Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Democracy and the Second Estate

Prior to the great revolutions of the 19th Century that swept away the last vestiges of absolute European monarchies save Prussia, Austria, and the Ottoman Empire, and for some time after Italian Unification, the Vatican preached her doctrine of estates as a theologically-based model of social teaching. Estates are similar to social classes, but are a little bit more rigid than class distinctions we have today, but not so rigid as to be called a caste. The Second Estate, Knighthood and Nobility, is our focus and why its eradication in the social strata in the name of the egalitarian fallacy of modernism (read: Democracy) is ultimately bad.

Knighthood in the sense of a social estate is less tied in with noble birth than one usually thinks of, especially when one envisions a brave English knight riding off to war, or the oppressive, corrupt, morally bankrupt knights that were defeated by Bravehart. Knighthood is an ideal, rooted in the age of chivalry. The mercantile and, later, industrial revolutions kind of put a damper on chivalry, but the Church maintained several orders of knighthood that were awarded to the laity. One that most Americans should be familiar with is the Knights of Columbus

At its very base, the bestowing upon someone of knighthood is a positive raising of that person in social and personal status. But it is more than just something someone should be personally proud of. It is a responsibility to his fellow man. A common lay person has only two things to worry about: survival and salvation. He must survive as best he can, and ensure that he can attain the eternal survival of his soul. As part of this, he learns to cohabit with other people and help out his family and friends. This is a social obligation imparted upon us because human beings are social animals. What is also imparted on us is a desire for more. Greed. So we only share the bare minimum and horde the rest. A knight does not do this.

A knight was not only recognized for being better than (and I do not use this term hierarchically or in any way disparagingly towards non-knights, I myself am not a knight) the rest of his peers, but having a greater responsibility to take care of those around him in his community and family. A knight was raised to represent an ideal of the privileged benefactor who makes all around him his beneficiaries. Whatever he has in excess is utilized to help those in need. Whatever task he undertakes is done with a higher goal and purpose in mind. Nothing is done irrationally and nothing is done purely for self-interest. As a knight he has shed the immaturity of such emotive personal drives. As a knight, he has been raised to something more. He, like a Saint is a model of Christian virtue, has been raised to show that a social ideal is attainable. For the faithful, a Saint is a model of the attainability of Christian living. For the secular, a Knight is a model of the attainability of social responsibility.

Then comes the Enlightenment. The grandchild of the Reformation, the mother of the 19th Century's grandiloquent Democratic Revolution, the enlightenment saw a world where superstition and faith would not be necessary. Reason, logic, rationality would reign supreme. A beautiful vision, indeed. But one with a darkness hiding behind it.

Logically, and I'm pulling from several philosophers whose names I can't remember but I'm sure you'll be able to recognize the ideas, as animals, human beings have at their base the same fight or flight response as every other animal. Do you engage, or do you flee? It is risk versus reward, and ultimately, translates into a statement such as "the only goal of the individual is first survival, second propagation." What does propagation entail? Finding a mate. How does one find a mate? Flashy shows of those traits that are considered desirable. This extends much further than physical characteristics and includes money, power, and status. So the logical result of this is the promotion of the self above all others. The development of the Nietzschiean Overman. "We have killed god" says Zarathustra. "Now we must find the Overman." The Overman being the man who takes what he wants and cares nothing for what is caused subsequently. The Enlightenment's final gift to the world was a socio-political idea that the individual is worthy beyond anything else. His ideas, his wants, his desires are all first before everything else. And what better system to allow this individuality that knows no fetters save one's own chains than democracy?

The democratic revolution led to a universal celebration of the individual. We have taken this idea so far today that we have the even more dangerous ideas of cultural relativism. What is good for one culture may not be good for another and should not be judged. Quid pro quo, morality and ethics are malleable and subject to change. This is why questions such as euthanasia and eugenics (which both have the same root by the way) are suddenly back in vogue. It is fair to say, however, in defense of moral relativism, that its logical conclusions are not always supported by those that support moral relativism. Specifically, the holocaust may have been good for Nazi culture, but other than a few right-wing nutjobs with swastikas tattooed on their heads, nobody is going to say that the Nazis were right in what they did. But moral relativism says exactly that. And as the greatest moral relativists, we Americans should be celebrating the holocaust, not disparaging it. And the Jews should understand. I mean, we gave them Israel so they could have their own cultural development, their own homeland, their own piece of the pie from which to celebrate moral relativism.

End the dripping sarcasm.

It is rare for someone to be confronted with a slippery slope argument and actually say "You know what? Maybe you're right." But every time someone has declared "this is a slippery slope!" it has turned out to be true. Equal rights for minorities turned into special rights. Democracy for the landed gentry turned into democracy for all. Vatican II turned into a massive debacle of epic proportions, and the legalization of homosexuality is shortly turning into the promotion, not just recognition, of homosexuality. If you don't believe me, check out what's going on in Quebec with the "equity strategy" in regards to school systems, especially parochial schools that will soon have to promote something they don't believe in. Canada has less freedom of speech than America, and all the hippies want to go live there? Get a haircut and a job, put down the reefer, and then we'll talk. But overall, the truth that rational, reasoned democracy has evolved into an irrational modernist "embrace everything new because it is new" philosophy is living proof that the erosion of the Second Estate, the destruction of a true and lofty ideal, has been nothing but demoralizing and destructive for society. I will not suffer myself to make a list of all the pros and cons between democracy and monarchy (for I am supportive of neither), but rest assured that I truly believe the cons of democracy far outweigh their pros, especially as we have in the modern world.

The question we all need to ask ourselves today is not "who will I vote for in the upcoming elections?" but "Why am I voting?" If the answer is "It is my civic duty" then stay at home. Your blind allegiance to the democratic process is worth just as much as one who irrationally refuses to vote. If your answer is "To promote my deeply-held values, my lofty ideals, the immutable and unmovable morality and/or ethic to which I subscribe," then I'd say go and rig your local elections.

Are there people whose votes should be worth more than others? I would have to say yes. But shouldn't we be more worried about the tyranny of the minority, as Thomas Jefferson said, than whether or not our current president is a terrorist? Without an ideal, one that is rooted in society as opposed to a far off golden time as prophesied by Methuselah in Animal Farm, democracy is worthless. It is modernism. And heaven help us if our democratic process ever embraces the downright absurdity of post-modernism. Change for the sake of change is like progress for the sake of progress--the ideology of the cancer cell.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Logical Appeal to Authority

In my daily musings, I often come up with brilliant ideas or thoughts or proofs for this or that with which I am generally quite pleased. However, upon further scrutiny, I often find that my "aha!" is loaded with problems, assertions that bear no weight, and fall apart after logical analysis. However, over the past few months, I've been having on-again, off-again discussions with two non-denominational Christians at work concerning this or that. They believe in Sola Scriptura sans Sacred Tradition, I believe in Sola Scriptura cum Tradition. They are non-denominational (actually, their rather large congregation is called Xenos and has a single recognized leader in the person of Dennis McCallum), I am Roman Catholic. The primary issue we have in regards to the truth we see in each others' religious tradition is over the interpretation of scripture. At the core of this difference in interpretation is the question of authority. I will now attempt to address this question.

My method will actually follow Mr. McCallum. I have recently read (most of) his book: "Satan and his Kingdom", and must say that apart from being a terrible writer, Mr. McCallum makes a lot of logical fallacies in his writing. I no longer possess a copy of this book, and so will be paraphrasing a bit. I will dutifully quote wherever I paraphrase, and will come back to this when I get my hands on another copy to edit in page numbers and properly cite his quotations. The reason I say I will be following Mr. McCallum's method is because his approach is in the old philosophical tradition of a strict appeal to reason and logic. He uses scant few outside resources, instead establishing his premise and building a logical argument upon it. I will be doing the same.

