Thursday, May 31, 2012

Happy Birthday! a special reader.

Yes, you.

You know who you are. :)

God bless!

Love, your opinionated blogging sister. :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No matter how evil, trivial, stupid or banal

One of the ironies of the idea that abortion is pro-women is that unborn females, globally speaking, are killed at much higher rates than that of unborn males. But that doesn't happen in America--or does it?

Roberts quotes one woman who got pregnant with a boy after having two girls. The woman says flatly: "If the third one was going to be a girl, then I would say probably I would have terminated."

Should that abortion be allowed? And if legal intervention in such cases is unwise, should we do something short of that? Should schools teach that aborting girls is wrong? Should doctors counsel couples not to do it? Should community leaders speak out against it? The last president called for a culture of life. Should this president call for a culture of respect for women?

What about purveyors of sex selection? Roberts notes that at least one assisted reproduction provider, the Fertility Institutes , offers sex selection and "has unabashedly advertised its services in Indian- and Chinese-language newspapers in the United States." (The company has also promoted and withdrawn an offer to select embryos for " eye color, hair color and complexion .") This form of sex selection takes place when the offspring are tiny, dish-bound embryos, not fetuses. The clinic's medical director, Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, says the practice is "not harming anyone." Is he right? Should he be allowed to continue peddling sex selection (as he does in this video ) to Asian-Americans? And if it's fine to advertise this service at the embryonic stage, why not at the fetal stage?

Absolutists on both sides need to think carefully. If you're pro-life, how far are you willing to go in regulating abortion? If you're pro-choice, how far are you willing to go in leaving it unregulated?

Please note that that Saletan piece, complete with statistics about the rise in sex-selection abortions in America, is from 2009--so, despite what pro-aborts say, the idea that this focus on sex-selection abortions is a manufactured controversy is just plain hooey. It's real, and it's going to increase in America as it has everywhere else across the globe.

But Democrats seem to think that efforts to ban sex-selection abortions are just part of the "war on women." Unborn females don't count, so long as their mothers are free to commit gendercide:

Democrats in Congress peddled a curious reason for opposing a ban on sex-selection abortions that target girl babies with abortion because they are not boy parents may prefer. They said the ban was anti-woman and part of the so-called “War on Women” Republicans are allegedly waging.

During today’s debate on the Congressional bill to ban sex-selection abortions, Michigan Democrat John Conyers said the ban on sex-selection abortions “tramples the rights of women.”

“It limits a woman’s right to choose and jeopardizes her access to safe, legal medical care,” he claimed.

See, if you're a Democrat, a woman's right to choose includes her right to choose to slaughter all of her female offspring and raise only the males. Yeah, that makes sense. Because isn't the elimination of female children a true feminist goal?

Republicans see things a bit differently:

Congressman Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, drove the point home about how and why the bill is pro-woman.

“For most of us, Mr. Speaker, “it’s a girl” is cause for enormous joy, happiness and celebration. But in many countries—including our own—it can be a death sentence. Today, the three most dangerous words in China and India are: it’s a girl. We can’t let that happen here,” he explained. “By now most people know that the killing of baby girls by abortion or at birth is pervasive in China due to the One Child policy and a preference for sons. China and India are “missing” tens of millions of daughters.”

What the Republicans need to realize, apparently, is that women aren't truly free unless they are free to kill off all of their unborn daughters. So sacrosanct to the Left is the "right" of women to kill every single embryo or fetus from conception until birth for any reason whatsoever, no matter how evil, trivial, stupid or banal, that they don't even care if they are supporting the killing of millions upon millions of unborn women.

UPDATE: The US House of Representatives has rejected the idea of protecting unborn women from being killed for the crime of being female; it is still legal to kill your unborn girls to prove what a great feminist you are. I'm sure the harpies at Planned Parenthood are celebrating with their usual cackling rituals.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer blogging ahead!

First things first: Happy Memorial Day! I hope that you are enjoying your celebration, and that you've had a moment to remember in prayer those heroes and patriots who have paid the ultimate price for our continued freedom.

Now, to business.

One thing that Memorial Day does for me each year is provide me with a visible reminder that the school year is ending (well, technically--does math ever end?) and that summer is about to start (again, technically--I know that the official summer start date is a bit later). Sometimes I've muddled through with my usual weekday daily posting schedule all summer long, and other times I've taken whole weeks off from blogging--and there are good points to both.

But this year I plan to try something different.

I need to get homeschooling things dealt with--grades organized, next year's materials planned and ordered, and so on. I also have several writing projects that have languished due to the busy end-of-the-school-year season, most notably this one, which is still in the works. In addition, we have some ongoing home maintenance and organization to do, and naturally our twelve-year-old dishwasher decided that this was an excellent weekend to start leaking rusty water all over the kitchen floor, so it may be a while before things calm down around here.

While it's severely tempting for me to take a whole summer off from blogging, I know that two things would happen: one, I'd lose that disciplined momentum that comes from having to write non-fiction opinion pieces on a near-daily basis, and two, I'd squander even more time writing fiction, some of which may never be publishable. What I would probably not do is take my "blogging time" and use it to do productive school planning, book editing, or home maintenance.

However, my self-imposed schedule of daily blog posts is also getting a bit wearisome given a) how busy things are getting and b) how much readership drops over the summer, as those of you above the Mason-Dixon line get to enjoy the kind of weather we won't see again until November. Some days I have LOTS of things I want to write about, and can barely stop myself from posting three or four posts (I do occasionally post two). Other days, I manage to post something, but my brain is thinking "Meh. Meh. Blah, blah, blah. Triple meh..." the whole time, and I have a feeling my readers can totally tell when that's happening (though, alas, I may be wrong, and the "Meh" posts may be the ones people like, while the bristlingly passionate ones may be the turn-offs).

So, beginning this week and continuing until Labor Day, I will do the following:

1. I will post on weekdays when I have something to say and the time to say it.
2. I will avoid posting on "Meh" days.
3. I will avoid posting on days when I have something to say, but no time to do more than toss up a schlocky, poorly-drafted, mediocre bit of writing.
4. I will occasionally post on weekends when "1" is possible.
5. I will reserve the right to go back to daily posting if all that happens is that I get lazy about the blog.

My plan now is to resume regularly-scheduled posting in September, because during the school year I know perfectly well that without a goal no writing aside from comments in the margins of my daughters' essays will ever happen.

As always, your patience with my blog-tweaking is greatly appreciated!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Red Cardigan's Guide to Mommy War Skirmishes

The latest shot fired in the never-ending mommy wars came from a gun held by popular mommy blogger Jennifer Fulwiler:

I'm done with snacks. I'm ready to limit my kids to mealtime eating only, and to reject the entire concept of food that is not eaten as part of a meal. Whenever I voice this idea, however, I am met with some mix of bewilderment and concern. For example, shortly after our pantry apocalypse I found myself at the park with some other moms, and I mused that I am seriously considering banning snacks from our household. I explained a vision in which we eat hearty breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and outside of those three mealtimes, the kitchen will be closed. Based on the other women's reactions, you would have thought that I'd announced that I was finally going to implement that longstanding idea about getting a time-out cage. After they determined that I was not, in fact, joking with this crazy talk, they seemed to be wondering whether they should alert child welfare authorities.

Am I crazy for thinking that my kids might be just fine without snacks? Am I the only parent who finds it to be difficult enough to get the kids out to scouts and sports and dance classes without the added responsibility of having to bring food? Am I missing something when I look at evolutionary biology and think that the human body is probably not designed to require a near-constant influx of calories?

And now as a public service I will offer Red Cardigan's Guide to Mommy War Skirmishes:

1. Mommies everywhere do "A." They may love "A," they may be comfortable with "A," they may reluctantly accept "A" as the dominant cultural paradigm and stifle their own misgivings about "A," or they may simply think of "A" as Something Mommies Do.

2. Somewhere, some mom publicly takes a stand against "A." No more! she cries, waving aloft a battle flag. "A" is bad for kids! "A" is bad for families, especially mine! I will no longer be part of the unthinking herd that does "A!" I reject "A" to "A's" face! etc.

