Thursday, March 28

You know, I certainly do appreciate the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. They do important work, even if I do wish Bill Donohue could appear on television without immediately begining to SHOUT!

But alas, I can't agree with this one. The League has condemned a PETA anti-cow milk campaign that includes, as one of its components, a pro-breastfeeding poster featuring Mary nursing Jesus - you can see it here. It says "If it was good enough for Jesus....The human breast is best for human babies."

Okay? And? The problem exactly?


Sure, PETA does have a track-record of less-than reverent use of Christian imagery, but this one is really not a problem and for the life of me, I can't see how it "bashes Catholics." Read the press release in its entirety and tell me if you don't think that Donohue really missed the point of this one, and comes off looking like he thinks promotion of breast-feeding is a looney idea. Oh, that's nice. Maybe we'll just have to set the LaLeche League (founded by mostly, if not all Catholic women) on Bill so he'll see the error of his ways in this one.

For a different use of the same idea that PETA utilized, go here.

You may not be aware that there actually is a Catholic devotion to Our Lady of La Leche, and a shrine dedicated to her in St. Augustine, Florida. I have a reproduction of the statue pictured on that site above my desk. You also might not know that through the medieval and renaissance periods, one of the most common representations of the virtue of charity was a nursing mother - giving of herself and her body to sustain the life of another human being.

Harrumph. Watch what you say to a nursing mother, buddy.

A nice new Catholic blog.
Food for thought:

Even from the cross, when our Lord in his agony found perfection of his saintly humanity—even then he did not own himself a victim of injustice: They know not what they do.
Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest

A truth to remember any time you hear a church bureaucrat set himself up as a besieged victim.

Another he said...uh...he said in St. Pete.

A former teacher is suing a priest and the St. Petersburg Diocese for sexual harrassment.

In the newest allegation, Zigmund, 32,[the teacher] says that soon after Swengros [ the priest ]arrived in Gulfport, he asked him to go on shopping trips to the mall. Later, he said, the priest arranged candlelight dinners for him at the rectory, offered him wine during work hours, touched him "in private places" and tried to kiss him. He also said the priest repeatedly called him at home, told him he was beautiful and that he loved him.

Okay, okay...let's hear the other side:

During Wednesday's news conference, Swengros, a tall, soft-spoken man, called the accusations "baseless." The priest, who has several important roles in the diocese, appeared eager to answer the charges and said that he had volunteered to take a polygraph test, which he said he passed. But responding could only lead to a "mud fight," said the priest, who added that "there has been no harassment, no sexual harassment."

It never ends. Ever.

Bishop does good.

In Boise, the Catholic bishop has refused to withdraw his support from a series of billboards challenging viewers to see the connection between abortion, the Holocaust, and racial oppression.

The 12 photographic murals, each 8 feet wide by 4 feet high, depict aborted fetuses alongside corpses in Nazi death camps and black lynching victims. Captions make such analogies as: "Ungentile, Unwhite, Unborn" and "Religious Choice, Racial Choice, Reproductive Choice."

The exhibit is scheduled for April 8-12 at Boise State University. A university official defended the school's decision to allow the exhibit

Got a note from my surfer. Seems like a nice fellow. Now if I could only hear from the Vatican, we might be able to work together (I mean me and the Vatican...oh never mind)..and get this whole mess straightened out...
Students cheat on ethics essay:

A group of Canadian engineering students took the art of cheating to its logical conclusion by plagiarizing an essay on ethics, embarrassed academics said on Wednesday.

Donald Russell, associate dean at Ottawa's Carleton University, said he would be dealing with 31 students who had been caught submitting essays cribbed from the Internet .

It reminds me of my teaching days, when frantic students would come into theology class complaining, "Ms. Welborn, someone stole my Bible out of my locker!"

Lileks on yesterday's suicide bombing. And the rest of life and death, where evil dwells and what must be done to stop it.
The fun part about a counter on a weblog isn't really watching the number of hits but seeing where people are coming from: Lots of universities (hey! get back to writing obtuse journal articles!), various companies from Disney to...yes...Enron (that was this morning), and then my favorite two surfers from yesterday: One came from Vatican City, and the other came from

Hey. Welcome y'all. This is a (mostly) Big Tent Blog I've got going here.

As we begin the Triduum, I'll share with you once again the best antidote to Catholic Scandal Stress Syndrome that I can think of: Attend the Easter Vigil and see new Catholics be born. Scroll down to read the full post from a couple of days ago, or click here.
I didn't get to read my copy of Goodbye! Good Men last night because my husband absconded with it. But here's the good news: He has an excellent review and reflection on the book on his Blog this morning which is especially helpful because he speaks as an insider - a former seminary student and seminary faculty member.