First, we must establish the core differences in this approach. The Catholic Church has, for 2,000 years (give or take ~30) held strong to the fact that when Christ said to Peter, "I name you Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it," that Christ was indeed establishing his one, holy, and apostolic Church upon Peter. To borrow a term used in the hermeneutics of Mr. McCallum's disciples, when this is harmonized with other passages such as "Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" we get a pretty decent understanding of the Church's beliefs concerning authority and where it comes from. Hint: we call it Apostolic Succession. As part of this authority, we look to the Church Fathers for their insight into what scripture means. Oft times, even non-denominational Christians will quote the Church Fathers. It is unfortunate because it denies their own position on Sola Scriptura, but facts are facts and there's nothing we can do about it.

Protestants base their theology upon the inventions of Martin Luther. When he read the Bible as a professor, his overly-zealous scrupulosity led him to take the fact that God's grace is freely given to mean that no intercession or authority outside of said grace was necessary. I will suffice it to say that this violates the story of Phillip the Ethiopian when he says "How will I know [what I am reading] unless someone explains it to me?" However, this one simple assertion amongst ninety-four others that make up the famous Theses has caused no end of trouble for the non-denominational attempting to convert Catholics and the Catholic attempting to convert non-denominational Christians or Protestants of any sort. Built upon this assertion is the addition of "Once Saved, Always Saved," an assertion that also led to the rejection of the real presence in the Eucharist (a topic for another day). However, it is the interpretation of sacred scripture outside of any other authority (personal interpretation) and the "sinning saved sinner" that leads to many of the misunderstandings between Catholics and non-liturgical Christians. A Protestant will assert that a saved person will have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to properly understand scripture, whereas Catholics will assert that any person will have the guidance, but why rely on intuition when Christ's Paraclete has already given us the true interpretation? Both sides have merit, and it is my intention to show that the latter has greater merit and therefore falls under the reasonable qualification that it must be preferable to the former.

We will begin by paraphrasing Mr. McCallum in his less-than-stellar work "Satan and His Kingdom." In it, when he is discussing scripture as authoritative in and of itself, he states that "having introduced an outside authority, one will always inevitably put that authority before the scripture" (sic). This assertion, one that I can't even categorize in my lengthy list of Latin arguments (such as Post hoc ad propter hoc, Argumentum ad hominem, etc. Fun to say, not advisable to use in debate), has two major problems. One, it asserts that all authority, not just any specifically biblical authority, is authoritative unto itself (ignoring concepts such as the Social Contract and democratic institutions in general). Secondly, it is self-defeating in that Mr. McCallum is a specific extra-biblical authority [i]commenting authoritatively on scripture.[/i] What he has just asserted is that his own authority is suspect by the very fact that it is authoritative. The problem, however, in the grander scheme of things, is that many Protestants and non-denominational Christians will read this and think that this assertion is sound. And, indeed, embedded in the rest of that section from which the quote was taken, it sounds reasonable. But having picked apart this assertion against extra-biblical authority, it is clear that even without biblical verses to disprove it, the assertion is without merit whatsoever.

One of the major issues with Sola Scriptura is that anybody who is evangelizing a Catholic or Orthodox Christian will inevitably ask "how is that biblical?" in response to such things as confession, the real presence, Marian devotion, etc. etc. It is primarily because Catholic and Orthodox teaching does not rest solely on scripture (though everything has a scriptural basis) that this question usually stumps the average lay person when dealing with these assertions. However, it is usually a good idea at some point to simply turn the debate around and ask a very simple but impossible to answer question:

"How is Sola Scriptura biblical?"

The response I get most often is in reference to 2 Timothy 3:16. I will link to the CARM website now, since that is where Xenos admittedly gets a lot of their apologetics, but I will be quoting the conclusion to show the major flaw in utilizing this passage. CARM explanation of 2 Timothy 3:16

Their conclusion states "God has given you the inspired Bible so that you will be able to accurately know that which is good, true, and holy. So that you might know the mind and will of God. So that you might teach, Correct, Rebuke, and Train in Righteousness...and this so that your work might be good in the sight of God." 

*cough* First of all, the Catholic Church compiled the Bible under the authority granted to them by Christ via Peter to know what is and is not inspired. Not wanting to sound polemical, I won't dwell on that little historical fact and instead point to a severely crippled assertion contained within their conclusion.

Timothy is an epistle. It is an explanation of the Gospel. It was written when the only "Bible" that was around was the Torah, what would eventually become the Christian Old Testament. When Timothy was written, the word "scripture" would have applied to this body of work alone. Not even the Gospels would have been considered inspired, as they would have been only reflections and recollections of what had transpired during Christ's time on earth. It's similar to writing a memoir, explaining that memoir to someone in the context of the Bible, referring to the Bible as it is today as inspired, and three hundred years from now discovering your memoir being added to the Biblical canon. An impossible scenario, I know, but it's the same thing that happened with the Gospels. When Timothy was written, the word "scripture" applied ONLY to what would become the Old Testament. Nothing else. To utilize this passage to claim that the entire Biblical canon is inspired, something that even Protestants didn't adhere to when they revised the Bible by removing many of the Old Testament books, is fallacious beyond reason. It not only ignores the fact that God inspired the Bible and then the Church compiled it, it ignores historical and cultural context of the time in which the very verse they're misinterpreting was written. Ignoring this context is the first step to misinterpreting scripture. For this reason, the assertion that Catholics were told "not to read the bible" has some basis in truth. The reality is that Catholics were told not to read it on their own for the very reason that the average person does not readily know the historical and cultural context of the various books of the bible. In short, the Church did not want the laity doing what the Protestants had been doing since the 1500's. 

And so we come to the Church Fathers. Who were they? What did they write? Some of the most famous and well-celebrated Fathers include St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Origen, St. Athanasius, and others. They were theologians, monks, scholars, converts, priests, Bishops, abbots, and simple laity that read the scripture, reflected upon it, wrote their sermons and their musings, and through the grace of God, communicated to the people what the scripture said. For a society in which the majority of people were illiterate, and did not speak many of the languages in which scripture was written, it would be important for these men to transmit the writings of the Apostles into languages everyone would know, as well as be able to adequately explain them. The difference between the Church Fathers and later post-reformation theologians is that when they were silenced (as in the case of St. Origen) for writing something heretical, they submitted to Church Authority instead of branching off and forming their own church. The importance of the Church Fathers is less in their willingness to submit and more in their proximity to the times, customs, and languages of Christ.

These men were not simply smart. They were bloody brilliant. They were schooled in Plato and Aristotle. They would have read Tacitus and Seutonius. They more than likely also studied Ptolemaic astronomy, Egyptian medicine, and read Cicero to learn the art of rhetoric. In short, these men were Renaissance men a thousand years before the Renaissance. They had an amazing grasp on logic and reason and knew how to debate. They knew how to present their arguments, expand upon them, and assert foolproof conclusions. For those that didn't have the formal schooling illustrated above, they were absolute geniuses. Most importantly, they lived in cultures that reflected the cultures present at the time of Christ. Their knowledge of the scriptural language was more than academic, it was a working knowledge. They, better than any historian or theologian today, could elucidate the masses as to the meaning of a Greek turn of phrase or an Aramaic anachronism. The same can not be said for anyone today, whether they be a Catholic monk, an Orthodox Metropolitan, a Protestant pastor, or an atheistic expert in anthropology and classical archeology. There is a reason the Church Fathers constitute an exclusive club whose roster has not grown. These men asserted not only that the institution of the Church was important, but that it was divinely commanded. So great was their devotion to the Church as founded by Christ that they submitted themselves to it wholly without knowing that the Church would one day raise them upon a pedestal of authoritative respect. In short, without the Church Fathers, the gates of hell would have prevailed against the Church and Christ would not have been Christ.

