Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy birthday, Kitten!

Today, my sweet oldest daughter turns 18!  Since she's now an adult (!!) I'm going to turn this whole post over to her--except for this sentence, in which I tell you that she is wonderful, amazing, talented, beautiful, and so organized that I depend on her for just about everything.

Here she is:

Hi everyone!  Today I officially turn eighteen.  It doesn't seem possible, does it?  

When I was younger, I was sure that by the time I turned eighteen I would have everything figured out.  It turns out that that is not the case at all, but I have gotten better at faking it.  ;)

I've had a wonderful year with many exciting events.  Perhaps one of the most exciting events was finishing my first semseter of college with a 4.0.  Another really exciting event for me was winning 4th place in a short story writing contest at my college.  Other exciting events included starting my own blog.   :)

I am still learning to play the guitar and I am happy to report that I have gotten much better at it.  I was even able to play a few Christmas carols this year.  I credit my success to the teacher at Justin Guitar, a free online guitar lesson website.  I want to take a minute to explain this guitar website to you all.  The person who teaches the guitar is an accomplished guitarist who, aside from teaching guitar lessons, has been in several bands and has a new album out for sale.  He wants everyone to learn guitar, so he puts all of his professional lessons online, in a video format, for free.  All he asks is that people who use the site donate money if they can.  I really appreciate what he has done, and if any of you are interested in picking up guitar, I highly recommend him.

Tackling the Korean language is still a project of mine, and although I have lots to learn, I am pleased to report that I have learned a lot more words and I am learning to write the language.  It's been a blast and I can't wait to keep learning more.

On the subject of Korean, I am having a South Korean themed birthday party today.  Dad and I started the celebrating a little early by going to the best Korean restaurant in town yesterday afternoon.  It is an authentic Korean restaurant run by a Korean family.  The food there is the best and getting to see some of the Korean culture while you eat is amazing.  While I was out with Dad my sisters decorated the house with decorations such as paper lamps and pictures in a Korean style.  Tonight, Mom is making a Korean style dinner and I plan to watch some Korean television after we come back from Mass.

I hope all of you have a great day and a happy New Year.  God bless you!

                                       
(Since I'm eighteen, I'm going to put a picture of me on the blog.  This is from yesterday while we were at the Korean restaurant)

Monday, December 30, 2013

The seventy-five percent

News articles and opinion pieces discussing the continuing controversy over Eastside Catholic's radical decision actually to act like a Catholic school for once (and not an "...exclusive private school in the Catholic tradition...") have made mention of a curious statistic: the claim that at least seventy-five percent of the students at the school are protesting against the school's decision to fire the "married" gay administrator and demanding that not only the school, but Church teaching as well, should change at once to suit their totally erroneous ideas and heretical notions.

Why is "at least seventy-five percent" a curious statistic?  Because it closely tracks to the number of US Catholics who don't show up for Mass on Sundays, a number that is actually around 76 or 77 percent.  Only twenty-three or twenty-four percent of Catholics in the United States of America bother to haul their hindquarters out of bed on Sunday mornings (let alone popping in to a local parish on Saturday night) to fulfill the Sunday Mass obligation--and let's just remember that failing to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation without a valid reason for your absence (such as illness, the care of children, an unprecedented ice storm such that your pastor can't even make it to Mass himself, etc.) is a serious sin, which, under the usual conditions, can be a mortal sin--you know, the kind that could keep you from making it to Heaven.

I am not claiming that the students engaged in the silly, nitwit protest over Church teaching at Eastside Catholic are among the seventy-five percent of Catholics who don't make it to Church on Sundays, of course--some of them may still show up, either because their parents expect it or because they earnestly believe that they will "reform" the Church from within, and dream of such stupid things as a female priestesshood and other vanities.  Or maybe Mass attendance is just a habit they haven't yet "outgrown," as some of their peers on the protest line most likely already have.  What I am claiming is that I would be radically surprised, should diocesan Catholic schools ever survey their graduates to find out how many of them still attend Mass on Sundays within ten years of their graduation, if the number was even as high as twenty-five percent.

It is one thing--a scandalous thing, to be sure, but one thing--if in a post-Christian nation which is openly hostile to religious faith seventy-five percent of the people steeped in narcissistic autonomy with a side of soul-deadening consumerism fall away from the practice of their faith.  It is another thing altogether if Catholic parents are paying for Catholic education as a counter to that corrosive culture only to discover that their children are being handed the scorpions of trendy approval and protests in favor of the Mortal Sin of the Week instead of the Bread of Truth, with the result that their children fall away at the same or even higher rates than the rate of those who didn't receive the "gift" of a diocesan Catholic education.  When paying anywhere from five to twenty thousand dollars a year for a Catholic education produces as many heretics as the public schools produce, why should anybody sign up for diocesan Catholic education at all? 

The media is focusing on the obnoxious loud ignorant students whose words are as embarrassing as their actions, but the kids I'm concerned about here are the twenty-five percent, the ones who go quietly to Mass with their families and ponder a religious vocation and keep informed about Church teaching and go on Confirmation retreats even when they know more than the retreat leaders ever will about the Catechism already--and who know quite clearly, and can even express articulately, why "gay marriage" is an ontological impossibility that no clear-thinking Catholic can ever support.  Because they, the twenty-five percent, are the real future of the Church. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

Just popping in to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas!  Blogging will continue to be spotty until after the New Year.

I want to share Hatchick's Christmas comic with you!  Here it is:
Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Exhibit A: Why Catholic Education is a Rip-Off

So, in Seattle, a Catholic high school had to fire an administrator after school officials found out the guy had gone and gotten gay-married without mentioning that to his employers.   The so-called "Catholic" students at the school are protesting:
On Thursday afternoon the Sammamish school announced that Friday classes would be canceled and the school would close early for Christmas break due to forecast snow “and in light of the difficult day” the school had had after hundreds of students staged a sit-in and rally against the dismissal that drew widespread media attention.

Their protest spread via texts and Twitter to students at other area Catholic schools. Seattle Preparatory School students showed solidarity with a similar protest. [...]

Sophia Cerino, a freshman at Eastside Catholic, said most students support the rights of gays to marry.

“Just because I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I need to believe every rule the church has,” Cerino said. “We think the rule over gay marriage is totally unfair. Everyone seems to think the same thing — that we should all be treated equal.”

Clearly this Catholic high school isn't teaching the Catholic faith.  Or grammar, for that matter.

Now, how much do Catholic parents pay to send their children to this cesspool of heresy?  According to the school website:
For the 2013-14 school year tuition (before scholarship or tuition grants) is $18,995. There is a $25 application fee and a $500 non-refundable enrollment fee for incoming students and transfer students, payable at the time of enrollment. Returning students are charged a $350 non-refundable enrollment fee annually. [...]

See, kiddies, if you want your children to lose their faith altogether, if you want them to organize protests and sit-ins because the mean old Catholic church won't celebrate the gay wedding of a school administrator, if you want to raise children with the morality and virtue of Roman courtesans--the cheapest ones--you can have this privilege for just under twenty-thousand bucks a year.

I attended a Seattle-area Catholic school a few decades ago.  The handful of us kids who were actually Catholic, who understood that sex outside of marriage was wrong (instead of complaining that the mean ol' Church frowned on Catholic girls using condoms with their boyfriends, when everybody knew that was the right way to date a guy), were pretty much constantly attacked for our beliefs both by the teachers and by our fellow students.  That was the breaking point for my parents, who started homeschooling us the year I was a sophomore in high school at one of those cesspools not unlike Eastside Catholic--in fact, I recall touring Eastside Catholic with my parents because they were really hoping that there was at least one authentic Catholic school left in that diocese, and they were disappointed to find out that, if anything, Eastside was a bit further gone along the road to heresy, moral midgetry, and overall spoiled-bratism than the school we were presently attending.

Clearly, nothing has changed.  Except the tuition, which is more outrageous than ever.  I am starting to think that the dire situation of the Catholic Church in America won't change until factories of rot like this one are shuttered by the bishops, solemnly destroyed by expert demolition crews, and then the ground they stood on spread with blessed salt while prayers of exorcism are intoned with serious purpose.  Then, just maybe, it might be possible to rebuild actual Catholic schools instead of cute and pricey little heretic factories, which are good at churning out "former," "lapsed," and "ex-" Catholics, but not much else.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

...and Amazon already has it on sale!

Just checked in at Amazon, and saw that A Smijj of Adventure is on sale at present for just under $11.00.  I have no control over their discounts and have no idea how long this sale price will last, but I just wanted to share the news!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Available on Amazon! A Smijj of Adventure!

