Latin Mass

The Catholic matriarch of Creole cooking: Yes, the real Princess Tiana was a Catholic believer

The Catholic matriarch of Creole cooking: Yes, the real Princess Tiana was a Catholic believer

What made Creole chef Leah Chase so unique?

There’s at least two ways to look at that question. You can ask, “What made her famous at the national level?” Fame is important, especially a person’s life and work is connected to A-list personalities in politics, entertainment and culture.

However, in this case I would say that that it was more important to ask, “What was the ‘X’ factor that made her a matriarch in New Orleans culture?” When you focus on that question, the word “Catholic” has to be in the mix somewhere — a core ingredient in the strong gumbo that was her life.

Thus, I was stunned that the NOLA.com tribute to Chase hinted at her faith early on, but then proceeded to ignore the role that Catholicism played in the factual details of her life. Look for the word “Catholic” in this piece: “Leah Chase, New Orleans’ matriarch of Creole cuisine, dead at 96.” You won’t find it, even though the overture opened the door:

Leah Chase, New Orleans’ matriarch of Creole cuisine, who fed civil rights leaders, musicians and presidents in a career spanning seven decades, died Saturday (June 1) surrounded by family. She was 96.

Mrs. Chase, who possessed a beatific smile and a perpetually calm demeanor, presided over the kitchen at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant until well into her 10th decade, turning out specialties such as lima beans and shrimp over rice, shrimp Clemenceau and fried chicken that was judged the best in the city in a poll by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Every Holy Thursday, hundreds showed up to enjoy gallons of her gumbo z’herbes, a dark, thick concoction that contains the last meat to be eaten before Good Friday.

What, pray tell, is the importance of community life and faith linked to Holy Thursday and Good Friday?

Maybe editors in New Orleans simply assumed that Catholicism is a given in that remarkable city, something that does not need to be explained or, well, even mentioned. (Watch the NOLA.com video at the top of this post.)

In this case, if readers want to learn some facts about the role that Catholic faith played in this Creole queen’s life, they will need — wait for it — to dig into the magesterial obit produced by The New York Times: “Leah Chase, Creole Chef Who Fed Presidents and Freedom Riders, Dies at 96.”

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Exorcism growing among Catholics? San Francisco Weekly offers flawed investigation

Exorcism growing among Catholics? San Francisco Weekly offers flawed investigation

There are some publications that treat religion-news coverage like a trip to some mysterious planet where the inhabitants are incomprehensible. Such was the San Francisco Weekly’s recent take on a local exorcist. It was so crammed with mistakes, one wonders if anyone bothered editing or fact checking the piece.

The Weekly has had some decent religion stories in the past, but this was not one of them.

Which is a shame, because the issue of exorcism is wildly interesting, the stuff of movies and best-selling books. The reporter identifies himself as a lapsed Catholic non-believer, which makes it odd that the research would be so sloppy.

We begin:

Every Thursday evening, a few dozen people file into Immaculate Conception Chapel, a small Catholic church on the steep slope of Folsom Street on Bernal Hill's north face, carrying bottles of water, tubs of protein powder, small bottles of booze, watches, rosaries, and cell phones...
The people stir a few minutes past 7 p.m. when a tiny man wearing white robes -- a long rectangle of cloth with Vegas-worthy golden sparkles hanging around his neck -- appears from a door to the left of the altar. A few weeks shy of his 89th birthday, Father Guglielmo Lauriola walks slowly across the raised altar area to a waiting chair. Here he sits, facing away from his congregation in the style of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, to read from laminated card prayers and songs devoted to the Virgin Mary. Aside from Jesus on the cross, she is the principal figure of veneration here at the 104-year-old church.

So the scene is set. This priest conducts a Mass, after which, we're told "the show really starts."

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Yo, New York Times: Does everyone agree as to why all those Catholic parishes are closing?

Yo, New York Times: Does everyone agree as to why all those Catholic parishes are closing?

Faithful GetReligion readers know that, in the past, we have praised the New York Times Metro desk team for its coverage of the painful wave of Catholic church closings and parish mergers that has hit the Archdiocese of New York.

However, there has been a rather ironic subplot running through some of the coverage.

You know how your GetReligionistas are always complaining that mainstream reporters always find a way to find each and every possible political thread in religion-news stories, even if there are doctrinal themes that are much more central to the event? Think coverage of papal tours, for examples.

Now, the irony is that the Times team -- when covering these parish mergers and closings -- seems almost completely tone-deaf to some pretty obvious elements of Catholic politics (and real-estate business) linked to this story, elements that are pretty easy to tune in online.

I know that the Times folks know these elements are there, because they have seen them in the past and I praised them for it:

So implied issues of ethnicity, history, economic justice, liturgical style and theology. I've heard of churches exploding in fits of bitterness over the changing of hymnals and stained-glass windows. Imagine closing 50 churches in a city as complex as New York -- with all of the economic questions raised by locations of these facilities.
Air rights? How about prime land in a city with a real-estate and building boom that is almost out of control. For Cardinal Timothy Dolan, there are no easy financial and spiritual decisions here.

But the latest story is totally centered on people and emotions -- which are crucial elements of the story, of course. But there are other layers worth pursuing, especially linked to liturgy and tensions in the church. Oh yes, and demographics loom in the background, once again. 

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Crux offers exotic, National Geographic-style look at Catholic traditionalists? Or not?

Crux offers exotic, National Geographic-style look at Catholic traditionalists? Or not?

Try to imagine the mayhem that would be created in the religion blogosphere if a major controversy hit the news that involved gay rights, Mormonism, atheism and (wait for it) the Latin Mass. I think you'd need to call in the online equivalent of the U.S. Marines to control it.

Everyone who covers religion news knows that the Latin Mass is a hot-button topic, a Maypole around which a number of other emotional Catholic issues dance. As the old saying goes: What's the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist? You can negotiate with a terrorist.

So the folks at Crux just ran a massive on-site report about the recent Sacra Liturgia USA meeting. To say this is a colorful piece would be a great understatement.

This is, on one level, a classic example of the neo-National Geographic feature in which the tiniest details of life in an exotic tribe are placed under the microscope in order to contrast these folks with normal people. Yes, think trip to the zoo. In this case, "normal people" are the progressives in the post-Vatican II academic establishment and their journalism friends. Here's the view of one faithful GetReligion reader of the Crux feature:

In this article and the accompanying photos it seems to me as if Crux Now is treating this like they were reporting on and taking pictures at a zoo. "Oh, look! There's the scarlet Cardinal with flocks of admirers around him! Oh, and see over there? That's the white-hatted, red-breasted lionheart with an old-fashioned chasuble on!"

I can see some of that, in this coverage of the Cardinal Burke show. However, I was impressed with two elements of this story, which we will get to in a moment. There is one major wince moment at the very end for the suddenly old new Catholic left.

My problem with this piece?

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