Friday, May 31, 2013

Praying for Oklahoma, again

As you may have already heard, a very dangerous storm including multiple tornadoes has hit the Oklahoma City area.  I ask you to join me in praying for the people of Oklahoma, who have endured so much already this year from tornadoes and storms.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Today's post... at Coalition for Clarity, where the toll of sending our troops on endless tours in endless wars is discussed.

Catholics and the BSA

One of the good things about not having had time to revisit my post about the Boy Scouts of America and their decision which permits same-sex attracted Scouts is that other Catholics have already made the points I was thinking about, each of them must better than I would have.

On the one side we have canon lawyer Ed Peters, who writes:
Now, the policy adopted by the Boy Scouts states in pertinent part: “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

Immediate observations. First, the policy applies only to youth members (males aged 11 thru 17 and, I assume, single), not to adult leaders who, per the Supreme Court decision in Boy Scouts v. Dale (2000)—a case that I think was decided correctly—are excluded based on a same-sex orientation. Second, on its face the policy applies only to membership in the Boy Scouts and not necessarily to participation in all Boy Scout activities; intentionally or not, this narrow phrasing seems to leave open some questions about how a membership policy might be applied to reasonable concerns over participation in certain activities. Third, nothing in the new policy or in Boy Scout literature endorses or advocates the gay life style; in fact all members are prohibited from using the Boy Scouts to promote “any social or political position or agenda”.

These three points being noted, the revised policy may be scrutinized from a Catholic point-of-view as follows.

(1) Granted that the non-discrimination principle outlined in CCC 2358 rings platitudinously (for “unjust discrimination” is never licit!), if the principle therein means anything—and I think it does—it means that the burden of proof lies on those who would discriminate against persons experiencing same-sex attraction to justify that discrimination.

Now in some respects discrimination (e.g., refusing to recognize “same-sex marriage” or prohibiting the admission of homosexuals to seminary) can and should be defended among Catholics. But, that same-sex attraction itself (which is the only factor addressed by the policy), should bar membership (which is the only application of the policy) in a secular organization seems difficult to argue; to propose further that maintaining such a bar is a litmus test for Catholic sponsorship of an organization seems even less tenable. Consider: same-sex attraction, standing alone, does not prohibit one from being a fully initiated Catholic. To argue, therefore, that, say, a Catholic parish must hold a sponsored organization to a higher membership standard than it holds itself to is at best anomalous.
 Read the rest here.

On the other side, we have Thomas McDonald, who writes:
I tend to draw the stories on scouting for the National Catholic Register, so I’ve been watching as the BSA tried to revise their policies for dealing with boys who publicly proclaim same sex attraction. It’s important to note that the BSA does not ask about sexual preference, operating on an unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” that quite reasonably kept the private sexual habits of people–particularly minors–out of the organization.

The gay lobby and their allies, however, have made it clear that this is no longer an option. Sexuality, long a province of the private sphere–must now be dragged into the sunlight to be celebrated. People who would attempt to demur, or decline to admit same sex relationships on equal footing with opposite sex relationships, must be labelled bigots, targeted, and beaten into submission.

The gays have been pursuing the Scouts for years. Ever since homosexual activist James Dale argued all the way to the Supreme Court for his right to go camping with 14-year-old boys (and rightfully lost based on the BSA’s right to freedom of association), the Scouts have been chased from public buildings, seen their funding attacked, and come under a withering media onslaught. They weathered it well, stuck to their values, and continued on their merry way trying to form boys in civic virtue and manhood without obsessing over-much on gay sex, which is so low on the list of things that concern reasonable Americans as to be invisible. [...]

It’s certainly not Catholic to “kick people out” because of an inclination to sin. We don’t even kick people out for sinning. We’re supposed to be the hospital for sinners. We’re the people who separate being and behavior–sinner and sin–because we know that a person is not their sin.

Activists are pushing these boys to “come out.” They’re being used as shock troops to advance an agenda, when in fact most would probably rather just go about their own struggles and deal with their desires without getting a giant rainbow “I’m gay!” banner tied to them. The number of boys dismissed from the Scouts for homosexual inclination is vanishingly small for a very simple reason: the BSA doesn’t ask. A “gay Boy Scout” might as well be a unicorn.

