Friday, December 24, 2010

Her Body, Her Choice

Joanne Jacobs tells us about a St. Paul, Minnesota school where sweets have been banned.  I think the most telling quote comes from one of the fifth-graders:
“All my friends say, ‘This really sucks,’” said Misky Salad, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Chelsea Heights Elementary. “A lot of us feel it should be up to us to determine what we should do with our bodies.”
So, what do we do when two liberal social programs collide?  Should women be able to decide what to do with their bodies?  Or only if they're not obese? 

I actually think the underlying philosophy is that the government, not the parent, is to decide what girls can and cannot do with their bodies.  So, it's considered acceptable for a school nurse to give birth control to a child without her parents' permission.  But if Mom sends a Little Debbie in her daughter's lunch, it's a crisis.

This isn't a new trend among do-gooders and social reformers.  Chesterton wrote about this a century ago in What's Wrong With The World, though at the time the argument centered on poor girls having long hair.

Whenever we decide to 'uplift' a population, we end up denying parental rights.  Why?  I suspect it's because we see the poor as 'less human' than we are.  We don't ask mothers, "What do you want for your daughters?" Instead, like farmers trying to raise the perfect livestock, we make decrees intended to produce the ideal breed of urban woman.

Of course, the answer to these plots against parental rights is to treat each other as beloved children of God.  That is why religious schools seem to do better with poor children.  They see the kids as people, not an inferior species in need of 'improvement.'  Meanwhile, the same class that rails against factory farming of animals demands factory farming of children.   Well, of other people's children.  If their own children were subjected to such strict rules, it would be an unfair encroachment on parental rights.  Because, you see, the reformers are the RIGHT kind of parent.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Failing Advent

If Advent was a high-stakes test, I’d be repeating a grade this year. I started off the season with grand plans for nightly prayer services, themed baking projects, craft ideas and maybe even a Jesse Tree. Heck, if nothing else, we’d at least steal Charlotte’s “box of books” idea, right?

My plans fell apart almost immediately. The baby was teething and glued to me day and night. Then my husband’s grandfather died and we had to take a funeral trip to Jasper, 6 hours away. Somewhere in there, there was a blizzard, and we couldn’t leave the house for a few days. So much for complicated crafts that needed supplies!
Finally, in the last week or so, I started to get my act together. On Gaudate Sunday, I finally found my magnetic Advent calendar. (The one in the picture-- got to love the Amazon widgets! :) ) We went down to Indy to visit family. (Another visit, to Scottsburg, got cancelled due to ice.)

Yesterday, I made Toffee, Gingerbread, and a Cheesecake for my mother-in-law’s birthday. Then, my husband reminded me about the evening of recollection at church. We dashed out the door. (I’d forgotten it was Tuesday. Not the evening of recollection – I knew that was on a Tuesday. But I’d thought it was still Monday, for some reason. My internal calendar tends to go a bit berserk when I’m exhausted.)

We made it there about 15 minutes late- not bad – and we got to hear all of the second talk and a decent junk of the first one. Best of all, we made it to confession! And Father even gave me some really awesome advice about praying every time you change a diaper (because that way you’ll be praying all day long! Especially if you’re a nursing mom with two kids in cloth...)

Today, I made a huge dinner, got the kids’ pictures taken in front of the tree, and celebrated Grandma’s birthday. Advent was back on track.

And then it happened. The toilet overflowed. It didn’t just overflow a little. It hemorrhaged water all over the bathroom and the kitchen. The water was so deep that it started running between the floor boards. It was raining sewage in my basement, over by the hampers and the laundry machine. So, Advent had to go on hold again, so that I could bleach all my floors and everything else the flood had touched. (I think the man who invented Clorox should be canonized. Seriously. How would we live without it?)

Anyway, as I was scrubbing my floor at 10:30 at night while the baby screamed and the other kids complained about the bleachy smell, I realized something:

Maybe the interruptions in my Advent weren’t actually interruptions at all. After all, Advent isn’t really about preparing for Christmas. I mean, sure, we act like it is, but Christmas already happened. Christ has been born. Heck, He already grew up, died on the cross, and saved us, too!

Advent is about preparing for the Second Coming, and for our own death and judgments. Jesse Trees and Wreaths are nice tools for preparing ourselves to spend eternity with God. But so are funerals, unexpected changes to plans, and even nasty kitchen floors that demand several hours with a bucket of bleach. God gives us these tasks to prepare us.

“Overflow your toilet and then kill all the bacteria” may never make it into the “Catholic Mom’s Guide to Raising Saints-in-Training by Doing Advent RIGHT,” but it’s the task God has given me today, the task that will eventually lead me to His side.

Maybe next year I'll be able to give my kids an Advent to remember - but then again, maybe not.  And that's OK too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More on the Legion

From the UK Catholic Herald.  Once again, a major problem with the new norms is that they do NOT amount to the repudiation of Maciel.  They are simply about the PUBLIC repudiation of Maciel.  But, in order to survive, the Legion cannot just change outward appearances.

Any real reform has to happen at the roots. 

It's like dandelions-- if you cut the leaves and flowers, you have not changed the plant.  The root of the weed is still there, beneath the surface, and when conditions are ripe, it will grow again.

To remove a weed, you must completely remove the root.  And then, you must plant something else, something GOOD, in the same soil, so that there's not an empty space for the weed to re-colonize.

Without a total refounding, how can the Legion ever be anything but what Maciel created it to be?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

When Medieval Pious Legends suddenly count as big news.

What I find interesting about the article is the researcher's suprise that the Medieval Church taught that women could have useful roles in society.   Because clearly, before the 1960s or so, Christian widows were expected to be buried alive with their husbands or something.

Also, I'm a little curious about why Mary's grandmother would still be living when Jesus was in his 30s... wouldn't she have been well over 100?

Legion Leaders Work to Avoid Embarassment

I was going to take a break from Legion-blogging for a while. At this point, I don't have anything new to contribute - thanks to the steadfastness of the internet, anyone who is interested can check out this blog’s archives, or click on the tags for Legion-related editorializing.

Still, even after closely following this mess for nearly 2 years, I found the latest announcement from Legion –Land baffling. (The Spanish is available over at Life-After-RC. The Catholic News Agency report tones down the problematic nature of the original.)

This announcement is more proof that the men running the Legion just don’t understand the nature of the “Maciel Problem.”

The Vatican declared their founder devoid of scruples or religious sentiment. (See the May 1 Communique) Yet the solution seems to be to ban all PUBLIC devotion to Maciel. LC/RC members may still meditate on his writings IN PRIVATE. Even worse, priests are allowed to use his words as the basis for talks and homilies, as long as they don’t cite the source.

The whole approach seems to be one of avoiding embarrassing questions. (“Father, why are you quoting a known child-molester and ‘false prophet’  in your talks?”) Instead, the devotion to the founder can continue, and his words can still be used to mold hearts and minds – as long as nobody openly discusses what’s going on.

At this point, I have a hard time believing that there can be any authentic reform of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, especially if members are still using the founder’s writings for their spiritual formation.

If a house is founded on sand, the solution is not to keep living in it and to hope the ground magically repairs itself. It’s not to build the same structure in the same place. It’s to find new, firm ground and build a new, stable house. If there’s to be a reform or refoundation, this latest document shows why it can’t come from within. I

 think, like the Fils-De-Marie/ Missionary Society of Mandeville case, any real reform and refounding is going to have to come from the men who’ve left. It seems that those who stay have not yet grasped what it means to follow a spirituality set out by a false prophet.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I posted that on the wrong blog! A real post here tomorrow, when I have more time and less spotty internet!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Like a Lourdes, Except Affordable as a Pilgrimage Option....

There is now an officially approved Marian Apparition in the United States!  Unfortunately, it's near Green Bay Wisconsin, so we should probably wait until spring before we start planning our pilgrimages.....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

An Experiment Born of a Midnight Joke

I'm starting a new blog.  About sofas. And couches and davenports too.  Why? Because my husband dared me to.  I'll still keep blogging politics, religion, education, kidlit and anything else that catches my fancy from this site.

BUT, over at , I'll be making a concerted effort to become the internet's premier sofa-blogger.   Why?  Probably because I dropped myself on my head as a baby!  Also, because anything is interesting, if you research it enough.

Besides, the snows have started up here in Lake-effect land.  Obsessing about sofas will make the dark months go faster.

And yes, I am bizarre, and possibly insane.  It's probably genetic.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Newsflash: Kids get distracted at school....

No wonder the newspapers are dying if is what passes for news these days.

