Category Archives: Theology of the Body

On Obligation versus Obligation

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like “obligation.”  It’s my Asperger.  It’s my Americanism.  It’s my modernism.  But I balk at being required to do something.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of “obligation” and the faith, and I thought I’d look up what the word actually means.  While today it means more a “requirement” or “responsibility,” it originally meant “pledge.”  Before that, it came from a Latin word for “binding.”  In one sense, an “obligation” binds the person to do it, but also binds one party to another.
St. Augustine’s oft-misquoted “dilige et quod vis fac” comes into play here.  “Dilige” is the root word for “delight” or “delicious,” but it’s also the root for “diligence.”  So while St. Augustine is misquoted as saying “Love and do as you will,” with “love” here meaning “follow your delights” (something St. Augustine quite obviously would not endorse), he really means “Love your duty from that that do as you will.”
This is really a functional definition of “obligation.”  It is always an act of love.  Socrates says he accepts the death penalty because he loves Athens too much to be exiled.  The patriot loves his country so much he offers his life in military service, which involves obligations.  The student has an obligation to study, but if she loves learning, the obligation is easier.
I have obligations to my body.  I have had to drastically adjust my diet and lifestyle since epilepsy was added to my list of ailments last month.  Out of love for my family, I fulfill the obligations of my new condition, whether I really desire them or not.
I have obligations to my children.  Some are difficult.  Some are enjoyable, but I do all of them because I love my children.
I have obligations to my wife.  I keep those obligations because I love her.  Some of those obligations are tedious, like chores, while others are more pleasurable.  But they’re still obligations.  One of the things Natural Family Planning teaches about marriage is how to make love when one doesn’t feel like it: it’s an obligation.
Thus, when we speak of obligations in the Church, or even not obligations but “requirements” of devotions, the purpose is not to be legalistic as such: it’s to provide a tried and true guideline for building a relationship with Christ.  Just as hugging and kissing daily strengthen a marriage, so prayer and certain practices strengthen our relationship with God.  Sure, I could skip checking for discount flowers at the grocery store, but when I bring my wife flowers, she feels loved and I grow in love for her from that appreciation.  Sure, I can skip my Rosary, but when I give Jesus and His Mother that spiritual bouquet, they feel loved, and I grow in love for them.
Studies show that married couples should make love at least once a week, on average, to feel happy and fulfilled in their marriages.  That, again, can be an “obligation” if one or both isn’t “in the mood,” or especially if they have to schedule a time, and if legitimate impediments exist, they are usually stressful situations that will either strengthen or weaken the marriage depending on how they’re handled: do the couple turn to each other or away from each other?.
Similarly, frequency of Confession and Communion builds our bonds to Jesus Christ.  It’s an “obligation” because it binds us to Him.  We should receive the Sacraments because we love Jesus.  Sometimes, the experience can be full of spiritual consolation.  Sometimes, it can be dry.  Sometimes, we receive indicators that we need to improve our relationship with Christ.  And as with marriage, when crises, however frequent or infrequent, impede us from coming to Him Sacramentally, do we turn to Him for help or away from Him?

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The Proper Weight of Man

January 15, 2000, at about 9 PM at the now-closed Steak & Ale on Forrest Dr. in Columbia, SC, I proposed marriage by reading this passage:

“The weight of these golden rings”, he said, “is not the weight of metal, but the proper weight of man, each of you separately and both together. Ah, man’s own weight, the proper weight of man! Can it be at once heavier, and more intangible? It is the weight of constant gravity, riveted to a short flight. The flight has the shape of a spiral, an ellipse—and the shape of the heart … Ah, the proper weight of man! This rift, this tangle, this ultimate depth— this clinging when it is so hard to unstick heart and thought. And in all this—freedom, a freedom, and sometimes frenzy, the frenzy of freedom trapped in this tangle. And in all this—love, which springs from freedom, as water springs from an oblique rift in the earth. This is man! He is not transparent, not monumental, not simple, in fact he is poor. This is one man—and what about two people, four, a hundred, a million— multiply all this (multiply the greatness by the weakness) and you will have the product of humanity, the product of human life.”
Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II), The Jeweler’s Shop, Act 1, scene 4).

Here’s a link to the play:

The Key to a “Perfect Marriage”

Is not to think there is one.

Back in the late 90s, Mary Beth Bonacci wrote a column about how the purpose of dating is to break up.  So often, that seems to be the purpose not just of dating but of most “relationship” articles.  “How to tell if your [guy/girl] is [cheating/wrong for you/the right one,” “How to tell if your relationship is failing.”  “What do all successful marriages have in common?”

Bai MacFarlane once observed of her divorce that there’s a certain attitude of the “perfect Catholic marriage” that has grown out of the JP2/NFP/TOB movement that sets a certain standard, and people are often led to stress about trying to achieve that standard.

A few years ago, Matt Walsh wrote a piece called “My Marriage Wasn’t Meant to Be,” which he apparently recently revised for his new Blaze column in response to the Sparks divorce.  His point is that we have free will, and the notion of being “destined” to marry someone takes away from free will but also creates an ideal that is too easily lost to sentimentalism–or questioning whether “this is the right one.”  I’d argue that a Mystery is far more complicated than that, and he is quite literally touching on the basic question of free will versus predestination and God’s plans versus our own, but he makes a good point.

Closer to home, my wife, thinking about cases like the MacFarlanes, or Nicholas Sparks and his wife, or of how every celebrity couple who give an interview about their great marriage seem to divorce shortly thereafter, always says, “Don’t say we have a ‘happy marriage.’  Saying that is just inviting the Devil to tempt us.  There’s no such thing as a ‘happy marriage’ or a ‘perfect marriage.'”  It wasn’t until recently that I connected all those thoughts and realized that’s what she means.

Maggie Gallagher a few years ago wrote of attending a 50th anniversary party, where the husband was asked the secret to staying married 50 years, and he said, “Arrive for your wedding and then wait.”

That, really, sums it up.  There are plenty of good points available for guidance in discerning whether someone is the “right” person to marry, and there is plenty of good advice for trying to do better.  But there is a great danger in constantly thinking that a relationship must be “perfect,” that a person must be “perfect,” that if you’re *not* living up to the standard, that you should call it quits.

Nonetheless, however you get there, presuming proper formation and discernment, and no canonical impediments, whether you’re “best friends,” “soul mates,” or arranged, or whatever, after the vows are exchanged, the key to marriage is a) to remember that divorce is never an option; b) to always keep working at it; c) to remember that you’ve given yourselves to each other and be grateful for that gift.

And that’s really all there is to it.

“Just believe in yourself”

“God just wants me to be happy,” says the contemporary Christian singer about her divorce and remarriage.

“Believe in yourself,” says the new age guru.

“The real Bruce Jenner,” say the headlines.

“Born that way,” says Lady Gaga.

Apparently, Jesus says “Affirm yourself, put down your cross, and follow your heart”?

Oh, no, wait.  That was, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.”

