Thursday, January 31, 2013

We are an eternal family

I know this may seem like a bit of a strange post today, but I have to write honestly, and this is honestly what's on my mind right now.

I've been away from my computer for much of the day today, and when I sat down to read the news, I saw a headline announcing the death of the snowmobiler Caleb Moore, age 25, who was seriously injured last week in an accident during the Winter X games.

And my heart sank just a little, and I said a prayer for him and for his grieving family.  Why?  Am I a closet extreme sports fan who follows things like winter sports or skateboarding?  Did I follow this young man's career or that of his younger brother?

No, not at all.  Sports in general are a kind of alien landscape to me.  I manage to watch an Olympics event or three every couple of years, and because my brothers like football I occasionally know who is going to be in the Superbowl.  I got into baseball--watching it, not playing it--for a few years as a teen, but have not paid attention to it for years.  I would say that my lack of interest in sports is because I am female, but that would be an insult to all the athletic girls out there, the ones who rise to all sorts of levels in all kinds of competitions.  The truth is that I'm the sort of girl for whom P.E. was a legally-permitted form of torture, whose glasses got knocked off in every school-mandated volleyball game, who was always picked last for school sports teams, and who was positively relieved when I reached the age where girls on the playground wanted to sit around and chat about Shaun Cassidy instead of organizing yet another painful, tragic group activity like softball or kickball.  I can't remember the last time I had a nightmare about kickball, but it probably wasn't that long ago.

So my concern for this young man came simply from my habit of reading the news daily; I read about his terrible accident, followed a link to a Facebook page where people were openly offering their prayers (as we do in Texas; the young man was from Krum, Texas), and said a few quiet prayers myself, invoking the intercession of this blessed who seems like he'd understand the drive to play winter sports, even extreme ones.

I have to admit that my habit for praying in these kinds of situations has increased greatly since I became a parent seventeen years ago.  Remembering to offer a prayer when I read a headline about someone who is fighting a tragic illness or suffering after a serious accident, or even taking a moment to whisper the "Eternal rest" prayer when I read about someone dying, is not something as reflexive to me as it would have been to Catholics of a different generation (I once read an anecdote about how Bing Crosby's non-Catholic friends in Hollywood would wait until he was eating to tell him that someone had died, knowing he would lay down his knife and fork and bow his head for a minute each time--which also made them tell him of each death they'd heard about separately...).  But in recent years I've tried harder to form the bond of solidarity in prayer with the suffering, the dying, and the departed, to recapture that old Catholic habit of praying on these occasions, and even to make the Sign of the Cross and say a prayer when an ambulance or fire engine races by.

We are an eternal family, and death was never supposed to be part of our lot.  Praying even for a total stranger whose death makes the news reminds me of that.  Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

UPDATE: And another heartbreak from the news which I also missed earlier today; many of us have prayed for missing Air Force plot Lucas Gruenther, but his body was found in the Adriatic Sea today.  May God grant him eternal rest as well, and send comfort and healing to his grieving family at this difficult time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Beyond all reason

Mark Shea is discussing gun control today; in particular, he's discussing how some good and responsible gun-owner types, like Dale Price, are feeling rather marginalized by how other Catholics are discussing the issue:
Anyway, Dale is a hunter. Likes to use a gun. Has a sane man’s concern about things like protecting his family, the rise of the police state–and felt like all normal people the grief and anguish of Sandy Hook. He’s a deeply *good* man and a smart one. And he’s felt pretty marginalized by the national conversation on guns since Sandy Hook.

I have, alas, contributed to that for him, a man I would not willingly hurt for all the world. FWIW, I think guys like him are part of whatever solution we eventually arrive at. As I’ve said, I’m mostly still working through how to even frame the questions on this stuff. I come to it very much as Man in the Street, neither owning guns myself, nor wishing to take away anybody’s guns who should have one. I’m trying to hear both sides and, from where I sit, most of the hysteria seemed to be coming from people shrieking that Hitler was coming to confiscate our guns and march us into concentration camps or, as one my many sober correspondents put it:
Mr. Shea:
I hope you will come visit me in the camps.
Oh, wait, you’ll be the one in the camp. I’ll be dead. Never mind.
I’ve heard from an awful lot of these folks over the past month, yelling about Hitler and certain the mass confiscation and the camps and the three days of darkness and the prophecies of Medjugorje and Glenn Beck and Malachi Martin and Art Bell are soon to be fulfilled. They offer me sober advice about secessionism, demand to know if I have any better ideas than violent insurrection and panic, and poo poo the modest suggestions I do make as not even worth pursuing. They declare me “incapable of honesty” when I don’t share their take on something. They, well, just *yell* at me a lot and it gets hard to keep from tuning all the hysteria out.

Mark goes on to say that this is what Dale is experiencing, though from the other side; that is, other people are shouting at gun owners as if all people who own guns have a closet desire to go on mass shooting rampages.  If it's one thing we Catholics have proved that we're good at, it's shouting anathemas at each other in areas where good Catholics can actually, you know, disagree.

I've been meaning to get back to a discussion of guns and gun control since my little informal blog survey; that survey unscientifically showed me what I tend to believe, which is that most sane people, gun owners or not, think that the Second Amendment to the Constitution means, simply, that people can have guns, and that this right isn't terribly inconvenienced by things like licensing or registration or waiting periods or background checks, but would be inconvenienced by the government making it impossible for people to have guns.  Sort of like how the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, but the freedom of speech isn't really in danger if the government points out that yelling "Fire!" in a crowded and conflagration-free theater or shouting drunken obscenities in public aren't covered by the general protection.

But some people are outliers from that middle position: some think that any private gun ownership makes America an Old West movie-town environment in which nobody's really safe, and others think that denying mentally ill ex-convicts the right to own guns is just hastening the day when the Republic collapses and a Scary Totalitarian Dictatorship takes over and makes us call him "Big Brother."

The "Guns will Resurrect the Wild, Wild West!" types are convinced beyond all reason that guns themselves, instead of being rather loud power tools that can kill you or someone else (sort of like the items on this Forbes list of the ten most dangerous power tools, some of which can also be pointed at someone else), are quasi-sentient and plotting evil regardless of who is holding them or how they're intended to be used.  In the minds of these people, guns have only one purpose, and that is to cause lethal violence and deadly mayhem.  Hunting or security are not really considered, or are considered excuses for mild-mannered people to buy guns whereupon the guns themselves take over the psyche and make the person undergo a Jekyll-Hyde level transformation.  That the human race since the time of Cain and Abel managed to find ways to commit murder long before gunpowder was even thought of is seen as largely irrelevant.  Man will only be safe when guns are banned, or when the only people who can carry guns are trained military members and police officers.

The "Guns are Vital to Keep Big Brother Away" types, on the other hand, tend to see, beyond all reason, signs of imminent social and political collapse around every corner.  Every flock of birds overhead contains at least ten black swans, and the phrase "Zombie Apocalypse" is tossed around like that's something that might actually happen someday, instead of a Gothic horror or science-fiction plot.  In the minds of these people, any restrictions on gun ownership, even quite sensible ones, only hastens the day when Nazis or Communists or New World Order Black Ops troops show up at the doors of gun owners to haul them off to the gulag as the first step in a total conquest of the nation--a conquest, by the way, that they sincerely believe will happen in their own lifetimes.  They really think that a secret order or series of secret orders will go out and will turn nice friendly (fellow-Catholic, even!) National Guard officers into the foot soldiers of the Four Horsemen, bent on exterminating all who resist this coup d'etat that's about to detonate on their quiet little communities.  That the human race since the time of the Tower of Babel has been extremely bad at plotting huge secret multinational conspiracies of conquest and eradication is seen as largely irrelevant.  Man will only be safe when every house has its own suitcase nuke or pet drone, in case the New Hitler comes knocking.

