I read today this blogger's denunciation of the Catholic ghetto mentality, and her rejection of the same. Her post got me thinking about to what extent I disagree with her assessment, and why.
In the first place, I'd like to make it clear that I don't entirely disagree. I've met Catholics who play the "my ghetto is purer and holier and more authentically Catholic than your ghetto" game, and that quickly gets tiresome and obnoxious. Naming no names, I will simply mention a time when a bright, sweet young Catholic homeschooling girl I know was rejected as a friend by another such girl because the first Catholic girl wears slacks and couldn't name a specific family devotion her family always enjoys, and the second girl was skirts-only and praised the daily family rosary as a sort of high point of her life. Of course, that second girl would be quickly put in her place and rejected in her turn by another such girl whose family made daily Mass and the daily rosary indispensable habits and abhorred short-sleeved shirts; but you see what I mean. There is nothing charitable or kind or good about that sort of conduct, and to the extent such Catholics withdraw to their particular ghettos--well, I won't be chasing after any of them and begging to be admitted.
But this begins to be complicated when we start seeing, as the alternative, a full immersion into a completely secular life. The question of whether one's children should play with the neighbor children, for instance, gets brought up a lot in these conversations--and my answer is: it depends on the neighbor children! Most of our neighborhood kids in our girls' age ranges are boys, and while I used to let the girls play with them on occasion I got rather tired of the potty-mouth, disrespectful, name-calling behavior--and so, frankly, did my girls, who knowing other children their ages (yes, home-schooled children) who are polite and friendly and will take it seriously when an adult says something like "I'd really rather you didn't ride back and forth across the street without checking for traffic," (and even say, "Gosh, sorry, Mrs. M!") were not much inclined to want to keep playing with the neighbor boys. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to force my children to play with kids whose bratty bad behavior alternately embarrasses and puzzles them--and if that's a ghetto mentality, then so be it.
On the other hand, I've known people who live in neighborhoods where the children all come from intact homes with happily married parents who are as much sticklers for discipline and good behavior as any home-schooling mom, who can let their kids run free to their hearts' content without any worries. That's great--but is that a reason to judge the parents who won't let their children play over at the house where the divorced dad and his current girlfriend have no qualms about getting into noisy fights in front of their own children/stepchildren and any friends that might be over to play? I think we're all inclined to presume that all neighborhoods are the same, that all neighbor kids are the same, and that any parents who won't let their children play with anybody who happens to live in the general vicinity must be those "ghetto Catholics" who think nobody is good enough, or who judge other families by the size of the Sacred Heart or Padre Pio picture in the living room.
But in some neighborhoods you'll find kids like these:
A federal lawsuit filed Monday in Dallas accuses the Joshua school district and several school officials of violating the civil rights of 13-year-old Jon Carmichael by ignoring repeated acts of bullying against him along with his pleas for help in the days leading up to his suicide.
The suit was filed by Carmichael's parents on the first anniversary of his death and seeks damages and compensation for his estate and heirs.
Carmichael was a student at Joshua's Loflin Middle School, where the suit states that he was repeatedly bullied.
School employees failed to intervene when he was bullied in physical education class and when he was thrown into a Dumpster, the lawsuit alleges. In another incident, students saw -- but did not report -- that his head was placed upside down in a toilet and "flushed several times," it says.
Perhaps the most serious allegation involves one bullying incident that was posted on the Internet.
"Just prior to his death, he was stripped nude, tied up and again placed into a trashcan," the lawsuit says. "The event was videotaped, put on YouTube but was later taken down, at the direction of an unknown staff member, who also failed to report the incident."
On the day he died, the lawsuit states, Carmichael told another student that he was prepared to commit suicide and the girl told him to "do it, that no one cared."