The College Application Stratagem or, “Sing out Louise”

The College Application Stratagem or, “Sing out Louise” June 27, 2012

One frequent question I got about my conversion was, “Uh, don’t you disagree with the Catholic Church on a lot of things? Aren’t you bisexual? And a bit of a statist when it come to public health? And various other things?  What are you going to do about that?”

I won’t paper over those inconsistencies and call them insignificant, but I don’t feel like I need to either resolve them instantly or pretend they don’t trouble me.  One reason the Catholic Church has adults go through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) classes is so they can make sure they actually intend to convert to Catholicism, before anyone does anything irrevocable.  (Pre-Cana marriage counseling seems to serve an analogous purpose).  This means, presumably, that my Possibly Heretical category will be in heavy usage between now and my assumed baptism in November.

Some bloggers have raised some reasonable concerns about converting in public, especially at length.  Working out one’s salvation with fear and trembling is all very well, but Patrick Archibold suggested Hell might have no fury like aggressively orthodox Catholics in combox (the kind who already lay into pretty much everyone in the Catholic channel as heretics).   Kyle Cupp disagreed, but Rod Dreher thought the only safe option was going dark, or, at a minimum turning off comments.

I spent probably too much time trying variations of “holding door shut against zombies” on google images

So let me say a little about the way I’m planning to approach the blog over the next few months.  When I was applying to college, I was always pretty strategic about my interviews and essays. I was trying to give them some sort of narrative to hang on to (becoming a “named lobster“) and making sure I didn’t give them any reason to have qualms about admitting me. Or rather, I did that for every interview save one.

I guess the best way to put it is that I conditionally sabotaged my MIT interview. I really liked the school, but I wasn’t sure if, as such a humanities nerd, I’d be a good fit for such a tech-y place. I loved the creative stuff engineering people did (and how frequently it involved explosions), but I was worried that I wouldn’t get to do as much book nerdery.

So when I went in to the interview, I wasn’t as bouncy-positive as I was everywhere else. Although I was still cheery and upbeat, I was deliberately trying to trip warning bells in my interviewer. I said flat out they I wasn’t sure I’d be happy at a tech school. If MIT thought I shouldn’t be there, I wanted to know, and I wanted to give them all the data they needed to make an informed choice.

It worked out pretty well for me. MIT gave me more details about the humanities and put me in touch with some humanities students, so I got a lot more data. Ultimately, I picked Yale instead, for mostly unrelated reasons.

That’s pretty much how I’m approaching RCIA and this blog during the countdown to my parish’s November baptisms. If there’s an irreconcilable difference here, neither the Church nor I will be well served if I keep my mouth shut.  The only chance I’ve got to see if I’m persuaded by the Church’s teachings or if I don’t understand but trust or if I’ve hit a principle I can’t give up is by picking fights and making sure the other side gets a chance to take their best shot at me.

It should go without saying that I’m not an authoritative source on Catholicism, and, frankly, neither is most of the commentariat.  Citing sources is always helpful, and I may reach out to you all for book or essay recommendation, but I’m not really going to try and crowdsource canon law.  Writing and seeing what questions people raise helps me organize my thoughts and concerns so I can bring them to my RCIA class.

There’s a lot of space on the spectrum between being a cultural Catholic who is affiliated but doesn’t see the Church as an authority and understanding and assenting to every teaching. Right now, I think the Church has the best approach to thinking about moral philosophy which isn’t the same as thinking that it’s theologians always come up with the right answer on non-dogmatic issues on the first go-round. But even on things that I’m pretty sure are just matters of personal conscience, I’ll be airing my disagreements in the hopes that, if I’m wrong, I’ll be corrected, and if I’m right, I’ll be persuasive.

I don’t trust the Church enough to be certain I’ll find myself understanding or submitting to all its said, but I definitely trust it enough to let it decide whether I can enter, provided I don’t withhold data.

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  • JackOCat

    Do you have a fall-back/safety Christian Church? Something a bit more progressive and accepting maybe.

    I’m assuming Atheism is out of the picture now and even a non denominational belief in God and absolute morality. Based on your posts, the New Testament must be central to your spiritual and ethical requirements, correct?

    Anyway, keep us posted and I hope it all works out for you. As a life long non religious person, this is a very interesting process to live out vicariously.

    • leahlibresco

      That’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t worry unless I thought it was impossible to become Catholic, because the reason I came to believe that would have a big effect on the answer.

  • Steve

    “…I think the Church has the best approach to thinking about moral philosophy”
    This is the same church that feels that the proper response to priests raping children is to stick your head in the sand, correct?? This is the same church that only this past week very publically admonished a group of nuns who had the audacity to suggest a little bit of gender equality, right?? This is the same church that suggested that condoms somehow make the AIDS epidemic in Africa worse, right?? You might consider additional avenues in your search for groups that best approach thinking about moral philosophy…

    • cjspartacus

      If Newton had decided one day that he liked the idea that humans could fly, rather than be restricted to the oppressive forces of gravity which seemd to bound him like chains to the surface of the earth, would this change the veracity of his theories? What if, in an act of martyrdom for his new found belief, while realizing that the math just didn’t work out that way, decided to jump off a cliff? Would we decide that his initial claims of gravity were false, just because his integrity as a sane scientist was now shot? Similarly, one must consider the Church’s teaching, not her proclivity to jump of cliffs, when contemplating their conversion. Leah seems pretty reasonable, and I think that’s her approach. I’m sure she is considering the question of why such atrocities occurred (it’d be pretty hard not to) and will most likely occur in some other form in the future. But from my apparently authoritative knowledge on her own conversion, she seems more likely to look at theory AND practice.

      Leah, it’s too bad you never came to MIT…in some ways. We had a great Catholic community there. You would have fit right in, even as an athiest. You’d be surprised at how much philosophy some of us Catholic nerds discussed there. Oh well. I guess SOME people have to go to Yale… 😉

      • leahlibresco

        I did enjoy the heck out of CPW. And the Engineer’s Drinking Song. And hanging the Point.

        • bendi

          Doesn’t hold a candle to the Ramblin’ Wreck


          • cjspartacus

            Of course it doesn’t hold a candle to that…because MIT a tech school. We’ve moved beyond the need for combustion driven light sources. We only use flashlights and candles when we’re feeling especially nostalgic.

            As such, bendi, I accept your apology. 🙂

      • Steve

        Newtown’s sanity would be irrelevant in regards to the legitimacy of his scientific claims, which are verifiable via examination and experimentation. You could say the same about Van Gogh, as his artistic works are no less valuable even though he cut his ear off. If you wanted to take the comparison into the moral field, you could suggest leaders who have flawed (of course depending on your POV) morals, yet I wouldn’t just throw away the works and contributions of Thomas Jefferson due to his having slaves or Ben Franklin due to extramarital affairs. In addition, I’m not discounting good works the church has done, though altrusim & benevolence are qualities of great value, with or without the veil of Christianity or Catholicism in particular over its face. I find it simply baffling (though admittedly admirable in genuinely looking to expand her intellectual horizons) that someone would consider turning to the catholic church due to them having “the best approach to thinking about moral philosophy”. It’s like taking a class taught by a student who got a D in the same class the previous semester.

        • Ted Seeber

          Then you’d be in keeping with the Catholic philosopher Belloc, who said that the best argument for God was that the church was run by a bunch of imbeciles and should not have lasted a week, let alone 2000 years.

          • liza

            That’s just a dumb statement….authoritarian power has more to do with the Catholic church’s ability to survive 2000 years. When you can threaten people with ex-communication and hellfire to keep them in line if they dare question you….it’s a lot easier to keep the power and survive.

          • Read up regarding the Holy Roman Empire, more often political enemies than allies of the Church. Also, the Arian heresy, yadda yadda yadda.

            If anything, the Church flourishes most when someone attempts to crush her.

          • This is the sort of critique that simply baffles me.

            While there have been times in history that the Catholic Church has held certain kinds of power (mostly diplomatic power, occasionally economic, rarely military power), the only kind of secular power she has held throughout her history is moral power. That is, the power that those who choose to listen to what she says give to her. It’s exactly the sort of power that pundits have. And while this power can be considerable when much of the culture is supporting it, the same power is negligible when most of the culture opposes it.

            In other words, if you don’t believe in hellfire, or don’t care about communion, then excommunication is no threat at all.

            Now, if you accept the sacred power that the Church claims to have, then you have to admit that this power is nothing but obedience to God, who is the real authority in the Catholic Church. The sacred power is given by God directly; no people can take it away. The Church does not – indeed, cannot – worry about “keeping” its sacred power, or about “surviving”. If these are in fact given by God, then there is no cause for worry.

            It is only secular power that waxes and wanes. In the past two millennia, there have been plenty of examples of Catholic leaders who vie for greater secular power, or who mistake secular power for sacred power, or who abuse the secular power they’ve had. But there have been just as many examples of Catholic leaders who remind the Church that secular power is fleeting and, ultimately, worthless. For the past century especially, this has been the road the Popes and an increasing number of bishops have walked – to the point where the current Pope recognizes that the Catholic Church may experience a radical decline in membership (and therefore secular power), and he’s perfectly okay with that.

          • Ted Seeber

            why would hellfire have any power at all over an atheist?

      • Maiki

        I did love the Tech Catholic Community while I was there…

        • liza

          @robert king

          I find your portrayal of events naive. Until relatively modern times(a few hundred years), most of the general populace feared hellfire and ex-communiction. A populace which is not literate and has no way to begin to explore the basis for the Church’s claims, to question its reasoning, to examine its presuppositions, is a populace which has very little power to overcome the fearful statements issued by people in power over it.

          And…there is a reason that in most countries in which the education of the general populace is highly regarded and sought after….the Church is in decline.

          As far as being OK with a decline in “secular power”…tell that to all the church leaders foaming at teh mouth about mandatory health coverage for birth control. If they weren’t concerned about that kind of power they would try to instill their congregants with an aversion to birth control rather than trying to achieve their agenda through “secular” ways.

          The Catholic leadership recognizes, however, that they lost that battle ages ago and don’t have much hope of convincing the majority of their followers to actually practice Catholic doctrine on the subject.

          Their power, secular and religious just continues to slip away….and they can’t stand it.

          • cjspartacus

            There is a tendency in the states to view the Catholic Church as something that only exists here, in the Vatican (that odious den of power hungry old men in funny red hats), and, when we’re feeling especially global, some countries in Europe. However, this is not the case at all. It is important to recognize that in other countries, such as in China and other parts of Asia, bishops are being held under house arrest and forced to attend state mandated “ordinations”, while countless other Catholics (as well as other Christians) are being tortured and killed for their faith throughout the world. Argue what you want about the bishops and secular power with this mandate, but the dynamite of the Church is a faith held so dear that one dies for it. One does not kill for it, one dies for it. Keep this in mind when contemplating the response of the bishops and Catholics in America. Many will leave, but the real Catholics will follow their faith through jail into the gallows. Hopefully, it will not come to that. After all, dear Thomas, this isn’t Spain. This is England! (see A Man For All Seasons to understand that last part)

          • First off… what @cjspartacus said.