Guess what?  A Smijj of Adventure is now available to order at Amazon.com!  Depending on where you are and what shipping method you choose, you may even still be able to get your copy in time for Christmas!

Go here to order:

A Smijj of Adventure

Many, many thanks to my endlessly patient readers!

I do still plan to get the Kindle edition ready as soon as I can.  But I'm thrilled that the print copy is available before Christmas! :)
 

A Smijj of Adventure...

...will be available soon on Amazon.  I'll post the link just as soon as the title appears.  Again, this is the part of the process I don't control--I'm still hoping the book will be available before Amazon's Christmas shipping cut off, but I don't know for sure.

In the meantime, if you don't necessarily need the book to arrive by Christmas, you can order A Smijj of Adventure directly from the Create Space eStore here:

A Smijj of Adventure

Based on Create Space's estimate of print and ship times, I think this book might arrive by Epiphany instead of Christmas.  By then, though, it should also be available at Amazon.

I'll put up a new post when the book appears at Amazon; I'll also be working on the Kindle format soon.

Thanks to all my patient readers!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Working and waiting

Those of you waiting for A Smijj of Adventure--we're almost there.  I'm still hoping to get this out in time for last-minute Christmas ordering, but some parts of the process are out of my control, as I'm sure you can guess.

If anyone has a child on his or her shopping list who really wants this book for Christmas and you'd rather buy an Amazon gift card or certificate now than wait with me for Create Space to finish up the process, I can tell you that the book's list price should be $13.49, if that will help with a gift card purchase!  I'm sure Amazon will offer discounts on that price at some point, but again, I don't control that part of the process.  (And in case anybody wants to know why this list price is slightly higher than the list price of The Telmaj, it's because Create Space's pricing formula depends on the number of pages in the finished book; The Telmaj had 258 pages of story, while A Smijj of Adventure has 285.  Most of the later books in the series are between there and 300 pages, so fans of longer stories should take heart!)

Many thanks to those of you who have been waiting so patiently for this book to come out.  As always, the edit and review process takes me so much longer than I ever think it will, especially since I'm still a homeschooling mom with lots on my plate.  So your enthusiasm for more Tales of Telmaja books and stories and your kind emails have meant a lot to me, and I appreciate all of my readers so, so much!

I'm going to start working on the edits of book three in the series soon, and my goal this time is to have it available well before December, if all goes well.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Swamped...

...not by melting ice, but by a certain writing project that is nearing completion.

Tales of Telmaja/Smijj fans: I should have VERY GOOD news to announce before the end of the week about the availability of at least the paperback version of A Smijj of Adventure.  Stay tuned!

Monday, December 9, 2013

This is not snow, by the way...

...this is ice:


That was our backyard this weekend.  Beyond the fence is a wilderness area, and while it almost appears in the photo that the ice is melting, those things sticking up are not grass, but tall plants.  There's plenty of ice covering the ground below them which isn't really visible in the picture.

This is why our pastor again cancelled the Masses for today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception (which was not a Holy Day of Obligation this year).  He still couldn't get to either of the churches in our parish!

There was some melting today, which is good, and by tomorrow afternoon I think things will be back to normal.  Whatever "normal" is, in a Texas winter.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

It is NOT a sin to miss Mass due to impossibly icy roads

I know I don't usually post on Saturdays, but we received an unprecedented email from our pastor this evening, letting us know that all Sunday Masses (including the ones scheduled for tonight) were canceled for the weekend.  I've never lived somewhere where all Sunday Masses were canceled due to inclement weather, but then again, I've never lived somewhere where all the roads, the church parking lot, and the walkway up to the church were solid sheets of ice either--and here in Texas there just isn't enough road-clearing equipment to get the job done, especially when the high temperatures will remain either at or below freezing until Monday afternoon.

Some other parishes in the area didn't have to cancel Masses because one or more of the parish priests lives on the church premises and can say Mass whether or not the congregation can be there.  As one such parish noted on its website, though, "Those that can not safely make it to the church have had their obligation dispensed.  So please use caution and your best judgment to stay safe."

It's a good reminder to all of us who will experience inclement weather this weekend.  It is not a sin to miss Mass on a Sunday when you are putting yourself or others at risk of harm in an attempt to get to the church.  Icy roads are a serious hazard to safe travel, and if you can't leave your house and safely get to work or the store or anyplace else, you aren't under an obligation to drive on those same roads to try to make it to Sunday Mass.

How dangerous is too dangerous?  While that will obviously depend on your location, your means of travel, your experience driving on snow or ice, etc., I find that one good place to check is your local department of transportation.  Right now, ours shows locations of ice all over local roadways, contains comments such as "Travel discouraged due to black ice;" and a Tweet from a local Txdot official says that road clearing equipment is being brought in from out of state, but local residents can help by staying off the roads tonight and tomorrow.  Other advisories in our area say quite clearly that any non-emergency travel is discouraged.  When the people responsible for maintaining safe roadways tell you that travel is a bad idea, I tend to listen.

UPDATE: Several area churches are reporting that Msgr. Berg, the Fort Worth Diocesan Administrator, has granted a dispensation from attending Mass in the Fort Worth Diocese due to the weather.  I've never seen this done--historic, I think!
Those that can not safely make it to the church have had their obligation dispensed. So please use caution and your best judgment to stay safe. - See more at: http://www.iccdenton.org/#sthash.tLldfMhM.dpuf

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Santa repost roundup

Happy St. Nicholas Day!  My children, who are teens and therefore old enough to be Santa's helpers themselves, were nonetheless charmed and delighted with their St. Nicholas Day treats when they awoke today.  They were mainly charmed and delighted because a) they sometimes think we'll forget, though we never have, and b) we're iced in, here in Fort Worth.  Planning ahead paid off this year! :)

Since it's usually around this time of year that the polite and charitable suggestion that says "Santa is a lie!  Stop lying to your kids!" gets posted on people's blogs, I thought I'd post a handy link list to some of my posts on the subject here.

My Santa essay

Sex, lies and Santa Claus

We need St. Nicholas

Wishing you and yours a blessed St. Nicholas Day! 



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Look at the fruits...

A report from the life-after-RC blog shares this story from the National Catholic Register:
ROME — The Legion of Christ has expressed its “deep sorrow” after internal investigations revealed that a Legionary priest has been found guilty of sexually abusing a minor.

The charges against Legionary Father William Izquierdo involve a novice when Father Izquierdo served as instructor of novices in Cheshire, Conn., between 1982 and 1994.

Legionary Father Luis Garza, North American territorial director of the congregation, was informed of the case in July 2012, the Legion said, and added that a third party and independent investigation of the allegation then took place that concluded in August of this year, ruling that the allegation was true. [Emphasis added--E.M.]

But that's not all:
A total of 35 Legionary priests have been accused of sexual abuse of minors throughout the congregation’s history, the Legion has revealed, although Father Clariond told the Register he expected more to emerge in the future. Of these 35, nine have been found guilty (including the founder) and punished canonically (two were laicized, and seven had sanctions imposed on their life and ministry), 14 have been acquitted (10 priests were found innocent after an investigation was made, according to Canon 1717 of the Code of Canon Law; the other four cases involved imprudent behavior, but not crimes that would require sanctions), and two had already left the ministry when the allegations were presented, and, therefore, no canonical procedures were initiated against them. Ten other cases are still under review.

Of six accused Legionary of Christ superiors and formators, three have been found guilty of sexually abusing adults under their authority, one of whom includes Maciel. The other three have been acquitted. Two cases were judged to have been imprudent behavior that did not warrant restrictions on ministry. The other case allegedly occurred 40 years ago, but the accusation was made recently. Even though the investigation pointed to his innocence, by common consent, restrictions were imposed on the priest, “in an abundance of caution,” the Legion said. The spokesman didn't clarify how many acquittals were civil or canonical in nature, but said they were a combination of the two. [Emphasis above added--E.M.]


The Legion, according to the article, hastens to point out that the percentages of abusers or those guilty of improper conduct are still quite small.

You know what gets me about this?  When Fr. Maciel was still living and still running the order, the refrain from many Legion supporters was "Look at the fruits!"  That is, look at all the good the Legion was doing in forming and teaching solidly orthodox Catholics who could then go out and make a difference in the world, taking over moribund parish education programs, inspiring youth with alternatives to the parish youth group, and inspiring young men to join the Legion of Christ as seminarians!

