Nuns and Sisters: To Inhabit the Habit, or Not?

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The old-fashioned habit that was worn by women religious for several hundred years is a romantic garb.

It is, in its own way, more high fashion than anything coming out of Paris, Italy or New York today. It harkens back to the days when Europe was going through a prolonged cold streak, when buildings where the common folk lived went mostly unheated.The habit began as the fashion of the day and, as time moved onward and the fashions of the days changed, it became an icon of religious identity for the women who wore it and those who saw them.

The habit meant something rather grand, speaking as it did of the mysteries of the sealed-off world of the convent and lives lived according to vows of lifetime commitment to Christ and His Church. The habit, when worn by Ingrid Bergman or Audrey Hepburn, was not only living religious icon, and high fashion; it was high Hollywood, as well. 

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No wonder the laity longs to see its return and many young girls like to wear it. But given that it is bound to be a rather uncomfortable and hot dress for today’s climate and an altogether unwieldy one for much of today’s work, no wonder so many other nuns were only too happy to shed it.

Fifty years on in this experiment of habit-less nuns and sisters, the question remains: To inhabit the habit, or not? Should nuns and sisters wear this garb as it always has been, or should they wear a modified version of it, or, should they abandon it altogether?

I am not a nun or a sister. I don’t, as we say here in Oklahoma, have a dog in this fight. 

What I want from sisters and nuns is the same thing I want from priests: Authenticity of purpose and fidelity to Jesus. 

I do think that it serves an important purpose for God’s vowed ones to be identifiable in public. Priests wear the collar. But they don’t wear it on the basketball court or the swimming pool. They take it off to go out for dinner with their friends and family. 

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From what I’ve seen, sisters and nuns try to wear their habits at all times, even when they are engaged in physical enterprises which make it clumsy or even dangerous. I think that is kind of extreme. 

Maybe the question should be more along the lines of what should nuns who are active in the world wear for a habit, rather than if they should dress like civilians. As I said, this isn’t my fight. The only reason I’m writing about it is because I see a crying need for sisters who will engage in ministries such as human trafficking, prostitution, and other crimes of violence against women. 

The truth is, many of the women who escape from these things are unable to relate to any man in a healthy way, and that includes priests. They are deeply wounded, maimed even, on a spiritual and emotional level. They need people of God to work with them, and it would be very helpful if at least some of these people had the authority of religious vows. 

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It can’t be men; not in the early stages. It has to be women. That, to me, means sisters. The reason I bring up the habit is that I can see that a full-bore, head-to-toe habit might be a barrier between a sister and the people they are ministering to. Victims of this kind of terrible violence have enough survival barriers they’ve created inside themselves without adding more with something like the clothing you wear. 

To me — and I’m going to say for the third time that I’m out of my depth here — but to me the question about whether or not to wear a habit should revolve around what purpose it serves. I think women religious should wear something that is uniform to their calling and that distinguishes them from the laity. But I also think that transporting middle ages fashion to the 21st century may not always be the best way to go. 

I’m not saying it’s wrong to wear this type of habit. It’s fine. But for certain kinds of ministry, it would interfere with the sister’s ability to minister. On the other hand, dressing like just anybody who walked in off the street would hamper that ministry, as well.

I mentioned the collar and black and white clothes that priests wear because I think they are a good solution. It is a distinctive and uniform look that anyone who sees it recognizes as clerical garb. At the same time, it does not inhibit a priest’s ability to walk, run, sit or drive a car. Priests even wear short-sleeved shirts in summer, which seems kinder than wearing a full habit to me. 

Priests also take their clericals off when they want to play golf or go jogging. They even take them off for private social occasions. 

Why can’t sisters and nuns exercise the same common sense in their clothing? 

I’ve read that the orders which use the full habit are growing while those that don’t wear a habit are declining. I don’t know if that has to do with the habit or with the spiritual practices and mission of these orders or what. I would like to think that young women are joining religious orders for much more important reasons that what habit they wear. 

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As I said, my interest in this comes from what I see as a crying need to have women religious in certain ministries. The lack of women religious to help in the fight against violence against women is a sadness to me. I know that they could make a profound difference for the good, but there are not women religious to do this work, at least none that I know of. 

This is a rambling post that goes off in several directions and doesn’t come around to any conclusion. That’s because I’m thinking this through as I type. 

What do you think about all this? 

Also, do you know of an order of sisters who might be interested in the kind of work I’m talking about? 

