The oddball Catholicism of New Orleans is so ingrained in the city's routines that it's ironically easy to forget about. I mean, yes, there are many ways in which it is obvious. But most of the time it is like background radiation subtly influencing the events, culture and politics that affect everyone here regardless of one's own personal faith.
But sometimes it just blows up in great big mushroom plumes. Consider the 2011 funeral of Archbishop Hannan. Thousands of people turned out in the streets to watch a massive procession of marching bands and celebrities and politicians that practically shut down the city.
People also stood or sat on the ground watching the final farewell to Hannan, who was the most active of the city's archbishops for his 23 years, and remained active during his retirement.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, state and parish lawmakers were among the mourners as was Victoria Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Among the honorary pall bearers were former U.S. Rep. Lindy Boggs and New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and Xavier University president Norman C. Francis.
Boggs, 95, said she had been friends with Hannan for many years and said he would have been thrilled with the ceremony.
"When I was a member of congress he came often to Washington," Boggs said. "He would have loved the service today."
Consider Boggs' funeral a few years later in that same Cathedral where the Mayor of New Orleans delivered this performance.
There's plenty of other stuff to cite. Real 80s kids out there will remember this deep cut.
In 2010 there was much rejoicing when the Archbishop granted area communicants this very special Lenten dispensation.
Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays during the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but seafood is allowed. Three years ago, when Jim Piculas was trying to settle a debate among his friends about whether gator qualified as seafood, he wrote a letter to the archbishop of New Orleans to ask.
His letter must have been pretty zealous, because not long after he wrote it, he got a response from Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond saying: "Yes, the alligator's considered in the fish family, and I agree with you — God has created a magnificent creature that is important to the state of Louisiana, and it is considered seafood."
Mysteries of the faith continue to abound, however. Because while we see the Archdiocese is willing to indulge the gustatory covetousness of the flock, it turns out this week, that it is less permissive with regard to their means of healing.
The day after the Federal Drug Administration granted emergency-use authorization to a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, the Archdiocese of New Orleans issued a statement urging Catholics to choose, if they can, the other two available vaccines.
According to a statement released Sunday morning, the archdiocese instructs Catholics “that the latest vaccine from Janssen/Johnson & Johnson is morally compromised as it uses the abortion-derived cell line in development and production of the vaccine as well as the testing.”
The statement says that the decision to take that vaccine “remains one of individual conscience in consultation with one’s healthcare provider.”
I suppose we should commend the Archdiocese on its refreshingly "pro-choice" approach to the question. Trouble is, it's not even a question anybody asked. The Vatican has already told Catholics worldwide that it is "morally acceptable" to take the J&J shot if it is what is offered. This message is echoed by bishops in Lafayette and Baton Rouge as well as by our very Catholic Governor who had this to say.
"You do have to weigh this with the common good of ending a pandemic," Edwards said in a Tuesday afternoon press conference. "There's an imperative that we do this. The fastest way to do this is to deploy all of the vaccines and have the uptake of the vaccine be as great as possible. ... I'm encouraging everyone out there to take the first vaccine that is available to them whether it's Pfizer or Moderna or whether its Johnson & Johnson."
So, if you are a practicing Catholic in New Orleans, you have it on very good authority that the life saving medicines on offer do not simultaneously pose any threat to your soul. Instead consider them in the terms Archbishop Aymond used to describe the alligator. These medicines are "magnificent creatures" created for you to use.
Someday, in fact, the next such.. um.. miracle may be derived from the blessed gator itself!
Chemists in Louisiana found that blood from the American alligator can successfully destroy 23 strains of bacteria, including strains known to be resistant to antibiotics.
In addition, the blood was able to deplete and destroy a significant amount of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Study co-author Lancia Darville at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge believes that peptides—fragments of proteins—within alligator blood help the animals stave off fatal infections.
In which case, we expect, that not only would the Archdiocese approve of such a drug, they would also permit it to be administered during Lent.