We live in a soundbite world. Of that, there is no doubt. Before, during, and after the Extraordinary Synod on the Family last year, the question of whether the divorced…
We live in a soundbite world. Of that, there is no doubt. Before, during, and after the Extraordinary Synod on the Family last year, the question of whether the divorced and remarried can receive the sacrament of Holy Communion was and continues to be passionately debated.
Sadly, too many Catholics, including some clergy, rely only on the headlines and soundbites to inform themselves and the result of the debate has been growing confusion that somehow the Church has changed it’s teaching on a very fundamental and important issue.
This week, Raymond Arroyo of EWTN’s The World Over did us all a favor in his interview with Cardinal Kasper, one of the main proponents of the proposal to allow some divorced and remarried couples to receive Communion. Over at the National Catholic Register, Arroyo offered excerpts of the transcript of his interview with the Cardinal. Read his entire piece
ARROYO: But you do understand, when a Churchman like yourself, a theologian, an esteemed international figure, a Curial official says: “Here is my proposal, and the Pope agrees with me” that does cause some …
CARDINAL KASPER: Well, this I did not say.
ARROYO: Well you did say, and the quote is: “Clearly this is what he wants,” and the Pope has approved of my proposal. Those were the quotes from the time …
CARDINAL KASPER: No … he did not approve my proposal. The Pope wanted that I put the question [forward], and, afterwards, in a general way, before all the cardinals, he expressed his satisfaction with my talk. But not the end, not in the … I wouldn’t say he approved the proposal, no, no, no.
Here’s the full episode. It’s well worth your time, particularly if you’re weighing in on this debate.
The Cardinal says that the Pope wanted to open the debate. I couldn’t agree more. Last year I wrote that the Pope sort of arranged a pre-Synod. He knew (we all knew) that there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the issue of marriage. In fact, I’m grateful for the debate. It’s brought forth greatly needed clarity on the teaching. Now, it’s a matter of continuing to clarify and teach so that the confusion is dispelled, a major task set before all of us.
Meanwhile, many thanks to Arroyo for his excellent and respectful interview, as well as to Cardinal Kasper for his willingness to openly discuss his perspectives. I really appreciate the tone in which they engaged each other, a great reminder of how this debate should proceed. Just remember, in his own words, the Cardinal has clarified that Pope Francis has not approved his proposal.
Soundbite – “The Pope did not approve Cardinal Kasper’s proposal.”
What are you doing this summer? Vacation? Sounds good. But what about a graduate course on Christian Marriage? After all, marriage is a pretty hot topic these days. Plus, we’ve…
Photo by Pia de Solenni. Detail of the fragment of a Christian tombstone for a deceased spouse. Santa Maria in Trastevere.
What are you doing this summer? Vacation? Sounds good. But what about a graduate course on Christian Marriage? After all, marriage is a pretty hot topic these days. Plus, we’ve got the World Meeting of Families coming up, not to mention the Ordinary Synod on the Family in October.
Are you ready?
I’ll be teaching this course for the Augustine Institute in Denver, along with the esteemed Dr. Edward Sri and Lucas Pollice. Lest we rest in theory, we’ll be joined by marriage coaches Matt and Mindy Dalton, as well as Greg and Julie Alexander.
You can take the course in person in Denver from June 15-19. Or you can sign up to take it as a distance ed student, meaning that you’ll have access to the videos, discussion, and coursework via an online platform. The distance ed course will run July 6 – August 14. The syllabus for the course is here. For more info on the course, email our Registrar, Kristi Logan, at email@example.com.
On Monday, the new Vanity Fair cover introduced us to Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner – husband, father, Olympic athlete, reality tv star. There’s been all sorts of conversation about…
On Monday, the new Vanity Fair cover introduced us to Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner – husband, father, Olympic athlete, reality tv star. There’s been all sorts of conversation about the idea that Caitlyn is Jenner’s real self, that Jenner is finally being honest.
I’m not going to question the validity of Jenner’s choice. I just want to have a real and honest conversation about her debut image. Just the magazine cover. Here are three initial thoughts –
Does she look like a 65 year-old woman? Nope. She doesn’t even look anything like the 65 year old woman who is taking her picture. She is a highly sexualized creation, such as are produced by Hollywood, Photoshop, cosmetic surgery, porn and so on. Katrina Fernandez comments, “It’s pantomime. Sexist black face.”