Scars and Self-image

As I approach the 19th anniversary of my first heart surgery, meaning that I’ve had my artificial valve now for half my life(!), the “me” I think of when I approach a mirror is still the “me” without the scars.   Now, the original “zipper” is less noticeable both from age and from the others that now surround it.  Every now and then, one strikes me.  A few weeks ago, I suddenly “saw”/noticed how big and dark the scar in my side from two years ago is-the one from the drainage tube and the chyle surgery, which healed wrong so Dr. Peterseim cut it back open in the CVICU–I can still feel the sensation of his fingers in my side–removed the infected tissue and partially stitched it back up, but it had to heal with mainly biodegradable gauze.  Every 2 days for my last month and a half in the hospital, a wound care nurse would come in and change my bandages.
They give my wife, the schoolteacher, a crash course in wound care and showed her how to do what a specialized nurse had been doing–but it saved us getting a home care nurse.
There was a lot to reflect on in that wound alone.  Then there was my  feeding tube hole, which required a slightly *different* kind of cleaning and dressing, and my trach hole–all three requiring slightly different treatments, and different healing times. . . .
Tonight, I looked in the mirror, and somehow the scar from my carotid-subclavian bypass, which prepared the way for my arch-abdominal aorta repair, struck my attention just now and inspired this post.  The bypass is kind of cool in and of itself–you can see my pulse in the tube that runs up my collar bone to my neck–but right under it is the scar, slightly curved, more like a fossilized centipede or a lightning bolt in a movie.
I can make an effort to see the beauty and the meaning in my scars–thankfully, my wife doesn’t need an effort to do it–and it’s much easier with the ones from two years ago–but still, after 19 years, I still expect to see my unscarred “self,” and I’m different.   And maybe it’s different when one chooses it, but I don’t understand how anyone can voluntarily do that–whether it’s piercing, or tattoos, plastic surgery or whatever–to make a permanent change that will be there, not just for the rest of this earthly life but possibly in the Resurrection.
While Catechism paragraph 2297 comes into play in these matters, I’m not really thinking in terms of morality here.  I’m more musing on the emotional experience, but that is  seen with a view to the resurrection of the body.  Presumably, the resurrected body will be free of worldly defects, though some of the Saints suggest those “defects” would instead be glorified.

Exactly which sport are they illustrating?

Yesterday I saw the controversial latest cover of the usually controversial Sports Illustrated “swimsuit” issue, at Bi Lo. It was on the highest row of magazines, making it eye level for me in the chair and for any child of middle years. As I often say, modesty is not necessarily about what’s covered so much as how it’s covered: a person can be covered chin to ankle in something that’s too tight, or completely naked yet elicit pity (_Schindler’s List_ or photos of starving children) or admiration (as in the classic example of Vatican art), rather than lust, based upon the circumstances, pose, etc. To reveal everything but the most specific “parts”, and then present those as about to be revealed, is the epitome of pornography: enticing the viewer to wonder what comes next.

Scandal versus Scandal, and Controversial Cardinals

I believe that, 10 or 20 years in the future, people will look back on “the Francis Effect” as they now look at “the Spirit of Vatican II.”  In the meantime, we seem to be reliving the 1960s and 70s.
Two cases in point: the upcoming Synod on the Family, which is supposed to be about determining how to more effectively articulate the Church’s teachings, but the media and some cardinals–most notably Walter Cardinal Kasper–are trying to make it about changing teaching.  Meanwhile, there are the still-unofficial rumors that Raymond Cardinal Burke will be removed from his post as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, in the wake of a book that Burke and other “conservatives” published that upholds the Church’s teachings against Cardinal Kasper’s “approach” to divorce.
Simultaneously, Timothy Cardinal Dolan will grand marshal the first ever New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade to include “gays” marching as homosexuals.  Dolan defends this position by appealing to the “Francis Effect,” and the idea–which he used a year ago to applaud openly homosexual football player Michael Sam for his “courage”–that the Church says it’s OK to identify with a disordered inclination so long as one doesn’t act on it.  Kevin O’Brien asks if he can start a chapter of Irish Adulterers and march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, since–following Cardinal Dolan’s reasoning–having a disordered inclination to adultery makes one an “adulterer.”
Sadly, though, Dolan’s reasoning is not that far off from Kasper’s.  Kasper contends that we cannot know for certain if a couple who are divorced and remarried are living in a Josephite marriage.  Kasper has

accused his opponents of faulty interpretation of Scripture, saying, “We cannot simply take one phrase of the Gospel of Jesus and from that deduce everything.” That would be Luke 16:18, which quotes Jesus saying, “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

He apparently has not read St. John Paul II’s _Theology of the Body_, since that’s exactly what John Paul does (though “induce” would probably be the more accurate verb).  Cardinal Kasper heads into dangerous ground by suggesting that those who are divorced and remarried “don’t look like they’re committing adultery,” that somehow superficial happiness and later fidelity can atone for the previous infidelity–neo-pelagianism, indeed!

So, on the one hand, we have “you can be a homosexual, and be in a ‘homosexual relationship,’ and not act on it.”  Then we have “you can be divorced and remarried and not act on it.”  Both propositions are *technically* true.

Then we have the more important question, one of the foundational questions of Christian spirituality and praxis and the juridical question of Catholic governance.  If we set aside Cardinal Kasper’s 1960s theology of “conscience,” let’s focus on the objective viewpoint.  Technically, he’s correct that people can sometimes live in Josephite marriages or similar situations.  Technically, he’s correct that we shouldn’t assume the worst of other people.  However, in practice, his views defy common sense.

Why would someone get divorced and remarried and not act on it? Even if it is possible, and people are willing to (sometimes, they are), the Church should still say, “this is what you’re supposed to do in this situation.”

This is a paradox at work in much of “pastoral” theology and canon law: two meanings of the word “scandal.”  To the world, and many members of the clergy, scandal means rumor-mongering.   If Y knows X is divorced and remarried with no annulment and Y sees X receiving Communion, it is true that Y is possibly breaking the 8th Commandment in one or more respects to be scandalized by it in the secular sense and definitely breaking the 8th Commandment to gossip about it.

However, in traditional Catholic parlance, “scandal” means behavior that encourages other people to sin.  Maybe N is thinking about divorce and follows X’s example.  Maybe B *is* divorced and remarried and thinks it’s OK.  . . .

There are other times where the Church says precisely that we shouldn’t endanger people’s souls by encouraging people to put themselves into a possible occasion of sin, or of setting a bad example.  Another topic being hotly debated in mass and social media is Pope Francis’s example of officiating a wedding of couples who have been cohabiting.  Conventionally, pastors have discouraged marriage of cohabiting couples, although canonically they cannot refuse to marry anyone.  Sacramentally, as with any sacrament, a state of grace is necessary to confer the Sacrament of Matrimony, which is why couples are expected to go to Confession before their weddings.   The reasoning behind discouraging such practices is to discourage setting a bad example.  Since our society is heavily scandalized in that regard already, and in some ways always has been, I suspect the Holy Father is right that it’s better to encourage marriage.

Nevertheless, there is that understanding that people of opposite sexes who are not related by law or biology should usually not live under the same roof because they put themselves into situations of temptation and setting a bad example.

More surprisingly, I was reading an article somewhere recently about the notion of impediments–how, just as an annulment can be granted for inability to consummate, supposedly one of the few reasons the Church will preemptively deny a request for marriage is if one of the spouses is known to be incapable of consummation.  To the question of how that’s to be known without presuming attempts at fornication, I was told that obvious cases include people who are mutilated or paralyzed.

Apparently, go figure, the reasoning is that the non-deformed partner cannot be expected to go through life with a person of the opposite sex and not act on it, that he or she cannot be expected to contract marriage and be continent!  Of course, any argument in favor of such a relationship raises complex issues about those who struggle with same sex attraction, and “what about those who become deformed after marriage” was answered with little more than “That’s complicated.”

So, we cannot expect heterosexuals to live in continence (even though it has been done), but we cannot presume those who are married are having marital relationships, and we can expect people who identify as homosexual, have homosexual “significant others,” kiss in public, and so on, to be courageously living in chastity.