We didn't have cell phones and twitter when I was in school, but we still procrastinated and ignored the teachers.  We just used old fashioned implements like rubber bands, paper clips, pens, and paper.  We flipped pens passed notes, constructed gadgets, and doodled.

Oh, yeah, and we had those new-fangled things called 'windows.'  And we stared out them and daydreamed.

Throughout elementary school, teachers were always banning one fad or another-- because sticker books, friendship pins and Trapper Keepers were distractions.

My parents used to bring comic books and yo-yos to school.

Do you think pioneer newspapers lamented the prevalence of stag beetles and frogs in the classroom?

Children have been distracted in schools as long as there have been schools.  Today's problem is not one of technology or rewired brains.

It's a problem of authority and discipline - of teachers who can't or won't confiscate distractions and of parents who don't care if their child distracts himself and others.

If they didn't have texting, they'd just find something else.....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No, I'm not dead...

But today I was hit with the full magnitude of the impending Thanksgiving Season.  And Advent.  And the wreck that is my home.  And it looks like the baby is finally done teething (he's gone from one tooth to 6 in 2 weeks, and the last 2 of his first eight should be in any day.) So, with my newly free arms, I'll be out conquering the chaos ---  See you when I get back.  (I hope to be absent from comment sections too---  because my house needs me!)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Looking at the Fruits

When a movement comes under investigation, observers are often told that we ought to look to the fruits.  

This morning, my husband pointed out that Paul's letter to the Galatians actually TELLS us what fruits we ought to be looking for:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Notice that, on this list, there is nothing about: Numbers of Vocations, Speed of Increase, Signs, Wonders, Visions, Fundraising, Conversions, Retreats Given, Books Published, Numbers of Followers, Healings, Buildings Dedicated, or Youth Groups Started.

Meanwhile, we also have the Fruits of the Flesh: Immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies...

When we look at the fruits of a new movement, an association of the faithful, or an apparition, perhaps we should use Galatians as our guide.

Monday, October 25, 2010

An Apology and an Interesting Item

Sorry to be so absent from the blog this month.  October is a busy month for us - Birthdays, Anniversaries, Reunions, Guests - and when you add in our first foray into fall sports season and potty training and apple picking and cooking squash in all it's delicious variety....  well, blogging was really the LEAST important thing in the world to me. (As it should be...)

Anyway, I just wanted to point out this new article by Sandro Magister on the current struggles within the Legion.

There were a few points I found especially interesting.

Now that he has been made a cardinal, Archbishop Velasio De Paolis will have even more authority in implementing the mandate he has received from Benedict XVI to salvage the Legionaries of Christ, brought to the brink of ruin by their founder, Marcial Maciel, and by the men of his inner circle.
Why should a red hat affect his ability to salvage the congregation?  Will Garza et. al. suddenly say "Oh, my goodness!!!  We were placing roadblocks in the path of the official papal delegate--but how could we hope to oppose a Cardinal?"  That seems unlikely.

So, the only way he will get more authority from his new title is if the rank-and-file Legionaries will respect a Cardinal more than they respect a Delegate.   BUT if it really takes a red hat to get the necessary respect, the congregation is already doomed, in my opinion. 

After all, in that case they're not really being obedient to the Church, but to outward signs of influence.  The Delegate should not have to be a Cardinal in order to reform the congregation. 

In mid-September, De Paolis asked Garza to give up the main offices that he holds, at least those of territorial director for Italy, supervisor of consecrated virgins of the movement Regnum Christi, general prefect of studies and head of the financial holding company Integer. But Garza said no. A chill has fallen between the two
Why does the Delegate simply ask? Why not demand?  Is his hesitation due to the "Roman" way of doing things, or is it necessary that Garza resign on his own?  This is a curious bit of information, but Magister's sources are usually impeccable.  Still, did anyone really expect the Legion's leadership to meekly hand over the reigns?

The maddening thing about these games is that there are men's souls and vocations on the line.  There have got to be at least some men who remain in this congregation because they hope to see it be refounded and changed into something better.  Once they realize that they're signing up for decades of power struggles, they may leave, and the Legion will be left with only the men who cannot leave because they are damaged by the bad formation, methodology and violations of the internal forum.

In a sense, this attempted reform of the Legion has been a huge experiment.  There have been other 'orders' founded by frauds.  However, most of those stayed local and were easily suppressed by the bishops.  This is the first time we've had an international con game disguised as an order.  

The big question for me is - can a religious order have a charism "apart from the founder?"  De Paolis seems to suggest putting them at the service of the new dicastery -- so something like the Pima missionaries, but for RE-evangelization.   It's an interesting idea -- but in the same letter he mentions the concerns about formation.  How can we expect these men to form others if they haven't been well-formed themselves?

I think we're going to have to take a wait, see, and pray approach here.  Personally, I don't think reform is likely at this point.  And if a friend considering a vocation to religious life mentioned he was considering the Legion, I would... vociferously... try to dissuade him.  And respond with a list of other orders to consider.

Some of my friends think the Legion is still salvageable-- because there are men on the inside who love Christ and who joined with good intentions.  The question is, can love for God fix an order where the entrenched interests are full of love for self, money and power?

**NOTE: Edited because I forgot to run spell-check!**

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Halloween Wars

It’s October again, which means it’s time to repeat a venerable Catholic Blogosphere tradition. No, not Rosary Novenas- Are you mad??? It’s time to begin the Halloween Wars!

In past years I’ve been a bystander, but as my kids have gotten older, I’ve gotten a bit more entrenched in my position.

We trick or treat. Loudly, joyfully, and with much skipping, twirling, jumping, smiling and singing. My kids start planning their costumes in August and change their minds about 3,457 times before Halloween.

We live for the annual pumpkin patch trip. We draw haunted houses and witches and Jack-O-Lanterns. We obsess about candy. I am treated to calculations on every trip to the store—a Hershey’s miniature is worth three Smarties. But there’s a one to one lollipop to Smarties ratio, especially for the child with the corn allergy.

I know what you’re thinking: “But Deirdre, how can you allow your children to participate in devil-worship this way? One day they’re dressing up as princesses, and the next they’re pagan priestesses! Don’t you realize you’ve set your toddlers on the road to perdition?!?!?”

I see Halloween a lot like I see the Fourth of July. Some people choose to celebrate the Fourth by getting drunk, smoking pot, fornicating and disobeying local fire ordinances. I will not allow my children attend such celebrations. On the other hand, we ecstatically attend the local parade, cook bratwurst for lunch, and go to the fairground to watch the fireworks.

Halloween, as we American’s celebrate it, is mostly a harvest festival. That’s why the pumpkins are such a big deal (for my family, Halloween has always marked the first pumpkin pie of the season—which ought to be eaten BEFORE trick-or-treating…). And trick-or-treating is not about sneaking out into the woods for human sacrificing. It’s about small children playing dress-up, and adults telling them how cute (or pretty, or scary) they are and giving them treats.

In most neighborhoods in the United States, Halloween is basically “Children’s appreciation day” and has been for generations. And given how little our culture appreciates children on most days, it doesn’t hurt to remind people that children are a treasure.

Now, in recent years, especially in urban areas, adults have tried to take over Halloween. They’re trying to take “kids dress-up and get candy” day and turn it into “adults dress like porn stars and get drunk and fornicate” day.

Personally, I think this is a result of the fact that many ‘adults’ are no longer getting married and having kids. 25-year-olds used to celebrate Halloween by putting their toddler in a bear suit and making a trip around the block. But when you don’t have kids, there’s really no ‘age appropriate’ Halloween celebration. So the current generation is using Halloween as yet another excuse to get drunk and party. (I fully expect that in a few years “Veteran’s Day” will be an excuse to get drunk and party. It’s that whole ‘Fading Years of the Roman empire” vibe.)

So, what’s a Catholic Mom of little ones to do? Well, you can decide to boycott the whole thing – it’s your right, and this is an area where there’s no “Officially Orthodox” choice – it’s a matter of personal preference.

But me and mine will do the Halloween thing. We’ll march around the neighborhood in costume and fill our plastic pumpkins with treats. And afterwards, we’ll head home to warm cider and bed. Because, after all, the next day is All Saints’ and we’ll want to be up early for Mass!

Friday, October 1, 2010

St. Therese and Me

I’ve come to the conclusion that, although she died young, St. Therese is primarily a saint for grownups. When I was in high school and college, I loathed St. Therese. I thought she was sappy and wimpy. All her talk of “Little ways” and flowers and small, homely miracles left me sick to my stomach. She may have been Holy, but she never did anything. She was no example for me. I was going to change the world, create something totally new, be a heroine. What could a sickly girl who lived practically her whole life in a convent have to teach me?

