Thursday, May 28, 2015

Imagine: the Catholic song parody

Pressed for time today, so I’m just going to share something I’ve already shared in another blog’s comment box (though, since the blogger hasn’t approved comments yet, I guess it’s technically going to be here first).

You may have already seen the National Allegedly Catholic Reporter’s ludicrous and laughable take on what the ideal American Catholic church is going to look like in 2063.  If you haven’t, I’ll warn you: the repeated and strong eye-rolls may give you a headache:
To the simple notes of a single piano, the parish choir and the congregation sang a sweet, lilting version of "Come to the Water" as liturgical dancers, altar servers, ministers of the word, parish chancellor Emma Okere and pastor Fr. Antonio Fitzgerald processed up the center aisle. The song filled the soaring interior of the 131-year-old structure. On a banner high behind the altar, in large, easily readable lettering, was a quotation from Pope Francis: "Who am I to judge?"
This was one of thousands of celebrations across the globe marking 50 years of rejuvenation and renewal dating from the election of Pope Francis in 2013, popularly called "refreshment of the faith.” [...]
Deacon Liam Saranof was reading the Gospel of Matthew to 27 men, women and children seated on folding chairs in the long, narrow space, the former home of an Ethiopian restaurant.
This strip mall was also the home to a bedding showroom, a Subway sandwich deli, a $10 store and a bicycle repair shop, all of them open on this early Tuesday evening.
A short time later, Saranof's teenage son Karim opened up a small folding table in the center of the space, then carried over a small, brightly painted plastic box containing consecrated hosts that, a few hours earlier, had been delivered by one of the parishioners from St. Gertrude.
"Some of us here think of ourselves also as members of St. Gertrude," machinist Chloe Pardo explained. "But others are only affiliated with the community here. They like the community work we do; they like how close we become.”
If you read the rest, just remember: these people are not really the future.  They’re more like an exaggerated caricature of the worst elements of the recent past.

The hideous bit of this whole thing is this: there are actually Catholics who read this sort of tripe and nod and smile as they recycle the bottle from their organic pesticide-free beverage sold by an environmentally aware and responsible global multinational corporation, because this is what they think the Church should be.  It’s smile-button Christianity at its worst; it is the Church without Christ, but they don’t seem to see that at all.

I actually thought about giving this thing a strong analytical treatment, but I realized that such a treatment would be too much for this marshmallow fluff masquerading as an idea.  So I did what I usually do in these situations: I wrote a song parody:

Imagine (the Catholic song parody)

Imagine there’s no organ
Felt banners proudly fly
No kneelers below us
Dancers prancing by
Imagine all the faithful
Unfolding their chairs…

Imagine there’s no reverence
It’s pretty hard to care
Nothing much to worship
Nothing that looks like prayer
Imagine plastic boxes
And strip-mall pseudo church…

You may say I’m a dreamer
Stuck in nineteen-sixty-five
But my past shall be your future
So my world will stay alive

Imagine lady deacons
Female chancellors too
No need for priests or Masses
Nothing for them to do
Imagine there’s no pastors
Just unguarded sheep…

You may say I’m a dreamer
Stuck in nineteen-sixty-five
If my past becomes your future
Then the Church will not survive

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Duggars; or, the danger of judging by appearances

I think pretty much everybody, even those of us who never watched the Duggar’s TV show, knows about the shocking revelations that Josh Duggar molested five girls, four of them his sisters, back when he was fourteen years old.  I don’t really plan to get into the story too much, but I think that Joel J. Miller’s take on what’s been “off” about the various Duggar apologias is exactly right:
That’s more than 20 personal references and only two passing nods to his victims and the harm he inflicted. What’s more, he blunts the second reference. In the first he mentions people he “hurt,” but the second only mentions “those affected by my actions.”
And it gets even worse at the end because Duggar plays the Jesus card. He asked Christ for pardon, he says, and we should all know that he’s grateful for the forgiveness.It’s impossible to escape the idea that the entire focus of Josh Duggar’s statement is Josh Duggar being okay with Josh Duggar. As if anyone cares about that. [...]

When confession was made in the ancient church, it was not wholly about righting oneself with God, though that was obviously part of it. It was also about repairing the breach in the community caused by the wrong. The priest to whom one confessed brokered the various peaces and set the necessary restitutions in his parish.

Sin is a communal problem and requires communal redress. What’s galling about Josh Duggar’s statement is that it’s all about him. It’s as if the victims don’t really factor.
Last year I wrote about the Duggars’ parenting methods and why they don’t really work for Catholics; of course, I had no idea how bad things really were.  In light of the recent revelations the fact that none of the unmarried adult children can go anywhere, even to “work” (and I put “work” in quotes because we’re talking about volunteer jobs for the most part) without at least one other sibling in attendance to keep the first sibling “accountable” seems beyond creepy--because what might be called “accountability” in one situation might have the practical effect of keeping anybody from ever complaining, saying anything negative about the family, or even calling for help.  Yes, we’ve been told the abuse stopped and wasn’t ever repeated and the sisters Josh abused forgave him, etc.--but we’re being told those things by people who are very good at controlling the message and who have a vested interest in making the whole problem go away.  It would be foolish beyond reason to take the family at its word, and I hope someone is asking the younger girls if they are really okay, without the cameras rolling.

