Nothing Sacred

Different people have asked me what I think about the television program Nothing Sacred. I am reluctant to say anything because I only saw a ten minute segment of one program. It was the part where Fr. Ray told his congregation that he did not want to hear any more sexual sins in the confessional. Tired of being a "sex traffic cop" or something like that. I have to admit it was well acted. In fact, I found myself imagining what I would say to him if he were one of the priests here in the diocese:

Fr. Phil: "Ray, I heard about your sermon last Sunday. I guess it caused quite a stir."
Fr. Ray (laughs): "Yeh, a few uptight people complained, but most seem to like it. They even applauded."
P: "I imagine. But there was something I didn't understand."
R: "What's that?"
P: "Well, suppose someone came to you all broken up 'cause the person they'd been living with moved out on them. You know, feeling betrayed, that kind of thing."
R: "Oh, that's different."
P: "Or say some guy was getting involved with a married woman down at the office. Would you send him somewhere else?
R: "Of course not. I was talking about people all hung up because they have a bad thought--or masturbate."
P: "Aren't those things a sign something is wrong? Don't you want to help people with their brokenness?"
R: "I don't think Jesus wants to heap guilt on people. He didn't say much about sexual sins."
P: "What about the part where he says, 'he who looks at a woman with lust...' Isn't that about treating people like objects."
R: "Yah, Phil, but you know as well as I do how many people get hung up on all that. They need to get a life. Stop focusing on themselves. Maybe if they started doing something for other people some of that neurosis would go away."
P: "Good idea. By the way, do you have a minute to hear my confession."

So much for my aspirations to be a script writer. But what is the controversy around Nothing Sacred really about? From as much as I can make out from talking with friends who saw it and from reading some articles, it is this: The clash between two approaches to Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. The struggle cannot really be described with the words "liberal" and "conservative." The best words are cultural and conter-cultural.

The values dear to our culture are well-known: equality, tolerance and self-determination. Those are important values and they have their place. However, some U.S. Catholics use them to judge the Church. In the process they criticize hierarchy, authority, even revelation and the moral law. When push comes to shove they will chose their culture over their faith. Without much reflection their culture simply becomes their faith.

Dorothy Rabinowitz, writing in the Wall Street Journal saw what was really at stake:

There is a hilarious book to written, someday, about
television's notion--reflecting the culture at large--of
what a dissenter is, and about who gets to be called an
iconoclast. This series (Nothing Sacred), brimming
with all the received social wisdom of our times, all the
reigning orthodoxies, should occupy a central place in such
a study. What really would have been revolutionary, of
course, would have been a television series about a priest
determined to uphold the traditions of his church and the
basic tenets of his faith. If such a series were ever made,
it would not only be revolutionary but something of a

I receive a fair amount of e-mail from people asking how to deal with a parish priest who seems a lot like Fr. Ray--a nice guy, but more loyal to the culture than the teaching authority of the church. Two things should be said. First, you need him for pastoral care: the Mass, sacraments and so on. In fact, when you approach him on that level (as in the above imaginary dialogue), you probably find he is more a representative of the Church than he may have first appeared. But secondly, and this is really the most important: the division between cultural and counter-cultural Catholicism is not a matter of two opposing parties. It is a struggle in each of our hearts. It is life and death--and will only be won by prayer and God's grace.


Related articles:

The Disney Boycott.
The stuggle against secular humanism.

The mission of this website.
The Forgotten Catholic

Some background in philosphy.
A representative of secular philosophy: Carl Sagan.
An illustration from the Abortion controversy: Why "pro-choice" is a contradiction in terms.

The difference between a watered-down and full-bodied approach to Christianity: Flawed Expectations.

The real problem with Dissent.
How dissent affects the Catholic University.

The Forgotten Catholic


Boston Globe's Misleading Article on Catholic Church

Deflating Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Stephen Jay Gould: Gorbachev of Darwinism?

Test Tube Offspring Want to Know Father

Erickson vs. Bartell Drugs

Call No Man Father

What is Original Sin of Sex?

Bicentennial Man (Hidden Assumptions)

Bogus Knights of Columbus Oath

See also: An Eternally Unbridgeable Chasm

The Fiery Furnace

Jesus Teaching Concerning Heaven


Some Good News on Teen Pregnancy and Abortion

Hitler's Pope: Comic Book Approach to Church History

He Approached the Victim: "It's much more likely one of your relatives will lose his life by surgical abortion than by heart attack."

Germaine Greer on Birth Control

Human Cloning: A Catholic Perspective (How the Unthinkable Became Inevitable)