The Church needs nuns and sisters. It has to have them to do the work of evangelization that it has set for itself. 

Where are all the good people dead: In the Heart, or In the Head?

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Sheila Pott, mother of Audrie Pott, with photo of Audrie 

Here are the facts.

  • Fifteen year old girl attends a party in one of the elite zip codes in this country.
  • She drinks. Maybe she drinks too much. Maybe her drink was doctored.
  • What is certain is that she was raped by boys she thought were her friends.
  • The boys put graphic photos of the rape on the internet.
  • The girl hanged herself.

I have had to deal twice with situations like this in my job as a representative. One was a girl who killed herself after a gang rape by five men who took photos and showed them around, including to the police. When the police told the girl there were photos, she went home, got in the bathtub and killed herself with a shotgun blast to the face.

The other girl tried to kill herself. After four days in critical care, she survived. 

I’m going to post an excerpt of an article about the little girl who hung herself. I want to talk about the attitudes that show through this article. I have no grievance with the person who wrote it. They’ve just fallen into our societal trap of cleaning up what should be faced and excusing that for which there is no excuse.

The article begins by saying that 15-year-old Audrie got drunk at a party and when she woke up, concluded that she had been “sexually abused.” Let’s get our terminology straight. She concluded, probably due to some grisly physical evidence, that she’d been raped. 

Remember that word: Rape. It’s ugly and people don’t like it. But the word isn’t the real ugliness. The ugliness is living in a society where 15-year-old girls can be treated like this and then suffer the further indignity of having reporters try to clean the horror up for the perps with the use of “soft” expressions like “sexual abuse” to describe what happened. 

These upstanding young men posted “graphic” photos of their rape of their friend on Facebook. After Audrie saw the photos on the internet, and endured the mockery of emails and texts circulating about what had been done to her, eight days after she was raped, she hung herself.

According to our reporter, “the case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.”

Is that what’s this “case” is about? “Sexual abuse” and “callous” use of technology? 

If we accept this kind of bland obfuscation of the brutal rape and murder by suicide of this young girl as a problem with technology and “cyber-bullying,” we need to burn our Member of the Human Race Card and go sit in the corner with the trolls and monsters of our deepest darkness.

To paraphrase a line from the movie Grosse Point Blank, where are all the good people dead:  In the heart, or in the head? 

Let’s get one thing clear: I don’t talk about misunderstood mass murderers and rapists who are otherwise such good people on this blog. You won’t see sweet-face lists of these young men’s accomplishments and wonderment about “how could such fine boys do this?” You’ll not read a word of sympathy and grief if they get sent to the prison where they belong, no matter how much they cry for themselves when they are sentenced. 

They were without pity for Audrie. I don’t care if they bawl their eyes out for themselves. I hope they spend the rest of their lives in jail. I don’t think they should ever breathe another free breath again. 

If you do something like this, then I put you in the monster column. The only way to get off that column is to manifest extreme remorse and humble grief for what you have done, coupled with a willingness to admit that you have in fact done it and that you are willing to do anything it takes to make up for it and to change. Even then, I want the proof of a changed life, and I mean a really changed life. 

Nice people do not rape their friends. They do not — ever — treat other people like things. They do not take photos of their raping and then post them on the internet, along with sending emails and texts to taunt, degrade and destroy their “friend” socially. What these men did to this girl, the rape, was physical torture. What they did later was emotional torture. What this young girl faced was social death.

People who treat other people like this are monsters. They will remain monsters so long as they continue to excuse, defend and deny the utter depravity and sub-human cruelty of what they have allowed themselves to become.  

From The Washington Post: 

SARATOGA, Calif. — Fifteen-year-old Audrie Pott passed out drunk at a friend’s house, woke up and concluded she had been sexually abused.

In the days that followed, she was shocked to see an explicit photo of herself circulating among her classmates along with emails and text messages about the episode. And she was horrified to discover that her attackers were three of her friends, her family’s lawyer says.

Eight days after the party, she hanged herself.

“She pieced together with emails and texts who had done this to her. They were her friends. Her friends!” said family attorney Robert Allard. “That was the worst”

On Thursday, sheriff’s officials arrested three 16-year-old boys on suspicion of sexual battery against Audrie, who committed suicide in September.

The arrests and the details that came spilling out shocked many in this prosperous Silicon Valley suburb of 30,000. And together with two other episodes recently in the news — a suicide in Canada and a rape in Steubenville, Ohio — the case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.

