Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Jesuits at work and play

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 07, 2005

An OTR reader found the advertisement above in the program for Seattle's Fifth Avenue Theatre last week. Seattle University is a Jesuit institution of higher something, and in the composition and placement of the ad we can all recognize a bit of political theater on the Jesuits' behalf. In fact, it might serve as a metaphor of the men who designed and paid for it.

The Society of Jesus, with respect to the Church as a whole, operates like those "United Colours of Benetton" ads. The Benetton ads work on two levels. First, there's the "shock the bourgeois" level -- the picture of some disturbing, but ambiguously disturbing, sight, such as a Latino man who might be dying of AIDS or a tattoo'd girl who might be mainlining heroin. Then there's a second ironic level: pleasure in the displeasure the ads will cause less sophisticated people. The snob appeal hinges on the wry amusement that "those in the know" experience in their self-conscious detachment from the distress humbler souls succumb to. In the same way, we find Jesuits continually testing the waters with ambiguously disturbing counter-Catholic messages, knowing that their allies take delight just imagining the perplexity and alarm they provoke among the stodgier faithful. Remember Loyola's dental dams for sexual health shtick? Same game.

As with the Benetton ads, part of the joke is that there's always deniability. Should any Catholic be so oafish as to level the accusation of treason, the response is a protestation of wounded innocence: "But what did I do wrong? I made no statement at all. Just displayed a photo."

The picture in the theater program ad shows a woman in alb and stole, a deliberate tease on the understanding that the Catholic Church does not ordain women. Does a mere photo show Jesuit support for the ordination of women? Of course it does. And of course this support, if challenged, is totally deniable: "This woman simply happens to have been a student in our Pastoral Leadership Program!" Game. Set. Match.

And then we have the insider's tease as well. The caption ID's the clergywoman as "Joy Haertig, pastor, Richmond Beach United Church of Christ." And the first Google search brings up this:

Rev. Joy Haertig, pastor of Richmond Beach Congregational Church, UCC, and a lesbian, spoke about how marriage is not defined by gender, but by covenant, and how supporting such covenants can only strengthen -- not threaten -- the institution of marriage.

Now isn't that a coincidence!

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