The hyper sexualization indicates the manipulation of women – the idea that women have to have certain proportions in order to be “feminine.” What about real women?(Cue the Dove campaign.) Women who have lost their breasts to cancer? (Megan Heimer makes a good case, arguing that cover photo has objectified women everywhere.)
It takes more than hormones, breasts, surgery, and heavy makeup to be a woman. A lot more. But the cover photo suggests that a woman’s identity is based on whether she’s able to arouse a man.And it’s not original in that regard.
Now, there’s a lot of manipulation going on here – Caitlyn Jenner’s image, our ideas and notions of women and beauty, but also the manipulation of men.
Source: VanityFair.com. Used under the fair use principle since it is the specific subject of commentary.
Caitlyn is sitting on her hands so you can’t see them. Why? Because they are probably a dead giveaway that she is not exactly a woman, despite the trappings.
But there’s more. No pun intended.
She’s sitting. If she were standing, it would be a lot harder to hide or Photoshop her male anatomy, a male part of her that she’s not ready to give up yet because it’s “useful” as she explained to Diane Sawyer in the ABC interview.
In the very coming-out photo, Caitlyn is hiding. She’s not honest about who she is. She doesn’t even look like a normal woman of her age, much less who she actually is.
Most men wouldn’t be attracted by her image if she were standing. Full monty. Hands showing. Too many signals that she’s not a woman, at least not the type that they would normally be attracted to.
She’s also bound by a corset, the item that was considered by many feminists to indicate female bondage and domination by patriarchy. The corset made women conform to an ideal that was not real. As an image, it may be sexy to some; but it’s also terribly constricting, not liberating in the way that we are being told this decision has been for Jenner. The liberation of the second wave feminists included the physical liberation of the female body. Jenner was around when women were burning their bras…
Now, back to the hands. They are hidden. And the legs are cut off. Except for the slightly vacant come-hither look, she might as well be Man Ray’s limbless and headless VenusRestored. (Below)
Her image objectifies women. It objectifies herself. Call me crazy, but that’s not honest, free, open, or liberating. Rather it’s manipulative and, ultimately, sad. Instead of revealing herself, she is trapped.
And so it ended. Two weeks ago, the Mad Men finale aired. And – spoiler alert – Don Draper didn’t hurl himself out of the window of a Manhattan skyscraper, even though he did…
And so it ended. Two weeks ago, the MadMen finale aired. And – spoiler alert – Don Draper didn’t hurl himself out of the window of a Manhattan skyscraper, even though he did have a few desperate glances out of windows in some of the last episodes.
The series tended to generate two extreme reactions. Either people really liked the show or they had no patience for it – too dark, too retro, too whatever. I found the show dark, even disturbing at times; but I kept watching. The production quality was fantastic – story, writing, acting, costumes, directing, filming, etc. (Still, the finale was outpaced 2:1 by people viewing reruns of I Love Lucy.)
Over at Crux, Kimberly Winston suggests that maybe Don Draper got religion at the very end of the show. Zach Hoag sees redemption for many of the main characters, especially Don, he writes:
But this time, it’s not about “selling happiness” to enrich himself, fulfill his lusts or make his mark. It’s about being close to his children. It’s about finding his true identity in loving and being loved.
Art, in any form, has to allow for various interpretations. We see things through different experiences and perspectives. I recall a conversation with friends about Henry James’ novel, Portrait of a Lady. Three of us had vastly different understandings about the conclusion. Naturally, I was convinced I had it right; so I consulted the text. Based on the author’s own words, each of us had a legitimate interpretation. I was right. And so were the others.
No, no, no. I’m not saying that everything is relative. But interpretations of art certainly can be.
So let me offer my take on Mad Men. I wanted to see redemption, desperately. Once Don had his breakdown with Hershey, I thought we were getting somewhere. After six seasons, two wives and too many “other” women to count, Don actually told something deeply intimate about himself which was also true.
The episode concludes with Don standing with his children before the rundown building that was the whorehouse where he grew up. This is the first time they’ve seen anything of their father’s past. It helps to know who someone is by knowing where they came from.