Fifteen years and some heaping doses of humility later, I’m in a different place – almost a different person in some ways. I don’t change the world. I change diapers. And also sheets. Lots and lots of sheets. I may not live in a convent, but my home is a sort of enclosure – most of my time, energy and prayer-life are spent within these walls. And now, when I approach St. Therese, I don’t see a weak, sickly girl. I see a woman who understood that, when God has blessed us with an absence of large temptations, we ought to wage the same battle against the little temptations that DO afflict us. I see a Doctor of the Church, who teaches that even a humble unnoticed life has great value in the eyes of the Church.

St. Therese has gone from a target of my scorn and derision to one of my favorite saints. Here are a few reasons why:

1. St. Therese teaches us how to be good parents. When Therese describes her early life, her parents stand out. Her mother and father loved their daughters and doted on them. They were interruptible – when one of the girls wanted to talk, or play, or show off an accomplishment, their parents were willing to watch and listen and be present to them. Therese’s mother died young, but she was such a good example of maternal care that her older daughters were able to carry her love to her youngest child. Therese’s father took his daughter on long walks and on fishing trips.

St. Therese could bask in Christ’s love because she had already absorbed so much love and care from her family. She teaches us that to give our children a straight path to Christ, we should first give them our love and attention. Her description of her parents helps me to remember that the first job on my list should always be to convey God’s love to my children as best as I can. St. Therese helps me be a better mother.

2. St. Therese teaches us to accept the tasks we’re given instead of dreaming of the ones we wish we’d been given. Therese dreamed of doing really big things for God. She wanted to join the Carmelite mission to Asia, but that’s not what God had planned for her. Instead, she stayed in France, praying, working at homely tasks, and caring for the younger sisters in her convent. She didn’t give in to disappointment and daydreams. Instead, she focused on doing the little things before her well. And, because she was faithful in the small tasks, she now has a much bigger one: Patroness of the Missions.

3. St. Therese understood how hard it is to keep your temper in the face of little annoyances. One of my favorite episodes in Therese’s autobiography occurred as she was washing clothes. One of the other sisters accidentally splashed her and soaked her habit. Therese was angry, but she knew the other sister had just been clumsy – there was no malice in her action. So Therese stayed calm, continued to smile, and offered up the soaked habit. This incident is basically the “Mother of small children” experience in a nutshell. St. Therese can intercede for us as we face the spills and leaky diapers and broken dishes of our lives, because she knows how we feel.

4. St. Therese understood the importance of small, homely miracles. She accepted even the small gifts God gave her with great pleasure. She didn’t ask for the ability to levitate, or huge acts of healing. Instead, she asked for things like snow. And she was as awed and happy when God gave her snow as another saint might have been by the ability to cast out demons. For most of us, the small, homely miracles are the important ones: A car that makes it to the gas station on an empty tank, an open ‘sick appointment’ 20 minutes after we call the doctor because we’re sure the babies in bad shape, an out of season rose in bloom just when we’re at our lowest and really need a sign that God is still taking care of us. St. Therese is the saint for anyone who’s ever gotten an unexpected check just as the kids’ dental bill is due or who’s encountered a helpful stranger to change that flat tire. She knows that for ‘little souls’ like us, even the tiny gifts from God are very important.

I wish I’d understood Therese a little earlier in my life – I could have spent more years learning from this great saint. But I’m glad I gave her a second chance – because her little way is a great help to this mother of little ones.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Series Mania

Series Mania

Last week, my husband brought a stack of books home from work. He’s a librarian, so that’s a normal occurrence. But all these books were novels! For me! A month earlier than I’d expected!! (Which reminds me – I must return them on today. Other desperate readers are in line behind me.)

First, I got to read Tongues of Serpents, the latest (and I assume the last) novel in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. The final book in a series is always bittersweet – a series that doesn’t end gets dull and exhausting, but it hurts to say goodbye to characters still in their primes. Novik handled it well, I think. The book follows Temeraire and Lawrence as they go into exile in Australia. Novik wraps up the main story-lines, but leaves a few of the side plots unfinished – perhaps there will be room for other novels in the world she’s created? The ending was satisfactory- not unicorns and rainbows, but a good, sturdy ending that was faithful to the characters we love. I’m sorry to see the series end, but I’m glad it ended well.

On the other hand, since the series HAS ended, it’s time for all my friends who wait until and author has finished to get started on this series! (Thank you, George R.R. Martin, for breaking their hearts and turning them into cynics. I just love waiting years to discuss books with the people you’ve burned. ) I like to describe Temeraire as “Master and Commander meets  The Dragonriders of Pern for grownups.” It’s the Napoleonic wars. With dragons. And Lawrence, a naval captain, acquires a young dragon by mistake. Except, where McCaffrey’s dragon riders are perpetual adolescents, Novik’s are adults, with adult responsibilities, problems and aspirations.

Honestly, if you’re at all interested in fantasy, you ought to read this series.

(As a bonus, Novik was also part of the team that designed the “Never Winter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide.” I wish I was a tenth as talented as she is!)

The second book my husband brought home was good clean YA fun: Ally Carter’s latest Gallagher Girls novel:
The Gallagher Girls books take place at an exclusive school for teenaged spies. While the early books had the feel of Katherine Hepburn’s screwball romantic comedies, the more recent ones have been dealing more with the dark side of being a teenaged spy. In Only the Good Spy Young, Cammie is in hiding from “The Circle,” a shadowy, black-helicopters style conspiracy. A missing teacher holds the key to her father’s disappearance, and Cammie is ready to risk her life for the information. After all, she’s a Gallagher girl, and that’s what Gallagher girls do. The book ends with a dark cliffhanger, which means we’ll get at least one more book in this series. I can’t wait.

Ally Carter’s YA books are clean (just a few kisses), exciting, and have well-crafted characters. Even though she writes romantic spy thrillers, she doesn’t cut any corners. I can’t wait until my own daughters are old enough to read these – they’re the sort of YA I wish had existed when I was in junior high!

The final book was critically acclaimed, much anticipated, and had an incredibly long waitlist at my library. Suzanne Collins' MockingJay is the final book of the “Hunger Games” Trilogy. The books are set in a post-apocalyptic United States, where “The Capital” rules over 11 districts, each devoted to serving a particular need. There are farming districts, fishing districts, technology districts, etc, The districts are surrounded by barbed wire and wilderness. Their residents are not permitted to travel or to communicate with people in other districts. Once a year, the capital holds something called ‘The Hunger Games.” The games are a coliseum-style battle to the death – a version of ‘Survivor’ where the contestants kill each other for the entertainment of the capital.

Each district must send two tributes – a boy and a girl. Katniss is from 12, the mining district. When her delicate younger sister is chosen for the games, Katniss volunteers to go, and to die, in her stead. Her spontaneous act of love makes her an instant celebrity.

The first book in the trilogy follows Katniss as she fights in her first Hunger Games. In the second, the districts are beginning to tire of the Capital’s cruelty, and Katniss must stop a rebellion or risk losing her family. In Mockingjay, the third book in the series, Katniss is among the rebels, an unwilling symbol of the revolution. Her life has become a series of compromises as she attempts to protect the people she loves. But how can she even be sure that she’s chosen the right side in the conflict?

Collins closes her series on a much darker note than Novik chose for hers, but it’s the right note. In the end, a new beginning in post apocalyptic America can’t be as happy as one in nineteenth century Australia.

So, that was my weekend – a welcome respite in the land of good fiction – better fiction than I can write—unless I get back to work and start working harder!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Associated Press Story on 3gf

The Associated Press published a story this weekend on the 3gf - Regnum Christi's so-called Consecrated Women.  Hundreds of papers have picked up the story -- hopefully it will make more Catholics aware of the situation these women are in.

If you know anyone considering the 3gf, or considering sending her daughter to the school in Rhode Island, make sure she reads this article.

Discernment doesn't just mean warm fuzzy feelings.  It means prayer and RESEARCH - faith and REASON.

If your daughter wanted to join the Franciscans, the sisters would suggest that she read up on their history and their founder and their way of life.

Do the same bare minimum BEFORE she gets involved with the 3gf!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Prudence in the Face of Spiritual Scams

If someone trained by Bernie Madoff, using a “Madoff-Approved” investment strategy tried to get me to invest with him, I’d send him away. Quickly. Loudly. With a few sarcastic remarks.

I like my money. I want it to grow. So I wouldn’t imprudently risk it with someone trained by a known conman, no matter how nice and earnest the young investment advisor seemed. And, if he wasn’t trying to con me and he really couldn’t see why a method designed by Madoff was a bad idea, I would be flabbergasted.