On the other end of the spectrum is Cardinal Burke, who argues in favor of presuming sacramentality in the vast majority of cases.  Perhaps such a presumption is good, but there is much to be said for simplification of the annulment process.

Drugs, the law, and morality

For some reason, it’s a headline that the Pope is against legalization of recreational drug use. At first thought, I tend to agree, but I am not sure it’s so simple in practice.
Much has been written on the subject lately, and I completely agree that it’s sinful to
a) use any otherwise acceptable activity excessively (Cardinal Virtue of Temperance/Aristotelian Mean)
B) intentionally impair one’s judgement so as to make moral decisions more difficult
C) cause direct harm to one’s body.

It’s very clear when some drugs do all three, but what about tobacco, alcohol and even caffeine? Those would be considered acceptable in moderation, but cause damage long-term.

All three of those standards could apply to food as a drug. Certainly, gluttony is a mortal sin, but should it be a crime?

What about self-medication? Various layers of mental health? Prescription drug use?

It’s a complicated matter when it comes to legalities, civil liberties, etc., and enforcing laws. In the name of making it harder to abuse prescription drugs, the FDA has made harder and more costly for those of us with actual health problems to get our meds. Then there’s the issue of drug testing for employment, etc., and people having to reveal medical problems to their employers.
That’s not getting into things like “no knock” raids that have made headlines recently, where SWAT teams invade homes of “suspected” drug dealers/addicts and burst in without warning to avoid “flushing.” Innocent bystanders and even innocent suspects get injured or killed, even if they have the wrong house altogether.
They’ll do the whole “witch hunt” thing and send innocent family members to prison for the “crime” of not knowing anything while the actual criminals make deals and name names. Then property involved in illegal drugs can be seized. Back in Virginia about ten years ago, there was a case where a man bought a house from a judge’s ex-wife shortly after their son was arrested for dealing marijuana. Somehow, the judge’s wife got to keep the money from the sale but the buyer lost the house to the state.
Then there’s the so-called “right to privacy” that selectively applies to birth control.

I don’t think drug use should be legal, but it shouldn’t be “illegal,” either. It should be treated as a medical and psychological matter.

Why do politicians neglect their most basic duty?

All human life is sacred. Every one of us should be honored and respected as the immortal beings that we are, made in the image and likeness of God. The desecration of people’s bodies in the name of animalistic pleasure is degrading to both the victims and perpetrators of the violence. Socrates taught that it is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and rapists and murderers hurt themselves, in the long run, perhaps worse than their victims. The most fundamental purpose of civil law is to protect citizens from harming each other, as well as themselves, and any government that fails to protect the weak from the strong is a failed government.

I need your help. Two young girls were hanged from a tree after being gang raped in the fields outside their home in India and a minister from the ruling party just responded by saying that rape “is a social crime … sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong.”

It’s disgusting! But this isn’t an isolated incident. I’ve been attacked in front of senior policemen and nothing was done. I know the system is totally failing India’s women. But together I think we can change it.

My country’s new leader ran on the promise of rebuilding the holy city, Varanasi, where he was elected, as a major tourist hub. If we build a millions-strong global call for the protection of women and plaster it all over Prime Minister Modi’s city, he’ll be forced to act to save his tourism plan.

An ad campaign like this has never happened before in India. But this is a national crisis and it requires drastic action. Sign now — let’s get two million people to demand Modi protects India’s girls and women.

Alaphia Zoyab, Avaaz campaigner

Please sign this petition to the Indian government to take action against rape gangs

Interesting quote from the _Compendium_

I was drafting a comment, and possibly a blog post, on the notion of “living wage” and while searching the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church for what it says about “wages,” I found the following:

The rights of persons with disabilities need to be promoted with effective and appropriate measures: “It would be radically unworthy of man, and a denial of our common humanity, to admit to the life of the community, and thus admit to work, only those who are fully functional. To do so would be to practise a serious form of discrimination, that of the strong and healthy against the weak and sick”[292]. Great attention must be paid not only to the physical and psychological work conditions, to a just wage, to the possibility of promotion and the elimination of obstacles, but also to the affective and sexual dimensions of persons with disabilities: “They too need to love and to be loved, they need tenderness, closeness and intimacy”[293], according to their capacities and with respect for the moral order, which is the same for the non-handicapped and the handicapped alike.

Why “Gay Marriage” Matters

Even many who profess faith in Christ insist that “gay marriage,” even as a civil entity, doesn’t hurt anybody.  Examples like “husband” and “wife” being changed everywhere to “spouse 1” and “spouse 2” should be enough for starters.  Then there is the increasing persecution of those who oppose the homosexualist political agenda: CEOs being fired from companies they co-founded,

Brendan Eich, who helped invent Java and Firefox, fired from Mozilla for a $1000 donation made 6 years ago.

and nuns being persecuted by the Church.

Should be speaking everywhere, not silenced

Of course, the latter was justified by “Catholics” bearing false witness against the Holy Father by saying his statements that homilists must talk about more than a few disjointed moral teachings means that none of us is supposed to talk about the specific examples, ever.

It all goes back to my old saying that we lost the Culture Wars before they began, at the 1929 Lambeth Conference.   The slippery slope that  led us to the current gay marriage debate started when the Anglicans became the first Christians to permit birth control, as Pius XI and Paul VI predicted.  Anyone who has tried to teach Catholic morality even in CCD, much less Catholic school, in the past generation or two knows how awkward it is to tell kids divorce and remarriage is a sin when their parents are divorced and remarried, that swearing is a sin when even their mothers cuss like sailors, or that birth control is a sin when everyone else uses it.  I went to high school with kids whose parents were NFP instructors, and even *they* would say things like, “It’s a sin for us but not for other people,” or “It’s better to tell teenagers to use birth control than to have them get pregnant or STDs.”

I think the persecution of Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, OP, STD, has as much to do with her speaking about the negative consequences of divorce as anything else.  Indeed, the claim of Aquinas College that Sr. Jane is outside her academic credentials by talking of anthropology negates the traditional hierarchy of academic disciplines that a Dominican should be the first to recognize.

Soon-to-be St. John Paul II, who doesn’t mince words in Evangelium Vitae about the Conspiracy of Death, writes in Theology of the Body that the entire of Catholic anthropology is based in the Creation Account: indeed, that is the whole point of TOB.  From man being made male and female in the image of likeness of God and to be “one flesh” to the fact of Original Sin, JPII’s explication of the first three or four chapters of Genesis and Jesus’ teachings on marriage shows how everything else in theology stems from those passages.  He argues that the danger of Darwinism, and its importance to secularists, is that without a Creator, without teleology, without man being a soul/body hybrid, without Original Sin itself, then man is not a moral creature, and ultimately anything goes.

Something similar is at work in the Culture Wars in the contemporary West.  From contraception at one end to “marriage equality” at the other, advocates of “most favored sins” tend to promote each other’s cause: nobody wants to be perceived as a “hypocrite,” after all.  If some “bossy” Thomistic nun wants to start talking about sexual morality, then so much for “voices of women in the Church”!

And that’s the ultimate agenda of the Culture of Death (and, yes, Pope John Paul himself states repeatedly in Gospel of Life and elsewhere that it’s a conspiracy).    It’s even the agenda of those who, in the name of preventing child abuse, expose children to graphic “sex education.”  Obviously, Satan wants everyone in Hell, and Satan’s agents, whether they realize they are or not, need to encourage others to sin so they can feel justified in their own filth.

