Not Your Mother: An Autopsy on The Testament of Mary | Mark P. Shea | Catholic World Report
Colm Tóibín’s book won’t tell you anything about Mary. It will tell you plenty about its very sad and very angry author.
With zombies all the rage (pardon the pun, 28 Days Later fans) there are all sorts of helpful instructions out there for dealing with them. One illustration of sundry methods for dispatching zombies pictures a man with a gun pointed at a drooling old woman shuffling toward him. His hand covers his face as he weeps in grief and hesitation. The caption reads, “Shoot, you fool! She’s not your mother anymore!”
I think of this as I contemplate the latest piece of Catholic-hating detritus to wash up on our shores from the Emerald Isle. The past 20 years have not been good to Irish Catholicism. The Isle of Saints and Scholars, having withstood Viking hordes and centuries of English oppression and sectarian strife, could not withstand the most insidious attack the devil has sent against the Irish: economic prosperity. Has corruption in the Church aided and abetted the vicious turn against the Faith there? Sure. Abusive and corrupt clerics bear very serious responsibility for the hostility to the Church in large measure.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Sin—very serious sin—has always been present in the Church, and Catholics who knew and understood their Faith did not therefore abandon it. Still less did they try to solve the problem of human corruption by telling lies about God, Jesus, and Mary. Time was when Irish Catholics knew that God, Jesus, and Mary were their best friends in a mad world.
That’s gone now. Ireland sold its soul for a brief period of Celtic Tiger prosperity and got two things in return: a media class that is now totally cloned from post-Christian England’s culture of casual anti-Catholic blasphemy, followed by a bursting economic bubble that has left it with neither man’s friendship nor God’s consolations. All it has left is spite, blasphemy—and profound sadness.
Into the midst of this devolution of the Country That Used to Be Ireland comes Colm Tóibín, the issues-filled author of (ahem) New Ways to Kill Your Mother, to deliver unto us what NPR breathlessly calls “A New ‘Testament’ Told From Mary’s Point of View”: his novella The Testament of Mary. It’s a book that fills a profound void—in the twice-annual need of God-haters in corporate publishing to find some sort of media phenomenon that will insult and blaspheme Christianity for Easter and Christmas.
Tóibín is the man of the hour, doing for Mary what Dan Brown did for Jesus: turning her into a blank screen upon which the author can project current cultural and personal obsessions for 30 pieces of silver. Tóibín, it will shock no one to know, is an ex-Catholic homosexual who “once contemplated the priesthood” (that clause is mandated in the standard corporate biosketch of every embittered ex-Catholic screed writer), but jettisoned his faith when he went to college and came out as gay.
In terms of content, the book is a by-the-numbers hatchet job written in sensitive, spare, and poetic diction for the delectation of UK and New York Chattering Classes and dipped in a bath of relentless, willful sadness and bitterness.