Author: Pia de Solenni

Moving Forward: Muslims And Jews Show Solidarity With Catholics in France And Italy.

Time has an article about Muslims and Jews in France and Italy who attended Mass this past weekend to show interfaith solidarity with Catholics/Christians. I find this to be a…

Time has an article about Muslims and Jews in France and Italy who attended Mass this past weekend to show interfaith solidarity with Catholics/Christians.

I find this to be a beautiful gesture of solidarity. Unfortunately, I heard that some (one?) churches are allowing parts of the Koran to be read from the pulpit. That only confuses things. But attendance in solidarity is fantastic.

Worth noting this paragraph referring to Italy –

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told the Senate this week that authorities were scrutinizing mosque financing and working with the Islamic community to ensure that imams study in Italy, preach in Italian and are aware of Italy’s legal structuring.

Obviously, the same could not happen in the U.S. since we hold to freedom of religion. But a friend made a suggestion which is worth considering, I think. What if those entering the US were required to sign a statement saying that they will uphold the US Constitution, abide by all laws, and not support efforts to hold Shariah law above our laws? Sure, people could (and would) lie; but there’d be little to contest their criminality and penalization if the facts were proven.

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On divorce, Chaput and Francis singing from the same song sheet

From my latest at Crux. In the world of Catholic news, we were almost headed for a lull between the pope’s late June interview on the plane back from Armenia…

From my latest at Crux.

In the world of Catholic news, we were almost headed for a lull between the pope’s late June interview on the plane back from Armenia and the early July appointments of Vatican communications experts (two Americans among them, nary an Italian or a cleric).

But in between, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia released his pastoral guidelines for the implementation of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the fruit of the two Synods on the family.

Phew! Catholic social media now had fumes to light a fire, burning faster and brighter than a California wildfire in a drought year.

Like Francis, Chaput discusses marriage and sexuality in light of Church teachings. However, the headlines were about the divorced and remarried [whose previous marriages have not received a decree of nullity from a Church tribunal] not being able to receive Holy Communion.

Read more here.

Especially, the last two paragraphs…

 

 

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The Trans Movement – Another Form of Patriarchy

Over at Crux, I have a new piece exploring the patriarchal effects of the trans movement. Until lately, if someone had mentioned patriarchy in the developed world, I would’ve thought…

Image from Bing images. Licensed for public domain.

Image from Bing images. Licensed for public domain.

Over at Crux, I have a new piece exploring the patriarchal effects of the trans movement.

Until lately, if someone had mentioned patriarchy in the developed world, I would’ve thought we were about to embark on a somewhat archaic conversation. But recent events, crystallized by Target’s decision to open its sex-differentiated bathrooms and fitting rooms to the personal narrative of its customers, have me thinking that patriarchy is alive and well.

Hear me out.

Throughout history, women have been denigrated and oppressed by men. While I don’t always agree with some feminist activists, I certainly acknowledge that I would not have had the opportunities that I have without feminist efforts to right so many wrongs.

Despite these advances, today’s “trans movement” (particularly the transwoman sector) inadvertently takes us back to a time when women were valued based on their appearance, and whether they fit someone else’s preconceived notion of femininity. In essence, all it takes to be a woman today are [fake] breasts and good hair.

Read more here.

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Don’t Make The Church A Stepford Wife

Fr. Dwight Longnecker set me up for one of my soapboxes this morning. He published a piece, “Men At Church”, touching on how the Roman Catholic liturgy draws men. I have…

Image licensed "free to share and use" by Bing Images.

Image licensed “free to share and use” by Bing Images.

Fr. Dwight Longnecker set me up for one of my soapboxes this morning. He published a piece, “Men At Church”, touching on how the Roman Catholic liturgy draws men. I have no quibbles with men being attracted to the Church and her liturgy, in fact I wish more were. My concern lies in his derogative use of the word “feminization.”

