Monday, July 27, 2009

Frank McCourt's Catholic Faith

Here is a follow up of my post of July 19th regarding the passing of teacher and writer Frank McCourt. Frank McCourt understandably had some issues with Mother Church. If you haven't read "Angela's Ashes", you should. You won't be able to put the book down. Here is a good article out of the Wall Street Journal written by Peter Duffy. The article gives a good indication as to where Mr. McCourt stood regarding his faith.
The Faith of Frank McCourt

The rites and rituals of Ireland’s Catholic Church of the 1930s and ’40s exist at the core of “Angela’s Ashes” (1996), his great Bildungsroman. That book’s hilarious and irreverent chapter on Mr. McCourt’s preparation for, and eventual ill-fated reception of, First Communion set down for all history what it was like to sit before an old Irish “master,” named Mr. Benson in this case, and have very pre-Vatican II lessons pummeled (literally) into your pre-teenage brain.

“He tells us we have to know the catechism backwards, forwards and sideways,” Mr. McCourt writes. “We have to know the Ten Commandments, the Seven Deadly Virtues, Divine and Moral, the Seven Sacraments, the Seven Deadly Sins. We have to know by heart all the prayers, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the Confiteor, the Apostles’ Creed, the Act of Contrition, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. . . . He tells us we’re hopeless, the worst class he ever had for First Communion but as sure as God made little apples he’ll make Catholics of us, he’ll beat the idler out of us and Sanctifying Grace into us.”

Mr. Benson, who inhabits the same spiritual rectory as the fiery Father Arnall in James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” didn’t quite succeed in making an orthodox Catholic out of Frank McCourt. In fact, Mr. McCourt was one of the church’s principal public antagonists. He delighted in delivering bawdy riffs against what he saw as the church’s hypocrisy, cruelty and joylessness. “I was so angry for so long, I could hardly have a conversation without getting in an argument,” he once said.
We’ve been tracking him for a number of years,” Bill Donahue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights told me on Tuesday.

After the New York Times published an excerpt from the First Communion chapter of “Angela’s Ashes” this week—in it Mr. McCourt describes how “God,” i.e. the sacred host, became glued to the roof of his mouth—Mr. Donahue issued a statement denouncing the newspaper. “During his lifetime, Frank McCourt made any number of insulting remarks about Catholicism, all to the applause of his sophomoric fans,” it read.

Somewhere Mr. McCourt, who loved to spar with critics, is smiling. “Anti-clericalism, they said about me,” he told a newspaper reporter in 2002, who noted that Mr. McCourt’s eyebrows arched with skepticism. “No. I just told the story that millions of other Catholics would tell about their own lives.” Referring to the clergy sexual-abuse, he said: “Maybe now people are beginning to realize that I was just a bit too early with the truth.”

The rest of the article is HERE.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Thanks for the heads up about Angela's Ashes. I had never heard of it or Frank McCourt. I recently checked the book and movie out from the library. My husband and I watched the movie together, we found it to be hilarious and depressing all at the same time. Did it ever stop raining?

I'm not sure if I'll read the book now that I've seen the movie. Thanks again!