            Second, regarding hellfire: either hell is real or it is not. If it is not, then the threat of hellfire is no threat at all; it has only psychological force. If it is real, then warning against it might do good.

            If the culture as a whole supports a belief, whether it’s a belief in hell or democracy or feng shui, then it’s much more difficult to question that belief – and education doesn’t always help in that direction. Those who benefit from that culture’s beliefs tend to want to hang on to the status quo, and so encourage everyone to stick together. So yes, when the Catholic Church had more cultural power than she currently has, many leaders in the Church abused that power in order to hold on to their benefits.

            (A bit of a tangent: those who critiqued the Catholic Church over excommunication and warnings of hell at the beginning of the modern era, that is, the Protestant reformers, tended to attack not hell but the ease with which the Catholics forgave sins worthy of hellfire: the sacrament of confession, indulgences, and so on. Again, certainly there were abuses there, but I find it ironic that it was the Church’s power of forgiveness that was under attack, while now it’s the Church’s power to warn of condemnation.)

            But it is absurd to pretend that the Catholic Church in the U.S. in the 21st century has vast cultural power, that the threat of excommunication today is received as anything but sound and fury, that the Church has any practical ability to keep those who (for example) wish to use contraception from doing so.

            And this lack of secular power is actually perceived as a good thing by Pope Benedict XVI and many bishops, religious, and laypeople in the Church today. It is a good thing because it removes the temptation to abuse power, and keeps the focus on eternal things.

            Finally, re: the HHS mandate in itself: all the bishops are asking is that the Church not be forced to pay for something that is already widely and easily available, but that she happens to see as morally wrong. They want very much to follow the slogan “Against abortion? Don’t have one!” They simply want contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and abortifacient drugs to be treated like any other prescription medication – available with a copay from the individual patient, rather than 100% subsidized by the employer.

          • liza

            “They simply want contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and abortifacient drugs to be treated like any other prescription medication – available with a copay from the individual patient, rather than 100% subsidized by the employer.”

            That is a patently false statement. The government wants contraception to be treated like any other medication, not the Catholic Church. The fight is about whether employers can directly refuse to provide health insurance policies that cover any portion of contraception or sterilizations. It’s not pay for it with a co=pay. A co-pay means that a portion of the cost is paid by the insurer and the a portion is paid by the insured.

            The RCC wants to refuse to have any large group insurance policies, that they hold for their hospitals, universities, etc., to not have any health insurance benefits provided for contraception and sterilization….zero, zilch, nada…..measning that if one of their employees wants their tubes tied, or a vasectomy, or a prescription for birth control, they have to bear the entire cost of the procedure/drugs.

            It isn’t the insured paying a co-pay versus, paying nothing…it’s whether the insured must pay for everything(as it now stands) vs. a co-pay or 100% coverage.

          • liza

            I typed too quickly and without proof-reading:

            “The RCC wants to refuse to have any large group insurance policies,–the type which they hold for their hospitals, universities, etc.–which have any health insurance benefits provided for contraception and sterilization. Zero, zilch, nada is the amount the RCC wants …..meaning that if one of their employees wants their tubes tied, or a vasectomy, or a prescription for birth control, they have to bear the entire cost of the procedure/drugs.”

            That is what I meant to convey.

    • bendi

      Many of the things you list here are not correct or are presented in a slanted and biased fashion, but its not worth arguing them because there ARE plenty of things throughout history people in the Church HAVE done wrong that you could rightly point out. And yet the Church remains, 2000 years later, despite rigorous attacks from outside and- seemingly worse- all the failings of its members.

      How can this be? Perhaps the Church is what She claims to be. After all, this is precisely what we might expect if the Church really IS the supernatural Bride of Christ- the one true Church. Rigorous attacks from evil forces (manifested externally and internally), and yet, an inexplicable staying power that no other human organization in the course of history has mustered.

      • Steve

        I’m unsure which of my claims were not correct. You might object to the tone, but if your problem with bringing up wide spread allegations of child rape followed by covering it up or ignoring it (ie. not immediately going to the police) is that there is some sort of slant in my tone… well, call me biased because I really don’t know a polite way to approach the topic. The topics I brought up were recent and relevant to someone evaluating a group on their approach to a moral philosophy. To bring up the churches stance 500 or so years ago on issues such as slavery, while not something to dismiss, wouldn’t be entirely fair to judge their present status as a moral body. The fact that the church has remained in one form or another for a long time (from a human POV, but an infinitesimally small time on a cosmic scale) isn’t grounds to assume some sort of divine approval. There are plenty of more plausible reasons to explain their persistence.

        • bendi

          Again, not worth getting into the weeds and arguing the minutia of your statements. Suffice it to say that plenty have sinned throughout the history of the Church and they continue sinning, to this very minute. The thing is, you can’t say “Some priests abused children, therefore Aquinas was wrong.” Its the equivalent of an ad hominem attack- and if your goal is to argue Leah away from the Church I think you’ll have to do better- she seems too smart for that.

          • Paul Prescod

            I think that the argument would be more along the lines of: “The church is morally deficient, therefore its moral theories are not effective at promoting moral behaviour.”

            Of course, it might make sense for a Platonist to be more interested in whether a moral theory is “right” than in whether it can be effectively applied. I prefer an empirical approach myself. If I had to pick a religion, I’d be looking at something like Tibetan Buddhism, because if the Dalai Lama is an example of how you turn out after adopting their moral theories then “sign me up”.

            Ratzinger? Ugh. I could throw a stone and hit someone with a better moral track record.\

          • deiseach

            Paul, if you know any examples of Pope Benedict XVI doing anything immoral when he was a priest, bishop, cardinal or now pope, please give us the details.

            I mean something more than “He holds views I disagree with/don’t like”, something along the lines of “I have more than rumour/gossip that he stole/lied/fornicated/broke the rest of the Ten Commandments”.

            Of course, I have to admit: I myself have broken a good few of the Ten Commandments. So I am just as immoral as the Pope.

          • Steve

            Bendi… The ‘weeds & minutia’ of what I said are cited examples of recent church actions of questionable morality. For someone who specifically noted that part of what draws her to the church is the church’s supposed morality, it seems to me the examples I mentioned might be useful when trying to determine the institutions overall moral value. You can’t simply ignore the stains on the churches record because they make you uncomfortable. And as I’ve said before, this doesn’t dismiss practices of the church that have a positive value.

          • No one (in this space, anyway) is disagreeing that the sexual abuse of minors, or the attempts to cover it up, are shining examples of Catholic moral teaching at work. But then, I challenge you to show me an organization or moral philosophy whose adherents are every one of them perfect in practice.

            The fact that a culture of corruption arose in the Catholic Church is no surprise: the Church is full of humans. You might as well dismiss the Constitution and U.S. Code because legislators, justices, and presidents have broken the law and tried to cover it up.

            The question is not whether Catholics are morally good; the question is whether the Catholic approach to thinking about moral questions is a good approach. At least, that’s the question that convinced me, and (if I understand her correctly) that convinced Leah.

            As to gender equality, well, that’s a philosophical question that is open to debate. This is probably not the best space for the debate, though I’m guessing a good space for it will come up naturally as Leah blogs about her own inquiries. For now, it’s enough to say: we’ll need to define terms and really listen to the various sides of the argument to understand what each other is saying before making a judgment.

            Finally, the question of condoms contributing to AIDS in Africa: a variety of studies have shown that people tend to increase risky behavior when they feel that they are “protected.” Combine this with the known failure rates of condoms, both structurally and from imperfect use, and you have a basis for questioning the wisdom of condoms as the solution to AIDS. Add to this the historical data that the only African nation to really slow the spread of AIDS, Uganda, promoted abstinence and monogamy over condoms, and the conclusion is not unreasonable.

          • Edit: no one AGREES that abuse or cover-ups are examples of Catholic moral teaching at work. Caught in an awkward un-doubled double-negative; sorry!

          • Steve

            If you’d taken the time to read more of my posts (as I keep having to repeat myself), you’d know that I’m not discrediting the whole of the Catholic Church due to a number of notable flaws, only noting that those flaws need to be taken into consideration when judging the Church. I never claimed there was a flawless organization or individual, though I also think when making the claims of being the 1 true church, you’re by definition holding yourself up to a higher standard and should be judged accordingly. A common response here has been to be defensive and hide behind the flimsy excuse that the church is only flawed cause it’s made up of people. It might be more productive to take the criticisms to heart as ways you could help your church come into the 21st century. Valuable moral views aren’t confined to the rigidity of lying exclusively within the realm of one organization or belief system. I have yet to see the slightest bit of evidence that by somehow accepting church dogma leads to moral enlightenment. I honestly hope she finds what she’s looking for in that regards.

            I suppose you could say efforts to promote gender equality are somehow a worthy philosophical debate. I happen to find distasteful the notion that a woman’s place and recognition in a society or group is notably less than a mans and something that needs to be negotiated, rather than just assumed to be equal to a mans. You’d have a hard time convincing me otherwise, or that the church doesn’t feel that way. And for those on this board who feel that the churches durability is something to be proud of, bear in mind, that only means you’ve been on the wrong (arguably) side of this argument for that much longer.

            Regarding the AIDS in Africa point… lets take safety belts in cars. Say, for instance, safety belts were offered in every country in a effort to save drivers lives, and with the exception of Germany (with no speed limits on the autobahn if memory serves), every country noted a marked decrease in the number of driving fatalities. Would the reasonable response be to suggest not including safety belts due to driving being some sort of immoral act, or would it be including safety belts AND educating drivers about driving at slower speeds be the better choice?? I’m not suggesting the promotion of monogamy or abstinence wouldn’t help contain the disease, but, in my opinion this should be promoted for health reasons, not moral ones.

          • @Steve –

            Re: gender equality – this is a great example of why it’s important to define terms. I had no clue what you meant by “gender equality” when you first raised the question. It sounds like you mean equality of dignity and social status between men and women – which is great: the Catholic Church is and always has been on board with that on a doctrinal level (and surprisingly often on a practical level). But in the current social and political discussions, you’ll forgive me if I thought you were including the rights and status of homosexuality, marriage, transgender issues, and so on.

            Re: condoms and seat belts – the analogy breaks down rather quickly. Condoms are advertised as preventing the spread of HIV, but seat belts are not meant to prevent car accidents. I’ll let you know if I can think of a better analogy – maybe anti-virus software and risky internet surfing?

          • Steve

            @ Robert… that is correct, I am referring to gender equality in regards to women being prohibitted from serving in the church in any real form of authority. I’m not referring to gay marriage in this instance.

            The seat belt metaphor is actually better than you give it credit. Condoms are advertised to make the activity of sex more safe & seat belts are advertised to make the activity of driving more safe (not to avoid accidents, but to help keep you safe in the event of one… kinda like how not everyone is HIV positive, but wearing a condom will help keep you safe from contracting the disease). Both seat belts & condoms notably increase the safety of each task, especially when they’re used often and used correctly.