Why is it that when the "fruits" show that a novice director is one of those found guilty of abusing a minor (one minor--so far?) and that Maciel's culture of deceit and spiritual blackmail and silence in the face of problems only helped other abusers to hide their abuse, that isn't considered to be one of the "fruits" of a toxic order that has yet to define its charism?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A life stolen

I can't get this story out of my mind:
The next day, it was all taken away. The dream became a nightmare.

Christine, his wife, was attacked and killed at their home in Williamson County, Texas, just outside Austin. Michael Morton was at work at the time. Still, authorities suspected him.

"Innocent people think that if you just tell the truth then you've got nothing to fear from the police," Morton says now. "If you just stick to it that the system will work, it'll all come to light, everything will be fine."

Instead, Morton was charged, ripped away from his boy, and put on trial. The prosecutor, speaking to the jury in emotional terms with tears streaming down his face, laid out a graphic, depraved sexual scenario, accusing Morton of bludgeoning his wife for refusing to have sex on his birthday.

"There was no scientific evidence, there was no eyewitness, there was no murder weapon, there was no believable motive," Morton says. "... I didn't see how any rational, thinking person would say that's enough for a guilty verdict."
But with no other suspects, the jury convicted him. "We all felt so strongly that this was justice for Christine and that we were doing the right thing," says Mark Landrum, who was the jury foreman.

Morton spent nearly 25 years in prison.
But Michael Morton wasn't guilty.  And his conviction was a travesty of justice:
A few years ago, a group of attorneys, working pro bono on Morton's behalf, managed to bring the truth to light. Not only was Morton innocent, but the prosecutor, Ken Anderson, was accused of withholding crucial evidence. 

The little boy, Eric, had seen the attack and told relatives that daddy was not home at the time. He described the man who did it. Neighbors had described a man parking a green van behind the Mortons' house and walking off into a wooded area. A blood-stained bandana was found nearby. None of that evidence made it into the trial.

It took years of fighting, but Morton's attorneys finally got the bandana tested for DNA. It contained Christine Morton's blood and hair and the DNA of another man -- a convicted felon named Mark Norwood.

Norwood had killed Christine Morton. And since no one figured that out after her death, he remained free. He killed another woman in the Austin area, Debra Baker, in similar circumstances less than two years later, authorities say.

Norwood has now been convicted in Morton's killing, and indicted in Baker's killing.
Morton was freed in October 2011. He was 57 years old. "I thank God this wasn't a capital case," he said. [Emphasis added--E.M.]

I think we should all be thankful that Morton's case wasn't a capital case, that he wasn't executed as his wife's killer before the truth could be revealed.  I also think it is quite probable that an innocent person (at least one) has been executed for a crime in our modern state, and that we may never find out about it if so.

But as thankful as Michael Morton is that he has been cleared and released, the truth is that twenty-five years of his life was stolen from him.  His chance to raise his son was stolen from him.  His chance to live as a free man and even to grieve properly for his wife's murder was taken away by the zeal of a prosecutor who hid crucial evidence that could have cleared him shortly after the murder.

One of the reasons I've become convinced that the death penalty, while not an intrinsic evil like abortion or torture, is still something Catholics today ought generally to oppose is precisely because of cases like this one.  Prosecutors can be wrong.  Evidence can be concealed or even falsified if the pressure to produce a conviction is strong enough.  Innocent people can be framed by the guilty. 

In time the truth may be known.  But when it takes twenty-five years for a man who wasn't even at home at the time his wife was killed to clear his name and be restored to his family, we ought to be wary of advocating for the execution of convicted criminals.

UPDATE: A reader shares the awful sequel to this story: the prosecutor convicted of concealing evidence was sentenced to ten days in jail.  And served five.  Five days, for stealing a man's life from him.  Words fail.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cupcakes



Just sharing a picture of the birthday cupcakes Bookgirl made for me.

We've been having a fun day celebrating!  I get spoiled on my birthday around here.   :)

Monday, December 2, 2013

An Advent blogging experiment

Before I get to the subject of this post, I want to share a link to my sister-in-law's blog today; at #4 in her post you will find all of my Jesse Tree reflections gathered into one Scribd document along with links to her lovely printable symbols.  I may be needing to print them out myself if I don't find our Jesse Tree--I realized yesterday that I'm so used to the Jesse Tree readings starting on a day other than the first Sunday that I hadn't gotten the Jesse Tree and its symbols out, and now I can't find the darned thing! :) 

Now, on to my Advent blogging experiment.

As you know, I've been a bit flaky this year with the blogging.  I've felt like something needed to change, and I spent quite a bit of time playing around with WordPress to change the look and feel of the blog before deciding I'm just not ready to switch platforms.  I've also noticed that life in general and fiction writing in particular is taking up more and more of my time, leaving a bit less time for the blogging.

While my blog traffic remains pretty consistent, I admit that I don't pay that much attention to stats anymore.  Lots of people have advised me to move my blog to Facebook because everybody has done this, but I hate Facebook even more than I hate Blogger (and that's saying something).  I keep up with a handful of blogs, but rarely comment on most of them (Rod Dreher's blog is the biggest exception, but somehow he manages to keep his comment threads like a real conversation--and believe me, I know how much work that takes).  And I've noticed that I don't get all that many comments here anymore--or, rather, I don't get all that many that I can approve and post; there are a depressingly large number of people in the world who feel free to put all sorts of sludge in your comment boxes, and even though I send these straight to the trash it takes time to read them and realize they're trash and send them that way.

So my Advent experiment is going to be this: I'm going to post more regularly, but for the season of Advent, I'm turning comments off completely.

I've never tried this before, and have never really wanted to do it.  But since comments have been dwindling (at least here; I suppose when people share my posts on Facebook they may comment on them over there, but I never see that), I don't know if it's really necessary for me to keep comments open on my blog.  I think the experiment will let me know for sure.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Another NaNoWriMo adventure

Although I passed the 50,000 word mark late yesterday, I decided to write just a bit more today before verifying my total and ending this year's NaNoWriMo adventure.

The final official (validated) word count: 52,093.

I have now completed at least 50,000 words of a manuscript in NaNoWriMo each November for the past eight years.  Of the three books which do not deal with the Telmaj, I plan to self-publish one for sure--but the other two would probably need major work and probably aren't worth it.

Just for fun, here's some info about the book I wrote this year:

As I said before, I spent this November writing book five of the Tales of Telmaja series; the first book, The Telmaj, is available, and the second book, A Smijj of Adventure, should be available very, very soon (in fact, I hope to have good news about that any day now).

Book Five is about 75% finished at this point.  I am midway through chapter nine of what will likely be a fifteen chapter book; I am on page 176 of what will probably end up at around 285-300 pages total.  I expect the final word count to be around 70,000 words, give or take.

My goal is to complete this manuscript by the end of this year so that I won't have to do what I did this year (which was: spend October finishing book four and then dive straight into book five in November--that was really insane).

I think I'm becoming addicted to writing children's fiction.  It's a good thing. 

:)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

45,000...

...and counting, at least as regards National Novel Writing Month.

When I finish this project, I will have five--yes, FIVE--manuscripts completed in my Tales of Telmaja series.  Yet the second book, A Smijj of Adventure, is still awaiting my final read-through.

Why is writing so much fun, and editing so much NOT fun?  No wonder writers never self-published in great quantities before the Internet made it seem easier than the ordinary publishing route.

(It still is easier.  But sometimes I dream of selling enough copies of my book(s) to justify hiring someone else to do the editing.  Isn't that the dream?)

But this post wouldn't be complete without a shout-out to all of the members of my Advance Reader Team (ART) who kindly read my works while they're still in manuscript form, and find lots of typos and double-words and silly errors that I have missed even on the dozenth reading of the book.  I wouldn't be able to do this without them, and they are wonderful in every way. :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My week is getting away from me

Ever have one of those weeks where the calendar is so full that it's scary? 

Yep.  Me too.

A couple of times I've had ideas that might have turned into blog posts, except for the phone.  Or the doorbell.  Or the dentist visit (kids, not mine--is it okay to whisper "Yay!" and try to forget that I've got one coming up in a bit)?  Or the...well, you get the idea.

I'm in my mid-forties, and every time I think I've got this whole "adult" thing figured out, a week like this comes along, and between helping my daughter figure out her college schedule for next semester and doing other various business-like things I start thinking: nope.  I don't.  I'm still faking being a grown-up.  Like I have been since age 20 or so.

Tell me it's like that for you, too.  Even if it's not like that all the time, tell me it's like that for you when you have one of those weeks.

Please?