The final assertion I will make is rather more polemic than the rest of this post. It is also rhetorical, as I have read every explanation and answer there is and none of them satisfy the question. I will reference Mr. McCallum again, a final time, when he says that "Hell is under siege, and the gates of Hell will not win." The scripture referenced here was written two thousand years before Mr. McCallum was even born, yet he sees his non-denominational approach as the [i]right[/i] approach and the only approach containing the fullness of truth. Yet Xenos did not start until Mr. McCallum created it. In all the discussions I've had with the members of Xenos, they expect crisp and clear interpretations of biblical passages. My final assertion is this: if the fullness of truth has been lacking for two thousand years, did Christ lie, forgetting to say that the gates of Hell will not prevail while the Apostles are still alive, then prevail, then fall back under siege two thousand years later? Or did he fully and completely tell the truth in stating that "Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it"? There is nothing clearer than that there was one Church instituted by Christ, and that Church was granted the authority to properly interpret and pass on scripture and tradition, and that this Church is the one Church that has been in existence for two thousand years constantly besieging the gates of Hell. Unfortunately there was a schism, but I would rather the authority of my interpretation to come from a Church that was invested with the very authority to interpret scripture than to rely on a self-proclaimed authority that has rejected a divinely appointed mandate.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I seem to have accidentally started following my own blog when trying to follow someone else's. Whatever. No costumers have so far complained.

The Assumption is Coming!

My I seem to have abandoned the blog for a while. I promise, it will likely happen again. But I'll try not to abandon you, my loyal two. Heh. I made a rhyme. Anyhoo....

Next Sunday is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hooray! 

The Assumption is that quintessential mystery of Mary, herself. It confirms all the other Marian dogmas. The Immaculate Conception--Catholics believe it dogmatically, the Eastern Churches do not, and many Protestant Churches deny it outright. The Annunciation--an angel can announce anything. This particularly does not make Mary who she is. But the Assumption confirms the Immaculate Conception and it confirms the singular importance of the Annunciation, for in her bodily assumption to heaven, she became the only person in the New Testament of human origin to show that sanctification is possible. Because she was born without the stain of original sin, Purgatory was not even a stopping point for her. Her Assumption not only causes a theological problem for those who deny the Immaculate Conception, it reaffirms it. Just as Christ's resurrection made him the Messiah, for without it, all the miracles he performed would have been parlor tricks, Mary's Assumption confirmed the rest of her life and her importance within the Church.

I like to reflect on this reality when praying the rosary. Especially when I come to those words: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners" or, as I ACTUALLY do (in Latin!): "Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus." She is not as the Saints in that they are spiritually fulfilled. Mary stands, body and soul, understanding human nature more than any other saint, and the potential of our good and the potential of our love for God. When we ask her to pray for us, she has God's ear all to her own. She can draw us to her bosom when we reach out in despair, and all this is possible because of her Assumption.

There's a reason this holy day is my favorite, and the one I would not miss for the world.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes. White on white with a blue sash and all the pretty scenery you can imagine. This is truly a photographer's wet dream. And she's looking dreamily off into the distance, which makes her perfect for modeling some sort of skin cream.

St. Bernadette Soubirous began seeing the vision of Our Lady in a cave just outside the town of Lourdes when she was fourteen. She was beaten for claiming to have seen the apparition, and continued to go to the grotto. She dug up a spring, drank the water, and became disheveled, but soon the water was being reported as miraculous when given to medical patients. On March 25, 1858, Bernadette was told "I am the Immaculate Conception." In 1860 the local Bishop finally approved the apparition. It is now one of the most frequented Marian shrines in the world.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fabulous Marian Wardrobe Week Continues!

The Fabulous Marian Wardrobe Week continues with Our Lady of the Rosary. Pretty, no?

Our Lady of the Rosary has a kind of haphazard origination. In the sixteenth century at the battle of Lepanto, the Holy League held back Muslim forces. This victory was attributed to the Virgin Mary as that very day a rosary procession had been offered in St. Mark's Square in Rome in her honor. There's no real standard in her depiction, except that most modern depictions have her dressed in all white with, of course, a rosary, and bearing the Immaculate Heart. One of my favorites, actually.

So, we have white on white with nice blue undertones. The Marian blue is a standard based in medieval art in which Cobalt, the most expensive mineral at the time, was used to adorn the Virgin as a means of honoring her above all other women. Prior to this you see a lot of red (cadmium) and darker tones. But now it's almost universal to have at least a portion of the Marian wardrobe done in blue. This particular image is nicely done as you can tell she's wearing the white of the Carmelite Order, but the blue undertones behind the incredibly saturated Immaculate Heart make the entire ensemble kick. A+!

As far as Our Lady of the Rosary giving us the Rosary, unfortunately, that's not true. Colloquial wisdom holds that Our Lady instructed St. Dominic in the rosary. A cursory search on Google provides us with the original story that Irish monks began praying the 150 psalms of David every day. Lay people responded with the Lord's Prayer after every Psalm, and began carrying around pebbles or beaded ropes when not in earshot of the monks. When the Irish monks began to evangelize in Europe, this devotion was brought with them. The Angelic Salutation (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee!) became the response to the psalms and eventually replaced them. Various other forms of devotions utilizing the 150 prayer model saw a standardization effort that combined the various forms and voila! The rosary as we have it today!

And just to show that I know my stuff, I'm going to provide you with the Hail Mary in Latin, just because I love you all. :)

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fabulous Marian Wardrobe Week!

Alright. To kick off the Fabulous Marian Wardrobe Week (I know....Wednesday.....but we'll have seven days of Mary in her finest!) I'm going to use the Patron Saint of the Americas: Our Lady of Guadalupe!
So....first things first.

Green on gold. Very fashionable, always classy. The star motif over a rather forward-thinking paisley marks her as a trend-setter. And the all-over halo? Come on, that's just classy is what that is. Why skimp when you can splurge? And being the Mother of God, I say she can't possibly splurge enough. However, if there's anything I'd change about her outfit, it's that the entire thing is saturated with that faded, Goodwill coloring. Brighten it up, sister! We as Catholics already feel the guilt of the world, give us some splash! Also, with the rise in popularity of electronic and techno music, she should be wearing day-glo instead of sandy Spanish Colonial. Washed out colors? Out. Neon? Totally in. And get some jelly bracelets or those new SillyBandz(c) (Totally a trademarked name....I might get sued! Yay!) and paint your nails! Oh....and give that angel a rest and get some real shoes. I know you didn't blow your whole wardrobe budget on that halo!

Ok. Now....on to the fun part of "Let's Learn About This Particular Vision!" This way I'm excommunicated for something OTHER than being blasphemous and disrespectful with a saint.

Our Lady of Guadalupe was not an actual visitation. This is a very different apparition than...say...Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Fatima in which Mary herself came down and physically appeared before somebody. Instead, the image above miraculously appeared before a peasant named Juan Diego near Mexico City on December 21, 1531. So important is this image to Mexican Catholics specifically and Catholics in general that the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic shrine in the world. It was used by Miguel Hidalgo to inspire his troops during the War of Mexican Independence (successfully apparently) and continues to be used by those seeking the aide of the Ever Virgin Mother of Christ.