The important thing to remember is that both of these extremes are really beyond all reason.  No amount of arguing with people convinced of either of these dire outcomes will convince them that actually guns are pretty much okay when used properly by people who are aware that they are lethal and who are careful about them, people who also don't mind waiting periods or, say, required classes for concealed carry.

Now if we could only convince people that similar safety measures might help those who buy and use power tools...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is the unwed fornicator my neighbor?

I'm sure that my regular readers are getting tired of the topic of how a Catholic school should handle a situation in which an unmarried teacher discloses to them that she is pregnant.  I have written several posts on the topic myself, while Zippy Catholic has continued the conversation with these posts (though I realize that it's becoming rather a strain to refer to what's going on at his blog as a "conversation").  At this point I intend for this post to be my last word on the subject for the present time (though, of course, I reserve the right to re-engage should the diocese, say, settle out of court, or should we learn some important details of the lawsuit that haven't yet been made public, and so forth).  I am not commenting any further in Zippy's comment boxes because there is simply no point in doing so; he and his commenters are always welcome to comment here, but one of my blog rules requires commenters to attempt, at least, to be civil to each other, which may not be a comfortable style of conversing for many of his commenters by all appearances.

The reason I want to say anything further at all is that I think that something has gotten lost in all the shouting, which is this: I think we're arguing about two entirely different things.

If you were to frame what we're arguing about in debate-style terms, Zippy's terms would probably go something like this (and he's welcome to correct me if I'm wrong): A Catholic school has the right to require lay teachers to live up to Catholic teaching and has the right to fire them for failing to do so; further, the school exercises this right at their discretion such that no scandal whatsoever is created by allowing married contraceptors (for example) to work openly at the school but by immediately firing any and all unwed pregnant employees.  It is, in fact, morally laudable for a Catholic school to fire an unwed pregnant teacher for the sin of fornication and the fact of visible pregnancy, and the fact that she loses her ability to support her children, her health insurance in the middle of her pregnancy, etc. is her own damned (literally) fault.

But my argument all along has been about this: A Catholic school is not acting in the wisest, kindest, most merciful, or most loving way when they fire an unwed pregnant teacher and cut her off of her health insurance for the sin of fornication as revealed by visible pregnancy.  While they may have the right to do so (and as far as the secular legal right--well, that's what the lawsuit is about, and given the conflict between laws forbidding firing a woman because she is pregnant and laws permitting a ministerial exemption to some civil employment laws in regard to some religious employees, I doubt whether any non-lawyers have really valuable opinions to offer!), that does not make it the right thing to do.

I realize that some people will object here that whatever we have the moral right to do is by definition the right thing to do, but that's not really true.  Joseph, as some people have pointed out in the conversation so far, had the moral right to expose Mary to the law (as the Bible puts it) which in fact would mean handing her over as an adulteress to be stoned.  But the Bible also tells us that Joseph, an upright man, was unwilling to do this.  Instead, he planned to divorce her quietly.  This would quite likely have made him look rather bad, because to divorce her while saying nothing about the child would lead some people to believe that Joseph had simply gotten cold feet about the whole marriage/child thing, and had decided to shirk any responsibility for a child that would be presumed to be his (because if the child weren't his, he would have exposed her to the law, right?--at least, that's what all the virtuous people would say).  But Joseph was apparently willing to put up with wagging tongues and a loss of reputation rather than hand Mary over to the law, an abundance of mercy which was probably as rare in their times as it is in ours.  When the angel made all clear to this dear saint, he welcomed the Blessed Mother into his home without delay, and probably with a mixture of joy and fear at the great role God was calling him to play.

Or, to consider a modern totally fictional hypothetical situation, suppose that I am shopping in a local big-box grocery 'n everything store, and I set my purse on the floor for a moment to try on a sweater, and a thief runs off with my purse.  I raise the hue and cry, the thief is immediately caught, I get my purse back intact, and the thief goes off to the police station--but then I get a call, and I go there, and I find out that if I press theft charges against this man it will trigger one of those "three strikes" laws and he'll go to jail for at least five years.  He's been trying to get his life back together.  He hasn't been arrested in a decade.  He's married, and his wife just gave birth to twins--and he was laid off from his job a week after they were born.  Desperation and the temptation of old habits led him to grab my unguarded bag.

Now, in this totally hypothetical situation, we can take for granted that I don't know for sure that the thief is really repentant.  I don't know if getting off without consequences (or maybe a plea of disorderly conduct and a fine, or something) is really going to help him reform.  I do know that taking him, his potential future income and insurance, etc. away from his wife and their two infants is going to hurt the innocent--but that's not my fault; it's his.  I have the moral right to insist that he be charged with theft.  But is that the wisest, kindest, most merciful, most loving thing to do to this little group of neighbors I never knew?

Getting back to the actual case, Zippy has been making (from what I can decipher) a sort of circular argument: the unwed teacher has proved she wasn't worthy of any mercy by suing the school for not offering her any mercy.  But I can't help but wonder if the lawsuit itself would ever have happened if the school and the parish and the pastor and anybody else in a situation to help would have done something besides kick her out and wash their hands of her?  She asked to be allowed to take a non-classroom position: was there really not one such job in the whole of Ascension School or Ascension Parish (let alone the Archdiocese of Cincinnati) that she could do?  Is there not a single parishioner at Ascension Parish who owns and operates a business who could have offered her a job?  Did anybody suggest a fundraiser to help her pay her medical bills (and the cost for hospital delivery of twins for someone without health insurance will range from $10,000 to about $18,000--and that's for a delivery with no complications and a quick release; add an additional $2,000 for uninsured prenatal care)?  Did anybody--her former colleagues at the school, the parishioners at Ascension, anybody--throw a baby shower to provide some diapers and baby supplies, at the very least?  Maybe all of that and more was done for her, at which point the lawsuit does, indeed, become a head-scratcher, but somehow I think that when this woman implies that she was pretty much abandoned by Ascension School and parish, she means it.

Is the unwed fornicator--to us a term that keeps cropping up on Zippy's blog--not my neighbor?  Does her sin of fornication absolve me of any duty whatsoever, even the common duties of offering mercy, love, dignity and respect I owe to my brothers and sisters?  Are her innocent children justly treated as invisible and unworthy as the right and just consequence of their mother's (and their father's--let us not forget their father's) sin?

The Golden Rule compels me to say that as I would wish to be treated with great love and mercy in a crisis pregnancy situation, so ought I to treat anybody else in that situation, and the rest is just a matter of detail.  If Zippy and his commenters can say with full honesty and truthfulness that they sincerely hope that they would be summarily fired if they were caught committing a grave sin of any kind, regardless of the impact their loss of income would have on their dependents, then they are in the clear to insist that this is how this Catholic school should treat unwed mothers.  If I said any such thing myself, though, I would be lying, because I always hope for mercy beyond my deserts, and try my best to offer it to others.  When I fail it's because I'm a sinner who fails to live up to her principles, not because attempting to offer mercy to my neighbor is ever, in my way of looking at things, the wrong choice for a sincere follower of Christ.

UPDATE:  A reader who is also a family member of mine has sent this link to an article about this case in the Dayton Daily News.  If the newspaper quotes the archdiocesan spokesman correctly, he is saying that Kathleen Quinlan's out-of-wedlock pregnancy (note: not her sin of fornication) was the problem here:
A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati said Thursday it’s “very unfortunate” a pregnant, unwed first-grade teacher at Kettering’s Ascension School lost her job and medical benefits when church officials fired her. But Dan Andriacco said the archdiocese did the right thing because Kathleen Quinlan’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy would set “a horrible example to the children.”

Read the rest here.