        • Sorry Steve, I couldn’t reply directly to your thread directly. The reply button was not available. I see you’re pretty busy replying to a lot of people -people I don’t entirely agree with by the by- so I’ll leave our discussion at that. Except, your last comment about ‘would you take health advice from a fast food eating fat person’…I was surprised to hear that coming from you. you seem to be a fairly rational individual that makes brilliant comments usually. This comment was nothing short of a sweeping generalization. So, all Catholic priests have lost their credibility now? Or perhaps your point is that the scandal has been so vast that it’s hard to take the Church seriously. You may have a point there.
          But likewise, I as a Canadian may be tempted to argue that although you Americans pride yourselves in being a country of freedom and liberty, have pretty much screwed the world over a million times, through military bullying, and cultural domination -I’ll never forgive you for Madona and Britney and Lady Gaga :p -. In fact, in my country, it’s practically the norm to believe that if there’s any problems in the world,the Americans are probably the cause of it. But I definitely don’t go around thinking all Americans are giant douche bags. The government has a bad track record, but I accept that it’s also done some great good as well. American culture is an oppressive force in the world that is negatively impacting global culture, but it also helps various people all over the world to learn English.
          So no, I wouldn’t go to a fat person for health advice, but neither would I assume that just because there’ sa lot of fat people in the South that all Americans are fat.

          I think that’s more or less what you’ve been arguing as well with others, so I’m probably just being redundant, which I apologize for. But your comment had really struck me I guess. Initially, I felt that it was hard for me to believe, based on that comment, that you and others here were capable of separating the crimes of the few from the faith of the many.
          But you eventually made the point that in the US especially, the faith has been high jacked (not the word you used. It’s one I use frequently though!) by a conservative Catholic base that also attacks things that go against the faith -like providing health care for the poor for example-. I’m told there are even Catholics in teh states that defend going to war, and capital punishment…so there’s definitely a bit of contradiction there. I do hope they’re not the majority…but only the loudest Catholic in the country, otherwise, the faith really is in trouble!!

          Sorry for the long rant, and thank you for the exchange Steve.
          brother d.

          • Oregon Catholic

            I like your comparison of the RCC and the US. I think it is very apt in numerous ways. Both can be big and bullying. Both are responsible for some of the greatest financial help to others beyond it’s borders without expecation of repayment. Both are leaders in the alleviation of human suffering in the world. Both have less than perfect leadership but the people are by and large pretty good.

          • Steve

            Brother Dan… first off, on behalf all American’s I apologize for much of our pop culture that is more sparkle and less substance. (and thanks for Justin Bieber BTW… that’s a real help ;))

            Next, I think my point regarding health advice from fat people was misunderstood, but in a strange way that’s exactly my point… I’ll explain. Mentioning taking eating advice from a fat person, your first reaction (regardless of the validity of the advice) is to dismiss it, and think it’s silly as what could this person possibly tell me about proper nutrition when they haven’t seen their feet since the 90’s. You make a judgement based on the appearance and automatically dismiss the message regardless of it’s validity or value. It’s no different from the church, when there is the appearance of immorality, it’s difficult to take seriously their claims of offering some sort of higher morality. I wasn’t implying that I think all or even a large amount of the church members and leadership are immoral people. I don’t think the 99% of priests who were acting properly are now discredited. But just like when it reflects poorly on the army when 1 rouge member of the armed forces takes it upon himself to start gunning down innocent bystanders, it similarly reflects poorly on the church when it’s members engage in deplorable conduct. Unfortunately the response to these incidents from Catholics is quite often to get defensive & dismissive, which really only make the problem worse due to a perception of a lack of accountability.

            The rise of the religious far right in America is a growing mold on our collective sense of decency & reason.

      • That’s pretty flawed reasoning. The line of succession of Japanese emperors has lasted since somewhere around 660 B.C– as long as we’re arguing from longevity, should we accept that myth that the emperor is a direct descendant of the Sun God Amaterasu?

        Given the politics, abuses of power, specious wars and declarations, and various shenanigans that litter the church’s history, I’d say it looks a lot more like a flawed-but-politically-shrewd human institution than any sort of divine institution.

        • bendi

          Well, don’t sell the Church short. “Politically Shrewd”? If its truly by worldly means alone that She has exerted such great influence over such a broad spectrum of cultures and times, then truly She must be led by brilliant and diabolical men. But then again I thought we were all dumbies for believing in an old man in the sky, blah blah blah. Which is it!?

          • Paul Prescod

            Nobody claims that Popes are dummies. They take an oath of poverty and end up living in palaces.

            That’s just a joke. My serious point is that being delusional is not the same as being stupid. I don’t think anyone claims that Popes are generally stupid. They are generally brilliant theologians. That does not prove that their beliefs are reasonable.

            It is also not reasonable to assume that a long-lived institution must necessarily be lead by brilliant men. One can repeatedly be in the right place at the right time. The Roman Catholic church was well-positioned to inherit the mantle of the Roman Empire, and then to be the state religion for several more empires that arose in Europe during the last 15 years. Now that its headquarters is in secularizing Europe, it may find that it is no longer in the right place at the right time. But who knows, maybe it will pull another rabbit out of the hat in China.

          • I’m torn, Bendi. On the one hand, I’d like to make a serious comment on how your reply was a glaring (and, frankly, insulting to all parties involved) logical fallacy, setting up a straw man for the sake of some face-saving snark…

            On the other, I’d like to point and laugh at you for misspelling the word “dummies.”

          • deiseach

            Well-positioned to inherit the mantle of the Roman Empire? Um, how about when the Empire moved East and Rome (the city) fell into being a provincial backwater when the real power and influence were elsewhere? When the Emperors were making the Eastern Church their favourite – with all the politicking that involved – and Constantinopole was the New Rome? When Arianism was on the up and had the backing of the Emperor as a conciliating compromise between theological extremes and Arian bishops were being put into plum sees?

            And state religion for several more empires? How about the Reformation, when half of Europe decided the local prince was the head of the church? The Wars of Religion? The French Revolution, which decided that if you had to have a State Church, Reason should be its Goddess? The Enlightenment? The often-forecast “This time, for sure!” decease of the Papacy, the hierarchy, various doctrines all in the name of “Survival depends upon embracing the spirit of the age and to thrive, the church must change its position on (pick doctrine of choice)”? When the Pope was ‘the Prisoner of the Vatican’ and Napoleon, or the Italian revolutionaries, or Mussolini, or the post-war governments were all going to be the ones in the position of strength?

            Where is the British Empire, on which the sun never set? One day, the Empire and the Roman Catholic Church co-existed in the same world, with all the old political power and territorial holdings of the Vatican long gone and the British Lion laid its paw on the globe. As far as could be seen (before the World Wars), the future belonged to the Anglo-Saxon race (I refer to the view expressed in an 1890 Sherlock Holmes story, where Holmes says to an American client “It is always a joy to me to meet an American, Mr Moulton, for I am one of those who believe that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a Minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes.”)

            And then one day the world changed and there was no more Empire, and indeed the very notion of a racially-based global hegemony stinks in the nostrils of modern humanity. But the first Pope ever to visit Westminister Abbey prayed at the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor – not in the heyday of Papal international prestige, not in the mediaeval era of devotion, but in 2010 – 479 years after the declaration that the monarch was the sole spiritual authority of the national church and the setting up of a state church in England.

            I’m not adducing this as a proof of divine intervention, just pointing out that such an unbroken string of succession and survival is a bit more than “they luckily managed to back the right horse every time in political matters”.

          • Reminds me of a playful argument for the Church: If God does not exist, luck certainly seems to; come join the luckiest organization in the world.

      • “And yet the Church remains, 2000 years later, despite rigorous attacks from outside and- seemingly worse- all the failings of its members. How can this be? Perhaps the Church is what She claims to be. After all, this is precisely what we might expect if the Church really IS the supernatural Bride of Christ.”

        It’s also what you’d expect if it was a very well-established, powerful, rich and pervasive organization that for centuries had done whatever it took to hold onto social (and in many cases secular) power and marginalized anyone who didn’t agree with it. I wouldn’t exactly call its staying power inexplicable — I think it’s entirely explicable.

    • Ted Seeber

      “This is the same church that feels that the proper response to priests raping children is to stick your head in the sand, correct?? ”

      Incorrect. You can’t believe everything you read in the New York Times on this issue.

      This is the same church that felt, at one point, the proper response to a priest raping a child was to pull that priest from public ministry, force him through months of intensive therapy, then, on the therapist’s recommendation, face him with his demons.

      That approach was WRONG, but it was based on the best *SCIENCE* of the time.

      When it was revealed in the mid 1990s that the approach was wrong, again based on science, it was replaced with mandatory background checks, training for all priests, parents, teachers, and bishops in how to spot a child rapist, and mandatory reporting to the secular authorities. There were a few hiccups along the way, but basically since 2000 or so, that has been the status quo.

      How did your favorite alma mater deal with the revealed fact that school boards have been moving pedophiles around the public school system for the last 70 years and not reporting them to police?

      • Steve

        I don’t believe every allegation, whether of priest, teacher or otherwise warrants jail time, as the proper immediate course of action would be to determine the validity of the claim. For those situations when it appeared to be truthful beyond a reasonable doubt, the proper course of action for someone who rapes a child is to go to jail. Do no pass go. Do not collect $200 dollars. If you’re looking for a recent notable example of this, look no further than Philadelphia this past week. That’s a nice recent ‘hiccup’. And if you somehow think I believe that child rapists in schools should be ignored because they have tenure, you’re sadly mistaken.

        • By your logic, then, it is impossible for Penn State to have any worth whatsoever as an academic institution given that one of their employees committed child abuse that was covered up by individuals in the administration. All Penn State diplomas have been rendered invalid and all information taught by its faculty should be considered false.

          Is that what you believe?

          • Paul Prescod

            Penn State does not claim that it is a beacon of morality for the world, does it?

          • Steve

            You continue to misunderstand my point. The glaring faults of the church don’t completely erase the good things about the church. As I implied in an earlier post regarding Jefferson & Franklin, moral shortcomings aren’t necessarily grounds to discredit a person or institutions additional works. But at the same time those shortcomings must be evaluated when making an honest assessment of an institutions overall moral value. While the Penn state issue is a stain to their reputation, it would be completely unreasonable to suggest that somehow that relates back to their academic credibility.

        • Ted Seeber

          “I don’t believe every allegation, whether of priest, teacher or otherwise warrants jail time, as the proper immediate course of action would be to determine the validity of the claim.”

          Then you are as guilty as the Bishops are of covering up allegations, at least according to the lawyers who keep suing the Church over it.

          • Steve

            There is a difference between an allegation (being accused of something) and actually being guilty of something. I’m very clear in my distinction between the two. You might have taken a moment to read the very next sentence from the one you copied and pasted. Here it is if you don’t feel like scrolling up:
            “I don’t believe every allegation, whether of priest, teacher or otherwise warrants jail time, as the proper immediate course of action would be to determine the validity of the claim. For those situations when it appeared to be truthful beyond a reasonable doubt, the proper course of action for someone who rapes a child is to go to jail. Do no pass go. Do not collect $200 dollars.”

            Nice try though Ted. Swing and a miss.

