A Wee and Angry Word of Thanks to the Bishops? UPDATED

In my column at First Things today, I recount a bit of personal family history:

My mother—let’s call her Alice—was born during the Depression to a couple who could neither hear nor speak, and were rather famous around Coney Island for their ability to initiate spontaneous parties and sustain them for whole weekends.

They were the polar opposite of today’s “helicopter parents.” For them, parenting was not half as interesting as playing the ponies, their factory-shift work, or partying with their fellows (had the word “homies” then been in vogue, I have no doubt that Gran and Grampa would have used it, turned their caps backward, stuck out their tongues and folded their arms with nods full of attitude), so they frequently left Alice under the long-term supervision of a rather bitter grandmother who taught her how to sew, bake, and weed a garden with such resolute vigor that I never saw Alice do any of those things during my lifetime.

She was big on floor-scrubbing, and the sheets were always fresh, but like her parents, whom she adored, Alice preferred the social and monetary rewards of working outside the home rather than within it.

While Alice was faithfully, if rather sternly, clothed, fed, and taught her catechism by her grandmother, it was her glamorous-seeming parents who captured her imagination and on whom she modeled her own personality. As a mother, she too was dutiful—if the meals were awful, the school uniforms were pressed and the lunches made—but she parented with a determined eccentricity, as well. Returning from school one day, my brother noted that most of his closet was strewn about the neighborhood, one shirt still dangling from his bedroom window. Laughing, he gathered up clothes as he walked, and explained, “Yeah, I forgot to make my bed, this morning. She hates that.”

I drag my poor dead mother, her fizzy parents and tragic old Great-Grandma Emilia out into the limelight in order to illustrate a family situation that — in an unusual way — relates a bit to the current tensions between some Catholic churchwomen and the hierarchs in Rome, and more specifically to a recent interview in which L’Osservatore Romano columnist, Lucetta Scaraffia said, “There is misogyny in the Church . . . It’s not possible to go on like this. Women in the Church are angry!”

In the throes of anger, it can be hard to swallow even the morsel of humility it takes to acknowledge things we would prefer to ignore, particularly if doing so might be misconstrued by some as defeat.

But truly, if we can look back (even in our resentment) and locate something positive and true, and bring it forward, that can be the beginning of a healing and a bigger victory than may at first be obvious.

The piece is difficult to excerpt and could easily be misunderstood, particularly by people who might want to misunderstand things, so I invite you to go over and read it for yourself.

UPDATE: Joanne McPortland says it’s easy to bash bishops, who have the worst job in Christendom

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    I went over and read the entire piece. It was enjoyable and worth going over. I was a little disappointed that such rich family memories were yoked to a political point, even if I agree with that point. For my taste, I would have left the family memories to stand on their own. But you certainly come from an interesting family. Well then, all families, if you look carefully enough and from a particular angle, are interesting.

    [Manny, what's the point of bringing up family unless there is some sort of point, and I don't really see this as a "political" one. Seems like life, to me. -admin]

  • Victor

    (((Seems like life, to me)))

    (((Healing, after all, must begin someplace; best in a place of truth.)))

    Anchoress the only truth that me, myself and i which include my spirit and my soul compressed of spriritual godly cells could accept now is the truth that will eventually come from “GOD” (Good Old Dad) on “The Last Day” through His Son Jesus Christ. GOD created Man in His Own Image in “Paradise” and until all of U>S (usual sinners) are prepared to accept “GOD’s TRUTH”, how can there ever be any chance for humanity?

    I know that I don’t hate woman and although my dad certainly had misogynistic attitudes, my heart of heart knows that he also never hated woman and as far as I’m concerned all of this fighting is but trials of our times which I’m sure could be traced back by GOD’s Angels to the times of Adam and Eve.

    Anyway, I’ll close by thanking God for having blessed my wife and I with five daughters and each and every one of them would say that we don’t always agree with one another and on certain subjects we might still strongly disagree but as far as I know, they still love this 66 year old father.



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  • Sister MM

    “…so they frequently left Alice under the long-term supervision of a rather bitter grandmother who taught her how to sew, bake, and weed a garden with such resolute vigor that I never saw Alice do any of those things during my lifetime.”

    That sounds almost EXACTLY like my novitiate with the Austrian sisters! God love them. I say “almost” because the dear sisters (work-a-holics, all) were joyful all the while.