For example –

This is why the feminization of the liturgy is so unattractive to men. When well-meaning liturgists and priests feel they have to make everything in the liturgy emotionally relevant and “meaningful” to everyone, many men switch off. When Father Fabulous insists on being emotionally entertaining in the liturgy he is likely to please the women while the fellas roll their eyes. When Sister Sandals develops new age liturgies that attempt to connect with our emotions, or when Pastor Hipster tries to push the emotional hot buttons with his sermon, most men are not only ready to switch off, they’re ready to head for the door.

And –

Traditional Catholic worship, on the other hand, is by the book and objective. Men perceive it as being dependable and rock solid—not emotional, subjective, and flighty.

He sets women up as being “emotional, subjective, and flighty.” Hmm…sounds more like a deadbeat dad or, at best, a Stepford wife.

And for what it’s worth, many women think and feel similarly about such liturgies.

As I posted on Facebook, both on my wall and Fr. Dwight’s –

I get where you’re coming from, but as a woman who deeply loves (heart & mind = each are the same – “lev”- in Hebrew), and one who continues to study the role of women in the Church, I think you need to be careful with the word “feminization” and other similar words. Anything related to woman or female ends up being deficient, almost a dirty/bad word. Mary the Mother of God prefigures the Church. The Church is feminine, the Bride of Christ. What’s wrong with a feminine presence in the Church and her liturgy? Why is the Roman liturgy so-called “masculine”? I just don’t buy it. Again, I think I get where you’re coming from, but I don’t think it’s an intellectually tight argument as presented here.

To his credit, Fr. Dwight replied that he was in agreement that a different word would be appropriate. He offered “effete” and commented, “The ‘effete’ is what C.S.Lewis called ‘Christianity and water.’ They have watered down the wine and tried to tame the lion.”

Now we’re talking. (In Italian – Adesso parla bene.)

The only problem is that Lewis, Fr. Dwight and myself are using an older and now secondary meaning of the word. Unfortunately today, it’s become a tacit synonym for “gay” (the newer definition, not “happy”).

From Oxford Dictionaries –

  1. (of a person) affected, overrefined, and ineffectual: “effete trendies from art college” synonyms: affected · pretentious · precious · mannered
  2. no longer capable of effective action: “the authority of an effete aristocracy began to dwindle”
    synonyms: weak · enfeebled · enervated · worn out

A friend of mine noted that what we’re really talking about is something more like sentimentality. I would add “saccharine.” The point is that it has nothing to do with true femininity or feminization, which brings me back to my theme of the Stepford Wife model of the Church.

In fact, if we’re actually going to follow Catholic doctrine, feminization and femininity are good things. After all, we are all – women and men – called to imitate Mary the Mother of God who prefigures the Church and in many ways is the first rendering of the Church in so far as she becomes the living tabernacle (cf. Ark of the Covenant) for the Word made flesh.

In January, I taught an intensive course “Women and the Body of Christ” at the Augustine Institute in Denver. I’m now teaching it as a semester course at our satellite campus in Orange County. In both cases, I’ve had an amazing group of students. Just this past week, we spent three hours doing a seminar on St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women).

Let me share some highlights with you, just a few –

N. 3 “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his son, born of woman”. (Galatians 4,4) …. It is significant that Saint Paul does not call the Mother of Christ by her own name “Mary”, but calls her “woman”: this coincides with the words of the Proto-evangelium in the Book of Genesis (cf. 3:15). She is that “woman” who is present in the central salvific event which marks the “fullness of time”: this event is realized in her and through her. [Emphasis mine.]

It’s also interesting to compare the use of “woman” by St. Paul to Jesus’s use at the wedding in Cana, John 2,4:  “[And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” This is fulfilled in John 19,26-67: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

Put simply, the fact that Mary was a woman is an essential part of the central salvific event of all times. It is not an accident. She is not unessential. She is not some sort of divine incubator. If you want that, there are other Christian denominations which offer it. It’s not Catholic. A woman was essential for the incarnation, redemption, and the Church, to name a few.