3. All the other mommies choose sides. The ones who were just doing "A" sort of unthinkingly or because everyone else did it may decide that they, too, want to be free of "A" forever! They grab the battle flags and join the cause (though some of them, poor things, may handcraft their battle flags because they didn't get the memo that crafts are one of those "A" things against which Real Moms have declared war, because everybody knows you can't craft things and still have time for your kids, though hours spent on Facebook and Twitter are still fine). Meanwhile, the ones who actually like "A," who find that "A" works for their families, or whose kids actually seem to need "A" and to thrive when it's being done, go to DEFCON 5 in their impassioned defense of "A." This is because they see what's coming: if those opposing "A" are sufficiently popular and sufficiently vocal, all of a sudden it will be de rigueur to hate on "A" and declare one doesn't do it, or to sheepishly admit to still doing "A" and accept the moral superiority of those who don't, even if your reasons for doing "A" are entirely wise and good for your own family.

Let's take this snack skirmish, for example.

Already in Jen's comboxes we have people cheering loudly and other people defensively pointing out that six small meals works better for some, or that some kids are hypoglycemic or diabetic, or that some families value the family dinner and since dad doesn't get home until seven p.m....The noise will likely increase as other mommy bloggers pick up the theme, and some analysts will break the discussion down further into the question of whether it's the frequent eating that's the problem, or the use of prepackaged snack or "junk" foods--and does that mean that the mom who allows food between meals but only fresh fruits and raw organic vegetables is morally superior to the "no snacks" mom who feeds her children pizza for dinner three nights out of seven? And on and on and on.

[Some still, small voice may suggest that if random hurricane-style child-led snacking in the face of parental "no" repetitions is a huge problem in your house, the problem might actually be one of discipline, and not of snacking at all, but that person will be shouted down and ignored as having nothing of value to say (which is right and proper).]

Eventually, parenting experts may weigh in, but since some of them will point out that a toddler's tummy is as small as her little fist and thus frequent small meals are a good idea, while others will insist that French children don't get fat because their daycare providers only give them Brie and crackers at lunchtime, never in between, their input will be less than helpful. And the end result of all of this will make mommies shy away from other mommies and their "friendly fire," and ask anxious questions about the homeschool group or mom's morning out parish activity (is it a no-snack zone? Should it be? Has a committee polled the likely mom participants to find out what the preference vis a vis snacking is these days? etc.).

And that's just one skirmish, one battle, in the never-ending Mommy Wars. When you look at all the different battle fronts in this War, is there any question about why moms these days are exhausted?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is it torture when the police do it?

(Cross-posted at Coalition for Clarity.)

In case you missed it, here's a frightening look at the increased use of things that a sane nation would call "torture" by American police agencies on American soil against American citizens (Hat tip: Mark Shea):

After Daniel Chong was arrested in a federal drug raid, he wasn’t taken to Gitmo. Instead, the Feds thoughtfully arranged to bring Gitmo to him, nearly torturing him to death in the process.

Chong, a senior at the University of California-San Diego, was one of nine people swept up in an April 21 narcotics raid by the Drug Enforcement Administration. After his arrest he spent four hours handcuffed in a cell before being questioned. One of the agents who questioned Chong described him as someone who was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Following the interrogation, the student was told that he would be released and provided with paperwork to sign. He was then handcuffed and put into a five-by-ten-foot detention cell, where he was held for five days in conditions that qualify as torture under any rational reading of either domestic or international law.

The DEA’s story was that Chong was simply "forgotten." A likelier explanation is that he was ignored, or even singled out for deliberate abuse. Chong shouted and screamed for help, kicking against the heavy door of his cell. Although his hands were cuffed, he managed to tear a small fragment from his jacket, which he shoved under the door in an effort to get the attention of his jailers.

Since Chong had no difficulty hearing conversations and other sounds outside his cell, there’s no reason to doubt that his pleas were heard, and simply disregarded. [...]

By the time two agents "discovered" him, Chong was literally pleading for his captors to kill him. He was hospitalized for acute dehydration, renal failure, a perforated esophagus, and severe cramps. He had shed 15 pounds. He has never received an apology.

If a dog had been subjected to treatment similar to the abuse inflicted on Daniel Chong, those responsible would face felony charges. Thanks to the spurious principle of "supremacy clause immunity," there is no measurable likelihood that the people who nearly tortured Chong to death will face criminal charges. It’s quite likely they will never be identified.

There's more--a lot more--here, including the stories of the torture-death of a man named Nick Christie, another man named Raul Rosas, the physical abuse of Derena Marie Madison, and several more. The moral of all of these stories is that by condoning torture, we're increasingly choosing to turn a blind eye when it happens on our own soil, and to insist on the immunity of the police even when they cross a very bright line.

Is that really a surprise? In the moral realm, when we remove religion or other philosophical guidelines from questions of morality and ethical conduct, what are we left with except "might makes right?" And what protections do ordinary citizens have from the abuses of the people we trust to serve and protect?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The 77 percent

You've probably already seen this today:

A new Gallup Poll has found that contraception is “morally acceptable” to 89 percent of Americans, including a top heavy 82 percent majority of American Catholics, despite the Church hierarchy’s opposition to the pill.

The poll was released a day after Catholic dioceses and institutions sued the Obama administration to block a requirement that employers cover contraception in health care plans offered to women employees.

Catholic bishops have rejected an administration compromise under which the cost of birth control coverage would be borne by health insurers, and not Catholic hospitals and universities.

“The issue involved here is the broad separation of church and state, not necessarily the morality of using birth control,” Gallup reported. “Still, current data show that the substantial majority of Catholics interviewed say birth control is morally acceptable.”

So, 82% of American Catholics are dissenters on the matter of birth control. Which might sound worse than it is, if you overlook the other important statistic here...which is that 77% of American Catholics don't even bother to drag their buttocks out of bed each Sunday to go to Mass, and thus are already most of the time (objectively) in a state of grave sin. You know, the kind that can send you to Hell under the right conditions.

I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty darned tired of the media including the 77% in their groups of "Catholics" when they ask questions about hot-button issues, such as whether "Catholics" approve of birth control or abortion or gay "marriage," and so on.

Sure, the 77% are Catholics by right of their baptisms. But think of them with a gym membership analogy for a moment: everyone who signs up and pays his dues at a gym can say that he is a gym member, but if the media were to ask all of the members important questions like how satisfied they are with the services offered or how important they think it is to exercise and eat right, the answers might be a bit misleading. For instance, if the media were to trumpet a news article that blared "82 percent of all gym members think that exercise is not necessary for good health," I think most of us would want to know that 77% of those gym members surveyed not only didn't show up at the gym weekly, but generally showed up to exercise only one to four times a year--and for some, it's even less than that.

In other words, we wouldn't take the opinions of people who didn't take their gym memberships seriously as being even remotely interesting or significant when it came to matters related to exercise and good health. So why do we take the opinions of people who frankly don't give a damn about their Catholic faith seriously or as having any significance at all when it comes to matters related to faith or worship?

Obviously, we shouldn't. The 77 percent have nothing whatsoever of value to offer in terms of commentary on serious moral issues. But because our credulous and duplicitous media doesn't see things that way, we're going to keep getting news articles with provocative titles all of which boil down to: Lax and indifferent Catholics who don't bother to take the faith seriously also don't bother to take Church teaching seriously (gasp). It's hardly surprising that the 77% don't care what the Church teaches, since they demonstrate that every Sunday morning.

Clearly, the people we should be worried about are the ones who do show up at Mass on Sunday and yet fail to grasp the reality that contraception use is gravely morally evil and that they're endangering their mortal souls if they use it. But given that 18% of Catholics are faithful on this issue and that only 23% of us bother to show up on Sundays at all, I have a feeling that the exact number of dissenters who don't just give up and drop out altogether remains small.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Message to DFW area readers/pet lovers

This post is a bit unusual, in that it's just targeted at my readers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who love pets--especially if any of you are actually looking for a dog or cat right now.

The City of Fort Worth's animal shelter is facing a crisis:

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth Animal Control could be days away from the largest mass euthanization in its history if it doesn’t find homes for hundreds of animals.

“The need for adoption or rescue is immediate,” says Scott Hanlan, an Assistant Code Compliance Director with the City of Fort Worth.

Just last week, animal control officers picked up 600 dogs and cats.

The animals were taken to the Chuck Silcox Animal Shelter where they can only hold 400 animals.