      • Paul Moloney

        Ted, I’m an Irish Catholic living in Ireland. Please don’t patronise us by telling us the Vatican and local hierarchy acted above board when it came to child rape. There was a long history of coverup and silencing of victims. The defence of one priest even led to the downfall of a government:


        • Ted Seeber

          I’m NOT saying they acted above board when it comes to child rape. I’m saying they acted equally to other institutions, such as the British Government, the American Psychiatrics Association, and the Irish Gardia.

          ALL of whom have covered up allegations of abuse instead of investigating them.

          • Steve

            AND they all deserve criticism for it. Is this really that hard to understand??

    • Oregon Catholic

      Steve, the glaring problem is that the hierarchy isn’t following it’s own moral teaching, not that the teaching is wrong. They are despicably lying and hiding the crimes but not one is saying the abuse was moral.

      The Church always has been and always will be full of sinners and now is a particularly bad time. My opinion about many in the hierarchy is as negative as yours but not the Church and what she stands for. They are not the same.

      • Steve

        To say that the church is fine, just the people who have been running it for a few millenia are the problem is a bit of a cop out. The positive values that it might hold, or at least pretend to hold, would exist with or without the church. Pre-Christian societies enacted various laws regarding stealing and killing prior to there being a ‘thou shalt not do’ these things. ‘Turn the other cheek’ is an enlightened value, regardless of whether or not Christ even existed. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but when the loudest Catholics in the US (though not necessarily a majority) oppose liberal policies like healthcare reform and gay marriage, they do so under the guise of it somehow infringing on their religious freedoms. We’re supposed forget the fact that a greater number of people would have greater access to medical coverage (poor people btw… the people the Church cares so much about)… or the fact that they insist they know more about women’s health issues than doctors and women themselves… or the fact that there isn’t a single logical reason to deny rights to homosexual couples… or that while all these church sponsored absurdities continue, the overwhelming majority of Catholics remain silent due to consent, cowardice or laziness. The church is it’s leadership & it’s people and I feel it’s fair to judge it accordingly. The values that might appeal to you aren’t unique to Catholics or the greater Christian community. Please understand, I don’t mean to un-necessarily knock the church and the purpose it serves for some people, often in spite of itself. For many people, believing myths to be true gives their life a purpose regardless to the literal plausibility of it all. For others it might give them a sense of direction if they’ve become criminals or a sense of hope if things haven’t been going well. And the church still does commit significant resources to feeding the homeless and looking after lost souls. It’s just that none of these things place the Church above criticism. And, back to my original point related to this young woman’s decision to explore this avenue (which again, I commend for it’s honesty), I feel that looking to the Church for the purpose of discovering some sort of worthy moral philosophy is an empty task in an of itself, the only benefit of which might be perspective (which seems like a more of a side effect rather than a reason to convert). You don’t have to buy into the trinity to have a worthy moral philosophy and I fail to see what sort of authority the church is on the subject.

        • Oregon Catolic

          “The church is it’s leadership & it’s people and I feel it’s fair to judge it accordingly. ”

          Only to a certain extent and you certainly can’t define the Church only by current leadership. If you are going to judge the Church then it is only fair to judge the teaching and philosophy of the entire 2000 year history and the impact it has had on the world and not limit it to the social/moral topics of disagreement of the last 60 years or so. Yes, I probably disagree with you on most of them but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good arguments for why I do. And frankly, my arguments have the weight of a lot more of history, natural and social, and many of the greatest minds behind them than the liberal social philosophy developed in the last half-century – an agenda driven primarily by the ‘ME’ generation.

          “I feel that looking to the Church for the purpose of discovering some sort of worthy moral philosophy is an empty task in an of itself, the only benefit of which might be perspective ”

          That seems a silly thing to say. If a person agrees with the moral philosophy and finds it worthy, why shouldn’t conversion to the formal religion be a part of that if they so choose? There is nothing inconsistent in that anymore than you joining any other organization with which you agree and want to further it’s mission and vision.

          • Steve

            If you’re looking to judge the church on it’s long term moral record, you probably wouldn’t be too happy with what you’re forced to deal with. The modern topics I brought up were a favor as I’ve essentially ignored 2000 years worth of criticisms, many of which are more cringe-worthy than admonishing nuns.

            Perhaps I should be clearer with “I feel that looking to the Church for the purpose of discovering some sort of worthy moral philosophy is an empty task in an of itself, the only benefit of which might be perspective”. What I meant was that if you’re looking to examine a moral philosophy, this does not require accepting church dogma, which I’m guessing is an important part of converting in the first place. You needn’t convert to a religious system to be able to study & evaluate it’s merits. It’s unfair of me to suggest beforehand that her efforts will be in vain, though I’m highly skeptical of coming to any meaningful reconciliation between rigid dogma and personal views. Regardless I hope she finds what she’s looking for.

    • This is the same church that feels that the proper response to priests raping children is to stick your head in the sand, correct??

      Incorrect. The Church does not feel that is the proper response.

      This is the same church that only this past week very publically admonished a group of nuns who had the audacity to suggest a little bit of gender equality, right??

      Also incorrect. The nuns in question were admonished for teaching heresy that ran contrary to the faith they claimed to profess. (They were also praised for all the social justice work they do.)

      This is the same church that suggested that condoms somehow make the AIDS epidemic in Africa worse, right??

      Correct, and even secular authorities agree that they’re absolutely right.

      You might consider additional avenues in your search for groups that best approach thinking about moral philosophy…

      You might consider basing your opinions on fact and not wild and emotional conjecture.

      • Steve

        JoAnna… incorrect or misleading on all counts and I’ll explain why…

        1) The instances of abuse of children by priests is well documented, and I’ll leave if to people to google it for themselves or simply believe you that it’s all a figment of my imagination. Public apologies, resignations & hundreds of millions of dollars in legal settlements AFTER these incidents were brought into the public light a decade ago hardly qualifies as reasonable grounds to say they were doing everything possible to fix this. Tell me, where are all the church reports PRIOR to these incidents coming to light in 2002??

        2) Heresy… Radical Feminism?? Really?? I think you’re missing my point here. It’s not that I disagree with the churches notion that these nuns were taking positions that might be at odds with the churches position. They were, though radical feminism seems a stretch… seriously, was this group of nuns burning their bras or something?? It’s that the positions they were taking, were superior to those of the church. I see it as, amongst other things, a call for a bit of gender equality, the church calls it heresy. True there were other heretical accusations like ‘remaining silent on the right to life from conception to natural death’ or that “issues of crucial importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching”. Or my favorite “some commentaries on “patriarchy” distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church”… in other words for positions of authority within the church, persons with vaginas need not apply.

        3) This is highly misleading. The pope made the following comments: “You can’t resolve it (the AIDS epidemic) with the distribution of condoms… On the contrary, it increases the problem.” This sounds like that the distribution of condoms in and of itself causes the AIDS epidemic to get worse, and the article mentions that statistically speaking the distribution of condoms in Africa didn’t seem to have any effect. The same article then goes on to point out that increased condom distribution in other areas (he mentioned Thailand & Cambodia) were successful and listed reasons why it might not have been in Africa, reasons that are best summed up with the idea that people weren’t using the condoms properly such as ‘risk compensation’ (ie using a condom sometimes and then having more sex as a result of feeling safer) or not using a condom at all in a steady relationship, regardless that one of the couples might have been HIV positive prior to the relationship. Yet on the surface the popes claims appear to be somewhat validated… and this is where I call BS. The pope doesn’t want condoms used because of the churches position on sexual relations outside of marriage. People have sexual relations outside of marriage in countries where there is still a risk of being taken into the street and being stoned to death yet the pope and the church still feel that sexuality is something you can control via doctrine or brow-beating their congregation. This is, of course a futile gesture. They then go out of their way to attempt to discredit condom distribution due to some archaic moral code (which could only increase the spread of HIV), when an obvious solution of condom distribution and proper education thats put in an appropriate cultural context would probably suffice. A proper education means discouraging promiscuity due to risks of spreading disease, not to conform to some sort of moral code. It might seem like semantics, but to me there is a world of difference here in those approaches.

        • deiseach

          Steve, you see the LCWR as calling for gender equality. You may believe they’re correct and that’s your entitlement to your own opinion. But let me put this in secular terms; the Convocation Party of the United European North-West South has certain positions. Its rival part, the Mass Alliance of the Southern Union (North-East) has different postions. Councillor Joseph Q. Fitzwangle, the Convocation Party member in the United Parliament of the Central Regions, goes public with an address at the committee general meeting that the Convocation Party position on square bananas is completely nuts and that he thinks the time has come to move beyond botany. The party leadership ask him to revise his position or stand down as a party official. If he does not accede to this request, they will withdraw the whip and, although he can remain as a member of the rank-and-file Convocation Party, he will not be an official spokesperson and Convocation Party members are not to take his statements as official party policy.

          Is this or is this not acceptable? If Councillor Fitzwangle believes he is correct on the botany question and the Convocation Party are wrong, why does he continue to call himself a party member? Do the party leadership have the right to impose discipline on party members, or is it a case of “Hey, there is absolutely no reason I can’t join a Gay Rights Pro-Marriage Equality Group and issue statements on how gay marriage is wrong?”

          • Steve

            While I appreciate the detail of the comparable scenario you’ve concocted, I’m certain there would have been a way to make a similar point without making readers bleary eyed. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not suggesting that the actions of the nun group couldn’t be construed by the church as ‘off message’. They were and the church was responded as such. It’s that the issues they brought up (hardly radical feminism btw) were, in my opinion, morally superior to those of the church. There used to be laws against inter-racial marriage. People who then married outside their race were subject to discipline in the eyes of the law. Yet by most standards of modern judgement it was the law that was morally wrong, not the people who disobeyed it.

          • If they’re morally superior, let them found their own Church!

            (Except they’re also made in the image of God, also the brides of Christ, and cannot be thrown away. They do not deserve being thrown out; they deserve being corrected.)

        • Oregon Catolic

          Firstly, why do care what the Church that you so disdain has to say about the LCWR, except as a means to throw stones? You don’t even disagree with the Vatican conclusions, only why they reached them. So what? Why should I care what you think on that internal Church discipline topic?

          Secondly, isn’t it funny how the REAL solution, agreed to by all, to HIV/AIDS in Africa as well as everywhere else is monogamy (in marriage) for life, not to mention every other sexually transmitted disease. The Church is (unpopularly) front and center on that as well, both in it’s spiritual teaching as well as it’s empahsis on natural law. Everything other than monogamy is just a band-aid trying to cure the real problem. A great example of the kind of risk taking promoted by, not dimished by, contraceptive use is the skyrocketing rate of abortion following the widespread implementation of the Pill in the 60s. Why on earth didn’t the Pill virtually do away with the need for abortion, back alley or otherwise? Simply because it increased sexual frequency and risk taking.

          • Steve

            Defensive defensive defensive… There are things I dislike about the church and there are things I admire about it. Don’t confuse criticism with distain. If we’re judging the church on moral grounds, it’s unreasonable to simply ignore a long list of transgressions. There are fewer points I can imagine as being more narrow-minded as categorizing legitimate criticism as simply throwing stones. Please re-read what I’ve written. I disagree very much with the Vaticans conclusions regarding the nuns. I’ve said it numerous times, they’re on the wrong side of this one. I don’t care in the sense that it’s keeping me up at night, but I do think it’s a worthwhile point to bring up when judging the churchs moral value (which has been the general point of the conversation).