Back to Mulieris Dignitatem:

N. 22 “Moreover, contemplating Mary’s mysterious sanctity, imitating her charity, and faithfully fulfilling the Father’s will, the Church herself becomes a mother by accepting God’s word in faith. For by her preaching and by baptism she brings forth to a new and immortal life children who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God” [cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 64]….The Council has confirmed that, unless one looks to the Mother of God, it is impossible to understand the mystery of the Church, her reality, her essential vitality. Indirectly we find here a reference to the biblical exemplar of the “woman” which is already clearly outlined in the description of the “beginning” (cf. Gen 3:15) and which procedes from creation, through sin to the Redemption. In this way there is a confirmation of the profound union between what is human and what constitutes the divine economy of salvation in human history. The Bible convinces us of the fact that one can have no adequate hermeneutic of man, or of what is “human”, without appropriate reference to what is “feminine”. There is an analogy in God’s salvific economy: if we wish to understand it fully in relation to the whole of human history, we cannot omit, in the perspective of our faith, the mystery of “woman”: virgin-mother-spouse.”[Emphasis mine.]

Throughout our three-hour discussion, even though I’ve read, written on, and taught this document many times, my mind was spinning at the profundity, not just of St. John Paul II, but of our Catholic Church – our tradition, Sacred Scripture, and our Magisterium.

I’m glad Fr. Dwight walked back his position, but I hear a lot of this type of thought. For example, Leon Podels’, The Church Impotent: The Feminization Of Christianity. There may be many things wrong with the practice of Christianity, but the uncorrupt understanding of the feminine element is essential for an integral understanding of the Church, the Body of Christ.

Even the liturgy is not masculine strictly speaking. Yes, it’s about the sacrifice of Christ made real again in every Mass. But that sacrifice would not have been possible without a woman – at least in so far as God ordained it. And the liturgy is also the Church’s response to and participation in the sacrifice, a particularly unique feminine response to which both women and men are called insofar are they make up the Church. (Think of Mary at the foot of the Cross…)

Some may choose to insist on Stepford wife type caricatures of woman and everything related to her, but they miss the reality of all things essential to humanity. Until we have a profound and authentic understanding of woman, we won’t understand fully the significance of salvation, humanity, the Church, or even Christ.

And the same goes for a profound and authentic understanding of man, which of its very nature would not make caricatures of women.

 

 

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UPDATED: What did the Pope say on the way back from Mexico…?

The headlines this morning told us the following – “Pope Francis Says Contraception Justified in Regions Hit by Zika Virus” (WSJ, Francis Rocca – may require subscription) “Pope Suggests Contraception Can…

By Aleteia Image Department [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Aleteia Image Department [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The headlines this morning told us the following –

Many other articles carried similar headlines. I cite these three because they are all written by journalists whom I’ve known to have very high journalistic standards. All of them agree that he stated that abortion was not an option, regardless of the Zika virus. None of them offered a direct quote saying that contraception is permissible in the regions affected by Zika. Inés San Martín offers this clarification in her piece –

Regarding the “lesser of two evils” when it comes to contraception, Francis said that it’s a fight between the 5th Commandment (Thou shalt not kill) and the 6th Commandment (Thou shalt not commit adultery). But he avoided giving a definitive response.

Catholic News Agency provided a transcript of the entire press event aboard the papal flight to Rome. It’s an unofficial English translation. Pope Francis offers this answer to Paloma García Ovejero of Cadena COPE (Spain) regarding the question of using abortion or “avoiding pregnancy” in these areas.

Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape. Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. Abortion is not a theological problem, it is a human problem, it is a medical problem. You kill one person to save another, in the best case scenario. Or to live comfortably, no? It’s against the Hippocratic oaths doctors must take. It is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil in the beginning, no, it’s a human evil. Then obviously, as with every human evil, each killing is condemned. On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.