I began to think that his redemption would conclude the series. Remember how the first episode of season one started? All we saw was a handsome businessman going about his day, visiting a woman who was not his wife, and so on. There was no indication that he was a married man until the episode concluded with him entering his large suburban home at night, lights turned out, wife asleep in bed.
In many ways, his struck me as a Pinocchio story, someone sort of wanting to grow up and be a “real” boy while enjoying all the fun and perks of being “naughty,” an echo of St. Augustine’s prayer for conversion when he asked that it might not happen too quickly. Throughout the last season, there were inklings that maybe the real man would escape the trappings he’d created for himself, not unlike the false world he created through his business of advertising, promising happiness with things that have nothing to do with true happiness. But along the way, someone else was changing: his teenage daughter Sally.
Episode two of Season 7, involves Sally’s discovery that her father has, in effect, been lying to his family by not telling them that he’s on leave from his job. They think he’s still going to work, as usual. After a strained car trip that eases up with a pit stop for gas and food (Don is smart; he knows that a lot of relationship building can happen around food.), she gets out of the car and tells him, “I love you.” He can’t, simply cannot, respond. It’s clear that he’s struggling. Go to 1’20” here. Or watch it all for a recap of the episode. By this point the series has offered plenty of encounters between Sally and her mom Betty. None of them were personal. And we’ve seen various scenes with Sally and her dad, mostly she’s angry, even disgusted. Always she is looking for connection. This time she connects.
Someone is growing up.
While Betty accepts her mortality and the reality of her terminal diagnosis, she still can’t relate to her children. She can’t even tell them that she is dying. The last we see of Sally, she has given up her trip to Madrid, ignoring her mother’s expressed wishes, and has come home to help. We see Betty smoking while Sally is doing the dishes. (0’99” below)
The series concludes with Don chanting his “om” outside at a beautiful California retreat, presumably in the Big Sur area, and fades into the famous Coke commercial, “I’d like to give the world a Coke.”
Pinocchio stayed Pinocchio.
In the moment that some call awakening or getting religion, I think he was just being the same old Don Draper we’ve seen since the very first episode. At 2’0” below,just as the meditation begins, he’s still trying to figure it out, how’s he going to make this work for him. Then his “om” becomes an “a-ha!” (See 2’37” below, when the meditation ends.) Think about it, after his “confession” to Peggy, she tells him to come back, that he’ll have work, there’s the Coke account. In that moment, he tapped into the next big idea. And presumably many other big ideas, including the Coke commercial.
Maybe Don’s a little more in touch with himself after crying and hugging on his retreat. But it’s hard for me to string this all together and claim redemption, much less family man. He starts as an ad man and ends an ad man, he can sell anything including himself. He doesn’t just sell ads. He creates realities.
As for the other characters, they seem pretty comfortable in the realities that they’ve created for themselves. But, really, does anyone honestly think that Pete has magically learned fidelity…when he now has a private jet at his disposal? We saw what he did with his own apartment… And Roger just continues being another little boy Pinocchio, he even jokingly refers to his new wife Marie as “ma mère” (“my mother”). Peggy finally got what she wanted: a man to go with her career. That may not last if her inner Don Draper surfaces again.
Joan was the exception, she was an adult from the beginning and always aware that actions have consequences, good and bad. She always took responsibility for herself. But the real grown up by the end of the show was just a little girl when the show began. Make sure you take note around 0’99” below.
Over at the CatholicCompany.com, Gretchen (a blogger whom I don’t know) posted some great advice for men and their marriages. I know, I know. Men don’t always like to be…
Photo by Joshua Earle at Unsplash.com
Over at the CatholicCompany.com, Gretchen (a blogger whom I don’t know) posted some great advice for men and their marriages. I know, I know. Men don’t always like to be told what to do by a woman. In her defense – and mine! – she’s just passing along the advice of one of the [male] Doctors of the Church, St. John Chyrsostom. And, it’s actually in the Catechism (CCC 2365). You should check out her post and the meme she created, but here’s the highlight of St. John’s advice for men to say to their wives –
I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us. . . . I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.