Having said that, I want to get on to my main point here: while I realize that some of my fellow Catholics did watch this show and found the family refreshingly wholesome and an engaging counter-witness to our anti-family culture with its dislike of children and its disdain for people who have more than two of them, etc., I hope that my fellow Catholics are not joining in the rather scandalous chorus of Duggar supporters who insist that none of this was any big deal, that everyone involved has now grown up and moved beyond the problem, and that things are now perfectly okay.  It’s possible (though, to me, unlikely) that they are okay, but that’s not the point. The point is that however great an appearance of wholesomeness this family may have given on TV, it is not a wholesome thing to cover up for a son’s abuse of his sisters.  The idea that “counseling” involved sending Josh to work with a family friend, and that “reporting” meant talking to another family friend in law enforcement (who is now in prison on child pornography charges) who didn’t actually report anything is absolutely laughable.  It shows a callous disregard for both Josh himself and for his victims, and even for the integrity of their family as a whole.

In the Old Testament when Samuel visits Jesse to anoint one of his sons as king, Samuel makes the mistake, initially, of thinking God has chosen Jesse’s eldest son for this great role.  But the Lord rebukes Samuel, pointing out that Samuel is judging by outward appearance: not so does God look at us, but sees our hearts.  Too often, especially in our broken world, we look at the outward appearances, and in the case of the Duggars the thing that most people know about them is this: they have a really, really, really big family--so, surely, they must be holy!

But family size is not proof of holiness.  Neither is the length of a woman’s hair or of her skirt’s hemline. Nor is the degree to which a family is involved in their local church or parish a proof of holiness. The strictness of the fasts one keeps, the lists of prayers one says daily, the charities to which one gives, the political or religious causes one supports, the speeches one gives, the blog posts one writes--none of these things can, taken by themselves, reveal the inward heart of a human being, not even to that human being himself.

Christ warned His people repeatedly about the danger of judging by appearances.  It is tempting to do so.  It is terribly human to see a big family and applaud their courage, or to see a modestly-dressed young lady and assume her virtue, or to meet an engaging and charming young Catholic running for the office of student body president at a Catholic college, and ignore the fact that this charming young man is outspending his opponent and handing out free buttons and pencils and food to a degree that seems like vote-buying.  But if we Catholics have learned nothing in the last decade or so we must have begun to learn how incredibly dangerous it is to judge by appearances, to assume that because something looks good it must be good, and to ignore every red flag and warning sign to the contrary with, perhaps, a bit of pique toward those who point out the danger signals.

I hope that the Duggars will find healing and that the young ladies, especially, will receive any help they have yet to receive.  But I also hope that my fellow Catholics will take the opportunity to reflect that once again the appearance of wholesomeness has turned out to be something else entirely.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The full magnitude of the problem

At Rod Dreher’s blog last week there was a very interesting and civil discussion of the recent Pew report on various religions and their rate of growth or shrinking.  Rod asked what Evangelicals were doing right, and what Catholics might be doing wrong?

Pretty much everybody agrees that this sort of thing is NOT what Evangelicals are doing right. :)