On the other hand, I understand that Catholic families may head for the hills in the wake of the decision. The shift in policy shows that the BSA is willing to concede moral high ground. It’s a victory for the gay lobby, which has already declared that they’re unhappy with the compromise and will continue to pester, sue, and otherwise harass the BSA until openly gay adult leaders are approved. That time will come, either sooner or later, because the idea of the primacy of conscience, freedom of association, and freedom of religion have been destroyed in the modern era.

When they win that victory, the BSA will cease to exist as anything but a shadow of its former glory. No reasonable parent will send a child or teen off with an adult leader who may desire sex with him. That’s insanity.

The problem is that the policy, while reasonable, is also incoherent. Scouting is a lifetime commitment for most. The rule essentially banishes men from the Scouting leadership once they turn 18.

It also raises countless practical questions. If a boy declines to share a two-person tent at summer camp with a gay scout, will he be subjected to criticism and complaint? Putting two gay scouts together in those tents doesn’t solve the problem: you wouldn’t put a heterosexual teenage boy and a heterosexual teenage girl in the same tent, would you?
Now: my turn.  I agree that the new policy as stated--which does NOT use the loaded phrase "openly gay" which the media has been using since the policy was approved--is not on its face an automatic problem for Catholics involved in Scouting.  Boiled down to its essentials, the new policy says that simply learning that a Scout is same-sex attracted is not, by itself, enough to bar him from membership or expel him from Scouting.  No reasonable Catholic has a problem with that, as Dr. Peters amply points out.

But the problem, as Thomas McDonald also amply points out, is that there is no reason at all to believe that the gay activists are happy and will now stop targeting the Boy Scouts for reeducation or extermination (the only two options gay activists will accept for people who don't think that sodomy must be celebrated, applauded, and lauded as the best thing civilization has ever produced).  McDonald's point about the incoherence of the policy regarding adult members is one I hadn't thought of: what if a 19-year-old Eagle Scout who is known to be homosexual now wants to be a leader?  Can he be, so long as he claims to be celibate?  Or what about the scenario involving an adult former Scout who is now "married" to a man in a state where that's legal?  Can the Scouts avoid being sued for discriminating against men who are "married" to men, while (obviously) having no problem with the vast majority of married men (who are, of course, married to women) being leaders in Scouting?

Or, going back to the Boy Scouts themselves, what if a Scout's Facebook page lists him as being "in a relationship" and shows pictures of him with his "boyfriend?"  If he insists that the relationship doesn't involve sex, is that grounds for dismissal or not?  After all, heterosexual Scouts can date girls so long as they are being chaste, so wouldn't it be discrimination to kick out gay Scouts for dating boys?

I really think that there's no solution here.  A Catholic parish doesn't kick out same-sex attracted people, or even demand that they stop committing serious sins before they come to Mass (receiving Communion is, or should be, another question entirely).  But a Catholic parish would have no problem telling a same-sex attracted boy in a Confirmation class that he can't be Confirmed if he's dating another boy--and would also (or should also) have no trouble explaining why that is so, when it's perfectly okay for the other teen boys in the group to be in chaste dating relationships with teen girls.  A Catholic parish should also have no problem explaining that a same-sex "married" couple are not a married couple in the eyes of God or of the Church (emphasis on should, of course) and that they can't sign up as a couple to be youth leaders or anything else.  This is because the Church's nuanced teachings about same-sex attraction are rooted in a deep and ancient philosophical and religious view about the meaning and purpose of sex, the definition of lawful marriage, and the sins committed against Holy Matrimony.

The BSA, however, is a secular organization.  There is no such clear-cut teaching within the organization about why homosexual sex acts are wrong and why the same-sex attracted person must embrace the Cross of life-long chastity if heterosexual marriage is truly not a possibility for him or her (and I refer, here, to the examples of same-sex attracted people who have found great happiness in marriage to a person of the opposite sex, not to any idea of changing the orientation itself, which may not be possible in many or most cases).  There shouldn't have to be any such teaching; after all, topics of sex and sexuality are out of place in a setting where children are the focus.

But the gay activists are going to make sure that the Boy Scouts, like everything else gay activists get involved in, are all about sex and sexuality.  They will praise those within Scouts who push the envelope by accepting boys who are really "openly gay" in that they act on their inclination and by accepting openly gay adult leaders in defiance of the current national policy, and will target any groups which do not do either of these two things.  They will, as Thomas McDonald says, continue to sue the Scouts to push for gay leaders, and the existence of gay "marriage" in some states almost guarantees that the Scouts will lose this fight.