Here’s the thing : My kids, and their faith formation, are a LOT more important to me than money. (Obviously –or I wouldn’t keep having them, since there seems to be an inverse relationship between the number of kids and the money in the bank…)

So, when someone comes to me and wants me to let my kids participate in a Marcial Maciel approved youth activity – and when they start NEW Maciel-approved youth activities and ignore the programs origins, I get a little…annoyed.

My parish school is now using K4J in religion class. (Thank goodness we home school!)   Challenge is using the home school mailing list and sent my daughter an invitation to one of their events. (sigh)  I honestly can't comprehend why parents think it's OK to enroll their kids in programs approved by a man with no religious sentiment or scruples (Citation ).  
No one would choose a “Madoff-approved” investment scheme for their hard-earned money. It would be imprudent. So why are they LESS prudent with their children than they are with their retirement funds?

And I apologize for the lack of intelligent argument. But blogging beats screaming.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Of Stolen Cows and Crooked Lines

I’ve been arguing with Jack Keogh, otherwise known as “The Monk,” for months. We’ve butted heads on several blogs, we’ve disagreed vociferously, and on a few occasions, if we’d been in the same pub, I would have leapt across the table and tried to strangle him!

With that history, I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I opened “Driving Straight on Crooked Lines.” I think I was expecting a rousing defense of the Legion. Instead, Jack gave a fascinating, deeply personal account of what it was like to be a Legionary in the early days. His writing puts the reader behind his eyes and takes you along for the ride. In the end, his book answered a few important questions for me: What were they thinking? Why didn’t anyone see? Why would anyone have stayed? How do people decide to leave?

It seems like most accounts of Legion life have been written by melancholic introverts with a tendency toward extreme scruples. For these people, Legion life was Hell. The whole structure seemed to be set up to keep introverts miserable, subservient, and broken. Unfortunately, these accounts also repel many current LC and RC – it’s easy to write the authors off. “Well, of course the Legion was a bad experience for him. He was a bad fit! He should never have stayed! After all, it’s not like the door was locked!”

Jack Keogh was not introverted, melancholic, or overly scrupulous. He was an extrovert, set all afire in his quest to save Latin America from the communists. He was an optimist, and enjoyed most of his time in the Legion. He saw Maciel’s crushing lists of rules as mere guidelines, and broke them without guilt, treating punishments as the price to pay for having some fun.

And Jack did have fun. Lots of fun. As a driver, he didn’t have to spend much time in stifling community life. He traveled with Maciel, met heads of state and movie stars, and received glamorous assignments like turning around failing schools, working with cardinals, and establishing a Legion presence in a wealthy New York suburb. He took vacations, went to musicals, and entertained wealthy donors.

As I read, I got sucked in by all the travel, glamour and fun. I had to work to remember that, as the Vatican declared in its communiqué, Marcial Maciel had no religious sentiment or scruples. If I, an adult reading Monk’s memoir, found it so easy to be sucked into the exciting world of the early Legion, is it any wonder that so many boys were ensnared by Maciel’s order?

Still, even as Jack was having fun, there were hints of the revelations to come. Maciel repeatedly condones or recommends acts of dishonesty –For instance, lying about the contents of a lost suitcase to receive a bigger settlement. Or allowing the brothers to build a compartment in the bus so that they can smuggle electronics and alcohol across European borders. Why did they go along with his suggestions? It seems like their consciences were lulled to sleep by the knowledge that Maciel was a living saint. So obviously, these sins weren’t really sins, but simply God’s Providence helping the young congregation save money.

In between all the fun and busy-ness, Jack has doubts about the Legion. He begins to think of Maciel as a ‘slick operator,’ not a living saint, but a flawed man that God is using for great things. Jack has doubts about his call to the priesthood, and is on the verge of leaving several times. Yet whenever he’s about to return home to his family, there’s a new challenge or treat. Legion life becomes fun and exciting again and he doesn’t have time for all that difficult reflection and doubt. In a way, Maciel is almost Satanic, tempting Jack away from his vocation and a deeper relationship with God with pretty baubles – enjoyable but fleeting.

Jack is a golden boy in the Legion – loved, feted, coddled and treated as long as he is useful. Then the day comes when he’s no longer useful, and, like so many Legionaries before him, he’s exiled, ignored, and finally gone.

In the end, I think it was his early faith formation that helped him leave. Even though Jack enjoys himself in the Legion, he has a niggling sense that something’s not right – that the life he’s living isn’t really what religious life is supposed to be like, and that Maciel isn’t really what the founder of a congregation ought to be.

 I found myself wondering about the other sort of Legionary—the sort who grew up in a Regnum Christi family, spent his formative years in K4J and Conquest and then went straight into Apostolic School at 12. How can a boy like that even understand what’s wrong with Maciel’s vision? If he’s been formed to be Maciel’s ideal apostle since pre-school, how can he hope to break free as an adult?

Jack was lucky – he had a loving family who was happy to welcome home the prodigal son. Because of his time as ‘Golden Boy,’ he had friends and connections on two continents. He was able to build a good life for himself outside of the Legion. At the same time, I finished the book feeling deeply sorry for him.

The Legion took twenty years of his life. Those are twenty years where he had almost no contact with his family – twenty years that opened a chasm between Jack and his brother, twenty years he couldn’t spend sharing his parents’ joys, and twenty years that his absence contributed to their sorrows.

I also mourned for the Church. As a boy, Jack had dreamed of being an Irish missionary priest and ministering to the sick in Africa. If only he’d tried his vocation with a different order, instead of with the Legionaries!

I’d heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in the early history of the Legion, to anyone who wonders why some Legionaries insist that the Legion was a good experience for them, and for any of my friends and acquaintances who still aren’t sure why people are so upset about the damage that the Legion and Regnum Christi have done to the Church.

One huge caveat – Jack does not tell his story straight through from beginning to end. He jumps around a lot, going forward and backwards in time. I found it helpful to make a timeline to keep track. Still, I enjoyed the book – Jack’s voice is unique among ex-legionary accounts, and he gives an excellent view into the founding of the Legion. I didn’t go into this book expecting to like it or to like Jack Keogh. (Honestly, I was ready to rip it apart before I began.) I finished it with a deeper understanding for how Maciel tempted the early Legionaries, and how even those who weren’t abused were seduced and used.

In a way, Jack’s tale is like the story of a young Irishman who is kidnapped by fairies and spends years dancing and eating and drinking under the hill- only to emerge decades later to find that he’s been frozen in time while the world has grown and changed- and the ‘gold’ given to him by the fairies turns out to be nothing but a pocket full of dried leaves.

While it might not be essential for understanding Maciel or the Legion, it’s helpful for understanding the Legionaries, where they’re coming from, and how they might get to where they need to go.

Friday, September 10, 2010

An English Catholic Changes his Mind about Pope Benedict

A lot of people have been apprehensive about the BBC's upcoming documentary on Benedict.  The BBC has claimed that it's fair and balanced, but this is the BBC we're talking about, right?  So how COULD it be?

Well, an article in the Catholic Herald gives some hope that the movie will actually be interesting and fair (Highlights mine) :

The making of this film has been something of a voyage of discovery for me. I can’t be the only Catholic in the world who had major apprehensions on April 19 2005 as the conclave made its decisive choice to elect the first German pope since the 11th century (I don’t count Adrian VI, born in Utrecht in 1459, part of the Holy Roman Empire). I was worried about whether the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith might be just a little too polarising. I am no expert of conclave arithmetic, but my hunch was that he simply had too many doubters inside the College of Cardinals to get the required votes. Wrong. And I have been wrong about him, too. It is not that he has changed radically since taking up the papacy; it is simply that when you have to make a one-hour programme on one of the most clever and gifted people on the planet you have to look behind the headlines and the angry rants on the blogosphere. In short, you have to do justice to the man as best as you can.

The whole article is worth a read.  Basically, as the filmmaker read Benedict's works, interviewed people who know him, and got to know the "real" Benedict, he learned something important about Orthodoxy--something I can't stress enough.   Orthodoxy is NOT something that fits into a neat little political box manufactured by the world..  It's not about liberals and conservatives.  It's BIGGER than politics.  Benedict is not "conservative on liturgy and abortion but liberal on economics and the environment."  He simply views EVERYTHING through the lense of God's relationship to man and man's realtionship to God.

Anyway, after reading the linked piece, I have hope that the BBC might manage to produce a decent documentary on the pope.  

Monday, September 6, 2010

Of Screaming Dolls and Chortling Babies

The local junior high does a project called ‘Baby Think It Over.’ The kids bring home a computerized doll that periodically cries, demands attention, and needs to be ‘fed,’ ‘burped,’ and ‘changed.’ The doll records all the interactions, and the students get a grade based on how well they care for their ‘baby.’