The shelter works hard to get the animals ready for adoption, but they’re running out of space, thus putting all the animals at risk.

“Last week alone we had right at 600 animals come to our shelter which is significantly higher than usual for this time of year,” said Hanlan. [...]

Hanlan hopes a few hundred of the animals will be adopted by the end of the week. But if not, he says, “If we don’t have a sufficient number of folks who are willing and capable to take them out of the shelter…. we have to euthanize –– humanely euthanize –– some of these animals.”

The shelter's website and information is here; note that they are temporarily reducing adoption fees in the hopes that they will not have to euthanize so many of these sweet cats and dogs.

If you are a reader in the DFW area and you're thinking of adding a cat or dog to your life, won't you please consider seeing if your future four-legged friend is waiting at the Chuck Silcox Animal Shelter in Fort Worth? :)


Nothing else you will read today will be as powerful as this post by Katrina Fernandez, aka: The Crescat is:

Abortion advocates will never admit a post-abortive woman is a Mother because to admit that would acknowledge the existence that there was once a child. Not a clump of cells, but a very real living child. When girls begin menstruating they are not called mothers to a clump of cells, yet so many people really believe an abortion is just like having a heavy period or passing a large menstrual clot. This was how it was described to me when I found myself in their clinic fifteen years ago. Two years later when I returned to have a second abortion the lie had not changed.

For fifteen long years I’ve lived with the pain, shame and guilt associated with my past. In that time I’ve experienced denial, anger, and depression. It wasn’t till my conversion to Catholicism that I finally sought the reconciliation my soul needed. Once I received the grace of forgiveness I was charged with the next most important task of my life… to tell as many women as I can how horrible, evil and despicable abortion is.

However, it has taken me another six years to find my courage. In order to honestly talk about the truth I needed to admit to my past and in this one area my words failed me. Today I write this past so that I may finally own up to what it is I have done and make the necessary reparations for my crimes so that others will know just how fundamentally soul-destroying abortion is.

I am choosing this day to find my voice.

Here is the truth I spent so many years denying and keeping from the public – I killed two of my children, robbed my parents of grand-children, and murdered my son’s siblings. These abortions directly caused a medical condition known as incompetent cervix which resulted in the premature birth of another son who died after a week long struggle in the NICU in 2001. The suffering I’ve endured and caused others is immeasurable and the guilt almost drove me suicidal. I am a coward in every way. [...]

I refuse to be a coward anymore. In these times, no one can afford to be a coward. The price of our silence is paid in the blood of millions of innocent aborted babies. This is a deplorable evil and it must end now.

There is no pro-life voice more courageous and truthful than that of the woman who can say to her sisters: I have been there. I had an abortion, and I regret that choice that ended the life of my child. It was an evil choice, and I want to spare you the evil and pain of that sinful choice. Those of us who have been, by God's grace, spared the anguish of that experience should not go around pridefully congratulating ourselves for that: it is His grace, His mercy alone, that has permitted some of us to avoid such a dreadful experience. We should be firm in standing in solidarity with our post-abortive sisters--and brothers, too, for men too suffer greatly when their unborn child is put to death--and in giving them the love, support, encouragement, and place of healing and peace that they so greatly need.

The Crescat's post today resonates with the power of her faith and with great courage. So often, a woman chooses abortion out of fear: fear of unplanned or unwed pregnancy, fear of what people will say or think, fear of the material and social consequences of letting the pregnancy continue, fear of single motherhood on the one hand, or giving the child up for adoption on the other. Society encourages that fear, because it encourages women to think that we are too weak, too helpless, too vulnerable to handle a child in a less-than-perfect situation or scenario. In some senses, abortion is the ultimate degradation of women, because society acts as though it's normal and fine for a woman to be punished by the loss of her reputation, her job or career potential, her educational opportunities, or of her home or boyfriend etc. as the price she must pay for failing to avoid pregnancy--and that if a woman is sexually active, she must be inundated with free contraception, lest she be punished with a baby for her sexual habits.

And as The Crescat says, we can't end the sin and evil of abortion, we can't end the suffering and tears of far too many women, we can't make a dent in our society's ugly misogyny that pits women against their unborn children who are their natural loves, not their natural enemies, unless we first conquer this great fear. It will take real acts of solidarity for our neighbors who are struggling with a crisis pregnancy for us to reach out to women at these moments and say with sincerity and love, "You are not alone. We are here for you and for your baby."

The people who can best help spread that message of hope and courage are the ones who have suffered as no others have, the ones who know what it is to be post-abortive, the ones who still struggle with their often-secret anguish over this terrible thing in their pasts. In my mind's eye I see these brave women as standing together against the darkness of the sin of abortion, and slowly, individually, and courageously lighting candles of truth. Today Katrina Fernandez has ignited the wick of such a candle, and one day soon these bright lights held aloft by the surviving victims of abortion will pierce through the dark veil of lies, euphemisms, and fear-mongering pushed by the abortion industry. Someday soon the outcry from these women's voices will drown out the harpies selling the misery and pain of abortion to yet another generation of young women; someday soon, the mothers mourning their lost beloved children will overwhelm the cynical rhetoric of "choice" that does not account for maternal hearts and the strength of maternal love which endures even beyond so painful and difficult a reality. In our solidarity with these women let us rejoice that the truth is setting them free, even while we listen attentively to what they have to tell us, and help them continue along the path of reconciliation and healing toward that peace that passes all understanding.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The SSA Catholic and the Parishes of Doom

Last week, Rod Dreher shared this First Things piece by Joshua Gonnerman, who is a gay Catholic who practices chastity and had some critical things to say about the experience at the parish level for Catholics battling same-sex attraction but trying to live as faithful Catholics. Rod comments:

Boy, do I ever agree with this. It’s not only true for gay people, but also straights who are single, either by choice or unchosen circumstance. In my case, when I became a serious adult Christian, I knew that I couldn’t be a Christian conditionally. I had tried that; it didn’t work. Specifically, I had tried exempting myself from the clear, consistent teaching of Scripture and Tradition about sexual morality. I read all the liberal theologians, and tried to believe it — but it was, to use a Savage-ism, bullshit. And I was lying to myself to think there was any truthful way forward but the narrow path. Like Gonnerman, I found that the Church’s teaching really is liberating, even though it required a lot of painful asceticism on my part (the most painful of which was the real possibility that it might be like this for my whole life; there was no guarantee that I would ever marry). How much easier the burden of chastity as a single Christian would have been if I hadn’t felt so alone in church. The clergy didn’t seem to care much, either intentionally or not, nor did anybody else. Most of the young adults I knew who bothered with church at all had no interest in being faithful to its sexual teaching, and so were no help. Everybody else was bound up with family life, and the culture of family life.

What does a chaste Christian adult, gay or straight, do in such a circumstance? So often you go it alone, because you have no real choice, not if you’re going to follow the truth. It shouldn’t be this way. To live in Christian chastity as a single man or woman in this hypereroticized culture of ours requires deep reserves of faith. It’s very hard to do it alone, without the support of one’s community of faith. I have gay Catholic friends who, like Gonnerman, are caught between fellow Christians who share their belief in the Church’s teachings on sexuality, but who are afraid to befriend in a deep way gay Christians. Those who do want to embrace gay Christians like themselves more often than not want to affirm them as gay and encourage them to live in defiance of Church teaching — something they cannot in good conscience do.

From my own experiences, I would say that the perception that there is not much for the single chaste Catholic (regardless of sexual orientation) at the average parish was followed by the perception that there wasn't much for the married Catholic couple and then that there wasn't much for the Catholic family with really little children and then that there wasn't much for the Catholic family with older children...well, you get the idea. Some of it is a "grass is always greener" problem, but some of it--lots of it--comes from the reality that parish life in many parishes is still coming up short when it comes to meeting the needs or the expectations of the modern Catholic (except for the retirees, but that's another story).

Take, for example, a story I've told before of a parish priest who excitedly told the parish that he'd "solved" the problem of the daily Mass for the working people. The working people, he said, had told him they couldn't be at the eight a.m. daily Mass because they had to be at work. Aha! he had thought, and he had scheduled a special Mass just for 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights...

Or take the pastor who schedules religious education at different hours of the day on Saturdays depending on the age of the child, who doesn't realize that for a family with multiple children this will mean one child is scheduled at 9 a.m. and another at 11 a.m. and another at two p.m. and...