So while I would never say that Catholics must immediately give up on Scouting, I have a feeling that it won't be very long before it will be harder to be accepted into Scouting if you are "openly Catholic" than if you are "openly gay."  Whether or not to participate in the meantime is something only families involved with the Boy Scouts can decide.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Today's post... here, at Tales of Telmaja.  This week's writing prompt may appeal to young ladies who like realistic stories better than science-fiction or fantasy ones; it's only fair! :)

Monday, May 27, 2013

On Memorial Day, some questions to ponder

Happy Memorial Day!  I do still plan to post about the BSA later this week, but since it's a holiday and you have better things to do than read blogs, I will save that post.

Instead, as we honor our heroes who have died to keep America free and strong, I have some questions to ask: how many of them would be proud of our nation today?

--Would they be proud of our continued presence in Afghanistan, long after the president promised to bring our troops home?

--Would they be proud of torture, of Abu Ghraib, of Guantanamo?

--Would they be proud of our promotion of contraceptive imperialism in third world countries?

--Would they be proud of our various statements to the effect that countries which ban abortion are oppressing women?

--Would they be proud of social experimentation in the military, including the promotion of homosexuality among the troops and the rise in male-on-male rapes in the military?

--Would they be proud of the systematic destruction of the nuclear family and the rise in fatherlessness?

--Would they be pleased with the growing assaults against free speech and true freedom of religion, which unlike the faux "freedom to worship" does not simply mean you can go to church on Sunday but that Americans are free to live according to their faith and values in the public square?

Would they be proud of us, these heroes of ours?  Or would they wonder what the Hell (literally) has happened to their America?

Friday, May 24, 2013

New BSA Post briefly delayed by migraine...

I had intended to post a follow-up post today to my discussion of the Boy Scouts of America and their decision to permit openly gay members.  There has been a thoughtful discussion of this at Rod Dreher's blog, and I've also heard from some readers asking what the problem is, given that the Catholic Church differentiates between homosexual sex acts, which are gravely sinful, and the orientation or inclination to be sexually attracted to members of one's own gender, which is not.

To give you an idea of what I'm concerned about, I was planning to talk about three things: one, that this is being spun as a decision to allow "openly gay" Scouts (and a discussion of what "openly gay" even means in a context where all the boys are supposed to be celibate and avoid discussion sexual matters); two, that activists are already calling this the "first step" toward allowing gay adult leaders to lead troops; and three, the inevitable problems a secular organization will face in trying to maintain anything like a similar nuance to the Catholic Church's teachings on this issue--that is, can the BSA really kick out gay scouts for evidence of sexual activity outside scouting, or will that end up being labeled some kind of unfair witch hunt?

Unfortunately, the post I planned to write is swirling around in my brain, but the migraine that came in with this afternoon's thunderstorms is wreaking havoc on my ability to form coherent sentences and even to type (you wouldn't believe how long this tiny bit took me to write).  So I'll plan to revisit the issue early next week; in the meantime, please feel free to add your thoughts in the comment box.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The end of the Boy Scouts

Well, as you've no doubt already heard, the Boy Scouts of America have voted to allow openly gay boys to join their organization.  For now, the ban on openly gay men taking little boys camping out in the woods remains, but that won't last.

You know what?  This is it.  This is the end of the Boy Scouts of America.  Within ten years the organization's membership will have fallen so precipitously that there will be no point in continuing on.  All those openly gay ten-year-olds who have dreamed of being Scouts will find that there's no Scouts left anymore.

Okay, that was a bit of snark, because there aren't really very many openly gay ten-year-olds.  What there are are openly gay 15, 16, and 17 year-olds who think that the only reason parents wouldn't want them to share tents with boys three or four years younger is homophobia and bigotry.  I guess bigotry is the reason parents don't like to let their eleven or twelve-year-old daughters go camping with high school-aged boys, too.  I mean, how dare anybody suggest that it's wrong to make pre-teens or teens share showers and tents with other teens who are sexually attracted to them!  That's just offensive.

But a whole lot of not-yet-brainwashed parents are not going to be okay with this.  They're not going to be okay with pro-homosexual indoctrination making its way, as it soon will, into the Scouts under the ubiquitous umbrella of "tolerance" and "inclusion."  They're not going to be okay with pressure among troops to recruit gay members to prove they're not actively barring them from joining (and if you don't think this is going to happen, you are woefully naive about the end-game of the gay rights movement).  They're not going to be okay with adding an "LGBT Pride Badge" to the required badges necessary to make Eagle Scout.