But I was more interested in the various comments from Catholics, most of them regular churchgoers, about where and how the Catholic Church might improve in terms of practical matters.  One commenter in particular, who uses the screen name Agathonika, wrote what I think was a very important comment, and she has give me permission to quote her here:
We should be careful not to beg the question. Maybe Catholics are not doing something wrong. Maybe evangelicals are not doing something right. Maybe there’s a confounding variable that influences this situation. I think wise leaders will resist any temptation to flail about in response to polls and surveys and trends. Trends, after all, are by definition, fickle and fleeting. We who know the truth must not be reactive. We need to stay calm and placid no matter what kind of fuss–in our favor or against it–the world kicks up.
That said, a friend who is a fellow Catholic convert and I were discussing RCIA not too long ago. We both agreed that it is a mess and often a stumbling block, especially for people who are very motivated to convert. I had to sit through the bored, disaffected ramblings of a lefty DRE who hated the hierarchy to “put in my time” before being confirmed. Another family my friend knew was forced to go through two whole years of pre-baptismal instruction, no exceptions, before moving from their evangelical church to the Catholic Church. This with a gaggle of kids in tow! My husband had to find a priest who didn’t care if he missed almost every session, because he works odd hours and all the RCIA classes in town were during his work or commute times.
The thing I am wondering is, are we trying to bring people into the Church or keep them out? What are we afraid will happen if we baptize and confirm and then let the education mostly happen *after* that, as it naturally will even after the most rigorous RCIA class? What about working people who can’t afford to miss work to get to these classes? What about people who have children already? What about people who are not academically inclined and for whom a year(s)-long sit-down class will not help them in the slightest to have a fruitful spiritual life?
But many Roman parishes in particular are very, VERY rigid and wed to their RCIA ways. You can’t get credit for previous studies, you can’t get time off for good behavior, if your work schedule doesn’t allow you to attend you’ll often get a shrug and “maybe next year.” It’s nothing but laziness and unthinking rigidity, all too often flavored with a dose of lukewarmness from the very people who are supposed to be instilling passion for the faith.
They put out more fires than they start! If you desire the sacraments now, the Church all too often seems to be acting as God’s bouncer, not God’s usher.
And then once you’re in, they won’t leave you alone. They always have a pile of procedural red tape for you to sort through. Six months to a year of tedious workshops before you get married. Four months of sit-down instruction for new parents before a baptism. (With a new baby! And we’re supposed to have big families, so what if you have 6? You have to go through this every time because we mustn’t give credit for prior learning, they want both parents, and they don’t provide childcare!) The bloated, ridiculous first communion proceedings, and getting accommodations for kids with learning disabilities is like pulling teeth at best. The increasingly expanding confirmation requirements, with years of stupid workshops and retreats (which cost money you don’t have if you’re a single income family with 5 kids!) and special projects and classroom hours and…
You end up with a church full of people who have in common high tolerance for bureaucratic silliness, and lower levels of passion. And leaders who have forgotten that GOD does the work in the sacraments. Not DREs, not flashy presentations, not lists of things to memorize and spit back. God’s incomprehensible grace through the rituals we should more rightfully refer to as mysteries. Being seven and memorizing the “Angel of God” prayer doesn’t allow you to comprehend the Eucharist, because the wiser you get, the more you realize you cannot understand. Being droned at for 11 months by a DRE does not innoculate you against falling away from your new faith at the first temptation. Going to workshops on communication does not make your marriage indissoluble.
What if we trusted God to do the work in the sacraments, and then committed to learning together about the faith?
Now, you might ask: Why focus on small potatoes like this when the allegedly and erstwhile Catholic nation of Ireland has just approved gay “marriage” by a vote of people who don’t appear to know how to use the sense the good Lord gave a housefly?  Well, because I think that what Agathonika is saying does have something to do with the problem of so many people who still think of themselves as Catholic, and call themselves Catholic, while they dissent from Church teaching and, in fact, leave the Faith altogether (though they think they’re still good Catholics).

A lot of it has to do with what Sherry Weddell calls a spirit of Pelagianism (but in a new and modern form).  This new sort of Pelagianism, somewhat different from the historical kind, leads quite a lot of Catholics--more than we may realize--to believe, in all sincerity, that they’re going to Heaven because they have done and do All The Things.  They got some sort of diocesan Catholic education: Catholic school, CCD or RE, RCIA.  They’ve gotten their sacraments.  They go to Mass at least a few times a year (some of them may go every Sunday).  They give to the poor. They recycle.  They don’t cheat on their spouse or beat their children, so it’s all good, right?

These are the Catholics who will tell you that birth control is okay and nobody but an uber-Catholic thinks otherwise.  These are the Catholics who will scold you to “tone it down” if you’re trying to teach a class of high-school aged Confirmation candidates the difference between serious and less serious sins, what makes some serious sins mortal, what the words “mortal” and “venial” even mean as applied to sin; these Catholics will insist, and really seem to think, that “Vatican II” got rid of all those hang-ups.  These are the Catholics who still think women will be Catholic priests someday (if they don’t think some women already are, not being capable of understanding that ordinations which pretend to ordain women are not valid).  These are the Catholics who are “personally opposed, but...” on abortion.  These are the Catholics who lead marriage preparation classes and wink at the number of couples who are living together to make their fornication habit easier to indulge, and who insist the Church doesn’t care if they’re shacked up so long as they can produce their birth certificates.  And, now, these are the Catholics who show up in droves to vote for same-sex “marriage” on the grounds that the only commandment that matters is the one about making sure nobody’s feelings get hurt (but they couldn’t list the actual ten Commandments if they tried).

When you look at this situation in light of Agathonika’s comment some things start to become startlingly clear: when you program a system to do a horrible job of actually teaching the Faith in any real or deep sense but to do an adequate--if barely--job of stamping people’s papers and certificates and lining them up for one sacrament after another because they’ve fulfilled all the “requirements,” then this is exactly the kind of Catholic you will get.  You will get a Catholic who doesn’t have much knowledge of what the Church teaches on anything, who can’t explain basic concepts or teachings of Catholicism, whose only grasp of Church history comes from Internet atheists, whose relationship with Jesus is based on a sort of warm, fuzzy feeling that Jesus became Man in order to approve of everything we personally want to do in our lives, who has little or no idea of sin and repentance, who thinks the Precepts of the Church is another name for the Church Fathers--but who can produce, in tidy folders, every certificate from every recorded sacrament, and who thinks those bits of paper are the “important” thing about being Catholic, a kind of “Catholic transcript,” if you will, that is all God will need when they arrive at the Pearly Gates.

