Concerning the death of David Bowie

At Crisis my friend Fr. Rutler reacts to the cloths-tearing grief provoked in some, including some in Rome, by the death of David Bowie.

Here are a few of my favorite lines from Rutler:

“…the Vatican, just wiping up from its Climate Change light show on the façade of the Basilica of St. Peter’s…”

“L’Osservatore Romano, aching to be the Church of What’s Happening Now…”

“Young people are embarrassed when their mothers try to be ‘cool.'”

And the best line of all…

“Christ was a carpenter and his apostles were mostly fishermen and none of them was what is called today a ‘metrosexual.’”

Read the whole thing there.

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  1. What disturbs me is the development of a folk religion where everyone immediately goes to the Spiritualist Summerlands where they look down upon us benignly as they enjoy a perpetual vacation. We’re losing any conception of the Last Things.

  2. Suzanne Carl says:

    I really liked listening to David Bowie in my teens and twenties, but those were the darkest times of my life. I pray for his soul, because he had immense talent that was only occasionally used for good. It was weird to see the Vatican response. May God forgive him, but really?

  3. Aquinas Gal says:

    The worst thing about is that Bowie was involved in the sexual abuse of minors. But he wasn’t a priest, so that’s OK then with the media:

  4. Geoffrey says:

    I honestly didn’t know who he was. I knew the name, but no idea what went with it.

  5. Auggie says:

    I agree with the Bear, and I would add: there no longer seems to be a hatred of evil. Bowie did some very evil things, and helped to spread evil ideas into the culture… and yet he is praised by Catholic bloggers (and the Vatican). There seems to be an ever-growing chasm between worldly catholics and pious Catholics. Remember when “pious” was a beautiful word?

  6. JuliB says:

    I wonder whether the Vatican ever commented on St. Whitney of Houston. Perhaps she was only canonized by the people on Facebook.

  7. William says:

    Not the first idea who this guy is, and don’t want to know.

  8. JARay says:

    The man, David Bowie, was of no interest to me but what I read about him at the moment, I see no need for anyone at the Vatican to make any comment at all. He’s dead, let’s leave it at that.

  9. Muv says:

    Perhaps there is a chance that the Pope will put on his red shoes and dance the blues.

  10. Polycarpio says:

    David Bowie was a drug abuser, a bisexual, atheist and statutory rapist–but he had a great singing voice! In all seriousness, this goes back to Pope Benedict’s words: “Today, in addition to interreligious dialogue, there should be a dialogue with those to whom religion is something foreign, to whom God is unknown and who nevertheless do not want to be left merely Godless, but rather to draw near to him, albeit as the Unknown.” (December 21, 2009 during visit to the Czech Republic.) This dialogue is an important part of the work of evangelization and requires us to be familiar with pop culture in order to understand what people are looking for, what culture offers, and how we can make our pitch more effectively.

  11. Robbie says:

    There’s nothing worse than when older people attempt to be cool or hip. It just comes across as cheesy. At this point, who knows what will come next from the Vatican.

  12. SaintJude6 says:

    Dear Auggie:
    Thank you so much for this:
    “there no longer seems to be a hatred of evil. Bowie did some very evil things, and helped to spread evil ideas into the culture… and yet he is praised by Catholic bloggers (and the Vatican)”
    It is comforting to me to find someone else as puzzled by this reaction as I have been. What happened to allowing nothing impure in the home? Why are Catholic bloggers so quick to say, “Well, sure he had some problems, but we’re all sinners, so let’s cry our little eyes out, expose our children to his rot, and wax on about what a great artist he was. Because, after all, he sang with Bing Crosby once.” (I thought I remembered hearing that Bing Crosby had no idea who David Bowie was at the time.)
    The man was an occultist who pushed the sodomite and fornication agenda. Pray that he repented and leave it at that.

  13. Scott W. says:

    but he had a great singing voice

    Well, as a former rock musician (what you could fairly describe as my heathen days) and somewhat familiar with Bowie (I owned the Ziggy Stardust album), I’m rather surprised by this comment. He could sing on key reasonably, but really that’s about it. Musically, there just isn’t anything of his we can expect to endure. As I said at Crisis, in twenty years (and that is being generous), almost no young person will have heard of, let alone care about, David Bowie. Frankly, there is no reason they should care about Bowie other than being able to answer a test bonus question in an easy-“A” music-appreciation class run by an aging hipster professor.