This is billed as a pregnancy prevention program. Pro-life groups have even funded the project in the past.

Basically, the doll gives a good indication of what a really bad day with a baby would be like- if your baby was made of plastic, wore an expressionless mask, and had three modes: 1. Crying hysterically, 2. Calmed, but waiting for you to do something wrong so it can record what a bad parent you are, and 3. Zombie-like torpor. (I.e. “Is this thing even on?”) Actually, I forgot about the fourth mode: dead. You can give the doll ‘shaken baby syndrome’ and fail the class. Except that normal parent-type interactions with a one month old are enough to ‘kill’ these dolls!

Supposedly, these dolls prevent teen pregnancy by showing the kids that being a parent is hard work. But when a girl’s out by the lake in her boyfriend’s truck, is she really going to push all the hormones aside and say “Wait, this feels good right now, but remember that screaming doll project?” She won’t have time to think about her horrible day with ‘baby’ until she’s staring at the second line on the pregnancy test. Instead of “Baby Think-It-Over,” they should be called “Baby Abort-Me.”

The dolls also send the wrong message down the line. They don’t treat babies like a gift or a blessing. Instead, they teach the students that babies will ruin their lives. We live in a world where many kids will never get to experience younger siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins, or even a regular babysitting job. For many students, “Baby Think It Over” will be their only baby experience. How can we ask our children to be open to life when we’ve spent years teaching them that new lives are nasty and irritating? When ‘baby’ means ‘something that screams at you for months on end,’ can we be surprised that Peter Singer is quoted as a mainstream voice?

If we really want our teens to learn about parenthood, we should encourage them to spend time around real parents. Instead of spending a weekend babysitting a doll, they should spend time helping new moms and their babies. Students should rock a colicky baby so a new mom can shower, help out with chores and older kids while a mom nurses, or make dinner for a family with a new baby. They can learn about the challenges and rewards of children the old-fashioned way: as members of a community.

We don’t need to teach our kids that babies are a bad thing to be avoided. Rather, we should be teaching them that marriage, sex, babies, and families are good things, but that they’re good things that need to happen in the right order. We need to give them the spiritual and emotional strength to avoid those dangerous evenings by the lake. We need to give all teens, not just the Catholic ones, the message that marriage and family are worth the wait – that they’re a gift that’s waiting for the right time, not a penalty for bad behavior.

What messages does the screaming baby project send to your kids? Think it over, baby.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The "Virtus" of Bad Liturgy

I’m teaching CCD at my parish this year. It’s exciting and a little nerve-wracking, because I have the second graders – First Confession AND First Communion! We’re using the Ignatius Press Faith and Life series, which looks like a great text.
Last night, I did my mandatory Virtus training. The moderator was very good – she’s the principal of our local Catholic School, but the videos themselves were pretty terrible.

The information was superficial and out of date, especially with respect to technology. Even the discussion of ‘warning signs’ was nothing new or unexpected- after a year and a half of following the Legion saga, I’m apparently pretty well-informed about child abuse and the tricks molesters use to groom children. (Hey, maybe the bishops should make an updated video, featuring Father Maciel!)

One thing really jumped out at me. Periodically, the video showed scenes of parts of the Liturgy to emphasize the idea that we as a Church must “Protect God’s Children.” The baptism scenes were fine, but every other scene showcased an example of Bad Liturgical Practice.

We saw: A girl taking a glass chalice filled with the Precious Blood from a lay minister, drinking it herself, and then passing it back to the lay minister.

A bishop filmed in front of a bookcase holding clay chalices.

An apparent Mass which involved children processing in holding multi-colored burlap banners.

A really bad folk choir.

Children being sent out of Mass for a ‘Children’s Liturgy of the Word.’

As I watched, I wondered what message the Bishops were trying to send by including bad liturgy in the Virtus video.

1. Was it supposed to evoke warm fuzzy feelings? “Why, that parish is just like MY parish!” It didn’t, because those liturgical abuses wouldn’t fly around here.

2. Was it supposed to show us what the Bishops think a parish SHOULD look like? If so, I weep for our Church.

3. Or was it something more subtle? Was it supposed to help us make the connection between Liturgical abuse and sexual abuse? After all, if we can’t treat the body of our Lord and Saviour with respect, why would we treat the bodies of our neighbors with respect? Is there a short, slippery slope that runs between sloppiness at Mass and sin?

I have a feeling that the makers of the video were aiming for 1 and 2. But I think our pope would probably point to number 3. When we take Mass and the Eucharist seriously and let all our relationships flow forth from that first, essential relationship as Christ, we cannot use other people as objects. When the Mass goes, everything else starts to go too.

Of course, abuse can happen in ‘Good Liturgy’ settings too – because good liturgy can not be our goal. Our goal is to love and adore Christ. I think that a reverent liturgy flows naturally from a love of Christ in the Eucharist and a realization that we’re in the presence of God. (For instance, I noticed my 6-year-old’s behavior at Mass has improved DRAMATICALLY since we started attending Children’s adoration once a month.) If you have a nice-looking Liturgy, but no love, it’s just an empty pageant.

On the other hand, most awful liturgies are also empty pageants, focused on the congregation instead of the Divine.

In the end, I did learn something at Virtus training. Father Z is right. “Save the Liturgy, Save the World.” It’s not a coincidence that the pope who is focused on cleaning up the filth of abuse in the Church is also focused on cleaning up the Liturgy. If we can’t respect God, we won’t respect each other.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Brief Fashion Rant

I recently had a birthday and bought a new dress.  I'm blessed to have friends who are great internet shoppers and find me websites with gorgeous retro clothes.  Otherwise I wouldn't have bought anything, and would have resigned myself to church in Khakis.

Because have you been in a mall or looked at dresses on the web recently?  Nearly everything current is also ugly.   Heck, the current dress styles are even making the models look dumpy.  And if it makes the model look dumpy, it's going to make me look.... atrocious.

Maybe we need a federal government blue ribbon panel to investigate the fashion industry for a plot to deliberately prolong the recession -- because until they make something worth buying, why should cash-strapped women buy anything?

Look, I can see your mind working, Mr. Designer Man:  "Oooh.  A recession.  Like the Depression. Poverty. Hopelessness. Dresses from potato sacks! I'll make dresses that make everyone look like they're, like they ARE a sack of potatoes!"

Except, the original 'potato sack dresses' had pretty floral patterns and actual --seams.  And darts. And, dare I say it... style.  The point wasn't 'we're in a depression, so let's look depressed.'  It was about making the best of what you had and making something beautiful from leftovers.

Anyway, I highly recommend the line of dresses at Pin Up Girl Clothing.  Some have a bit too much attitude for a thirty-something Catholic mom looking for a good Church Dress, but others are... gorgeous.  And they carry several variations of 'the sundress of my dreams,' so I'll be saving my pennies, dimes, and birthday money for NEXT year, too! :) 

(Note on 50's style dresses:  I am an apple, so I always shied away from the big skirts, but I'm finding that they actually hide a lot of the remains of multiple childbirths.  With a full skirt, no one SEES that lumpy belly! It's amazing! Almost like dresses used to be designed for women who had...actually given birth! :)  )

We'll now return to our regular schedule of blog posts....  I'm just really excited about getting a new dress! (And really fed up with fashion designers who design UGLY and fill the stores with it!)

Friday, August 20, 2010

I know it's not built yet, but....

When it is, I really want to go here.  Wyoming, Carmelites, Beautiful Architecture AND Coffee?  It would be the pilgrimage of a life time!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

So... I'm Always saying how lucky I am to be in a good Parish....

And now I have photos to prove it!  My Parish's website now has photos of our Corpus Christi procession AND the interior of the church

(The fresco on the ceiling has lulled many a Mundy-baby to sleep.)


Why is the media obsessing over the Ground Zero Mosque when Iran is about to go Nuclear?!?!?!  Right now it doesn't look like Israel is going to do anything...

So isn't a nuclear Iran more important than a public relations triumph in NYC?  Or is it unimportant until they actual wipe a few countries off the face of the planet?

UPDATE (Via the Anchoress):

Except, apparently, that the mosque project MUST go through while a Church that was actually destroyed by the attack isn't allowed to rebuild?  That's kind of bizarre.... why is one project a necessity and the other inappropriate?  St. Nicholas, pray for us!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Protecting your Daughter from The Regnum Christi Consecrated Women

Why you shouldn’t allow your daughter to become a Regnum Christi ‘Consecrated Woman.’

