Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Why Batman is Catholic, Pt. 3


Thus far, we've covered why Batman isn't an atheist or Anglican/Episcopalian. The former proposition is simply ludicrous, while the latter is mostly an argument from demographics and silence. We will now explore why Batman is actually Catholic.

One of the main thrusts in all of these arguments relates to the question of why Bruce does what he does. As previously stated, it's not vengeance. Bruce is a lot of things, but Ghost Rider isn't one of them. The reason Bruce does what he does is because, for him, it truly is a never-ending battle for justice. And why is justice so important to him? Because he lived, and his parents didn't. When we examine Bruce's character, the central root of his virtue is his guilt over surviving his parents' murder. Not only that, but it's pretty clear that Bruce's guilt doesn't just stop there. It extends to every single person that he has been unable to save. For example, in Mark Waid's Mid-Summer's Nightmare, the JLA members are having their powers boosted beyond their control. Interestingly, Bruce's manifestation of this is to be perpetually vigilant over the entire population of Gotham, always watching and making sure that nothing bad happens to anyone.

This is a reasonable analysis. Batman walks in a world where his colleagues can move mountains, run at lightspeed, etc. Not being able to do that, there are going to be a lot more people that he can't save. I don't have any direct evidence of this, but having read Batman as long as I have, it is perfectly in line with his character to think of a person he did not save and be wracked by the idea that, "Clark would have been there in time. Diana could have saved them. Barry would have stopped that from happening," and so forth.

Consider Batman: Year One, the aftermath of Jason Todd's death, his disappearance in the beginning of the No Man's Land saga, the death of the original Batwoman, his multiple failed relationships and the fallout (Silver St. Cloud, eg), etc. All of these seem to point pretty heavily to a guy whose mission is one of reparation, not just for his own issues (of which his childhood survival is merely the genesis), but for the misdeeds of the entire world. Such wholesale solidarity and the theme of sacrifice to make up for the evil done by others is thoroughly Catholic. As stated in our earlier review of The Dark Knight, nobody sacrifices like Bruce, and the nature of his sacrifices are specifically to expiate the evil of others.

As the inspiring article has pointed out, Frank Miller apparently feels that writing Batman or Daredevil as anything other than Catholic makes no sense. I don't think it's a coincidence that both characters were "born" due to the murder of parents and their subsequent struggle to make sense of their own continued existence in the aftermath of such an event. Not only that, Chuck Dixon, who has written for both Batman and other Bat-Family titles (most notably, Birds of Prey), has conceded Bruce's Catholicism for the same reason as stated above, namely, guilt. I should also mention that Dixon wrote a stand-alone, yet canonical, story that showed Bruce to be the present-day guardian of the Holy Grail. This story, entitled The Chalice, depicted Bruce as definitely Christian. I'll simply add that the fact that he's tied to the Grail is also a heavy indicator in favor of Catholicism, though as the article mentions, it could weigh for Anglicanism as well. Regardless, the opinions of these guys as actual Batman writers, rather than someone just passing through a la Maggin or Kelly, is of fairly high value, I think.

Finally, we must acknowledge that Catholicism is a religion of absolutes. I hope I've been able to portray this throughout my blogging. The Church is very much an all or nothing deal. In contrast, Anglicanism is theologically quite hazy. I don't think it's a cheap shot to say so, and I've had many Episcopalians be very blunt in telling me they like it that way. That being said, it is very difficult to imagine Bruce subscribing to anything that would be regarded as less than absolute. Again going back to The Dark Knight review, one would think that his ironclad morality would reflect his religious views. He isn't making this stuff up as he goes along or looking for avenues to make changes to how he deals with evil and injustice. Anglicanism hasn't made such claims to absolute morality for a very long time, if it ever did.

So there you have it. The only coherent and non-ridiculous conclusion is that Batman is an active, practicing Catholic.

Tell me where I'm wrong.