            I feel that the church thinking it has some sort of moral authority with regards to it’s positions on human sexuality is simply silly. There is a difference between promoting monogomy for health reasons and promoting it as a self-righteous moral imperative. Thinking you can ‘cure the problem’ of human sexuality is preposterous. The notion that abortion rates have skyrocketed is incorrect, when in fact they’ve dropped consistenly for the past 30 years (, in a large part due to the proper & consistent use of contraceptives.

          • cjspartacus

            Steve, you cannot prove causality with these studies. It is extremely unfair that you can claim causality between contraceptives and reduced abortion rates. Perhaps correlation. And that is debatable. However, were I to cite the papers suggesting that contraception actually has led to higher abortion rates (such as one study in Spain), you would immediately call foul because I can’t prove causality, this or that isn’t representative, and their are too many confounding factors to know for sure. As such, you CANNOT prove the causality you are suggesting and it is hypocritical to suggest that you can.

          • Oregon Catolic

            “There is a difference between promoting monogomy for health reasons and promoting it as a self-righteous moral imperative.”

            No, this is called consistency of philosophy and morals. How could something be moral if it’s physically harmful? Of course I disagree with your characterisation as self-righteous – it’s just simply right.

            Nice try at deflection on the abortion issue. Did you miss the skyrocketing part after Roe v Wade? So much for the ‘rare’ abortions touted by supporters. They couldn’t have done a better job at promoting abortion if they had set out to do so. Why rates began to decrease in the late 80s, after almost 20 years of increase and leveling off, is hard to say. It may have had something to do with better compliance in taking the Pill consistently when they began introducing lower dosages that also reduced unpleasant side-effects. But you cannot deny that a perceived reduction in risk of pregnancy from the Pill resulted in an obvious radical increase in risky behavior that led to precisely more risk of pregnancy. I know because I came of age during that time and I am well aware of how it changed the sexual behavior of just about everyone I knew. The same effect is true of condom use to prevent HIV/AIDS – more infections.

          • Steve

            zzzzzz… This is all getting so far from the original topic where it’s simply boring at this point. I’m not here to address every opinion. My original mention of contraception was with regards to the AIDS epidemic. It wasn’t a gateway to downshift into an abortion debate. So I’ll end that aspect of the conversation with the following and will avoid addressing it from here on as it’s beyond the scope of what I care to discuss.

            Proving causality is a nearly impossible task with such a complex issue as different cultures all have varying sexual practices, varying rates of contraceptive use and access to said contraceptives, and varying levels of education about proper use of the contraceptives along with additional knowledge that can help reduce disease. However, the correlations between disease control and contraceptive use/proper sex education are very strong, despite a small minority of explainable cases that buck the trend.

            It’s not hypocritical to suggest the positive effects due to the use of contraception is evidenced by a strong corollary relationship between their use and the incidence of disease.

          • Steve

            “No, this is called consistency of philosophy and morals. How could something be moral if it’s physically harmful? Of course I disagree with your characterisation as self-righteous – it’s just simply right.”

            This makes little sense as a response to what I wrote. I’m not arguing the consistency in the churches messages of relegating the rights and wrongs of bedroom activity. I agree, they’re consistent in their philosophy and moral POV. I disagree with their position.

            If sex is physically harmful, you might consider trying a different position.

            “It’s just simply right”… incidentally this is the slogan for every self-righteous point of view.

            I’m not deflecting. I’m simply not getting drawn into a side argument.

      • The only good point there Steve, is the Church’s response to the abuse. It was wrong. Because the Church is not perfect. It is human, and makes mistakes. The scandal will haunt the Church for generations to come, because there is not turning away from how much they messed up. That doesn’t mean the Catholic Faith doesn’t possess some of the best tools to think about moral philosophy, it only means that Her leaders don’t always use them.
        Re the Nuns: I could be wrong, but as far as I know,Rome’s complaint with the nuns had no thing to do with gender equality. A lot of liberals say it does. I’m sure it’s somewhere in the mix, but Rome’s concern was that NETWORK and other Nun’s groups had gone against Catholic teaching by supporting among other things and contraception. I don’t agree with their reprimand, but I get it. If they’re going to call themselves Catholic and be going against Church teachings, it’ s a problem.

        As for the African Aids comment: Sure, Church position is not ideal. But while people attack the church from the comfort of their living room or bed rooms on their laptops, the Church is on the field in Africa, working with people infected with Aids. I don’t think that justifies their position in any way, but I do admire what they do a lot more than people who are for contraceptions, but do don’t a thing about dealing with the Aids situation in the 3rd world.

        I’m sure somebody else can do a much better job at answering your comments, but this is my limited response.

        • Steve

          Regarding the abuse: I’ve addressed this a few times. My overall point is you have to take the good with the bad. It seems the faithful have little problem trying to subtly absolve the church from any wrongdoing hiding behind the comfort of their leaders just being human. This is, for the lack of a better word, lame.

          Regarding the Nuns: Someone posted up a link to the official vatican breakdown (or whatever). They used the term ‘radical feminism’. Feel free to research this further and decide for yourself if their response is one you’re comfortable defending, or if it’ll be just another one you’ll chalk up to ‘they’re only human’

          Regarding AIDS: I admire anyone, Catholic or otherwise, who are in the field and truly making efforts to relieve the suffering and slow the spread of disease. In my opinion these efforts would be better suited by making decisions based on health related data and overall effectiveness, rather than imposing the churches own moral views.

          • I don’t disagree with any of the points you made. The main point I wanted to make was that the Doctrine of the Faith is bigger than the people who practice it. The Church is capable of many great things when it sticks to what it teaches, and capable of disastrous ones when it strays from it. The actions of the clergy don’t impact what the Church teaches. Well I suppose that not true. In the eyes of liberals and Atheists, these actions reduce the validity of these teachings, but for many other life long Catholics (which I am not. Although a religious, I only became a Catholic later on in life) that are staying in the Church despite the horrible crimes by many of our leaders, what’s keeping us here is not a blind defence of the Church which prevents us from seeing the failings of the Church, but a love for Jesus Christ that only grows through Church doctrine and theological practice, and that is given an even more complete voice through Church teachings. I guess you could say, that’s my official response to your ” go look elsewhere for a source moral theology” point.

          • Steve

            Brother Dan…
            “The actions of the clergy don’t impact what the Church teaches.” Would you freely accept fitness advice from someone who’s morbidly obese? Would you freely accept driving tips from someone who has repeatedly had their drivers license revoked? Would you freely accept information regarding the benefits of a glass of wine from a drunken buffoon? Perhaps the condemnable actions of the church don’t change the value of their message, but they absolutely change the way people hear it and therefore change the way the values are taught. When the faithful try to justify, rationalize, deflect, ignore or even dismiss real criticisms against the church, they exacerbate the issue by giving the appearance of consent. I understand the triggering of a defensive mechanism in the mind of the church-members when being attacked, but you have posts on this very board that suggest even if the child abuse issue didn’t happen then people would have just made it up anyway. That simply doesn’t make any sense and makes the institution look even worse, further distorting the way people hear any positive message of the church. When this happens the church looks like a fat guy, cheeseburger in hand, fries hanging from his mouth, coughing & weezing… and telling me the benefits of a little cardio in the morning.

          • So cardio is itself wrong?

            No, what you’ve described is simply scandal. You’ve described the Church looking wrong, not the Church being wrong.

          • liza

            yes Steve…don’t you know that the Church can never be wrong! lol

            Any horrible things that might have happened the life of the Church has nothing to do with it committing error or actually being wrong. It only is the appearance of it looking wrong

            Sorry Ubiquitous…but what you say is ridiculous and it becomes evident in the comments of the Catholic faithful on this comment thread. They cannot admit the wrong thing sthe catholic church has done because it would ultimately mean that the leadership could be wrong, that the pope could be wrong…that the guiding authority for their faith could be wrong.

            It is no different than protestants who believe in Biblical inerrancy. No matter how much you point out the errors and inconsistencies, it’s never that the Bible could actually be fallible or errant.

            It’s the same here with the pope and Church doctrine.

            They know that the church isn’t wrong because the pope is God’s direct agent and therefore can’t be wrong and the things he decides ex cathedra are infallible. And if he is infallible, well then he can’t be wrong because he’s infallible…..and so on.

            And….if the pope is infallible then no one needs to worry their pretty little heads worrying about his declarations. WE should all just believe and trust him…After all, he’s God’s direct agent…he’ll tell us that himself! 🙂

          • For certain definitions of infallibility what you’ve said would follow. But these are not the Catholic definition.

          • Steve

            Ubiquitous… thanks for being another example of someone automatically being defensive rather than reading and at least attempting to understand what I wrote. If you take a moment please refer back to the exchange I had with Brother Dan and note I clearly stated the actions of the church change the way people hear the message, not the message itself. It’s the actions of the church members and leadership and the response of the congregation that I’ve been critical of, not the church message. I’ve been clear in over a dozen posts about this.

    • I’m not Catholic myself, but I get the sense that if you critics didn’t have the priest abuse scandals, you’d have to invent them.

      It’s mostly special pleading, but in a negative way.

      • Steve

        This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Your point is that if the church wasn’t guilty of horrible things then critics would simply invent horrible things that they did…

        Well I guess we’ll never know now will we.

        • Skittle

          Sure we know. For example, here is a study into sexual child abuse in the Netherlands, with a particular focus on the role of the Catholic Church:

          The main, upsetting, finding of this report could be said to be sexual abuse of minors occurs widely in Dutch society. It found that 1 in 10 Dutch children were sexually abused (by an adult non-family member), rising to 1 in 5 Dutch children in institutions. This is shockingly high, absolutely horrifying, even given the broad definition of “sexual abuse” used. It also seemed to be independent of religion: this is and was a problem across Dutch society. To the Church’s shame, it was no better than the rest of society, but it was also no worse. There were definite findings on shameful practices by members of the Church, but given the rate was the same as outside the Church it must surely have been covered up everywhere else as well: where do you even begin sorting that out, as a society?

          Now, you probably actually saw this study reported around Christmas time, but you might not recognise it based on its actual findings. What you might recognise is how it was reported across the media. Have some representative examples:

 (a particularly egregious example, but similar to the coverage found on more blog-like sites)

          Now, if this is how facts are selectively reported and emphasised from a report where I happen to be able to see the same findings as the reporters, it doesn’t bode well for the balanced reporting of facts where I don’t have access to the press release. This is a rare case where solid numbers were used to check whether child sexual abuse was, in fact, a Catholic problem, and it was found to be a Dutch problem.

          So, given this reporting, I feel pretty confident that “critics” (or just “journalists”) would indeed invent horrible things, or selectively report the facts, if the Church were not culpable.

