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Showing posts from January, 2015

Some Thoughts On Altar Girls at Star of the Sea Parish in San Francisco

I saw this story yesterday morning.  I know people who go to Star of the Sea in the Richmond (or, perhaps, know people who used to attend Star of the Sea).  It's a pretty normal parish, in a diverse, residential, middle class (by SF standards) area of the city.  Star of the Sea is no different from a thousand parishes all over the country.

In and of itself, this story about whether altar girls will be allowed at Star of the Sea Parish is not of tremendous significance.  Most Catholic parishes do allow altar girls.  Most people don't care much one way or the other.

No, I would submit that people who see this story, who have a reaction to this story, are not reacting to the story itself.  They are reacting to the discussion that we are not having, and so they are using this story as a proxy to fight the real battle.

Here is the real battle.  For all but a few isolated periods of recorded history, the following things are essentially undeniable:

Women have been viewed as being inf…

Demagoguery Regarding the "Seal of the Confessional"

Beyond "BunnyGate," one of the issues that has gotten the Catholic blogosphere all up in arms is the US Supreme Court's failure to accept a request from the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge to review a decision of the Louisiana Supreme Court (known in legal parlance as a "petition for certiorari").  The LA Supreme Court decision can be found here.  I've got to put my lawyer hat on for this one--the claims made by the Diocese of Baton Rouge, and the Catholic bloggers, are entirely disingenuous, and the Louisiana Supreme Court absolutely got this one right.

Like any case, the holding has to be understood in the context of its facts.  A 14 year old girl alleges that she was molested by a George Charlet, both parishoners of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in the Diocese of Baton Rouge.  The girl goes to her priest and, in confession, says that Mr. Charlet is molesting her.  According to the 14 year old:

[T]he priest allegedly responded she simply neede…

Another Theology of the Body, Part XIII--"Breeding Like Rabbits" and Some Thoughts on Big Families

I am the oldest of four.  Four kids is an interesting number in many respects.  In a "modern" sense, it is a large family--it is a full two children above the Total Fertility Rate for the United States, and even significantly above the average for US Catholics.  My own sense is that four is considered by many to be a quantum jump in size over three; two is "normal," three is "kinda big," while four is "definitely big."

On the other hand, in comparison to families of the past, especially Catholic families of the past, it is a modest number.  Indeed, both of my parents come from larger families--six kids for Dad, ten kids for Mom.  People are amazed when I say it, but it is true--I have 22 first cousins on Mom's side alone.  So, even though I am sure others would view my family as very large, my parents, and by extension, us, don't really perceive it that way--"medium" is probably closer to the mark.

I say all of this to suggest …

Another Theology of the Body XII--The Sound of Music, Dependence, and Ideology

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Over the weekend, I saw a film entitled A Pervert's Guide to Ideology.  Ostensibly it was a documentary, but really it was a 2 1/4 hour lecture by Slovenian philosopher, psychoanalyst, and provocateur Slavoj Zizek on his theories of ideology and how it works.  To make his points, he uses movies, ranging from Triumph of the Will to Jaws to The Dark Knight, as illustrations.  Even if you don't agree with everything he says, he is very engaging and thought-provoking, not to mention very weird and funny.

In addition to talking about ideology generally, he also goes into specific ideologies--Nazism, Stalinism, Capitalism, Consumerism, etc.  He also has a fascinating discussion of Christianity generally, which I will come back to at some point.  But at the beginning of the film, he talks about the "ideology" of Catholicism.

To explain his view of Catholicism, he uses the movie The Sound of Music.  In the beginning of the film, we have the novice nun Maria, who so full of e…

The Head versus the Heart

A couple of days ago, Rachel Held Evans posted a beautiful reflection on her experience of being a "post-evangelical."  As she points out, the term is inherently negative, insofar as it defines you in reference to this thing that you were, but no longer are.  At the same time, for the reasons she lays out, some of that negative space is always with you whenever you leave something, especially something so significant as a religious tradition.  Your view of the world is defined by the place from which you start.  Even if you move on from that place--and all of us do, to one extent or another--that move will always be in reference to the starting point.  You can't avoid it.

As Rachel's husband Dan so perceptively observed, "we are always post something."

In reading her piece, I wondered whether I was willing to consider myself "post-Catholic."  Simply vocalizing the question provided the answer--I wasn't as far down the "post" path as…

Douthat versus the Pope...and Douthat is still right

So, Pope Francis was asked today about the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.  I found his response to be very disappointing; in essence, he said "well, violence and extremism are bad, but when you insult people's religions, what do you expect?"  It is particularly disappointing insofar as it is basically a nicer version of the position taken by the vile Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who will no doubt be emboldened by the Pope's comments.