Friday, November 15, 2013

The failure of diocesan Catholic schools

Over at Rod Dreher's blog, Rod very kindly highlighted a comment of mine about diocesan Catholic schools which is sparking an interesting discussion; I encourage those of you interested in education matters to join the conversation over there.

Any of Rod's readers coming over here might be interested in a few other posts of mine about Catholic education and education in general:

The failure of Catholic education

What's wrong with Catholic schools

The two biggest problems with diocesan Catholic education

The real question is, can Catholic education be fixed?  If so, how?  I don't pretend to know, but would be interested in hearing what others have to say.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Out of the blogging habit

Okay, so on Monday I wrote about how I was going to give up on the blog move for the time being so I could get back to blogging because I missed it...

...is it really Thursday?

Sigh.

I know I've gone through times before when I've had difficulty blogging on anything like a schedule, but this has been a fairly long dry spell for me.  Other bloggers I know have gone through this, and have dealt with it in various ways: blogging more, blogging less, blogging about different topics to stretch themselves a bit, and so on.  Some end up giving up blogging altogether.

I'm not ready to do that, but it seems to me as though there's been a bit of a change in my corner of the Catholic blogosphere.  Since Pope Francis became our pope, it seems as though American Catholic bloggers are lining up in "for" or "against" camps whenever Pope Francis says or does anything; in fact, I'd say that what happens looks something like this:

1. Pope Francis says or does something.

2. American Catholic bloggers lament and wring their hands about how this is yet more proof that Pope Francis is making mistake after mistake and will soon be plunging us back into the nightmare of felt banners, tie-dyed vestments, and anything-goes liturgical abuses.  Not to mention the musical stylings of the St. Louis Jesuits.  The horror.

3. Other American Catholic bloggers challenge the first group and discuss (and sometimes even show, with examples) how what Pope Francis is saying/doing is a) perfectly compatible with Catholic teaching and action and b) was said/done by Pope Benedict XVI and/or any number of his predecessors and therefore c) does not imply any rolling back of the reform of the reform.

4. The first group mutters about ultramontanism and/or complains that when they say that Pope Francis (with his cold dead eyes and unsettling appearance) is the biggest and most serious threat to traditional Catholicism they are speaking from fonts of charity and love that the other blogging Catholics can't possibly understand (especially since everybody knows you never experience that sort of charity and love at those hippy-dippy Conciliar "Masses" with their clapping and chatting and circus atmosphere--and did we mention that Pope Francis hates the Latin Mass?).

5. The second group starts tearing into the first for their rigidity and inability to recognize the workings of the Holy Spirit outside of their liturgically pure parishes and challenges them to wake up and realize that hating on the poor is a sin, too, just like the big issues that get most of the press.

6. Everything degenerates into exchanges of personalities, until

7/1 redux: Pope Francis says or does something. 

The disturbing thing about all of this is not that it's happening--internecine blog squabbling is part of the territory.  The disturbing thing is that this is yet another instance where faithful Catholics end up spending all of our time and energy on these inside baseball fights instead of focusing on the real evils that threaten our world and what we can do about those things.

I'm as guilty of this as anybody, so this isn't a "look at all those silly people over there" post at all.  But if Pope Francis has changed my way of thinking at all, it's that the things I write which make lukewarm Catholics reconsider their faith and lapsed Catholics think about checking things out again and non-Catholics get interested in this whole Catholic thing and non-Christians reconsider whether they've really heard Christ's message and might like to hear it if not are worth far, far more than the things I write where I get into deep arguments with other Catholics about things that, in the grand scheme of things, really don't matter (and aren't, often, the laity's business to muddle in in the first place).

Maybe as I gear up to return to regular blogging, I ought to keep that in mind.  I can't promise no "inside baseball" posts, but I think--I hope!--I'll have better things to say, going forward.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Giving up on WordPress (but not America)

As anybody who still checks this blog knows, I haven't been posting lately because I was trying to move my blog to WordPress.  I may still do that someday, because I haven't been overly happy with Blogger recently (or ever, as long-time readers know).  Still there's that saying about "Better the devil you know..." etc.  And that's where I am right now: too busy with other things to spend the time learning a whole new blogging platform when most of what bugs me about Blogger can be put into the "minor annoyance" basket and ignored.

And I miss blogging.  Oh, sure, I've been averaging about three thousand words a day on my newest book during this year's NaNoWriMo, but it's not the same.  I find myself thinking about policies and issues and matters of faith, and worse, using the time I normally spend daydreaming about fiction daydreaming about non-fiction instead.  It's clearly time for me to get back to the blog.

To give you one example of the kind of thing I've been wasting time thinking about, it's the strange conflict between patriotism and outright contempt for our nation which I tend to feel these days.  On the one hand, I'm proud of the veterans in my family, especially my husband and both his mom and his dad (Happy Veterans' Day!).  On the other hand, I can't believe the state where I was born now insists that two men or two women equal a marriage and anybody who disagrees is a hateful bigot who should be marginalized and excluded from society.  As I wrote elsewhere, when exactly did it become wrong, and dangerously wrong, for an American to say that marriage involves a man AND a woman, a husband AND a wife, a bride AND a groom?  Is that really such a radical, nonsensical, hateful thing to believe?

To many modern people who think gender is a fluid social construct and who can write sentences about how some male persons can indeed give birth to babies once you realize that some male persons live in female bodies and have female reproductive organs, yes, it is.  But to some of us, the people who write such things are so blatantly disconnected from reality, so incredibly distant from sanity, so far apart from reason that all we can really do is humor them (and hope to get to a safe distance before they really lose it).  Unfortunately, it now appears that our government in this country both at the federal and state level is insisting on imposing the trendy new insanity on the rest of us, and they will use the full mechanisms of the rising police state to do it.

However, I have noticed two signs of hope lately.

The first is that more and more people who generally share my views about marriage, family, the intrinsic worth of human life from conception to natural death, and similarly important matters are pointing out that the new trendy insanity is essentially, inherently, fundamentally sterile.  Barren.  Incapable of reproducing itself, both on the personal physical level and the deeply philosophical level.  Raise one generation to believe that concepts like truth, honor, wisdom--and even marriage--are subjective, that is, that they only mean whatever I want them to mean, and the next generation will, without fail, dwindle into a kind of opportunistic cynicism in which those words only mean what actually benefits me right now (and I'm not sure we're not already seeing that generation rise).  On the other hand, the people who believe in eternal verities and transcendent values and who go to great lengths, including personal sacrifice, to witness to these things and to teach them to their children will have the reward of seeing those children take to themselves the safeguarding and the spreading of the light of that eternal flame.

The second is that in a real sense we have not yet begun to fight: "we" being middle-class faithful Christian Americans who have heard the alarms and seen the battles waged elsewhere, but not yet had to fight them in our midst.  It may be that the most radical, most damaging, most effective tactic we can engage in is simply to disengage as much as possible from the rabid consumerism that defines our nation at this time.  Rod Dreher has written before about what he calls the "Benedict Option," the option for Christians to pursue actively and purposefully a simpler, less "stuff-oriented," more communal way of living.  How that would play out I don't pretend to know, but I do know that our increasingly totalitarian state cannot function if the middle class isn't willing to bear most of the burden of providing the tax dollars to pay for the breakdown of the traditional family and the rise of alternative "family" forms which are unstable and much more costly in terms of public funds.  In fact, the state can only afford to impose homosexual "marriage" on our nation if the traditional family continues to absorb all of the costs of the Sexual Revolution--because sexual dysfunctions and depravities are expensive, whether we are talking about contraception for unchaste heterosexuals or prophylactics for unchaste homosexuals or STD treatments for both groups of people (and, in some cases, their innocent and chaste spouses), not to mention all the social services necessary for the children born and raised outside of marriage.  But what happens when the responsible people say "no" to the rising demand to bear most or all of the costs of other people's depraved lifestyle choices?  Who's going to pay for it all then?  The one percent, in between busily recreating the ideal of the immoral oligarchy?  Hardly.

One thing is certain: anyone who predicts that in another twenty or forty or eighty years Christianity will be more or less crushed is not a student of history.  We may be in what Pitirim Sorokin would call the "late sensate age," but what happens next is not further "progress" toward some ideal of the godless secular materialistic state, with the few handfuls of believers locked up in asylums (as many of our contemporaries secretly wish would happen).  In the cycle of history, the collapse of this present age will likely be followed by a much greater age of faith, and a much-diminished belief in the goodness of secular institutions.  So there is still hope for America, even if the signs right now are gloomy.