I notice in the article that the lawsuit is claimed to be because, according to Miss Quinlan's lawyer, the school takes no steps to make sure that male employees aren't fornicating, which makes the situation run afoul of federal pregnancy discrimination laws.  Zippy and others have characterized this as Miss Quinlan herself claiming that she should get away with sin because others do, but I see this as simply pointing out that federal laws against pregnancy discrimination make it illegal to fire pregnant women for the fact of their pregnancy, and federal laws are not the same thing as moral policies enacted by the Church.  If it is somehow against Church teaching for Catholics to request legal clarification about whether or not federal anti-discrimination laws apply to lay employees in a Church school which employs both Catholics and non-Catholics, this is the first I've ever heard of it.

UPDATE 2:  I've closed comments on this post.  Since I posted it yesterday, Zippy has posted no less than three posts attempting to tear this post and some of my comments to shreds; my continued "intransigence" on the subject apparently annoys him.   How he can call it "intransigence" is beyond me since we're not arguing about moral principles but about the practical application of things like "love" and "mercy;" we disagree about that, and I respect that Zippy himself and some of his and my commenters (Scott W.) prefer the love and mercy of being fired for a mortal sin and would wish for that for themselves and for their loved ones as the only sort of love and mercy, but I fail to see how that specific practical application of "love" and "mercy" is the only kind available for Catholics to offer each other in all circumstances.

More to the point, I'm tired of being called a man-hater and an evil feminist for thinking that it's sort of a nice idea to treat pregnant women kindly regardless of their marital status, so I'm done with this discussion.  Of course, the fact that I'm retreating from the lists means that his cadre of yes-men and women can now claim victory, which I fully expect they will do.  Silly, really, because arguing about what love and mercy means isn't really the sort of thing about which one claims victory; all I know is that I prefer the kind of love and mercy I've talked about, and wish those who can only imagine or appreciate a sterner, harsher, colder sort of love nothing but the best of what they wish for.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy birthday, Bookgirl!

Today we are celebrating the sweet 16th birthday of our second daughter, affectionately known as Bookgirl on this blog!  Her love of books and reading has continued to be a huge part of her life, but she's also a talented artist and a good student.  This year she has discovered that she loves to bake, and her kitchen artistry is much appreciated by us all!

And now--it's her turn!  Happy birthday, sweet girl, and have fun writing your post! :)

Hello!  In past years I have not written much on here, and though I'm still a little shy about writing I'd like to share some things this year, it being my sweet 16 and all.   As my mom has already said, I love to read, and am always interested in finding new and interesting books that I can enjoy.  My personal favorites are fantasy novels, but I have read and enjoyed many different types of books over the years.  I love to bake these days, and always enjoy trying new recipes.  So far I have baked mostly dessert items, cakes and cookies and such, but I have also made things like muffins, homemade buns, and even once tried making Irish soda bread.  I think the best recipe that I found and tried so far is a recipe for ginger cookies, very good in the cold weather!

My artwork continues to improve ( I think :) )  and I am looking forward to studying in college to further improve my skills someday.   I am working on writing and drawing a graphic novel with another artistic friend of mine, which we hope to finish and publish someday.   I have found over time that I enjoy writing stories a great deal, and though I have yet to finish a book I would like to do so at some point.

As always, I would like to share one of my recent drawings with you:


Friday, January 25, 2013

We've been marching for 40 years. And we still have a long way to go.

Today, of course, is the 40th annual March for Life in Washington, DC.  I've been enjoying some of the posts and images from the March that I've seen so far today, and will look forward to hearing from those fortunate Catholic bloggers who got to be there today.

I know that many people will be focusing on the good news today, as they should--the good news that fewer and fewer people identify themselves with the most extreme pro-abortion positions; the good news that state legislatures have been doing what our cowardly Congress will not do and have been chipping away at abortion law, carving out more and more protection for the unborn; the good news that even the rabid pro-aborts out there have started to abandon the Schrodinger's Fetus fallacy (e.g., "That blob of cells is only a baby if her mother wants to give birth to her!") and come right out to admit that they know the unborn child is a living human being, and that they like killing living human beings or having the ability to kill living human beings stay legal.

The mask is being ripped off of the euphemism "choice," as the new young generation asks "Choice to do what, exactly?" and makes it clear that they don't buy the answer.

And truth about unborn human life has always been a benefit to the pro-life side of the abortion argument.  It's hard to make the "blob of tissue" or "clump of cells" argument to a woman who is seven weeks pregnant when she can visit a website like the one above and see many images and videos of what her developing child looks like at that age, watch such a child move or see her heartbeat, and read text descriptions of what her baby's current stage of development involves.  Sure, there are hard, broken, empty women who can still kill that child with seeming ease, just as there are women who would stomp on kittens or pull wings off of butterflies, but I hardly think that we should make our laws about animal cruelty based on those outliers, do you?

Nonetheless, even with all the good news out there today, I have been sad to realize how much more work we have to do to advance the pro-life cause, even among our own fellow Catholics.

I've always known that some liberal Catholics are ambiguous about abortion, or even openly in favor of it.  But people like Zippy Catholic and some of this blog's commenters are making me realize a new facet of this problem: there are some Catholics who think that a single woman who gets pregnant really is being "punished with a baby," and that it is perfectly fitting and merciful for her Catholic employer to fire her (because we can't employ sinners; why, what would people think of us?).  Oh, I know.  Zippy will say that's not his argument at all, and that this woman by having unmarried sex was metaphysically handing in her resignation because she knew that such conduct violated her employment agreement, but it's not really the school's job to go rooting out the private sins of the male and/or married employees; unmarried pregnancy is the visible sin unlike any other which must always be punished, and the fact that other people get away with sin is just like the fact that some people get away with speeding while others get tickets.  Because a speeding ticket is just exactly like losing your job and your health insurance, for reasons which I'm sure Zippy's commenters will explain.

And that her unborn children suffered along with her (especially given her loss of health insurance) was just too bad.  But we can't take the suffering of the children of sinners into consideration when we do what is right and fitting, because that is somehow being Christlike.  Besides, failing to fire this woman is just encouraging abortion, in that same way that letting women vote is.  Or something.

If I sound exasperated, it's because I am.  Because the simple truth that many people, many of them male, don't realize is that pregnancy is difficult, childbirth often excruciatingly so, and raising children a struggle even for a married stay-at-home mom whose husband pitches in whenever possible.  For an unmarried woman who becomes pregnant to chose life in our disposable culture of easy death for the unborn is already a noble and courageous thing to do; she is refusing to add vice to error, or even graver evil to already (putatively) grave sin.  Treating her coldly as a reprobate whose conduct deserves punishment is wrongheaded and may even be unjust--for if she has confessed the sin of fornication in a worthy sacramental confession, then God has forgiven her, and it's not our place to do less.  Her pregnancy is not, itself, a sin, and by treating it as if it is, we are not openly encouraging abortion?  In other words, if continuing the pregnancy is apparently so gravely sinful and scandalous that it is right and just to fire her from her job, are we not making it seem as if ending the pregnancy, while still gravely sinful, is at least a hidden sin that will let her save face and keep her job and her reputation?  Are we not simply saying to her, "Well, damned if you do, damned if you don't--but it's your own fault for creating this mess in the first place?"

Because if that's all we really have to say to women in crisis pregnancies, then I wonder how it is that we have the courage to call ourselves "pro-life" at all.  If we see an unmarried woman's pregnancy as her fault, her problem, her sin and her shame (forgetting that her partner in the sin may be an EMHC in her parish and a well-respected local businessman, married, even, but he won't lose anything), how do we reach out to women in these terrible situations without hypocrisy?  Seeing it all as her sin, are we not ignoring our own failures to love, or our own serious sins mercifully forgiven and washed away?

