Blog Template Theology of the Body: Anne Rice in a Weaker Vein

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Anne Rice in a Weaker Vein

There has been a bit of hulabaloo recently about Anne Rice's decision to depart from the Catholic Church and all "organized religion" after her much-touted return to it in 2005; NPR characteristically aired an interview with her yesterday, in their amusing mode of offering only diametric counters to EWTN's "The Journey Home," on which I was a guest last fall (what would be fun is to hear a really good conversion story in Terry Gross' breathy voice).

We can leave aside for now the sterner internal interptation of her choice as a self-conscious act of apostasy and a sin against charity itself; what worries me is the intellectual credibility of this public decision. Anne Rice's list of negations and denials is boringly thin, aimed at a line of straw men who are less robust than her bloodless Undead. Where has the Catholic Church ever self-identified as "anti-feminist," "anti-gay," or "anti- science," as Rice puts it? Is this not the same Church which, in its authoritative statements, identifies itself in the image of a woman and enthusiastically lauds women's contributions to every sphere of life, defends the dignity and rights of homosexual persons, (Catechism 2358), and affirms the integral roles of faith and science? Anne Rice should know better; she referenced such good scholarship for her first faithful novel, Christ the Lord. Instead, she has chosen to affirm a mere negation, which, apart from being logically impossible, is intensely boring. She has become another postmodern cliche.'

On the other hand, I so well remember stopping by one of Anne Rice’s Manhattan book signings for Christ the Lord when the book first came out, in the wake of Rice’s public return to the faith. I remember a certain warm sense of real fellowship- a community of friends with a common cause. I remember how serene and whole and firmly resolved Rice seemed, how secure. I’d asked her to inscribe my book for a certain priest, and she held that book for an extra second, repeating the priest’s name almost tenderly. If that little sliver of time represents a small part of the graces at work in her return to the faith, she will be back. The chilly tone of her recent renunciations lacks the compelling tenor of real love and conviction altogether. She was not made to live a negation.

For those in the popular media who are applauding Rice's constrained and insipid choice as a sort of clarion call to Christian believers, please. She offers no radical new proposal; she suggests nothing new or positive in terms of constructive change for us awful Catholics and Christians who actually love our organized structures. She is not proposing a reform. She is re-hashing a tired, weary strain which does not do justice to her fairly good literary style. She can do nothing but make qualifications now. And that is just sad, on so many levels- with regard to her spirituality, and with regard to her brain.