We can’t fix this overnight.  We can’t fix it by our usual liturgical squabbles or devotional sniping. We can’t fix it by leaving it up to the Bishops, but we can’t fix it without their help, either.  If I told you I knew exactly what to do and how to do it I’d be lying; I don’t know.  This is the first time I think I’ve understood the full magnitude of the problem.  But I also know we’d better think of something, and soon.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Miserable craven mawworms...

...also known as certain members of the leaders of the Church in Ireland, do absolutely nothing to stop their country from voting to spit in the face of St. Patrick and invite the Serpent he banished back in to take over their nation.

Oh, sure, the bishops issued a statement, or something, but many of them having squandered their moral authority and destroyed the Church from within for decades, it didn’t amount to anything.

The parable of the talents comes to mind.  The Irish bishops have been remarkably similar to the servant who was handed a treasure and...went off and buried it, out of fear, instead of seeing to it that it increased.  Now their treasure will eventually be given to someone else, but in the meantime the treasure--Ireland’s erstwhile Catholic sons and daughters--are still buried in the muck and mire and manure of modern depravity, which is all they have ever known, and thus from their point of view of  muck and mire and manure are all desirable real-estate.

What a sad end to a once-great daughter of the Faith; she has become a prostitute, and sold herself to the highest bidder.  I am ashamed to share her name.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Some animals are more equal...

Sorry for the lack of blogging this week!  I’ve had no shortage of things to blog about, but unfortunately I have had a shortage of time in which to do it.

But I couldn’t let Rod Dreher’s latest Tales from the New Order go without comment.  As Rod writes, a jeweler in Canada custom-made “engagement” rings for a lesbian couple--who then went ballistic and  demanded their money back simply because the jeweler opposes same-sex marriage:
Let’s understand what happened here. This Christian jeweler agreed to custom-make engagement rings for a lesbian couple, knowing that they were a couple, and treated them politely. But when they found out what he really believed about same-sex marriage, even though the man gave them polite service, and agreed to sell them what they asked for, the lesbian couple balked, and demanded their money back — and the mob threatened the business if they didn’t yield. Which, of course, he did.
You understand, of course, that this is not about getting equal treatment. The lesbian couple received that. This is about demonizing a point of view, and driving those who hold it out of the public square. Just so we’re clear about that.
I bought some olive oil not long ago at a tiny grocery store owned by an Arab Muslim immigrant. If I find out that the merchant supports ISIS, am I entitled to declare my jug of olive oil tainted, and demand a refund? Is a fundamentalist Christian permitted to send her osso buco back to the kitchen if she discovers that homosexual hands cooked it? Of course not. Some delicate snowflakes are more delicate than others.

As I post this, Rod has yet to approve any comments, so let me go way, WAY out on a limb and predict what at least a few of the comments will be:

1. This article is about Canada, not America.  Your argument is invalid.

2. This guy posted “anti-equality” signs in his jewelry store (e.g., a sign that read, according to the article, “The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let’s keep marriage between a man and a woman.” Which is an intolerable and hateful opinion that only bigots would say out loud, don’t you know).  Therefore he deserved whatever happened to him.

3. No government agency has (as of yet) investigated him for a hate crime, forced him to remove his sign, or forced him to give the lesbians their money back.  Sure, he was getting bullying and threats from people who heard that this guy was a bigot, but nobody made him do anything, so what’s the problem?  Deciding to comply with the mob when the mob threatens you is exactly the same thing as freedom.

4. Bigots don’t have the right to post bigoted opinions and get left alone by the mob.  It is clearly hateful bigotry to express support for one-man, one-woman marriage, and anybody who believes that marriage is between a man and a woman doesn’t belong in any wedding related industries. Photographers, cake bakers, caterers, and now jewelers better take note, and if bridal shops aren’t now stocking wedding gowns to fit male brides who are 6’5” and weigh 300 pounds they will also deserve what happens to them when the trans community comes after them for their bigotry.

5. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

No, wait, nobody will actually post #5.  Because that’s far too revealing of what is going on here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

I am ashamed of my country today

Here’s why.

We don’t need to execute Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  He poses no continuing threat to our public safety.  Protecting the common good does not require us to kill him.  I am convinced, as are many others, that the principal actor in the Boston Marathon bombing was his brother Tamerlan--and Tamerlan is already dead.

There are only three reasons to kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and none of them are consistent with the Catholic moral understanding of the just use of the death penalty in an age and nation where the possibility of highly secure incarceration is a reality.  These reasons are revenge, retaliation, and retribution--and none of those is a good enough reason to kill someone who is believed by many to have been his brother’s dupe throughout the crime, not some sort of criminal mastermind in his own right.

