Most of my readers have probably heard about the Ruth Institute’s dust-up with being called a “hate group.” We showed up on CNN’s republication of the SPLC’s “hate map.” Our credit card processing company dropped us unceremoniously. I want to ask you to help us.
Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Many of you have sent complaints to Vanco, our (former) credit card processing company. Some have written to Wells Fargo Bank, which is evidently the banking partner in the background of Vanco, and most likely the instigator of the change. Thank you. I appreciate it very much. Many of you have sent donations to the Ruth Institute. Thank you for that as well.
But today, I would like to ask for one more thing. I ask you to pray for the officers in charge at Vanco and at Wells Fargo. If you have already written to them, please write them again, telling them you are praying for them.
What prompted this request? I went to confession today, before 6:30 AM Mass. (Our church has confessions for a half hour, prior to every Mass. What a blessing!) Anyhow, the priest asked me to pray for those I have harmed, and those who have harmed me. So why not Vanco and Wells Fargo?
Our telling them we are praying for them will have an impact on them, far beyond anything we can predict or even realize after the fact. So, do this for me, please, won’t you? We will not win the culture war by fighting on the turf chosen by our opponents. We can only win on the turf chosen by Christ. Our opponents won’t even think about genuine love (as in willing the good of the other person) as a genuine weapon. We can do this.
Some of my readers are familiar with the very inside-Catholic-baseball question about whether a Catholic is required to get the permission of his or her bishop before filing for a civil divorce. The extensive discussion of my most recent article on Crisis convinces me that people are indeed interested in this topic.
To the best of my knowledge, two people are promoting this view. One is Bai Macfarlane, who has a website called Mary’s Advocates. The Ruth Institute includes this site among our Links we Like for the Reluctantly Divorced.
The other person is John Farrell. To the best of my knowledge, he has never been published anywhere other than his own blog and a Facebook page.
Permit me to say that if you are interested in this topic, follow Bai. Ignore John. And I do mean, ignore him.
This man is not helping his cause, if that cause is to persuade the bishops to implement canon law in the way that he believes is correct. In fact, he is actively harming that cause.
Where Bai patiently answers questions, John just repeats his one or two talking points. He is rude. As a Southerner, (admittedly, an adoptive Southerner, but an appreciative Southerner) saying someone is rude is no small matter. Compare Bai’s comportment in the comments section of my Crisis article, with John’s behavior on this thread.
I am no expert on canon law. I have said so repeatedly. I have told John this privately, and publicly. I am not going to make a pronouncement on this topic, as I am not qualified to do so. I am trying to keep an open mind, and listen to what people have to say. Bai is worth listening to. John’s noise-making makes it almost impossible to listen, or to even think clearly.
Please do not encourage this man. Especially if you want to help end the divorce culture, both inside the Catholic Church and in the wider culture.
I just finished reading the Benedict Option by Rod Dreher. I also recently read and reviewed Tony Esolen’s new book, Out of the Ashes, which is in my opinion, the better book of this genre. Dreher’s book has generated an enormous amount of attention. But if you only have time to read one book, read Esolen’s book.
I am not clear on whether the Benedict Option is:
a quietistic retreat from politics, or
a strategic retreat to live to fight another day, or
a joyful embrace of the full Christian life because it is the life most worth living, no matter what may be going on in the World.
I’m not sure whether Dreher himself is clear. Option #3 was certainly the motivation of the original St. Benedict, and his many sons and daughters down to this day. And, Tony Esolen is definitely an option #3 guy.
What makes The Benedict Option worth reading:
Its argument is explicitly Christian. No more making arguments that are accessible only to “public reasons.”
Dreher argues that Christianity is good, and deserves to survive. In fact, the World needs for faithful Christians to keep the Christian message alive, because the World is not doing well without it.
Dreher has many practical suggestions for maintaining and building a Christian identity, in the face of an increasingly hostile World.
Having said all that, I do have a couple of problems with this book, and with Dreher’s writing in general.
First, he sometimes acts as if he is the only guy who has ever thought of these things. This is an annoyance, but not a super-serious problem. He says: “One reason the contemporary church is in so much trouble is that religious conservatives of the last generation mistakenly believed they could focus on politics and the culture would take care of itself.” (pg 81) Who ever thought that?
Further on, he makes this remarkable claim (without a footnote, mind you): “Fundamental abortion rights remain solidly in place, and Gallup numbers from the Roe v Wade era until today have not meaningfully changed.” (pg 82).