“The problem with digital technologies is they can expand the harm that people suffer greatly,” said Nancy Willard, an Oregon-based cyberbullying expert and creator of a prevention program for schools.

Santa Clara County sheriff’s officials would not give any details on the circumstances around Audrie’s suicide. But Allard said Audrie had been drinking at a sleepover at a friend’s house, passed out and “woke up to the worst nightmare imaginable.” She knew she had been assaulted, he said.

She soon found an abundance of material online about that night, including a picture. (Read the rest here.) 

 

There is No Reason for Late-Term Abortion

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Late-term abortionist, Dr Kermit Gosnell

There is no reason for late-term abortions.

Abortion supporters are fond of saying that people like Dr Kermit Gosnell, the late Dr George Tiller and Dr LeRoy Carhart perform a “necessary service” for “desperate women” when they “provide” late term abortions.

Not true.

Not even close to being true.

There is no reason for a late-term abortion. None. Zip. Zilch. 

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 The legislators I work with, and (I would guess) much of the general public, lives in a fantasy land about abortion. They seem to think that an elective abortion involves a preternatural procedure where the doctor waves a medical magic wand over the pregnant woman and — poof! — she is no longer pregnant.

In their self-consoling dream world, abortion is just a re-wind that doesn’t put women through a surgery or, in the case of late-term abortions, a labor and delivery. All they will allow themselves to think that happens with “safe, legal abortion” is that the woman pays her money and is, through a miraculous medical intervention, made unpregnant.

In this fantasy world, there are no dismembered little baby bodies and their scrambled parts to reassemble and check to make sure the abortion is complete. In fantasy abortions, women do not experience pain during the fantasy procedure and danger is non-existent. 

This “thing” that will one day “become a baby” is not a human being. In the cowardly imaginations of those who won’t face facts, no one suffers, no one dies, and in fact, nothing much happens in an abortion. It’s all painless, deathless problem solving for problems they don’t want to actually solve.

That’s where most of the resistance to pro life legislation lives. It is a product of convenient lies that allow people to do monstrous things and keep their own mental skirts clean, at least so long as they box themselves off from reality and never know the truth. 

This nonsense about “necessary services” for “desperate women” concerning the work of Gosnell/Tiller/Carhart is  fantasy carried to the point of deliberate delusion. 

Let’s stop for a moment and try thinking about the reality rather than the fantasy.

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Late-term abortion refers to the deliberate killing of babies whose mothers are far along in their pregnancies. That’s where the phrase “late-term” comes from. What does that mean? It means that the baby looks like a baby, acts like a baby, sounds like a baby and, if it’s born at this point, would have a fighting chance of living like a baby. 

Late-term abortions are performed on women who advanced months into their pregnancies before their “desperation” set in. This “service” requires that the women be put through horrific medical procedures that involve giving them large doses of contraction-stimulating hormones to induce unusually violent and painful labor and delivery. A nurse who assisted in these things told me that the doctors they worked for deliberately stimulated contractions so violent that the contractions would usually kill the baby while it was being born.

Aside from what this does to the baby, what do you think it does to the woman? The grisly and illegal procedure we call “partial birth abortion” requires that the baby be delivered feet first, then the delivery stopped so that the doctor can suction out the baby’s brain before it is legally born. Proponents of this procedure talked about how it was necessary for “women’s health.” But I ask you, aside from what it does to the baby, what do you think that does to the woman? How is that consistent with “women’s health?”

I’m not talking about her emotions here. I am talking about labor and delivery practices that are painful, dangerous and quite horrible for the woman. How is this something that protects “women’s health?”

The answer is, it doesn’t.

In addition to what this does to the woman, consider for a moment that many of these babies must be deliberately killed before the procedure takes place to keep them from being born alive. The way I’ve heard that this is usually done is to give the baby a shot of poison directly into its heart. This means jabbing a needle through the mother’s abdomen and into the baby. It means the mother has to feel her baby thrash around the avoid the needle, then feel it die. All this is done to keep the legal fiction that this late-term abortion is not, in fact, a cold-blooded murder.

In spite of this, many of these babies are born alive. The doctor might miss the mark and not shoot the poison into the baby’s heart. Or, the dose might be too small. Or, the doctor doesn’t administer the death-dealing drug and the baby is strong enough to survive the excessively violent contractions the doctor puts the mother through.

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Gianna Jessen, survived late-term abortion as a baby.