Luckily, most pro-life Americans don't think this way.  I've known pro-life families who have welcomed a woman in a crisis pregnancy into their own homes, helping her find employment and caring for her as a person and a beloved sister in Christ.  I've known pro-life people who have started crisis pregnancy centers using their own resources, and becoming beacons of light and hope in their communities.  I've known situations where employers, far from throwing unmarried pregnant employees out into the street, have thrown them baby showers and been generous in allowing them leave time.  I've seen the deep hearts and loving souls of many pro-life Americans, Catholic, Christian, and of other faiths, who have exhibited the warm light of merciful love in place of the coldness of "just deserts."

But even though we've been marching for Life for 40 years, we clearly have a long way to go, if we are to welcome both the unborn child and her mother with the kind of love Mother Teresa (among others) modeled for us.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In which I disagree with Zippy Catholic

I have long admired many of the writings of the anonymous Catholic blogger who goes by the name "Zippy Catholic."  His writings on torture, for instance, helped to convince me that torture really is evil and there's just no other way of viewing the matter.

But I have disagreed with him on other important issues, such as his view of women's suffrage, which seems to me to be rather extreme.  Today's disagreement stems from this post, which he kindly linked to in the comment boxes of our ongoing discussion on this blog as to whether or not a Catholic school should fire an unwed pregnant teacher for the sin of being visibly pregnant:
To make a long story short, a Catholic school hired an unwed first grade teacher.  The unwed teacher became pregnant, in violation of her contract which has a morals clause prohibiting fornication.  The school let her go – really she let herself go – in compliance with her contract terms.

I’m with the school on this one.

I know all the arguments – we’ve argued about similar situations before. But I can’t get to where the right choice is to condone manifest grave sin and scandal around children because there are hostages involved. And to offer her a different, low profile, “back office” job for which she was not hired, so the school now has to figure out how to carry an extra salary for someone they don’t need and didn’t hire and go hire another teacher, is just capitulation to extortion because there is a hostage – her unborn child – involved.

Giving an unmarried pregnant woman a make-work job is not appropriate and likely not financially feasible.  Referring her to a crisis pregnancy center is the right, merciful, and just response. Would the school’s detractors suggest that the diocese hire all the unmarried pregnant women in the diocese?
Zippy then goes on to suggest that it would be really merciful (though above and beyond the call of duty) for the school to let the woman interview for a back-office job only if there happened to be one available, and if she knew she might not get hired anyway and had the right attitude about it all. Mercy, in this context, seems to be akin to dangling the carrot of hope attached to the stick of shame and derision, which I must confess seems like a novel use of the term to me; in fact, if the school let her interview for the job while having no real intention of hiring her ("I'm sorry, but you don't seem to meet our requirement that candidates must not be guilty of visible mortal sin," etc.) there might be an element of intrinsically evil deceit in such a ruse.

I asked a question of Zippy in his comment box, and I would like to reformulate that question here to throw it out for general discussion:

If it is consistent with Catholic values for Catholic employers to fire unwed women who become pregnant (while still unmarried) during their employment, how far does this right and duty go?

Should only Catholic parishes and Catholic schools get to fire unwed pregnant employees?

Should Catholic hospitals get to fire unwed pregnant employees?

Should private Catholic-owned businesses (e.g., restaurants, Catholic bookstores, etc.) get to fire unwed pregnant employees?

Should any or all of these businesses make it a practice to fire Catholic men who have abandoned their families via divorce (esp. in situations where the wife is clearly the innocent party)?  Isn't it better to send the right moral message that men who have sinned by divorcing their wives are not worthy of working at Catholic schools, etc. than to worry that by depriving these men of income they are hurting the children who will not receive their justly-owed child support?

Or are men exempt from being held accountable by their employers for their visible mortal sins?  Or would Zippy, or anyone else, say that unwed pregnancy is really the only truly visible mortal sin, and thus it's okay to hold single women to a standard no other person is ever held to?

I'll be especially interested to hear the answers to these questions from those who participated in the original discussion here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

War is not a game

In yet another move to showcase the fact that liberal administrations see the military primarily as their own personal playground for social experimentation, the Pentagon will be lifting the ban on women in combat:
Women have long chafed under the combat restrictions and have increasingly pressured the Pentagon to catch up with the reality on the battlefield. The move comes as Mr. Panetta is about to step down from his post and would leave him with a substantial legacy after only 18 months in the job. 

Mr. Panetta’s decision came after he received a Jan. 9 letter from Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who stated in strong terms that the armed service chiefs all agreed that “the time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service.” 

But there was a note of caution. “To implement these initiatives successfully and without sacrificing our war fighting capability or the trust of the American people, we will need time to get it right,” General Dempsey wrote. 

A copy of General Dempsey’s letter was provided by a Pentagon official under the condition of anonymity. 

The letter noted that this action was meant to ensure that women as well as men “are given the opportunity to succeed.” 
The opportunity to succeed?  Let's get real.  The only way women will qualify for many combat roles in the U.S. Military is if the U.S. Military drastically lowers the physical requirements and physical testing for these roles. 
I'm far from being the only one who thinks so
The decision has some detractors. Kingsley Browne, professor at Wayne State University Law School and author of Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars, calls the decision “misguided.” “The fact that the decision precedes the assessment phase is putting the cart before horse,” he says. “The Marine Corps has done rigorous testing but haven’t gotten very far because they haven’t gotten many women volunteers.”

The Marine Corps‘ Infantry Officer Course, a grueling three-month regimen that many men fail, was opened to women in September. However, only two out of 80 eligible women volunteered and neither completed it.

Browne argues that because women are not physically built like men, attempts to integrate them may lead to lowered standards overall. Additionally, he believes women in combat units may negatively change the dynamics, creating conditions of sexual competition and sexual harassment.

For more on that sort of thing, USMC Captain Katie Petronio has some good insights:
By the fifth month into the deployment, I had muscle atrophy in my thighs that was causing me to constantly trip and my legs to buckle with the slightest grade change. My agility during firefights and mobility on and off vehicles and perimeter walls was seriously hindering my response time and overall capability. It was evident that stress and muscular deterioration was affecting everyone regardless of gender; however, the rate of my deterioration was noticeably faster than that of male Marines and further compounded by gender-specific medical conditions. At the end of the 7-month deployment, and the construction of 18 PBs later, I had lost 17 pounds and was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (which personally resulted in infertility, but is not a genetic trend in my family), which was brought on by the chemical and physical changes endured during deployment. Regardless of my deteriorating physical stature, I was extremely successful during both of my combat tours, serving beside my infantry brethren and gaining the respect of every unit I supported. Regardless, I can say with 100 percent assurance that despite my accomplishments, there is no way I could endure the physical demands of the infantrymen whom I worked beside as their combat load and constant deployment cycle would leave me facing medical separation long before the option of retirement. I understand that everyone is affected differently; however, I am confident that should the Marine Corps attempt to fully integrate women into the infantry, we as an institution are going to experience a colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for females.

There is a drastic shortage of historical data on female attrition or medical ailments of women who have executed sustained combat operations. This said, we need only to review the statistics from our entry-level schools to realize that there is a significant difference in the physical longevity between male and female Marines. At OCS the attrition rate for female candidates in 2011 was historically low at 40 percent, while the male candidates attrite at a much lower rate of 16 percent. Of candidates who were dropped from training because they were injured or not physically qualified, females were breaking at a much higher rate than males, 14 percent versus 4 percent. The same trends were seen at TBS in 2011; the attrition rate for females was 13 percent versus 5 percent for males, and 5 percent of females were found not physically qualified compared with 1 percent of males. Further, both of these training venues have physical fitness standards that are easier for females; at IOC there is one standard regardless of gender. The attrition rate for males attending IOC in 2011 was 17 percent. Should female Marines ultimately attend IOC, we can expect significantly higher attrition rates and long-term injuries for women.
There have been many working groups and formal discussions recently addressing what changes would be necessary to the current IOC period of instruction in order to accommodate both genders without producing an underdeveloped or incapable infantry officer. Not once was the word “lower” used, but let’s be honest, “modifying” a standard so that less physically or mentally capable individuals (male or female) can complete a task is called “lowering the standard”! The bottom line is that the enemy doesn’t discriminate, rounds will not slow down, and combat loads don’t get any lighter, regardless of gender or capability. Even more so, the burden of command does not diminish for a male or female; a leader must gain the respect and trust of his/her Marines in combat. Not being able to physically execute to the standards already established at IOC, which have been battle tested and proven, will produce a slower operational speed and tempo resulting in increased time of exposure to enemy forces and a higher risk of combat injury or death. For this reason alone, I would ask everyone to step back and ask themselves, does this integration solely benefit the individual or the Marine Corps as a whole, as every leader’s focus should be on the needs of the institution and the Nation, not the individual? [Emphasis added--E.M.]
 Do read her whole essay, if you can.