Admittedly, the Pope cautions to not “confuse” and in fact seems to offer a confusing,  not-clear answer. What is clear is that the only way one can understand this to be an endorsement of contraception would be to equivocate the meaning of the term “avoiding pregnancy.” He refers to a specific example of Paul VI reportedly allowing some nuns in specific conflict ridden areas who were at high risk of being raped to use contraceptives. For what it’s worth, I’ve heard of this case many times and have yet to see the documentation on it. Regardless, it’s a very, very specific use of contraception, one in which the women in question are leading celibate lives to start with.

UPDATE: Here is the official Vatican version in Italian. Still somewhat confusing. No change in the teaching on contraception. 

UPDATE: For those interested in the specifics of the case allowing contraception by Paul VI, as far as I can tell it was allowed under the teaching of Paul VI. It’s still not clear that he directly approved it. Regardless, I don’t see any problem with it other than that I think more should be done to protect nuns in these situations… But that’s just my opinion. Here’s one summary article in Italian. In English, you can get the book Ethics of Procreation and the Defense of Human Life: Contraception, Artificial Fertilization, and Abortion, by Martin Rhonheimer. You can find a preview of the section in question here.

And it seems that the Pope might also be thinking of fertility awareness (natural family planning) or simply abstinence,  in which case “avoiding pregnancy” would not be wrong in and of itself. With due respect to CNA’s work to provide a transcript, I’ll leave it to you to look up the sections on civil unions and Donald Trump. It’s easy to see why there’s confusion. At the same time, the Pope cloaks his answers in all sorts of conditions.

Here’s the lens I would offer. It’s a confusing transcript and sometimes he speaks in ways that lead different listeners to arrive at their own varied conclusions. It strikes me that he’s very Jesuitical in his thinking. By this I mean that he’s thinking of every possible scenario when asked a question…and he seems to do a lot of thinking out loud…which causes serious confusion. It creates headlines that stay emblazoned in the memory of a world which is supposed to have a short term memory. It creates work for every type of Catholic leader and teacher – clerical, religious, and lay.

But he’s not changing Church teaching. In order to do that he would have to promulgate the change in a way that is accessible to everyone, starting with the Bishops. It would also have to be clearly enunciated in an official document and it would have to be a teaching that could be changed, something like allowing girls to be altar servers. Interviews on a plane hardly fit the description.

Yes, these statements cause headaches for some and celebrations for others. But faithful Catholics and others of good will need to remember to not take things at face value when they’re first reported. It’s always important to do one’s research.

I look forward to the official Vatican transcript and the official English translation. It will be helpful to compare the two.

In the meantime, I can see why the journalists reported as they did. They acknowledged the confusion while at the same time did not offer any direct quotes. That in itself is a huge help to a careful reader looking to understand a situation. It also points to the fact that a solid argument could be made that the Pope needs to be more precise in his statements.

Nevertheless, I look back at our first Pope, St. Peter. I see what he’s recorded as saying in the New Testament. So very often, he’s wrong. But he was still the Pope and carried out his office in a saintly way even if his soundbites weren’t so good.

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6 Things You Need To Know About The Zika Virus

Various people subscribe to the maxim, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Well, considering the Zika virus, it looks like the proponents of abortion and contraception see the current crisis as…

James D. Gathany - The Public Health Image Library , ID#444, PD-USGOV-HHS-CDC. Various people subscribe to the maxim, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Well, considering the Zika virus, it looks like the proponents of abortion and contraception see the current crisis as an opportunity to push their agenda. As usual, this is a band-aid approach to human well being and development. These treatments mask the real issues. In the case of the Zika virus, here are some things to consider.

First, we really don’t know the numbers of fetuses that will be affected by Zika. At this point, it’s somewhat speculative. Check out this article from CNN.

According to the Brazil Ministry of Health, from November 8 through January 30, 404 babies were born with microcephaly, an unusually high number. Seventeen of these cases have been linked to Zika. Authorities are investigating another 3,670 suspected cases of microcephaly.

So only 17 of the cases have been linked to Zika? Out of 404? That’s 4%. Is there another cause? Or is this all hype? Taken with the fact that authorities are investigating another 3,670 suspected cases indicates that this could be hysteria rather than epidemic, admittedly understandable in the current media climate. But keep in mind that 96% of the cases of microcephaly in the numbers cited by the Brazil Ministry of Health were not attributed to Zika.

