Monday, September 30, 2013

Under the weather...

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

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

Back soon, hopefully!

Friday, September 27, 2013

'Abortion Barbie' runs for governor of Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camera One closes in on first desk.

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

Second Announcer: And I'm Kitty Kittelson.

Kip: And this is the Evening News.

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

Cut to Camera Two on second desk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skip: Um, okay.  How exactly?

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

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

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

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

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

Skip: What about gun control?

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

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

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

Skip: Back to you, Kip and Kitty.

Cut to Camera One

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

Music: Up, under, and out.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wedding proposals and other things TV has ruined

Posting late today, and this post is a bit less serious than the others this week, but it's just something I keep thinking about, and--well, see the sidebar quote from Mason Cooley for further explanation. :)

I've seen a bit of buzz and fuss about some TV show called "Modern Family" which will include (or perhaps already has included--I know little about contemporary American network television, so I don't know when this particular outpouring from our vast cultural cesspool airs) a gay wedding proposal.  And while progressives fall all over themselves to applaud approvingly and conservatives rush to pin this on their wall of cultural decline shame, all I can muster is a sort of "meh," a "meh" that comes from the sincere belief that of all the things TV has already pretty much ruined, the very notion of the wedding proposal is, perhaps, Exhibit A.

Consider: long ago American novels, short stories, movies, theater, and so on treated the marriage proposal as a rather serious thing.  A young man, who had not already slept with a particular young woman but loved her enough to respect her enough not to suggest any such thing, decides that he does indeed love her wholeheartedly and wants to spend the rest of his life with her, that she will be his companion and friend and lover and--should God so bless them, as he and she both hope--mother of his children.  Motivated by these thoughts and by the outpourings of a heart so full he, being male, doesn't entirely know what to do with, he muddles his way through a declaration and a question and a knee-bending, diamond-ring-flashing moment in such a way as to make a complete hash of it.  Yet she, the goddess who haunts his dreams, the angel of his waking thoughts, the saucy, spunky girl who can turn his backbone to jelly with the toss of her head and the twinkle in her eye, overlooks his blustering and unintentional buffoonery and condescends to give him that little hand he seeks so ardently; and the aura of Happily Ever After makes its appearance just in time to return him to some semblance of sanity and self-mastery, which he will retain confidently until that long wait in front of an even longer altar sometime in the very near future.

But today, the TV Wedding Proposal is a mere trope, and not worth much literary effort at all.  A man and a woman thrown together by fate, or a science lab or police department or what have you, dislike each other cordially but lust after each other fervently until in a Very Special Episode they get together for some fornication (simulated for a TV audience, of course).  They then experience Mixed Signals and Muddled Feelings and Ambivalence in between bouts of fornication until another Very Special Episode in which they move in together (or another character discovers that they've actually been living together for some time, to make the fornication bouts a bit more convenient).  The Mixed Signals/Muddled Feelings/Ambivalence will then intensify until they hit a Major Plot Twist such as the appearance of an Unresolved Ex-Lover, a child who shares roughly half of one of the couple's DNA, or a Deep Philosophical Realization of Incompatibility such as that he will never understand the depths of her feelings for decorative footwear.  At about the point at which this reaches a Crisis where viewers are invited to speculate that Separation is possible (!) the man will plan and execute a Sickeningly Sweet and Highly Decorative Wedding Proposal which will go off perfectly smoothly and involve at least one of these mandatory elements: a startling location, an abundance of rose petals, and inefficient yet romantic low-tech lighting, usually in the form of candles.  It must be noted that they will celebrate her "Yes!" with more premarital sex, sometimes right there in that startling, rose-petal strewn, candle-cluttered location (making the viewer wonder why the next episode doesn't at least occasionally involve either a court appearance on a public-indecency charge or a late night ER visit to address the problem of candle wax burns).  The Wedding Proposal, it is highly implied by those fibbers who write for TV, is the solution to whatever relationship problems you may be having, and is a good way for a regularly fornicating and/or cohabitating couple to deal with one of those holiday occasions where gifts are usually bought, because what girl doesn't want rose petals, candles, and a diamond ring?

Of course, compared to the way that TV has ruined The Wedding, the way they've ruined The Proposal is somewhat small potatoes.  That's because the television industry is hand in tentacle with the Wedding Industrial Complex to promote to small-town American girls the idea that you simply cannot be married without thousands of flowers, monogrammed cocktail napkins, ice swans, a parade of pre-wedding parties held for no particular reason (since the couple already live together and don't need household goods), all capped off by a Made For TV Wedding Reception that costs more than the entire Carter Administration.

There are other things TV has totally ruined, but they're probably better saved for another blog post.  For now, though, I would just point out that since a TV-style "gay wedding proposal" is not going to resemble the sort of proposal I described in the third paragraph above any more than TV's idea of any other wedding proposal, the reality is that the cultural damage was done long ago, when people decided that "getting married" was something you did to put some kind of seal of approval--for totally inexplicable reasons--on your fornicating/cohabitating/etc. relationship, and not an exchange of unbreakable promises you made together in the eyes of God and the community before you ever shared a bed.  Oh, I know, I know--people will argue that things were never really that good and wholesome.  But it was an ideal--and today the ideal is all about the superficial presentation of the ring, and nothing about what it ought to stand for.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

To high Heaven

Yesterday's post contained a link to the horrible story out of Minnesota, where a priest known to have "problems" was made a pastor in spite of his record--and who ended up getting arrested for criminal sexual misconduct against children.

