Yes. You read that correctly. I’ve lived my life as a Jew, a traditional Jew in many senses. And I have always been a rationalist. But I am converting to Catholicism. And it is the most rational thing for this rationalist Jew to do. It’s motivated by empirical observation and analysis that suggests, quite convincingly, that The Roman Catholic Church has been telling the truth. I cannot be an obstinate super doubting Thomas and remain unconvinced, even after probing the wounds of the Savior with my own grubby fingers. The fact is, the Catholic Church has performed a miracle.
Yes. A miracle. In the true sense of a providentially ordained supernatural eruption, a purposeful momentary abrogation of Natural Law. A mystery that testifies to its transcendence of temporality and materiality. It has created, or located, or been sent, a humble Argentine. This is not only an unprecedented phenomenon, but a truly impossible one. Now, before you cry “racist!”, I must insist that I am no racial essentialist. Argentina is a nation of immigrants together with indigenous remnants. My familiarity with the essence and form of Argentinism comes from New York, where most Argentinians I met were of European Catholic background, like Pope Francis whose forebears were Italian, and from Israel, where most are Jewish emigrants. So it’s not racial. Rather, I am a cultural essentialist, at least as regards the Argentines.
Humility and Argentinism are as naturally opposed as oil and water, acid and base, positive and negative electrical charges. But when Francis stepped out on that balcony with his serene smile and asked the members of his flock for their prayers and blessings on his behalf, I grew dizzy. It was more shocking than seeing rain fall upwards or seeing Fred Astaire fall downwards. It was like being knocked to the ground by a ray of light on my way to Damascus. Open your arms Holy Mother Church. Here I come.
I’ll have to work on my revulsion to the aesthetics of torture and execution, so that I can feel love when gazing upon a crucifix, and cultivate a revulsion to the idea of men penetrating one another sexually, which never seemed more or less weird than the penetrative sex I have enjoyed with women. And I don’t know how I will learn to refrain from non-procreative sex with my wife in the future. But on the other hand, I was never a particularly good Jew with regards to compliance with doctrinal consensus. So I expect to be an equally flawed and dissenting Catholic. The question is how traditionalist I go. Do I want the Latin Mass like Mel Gibson? Will I abstain from meat on Fri.? It doesn’t seem such a restriction, given my new licit access to pork and shellfish.
There’s still a lot to figure out. But in the mean time Ave Maria!!!
[PS In spite of any impressions this snarky ramble might have given you, I wish Pope Francis I and all 1.2 billion Catholics well and congratulations. What people who only focus on Catholic crimes and abuses miss, is that it is an institution dedicated, at least since Augustine (of whom I am an enormous fan, even when I disagree with him…or maybe especially when I disagree with him), that true love of self comes by loving God through loving one another. In the viciousness of human history, that is a remarkably profound idea, even when the Church has participated in the viciousness of that history. Francis seems a genuinely humble man (apologies to Argentina by the way) and committed to relieving poverty. We could use a genuinely humble figure on the world stage right now. I hope he strengthens the Church by drawing on its best and most beautiful traditions and that he is a force for the promotion of compassion, reconciliation, peace, and human dignity. Anyway, Francis is a much more interesting figure than our now re-established PM here (coalition achieved today as his clock was about to expire). I can’t wait for life after Bibi. Gut shabbes.]
UPDATE: I’ll be offline as the sun is setting. But feel free to use this as an open thread about Francis I. I do indeed think him an intriguing choice. And I have great respect for the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in its modern iteration.