Secondly, throughout the recent week of various interviews, I’ve heard doctors say that no one wants a disabled child. Well, yes and no. No sane person wants to cause a child to be disabled. But that’s not the same thing as not wanting a disabled child. For those of you who missed the Today Show’s heartwarming story about the family that takes in hospice infants and children, click here. Think carefully. You and I both know people who lovingly raise children with disabilities. There are even people who have children with Zika and are grateful for them. And there are people with Zika who are happy to be alive. 24 year-old Brazilian journalist Ana Carolina Carceres is one of them. (Here’s a Spanish-language BBC interview with her.)

Several years ago, I was contacted by a sidewalk counselor who was working with a woman who would not abort her Down Syndrome child if she could find a couple to adopt the child. Some friends of mine – three families with children of their own – all said that they would happily parent the child when born. I followed up with the counselor. She replied, “I have over 600 families who have reached out to me saying that they will adopt the child.” But “no one wants a disabled child.” Yeah. Right. In the meantime let’s get back to the science and some additional considerations.

Thirdly, we don’t know enough about Zika yet.  Dr. Gerard Nadal was kind enough to point me in the direction of the published CDC findings on Zika. From interim guidelines directed at ob/gyns (not the general public), dated January 22, 2016:

“Maternal-fetal transmission of Zika virus has been documented throughout pregnancy (4,7,8). Although Zika virus RNA has been detected in the pathologic specimens of fetal losses (4), it is not known if Zika virus caused the fetal losses. Zika virus infections have been confirmed in infants with microcephaly (4), and in the current outbreak in Brazil, a marked increase in the number of infants born with microcephaly has been reported (9). However, it is not known how many of the microcephaly cases are associated with Zika virus infection. Studies are under way to investigate the association of Zika virus infection and microcephaly, including the role of other contributory factors (e.g., prior or concurrent infection with other organisms, nutrition, and environment). The full spectrum of outcomes that might be associated with Zika virus infections during pregnancy is unknown and requires further investigation.” [emphasis mine]

In other words, the jury is out. But wait. There’s more that we don’t know. From the same CDC guidelines:

“Zika virus RT-PCR testing can be performed on amniotic fluid (7,9). Currently, it is unknown how sensitive or specific this test is for congenital infection. Also, it is unknown if a positive result is predictive of a subsequent fetal abnormality, and if so, what proportion of infants born after infection will have abnormalities. Amniocentesis is associated with an overall 0.1% risk of pregnancy loss when performed at less than 24 weeks of gestation (19). Amniocentesis performed ≥15 weeks of gestation is associated with lower rates of complications than those performed at earlier gestational ages, and early amniocentesis (≤14 weeks of gestation) is not recommended (20). Health care providers should discuss the risks and benefits of amniocentesis with their patients. A positive RT-PCR result on amniotic fluid would be suggestive of intrauterine infection and potentially useful to pregnant women and their health care providers (20).”

Translation – The test can detect the virus, but the CDC cannot confirm that a positive test for Zika confirms that the fetus will have microcephaly. And, yes, there is a risk to amniocentesis itself. Speaking of not knowing, according to Breitbart, Dr. Gubio Soares, one of the virologists to have first identified the presence of the Zika virus in Brazil, has stated that we don’t know if there’s a link between the Zika virus and microcephaly precisely because of abortion. (His original comments can be found here in Portuguese.) In other words, if the babies who look like they may have microcephaly are aborted, the diagnosis cannot be confirmed, much less studied or treated. So much for abortion as the answer.

Fourth, we do have other means to protect people from the Zika virus. To start, we have numerous governmental and non-governmental agencies that could start distributing mosquito netting and mosquito repellent. These are cheap supplies that can be readily made available. But governments could go further. Instead of eradicating the victim, namely the unborn child who may or may not have microcephaly, why not eradicate the mosquito in areas where it poses a grave threat to human life? The pesticide DDT could be used to do just that. In fact it was used to kill mosquitos and to wipe out malaria in many parts of the world. More on DDT can be found here, here, and here. Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan has one of the most succinct analyses I’ve come across. With regard to Zika, Dr. Robert Zubrin makes a pretty good case for the use of DDT. He brings out the stark contrast: mosquitos or babies?