I mourn the deceased victims of the attack and stand with the injured who have undergone so much.  None of my shame for my country’s decision today is a minimizing of their real pain and suffering.  But killing Tsarnaev will not bring back the dead nor heal the wounded.  Sufficient time in prison might, instead, make him experience real remorse and shame for his own part in this terrible crime.

I call on my Catholic brothers and sisters, my Christian brothers and sisters, and all those who believe that the death penalty has outlived its time to stand with me in objecting to this shameful decision.  If we truly believe that human life is sacred there is no justification for executing criminals who do not pose a continuing threat to public safety, whom we can safely incarcerate instead.

(Cross-posted at Coalition for Clarity.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why I appreciate Ascension Sunday

Well, Father Z. has his annual rant about “Ascension Thursday Sunday” here.  An excerpt
The bishops who did transfer the feast to Sunday were, I am sure, hoping to expose more people to the mystery of the Ascension of the Lord. Probably included in that calculation was also the notion that it is tooo haaard for people to go to Mass also on Thursday. “Mass twice in a week? Tooo haaard!” [...]
The celebration of Ascension on a particular Thursday is rooted in Scripture. Celebration on Thursday reflects the ancient practice of the Churches of the East and West alike. We read in Holy Scripture thatnine days, not six, intervened between the Lord’s physical ascent to the Father’s right hand and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. If Pentecost was the 50th day, seven weeks – as the ancients counted the starting day itself is included so you get 50 rather than 49), then Ascension Thursday was fixed at the 40th day after Easter.
I used to be one of those “Harrumph!” types when it came to the Ascension Thursday/Ascension Sunday debate.  I even went to a daily Mass on what should have been Ascension Thursday once or twice out of a regrettable spirit of protest against the change.  But now that I’ve lived for some time in states where you just don’t have Catholic churches every other block, and in actual mission territories, I’ve come to see the wisdom of transferring the feast to Sunday.

In the first place, priests who think that bishops decided it was “tooo haaard” (sic) for people to go to Mass twice a week may not be aware that it is no longer 1955 in the world.  Lots of people are expected to be either commuting to/from or already at work from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on weekdays these days (and yet their pay is still based on a 40 hour work week, not a 60 or 70 hour work week).  Lots of Catholic children must attend public schools in places where the diocesan Catholic schools start at five to seven thousand dollars per year per child, too--and if the only Holy Day of Obligation Mass in your parish is at noon, it’s pretty difficult to get the school kids there.  I’ve mentioned before that our parish Holy Day Masses are at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.; this is too late in the morning for many workers and too early in the evening for others (especially if you have to drive half an hour or more in rush-hour traffic to reach the parish).  There’s a reason the most reliable crowd at Holy Day of Obligation Masses are the retirees; they’re the only ones who aren’t trying to figure out impossible work and/or school obligations alongside equally impossible Mass obligations.  If the Ascension Feast were not transferred to Sunday in our diocese, my two older daughters, both in college, would have been stuck trying to find a Mass somewhere that didn’t conflict with their final exams today (and good luck with that; the only ones I know of in our area would have involved an hour-plus drive each way, which would still have made getting back to school by exam time difficult to impossible).

Canon lawyers will often point out that we’re not asked to do the impossible.  If you really can’t get to a Holy Day Mass, you are excused from the obligation.  But on a feast as important as the Ascension, do we really want to create a situation where retirees can celebrate and pretty much everybody else is just plain out of luck?  The obvious solution, to add more Masses at times when people who work and/or go to school can attend, does not appear to be possible for many pastors either--so what are we to do?

And that brings me to my second point: should the “perfect” of the calendar be the enemy of the “good,” if the “good” is “helping as many Catholics as possible to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension?”  Clearly, the bishops think the calendar’s perfection is less important than making sure that most Catholics who are regular churchgoers can get to Mass on the Feast of the Ascension.  Yes, the symbolism of having exactly the right number of days from Easter to the Ascension and then to Pentecost is not trivial.  But then again, Easter is itself a moveable feast, and the likelihood that we are celebrating on the actual day Christ ascended into Heaven in any particular year is not huge--so is it really better to celebrate the Ascension on a day when many people simply will not be able to attend Mass, not because it is “toooo haaard” but because the one or two Masses offered in their parishes conflict with mandatory work or school obligations which they cannot shirk without serious consequences?

All of this brings me back to my perpetual rant: I really wish priests and pastors would sit down and talk to actual Catholic families in their parishes.  Don’t tell us “Make a plan to get to Mass on a Holy Day!” and then schedule exactly two of those Masses during the work and school day; listen to us.  Those of us who take the faith seriously enough to go to Mass on Sundays, those of us who abide by the Church’s teachings to the best of our ability, those of us taking on an increasingly hostile culture while we struggle to raise our children to share in this gift of the Catholic faith--we’re not sitting around crying that it’s “tooo haaard” to go to Mass twice in a week for trivial or selfish reasons.