She holds the titles "Queen of Mexico," "Empress of the Americas," and "Patroness of the Americas," and, indeed, in 1961, Pope John XXIII named her "Mother of the Americas," making her the de-facto patron saint of the New World.

Of her miracles, the most marvelous is that the original apparition has remained intact despite several incidents including an ammonia spill said to have mended itself without outside help. Additionally, it is said that within her eyes it is possible to discern the images of all who were present when Juan Diego presented the apparition to the Bishop. What's intriguing about this particular miracle is that the image is seen in triplicate, a phenomenon known to occur in human eyes.

Here is the Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe:

Our Lady of Guadalupe, mystical rose, intercede for the Church, protect the Holy Father, help all who invoke you in their necessities. Since you are the ever Virgin Mary and Mother of the true God, obtain for us from your most holy Son the Grace of a firm faith and sure hope amid the bitterness of life, as well as an ardent love and the precious gift of final perseverance. Amen.

And an indirect intercession:

O God of power and mercy, You blessed the Americas at Tepeyac with the presence of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. May her prayers help all men and women to accept each other as brothers and sisters. Through Your justice present in our hearts, may Your peace reign in the world.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. +Amen.

On that note, I leave you with Our Lady of Guadalupe. Oh, for those who don't know, in a prayer, when there is a "+" sign, it's a reminder to cross yourself at that point.

Tomorrow I think I'm going to go out on a limb and utilize one of the less-universally-accepted apparitions. Or I'll just plaster the web with images of the Virgin. SEE YOU THEN!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Body image for men. Why is no one upset?

Ok, so my roommate (the loving and wonderful Amanda, without whom I probably would have starved to death long ago) spends a lot of time ranting about the media's and social pressure on female body image. This is a good thing to rant about and I give her kudos.

But, just as importantly, if not more so because it applies to me, is the almost Nazi-era devotion to the perfectly sculpted male in the media and society. Everywhere you look any picture of a man modeling clothes, a product of some kind, or even just appearing in an advertisement for insurance is a tall, sculpted Adonis reminiscent of the idealized masculine of early 20th century fascist ideologues. He has to have that chiseled jaw line, a full head of hair, ZERO body fat (this is more demanding than what the media wants out of women, mind you), and be absolutely ripped. Not overly so, but definite musculature must show through. Can I tell you a secret? Unless you are at the gym every day or at least four or five times a week for a couple hours, you'll never have that Adonis like body. These people have devoted their lives to beauty and being physically perfect. And strangely, quite often, especially in car ads and investment ads, physical perfection in men is equivalent to financial success. And now, thanks to Braun, it also equals sexual prowess.

This handy little gadget will trim, shape, shave, slice, dice, masticate, and even fraternize with your body hair. And it has a handy little attachment for "sensitive" areas (the ad shows arm pits. We ALL know what sensitive area it's discussing). The model is trim, not too bad looking (I'd like to go on a date with him), well dressed, and apparently the most successful thing to hit the meat market since...well, meat. He even turns all of those easily-objectifiable women into minxes who are all over him.

There is nothing in this ad to suggest that he even has a job (except that he just bought the new Bodycruzer by Braun), let alone a personality. He just walks around looking dopey as all get out and suddenly is covered in women who WANT him. And the website says that body hair is out and that men must buy their product to be beautiful. Well...I don't know about you, but I don't go around the street with my shirt off or even open. Unless you're picking up guys at the gym or going out and sleeping with everyone, I can't imagine what activity this product is designed to enhance. Oh. Right. Remember that "sensitive areas" attachment?

MEN! Without this product, you will never get laid ever again. Ever.

As a gay man, I am especially sensitive to overly promoted standards of beauty. The sheer level of shallowness within the gay community would make the stereotypical 1950's greaser look like a desperate puppy. You're in a relationship? Oh, that's fine. Seven minutes later you'll be single because a hotter piece of ass just walked by and your boyfriend went off with him, instead. Stable relationships are rare in the gay community and usually reserved for the newly outed who are two young for the club scene or the older gentlemen who have had their fill of the shallow assholes that fill the bars and clubs. This product is a god-send for those who have bought into this mythicized standard of masculine beauty because, as gay men, in order to be happy, they have to be hotter than everything else. And, unfortunately, I think this mindset is much more pervasive and much more accurate than the similar mindset cultivated for women. Gay men have been condititioned to believe that love is sexual, not emotional, so physical attraction trumps anything else. Body grooming products, while their ads may be predominantly heterotic, are designed to entice the homosexual crowd. For once, the virtues and attributes of a product trump the visual. Oh. Wait. The man was mostly naked for most of the ad and the women's faces were pretty much all you saw of them. Yeah. This ad is totally geared for the homosexual crowd.

Anyway, at the end of the day, I have to ask myself: why are people so eager to buy into the mythicized masculine ideal while at the same time shouting from the mountain top about how women need to be shown there are alternatives to Barbie? Why is Axe allowed to come up with ridiculous stunts as the "Double-pits to Chestie" that ALWAYS show a ripped young man (usually between 18 and 25 by his appearance) tearing his shirt off and performing a rather difficult physical feat successfully and earning the admiration of all the girls?

My question is: Why is NO ONE up in arms about male body image?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Belated Easter Post

So....yeah, I'm late on posting about Easter. But you know, when you're this fabulous AND concerned about your soul, you have quite a big plate to fill. Plus I've been moving some stuff out of my parents' house (they're selling it and I can no longer be that college student living away using my parents as a storage unit) so I've been kind of busy.

Anyway. Easter. Easter, Easter, Easter. What is it? Obviously, it's the single most important day on the Liturgical Calendar. It is the fulfillment of prophecy and the proof of our salvation through the resurrection of Christ. But it's more. For Catholics, it is the core of our celebration in the Eucharist. As Christ symbolically gave us his body at the Last Supper, he literally did so upon his crucifixion and resurrection. This union of bread and body, wine and blood, that we call transubstantiation is present at every mass, every day, every year, and has been since day one, and will be until the end of time. This miracle, this single act of the miraculous power of God is central to the mass, especially at Easter, for it is then that we are not only celebrating Christ's resurrection after a sombre Holy Week, but we are also celebrating the moment that his divine nature and his human nature became eternally fused in the hypostatic union. Easter is a celebration of all that makes us Catholic. Which brings me to the next, not so celebratory point.

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, came under fire in the runup to Easter concerning a German priest who molested several boys (one paper said over 200 without a citation. Yellow Journalism anyone?). When the story first broke, one of the Papal representatives (not sure if it was a Nuncio or not) made statements to the effect that while this priest was in Benedict's diocese (then only Bishop Ratzinger) that His Holiness knew nothing about it. Then it was found out that he did know. So what are we to do? The Holy Father tried to defend himself when he presided over the Easter Mass. The media has actually kind of dropped off it since Easter, making me feel that it was staged quite carefully to embarrass the Church during its holiest time. So why did we allow them to do so?

I have had my issues with the Holy Father, but I have also found much in him that is commendable. My whole life I only knew one Pope, the epically awesome Pope John Paul II. But as I grew older and grew in my faith, I realized that Pope John Paul's celebrity was primarily concentrated in the West--specifically America and Canada. In more religious communities in Europe, Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe, he fell under a much greater amount of criticism. America lauded him for helping end Communism. Europe scorned him for allowing far-reaching liturgical abuses. America lauded him for his humanitarianism. Africa scorned him for not doing more for the AIDS pandemic (Africa has the highest growing Catholic population in the world, BTW). I came to realize that Pope John Paul II had his flaws as well, and what makes Benedict commendable is that he has his priorities straight...for the most part.

