Tag Archives: Catholic Church

In Which the Uncommonhousewife Becomes an Activist

Occupy Someplace or Other?  Definitely not.

Boycott Apple, Disney, Whole Foods, or the target of the day?  Please.

Nope.  I attended, and indeed dragged my children to our local Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally last Friday.  Maybe you heard of it.  After all, over 140 cities across the country held one.  Hopefully, the rally near you drew a bigger crowd than the 150 or so people who appeared with me.  (A note to the rally organizers: Lots of passionate supporters cannot leave work to attend a rally during business hours–even if it occurs during “lunchtime.”)  The small group did merit an itty bitty mention in the local newspaper.  The article referred to those of us in attendance as “activists”  and “protesters.”   Really?!  We First Amendment lovers are lumped into the same category with anarchist G7 protesters and the 99% grunge crowd?

So, there were rousing speeches, clever signs, some song and some prayer.  We even got the protection of a couple of city police officers on Segways.  The crowd was made up of young, old, and folks in between.  A Google search about the rallies produces articles from plenty of major news outlets: a surprise considering how the media largely ignores the annual March for Life, which draws hundreds of thousands each year.

In spite of the attention and the positive experience of gathering with like-minded people over a fundamental cause, I feel less energized and less optimistic than ever that this issue will be resolved justly.  With “American Idol” and March Madness on their minds, most Americans just can’t be bothered to consider whether their Constitutional freedoms are being stolen.  But along with that laziness and indifference, there is a strong current of Catholic hatred that makes any real discussion about the issue of religious freedom essentially impossible.  Just feast your eyes on some of these comments attached to the report of my local rally:

What they want is 2 billion Catholics in the world. More Catholics means more money and power for the church. To have a major religious organization with over a billion adherents worldwide eschew birth control is a travesty. What do they want, 1 person per square yard? Will that make the Pope and his Cardinals happy? OK, now lets house and feed that population. Luckily, most Catholics ignore the church’s stand on birth control. But what kind of religion is that? Give me a Unitarian anytime.

Since the Catholic Church in particular has failed to keep its female members from using hormonal contraceptives, church leaders are now pressuring government institutions to keep birth control pills as inaccessible as possible. That is exactly a violation of the separation of church and state, and anyone who values liberty should be outraged.

Things get really ugly when you look at the comments on the rally coverage for the Washington Post.

Before you Catholics think you can dictate the laws of the land, there is that little matter of harboring pervert child molesting priests.  Turn them all over for civil prosecution and you might have some credibility instead of being above the law.

Extreme Catholics need to grow up and realize that we are living in the real world, not a theoretical hair splitting world.  This is an instance in which Jesus would have said “render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s” rather than raise a stink to get exactly what he wanted.  The Church and the members should be out “loving thye neighbor” instead of indulging in self-pity.

This article is full of lies.  The Roman Catholic Church and other religious organizations that seek to deny women control of their bodies are doing everything they can to deny women their legal and moral right to determine when and if they want to be a parent.  Because they know that direct attacks have been largely unsuccessful, they are trying to control women by making it impossible for them to find providers of reproductive health services.

At best, it seems that the dumb masses of America think this is all about sex and birth control.  At worst, the haters can use this very public stand by the Catholic Church against the Obama administration’s policy as a chance to rehash every evil ever perpetrated by a Catholic.

There is a lot of work to be done.  One of the most important tasks may be convincing whoever turns out to be the GOP nominee in the presidential election that  it can’t just be about the economy, that there are cherished liberties at stake.


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Turning the Tables

It’s awfully easy for me to find examples of what’s wrong with mainstream culture or ineffective education or liberal policy.  Lately, though, I have come across plenty of things on my own side of the aisle that have me scratching my head.  Sadly, a lot of it has to do with faith and religion.  I guess that’s why religion is considered one of the “no-no” topics for polite conversation.

Here’s an easy example: I am opposed to gay marriage.  I believe homosexual activity to be immoral, yet I cast no judgement on the homosexual individual.  It’s the behavior I disagree with.  Along comes that nutcase preacher from Westboro Baptist Church.  He also condemns homosexual activity, but he does it by demonstrating at the funerals of  US servicemen who were killed in action.  His outrageous actions done in the name of God cast a dark shadow over anyone who calls himself a faith-filled person.

A not-so-easy dilemma: what to do about Catholics who are “too Catholic”?  I used to believe that the biggest threat to believers came from “the Left,” for lack of a better term.  Those folks who want to liberalize the Church, make it a democracy, and bring it into the new millenium were the ones to watch out for.  They too easily fall into formation with those who accuse the Church of being sexist, repressive, out-dated, and so on.  I began to distance myself from those parishes that pulled out their kneelers, baked their own Communion wafers, and sang all of the “pat ourselves on the back for coming to church” songs in place of those hymns that actually focus on God.  Little did I know that the so-called traditional Catholics could be just as scary.