And some of us appreciate Ascension Sunday, because it’s one less time in the year when we have to try to rearrange the work and school schedules and obligations of five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten etc. people in order to get everybody to the one Mass within an hour or so’s driving distance that doesn’t conflict impossibly with something someone has to do--has to, as in “will get fired or will flunk the class or will get reprimanded for not showing up and doing,” not “has to” as in “sort of should, but no big deal if he/she doesn’t.” 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

We should be ready

Don’t bother reading me today; go and read what Jennifer Hartline wrote.  Here’s an example of it:
What you, the culture, fail to understand is that I am not motivated to please you or appease you. I will not be bullied into submission. I will not “adapt” my beliefs to suit you. It doesn’t matter that you have decided there is no sin in abortion, same-sex “marriage”, sex-on-demand, and the treatment of babies as commodities—I disagree because I know that God has said otherwise.
What you cannot accept is that I will not cease to worship the true God in favor of your gods. I will not abandon the Truth in favor of your empty, self-serving doctrines. It doesn’t matter how many names you call me, or how many insults you hurl in my direction, or how you may wish to ostracize and push me to the outer edges of society. It will not change anything.
Abortion will always be a grave evil and utterly unjust, no matter what the Supreme Court says. Marriage will always be the union of a man and woman, for life, for the benefit of their children, no matter what the Supreme Court or any government says.
Sex will always be designed to be life-giving and unitive, no matter how much you trivialize it or how much contraception you demand.
There will always be fundamental, inherent, and complementary differences between men and women. There will always be only two possible genders of the human person: male and female.
You see, you didn’t create the human person. You didn’t create marriage. You aren’t the author and giver of new life. You didn’t establish the human family.
You don’t have the power or authority to change what God has ordained from the foundation of the world.
Read the rest here.

Over at Rod Dreher’s blog this week, discussions and conversations about what Rod calls the “Benedict Option” are taking place (here’s one example).  Because our culture is becoming so hostile to ordinary expressions of Christianity, something like the Benedict Option is needed.  On a different Benedict Option post Rod wrote last week (which has now fallen off the main page and thus will get few new comments) I wrote something about what I think the Benedict Option means.  I don’t usually quote myself, but this was long, and I don’t really have time to re-do it for the blog, so your patience is appreciated:
So, what is the Benedict Option?
If I had to turn it into a motto or two, I’d probably start with: In faith, peace; in unity, strength. (Somebody could put those in Latin if they wanted.)
The idea is to see in one’s faith life and faith community the source of that peace of soul that gives you the ability to interact in a very different and hostile world without forgetting the Master or His way. For us Eucharistic Christians the source of that peace is, of course, the Eucharist, the taking and consuming of Christ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity as often as is spiritually possible and the ceaseless attempt to reform our souls, shed and confess our sins, and conform our wills to the Divine Will. Not only the liturgical worship (which is paramount) but the practice of prayers and devotions on the one hand and tangible acts of charity on the other are key to this peace of soul.
The second part of the motto points out that even outside of our own parishes or churches or mosques or synagogues we are traveling among people who share many of our same ancient beliefs in the sacred dignity of the human person, of what used to be called the “eternal verities,” and of the nature of reality and the purpose of life. These other faith groups may join us in defending unborn human life and/or those at-risk of involuntary euthanasia (which often means opposing the voluntary kind as well on principle); they may join us in insisting that marriage is a union of a man and a woman and that the integral importance of the natural family should not be undermined by governments or societies; they may join us in opposing the onslaughts against human dignity that arise from the indignities of the global economy; they may join us in opposing the intrinsic evils of torture or unjust warfare or the non-intrinsic but circumstantial evil of the death penalty in societies where it is no longer even remotely necessary to condemn prisoners to die in order to preserve the common good–and so on. The important thing is that when they do join us, they do so to fight a common set of enemies, which in old Catholic tradition were spoken of as the world, the flesh, and the devil, all of which frequently collaborate to draw the soul into sin and deaden the conscience against evil.
To me, what makes this a “Benedict Option” is that the primacy of the faith calls for a renewal of the individual soul, of the family, and of many of our voluntary associations and occupations. We Christians, in particular, have enjoyed a relatively long (if frequently uneasy) peace with the world, allowing us to do pretty much what everybody else does, in terms of jobs and entertainment and social lives. What I think Rod keeps saying here is that this is the age that is ending, and it is ending before our eyes. To use an obvious example, it was possible for serious pro-life Christians to continue to work at most jobs, join most organizations, talk about the same TV shows at the water cooler at work, etc.–but already it is not really possible for serious pro-family Christians to do the same, and the growing intention to force every person in America to affirm the goodness and wonderfulness of SSM, surrogacy, transgenderism, etc. is already taking a toll by forcing people out of certain jobs and organizations.
Strengthened by our individual faiths and then united by our shared values, Benedict Option people can help each other to resist the Empire’s attempt to force us to pour out libations to these strange new gods–and not in some vague, psychological way, but in tangible ways (such as making sure the owners of a little pizza shop didn’t face homelessness or starvation after being made the new targets of the present set of Two Minute Hates ordered by our elites). We can, and should, keep doing these things, and should position ourselves to be able to do them for the next several generations. At that point, the attempt of modernity to reorder the very notion of human flourishing in its own image will likely have collapsed under the weight of reality, and our descendants will be ready, and strong enough, to begin the work of rebuilding.
When I read Jennifer Hartline’s blog post I thought about what I’d written above, because I still think that in order for us Christians to survive the coming era with our faith intact and our families strong we’re going to have to do those two things: one, strengthen our faith lives ideally around some local faith community, especially a good parish, monastery or convent, or similar place where orthodox Catholicism thrives, and two, go out into the world alongside those who share our values even if they don’t share our faith, and work together against the corruption and darkness of the present age.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a Catholic today, and one thing I keep coming back to is this:  In order to LIVE the Gospel, we must SPREAD the Gospel, but in order to SPREAD the Gospel, we must LIVE the Gospel.  Hardly profound or original, but it’s the tension between actively living the Gospel and trying to spread it in an age when Christians are being punished for refusing to celebrate sexual immorality in all its forms that is starting to make itself felt.  We have, relatively speaking, had an age of peace, when the culture, though not ever fully with us, was not teeming with active hostility against us.  That age is over.  To be a “good American” one will very soon have to be a false Christian, as no true Christian can accept sexual immorality (including contraception, abortion, gay “marriage,” the commodification of children, and the promotion to young people of every form of sexual license) as something that is good.