Or take the choir director I once had who wanted to form a separate children's choir until he realized that the adults whose children were participating in the regular choir (like ours) would no longer be able to attend both the "children's choir" Mass and the regular choir Mass...

Or take the nice people who have a Catholic study group/fellowship thing going and keep inviting the 10 a.m. Tuesday meetings...

It's almost as if the Powers That Be at the parish life level are stuck somewhere in the 1950s, when every parish family lived within walking distance of the parish, every mom stayed at home and had hours to herself every day when the kids were in school, every dad worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and every family had so much spare time especially on the weekends that the parish had to schedule activities just to help break the monotony (and to keep the teens away from the drive-in movie theater and carhop diner). Catholic people came in four easily identified groups: priests/religious (or discerning); not-yet-married, married, and widowed. It was easy to schedule those 10 a.m. Tuesday religious discussions for the retired nuns and then to have bingo night (following the 5:30 p.m. Mass!) for the retired widows and widowers, some of whom might end up reentering Holy Matrimony with each other, at which point they'd be invited to the activities geared toward married people, along with the young newlyweds and the busy couples with small children who could easily find babysitters from among the parish teens.

And if there were any SSA people in the parish, well, nobody other than the confessor knew.

Meanwhile, it's 2012. Lots of Catholics drive to church, and some of them drive great distances. Moms work outside the home, in the home, and even homeschool. Dads work long hours and bizarre schedules as they struggle to earn a decent wage in a shaky global economy. Weekends are over-scheduled with everything from basic household maintenance to second jobs to sports to school obligations. Catholics come in more than four groups: there are never-marrieds in larger numbers, there are once-married but now-divorced and raising kids alone--and there are same-sex attracted people, some of whom want to live according to Church teaching and would like some help, support, encouragement, friendship, and ordinary kindness from their parish.

But how do we make that happen? How does the Catholic parish find a way to meet the changing needs of its parishioners--let alone adapting to the new needs of parishioners who weren't, perhaps, present in large numbers in the past? How does the divorced father of two who only gets his kids every other weekend see to their religious education, especially if Mom has left the Church and "remarried" outside of it? How does the person whose vocation used to be called "single blessedness" fit in, especially if he or she had always hoped to marry but realizes now in the middle of his or her life that it's not going to happen? And how does the same-sex attracted or gay Catholic experience the kind of helpful and supportive love and welcome that will help him or her to live this life and carry this burden without falling into despair, serious sin, or cycles of harmful isolation?

I honestly don't know. I do know it needs to happen, and that in a Church that tends (mostly for good reasons) to move at a glacial pace, it may be a while before Catholic parishes realize that it is no longer 1952. But if we don't want the SSA Catholic, and other Catholics who don't fit the older models, to think of the local parish as a place of gloom and doom instead of a loving branch of the family of God, we may have to pick up the pace just a bit.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pawns in the evil games adults play

Late posting again--I'm still not back on track after yesterday. :)

This makes for an interesting read:

For those engaged in America’s culture wars, it is clear that the welfare of children is the battle ground of choice. We are barely out of the gate with civil unions and same-sex “marriages,” and we have been told, in defense of these new institutions — and with the help of Hollywood — that The Kids Are All Right. And if it be true that “by their fruits ye shall know them,” then, if the kids are all right, so must be their parents.

But as we hurtle along in our social experiments, allaying our fears that children may not be getting the best deal in the new domestic arrangements, let’s pause for a moment and pay heed to the many children who, as adults, have come forward to say something about that older, accepted, and more or less “settled” issue: divorce.

Elizabeth Marquardt, author of Between Two Worlds (2005), Stephanie Staal, The Love They Lost (2000), Andrew Root, Children of Divorce (2010) and Susan Gregory Thomas, In Spite of Everything (2011), all have in common is a willingness to fully and honestly examine the perspective of an entire generation of children who experienced their parents’ divorce and have conducted their own hard-won research. Their forthright, painful stories challenge the entrenched doctrine that it is better for children to have a “good divorce” than a bad marriage.

Living in the trenches, between two separated households, these authors have been able to put their fingers on what is essentially bad about divorce no matter how much their parents adhered to the norms of the “good” one — avoiding any public conflict, parting “amicably” and sharing the kids equally.

They were exposed. They had been brought into the world by two worlds coming together; and now they were “left hanging,” so to speak, “between two worlds.” And notwithstanding all of their measurable successes (good grades, high college enrollment rates, and well-paying jobs), the divorce of their parents had inflicted a wound at the depths of their being. For this wound, there was no remedial “social capital.” [...]

Then there is the lingering question that divorce injects into the consciousness of the surviving progeny: “Who am I now that the two people who together made up my origin have gone their separate ways?” — as one conference participant put it.

There is no question in my mind that divorce harms children. Even the adult children of divorce I have known would agree--and even when the marriage was highly dysfunctional and the separation of the spouses necessary for one spouse's safety or the safety of the children. Most cases, though, are not that dire, and this leads to even greater suffering for the children of divorce. The power struggles over the children and their acceptance of the situation continue well past the point when the adult children of divorce have left the parental nests--yes, nests, because children of divorce never forget that they have two "homes" now, one with mom and one with dad (even if they only live with one parent, and merely visit the other).

Now: how much will this situation be magnified in the case of same-sex couples acting as parenting partners to children?

There are three ways that children can end up in same-sex parented homes: the children are the biological children of one partner and that partner's former heterosexual spouse or lover; the children have been adopted; the children have been manufactured like consumer products using IVF and reproductive prostitutes. In my opinion, all of these children will experience direct harm as the result of the choices those raising them have made on their behalf.

The adopted children are being harmed because adults decided for them that they did not need one of two parents (a mother or a father). Instead, two "mothers" or two "fathers" were good enough. Never mind if a little girl being raised by two men already has deep issues in her relationships with other women because her birth mother abandoned her--it's just not important for her to develop a healthy psychological relationship with an adoptive mother. The experts say so, and they're all really brilliant. Or, never mind if a little boy is already struggling to trust men because his birth father beat or otherwise abused him. He can be raised by two lesbians without any problem, because he really doesn't need a father, a positive male role model to help him overcome the early traumas. The experts say so, and they're all really brilliant...

Moving on to the children of divorce, here the children are already suffering like other children of divorce because the two people who brought them into the world have parted worlds...but in addition, they must now learn that mom doesn't like men or dad doesn't like women. In fact, the kind of sex mom or dad really likes doesn't produce babies. Ever. Was I a mistake, a regretted accident, then? the child in this situation wonders and fears...Was I just another chain, another bar of the prison?...and that fear and anguish may last forever.

The third situation is the most evil, and thus the most harmful to children. The child with two "moms" or two "dads" finds out one day that he was made to order. His own biological mother or his own biological father cared nothing for him, nothing at all. He was sold into emotional slavery by the person who should have cared the most for him in the whole world--but to whom he was nothing more than disposable genetic material, merchandise, a consumer product. That he lived while his embryo-siblings, his womb-twins, died was only an accident, and not an accident anyone cared very much about, not his biological parent or parents, and not the person or couple for whom he was manufactured. Indeed, the evil of IVF parenting is so great that the additional injustice of depriving that child forever of either a parent of his own gender or the opposite one is only an added crime against the child, whose donor mother, perhaps, never saw her daughter or cared what became of her at all, and whose two "dads" are openly and deeply hurt if she ever expresses a wish that she had a mom, or knew what that might be like.

We have already done so much harm to the emotional well-being of children and adults by blinding ourselves to the great nightmare of divorce and its effects on children. Now we are faced with the public cry to magnify that situation by forcing children to pretend that two "moms" or two "dads" are exactly the same thing to them (emotionally, psychologically, relationally, and so on) as a mother and a father would be. We keep making children pawns in the evil games adults play, and then we wonder why society has to keep stepping in to bandage the gaping, bleeding wounds and divert our attention from the real stories and sufferings kept bottled carefully inside the walking ghosts of broken families.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life lesson

One of my "etc." to deal with today was a lengthy trip to the dentist. One ordinary(ish) filling. One "dig out the old filling and then shave the fragile remains of the tooth down to prep it for a crown and then fit and place a temporary crown on it" procedure. Total time in chair: three hours.