I’ve long thought that there was something missing from St. John Paul II’s pontificate: he never wrote much about men, masculinity, and fatherhood. Sure, there are some things in his prior writings and certainly some mention in his Theology of the Body, but there’s no Letter to Men or Vires Dignitatem (cf. Mulieres Dignitatem – On the Dignity and Vocation of Women). Some will answer that he wrote Pastores Dabo Vobis, but that’s a document about and for priests. No doubt clear teaching on men, masculinity, and fatherhood would be helpful for priests as well as for other men.
In my work on Mulieris Dignitatem, I started to wonder, if mothers have sort of a primary relationship with children on account of biology (they do spend 9+ months in a woman’s body…), perhaps the special role of men is to be the primary caretaker of the marriage. Perhaps.
St. John Chrysostom’s words above mean nothing if they are not lived, if a husband does not make the choices and take the actions to live them.
I’ve noticed anecdotally that where men are committed to the marriage, not just being passively carried along in family life, that the marriages are different and better. The wife is happier. So are the children, if the couple is blessed to have children. And the husband is happier.
There’s a statistic – I don’t have it handy but you have the mighty interweb at your finger tips – that children are about 20% likely to follow the family’s practice of religion if it’s led by the mother. If led by the father, that number jumps to something like 80%. All those moms are wonderful, good women who are trying their best, I’m sure. But it’s not enough.
And it’s not enough to approach marriage by laying the responsibility of home and hearth at the woman’s feet. The man has to be the leader in the marriage. He has to be the man who says and acts as St. John Chrysostom recommends. I’ve never seen it work well any other way. Feel free to disagree if you like, that’s what the com-boxes are for below.
In some ways, I think women have a role that’s more natural in a biological consideration. But then, to protect her children and herself, she assumes more leadership roles in the family if there is a void where her husband ought to be.
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Then, there’s the line that I’ve heard pastors/priests omit because they are afraid of the repercussions –
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
Which gets worked out as “Wives be submissive to your husbands.”
First of all, go with a good Catholic translation. After all, the Bible comes from the Catholic Church. With all due respect to our Protestant sisters and brothers, they have edited the Bible at times. If you want the real deal, read a Catholic version. If you want an abridged and edited version…well, there are many Protestant versions out there. Pick one and enjoy.
But St. Paul isn’t telling wives to give up their wills or that their husbands should be the dictators of the house, that wives have no voice in the leading of the family. He qualifies it,
…as to the Lord.
And the Lord doesn’t require us to become servile and submissive. In fact, he calls us friends. He lays down his life for his friends. He tells us that his Father will love us as the Father loves Him. (I’m still trying to wrap my head around that!) We are made his siblings in baptism!
Speaking of laying down one’s life, the next line in this section on husbands and wives has some pretty strong words for husbands,
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her
If you’re wondering what that means, look at the crucifix.
That looks a lot harder than “being subordinate to the Lord.” I think wives need to realize this sacrifice and be a help (not a hindrance) to their husbands. But it’s the husband who has to love his wife as Christ loved the church. And that is huge. The Church did not go to Christ and say, “You know, you need to lay your life down for me.” The Church didn’t even exist yet.
But St. Paul doesn’t stop. Again, he indicates the primary initiative of the husband, citing Genesis 2,24:
For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
It’s the husband’s initiative to leave his parents so that he can be joined to his wife. Sure, the wife is going to leave her parents, too; but Scripture and St. Paul are clearly placing the emphasis on the male initiative.
I’m very excited to announce one of my new projects as Associate Dean of the Augustine Institute’s Orange County campus. While we haven’t – yet – arranged for Pope Francis…
Photo from Diocese of Orange event flyer.
I’m very excited to announce one of my new projects as Associate Dean of the Augustine Institute’s Orange County campus. While we haven’t – yet – arranged for Pope Francis to visit the west coast during his visit to the US in September, we are launching a quarterly lecture series with the Diocese of Orange.
Dr. Jonathan Reyes, the Executive Director of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development will be our first speaker next Thursday, May 21. He’ll be speaking on the social vision of Pope Francis, a topic that’s exciting not only in terms of Francis’ pontificate to date but also in light of the upcoming encyclical on the environment.
If you’re in the area, please do attend. It’s a free event, just RSVP here.
May 21, 2015; 7–8:30 p.m.