That’s odd. The millenial generation opposes abortion and favors its restriction more than older generations, even if Millenials do not self-identify as “pro-life.” The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute breathlessly reports that states have enacted over 1,000 abortion restrictions in the past 5 years. This doesn’t sound like complete political failure to me. Nor does it sound like a complete failure of cultural engagement. On the contrary, it sounds like successful involvement in both arenas.
“Fundamental abortion rights remain solidly in place” because the Supreme Court has repeatedly circled the wagons around said “rights.”
I know very well the frustration of having Courts overturn social conservative measures that were duly enacted by voters. I was a spokeswoman for Proposition 8. I lived through that whole drama, of winning the election (quite decisively, thank you very much) and then watching courts overturn it on one flimsy pretext after another.
I sympathize with Dreher’s frustration. But enacting measures and then having the courts repeatedly overturn them is not an argument against politics per se. Nor is it an argument that we have done politics badly.
It may mean we need a new strategy. But I do think we owe it to the people who have knocked themselves out in the public square to acknowledge their efforts. We should not dismiss them so casually as Dreher appears to do in the passage I quoted and in other places.
This brings me to my biggest complaint about The Benedict Option. He keeps saying: “We lost.” This bugs me. A lot. For several reasons.
It is one thing to say that a particular political effort failed. It is another to say “we lost,” as if there is no longer anything left to do but hunker down and accept permanent dhimmitude.
It is one thing to say that our strategies are not working, and that we need to try something else. I get that. In fact, I have myself advocated strategic retreat for the purpose of regrouping. But that is not the same thing as saying, “we lost,” as if the battle is over.
Finally,and most importantly, the cause of Truth is never decisively lost. It cannot be. We have a responsibility to continue to speak the Truth, love the Truth and live the Truth, no matter what the outcome may be. I would call this the Solzhenitsyn Option, or the Václav Havel Option.
We Christians cannot continue doing our ordinary occupations in our accustomed manner. What will come after the Modern World shakes itself apart? And what will Christians contribute? Dreher has done a great service in inducing so many people to be part of this all-important discussion.
My son and I visited New Orleans over the weekend. Unbeknownst to me: St. Joseph’s Day is a Thing over there. Or maybe the Feast of St. Joseph is a Thing among Italians everywhere. In any case, we saw a lovely and elaborate St. Joseph’s Altar in the French Market in the French Quarter.
I have a special devotion to St. Joseph. My oldest brother is named James Joseph, and was always called Joe or Joey. He died in 1996, and I still pray for the repose of his soul.
In any case, back to New Orleans this past weekend: I stopped to chat with the nice ladies at the booth. (There was also an Italian band playing nearby in the French Market. There is always music of some sort going on in New Orleans.)
I place several petitions in their box. It was already stuffed pretty full with petitions. Mind you, this is not some podunk, unsophisticated hick-town. This is New Orleans, one of the most vibrant cities in the world. It still retains much of its Catholic spirit and identity, not to mention its joie de vivre!
Here are my petitions for glorious St. Joseph, as St. Teresa of Avila used to call him:
For the friends and benefactors of the Ruth Institute.
For the complete healing of the American family.
For the success of Joseph Sciambra’s ministry to same sex attracted men in San Francisco, especially during the “Gay Pride” weekend.
I encountered a bit of controversy yesterday in a Facebook discussion. Please help me sort this out.
Pretend you are a divorced person, who is seeking an annulment. By chance, you connect with an old flame from high school. Please read the following passage, and see if it helps you discern whether you should start dating before the annulment comes through. Remember: try to put yourself in this person’s shoes, AND try to base your answer solely on what you read in this text.
When I met my husband, Bob, we had to wait for his Catholic Church annulment to go through before we could even date or plan a marriage. We went a year or so spending time as friends, “brother and sister,” mostly phone calls and a few visits with his parish priest. I was in Southern California and he was five hundred miles away in the San Francisco Bay area. Occasionally we took turns driving back and forth to visit and, I admit, both of us were very physically attracted to the other. We’d been high school sweethearts forty years prior and had met again at our reunion. Because we’d been young and innocent together and grew up in the sixties, it was easy for us to feel somewhat like real brother and sister. Still, I remembered his kisses and those first, sweet stirrings of sexual desire from decades ago. We could not wait to make love. But we wanted to take the high road even more.