 However it happens, babies do manage to survive these deliberate attempts to medically murder them and are born alive. When that happens, what does a doctor do? For decades, they killed these babies. Changes in the law now require them to administer medical care to the babies, but as we’ve learned, that doesn’t always happen.

How does all this support my contention that late-term abortion is never necessary? What about abortion to save the mother’s life?

The answer is so obvious it’s hard to believe people don’t see it. 

Premature baby

If the woman is going to have to go through a labor and delivery anyway, there is no reason whatsoever to kill the baby. If the mother’s life is at stake, all that needs to be done is deliver the baby. Then, do your medical best to save both the child and its mother. 

There is no reason to kill these babies. There is no medical reason. No moral reason. No situation that requires it.

In some instances, late-term abortions are performed on very young girls. Proponents don’t argue their case, because they don’t have one. They simply point to the young girl and yammer about how can anyone “force” her to have a child. Their whole argument is based on the magic rewind fantasy abortion.

It ignores the fact that a late-term abortion will put the young girl through a much harsher labor and delivery than she would experience if she received life-saving medical care designed to save both her and her baby. It ignores the reality that the baby is already here. There is a child.

All late-term abortion does is kill the child. It does not save the mother anything. It is not “necessary” and it is not done to “save” “desperate” women. 

There is no reason for late-term abortion. 

Kermit Gosnell: The Monster Pro Choice Built

Pro life bloggers and tweeters have raised public awareness of the trial of Dr Kermit Gosnell, the late-term abortionist who is on trial for murder. It appears that the media is beginning to respond to this pressure with increased coverage.

However, when I asked the question earlier this week, Public Catholic readers told me they had seen coverage back when Dr Gosnell was first arrested. I did some looking around and turned up this incredible video by Katie Couric.

I’ve spent years working to pass pro life legislation. Much of this legislation involved trying to get true informed consent, parental consent and sensible regulations of clinics. The so-called pro-choice movement has fought every single one of these bills. Each time, they claim that the bill will “drive women back to the back alleys.”

My question: How is the “back alley” any worse than Kermit Gosnell and his chamber of horrors? I knew women who had illegal abortions back before Roe. None of them went through anything as bad as what is described here.

I am not advocating for abortion, either legal or illegal. What I am saying is that the obsessive pro-abortion attitude of our society has led to the empowerment of monsters who prey on women and subject them to “medical” care that is actually worse than the situations they use to justify their position.

There are many reasons why the media has ignored this story. One of them has to be the fact that they have been complicit in creating this situation with their blind defense of abortion, all abortion, under any circumstances, for any reason. They claim that they are doing this for women, but Dr Kermit Gosnell’s chamber of horrors puts that claim in question. 

Before abortion was legalized, proponents promised us a world where crime rates, drug addiction, child abuse would all drop due to the fact that every child would be “wanted.”

Wrong.

They also promised us a world where women no longer would endanger their lives because of dehumanizing back-alley abortions.

The message of Dr Gosnell’s unreported trial is, wrong again.

I think there are many reasons why the pro choice media has tried so hard to ignore this story. I would guess that chief among them is the reality they won’t admit: Kermit Gosnell is the monster they helped build.

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Megyn Kelly Panel Slams Media Blackout on Kermit Gosnell Trial

Patheos’ own Mollie Hemingway participated in this Fox News discussion of the media blackout on the trial of abortionist Dr Kermit Gosnell.

The bottom line: The media has not reported on this sensational trial because they didn’t want to. Why do you think they don’t want to report this story?

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Planned Parenthood Jumps the Shark. Then Blames the Shark.

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It’s time for every brainless knee-jerk Planned Parenthood supporter to line up and recite “right wing lies.” 

A Planned Parenthood lobbyist (I’m leaving her name out because she’s just one of many) spoke against a bill requiring that infants who are born alive after abortions be given medical care instead of just dumped in the trash and allowed to die.

Planned Parenthood has opposed bills to protect the lives of infants who survive abortions every time I’m aware of. What’s different is that the Florida lobbyist seems to be a political amateur. Planned Parenthood’s lobbyist here in Oklahoma would never do anything this stupid. Their Oklahoma lobbyist knows how to play for-real political hardball.

Unfortunately for Planned Parenthood, their too-honest and far-too-inept Florida lobbyist got drawn out in question and answers, and the testimony ended up on the internet.

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That’s how Planned Parenthood jumped the shark.