It's disappointing, and it is wrong.  It's wrong because it fails to recognize something that Western democracies have learned, but that religious institutions by and large have not.  The truth is you can only have two of the following three principles in your society: (a) people are able to live without constantly killing each other; and (b) people are able to express themselves, and (c) people protected from being offended by the things others say.  One of those has to go, and the one that liberal Western democracies h…

Why Do People Leave?

I would encourage everyone to read this piece in yesterday's National Catholic Reporter.  Every single thing about it is interesting and worth thinking about.

The author, Fr. Peter Daly, is a pastor in a church in the what is basically now the ex-urbs of Washington, D.C.  He wanted to know why more young people (defined as 18-40) didn't come to Mass.  So, he decided to ask them.

Everything about Fr. Daly's efforts here should be commended, but I want to pick a few nits before I get into the good stuff.  First, Fr. Daly seems to assume that these young folks all stay in one place.  To set up his in-person survey, he reached out the 500 people that have been confirmed in the parish in the last 25 years that no longer attend.  He seems to assume that if these folks are not attending his church, then they are not attending a Catholic Church at all.  Certainly some of those folks are not attending at all, but many are not attending his Church because they are living somewhere e…

Another Theology of the Body, Part XI--The Elephant in the Room

If you want to talk about sexuality in 2015, you have to talk about homosexuality.  It is the issue of the day.  I also sense (and others have argued this) that it is a Rubicon of sorts, a line in the sand for many who want to hold back the spirit of the age, or progress, or whatever you want to call it.

I have made my bottom-line position clear--I do not believe either being homosexual or having homosexual relationships, or relations, is incompatible with being an authentic follower of Jesus.  But that's not a complete answer, because it doesn't explain why I believe that.  To be truthful, I wasn't completely sure of the why myself.  My moral and religious instincts were far ahead of the intellectual side.

I think I have come up with something of an answer, with a big assist from a theologian named Fr. James Alison (who I have been reading a lot of lately, and who I am sure I will mention again).  Here is my answer to the "why" question.

Let's go back to th…

Patent Medicine from Dr. Popcak

I should probably stop writing about our buddy Dr. Popcak.  He's really not that important in the grand scheme of things.  Still, there is something about him that really rubs me the wrong way, especially when he talks about birth control.  What bothers me is not that I think he is wrong when he talks about NFP; I certainly think he is wrong, but that's not what bothers me.  What bothers me is that I think he is deliberately misleading people when he talks about the topic.  He is so committed to the notion that NFP is the only way to go that he seems willing to twist any evidence or circumstances into an argument supporting his position.

That, combined with his incessant pimping of his books, makes me think this guy is basically a huckster--a version of the old patent medicine sellers.  Like patent medicine, real people can suffer real consequences from swallowing Popcak's medicine.  He has an obligation to be truthful about what he is selling. I don't believe he is. …

Douthat on Blasphemy

I have said before that I have great respect for Ross Douthat, even though I often disagree with him.  He has a blog post today that demonstrates why I have respect for him, as I think he gets it 100% right regarding the tragic shootings in Paris yesterday.

Douthat begins by pointing out the inherent contradiction with "blasphemous" statements--it is very important that we allow blasphemous statements in a macro sense, while recognizing that most individual blasphemous statements are juvenile and unnecessary.  Or, said another way, blasphemy has the potential to serve the essential social purpose of speaking truth to power, even if most of the time it is just a bunch of obnoxious jack-asses trying to get a rise out of people.

To take a concrete example, I am very weary of the Westboro Baptist Church folks picketing the funerals of deceased servicemembers and other folks that catch their ire for some reason.  Beyond their underlying messages, which is an atrocity, I find it t…

Being a Man Requires You to Stop Being a Boy

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One of the things that I have noticed since starting this blog is that I am conscious of whether or not I am producing "content."  On some level, this is stupid--I have no obligation to write anything, no one is paying me to do any of this, so there is really no reason to feel that I have to write something.  Still, enough people read this blog that I want to give them something.  As a result, sometimes I sit around and try to come up with things to write about.

Sometimes, however, the content comes to you.  Witness this interview with Cardinal Burke, which was brought to my attention reading Deacon Greg Kandra's blog.  Hoo boy, it's a doozy--the full text is here, on a blog entitled the "New Emangelization" ("Get it?  It's like the New Evangelization, except for men!").  If I could summarize Cardinal Burke's position in one sentence, it would be that the Catholic Church has become pussified and needs to recover its "manliness."