I don't think humble priests or bishops commit these acts of indecency--it is the arrogant ones (liberals and conservatives) who do. Humble clergy will admit the sins that have and continue to be committed behind the sacred walls of seminaries. They will humbly acknowledge the mistakes and sins of the past and make restitution. They will turn to Jesus and follow his example. If they themselves are the cause of scandal they will resign. If their seminaries are filled with bad faculty and students they will ask them to leave.

Today is Holy Thursday. Tonight, we will hear the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. One will protest arrogantly that he will not allow this--he will deny knowing Jesus a few hours later. Another who also is recorded as speaking out against Jesus when a woman washed Jesus' feet with precious oil--will also now step forward in betrayal. One apostle will repent unto Jesus and become the first Pope, the other apostle will repent unto himself and commit suicide.

I'm lucky, aren't I? Maybe "lucky" isn't the word: "Blessed" would cover it nicely, thanks.

The Polish Archbishop accused of mischief with seminarians has resigned. He maintains his innocence, says his actions were misinterpreted, is resigning for the sake of the church. Maybe, but yadda, yadda, yadda.

What we have here and in many other situations are reports of actions that are just on the edge of explicit, full-fledged, total sexual contact. We've heard it from O'Connell, we've heard it said of Fr. Gentile, we've heard it from Bishop Lynch and others.

Do you know who else we've heard it from? Think back - just a few years. That's it. It's coming back to you now, isn't it? A Certain Person arguing that he wasn't sure was "is" and "sex" meant?

Listen up. Read Matthew chapter 5. The whole thing. Words of Jesus about the relationship between thoughts and actions, leading us, if we're willing to listen, to a deeply holistic sense of morality. Stop asking, Jesus seems to be saying, "How far can you go?" Start looking within and seeing the beginnings of sin way down deep, in how you look at other people and think about them.

Now look at these accusations and weasle-words in that light, the light of Jesus' own words. Holiness is what we're after, not playing games and toying with boundaries. That bespeaks a total lack of seriousness about oneself and the dignity of other people.

Lyle Lovett is recovering after being trampled by a bull on his uncle's farm. I'm glad Lyle's okay. I'm taken aback by his uncle's name: Calvin Klein.
This little weblog had over 3000 hits yesterday, and for that I'm grateful to Rod Dreher at The Corner. The inundation has led to just a bit more email than I customarily get, so if you've written, give me a couple of days to respond, okay?
Aaaaaaaargh!!! More from the "how can this happen file:

It's the second part of the NY Daily News examination of Fr. Gentile, popular priest, children's author, and massager of adolescent boys at his lake house.

Go through the whole article. Feel your stomach churn. And then wake up and pay close attention to this part: In 1997, a new parishioner of was invited to go with her husband and 8-year old son to the priest's lake house. The husband couldn't go, the woman was uncomfortable, so the priest assuaged her by telling her he'd have other people present, too. The "other people" turned out to be some teenage boys, one of whom Gentile very publicly and intensely massaged in a way that made the woman uncomfortable. But

When she mentioned the incident to several parishioners, she said they told her to "‘Keep it quiet. Don't tell anybody. It will ruin his career.'" She took their advice.

But then when other allegations came forward, she realized that she should have trusted her instincts. So she contacted the director of priest personnel for the archdiocese:

"He was very cool," Ellsberg recalled. "‘Oh, I find it so hard to believe. Are you sure that is what you saw?'" she recalled him saying.

She said O'Donnell also wondered: "‘Isn't it simply the case that he is Italian?'" suggesting that Italians are physically demonstrative

"‘Monsignor,' I said, ‘I am Italian. And where I come from, if a man does this to a little boy, he gets shot.'"

Gentile was eventually removed from parish work (at the demand of parishioners at his newly assigned parish, God bless them) and now works in the Tribunal office.

Okay. Let's get started here.What is Anna Quindlen talking about?

After reading her Newsweek piece a few times, I've concluded this is what she's going for:

The sexual abuse cover-up has occurred because the Church teaches sexual morality.

And now all hell is going to break loose because all of the victims writhing under the unjust restraints of these teachings are rising up in judgment, thrilled at last to be able to turn tables on their oppressors.


I guess Anna's too subtle for me, but I have a hard time seeing this connection. I suppose what she's saying is that traditional Catholic sexual teaching "missed the point" by imposing erroneous teachings on Catholics for centuries, while allowing a sexually and emotionally stunted celibate clergy to fester.