Here’s the video:

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It turns out not everyone supports the Planned Parenthood position about killing babies after they are born. In fact, there was widespread public outrage, including allusions to this video by members of Congress in calls to defund Planned Parenthood. Anyone who has ever dealt with Planned Parenthood knows that they are all about funding.

Blame the shark That’s when Planned Parenthood started to blame the shark.

First they issued one of their usual we-didn’t-say-what-we-said statements on April 1 (which is an appropriate day for it.) When that didn’t work, they moved to Plan B (pun intended.)

They issued another statement, claiming that their only concerns with the bill were “health and safety issues” in some of the bill’s language and that “biased media reports reported our position inaccurately.” They then go on with the standard Planned Parenthood women’s-health-our-great-services boilerplate. You can follow the links to read both their statements if you want, but I warn you: It’s political schlock.

This business of jumping the shark and then blaming the shark for having been jumped is becoming a standard Planned Parenthood two-step. I don’t know about you, but I could write their shark-blaming statements for them.

Their trouble isn’t biased media. It also isn’t inept lobbyists who don’t know how to kill a bill behind closed doors the way their Oklahoma lobbyist does. Their problem is that they are lying. They keep getting caught out in their lies because they are telling lies.

Their real position seems to be simple and straightforward: A baby’s life is forfeit from conception through post abortion. The woman’s right to kill her child at any time during pregnancy, including after pregnancy if the baby survives an abortion, is absolute. If a baby survives an abortion, it must be killed because the baby’s mother has already decided to kill it.

I believe that what’s at stake here is not the life of the child, or even the mother’s “right to chose” so much as Planned Parenthood’s determination to fulfill its contractual obligations. If a woman contracts with them for an abortion that results in a dead baby, then she’s entitled to a dead baby, even if that means killing the baby after the abortion itself.

Do you get that?

The life of the child appears to be a non sequitur to Planned Parenthood. What seems to matter to them is that they told the woman they’d kill her baby, took her money with the promise they’d kill her baby, and they are going to Kill That Baby. They may be liars to the general public, but in this grisly instance, they keep their word.

When they get baited out into an excess of truth-telling and almost admit this as their lobbyist did in this video, they resort to obfuscation, lies and the use of their well-oiled media/political/social support machine to blame the shark they just jumped for their predicament.

I haven’t written about this story before because I’m so tired of it. It’s tough for me because I have to argue with these numbskull lies all day at work. I’ve been doing it for years and I am bone-weary with the lies.

However, I want you to understand this because I think it’s important for everyone, including Planned Parenthood’s supporters, to understand one simple thing: They are lying. Their lies are so obvious that it makes my teeth ache to read them. 

The next time Planned Parenthood jumps the shark and then blames the shark for having been jumped, just turn down the volume on your television, click over onto another page on the internet. No need to hear it/read it again. It’s always the same.

 

The Church and Women

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I love this photo. Why? Because it shows our new pope washing the feet of both women and men on Holy Thursday. 

Catholics of a certain stripe look for holiness in anything that diminishes women. Righteousness is wanting to do away with altar girls, ending the service of women readers and extraordinary eucharistic ministers. These same folk are adamant that only people with y chromosomes should have their feet washed by a priest on Holy Thursday.

In each of these cases, they will insist that no, absolutely not, misogyny has nothing to do with their insistence that women’s participation in the life of the Church be diminished to spectator and held there. No. They are only making these claims because their liturgical/doctrinal/moral purity commands that they, “in charity,” do so. 

After all, they tell you, we have a priest shortage, and the precipitous drop in vocations correlates to the use of female altar servers. Ergo, the presence of girls near the altar is what’s causing the priest shortage. As for women readers and female extraordinary eucharistic ministers … well … women, reading Scripture? Out Loud? Near the Altar? And women, touching the Host. Ewwwww. Then there’s the ugliness over foot washing on Holy Thursday. Everyone knows that when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He did it as part of instituting the priesthood, and the priesthood is all male. Sooooo … no foot washing of female feet on Holy Thursday.

Notice how these various excuses seek to sidestep the fact that every single one of them is aimed at women? Notice also, that every single one of them is an I-am-more-Catholic-than-the-popism?

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Let’s take these arguments one at a time, starting with everybody’s favorite; altar girls = falling vocations. There is a historical correlation between the time that girls were allowed to be altar servers and the beginning of the drop in vocations to the priesthood. However, correlations are always a bogus argument for cause. Here’s why. A correlation simply shows that two events occur near one another. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae also correlates historically to the fall in vocations. By this logic, I could claim that it was the cause. Or, for that matter, Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency correlates. Maybe that did it.

