On Facebook the other day someone posted an image of an apron with the slogan “I’d rather be roasting heretics”. I don’t really know the guy who posted this; he is a friend of a friend, and we have exchanged emails. He is prominent in distributist circles, and while I knew he was a pretty conservative kind of Catholic I had no idea that he would have thought this funny. Here is the image:
As you can see, this is the brainchild of New Oxford Review, which once, long ago, was a very fine journal. I subscribed for a good dozen years or so, through the eighties and beyond. Somewhere along the line they changed tone, and began emphasizing the negative and, as self-appointed arbiters of doctrine, began rooting out error, often finding it in the most unlikely places, such as perfectly orthodox theologians. It was tragicomic, watching the editors, obviously out of their league, wrestling with theological notions they clearly did not understand. In this endeavor they brought all the sophistication of a fundamentalist yahoo; in their literalism they failed to use the most basic tools of the theologian. And then they came up with this slogan, apparently a few years ago.
The NOR has, they say on their website, received some complaints about this line of merchandise (you can get it on tee shirts, bumper stickers, bibs(!), etc). Their response is pretty much that this is meant as a joke and if you object you have no sense of humor.
I’m sorry, if I have to explain to you that this is profoundly unfunny I don’t know what to say. Blessed John Paul II publicly repented for the Church’s complicity in violence and persecution. To any sane person, this is a dark stain on the history of the Church and a jarring instance of the institutional Church straying very far from the teaching and example of Christ.
A Catholic wearing a barbecue apron with the slogan “I’d rather be roasting heretics” is about as funny as a German wearing a tee-shirt that says “I’d rather be gassing Jews”, or a white American – I do not say “Southerner” because the phenomenon, while more common in the South, was not unique to it – sporting a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be lynching niggers.”
The editors of NOR style themselves defenders and promoters of the Faith. That they do not see that anyone who does not share their outlook and temperament will react with disgust to this slogan, would be repulsed by this sort of Catholicism, reveals a density that is staggering indeed.