He is working on revising the English Liturgy. I say scrap the English and put Latin in the Novus Ordo (I'm not really a fan of the passivity of the Tridentine Mass...but I like Latin), then we won't have this problem. He is also working on reinstating a number of traditional practices and institutions that disappeared after Vatican II. He is primarily concerned with furthering Catholicism, building the universal church, healing the Schism between the Latin Church and the Orthodox Church, and healing the Schism between Anglicans and Catholics (which is apparently seeing much greater success). So when it becomes apparent that he allowed a priest to continue working with those parishioners who were under the greatest risk, what do we think?

First, there is a sense of betrayal. That the Holy Father, guided by the Holy Spirit, has let us down. Maybe some feel anger. Maybe some threaten to leave the Church (sorry sister, but it doesn't work that way. God won't let you boycott the One Holy Apostolic Church because a priest did something bad). But ultimately, just as we celebrate all that makes us Catholic at the Easter Mass, we must forgive. God gave his only son for us that we might live in Him. When we allow a scandal to determine whether we live in Him or we live for ourselves, we obviously do not have our priorities straight. Dogma is the highest Catholic teaching. It is law. We are required as Catholics to believe it. Doctrine is next. Tradition influences and follows. Scandal is pretty much at the bottom in importance. Scandal should be avoided, as the Cathechism points out, but those that allow it to govern their feelings of the Church are ignoring the principle Dogmas of the Church. They are ignoring the personage of Christ and the all-encompassing love of God.

Those children suffered. This no one can deny. And just as Nietsche refused to believe in God "so long as a single child suffers" (sic), we must remember that for every child that suffers, God weeps exponentially more. He gave us free will. Part of our capacity in regards to free will is the ability to choose to do wrong. Unfortunately, someone who is innocent of wrongdoing must be at the other end of this. And God weeps for them. We know He weeps because we are moved to such emotive responses when we hear of these things. If we, passive bystanders are moved to such responses, what is the response of our Creator? What must His burden of pain be when such a scandal begins? Remember--we just found out. He's known all along. God forgives all who do not die in Mortal Sin. And he removes the pain of those who suffered and brings them to the Beatific Vision. The Holy Father is guided by the Holy Spirit to an extent that Bishops and Priests and the Laity are not. What went on when Bishop Ratzinger was in charge is not the fault of Pope Benedict XVI. The man who wears the robe will have some questions to answer, I'm sure, but the person of the Pope is different from the person of the Bishop, and we must remember to forgive and pray that the Holy Spirit guides him to wisdom.

So that's my Easter post. Belated, but reminding us all that Easter is the epitome of what it means to be Catholic, and a reminder of the harder tasks we have as Catholics to forgive, to understand, and most of all, to love. Too often we see the churches filled to the brim on Christmas and Easter and the nearly empty for the other 50 Sundays of the year. How heavy our crosses must be, but heavier still when we seek to emulate Christ and bring ourselves to fulfill our duty not only as Christians but as Catholics. They are heavy crosses indeed, but when brought to bear against the evils of the world, especially those that purposefully attempt to besmirch God's holiest institution on the planet, they will prevail and the light and wisdom of truth will shine as that proverbial city on a hill.

Monday, April 5, 2010

YouTube - Agnes - Release Me

YouTube - Agnes - Release Me

Agnes makes me happy. :) Thank god I accidentally clicked the ad for the White Party (huge gay dance party. Craziness probably. Never been). Had I not clicked the ad, I'd never have been exposed to this wonderful woman. Lady GaGa may be fun, but Agnes is genuine. LOVE. her.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In Memoriam

I found out the other day that one of my best friends had died. From what I've gathered, he died of an aneurism. He was 20 years old.

Conrad Gardner, you were and are one of my closest and dearest friends, and I never said it to you enough. I love you and will love you always. You're in my prayers man, and I'm raising a glass to you.

There will be a Mass said for him at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, May 1st, 2010 at 5:15pm. I'm going to be singing "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed from now until the pain goes away, because it expresses exactly what I would want to say to Conrad.

Just A Perfect Day,
Drink Sangria In The Park,
And Then Later, When It Gets Dark,
We Go Home.
Just A Perfect Day,
Feed Animals In The Zoo
Then Later, A Movie, Too,
And Then Home.

Oh It's Such A Perfect Day,
I'm Glad I Spent It With You.
Oh Such A Perfect Day,
You Just Keep Me Hanging On,
You Just Keep Me Hanging On.

Just A Perfect Day,
Problems All Left Alone,
Weekenders On Our Own.
It's Such Fun.
Just A Perfect Day,
You Made Me Forget Myself.
I Thought I Was Someone Else,
Someone Good.

Oh It's Such A Perfect Day,
I'm Glad I Spent It With You.
Oh Such A Perfect Day,
You Just Keep Me Hanging On,
You Just Keep Me Hanging On.

You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow,
You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow,
You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow,
You're Going To Reap Just What You Sow...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Communist Revolution today

This has little to do with being gay or catholic, but I wrote it just now for Facebook and thought I'd share it here.

Copy and Paste--you're my friend!

So I'm sitting in SEL between classes and decided to visit my old favorite website, Gotta love the extensive library they have. And all for free! In the purely communistic spirit of communal ownership of the intellectual endeavors of the people, you can read whatever you want concerning class struggle, militarism vs. passivity, etc. It's wonderful. But I started reading Rosa Luxemburg (I am such a Luxemburgist) as I am wont to do, and settled into her article "The Militia and Militarism." (You can find it here: And now I'm going to discuss the conditions of our country that mimic the conditions of Germany at the end of the nineteenth century when she was writing. Ahem.

Rosa Luxemburg as do all socialists from this period talks a lot about the working man. Specifically, she is discussing the issue of establishing a German militia, giving every man a gun, and how the Reichstag denied this possibility because it wouldn't be able to pay for it. Rosa's critique is primarily critical of privileged taxation, as the Spartacan League was advocating at the time for a graduated income tax that would tax more heavily the wealthy. The Reichstag didn't even entertain this idea. In America we do have a militia (called the National Guard you right-wing Second Amendment gun nuts!) and it is paid for by the graduated income tax. The issue here is that even with the graduated income tax, wealthy Americans generally do not pay the full amount according to law, and the insanely convoluted tax code of the American system is to blame.

This leads me into the usage of "working man" in today's American economy. We no longer have an economy of the wealthy vs. labor. Instead we have an economy that is predominantly service-oriented, one that generates enormous amounts of wealth for a lot of people. One could almost argue that the American dream is that which allows anyone to tap into this enormous amount of wealth regardless of background. But is it really so easy?

I am currently in dire straits as far as funding for my schooling is concerned. I was on academic probation because I was an idiot and failed a few classes. I did everything that was asked of me in regards to getting off probation, but instead of getting a 2.0 I got a 1.993. Now my financial aide is in jeopardy. Attending Ohio Wesleyan, I was privileged to watch some of the wealthiest children of the wealthiest Americans pay for their schooling in cash...and reap the rewards of the vast amounts of scholarships and grants given to them because of their parents' alumni status. Many of them were investors in the university as well. Given this, I can only assume that other schools, notably state universities that have less liquid income generally without donations and legacies, would have a bigger issue with this. Anecdotally, I have heard stories of this same exact thing happening at Ohio State.

So, the working man is no longer based in a factory, but is instead based in the lower-income brackets of American service industries. They work diligently to send their children to school so they can have an easier time of it later. But their children are discriminated against because their parents are not a) alumni or b) beneficiaries of the university at which their children are attending. So financial aide becomes paramount and the policies of FDR and other rather socially-minded administrations comes into play.

