Grim Catholicism

WaPo’s On Faith page features the quiet Beatle in this post. Does the author overstate George Harrison’s influence on religion and spirituality in the West?

But his greatest legacy may be the way his decades-long spiritual quest shaped the ways the West looks at God, gurus and life.

Do you suppose it burns some bishops to think that they are less popular than the Beatles? There’s a certain irony in John Lennon’s 1966 remark, given the pullback from a generous Catholic spirituality, headed by some of our very own bishops.

A bit of background from the pages of history:

Harrison discovered Eastern religion through his love for Eastern music, which was sparked when The Byrds’ David Crosby and Roger McGuinn introduced him to the work of Ravi Shankar, the renowned sitar musician who would become a lifelong friend and mentor.

Harrison added sitar lines to the Beatles’ 1965 hit “Norwegian Wood.” When he traveled to Bombay the next year to study with Shankar, he was moved by the Indian people’s spirituality.

“The difference over here is that their religion is every second and every minute of their lives,” said Harrison, who like Paul McCartney was raised in Liverpool’s devout but grim Roman Catholic community.

Catholics again: “devout, but grim.” What is it with this? Haven’t people read James Martin lately? Robert Barron? Wasn’t there anything good to come of pre-conciliar Catholicism? I know I don’t have the highest opinion of Catholic liturgy prior to fifty years ago, but jeez. Not everything was Evelyn Wood-inspired Low Masses muttered in side chapels, was it?

Speaking of the “devout, but grim” movement, sign up Madison bishop Robert Morlino. (See page three on this link.) Deacon Greg breaks the sad news.

Back to a Catholicism of narrow horizons, but you sure have to like the pom-poms those bishops are trotting out for these decisions. Is it any wonder that seekers like George Harrison would be intrigued by religious people living their faith “every second and every minute of their lives”?

Given that sort of witness, would you think that the Lord’s prescription of the greatest commandment would be foreign to frowny-faces:

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

Catholicism faces a significant harvest. This project leaves many Catholics an affinity for a certain positive entitlement, regardless of how much of their all they invest in the labor. But frankly, I don’t see it. Bishops Olmsted, Morlino, and their ilk seem content to lick Prada shoes, and rake sand in an empty desert, calling it a day’s work. And hoping for a ticket to an imaginary diocese already lost to an unforgiving world.

Really what believers are called to do is give and live and love with our all. We’re not admonished to hold back because we might make a mistake.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Church News, Liturgy, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Grim Catholicism

  1. Katherine says:

    “devout but grim” — it helps to remember that in places like Liverpool, the local Catholic population would have consisted largely of descendants of poor Irish immigrants and English Catholic recusants, both with experience of religious and economic discrimination.

  2. Another yikes, Todd. We have harmonic convergence and synchronicity! What does this bode for our futures?
    I spent Saturday AM watching with absolute fascination the Harrison documentary, first part, reveling in stuff and info that this very serious Beatle-o-phile never saw or heard. (You ever check out a volume, “The Theology of the Beatles? Great read.) At the moment in the film that Harrison zeroed in on what I took was his most insightful personal revelation about “receiving” enlightenment, Harrison said, in effect “I was raised as a Catholic. You were just told what to believe and that was it.” I felt an ice cold dagger run down my spine; at once understanding his calm dismissal of a Church that never presented its face to many of his/our generation as it has to us, but also that in so many ways, we are still failing miserably to witness to the faith as given us by Jesus. And I’m also currently pouring through Fr. Barron’s CATHOLICISM, which comes way too late in the discourses about whose hermeneutic rules, and reminds us simply that Jesus’ primary message was to be near Him at every turn, at any cost.
    I dunno my friend, am I losing my religion after all? (Southern sense.)

  3. Katherine, is that you from the old Resource Pub forum?

  4. bob says:

    Yes, I do think the author overstates George’s influence.

  5. Annon says:

    Stop slamming my bishop. He is a wonderful man. There is absolutely nothing wrong with his actions.

    Show this man of God some respect.

    • Jimmy Mac says:

      “Show this man of God some respect.”

      He’ll get the respect that he EARNS, not that is apparently demanded by his office independent of his actions.

      Sowing and reaping and all of that.

      • Annon says:

        And how is he not earning respect? He is perfectly within his rights, and even within his duties. He stated in an additional letter that one of the primary reasons to end this is because of the substantial risk of profanation that he has personally seen in parishes.

        And that’s only one reason.

        How is that not earning respect? Would *you* rather see the Eucharist profaned so that all of us can receive in both forms?

      • Liam says:


        Where did Bp Morlino testify to profanation? I don’t see it.

      • Annon says:

        And did I mention he is also clearly following the spirit of VII? See SC 55

  6. I was puzzled, TF, about Annon’s beef. Went back and looked at commentariat, then the post, and I’d missed this:
    Bishops Olmsted, Morlino, and their ilk seem content to lick Prada shoes, and rake sand in an empty desert, calling it a day’s work. And hoping for a ticket to an imaginary diocese already lost to an unforgiving world.
    First of all, I wish people would stop misappropriating “ilk” as a perjorative; secondly, you crossed the line, bro’, into caricature, which you doubtless believed was creative license, except that God has, uh, rules about castigating the ordained, like it or not.
    Respect is, ironically, something each breathing creature, especially humans, is entitled to by virtue of our creation, fall and redemption. Don’t get caught up in the details, ’cause we know that….

    • Todd says:

      There’s a reason I publish my public doubts about these bishops: careerism.

      Neither spent quite four calendar years in his previous post as a diocesan ordinary before being reassigned. In Bishop Olmsted’s situation, he was a co-adjutor for two of those four years.

      These guys *seem* to have all the right stuff to be candidates for promotion. I object to the whole system in which bishops are routinely shuttled from one diocese to another. And I’ve been consistent in my criticism of it, directing it at the Congregation for Bishops as well as individuals who consent to a clear abuse of the moving process.

      Sorry to Charles and Annon: my comments stand as delivered.

      • No apology needed, Todd. Though “I” considered your rhetoric a breach of etiquette, I didn’t ask you to do anything, such as disavow or retract them. It’s a free country, with free speech; I suspect you’re trusting that the first amendment will help this country persevere through these turbulent times.
        Now, what was your take on “The third Beatle” and his spiritual raison d’etre? Inquiring minds, and all that.

  7. crystal says:

    Sadly I have no tv and haven’t seen the documentary on George, but I recently saw a video of him on the Dick Cavett show – he talkked about Ravi Shankar and also about the two Bangladesh charity concerts he put on to help refugees in Pakistan. He raised $243,418.51 which was administered by UNICEF, according to Wikipedia. George’s religious integrity seems more evident than any of our bishops’.

  8. Annon says:

    Liam, it is in his additional clarification letter that is posted on the diocesan website, linked here for your convenience.

    You can also find it on the diocesan homepage at

  9. David says:

    atholicism faces a significant harvest. This project leaves many Catholics an affinity for a certain positive entitlement, GOD OF INNER CENTER

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s