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch) about Catholics and their attitudes to other faiths. I thought I'd add one more. This apocryphal tale is from David McCullough's "The Johnstown Flood", which describes the terrible flood of May 31, 1889 at Johnstown, PA. When the floodwaters hit the town, some survivors made it to the biggest building in town, Alma Hall, where they gathered in the dark and the cold as the torrent passed by outside.
But Alma Hall stood through the night, as did the Presbyterian Church and its parsonage, Dr. Lowman's house, where a small crowd had gathered in the top floor, and the Methodist parsonage, where the Chapmans and their assorted guests huddled together in the numbing cold praying for morning. The buildings survived because they were on the lee side of the big, stone Methodist Church. Standing as it did, at the corner of Franklin and Locust, on the northeastern corner of the park, the church was one of the first sizable buildings in town to be struck by the wave. Not only had it held, but it had split the wave and so served as a shield for buildings directly in line behind it. (One tale to come out of Alma Hall later on told of a voice in the dark saying, "We've been saved by the Methodist Church," whereupon another voice answered back, "Only the Catholic Church can save!")


Blogger Nicholodeon said...

If His Holiness chooses to state what he believes to be correct for his flock, then so be it. The Patriarch or Pope of Rome (in Russian 'Papa rimsky')directs most of the world's Christians.

The Pope of Moscow (in Russian 'Papa moskovski') directs all Russian Orthodox Christians. Add to this all Orthodox, there are only several million Christians not included by Rome and Moscow and Orthodoxy.

Every organization has rules. What does a boy/girl have to do to belong to the Boy Scouts/Girl Guides, for example? You have to follow certain rules, behave a certain way, and accept responsibility for belonging.

Where did this fear of non-inclusivity come from? If you aren't Roman Catholic or Orthodox, Bruce or Babs, you don't belong. Get used to it. Or do what you have to do to join. Finish palaver.

4:49 pm  
Blogger C. Andiron said...

I'm with nicholodeon. I've doctrinal differences with Rome, but all this Anglican Fudge and Episcobabble stew has given me a severe case of nausea, so I feel like giving him a round of applause for not compromising.

I read some of the liberal Catholic remarks from Chris Johnson's article on mcj. Un friggin' believable.

If you're a cradle Pisky, perhaps you can live your whole life in solipsistic haze of seeker friendly clown-u2charists that don't refer to anything beyond you, but I'd have thought any RC would be incapable of saying things like "I can't fight back the tears...a renew the church...has now been cancelled.", "ecology", "public opinion polls", "[Benedict's] campaign to undo liberal reforms", "silence liberation theology", etc.

I'd always assumed they'd be incapable of thinking on such a petty level, given what the Papacy and magisterium represents. They lack awe, which really surprises me. I guess it's kind of heartening (in a schadenfreude kind of way) that not even the RCC is free of this problem.

9:50 pm  
Blogger Min O'Pause said...

I actually loved the quote from McCullough's Johnstown Flood.

That was great.

My mother's family came from Pennsylvania coal country, very near Johnstown, and she told me her uncles would always say:

"Don't spit on the floor, remember the Johnstown flood."

Fantastic book and a great post.


11:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother's family came from Pennsylvania coal country, very near Johnstown.

What town, Min? My brother lives not far away in Bedford, and finds himself in Johnstown rather frequently. Yes, I agree, David McCullough's book is excellent. We visited the Johnstown area not long after reading it, making it even more vivid.

7:43 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I've been planning to make a driving trip down to Johnstown, but never have the time. Maybe this fall, and I could take Emma with me. I want to see the museum, and visit the site of the dam, and just see what the river looks like. McCullough gives very vivid descriptions of the steep elevation of the terrain, and the way the river twisted, so that the flood sort of lurched downward in a kind of side-to-side motion.

8:17 am  
Blogger Min O'Pause said...

Hi anonymous,

Actually, they were from Tamaqua and Pottsville area.

My grandmother used to tell me stories about "The Molly McGuires," who lived in that area.

I went there in the late 1990's. It was a great, historical trip.


2:51 pm  
Blogger Min O'Pause said...


I meant Molly Maguirers. I was listening to the McGuire sisters, yesterday, and had them on my mind.


3:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Mabuse, I would recommend visiting Johnstown if you are interested in the subject. We visited the flood museum in town and then the dam site. There is a park service visitor's center at the dam site, which is interesting to see. We also watched a movie there, which was quite intense. At the time (1998), they were restoring a couple of the original South Fork Fishing & Hunting Club structures and talked about opening them to the public in the future. I don't know if those are now open. We also did not actually drive up the path of the flood, which is something I'd like to do next time we're in the area.

3:58 pm  
Blogger The Bovina Bloviator said...

I've wanted to make the trip to Johnstown for a long time and I definitely will read McCullough's book. Thanks for the tip.

Useless tidbit: My great-grandfather was a member of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club but I think it would behoove me to shut-up about it if I ever make it to Johnstown.

7:36 pm  
Blogger Dr. Alice said...

I've been to Johnstown several times and have visited the dam site (last time was about two years ago) as I have family in the area. I agree, the visitor's center is excellent and the movie is, indeed, intense. One of the things I learned is that at the last minute, to warn of the oncoming wave of water, a train coming up the valley was desperately blowing its whistle and the local churches were ringing their bells (sadly, to little avail).

8:05 pm  
Blogger Min O'Pause said...


I feel like some of you are ignoring me.

Is that just my liberal paranoia?

And here I thought we were getting along.


8:37 pm  

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