Monday, March 4

Explain this to me. It's commonly acknowledged that certain people, no matter how widely revered and influential by Catholics, will never be canonized saints. Thomas Merton is one, mainly because of his affair with a Louisville nurse. Okay. And there are others in the same category. Some even say Dorothy Day's cause is questionable because of her abortion - which took place before her conversion, of course, but never mind.

So what's to explain? Why do sexually rooted failings somehow totally discredit you, but sins rooted in power and violence don't? Why must we take those sins "in historical context," which essentially means rationalizing them?

What's prompted this mini-screed? Oh, maybe the fact that the Spanish bishops are trying to re-introduce Queen Isabella's cause for sainthood:

The country's Roman Catholic bishops' congress has argued that, despite a fondness for burnings at the stake and an obsession with religious and racial purity, Isabella I of Castille should be beatified as a step towards canonisation.

"Our intention is to reactivate her beatification process," the bishops said in a statement on Friday.

That process was started in 1958, at a time when the Spanish church's doctrine coincided wholeheartedly with the dictator General Francisco Franco's brand of extreme rightwing ideology, "national catholicism".

Isabella was one of the icons of Franco's regime - who better to represent the mixture of racial purity and religious piety that Franco himself dreamed of, than the person who finished the 700-year Christian reconquest of Spain in 1492?

The Vatican, however, eventually put the 27 volumes and 800,000 documents sent to them by the Archbishop of Valladolid in a bottom drawer, froze the beatification process and forgot about her.

Now, with the Spanish bishops and some of their South American colleagues backing her once more, experts have predicted that Isabella could be elevated to the rank of saint within two years.

Who's next? Clovis, because he threatened the Franks with either baptism or death and is, therefore, "responsible" for the acceptance of Catholicism in Gaul?

World Religions Teachers, take note: You know how you teach that Islam is a "religion of peace" and Hinduism is this big syncretic, tolerant worldview that absorbs rather than repels or opposes? Have you read the papers lately? Read how over 500 people have been killed in violence between Hindus and Muslims in India.
Yesterday, Michael and I went to Mass at St. Paul's, a predominantly Hispanic parish downtown. The Mass was mostly in Spanish - I still don't know why the parts that were in English (a couple of prayer introductions, the second reading) were - so why did we go? Because the Masses at our parish were either too early or too late for us, and St. Paul's 9am was comfortably in the middle. Comfortably except for the snow-coated streets on the way there, that is.

Anyway, two interesting things happened at Mass. First, a teenage girl and her mother came in a bit late and sat in the pew behind us. The girl was hauling a baby carrier, covered, appropriately enough for the weather, in a blanket. When she pulled down the blanket, I was all ready to point out the baby to Joseph, only to see that what was in the carrier was a doll. It was obviously one of those school projects designed to supposedly help students see the "reality" and non-stop responsibility of caring for a baby, and therefore discourage them from procreating. I guess they've moved way beyond eggs and sacks of flour (the usual props for that project) because this baby actually fussed. It was kind of weird - it must be on some sort of timer, for at one point during Mass, there was an audible "click" and then this strange, taped baby crying, which it seems is stopped by the insertion of the bottle into the baby's mouth for a set amount of time - take it out too soon, and the crying starts again.

I don't know. First, I don't know if these projects actually have any effect, or if it's just one more waste of the school time and student effort. Maybe a better way of preventing unintended early pregnancies is giving kids a vigorous, lively education that helps them form fulfilling, long-term goals which they'll see are worth the self-restraint of sexual abstinence and responsibility. Secondly, I couldn't help thinking, as I sat there with Joseph lounging on my legs, his eyes closed in peaceful sleep, that as much as I would want kids not to procreate, I don't like the implied definition of babies as burden. Yes, they are, to be sure, but they're not burdens in the same way that mowing a lawn or scrubbing a floor are - activities that take you away from stuff that you really want to do and that's more fulfilling and important. Babies are little people who don't ask to be born and deserve the best - and that means being viewed as people, not as dolls, burdens or diseases.

So sure, kids should see that procreation is a responsibility best suited for adults in committed relationships (AKA marriage!), but you know - that really is common sense, isn't it? I don't think we need to waste kids' time by having them haul around babies all weekend to see that. We just need to make them smarter, period.

Oh. And the second interesting thing? Only about a fourth to a third of the congregation received Communion - something neither of us had witnessed in about thirty years.


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