Thursday, May 15

If the pro-lifers want a television show to make their point, they couldn't do much better than Discover Health Channel's Adoption Stories, which I catch sometimes when I'm lulling Joseph to sleep in the afternoons. We all know what kind of nobility and courage is involved on both ends of an adoption - to see it captured on film brings that truth to life, powerfully.

A wonderful adoption story in the news this week involves New York Giants coach Jim Fassell and the baby boy he and his wife placed for adoption when they were young college students 34 years ago and recently found.

An unexpected pregnancy changes your life (as does an expected pregnancy,too, of course), and, despite our deepest wishes, we will never be the same again in its wake, and we will experience some sort of suffering, no matter what we do. Having the baby and keeping it will change your life. Having the baby and placing it for adoption will change you. And not having the baby will change you, too.

The question is - how do you want to be changed? What do you want to carry with you the rest of your life? The knowledge that you have given life or the knowledge that you have been complicit in a death? The situation, no matter how it is resolved will bring suffering and questions. There is no question about that. The question is - does the type of suffering you embrace lead to life or death?

It is a shame - no - more than a shame. It is a symptom of serious madness that our culture has come to see abortion as somehow more "compassionate" than adoption...

Are you or have you ever been an Apatheist?

It came to me recently in a blinding vision that I am an apatheist. Well, "blinding vision" may be an overstatement. "Wine-induced haze" might be more strictly accurate. This was after a couple of glasses of Merlot, when someone asked me about my religion. "Atheist," I was about to say, but I stopped myself. "I used to call myself an atheist," I said, "and I still don't believe in God, but the larger truth is that it has been years since I really cared one way or another. I'm"—that was when it hit me—"an ... apatheist!"

That got a chuckle, but the point was serious. Apatheism—a disinclination to care all that much about one's own religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people's—may or may not be something new in the world, but its modern flowering, particularly in ostensibly pious America, is worth getting excited about.

....Even regular churchgoers can, and often do, rank quite high on the apatheism scale. There are a lot of reasons to attend religious services: to connect with a culture or a community, to socialize, to expose children to religion, to find the warming comfort of familiar ritual. The softer denominations in America are packed with apatheists. The apatheism of Reform Jews is so well known as to be a staple of synagogue humor. (Orthodox rabbi to Reform rabbi: "One of my congregants says his son wants a Harley for his bar mitzvah. What's a Harley?" Reform rabbi to Orthodox rabbi: "A Harley is a motorcycle. What's a bar mitzvah?")

Finally, and this may seem strangest of all, even true-believing godliness today often has an apatheistic flavor. I have Christian friends who organize their lives around an intense and personal relationship with God, but who betray no sign of caring that I am an unrepentantly atheistic Jewish homosexual. They are exponents, at least, of the second, more important part of apatheism: the part that doesn't mind what other people think about God.

I believe that the rise of apatheism is to be celebrated as nothing less than a major civilizational advance. Religion, as the events of September 11 and after have so brutally underscored, remains the most divisive and volatile of social forces. To be in the grip of religious zeal is the natural state of human beings, or at least of a great many human beings; that is how much of the species seems to be wired. Apatheism, therefore, should not be assumed to represent a lazy recumbency, like my collapse into a soft chair after a long day. Just the opposite: it is the product of a determined cultural effort to discipline the religious mindset, and often of an equally determined personal effort to master the spiritual passions. It is not a lapse. It is an achievement.

"A world of pragmatic atheists," the philosopher Richard Rorty once wrote, "would be a better, happier world than our present one." Perhaps. But best of all would be a world generously leavened with apatheists: people who feel at ease with religion even if they are irreligious; people who may themselves be members of religious communities, but who are neither controlled by godly passions nor concerned about the (nonviolent, noncoercive) religious beliefs of others. In my lifetime America has taken great strides in this direction, and its example will be a source of strength, not weakness, in a world still beset by fanatical religiosity (al Qaeda) and tyrannical secularism (China).

What is Jonathon Rausch missing here? Is a an absence of aggresive evangelism necessarily a sign of apathy? Are Rausch's apparently apathetic Christian friends really apathetic, or are they praying for him and trying to witness to him through their lives?

Not that I think he's entirely wrong, but I'll let you all start the conversation...


As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Dallas Policy...

...let us turn our attention to Dallas, where Bishop Grahmann has allowed a priest accused of rape in the fathering of a child (he has admitted to paternity, but not the rape) to minister in the diocese despite the fact that the LA Archdiocese (of all places) repeatedly refused the guy permission to work there before he headed to Texas.

Dom has details and commentary

...and the Dallas Morning News has an editorial pointing out some interesting inconsistencies in diocesan policy:

As The Dallas Morning News' Brooks Egerton reported yesterday, Bishop Grahmann and his review board have restored to ministry the Rev. Ernesto C. Villaroya, who had been suspended from his Ennis parish last year after a former nun from his native Philippines sued, alleging he raped her there 20 years ago. Whether forced or consensual (as the priest contends), the sexual encounter produced a child, which Mr. Villaroya has admitted in a sworn statement is his own. The current issue of the Texas Catholic, in announcing Mr. Villaroya's move to a Frisco parish, failed to mention this inconvenient fact, stating that the child's "paternity has not been determined."

That's not true, not according to both Mr. Villaroya and the story the diocese itself floated last year, when Mr. Villaroya was suspended.

The newspaper now says that the priest was reinstated to ministry because a lawsuit filed by his alleged victim had been dismissed by a California court. That's an evasion. The dismissal was on statute-of-limitations grounds. It had nothing to do with the quality of the evidence against Mr. Villaroya, which was not heard in court.

The Texas Catholic assures the faithful that Mr. Villaroya has undergone a background check. Some check: Relatives of the priest's accuser say they weren't contacted by diocesan investigators, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which refused Mr. Villaroya permission to work there over past episodes of disobedience, says it wasn't contacted either. With such a sloppy investigation, how can the Dallas diocese be certain that Mr. Villaroya didn't commit rape after all?

You might wonder how the people of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Frisco feel, having had dumped on them a priest with a shady, possibly criminal, past. You might wonder how the people of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in east Dallas are taking this news, given that Bishop Grahmann last year sacked their popular pastor of 11 years, the Rev. Stephen Bierschenk, for failing to complete background investigations on employees. You also might wonder what volunteers in all Dallas-area parishes are supposed to think about the latitude granted this troubled priest, inasmuch as volunteers have to undergo criminal background checks if they want to do as little as serve on the altar guild.

You might wonder.



So shoot me

My middle son has just, as of this morning, finished about two and a half weeks of AP and International Baccalaureate testing. (At least one test every day, sometimes two - an AP test in the morning and an IB test in the afternoon.) He's mentally wiped out. He's worried about the results. He wanted to go see Matrix:Reloaded at noon with a friend who graduated in January. He'd have to leave school early. For an "appointment."

As I said...so shoot me.

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