The Federal Government legislated that federal aide is given to students who need it. Universities set standards of academic performance and punish those who fail to meet them. The question is, when does punishment administered by an institution include withholding governmental awards?

When the person in question is poor, without connections, and lacks any chance at academic nepotism. The problems of the class system that were so obvious in Luxemburg's day have become hidden by the shadowy promise of a university degree. Foreign students have a higher tuition to attend, but they receive grants and scholarships that are paid for by the poor students' taxes. Yet a poor student who genuinely wishes to learn but has no way to pay for his schooling outside of financial aide is denied even after he meets the basic requirements of lifting his punishment. The class struggle suddenly becomes much harder to pinpoint because this could be anyone who has lapsed in his academic rigor and suddenly finds his future being held hostage over less than a hundredth of a percentage point.

Luxemburg advocated the application of the parliamentary system to all institutions, especially those funded by the state. Universities are notoriously anti-democratic, even as they champion the cause of student governments. The board of trustees controls the money and the policies, student government pretends to influence these decisions. When student government comes in conflict with the trustees, the trustees know they only have to wait a few years for the troublemakers to be gone. And if it's undergraduate student government, they can pay even less mind to the little upstarts.

As an analogy, the trustees can be thought of as the gentry of pre-republican Europe, and the student government the local organizations of labor and students. The former is content to keep things the way they are and the latter is the primary cause of agitation. Just as the labor organizations and peasants made the money for the gentry, the students who are present in student government (along with the rest of their peers) make the money for the university. The trustees are paid out of our tuition, the university is maintained with our tuition, and the football team (which I loathe with such a virulent passion) is paid for, maintained, and kept in part because of the university's all-pervasive sports worship. This trickles into the community and draws in extra-university funds into the university. So the trustees which represent the university to the larger community are doing things to appease the wealthier gentry outside the board and ignoring the plight of many within their hallowed halls.

Here, again, we see a muddling of the class struggle. Who amongst the student body is feeling the persecution of the ransom of financial aide? Who amongst the student body feels the tensions between trustee and student? Who amongst the student body realizes that they, as the primary source of university income, have almost no say in how the university is run? Parliamentarianism in the university would do away with the trustees and have an institution for the students of the students and by the students. Does it not make sense that a government that is supposedly a vox populi should be the model for all other institutions? If the customer is the driving force behind corporations and commercialism in general, why is the student not considered the driving force behind his education? The failure of the university to realize where the power should lie contributes in large part to the poorest sections of our society failing to even attend university, and further propagates the larger class struggle outside the university walls. Those of us within the university are so intermingled its hard to distinguish those who are unfairly profiting from the system from those who are unfairly being hindered by it. This miraculously successful tactic keeps discussion of these issues at a minimum and prevents too much agitation from reaching the ears of the trustees.

Even now we see the ongoing riots at UCLA and UCS over tuition hikes, in which hundreds of students were arrested after several buildings on their respective campuses were taken over. There the students have shown how little control they actually have in the day-to-day management of their education which they have to pay for. But why do students only get upset over tuition hikes? Why do they not get upset at the system itself? Because angering the system endangers this idyllic future that is promised by that degree. Unfortunately, as the percentages of degree-holders go up, it becomes harder and harder to achieve that idyllic goal without even more degrees, more schooling, more money, and more slavish devotion to a discriminatory system. Much in the same way that the Jews in Nazi Germany failed to rise up against a system hell-bent on destroying them, students feel no compunction in assimilating into the system that is actually designed to mold a supposedly free-thinking individual into the perfect model of the status quo.

Socialism in Luxemburg's time was easier to define as Marxism has inherent in it an us vs. them mentality. But when it becomes incredibly difficult to determine who is us and who is them, how then are we to agitate for socialism in the very place it was born? I'm at a loss on how to go about figuring out this problem. I've advocated free education before free healthcare for a while, but apparently, nobody in this country wants that, least of all the philandering politicians. Instead of arming everyone with guns, lets arm everyone with an education. How are we to pay for it? Simplify the tax code. Be done with owing taxes and be done with getting refunds. Everyone pays according to their tax bracket and that's that. Make the wealthy pay their share. Make the poor pay their share. Alleviate the burden on the only class that actually pays--the lower middle. This is a concept that is revolutionary in the fact that those with the power to enact it have never thought of it, just as the Reichstag could not conceive of a graduated income tax in Luxemburg's time.

So I guess if we were to continue our parallel with Luxemburg, we'd say "The Intellect and Intellectualism." Arm everyone with an education. Pay for that. Then, when we're all living our idyllic degree-granting fantasies, we can afford to offer free health care without tax increases. Everyone gets what they want, and the trustees can rest easy knowing that their agitated student bodies are placated for a while longer.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Changes in the Mass

Catholic Answers is possibly my favorite site for getting new and amazing information about what's going on in the Church. Click the post title to go to's appraisal of the changes about to appear in the English translation of the Mass.

As many probably are already aware, the English translation of the Liturgy is going to change beginning at Pentecost, 2011. That's just under a year from now. It's a revision of the current Liturgy, bringing it closer to the original Latin. Being one who prays his rosary in Latin, I was naturally very curious when I first heard this. And I was excited as it coincided with a renewal of the Tridentine Mass being practiced in many more parishes throughout the world. However, the more I paid attention and the more I read, the more I began to question what's going on.

Most Catholics of my generation aren't aware of what happened in the immediate aftermath of Vatican II. Latin was discarded, altars were turned around, etc. etc. We all know this. But what we don't know and what our parents probably try to forget are the insane amount of liturgical abuses that entered into the Mass. Priests were empowering themselves to change wording and prayers and a lot of people left the Church. Well, by the time my fabulous self rolled out of the confessional for the first time, I was pretty aware of a rather standardized form of the English Liturgy. With family in various parts of the country, I had the opportunity to attend Mass in many states, and apart from some slight almost imperceptible differences, the Liturgy was almost universally the same.

So...why the hullaballoo? According to Catholic Answers, it's the "traditionalists" versus the "progressives," something anyone who listens to Catholic Answers Live on St. Gabriel Catholic Radio or pays attention to the forums would get bombarded by all the time. You have the traditionalists on the forums ranting against the Novus Ordo and the progressives ranting against outdated traditionalism such as limbo and the passivity of the Tridentine Mass. It's exhausting to go through the Traditional Catholic forum and read what people say to each other. But I digress.

The United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was nice enough to give us a preview of some of the approved textual changes. You can see them here. While looking at my mom's old missal, I can definitely see an almost direct translation from the Latin, but I have to agree with the National Catholic Reporter when they say that it is awkward and often grammatically incorrect in English. Latin is just one of those languages whose grammar and syntax does not translate directly into English. Being a Russian language major, I'm aware of the difficulty in maintaining purity of meaning while at the same time keeping the text clean in translation. Often times you have to simply get the closest approximation and leave it at that. I mean, how long have we been bickering over what different passages of the Bible mean? It's proof of the difficulty of translation between languages that are separated by centuries in their development.

While I like the idea and the intent behind this change in the Liturgical language, I'm not happy with the way it's happening. The USCCB which originally had jurisprudence over this kind of thing is having to have Papal sanction on the translation. This seems more appropriate concerning the sanctity of the Liturgy, but if Vatican II was supposed to make the Mass available to the people and created the USCCB in the first place, why in a post-Vatican II atmosphere is the Mass being rearranged at the highest level? According to NCR, it's because the traditionalists have finally trounced the progressives (the NCR is generally opposed to the traditionalists and rather biased in favor of the progressives--an obvious bias at that). I think it's that no one really anticipated the long-term impact of what Vatican II actually did, and now that the generation that came of age during Vatican II is in charge of the various councils and diocese, they're trying to revise some of the less desirable effects of Vatican II.