Today, Kevin O'Brien helpfully provides a reality check to Catholics (like the Catholic League's Bill Donohue) who are insisting that the diocese did everything possible to protect children from this predator:
Well, there were complaints in the Wehmeyer case, as anyone reading the MPR article will see, but Donohue plays fast and loose with the facts.  This is his M.O.

But he has pointed out that we should say "exactly what should be done" in cases like this.

Well, that may be a hard question, but let me try to answer it.

In this specific case, here are the facts ...

  • The molesting priest had a camper parked permanently on the lot of his parish
  • Little boys were being invited into that camper alone with the priest
  • The priest had been known to cruise gay hangouts looking for anonymous sex
  • The priest had been hitting on teen-aged boys in public places such as bookstores
  • Police had contacted the "Delegate for a Safe Environment" of the archdiocese about the priest, but the delegate had neglected to return their phone calls
  • The archdiocese had a large file on this priest and his troubled sexual behavior
  • The archdiocese knew that the mandated counseling the priest had undergone had been ineffective
  • The "Delegate for a Safe Environment" called a mother in the parish and told her it was HER responsibility to make sure her pastor observed "safe boundaries" with her boys; it was her fault people were complaining about how this man behaved toward her boys in public
  • The Chancellor of Canonical Affairs of the archdiocese insisted that this man not be made pastor of a parish because of his sexual acting out; the archbishop ignored this and apointed him pastor anyway
  • A memo shows that the archdiocese deliberately decided to keep these issues hidden from parishioners and potential victims and their parents
So, Bill Donohue, "exactly what should be done" in this case?
It is absolutely sickening that Donohue, and the Archdiocese itself, are claiming that because all of this priest's known "irregularities" involved his attempts to have sex with adult males they could not possibly have guessed that he would be a risk to younger boys.   Any of his known "irregularities" would have been enough to put him on administrative leave and bar him from working in a parish--if he had been a lay Church employee or volunteer--by the Archdiocese' own Code of Conduct which all church employees and volunteers in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul are required to sign!

I hope that the laity of this archdiocese will make their unhappiness with this situation known.  I'd be protesting at the chancery, at the very least.  This is a clear double-standard, with lay people being held to one standard and ordained priests a totally different one.  And it stinks to high Heaven.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On priests and the interview

On his blog today, Rod Dreher shared a reaction to the pope's interview from a Catholic friend who spoke about his priest's thoughts and feelings:
One more thing on the way Francis’s interview is reverberating through American Catholicism. A friend reports talking with his priest this past weekend about it. His priest is publicly enthusiastic about the Interview, privately not so much. My friend reports his priest fears that the Pope implicitly accuses priests who are serious about moral issues of being petty. Writes my friend:
At the moment, he is feeling a certain feeling that is analogous to what he felt at the height of the abuse crisis, when just being a public priest casts you as one of the bad guys in public perception; it’s similar after this interview, in that being morally serious is now likely to get you publicly cast as a problem.
My friend said he put the question I asked here the other day to pastors — “Is Francis’s interview making your job easier or harder?” — and said the priest instantly said, “Harder.” Why? Because he fears that a number of people will reject any attempt to talk about the Church’s teachings on abortion and sexuality as moralizing of the sort the Pope rejects. My friend says that Father X. is “far, far from moralistic. He is not at all a doctrinaire or ideological conservative. … This is a guy who in his ministerial practice is doing exactly what Francis would want. But he’s not finding the interview helpful.”
I can understand why Rod's friend's priest might fear this sort of thing.  In the fairly recent past, orthodox and faithful priests had their legs cut out from under them all the time by their bishops, sometimes for prudent reasons, but often times for no reason whatsoever.  Faithful Catholic priests in America are a little shell-shocked these days; it seems like some bishops fall all over themselves to cover for these sorts of evildoers while disciplining a faithful priest for so much as mentioning controversial issues in a homily or other public speech.  There is a morale problem among parish priests, especially here in America, and a lot of it has come from having careerist bishops who were more concerned about potential litigation than about doing the right thing.

On the other hand, I don't agree with all of the various priests or their friends who have written and commented saying, essentially, "Oh, I (or Father) would never be mean to any sinner regardless of how stern he is about those things in his homilies!"--implying that the pope is creating a false image of orthodoxy which is really quite gentle and cuddly when you get to know it.  There are some wonderfully kind and nice orthodox priests out there, but there are some stinkers, too (which is pretty much true for every class of humanity).  I remember one priest (note: not Fr. Z, in case anyone has false suspicions here) years ago writing on a blog that he regularly chastised sinners who wouldn't use the real, foul, ugly names for their sins in the confessional: none of this "I slept with..." or "...self-abuse..." nonsense; he made them proclaim the actual words of the sins aloud or else (at least, this was the strong implication) he would not absolve them.  Now, maybe in his mind or in the minds of some priests that's exactly the sort of pastoral meeting of the sinner where he/she is that Pope Francis is calling for, but I sort of doubt it.  If you get a sad, sobbing young adult in the confessional willing to admit that his or her sexual habits haven't exactly been in line with Jesus' way of thinking about all of that sort of thing, isn't that a good place to start?  What's the point of berating and shaming and excoriating them at that point?