I learned a valuable and important life lesson today:

If a dentist offers you nitrous oxide, take it.

How is it that I have had four crowns, three of which involved root canals, and never knew this before?


Late blogging--comment approval alert

Hi, all! As I posted in the comment thread below this one, I'm going to be busy with other projects etc. for most of the day today. Thus, I won't be checking the blog comments folder or posting a new post until much later this evening--if I can even do it then. (I've learned that sitting down at the computer in the midst of projects etc. "just for a second to approve blog comments" often turns into "where the heck did that hour go?" and so it's wiser for me to avoid that temptation).

I'm posting this only because we do have some popular/controversial posts from the past two days (the Legion one, and the gay "marriage" one), and I don't want readers to worry that they're being censored if their comments don't show up in a reasonable time. No worries. Keep commenting if you feel so inclined--I'll do my best to post the comments tonight!

Your patience, as always, is greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The splendid dupes

Among those quotes in the annals of history that turn out to be totally unverifiable there is the one about Lenin and "useful idiots." No evidence exists to support the claim that Lenin ever actually called Western sympathizers with communism "useful idiots" for advancing the agenda of the Communists; but the idea that various evils have relied on great numbers of people willing to advance an agenda whose end game and limits they don't really understand is not a new one, for all that.

In fact, G.K. Chesterton expressed a similar idea this way (hat tip: John C. Wright):
There exists to-day a scheme of action, a school of thought, as collective and unmistakable as any of those by whose grouping alone we can make any outline of history. It is as firm a fact as the Oxford Movement, or the Puritans of the Long Parliament; or the Jansenists; or the Jesuits. It is a thing that can be pointed out; it is a thing that can be discussed; and it is a thing that can still be destroyed. It is called for convenience "Eugenics"; and that it ought to be destroyed I propose to prove in the pages that follow. I know that it means very different things to different people; but that is only because evil always takes advantage of ambiguity. I know it is praised with high professions of idealism and benevolence; with silver-tongued rhetoric about purer motherhood and a happier posterity. But that is only because evil is always flattered, as the Furies were called "The Gracious Ones." I know that it numbers many disciples whose intentions are entirely innocent and humane; and who would be sincerely astonished at my describing it as I do. But that is only because evil always wins through the strength of its splendid dupes; and there has in all ages been a disastrous alliance between abnormal innocence and abnormal sin. Of these who are deceived I shall speak of course as we all do of such instruments; judging them by the good they think they are doing, and not by the evil which they really do.
If you replaced the word "Eugenics" with the phrase "Gay Marriage," and further spoke about purer marriages and happier families instead of motherhood and posterity, respectively, I think the Chesterton quote might apply rather well to the rank-and-file supporters of gay "marriage" today. But if you express this notion to the average supporter of gay "marriage," this notion that the goals and aims of the gay rights movement are ultimately evil and destructive of social cohesion, they would be just as astonished as the supporters of Eugenics were in Chesterton's day at his relentless negativity toward the concept--and yet, Chesterton was right, and the supporters were so wrong that the human cost of their little idea may not yet have been fully reckoned.

How can I say such a thing, when all gay "marriage" supporters want is a tiny little barely-noticeable and unimportant tweak to the definition of marriage that will remove the concept of opposite genders forever from the word "marriage," completely eradicate any idea that biological parenthood belongs within marriage or, indeed, has anything whatsoever to do with it, and strike a blow from which society may never recover at the clearly outdated notion that children deeply need to have a mother and a father, to say nothing of the nuclear annihilation of religious liberty that will follow swiftly upon the imposition of gay "marriage" on our society?

How, indeed.

Here's Exhibit A in the kind of thing we can expect to see in some not-too-distant future:
( – The Obama administration “strongly objects” to provisions in a House defense authorization bill that would prohibit the use of military property for same-sex “marriage or marriage-like” ceremonies, and protect military chaplains from negative repercussions for refusing to perform ceremonies that conflict with their beliefs, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). [...]

The memo said the two provisions “adopt unnecessary and ill-advised policies that would inhibit the ability of same-sex couples to marry or enter a recognized relationship under State law.”

Section 536 of H.R. 4310 states in part that no member of the armed forces may “direct, order, or require a chaplain to perform any duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, service, or function that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain, or contrary to the moral principles and religious beliefs of the endorsing faith group of the chaplain.”

Further, no member of the armed forces may “discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain, including denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment, on the basis of the refusal by the chaplain to comply with a direction, order, or requirement” that is prohibited by the previous clause.

The OMB complained that, “in its overbroad terms,” section 536 “is potentially harmful to good order and discipline.”

Read the rest here.

A Catholic priest serving as a chaplain in the military cannot ever "marry" two men or two women. But if gay "marriage" becomes an absolute right in the United States, a Catholic priest serving as a chaplain in the military might be ordered to preside at such "weddings." There are only two options: carve out the kind of religious liberty exemption H.R. 4310 is attempting, or forbid Catholics to serve as military chaplains. I am convinced that the powers behind the gay "marriage" agenda want and will demand the second option.

Why? Kevin O'Brien wrote a piece recently that has had me pondering:
Occupy Wall Street and related groups were indignant, and rightly so, that the wealthiest one percent of the population seems to control the government.

We would all agree that in a democratic republic, policy that affects every American should not be set by an elite, particularly if that elite is only one percent of the people.

But what if that elite is only half that size?

The (un-"occupied") Wall Street Journal reports that, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, about five of every one thousand households is a "same sex couple" household - which, apprently means not just "room mates" but sodomites and Lesbians living together as a kind of "family".

And so, even with "gay marriage" legal in many states, and with homosexual cohabitation legal in all states, only about point-five percent of households in this country are "same sex couples". Whence, then, comes this tremendous political push to cater to the whims of one half of one percent of the U.S. population?

The only conclusion that we can draw from this is that "gay marriage" is a contrived issue, politically speaking. It is the "One half of one percent" trying to bully the rest of us. [All emphasis in original: E.M.]
Kevin O'Brien draws a different conclusion from this than I do. My conclusion, after pondering the numbers, was this: why is there such a push to impose gay "marriage" on society when so few people have any interest in it? Is it the case that this one-half of one percent, or even the two to four percent of Americans who identify as same-sex attracted, have so much money and political power that they keep pushing this issue to the forefront of American politics?

I hardly think that's even possible. Which means, I think, that it's that same one percent, that ruling class, that has decided that Americans need to fixate on this idea right now. Some of them, like the wealthy powerful men and women of Chesterton's day who promoted eugenics, might really believe that gay "marriage" is the civil rights struggle of our day--and they have delusions of being brave and heroic and self-sacrificing in pushing for the agenda, just like people in the past who fought for women's suffrage or racial equality. They are the Splendid Dupes of the Chesterton quote, the people who are not so much in love with the idea of a gender-neutral America (based upon the mandatory eradication of heteronormativity, a concept that would probably puzzle many of these Bright Sorts if they had ever heard of it) as they are with the idea of themselves as noble and wise pioneers of the new virtue.

But there are others in the ruling class who know exactly what they're doing. I think the true agenda is twofold:

1. Distract the nation from rising debt, increased governmental power over our everyday lives, the ruling class's own increased control of America and the exponential rise of the sort of thing John Stossel has been calling "the road to serfdom" for a couple of years now, and

2. Cynically wield the gay rights agenda (and similar initiatives) as a club with which to beat the churches into either submission or impotence, given that the churches have the potential to be the biggest objectors and obstacles to agenda point 1.

Think about it. Why else would there suddenly be, for instance, a "line in the sand" HHS mandate attempting to force Catholic Churches to pay for birth control? Why would the administration object to efforts to keep Catholic (and other) chaplains from having to officiate at gay "weddings?" Why was a Catholic adoption agency in Massachusetts one of the first casualties in the war against traditional families? The ruling class is showing its hand a little too plainly--it's obvious that they care much more about weakening the churches, especially the orthodox and traditional ones, than they do about advancing gay rights, at least at present. Whether they will ever actually care about gay rights, or whether they will cast aside and abandon the gay citizens who sincerely think they're working in their own best interests once the ruling class has achieved its objectives is something the average gay citizen might ponder.

