Far be it from me to criticize a man speaking of his just-deceased father, character actor Vince O’Brien. But I believe that since that son, Liam O’Brien, is quoted in his father’s obituary speaking of our Catholic faith in an all-too-familiar, yet untrue manner, I feel I should respond. Liam recalls his father’s faith and other qualities.
Liam O’Brien said his father was “a complicated guy in some ways.”
“He was a Catholic of great faith and had certain things that were conservative and Old World about him, but he had a very global view — he was pro-Civil rights, anti-racism,” Liam O’Brien said.
I’ve seen that sort of construction before: “He is such a conservative Catholic yet he …” and fill in some virtue that is fully compatible with being a conservative and faith-filled Catholic. Who were among the most ardent white leaders of the civil rights movement? Catholic priests and bishops and lay people. Yet today we never get credit for it. Do I know of a single conservative and faith-filled Catholic who is a racist and opposes civil rights for minorities? No. Undoubtedly, there might be one out there who is a self-described conservative and faithful Catholic, but in fact racism is incompatible with the Faith.
This is similar to the meme that Democrats are the great proponents of civil rights and equality, yet in the 1960s it was the Republicans who favored civil rights legislation and it was the many southern Democrats who opposed it.
But the narrative we’re spoon-fed in conventional wisdom has it otherwise. Conservatives of any stripe are narrow-minded, bigoted, and intent on raising themselves up at the cost of those less fortunate, hoarding their own wealth and rejecting love in favor of authoritarianism. And when the lie of this viewpoint is exposed by the example of one person witnessing to another, by one devout father living his Catholic faith before his son, it takes people by surprise.
It’s a tragedy that it should. But in this up-is-down, bad-is-good world, it’s to be expected I suppose.