I know that there are some orthodox Catholic priests out there who do an amazing, wonderful, exemplary job of being both morally serious and full of warm and loving kindness for each member of their flocks.  But we shouldn't pretend that achieving this balance is an easy thing, or fail to acknowledge that some of our very best priests (from the perspective of orthodoxy) might occasionally be abrupt or cold toward seekers and the just-barely penitent (even if they know this is a failing and strive very seriously to correct it).

A final word to disheartened orthodox priests: if you have read and pondered Pope Francis' words and discerned that you are already doing everything the Holy Father wants, and more, then you shouldn't worry about this, because you're not part of any problem, but a big part of the solution.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Don't panic

After reading and hearing lots of things about Pope Francis' interview all through the weekend, the one thing I think really needs to be said is this: don't panic.

Pope Francis isn't really saying anything new (see the blog post below this one for proof of that).  But what he's saying really is challenging.  Of course, that's not new either.  But for some reason whenever Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI said anything particularly challenging to conservative American Catholics, it was greeted with yawns or, worse, totally ignored.

This pope isn't going to let the decadent West keep playing that game, that game which goes like this: We, the good Catholics who are fighting at the front lines of the culture wars, have nothing in particular we need to worry about (except the liturgy, because until we get the liturgical perfection we deserve it's our solemn duty to bicker, nitpick, and gripe about it all).  The fact that we're capable of waiting in line to buy the latest iGadget we don't need or that we're caught up in the same pursuit of materialism as our non-believer neighbors means nothing at all.  The reality that we see families at Mass with fewer children than we have and immediately judge and condemn them for the sin of actual contraception or the other sin of using NFP with a contraceptive attitude is also not a moral failing; if anything, it proves how good we are.  We aren't caught up in the love of money; we're just careful with our money, and don't see why the lazy poor should get any more of it than the dollars our unfair government already confiscates.  God doesn't mind that we like nice things and fill our homes with them; He doesn't care if our favorite TV shows routinely portray the seven deadly sins as if they were more or less obligatory; He really isn't interested in our habits of casual gossip or leaving really ugly comments under news articles on the Internet.  He sees our pro-life bumper stickers and knows that when we speak slightingly of "welfare moms" we're not really contradicting ourselves.  Oh, and He knows that when we speak of "homosexuals" with absolute hatred, contempt and disgust dripping from our voices or our pixels, we really just mean their sinful acts, not they themselves as precious human beings made in His image--even though we rarely bother to explain the difference to those hell-bound cretins we encounter in real life or online (or both).

As I said, Pope Francis is challenging us in the West to quit playing that game and start acting like actual Christians.  We don't need to panic; it's the same thing Christ asks of us every single day.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Compare and contrast: Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict

In 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict said these words in an address to Swiss bishops:
We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity.

I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and ’90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us. 

In the interview with Pope Francis published yesterday, we read:
We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

Now, when I read these two comments side by side, I see the same exact thing being said: that is, that the world has adopted a view of Catholicism wherein the sole, main, most important, and most controversial teachings involve abortion, contraception, and gay marriage (and we'll add ordination of women since Pope Emeritus Benedict did--interestingly, Pope Francis, for all his conversations about defining the role of women in the Church, has made it clear so far that female ordination isn't even up for discussion.  I call that progress).

And, further, that from the perspective of both popes, it is to the detriment of the message of the Christian Gospel that the only thing the world (especially the media) ever wants us to talk about are these issues.  There are probably people in America who think that Catholics are people who go to church primarily to express their disagreement with abortion, contraception, and gay marriage and that our whole relationship with Jesus Christ is centered around these beliefs.  And any Catholic would agree that that is a travesty of the faith, because if you don't have a real relationship with Jesus Christ including frequent Confession and frequent Masses and the frequent reception of Holy  Communion which is our most radical encounter with the living God possible on this earth, you're not even going to begin to have the ability to ponder why the Church, with the voice of the Holy Spirit, insists that it's wrong to kill small dependent humans or to use sex outside the context of an open-to-life heterosexual marriage that also lasts until the death of one of the spouses--and also wrong to make consumerism and materialism into false gods, to fill our minds and lives with truly worthless or degrading forms of entertainment, to support torture and/or unjust wars, to destroy our family members, friends and neighbors with gossip or unjust judgments against them, to shirk the duties of our states in life, to envy others or, worst of all, to think in our prideful hearts that just because we don't abort, contracept, or commit homosexual or other sexual sins we are saved, and saved by our own goodness.

I think both the pope and the pope emeritus have an important point here.  The sum total of the Gospel can't be summed up by "If you agree that abortion, contraception, and gay marriage are evil and you fight against them, then you are truly saved."  I fight against all these things, yet I plan to hit the Confessional tomorrow (God willing). 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Read it

You will probably be hearing a lot of talk about the Pope's interview in America.  We may even talk about it a bit here next week, if I can spend some time reading it again and thinking about it a bit.

But what I encourage all of my readers to do is to go and read it.

This link will take you there.

I ask you to read it because lots of people will tell you what the pope said, pulling words or phrases out of context, making it sound like Pope Francis wants to change things or remove things or that he's slamming this group or chiding that one.

None of that is true.  This is a deep, thoughtful interview that left me feeling rather awed.  And even that requires a word of explanation: I'm not awed in a "Wow, he's so much better than the previous two popes!" way but awed in the sense of "I had no idea of the real depth of Pope Francis' thinking and ideas, and how well they fit in with the ideas of the last two popes when you really listen to what he is saying."

