The Catholic Church Hates Women? (Understanding Birth Control)

I have the pleasure of spending time with many college age men and women. I have always enjoyed this age group more than any other. I love their inquisitiveness and their idealism. I love that they look so deeply into the meaning of things, searching for lessons they can take forward into their lives.

So when last week, one of these friends of mine came to me to share some dialogue he had been having with a friend of his, I was more than happy to hop in and take a look. His friend seemed to think that the Church was anti-woman. He had responded very well, and I was very proud of him for not backing down against such ignorance. He stood up and did his best to defend himself and the Church we hold dear. May God fill our parishes with such bravery.

There is however the issue of the Church being “anti-woman”, and I thought it might be worth talking about.

After much browsing the internet, that be all end all of information, it seems that for those making this argument, it comes to two main points.

First, there is the issue of birth control. It’s amazing how often this rears it ugly head. Somehow, because the Church thinks pumping a woman’s body full of chemicals so that it will not function naturally is a bad idea, it must be against women. If I said we should pump Chesapeake bay full of chemicals so it couldn’t function naturally, there would be a riot. (I am often amazed at hypocrisy, but never surprised. It is so often the same people who want to save the earth and eat organic that want to keep killing babies and pumping women full of chemicals, messing with their natural feminine hormones. Go figure.)

But let’s get back to topic. Those who hold this position say that birth control liberates women, and the Church by its position against birth control is therefore stifling them. Birth control liberates women? How? Now they can rock it like porn stars? Sleep with every guy on the block? Doesn’t sound all that liberating to me.

Have you ever noticed that it always comes back to sex? We must be able to have sex, and dangit, we need to have as much as we want. Now I’ll be the first to say that sex is a very good thing, but what they call liberating, I call slavery. I can’t believe that I live in what is probably the first generation in history to be surprised that you can have a baby from sex.

Let me draw a parallel. I love food. Put a dab of blue cheese on a steak and I’m in heaven. I also am very fond of watermelon. I can eat a whole one in one sitting, seeds and all. But if you were to say that I could eat a pill that would allow me to eat steak and watermelon all day long, and never gain a pound, I would say you have missed the point. First, chemicals are not the proper response to gluttony. More importantly, why the heck would I want to? It’s way out of the ordinary to want to do nothing but eat all day.

C.S. Lewis put it even better, allow me to paraphrase. Imagine you walked into a town and there was a big show. The whole theater was packed to the brim. So naturally you want to go in to see what all the fuss is about. There on the stage you see a man standing next to a table with a drape over it. Now imagine that he slowly pulls back the cloth to reveal a steaming plate of mashed potatoes. The crowd goes wild! Men are hooting and hollering, women are drooling, this really has everyone’s attention. There are only two conclusions you could draw from this. Either 1) There is a severe famine in town, or 2) these folks have a serious food disorder.

That is exactly what we do. We pull back the curtain to show sexuality, and everyone hoots and hollers, but there is no famine here. In fact, there is more sex going on than ever before. This is just disordered. Sex is great, but it’s not so great as to take over the rest of who and what we are. Yet we use sex to sell everything from tires to soap, and it works.

This is supposed to be liberating women? Thanks to this national disorder, we have more porn than ever before, girls are uploading nude pics online from the comfort of their bathrooms, and women are left emotionally alone as the curtain closes on yet another one night stand. Teen pregnancy is ever on the rise, the single mother is a cultural norm, and children are killed by the millions through abortion. (Birth control didn’t help much there did it?) There is nothing wholesome or good going on here.

In fact, I find it insulting. How this group of people get by, saying they are helping women when they are really dragging them through the mud, is criminal at best.

If you are really looking for quality birth control, I have one time tested method that has only failed once. (and it works for men AND women!)

Abstinence.

The other issue these folks who feel the Church is anti-women get into, and this is the really hot one for them, is the Church’s inability to ordain women to the priesthood. That post can be found here.

 

Never Forget

I am a patriot.

Now that doesn’t mean I feel our country is the greatest nation in the world or any of that nonsense. We have our problems, and those problems are very real ones. I have often commented on the slow steady decrease of morality in our nation, I’m not all that happy with how our government runs and I think we have real cultural problems that need to be addressed. I don’t think that we are automatically better than anyone else, though I must concede that I’m glad I don’t live in Cuba or Iran. I think we have great things going for us, and I have little doubt that other countries do too.