Oh, and those two female Marines who attempted the Infantry Officer Course?  One was unable to pass the combat endurance test, and the other dropped out for unspecified medical reasons.  Which sort of backs up Captain Petronio's points.

Now, I've known plenty of women who have served honorably and well in the military, including my own mother-in-law, who served in the Air Force (as, by the way, did my father-in-law and, many years later, my husband).  This is not about keeping women out of the military or reducing them to desk jobs.

But I find it hard to read Captain Petronio's essay without taking her concerns seriously.  This woman is an elite soldier who experienced combat, and she's arguing strongly against making this a routine role for female soldiers, for reasons which are not at all sentimental but reality-based.  In effect, Captain Petronio is reminding us that the military's primary job is not career advancement or political correctness but killing people and breaking things, and that it takes a certain, and rather high, level of physical and emotional endurance to be among those on the front lines of the killing/breaking operations.  Should we sacrifice our military's standards and performance in its chief role for the sake of a misguided notion of gender equality?

Look: how many of you would be okay with requiring the NFL to recruit female linebackers?  What if they had to lower the standards overall in order for any women to pass physical tests for that role?  Would you think that was a good idea?

Because, make no mistake, that's exactly what putting women in combat roles will be like.  The only difference is that football is a game, and war most emphatically is not.  It wouldn't take very many serious injuries among female linebackers before the NFL would be rethinking the whole idea, but the military is apparently prepared to sacrifice any number of women in the pursuit of this wrong-headed agenda.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A failure to love

Today is the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, which means it is the 40th anniversary of the day that our Supreme Court decided that unborn Americans can be deprived of their lives at the whim of their mothers.

I've spent a lot of time over these past years of blogging writing about abortion, and about the nearly 55 million American children who have been brutally killed in their mothers' wombs since that terrible day.  We tend to think of them as babies, but there are 55 million Americans aged 40 and younger who are dead and missing from our world.  Some of them might have been doctors, poets, scientists, teachers.  A lot of them would have been ordinary moms and dads, college students, high school students.  Quite a lot of them would have been the same ages as the Sandy Hook victims or the victims of the Aurora shooter.  We, as a nation, decided they didn't count, they didn't matter; their killings raised little outrage except among the pro-life movement, and the same talking-heads who rush to shed tears on national TV over every other sort of tragedy shrug callously over the million deaths of unborn children each year, or write smug congratulatory little editorials celebrating the right of women to choose to participate in the vicious and violent shredding of their sons and daughters in utero.

The funny thing is, those smug members of the editorial glitterati are rarely post-abortive women.  Those women have voices, and more and more of them are starting to speak up about how powerless they felt, how hurt and angry, how empty and alone, as they lay on a table with their feet in stirrups and waited for the abortionist to begin his bloody and deadly work.  Many of them wanted to flee in horror; many of them shed tears immediately that have not stopped and may never stop this side of Heaven.  They, so many of them, didn't and don't believe that abortion was a simple choice; they, so many of them, felt forced to chose death for their unborn children.


The answer is at the same time simple, and one of the most complex problems human beings have faced since the Fall: they were forced or manipulated or tricked into abortion because of other people's failure to love.

Sure, some of the failure is their own, and most post-abortive women don't absolve themselves lightly from that failure.  If, some of them say, I had only loved my child enough to stop being afraid.  Fear of an unplanned pregnancy or its consequences drives more women to abortion than we can imagine.

But that deadly fear comes from somewhere, and some of you may not like what I have to say here: it comes from us.

It comes from us, when we fail to raise sons who value chastity and who are men enough to take responsibility if they fail to live that chastity in virtue.

It comes from us, when we don't speak out enough about men who abandon their families and their children--born or unborn.

It comes from us, when we don't give our daughters the same instruction in the virtue of chastity, when we don't support them in living what is now a counter-cultural life of virginity, or when we make them think that any failure of chastity that results in pregnancy on their part will kill our love for them or make us disown them or deny them.

It comes from us, when we think it's more important for an unwed Catholic schoolteacher to lose her job and health insurance, and deal with the "shame" of being pregnant out of wedlock, than to let her continue in the only loving and supportive work and faith community that could possibly help her make different choices in the future (because shunning people is a great way to show how Christ-like we are, right?).

It comes from us when we can look at this picture and shrug, because that man about to be hanged is a criminal, and he's not one of us, so what does it matter if he must die?

It comes from us, when we think that unmanned drones taking out innocent children is a good way to prosecute wars and assert our supremacy in the world.

It comes from us, when we condone racism or other serious injustices.

It comes from us, when we support torture or pornography or IVF or anything else that reduces the human person to an object, a commodity, or a means to an end.

It comes from us--because all of those things are at their heart a failure to love as Jesus taught us: to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strengths, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves--not a mere platitude, but a truly radical way of viewing each other, of viewing each Other as another Self, and demonstrating the same care, solicitousness, and concern for them as we do for our own persons and the ones we love best in this world.

If we wish to end abortion in America, we have to love.  We have to love everyone involved: the child who deserves her human dignity and her right to live; her mother, who may be anguished or frightened or abused or even callously cold and indifferent; her father, who may be a cad and a spoiled brat or who may dearly love his child and plead for her life; her parents who may be urging her to take care of this embarrassing problem or who might welcome her and their grandchild with open arms and gracious hearts; his parents, who might do likewise--and all the other people in their lives, like teachers or employers or friends or extended family all of whom, even if they don't know it, will be forever impacted by this child as we all will be by every human soul, whether she is permitted to be born and live or condemned unjustly to die.

We are all members of one human family.  Every person who lives or who has ever lived is our brother or our sister.  And that we have been so poor in our love that fifty-five million of our nearest relations have had their lives extinguished like so many bright flames, plunging us all into darkness, is a tragedy indeed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Confronting the sin of racism

I don't usually dive into the topic of racism on this blog, and I've never particularly done so on the day set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Part of that is because, like most people, I'm aware that Dr. King is still a subject of controversy 44 years after his assassination.  There are people who believe that he was the embodiment of good in the struggle for racial equality; there are people who believe he was a Communist bent on destroying America; and there are people who fall anywhere in between those two viewpoints.  I tend to think of him as a flawed hero of a movement that was right and just, an attempt to overcome the sin of racism in America.

Is racism a sin?  The Catechism says this:

1934 Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity.

1935 The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it:

It should be evident that to treat another human being as inferior or unwelcome solely because of his racial origins or the color of his skin is to fail to treat him as another self, a neighbor.  Racism is sinful because by it we objectify a human person to be nothing more than what our stereotypes and prejudices tell us he is, and to dehumanize him whether by open and undeserved hostility or hidden and silent neglect or indifference.