So go and read the interview sometime this weekend (it's lengthy, so it may take a bit).  And I'll probably have some specifics to talk about early next week.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Blogger's block

So I'm not really having writer's block per se, as I've been working on book-related things and also spending way too much time commenting on other people's blogs, which is way too much fun.  But I've had a bit of blogger's block lately, so I hope you'll bear with me.  I couldn't come up with anything to post on Monday, remembering too late what I'd meant to post and posting it yesterday, and now here it is nearly midnight and I'm up working on my book again and just realized I never did pick a news article or story or anything else to put here.

I know, I know, it doesn't matter.  Blogs are mostly over anyway, aren't they?  Still, I like the discipline of daily blogging and need to do a better job of it, or else just take a complete break until A Smijj of Adventure is available.  We'll see...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Prayers of the (verbose) faithful

I want to preface this blog post by saying that I love my parish.  Seriously.  There is so much good there, and so many good and kind and lovely people there; there is such a spirit of willing service and of encouragement, that it would be hard to describe it all.

So this particular post isn't directed as a rant against my parish per se.  Nor is it a rant against the O.F. Mass, which I attend and love.  It's just a small, tiny, minor rant against that part of the O.F. Mass when on Sunday (after the Creed, ordinarily) someone, usually a lay reader, gets up and reads aloud the prayer intentions for that Mass.

I have no problem with this practice in theory.  Petitioning God for our needs and remembering that all we are and have and can be comes from Him is a good thing, and unquestionably so.  It's just that in recent years the practice of the prayers of the faithful has gotten a wee bit out of hand, or so it seems from where I sit.

For example, I do think it's a wonderful thing for a parish to pray for all of those who are sick or suffering and to remember those parishioners who have died.  I even think it's fine to mention specific people by name when necessary.  But lately, as I joked to one of my daughters, there's this sense that at this point in the prayers of the faithful the reader is really saying, "We pray for the people of our parish, who are listed in the parish directory as follows..."  It's not a big deal, except when the prayers of the faithful go on a bit longer than the homily, which I could swear has happened on occasion.

Another thing which I haven't noticed as much in my own parish, but which is certainly the case in other parishes I've been to, is that sometimes the prayers of the faithful get a little...political.  No, praying for an end to war, violence, oppression, abortion, or similar things is definitely not political; neither is praying for our leaders (though as a general rule when we pray for wisdom for our leaders there ought not be a tone of voice that indicates that we think it would be an unprecedented miracle if our prayer were answered).  But there are times when politics does seem to enter the prayers just a bit too much.

Still another thing that I've noticed (mostly elsewhere) is the tendency to use "canned" prayers from some liturgical source or other.  While following some order or structure or suggestions for prayers might be fine (especially when the suggestions tie into that Sunday's Gospel message or something equally suitable), I think most people find pre-printed lists of prayers which may or may not apply to the local community to be annoying at best.

One thing that annoys my husband is the way that we pray for catechumens.  Oh, he doesn't mind that we pray for people studying the faith with a view toward becoming Catholic--not at all!  But the phrasing of that particular intention always includes a prayer for those involved "in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and as Adapted for Children, etc." which is where he draws the line.  As he puts it, we can take for granted that after several years of praying that exact same intention most people would be fine if the reader used the acronyms; that is, if the prayer was "For all those in RCIA and RCIC at our parish, we pray to the Lord..."  The wordiness of the other phrase, when it gets repeated pretty much every single Sunday, is one of his pet peeves.

All things considered, I think that the prayers of the faithful at Mass should be brief, direct, focused and simple.  As a character in this book put it (I'm paraphrasing) when we get wordy in our prayers, nine times out of ten we're just trying to teach the Lord His own business.  He knows what we want and need, and though it's still good for us to bow our heads in supplication, we don't really have to draw out the business of telling Him unnecessarily (especially when it comes to naming the catechetical programs our people are involved in, because He certainly knows that already!).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Quick book update

I've run out of time to blog today, so I just wanted to post a quick update for those who are waiting for A Smijj of Adventure, book two in my Tales of Telmaja series.  I am hard at work on the final edits and have every hope of having this book available (finally!) by the end of September.  Blogging may be light again for a bit, but nobody will mind that. :)

Thanks again to the wonderful reader who asked me about this! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

South Korean Catholics take Pope Francis' message to heart

While I admit that I don't know the whole political context of this, it still seems pretty awesome:
“When Pope Francis told Catholics to ‘get out of your churches,’ he was saying that we should be interested and engaged in social issues.”

This was the somber message from Seong Yeom, a former South Korean ambassador to the Vatican and professor at Sogang University. On the morning of Sept. 11, a committee for a Catholic manifesto on the NIS scandal held a “ten-thousand Catholic manifesto” press conference in front of the ruling Saenuri Party’s (NFP) headquarters in Yeouido. The more than ten thousand Catholics who participated in the manifesto were calling for an investigation into allegations of political interference by the NIS, which is bound by law to remain politically neutral.

“We South Koreans fought against injustice in 1961 [the April Revolution against then-President Syngman Rhee] and 1980 [the democratization movement in Gwangju],” Seong said, his tone growing increasingly emphatic. “We need to carry on that tradition and fight for victory in the NIS case.”