    And that’s the problem with the whole “engage the culture” drivel. One simply can’t keep up with the disposable ephemera coming out of the pop-culture sewer pipe.

    But if one insists, here’s your poignant pop-culture reference: Bart Simpson to Homer after Homer jaws on about Grand Funk Railroad and Jefferson Starship: “Dad, no one cares about your stupid dinosaur bands!”

  14. Many singers of a more traditional bent could also be rightly criticized for their lack of morals, of course, but I agreed with Fr. Rutler when I read his piece yesterday. Sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing at all.

  15. tz2026 says:

    Does that make me a retrosexual?
    The internet increases the echo-chamber where celebrity substitutes for or supersedes nobility.

  16. Gratias says:

    Fr. Ruttler is a very gifted writer.

    David Bowie may have been playing the Devil’s note. Perhaps that is why the Franciscan Vatican eulogized a destroyer of Western Civilization. On the other hand, mortuis nisil bonum.

  17. Ellen says:

    I liked David Bowie’s music. Not all of it, but some of his songs are favorites of mine. I understand he settled down after he married and was a good husband and father. I don’t know his ultimate fate, but will leave him in the hands of God.

  18. JonPatrick says:

    What got me was all the talk about how he was the greatest musician of all time, which seems to be said anytime one of these pop stars dies. Greater than Bach, Mozart or Beethoven? It is so typical of our time that whatever is happening now must be the most important thing in history and how superior the present is to the past. But cultural amnesia is so typical now.

  19. mpmaron says:

    I listened to Bowie when I was a kid. I hope he looks on the Divine right now.


    My takeaway from Fr. Rutler’s piece is twofold: the popular funereal celebration of the banal, crass, or just plain wrong is all too routine; members of the Church, in an effort to be meaningful or merciful, can’t help but cry along.

    On the whole, it was a well-done, depressing article.

  20. pledbet424 says:

    He wasn’t the best role model. But his song, “Ground control to Major Tom” was awesome.

  21. LarryW2LJ says:

    Considering all the weirdness (to put it as charitably as possible) that occurred while he was alive, it is rather embarrassing that any Catholic would regard Mr. Bowie as a paragon of virtue.

    I would hope that he got all the weirdness out of his system and asked God for forgiveness. The decision about the disposition of his soul is in God’s hands. I’ll leave it at that and will pray for him.

  22. Imrahil says:


    I find it surprising to see quotes about “Major Tom”, because to me that’s a German schlager with German lyrics also titled “Völlig losgelöst” (“completely set loose [from gravity]).

    Also, since the Middle Ages, the Church seems to prefer Aristotle over Plato. Neither is a Doctor of the Church.

    Alas, the pious have an understandable tendency to Conservatism that, with technical precision, always comes down on the newest thing, especially in the entertainment area. It suffices to read all the warnings against the tv stemming from the 70’s and 80’s, at a time where the program was (with some exceptions maybe) probably better than it is now. But now, we’re silent about the tv – and even of computer games. We’ve got the smartphone to worry about. Even Pope Benedict (with the statement that rock as such is not only somewhat inferior entertainment, which I might well concede in some senses, but opposed to Christianity in principle) and my beloved Chesterton (concerning a music such as jazz which now is even, and rightfully, part of the classical canon) seem to have been, on occasion, not exceptions.

    That said, just as it is legitimate to relax with a beer when you could cook an elaborate dinner and invite friends to it, so it is legitimate to relax listening to (to take a band I’m more familiar with) Creedence Clearwater Rivival when you could go to a Bach concert. It would, however, be just as wrong to state that hence there cannot be real differences in quality.

  23. Imrahil says:

    Dear JuliB,

    of course a certain private focus is not restricted to conservatives (whom I mentioned one comment above).

    So, a major difference between David Bowie and Whitney Houston is that the generation which would be in more important Curia or Osservatore Romano positions now listened to in their youth. While the generation which would be more Facebook-active now listened (listens) to Whitney Houston in their youth.