The 1988 Don Bosco film that used to run on EWTN before the 2004 version came out has subplots involving a brothel next door to St. John’s Oratory.  In one scene, there’s a commotion outside the brothel: two prostitutes get into a “cat fight.”  The boys stop their play and study to see what’s going on.  The Saint cuts through the crowd and pulls the two hookers apart.  “You people can drown in your sins, if you want!” he cries.  “But if a single one of my boys is lost because of you, not one of you can be saved!”

Harsh, you say?  Remember Our Lord calls for anyone who causes a child to sin to be drowned (Matthew 18:6).

That’s what’s at stake in “gay marriage.”

When I can no longer watch Wheel of Fortune with my kids because of a contestant introduction like, “So you’re getting married? . . . You found some nice young lady to marry you?” “Gentleman, actually,” that affects my family.
When we’re watching The Middle, and an ad comes on for Modern Family with two men talking about “their wedding,” and a cake topper with two men, that affects my family.
“Why?” asks the person who actively or passively supports same sex marriage.  “Are you afraid of them?  They’re nice people.”
No.
“Do you think you’re kid’s going to be gay?”
No.
Every child at some point wants to know why boys can’t marry boys or girls can’t marry girls, and “because they’re not supposed to” is usually a sufficient answer.

If society isn’t going to back that up, and if “the Church” isn’t even going to back that up, then one is left stranded explaining Natural Law.  It’s hard enough having to gloss over other issues.

They do not think parents have the right to teach their children morality or even to protect their children’s mental purity at a young age.   Then there are the increasing accounts of children at young ages becoming addicted to porn or committing sexual abuse because of things they’ve seen online.

When that stuff is literally everywhere, there comes a point when parents are forced to explain certain things to children that are not otherwise age appropriate–and that’s exactly what these demonic perverts want.

Apparently an STD doesn’t Qualify A Nun to Talk about STDs (so to speak)

So, thanks to screaming protests and threats by thousands of “parents” at a Catholic high school in Charlotte, NC, not only has Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, OP, STD, of the St. Cecilia Dominican Congregation and its affiliated Aquinas College in Nashville, TN, been disinvited from future speaking engagements in the Charlotte Diocese: she has now “voluntarily” stepped down from both speaking and even teaching at the famously orthodox college.

Why has Sr. Jane been subjected to more censure than the “nuns on a bus” or the Leadership Conference of Women Religious or the National Coalition of American Nuns?
For citing studies that argue that homosexual inclinations are learned, not innate and supposedly for stepping outside the range of her academic expertise!

I’m sure if a nun had said, “Studies prove homosexuals are born that way and have no control over their behavior,” the few parents who might have voiced objections would have been ignored.

If the expression of the Truth is not safe in those circumstances, an orthodox nun from an orthodox order and college speaking at the invite of an orthodox pastor under an orthodox bishop, we’re all doomed.

The “parents” who came to the “parents only” meeting and apparently exceeded the number of enrolled families should be ashamed.   The injustice of this whole thing breaks my heart.

Responding to “one of those” friend requests

About once a day, I get a “friend request” and/or private message “from a young lady”. I’m sure many men get them, and some of my female Facebook friends have complained of them as well. Indeed, the usual kind is the stuff of classic “Nigerian prince” spam/phishing: “hi, I wanna be friends! Email me at [insert email address here] to see pics.” No thanks, I think, and mark as Spam.

Every now and then, a more “legitimate” looking request comes along, usually with few “friends”, some of them mutual, and almost all men. A brief viewing if the point lady’s page will indicate she is either an aspiring “model” or else looking for a boyfriend. Since I think it should be pretty clear from my own profile that I have no gold to dig, I don’t know why they bother. I am never sure whether to accept the requests and hide the person from my feed so I can witness or else delete and block to avoid giving others the wrong impression.

Coincidentally, a former student of mine who is a Facebook friend posted on Friday about how young people today seem to have no respect for marriage, how a young woman was flirting with him and, when he said he has been happily married for ten years, she said, in shock, “You mean you never fool around?”

Thus, I was bemused by a combination friend request and PM from a woman who was obviously real, and from South Carolina, saying she was a Christian who believed in being Godly in her personal relationships and felt the Holy Spirit was telling her to contact me. Taking her at her word, which seemed to conflict with her profile pic and timeline “cover photo”, I prayed and drafted the following. I offer it as a template for others facing these situations, choosing between just ignoring the request and missing an opportunity for evangelization.

Hello, I had read your profile-I normally do when evaluating friend requests. Given that you took the time to write a message and that your profile shows you’re a “real person,” I’ve been trying to figure out how best to phrase this. If I have the wrong impression, forgive me, but I was under the impression you are “looking for a [romantic] relationship,” which, if you read my profile, you would know
I am not. If you are simply seeking Christian fellowship, and I was mistaken, I wanted to make sure I replied wisely, as your profile picture and timeline banner suggest otherwise. We live in a society that has little regard for the Ninth Commandment and Our Lord’s corresponding teaching in Matthew 5:28. Perhaps the objectification of women in our culture is a side effect of the truncating of the last two commandments into one and expansion of the first into two: reducing women to property and thus into idols. In any case, modesty indicates both that you respect yourself and your Creator. If you are looking for a relationship, I suggest presenting yourself in a manner that will attract men who respect women. Likewise, if you are looking for Christian fellowship, it would be wise to present the same image. I take CS Lewis’s view that modesty is relative to context, but in this particular context, you may want to rethink your choice of public images. If you are seeking fellowship, and accept my advice in the charity with which it is intended, I will accept your friendship on Facebook.

Would you be my martyr?

Seasonal things you can expect in the Catholic online world:
1) “Real meaning of Christmas”
2) “Real meaning of Easter”
3) “Real meaning of Halloween”
4) “Real meaning St. Nicholas,” etc.
Including
The cool thing about Catholicism is that this is not the paradox it first seems.
There are many reasons given for the connection between St. Valentine and love.  One is supposedly the letters he wrote from prison (then why not Ignatios of Antioch or another of the Fathers?)  Another is that supposedly he wrote specifically about marriage (again).  Then there is the issue of *which* “St. Valentine” we’re talking about.  Supposedly, the first historical reference associating St. Valentine’s Day with “romance” is in Chaucer.
Regardless of the seemingly arbitrary association, we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection by eating candy, so why not a Saint’s?  “The pain now is part of the happiness then,” as Joy Davidman says in _Shadowlands_ (forget if she actually said said that in real life).  To borrow from _VeggieTales_, the “hope of Easter” allows us to see the joy and humor in death. 
[54] And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. [55] O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor 15:54-55, Douay).
If you can’t joke about something as silly and trivial as death, what *can* you joke about?
The paradox was best phrased by a cartoon I saw today that said, “Will you be my Christian martyr? Now you see why I find this holiday confusing.”
Actually, it shouldn’t be.  Christian love is supposed to be about martyrdom.

Love is supposed to be about self-sacrifice.  Gifts we give in love are symbolic of the greater sacrifices we are supposed to make for others.

“I should be able to love whomever I want”–Really?

I think I’ve made this observation before, but the problem is not the redefinition of “marriage”; it’s the redefinition of “love.”
The foundational argument for “same sex marriage,” the premise that makes even many otherwise pro-life Christians nod their heads in agreement, is “I should be able to love whomever I choose.”  As soon as somebody–whether it’s Phil Robertson or Rick Santorum or whomever–points out the obvious implications of that argument, people scream “bigotry!”, “Slippery slope!”  and so forth.

