Sunday, April 7

What he said:

Krauthammer on the Middle East.

Positive, positive. Let's be positive. My Easter season resolve: to seek out Good Stuff that Catholics Do:

The Mission Doctors Association:

Since Mission Doctors Association was founded, [in 1959] doctors and their families have served 3 years following a formation program, in Los Angeles. These lay missionaries have served through out Africa, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and this year Guatemala. In addition there is a short term program for physicians interested in serving 1-3 months.

See my husband's blog for some smart stuff on Divine Mercy.
Sunday Liturgy Report:

Today's homily: Priest admits he doesn't know much about St. Faustina. Says that she "promoted" a devotion to Divine Mercy, one that the Pope is pretty keen on. Said he wasn't sure if the devotion would catch on. Then moved to the example of Tibetan monks, followers of the "great Dalai Lama" and their words on mercy. By that time I was in the vestibule with Joseph, who wanted to walk.

Who am I to nitpick? Yes, I go to Mass to pray, and yes, I try to not be so judgmental, but some situations scream for it. The life of a parish priest is demanding, and preaching is tough, but I have always maintained that it's no tougher than teaching twenty-five to thirty religion classes a week in a Catholic high school, which amounts to just that many homilies, in a way. Try it. Then see what you think.

So anyway, a bit of research - half an hour on the internet - to come up to snuff on Faustina and Divine Mercy? To know that she didn't just "propose" the devotion, but was the recipient of private revelations regarding it? That it's already an incredibly popular devotion, and the Pope's attention to it is not just due to his Polish background (a fact often snidely mentioned in relation to this topic), but is due to the sense of the faithful flocking to this devotion because it obviously says something important to them.

An article about How This Happens from the NY Times.

Typical story: Priest is accused of and admits abuse. Diocese promises to take care of it. Priests spends the next fifteen years facilitating youth groups. Right. That's the way to do it.

Anyway, the story contains the now obligatory apologia for reinstating these guys - that at the time, pedophilia was thought to be curable:

In addressing Father Pipala's 1977 incident, the church did follow prevailing psychiatric wisdom about pedophilia and related sexual conditions: that they were medical illnesses that were curable or at least controllable, and did not necessarily require the involvement of law enforcement

I'm sorry, I don't believe it. I just don't. I had a very good friend in college who majored in Child and Family Studies. I remember having a conversation with her in about 1983 in which she spoke of pedophilia, saying it was not something that could be "cured" and that the best treatment for pedophiles was to lock them away. She had a Master's from a state university. She was working as a mental health counselor in a small town in Tennessee. She knew this. She'd been taught this in college. And the Church's "psychiatrists" weren't aware of this understanding? I don't believe it.

A good introduction to the Great Unknown Catholic Writer of modern times: Gene Wolfe.

His masterful style, alternately baroque and minimalist, is a vehicle for precisely calculated ambiguity, an ambiguity that so faithfully captures the texture of lived experience as to render his sf a sort of transcendent realism. A Roman Catholic whose subtlety recalls Aquinas and whose neoclassicism brilliantly conflates the simplicity of Homer with the labyrinthine complexities of Byzantine theology, Wolfe is comparable to John Fowles as a player of elaborate godgames, a setter of pilgrim protagonists on impossible but radiantly meaningful quests into the mind of God or gods. And so resonantly peculiar is Wolfe's vision -- so oblique to any diurnal norm -- that his settings and plots are unlike any others, a recontextualization of reality such as literature only very occasionally can offer. Any story he tells is made altogether new. And he has told many: Twenty-two novels and several hundred short stories bear his name, all wondrous and enrichingly strange.

Another angle on Dowd's piece from the Brothers Judd.
Wow. This is fascinating. The New York Times has evidently decided to start publishing op-ed pieces written by high school students!

Oh. My bad. It's only a Maureen Dowd column.

Today, our Intrepid-Girl-Philosopher-of-Religion comes to the table, about six months late, with her musings on the theme of Religion Kinda Sucks, Doesn't It? Pundit watchers know that the likes of our man Andrew Sullivan have covered this ground much more thoughtfully (although we might disagree with some of his conclusions), so we have to wonder, what's Maureen going to add?

The usual. Lame wordplay. Lots of punches on the "copy - paste" menu from her Lexis searches. And more than her fair share of illogic.

It's not worth going through the entire column, but I'll take Maureen to task for just two things here:

As the need for spirituality is growing, the credibility of various faiths is waning. Instead of addressing itself to the angels in our nature, religion seems to be inspiring the demons in our nature.

This Just In: Religion can be used for ill. Did Dowd skip history class in college? Has she never read the Old Testament (nothin' like finishing off your enemies when they're lying around recuperating from the circumcisions they agreed to undergo)? Does she not know of the complicated relationship between religion and the Roman Empire that resulted in Christians being branded as "atheists," packaged in nets and handed over to tigers to play with for an afternoon? The "rise" of Islam across the Middle East, North Africa and into Europe, enforced, not by gentle means of proslytizing, but by the sword? The Spanish Inquisition? (Inquisition Apologists: Save it. I know what you're going to say already) Calvin's Geneva? The Powers that Were in the English Reformation drawing, quartering and burning Roman Catholics? Moslems and Hindus fighting it out in India?

This is news?

Of course it's distressing. It is now, and it is every time we see it in history. But...what does that mean?

Dowd doesn't seem to know. She's right - religiously-motivated and justified violence is sickening. But...what? Most violence against women occurs at the hands of family members. So does violence against children. Is the family worthless? One could substitute the word "family" for "religion" in Dowd's piece and agree with some of her points equally strongly - family should be a refuge, but it's not for some. So? What's the conclusion? Anyone? Anyone?

Another point:Closer to home and much less apocalyptically, the Catholic Church also provides evidence of the damage that dogmatic faith can do. The pedophilia scandal engulfing a shameful number of parishes throughout the Roman Catholic world is sickening for anybody who believes that religion makes us better.

Illogic and inaccuracy. I'm pretty sure that "dogmatic faith" was not responsible for the cover-up of abuse. After all, a "dogmatic faith" would put the words of Christ at center stage, words that strongly and vigorously hold religious leaders accountable for their sins. A "dogmatic faith" would not be able to forget Jesus' warnings to those would harm "little ones." No, dogmatic faith was not the problem. Lack of faith in God would be more like it. Faith in oneself, in the necessity of maintaining one's image before Rome, one's power, one's priestly numbers would just about define the kind of faith we're dealing with here.

And her odd little phrase up there..."religion makes us better." Odd one, that. Is religion a pill? Is it a soft-drink machine into which you feed the change of your presence in a pew and get some kind of automatic morality boost in return? That's not faith. Faith is a relationship with the living God that can be misused and warped, just like anything else good in this world.

So what's my point? I'm saying that there is legitimate cause to examine the uses and misuses of religion in society, but that's not a new need. It's as old as religion itself. My problem is that the op-ed pages of the NYTimes are given over to such an unthinking treatment of the issue, and only because it's the topic-de-jour.

Louder Fenn has some helpful thoughts on children's fantasy literature and Christianity from an unusual perspective (at least in the current environment) - he's actually written books for kids.

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