So we, and our children, and their children, will be bad Americans, because we will not betray our Lord.  And the ramifications of living as second-class citizens whose every word and action is suspect will soon be our lives.  We should be getting ready.

Monday, May 11, 2015

America’s lack of respect for mothers

This is going around on Facebook: John Oliver on Last Week Tonight excoriates American companies who promote shallow materialism for Mother’s Day but work against policies that would extend paid maternity leave.  (Note: I’m not embedding the video because while a few cuss words are bleeped out, there are a handful of elements that you might not want to watch with younger children in the room.)

I realize that for many culture-warrior types, paid family/maternity leave is something the “other side” cares about.  After all, don’t traditional women stay at home with their own children, at least until the youngest child is school-aged (and way beyond that if you also homeschool)?  So why should we care about policies like paid family leave?

One reason we should care is that many women end up working outside the home whether they want to or not.  Even if they really do want to stay at home to raise their children, they’re not always able financially to do so.  We’ve based so much of our economy on the two-income family for so long that younger women may find themselves choosing not between being a SAHM or working, but between working and being able to qualify to buy a house (and good luck raising multiple children in an apartment or rental home these days), or even between working and being able to put food on the table.  And that’s before we consider that a married couple in their middle or late twenties who have both graduated from college may owe as much as $66,000 in combined student loan debt, and they may still have five to eight years of their ten-year repayment period left before that debt will be gone.  Corporate America is trying to talk young women into undergoing IVF treatment and freezing their eggs during this time period so they’ll be able to have kids later, but we Catholics have obvious problems with this; helping two-income families with things like maternity leave is obviously better than promoting a culture of putting off one’s family altogether for the convenience of one’s employer.

Another reason we should care is that like most things, America’s lack of paid family leave hurts poor families the most.  While a woman of higher income may be able to take as much unpaid leave as she wants, up to the full twelve weeks, or even to decide to stay at home with her child longer than that, John Oliver’s video features women who had no such choice, including a woman who had to go back to work a month after her child was born because she couldn’t afford to stay home longer than that and a woman who had to leave her premature infant in the hospital and return to work less than a week after giving birth so she could save her leave time for when the baby came home.  This is absolutely wrong; no mother should have to make such choices.

And that leads to yet another reason we should support greater family leave: the lack of decent paid maternity leave in America as compared to most other nations is just the flip side of the disrespect all mothers get here.  America pays a lot of lip service to the ideals of motherhood, but when it comes right down to it, the attitude on display is that children are an optional lifestyle accessory, a luxury for those who want them, and that any notion that it is in society’s best interests to see to it that children are well cared-for is sort of like insisting on tax breaks for pet owners or government subsidies for stamp collectors.

Go to any place where these issues are being discussed, and soon you will see commenters (many, if not most of them, male) insisting that it is a woman’s choice to be a mother, and that if she wants a kid that’s nice for her, but she shouldn’t expect her co-workers to pick up her slack so she can take time off.  When pressed about this attitude, most such commenters will insist that helping women by giving them maternity leave just punishes all the male employees as well as the women who are “smart enough” not to have children.  The attitude that motherhood is something that lesser women do, that it’s just “breeding,” that it’s not at all essential to society or good for anyone other than the woman who wants it is far too prevalent these days, and it is an attitude that is growing.