I’ve never understood why “slippery slope” is a logical fallacy, since it is precisely how things so often work (a friend pointed out once that it’s a deductive fallacy but not an inductive fallacy, which makes more sense).  Anthony Kennedy’s argument in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that people have the right to decide for themselves whether the unborn baby is a “blob of tissue” or a “person” was the same argument he used to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.  The Supreme Court’s decisions about “gay marriage” in June 2013 have been quickly followed by moves to legalize polygamy (though, I would argue, Catholic ethics notwithstanding, that that would be a step in the right direction from our current situation of serial divorce and remarriage, as the author I link suggests) and efforts to normalize pedophilia have already begun.

So much for “that’s just a slippery slope argument.”  However, the slope began when we redefined “love” as “romantic feelings.”  The premise “Shouldn’t someone be able to love whomever they choose?” sounds good on the surface, but it’s quite a leap from that to “Shouldn’t someone be able to marry whomever they choose?”  In between are several presumptions.
It all goes back to the redefinition of love.

1.  “Love” does not necessitate “marry.”  That should be obvious.  We are called to “love” everyone, including our enemies.  That does not necessitate marrying them.   Marital love is supposed to be about learning how to love other people.  Ideally, marriage should be based upon a combination of attraction, friendship and practicality, but, sometimes, marriage is exactly the milieu, like the family, in which we learn to “love our enemies.”

Marie and Frank Barone, _Everybody Loves Raymond_

“Didn’t I teach you anything? You got a problem with your woman, you don’t go out and get another one. Then you got two problems.” –Frank Barone

2.  “Love” does not necessitate “have sex with.”  One of the ways the normalization of same sex attraction has effected “heterosexuals” is that it’s impossible to just be friends: look at the efforts to turn every fictional friendship into a sexual relationship.  This was already a problem a few generations ago, as C. S. Lewis discusses in _The Four Loves_.

Holmes and Watson

Like these guys

3.  As St. Gianna Molla put it so succinctly, “Love is a choice.”  You *can* love whomever you *choose*.  But the lie of “choice” in the same sex argument, like the lie of “choice” in abortion, is that they claim the right to choose somethiexng they say they have no choice about.

4.  Love is not a feeling.   People these days define love as “how someone makes me feel.”  “I love you” comes to mean the same thing as “I love spaghetti.”  Love becomes entirely about the subject, and the object of the love becomes just that, an object for use, whether it’s a food or another person (this is of course the standard Catholic argument on all these subjects, and I’ll be accused of “parroting,” I’m sure).

Karol Cardinal Woytyla, _Love and Responsibility_

When we see love in the light of those conditions, it takes way the argument that one’s choice of a marriage partner should be based primarily upon attraction.  All of the madness in our society comes from a failure to understand “love.”

“I love you” is not about how “you” make “me” feel; it’s about how “I” make “you” feel.

On Phil, A&E, Freedom, and Urban versus Rural America

Some of my left-leaning Facebook friends (yes, I do have a few) have been posting memes about the alleged hypocrisy of the “red state” folks regarding the recent controversies about Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame being fired by A&E and some people talking about it as a “freedom of speech” issue.

This is from the page “Being Liberal.” For lack of a better word, “Duh.” That’s not what we’re saying.

Here’s another from “The Beer Party”:

Again, I’d agree, insofar as what *some* people are saying, but most people I’ve read are acknowledging this.

In fact, I’d say there are some interesting parallels between the “Dixie Chicks” controversy and Phil Robertson. First, the difference, in part, is that the Dixie Chicks were not fired by their publisher; Phil Robertson was. Secondly, the Dixie Chicks are singers. I don’t generally like it when singers or actors take positions on “issues,” or force their audiences to support their “causes,” regardless if I agree with them. However, Robertson is in that strange amorphous zone known as “reality TV,” which is about as “real” as professional wrestling. He entertains people (I’ve never seen his show) with a certain persona, and it has become clear over the past few years that a) he’s a Christian, b) he’s a conservative, c) A&E doesn’t like that, and d) audiences do.

The Dixie Chicks took some flack for mocking the president, and in *that* respect it’s hypocritical of “Red Staters” in terms of criticism of Bush versus criticism of Obama. Their careers have gone on just fine. They never got fired. However, the situation is the same in that both cases involve the media not “getting” the “Red State”/”Flyover State” public. It’s an issue that goes back for decades, if not for all of history, in entertainment: “Town Mouse and Country Mouse,” as it were. “Country Come to Town” is a subgenre of American literature. In the 1960s, the TV industry produced lots of “rural comedies” like _The Andy Griffith Show_, _Green Acres_, _The Beverly Hillbillies_, etc., that were supposed to ridicule “country bumpkins,” but people *identified* with the characters.

Then there was the “rural purge” and the rise of liberal ideology-promoting “urban comedies”, mostly from Norman Lear. When _All in the Family_ came along, there was a Hollywood stereotype of an urban blue-collar conservative in Archie Bunker as exaggerated as the redneck stereotypes of the rural comedies, pitted against the liberal hero, son-in-law Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner), forever known to the public as “Meathead,” which symbolizes the public’s reaction to the show: they liked Archie and hated “Meathead,” the opposite of Lear’s intention.

Flannery O’Connor’s discussion of how professors interpret “A Good Man is Hard to Find” applies here:

I’ve talked to a number of teachers who use this story in class and who tell their students that the Grandmother is evil, that in fact, she’s a witch, even down to the cat. One of these teachers told me that his students and particularly his Southern students, resisted this interpretation with a certain bemused vigor, and he didn’t understand why. I had to tell him that they resisted it because they all had grandmothers or great-aunts just like her at home, and they knew, from personal experience, that the old lady lacked comprehension, but that she had a good heart. The Southerner is usually tolerant of those weaknesses that proceed from innocence, and he knows that a taste for self-preservation can be readily combined with the missionary spirit.

That sums up the conflict that has always existed between the “elites” in the “big cities” of the Northeast and the “Left Coast,” versus the “Red State” “rednecks” (a term which, interestingly enough, used to refer to Southern Democrats, farm workers who had “red necks” because of working in the sun).

That gets us back to this Phil Robertson fellow. His recent interview with GQ has been well discussed. In short, he talked about his sinful youth, as he has done before, and how he “found Jesus,” and how he believes (rightly) that we all need Jesus’ grace to be healed of our sin. Then he paraphrased the “controversial” passage of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

9
* Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes* nor sodomitesc
10
nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
11
That is what some of you used to be; but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

(emphasis added)
As my friend Kevin O’Brien has pointed out, homosexuality seems to have “Most Favored Sin” status in our culture. Or, as Jay Leno apparently put it, ” Gay people are upset with him. Then he went on to criticize adulterers, drunks and swindlers, and now Congress is mad at him. So the guy just can’t win.”

I’ve never watched _Duck Dynasty_ and I’ve never read _GQ_, but from the quotations of the interview that are all over http://www.amazon.com/Holocaust-Childlike-The-Progress-Spiritual/dp/1492895474/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387218063&sr=8-1&keywords=holocaust+of+the+childlike Net, I don’t see the problem.
Yes, some of his phrasing was a bit crude, but that fits with his persona and intended audience (both on his show and _GQ_).  It was also arguably “The Emperor’s  New Clothes” principle: he’s in trouble for stating the obvious.  Again, he said it in the context of “sin is illogical.”  He probably could have made a better argument for “theology of the body,” but I don’t know enough about him to know if that was (as some say) his own lack of sophistication or his intentional persona.

