Comedy of Tragedy

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I’m a creature of habit. I still tune in to Saturday Night Live whenever I happen to be home on a Saturday night. I have to admit that the writers seem to have run out of original ideas. In the golden days there were so many great comedians and hilarious skits that I would laugh my head off. Now I’m lucky to find one segment that makes me chuckle. Still I watch in the hopes that new talent will bring more genius  and hilarity to the program, but on most nights I leave disappointed, wanting more than the show appears capable of providing.

I’ve always enjoyed political satire. I laughed at the antics of comedians who impersonated the Kennedy family. I had no trouble finding the humor in jokes like The Vatican Rag with it’s chorus of “genuflect, genuflect.” I’m a great fan of satire, and don’t generally feel indignant when my own sacred cows become the butt of jokes. I truly believe that laughing at ourselves and our idiosyncrasies is a healthy exercise. Still, it seems as though Saturday Night Live has taken a one note approach to laughter. I weary of the continuous digs about President Trump, republicans, and religion. Surely there are other topics that are more interesting and worthy of exploring. What happened to great schticks like candy gram, Bill and Ted, Samurai chef? Why are the present day offerings so predictable and actually a bit unfunny?

On a recent episode of Saturday Night Live one of the comedians indicated that listening to the music of Michael Jackson given his supposed predilection to pedophilia is akin to continuing to go to a Catholic church after learning of the grievous offenses of some of the priests. The goof ball who made the comment is the same fool who poked fun at a Texas congressional candidate who wore an eye patch without learning that the man was a war hero who lost an eye while fighting in the Middle East. The so called jokes come across as more akin to insults than clever ways of poking fun at institutions. The constant beating of such drums feels like propaganda rather than entertainment.

I serve as a Eucharistic Minister at my Catholic church which is a humbling task because it has shown me exactly why my fellow parishioners continue to hold fast to their faith in spite of grave anger about the handling of wayward priests. As I present the chalice to each person the notion behind the word “communion” comes clearly into focus. What I see is a community of good but imperfect souls who come together in a spirit of faith and love to be better versions of themselves. The fact that some among us have sinned is not the point of our devotion, rather we are searching for a source of serenity in our lives that we find in the gospels and promises of Jesus. We know from them that we will always be loved. Why indeed would we want to abandon something that powerful?

I’ve learned that there are bad people everywhere. I’ve seen teachers harm students, bankers steal, doctors take advantage of patients, coaches cheat, engineers build unsafe structures. The fact that any profession or organization is found to have evil in its midst is not an indictment of an entire group. It is simply an indication of our human weaknesses.

When I worked in a school where a man was accused of sexually abusing his daughter the rest of us were shocked, saddened, and even angry. We had no thoughts of indicting the entire faculty based on one man’s transgressions. Our students did not leave the school in droves for fear of being in a nest of evil. So it is with the Catholic church. As the faithful we are filled with so many emotions. We grieve and seethe with anger while also understanding that our own faith and the ideals of our church are bigger than the harm that has been done.

We are a family, and just as with any family we are shocked and hurt when one of our own proves to be a traitor to our group. A breach of trust is difficult to handle, but we do not break apart the entire structure because of the sins of the few. So it is with those of us who remain members of the Catholic church. My own parish is a loving and inviting place that brings me comfort, and so I eagerly go to mass each Sunday. I do not ignore or forget the sins of some of the men who were supposed to be our shepherds. They have smeared our reputation as Catholics in a horrendous way, and we want assurances that things will change. I also understand that we will never reach a state of perfection as long as humans are part of our group.

If the comedian who posed such a silly question were to come to my church with a sincere desire to become a member of our community I am certain that he would be welcomed with the spirit of love that Jesus taught us to convey to all of our fellow humans. Knowing that we are one in the spirit of our religion is what keeps us coming each week, not some blind allegiance to strange beliefs. In reality our continued support of the Catholic church is more of a pledge to the teachings of Jesus than a testimony of ignorance. It is indeed a beautiful thing.

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