The diocese of Austin just held its annual Catholic Services Appeal. Every diocese has something like this -- a pledge-based appeal that covers seminary costs, pensions for retired priests, and general diocesan ministries that aren't funded by regular collections. This is a worthy cause, of course, and we support it every year because it's the right thing to do.
You'd almost think, however, that the diocese thought that the Catholic Services Appeal was, well, stupid. Otherwise, why would they subject 125 parishes to the blandest, most inane publicity videos year after year? The bishop gives a good pitch, but it's hard to drum up enthusiasm when the P.R. engine is undermining your message. For instance: apparently the production team was unaware that there is any music extant that specifically conveys the idea "Catholic". Even secular filmmakers know that there is "religious" music that can inspire feelings of piety or awe. Chant, anyone? Organ music? A hymn? No, the whole video is underscored with new-agey guitar tracks -- music that means nothing except "I'm stuck in this damn elevator". And one does not feel inspired to donate to an elevator; no, one marks the seconds until one is released from the purgatorial onslaught of muzak.
Aesthetics are not the issue in considering how much to give, but surely a quality video isn't that much to ask for, especially as the diocese assigns each parish a not-insignificant goal.
(Digression: Recall the baptism scene at the end of The Godfather, which is juxtaposed with the brutal murders of the enemies of the Corleone family. The aesthetic quality of the Catholic church -- the dim, stain-lit interior, the richness of the decor and of the vestments, the ancient ritual of a soul being cleansed from original sin -- made Michael Corleone's corruption all the more evident. Remove those elements of beauty and antiquity and, while the moral implications of the murders remain, the visceral impact would be effectively slashed.)
I searched the website of the Diocese of Austin to post this piece of shill for you, our readers, but apparently the powers-that-be are ashamed enough of it that it's nowhere to be found. But at least we can breathe a sigh of relief until the elevator doors start to close on us next year.
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