People are saying he implies that homosexuals engage in “bestiality” because he presents a (very true) slippery slope argument about society’s tolerance of sin.

He is accused of “equating gays with terrorists” because he says he loves all people, regardless of who they are or what they do.  He is accused of “hate speech” by saying that he doesn’t judge anyone’s souls but wants everyone to know  Jesus.  Oh, and, while he was clearly fired for offending the GLBTQXYZ lobby  (which at most accounts for 18 million Americans, is most realistically 9 million and that includes statistics on anyone who has ever had a “same sex relationship”), some people have accused him of “racism” for saying that when he was a farm worker (again, a literal “red neck”) in the 60s, he didn’t see his African American co-workers being treated any worse than whites–at worst, an ignorant statement but hardly meant in hate.

But, again, even if it means cancelling what is supposedly the highest-rated show in the history of cable, TPTB are so literally hell-bent on pushing their agenda that they will sacrifice views and even advertisers rather than sacrifice their agenda.

So, no, this is not, strictly speaking, a First Amendment/Free Speech issue.  It’s a free market issue.  A&E had every right, theoretically, to fire Robertson, and the viewers and advertisers had the right to react according to their positions.  Robertson will do fine.  He’s a millionaire.  He has already garnered a national following and is circulating the “mega-churches.”  This publicity has increased his status.  He reportedly already has offers from Fox News and Glenn Beck’s “the Blaze” network.  He’s going to do fine, just as the Dixie Chicks have done fine.

What worries me, and many others, is the double standard the media apply to these situations.  Look at all the controversy about suppression of speech online (again, it’s “Facebook [or whichever entity] has the right to suppress users’ speech”).  Where does that end?

Who is Really “Marginalized” in the Church?

The resignation of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, has led the media to engage in one of their favorite passtimes: berating the “controversial” teachings of the Catholic Church, and expressing hope that the Church will “listen to” allegedly “marginalized” Catholics who “have no voice” in the Church by changing controversial “policies” such as teaching the objective truths that male gender is a material requisite for the priesthood, or that abortion, contraception and homosexual behavior are intrinsically evil.

This idiotic article is just one more example of this claim. What struck me about this particular authress’s screed is that she talks of nuns who complain about being “marginalized,” and that really ticked me off.

It is a popular meme of liberal Catholics that Jesus “embraced those who were marginalized.” Like most lies, that’s partially true. However, Jesus also *called* on His followers to *become* marginalized. The fundamental difference between an orthodox and a liberal Christian is our *reaction* to marginalization. The orthodox believer recognizes that we must be marginalized by the world in order to live out the Evangelical Counsels, that marginalization is the path the holiness. The liberal believer sees marginalization as a bad thing, and fights against it.

But whatever they want to say about the “official” teachings of the Church, these people have been running things for quite some time.

I have been “marginalized” by liberal Catholics my entire life.

Every liturgical document from Sacrosanctum Concilium to Liturgiam Authenicam to Redemptionis Sacramentum to Summorum Pontificum has emphasized the importance of Latin as the official liturgical language of the Roman Rite. When B16 called the world synod of bishops shortly after his accession, they voted by a huge majority to promote the use of Latin and to mandate that multilingual congregations offer Mass in Latin as opposed to the vernacular. The documents all say Mass should be primarily in Latin. Where Vatican II gives options, the preference is supposed to be on the more “traditional” option. And as B16 noted in Summorum Pontificum, the Tridentine liturgy was never “suppressed,” so it never should have required an “indult.” Strange that Vatican II options which were *supposed* to require indults–reception in the hand, use of lay ministers of communion–have become commonplace and are considered almost obligatory, yet there has been every effort made to suppress the Traditional Latin Mass. Who is voiceless and marginalized?

I have never heard homilies in favor of Latin or of traditional liturgical practices at “ordinary” Ordinary Form liturgies. I have heard such homilies frequently at extraordinary form masses, or ordinary form Masses in Latin, or Eastern liturgies–situations where the priests were literally “preaching to the choir.” I have never heard an “ordinary” priest give a homily at a vernacular Mass trying to explain why traditional liturgical forms are good. I *have*, however, heard priests preach from the altar that they wished traditionalists would all die off and stop bugging everyone. I have heard priests say from the altar that they “hope this pope will die so we can get a new pope who will get rid of all the rules” (this back in the days of John Paul II). I have heard priests say from the pulpit or other public venues that Latin is to be discouraged because it scares people away and people don’t understand it. I have heard priests preach about how wonderful all the changes “Vatican II made” supposedly are, even though many of the things they’re talking about were never mentioned by Vatican II and actually defy the explicit teachings of the Council.

Speaking of which, I’ve heard and read the claim that the Society of St. Pius X is “heretical” or schismatic because one must accept all the teachings of the Council to be Catholic, even though Pope Paul VI said otherwise and Pope Benedict has frequently critiqued certain aspects of the Council. Yet if that is the case, then why is there no action taken against liberal Catholics who openly defy express teachings of the Council, such as S.C.’s order that the Church provide classes in Latin to all laity?

Then there are the moral issues? Who’s really marginalized when Catholics with “large families” are mocked by their fellow Catholics, openly, and even at or after Mass? When I got engaged, and asked my pastor about NFP classes, he scoffed, and said, “I only know 2 families in the parish who are into that stuff. It’s not that important. You can just use birth control; it’s OK. If you really want to, I can give you the numbers of those couples, because I wouldn’t know anything about it.” At the same meeting, he told me he helped *design* his diocese’s Engaged Encounter Program, yet he claimed to know nothing about NFP! (Thankfully, a lot has changed since then, and many diocese in the SE are using Family Honor, but I’m not sure if it’s part of the official pre-Cana process yet). I was grateful he told me we could do it in any diocese we wanted, since we were a long-distance engagement, so long as we provided the parish with a certificate. So we did our Engaged Encounter with the Diocese of Arlington, where about 1/3 was Theology of the Body and about 1/3 was NFP.

My wife once went to a lecture by the diocesan interfaith coordinator, shortly after the publication of _Dominus Iesus_, in which this priest insisted that then Cardinal Ratzinger was trying to “tie the hands of John Paul’s successor”! What a surprise for him that Cardinal Ratzinger *was* John Paul’s successor.

I have rarely been able to attend any parish meeting, adult class or spirituality group, or whatever, without grinding my teeth in frustration at the heterodoxy and dissent that are openly discussed, sometimes by people who have been educated in heterodoxy for so long that they don’t even know they’re material heretics! They *think* that traditionalists are the heretics who “don’t follow Vatican II,” and yet, if they actually took the time to read Vatican II, and compare the teachings of “both sides,” most Catholics would be shocked to discover that the Society of St. Pius X is far more in line with what Vatican *actually* teaches than what the habitless nuns and cassockless priests have told them for decades about the “spirit of Vatican II.”

This is why, when I read articles such as the one in the _Detroit News_, I get infuriated. And I get infuriated that, when traditional and conservative Catholics *express* their frustration at such articles, people say, “See?! That just proves traditionalists are vindictive and hateful!” During the Mother Angelica-Cardinal Mahony feud, Bishop Thomas Tobin, then of Mother’s hometown Youngstown, OH, wrote a fantastic piece (which I can’t find, so I have to link this article about it) in which he tried to play diplomat, but he observed that perhaps there is some justification in the anger of conservative Catholics who have been routinely shouted down and mocked since the Council.