1. They’re not actually ‘consecrated women.’

They are not consecrated virgins. The Catechism tells us that “Consecrated Virgins” are
"Virgins who, committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church."462 By this solemn rite (Consecratio virginum), the virgin is "constituted . . . a sacred person, a transcendent sign of the Church's love for Christ, and an eschatological image of this heavenly Bride of Christ and of the life to come.”(923)”
Regnum Christi Consecrated Women do not participate in this rite. They do not make vows before a bishop.  They are not actually 'consecrated' in any real sense.

They are not religious sisters. The ‘consecration’ they are making is on par with a consecration to Mary or the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It should be for devotional puposes only. But, in practice,

2. The Regnum Christi Consecrated Women live in imitation of religious sisters, yet with none of the protections of religious life.

Regnum Christi Consecrated Women lack a sufficient discernment period. Most religious orders require a period of mutual discernment followed by postulancy and than novitiate.

Regnum Christi Consecrated Women lack the protections of normal religious life. Normal religious life is a contract between the sister and her order. The sister has a responsibility to her community, but the community has an obligation to feed, clothe and educate her, and to care for her in sickness and old age. Regnum Christi Consecrated Women have none of the guarantees. They can be sent home at any time, for any reason. They exist outside of canon law and so do not have the protections of canon law.

Regnum Christi Consecrated Women lack a clear rule. During the CDF’s investigation of the Legion of Christ, the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women discovered that most of the ‘rules’ they were living under had never been approved by the Vatican.

3. The Vatican is about to launch a Visitation of the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women.

Their status within the Church and their relationship to the Legion of Christ is irregular. Girls who join today have no idea what the group will look like in 5 years.

4. The Regnum Christi Consecrated Women were founded by an evil man for a sinful purpose.

As a result of the CDF investigation, The Vatican has declared Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement, to be a man without scruples or religious sentiment. He was also a criminal, a child molestor, a drug addict and an embezzler. He is not a good model for a community of religious women, no matter what their canonical status.

Maciel founded the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women so that they could work in dioceses where the local bishop had banned the Legion of Christ. This is why he insisted that they remain lay women. However, the laity are required to obey the commands of their local bishops. So these women, when they work in a diocese where the Legion is banned, are actually committing a sin of disobedience. This disobedience is encouraged and applauded by their superiors. This is NOT an appropriate life for a young woman interested in serving Christ.

What should you do if your daughter insists on joining the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women?

If she’s under 18, forbid her. Do not let her have contact with the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women, especially for “Formation Dialogue” or as “spiritual directors” They do not care about her long term spiritual well-being, they only want to get her into their group.

Withdraw your daughter from Challenge and EYCD. Encourage her to join activities with people who DON’T have an ulterior motive. It doesn’t matter how ‘nice’ the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women seem. Mormons are nice too, but you wouldn’t let your daughter seek religious advice from them.

Take your daughter on retreat with actual an actual religious order. Many good orders offer teenage girl or even mother/daughter retreats. Many girls are drawn to the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women because they have no experience with authentic religious life in the Catholic Church.

Check out the CMSWR and find a community near you that offers retreats. Encourage her to investigate many different orders, so that she can better discern her vocation.

Have her read the Vatican Communique and as much information about the life of Maciel and the treatment of Regnum Christi Consecrated Women that she can handle at her age. She needs to know what she is asking to join. The Life After RC website has some good links for more information.

Pray with and for her. Try to take her to daily Mass and weekly adoration. Give her time to sit quietly with Jesus.

Get her thinking about college. Most orders won’t take a girl before she’s 21 or 22. If she thinks she’s called to religious life, she should think about her education. Take her on college visits. Some of the lure of the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women’s academy might be due to the boarding-school atmosphere- it’s pretty glamorous for a teenaged girl. Give her something better to daydream about.

Pray like crazy.

If your daughter is over 18 and wants to join the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women, you have fewer options. Chances are, by the time she mentions it to you she’s already been sucked in and made up her mind.

Try to get her to read information. Pray. Know that her mail, email and phone calls will be monitored once she moves in with the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women.

Contact the local bishop and see if he has any resources that can help you.

Write the CDF and the papal delegate. Have her read the communiqué.

See if you can get her to wait, at least a few weeks or a few months to ‘tie up loose ends.’ Groups like the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women succeed in recruiting because they don’t give the target a chance to pray, reflect and listen to the Holy Spirit before extracting lifelong ‘promises.’ If you can get her to wait, and to hear testimony from ex-members, you might just save her years of pain and heartache.

Your daughter is in a perilous position. Pray for her constantly. Ask the intercession of Mary, and for the protection of St. Michael and her guardian angel. If you act with love and wisdom now, you may save her from a terrible mistake.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Theology of the Body: Indifference is OK!

At least, according to Mark Shea!

I enjoyed his article, and I have to admit, I'm relieved to find a "Big-Name-Catholic," whose position on Theology of the Body is pretty close to mine. 

I'm completely indifferent.  I would like to read Love and Responsibility some day.  But, it's pretty dense, and I'm not very good with phenomenology, so I need to do some groundwork first.  I find Christopher West incredibly annoying, and so his personality tends to overshadow any good I might get from his writings.  But in the mean time, do I really need TOB?

From the bits I have read, it doesn't really seem to be anything new-- just what the Church has always taught, but presented differently.  I love the 1950's marriage manuals by Fr. Leo Kinsella that EWTN has in their library.   Three to Get Married  by Fulton Sheen is one of my favorite books on Marriage and the Trinity. 

So do I really need  Theology of the Body?  Should I have to endure listening to and wincing at Christopher West when I'm really more interested in Church History at the moment?

I'm going with "no."  I'm married. I have small children. Everywhere. All the time.  My husband and I like each other.  We like our vocation.  We don't really need someone to persuade us that this is what God is calling us to - we're here already.

I think a lot of the biggest TOB fans are genuinely happy that West's writing changed their view of marriage and sexuality.  I'd argue, however, that if it was really a huge change for them, they probably didn't understand the teachings before they met West.  TOB is not a revolution in Catholic thought.  It's the same tune the church has always sung -- it's just a slightly different setting.

Anyway, for the time being, I'll remain firmly in the 'indifferent to TOB' camp - there are other things I'd rather study.  But the next time people accuse me of being a bad Catholic because I don't care, I'll point them to Shea's piece.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Offering Hospitality

Amy Welborn has a great reflection on the gift of an unlocked church.  As Catholics, we seem to talk a lot about how to be more hospitable.  After all, we're competing with the Protestants.  They welcome people with coffee and donuts after services, potluck dinners with Jell-o, all sorts of family fun nights and movies and free food and praise bands.  What do we have?  Well, we have the Sacraments.  But what good are they if you're not already Catholic?

The thing is, turning our church into a year-round carnival doesn't work.  People don't become Catholic because we have Jelly Donuts when everyone else just serves plain old glazed.  They become Catholic because we have Christ physically present in the Eucharist.  Our tabernacles are what we have to offer - our churches are our invitation to the lapsed and the un-churched.

That's why it's so tragic when they're locked.  Imagine you're considering returning to the Church, and you happen across a quiet country chapel.  You're looking for a sign from God...and the door is locked.  You can't slip in to pray anonymously, to light a candle and begin to make peace with your Lord.  The door is barred  unless you come during regular business hours.  If you were looking for a sign, the message you get is "Go Away!"

I've encountered locked Churches before-- not as dramatically as in the example above, but just when I've been running early for an appointment and wanted to slip in, light a candle for a suffering friend, and spend a few quiet minutes with God.  It still hurts a little when the door is locked,  even though I didn't really need it to be unlocked and I understand concerns about vandalism and sacrilege.

As Catholics, we need to be committed to keeping our churches open.  They need to be oases of peace and places of love and forgiveness.  As parishioners, we should work towards open churches.  We'll need volunteers to "church-sit."  There may be days where the only people who visit are the scheduled sitters.  But we have a great gift in the Eucharist, and we make a mistake when we hide Christ away and meet the world with donuts instead.

Any group can provide pastries-- only we can share the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ our Lord.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

He who lies down with dogs....

Father Z has a pretty sad post about an Anglican minister letting communion go to the dogs.  Literally.

In a way it's a natural progression -- we already have serious political discussions about whether it's all right to treat human beings as if they were dogs.  We talk about putting grandma to sleep when she's too old to be worth saving, sterilizing people who've had enough kids, eliminating genetically unfit offspring.

Now that we're practicing animal husbandry on people, why not allow animals to practice religion?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Notice to New Readers

I seem to be getting some new readers for the Regnum Christi and Legion of Christ posts, so I wanted to explain, once again, why I’m blogging on these topics.