There was a time in America when we realized that motherhood was a vocation, and a highly sacrificial one.  There was a time in America when we realized that our society would come to an end if every woman decided she’d rather have a lucrative corporate career than children.  There was a time in America when the biggest defenders of mothers and motherhood were fathers, men who understood and appreciated the sacrifices their wives made to see to the well-being of their children.

These days, far too many men act as though fatherhood is for fools and a woman wanting a child is sort of like a woman wanting a diamond necklace: fine, provided she’s willing to do all the work required to  pay for it.  Standing up for motherhood, and standing in solidarity with our sisters who work outside the home when it is necessary (as it often is these days), is a good way to fight back against that attitude.

Of course, when we manage to get a decent paid maternity leave policy passed at the national level, the next battle will be to reward stay-at-home-moms too with tax breaks and other incentives that show that we do, as a nation, recognize how important it is to the well-being of children and families for mothers to stay at home and raise their own children at least until they are old enough for school whenever this is possible; but that’s a blog post for another day.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The empress’ new wedding dress

There’s a proverb to the effect that if you want to make God laugh, you tell Him your plans.  I shouldn’t have said I was going to get back to blogging, because that was apparently the sign that I was now not busy at all and could get sick.  Okay, so it’s just a mild virus of the type that is clearly going around all over the place, but it did put a damper in my plans to start blogging regularly and seriously again.

I appreciate my readers’ comments below the last post!  Hopefully I can get to blogging about serious stuff like that soon.

In the meantime, I couldn’t help but notice this article many people were sharing on Facebook about the dawn of the see-through wedding dress:
But the most revealing pieces in the latest bridal lines—revealing, in every sense of the word—were Vera Wang's mermaid-cut sheaths, staunchly traditional in their ribbons and lace, but innovative in their most striking features: The gowns are almost fully translucent, from their necklines to their hems. The lingerie their models wore, dainty and daring at the same time, was on full display under the fishnet and lace bodices of the gowns. The lingerie was, in fact, an elemental part of the dresses.
This—the be-boudoired bridal outfit—may be designed to shock, but it isn't at all surprising. It's simply another step toward something that has taken place both gradually and seemingly overnight: the sexification of the wedding dress. The gowns that have for so long involved sweeping hoop skirts and demure lace and virginal white have been, of late, getting steadily saucier. They've been showing more shoulder, more cleavage, more back ... more of pretty much everything, except fabric.
You can read the rest, if you want to, here.  Or I could spare you the trouble: all of this, according the article’s author, is about the ultimate rejection of the “traditional” virginal wedding gown (which wasn’t all that traditional, anyway--the article correctly points out that the all-white wedding dress is much more recent than most people think, and was only for rich brides anyway) and the shocking revelation that sex is part of marriage and that brides know that and want to flaunt it. Because, you know, our ancestors had no idea that sex and marriage and babies were sort of connected, or something.


Actually, I think that what this is about is simple: many young women are rather stupid when it comes to “sexy” clothing and “sexy” attitudes and the like.  They actually believe that it is empowering and feminist and girl-powerish to appear in public in your underwear.  The fact that this happens to fulfill the secret and not-so-secret fantasies of the raunchiest, filthiest, least-good-husband-material men-children out there is something that seems to escape them completely; they really seem to believe that appearing half-naked is somehow the same thing as striking a blow for feminism instead of participating in their own objectification.

Yes, there are men who will objectify women whatever we wear, and no, the choice is not (and never has been) between the see-through wedding gown and the burqa. It is not necessary for women to don shapeless heavy sacks in the name of modesty.  But for heaven’s sake, it’s also both unnecessary and just plain stupid to plan a walk down the aisle wearing considerably less fabric than Esther Williams would have worn in a swimming pool, and it takes nothing more than a bit of common sense to understand that.

Of course, I think the see-through wedding gown trend will last until some sweet little flower girl asks in front of the whole wedding party, “Mommy, why is the bride naked?” It took a child to alert the Emperor that he was being scammed, too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Confessions of a blogging slacker

Well, I’m back!

Sort of.

I’m still trying to get some editing done.  But I did manage to finish the book I decided to write this April.  The final count was just over 61,000 words in 25 days--but now I’ve got something else to edit.


I had planned on writing a blog post yesterday, but it never happened.  I planned to write one today, and I realized given the lateness of the hour that it wasn’t going to happen either.  So this is a sort of “slacker” post in which I promise to resume writing but don’t actually get to it until tomorrow.  Hopefully, anyway.

In the meantime, if anybody’s still checking in, let me ask: what’s on your mind?  One of the weird things about marathon writing sessions is that I lose touch, a bit, with what’s going on in the World Out There.  I mean, yes, I’ve read a bit about Baltimore, but that’s pretty much it.

It may take me a few days to resume my regular news-reading habits.  Until then, if something’s going on that you’re interested/concerned/freaking out about--let me know in the comments, and I thank you in advance for the blog topic ideas! :)