Monday, February 25, 2013

"With the Pope's Resignation, Everything Has Changed"

... or at least that's the title the Huffington Post has given my blog entry there. Check it out.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Teens Just Say No

You might have heard about this teen in my home state, Minnesota (don't blame us, we voted for Mondale), who either was denied confirmation or refused confirmation because of his questioning of the Church's rejection of same-sex civil marriage.  (You may recall that the move for a "one man one woman" amendment failed in Minnesota in early November, despite the threats of the bishops there.)

Well, turns out there were two.
In the letter, addressed to the parish of Assumption Church at 307 Front St. N., the Rev. Gary LaMoine says “a couple of candidates chose not to enter into full communion with the Catholic community because of their disagreement with the teaching of the Church concerning marriage.”
It's a little more complicated than "chose not to enter," including public rejection of the family of the first teen and the rather unsavory revelation of extensive FB cruising by the parish staff.  (Is this routine?)

However that may be, I suddenly had this thought:  What if there were an epidemic of teens refusing to be  confirmed because they did not want to be -- very publicly -- associated with the Church's position on same-sex civil marriage?  

Confirmation, we tell them over and over, is voluntary.  Your parents carried you to baptism and they more or less walked you through reconciliation and First Communion.  But Confirmation?  This is when you claim your faith publicly as an "adult."

But what if confirmation becomes synonymous with rejecting same-sex civil marriage?  How will this play with teens raised on Lady Gaga and Modern Family and numerous school assemblies against bullying? 

I am not encouraging such an epidemic.  But if the choice to complete the great sacramental arc of one's initiation into the Church is now viewed in the teen mind as a public statement of intolerance, the bishops will  have only themselves to blame.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Meatless Monday or Fish on Friday?

As part of the Year of Faith, the New Evangelization, etc., Cardinal Dolan has asked his fellow bishops to consider re-introducing Friday abstinence:
The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent.
He put this forward at the recent November meeting of the USCCB, as part of a push for to encourage more frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance (more on that in a future post).

I like the notion of retrieving the Friday fast -- abstaining from eating meat as an invitation to step away from our appetites and turn toward Christ. It is true that our sinfulness has many dimensions and thus our focus could just as well take the form of a fast from social media, or unequal financial dealings, or the consumption of overpriced coffee.  Yet, there is something very pointed in the call to mark, concretely, that the plentiful food surrounding me is denied to much of the world, the poor in whom we are to see the face of Christ.

Moreover, for those of us who "live in the land of overthink," such a fast is immediate and personal and bodily.  It's a pretty simple metric, a fairly straightforward way of reminding me how satiety can blind me to my real hunger.

But there's probably more to this. In a radio interview shortly thereafter, Cardinal Dolan mentions the 2011 move by the English bishops to re-introduce abstinence from meat on Fridays as the most immediate spur for this.  That may be true, bishops know what other bishops are doing.

I suspect, however, that a more recent development is behind this move: however: the secular movement toward healthy eating known as "Meatless Mondays," which is gaining enough ground in the US to catch on officially in Los Angeles, among other places.

When I heard of this movement, my first thought was, "Hey, that's a Catholic thing." But Catholics abstain from meat on Friday as a penitential sign, one that draws us close to the crucified Christ in a recognition of the timeless sign of Good Friday.  It's about turning to God; it's not about my muffin top.

The "Meatless Monday" movement, on the other hand, steps away from the religious tie.  It's progressive, a good word on this blog, in that it advocates a health benefit for you that, writ large, will also promote the health of others and get us all thinking about sustainable eating.  These are fine things, but there are clearly different agendas at work here.

It's in this context that Friday abstinence takes on a new energy for Cardinal Dolan.  I suspect that the real push for Friday is also a strategic cultural push-back against the realization that a traditional Catholic practice -- widely recognized as "Catholic" -- is on the verge of being reclaimed (and secularized) by the progressive left. These kinds of calculations are, for Cardinal Dolan, very much in the forefront.

Indeed, Dolan is quite correct, in the radio interview, when he observes that "Religious communities have to have identifiable markers."  A big concern the Second Vatican Council addressed was the problem of practices ("identifiable markers") that had become lifeless and rote, broadly observed but lacking a strong basis in a mature faith.  Out of this concern, things like routine Friday abstinence, outside of Lent, fell by the wayside.But so did the sense of a visible Catholic community, as a clearly identifiable social group.  This is a loss, I think many will agree.  But how to re-engage this is the question of the hour:  by the re-inscribing of a tribal fiat?  Or by a retrieval of Catholic faith and practice that is deeply engaged with our own day? 

If the agenda is tribal ("I'm Catholic and I VOTE"), that's a loss. If the first movement in its promotion by the bishops is to offer legislation making the provision of fish sticks in public school lunches a religious liberty issue, it will be a disaster. (But mark my words...)

Catholics could, however, notice what's happening and, nevertheless, choose to name something deep about their bodies and the Body of Christ by the renewed observation of Friday abstinence, as a not-so-public yet still recognizable sign of our common catholicity -- and our common sinfulness. 

So I will cheer this and I encourage you to take it to heart as well.  But don't underestimate the reactionary impulse.  Googling around, I found reference to the restoration of Friday abstinence in England and Wales in 2011...after Meatless Monday had become a significant cultural movement in Britain.  Ah.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Pro-life? Not Romney

My op-ed on the state of the abortion question in this election is up at the Connecticut Post website, under the title, "'Pro-life' should mean all life."
In other words, the decision to allow an exception for rape reveals that this "pro-life" stance is not about "life" at all: judging women is the first commitment here. For Mitt Romney, the pregnant victim of rape deserves a safe and supported abortion; because the woman is innocent, the value of the child is suddenly negotiable. All other women (the forgetful, the guilty, the careless, the clueless) should carry their children to term, or be humiliated as they approach the clinic, or bear the risk of the back alley -- for the daughters of the wealthy, regardless of the law, there will always be quiet options -- because we are "pro-life..."
See also comments by Democrats for Life member Stephen Schneck, summarized by Vincent Miller at the America blog, "Schneck hits a nerve on abortion."

Schneck, the Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America, will deliver a lecture at Fairfield University on Thursday, October 25th at 8 pm in the DSB Dining Room, titled "American Catholic Citizenship: 2012."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Isaac's Gift to Romney

"Isaac and Mitt" -- sounds like a new buddy sitcom...

Media critic here.  Democrats should hold it on the schadenfreude, Isaac may well be a boon for Republicans.

What do you do during big weather events?  Keep the TV on, on CNN or MSNBC (now called something else) or that other channel.  (Ok, if your TV is always on already, set to catch Toddlers in Tiaras, I'm not talking to you.)

The convention alone is not enough to keep viewers, the speeches bore even this political junkie, thus the skimpy hour allotted to it by the networks.  But if cable is giving wall-to-wall coverage to Large Weather Event starring Anderson Cooper and lots of wind, those eyeballs will be there when they cut to Todd at the convention for variety. 

Plus, if they play it reasonably, the Republicans will get Romney and Ryan and Christie and Rubio talking on your screen about big solutions, intercut with scenarios of big problems.  It's ok, for them, that you're not listening to much detail -- it's a visual set-up that can be used to their advantage. 

Obama and the Mrs. should think about getting to the Gulf coast now, in shirt sleeves.