Liberals run the religious ed programs and schools. They run the liturgy committees. They run most of the seminaries and diocesan vocation programs and–as many ex or would be seminary candidates, along with a few brave vocations directors and bishops have attested to–they specifically reject candidates they deem “too conservative” while promoting candidates who are at least friendly to liberals. Then they beat them down in the seminary with liberal indoctrination. And the religious houses have done the same thing, dwindling their numbers as they come to look like gay and lesbian communes, while the more orthodox communities are thriving. Yet as they get grayer and grayer, the “progressives” continue to insist they speak for “young Catholics.”

Where? Where are these “young Catholics” they claim to speak for? Why aren’t these “young Catholics” flocking to join liberal convents and liberal monasteries? If there are all these women who are supposedly “called the priesthood,” why aren’t they joining the LCWR affiliated convents in droves while they await their “dream pope” who will do all this for them?

And why is there no connection made to the fact that the Cardinal who *most* supported their “progressive” agenda has been completely disgraced as perhaps the worst offender when it came to covering up for sex-abuser priests–so much that other bishops knew he was the easy go-to man for re-assigning sex offenders to his diocese? Why is no one acknowledging that it was precisely Roger Mahony’s “liberal” attitudes towards homosexuality and sex that led him to support these priests?

But, no, liberals have no voice in the Church at all. Bloody hypocrites.

Natural Law, Homosexuality and Genetic Disorders

This is a theme I revisit from time to time, but I came up with a slightly different explanation of my point than I’ve used before in a Facebook discussion just now, so I’m copying my status and replies:

I don’t know why people on the “Right” don’t want to accept that same sex attraction can be genetic, and why people on the “Left” insist that because it’s genetic, that means it’s good. I have a genetic propensity for my arteries to explode. That doesn’t make it a good thing. DNA was corrupted by original sin: how, exactly, we don’t know, but it’s part of Catholic dogma, and therefore truth.

The “born that way” rhetoric suggests that because people are “born with” a propensity for same sex attraction, that means God designed it and it’s part of Natural Law, but it doesn’t.

Natural Law doesn’t have anything to do with genetics. It has to do with what it means to be a fully realized human being. Natural law doesn’t have to do with “nature” in the sense of science but “nature” in the sense of God’s plan. “Nature” in terms of what science talks about has been corrupted by original sin.

Nature hints at order, but nature itself is not ordered; it is disordered. That’s why I have Marfan syndrome. That’s why some people have Down’s syndrome, heart disease, cancer, alcoholism, etc. It’s why people in general have a compulsion to sexual promiscuity, whereas in a theoretically unfallen race, a man would feel no desire until he saw the woman God intended for him and said, as our first father said of our first mother, “This at last is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone.”

As it is, we all have disordered inclinations that come from our genes, which have been corrupted by original sin. Some have disordered inclinations for violence; others for lust for the opposite sex; some for gluttony; some for possessions; some of us for all of them. Some people have a disordered inclination that makes them lust for the same sex. The Fathers tell us that we are all blessed with different degrees of virtue and different degrees of these disordered inclinations, and we should not lord it over people that have more challenges in one or another regard.

Thus, Natural Law is not, as many people mistakenly believe, the law of how things work “to begin with,” but just the opposite: it’s the law of how we can make things work the way God intended without original sin. Natural Law is often compared in Catholic ethics classes to agriculture, which in turn is a subset of Natural Law. A good farmer knows how to grow a tomato plant to be the best tomato plant it can be.

The objective fact is that my Marfan syndrome impedes me from being the best person I can be. In some ways, it gives me more of a hurdle to overcome than others have. In other ways, it impedes me from ever achieving some kinds of excellence. I will never be a lumberjack. I will never be a farmer in the true sense of the word, or a cowboy, or a carpenter, or any other work that requires a strong physique. I will never be a star dancer or a star athlete. I admire those who have been blessed with healthy bodies and can achieve these forms of excellence (though I also have a great disdain for the kind of “athletes” and the kinds of “sports” that focus on building up the body only to destroy it because I see them as throwing away God’s gift).
I see homosexuality as the same sort of thing. Some homosexuals can marry (in the proper sense, people of the opposite sex) and have children, and they just have to struggle their whole lives with homosexual temptation the way heterosexual married men often have to battle their whole lives with the temptation to adultery or lust. Others must live in chastity, and are prohibited by their genetic disease from participating in the form of human excellence that is marriage the same way I’m prohibited from sports, but just as I get to pursue a different kind of excellence in my asceticism, so they are called to use their disability to pursue excellence in chastity.

Everything most people *think* they need to know about Catholic sexual morality

they learned from watching “Monty Python”.

Why I am a conservative: The Fine Arts and the LCWR

There are two reasons I am a conservative.

The first reason is abortion.

The second reason might seem more trivial but is just as important and perhaps moreso: Beauty.

Both reasons tie to the fact that what I rejected were liberal or progressive Catholics.

For Russell Kirk, conservatism is primarily about what he, following T. S. Eliot, calls the “Permanent Things,” or what Mortimer Adler would call “The Great Ideas.” In 1986, Kirk added a chapter to his magnum opus _The Conservative Mind_, officially about T. S. Eliot but also dealing with Robert Frost, talking about how it is impossible to have a truly liberal poet (he notes Shelley as a possible exception) because poets are all about the Permanent Things. C. S. Lewis, in his inaugural address as chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, _De Descriptione Temporum_, says that there are only three true historical periods. Today, we might call these the pre-Christian, Christian and post-Christian eras. Lewis argues that only 2 true changes ever occurred in history: the arrival of Christ, and the arrival of Modernity. He suggests that he sees Western Civilization as a continuum, with the Greeks at one end and Jane Austen at the other. While he thinks that the West has tapered off, he sees Jane Austen as the last solid example of a “Truly Western writer.”

Indeed, one of the reasons I went into English was to write a thesis on Lewis’s fascination with Jane Austen, though my thesis got redirected by my committee. We can further compare Lewis’s analysis of Western culture to G. K. Chesterton, who said that Western civilization is a back-and-forth of the Greco-Roman view (i.e., Renaissance, Neo-Classical) with the Judeo-Christian view (i.e., Medieval, Baroque, Romantic/Gothic). With the rise of artistic and intellectual modernism in the late 19th Century, something new happened. The Greeks and Romans saw the world as essentially divinely-given mathematical order. The Judeo-Christian view saw the world as a miserable place infused with divine beauty from which we reach out for God.

Modernism was the first widely accepted worldview, and the first artistic movement, based upon rejection of a notion of God. As one of the music critics in the old print _Crisis Magazine_ once put it, “Music died with Nietzsche’s God.”

One of the only times I had the opportunity to teach literature, as opposed to writing, was in the 2007-2008 academic year. I avoided being overt about revealing my political or religious views, but I *did* talk about these figures and guide my teaching of literature according to explaining the back and forth of those trends in culture. This led at least one of my students to raise her hand and ask if she was correct in guessing that I supported Mike Huckabee in that year’s primary (I did).

While I read most of Lewis’s work when I was 13 and 14, I didn’t read Kirk or Chesterton till college, though _The Conservative Mind_ was one of those books that, when I read it, I put it down and said, “THIS is what I believe”!

But I was conservative before I read any of them. I wasn’t conservative from my upbringing, other than the fact that my parents were staunchly pro-life. My parents started off as “Reagan Democrats.” My father was union activist in Pennsylvania, and I despise labor unions as institutions. I was born in Erie, PA, the hometown of “Sr.” Joan Chittister and PAX Christi USA. The bishop of Erie, when I was a child, was Michael Murphy, who infamously wanted to tear out seats in St. Peter’s Cathedral to make room for a stage for liturgical dance. His successor, Donald Trautman, is known for his courageous stance against pro-choice Catholic politicians . . . named Republican Tom Ridge.