 Seong was followed by Jeong Joong-gyu of the Vocational Rehabilitation Institute at Daegu University, who explained the meaning of the manifesto.

“It’s significant as an acknowledgement that most of the Catholic Church’s political actions over the years have primarily been from priests and monks, and an attempt to broaden their scope,” Jeong said.

 The signatories called for a special prosecutor’s investigation into the election interference charges, punishment of the culprits, an apology by Park Geun-hye, and an NIS reform plan that “makes sense to the public.”

A group of 15 Catholic representatives and ordinary congregants, including Catholic Peace Community co-president Lee Won-young, announced the start and finish of the press conference with hymns and prayer.
I really admire these Catholics in South Korea for standing up against the possibility of government corruption and the allegations of illegal interference by the National Intelligence Service in last year's presidential election.  In America we Catholics tend to think of social justice issues as those involving the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the powerless, but it's important to remember that keeping the political processes themselves honest and straightforward is a worthwhile goal--even if it's a goal our country has put on the back burners for a long time now.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What have we learned since 9/11?

Today is the 12th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against America, and it would be inappropriate to begin this post with anything other than sincere prayers for those who died both on that terrible day itself and later due to injuries or damage suffered that day.  May the Lord welcome their souls into eternal rest and grant them peace.

Rather than make this a memorial post, though, today I want to ask a question: what have we learned since 9/11?

Some lessons are obvious: we learned that some Islamic fundamentalist terrorists want to kill Americans, and want to kill us badly enough to plot and carry out an attack that left thousands dead on a single bright September morning.  That came as enough of a shock to many of us.  I think for me, 9/11 was the day that the last dregs of the Cold War died out in my heart: it was no longer the now-gone Soviet Union we had to fear, but handfuls of men taught hatred in shadowy mountain caves by fanatical extremists who viewed, and still view, America as The Enemy.  As the plot unfolded and we read and heard on the news about Osama bin Laden's role, I recalled having read a magazine series about Bin Laden back sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, along with an analysis of why he was so dangerous and what ought to be done about it.  It seems little short of astonishing to ponder now that some foreign policy analysts recognized the potential danger at least a decade before the attacks; and yet more attention was being paid in official channels at that point to domestic terrorism.  Given the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 it is understandable why that was the case, but hindsight shows with terrible clarity that there were warnings that were missed.

But some lessons are less obvious and/or more alarming to ponder.  How much freedom have we given up in the wake of 9/11?  Have we really exchanged freedom for actual security, or are we being pacified by the illusion of security while our government intrudes more and more into our lives?  Have we learned anything about the danger of being manipulated into supporting wars that really don't further American interests?  If we actually are safer now then we were on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, has it cost us too dearly not only in our cherished independence but also in the lives of those men and women sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan?

We owe it to our much-mourned dead to ask these kinds of questions seriously, and to think about what we have learned in the last 12 years, and what we still need to learn.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What did you think of Obama's speech?

I'm out of time today, so I just want to share a quick link and some quotes from Rod Dreher's analysis of Obama's Syria speech tonight:
Second, I still don’t get what is so uniquely horrible about poison gas. The president said that gas weapons kill “indiscriminately.” Well, so do nuclear weapons. So, for that matter, do cruise missiles. I’m not trying to be facetious here; I really don’t understand why it is worse for innocent civilians (or soldiers, for that matter) to die from poison gas attack than from a daisy cutter. Will the Syrian civilians who would inevitably die from US missile attacks on Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles care how their death came?

The president also claimed that Assad holding chemical weapons is “also a danger to our security.” Why? Because terrorists might get hold of these weapons. That’s weak. If Assad falls, which becomes a greater likelihood if the US attacks, who does Obama think will come into possession of these chemical weapons? Plus, said the president, other nations will think it’s okay to build and stockpile chemical weapons if we don’t act, and Iran will be emboldened to build nuclear weapons, and, and …

The idea that bombing Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles will make Iran less determined to build nuclear weapons is ludicrous. The Iranians perfectly well understand why their nuclear production facilities have not been bombed yet. Unlike Syria, their country is not within easy reach of US warships. A US attack on Syria’s chemical weaponry will not change this fact.

The president promised that he “will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.” I believe he is sincere in his intention not to do that, but that is a promise he cannot honor. Nobody knows what would happen after an American attack on Syria. [...]

Not one word tonight about Christians in Syria. Not one.

Read the whole thing here.

If you watched the speech tonight, what did you think of it? 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Just war, Syria, and Captain America syndrome

With the possibility of strikes against Syria by our own government in mind, let's take a look at what the Church actually teaches about war (and I thank the reader who suggested this).  Here, first, is the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2307 The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.105
2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.
However, "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed."106
2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine.

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good. 

The CCC then goes on to discuss the rights of countries to defend themselves and the right of competent authorities, in a just war situation, to compel their citizens to come to the nation's defense.

How does any of this relate to what's going on right now in Syria, and our justification for becoming involved?

This is not an area in which I have any expertise, but just seeing things as a Catholic laywoman, I would have to say that no case for intervention in Syria falling within the just war principles has even been made.  In fact, the more I look at that list of criteria, the more I think that the tendency of America in recent years has been to stop at principle #1: the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain...  Once we've focused in on that, it's full speed ahead, at least in the recent past.