So they're going to take their children out of scouting.  And traditional churches which have sponsored troops and allowed them to meet on church property are not going to sponsor troops or host meetings anymore.  And private Catholic and Christian donors are going to pull their funds away from the Boy Scouts.  Within five years, the Boy Scouts of America will be begging for emergency government funding, and the government will grant it provided that gay men can be scout leaders and that the scouts agree to give "safe sex" talks and hand out condoms as part of their "outreach."  I wonder what the emblem on the Safe Sex badge will be?

In other words, within a vanishingly short space of time the Boy Scouts of America will be the same moral sewer as our public schools.  And why would any parents want to spend loads of extra time and money for their kids to supplement the education in depravity and perversity the government already provides them for free every school day?  Because it involves camping trips?  Oh, please.

UPDATE: Think I'm wrong?  Gay activists are already celebrating this as the "first step" toward ending the ban on gay adult leaders and forcing the Scouts to promote more gay-friendly policies.  Anyone who thinks this is some kind of compromise is kidding himself.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Indifferentism and illusion

Fr. Dwight Longenecker has had a couple of great posts recently about what he says when people tell him their adult children are no longer Catholic.  The first is here; the second is the one I want to share here today:
So they went church shopping, and they found that the other churches had better merchandise. If they were looking for wonderful music, beautiful architecture and fine liturgy the Episcopalians did all that better than the Catholics (who were busy building concrete flying saucers to worship in) If they were looking for gung ho youth groups, happy music and powerful Biblical preaching the Baptists did that better than the Catholics. If they wanted relevant hip hop sermons with big screens, bagels and a latte–the community church sure did that better than the Catholics. If they wanted groovy, soothing music, easy going services and a feel good sermon “contemporary worship stream” at the mainstream Protestant church filled the need. The Catholics were simply doing Protestant badly.

in the meantime, all the things that were really distinctive and unique about the Catholic faith we, in America, put up at a kind of ecclesiastical yard sale. Eucharistic adoration, the real presence of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the altar, the apostolic authority, the papacy, the church fathers, the communion of the saints, images of saints, pilgrimages, the promise of heaven and the pains of hell, the need for confession and the sanctity of marriage….if they weren’t exactly put up at a yard sale, at least they were stashed away in the attic in order to make way for a bland, watered down, wall  to wall carpeting version of Catholicism that was a mix between a Protestant church, Dr Phil and a poorly done nightclub singing act…and the amazing thing is a huge number of American Catholics liked the result. If you don’t believe me try introducing Gregorian chant or something called a hymn to an AmChurch parish.
I can provide evidence of Father's claim: our choir used to sing a Latin Chant Mass setting during Lent, and a parishioner threw such a public fit about it that our pastor asked us not to sing the Latin anymore.  We changed to an English Mass setting for Lent: an English Chant setting of the new translation, that is.

I liked this part of Father Longenecker's post, too:
The third aspect of indifferentism is simply being indifferent. Careless. Complacent. Worldly. Lacking in passion. Lukewarm. Boring. The reason I am a committed Christian and a passionate Catholic today is because I grew up with people who really believed the old, old story of mankind’s fall from grace and God’s saving sacrifice. My parents not only took us to church. They lived a life of sacrifice. My Dad–with five kids and a failing business–gave 15% of his income to the church and we knew it and were proud of his action. We met missionaries who gave their lives to go and live in the jungle with their families to bring the gospel to aboriginal tribes living in fear and darkness. We met refugees from Russia who had been imprisoned for their faith and escaped with nothing but the shirt on their back and had set up missions to smuggle Bibles into communist lands.

This third aspect of indifferentism is the worst of all. It tames Aslan. It waters down the wine. It replaces the fire of the Holy Spirit with one of those tacky fake candles you pay a nickel for and press a switch. Why do they leave? It’s not hard to figure out. They say it themselves–as some folks in the combox have pointed out. They asked their kids why they didn’t believe the Catholic faith and the answer was stark and simple: “If it really is the body and blood of Christ and he is really present–why don’t Catholics–priests included (or should I say priests especially) behave as if it is so?  They have shopped elsewhere and found other Christians who seem to love Jesus Christ more and wish to serve him with their whole lives.