I was a bit shocked reading some of the comments at Rod Dreher's blog on some discussions of race recently, especially when a commenter who says he is a Catholic can say something like this:
This is why I have been convinced, for quite some time, that the wrong side won the Civil War, and that the wrong side prevailed in the so-called “Civil Rights” conflicts. Human beings are not “equal”, and when a society tries to make them “equal”, they are then left not free. Apparently, this society made up its mind that Equal is better than Free. Except when it comes to the getting of Free Stuff.

Score another one for the misguided, wrong-headed, pernicious and fundamentally evil notion of Human “equality”. The acolytes of this concept have so, so very much to answer for, enough to condemn them to a very hot Place for a very, very long time.
I can't say enough how reprehensible and contrary to real Catholic teaching the above sentiment is.  It might be one thing to have sane, sensible discussions as to whether or not specific elements of some affirmative action policy or other are appropriate or go too far or are becoming counter-productive; it is another thing altogether to denounce the very notion of equality as "evil," as though our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ are by the very fact of their racial heritage unworthy to share a place at our tables, a pew in our churches, or a desk in the offices where we work.

It floors me to realize how much ugly racism can be spouted with a veneer of gentle civility by my Christian neighbors, but when I find such things emanating from my fellow Catholics I grow quite angry.  My fellow Catholics have the clear guidance of the Church on the issue of racism; they have no excuse.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Emerging from the fog...

...of a two day migraine.

I don't get many of those, but boy are they weird.  I spent from 6 a.m. yesterday till about 3 p.m. today in bed, draped in ice and taking various medicines on a regular basis. Aside from talking to Thad who called to check in on me, I had two phone conversations yesterday and one today with relatives; I sort of remember the one from today (hi, sis!). :)  No, that's not entirely accurate; I remember both calls from the "day of blinding pain," but in the same surreal way you remember something that might be a memory or might be a dream, or might be a memory of a dream...


Anyway, I've been interested in everybody's responses on the gun-control post; such a diversity of opinion out there on this issue.  Hope to write more about this topic next week.  Also hope that I have now had my one two-day migraine for the year; I don't seem to get these more than twice a year, but once a year is more typical.  Here's hoping, anyway.

UPDATE: I'm turning moderated comments back on.  A certain Internet troll is responsible.  When he gets bored with being deleted every single time he tries to post his slimy trash on this blog, I may change back.  We'll see.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A survey of opinions on gun control

Let's talk about guns and gun control today.

Okay, now that you have read that above sentence, what was your reaction to it?  Was it:

a) Oh, no.  Not this topic again.  It's everywhere today, and I really don't care much about it.

b) Yes!  We need to talk about how important it is to protect the right of Americans to keep and bear arms, and to recognize that just about every measure to limit this right is tyranny in disguise.

c) Yes! We need to talk about how important it is for Catholics/Christians/others to come together to oppose the culture of violence that is present when we glorify the ownership of lethal weapons, along with violent movies, violence in TV and video games and books, and other ways that we desensitize people to violence and killing in the entertainment culture.

d) Yes!  Because the Second Amendment never envisioned people owning handguns, assault rifles, and other tools of death and mayhem.

Second question--you:

a) own or do not own guns but have no problem with responsible gun ownership and reasonable limits.

b) own guns or have no problem with virtually unrestricted gun ownership at all.

c) do not own guns and would prefer that gun ownership be much more restricted than it is today.

d) do not own guns and think that Christians generally shouldn't own guns except for rural use such as hunting.

Third question--you think that present government action re: gun control is:

a) a bit disgustingly opportunistic but probably the right sort of direction, with some reservations.

b) a tyrannical move by a dictatorial-leaning administration to deprive people of the means of keeping an encroaching federal government at bay.

c) not nearly enough, but a start.

d) a poor substitute for the kind of sweeping gun ban you'd like to see.

Fourth question--you'd be most likely to own a gun:

a) for hunting, sports/recreation, or similar use.

b) to protect yourself from the government; in fact, your guns are (or would hypothetically be) part of your survival kit for the coming collapse and/or power grab by the government, and you honestly expect to have to use your guns in this manner in your lifetime.

c) while you'd be unlikely to own a gun, if you had to live in a very dangerous neighborhood you'd consider owning a gun for protection.  But you'd be more likely to buy a large dog.

d) there is no circumstance whatsoever under which you would ever own a gun.

In the interests of full disclosure, my answers to questions one through three are the "a" responses, but the answer to four is "c."  This is because I am not from a hunting culture and can't imagine taking it up as a hobby this late in life, and the same thing really goes for target shooting.  But I don't have much of an issue regarding people who enjoy hunting or recreational target shooting, either.  It's just not where I'm from, personally.

I'm interested to hear your responses (and apologies, as usual, for the low-tech survey; I know the ones where you can just click a button are easier, but I'm all thumbs when it comes to creating and embedding those).  Feel free to add comments, as well.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Good news for the Catholic blogosphere

Many of you may remember the blogger who used to blog as "Cheeky Pink Girl."  Her blog was always interesting, and even when I disagreed with what she had to say, I thought she was coming from a very sincere place and writing from her heart--which is always the best way to write.

I have good news!  She has returned to blogging.  Her new blog is called "Such a Pretty Bubble."  I'm adding her to my blogroll, and I encourage you to go and check her blog out.

Sometimes blogging can seem like a lonely endeavor.  Is anyone really reading blogs anymore?  Did the shiny toys called Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and so on replace the fun and friendly conversations and exchanges bloggers used to have with each other, with readers, and even with real life family and friends?  There are times when it seems that way.

But I think that blogs have a bit more staying power than conventional wisdom suggests.  People who do it seem to like it, and even when they stop for a bit they seem to come back to it.  Maybe one day the blog will go the way of the long, handwritten personal letter, but I don't think we're there yet.

So encourage my blogging friend at her new blog!  And tell her Red Cardigan sent you. :)


...I have a new post up today at the Coalition for Clarity blog.  I'm going to try to do a better job of keeping that blog updated and relevant this year.

Monday, January 14, 2013

I agree with Deacon Kandra...

...who writes this today:
Okay. I've changed my mind. It's time to bring back the altar rail.

Hey, I'm as surprised as anyone else that I feel this way.

Two years ago, I rhapsodized on the Feast of Corpus Christi on the theology behind standing to receive communion, and defended it. And why not? I've received that way for most of my adult life; I even remember the Latin church's experiment with intinction back in the '70s. Standing and in-the-hand always seemed to me sensible, practical and—with proper catechesis—appropriate.

But now, after several years of standing on the other side of the ciborium—first as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, now as a deacon—and watching what goes on, I've had about enough.

I've watched a mother receive communion, her toddler in tow, then take it back to the pew and share it with him like a cookie.

At least four or five times a year, I have to stop someone who just takes the host and wanders away with it and ask them to consume it on the spot.  [...]

After experiencing this too often, in too many places, under a variety of circumstances, I've decided: it's got to stop. Catechesis is fruitless. We've tried. You can show people how it's done; you can instruct them; you can post reminders in the bulletin and give talks from the pulpit. It does no good. Again and again, there is a sizable minority of the faithful who are just clueless—or, worse, indifferent.

The fact is, we fumbling humans need external reminders—whether smells and bells, or postures and gestures—to reinforce what we are doing, direct our attention, and make us get over ourselves. Receiving communion is about something above us, and beyond us. It should transcend what we normally do. But what does it say about the state of our worship and our reception of the Eucharist that it has begun to resemble a trip to the DMV?

Our modern liturgy has become too depleted of reverence and awe, of wonder and mystery. The signs and symbols that underscored the mystery—the windows of stained glass, the chants of Latin, the swirls of incense at the altar—vanished and were replaced by . . . what? Fifty shades of beige? Increasingly churches now resemble warehouses, and the Body of Christ is just one more commodity we stockpile and give out.
Read the whole thing here--do, really, because it's terrific.

I agree with Deacon Kandra, wholeheartedly, 100%.  I think he's on to something important here, and I encourage those priests with the ability to change things in their parishes to do so--and that goes double for bishops.