The role of DDT in saving half a billion lives did not positively impress everyone, however. On the contrary, many environmentalist leaders were quite upset. As Alexander King, the co-founder of the Club of Rome, put it in 1990, “my chief quarrel with DDT in hindsight is that it has greatly added to the population problem.”

Which brings me to my fifth point. There is an agenda to promote abortion and contraception everywhere. In fact, the CDC now recommends that sexually active women who consume alcohol should use contraception until they stop drinking and decide that they want to get pregnant. Never mind that women have consumed alcohol for millennia while pregnant and generations upon generations of people were born without fetal alcohol syndrome. The last time I saw research on FAS, the fine print revealed that the mothers of FAS babies consumed five or more drinks at one sitting. That’s surely not the same as an expectant mother enjoying a glass of wine at dinner. Nevertheless, the official CDC recommendation is now that a woman who drinks any alcohol at all should fill herself with synthetic hormones or devices so long as she is sexually active with men and of childbearing age. If that isn’t an agenda, I don’t know what is. (For more opinion on this recommendation from the CDC, read Simcha Fisher’s piece.) Abortion and contraception don’t target the virus…

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church faces challenges for her positions against contraception and abortion. This brings me to my sixth point – it’s time to encourage a worldwide campaign for the teaching of fertility awareness. Given that men are generally fertile all of the time and women only periodically, fertility awareness focuses on the basic knowledge of a woman’s body. It’s not rocket science. If the Church is going to be involved in healthcare, she has the unique opportunity to offer something pro-woman that most secular healthcare fails to even acknowledge. Yes, the Zika virus may give individuals good reason to postpone a pregnancy. So let’s give them the knowledge to do so in a way that’s compatible with human dignity and doesn’t objectify women. (Cf Humanae Vitae, n. 17)

Professor Chris Kaczor has a good piece examining the moral framework of this question within the context of the Zika virus. Zika could turn out to be an epidemic. It could also turn out to be the new SARS. [The epidemic that wasn’t.] Regardless, we need to be guided by science and the principles of human dignity, not agendas of any sort, including those to promote abortion and contraception. In other words, when it comes to the Zika virus, target the mosquitos and the virus, not women and unborn babies.

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Future for the US Church? Stop Evangelizing Through the Courts and the Legislature.

Like many, I grew up in a Catholic family, attended Catholic grade school, CCD, youth group, Mass, etc. I even got confirmed a year earlier than I should have. No,…

Chartres_Saint-AignanFB

Like many, I grew up in a Catholic family, attended Catholic grade school, CCD, youth group, Mass, etc. I even got confirmed a year earlier than I should have. No, I wasn’t pious. I just wanted to be confirmed with all my friends and they happened to be older than I. (To this day, I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit used this to my good.) But I didn’t believe in most of it because I didn’t even know what there was to believe.

It wasn’t until I attended a dynamic Catholic college, that I actually began to learn what my faith was all about. In fact, I distinctly recall calling each of my parents and yelling at them because I felt so strongly that something I deserved, namely a knowledge of the faith, had been unfairly withheld from me. (Obviously, knowledge of the faith does not equate necessarily with virtue.)

Since that time, I have been gifted with many unique environments which have helped me to grow in faith and – I hope – in virtue. Sadly, not one of those experiences has taken place within the context of a parish.

Now, I am well aware that many parishes feed not only those hungry in body, but also those hungry in spirit. It’s just that my life hasn’t been shaped directly by those parishes.

Nevertheless, parishes frequently invite me to speak about the difficult teachings of the Catholic Church, particularly when there’s an election or proposed legislation that contradicts a core teaching of the Church.

