Wednesday, February 27

More questions about the Archdiocese of Boston, but on a different issue:

... the Director of Counseling Services at Catholic Charities in Dorchester, a facility that counsels pregnant women, volunteers his Saturdays escorting women into Planned Parenthood's abortion clinic in Boston. The paper confirmed with Catholic Charities spokesperson, Maureen March that Howard M. Brown is a counselor at the centre and further published a photo of Brown in his "Planned Parenthood Escort" uniform.

Here's the original article from the Massachusetts News. And for additional edification on the the problematic nature of many Catholic Charities offices and the relationship of that problematic nature to government funding, see How Catholic Charities Lost its Soul from the City Journal.

A must-read from the New York Times Magazine about the meanness of girls. I'm absolutely serious about this: if you are a parent, teacher, or anyone who lives or works with pre-teen or adolescent girls, read this. It's true, and it's scary.

This focus on the cruelty of girls is, of course, something new. For years, psychologists who studied aggression among schoolchildren looked only at its physical and overt manifestations and concluded that girls were less aggressive than boys. That consensus began to change in the early 90's, after a team of researchers led by a Finnish professor named Kaj Bjorkqvist started interviewing 11- and 12-year-old girls about their behavior toward one another. The team's conclusion was that girls were, in fact, just as aggressive as boys, though in a different way. They were not as likely to engage in physical fights, for example, but their superior social intelligence enabled them to wage complicated battles with other girls aimed at damaging relationships or reputations -- leaving nasty messages by cellphone or spreading scurrilous rumors by e-mail, making friends with one girl as revenge against another, gossiping about someone just loudly enough to be overheard. Turning the notion of women's greater empathy on its head, Bjorkqvist focused on the destructive uses to which such emotional attunement could be put. ''Girls can better understand how other girls feel,'' as he puts it, ''so they know better how to harm them.''

Brings back memories. None of them good!

The writer, Margaret Talbot, adds some very wise thoughts of her own:

I would never counsel blithe ignorance on such matters -- some children are truly miserable at school for social reasons, truly persecuted and friendless and in need of adult help. But sometimes we do seem in danger of micromanaging children's social lives, peering a little too closely. Priding ourselves on honesty in our relationships, as baby-boomer parents often do, we expect to know everything about our children's friendships, to be hip to their social travails in a way our own parents, we thought, were not. But maybe this attention to the details can backfire, giving children the impression that the transient social anxieties and allegiances of middle school are weightier and more immutable than they really are. And if that is the result, it seems particularly unfortunate for girls, who are already more mired in the minutiae of relationships than boys are, who may already lack, as Christopher Lasch once put it, ''any sense of an impersonal order that exists independently of their wishes and anxieties'' and of the ''vicissitudes of relationships.''

I think I would have found it dismaying if my middle school had offered a class that taught us about the wiles of Marcie and Tracie: if adults studied their folkways, maybe they were more important than I thought, or hoped. For me, the best antidote to the caste system of middle school was the premonition that adults did not usually play by the same rigid and peculiar rules -- and that someday, somewhere, I would find a whole different mattering map, a whole crowd of people who read the same books I did and wouldn't shun me if I didn't have a particular brand of shoes. When I went to college, I found it, and I have never really looked back.

The words of Christopher Lasch, which I bolded above, are particularly important. Dealing with these kinds of problems should be much less complicated and more straightforward in religiously-grounded schools: no dissection of relationship dynamics or sociological cant is necessary: Look to Christ: That's how we treat each other. Boys, girls, teachers, parents, administrators. Period.

Oh, my word: Sicily plans Catholic Mount Rushmore:

Looking for an edge in the battle with Greece and Spain for tourists, Sicily has devised a masterplan: a Roman Catholic Mount Rushmore.


There are plans for the faces of the Pope, Mother Teresa and Padre Pio, a miracle-working friar, to be carved into the hills of Segesta in an effort to corner the lucrative pilgrim tourist niche. If the local mayor has his way, the sculptures will be big enough to be seen from space and will draw 250,000 visitors annually

One can only imagine what the proposed honorees would have to say about such a spectacle.

An excellent, challenging piece from the Telegraph (UK) on secularization arguing that the churches have only themselves to blame for the phenomenon:

People are astonishingly ignorant of Christian teachings, and regard themselves competent to define religious positions for themselves, based on their supposed emotional needs, and without any reference to long-established traditions of thought and practice.

This extraordinary departure derives in part from the scorched-earth policies adopted by the Church itself in relation to its own schools back in the 1970s. It was then thought that the teaching of Christianity as a matter of instruction in a received tradition was illiberal.

Christianity was relativised by being represented as one of a number of faiths. Its doctrinal structure was neglected - almost entirely - and in its place a diluted version was conveyed to children scarcely capable of judgments that adults find difficult enough. For the Church schools, the result was plain: they ceased to be recruiting grounds for Christian adherents.

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