What's interesting about that is that I think that this tendency on the part of the American people to support wars when we see people in distant nations suffering under the cruelty of tyrants is, in fact, a good thing--even a noble thing.  It's the kind of thing the people who brought us this movie recognized when they portrayed the pre-Captain America version of Steve Rogers as the kind of guy who would stand up to bullies, even when he was no match for them--which made his transformation into a capable hero all the more satisfying.

But in the real world, the calculations we have to make before we enter a war don't stop with the knowledge that someone is being an unjust aggressor and hurting the innocent (and the questions which have been raised about just exactly what is going on in Syria indicate that we don't really know for sure that either side can claim innocence or the moral high ground here).  Even if we knew for a fact that Assad was inflicting damage on his nation that was going to be lasting, grave, and certain, we would still have to consider the other points: is there no other way to end this conflict?  Can we win? Will our entry into this fight produce greater harm than if we stayed out--especially given that last consideration about modern warfare and its ills (especially the tendency to target civilians disproportionately)?

Those aren't the kind of questions we should consider only after committing to action--they are the questions we must consider before committing to action.  Our national impulse to wish to help when people are suffering is a good thing, but it's also something that--in the real world--is far too easy to manipulate by those who have more cynical or more political or less pure motives to want to go to war.

(Cross-posted at Coalition for Clarity)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Prayers and fasting for peace in Syria--tomorrow!

As everybody already knows (except me--I found out yesterday) Pope Francis is asking everyone to join in tomorrow (Sat., Sept. 7) for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria.

Before anybody else joins me in a momentary scrupulosity freak-out, both Father Z. and Dr. Ed Peters have clarified that this is NOT an obligatory fasting day where the strict fast (one full meal, "some food" two other times) must be practiced under pain of sin by all adult Catholics who would usually be bound.  As someone who is on day 2 of a migraine and who knows full well that Ash Wednesday and Good Friday fasts are usually, for me, followed by a day of migraine, I appreciate the clarification, because despite my migraines I don't usually ask for a medical exemption from fasting on those two days (unless something else is going on, of course; I think I mentioned asking for and receiving an exception this past Good Friday because however stupid I may be about the migraines I'm not stupid enough to take a twice-daily antibiotic on an empty stomach).  But it would be highly imprudent for me personally to do a strict fast tomorrow and risk being too sick for Mass on Sunday, so I'm glad to have the voluntary nature of this fast clarified.

My favorite post on this comes from the blog of Father Jerabek, a priest presently studying in Rome whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Alabama; Father Jerabek offers some great suggestions for participation in this call to fasting:
So, what can we do to join in this day of fasting and prayer? Here are some ideas:
  • Skip a meal
  • Give up something you like to eat
  • Give up something you like to do
  • Pray a rosary
  • Make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament
  • Make a Holy Hour
  • Do one of these things instead of watching your favorite primetime show
Sometimes when we are sitting at home participating in these things we might be tempted to think that our tiny contribution doesn’t matter. “This can’t possibly be helping; no one will know if I don’t do anything.” But do not be deceived. The Holy Father was asking you for your prayers also: they do matter. Your prayers and sacrifices are pleasing to God, and we pray that somehow, out of this mess of war and strife that has long been the norm in the Mideast and has spread throughout the entire world, He might bring peace.
That's a reassuring and comforting thought to those of us who are tempted to make the perfect the enemy of the good; that is, just because I may not be able to Do All The Fasting Things tomorrow, I shouldn't decide that I don't need to bother with anything.  All of Father Jerabek's suggestions are nice, concrete things that many of us can do regardless of our situation and ability to participate in a stricter fast.  Because the important thing here is that we are beseeching God for peace in Syria and in the Mideast, and we are focusing our hearts and minds, some specific actions and some specific prayers, on that goal.  In doing so we are choosing to stand in solidarity with the suffering people of that region and against the drumbeats of war being sounded, alas, in the halls of power in our own nation.  May God grant our prayers for peace!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Love the sinner, hate the sin

Sorry this blog post is so late tonight; migraine day.  Enough said.

I wanted to post this because over at Rod Dreher's blog we have a terrific example of what that common phrase, "Love the sinner, hate the sin," is all about.  Pope Francis called a divorced woman who became pregnant by a married lover to give her hope and encouragement.  Nowhere in the conversation is the pope reported to have said that divorce or adultery are fine; presumably the woman, who wrote to the pope for advice, already knows that neither one is okay with God or the Church.  But the question here for her is, what now?  How does she try to go back and walk with the Lord, with her children, in the face of so much pain and so many bad decisions?  It is at that point that the soul most needs forgiveness in the sacrament of penance as well as open arms from her fellow Catholics, and the pope's example here is a powerful reminder of what we are to do when someone cries out for help--even if they are in trouble because of their own sins.  Has that not been true for us as well?  Have we never known this?  If we truly have never sinned seriously enough to need that love, help, and forgiveness from God and from our fellow men, then we should be praising God on our knees daily for sparing us from temptation and rising to put our gifts at the service of others, because to be shielded in this way is a rare and precious favor from God.