Monday, November 4, 2013

I'm still here...

...sort of.

I've been working on the new blog, and don't want to post a lot here until the move because I don't want a lot more posts to export.  But I'm also working on some writing projects (including NaNoWriMo--yay!) so this may take a bit of time.

Thanks for your patience!


Friday, October 25, 2013

The failure of Catholic education

Imagine if I began a blog post by quoting some writer who expressed some negative thoughts about homeschooling in a post that also talks about how awesome public schools are and how excited the writer is for his children to board that yellow school bus.

Now imagine that I said the following:

If you want to use the public schools because you think these schools will suit your children well and they will benefit from it, then God bless you.

If you have to use the public schools even though you don't want to because you have no viable alternatives at this time, then God bless you even more.

If you are going to use the public schools because you have been stewing in a steady stream of sensational horror stories about homeschooling and homeschoolers, because you've been convinced you're not smart enough to homeschool, because you are convinced that all Catholic homeschoolers are secret wannabe Amish-like end-times preppers and you would never do anything that would keep your kids from fitting in with the mainstream, or because your children are still so undisciplined that you break out in hives at the thought of spending more than a few hours a day with them and because you're still trying to teach them basic civilization (let alone reading, writing, or math) and think you're doing pretty well because so far you've managed to postpone sibling cannibalism, please think again.  Good decisions are not born of terror and disgust and disdain.

It wouldn't be very fair of me to say any of the above, would it?  It wouldn't be very nice or very just for me to assume that many or most of those Catholics who send their kids to public schools are doing so because they hate and fear homeschoolers and homeschooling, would it?  It wouldn't even be nice of me to assume that there are enough Catholics who send their kids to public schools who think this way to write a scolding, warning, nagging sort of blog post about it all, would it?

Well, would it?

If you clicked on that link and read Simcha Fisher's post, you'll notice that she's using Matt Walsh's piece here as her jumping-off place.  I don't know much about Matt Walsh, but having read through the piece I see a passionate criticism of public education of the sort that I see all the time, even from people whose kids are currently enrolled in public schools.  There is nothing wrong with deciding that the system is broken; there is nothing inherently incoherent in deciding the system is broken and yet that in your small town or relatively sane state the damage done by federal education mandates and weird educational ideologies has been kept to a minimum.  Both may be true, and if the second is true than your decision to make use of the local public schools is perfectly logical, if that's what works best for your family. 

However, the fact that Catholic bloggers are even debating whether the Little (Weird) Town on the Homeschool Model of Catholic Education or the Lord of the Flies Public School Model of Catholic Education (with supplements by the parish religious ed. department) is better is proof of one big truth that tends to get overlooked: neither of these models would be necessary were it not for the sad failure of diocesan Catholic education in our times.

When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents committed an act of great sanity and lucidity by pulling all of their children out of our Catholic schools and commencing upon the grand adventure called Catholic homeschooling.  They did this for one simple reason: as good Catholics, they had been brought up to believe that Catholic kids went to Catholic schools, full stop.  Even with the rising costs of education, even with several moves across and around the country, even with a family that eventually grew to include nine children, my parents made tremendous and even heroic sacrifices to educate our family in the Catholic schools--only to learn, at a rather late date, that the schools in question were no longer authentically Catholic at all.

We didn't learn history or literature from a Catholic perspective.  Religion class was weak and spotty, sometimes scheduled less frequently than gym.  Our school Masses were few and far between, and we went whole years without being offered the chance to go to confession in our schools.  Our science courses were taught from a secular humanist perspective that crossed the line from pure science into ideology all the time (some texts poked open fun at the "ancient" people and their "superstition" that a Divine Force was involved in setting the mechanisms of creation going).  Our high school health class included lessons on how to use contraception and what kinds to buy--and when a few of us actual Catholics objected, the "Catholic" teacher snapped, "This is health.  Take that stuff up with your religion teacher."

And for all that, my parents were doing without on a shoestring, one-income budget; and their money invested in "Catholic" education was fraudulently swindled away from them by these hucksters and harridans who handed out scorpions and screamed at us to call them bread.

I didn't choose to homeschool because I hate and fear public schools.  I chose to homeschool because I take my duty as a Catholic parent to provide my children with a Catholic education very seriously.  Perhaps Catholic schools are improving (though the stories I hear from those who use them aren't encouraging), but they remain ridiculously expensive where I live.  Had I chosen, instead, to make use of the public schools my life would be harder, as I would have felt the need to create my own supplements to give my children a Catholic perspective in the humanities as well as supplemental Catholic ethics (especially in high school) to combat the dehumanizing sex education and the forays by the science texts into areas that properly belong to philosophy and about which science ought to keep its arrogant mouth shut.  And that's before we even talk about the necessary entanglements with parish-based religious education programs, a subject which makes some Catholics weep openly and gnash their teeth, but which is properly saved for another blog post.

So for me, the easiest, simplest, best and most affordable way to make sure my kids are getting a Catholic education (not just an "education") was to homeschool them.  Other people will choose the "public school and supplement" model.  Still others may have actual not-horrible not-heretical Catholic schools in their areas to choose from,  whose tuitions don't require Mom to stash the youngest kids in day care and get a full-time job in order to be able to afford the price.  It's just not fair, though, to admit on the one hand that public schools are hardly perfect, are not a panacea, and do not fulfill, on their own, a parent's serious obligation to provide his children with a Catholic education, and then to insinuate on the other hand that many or most Catholics who homeschool make the decision out of disdain, disgust, and fear.  Most of us are making that decision for the same reason the public-school families make theirs: the Catholic schools have failed us, and in the vacuum left behind, we're all still scrambling for workable solutions to the failed, but once-great, model of diocesan Catholic education.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Is poor catechesis the laity's fault?

Hello again!

First, a bit of blog housekeeping news: blogging will continue to be sporadic for a bit as I rush to finish up another writing project or two.  Also, I am in the process of moving this blog.  I've complained before about Blogger, but recent issues have decided it for me.  I hate change and have put up with Blogger as long as I could, but one day soon you'll get a link to a different location, and we'll see how that goes.

Now for the post.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker has an interesting take on the catechetical problems plaguing the Catholic Church today: it's the laity's fault:
I’m the first to agree that there has been some very poor catechesis in the church, however, I’m not sure the problem is completely the fault of the religious publishers, trendy nuns, poorly educated Directors of Religious Education, left wing theologians and unconcerned pastors.

There is also a problem amongst the laity themselves. The best way I can describe this problem is an attitude of “I’m a cradle Catholic. Don’t you try to catechize me!” How many adult Catholics have taken the trouble to have any form of religious education after being confirmed? It would be interesting to know. Catholics still make up the largest religious grouping in the United States. Why are Catholic publishers not selling millions of books like the Evangelical publishers do? Because Catholics don’t read about their faith. How many adult Catholics have taken the trouble to go on a retreat, a conference, a seminar to learn more about their faith and grow in their knowledge and love of God? Not many.

Ignorance of the faith? Absolutely. Poor catechesis? Absolutely. Who’s fault is it? Just as much the laity who don’t have the level of commitment or interest necessary to do anything more than turn up for Mass on Sunday (when they don’t have anything better to do).

Now, I like Fr. Longenecker, and I enjoy reading his blog.  This theory he's come up with has its points, too; an adult whose grammar is terrible can't continually blame his third-grade teacher for not making, say, the role of the semi-colon clear and understandable.  At some point, if we become aware of a deficiency in our education and it is still possible to repair that deficiency, we do have to put some effort into that repair ourselves.

That said, though, I'd like to take a closer look at what Father is talking about here.

Catholics may make up the largest religious grouping in the United States (though that's tricky; actually, Protestants outnumber Catholics--51% to 24%--but because those Protestants include people from multiple denominations Catholics are often counted as the single biggest denomination of Christians in America).  But only around 25% of those who identify themselves as Catholics actually show up for Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation unless excused for a serious reason, so of those 75 million American Catholics, just under 19 million actually take the faith seriously enough to show up every Sunday.  (Interestingly, though research continues to show that 25% figure or an even smaller one for weekly Mass attendance among Catholics, somewhere around 40% of Catholics say on surveys that they go to Mass every week.  I think most of us would notice if regular Mass attendance were nearly double what it actually is; what I suspect is that roughly 15% of the people who say they go to Mass every week are seriously mistaken or have really bad memories or misunderstood the question--and there's a less charitable possibility, but I won't mention it).  Still, if 19 million people come to Mass every Sunday, why don't Catholic publishers sell 19 million copies of each new book; why aren't 19 million Catholics attending the retreats scheduled each year; and why aren't 19 million Catholics annually clamoring for new adult education classes and signing up for any that are offered?