          Funny thing: child sexual abuse turned out to be a British problem in the 80s and 90s, but then the Catholic Church never ran enough organisations over here for us to blame them. We still got comments about altar boys and choir boys, but the Anglicans were included too (more choir boys there), and the scout masters, and the teachers, and so on. Was it a problem inherent to the Scouts? No, it was a problem inherent to our society, because we hadn’t taken child safety seriously enough, nor had we understood pedophilia.

          • Steve

            So let me get this straight… your defense of the Church, the pillar of morality, the 1 true religion, involves the fact that they were raping children at a similar or lower rate than the typical of the general population?? And because they were doing this, you’re satisfied in believing that had they not be abusing these children, that people would have just said they were doing so anyway, for no good reason… right.

          • … no, that’s a rebuttal against the priest abuse scandals as a case against the Church. It isn’t a case for the Church.

  • Karen LH

    I don’t know if this makes sense for someone who is still discerning, but, given that you seem to have become a world-wide phenomenon, would it be a good idea to also look for a spiritual director?

    • Cous

      This is ultimately a personal choice and none of my business, but IMHO that’s a wise suggestion. Though finding a trustworthy, solid spiritual director is almost as hard as going without one. The good folk at the DHS (as in the O.P., not the U.S.) might have some recommendations.

    • leahlibresco

      A Catholic friend is turning up some contacts for me.

      • My spiritual advisors have been central to my growth. Best of luck!

      • cjspartacus

        Leah, have you checked out the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation? It’s a ecclesial movement from Italy that’s really heavy into philosophy (of the existential variety). Reading your musings, it just seems like a great fit for you. It was founded by an Italian priest Fr. Giussani, and you can check it out at Anywho, it might be your flavor, it might not be, but there’s probably a group that meets up in your city. Just a friendly suggestion.

      • Leah, as I offered a prayer for you, the same concern came to my mind: “she needs a spiritual director.” Your circumstances dictate finding someone with special skills and a deep prayer life. Let me know if you need help discerning or just some extra prayers.

    • Ted Seeber

      If she’s in RCIA, she has one already- having a spiritual director (or actually, in some versions THREE spiritual directors) is part of the process.

  • calahalexander

    Good post, Leah. I think you have an incredibly healthy mental attitude. That’s exactly what RCIA is for.

  • KL

    Leah, I think you are absolutely approaching this in the most spiritually and intellectually honest way you can. However (and you probably already know this), parish RCIA programs are not always the most rigorous or even accurate. As a convert myself, I can tell you that the RCIA program I went through was more or less completely devoid of content — the first time we looked at the Nicene Creed was, I kid you not, the afternoon before the Vigil Mass at which we were confirmed. While I remained committed to the RCIA program as a matter of public solidarity, almost all of my formation came from trustworthy sources elsewhere; I was lucky enough to attend a Catholic university where I could find tons of experts on various topics.

    All this is to say that RCIA coordinators and CORE teams are often very well-meaning, deeply faithful people who are drastically uninformed about Church teachings, particularly canon law and the intricacies of moral theology. I would encourage you to find a spiritual director whom you respect and trust (your local diocese or campus ministries at nearby Catholic colleges would probably be able to provide you with resources for finding one); both religious and laypeople, men and women serve as spiritual directors, often on a volunteer basis.

    Knowing your intellectual honesty and commitment to Truth-seeking, I have every confidence that you will find the conversation partners you desire and need. There will absolutely be times when you feel compelled to (and should!) challenge concepts or doctrines you don’t understand or disagree with, and the local RCIA coordinator probably won’t be equipped to engage you properly, unfortunately!

    • deiseach

      KL, what you say is very true; what is not realised is that a lot of programmes and activities depend on willing volunteers who are not getting paid and, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

      Catholicism is not an organised religion 🙂

      • deiseach

        RE: what I said about not being an organised religion – most converts are baptised at the Easter Vigil since this is the traditional time for catechumens to be initiated, but Leah says her church does November baptisms (the month of the Holy Souls? Doubtless very edifying, and I have devotion to them myself, but not seeing the connection there).

        See? Already we are not marching in lockstep!

        • Sometimes big parishes with lots of converts, or college parishes, that work around a semester schedule will have a second round of baptisms and confirmations in November/December. Saint Mary’s at Texas A&M was like that, at least ten years ago.

          That being said, I think the Easter Vigil is better, for lots of reasons, including fire.

          • deiseach

            Fire makes everything better!

    • I would second the spiritual director idea. If you want a more intellectually meaty discernment you need to find someone who will spend some time and spend some time yourself. Go find the best Catholic writers out there. That itself is non-trivial because there is no much unorthodox teaching masquerading as true Catholicism. Find someone you trust and pray a lot. God bless you.

    • Ted Seeber

      From my experience with my wife, I’d mirror this remark. I purchased for her books on church history and moral theology. 13 years later I’m *still* working with her on some dissenting beliefs she’s picking up from a women’s group at church.

  • deiseach

    It’s basically very simple (and having said that, it’s also complicated): what do you have to accept as authoritative teaching? The Ten Commandments, the Six Laws of the Church, and anything the Pope might say in an encyclical 🙂

    And even on those, there isn’t a strictly strict interpretation. For instance – what are the Six Laws of the Church?
    What are the Six Precepts, or Commandments, of the Catholic Church?

    1. To respectfully and devoutly assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on all Sundays and Holydays of Obligation.
    2. To fast and abstain on the days appointed.
    3. To go to Confession at least once a year during the Easter Season.
    4. To receive the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist at least once a year during the Easter Season.
    5. To contribute financially (i.e. give money) to the support of the Catholic Church.
    6. To never violate the laws concerning the Sacrament of Matrimony.

    Regarding No. 5 – this is not a tithe. There may be churches out there (I have heard some hair-raising stories of preachers preaching sermons, backed up by Old Testament texts, that if you do not give exactly 10% of your pre-tax income to the church, you are not one of the saved) which insist on a minimum amount, but a Catholic can quite legitimately and happily be a millionaire and still only throw ten cents into the collection plate on Sundays (or as we do it nowadays, stick it in the collection envelopes that are handed out to each house for the year).

    No matter what anyone says, left right or centre, you can legitimately disagree with the bishops on immigration reform, health care, who to vote for in the Eurovision, and what is the official snack food of the upcoming 2012 Olympics. Just so long as you’re not in actual heresy (veering towards it is okay; it usually takes the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about ten years to get around to telling a Jesuit theologian “Now, Father Bushmills, this latest book of yours where you said Jesus and Krishna were one and the same – could you elucidate that for us, please?”)

    Oh, and don’t be surprised if you know more about what the official teachings of the Church are than your RCIA instructor 🙂

    • KL

      (3a. Assuming one has a mortal sin to confess. Technically, if you are not aware of having committed a mortal sin during the year, you need not attend confession.)

      • Not true. You are required to go to confession at least once per Lent whether you are conscious of a mortal sin or not.

        If you can’t think of a venial sin in a year, then you should say that to the priest.

        • KL

          Not true. See Canon 989 ( The Church strongly encourages the faithful to confess all sins (even just venial) at least once a year, and preferably more often. But it is not canonically required.

          Furthermore, the once-a-year confession need not occur during Lent. Reception of the Eucharist, on the other hand, is canonically required at least once a year, generally between Easter and Pentecost — see Canon 920 §1-2 ( Since one must confess grave sin before receiving communion, this is popularly translated as having to confess during Lent. But nowhere is this required in the canons.

    • Ted Seeber

      There are 7 church precepts. You mixed 1& 2 together though, so you covered them all. Yes, I am a third degree Knight of Columbus, and yes, for men entering the Knights of Columbus this is the one thing VERY few of them know.

      • deiseach

        It was six laws back when I was learning ’em in 1975 🙂

        • Ted Seeber

          Yeah, the New Catechism changed that :-).

          I believe it was 5 when Fr. McGivney originally wrote the questions in 1882.

    • Ted Seeber

      Oh, and on “anything the Pope might say in an encyclical” you are only required to research it and understand his reasoning; he can after all be overturned by a future Pope (though in practice, the closest thing that ever happens is a future Pope saying “no, the world didn’t understand what the previous Pope was getting at, here’s the real story”)

      • suburbanbanshee

        And it depends on the encyclical content and addressee. I don’t think Benedict 15’s 1921 encyclical on Dante contains anything doctrinally binding, although it is pretty nifty. The encyclical being addressed to the lit profs of the world, instead of to the bishops, is kind of a clue…. 🙂

        • Ted Seeber

          Yeah, he doesn’t even address Dante’s biggest contribution in the Divine Comedy to pious theological speculation: The placing of virtuous non Christians in Limbo, the outermost circle of Hell.

  • TheresaL

    I’m looking forward to hearing about your RCIA experience because as someone raised Catholic I don’t know much about it. For instance, how does it feel to have everyone watching you walk out of mass after the homily? I always give the candidates and catechumens a speculative look with curiosity about their backgrounds.
    Also, why is your potential baptism in November? Every parish I’ve belonged to has done adult baptisms at the Easter Vigil.

    • leahlibresco

      This parish does two cycles a year.

    • “For instance, how does it feel to have everyone watching you walk out of mass after the homily?”

      Wha . . . . ?

      I know catechumens can’t take Communion, but in any church I ever attended, they STAYED through the whole Mass, just didn’t go up to receive Communion. I remember one parish where, if one couldn’t receive Communion for any reason, one could still go up and just approach the priest with arms crossed across the chest and you’d bow your head and he’d give you a blessing. It was very sweet. Now I am very confused! Elucidate? Maybe I’m just mis-remembering; most everyone I knew in any kind of catechism class had already received First Communion and was just studying for Confirmation.

      • KL

        It varies on a parish-by-parish basis. Many parishes have a special blessing and sending forth for the catechumens after the homily, at which point they attend the RCIA class/instruction. One could argue that it makes the first time they stay for the Eucharistic prayer + communion much more profound. On the other hand, other parishes let catechumens stay to experience the whole Mass and either not go up to receive or simply ask for a blessing, as you describe. It’s generally a matter of liturgical taste on the part of the parish’s sacramental prep coordinator.

        • I was actually really lucky that Princeton’s chaplaincy was lenient: I worked for a Presbyterian Church on Sunday mornings the year I came into the Catholic Church. RCIA was on Tuesday nights and they didn’t twist my arm to make sure I got to Mass every week (though I’m not sure how happy they were about this). Had they been “letter of the law” types, I don’t know if I would have made it.

          How’s that for bad timing? I got hired as a singer at a PCUSA church (church of my childhood) and two weeks later I take myself out of communion with them.

      • Cous

        Actually, most churches I’ve regularly attended (5 or so), at Sunday Masses during Lent – since that’s the lead-up period to Easter Vigil baptisms – have the catechumens leave together for instruction before the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It’s often a mini-procession with the instructor carrying the Gospel aloft. And it’s a tradition that actually goes all the way back to the first centuries of Christianity (if not the first century, but don’t quote me on that). There’s a fun quick read on this and other early historical aspects of the mass called The Sacrifice of the Altar.

      • TheresaL

        I guess it varies depending on parish, but I’m used to them being dismissed after the homily, usually with a song, to begin their class with the RCIA leader. However, I knew an RCIA leader who told me he would encourage them to attend other full masses when they have the opportunity to get a feel for the whole thing.