Sometimes when I talk about gay "marriage" and what I fear will happen to religious believers in its aftermath, I get comments along the lines that I just don't know enough gay couples, that if I knew them and heard their stories and got to know them better I would let go of my deeply held religious beliefs which are nothing but bigotry anyway.  That this itself is a hateful thing to say to a cradle Catholic who comes from generations of Catholics never seems to occur to them--but I digress.  The truth is I have known gay people and gay couples both online and in real life.  So what?  Sin is still sin, and the most hateful thing I could possibly do would be to shrug, turn away, and think, "So they're going to Hell--what does it matter to me?  Am I my brother's keeper?"  The part about "Love the sinner, hate the sin," that modern secularists reject is the notion that our sins do not define us.  To the modern secularist, we must accept adultery or else we hate adulterers; we must accept fornication or else we hate fornicators; we must accept contraception or else we hate those who purposely render their sex acts sterile; and we must accept people who commit homosexual sex acts with each other, or else we hate homosexuals.  The reason they see it this way is because they think that adultery, fornication, contraception, or homosexual acts are a really important part of who a person is, not a merely sinful thing that a person does.  They divorce morality from behavior, and think that everything a person does (short of murder, perhaps) is intrinsic to his or her identity such that saying, "You really shouldn't do that sort of thing," is an act of hatred.

But it's not.  Christians call each other out for behavior unbecoming to a follower of Christ all the time.  It's something we do for each other in love, and something we accept from our brothers and sisters also in love.  To love the sinner--and we are all sinners--is by definition to hate the sin, because the sin is what mars the image of Christ in them, and makes it harder for them to follow Him.  But to love the sinner calls us to a patience, a generosity, a kindness and a true spirit of charity like the one Pope Francis showed to the woman he called, and it's helpful to remember that too.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Big Lie

Everybody has probably already heard about the Kleins, the bakery owners in Oregon who were threatened, intimidated, and hounded out of business for refusing to make a "wedding" cake for the "wedding" of two lesbians, right?

I think everybody should read Father Dwight Longenecker's blog post on the subject:
Putting aside the whole homosexuality issue,  what I find most disturbing about the report is that the local government backed up the homosexualists and Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is launching a formal investigation of the Klein family. In a statement which is clearly meant to be conciliatory, Commissioner Brad Avakian said that he was committed to a fair and thorough investigation to determine whether the bakery discriminated against the lesbians.

“Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that folks have the right to discriminate,” he told the newspaper. “The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon.”

In other words, instead of going to jail or paying a fine the Kleins will be rehabilitated or re-educated. How chilling is that? In a famous essay on jurisprudence C.S.Lewis points out that the only just reason for judicial punishment is retribution–not rehabilitation or re-eduation. Why? Because the principal of retribution (not revenge) assigns a just punishment for a crime committed. When the punishment is completed the criminal has paid his price to society and it’s all over. Other motives for punishment–while seeming more humane–actually open the door to grave injustice. So if the motive for punishment is to protect the public does a criminal who is irreformable get a life sentence in order to protect the public? If rehabilitation is the motive is the person incarcerated until he is reformed? What if that takes a very long time but his crime is minor?

When rehabilitation or re-education is the principal of punishment, then the person may be incarcerated or…”housed in a therapeutic center” until he changes his mind. If re-education is the end goal, then a person could be locked away until he is effectively re-educated. A Christian, therefore, who refuses to change his mind may be locked up indefinitely. Would such a thing happen in the United States? Err, what about Guantanamo?

Read the rest here.

I know some people think that the gay rights movement, and especially the gay "marriage" movement, is really just a "live and let live" moment in our culture.  They are wrong--they couldn't be more wrong.  The gay rights activists have no intention of letting Christians live as Christians.  They will not be satisfied until everyone is forced to repeat the Big Lie:

"Two men can be married just like a man and a woman.  Two women can be married just like a man and a woman.  There is nothing special about the marriage of a man and a woman, and saying there is must be labeled as bigotry and hate.  We agree with society that those who say there is something different and special about the marriage of a man and a woman must be punished.”

I call this the Big Lie because that is exactly what it is.  The relationship of two men based in sexual sin can never be anything like the valid marriage of a man and a woman.  The relationship of two women based in sexual sin can never be anything like the valid marriage of a man and a woman.  While it is sometimes possible for a sinful relationship between a man and a woman to become a virtuous relationship (if they repent of their sin and are then validly married) it is never possible for a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex to be virtuous or holy or to produce grace for the people in that relationship.  At best they might be invincibly ignorant of their sin, or their culpability might be lessened by personal issues that keep them from giving full consent to the sin or having full knowledge of it.  But their relationship cannot produce virtue or goodness, by its very nature, any more than the relationship of an adulterer and his mistress can.

We live in an evil, post-Christian, materialistic and secular culture that has cut off the very idea of virtue from sexual conduct.  The 18-year-old virgin of either sex is more likely to be asked what is wrong with him or her than praised for the virtues of chastity, modesty, and restraint.  But up until now society has looked somewhat indulgently, if a bit patronizingly, on those Christians serious enough about their religious faith to shun fornication, adultery, remarriage after divorce, and other grave sins.  They don't understand us, but for the most part they haven't openly attacked us, either.

All of that is about to change, because the Christian view of gay "marriage" which I outlined above is inevitably and inescapably at odds with society's Big Lie which it wants us to chant and repeat as the price of living, working, doing business etc. in this nation.  A Christian cannot pretend that the "marriage" of two men or two women is real at all.  A Christian cannot assist in the celebration of such a "marriage" by offering his goods or services to the couple as if what they are doing is merely silly instead of gravely wrong and dangerous to their immortal souls.  A Christian, if he or she is a serious Christian, is going to have to walk away from any connection with the wedding industry if the price of doing wedding-related businesses is going to be to pour out libations to the gods of secularism.