I would just say that in those newer churches where rails weren't built and aren't really possible, we should keep up with the instruction and catechesis, and look into the purchasing of prie-dieux for use at Mass (preceded by instruction, of course).  And there should be clear guidelines for the reception of Holy Communion for those not physically able to kneel, such as the elderly or handicapped.  (I wonder--how was this handled in the preconciliar age?  Does anybody know?)

But kneeling to receive Holy Communion would, indeed, be a start in the right direction toward recapturing that sense of reverence at Mass, provided it is done properly (I've never been a huge fan of the "lone kneeler," for instance, not because I don't sympathize, but because I've seen it done in such a way that endangers the surprised person in the Communion line right behind the "lone kneeler" who suddenly has to dodge to avoid being tripped.)

What do you think?  Should we return to kneeling (especially with Communion rails)?  Why or why not? 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Punished with a baby

Isn't this picture here a lovely image of unborn twins?  I linked to a blogger who had posted it a couple of years ago, but I don't think it was originally hers, either--if anyone knows the original source I'll be glad to add a link to it.

On January 25, thousands of people will gather in our nation's capitol for the annual March for Life (the date is changed this year due to the difficulty of securing hotel rooms the day after the presidential inauguration).  They will march to remind our fellow Americans that unborn human beings deserve to be treated with love and respect, and have an innate dignity that is theirs from conception to natural death.  They will march against the practice of abortion, the slaughter of unborn children that takes the lives of more than 3,500 unborn Americans every day.  It is right and fitting for the marchers to protest in this way, and I have participated myself in this March for Life in the past.

Catholics, in particular, are called to build a culture of life.  We are called to foster and encourage a respect for all human life, born and unborn.  We are called to reject the attitude that pits a woman against her unborn child in a struggle for power or security.  We are called to give women real choices instead of contributing to the pressure they feel to choose to kill a child via abortion in the event of an unplanned, unwed, or crisis pregnancy.

And based on the story in my blog post earlier this week and some of the comments left there by my fellow Catholics, the Catholic Church in America isn't doing the best job right now of building up that culture of life.

I understand the need a Catholic organization has to stand firmly against our relativistic culture's acceptance and even promotion of sins, especially sins against chastity.  I am not opposed to requiring and expecting the employees of Catholic schools, parishes, and ministries to be committed to avoiding sin and living virtuous lives.  I am not against such employers retaining the right to fire an employee whose behavior is causing scandal under most circumstances.

But to fire an unmarried pregnant woman in the middle of her pregnancy, depriving her both of her income and her health insurance, is simply wrong when measured against the yardstick of the culture of life.  It is wrong because it is not pro-life; in fact, it is about the most pro-death thing I can imagine.

Picture a fictional Catholic female colleague of Ms. Quinlan's.  Pretend that this colleague, too, is unmarried, and after a foolish dating experience in which alcohol consumption lowered her inhibitions and blunted her judgment, she, too, discovers that she is pregnant (a not uncommon scenario).  She knows full well because of what happened to Ms. Quinlan that if she admits to her pregnancy she will lose her livelihood and her insurance.  She knows that abortion is a grave sin, just like the grave sin of fornication she has already committed...and yet, if she loses her job over this she will also lose her rent money and her car payment and may default on her student loans and...

If she's a strongly committed pro-life Catholic and she has a community of support (family, friends, etc.) around her, she may be brave enough to choose life anyway.  But if her family is likely to urge her to have the abortion to spare them the embarrassment of having their daughter pregnant out of wedlock, and if her friends are nominal Catholics or not believers at all who think she'd be crazy to lose her job over a baby, or if her economic situation is such that she will soon be homeless and without transportation as well as pregnant, then what?

The real problem here is that even in our pro-life Catholic leanings we sometimes betray a strangely uneven reaction to the sin of fornication depending on whether we're talking about a man's sin or a woman's.  If a man "struggles with chastity," we tend to look rather benignly on him.  We tend to talk about his faults as if fornication is about like self-pleasuring: both gravely sinful things which are mortal sins under the usual conditions, but both requiring nothing more than a good confession and the real intention to reform to "fix" things.  If he is known to have fathered a child out of wedlock and is paying support, we tend to applaud him for "stepping up to the plate" and doing the right thing--even if privately he gets a lot of sympathy for being on the hook for this obligation which most people think of as merely financial, and if many people, even Catholics, hint or openly say that it's really the woman's fault that he's in this position.

But if a woman "struggles with chastity," and becomes pregnant out of wedlock, then the baby is a fitting punishment, an instrument of the shame she deserves for her bad conduct.  She might get a little sympathy if she places the baby for adoption, but otherwise, no: she, and the child, deserve any or all of the poverty or dysfunction their lives will have in the future because of her bad decision to have sex outside of marriage.

That is not a pro-life attitude to have.  In fact, when President Obama used the phrase, "...punished with a baby..." to promote contraception, pro-life Catholics rightly repudiated that kind of attitude towards unborn human life.  And yet our howls of protest over those words becomes nothing but the rankest sort of hypocrisy if we think a Catholic school was acting in the most merciful and right way to fire an unmarried pregnant teacher for the sin of visible pregnancy.

We are trying to reach a culture which does not even share our basic values.  This culture thinks of artificial contraception as a good thing, is ambivalent about killing babies in abortion, and laughs to scorn the notion that chastity is a virtue, seeing it instead as a weird reluctance to take part in a harmless physical pastime of no transcendent value whatsoever, as if Christians were refusing on moral principles to belch or scratch an itch.  When we say to them that unborn human life is valuable and that we want to help unwed mothers and other mothers in crisis pregnancies, we'd better be prepared to demonstrate love and concern for them in all our actions, not just in our marches and speeches.  And nothing quite fails to demonstrate true Christian love or concern as much as a Catholic organization tossing them out of work and off of their health insurance for the sin of Showing Up Pregnant While Unmarried, does it?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In paradisum

Yesterday my family and I attended and sang at a funeral Mass for an elderly parishioner at our little mission parish.  This gentleman was the father of one of Thad's fellow tenors, and the father-in-law of our choir director.  As she played her violin at the funeral, I thought about how expressively emotional a violin can be: lovely, haunting, both sad and hopeful.  It was a beautiful funeral.

This family, this fellow tenor of Thad's, has buried a total of four family members in two years.  That is a very hard thing for any family to do.  And yet our friends have done so with grace, with love, and with careful prayer and attention, setting an example that any of us may someday have to follow.

I will miss seeing this older gentleman at Mass; as Father said yesterday, he was at Mass most Sundays when his health permitted it, and was always sorry to miss Mass when he couldn't be with us.  He was the sort of older gentleman who is comfortable giving compliments, and a regular exchange with me would be for him to ask before Mass, "Are you in good voice today?"  and then, no matter what I said or how I sounded, to tell me after Mass, "You were in good voice today."  He was, in many ways, a dear sort of person.

Our pastor gave a homily that was very encouraging about this gentleman's whereabouts now, and though I know that some people prefer fire and brimstone at funerals, there is something moving about being reminded that the Church takes a rather hopeful view at the funerals of lifelong Catholics who prayed a lot and went to Confession and Mass and raised their families Catholic and received the anointing of the sick at appropriate times and were generally close to God and the Church.  I have, of course, remembered him in my daily prayers for the poor souls, but to be honest I can't help but imagine his usual twinkling expression, now illuminated by joy, and to picture him passing my poor prayers on to souls who really need them.  That won't stop me from praying, but it's a comforting thought.