Quindlen buys the traditional rap on traditional Catholic morality: that it was nothing but prohibition and a denial of something important about the human person.

For too many years, the church seemed to have a bizarre preoccupation with sins of the flesh so unrelenting that, to this day, people will ask if the nuns taught me that patent-leather shoes reflect up. (No.) The enforced celibacy of the male priesthood, an invention only of the faith’s second millennium, taught a clear lesson: eschewing human sexuality was the greatest glory of the highest calling. (“Our ideal is not to experience desire at all.”—Clement of Alexandria, saint.) The ban on contraception taught that sex could be countenanced only when it could lead to pregnancy. There was no passion or pleasure, only procreation and punishment.

What Quindlen misses, not surprisingly, is context. Sure, the strain of misogyny and idealized asceticism that runs through much of Christian history his disturbing and wrong, but do you know what? It was in the culture. Not only that, for the most part, the culture was worse, and what Christianity managed to squeeze out of it was actually a step up - for human dignity, and yes, Anna, even for women.

And despite the church’s antipathy toward homosexuality, it was inevitable that most of those victimized would be male. After all, the teachings about ordination and celibacy and the evils of desire had as their subtext a misogyny that would lead any reasonable person to conclude that sex with a female is the lowest form of sexual expression.

Huh? This is creative. Really creative. I mean, not everyone could make this move, taking a tradition that uniformly, from the Jewish Law onward, see homosexuality as a perversion and then pronounce that the misogyny of this tradition led the sexually supressed to pederasty because women were supposedly so gross? No, not just anyone could make that leap. Only Anna Quindlen.

The bishops gathered wood for this current conflagration every time they turned away from the human condition to emphasize wayward genitalia.

As if the "human condition" has nothing to do with genitalia, wayward or not. Quindlen approvingly quotes Eugene Kennedy, a man who's currently making a good living talking about the (again, supposed) dualism of the Christian tradition in regard to matters of the body (don't believe him, by the way). To separate the "human condition" from sexual matters, as Quindlen does, is nothing but dualism.

They must be amazed at how harshly they are now judged after all those years of deference, when they were allowed to make their own laws. As if, all along, Catholic sexual morality has sprung from a secret, centuries-old "Committee for Making Our Own Sex Rules So The Laity Will Be Miserable." You know, that's sort of what my high school students used to think, too. It was a challenge to help them see the truth - that these "laws" are the fruit of human wisdom and reflection on God's revelations about who we are, as creatures made in His image.

The judgment of divorced Catholics reborn in good marriages ordered not to go to communion.

I'm divorced. I'm remarried. I've never been ordered not to go to communion. Oh. That's right. I have an annulment. And as crazy and legalistic as Catholic marriage law is (and perhaps the Orthodox model is much better - I wouldn't be surprised if most Tribunal employees agreed), you (yes you, AQ) have to admit that its roots are not in the whims of bishops. Its roots are in the teachings of Jesus - pretty strict ones, as a matter of fact. Remember him? Jesus? The guy you're always appealing to? Oh. Not in this case, right?

The judgment of women up all night with sick babies lectured about the sanctity of life

Funny. I never got the impression - not once - that the Church's teaching on abortion took the form of lectures to mothers with sick babies. I always thought the intended audience was doctors who make fortunes from dismembering little human beings, lawmakers who are too gutless to do anything about it, and anyone - pregnant woman, man, parents of a pregnant teen - who have been deceived by opportunists to believe that killing that child is the best way out of a difficult situation.

I really can't be bothered to pick this piece apart any more, because it would just be deeply aggravating. But you know, there is actually a good point to be drawn from this, especially for Catholic leaders: Quindlen starts her piece by scoffing at the sight of Cardinal Egan testifying against mandatory contraceptive coverage for health plans in New York state. Her implication is that considering the moral crisis over which he presides in his own house, talking about such issues is presumptuous on his part.

This is what we call a collapse of moral authority, and it should surprise no one. Americans are going to have a mighty hard time taking the moral pronouncements of the Catholic hierarchy seriously after this farce, and you really can't blame them.

But you know, there's hope. No matter how you feel about it - if you share Quindlen's sense that two thousand years of Catholic moral teaching has been a farce and a classic case of "missing the point", or even if you just can't listen to another bishop talk about truth, justice and the Christian way of love one more second, knowing what some of them have been up to, take heart. There is another voice here, an alternative to this oppression and hypocrisy:

But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

From: A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen.

Now that's some deep thinking there.


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