Trautman is also known for spearheading liberalism in both liturgy and Scripture. He headed the committees that created the atrocious, and Vatican-Rejected, “revised Psalms” of the NAB. He has headed the USCCB’s liturgy committee numerous times, even beyond conventional term limits. Over a decade ago, he wrote a piece on liturgy in _America_ that elicited a response from some Vatican bishops, who wrote in the letters page of _America_ that Trautman’s article was essentially calling for a schism. Trautman single-handedly stonewalled implementation of the New Translation in the US, starting with his immediate reaction to, and rejection of, _Liturgiam Authenticam_ when it was issued and his insistence over the last 10 years that Americans are too dumb to know what words like “chalice” and “consubstantial” mean.

Somehow, in spite of that wide Catholic environment, in my early childhood I managed to pick up the beauty of Catholicism that Murphy and Trautman’s generations tried to strip away so meticulously, part in thanks to my parents’ guidance (though many others from similar backgrounds wouldn’t have gotten the same result). I was as bored at Mass as many children are, and clueless about what was going on or what the Readings or homilies said. I was awed by the stained glass windows, statues, the gothic architecture, the pipe organ, the choir, and the vestments and processions.

I read my Fr. Daniel Lord _Miniature Lives of the Saints_ I got for First Communion and was impressed by the piety of the saints. I read my “Children’s First Mass Books” I got for First Communion and was moved by the beauty of the prayers in it.

It was Beauty that called to me in the liturgy and in popular devotions before I understood anything.

I thought it was so cool that monks and nuns got to stand out by wearing their habits to show their love for Jesus.

Then we moved to the South, and while the South tends to be “conservative,” generally, and maybe southern Catholics are more actively pro-life, southern Catholics, especially the ones who are not transplants, tend to be rather liberal about their faith, because of the whole, “We have to avoid getting persecuted” mentality. When they’re conservative, they tend to be the racist kind of conservatives. So I spent the second half of my formative years surrounded by charismatics and progressives, and carrying the stigma that conservative=racist, and the only people who seemed to be externally following the Church’s teachings generally seemed to be stuck-up.

Yet, in spite of all that, I was drawn to Tradition.

I had plainclothes nuns and priests telling me that everything I found attractive about Catholicism was done away with by Vatican II.

While what drew me to the faith was its *difference* from the world, I was told that to be “relevant” and “attract the youth,” the Church had to embrace the world’s “pop culture,” that organs and traditional hymns had to be set aside for guitars and folksongs (nevermind that I had not yet really understood the great patrimony of traditional Catholic music; I was just working from congregational hymns). Stained glass windows (at least those depicting saints and biblical events) and statues had to be stripped away for colorful banners and potted plants. We’d have a big day for “Thanksgiving,” when Protestant Orange would be draped over the sacred altar and the vestments of the priest.

It made no sense to me that the religion of Aloysius Gonzaga, who walked on his own to daily Mass at age 3, or Stanislas Kostka who miraculously received Communion from an angel, was to be replaced by balloon Masses and “Glory and Praise for Kids,” that the faith which so many martyrs died for *PRECISELY* because they didn’t want to participate in the evils of their own cultures was now to be spread by embracing the evils of our contemporary culture.

John Paul II coined the term “Culture of Death” in _Evangelium Vitae_. Yes, the term has been used and abused since, and become a cliche, but if you actually read the encyclical, the context of the term might make even the most avid Ron Paul supporter blush (especially those who think the Pope is *in* on “the New World Order”), for His Holiness speaks of a vast worldwide conspiracy against Life and against the Catholic Church. If we’re going to speak of a “Culture of Death,” then we have to acknowledge that concept includes “culture,” that the Culture of Postmodernism is itself part-and-parcel of the Culture of Death. The culture of contraception, abortion, and euthanasia is also the culture of sex, drugs and Rock&Roll. If a worldwide conspiracy against the Catholic Church is trying to promote abortion, contraception, divorce and so many other evils, then one must also acknowledge that such a conspiracy is involved with the government pays for crucifixes in urine or feces on images of the Blessed Mother. If we’re fighting against these evils attacking human life and the family, then we must also attack the culture which encourages people to participate in immorality, so they feel the “need” for abortion, contraception and divorce as “protection” against their own immorality that the culture has taught them is inevitable.

Those same nuns were all about “helping the poor”–which is laudable, but not when it’s politically subordinated to abortion (a position refuted by Bl. John Paul II in _Evangelium Vitae_) or worse when it’s subordinated to spirituality. In that sense, it was not so much abortion that made me conservative as “Catholicism is about serving the poor, not all that prayer stuff. You shouldn’t be doing Eucharistic Adoration. The Eucharist is supposed to be about going out and serving the poor, not staying around and worshipping it. Marian devotion was done away with by Vatican II, and it’s not what you’re supposed to be doing. You’re supposed to be serving the poor.” And to a disabled kid, whose parents were basically teetering on poverty as it was, being told that the only “true” way to serve Christ was by helping the poor, came off as essentially telling me I was damned (if their worldview was true), and it seemed hypocritical of them to be so worried about poor people who *weren’t* Catholic but not about those in their own parish, to go out and do habitat for humanity but not be bothered to help a parishioner who was likely going to die before age 20.

So *that* is why I’m a conservative. Now, as an adult, I’ve seen the faults of many who call themselves conservative, but take solace in that most of them are more neocons, anyway, but the fundamental issues still remain.

Now, I knew my understanding of Catholicism was validated by JPII, sort of, and I knew it was validated by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (which is why I spent most of my life till 2005 waiting for him to be Pope, and literally hit the ceiling when he did), and by Cardinal Arinze, and Mother Angelica, and so many saints. I knew my view of Catholicism was validated by Kirk, and Chesterton, and Dietrich von Hildebrand, etc.

However, the struggle against the habitless nuns and their cronies has raged on. It is amazing how there are so many people out there who consider themselves devout and practicing Catholics, whose worldviews are so completely different, who totally embrace “Vatican II” (or rather the “Spirit of Vatican II,” since the Council itself never said or advocated most of what they claim it did), who think that Joan Chittister and Rembert Weakland (even in spite of the latter’s disgrace) embody the “true” faith, it can be quite disheartening. Look at _Commonweal_, _America_, _US Catholic_, _St. Anthony Messenger_, or _Maryknoll_. Look at the “we’re not liberal” Catholics at Vox Nova and “Catholics United for the Common Good.” Look at so many “Catholic” colleges and institutions, like Georgetown, which invited Kathleen Sebelius to be its commencement speaker, even in the current crisis. While many of these people are intentional agents of Communism and Freemasonry, many of them really *are* well-meaning, but totally brainwashed, and think they’re following the Church. And they insist that their “view of Catholicism” is at least a perfectly valid one, if not the only valid one, and the Pope and “the Bishops” (even though many of the bishops in the US agree with them) are “out of touch.”

So, with all that said, the second great gratification came seven years after the installation of Pope Benedict XVI, when the Vatican issued its “smackdown” of the Leadership Council of Women Religious a few weeks ago. Finally, the Vatican has confirmed that all those habitless nuns are way off-base, regarding their subordination of both moral issues and personal spirituality to social justice (which is a perfectly valid concern in its proper context). Finally, they’re being told to put their habits back on.