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t work very well. The problem lies in the fact that, by and large, we are evangelizing through the legislature, the ballots, and the courts. An issue comes up and a small, convicted group will support local Church leadership. Maybe the initiative gets stopped, but it’s only for a while. If we are to have a vibrant future, to be more than a cultural relic, we have to find a way to evangelize that is not issue driven, but Christ centered. Someone who has been evangelized likely will take appropriate civic action. Instead, we often wait until the political issue comes up and then we try to teach what the Church proposes.

It’s backwards. The catechesis and evangelization needed to happen a long time before the ballot initiative, or whatever current catalyst. We can continue in the Church as we have and we’ll be a lovely cultural remnant. NPR will continue to air our sacred music on Sundays, some of us will go to church on occasion, and we’ll probably want the Church for those milestones moments – baptisms, First Communion, marriages, funerals, etc. Or, we can “cast out into the deep,” as St. John Paul II repeatedly encouraged us.

While all of our popes have reiterated the Church’s core teachings, our most recent popes, including Francis, have made clear that the Church is not about issues. She’s about people, their salvation, and their eternal happiness. Recently, I began a new role as Associate Dean of the Augustine Institute’s Orange County campus. This work speaks to my heart because I know that our efforts will change hearts and minds, and therefore the culture. In our Master’s program, we form future leaders and teachers. At the same time we create general faith formation programs, like Symbolon and Beloved. And while I’m partial to our programs, there are certainly other organizations offering good content.

Whatever the program, there are resources to begin faith formation outside of the context of an “issue.” Many, if not all, of these programs can be used in parishes or individually.

So instead of waiting for our hardworking clergy to do all the teaching and heavy lifting, the laity can (and should!) take the initiative, both in the formation of others and in one’s own lifelong school of faith and love in Christ. Cultural relic or dynamic reality. Take your pick. The future is yours.

::Editorial Note:: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Catholicism in America. Read other perspectives here.

Image is “Chartres Saint-Aignan3800” by Reinhardhauke – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Here is a more complete rendition –  508px-Chartres_Saint-Aignan3800

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Dear David Brooks: I Needed That Laugh. Thanks!

David Brooks has a hilarious piece in The New York Times today.  (H/T James Taranto, “Best of the Web.”) Arguing that it’s not constructive to have culture wars, he offer some advice to…

Paris_Tuileries_Garden_Facepalm_statue David Brooks has a hilarious piece in The New York Times today.  (H/T James Taranto, “Best of the Web.”) Arguing that it’s not constructive to have culture wars, he offer some advice to Christians –

We live in a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed. Millions of kids live in stressed and fluid living arrangements. Many communities have suffered a loss of social capital. Many young people grow up in a sexual and social environment rendered barbaric because there are no common norms. Many adults hunger for meaning and goodness, but lack a spiritual vocabulary to think things through.

His own argument belies the havoc of the sexual revolution. But apparently we shouldn’t talk about root causes. Instead we should fix everything without attending to the foundation…which, by the way, has something to do with sexual mores –

Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely. The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

“Those people” are Christians and other social conservatives. He tasks us with helping to nurture stable families. But…apparently we can’t talk about what is a stable family and what sex has to do with that. Meanwhile, The Atlantic just published an article on the largest mental hospital that just happens to be Cook County Jail. Nneka Jones Tapia, a clinical psychologist who now serves as the executive director of the facility commented:

We’re re-teaching them things they learned in their family unit because a lot of these individuals come from dysfunctional families, unfortunately. What you see in correctional institutions are, more often than not, [symptoms] of a larger problem. And then you go into the communities and it’s single-parent homes, no-parent homes—it’s tough to teach your children when you’re not there. So we’re going back and teaching them those skills.”

Brooks acknowledges the crisis in the family, thinks that Christians are uniquely poised to help the situation, but he just doesn’t want us to talk about the situations that create good or bad familial situations. This exercise in absurdity has given me something to laugh about. Thanks, David! And I have to laugh or else I’ll cry. Image source: Wiki Commons.

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