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“I think what’s attractive in a video like Sister Cristina’s is the way she embraces rather than attacks pop culture,” the Rev. James McDermott, SJ, who writes about Catholicism and pop culture, told Crux. “We’ve gotten so used to Catholic figures speaking in opposition to cultural phenomenon that the idea of a religious figure instead embracing something from pop culture is unexpected and refreshing, even edgy.”
McDermott, who writes for America, said that both Sister Cristina’s video and the video of the tap-dancing priests shows that religious figures can be, “happy, normal people. Catholic culture and pop culture both tend to portray religious figures as solemn, humorless old men. It drives me crazy. Who would even join an organization like that?”
The “Like a Virgin” cover racked up more than a million and a half YouTube views in just three days. A video of Sr. Cristina singing Alicia Keys’ “No One” posted in March has more than 62 million views.
A video of dancing priests is also making the rounds this week, with more than a quarter-million views on YouTube. The Rev. David Rider, 29, of Hyde Park, New York, and the Rev. John Gibson, 28, of Milwaukee, first shot to Internet fame when they were filmed in April during a fundraiser at the North American College, the elite American seminary up the hill from the Vatican.
Rider warmed up the crowd with a lively tap-dance routine, only to be pushed aside by Gibson’s fast-footed Irish step dancing. Soon they were battling it out, trying to impress the crowd. At the back of the room, journalist Joan Lewis of the Eternal Word Television Network recorded the event and later posted it on YouTube.
But not all Catholics are happy with the fusion of the sacred and profane. Barbara Nicolosi, a Catholic screenwriter, told the Catholic News Agency that Sister Cristina’s decision to cover “Like a Virgin” shows a “lack of thought, seriousness, and decorum that is predictable of so much of our societal and ecclesial life today.”
Nicolosi told CNA that the song was intended to mock the Church, calling it “another reason why this is a weird piece for a Catholic nun to try and repurpose.” She said pop culture is “never going to be a sphere appropriate to religious” and compared the nun’s cover to “a group of Israeli teenagers suddenly thinking it would be cool to put a swastika on their T-shirts.”
McDermott disagrees. “People remember ‘Like a Virgin’ as this scandalous song, but its themes – like many of Madonna’s themes – are so Christian,” he said. “Who hasn’t felt like they screwed it all up irreparably and yearns for a fresh start? Certainly not any human beings that I know.”
By Michael O’Loughlin
National reporter | October 24, 2014