Well, obviously, those 19 million Catholics in the real world (that is, not just the world of research and surveys) are going to include children and elderly people and single people and married people and nuns and religious brothers and priests, and all of those people are going to have different needs when it comes to catechesis.  I think most Catholics who have grown up since Vatican II agree that there's a crying need to improve children's catechesis (and it could start by ending the notion that Confirmation is, or ought to be, "bait" to keep teens in religious ed until they graduate from high school), but I don't know that there's been any consensus about how best to offer continuing education and catechesis for adults.

And that's why I'm not sure it's fair to blame the laity for poor catechesis.  I had a conversation on another blog recently with someone who was blaming the laity (the "Novus Ordo laity") for failing to take confession seriously, or to show up for it regularly, etc.  When I pointed out that it is not in the laity's power to schedule confessions for the real world as opposed to the world of priestly imaginations in which every single person in the parish is going to be free on Saturdays for thirty minutes to an hour before the Vigil Mass, and in which those 30 to 60 minutes will be sufficient time to hear the confessions of one-fourth of the registered adult members (given that monthly confession is the standard usually held up as the goal for lay people) the gentleman got a bit perturbed.  But I wasn't trying to be snide; I was pointing out that it's not fair to blame the laity for their apparent lack of interest in confession if their pastors are so uninterested that in a parish with thousands of registered families (like the one my conversation partner was talking about) they schedule an hour or less per week for Confessions. 

The same thing is true, I'm afraid, of catechesis, especially adult catechesis.  I've been in parishes where the pastor permitted lay people to set up some program like the Why Catholic? program or a Bible study program or even a program to walk through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but aside from mentioning the program once as it was beginning the pastor then never referred to it, and the well-meaning lay people setting the program up announced cheerfully that the lessons or sessions or study would take place at 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning, and that was that.  Whether the people who are actually in need of continued catechetical education will be available on workday mornings doesn't seem to occur to anybody, and it's that sort of thing that I tend to find rather frustrating.

When parishes offer adult catechesis in the evening hours or on weekends, they do get the kind of turnout I think Father Longenecker would like to see--just as I've noticed that when priests offer extra hours of confession apart from the usual Saturdays they get plenty of people to turn up.  And if a pastor mentions some new or interesting Catholic book he's just finished reading and recommends it to his flock, lots of them will go out and look for it and even buy it.

It's true that pastors can't arrange classes and retreats to suit everybody's schedule, and that not everybody will buy a book just because Father said he really enjoyed it.  But when pastors lead the way in catechesis, good things can happen.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Brief blog break

Most of my most dedicated readers have already figured this out, but I'm taking a brief blog break--perhaps another week or so.  I've been sick, and now that I'm finally starting to get better I'm looking at my "to do" list with a sort of fascinated horror; being sick three weeks in "mom time" is sort of like being sick three months in ordinary time, so to speak.

Now: every time I let people know I'm taking a break, I get some smart-alecky Catholic blogger or three out there making fun of me for doing so, because, come on, you're just a lay woman blogger with a tiny insignificant blog so who cares if you're not blogging, lady... For the benefit of these gentlemen, I'll just mention that I announce this sort of thing for three types of people: 1) family members who read my blog regularly; 2) real-life friends who read my blog regularly; and 3) online friends who read my blog regularly.  All of these people know two things about me: one, that I tend to post every weekday, and two, that when I don't post every weekday something is up.  And then I get the phone calls from family checking in or offering casseroles, and the emails from friends both online and real life making sure that there's not some kind of crisis occurring, or asking me why I haven't posted on this or that amazingly important topic.  My announcement of blog breaks, then, is aimed at these dear people whose love and concern means everything to me, not to smart-alecky Catholic bloggers who think it's just a scream that a tiny insignificant blogger would tell people she's not blogging and even explain why.

In short, gentlemen, it's not about you.  Many things are not.  Shocker, I know.  Hopefully this explanation will save you the time you might otherwise have wasted on your fun-poking blog posts today; however, if that's really all the fun you're liable to get this week, it would be churlish of me to stop you, and it certainly isn't a problem for me if you choose to waste your time this way anyway--except that I hate to see caustic wit and clever invective wasted on such trivia.  Couldn't you at least wait until I'm blogging again and shred one of my posts criticizing Republicans or opining that women do not actually have to wear skirts and veils instead of this one?  Just a thought.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

When noble intentions and market realities collide

Lots of people have already shared this, but it's too good to pass up.  I apologize for the lengthy excerpt, but in this case you have to hear the voices of the people quoted to get the story:

Cindy Vinson and Tom Waschura are big believers in the Affordable Care Act. They vote independent and are proud to say they helped elect and re-elect President Barack Obama.
Yet, like many other Bay Area residents who pay for their own medical insurance, they were floored last week when they opened their bills: Their policies were being replaced with pricier plans that conform to all the requirements of the new health care law.
Vinson, of San Jose, will pay $1,800 more a year for an individual policy, while Waschura, of Portola Valley, will cough up almost $10,000 more for insurance for his family of four. [...]
Covered California officials note that at least 570,000 of the 1.9 million people who buy their own insurance should be eligible for subsidies that will reduce their premiums.
Even those who don't qualify for the tax subsidies could see their rates drop because Obamacare doesn't allow insurers to charge people more if they have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and cancer, he said.
People like Marilynn Gray-Raine.

The 64-year-old Danville artist, who survived breast cancer, has purchased health insurance for herself for decades. She watched her Anthem Blue Cross monthly premiums rise from $317 in 2005 to $1,298 in 2013. But she found out last week from the Covered California site that her payments will drop to about $795 a month.

But people with no pre-existing conditions like Vinson, a 60-year-old retired teacher, and Waschura, a 52-year-old self-employed engineer, are making up the difference. [...]
Both Vinson and Waschura have adjusted gross incomes greater than four times the federal poverty level -- the cutoff for a tax credit. And while both said they anticipated their rates would go up, they didn't realize they would rise so much.

"Of course, I want people to have health care," Vinson said. "I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally." (Emphasis added--E.M.)
Isn't that it, in a nutshell?  Most of us think that the way health care is paid for in America is a mess.  Many of us think that linking health insurance (note: not care) to employment and then making access to care based on insurance is a model that simply no longer works.  Lots of people have been frustrated by the difficulties the self-insured face, difficulties which make self-employment, once a mainstay of American innovation, a risky venture especially for anyone with a family.  And many of us, especially people of faith, worry about the people at the margins, the people who don't qualify for Medicaid but can't buy insurance unless they severely curtail their purchases of things like food, clothing and shelter.

So, to some people, the ACA seemed like a good way to fix these problems--except that the more we learn about the actual legislation as opposed to the sound-bite promises that form the basis of what most people "know" about Obamacare, the more we learn that many of these problems aren't being fixed at all, and others are only being fixed by pricing middle-class Americans out of the healthcare market.  Not many of us, for instance, could afford for our insurance premiums to cost us $10,000 more per year than they do now, but financial analysts who have studied the ACA in detail are warning that while such increases might--for  now--be limited to self-employed people like Tom Waschura, above, there is simply no way to provide the increased coverage the law envisions without eventually raising the health insurance premiums for practically every American, and raising them drastically.

To me, the health care law popularly known as "Obamacare" is a classic example of what happens when noble intentions collide with market realities (see also: Marie Antoinette's comments about cake).  That a nation as large as ours should figure out a more equitable way for people to have access to health care is a good principle.  That the only way to make this happen is to place the lion's share of the cost burden on middle-class families so that they, too, have to start making cuts in their food-clothing-shelter budget in order to pay not only for their own health care but for reduced rates for other people is an unsustainable model, and it is the exact opposite of an equitable system.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Question for the Legion-watchers

The Legion of Christ, about which I have blogged quite a bit in the past, is announcing its next step in the process of renewal:

ROME — The papal delegate overseeing the Legion of Christ has announced that the embattled order's general chapter will begin Jan. 8, 2014, to establish new constitutions and elect its new leaders.

“The general chapter should represent the whole institute and be 'a true sign of its unity in charity,'” Cardinal Velasio De Paolis wrote in an Oct. 4 letter to the Legionaries of Christ.

“The upcoming extraordinary general chapter comes at the end of a long journey of spiritual renewal and will have as its principal purpose the conclusion of the revising of the constitutions,” he said.
Cardinal De Paolis was appointed as governor of the Legion by Benedict XVI in 2010, after an apostolic visitation determined the order needed “profound re-evaluation.”