Correlations do not signify cause.

One possible cause of falling vocations that I can think of is linked to that 400 pound gorilla in the room that unwritten rules say we shouldn’t talk about. The percentage of homosexual men in the priesthood appears to have risen during these years. Homosexuals are a much smaller pool of possible applicants from which to draw vocations than the entire male Catholic population. In addition to that, as the stigma against homosexuality goes away, homosexual men have lots of other options. I am not writing this to start an attack on homosexual priests. I am writing it to explain why blaming the priest shortage on altar girls is nonsense.

Let’s look at the next argument against women actively taking part in the life of the Church: Women near the altar, or touching the host = something unclean. I hardly know how to address this argument. It is so obviously misogynist and, well, crude, that it baffles me how people who believe it can convince themselves to believe it. A woman reading the scriptures is bad? A woman extraordinary eucharistic minister defiles the Host? Did Jesus despise half the people He made? I think not.

Next, let’s go to the question of washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday. You know: Washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday = heresy or some such. To talk about this intelligently, we need to pause for a moment and consider where the custom of Holy Thursday foot washing came from. It began when Jesus washed the disciples feet at the Last Supper. 

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“Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus asked the apostles after he washed their feet. “I have given you an example to follow.” 

He said this to men who, not so long before, were arguing about who was going to be greatest in His coming Kingdom. They didn’t get it. After three years of watching Him talk to the woman at the well, refuse to condemn the woman taken in adultery, teaching Mary and Martha and obeying His Mother at the wedding at Cana, they still didn’t get it.

He came for the least of these. And in all the world, no one is more consistently the least of these than women. Every society has it’s discriminated against. But no matter who else falls to the bottom of things, in every society, there is also always women who are beaten, raped, murdered, bought, sold and belittled from birth to death.

“Do you know what I have done to you?”  He instituted the priesthood that night, and by washing their feet, he was teaching them to be priests. “I have given you an example to follow,” He told them. 

The people who are so adamant that no woman’s foot should be washed base their argument on the fact that Jesus instituted the priesthood that night. In some translations, the Scriptures say, “… now you should wash one another’s feet.” These folks try to take that literally, without taking it too literally. It means, they say, no women. But, if you really want to be literal about it, it means only the Apostles. Taken that far, we would probably have bishops, washing each other’s feet in a room by themselves and that would be Holy Thursday.

Does anybody think that’s what Jesus intended?

I think that if you want to follow the spirit of the act, you should probably go out on the streets and bring in homeless people, drug addicts and prostitutes and wash their feet. I think what Jesus was trying to tell the apostles — and us — is that they were wrong when they argued over who would be greatest in His Kingdom. They were wrong when they thought that they were following a Teacher Who would give them the power to lord it over all the rest of humanity. He wasn’t making them kings. He was making them servants.

He was also teaching us, all of us who take His name, that we should be servants. Washing feet on Holy Thursday is a testament of humility on the part of the priesthood of Christ. it is an action of profound meaning that tells all of us what the priesthood is and who it serves. When your parish priest goes down on his knees and washes and kisses the feet of twelve of his parishioners, he is acting out the meaning of the priesthood itself. He is demonstrating what in persona Christi means.

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus told Peter. He didn’t say feed my rams. He also didn’t say feed my ewes. He said feed them all, male and female, young and old, weak and strong, without discrimination or turning any of them away.

Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of all people, everywhere. In my humble and theologically ignorant opinion, if you don’t “get” that, then you don’t “get” Jesus. If you don’t understand that to your core, then you have never met the Lord I encountered on that day long ago when I said, “Forgive me.”

Do you know what I have done to you, he asked. I have given you an example to follow. 

I Forgive You. Now Don’t Do It Again.

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My husband and I go to the Vigil Mass at our parish. Our pastor delivered a fine homily yesterday. It was based on the Gospel story of the woman taken in adultery.

He made a point that I’ve often thought myself, that the woman in this story was set up. You catch someone in “the very act” of adultery by being there. This outrage of the scribes and pharisees, which included demands that a woman be stoned to death, was fake outrage. 

The pharisees were so zealous to entrap Our Lord that they were willing to entrap and murder this poor woman along the way. I’ve always thought that the man with whom she had been caught in “the very act” of adultery was probably standing there with them, stones in his hand, ready to throw.