But getting out of wedding-related businesses is just the first step for serious Christians who refuse to participate in the Big Lie.  Because the gay activists are totalitarians at heart, they will not rest so long as a Christian can say anywhere outside of his church building that a real marriage involves one man and one woman, and no other relationship is or ever can be a marriage in God's eyes, in the eyes of the Church, and in the eyes of Christians.  The gay activists will go after people for "hate speech," and if anyone thinks the First Amendment is all the protection we need, he or she should think again; I place no confidence whatsoever in the First Amendment's provision of freedom of speech lasting a second longer than the redefinition of the freedom of religion as the much narrower, much more restrictive "freedom to worship," a redefinition which is already well under way.

The end of a single bakery in Oregon, the loss of freedom of a single photographer in New Mexico: we keep being told that these things are no big deal, that serious Christians aren't going to be targeted or harassed or bothered in any way by gay activists in a nation agitating for same-sex marriage.  Guess what?  People whose agenda is to force those who disagree to participate in one Big Lie have no problem telling lots of other lies, too.  We will be targeted.  We will be harassed.  We will be threatened.  We will lose businesses and jobs and livelihoods.  And the gay activists will applaud, because they think we deserve it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to Catholic sanity

Lots of mommy bloggers, especially homeschooling mommy bloggers, are writing back-to-school posts this week.  I'm not a mommy blogger, but I think we need a "back-to" post here, too, only my post is a call for us to go back-to-Catholic-sanity.

Why do I think we need this?  It seems that certain types of Catholic insanity are somewhat cyclical, and anybody who has been hanging out in the Catholic blogosphere lately has probably seen some of the signs of a return to that insanity.  And it's easy to get caught up in that stuff--it really is.

So here, for those who have been swept away on a tide of recent Catholic insanity, are a few things to remember:

1. The Catholic bishops in America are not evil.  No, really, they aren't.  They may not all be saints, and they probably have habitual sins they struggle with like the rest of us, but they are not in cahoots with Satan and the Communists in a grand conspiracy to topple the Real True Church and replace it with a watered-down, namby-pamby false religion that teaches people (gasp!) that it is sometimes okay to smile at someone without knowing whether that person is friend or foe, and things like that.

2. It actually is okay to smile at someone without knowing whether that person is friend or foe.  This is because charity compels us to default to "friend" unless we know for a certainty otherwise.  And "know for a certainty" means something serious, like that the person is actually trying to harm us, not merely that the person didn't FWD our last FWD: FWD: FWD email proving that everyone but us is evil.

3. The Church, even in America, does not teach that contraception, abortion, gay marriage, remarriage after divorce, fornication, etc. are fine and dandy.  Anybody who tells you that the Church in America, the bishops, or anybody else regularly presents any of that stuff as Catholic teaching with diocesan approval is mistaken.  Rare examples of idiots on their own trying to present any of that stuff as okay for Catholics should be addressed by contacting the proper authorities, not by spreading Internet conspiracies that claim that every diocese secretly teaches all this stuff and shuts down those who would expose the TRUTH.

4. Pope Francis is not a squishy modernist who plans to ban the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and require churches to be festooned with beach balls and tee shirts.  Enough, already.

5. The plight of the immigrant actually is a real Catholic concern, not a ploy by liberal pseudo-Catholics to increase the number of Democratic Party voters in the future.  How we address that plight is subject to prudential judgment, but fostering an attitude of hatred toward people, many of whom are our Catholic brothers and sisters, without realizing the complexity of the problems that brought them here in desperation or the hypocrisy of the corporations who keep them here in order to exploit their work is clearly wrong and should not be done.

6. Reception of Holy Communion in the hand does not prove that a person is a liberal Catholic bent on pushing for an agenda that includes guitar Masses, female priests, or a happy-clappy church environment; reception of Holy Communion on the tongue does not prove that a person is holy and righteous in the Lord's eyes.  Case in point: I receive on the tongue, having never become accustomed to the other method which was introduced when I was a teen.  Nobody ought to jump to any conclusions about my inner holiness because of that, and I'd be horrified if they did.

7. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are not evil, and their presence at a Mass does not prove that the pastor is a squishy modernist or that the bishop of that diocese is an evil heretic.

8. The term "professional Catholic" is a silly attempt to make a pejorative out of an ordinary phrase.  More to the point, it applies just as much to someone who makes $40,000 a year from a Catholic apostolate as it does to someone who makes double or triple that amount--and to someone who makes a tenth or a twentieth of that amount, for that matter.  If a professional Catholic writer, teacher, speaker, or apostolate asks you for a donation you have the right to consider whether or not you'd like to contribute based on whatever criteria you'd like.  Other than that, this really is a MYOB (Mind Your Own Business) field.

9.  Catholic women can wear slacks.  They are not required to wear veils or hats in church. 

10.  If you honestly, truly believe that you are part of a tiny remnant of true Catholicism (whether you come at this from the left or the right; that is, whether you think Vatican II didn't go far enough or whether you think it was pretty much pure evil from the get-go) and that just about every single other Catholic in America is going to Hell for not belonging to your tiny remnant group, then you are the problem, not the solution.  Trust me on this one.