Read the whole thing.

I really think Father is on to something with this talk of indifferentism.  We do want to work for Christian unity, of course; we do want to avoid making idols out of the aesthetics of the Mass; we do know that people who have a vocation to be, say, a wife and mother shouldn't abandon that vocation to take up street preaching in a city 500 miles away--at least, not without the blessing of her pastor and the willingness of her family.  But indifferentism is different from these things, because it makes us believe that nothing we do really much matters, because we're all God's good friends and He doesn't really care if we show up at a particular Church on Sunday.  That He died and rose and sent the Holy Spirit to establish this particular Church gets left out of the conversation.

And indifferentism weakens the soul, so that when the real crisis of faith comes, the exit door looks like a good option.

What to I mean by "the real crisis of faith?"  Well, I'm a cynic, and I recall something Fulton Sheen once said that made a lot of sense to me: he said that whenever a brother priest would say he was struggling with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, he would ask his brother, "Blond, brunette, or redhead?"  The point was simple: a few unique people out there may lay awake nights pondering doctrine, but most of us only start questioning the doctrines of our faith when we want a good excuse to ignore it, to deny it, or to leave it altogether.

There are a lot of Catholics who want to fornicate without feeling guilty about it.  There are a lot of  Catholics who want to marry outside the Church without promising to raise the kids Catholic or getting the appropriate permissions.  There are a lot of Catholics who want to marry people who aren't free to marry--someone whose first marriage was valid, that is.  There are a lot of Catholics who want to use birth control.  There are a lot of Catholics who want to sleep late on Sunday mornings and go out for pancakes when they do get up.

And if the kind of indifferentism Father Longenecker has been talking about has been infecting their spiritual lives, then pretty soon the indifferentism plus the desire to sin without consequence (or even without admitting to themselves that they are sinning) adds up to a decision to leave the Church.  "After all," such a person is inclined to think, "I'm a good person, and I love Jesus.  And Jesus doesn't care if I shack up with my boyfriend or use birth control with my husband or marry outside the Church.  Those rules were all invented by people who just wanted to control people's lives, not by Jesus.  If I feel in my heart that my preferred sin is really not such a big deal, not a sin at all, then that's all Jesus cares about."  And having created a fictional Jesus who didn't exactly found the Church and isn't her Spouse who died for her on the Cross and so forth, they settle down in apparent comfort into whichever church makes them feel the best and nicest about themselves, and never really challenges them on that particular sin they cherish so much--even if lots of challenging things are said by dynamic preachers which, when examined, don't require anybody to restructure their lives radically according to the Gospel (or at all).

But the churches of nice are illusions, in the end. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Today's post...

is here, where I ask moms of young readers which series books they love for their kids--and which ones they can't stand.  Come on over and leave a comment! :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Praying for Oklahoma

I was going to put up a blog post, but considering the devastation this afternoon from tornadoes in Oklahoma I'm just putting up prayers instead.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Validation and balance

Sorry for the continued spotty blogging this week; all I can say is that I've been busy.  For those of you who are waiting for the sequel to my first children's science-fiction book, The Telmaj, I may have some really good news soon!  And if you haven't yet bought a copy of The Telmaj for the 8 to 12-year-old reader(s) in your life: summer is coming, and sometimes it will be too hot to play outside, and a book may be a nice break from all the screen time, and that's all the shameless self-promotion I can stand for one day. :)

Some of you may remember the posts I did here discussing Deacon Kandra's letters from a woman complaining about babies screaming at Mass.  Earlier this week, Deacon Kandra received another letter from this woman, and it's a shocker:
I thought I should let you & your readers know that I’ve been forced by my hearing problem to leave the Church. After talking with a priest yesterday, I told him that I realize that the Catholic Church’s exists primarily for screaming–& yes, I do mean SCREAMING, not making little babbling sounds–babies & their apparently-deaf parents.

Read the rest of her letter, and Deacon Kandra's comments, here.

Lots of things don't add up here, to me.  I don't want to psychoanalyze a person I don't know based on a handful of letters, but in her first letter this woman made it clear that the Mass with the screaming babies is a Saturday morning Mass (that is, NOT a Sunday Mass), and in her second letter, that she was "saddened" by the comments to her first letter and said that she and her husband had never brought their children to Sunday Mass before age 5 or so (kindergarten).  She also said that only she went to Sunday Mass during those years; her husband went to daily Mass and would take the kids on Saturdays when they were old enough (around 4).  Here, in this third letter, she is clearly chagrined that babies are still welcome at Mass despite her health-related inability to tolerate their "screaming."  She blames parents who bring their children to Mass for a lack of charity and advises them to go to Confession, and says that she's leaving the Church.