Ultra-orthodox Catholics think the Church is in trouble for an entirely different set of reasons ranging from using the English language instead of exclusively Latin, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI being too liberal, and Catholic culture being too lax.  I touched on that last point a little when I blogged about passing judgement on Catholic women who wear pants.  I’m finding out how much more there is to it than that.  The other day, I read a rather heated discussion on a Catholic blog about whether it’s immoral for Catholics to practice yoga.  No, I’m not making that up.  Then, there’s the lady that sits a few pews behind us in church every week who refuses to recite the prayers in English.  Instead, she whispers them loudly in Latin.  She also will only sing traditional hymns; otherwise, she keeps her booming opera voice silent.  These examples are like mosquitos.  They are annoying but generally harmless.

Then the “too Catholic” scenario hit closer to home.  SuzyQ is attending the Steubenville Summer Youth Conference at the Franciscan University of Steubenville this weekend.  I’m all for a movement to engage teens in their faith and offer them a way and opportunity to befriend other faithful teens.  Then I saw the list of what to pack for the conference.  A bathing suit was suggested, not for swimming, but for wearing in the shower for modesty.  It’s immodest to take a shower naked in single-sex dorms with bathrooms equipped with private shower stalls??  Only spiritual reading was permitted.  If you were hoping to re-read some Harry Potter before the latest movie opens, you are out of luck. 

Why, oh, why can’t we just be normal?  Do we have to go from one extreme–teens reading sexually explicit YA novels and flaunting porn-star fashion–to the other.  Are we really expecting to keep teens practicing their faith by encouraging them to shower in bathing suits and condemning secular entertainment?  Wouldn’t it be more effective to teach them to discern what’s appropriate and why?  If we portray “true Catholics” as akin to the Dugger family, how is that going to appeal to teenagers who are bombarded with Katy Perry and “Jersey Shore?”

So why not just shrug all of it off as just a minor nothing that’s easily addressed?  It turns into a problem when the conference also sells Steubenville and other schools like it as “authentically Catholic” colleges.  The message is that other schools will not provide an environment that is healthy for Catholic students.  Now, I can’t argue that there are plenty of dangers for Catholic students at colleges both secular and Catholic.  But there are also some outstanding Catholic Campus Ministry programs and Newman Centers out there, too.  If parish youth groups, retreats, and events like the Steubenville conference would give kids some tools to take away to college, Catholic teens might have a better chance at continuing in the faith along with acting as a joyful witness in their faith to the rest of the world. 

Does my desire for “normal” religious practice make me any less uncommon?  Uh. No.  It’s one thing to be counter-cultural.  It’s something else entirely to enclose yourself in an extremist-looking sect.  Apparently, being normal is even more uncommon than you think.



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Heaven or Harvard, or…What?

We are deep into the college search at our house.  Maybe a more accurate statement would be that I am really into the college search.  SuzyQ, a high school junior, and I seem to have a difference of opinion about what type of schools should be on the list to consider.  And it’s not what you might think.  If you refer back to my “About” page, you’ll learn that I’m a faithful Catholic who is trying to raise her family to be counter-cultural.  A big part of our decision to homeschool the kids through high school was the desire to keep them away from the indoctrination into the narcissistic and relativist mindsets that have taken over American culture.

So when it comes to searching for the right college for our first-born, why am I the one encouraging SuzyQ to look at more secular schools, rather than only “approved” Catholic institutions?  In case you didn’t know, there is a group of colleges and universities that can truly be called Catholic, while the vast majority of schools that call themselves Catholic actually are so in name only.  I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with these “approved” schools, especially if you are looking for a degree in theology or philosophy.  Generally speaking, though, they aren’t terribly strong in the sciences.  And that’s where SuzyQ’s interest lies. 

My argument:  After sheltering her for what will be about 18 years, the time comes when she needs to go into the world and face what it has to offer.  Without a doubt, it will not be easy to maintain and defend her faith at a secular school, and it will be even harder at a school that claims to be Catholic while scorning Church teaching in its classrooms and on its campus.  Hopefully, after all of these years of religious education and the example Darling Husband and I have set, she will have the tools she needs to find her way and possibly help fellow Catholic students do the same.  Maybe she will be the beacon that others are looking for.

Then there’s the question of what college is really for.  I think the days of college as a pure learning experience are over.  Frankly, it costs too much.  If you aren’t going to college with a view to preparing for a career in life, maybe college isn’t for you.  I say this as a full-time mom.  I truly believe I use my degree in History every day as I help educate my children.  Had the internet been available to offer employment from home in my years as a young mom, I likely would have pursued some outside employment that way.  The investment in a college education should be an investment in your future, in the contributions you hope to make in society.  Like it or not, studying primarily the Great Books and Western Civilization is not going to get you far in today’s world.  It might get you into law school, but even that isn’t saying much, according to this article.  And a degree in theology likely won’t land you a job that will allow you to repay those college loans in a hurry, not to mention your other bills.