"Reform the reform" in a way is the message of the Papacy of Benedict XVI. He has revived many trappings of the Papacy that had long been discarded (I still want to see him adorn the Papal Tiara), he has revived the Latin Mass, and he has continued John Paul II's work in reigning in the regional CCB's and rebuilding central authority within the Church. But now he's going further and targeting one of the most progressive regions within the Church--the US. Revise the Liturgy, revise the Missal, revise the way the message is sold and received. That's what's going on here, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. In an earlier post I discussed how politicized the American Church really is, and it's really unfortunate that American Catholics have to feel pressured to merge politics with their faith. Faith should inform politics, not the other way around, and sometimes it seems that Americans allow their politics to inform their faith (how many remember the people during the height of the sex-abuse scandals saying that it had destroyed their faith? Poser Catholics if you ask me). This is a noble exercise by the Vatican in an attempt to reign in a problem area, but I'd be interested to see what Roman Rite Liturgies in other non-Romance language-speaking countries look like. It's easy to translate Latin into French and Italian. Not so easy to do so for Welsh or Gaelic or English or Russian (though the Russians are usually Eastern Rite if they're not Orthodox, which is based on the Greek Liturgy). So what does the Roman Rite look like in Finnish? Are there similar problems that need to be addressed? If so, why aren't they being addressed? If Liturgical errors exist only in the English translation, then there's not a problem. But my suspicions lead me to believe that this is largely in response to the politicized American Church, and it is being targeted by traditionalists primarily because of how progressive the American faithful tend to be. If this is so, then the motive is wrong and I can't support any changes made in the name of this "reform of the reform." If there are no Liturgical errors elsewhere or they have already been dealt with, then there's no problem.

The problem is that I haven't seen anything discussing German, Polish, or Latvian errors in the Roman Rite. Given that Vatican II was a complete dismantling of the universality of the Liturgy, I would expect there to be some. But, apparently, there aren't. So we'll see what comes out of the woodwork in 2011. It'll be interesting watching some of the more liberal Bishops' responses to this reigning in from Rome. Rome is always calling her faithful home. Let's see how we respond.

Jason Frisbee Rocks my Socks

Recently I met one of the most wonderful people in the world--Jason Frisbee. I be friends with him on Facebook. By the way, congratulations to him for getting his grant to study at OSU. Hooray! He apparently read something here or on Facebook where I ranted about people believing that sexuality is a choice because he posted on my wall that I have as much choice about my sexuality as he does about his skin tone. Then he suggested we go to confession and seek to do penance for these obviously sinful choices.

I don't have much to put here except that I am absolutely in love with Jason. =) BFFs for ever. Sass and sarcasm will get a gay man anywhere!

Proof against being last! I was starting to fret...

So, once again, I was trolling and stumbled across the "definitive proof against being born gay!" Oh joy! My beloved brothers in faith don't even accept me when the Catechism explicitly states that there is no choice involved here. I believe the responses to this ranged from "Hey, guys, what does it matter how they are gay, when the Church says we should love them anyway" to "homosexuality is a sin" to various shades of gray inbetween. My favorite was when someone said "it's a mixture of genes, environment, and some choice."

First, they have not found a genetic "cause." Second, environment hasn't really been definitively identified as the primary agent of a personality (nature vs. nurture anyone?) and third, yes, choice was involved. The choice to accept oneself for who they are and attempt to share that identity with others. Yet people who are not theologians, biblical scholars, geneticists, psychiatrists, or any other type of trained professional in any field that would have any bearing are passing judgment against a segment of their own Church's population as though they were such professionals.

My thought is why does it even matter? The Catechism says that homosexual behavior is disordered, not homosexuality. The Church hasn't taught homosexuality as a sin for quite some time, which is actually fairly progressive of them. They predated all that sensational election of gay Presbyterian and Methodist bishops, because the current Catechism came out in the '80s. But for some reason, apparently, the laity have missed the message of tolerance altogether and are currently swamped in a pre-Vatican II idea of vengeful God and punishment for sin. And don't mention anything about confession. This same virulently anti-homosexual group of people like to say "well, it wouldn't be a valid confession because they went into this behavior knowing it was a sin and they wouldn't really be sorry."

If you can't tell, I'm a little bitter and passing sweeping judgments of my own. But at least I can be honest about it and not appear hypocritical.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Three posts in two days. Neat!

Ok, so I'm wrestling with a wee bit of a conundrum.

My place of employment is rather homophobic. It's a bunch of straight men loading boxes into trucks all night with the occasional gay man thrown into the mix. I've been very guarded about my sexuality, with only a few people whom I trust knowing. The rest are allowed to assume whatever they wish. However!

Tonight in conversation with one of my higher-ups we were bantering back and forth in that ridiculously abusive manner that twenty-something year olds tend to do to each other. To preface, it takes a LOT to offend me. Derogatory remarks rarely get under my skin, and I'm one of those that will say "that's gay" when I really mean "that's messed up" or "that's stupid" or "ridiculous." You get the point. I'm of the generation where "gay" unless you are truly talking about sexual orientation has nothing to do with sexual orientation. So, the throwing about of such derogatory comments back and forth seemed to dominate the conversation. Then, some how, we actually got into a legitimate discussion about sexual orientation.

I had a chance to tell my manager, with whom I have a great report, that I am in fact gay. What happened was I froze up and continued talking about the subject in general without any direct reference to myself. Have I become so guarded at work that I've returned to my days of guilt and shame before I came out? It's really nobody's business unless I choose to allow them the privilege, but when I have a clear and easy chance to just say "You know that I'm gay right?" and instead I freeze, it makes me wonder. Was it fear? Or was it that I am not actually completely comfortable with myself? The issue in Maine, Ohio's ban on gay marriage (followed closely by ratifying a gay hate crimes law. Weird.), and other instances of intolerance in the secular world are only reaffirmed by my own Church's stance on how I should live my life. I know that what I do with a boyfriend in the privacy of my home is considered sinful in the eyes of the Church. But I have never thought that I was so affected by the dichotomy between my behavior and what my Church has deemed sinful. Or am I affected at all?

I'm a little confused about my own behavior tonight and I probably won't have any answers for a while, if ever. I'm also not going to do one of those "I'm just going to man up and tell him on Monday!" because that's ridiculous, too. Maybe it was just my gut telling me it wasn't the right time to tell him. In any event, I find it serendipitous that I started this blog just before this incident happened, as its this kind of question that I hoped to address with this blog.

For now, I'm just posing the question. Later, maybe, I'll have some real concrete thoughts. I will be addressing that thorny issue of the Church recognizing homosexuality as benign but homosexual behavior as sinful and how ridiculously razor-edged it is eventually, but it's almost 4:30 in the morning and I'm tired so I'm going to go to bed.

By the way, I'm ranked the 2574th most fabulous man in the world according to :) See if you can find me under "Catholic," "Blogger," and "Pianist."

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Homeless lose their funding.

I came across this article on the forums. Basically, a homeless shelter in Maine is being denied funding by the Diocese because the group that runs the shelter has supported a ballot issue that would overturn a ban on gay marriage. My question is this: when did politics become more important than charity?

Yes, the political issue in question deals directly with one of the big stickers of Catholic moral theology, that of fornication vs. procreation (all homoeroticism is by definition fornication and sinful according to Catholic theology). And yes it's a hot-button issue, especially as California, Massachusetts, and D.C. celebrate gay marriages all over the place while Ohio, Maine, and several other states interdict bans on gay marriage into their state constitutions. So a charity receiving funding from the Church takes a stance that is opposed to official Catholic teaching. What does the Diocese do? There are two choices, ignore it and continue funding the charitable works of the organization, or penalize the organization and all the people they serve to prove a point.