In 2006, the order's founder, Father Marcial Maciel, had been removed from public ministry and invited to a life of penitence and prayer. It was discovered he had led a secret life of scandal and sexual abuse and that other priests of the Legion were involved as well.


Let's review the timeline:

2006: Maciel removed from ministry and "invited" to a life of penitence and prayer.
2008: Maciel dies.
2009: Explosive revelations involving Maciel's misdeeds, including many credible allegations of sexual abuse and the information that he had fathered children out of wedlock are publicly revealed.
2010: Cardinal Velasio de Paolis appointed as the Pontifical Delegate for the Congregation of the Legion of Christ.  Within a year Cardinal de Paolis has called for the Legion to redefine its mission and governing structure and has also revealed serious issues concerning the Legion's lay apostolate, Regnum Christi.
2014 (proposed): Legion of Christ will hold a general chapter to establish new constitutions and elect new leaders, subject to papal approval.

My question: why has it taken so long to get to this point?  Why has it taken four years from the time Cardinal de Paolis was appointed to the proposed establishment of new constitutions?  Any Legion-watchers out there who can enlighten me about this?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Worldliness

Have you seen these remarks Pope Francis made in Assisi today?  I found them interesting:
All of the baptized comprise the Church and all have to follow Jesus, who stripped himself and chose to be a servant and to be humiliated on his way to the Cross. “And if we want to be Christians, there is no other way,” he said.

Without the Cross, without Jesus and without stripping ourselves of worldliness, he said, “we become pastry shop Christians… like nice sweet things but not real Christians.”
“We need to strip the Church,” he said. “We are in very grave danger. We are in danger of worldliness.”

The Christian cannot enter into the spirit of the world, which leads to vanity, arrogance and pride, he continued. And these lead to idolatry, which is the gravest sin.
The Church is not just the clergy, the hierarchy and religious, he said. “The Church is all of us and we all have to strip ourselves of this worldliness. Worldliness does us harm. It is so sad to find a worldly Christian.” [...]

It is ridiculous that a Christian would want to follow a worldly path, he continued. “The worldly spirit kills; it kills people; it kills the Church.” 

What is worldliness?  It is that very spirit which values the material world above everything else; indeed, it is that spirit which insists that the material world is all there is.  For Christians it often manifests itself in an attitude that places far too much value on wealth and on worldly goods, on prestigious undertakings and lucrative careers, on following paths that lead to material success, even while paying lip service to the Christian idea that this passing world is not our true home.

You won't see too many headlines about these papal remarks, I predict.  That's because our Chattering Classes and the MSM glitterati will nod at these remarks and think "Oh, of course I agree!  Why, that's why I vote the way I do!"  Then they will climb into their $50,000 or $100,000 automobiles and drive to their multimillion-dollar mansions to eat the food prepared for them by their servants (and don't ask embarrassing questions about those workers' immigration status, please) as they use their smartphones and tablets to plan for their next exotic vacation in some picturesque country whose poor form a charming backdrop to the interesting scenery...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Trigger happy

If you've been following the news today, you probably read that a dangerous and sinister shooter drove through barricades, shot a police officer, and then headed for the Capitol before being shot and killed by the police.

And then you would have read, much later, that the 34-year-old African-American female dental hygienist driving the car was unarmed, did not shoot anybody, did crash into barricades and drive a bit wildly (she was being pursued by armed plainclothes police or Secret Security officers at the time, if that helps), and was shot multiple times in the head and neck--and that the barrage of gunfire that killed her did not, miraculously, hit or kill her one-year-old child who was in the back of the vehicle.

All of which just goes to show that both our news media and our police and security officers tend to be a bit trigger happy, don't you think?

Oh, I know, I know.  She could have been a terrorist.  She could have had explosives in the car.  You can't be too careful, especially in Washington, D.C. during a politically charged debate, etc. 

But maybe we've also gotten a bit too used to acting out of fear, and a bit too accustomed to police officers opening fire first and asking questions later, and that's an unsettling thought.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's in a name?

Late posting, and I'm going to keep this brief.

I've been reading all week about Pope Francis' interview with the atheist Eugenio Scalfari, and I've noticed something.

The substance of the interview has been discussed to death, and given that there's some good evidence for problems with the translation in English as well, I'm going to hold off on commenting about the content, except to say that I think that if you start from the premise that the Holy Father is talking to an atheist you're not going to be unduly startled by anything that gets said.  I'm not a scholar or theologian or anybody at all but a lay Catholic woman, but when I talk to atheists I tend to do the same thing: try to figure out where they are, what their basis for ethics and morality is (because everybody has some basis for these things) etc., and go from there.  I will grant you that this interview might be startling to people who only talk about religion to other people who not only share their Catholic faith but also dwell in the same sort of "Catholic niche" together and lead the same sort of lives, practice the same sort of devotions, and receive the same sort of political mailings from the same political party (both the heavily underlined printed ones warning of dire threats which require immediate emergency funds and the emailed FWD:FWD:FWD versions) and so on, but anybody who has ever actually talked about Catholicism to people who are not Catholic or not Christian or not believers at all, and who range from mildly curious to openly hostile with every permutation in between, will not faint at the idea that one's exhortations to one's fellow Catholics are going to sound a little different from an introductory conversation to someone who abandoned a rather strict Bible-based fundamentalist creationist church and is now an atheist, or to someone whose parents were atheist fundamentalists themselves and raised their child to disbelieve in God with evangelical fervor.

But that's not what I've noticed.

What I've noticed is that here in America Catholics on the right (roughly speaking) have apparently switched places with Catholics on the left (again, roughly speaking) in terms of how they speak of the Holy Father, or at least how they write about him.  In fact, you can tell what someone things of the Holy Father by their use of this particular device:

The Catholics on the left called (and still call) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI by the dismissive name: "Ratzinger." 

The Catholics on the right are starting to refer to Pope Francis as "Bergoglio."

It's odd that when it comes to American Catholics, you can now tell what they think of any given pope by their willingness to call him the Holy Father, Pope [Fill-in-the-Blank] as opposed to referring to him by his pre-election last name.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Suppose you were an idiot...

...and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself." --Mark Twain

My daughters watched Congress on C-Span for a while this afternoon.  They are braver than I am; but then again, I'm already sick to my stomach and don't need any additional inducements to nausea.

They found the proceedings pretty appalling.  From their perspective, the members of each party took turns standing up to blame the other party for the government shutdown while casting themselves in the guise of the innocent victims in all of this.  They also used creative language to call each other idiots and insinuate that this or that group of constituents ('cause we have all the power...) is really pulling the Congressional strings and forcing the shutdown to happen.

I didn't have much to tell them except that this is how it always has been and always will be.

Here's an example from history, in a speech given by Cicero concerning a new agrarian law (this is the William Jennings Bryan translation):
The first clause in this agrarian law is one by which, as they think, you are a little proved, to see with what feelings you can bear a diminution of your liberty. For it orders “the tribune of the people who has passed this law to create ten decemvirs by the votes of seventeen tribes, so that whomsoever a majority consisting of nine tribes elects, shall be a decemvir.” On this I ask, on what account the framer of this law has commenced his law and his measures in such a manner as to deprive the Roman people of its right of voting? As often as agrarian laws have been passed, commissioners, and triumvirs, and quinquevirs, and decemvirs have been appointed. I ask this tribune of the people, who is so attached to the people, whether they were ever created except by the whole thirty-five tribes? In truth, as it is proper for every power, and every command, and every charge which is committed to any one, to proceed from the entire Roman people, so especially ought those to do so, which are established for any use and advantage of the Roman people; as that is a case in which they all together choose the man who they think will most study the advantage of the Roman people, and in which also each individual among them by his own zeal and his own vote assists to make a road by which he may obtain some individual benefit for himself. This is the tribune to whom it has occurred above all others to deprive the Roman people of their suffrages, and to invite a few tribes, not by any fixed condition of law, but by the kindness of lots drawn, and by chance, to usurp the liberties belonging to all.
  Who passed the law? Rullus. 2 Who prevented the greater portion of the people from having a vote? Rullus. Who presided over the comitia? Who summoned to the election whatever tribes he pleased, having drawn the lots for them without any witness being present to see fair play? Who appointed whatever decemvirs he chose? This same Rullus. Whom did he appoint chief of the decemvirs? Rullus. I hardly believe that he could induce his own slaves to approve of this; much less you, who are the masters of all nations. Therefore, the most excellent laws will be repealed by this law without the least suspicion of the fact. He will seek for a commission for himself by virtue of his own law; he will hold comitia, tho the greater portion of the people is stripped of their votes; he will appoint whomsoever he pleases, and himself among them; and forsooth he will not reject his own colleags—the backers of this agrarian law; by whom the first place in the unpopularity which may possibly arise from drawing the law, and from having his name at the head of it, has indeed been conceded to him, but the profit from the whole business, they, who in the hope of it are placed in this position, reserve to themselves in equal shares with him. [...]