Even with its problems and issues though, this is my home, and I would never want to live anywhere else. I always enjoy visiting other countries, but a big part of that enjoyment is knowing that I have my own to go home to.

So I want the best for this nation, and when I critique its people or culture or government, it is because of my deep love for it. I was a Boy Scout in the USA, I was student body president in the USA, I got married and had my children in the USA. I love my home, and would fight tooth and nail for her.

Today, Memorial Day, we remember those who have fought for our nation, especially those who have died doing so. For me, some of these were family. My great-great grandfather lost his leg in the civil war, but far deeper was the loss of his brother. My great uncle died the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. So much war to keep this land of the free, so much pain and death. Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, and the list goes on. Good men are lost, and the cost is so high that I sometime wonder if its worth it.

I remember when my younger brother was in the Navy, I was so scared that he would be sent to the front lines, and I would never see him again. I love my brother so much, and I just can’t imagine how deep that loss would have been for me. I worried over his safety every day, and prayed that the Lord would let him come back home.

I know that it is worth it. I know that the protection of our country is deeply and immensely important. But I would be lying if I said that I thought it was no big deal. Quite the contrary, it breaks my heart every time I see a coffin draped with a flag.

I can see that I am just rambling about my feeling without coming to any real conclusion. I don’t really think there is a conclusion to come to. It’s hard, and that is what it is.

So for our brothers who have died in the defense of this nation, our home, I thank you, and I salute your bravery. Pray for us, we need your prayers.

For those who have been left alone, may God give you strength, and may you find support in those who love you and are near to you. May your sacrifice never be forgotten.

For those who are at home filled with worry over the ones they love being far from them, I cannot give you words that can console. I can give you my thanks for your heroic bravery, and thank you for sacrificing so much to protect my family.

And for those men and women out there serving, I salute you. Come back safe and sound, and with God’s speed.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
-General George Patton

Forbidden to Wear the Roman Collar

I had an interesting comment on a post I wrote a while back, “Should Deacons Wear the Roman Collar?”, and as that post is one that continues to garner interest, and his question was really good, I thought I’d take a moment to muse on it.

“…. I think you should ask one other question. Why don’t priests and bishops want Deacons wearing the roman collar? I personally could care less about the wearing of clerical clothing except it seems odd that deacons are most of the time banned from the wearing. I truly think the bigger question is not why does a deacon want to wear the collar, but why is he forbidden to.” -Ken (I abridged and added emphasis to his comment)

Why would a bishop not want his deacons wearing clerical garb? It’s a dang good question, and I think it deserves serious thought. I also don’t think the answer is simple, there is a lot of things to consider here.

The question has a presupposition in it though that I think needs to be addressed first. It assumes that deacons wearing the collar is a good thing and that a bishop should want it to be that way. I think this is a fair assumption. I think it is fair, because in the modern world, it seems natural to want to show regular folks that not everyone buys into the world’s nonsense. Clerical dress, like religious dress, bears witness to a life lived for Christ. It bears witness to the fact that intelligent people can want something more in their lives, and God is calling them to live that out in way that is so concrete, that it is a Sacrament.

A deacon has set his life aside in a very real way, and many assume that should be visibly apparent due to this idea of “witness”. There is more than meets the eye here though, and the bishops treading lightly and carefully is not a bad thing. Now I’m not a bishop, nor am I privileged with their thought processes, but I think I can make a few educated guesses as to why they are being cautious.

First, and I believe foremost, there is the issue of discerning the value and proper place of priests. This is obviously extremely important to the bishops, as transitional deacons, that is deacons who are on the road to priesthood, are required to wear the collar. It is only permanent deacons that we are discussing here. While there is no sacramental difference between permanent and transitional deacons, there is a very different charism and level of involvement between the two. Transitional deacons will be priests, God willing, and the scrutiny that they are under is very real and visible. Visibly marking them that way is clearly important.

Permanent deacons are not headed towards priesthood though, and I think this is where the main issue lies. In a world where priests are in shortage, often devalued, and often under attack, the idea of allowing deacons to have any resemblance to priests could conceivably damage vocations. If a deacon is wearing the same clerical dress as a priest, doesn’t that mean there is some equivalency? I don’t think any bishop wants to risk that idea becoming prevalent.

You see, in the Roman Church, deacons are really a rather new idea. Yes, we had them a long time ago, but in this post Vatican II era, we are still just learning what a deacon is. We are still establishing what this “new” role really is, how it looks, feels and acts. No one, deacons included, wants anyone to think of the deacon as a “mini priest”, and I think that the bishops feel allowing them to wear the collar would do just that.