Such is the “mercy” of legal beagle clerics who care more for the trappings of religion than they do for the call to holiness that applies to every single person on this planet. They are so intent on following “the rules,” so focused on, as Jesus said, “cleaning the outside of the cup” that they leave the inside, which is their own souls, “filthy — full of greed and self-indulgence.”

I know because I’ve done it that human beings are capable of convincing themselves of anything. We can convince ourselves that we are holy. We can convince ourselves that our “personal morality” is, in fact, actual morality. We can make ourselves believe that our obsessions and fixations on the appearance of things truly are more important than their substance. We can, as these teachers of religious law did, forget our own sins and focus on the sins of others to the point of stoning them to death.

Today’s Gospel story has often been used against Christians by people who do not believe in Jesus and who do not follow Him. They confuse its meaning to say that we should go along with them in claiming that their sins are not sins and that, in fact, there is no sin. They want to twist the story to mean that their “personal morality” is, in fact, actual morality.

SwindleHeWhomIsWithoutSinCastTheFir

I don’t think that is what Jesus meant when He said, “Let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” The scriptures record the tantalizing but unexplained fact that Jesus knelt and wrote in the dust while He was speaking.

What was He writing? Was He perhaps writing the name of the man who had been with the woman when she was taken “in the very act?” Perhaps this man was the one making the demand that she be stoned. We don’t know. All we do know is that something happened that doesn’t often happen and these men became convicted of their own sins instead of the woman’s.

They dropped their stones and walked away.

This was not mercy on Our Lord’s part. It was the act that precedes mercy, which is to convict of us our own sins. We can not receive mercy for sins that we do not admit. We can not be forgiven without an understanding on our part that we need forgiveness.

The pitiful scribes and pharisees did not stay around to get the mercy they needed. They did not say, as Peter did, “have mercy on me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” They dropped their stones and went away to plot other evils for other days. They were temporarily foiled in their evil, not converted to the light.

Kissing jesusfeet

But the woman, the sinful, terrified woman whose death would have been nothing more than a means to an end for these sin-sick priests, what became of her? Again, we don’t know for sure. Was she the Mary Magdalene who stood at the foot of the cross and who was the first one to see the risen Christ? Many people think so. Was she the woman who kissed Jesus’ feet and washed them with her tears while he was at dinner with a Pharisee? Maybe.

All we know for sure is what Jesus said to her. I do not condemn you, he said. Now go, and sin no more.

He didn’t tell her that what she’d been doing, how she’d been living, was right. He didn’t tell her that she was without sin. He told her, “sin no more.”

That is God’s mercy. It is the mercy that does not lie to us by letting us slide past the reality of our sins. But it is a mercy that also doesn’t equate us with our sins. We are more than the evil we do. We are the errant children of the living God Who will always forgive us when we go to Him in humility and remorse for what we have done, but who will never do us the great disservice of telling us that what we’ve done is ok.

God tells us, like I told my own children, “Don’t do it again.” Don’t run in the house and break the lamp. Don’t hit your brother with a stick. Don’t commit adultery, lie, cheat, steal, rape or kill. Don’t do it again.

That is the mercy of God. It  is not the namby-pamby self-referencing whatever-is-popular-is-not-a-sin mercy our culture teaches us to demand of Him.

To obtain God’s mercy, we have to do more than put down our stones and go away to plot more evil. We have to want to change. Because, when it comes to our sins, He will always tell us, “I forgive you. Now don’t do it again.”

The Year of Two Living Popes and One Unchanging Faith

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Popes Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and Francis

Does anybody remember that this is the Year of Faith?

It’s certainly been a historic year so far.

Our beloved Benedict, Pope Emeritus, handed the Church forward to his successor, Pope Francis. The Year of Faith has become the Year of Two Living Popes. 

It is one faith; one holy and apostolic Catholic faith. For those who will stop to think about it, that is a miracle in itself. Benjamin Disraeli, when asked what proof he could offer of God’s existence, replied, “The Jew, sir, the Jew.”  To that I would add that if anyone doubts the divinity of Jesus Christ, I would offer them the Catholic Church and its 2,000 year history of faithful teaching.

The Catholic Church has persisted through the fall and rise of more than one empire. It has survived the venality of some of its own popes. It has come through plagues, famines and times of great wealth. And it has, through all of it, kept the teachings of the Gospels intact and unblemished.

