Saturday, March 16

Brilliant and necessary article by David Gelertner in the Weekly Standard on the situation in Israel:

Everything has changed, including (for many of us) our ideas about Islam. We ought to have paid more attention to the latest developments. We now learn that suicide bombers are told to expect a heaven full of comely virgins as their next assignment. To the suicide-murderers, those waiting virgins are real as dirt. The killers call themselves "martyrs," but in their own minds they are the next thing to sex criminals. "Pardon me, sir or madam, do you know why I plan to murder your child? Because the authorities are offering me great sex--and, after all, I don't get many opportunities."

People who think this way are shielded from view, up to a point, by their own sheer evil. They are painful to contemplate. We instinctively look away, as we do whenever we are confronted with monstrous deformity. Nothing is harder or more frightening to look at than a fellow human who is bent out of shape. And moral deformity is the most frightening kind by far. How can Muslims of good faith allow such people to call themselves Muslim? But they do allow it. What does that mean? And is it possible that we have located here, in this inspiring vision of heaven as a whorehouse, the most loathsome idea in the history of human thought? This is the civilization that condemns "licentious" America?

Excellent review of a new book, Woman's Inhumanity to Woman. Reviewer Deborah Tannen concludes:

The accumulation of knowledge and understanding is always a process of error and correction. For so many years, men were idealized and women demonized. Then, a brief period saw the tendency to idealize women and demonize men. (Case in point: Chesler notes that many feminists, herself included, rushed to embrace the suicidal poet Sylvia Plath as the helpless victim of a faithless husband, but ignored the equally genuine likelihood that Plath could also be a victimizer.) The time has come to stop idealizing or demonizing either sex. As Chesler's irony-tinged title suggests, women should no longer be the silent partners implied, though hidden, in the word "man." Seeing women, like men, as capable of both courage and jealousy, of providing care and causing pain, is no more nor less than acknowledging women as fully human. Woman's Inhumanity to Woman is the perfect place to start confronting this truth.

Andrea Peyser calls it, as usual:

-- RUSSELL Yates makes me wonder who was the biggest psycho in the Yates household.
Minutes after a Texas jury spared the life of Yates' murderous wife, Andrea, Rusty Yates leaped before the television cameras, as eager as a puppy off his leash.

He motor-mouthed his way through a list of the people and institutions he deemed responsible for murdering his five children.

"Let me finish!" he barked at reporters who got in the way of his diatribes. Imagine what family meals must have been like when the Yates household was whole.

Fixed the archives and added links.
Good, but ultimately aggravating article by Dalia Lithwick in Slate about the differences between mother and father child murderers. It's a depressing read, but important for what it says about their motives and our attitudes. The central question - why is our society so bent on "understanding" mothers who kill and, as a result, more willing to ascribe mental illness to them and be more lenient in their punishment? The most convincing answer, Lithwick concludes, is that we still see children as women's property. So:

...while complete psychotic breaks explain why some of this homicidal rage and violence is turned upon one's own children, it doesn't account for either the staggering numbers of maternal homicides or for society's leniency toward women in these cases. The property theory does provide these answers. Women still believe that they have sole dominion over so little property that arson and armed robbery and rape make no intuitive sense to them. But the destruction and control of something deemed to be a woman's sole property sends a powerful message about who's really in charge, and this message hasn't changed since the time of Jason and Medea.

It would, of course, help if we could stop thinking of children as anyone's property. It does nothing to advance the feminist cause to simply assume that all mothers who kill their children must necessarily be crazy. It will do a good deal to advance the cause of children's rights if we begin to consider them as legal entities in and of themselves.

The failure to factor legal, enthusiastically protected abortion into this discussion is astonishing. What? Women are supposed to be socialized into seeing their preborn children as disposable property whose lives are dependent on their (the mother's) desires and needs, and then suddenly lose that attitude when the baby breathes oxygen? Not going to happen. This discussion needs to start with preborn children who are dismembered, crushed and left to die with their mother's consent and then go on from there to the horrors of post-birth child murders. Then maybe we can make some progress.

Read two books yesterday. First was a biography of St. Faustina Kowalska (subject of the interview with the hermit, which, incidentally, never happened. Maybe Monday.). Second was a short novel called Blue Hope about a depressed English professor's trip to a monastery to seek out his hero, a poet who'd disappeared into the cloister ten years previously. There's lots of potential in such a story, but unfortunately, this book wasn't up to doing much with that potential. The writing was pedestrian and flat, giving the effect of a rather poorly-written center spread in the Atlantic Monthly rather than a novel with any real insight.
A quiet morning. Michael's at church, giving a talk at a men's retreat. David's taking the SAT. Katie's on the couch with a cold - her usual state after spending the night at a friend's house, which she did Thursday (no school for her on Friday). Joseph's wandering around, making sure every corner of the house bears his mark - a book or CD on the floor, a crumb ground into the carpet, or a paper shredded to bits.
And why did you agree to this in the first place, Father?

Seems there's a variation on the usual St. Patrick's Day dust-ups between homosexual activists and Church folk. A gay Irish group had scheduled a dance for a New York Catholic church. A couple of weeks ago, the parish "abruptly" cancelled the group's use of their hall. Complaints ensue. Yawn.

But I repeat....why are Catholic Churches hosting homosexual group-sponsored dances anyway?

I received this letter from a reader. It should give you a lot to think about. It's in reference to my recent column, Wolves in Shepherd's Clothing, and emphasizes my point that this is not just a priest problem - it's a potential problem among any who work with children or youth. The writer of this letter is a youth minister in a Catholic parish:

In my present position I have been upbraided, publicly confronted at church, vilified through a global e-mail for one decision, and only

Not whether the youth ministry program was doctrinally sound, appropriate, balanced, etc.

No, I was taken to task for firing a volunteer within weeks of accepting my position. A volunteer who felt called by God to youth ministry as he chose to serve. Who thought it was "cute" to have adolescent girls sit on his lap at an event. Who would take a select group of youth out in the woods at 2 am with no other adults to "play" -- after he was directly told, in front of the youth, not to. Who was indignant when I told no more one-on-ones in private with the youth.

It was clear to me that this behavior indicated someone with a problem, at least lacking in sound judgement, at worst, more malicious ideas in mind. I did what I knew my responsibility to the sacredness of teen life calls me to do -- remove him from the program.

Thank God the new pastor backed me up. We lost over half our youth over this individual -- he's quite a charismatic fellow -- ingratiates himself to teens when the family is in crisis -- does any of this sound familiar?

Since the kids "like him" and the parents "appreciated the shoulder to cry on", he was allowed to continue. No longer.

The youth are back, stronger than ever. It was a tough year.

Youth ministry has to be about building up youth and families in the Church, not dividing and destroying. As I have done a few times in my short career, if the volunteers aren't there, we don't go, we don't proceed. The lives of the teens entrusted to our care are too precious to be compromised.

Do you get it? There's something very profound in what she's saying. Many elements of the church, from youth ministry to diocesan vocation directors get desperate, and reach a point where they will take anyone who walks through the door and says they don't have a criminal record. As this brave woman points out, we can't do that. We have to always be committed to doing the right thing, even if it means risking our "programs" and yes, even if it means even more priest-less parishes. Why do we have to take this risk? First, because we don't want child and youth predators working with our kids. Secondly, when we're strict with who our leaders are, all we'll have left is the best, and that does nothing but build us up in the long run.

It also points out the necessity for parents to open their eyes as well. There's something not quite right with an adult who really gets into hanging out with your 15-year old son or daughter. Don't see that desire as a positive quality. It's not.


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