The thing is, as I said today to a reader who emailed me on this subject, there's really no way for the churches and the gay rights movement to find an amicable solution. The minute the objective of the imposition of the redefinition of marriage upon the nation is achieved, the push to define all who disagree with the new definition as evil bigots motivated only by irrational hatred will accelerate, with the end goal of crippling the churches (and, it should go without saying, the mosques and synagogues who agree that marriage is between a man and a woman). Every possible strategy to ostracize, marginalize, and punish people for the "wrongthink" beliefs that gay sex is gravely sinful and that marriage is between a man and a woman will be engaged in full force. The new agenda will advance the notion that only bigots and haters oppose gay "marriage," and that these bigots and haters really don't have a place in a decent civil society. For Catholics, this may mean having to sign some sort of "statement of dissent" from Church teaching in order to work as a military chaplain (or, perhaps, to join the military at all), or in a government or corporate job, or just about anywhere other than in a Church job; it may mean being permanently excluded from adopting children (again, without that "statement of dissent"); it may mean having one's children interrogated in the doctor's office or at school about whether mommy and daddy's "hatred" and "bigotry" psychologically affects the child--and that's just for starters.

And all of that will go on until the religious (and other) bodies that disagree with gay marriage are weakened, silenced, terrorized, or even destroyed--at which point we, or our descendents, will find out what this whole agenda was really all about.

And then, perhaps, the Splendid Dupes will wring their hands and say they had no idea, none at all, what was really going on--that the end game was the tearing down and destroying that pillar of religious freedom on which our nation was founded. The possible reasons why a group of the rich and powerful might want to do that are uniformly frightening, and should be abhorrent to all who believe in the liberty our nation's founders fought and died for. Alas, that end game will probably not be recognized for what it is until it is far too late.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Legion is a dysfunctional family

The pattern of dysfunction within the Legion of Christ continues to emerge with this sad news:

A high-profile American priest in the Legionaries of Christ has acknowledged having had a sexual relationship with a woman and fathering her child, adding another chapter to the growing scandals surrounding the controversial religious order.

Fr. Thomas Williams, known for his work as a TV commentator and popular spiritual writer and speaker, issued a statement today confirming he had fathered a child with a woman “a number of years ago,” and said that he and the superiors of the order have decided that he will take a year off without any public ministry “to reflect on my commitments as a priest.”

“I am truly sorry to everyone who is hurt by this revelation,” Williams said in the statement.

Out of what he described as “respect for the privacy of the woman and her child,” Williams declined to identify the woman or provide other details. He confirmed, however, that the relationship had occurred while he was already a priest and a member of the Legionaries.

Williams told NCR the woman has declined economic assistance, and that she was neither his student nor someone to whom he had offered spiritual direction. [...]

Fr. Luis Garza, the top official for the Legion in North America, sent a letter to members today informing them that Williams will undergo “a period of reflection, prayer and atonement.”

“In the wake of all that we have been through as a movement in the past several years, it won’t surprise me if you are disappointed, angry or feel your trust shaken once again,” Garza wrote, saying that any further information “is at the discretion of those involved.”

Because Williams’ relationship did not involve a minor or accusations of abuse, it is not subject to the Vatican’s anti-abuse procedures. Traditionally, the Vatican has left discipline for transgressions involving a consensual relationship to the priest’s superiors, in this case the leaders of the Legion and the papal delegate appointed by Benedict XVI to oversee the order, Italian Cardinal Velasio de Paolis.

In the wake of this, there are a couple of things I want to get out of the way right away.

First, it is not the sin of detraction to engage in thoughtful discussion of these sorts of incidents when the incidents have already become public knowledge. It is not uncharitable, either. It is human nature to be stunned by sin and to ask, "How did this happen?" as well as to remain mindful of one's own sinfulness and beg God for mercy for all of us sinners.

Second, it is not necessary for most of us to say much about the specifics of this situation except that we will pray for Fr. Williams, for the woman, and for the innocent child who is the true victim here--not in the terrible sense that other children have been victims, but in the injustice inherent in the consequences of his parents' sinful behavior.

Third, and this is the important one: it is neither uncharitable nor unjust speculation about the specifics to raise the question as to whether or not this is yet another proof that the Legion is fatally flawed, whether the sins of Maciel are continuing in the members of the order he founded (considering that one category of his sins was to father children out of wedlock in violation of his priestly vows), and whether it's even possible, at this point, for true reform to occur?

Consider the example of a large Catholic family. They go to Mass every Sunday and sometimes to daily Mass as well, they pray together, they encourage frequent confession, they do their best to raise and educate their children in the faith--and yet one of the children falls into serious sexual sin, involving out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Can we say that there is anything definitely wrong here--or must we just consider the mystery of sin's powerful attraction to us all?

But suppose there's another large Catholic family that on the surface looks as good or better than the first family: Mass, confession, prayer, raising and educating their children in the faith. Behind the scenes, though, as their neighbors learn to their horror, something terrible was happening. Their father was accused, not just once, but repeatedly, of molesting children. Somehow, no charges were ever filed (but the local D.A. is a close friend and relies on this family's money for his election campaigns), and the family spoke sorrowfully of how uncharitable all these "false" accusations were. But then the father dies, and the community learns of his second family, the one he fathered with a mistress (and there may be more than one "extra" family). If, after this, child after child in that family falls into serious sexual sin, is "Gosh, sin is mysterious and powerful..." really the only conclusion we can draw? Or is the family's dysfunction directly related to the father's example, his way of teaching his children, and his own inability to give good spiritual advice in matters related to the Sixth Commandment?

If we think of the Legion as a dysfunctional Catholic family, their tendency to keep insisting that everything is fine and that these matters have nothing whatsoever to do with the Legion itself starts making a terrible kind of sense--the same kind that we recognize when a dysfunctional family closes ranks and pretends to the outside world that nothing is wrong. But if we think of the Legion as a dysfunctional family, it becomes harder to understand why some powerful members of that family are still calling so many of the shots.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Not everything is homeschooling's fault

A little while ago, I wrote a blog post about how the negativity I sometimes hear about homeschooling gets depressing. It's bad enough when the secular world looks down on homeschooling; it's worse if it comes from our fellow Catholics; but I think the worst thing of all is when I hear fellow Catholic homeschooling moms trash homeschooling, as if the only way to get any respect as a homeschooler is to agree that homeschooling is insane, difficult, frustrating, and freakish--but we do it anyway, white-knuckles, weak knees, chaos and all.

So then I got to thinking: why are there so many homeschooling moms who trash homeschooling?

Some easy explanations spring to mind: perhaps these moms want to fit in better with their non-homeschooling friends, or they have this idea that "keeping it real" means complaining all the time and acting as though nobody's ever really happy; or they're acutely aware that in our culture actually liking your kids and wanting to spend time with them is so rare as to sound like bragging if you say you do, or they're so tired of defending their choice to homeschool to critical relatives, friends, and neighbors that they've adopted this style of defense mechanism...and so on. But I think that sometimes the homeschooling moms who are relentlessly negative about homeschooling may actually mean it, and that brings with it a couple of possibilities: they may be the sort of person who really ought not be homeschooling, or their situation may make homeschooling uniquely difficult in a way that it's not for the majority of happy homeschoolers out here.

About the first, there is little to say except that it's really not possible for anyone but the homeschooling mom to arrive at that conclusion. There really are some people who due to personality type or background or temperament or similar things are not going to be happy when they try homeschooling, no matter how terrific the situation may seem to be. But nobody who is outside that family can possibly see or know that. I know moms who have happily persevered in homeschooling despite seemingly insurmountable odds, and others who threw in the towel after three months because they came to the conclusion (with relief or heartbreak or a bit of both) that they really, really, really weren't cut out for it. And that's something only one person can discern--the homeschooling parent.

About the second, though, there may be a few more things to say--but before I say them, I want to be clear about one thing: just because a particular situation might make homeschooling more difficult than it otherwise would be, it does not follow that people in those situations do or even should just give up. What is a great difficulty and heavy cross for one family might be relatively negligible for another. But my suspicion is that some of the grumbling and griping about life as a homeschooling mom may arise when one of the following situations is present:

1. There is strong opposition to homeschooling from one's husband or one's extended family. Why would this lead to more griping on mommy blogs and when in the company of other homeschooling moms? Simple: because in real life, at home, and with critical relatives the mom in this situation is constantly being tested and has to prove, all the time, that things are good. Really, really good. Amazingly, impossibly, perfectly good. Even...inhumanly good.