I don’t think there has been an day or an hour in all this great swath of history that the Church has not been under concerted and powerful pressure to re-write the Gospels to suit the passing moral fashions of the time. I think the reason for this is simple: The devil is real. There is a malicious personality out there who wants to destroy us through our own predilections to immorality.

We are not so much engaged in a war as we are the objects of a war. This malicious personality wars against us by aligning itself with our own fallen natures. It attempts to subvert us in our path to our ultimate calling as sons and daughters of the living God. We are the object of war making based in a hatred that is outside time.

But this evil, which seems so powerful and omnipresent to us who are in the soup of this life, is almost nothing in the halls of eternity. It is a vanquished foe whose only hold on us was broken at the cross. All we have to do is turn our faces away from the darkness and walk into the light.

The Catholic Church is the light, shining in the darkness of this world. Despite the undeniable fallenness of the people who govern it, the Church itself does not falter when it comes to providing the sacraments and teaching the teachings that show us the way to heaven.

This Year of Faith and two living popes — one reigning and one emeritus — is historic. But it is also part of the flow of the Church through history. Pope Benedict handed the Church forward and the Cardinals chose Pope Francis to take it up.

People who unwittingly are the mouthpieces for the devil yammer about how the Church must “change” its core teachings about life, love, sexuality and the common good or be found guilty of being “out of step with the world.”

Out of step with the world haters

Let’s think for a moment what they are demanding. What does it mean to be “in step” with the world?

“In step” with the world, as they define it, means that people are only human when those who have the power to do so define them to be human. It means that vast numbers of people may be killed at any time, for no reason at all.

Being “in step” with the world means that women and children are commodities to be bought and sold, raped and worked. It means that reducing women and children to objects and then using their rape, torture and murder as entertainment is a “right” that transcends any claims to their human dignity. Being “in step” with the world means that women’s bodies can be harvested for their eggs that are then sold online. It means that women’s wombs can be rented as surrogates.

Being “in step” with the world means “designing” babies that we will find good enough for our celestial selves to raise. It means discarding tens of other babies in this process to get the one perfect one we want.

Being “in step” with the world means destroying marriage, doing away with family as a unit that creates, nurtures and supports young human beings. It means that multinational corporations can pillage and destroy without restraint.

I could go on, but the point is that being “in step” with the world is being “in step” with decay, death and destruction. Being “in step” with the world is the exact opposite of what the Church is called to do.

The Catholic Church is not called to make the world comfortable in its sins. it is called to lead the world to redemption from its sins. 

The world may and does excoriate the Church for “being out of step” with its many killing machines. It may and does excoriate Catholics for following their Church. It may and does try to force us out of public life and silence our witness.

But the world will not prevail.

White crucifixion

Jesus said, “On this rock, I will build my Church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” 

This is the Year of Faith. It is also the year of two living popes.

But this year is, as all years are, the year of the One and only Jesus, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

More Than 100,000 March for Marriage in Puerto Rico

Supporters of traditional marriage are showing up to march all over the world.

Paris saw two enormous marches for marriage this past year. The last one drew close to a million people. Puerto Ricans joined in February 18 when more what media experts estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people marched for marriage. This is an enormous showing on an island with a population of only 3.5 million.

Despite this, the news coverage outside the religious press was scanty to non-existent.

It’s time for Americans to join in and do our part. The March for Marriage will be March 26, in Washington DC. Be there, or be square.

A CNA article describing the march says in part:

The president of the United Ministry for the Family, Dr. Cesar Vasquez Muniz, said the demonstration came about “in response to threats against marriage and the family.”

The march “is an act to defend our rights and protect children,” he said.

Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres of Arecibo, who took part in the pro-family march, said that when a society dismantles the traditional family, it is destined for ruin and destruction.

A parallel march organized by gay advocates attracted just hundreds of attendees, according to local media reports.

Puerto Rico’s Senate and House of Representatives are currently debating measures that would legalize gay unions, allow same-sex couples to adopt and change the curriculum relating to gender that is taught in schools.

Organizers of the march said the proposals constitute “a legislative attack against our freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and of religion.”

The passage of these measures would lay the foundation for legal discrimination against the Church and Christians, they said, and would lead to the marginalization of Christian values from the laws that govern the island.

It’s time for Americans to join in and do our part. The March for Marriage will be March 26, in Washington DC. For more information, go here

Be there, or be square.

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