There is also an issue of authority. The priests are all directly under the immediate authority of the bishop, and the bishop knows each of his priests by name. He knows their proclivities, he gets mail from their parishioners, and speaks to them on a very regular basis. This communication is not nearly as commonplace with deacons. Deacons are also under the direct control of their bishops, but they mainly report to their parish priests, and are off doing their thing to support their parishes. Without the bishop having that deep amount of contact with the deacons, I think they may be uncomfortable with the deacons having such free reign to speak for the Church, especially since they have so much less connection to the bishop and the institutional Church than a priest has. To put it briefly, I would guess they would say to themselves, “I’m not even sure who these guys really are!”

In fairness, they often really don’t know who these guys are. While I’m sure its a minority, I have little doubt that some men have gone through the process to become a deacon for primarily social reasons. All it takes is a few of these guys, and since the bishop has little contact with his deacons, he begins to wonder if they all aren’t like that to some degree. I’ve heard of bishops saying things like, “Men only become deacons so they can marry off their daughters and baptize their grandchildren.” Some probably have, and I’m not surprised that a bishop may feel that way, considering the low amount of communication between bishops and deacons.

I would bet that bishops don’t really see the value in their deacons as well. The parish priest does, I’m sure, but the bishop sees very little of the work a deacon does, as it is done in places and times that the bishop has little relation to. Bishops don’t often visit prisons, hospitals, confirmation programs, children’s religious education classes, marriage prep classes, bereavment groups, etc. I do not fault the bishops for this one iota, they have other important tasks that must be done, and can only be done by them. They are extremely busy men. They sure see their priests often, but they see deacons in action very infrequently in comparison. It’s not their fault, it is rather built that way.

Lastly, a friend of mine once quoted his old bishop as saying, “My deacons all want to wear the collar, and my priests all want to take theirs off.” Let me translate in my own words: priests want to be able to be anonymous, and deacons want to stand out. There can be a very real concern that deacons want to wear the collar for reasons that are not in line with the purposes behind clerical dress. Maybe the bishops are concerned that deacons only want to wear the collar to exalt their own status.

All of this tend to devalue the deacon in the eyes of the episcopacy. So for them to allow deacons to wear clerical dress in their mind, is to put deacons on par with the men they know, who have clearly and visibly dedicated their lives to the Church, for a benefit that they may not really see. In practice, I think bishops tend to see their deacons as unduly exalted laymen rather than their brothers working in the fields. I would bet in some cases, they can very right in this assessment, and that only solidifies that belief.

All that being said, I continue to stand with my position in:

“Should Deacons Wear the Roman Collar?”.

But then, I’m not a bishop!

(As a side note, I have never met a deacon that meets any of the negative descriptions that I have posted above, but sheer statistics command that they must exist. Also, I would like to repeat that I have never spoken to a bishop on this matter, and all of my thoughts as to why they might feel this way are 100% theoretical, and from my own musing on the subject.)

I’m Better Than You

Human Dignity.

I have to admit, that I am at times very confused about this.

The trouble is, it all sounds so nice on paper. We claim that every person has the same innate human dignity because we all were made in the image and likeness of God. We say that there is some equality between every person that has ever been born, and then we choose this odd word to describe it, dignity.

Dignity –

1.The state of equality of being worthy of honor or respect

2. A composed or serious manner or style

Now we are obviously talking about the first definition of dignity here, we are not saying that every human person has a serious manner, that would just be silly. So when we say that every person is equally worthy of honor or respect, do we really mean that? Am I really called to honor and respect everyone equally?

This all sound nice and fluffy, but when I actually try to put it into practice, this is a really hard teaching. Am I really supposed to have the same honor and respect for Stalin that I would have for Mother Theresa? Seriously? I mean, this is simply beyond my comprehension. How can I possibly put the Holy Father and the druggie Meth head who just got out of prison on the same level? It’s no challenge to imagine my bishop as having dignity, not so easy for the wife beater down the street.

But here is the real rub. That’s exactly what Jesus did. Spot on. He didn’t even flinch when talking with the prostitute. Poverty and sickness? Didn’t bug Him one bit. The only thing that really seemed to get His goat was religious hypocrisy, and guess what? I am most assuredly not a prostitute, but I have certainly been hypocritical about my beliefs. I’m not sure Jesus would have liked me all that much. That’s pretty darn scary. So since Jesus was clearly tied in to this idea of human dignity, even though it doesn’t make real sense to me, I have to accept it as true. That doesn’t make it any easier.