Freed Theater (Christ Cathedral campus) 13280 Chapman Ave. Garden Grove, CA 92840
Last week, the (developed) world held its breath for the birth of the new British baby whom we now know is a princess. And all the while, life kept happening…
Last week, the (developed) world held its breath for the birth of the new British baby whom we now know is a princess. And all the while, life kept happening for everyone in the world. There were joys, struggles, suffering, death, and more joys. Everyday life.
But I couldn’t get over the stark contrast in which Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana was welcomed at the same time that Francesca Marina, the daughter of a Nigerian refugee, was born on an Italian naval ship. I’d post her picture – she’s simply glorious – but so far I can’t find one that has an open copyright; so be sure to click here.
Her mother was in labor when they were rescued from an overcrowded boat of refugees in the Mediterranean. The article states that Francesca Marina was the sixth child to be born on a navy vessel since 2013.
And while I don’t generally find myself in the camp of nominalists, the images of both baby girls reminded me of Shakespeare’s lines –
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
Neither girl was able to choose the circumstances of her birth. Both bear witness to triumph in a disposable culture. Yes, more fuss was made about the royal birth than is to my liking; but there’s also something striking in the fact that this child had a significant portion of the world so focused on her birth. Seeing the pictures of the two babies reminded me yet again that every child, born and unborn, is a princess or a prince in the eyes of God. May our eyes be as his.
So, Francis Phillips at the Catholic Herald (UK) just reviewed a study guide that I prepared for St. John Paul II’s Letter to Families. The Letter was written in 1994 to…
Logo of the French Marriage Movement
So, Francis Phillips at the Catholic Herald (UK) just reviewed a study guide that I prepared for St. John Paul II’s Letter to Families. The Letter was written in 1994 to participate in the United Nations “Year of the Family.” While more than twenty years old, in many ways it couldn’t be more relevant.
Archbishop Chaput wrote the Forward. I provided the Introduction and the study questions. Phillips notes that there are two consistent aspects to the Saint’s work:
He was a philosopher and his work can be difficult to read, but
It’s worth it because he presents the Church’s teaching on marriage and family in all its beauty.
One of the study questions I proposed was:
Contemporary Western culture has separated radically the human body and the human spirit, to the point at which the two are often understood as wholly separate realities that have nothing to do with each other. Does this common mentality affect the way Catholics tend to think about the body, sexuality and marriage? Why and how does this tendency need to be corrected?
Phillips concludes that this is the key question that the 2015 Synod on the Family will have to address. I’m honored by his her recommendation. And the more I think about it, the more I think he’s she’s onto something. There’s no doubt that the extraordinary Synod last year generated a lot of confusion…for a lot of reasons. Good questions were raised about the irregular situations, especially the admission of the divorced and remarried to Communion. But those questions can’t begin to be be answered without clear anthropological and philosophical understandings which are then further developed by theological considerations. That’s a lot of work. Too much to be done in what is essentially a two-week working group of a few hundred bishops from around the world, most of whom don’t know each other. (If you’ve any doubt, think back to the last committee meeting you participated in…)
But it is work that can be begun by the upcoming Synod in 2015. I could be wrong, but I don’t see any other way of addressing not only the irregular situations, but those of the millions of people around the globe who want to live marriage and family as the Church proposes and find themselves in very ordinary situations that require preparation, enrichment, sustenance, and aid. In fact, this is what St. John Paul II called “the norm” in n. 5 of his Letter:
During the Year of the Family, prayer should first of all be an encouraging witness on the part of those families who live out their human and Christian vocation in the communion of the home. How many of them there are in every nation, diocese and parish! With reason it can be said that these families make up “the norm”, even admitting the existence of more than a few “irregular situations.” And experience shows what an important role is played by a family living in accordance with the moral norm, so that the individual born and raised in it will be able to set out without hesitation on the road of the good, which is always written in his heart.
He continues –
Unfortunately various programmes backed by very powerful resources nowadays seem to aim at the breakdown of the family. At times it appears that concerted efforts are being made to present as “normal” and attractive, and even to glamourize, situations which are in fact “irregular”. Indeed, they contradict “the truth and love” which should inspire and guide relationships between men and women, thus causing tensions and divisions in families, with grave consequences particularly for children.
And I’ll leave you to look up the conclusion of that paragraph…
What he wrote more than two decades ago seems as if it had been written for exactly the time we live in.