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?

Vocation Rustlers and Community-building

A few years ago, when the LC wanted to move into our Diocese, Bishop Melczek was disturbed. His main argument was that they were "Vocation Thieves" -- they took the boys with vocations to the Diocesan priesthood and to other orders and corralled them into LC.

At the time, I thought he was crazy. How could ANY order steal vocations? Vocations were such a personal thing, and the calling to Diocesan life is NOT the calling to religious life. And being called to the Jesuits is not the same as being called to the Benedictines....

So when he relented and let them in, I was glad that he was acting in a sane, rational manner.

EXCEPT - Maciel was rotten from the start (even the CDF says so!). There never was a charism. Maciel created LC/RC to scam orthodox Catholics.

There never WERE any Vocations. The bishop was right. They are Vocation thieves. (Vocation rustlers? Rounding up the 11 year olds on retreat and rebranding them with the Legion seal?)

I appreciate the fact that there are good, kind, caring people like Jo in RC. I think they'll be OK no matter how this turns out.

What concerns me are the 'stolen vocations'. I worry about the men already in formation, the men who've been with the Legion since they were 11 or 12, and the boys who are still sent away from home to join order that never existed in the first place. These guys have been told that they were called from all eternity to a group led by an evil man. Now they have a choice-- to realize that the Legion lies, or to believe that GOD lied (yoke = easy, burden= light...etc.).

One of the things that really appalled me as I dig deeper into Legion land was the tendency of Legion seminarians to use MISERY as proof that they're doing God's will. They're missing out on the peace and joy that comes from answering God's call. They need to spend some time talking, one on one, with members of other communities.

I hope that the new commissioner has the Legionary priests and seminarians go through an intense period of prayer and discernment. God didn't call them to follow Maciel--we're never called to follow evil. God calls us to freedom, NOT to slavery.

They've missed the fact that God loves us intensely, and that he calls us to a life where we 'fit' and will find joy... He knows us better than we know ourselves and He WANTS us to be happy.

God was calling the Legionaries somewhere when the vocation rustlers got them. I pray that these guys can heal, and eventually get to where they were going in the FIRST place.

As for RC members like Jo, God may be calling you to attend a particular prayer group, or to engage in a particular ministry. I can't know that--it's a private thing. BUT if you are a wife and mother, I CAN know that he's calling you to a life of service to your family, and to grow in love for Him as you serve them -- so I'll pray you get all the graces you need for that! Please pray the same for me! (I will readily admit that I need more grace than most just to do SIMPLE washing my floor!)

Basically, most of the people I know from RC are like Jo-- nice women who were looking for a way to grow in Faith while fighting the horrors of overflowing toilets and whining kids. And this does point to a huge hole in modern Catholic life-- we're more isolated than our grandmothers were. Between work and school and activities and everything else we do, we don't have as much time as we'd like to pray together, to study together, and to work together.

We DO need to form communities. In that, RC was not wrong. It was wrong because was pre-packaged community created by an evil man to further his own ambitions. It was wrong because it asked you to force your sons and daughters into 'vocations' that were the creation of Maciel, not God. Maybe now, under Vatican guidance, people like Jo can turn RC into something beautiful.

Even if they do, this is a wake up call to the rest if us. We need to form communities in our parish. We need to reach out and be a good friend and a good neighbor (even if we're hermits who'd prefer to do all our socializing via facebook and blogs! :) ) Maciel was so successful because he created a good-looking product that filled a gap in modern Catholic society. We need to close the gap, so it can't be exploited by other conmen in the future.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Novena to St. Joseph - Day 9!

Happy Feast of St. Joseph the Worker!  It's the last day of our novena from EWTN.



Saint Joseph, how fitting it was that at the hour of your death Jesus should stand at your bedside with Mary, the sweetness and hope of all mankind. You gave your entire life to the service of Jesus and Mary; at death you enjoyed the consolation of dying in Their loving arms. You accepted death in the spirit of loving submission to the Will of God, and this acceptance crowned your hidden life of virtue. Yours was a merciful judgment, for your foster-Son, for whom you had cared so lovingly, was your Judge, and Mary was your advocate. The verdict of the Judge was a word of encouragement to wait for His coming to Limbo, where He would shower you with the choicest fruits of the Redemption, and an embrace of grateful affection before you breathed forth your soul into eternity.

You looked into eternity and to your everlasting reward with confidence. If our Savior blessed the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, John the Baptist, and others, because they greeted His presence with devoted hearts for a brief passing hour, how much more did He bless you who have sanctified yourself for so many years in His company and that of His Mother? If Jesus regards every corporal and spiritual work of mercy, performed in behalf of our fellow men out of love for Him, as done to Himself, and promises heaven as a reward, what must have been the extent of His gratitude to you who in the truest sense of the word have received Him, given Him shelter, clothed, nourished, and consoled Him at the sacrifice of your strength and rest, and even your life, with a love which surpassed the love of all fathers.

God really and personally made Himself your debtor. Our Divine Savior paid that debt of gratitude by granting you many graces in your lifetime, especially the grace of growing in love, which is the best and most perfect of all gifts. Thus at the end of your life your heart became filled with love, the fervor and longing of which your frail body could not resist. Your soul followed the triumphant impulse of your love and winged its flight from earth to bear the prophets and patriarchs in Limbo the glad tidings of the advent of the Redeemer.

Saint Joseph, I thank God for your privilege of being able to die in the arms of Jesus and Mary. As a token of your own gratitude to God, obtain for me the grace of a happy death. Help me to spend each day in preparation for death. May I, too, accept death in the spirit of resignation to God's Holy Will, and die, as you did, in the arms of Jesus, strengthened by Holy Viaticum, and in the arms of Mary, with her rosary in my hand and her name on my lips!


Saint Joseph, I, your unworthy child, greet you. You are the faithful protector and intercessor of all who love and venerate you. You know that I have special confidence in you and that, after Jesus and Mary, I place all my hope of salvation in you, for you are especially powerful with God and will never abandon your faithful servants. Therefore I humbly invoke you and commend myself, with all who are dear to me and all that belong to me, to your intercession. I beg of you, by your love for Jesus and Mary, not to abandon me during life and to assist me at the hour of my death.

Glorious Saint Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, obtain for me a pure, humble, charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the divine Will. Be my guide, my father, and my model through life that I may merit to die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

Loving Saint Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, I raise my heart to you to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the Divine Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly the grace of a happy death, and the special grace I now implore:

That the leaders of the Church deal with the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi in Wisdom, Mercy, Justice and Love.

That all those who currently work for the Legion may find new ways to support their families.

That families injured through their experiences with the Legion and Regnum Christi may find healing and peace.

And for Benedict, our pope, that he receives all the graces he needs to lead the Church through this crisis.

Guardian of the Word Incarnate, I feel confident that your prayers in my behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God. Amen.


Remember, most pure spouse of Mary, ever Virgin, my loving protector, Saint Joseph, that no one ever had recourse to your protection or asked for your aid without obtaining relief. Confiding, therefore, in your goodness, I come before you and humbly implore you. Despise not my petitions, foster-father of the Redeemer, but graciously receive them. Amen.