      • Ted Seeber

        Depends on the parish, but some parishes dismiss the catechumens for extra instruction and discussion on the readings.

  • I’m honestly curious, how often are potential converts turned away from these courses?

    • KL

      I’ve never heard of anyone being turned away from an RCIA program, though of course people drop out all the time of their own accord (and, I’m sure, in some cases are encouraged to do so based on irreconcilable differences coming to light). The rite of baptism and confirmation is pretty straightforward in what it asks candidates to explicitly assent to — the formula is literally, “Do you believe X?” “I do.” “Do you believe Y and Z?” “I do,” and so on. As a result, if sonmeone is unable to honestly answer those questions in the affirmative, he or she will probably elect to withdraw.

      • You can get pressured to leave if you’re not really investing. I knew one guy who stopped going for a couple of months and then was miffed that they suggested that he might wait a year.

    • Ted Seeber

      None. At least, not turned away by the leadership or the congregation.

      The correct answer is the only way to flunk out of RCIA is to come to your own conclusion that you either don’t want to convert or are not ready.

      I know a few people who were so not ready that they took the RCIA class five or six times.

      They’re among the strongest most committed converts I know.

      • But in one of the linked posts, Leah refers to having been previously “kicked out” of RCIA. ???????

        • As I recall, she wasn’t there to convert at the time. She was there to ask questions and learn.

    • Matt, In my experience working withour parish RCIA team over the last 7 years the answer has been: “very rarely.” To qualify that, I would say that we would never turn anyone away from *class* (unless they were violent, disruptive, etc.) but we have occasionally delayed someone from receiving the sacraments for good cause. As Ted said, people will elect to leave on thier own but occasionally there will be a person where either attendance is so spotty that you know they haven’t made enough progress or they have expressed such a vehement disagreement with a core doctrine that we have had to say “not yet.”

      That being said, conversion is a process not an event. So often people will still have their doubts and struggles–things they are honestly trying to understand. Much like in one of Leah’s previous posts where she addressed bi-sexuality by basically saying that she didn’t yet get the Church’s teaching but she was willing to live with it and try to understand it better. That isn’t a barrier to full communion with the Church–and as Catholics we really believe that the grace of God received through the sacraments *helps* people and we want people to be able to receive that help.

      • suburbanbanshee

        And as folks have said in other threads, plenty of people attend RCIA just to learn about the Church, not to convert. You don’t have to make any promises to be able to come to classes; you just have to sign up and show up. And most RCIA folks wouldn’t be surprised if you just showed up.

      • Lynn

        My own conversion was delayed several times, for a total of about six months, because the pastor was afraid my confirmation might lead to the breakdown of my family, specifically my marriage. I think five of those six months had passed before I was actually told why the delays were happening. All’s well that ends well 🙂

  • Martha G

    You might find this link useful, from the USCCB – collected writings, statements and doctrines on homosexuality:

    I’m also curious if the Catholic churches involvement in anti-gay marriage fights around the country would have an affect on your thoughts during this process, or are you only concerned with the theology?

    • Ted Seeber

      How are the two separate? The anti-gay-marriage fight is all about the right to the theology.

  • A couple other commenters have asked about this indirectly, but I must admit I’m curious (having worked on RCIA teams at two parishes in the past): how are you finding the RCIA team at your parish in regards to answering questions?

    As a cradle Catholic who’s worked on RCIA teams off and on, my experience is that the folks on them are universally dedicated to their faith, but that the types of people on the team vary a lot. On one, my wife and I were the only “book Catholics” and so we tended to be the ones who answered all the more theological questions and talked about books, etc. On the other, the woman leading the program was a mid-life revert who’d recently earned a masters in theology and who was very knowledgable.

    • leahlibresco

      I’m not going to be making any specific comment about the RCIA team or classes, just about questions I have or things I’m thinking about. They sign up to help people learn about the Church, not to be reviewed Yelp-style.

      • Well said Leah

        Not that you needed my approbation…

      • Actually, now I think about it, that probably is a very wise boundary given your notoriety. It would be seriously interesting to read about your experience of being actually in a Catholic community (parish, RCIA group) as opposed to the more intellectual side of dealing with arguments, etc. but at this point it would probably come off, as you say, too much like writing a Yelp review of people there to help.

  • dbp

    On the whole, this sounds like the right approach. I have only a couple small points, and although you’ve probably already thought about them, I figure they’re worth mentioning anyway.

    1) I can only assume that the connection between ‘Morality loves me’ and Catholicism is made by the intermediate conclusion that Morality has taken steps to reveal itself to you, and that the Catholic Church is how you think it’s trying to do it (which is, of course, the Catholic claim). Given that, I’ll just urge you to stick to your guns on that. People sometimes make the distinction between dogma and ‘the theologians’ so fuzzy that they can put whatever they want on one side or the other. Obviously theologians ARE human and susceptible to error, and personal inquiry and investigation is essential, but ultimately the project of salvation is God trying to correct all the ways we screw ourselves up. That takes a lot of humility to allow to happen.

    I’m a cradle Catholic, but I’ve had to come to terms with that myself at times. Most recently I found myself slipping into consequentialist errors that required some (intellectually uncomfortable) correction; but having spent some time digging into the topic, I can see enough to believe that the Church’s position is ultimately the correct one, and that any unpleasantness that seems to be associated with it is a problem with living as fallen creatures in a fallen world, not a problem with the doctrine itself.

    2) When you say you’re going to pick fights and give the other side their best shot at you, recall that your moment of conversion was not primarily intellectual: realizing that “Morality loves you” is not first and foremost a logical or intellectual realization, but a personal one that A) operated at the level of fundamental premises and not logical conclusions, and, critically, B) was initiated by Morality, with you only realizing it afterwards. None of that is to tell you NOT to get into arguments, but remember that part of what you’re doing is courtship, not debate club.

    • leahlibresco

      Hmmm… but my last courtship happened through my debate club. I’m not actually sure I know the difference; it’s all very Beatrice-and-Benedick to me.

      • Cous

        ah, let’s all just take a break and watch this.

  • Hidden One

    The note about RCIA programs being unreliable is certainly true. Mine was very lousy and I know from fellow converts I know ‘IRL’ about other lousy RCIA programs. At least as importantly, even a good RCIA program (at least, comparatively speaking) may not be able to handle all of the questions that some people will have or the depth of knowledge some seek before being received.

    Consequently, Leah, I strongly advise you not to set November as the deadline, as it were, for having it all worked out (positively or negatively). You may have it by then, or you may not. Hopefully I’m not saying anything new to you in this comment.

  • MLN

    The analogy with Pre-Cana conference and marriage is a good one for entering the Church. You look for the big roadblocks, and then if you get passed them, you make the commitment. That’s when things get really interesting as over the years new issues, or old inadequately resolved issues, pop up. With God’s help, you stay faithful through it all, but there’s never a dull moment in any truly alive relationship.

  • I think the analogy between joining a church and getting married is a good one generally. For Quakers the process before joining and the process before getting married are identical in structure and format; only the content differs. I went through the process for marriage half a dozen years after going through the same process for membership, and the parallelism was inescapable. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since, really.

    • Er, that was meant to reply to you, MLN. Sorry!

  • I’m not sure I’ve got a good enough bead on your personality to offer anything really useful here. But here it goes anyway.
    Your college interview approach is an honest one, and I didn’t expect anything less of you. But I’m not convinced it’s a good one. At the very least, it’s incomplete because it only approaches half the aspect of converting. (And the noisy, obnoxious, attention getting half at that.) But entering the Church is entering an eternal relationship, and it is impacted by all the same flaws you bring to other relationships. It is at least something to be aware of.

  • Ted Seeber

    “I don’t trust the Church enough to be certain I’ll find myself understanding or submitting to all its said, but I definitely trust it enough to let it decide whether I can enter, provided I don’t withhold data.”

    They’ll let you enter whether you withhold data or not. RCIA is just the start of your conversion. Roman Catholicism isn’t a modernist Once Saved Always Saved cult; and your conversion story will not end with your baptism, and that is *completely* as expected. In addition, the rites of baptism and confirmation are rather ancient, and all of the hot button issues that you and your atheist detractors have brought up simply aren’t considered as they are high theology should believe when you have an informed conscience, not low theology must haves for salvation.

    In Catholicism- conversion lasts your entire life, and sometimes longer. That’s what purgatory is for. In medieval terms, almost nobody in the Church Militant is Catholic yet, Everybody in the Church Triumphant is no matter what they professed to believe in this life, and the Church Suffering is how you get from one state to the other.

    It’s just a lot easier to avoid hell, if you’ve got some guidance and support along the way, and that’s what the Sacraments give us. Doesn’t mean that you’re going to avoid hell for sure. Does mean that you’re on the right path to get to heaven. And when you get there, THEN you’ll be fully Catholic.

    Enjoy the journey while it lasts- it is indeed a grand adventure.

    • “For life, perhaps longer”…. sounds like a familiar refrain does it not? Sort of like the “fear and trembling” nod, no?

      And thank God for Purgatory… we’re going to need it. Can’t say as I know many who are in shape upon departing the mortal coil to stroll on into the living room of the Almighty.

  • DanC

    “I think the Church has the best approach to thinking about moral philosophy which isn’t the same as thinking that it’s theologians always come up with the right answer on non-dogmatic issues on the first go-round.”

    It’s the dealing with dogmatic issues/beliefs that I’m curious about – how one squares their admiration of empiricism and skepticism with beliefs that must be taken on faith.

    • Maiki

      “Test everything, hold on to what is good” is a good guideline to go by. Just because a belief is dogmatic doesn’t mean one can’t analyze the thought process that went into it. That said, most dogmatic teachings have an element of Divine revelation (I don’t mean “voice from the sky” type of things, just based to testimony of people who saw Jesus, Mary and the Apostles), that can’t be derived from pure reason (to some degree, reading primary and secondary sources is still available as a verification tool in the historical sense).

      At the end of the day, the Catholic Church says: “well, for these things (dogmatic teachings), we already determined the right answer. If you disagree, that is a problem.” Dogmatic doesn’t mean “don’t think about it.” Most of the Summa Theologica is about reasoning out dogmatic truths.

      • DanC

        “At the end of the day, the Catholic Church says: “well, for these things (dogmatic teachings), we already determined the right answer.”

        And therein lies the problem. If rationality and logic do not lead to the same conclusions as the Church, and a person is not willing to accept Christian dogma on faith, you’re at an impasse. Of course dogmatic doesn’t mean ‘don’t think about it’ – what it does mean is ‘think about it if you want, but if you disagree, you’re wrong.’

        • Ted Seeber

          ” If rationality and logic do not lead to the same conclusions as the Church”

          But in my experience, rationality and logic *always* end up leading to the same conclusions as the Church, when one examines *the same set of evidence* that the Church accepts (including the Public Revelation in Tradition and Scripture).

          It is only when you have a different definition of evidence than the church, that rationality and logic lead elsewhere- but the problem isn’t with the church not being rational, it’s with your personal definition of what is evidence.