I'm leaning in the direction that petty politics should not be the vehicle of getting the Church's point across. The responses to this article at go back and forth between "supporting sin is sin. The Church cannot do this." to "charity comes before politics." There's never any resolution because everyone in cyberspace is a bully, but it shows how thorny this issue really is.

From a theological standpoint, every Catholic is charged to be charitable to all. "Embrace the sinner, not the sin" and all that. Clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, etc. These are all noble ends that, I feel, few of us in the United States and Europe pay much mind to. I'll be honest in that I am incredibly jaded to the people asking for money near my campus. I have yet to give any of them money over the past couple of years. I am obviously failing to live up to the expectations given me by Christ when he charged his Church with her mission on earth. But, is the Church also failing in her obligations when she puts a political stance before her mission to help the homeless?

This group is not a Catholic group. The Church is not obligated in any way to continue funding it or to have funded it at all. But the group is obviously doing good work. The Church doesn't fund groups that are going around killing babies in their spare time. The Church obviously felt that this work was important enough to support. Until the leadership of the group said "let's support gay marriage." Whether a charity group focused on the homeless should be making such a stance is a completely different discussion, though I personally feel they shouldn't have been making political statements to begin with, but the Church's obligation is first and foremost service of the lowliest of men. By denying funding to this charity, what is really being accomplished? The Church is once again affirming her position against marriage outside the model established by Adam and Eve. Kudos. The Church also reaffirmed her position dozens of times against witchcraft (FYI, the Italian Inquisition has never been dissolved. It's now called the Office of the Defense of the Doctrine of the Faith[sic]). The Church still does not support witchcraft or in any way condones it, but they weren't pulling funding left and right or making a big hullaballoo when Gardner and his Wiccans pushed for recognition as a religion in the United States and Europe. So what is going on with this particular issue? The answer is the USCCB--the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The USCCB and the Catholic League have for a long time been very politically vocal. They were lampooned in Southpark with the leader of the Catholic League assassinating the Pope in his attempt to squash the Hair Club for Men and the "real" successor of St. Peter (a rabbit. The Easter Bunny to be precise). For whatever reason, the temporal rule of the Papal States did not die with the occupation of Rome. It simply moved to a politically-charged religious atmosphere in the United States. Religion has often been used as a political weapon in the US despite our beloved separation of church and state, and it's seeing a major resurgence with such figures as Glenn Beck and the Tea Party in addition to the Catholic League and the USCCB. While I am in support of the devoutly religious function of the USCCB, when a Bishop in a Maine Diocese puts politics before charity, I have to raise my eyebrows as to how far we've come since the heady days of the Reformation and the Counterreformation. Is political power and influence so important that the Church has to sacrifice its mission of charitable works to maintain a position of moral superiority? Or would moral superiority and majesty be maintained by chastising the political opposition but continuing to support the needy? I'm leaning in favor of the latter. I'm not quite ready to doubt the wisdom and grace of the Church as one poster on stated, but I am going to question the wisdom and grace of this particular Bishop as much as we all had to question the wisdom and grace of Cardinal Law in Massachusetts.

Hello world! And God gets offended....apparently

Ok.'s 9:30 AM and I just got home from work (hooray night shift!) and decided to throw my weight around on the blogosphere because of something that was said to me. But, first, some introduction to this idea before I get into the nitty gritty.

I am Catholic. Roman Rite. To a non-Catholic, all the Catholics are probably the same. But there are several rites and that is why I specify that I am Roman Rite Catholic when putting this stuff in print. There are other rites but this is the one to which I belong. I'm also gay. Surprised? Yeah, not a lot of gay Catholics out there. Note, sarcasm. This is precisely the little conundrum that has landed me in this blogging endeavor. Because there is still some prejudice against us homosexuals (on both sides of the gender divide) and a LOT of misunderstanding concerning Catholics, especially in our teachings on sex and sexuality, I figured it might be nice to have a little resource for those of us without many resources. I haven't done a google search yet (Oh how I love you, Google!) for similar blogs or websites, but I will surely post links as I come across them. In short, this blog is for my thoughts on how the world affects a gay Catholic man. And also how my fabulously Catholic ways affect the world. So, without further ado, let us address the main point of this particular post.

A friend of mine is a non-denominational evangelical Christian. Given the type of work I do, there is precious little social time unless you sit out in the parking lot between shifts (we work three hours at a time) and gab away. But then there are those rare moments when someone hops in the same trailer as you to help you load and conversation is sparked. Tonight, my evangelical friend (we'll call him Tom) hopped up in my trailer and we started talking about what we always talk about: religion.

Tom forgets sometimes that I'm Catholic and he needs a refresher. "You're Christian right? Oh wait, no, you're Catholic. That's right." Every Catholic hates this response to their demonym. So I responded, "Well, I am Christian. Catholics are Christian." To which was a hearty "Yeah, but I mean a real Christian." Again....we Catholics absolutely hate being lumped in with the posers. You know, the Methodists (please don't throw stones, I'm only joking!)

So I moved past this awkward part of the conversation and we began talking about sexuality for whatever reason. Oh, right, because our other friend who happens to be Catholic had said that Catholics are the whores of Christendom. Which, if you've ever come across a rigorously devout Catholic girl, you generally know that she's either destined for a nunnery or she's going to go to college and let her hair down. ALL the way down. Not bashing, just a fact. A clever inside joke for many of us, though I'm fairly sure I'm offending someone right now. Anyway....moving on....he asked what the Catholic stance on sex before marriage was, and I was kind enough to explain it to him.

"We believe that sex is the primary vehicle for procreation, and that sex outside of the spiritual union of marriage is simply fornication and sinful. This is also why we don't believe in birth control, because sex for pleasure is denying the central function of coitus."

Blah blah blah, we're in agreement on that one, and then he asked "Well, what about those gay priests?"

At first I wasn't sure what he meant, then I remembered that the buzz is all about a German priest who has recently been found to have been shuffled about after many abuse accusations. So I continued.

"I can't speak authoritatively for the Church, but I'm fairly certain that we're pretty against what he did. Actually, I KNOW we're against it."

And this is what got me and why I decided to revive the blogging: "Well, you're gay. Aren't you afraid of offending God?"

And then it hit me. Tom was more concerned about a person's sexuality than the possibility of them performing horrendous acts of abuse against a minor. For one, I don't think God can very easily get offended when Catholics view Him as love itself. For an all merciful deity as this, it is illogical for Him to be offended or even get angry. The Old Testament is full of God's tantrums, but luckily for us, He got all that out of His system when He suddenly had a family. Now He's a pretty chill dude.

So, I had to explain the Catholic position on homosexuality, which Tom wasn't really accepting. To him, it became quite apparent, sexuality itself was a definitive sin, not what we choose to do with that sexuality. So the conversation petered off and Tom left my trailer shortly thereafter. I finished the shift and went to the next one (which Tom works on as well) and then came home. All this time I've had a lot of time to think about my sexuality and my religion and how not only is it hard for a gay man to have a loving relationship with another man within the context of his own religion, it's even harder to explain this to an outsider, let alone get them to understand what's going on.

So I'm going to post not only my day-to-day experiences, but also posts where I wrangle with the big questions of sex, sexuality, and the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church and how they all affect each other. Hopefully someone reads this and finds a little bit of joy, enlightenment, or information. If I get flaming emails concerning my jokes about school girls becoming nuns and whores I'll post them for laughs. Just because I can and I'm one of those snarky gay men.

So, with love,