Here’s my other worry about some of these “approved” schools:  They might be what some have called “Catholic ghettos.”  I don’t necessarily like that terminology, but it could be aptly applied.  Spiritually speaking, they may be Catholic utopias, but what about educationally?  When you’re shelling out close to $200,000 over 4 years, should you settle for 2nd best in faculty or lab facilities or connections that give your kid a boost in job prospects?  This post about this very issue really started me thinking about all this. 

Am I less of a good Catholic mom for questioning these colleges as the best fit for SuzyQ?  Am I risking her soul by encouraging her to look at institutions I know are filled with unashamedly anti-Catholics?  Theoretically, she could end up graduating from an “approved” Catholic college as a fanatic on the conservative end of the spectrum.  You know, the super-judgmental, “I’m a better Catholic than you because I read the entire Summa Theologica, and I don’t wear pants” type? 

So, chime in.  What’s a Catholic parent to do?

Incidentally, Harvard isn’t on my list.  But Princeton might be.  It has a thriving Catholic campus presence in spite of being Ivy League.

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Fashion Police: The Catholic Squad

It’s well after Labor Day, and I wore white pants with white wedge sandals to church last weekend.  According to some, I made a fashion faux pas.  Was it because of the white or because of the pants?  Apparently, a number of good Catholic folks would condemn me for wearing pants–of any color.

Yes, it’s tough being a Catholic in today’s culture.  I figure it’s hard enough trying to build a modest wardrobe for myself and 16-year-old SuzyQ.  But then I come across discussion about whether it’s immodest or even sinful to wear pants.  Not just the pants that are so tight that they look painted on and flesh rolls out over the top of them or even the ones that are cut so low that they leave more of one’s backside uncovered than covered.  This discussion was about any pants: trousers, dress pants, jeans, etc.

Now, do Catholics really have nothing better to worry about than whether pants lead men into impure thoughts?  Sadly, I have known women who, though only implicitly, cast some judgement on women who don’t wear frumpy jumpers and long skirts exclusively.    Now, as I read more Catholic blogs, I find out that people actually believe it’s no coincidence that women started clamoring for ordination about the same time that pants became an acceptable part of their wardrobes.  Some even link pants to the Culture of Death that pervades this country.  Pants??  So pre-marital sex, abortion, shacking up, “alternative lifestyles”, sexualization of children, and so on all trace their roots to pants?

I happen to love skirts and dresses.  Usually they are easier to fit, and they can be very comfortable, especially in the summer.  But I also think pants are very practical, and they can be very attractive with the right fit.  Both can be tasteful and modest.  Sure, I would like to see more women wear skirts and dresses, particularly to Mass on Sunday.  It just makes it look like they put a little extra effort into going to Mass.  (I blogged about it here.)

The world thinks we Catholics are crazy enough as it is.  I don’t think equating pants with immorality helps attract people to the Church.

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Hope on a Sunday

I know it’s Monday.  Because of technical difficulties, the family is down to just one computer to share.  How did we ever get by before the laptop and the second desktop?

With our country in serious trouble, the economy headed for even more trouble, and the almost unending string of news about the culture of darkness facing our children, it’s sometimes tough to feel hopeful.  While my faith reminds me to hope and trust in God, a little bit of good news goes a long way to keep the spirits up.

After attending Mass in our new parish yesterday and over the past few weeks, I got a nice glimmer of hope about the future of the Church and the generation of young adults.  A newly ordained priest, certainly not out of his 20s, celebrated Mass a few Sundays ago.  He had grown up in the parish and entered the Legionaries of Christ, a religious congregation founded in 1948.  I was moved nearly to tears by his humility and reverence.  His passionate love for the Church and zeal in his mission to share the Gospel truly radiated from him.  After hearing so much in the news about the evils of a very few priests along with experiencing the lukewarm attitudes of many parish priests, I was so thankful and heartened by the prospect of such faithful shepherds emerging in the Church.

Just this Sunday, the new youth minister in our parish introduced himself to the congregation.  He is a fresh, new graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  Not more than 22, he is a man confident in his faith and proud to proclaim it.  He told a little of his own story as a young person caught up in modern culture of instant gratification and his ultimate embrace of his faith.  His desire for the youth ministry is to help teenagers of the parish become young men and women of faith.  Again, his love for the Church and passion for extending the kingdom of Christ was so apparent.  And what a difference from the typical youth group which focuses mainly on “social justice” rather than encouraging one another in the faith.

I am a member of Generation X, but more importantly, I’m part of the JP II generation.  We are Catholics formed by Pope John Paul II, who gave us World Youth Days, the Theology of the Body, the collapse of communism, and over 470 new saints.  He encouraged us to open our hearts to Christ and taught unceasingly about the sanctity of life at all stages.  Even though my generation has suffered through the mishmash of CCD and Catholic school curricula teaching nothing but “God Loves You” or “social justice” and neglecting education in Church teaching, we cling to the example and message of JP II.  And many of this generation have opened their hearts to the call of Christ to serve His Church. 

Finally, we are beginning to see the fruits of John Paul’s labors.  Thanks be to God!

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