In short, I agree with Deacon Kandra when he says:
My sense is that there has to be more than just noise that is driving this woman away, and that there may be more layers to her story. There’s pain there, along with anger and frustration.  I suspect what she needs more than silence is time—and prayer, and someone who will listen. I hope she finds all of that.

I think that when this lady wrote to Deacon Kandra in the first place, what she was looking for, perhaps even expecting, was validation of her particular situation.  Again, I'm not psychoanalyzing when I say that, just pointing out that as human beings we tend to crave this sort of thing.  When we tell someone our troubles, we might be looking for solutions, or we might just be looking for sympathy, for a voice that says, "How terrible for you!  You must be so upset."  This is one of those things that is much, much easier to tell in real-life conversation than in blogs, emails, Facebook updates, etc.  I suspect--though of course I don't know--that what this particular lady wanted was a chorus of voices saying, "Oh, how awful that the priest at your parish lets people bring babies to what should be a quiet Saturday morning Mass and then lets those babies SCREAM at the top of their tiny lungs like operatic banshees for the entire thirty minutes without ever suggesting that the parents take them outside for a moment to calm down, especially when the slightest noise can trigger the distressing symptoms of your health problem and you've gone out of your way to explain this patiently and..." etc.  Instead, what she got was: total agreement that babies ought not be allowed to scream like operatic banshees throughout an entire Mass, but also doubt that this was actually the case, along with a lot of people saying that infants and young children do, as baptized Catholics, have the right to attend Mass and that people should cut parents some slack when they're trying to make that sometimes-complicated "vestibule or not?" decision should Junior start to act up a bit.

In other words, people gave a fairly sane, balanced, reasonable response.  But it would seem (again, none of us knows for certain) that perhaps this lady simply wanted some sympathy and understanding for her particular situation, even if she couched it in language about what all parents ought to do or what the Church ought to do, etc.

I don't think the desire for validation, sympathy, and understanding is a sinful thing; I think it's a human one.  But I also think that once our emotions calm down in these situations, we should try to look at the big picture, examine our own motives and reactions, and strive for a sense of balance about it all.

Deciding to leave the Church altogether because of screaming babies (or female altar servers or bad music or too much/too little Latin or the lack of women priests or the Church's refusal to bless artificial birth control or too many EMHCs or...) is a clear sign that one's sense of balance is not quite right.  And that, as Deacon Kandra says, prayer is the main thing that is called for here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Somebody else's problem

I'm back!  Er...did I say "Monday?"  Sorry about that.

Actually, I've been really busy getting my second book ready to publish.  I ordered proof copies today--yay!  But I've also been up really late the last few nights, so I'm not all that coherent.

I don't want to wait any longer, though, to talk some more about that Bangladesh garment factory fire/collapse.  The one where a young woman was dug out alive from the rubble after 17 days.  The one where 1,100 workers died making clothing for about 30 cents an hour while the companies that ordered those clothes charged their customers anywhere from seven to ten times what they paid for the clothes in the first place--and yet those companies insist that they can't afford to help improve working conditions in those factories.  Oh, but they are, some of them, making vague promises about setting up a "fund" for the victims (or, perhaps, their families, since most of the victims died).

Many people seem to shrug at this stuff and say, "Oh, well.  All corporations are evil.  What can we do?" as though the problem is to big for us to deal with, as though it's always somebody else's problem.  But a reader sent me this terrific list of clothing companies who are actually trying not to cooperate with substandard factories and terrible working conditions.  Some people might reject the list as coming from what Mark Shea calls a "ritually impure source," but I would think that if anyone really wished to support companies that don't treat their workers like expendable cogs in an impersonal machine he or she could check out these companies for himself or herself and find out if they are, in fact, helping to improve garment factory conditions or making sure their garments aren't made in substandard environments.  It's just not the case that our only option here is to pretend that our consumer choices don't matter.