I know and respect a lot of people involved in these groups. When the Maciel news hit back in 2009, I was completely flummoxed – I tried to ask friends in RC about it, and they met all inquiries with a stony wall of serenity and a few words culled from Legion press releases. It seemed out of character for people who, in other discussions of religion and politics, are smart, funny, passionate and quick to think through implications for larger issues.

Time passed, more news came out, and my friends remained ‘serene.’ So I started researching the group and discussing it on line. And eventually, I started blogging about it.

Maciel conned a vast swath of American Catholics, not just the ones who joined his group. Richard Neuhaus got conned. Mary Anne Glendon got conned. Patrick Madrid got conned. Scott and Kimberly Hahn got conned. Heck, even Servant of God Father John Hardon, SJ got conned.

I got conned. I never joined, but I took the claims about the Legion and Regnum Christi at face value. If I’d run across them in college, I probably would have been set afire, dropped everything, and run off to join the 3gf. If I’d run across them a few years from now, when I will be looking for alternatives to the Girl Scouts, I would have enrolled my daughters in Challenge and tried to get my husband to enroll the boys in Conquest.

Basically, I was saved by timing. My friends, the people who have given many hours and much money to the building of Maciel’s kingdom, joined because, at the time, with the information available, it looked like the right thing to do.

We now know that the “Kingdom of Christ” was not what it claimed to be, that it was built on lies. But many of us on the outside still have friends on the inside. And they’re still ‘serene.’ So we pray, like St. Monica did when her son was trapped in a lie. And we write and we think and discuss and then write some more, hoping that justice will be done, that our friends will be freed and healed, and that next time a conman disguised as a saint comes along, we'll be ready.

Monday, July 12, 2010

On Regnum Christi and Shunning

I’ve been hanging around on Life-After-RC for some time now, and I need to comment on a disturbing trend, one that seems to be unique to Regnum Christi.

Many women have reported that when they leave the movement, they are shunned. Their children are shunned. The women who have been their friends for years, sometimes decades, suddenly treat them like garbage.

They feel like they’re going crazy. They’re lonely and depressed. They wonder if it was really worth it to leave in the first place.

If you left RC and are being shunned, You are not the crazy one. Your former “friends” are not the ones suffering, like Christ, from betrayal. You are the one suffering betrayal.

For those of us on the outside, the shunning seems like madness. Catholics don’t shun. Even if someone leaves the Church, we’re supposed to love them as Christ loves them. And the women who’ve left RC haven’t left anything close to the Church. They’ve basically left a club. The Knights of Columbus doesn’t shun inactive members. Why does Regnum Christi?

I think the whole practice of shunning is evidence that RC has, in fact, set itself up as a parallel Church.

The most famous examples of religious shunning in America are the Mormons and the Amish. Both groups shun lapsed members – they cut them off entirely from friends and family. Shunning usually has two purposes: 1. To pressure the shunned woman into returning to the congregation and 2. To protect the people still inside from her ‘taint.’

Why do Mormons and Amish feel justified in delivering such a cruel punishment? Because both groups believe that they hold the keys to salvation. By leaving, the woman has damned herself. If she encourages others to leave, she is damning them as well.

Now, look at the women who’ve left Regnum Christi. They’re still Catholic. They still attend Mass, go to confession, volunteer in their parishes and believe in Christ. THEY ARE NOT DAMNED. They’ve just decided that there are problems in Regnum Christi, and that the best decision for their families is to pull back and focus on more important things. In the eyes of the Church, they are like a woman who decides that Vincent De Paul is eating up too much time, and so decides to quit volunteering.

Actually, given the CDF investigation, they’re more like a woman who prudently decides to avoid an unproven Apparition. She should not have to defend her reasons for avoiding “Our Lady of The Bridge” or whatever she’s avoiding. The burden of proof is with the people who choose to stay with a group that was founded by a man without scruples or religious sentiment and that is UNDER INVESTIGATION BY THE CDF.

Yet Regnum Christi continues to shun ex-members. They have no reason to shun unless they believe that “Outside Regnum Christi there is no salvation.” They’re equating RC with the Church. THIS IS HERETICAL. The very fact that they shun is proof that the group is not Catholic.

Catholics don’t shun. Even if you believe someone has left the Church, Catholics, like St. Monica, love, pray, and entrust precious souls to the Blessed Mother.

If you’re currently being shunned by Regnum Christi, I am praying for you. You’ll need strength and grace, but God will prevail.

If you’re currently shunning those who have left, I am praying for you as St. Monica prayed for St. Augustine when he was ensnared by the Manicheans.

If you are in Regnum Christi, and are afraid to leave because of the shunning, take courage. There are more Catholics on the outside than on the inside, and shunning takes its power from group-think. Step outside the group.

Regnum Christi is not the Church. More and more, it’s looking like it’s not even vaguely related to the Church.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Laundry Prayer

I stand in the basement surrounded by hampers. I sort. I stain treat. I add vinegar to the diaper load. I am thankful for the laundry.

I am thankful for the diapers and the two boys who wear them. One still nurses round the clock and fills my day with chubby squeals. The other is trying to make the change to Spiderman underwear. My diaper load is shrinking, but my ‘slightly damp underwear’ pile grows.

I am thankful for the towels. They’re used for many baths and showers, for swim class twice a week, for cleaning up the water that gets all over the bathroom floor when the big kids try to help. There’s no room for the heaps of towels we’d need to make it through the week, so I wash and I dry and I fold.

I am thankful for the stains. Blueberry, Mulberry, Watemelon. Chocolate Ice Cream, Grass, Mud. They’re proof of an Indiana summer well-lived. And so I treat them, instead of preventing them.

I am thankful for the permanent press load. Button down shirts, dress pants and socks get washed separately. Early on, I learned a hard lesson while mixing my husband’s work clothes with my children’s play clothes. It involved a pocket full of crayon fragments and a new wardrobe for the man who works all day so that I can stay home with our children. Now, I carefully check the kids’ pockets, but I still wash their father’s clothes separately, just in case I miss something.

I am thankful for the quiet cool of a basement on a hot day, for electricity restored after a raging storm, for appliances that work and for children who play.

I hate doing laundry, but I am thankful that I have laundry to do. The alternative, a life where laundry is three loads once a week and occasional trips to the dry-cleaners, a sterile life without spit-up or mysterious juice spills, is too horrible to contemplate.

I am thankful for my laundry.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Women's Ordination: What are they THINKING?

Erin had a good post on the latest Women's Ordination 'protest.'

As an ex-supporter of women’s ordination (hey.. I was 19! And I’m properly embarrassed by it now!), I think I can give some insight into what’s going on in these women’s heads.

1. They’re confusing “Justice” with “sameness.”

My women’s ordination craze started back when I was an altar server. I was one of the first girls to serve at my parish, and I *LOVED* being that close to the action at Mass. I got pretty good at serving, and served until I grew out of the robes. (For some reason, the height limit at our parish was about 5’4”)

I saw male-only-ordination as deeply unfair. After all, women could be policemen and firefighters – why not priests? I was a really good altar server—how come boys who weren’t as good as I was were allowed to become priests, but I couldn’t? It wasn’t fair.

At the peak of my fairness crusade, I even wrote the Superior General of the Society of Jesus demanding that he start a women’s order, admit me, and ordain me. He wrote me back a very nice letter explaining that he didn’t have the authority to do any of those things and promising to pray for me. At the time, I was angry and crushed. Today, I’m thankful for his patience and prayers.

2. They suffer from a weird sort of hyper-clericism, which leads them to misunderstand the nature of the priesthood.

I wanted to be a priest. I swore God was calling me to be a priest, in spite of what the Church, through her documents and through my confessors, told me. But I didn’t even have any idea what a priest really is. I saw a priest as primarily a king – a person with authority who gets to ‘be in charge.’ It wasn’t about serving the people of God – heck, if I wanted to do that, I could be a nun. But nuns were oppressed by the male hierarchy. Why couldn’t women also run a parish and boss people around? If we could be CEOs, why not priests?

Basically, I saw priesthood as a career within the Church for people who thought living in community with a bunch of women would be a horrible life, and a great career because it meant you got to be a dictator! With a salary! And be better than everyone else, because you were ordained!

I missed the point of the whole suffering servant/sacrifice/Persona Christi thing. It was all about me and what I thought I wanted, and obviously God would want whatever I did because he loved me, right?

3. They want attention.

When you advocate something like women’s ordination, you’re guaranteed lots of attention. People will call you brave and selfless, even when you’re being precisely the opposite. Protestant friends will invite you to their churches and tell you to apply for their seminaries.