And nobody's life is like that all of the time. Even if kids are in regular school they can fail quizzes and misplace homework and get creamed while playing dodge ball--and homeschooled children can fail quizzes and accidentally skip over a page of a workbook and fall down while playing touch football in the back yard. The difference is, if one has a critical spouse or parents or in-laws, it's homeschooling's fault that seven-year-old Polychronius*** missed eight questions on a spelling test or left a page of his math homework blank or skinned his knees--but if Polychronius were in "real" school, the bombed quiz and missed homework and skinned knee would be chuckled over as all part of growing up.

So these moms gripe to anyone who will listen about the imperfections, because in front of people who ought to be on their side they have to maintain an illusion of serene daily accomplishment--and they have my sympathy, even if they end up quitting homeschool because once again Grandma insinuated that Polychronius' inability to locate Uzbekistan on a blank outline map she conveniently had hanging in her living room during the last family gathering is all Mom's fault.

2. There is a family crisis going on right now that makes homeschooling a grueling drudgery instead of a joyful and loving experience. Family crises come in all shapes and sizes: perhaps the marriage is strained, or perhaps a young child or one's elderly parents need near full-time care, or perhaps someone is critically ill, or perhaps Dad lost his job, or the bank is threatening their home, or perhaps young Ceolwulf has been charitably spending time with the neighbor children, or that's what mom thought until the whole gang was arrested for running a shoplifting ring targeted at the local convenience store chain...well, you get the idea.

Lots of homeschooling moms manage to get through these sorts of crisis situations. They don't do it alone--they'll be the first to tell you. Extended family, friends, fellow parishioners, neighbors, even total strangers who heard about their situation and felt moved to help did just that. People offered them everything from prayer to financial help to tutoring for the kiddies to free babysitting to anything else that was necessary, and the grateful moms (and dads and kids!) offered prayers of joyful thanks, took the aid, and kept on voyaging in English and meandering in math around the kitchen table right through the hardest times.

But other homeschooling moms may be going it alone, even in the crisis times. We hear all the time about the loneliness and isolation stay-at-home moms face in the modern age, and even though things are better for some moms in some places what's true for one area may not be true for another. That loneliness and isolation are hard enough to deal with during ordinary times, but when the whole family is in crisis mode everything about being a mom can seem overwhelming, from the supposedly simple tasks like laundry and cleaning to the complications of preparing a child to take a college entrance exam. When a mom in a crisis situation seems negative about homeschooling, it may be because it's just another huge brick in the seemingly endless and precarious stack of similar bricks that feel as though they're strapped to the top of her head, all of them wobbly, all of them in danger of crashing down at any moment. And sometimes it's easier to crack cynical jokes about how today's science lesson involved identifying and then removing the bacteria growing in the bathtub then to admit to others (which is hard) and to herself (which is much harder) that she needs help.

3. There is a battle of wills over discipline going on with at least one child, and it has spilled over into homeschooling. Perhaps teaching little Begga at home was a joy for the first couple of years, but then Begga got a bit willful, and then she started being sassy and disobedient, and then she started getting angry, and now pre-adolescent Begga is whining every day about everything Mom tries to do, resisting, refusing, storming off and slamming doors, and acting as though homeschooling is a slow poison to her soul (a phrase she actually used. On the Facebook account she set up without permission. And on which she posted an unflattering camera-phone picture of her mom with a rude caption, and shared with over a thousand people, only ten of whom Begga actually knows in person).

Some moms in this situation will blame homeschooling for the discipline problem, which really isn't fair (I mean, seriously, is every public or private school child you know a paragon of disciplinary perfection?). Other moms will work to fix the discipline issue while still homeschooling, and still others will send a child in this situation to school to remove one point of contention while addressing the underlying discipline issue apart from the question of homeschooling. And all of those are great approaches.

But the approach that lets the situation continue to fester while Mom writes increasingly snarky blot or Facebook posts about the myth of homeschooling and how she's learned the hard way that homeschooling doesn't improve one's relationship with one's child, etc., is an approach that isn't doing anybody any good: not Mom, not Begga, and not the people scared away from even considering homeschooling by stories like this.

I'm sure there are a lot more hypothetical situations out there that can turn homeschooling from a delight into an almost unbearable (or fully unbearable) cross. But I sort of can't help wishing that moms experiencing these things would be just a bit more forthcoming about the fact that right now for them personally homeschooling is rather a drag (and maybe even ask for that help that we all need from time to time) instead of presenting a vision of "real" homeschooling as thinly-concealed perpetual chaos and non-stop junior amateur home demolition. Sure, it can be like that sometimes, because life can be like that sometimes, especially life with children. But I have to say exactly what I'd say to Polychronius's grandmother when she scoffs at his inability to recite Pi to seventeen decimals on command: not everything is mom's, or homeschooling's, fault.

***Hypothetical names for children from the Patron Saints website, because we have some really awesome saints' names out there, don't we?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Some Friday fun

My girls and I were looking through some old photos and memories the other day. It was a great deal of fun, and makes me think that we'd better do something about our digital memories, because otherwise we may lose them!

But a picture the girls found just hilarious, and wanted me to share here (Kitten cropped the "innocent bystanders" in my extended family out to protect their privacy), is this one:

It's a little fuzzy, but I hope you will notice that the proper female Catholic blogger does, indeed, wear a skirt while aiming her brother's air-gun at a paper target. Hopefully any sola skirtura types who see this old photo of mine will heartily approve! :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Time wins the booby prize

If you haven't already seen this, be careful about clicking the link, if you have children or males nearby:
The headline reads, "Are You Mom enough?" But if that wasn't enough to fan the flames of the Mommy Wars, there's the photo that goes with it: A pretty young woman wearing skinny jeans and a tank top, nursing her nearly 4-year-old son. It's meant to illustrate a story about Dr. William Sears and attachment parenting but, given that there's more to that movement than extended breastfeeding, it seems as if Time magazine was going for sensationalism and shock value.

It's working. [...]

The mom on the provocative May 21st cover is 26-year-old Jamie Lynne Grumet of Los Angeles, a lactation consultant, breastfeeding advocate, and mother of two who blogs at I Am Not the Babysitter. The child at her breast is her son, Aram, who turns 4 in June. "I don't consider breast feeding immodest at all," she told Time magazine. "I'm not shy about doing it in public."

"There are people who tell me there's going to call social services on me or that it's child molestation," Grumet tells Time, adding that her mother breast-fed her until she was 6. "But people have to realize this is biologically normal. It's not socially normal. The more people see it, the more it'll become normal in our culture. That's what I'm hoping. I want people to see it."
Um, okay, Ms. Grumet. But don't you think a pose that didn't make people think: I am woman! Hear me lactate! might have been a bit better in facilitating the discussion you say you want to have?

I mean, I've written about attachment parenting before. I find it to be a bit of a mixed bag. The bottom line for me is: if it works for your family, great! But if it becomes a club with which to beat all the other parents out there who, unlike you, aren't doing things perfectly with regards to their children, then it may be time to step back a bit. Like any parenting method, it has its share of adherents and of critics, and it has fanatics as well as those who practice it more sanely.

But for Time to put this pose on their cover shows that they're not really interested in some balanced discussion of attachment parenting. They're interested in attracting attention and selling magazines. And, unfortunately, they've found a woman willing to exploit herself and her son to help them do exactly that.

Why do I say exploit? Because if you are still nursing an almost four-year-old, we're talking about a nursing experience that has no real reason not to be private most (if not all) of the time. A one or two-month-old may need to nurse on demand, and I've been a supporter of leaving nursing moms of infants alone when they nurse in public--yes, even if they have to nurse in church. Any child younger than one year of age should simply be accommodated when mom needs to nurse in public.

But somewhere between age one and age two, it becomes perfectly possible to delay or even schedule nursing sessions. By age two most ordinary children can wait to breastfeed in most circumstances (I think the exceptions would be children who have developmental delays or special medical needs, or situations involving extreme conditions like war, poverty, and so on). The push to nurse older children in public involves exactly what Grumet says it does: the drive to make people learn to be comfortable with this sight. But that turns the child into an object to facilitate a social discussion, not a person in his own right who just needs to be fed or comforted. (I mean, was her son even hungry when that photo session took place--and would it have mattered if he emphatically was not?)