Having said that, I want to make it clear that the primary way our choices matter is to our own souls.  As Catholics, as Christians, as decent human beings we are called to stand in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed--and, yes, making people risk their lives to work in dangerous factories while paying them a few dimes an hour is a form of oppression.  It would be great if enough people sent a message to enough clothing brands and retailers that this is simply unacceptable such that they accepted the need to be active in changing things for those workers, but even if that didn't happen, at least we would be standing with our poor brothers and sisters in third-world countries instead of trampling over them on our way to the mall.  Few of the goods produced in these hell-holes are necessary to our lives or survival, and most of them--basic clothing items--can, indeed, be purchased from retailers who have already chosen not to contract with these sorts of factories (or, indeed, with the countries that allow this stuff to go on unchecked).

Now, I know that sometimes we suffer a bit from "boycott fatigue."  If we look hard enough, there are good reasons to avoid shopping anywhere or buying anything, and yet most of us are several acres and a plethora of farm crops and animals away from total self-sufficiency.  It seems to me, though, that when companies are making huge profits selling goods made for a few dollars apiece, and when the reason those goods can be made so cheaply is precisely because the manufacturing plant owners don't seem to care at all if they employ the desperately poor or if a thousand or so of them die in preventable factory accidents every now and again, we have a unique opportunity to draw a line and say, "No, I won't put up with this."

At the very least, most of us are in a position to offer sincere prayers for our brothers and sisters in the human family who live and work in Bangladesh.  And most of us could, when shopping, check the occasional clothing label now and again to avoid encouraging retailers to contract with garment manufacturers in a nation where worker safety always seems to be somebody else's problem. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Just a brief note... say that while I hope to resume regular blogging on Monday, I couldn't help but share this post from Deacon Greg Kandra showing an adorable three-year-old Spanish-speaking orphan (being raised by his grandmother) "saying Mass" from memory, using the Mass kit he asked for at Christmas.

Go and watch at least a tiny bit of the video, please?

And then tell me that children under age 5 don't get anything out of Sunday Mass.  :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Prayer request

I wasn't planning to blog today, but I'm asking you to join me in praying for the Such a Pretty Bubble blogger, whose mother died suddenly and unexpectedly on Saturday.

I am asking the intercession of Blessed Julian of Norwich to comfort Char and her family:
"What? wouldest thou wit thy Lord's meaning in this thing? Wit it well: Love was His meaning. Who sheweth it thee? Love. Wherefore sheweth He it thee? For love. Hold thee therein, thou shalt wit more in the same. But thou shalt never wit therein other without end." With this illumination, the whole mystery of Redemption and the purpose of human life became clear to her, and even the possibility of sin and the existence of evil does not trouble her, but is made "a bliss by love". This is the great deed, transcending our reason, that the Blessed Trinity shall do at the last day: "Thou shalt see thyself that all manner of thing shall be well." 
Eternal rest grant unto Char's mother, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.  May she rest in peace.  Amen.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Brief blog break

Now that I'm (finally) feeling (mostly) better, I'm taking a brief blog break to catch up on two weeks' worth of accumulated chores, including my push to get the sequel to The Telmaj up and running.  Don't know when I'll resume regular blogging--you'll know it when you see it! :)

I will probably keep posting the Telmaj Tuesday posts during the break so I can report the progress of the book, but this blog and Coalition for Clarity will be pretty quiet for a bit.  Thanks for understanding!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Catholic blogosphere's shortest modesty post

Time got away from me today.  I could skip blogging altogether; in this post-Facebook era (no, really) I sometimes wonder if anybody's still reading.  But then again, that's not why I started blogging, and I'm quite capable of going on when nobody's paying attention.  Just ask my family. :)

Rather than skip blogging, though, I give you the Catholic blogosphere's shortest-ever and least-controversial modesty post, which is as follows:

The dress Gwyneth Paltrow wore to the Iron Man 3 premiere was not modest.  Under no circumstances should anyone ever wear such a thing, because it is frankly quite rude to flash your derriere in public.  Wearing such a dress to Mass would be especially wrong.

I know, I know.  Where's the fun in saying that?  Wouldn't we rather argue about the definition of modesty, gripe about uppity females wearing slacks, and tear into random strangers for their Sunday morning clothing choices?  But I'm starting to think that maybe our real reasons for doing those sorts of things--and I include myself in this, most definitely!--are not all that terrific, and our true motives are as transparent as the side panels on Gwyneth's dress.  And just as rude, vulgar, and tacky, too.