Our little parish generally serves a luncheon after funerals, and as we gathered for that I thought about how much this gentleman had enjoyed such gatherings--he was a rather enthusiastic eater, and our parish is very good at feeding people on regular occasions.  It was strange not to see his wheelchair at one of the tables yesterday, or to hear him complimenting the side dish casseroles or asking for the salt.  At the heavenly banquet where I hope and trust he is or soon will be there is joy and fellowship too, and perhaps the parish luncheons are a pale reflection of that.

We left during a break in the pouring rain--it was rainy, cold, and miserable yesterday.  But this gentleman would have reminded me, again with that twinkle, that there are ten inches of snow in his hometown in Pennsylvania right now, and I would have had to admit that our Texas winters are nothing much to worry about.  People like that are really good for setting us complainers straight.

If there is someone like that at your parish, some elderly person who you see every Sunday and say hello to and are just a little bit tempted to take just a little bit for granted, say "Hello!" to him or to her this week for me.  The door between our world and the next is always swinging open for them at their stage of life, and the last journey is not always heralded by visible illness or hospitalization or crises.  The soul can slip away between breaths, between heartbeats, and you can be left with the odd realization that the last thing you said on your way out the church door was a cheery, "See you next Sunday!" and a quick exchange about how the snow in Texas which melts in an afternoon is the best kind of snow--as compared to those ten inches on the ground back home...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When mercy speaks louder than justice

An unmarried Ohio teacher is suing a Catholic school  and the archdiocese for firing her after her unwed pregnancy became apparent:
Kathleen Quinlan of Kettering, who has since delivered twin girls, said in the Dec. 14 lawsuit that her firing for moral reasons was discriminatory because male employees who engage in premarital sex don’t face the same consequences “insomuch as they do not show outward signs of engaging in sexual intercourse (i.e., pregnancy).”

Quinlan was hired on July 25, 2011, and started work on Aug. 11, 2011. She became pregnant that fall, according to the lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

On Dec. 29, 2011, as her pregnancy was becoming apparent, she met with Principal Brett Devitt, told him about her pregnancy and offered to “take a ‘behind the scenes’ role at Ascension until she gave birth,” the lawsuit said. Devitt told her that “Ascension would do everything possible to support her,” the suit said, but that he needed to confer with Ascension Pastor Chris Worland and officials of the 19-county archdiocese, which runs the Catholic school system.

In a second meeting later that day, Worland and Devitt “told Ms. Quinlan that, after relating her pregnancy to the archdiocese, it was decided she could no longer work for Ascension School,” according to the lawsuit. She was told to clean out her classroom within three days, so her replacement could begin on Jan. 3. Her firing was effective Dec. 31, 2011, and she consequently lost her medical insurance in January.

A Dec. 31 termination letter told Quinlan she was fired for violating a section of her employment contract that requires employees to “comply with and act consistently in accordance with the stated philosophy and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church,” the lawsuit said. Quinlan’s attorney argued that, “as a non-ministerial employee, (she) was not subject to a ‘morality clause.’”
The article linked to above goes on to compare this case to other firings involving Catholic school teachers, one married and one single, who used the gravely immoral IVF method to achieve a pregnancy.  I don't think the cases are similar at all--but we'll get back to that.

In looking at this case, I want to start by saying that the school and archdiocese may quite well be in the clear legally.  Voluntary employment agreements tend to get held up in courts, and the right of religious employers to require certain standards of conduct of their employees has also been affirmed in the legal system in recent years.

But even if they are in the clear legally, I could not disagree more with how this is being handled, assuming that all pertinent facts have been reported.

Because, let's face it: firing an unwed pregnant teacher who is expecting twins while turning a blind eye to the married employees who are actively using artificial contraception is the antithesis of building up a culture of life.  And unless Catholic schools have changed a great deal since the days when my Catholic school teachers openly mocked my parents for not "knowing how" to avoid having nine children, I'd be willing to bet serious cash that at least one married teacher at Ascension School is using artificial birth control, secure in the knowledge that nobody at the school knows or cares whether or not he or she is doing so.

Ms. Quinlan's offer to take a "behind the scenes" role should have been quietly accepted, end of story.  Otherwise the pastor and the archdiocese come off as caring more about appearances than actual morality--and given that artificial contraception was still being openly dispensed at Catholic hospitals in that part of Ohio a decade or so ago, I highly doubt that the real problem here was the shocking fact that Ms. Quinlan engaged in the grave sin of fornication while employed at a Catholic school.

Our Lord had a lot of unkind words for the sort of hypocrites who cared more about how things looked than how they actually were.  So unless every single teacher at Ascension School would be willing to sign a public document saying that they have not fornicated, contracepted, or otherwise engaged in grave moral evils while employed at Ascension School, we are left with the inescapable conclusion that what is being punished here is not sinful conduct but visible pregnancy.

It is different to fire teachers who are undergoing IVF treatment, especially if they're talking about it in the community or in the classroom--because IVF is itself the sin, and it's not the kind of sin one commits in the heat of the moment or while, say, under the influence of alcohol or something.  In other words, it's a grave violation of the dignity of unborn life committed with great deliberation and planning.  And it is just as possible to fire a male employee whose wife is undergoing IVF, or who has hired a surrogate, etc. as to fire a female employee for this sin.

Fornication, while also gravely morally evil, isn't exactly the same in terms of planning and deliberation or in terms of people knowing about it.  I was on a forum where this case was being discussed, and a commenter kept insisting that sure, a male teacher could be fired for fornication, because "everybody knows" when someone is engaging in that sort of activity.  I was tempted to respond by saying that "everybody knows" is just shorthand for gossip, which drags the unholy trio of scandal, calumny, and detraction into the mix.  In other words, no, we can't know a man has been fornicating (short of hiring a private investigator) and we can't know a woman has been, either, if she's willing to add the sin of contraception and/or abortion to the sin of fornication.  So we can only fire an unmarried woman for showing up to work visibly pregnant, which is going to place a serious burden on her committment to acting in accordance with the Church's pro-life views, isn't it?

I see no way around this dilemma for Catholic employers except to treat unmarried pregnant employees the way Christ treated the woman caught in adultery: to tell her to sin no more, but to refuse to allow the punishment of the law to fall upon her (especially since the woman caught in adultery's partner-in-crime had apparently fled the scene).   There are times when mercy speaks louder than justice, after all.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Priestess Connection--now a parody video!

Thanks to an amazing and talented reader named Tony, there is now a parody version of the "Ordain a Lady" video using the "Priestess Connection" lyrics!  Check it out:

Tony: amazing and terrific job!  Thanks so much for doing this!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Repost and request

Okay, so this cringeworthy video is NOT a parody.  Um, er.  Okay, then.

I'd like to request that somebody with YouTube and music skills make a parody video re: the women's ordination question, though.  I'd gladly offer my parody lyrics below as a possible song choice, though I'm sure there are better options out there:
The Priestess Connection (with apologies, sung to the tune of the Muppets' song, The Rainbow Connection)

Why are there so many
Stoles made of rainbows
And vestments that are tie-dyed?

Rainbows are symbols
Of womyn's confusion
And yet represent gay-pride

Get on the boat and wrap sheets all around you
Mu-mus and trinkets and sea
Someday they'll find it, the Priestess Connection
Athena and Isis and me.

Who said that only men
Could stand at the altar?
(God did. But we just don't care)

Somebody told us that
And some may believe it
We say it just isn't fair

We've gone as far as we can with star-gazing
Tarot cards, crystals, and tea
We want to find it, the Priestess Connection
Demeter and Freya and me...

(...all of us can cast a spell
Though mostly we're just comi-tragic...)

Have you dozed off at lunch
And heard mystic voices?
Calls to the priesthood for dames,

Was it the voice of fate
Or maybe the pizza?
Where can we place the blame?

I think Dan Brown is the one who began it
Or people who think God is "She"
Someday we'll find it, that Priestess Connection,
Minerva and Lilith and me..., excommunication...
la la la I cannot hear youuuuuu......!