  24. Imrahil says:

    “… Osservatore Romano positions now listened to” David Bowie “in their youth”. Sorry, left out the name.

  25. Papabile says:

    De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

  26. kiwiinamerica says:

    All you need to know about Bowie is contained in his “funeral” arrangements which make a truly terrible statement. No service of any kind, religious or non-religious, not even with close family members. His mortal remains taken directly to the crematorium and incinerated like a pile of garbage.

    Bowie was a nihilist, totally and utterly dedicated to the pursuit of worldly pleasure and the breaking of taboos, because after this…….there’s nothing!!

    A truly depressing and morbid philosophy. Ravassi must live in some sort of “Wayne’s World” because Bowie is worthy of nothing but pity and prayers.

  27. frjim4321 says:

    I’m sorry to admit that I don’t know anything at all about David Bowie inasmuch as I was taken up with classical music during most of my life. That being said, recent audio and video clips that have emerged show him to be an amazingly sensitive and articulate commentator on a number of subjects. I, like most, am not qualified to pass judgment on his body of work, but I have a clear sense that the world has lost an artist of great consequence.

  28. Andreas says:

    Interestingly, this thread brings to mind the question as to whether or not one can separate the person from (in this case) their art; that is, can one recognize the quality of one’s art when the person who created it may in all other cases be reviled? This question has long been in the minds of some here in Austria and those of our neighbors over the border in Germany, where great artists and composers worked closely with the various dictatorships of the last century. In music, composers such as East German Hanns Eisler and Soviet Dmitri Schostakowitsch were lauded Communists whilst Richard Strauss and Sepp Tanzer were closely allied with the National Socialists. Yet despite these associations, their compositions and music making are still regarded today by many as great. Still, there are some who, for various reasons, cannot dissociate the work from its creator. Here in Austria, it goes so far in some cases as to banning the playing of such music, despite its greatness. So can we….must we as Catholics separate the artist from his/her work, or do ethical, moral and other such personal beliefs and behaviours hold primacy over one’s works, no matter how great they might considered to be?

  29. Absit invidia says:

    Indeed the MTV years of David Bowie and Culture Club were not healthy for teens and produced darknes

  30. roseannesullivan says:

    I read Fr. Rutler’s piece, and he is not saying that a bad person cannot make good music. Fr. Rutler didn’t know who David Bowie was, and I barely knew who David Bowie was, because I stopped listening to popular music when In a Gadda Da Vida hit the charts. But I do know rock and roll.

    Fr. Rutler quoted Plato and Pope Benedict XVI about the harmful rhythms found in rock. He did not even touch on the message in most rock songs, whose lyrics I used to memorize, and whose lyrics are usually deplorable in their glorification of sinful actions and attitudes. Even the name rock and roll (like the name jazz) had a sexual origin, and the pounding rhythms of rock and roll are unmistakably carnal.

    Rock induces a kind of ecstasy that is takes us out of ourselves. God knows what moves in to fill the void. Here are some of the words of Pope Benedict quoted in Fr. Rutler’s article: “However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe. The music of the Holy Spirit’s sober inebriation seems to have little chance when self has become a prison, the mind is a shackle, and breaking out from both appears as a true promise of redemption that can be tasted at least for a few moments.”

    And Fr. Rutler also quotes Plato who wrote in his Republic that music “is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten …”

    Fr. Rutler did not have to know Bowie’s music to know what type of music it was. Fr. Rutler’s main point is that it is absurd for the Vatican to be trying to be hip by eulogizing a proponent of an anti-morality type of music. Bowie also stood for some really evil things. He is remembered for his free for all bi-sexual orgies with his first wife among other atrocities. And, as Fr. Rutler mentioned, Bowie did a sacrilegious portrayal of Jesus not too long before he died.

    Fr. Rutler wrote that the type of music played by Bowie contributes to the destruction of people he sees every day in his parish. And he wrote, “I object to comfortable prelates in a higher realm, penning panegyrics for the doyens of a culture that destroys my children.” Bowie’s kind of music (to paraphrase an anti-war slogan from my era) is “not healthy for children and other living things.”

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