Grumet should have said no to this photo shoot. But Time Magazine wins the booby prize here--because at least Grumet can have the excuse that she meant well. Raising public awareness of attachment parenting, including extended breastfeeding, can at least seem like a noble cause, worth letting one be photographed nursing one's three-year-old son. But putting this picture on their cover just shows that the boobs at Time don't care about anything but the bottom line.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Obama, North Carolina, and the plastic heterosexual couple

The two big stories on gay "marriage" today: Obama finally admitted what most of us have known all along, which is that he's for it; the state of North Carolina overwhelmingly rejected it, preferring instead to preserve the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

I have written enough about gay "marriage" before not to get into the matter in detail today, but I would like to point to something from that above article which, I think, helps explain why again and again when gay "marriage" is put up to a vote at the state level, it loses:

About 250 amendment supporters crowded a ballroom at the Hilton North Raleigh for the celebration that was part standard-issue campaign victory party and part wedding reception.

There was a cash bar, and music that included love songs. The centerpiece was a seven-tier white wedding cake, capped by a plastic heterosexual couple embracing. [Emphasis added--E.M.]

That detail describes one celebration held by traditional marriage supporters when it became clear that North Carolina's amendment to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman would easily pass. But please note the phrase from the news article which I have put in bold print.

Who the heck, outside of the mainstream media elite, would ever describe the bride and groom figure on the top of a wedding cake as "a plastic heterosexual couple embracing?"

Read more here:
Does anybody (again, outside of a small deviant pocket) even think that way?

The gay "marriage" lobby would like us to think so. Supporters of same-sex "marriage" envision a world where the logical question, when your friend tells you she's getting married, is "To a man or a woman, this time?" Their push to eradicate heteronormativity has created a battleground out of Massachusetts classrooms, where a lesbian teacher can insist to her eighth-grade class that she and her partner can have "intercourse" (provided that your definition of that word is twisted enough to include the use of various objects in the act). To those who dwell in this world, cake toppers for weddings should not just include "plastic heterosexual couples," or a bride and a groom respectively, but a bride kissing a bride, a groom embracing a groom, and perhaps, if the polyamorists get their way, numerous plastic figures of both genders engaged in plastic group sex, too.

And the problem, for the dwellers in that world, is that that world is very, very small.

Sure, Americans are tolerant. Not too many Americans would support rounding up and arresting people for deviant sexual practices, ranging from heterosexual adultery to the kinds of parties that would have made Oscar Wilde blush. We draw the lines at sexual acts or behavior that is abusive, non-consensual, or involves children (and long may we as a nation continue to do so, the push by various groups to mainstream pedophilia notwithstanding).

But I think that even most tolerant Americans have a tendency to think that a bride and a groom belong on top of a wedding cake. One of each. And that marriage isn't just a special sort of friendship which involves sex (and therefore can be composed of various assorted numbers of men and women), but a union of one man and one woman who, if God blesses them, will raise their children within that nascent family.

The more the media elite push average, ordinary Americans to see the wedding cake topper as "a plastic heterosexual couple embracing" as if this is some sort of confectionery monument to heteronormative bigotry, the more there will be a backlash from those same sorts of ordinary Americans who don't particularly wish to see heteronormativity branded as evil and banished from sane civil society. Those who were pushing for gay "marriage" in North Carolina have learned that today, and it's just barely possible that President Obama may learn it a few months from now. There are too many kindly, tolerant, nice Americans who look at the wedding topper and see, not the derisively dismissed "plastic heterosexual couple," but their own reflections. And to be lectured again and again that seeing such couples as the normal basis for the family in society is somehow wrong is to create a growing rejection of so intolerant a message.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Is it time to end the "Children's Church" innovation?

Rod Dreher has an interesting post up about how some Protestant churches are calling for an end to special children's worship sessions. Rod writes:

On Sunday my niece told me that at her Methodist church, they’re planning to do away with Sunday school for kids during the regular church service. I was really surprised that they had something for kids to do while the service was going on. When I was growing up in this church in the 1970s, kids were present for the main service. As an adult, I’ve either been Roman Catholic or Orthodox, and there’s never been any question in either church but that children must be present for the liturgy. I didn’t know that any church did it any other way. I was ignorant.

Turns out that there are strong second thoughts among Protestants about an approach to youth ministry that treats young people as separate from the adult congregation. A new documentary — available for free viewing online here — claims that “youth ministry” has been a disaster.
Read the rest here.

Nobody's arguing for getting rid of Sunday Schools or religious education for children, but rather that segregating the worship community by age is not really a good idea after all.

As I said in Rod's comment boxes, I can't believe that when he was Catholic he never encountered "Children's Liturgy" or "Children's Church," which I've referred to here on occasion as “The Rite of Dismissing the Children So They Can Go Color Things." Many, if not most, Catholics have seen this: young children are called forth to the altar, a prayer is read or a blessing given by the priest, a "youth leader" holds aloft a book which is probably a children's Lectionary, and the leader or leaders and children process out of the church. There is, alas, no orderly re-entry process; the children drift back into the main church in a highly disorganized fashion sometime between the end of the homily and the beginning of the Canon. If the church is crowded, other adults may have taken the children's seats, leaving frustrated parents squeezing their young ones back into the pews somewhere around their knees, with plenty of glaring from those who stole the children's original seats as they are inconvenienced by the return of the little ones.

As to exactly what goes on during "Children's Church" I confess that I don't really know, though that has not stopped me from writing about it before. My girls never participated (despite some occasional pressure to do so). All I know is that what is supposed to happen is that the children are to be read the readings in a simplified form and then a little talk is to be given. This talk is not a homily because it is given by lay people (even though the original instructions call for a homily--but that would require a priest or deacon to conduct the Children's Liturgy). Crafts are most emphatically not supposed to be done, but that doesn't stop children from carrying aloft various coloring pages or Popsicle-stick art when they return, so I suppose people don't know about the "no-crafts" provision.

My view on this, as I've said before, is that all it does is postpone a child's full participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Is a five-year-old going to understand every word of the readings and Gospel? No, but there are plenty of resources to use to help a child understand the readings before Mass on Sunday. Are young children going to understand the homily? No, but there's no prohibition against them looking quietly at an illustrated Bible or other child-friendly material during the homily. And with each passing year, a child being instructed in this way will grow more and more familiar with the Mass, and more and more capable of entering with the Church in this highest and best form of worship.

What do you think? Is Children's Church, as I call it, a well-intentioned but ultimately bad idea? Or is it something worth fixing, even if it ends up being rather different from how it's often done today?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Apology for the delay... approving comments today.

I'm fighting a stupid sinus thing. No big deal, but not really conducive to thoughtful blogging or timely comment approving.

Back with a real post later today. Or tomorrow. Or whenever...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Parish the thought...

I found this interesting today:

Roughly one-fifth of the Catholics in the US are not associated with a parish, a new study has found.

While there are about 75 million Catholics in the US, “fewer than 60 million are associated with a specific Catholic church,” reports Clifford Grammich of the Glenmary Research Center. Thus at least 15 million people who identify themselves as Catholic but not with any parish.

One consequence of the relaxing of parish boundaries has been this reality, that sometimes people don't associate themselves with a parish, attend Mass at several parishes, or don't have a regular faith community where they worship. Whether that's something good, bad, or neutral will probably depend on your perspective; but it's certainly a change from the past, where Catholics attended, mainly, their geographical parish throughout their lives.

What are your thoughts, readers, on parishes and your connection to them?

We attend a regular parish and are registered there, but that hasn't always been the case. At times we had looser affiliations with parishes; at times, we attended one of several parishes depending on Mass times and other considerations without officially belonging to any of them. So I'm interested in the following (yes, another survey!):

1. Do you currently attend Mass at one regular parish?

2. Are you registered in that parish?

3. Are you registered in any parish?

4. How important is it to you to have a close tie to a parish?

5. What is your state in life? (This last question is optional, but I found that as a married woman with children it was relatively more important to me to belong to one specific parish then it had been in the past.)

I'll look forward to reading your answers!