Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Exchange Part 1: Parishioner Policy

I'm glad someone has the courage to stand up for truth. Isn't it refreshing to think there is a viable alternative to that infectious uber-principle of modernity, Pan-consumerism? And while I am certain the social teaching, of the Catholic Church does provide such an alternative, I am actually referring to the company policies of Gap.

Recently, I attempted to return an item of clothing to Gap. You would have thought I asked someone to donate an organ or pawn one of their children. It was ridiculous!

Apparently about a year ago, Gap decided that the customer was not always right, and implemented a policy in which merchandise could not be returned unless either God himself confirmed to the store manager that an item was defective or somehow quality control missed that pair of jeans with one leg twice as long as the other. Short of this, not even Mary, the Mother of God, could get an item returned to Gap let alone yours truly.

Is this policy a bad thing? Yes and no. Some principles that apply well in one realm of life don't apply so well in others. The immortal principle of customer service that the customer is always right is great for the realm of consumption. If a long-time customer of a store maintains that an item is somehow defective or otherwise not up to par, then most companies provide some sort of remedy for such an unhappy occasion. That is, of course, if their aim is to keep customers (another good principle in the realm of consumption) and prevent their patrons from smearing the company's name in the college newspaper. But I digress.

I asked to return the item ,and the manager said there was no possible way to do it because he couldn't prove there was a defect. Gap only returns merchandise based on a very restrictive definition of the term "defective" (i.e. a pair of jeans was worn to a dinner party and while their owner was noshing and mingling, the pants randomly and dramatically burst into flames causing catastrophic injury to both wearer and his unfortunate interlocutors). I insisted that there was a defect, but he demurred "I don't make the rules, I just enforce them." Like a martyr, this guy was ready to go to his death for Gap's policy.

Sure this policy is bad so far as customer service goes; but would that it were upheld in other areas of life. Take religion for instance.

What if instead of foisting his own personal opinions of what ought or ought not to be included in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, a priest treated the liturgy as the public prayer of the Church, which it is, and refrained from adding to or deleting what the Church prescribes for the Mass? Instead of "Our Father, [Our Mother] who art in heaven", we would have Jesus' words unbracketed and unadulterated. As a Christian how can you honestly think you are improving on what Jesus said?

Instead of avoiding the masculine pronoun as if it were a curse, we would get felicitous renderings of English prayers which - what a surprise - are how the prayers are actually written. Past crimes against women should not be solved by new crimes against language, let alone the Mass.

Can you imagine? Instead of a priest openly dissenting to his parishioners and potentially damaging pious sensibilities, we would have priests confident in St. Paul's words that the Church is the "pillar and bulwark of truth" (1 Tim 3:15). "Hey" they'd insist, "I don't make the rules, I just strive to be faithful to them. After all, Jesus entrusted the keys to the kingdom of heaven, not to me, but to Peter."

There would be no more of this nonsense: "The Catholic Church is wrong about [insert one of the following: contraception, the male priesthood, homosexual acts, embryonic stem cell research, in vitro fertilization] and will certainly change its teaching." (With the implication being: do what you will and don't worry about specific teachings of the Church when these interfere with private preferences.) But if you set yourself against the Pope, don't you become your own pontiff? Don't get me wrong. There are many priests who strive to live and teach what the Church lives and teaches. (Yes, it seems like a no-brainer). Nor am I saying that the rest of them are malicious, but they could learn a lot from the Gap.
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