Even the people who disagree with you will take the time to argue with you. And if you actually succeeded in changing things, you’d get to stand on that big stage behind the pretty table, wearing gorgeous silks and have everyone look at you and admire you and your holiness! What’s not to like?

Fortunately, I eventually repented and learned to love Church teachings. (The story involves rash oaths, exams, the flu, a friend’s late paper, and St. Thomas More, of all things. And a Holocaust-surviving-Quaker.) Fr. Kolvenbach’s prayers probably helped too. We should pray for the women in this picture – that God will give them the grace they need to stop worrying about ordination and learn to love the Church.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Are Kids REALLY less Empathetic today?

The big health news this morning (at least according to Google) is that college kids today lack empathy. The linked article is pretty much the normal rant about video games and facebook.  At the end, they have a link to the survey used to measure empathy. 

After taking the survey (I came out as above average, btw, so I clearly feel your pain!) I realized that there were a few big problems with the methodology.

 This survey doesn't matter how empathetic you are.  It measures how empathetic you THINK you are compared to the people around you.  If you live in a culture where everyone, even presidents, are expected to tear up and show they care, you'll see yourself as less empathetic.

 A number of the questions aren't really about EMPATHY at all.  They're about how to argue and defend your ideas.  For instance, there are questions about trying to understand an opponents viewpoint, or about listening to all sides of a question. 

Of course our youth score poorly on these marks-- they're taught from Kindergarten to accept the standard position on issues and to refrain from questioning at all costs.  They've seen what happens if you try to understand the other side and test their arguments-- look at that law student from Harvard!

If are kids are less 'empathetic' it's because we've taught them to dampen their sense of justice, to ignore faulty arguments, and to equate crocodile tears with caring.

The cure to Solipsism is more Socrates.  If they learn to question, think and judge, they'll be more able to understand where the other guy is coming from.  As it is, our nation has taught them that political heterodoxy results from an evil heart.  If you don't empathize with your enemies, it's easier to dismiss their arguments as pure malice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sin and Superiors

This account of how Legionaries reacted to Maciel's sinful requests really shook me. 

I thought the following was obvious, but maybe it got skipped in most catechism classes:

God never EVER calls us to sin, because sin seperates us from his love.  If someone orders or encourages you to do something objectively sinful (lie, disobey your bishop, gossip, fornicate, disobey just laws, etc. etc.) then you are OBLIGATED to call them on it.  A superior cannot ask you to do something sinful--if they ask you to sin, they lose their authority over you.  You must NOT obey them.

You must test your superiors commands against the laws of the land, the laws of the church, your conscience and the laws of God.  You cannot break the commandments because 'it's for a good end.'

If your directors in LC/RC ever asked or encouraged you to sin, THEY WERE WRONG.  They were not speaking with God's voice, but with Maciel's.

If they encouraged you to put your pseudo-vocation to RC over your ACTUAL vocation to your marriage, THEY WERE WRONG.

There is no glory in obeying an ungodly command.  There is no salvation in sin.  Please understand.  Some things are OBJECTIVELY sinful.  "I was under orders" is NOT an excuse.

No matter what oath you swore or promises you made, they cannot trump your allegience to the laws of God.  You are NEVER bound to sin. 

If anyone has tried to tell you otherwise, they are not speaking with the voice of God, but with the voice of a criminal.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In the meantime....

I'm currently researching a longer post on Authority, Obedience, and the Laity.  So, in the meantime, I think you all need a dose of Deacon Payne.

Because sometimes, trying tp be TOO pastoral can lead you into heresy....

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Quick Foray into Homeschool Mommy Blogging

My infants always love "A-Ram-Sam-Sam," a nonsense finger play from Morrocco.  However, my older ones are GRAVELY offended that the words mean nothing in ANY language.  So, I've kept the motions the same but changed the words to:

A jar of jam, a jar of jam,
Gooey gooey gooey gooey
gooey jar of jam.

(repeat once)

Straw- berry, Straw-berry!
Gooey gooey gooey gooey
gooey jar of jam!

---  If you know the rhyme/tune you'll find it fits.  And your kids can replace strawberry with any kind of jame that scans!  We've done Raspberry, Blackberry, Blueberry, grape jelly, gooseberry, etc.

All right... back to serious matters...

OSV Interviews Father Thomas Williams, LC


A few points.  Father Thomas says (emphasis mine):

The content of the statement was basically what I expected. I loved the last section, where the Holy Father assures us of his closeness to us, reminds us that our vocation originates in Christ's call, is a genuine gift from God, and represents a treasure for the Church. This gives me great confidence for the future, and also allows us Legionaries to present this path to others as something that the Church appreciates and values. Personally, I was greatly encouraged by the Holy Father's evident concern for us, and paternal care
Most non-LC people read the last part of the Communique to refer to the Universal Call to Holiness.  A few Legion watchers were afraid that the LC were taking this the wrong way.  It appears that they were right.

Fr. Williams is claiming that the Legion's spirituality, crafted by Maciel, investigated by the CDF, and found to be problematic in areas of authority and conscience, is an authentic path to holiness!!!!  This is beginning to be like a Monty Python skit.. it just keeps getting more and more over the top.  I think it's time for the British Colonel to stroll through and inform us all that this is too silly and it's time to cut to the animation.

When he's asked if he's ever considered leaving, Williams responds:
What I found, however, is that I can't deny the vocation I received from Christ. It wasn't my imagination; it was, and is, real. Someone else's failings don't excuse me from living out the vocation I was called to
Once again, there seem to be some problems in the Legion's theology of Vocation.  God doesn't call people to follow evil men, or to join a congregation that dehumanizes members and deforms their consciences.   Fr. Williams may have a vocation to the priesthood, he may have a vocation to religious life.  That is NOT the same as having a vocation to the Legion.  The fact that Williams seems incapable of realizing this worries me.

On the idea that Maciel did not act alone:
I don't believe that Father Alvaro knew anything about Father Maciel's immoral behavior, either, and I have no reason to believe that any of our current leadership was aware of this. I know that for people outside the Legion this can seem unbelievable, but for those on the inside it's just the way it was.
???????  I've seen some people claim that the US Legionaries are much more skeptical and more prone to question than the Mexican ones.  If Fr. Williams is an examplar of "US Legionary," the visitation is going to have its work cut out for it!

On what needs to change:
Most of us have had a really good experience of authority in the congregation, with excellent superiors who truly are fathers and brothers to us.
The visitation said that there were problems with the exercise of authority. You said you had a 'good experience'-- here's my question-- since you can't even understand the Vatican's criticisms, how can you reform?  You're like a high-schooler who's been asked to rewrite an English paper-- and thinks the teacher must not have liked the font, because you can't understand her criticism of the arguments!

Sigh.  I can understand why Cardinal Sandoval said that, if asked, he would turn down the job of reforming the Legion... it seems like an impossible task for one man! Luckily, I suspect the Holy Spirit will be involved too.....

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

George Weigel Doesn't Believe in Crooked Lines Either

George Weigel has an excellent article on the Legion up at First Things.  I'm glad to see one of my favorite Catholic magazines address the Legion Crisis - it's sad when the only place covering a story honestly is the National Catholic Reporter.

Weigel also makes an important point on the nature of good and evil:
To propose that such an unprecedented course of action be seriously considered is not a question of desperate situations calling for desperate measures, but of great evils requiring the remedy of heroic virtue—in this case, the heroic exercise of the cardinal virtues of courage, justice, and prudence.

Great evils require heroic virtue.  This is not a case of "God drawing straight with crooked lines."  This is the case of God giving good men the grace they need to confront evil.   God does not bring good out of evil, but he does give grace to good men so that they can fight evil.

For instance, the Nazi concentration camps were an immense evil created by twisted men.  But Maximilian Kolbe provided a witness to God's love even in that horrific environment.  He answered evil with heroic virtue, and he is a Saint.

God does not call us to ignore or excuse evil.  He calls us to confront it with Justice, Mercy and Love.  This has been one of the weaknesses in Legion formation from the very beginning.  Maciel taught an anemic version of 'love' in the face of evil, mostly to protect himself from repercussions.  Now, the LC/RC must unlearn Maciel's theology and learn the Church's.  The study of saints like Maximilian Kolbe might be a good place to start.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Somehow, I think they've missed the point....

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Benedict this weekend sought to affirm control over a hard-line group, the Legionaries of Christ, whose influence in the past decade in Latin countries has grown quite powerful – but whose leader, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, was unable to adhere to the churches mandatory celibacy, having fathered several children and molested young men in a seminary.

Yes, of course... If only Maciel had been able to be married, he wouldn't have abused boys!  Except... he did get 'married'...multiple times... and then abused his sons...

Does everything HAVE to fit the predetermined narrative?