We could have moved past friendship, started dating, or moved in like so many do and started living as husband and wife but that would have been a lie. We discussed, argued, and finally agreed that we wanted something different than what the culture (and even some in the Church) told us we could do: we wanted to reserve sex for the true expression of a complete and total self-giving. In studying St. John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility we understood that it would be a lie to act out a full self-giving with our bodies before it had been exchanged in every other area of our lives. We also knew that masturbation wasn’t an easy replacement; that, too, was a practice in self-centeredness (not self-giving) that can never foster authentic love. We agreed to take the high road.
So, what do you think, readers? To date, or not to date: that is the question.
The Ruth Institute held another Healing Family Breakdown Retreat this past weekend. As I listen to people share their stories of family breakdown, a procession of past encounters marches through my memory. People tell me their stories, and not just at times appointed for this purpose, like the Retreat. I recall:
a college student in tears at our student conference: “Dr. Morse, you are the first adult I have ever heard say that divorce is hard on children.”
a middle-aged man whom I met at a party. He later told me that his mother (who had been married and divorced multiple times) recently revealed to him that she had had an abortion when he was in high school. The man was in shock over the loss of a sibling.
a woman in her sixties ran out of my talk at a conference. At the dinner that evening, she shared with me, that my talk stirred up the pain of her parents’ divorce.
a man who has been married and divorced twice, confided that he and his former wife had a child through IVF. The child is now a teenager. He has agonized for years over what to do with the 10 “leftover” frozen embryos. He would have to get the consent of his former wife, the mother of the embryos, for anything he might want to do. “When you are trying so hard to have a baby, they don’t tell you that you may end up killing babies.”
a couple on their second marriage, who had both chosen to sterilize themselves during their first marriages. Both were in tears, because they now wanted children with each other. They were Catholic and finally realized that the Church teachese that deliberate sterilization is sinful. “No one told me it was wrong,” they each said through their tears.
And that, for me, is the bottom line: no one tells people the down-sides of any aspect of our Brave New World. “No one told me it was wrong.”
Memo to priests and catechists: You are not hurting people to tell them “it is wrong.” You may be saving them from tremendous heart-ache. And incidently, you are doing your job.
Catholic World Report published a tribute on Fr. James V. Schall on the ocasion of his 89th birthday, today. It is fitting that was born on January 28, the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, for Schall is a great Thomist/Aristotelian. (I used to joke that Fr. Schall was on a first-name basis with Aristotle.)
I was never his student, at least not in the classroom. I met him at an Acton Institute conference back in the early 1990’s. We realized that we were more or less neighbors, as he taught at Georgetown and I taught at George Mason. We became friends and correspondents.
And he was quite the correspondent. This was pre-internet. I would make a photo copy of something I had written and mail it to him. He would send it back, the next day, covered with comments. He would also send me a fat envelope with copies of his articles. He could write faster than I could read.
Most of our conversations included suggestions for books I should read. I generally came away with a list or 4 or 5. I cannot say that I read every one. But I can say that I benefited from every one that I did read. As he got older, the book lists got shorter. I wondered if that was because he was slowing down, or whether I was getting better read. In any case, he did his share to transform an economist with a technocratic training into the person I am today.
I also felt that he fully supported me in my vocation as wife and mother, something many of economist colleagues found mystifying or worse. One incident stands out in my mind. After a visit at the Georgetown campus, he walked me to my car. As I opened the car door, he noticed the toys, cheerios, and other assorted debris typcial of a car that routinely transports two pre-schoolers. I was about to become embarrassed by the mess. But he got an affectionate smile on his face, and said, “Ah, a family car.” No more embarrassment for me!
One day, I received a phone call from an editor at the American Enterprise Magazine. He said, “I have a complete dossier on you, courtesy of Fr. Schall. We would like you to write something for us.” This editor had been a student of Fr. Schall’s, who had been sending him fat envelopes with my stuff. And I’m thinking to myself, if he has done this for me, I bet he has done it for lots of other people too.
And he has. I was privileged to attend his Farewell Lecture on his retirement from Georgetown, “The Final Gladness.” (You can watch it here. You will see the enthusiasm of the students before and after the talk.)
At the reception afterwards, I had a chance to talk with him. He asked me about my family and my work. He treated me as if I were the most special person there. I noticed that he treated every other person in the exact same way: as if they were the most special person there. The gift of a true pastor.
Fr. Schall is from the generation of Jesuits who were men of vast learning and deep sanctity. Many happy returns of the day, Fr. Schall. We love you.