“Mrs. Turpin occupied herself at night naming the classes of people. On the bottom of the heap were most colored people, not the kind that she would have been if she had been one, but most of them; then next to them- not above, just away from- were the white trash; then above them were the home owners, and above them the home and land owners, to which she and Claud belonged. Above she and Claud were people with a lot of money and much bigger houses and much more land. But here the complexity of it would begin to bear in on her, for some of the people with a lot of money were common and ought to be below she and Claud and some of the people who had good blood had lost their money and had to rent and then there were colored people who owned their own homes and land as well.” -“Revelation” Flannery O’Conner

This is me. Maybe the tools I use to judge everyone are different than Mrs, Turpin, I’m pretty blind to race for example, but I still have a clear strata in my subconscious. That homeless guy is somehow beneath me and that guy at the country club is above me. Where the heck did I get the idea that I could possibly be better than someone else? How did this nonsense get into my brain?

Where do we get this need to place ourselves from? How did I get this way? Why is it so automatic for me to look down on the dirty hippy asking for money, and so easy for me to defer to someone just because they have loads of cash? And like Mrs, Turpin, it only gets more confusing the deeper you get into this mess.

More importantly, how do we break out of this evil cycle? How can we get to the point where we truly see every human person as having the same, true, innate dignity that they were given at their conception. I’m not saying we have to love sin or anything crazy like that, but how can we learn to love every person equally? Jesus pulled it off, and brought it into the realm of perfect possibility, how can we change what is so deeply ingrained in us?

I am certain that we can’t. I think it has to be done TO us. I think only the grace of God can possibly cure me of this evil, and I pray he does just that.

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.” -Galatians 3:27-9

The Only Issue

Yesterday i said something with the full expectation that I would get called out. I said that looking towards the next election, the ONLY issue of any real and deep importance was the question of Catholic institutions being told to include abortificants, birth control and sterilizations in their health care plans.

No one yelled. I was shocked.

I fully expected folks to go on a tirade about how abortion, the death penalty, embryonic stem cell research and all the other intrinsic evils that we as Catholics must fight are really important issues too.

Well, yes and no.

Yes, they are all extremely important, because as Catholics, we cannot stand with evil. We must fight it at every turn. We must vote against it, speak against it, and where possible, responsibly act against it. I’m all there.

But my answer is still no. This issue is more important.

Why am I so die hard on this? I mean, it’s just birth control right? Its not like everyone out there isn’t using the stuff anyways right? Heck, even a ton of Catholics are using it, and that means its not a big deal, right?

Yes. It’s the biggest deal and here is why.

Abortion is a terrible thing. The thought of babies being murdered really bothers me, very deeply. I am extremely appalled at the idea of embryonic stem cell research. I am appalled at anything that assaults human life.

But I’m not being mandated to do it personally.

I am not ordered to kill my own children. I am not personally commanded to flip the switch on the electric chair. I am not forced to personally fund human cloning.

But soon, I can be forced to pay for someone else’s sterilization, abortion, or birth control, all of which I find evil to the core, mandated by the very government that supposedly supports my religious freedom.

Oh yes, this is the ONLY issue.

This issue is not about old men in funny hats making moral choices that are behind the times. (Not that I think that is the case of course!) This is an issue about every man, woman and child in this country having the freedom to do what they know is right. This is about the right to follow your conscience. This is way above a simple moral choice.

Welcome to the first great step. This is the first step that must be taken to take your freedom completely. If they can make this seem like no big deal, then the bar will be raised next time around. Do we really want to live in a society where our government decides what is morally okay, and then forces that morality on its citizens? This is starting to sound downright communist, and I think we have every reason to be very concerned.

Catholics are the first easy target. All you have to do is turn on the TV to realize that most of America thinks of Catholics as either a bunch of silly, demon fearing exorcists who are so into their own guilt that they cannot live their lives, a bunch of sexually perverted old men, or as the great evil organization bent on controlling the world through evil crusades and inquisitions. (Thanks Hollywood, I really appreciate the stereotyping) So who cares what they think, right?

The truth is, however, that the Church is the last great bastion of what is true and just, and if the Church can be taken down in small little pieces, all other Christian denominations will follow. The slow destruction of truth will not end until there is no truth left.

Fight this with all your might. There have been many small steps towards darkness in our lifetime, but this is one giant leap.

Stand by your bishops now. This is not the time to falter.