I can understand why the pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Manhattan has a problem with the City of New York designating his block of 121st Street “George Carlin Way.” The famously vulgar comedian not only made routine fun of the church and grade school he attended as a boy, he later rejected Roman Catholicism altogether.
I mean fer Chrissakes, it was at Corpus Christi in 1938, the year after Carlin was born, that Thomas Merton, then doing graduate work at Columbia, had himself baptized into the faith and went on to become one of the American church’s great spiritual and literary celebrities. Talk about ships passing in the night!
On the other hand, maybe it was something holier than what the New York Times described yesterday as a “clerical” error that led the city to mistakenly extend George Carlin Way a block beyond the comedian’s boyhood home to include Corpus Christi. For when it came to Catholic social teaching, Carlin was definitely with the current program. Check out this YouTube of him talking about how our economic system works and tell me Pope Francis wouldn’t be putting his hands together.
So before the fall, when the New York City Council votes on some more street name changes, why not let the parish decide whether their block should stick with Carlin Way or revert to plain old 121st Street. I say stick with Carlin but if that’s still too hard to swallow, how about going with “Thomas Merton Way”? Merton was also a devotee of social justice, not to mention peace, racial harmony, interfaith understanding, and jazz. I have a feeling that George, wherever he is, wouldn’t mind a bit.