Wednesday, June 14, 2017

At the Gluttony Pride Mass...

(Please note: the following is an attempt at satire, inspired by this real-life news article. I am putting this up front to make sure everybody knows it.)

June 14, 2027

ANYTOWN--The word "brunch" usually conjures up images of cozy breakfast restaurants, but for several dozen gluttony pride activists and their families, a Mass held in their honor at the Cathedral of St. Volusian was more like a brunch.

The doors of the Cathedral opened to reveal snack tables dotted with omelettes, bacon, and pancakes placed strategically throughout the church building. Those attending were encouraged to help themselves on their way up to a special area in the front of the church, where large sturdy recliners provided comfortable seating to the small-in-number but vigorously welcomed group, all of whom were members of Gluttony Lovers Always Eating, or GLAE.  Many of them were dressed casually, sporting t-shirts which read "We're Round, We're Around, Get Used to It!" or, more simply, "GLAE Pride!"

"I'm so glad to see you all!" Cardinal Tweedledum welcomed the group, which included gluttony pride members and GLAE families from several different parishes in the archdiocese. "For too long, the Church has hurtfully focused on the so-called 'sin' of gluttony, wagged her fingers at you about the virtue of temperance, and called your appetites disordered. Your appetites for far more food than is needed for sustenance isn't disordered; it's just 'differently ordered!"

Recognizing a quote from the popular new book Building Rather Heavily Reinforced Bridges by Jesuit theologian Father Phil Lacious, the GLAE crowd applauded.

The welcoming of openly gluttonous people to a Mass would have been unthinkable a decade ago. But Cardinal Tweedledum is one of a number of new Church authorities trying to be more welcoming and inclusive of groups like GLAE. In an interview last week, Cardinal Tweedledum explained. "The shift started happening a long time ago. We used to differentiate between people who were trying to get away from their sins, and people who didn't see their sins as sinful. But the conscience gets to decide. Maybe gay sex, or adultery, or theft, or lying, or gluttony isn't right for me personally. But if it's right for you, well, who am I to judge? We've always had fat people in the Church, and we sort of took it for granted that most of them went to Confession when they overindulged and that otherwise they were sincerely trying to learn temperance and stop overeating. And we know that some fat people aren't gluttons--health problems and so on--and some gluttons aren't fat. But the GLAE Pride people set us straight. Making them feel unworthy, unwelcome, like they were less than everyone else just because they're capable of eating an entire rotisserie chicken for a light snack--that was wrong. That was unwelcoming and intolerant, and we're trying to change that."

Founding member of the local GLAE chapter Addie Pose agrees--to a point. "I'm cautiously optimistic that the Church will get with the times and change her old fat-shaming teachings that call gluttony and overeating sinful one of these days," Pose said. "Masses like this one are a great sign of hope to our community--hope that we can come out of the pantry and admit that we like to eat, that eating is the most important part of who we are and how we identify. But we have a long way to go. The Catechism still teaches that gluttony is a sin. Active practitioners of gluttony are often barred from priesthood or religious life, usually on some kind of spurious health concerns as well as the spirituality question.  All of this is terribly hurtful to the gluttony pride community, and as a community we demand that greater attention be paid to our concerns. As much as I appreciate the cardinal's efforts here, it's not nearly enough. True welcoming means accepting and affirming us in every aspect of our lives, including at the dinner table."

Brother Toby Lard, a theologian with ties to the New Meals Ministry group that serves the GLAE community and agitates for changes in both secular and religious laws to accommodate the gluttony-American community, says that Cardinal Tweedledum's gesture of a Mass where people are encouraged to keep eating through the entire celebration is a good start. "The GLAE community finds the one-hour fast prior to Communion to be especially hurtful," Brother Lard said. "It singles them out in such an obvious way. This is not a community of people who is used to going a full hour without eating. We are asking them to suffer in ways that ordinary eaters don't have to just to encounter Jesus, and that's got to be addressed."  Brother Lard, whose scholarly works include a study of the gluttony community of Ancient Rome complete with its lavish feasts and vomitoriums, adds, "Christ was well aware of the widespread and community-based practice of 'safe gluttony' among the Ancient Romans, and yet He never condemned those practices or told anybody to avoid feasting. He often encountered people while feasting, and frequently used food-based metaphors and parables to teach His flock, which is not consistent with the idea that Christ would ever have condemned gluttony." Asked how the Church's prohibition against gluttony came about, Brother Lard's answer was immediate. "Paul," he said. "The Apostle Paul had some truly weird hang-ups. He just didn't like people to enjoy life at all, you know? And unfortunately his ideas have impacted the Church for ages. But luckily that's all changing now."

Addie Pose isn't quite so sure. "We've presented several demands to Cardinal Tweedledum, and he's already shot down one of them completely. There will be no consecration of deep-fried Communion wafers, even though we use unconsecrated deep-fried wafers in our private worship services. Some of our members have gone ECUSA over that--the Episcopalians were willing to experiment with deep-fried Communion. But we're Catholic, and we just want our culture and our community and our struggles reflected when we encounter the Lord. Is that too much to ask?"

Cardinal Tweedledum says it is--for now. "Who knows where the Holy Spirit will guide us eventually?" he said. "But, confidentially, those things are a mess, and besides, the Church doesn't allow the extra ingredients that go into the coating." He added, "Some of the other things the GLAE community wants are no trouble. Bigger pews with more spaces between them--we're already planning to remodel a section of the Cathedral for that. So few people show up to Sunday Mass anymore that it's not a problem at all to rip out half or two-thirds of the pews to make the worship space GLAE-friendly. Of course, the Affirming Nudism group will need to test the pews to make sure they're still acceptable to the clothing-optional Catholics, and we will need to have diversity sensitivity training to make sure the Celebrate Thieves group doesn't think the spread-out pews are somehow meant to discourage their lifestyle which includes occasional pick-pocketing. But other than that I think we can be as welcoming and affirming as possible."

GLAE Pride member Ella Fantine thinks the cardinal is doing a good job. "I remember my mother telling me I was risking eternal damnation by eating a whole coffee cake for breakfast every day," she said, wiping away tears. "To have Cardinal Tweedledum welcome and affirm all four hundred and six pounds of me and tell me I don't have to change at all--that I can eat two coffee cakes if I feel like it--is amazing. This is a message of hope and love for all, and it has taken a long time for us to get to hear it. But finally our lifestyle is being seen as just as good, noble, grace-filled and holy as everyone else's, and it's about time."