Besides all this, he gives the decemvirs authority pretorian in name, but kingly in reality. He describes their power, as a power for five years; but he makes it perpetual. For he strengthens it with such bulwarks and defenses that it will be quite impossible to deprive them of it against their own consent. Then he adorns them with apparitors, and secretaries, and clerks, and criers, and architects; besides that, with mules, and tents, and centuries, and all sorts of furniture; he draws money for their expenses from the treasury; he supplies them with more money from the allies; he appoints them two hundred surveyors from the equestrian body every year as their personal attendants, and also as ministers and satellites of their power. You have now, O Romans, the form and very appearance of tyrants; you see all the ensigns of power, but not yet the power itself. For, perhaps, some one may say, “Well, what harm do all those men, secretary, lictor, crier, and chicken-feeder do me?” I will tell you. These things are of such a nature that the man who has them without their being conferred by your vote, must seem either a monarch with intolerable power, or if he assumes them as a private individual, a madman. 
The language is far more stirring, and the rhetoric soars to much better heights than anything you will see on C-Span, but there's a kind of familiarity here, isn't there?

I guess my point here is just that when people complain about "politics as usual," we tend to forget just how long "politics as usual" has been around.



Monday, September 30, 2013

Under the weather...

I've been battling a little stomach bug over the weekend, and haven't been on the computer much at all.  If you've been waiting to see comments show up, I apologize for the delay.

It looks like I've now approved all pending comments, but if you haven't seen one show up that you sent to me, please let me know.

Back soon, hopefully!

Friday, September 27, 2013

'Abortion Barbie' runs for governor of Texas

The liberals and progressives who haunt approximately five-mile radii around Texas' principle cities--many of them refugees from their home state of California, which they abandoned but curiously want to recreate everywhere they go--are howling with bloodthirsty glee today as Wendy Davis, nicknamed "Abortion Barbie" by conservative pundits everywhere, delighted them by tossing her iconic "fetal remains pink" tennis shoes into the ring, announcing her candidacy for governor of Texas.

Of course, Texas is still Texas, and there are more than a few pro-life Texans who aren't so thrilled at the idea of "Abortion Barbie" attempting to become governor of Texas.  If I know my adopted home state, slogans like "Abort Wendy Davis' Campaign," and "Arm the Unborn: Make the TX Gov. Race a Fair Fight" will probably pop up quickly (and if that latter's not on a t-shirt on Zazzle (tm) or CafePress (tm) by Monday, I'll be disappointed).

The silly part of all of this is that you'd be hard-pressed to find even a Wendy Davis supporter who knows much of anything about Davis or her positions on issues except that she was willing to filibuster to try to stop the Texas legislature from passing abortion clinic regulations that would keep Texas clinics from continuing to resemble Kermit Gosnell's house of horrors.  So all anybody really knows about Davis at this point is that she loves abortion.  Really, really loves it.  Is totally smitten with it, so that when dirty clinics with filthy equipment and hallways too narrow to get an ambulance gurney down on the all-too-frequent occasions when this is needed pop up like festering boils on the unfortunate souls waiting in the antechambers of Hell to learn their final destinations, she wants the government and the health department and everybody else to ignore all that, because if clinics have to be, you know, clean, and sanitary, and unimportant stuff like that, people who kill unborn humans for a living might be inclined to move their clinics to less-regulated states, on the same principle that has caused most of our manufacturing to go to third-world countries who permit pollution and human rights violations in ways our country theoretically doesn't (at least, outside of those filthy late-term abortion clinics).

If the media wasn't also thoroughly smitten with abortion, I bet we'd see late night comedy TV shows doing skits like this:

Scene: Fake TV news studio.  Two desks, one containing a male and female anchorperson seated side by side; the other containing a male anchorperson and Abortion Barbie, Candidate for Governor of Texas.

Music: Newsroom-style theme: in, up, under, and out. 

Camera One closes in on first desk.

First Announcer: Good evening.  I'm Kip Kiplsley...

Second Announcer: And I'm Kitty Kittelson.

Kip: And this is the Evening News.

Kitty:  Later in this broadcast--the secret danger of broccoli you didn't want to know.  But first, in an Evening News Exclusive, our own Skip Skippers has an on-air interview with legendary Texas gubernatorial candidate, Abortion Barbie. Over to you, Skip!

Cut to Camera Two on second desk.

Skip: That's right, Kitty and Kip, we're very proud to have landed the first interview with Abortion Barbie since she announced her candidacy.  Now, your name isn't really Abortion Barbie, right?

Abortion Barbie: No, no it's not, Skip, but you know, so many of my supporters and admirers started calling me that and it just kind of stuck, so we went with it.

Skip: I see.  Well, Abortion Barbie, I think everybody in Texas knows that you are for abortion...

Abortion Barbie: That's right, Skip.  I think that if we really want to realize the America dream of equality for all women, we just have to keep on making sure that the sacred and precious right to choose, and especially to choose abortion, is safeguarded from anti-choice zealots who have this crazy idea that abortion clinics should be held to the same cleanliness standards as stand-alone ER clinics or tattoo parlors.  That's just wrong, and it's going to stop women from having those all--important abortions on the kind of scale we'd like to see for our state.

Skip: Right, right, but what our viewers would like to know is, what are your positions on the other issues that Texans face?  For example, on education we...

Abortion Barbie: Stop right there, Skip, and let me just say right out that abortion is also the solution to our education dilemma in Texas.

Skip: Um, okay.  How exactly?

Abortion Barbie: Well, it's very simple, Skip.  We have complaints about overcrowded classrooms, overstressed teachers, not enough money--and all of that could be solved in less than twenty years if we just get the abortion rate much, much higher than it is right now.  Because the real problem we're having in education is that there's just too many children being born in the first place, and lots of them are, quite frankly, never going to be much of an asset to Texas or the nation.

Skip: So how much higher do you think the abortion rate has to be, Abortion Barbie?

Abortion Barbie: I think when there are eight or nine abortions for every ten pregnancies, we'll see the education problem start to solve itself, Skip.

Skip:  Okay.  And I take it your solution for fixing Texas' infrastructure issues is also abortion?

Abortion Barbie: Exactly!  Fewer people in Texas, a lot fewer people, and we won't need to worry about going bankrupt trying to fix roads and bridges.  It's so simple, and it's really a key part of my vision for the state.

Skip: What about gun control?

Abortion Barbie: If we could bring the abortion rate up to the levels I'd like to see, then we'd have a lot fewer criminals in the first place, Skip.  So the justification for private gun ownership would pretty much evaporate, and I would introduce legislation anticipating that effect.  Because, you know, the only violence I approve of happens in the wombs of pregnant women.  Gun violence is bad for our state and bad for children.

Skip: We're almost out of time, Abortion Barbie, so I'll ask you to sum up your campaign message for us.

Abortion Barbie: I appreciate that, Skip, and I think the viewers already know that my campaign is all about keeping abortion legal and widely available.  I think it's time for the next generation of women to admit openly that we don't really care if abortion is safe because those unsafe clinics aren't in our neighborhoods anyway, and that we also don't really want abortion to be rare.  In fact, the lip service older feminists--and I don't want to be too harsh on them, because they were the real trail-blazers who understood that a woman isn't really a free human being until she has terminated a pregnancy and joined that amazing sisterhood of women who dealt with problem embryos or fetuses proactively though abortion--but they did say all the time that abortion should be rare.  And I think that it's time now to admit that abortion is too rare, much too rare.  There are almost 400,000 children born in Texas each year with only about 70,000 to 75,000 abortions annually.  And until we reverse those numbers--until there are 70,000 live births and 400,000 abortions in Texas every year--we're just going to keep seeing all of those problems we talked about earlier in our state.

Skip: Back to you, Kip and Kitty.

Cut to Camera One

Kip: Coming up after the break--scientists have identified a dangerous chemical in school children's spiral-bound notebooks.  Is your child in danger?  Join us, when we return...

Music: Up, under, and out.