The Church Deserves Better

I’ve bumped into a couple of things in the last day or so from Catholics working in the entertainment industry that have resonated with me and with things I have talked about on this blog (such as here and here).

Today, for example, Lino Rulli, host of “The Catholic Guy” on Sirius XM Radio’s The Catholic Channel, issued a podcast from his show in which he joked with his co-host, Father Rob, about Father Rob not being a real broadcaster. There was a lot of good-natured ribbing going on, but Rulli was also making a serious point. His point was that Father Rob was not a real broadcaster because, if it were not for his vocation and expertise as a priest, he would not be co-hosting a show on one of the nation’s premier radio networks.

Rulli broadened the point. The problem with Catholic and Christian radio and television, he charged, is that it is filled with folks–he excepted the broadcasters on The Catholic Channel–who are very pious and very learned, but who, if not for their theological expertise, counseling expertise, or what have you, would not be able to get a job in the industry.

The Church, Rulli declared, deserves better.

If you’re going to add a child’s bedroom to your house, he argued, who are you going to hire to put that roof over your child’s head? The best builder or the best Catholic? Ideally, you’d want the best builder also to be the best Catholic. But in this imperfect world in which we live, most of us would settle for the best builder.

So when a work of art needs to be made, whether it be an addition to a house, a radio show, or a symphony, knowledge of the craft in question is what is most required.

And we Catholic artists need to realize that we will not be able to make an impact beyond those already and perhaps naïvely disposed to appreciate what we do unless we perfect (here’s that theme again) our craft.

In a similar vein screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi, in a panel discussion at the Catholic Writer’s Guild 2012 Online Conference, addressed the situation of Catholic artists in a deeply secularized world. Here is part of the transcript from that discussion (the entirety of which is available here):

Our topic is something like “What is an Authentic Catholic Storytelling?” I wanted to do this because I get asked all the time what I think of “Christian” movies. I always have to ask back, “What is a Christian movie?”We all know what I am talking about–movies made by Christians for Christians. The parallel is Christian publishing. Books by us, about us and for us.

I want to say that I object to the basic notion of us writing stuff just for us. I don’t see the great Catholics who were writers in ages past doing this. Dante wrote for everyone. Shakespeare wrote for everyone. Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited was for anyone. Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory was not “for the Christian market.” And then there is Flannery O’Connor.

I think that great writing is great writing–it is beautiful, it is profound, it is about men and God and the cosmos. If a book is unintelligible to other men because it is so rooted in our subculture, than it seems to me to be a bad work.

The question later came up in the discussion about the obstacles Catholic writers face in trying to publish work with Catholic themes in it to the secular publishing world. Nicolosi responded:

My theory is that the secular world is not anti-Catholic as much as it is anti-bad art.

My friend Heather King has had two books published by the secular side–and she is a flaming Catholic with all the smells and bells. If a story works it works. Too often we are claiming that we are martyrs–but we are really committing suicide. You have to write the best story that you have in you. You have to write the story you have to tell.

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