          But the Church doesn’t demand you automatically assent even when you are wrong on the evidence, except for a few very NARROW items of faith, all of which can be found here:

          Note that the Nicene Creed says nothing about homosexuality, witchcraft, or abortion.

    • Ted Seeber

      “It’s the dealing with dogmatic issues/beliefs that I’m curious about – how one squares their admiration of empiricism and skepticism with beliefs that must be taken on faith.”

      Most of those in Catholicism have 2000 years worth of empiricism and skepticism behind them, just of a different sort than an atheist can understand. There is good reason why the Church took 1200 years to figure out that St. Mary never had any other children and that logically being full of grace means being saved from the stain of Original Sin, instead of just taking St. Jerome, translator of the Bible into Latin, at his word.

  • BenYachov

    >The only chance I’ve got to see if I’m persuaded by the Church’s teachings or if I don’t understand but trust or if I’ve hit a principle I can’t give up is by picking fights and making sure the other side gets a chance to take their best shot at me.

    As an old war horse orthodox Catholic I would only caution that sometimes answers to some questions take years to figure out or even to understand. At age 21 I became an amateur apologist mostly focusing on Polemics against Protestant fundamentalism. I did become disenchanted with the apologetics movement after one of my favorite apologists got into holocaust denial & other extremist anti-Semitic nonsense.
    God in His Grace lead me to philosophy which has been a real blessing to my faith. Especially since I have had a lot of personal tragedy. I have three children all of them have autism. I always liked reading the Book of Job but living it sucks out loud let me tell ya. Still learning Thomism, reading Brian Davies and Herbert McCabe, Ed Feser and others has helped a lot. Also learning Classic Theism has been super awesome!
    I’m 44 years old and I was baptized at age 30 days & I am suprised I am still in the process of converting.
    I don’t think the conversion ever ends till Heaven.

    Leah my wife was in a similar place you are only she was an ex-Catholic turned Evangelical. She once told a nun she wasn’t sure about all the teaching of the church(Mary & the Saints etc) but she felt as if God was pulling her back. So the Nun told her to come back as a seeker.
    Tragically in the future you can always leave if you can’t answer all your questions to your satifaction. We have free will but I would advise patience. If I am honest with myself the Church as the Church has never really let me down. Sure individual Catholics, Priests, Bishops etc have let me down but the Faith not so much. I wouldn’t be anything else.

    BTW welcome to the Faith. Catholics are annoying (especially me) but they are loveable rogues.

  • BenYachov

    Wow others have said similar to what I have said & I have only now just read their posts.

    example:”your conversion story will not end with your baptism, and that is *completely* as expected.”

    Ah the joy of truly thinking with the mind of the church.

  • Richard Gillam

    Hey Leah,

    It’s my understanding you were drawn to religion because you felt morality could not or did not really exist without a god.

    Morality is simply an effective evolutionary response to a challenging environment. If you broke your leg 50,000 years ago, and thus could not hunt for some period of time, and your tribe fed you anyway, then your tribe was far more likely to survive than a tribe who simply abandoned their sick & injured. Accordingly, today each of us has a natural instinct to help others via self-sacrifice, and we’re given a chemical reward by our bodies for engaging in such behavior. Just like the reward we’re given for eating, going to the bathroom, having sex, seeking revenge, loving, hating, etc., etc. Our modern day behaviors are shaped by survival responses to a world most of us no longer live in. Even homosexuality is a genetic response to certain environmental and DNA criteria, and conferred certain benefits to your immediate brethren (and thus your DNA’s survival chances) – even though you were not personally procreating.

    There may or may not be a god or gods, but what you call morality is present in both humans and animals regardless, and is certainly not sourced from a higher being, any more or less than hate or vengeance.

    In summary, an inability and/or unwillingness to understand the biology of life is a poor excuse to embrace a weak-ass explanation of what you don’t (presently) understand. Better to travel through life without knowing, than to make up a crazy story.



    • Our hostess is a moral realist and has some good arguments for it. Incanting naturalist dogma that she and everyone else here has heard a million times isn’t going to change any minds.

    • Ted Seeber

      Richard- all of that is proof to me of God-guided evolution- because logically, sharing your food with a tribal member who broke his leg should make your tribe *less* likely to survive, not more.

  • It strikes me that you’re going to experience some of the irritations of being a catechumen much more intensely because of this blog. You will receive numerous invitations to learn more about (and even join) the Neocatechumenal Way, Communion and Liberation and any number of other popular lay societies; you will be told that the best spiritual reading is The Way, by St. Josemaria Escriva, or Introduction to Christianity, by Joseph Ratzinger, or Love Alone is Credible, by Hans Urs von Balthasar, or maybe Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales. You will come to know the acronym CCC all too well and wonder if the people who cite it ever read anything else. People will insist that you read and reread the complete works of G.K. Chesterton, until the mere mention of the man sets you on edge, and you forget what you liked about him.

    It’s all rather tiresome. Good luck.

    • Joe

      I think Elliot is right. It might be better to turn comments off when posting on the issues you are learning about in class. Your real life friends probably helped you the most to this point, so I think they can help see you through RCIA. Either way I will be praying for you and just a quick suggestion, the prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict, I think, is a must read for people in the process of being brought in to the Church.

      • Faramir

        I can’t help noting the irony in that you just did the thing you agreed with Elliot in warning Leah about.

        • Joe

          I know. LOL I couldn’t help myself!! Im my own pet peeve.

          • Hahaha, but on the up side, Joe’s recommendation is a really good one, and less common than the ones I mentioned.

  • Doragoon

    The catholic church goes out of it’s way to say what it is they believe. They say it every Sunday at mass, so I have a hard time understanding why anyone has trouble debating. Attacking individual church members or the hierarchy does not make the beliefs wrong. If anyone thinks Catholic beliefs are wrong, you first need to read the catechism for find out what they actually believe and the reasoning behind it. Luckily, they post it on-line for anyone to read.

  • Fortuna Veritas

    If you don’t trust the church that much and you’re a new convert, then why are you picking fights on a religious blog given your current status?

    Or was that just meaningless pizazz in your banner?

  • Brendan

    Hi. I find that most Catholics arguing against homosexuality spend far too much time quoting Leviticus. When discussing the Church’s teaching on this matter, I try to spend less time quoting biblical verses, and more time talking about chastity. The Church teaches that ALL people are called to a life of chastity. Married, single, priests, straight people and homosexuals, all of us. Sexual gratification outside the context of a marriage *that is open to life* is just recreation.

    I know it’s a difficult thing for a gay person to hear, with the implication being that the Church is telling them that they are bound to a life w/o the joy of sex, but many people, not just gays, are called to such a life. Some people have vocations to be a priest or brother/sister. Other people have strong desires to have sex many partners. Others may have sexual desires that are, in other ways, incompatible with Christian marriage. The Church teaches us that sex is not a human-right for all, but a gift. One that should be treated with respect.

    We are called to a life of sacrifice in this world. Charity, chastity, kindness should be our goal here. For some, the call to chastity is especially difficult and we should pray for them.

    good luck!

  • Faramir

    Leah, as one who’s gone through RCIA myself (although coming from a Baptist background), I have to say that I can’t decide how I feel about your “in-the-spotlight” conversion process. I certainly agree with your desire to be intellectually open, honest, and transparent. You need to make sure that you can in good conscience answer “I do” when the priest asks you, “Do you believe…?” and reading and responding to the arguments of critics is a great way to do that.

    On the other hand, I worry about the reality-show mindset we seem to have developed as a culture, where people are willing to have the most personal and intimate parts of their lives aired on national TV, and millions of people are happy to watch it. Please understand, I’m not trying to compare you to Kim Kardashian, I just think that you should not feel like you have any obligation to share your experiences with us, nor that we have any right to know about them. I urge you to take care that you do not allow pressures from the Internet, from either side, to have any weight in your own personal decision-making process. If, when, and how you enter the Catholic Church is between you, your pastor, and God. I think there is wisdom in the fact that, as Mark Shea pointed out on his blog, there was a ten-year gap between when St. Paul was converted and when he began preaching.

    I urge all of us in the comboxes to remember that this is not “The Real World: RCIA” and that Leah’s actions will not be determined by texting our votes to American Idol. Which brings me to reiterate Elliot’s point: lots of well-meaning Catholics are going to make dozens of suggestions to you (including me, a well-meaning person who’s making suggestions about how to handle people making suggestions). Don’t worry about all that. Just do what feels comfortable to you, you’ll have plenty of time to try new prayers, devotions, and practices whenever you want: remember that you can be a Catholic in perfectly good standing without ever saying a single Hail Mary.

  • Glad you picked the Evil Dead 2 screenshot. Sorry that you’re dealing with some incredibly negative comments, that’s what happens when your blog gets linked to from reddit I suppose.

    Do the deistic arguments open you up to accepting claims of the miraculous? What do you think about the plausibility that Jesus was literally risen from the dead? In my experience reading your blog much of your discussion on the a/theism issue has been focused on God or morality and you have not written much on your take on Jesus’ role in history.

  • Mike (from Hempstead)

    Leah –
    I am impressed by your articulate and thoughtful approach to these consequential matters. Thomas Jefferson would be proud of you for sustaining a “marketplace of ideas.” However, he and others might enter a host of queries into these discussions. Just to cite two: 1) how does one address the extreme corruption and bigotry of the Catholic Church in its history (think of Chaucer). More fundamentally, how does one harmonize “faith” and “reason”? While one might argue that atheism can be as doctrinaire as religious faith, still, as Jefferson often emphasized, we need to choose between heaven and hell (for which there is zero emplrical evidence) and history (which while not “scientific”) is more suitable for an age of reason where one can seek reliable knowledge to make informed judgments. Small wonder that Jefferson replaced religion in his public school curriculum with the subject of history. You might check Jefferson’s book about Jesus – admired as a man of benevolence, a model for a caring, communitarian society, but not a deity, and certainly not part of a trinity (In fact, Jefferson told Hamilton that his “trinity” of Enlightenment were Newton, Locke and Bacon).

    Mike (Hempstead, June 27, 2012)

    • Ted Seeber

      Bigotry is temporally necessary in a monocultural society; it isn’t immoral to begin with. Jefferson was a Deist and a Heretic who was trying to build a *MUTLICULTURAL* society, and so had entirely different aims, thus he fought against bigotry.

  • Natasa

    “Picking fights” is a phrase you use often. I guess this is the way you approach things generally. Thinking, discussing, dissecting every claim is not a bad thing but you might end up tired and not much wiser. Listening is a very important part of spiritual growth. It doesn’t meaning shutting down your brain, but opening up to God in a different way. Contemplative orders spend a lot of time in silence and prayer for example. Silence allows us to go deeper and hear God. I think that shifting your focus from debating with both atheists and Christians to prayer and discerning would be a healthy thing and would bear a lot of fruit.

    • Ted Seeber

      I have no idea if Leah will see this, and I’ll repeat the advice later- but yes. I strongly recommend as a part of her RCIA process she find a nunnery at which to spend a weekend or a week- in silence and off the net.

  • “And above all, you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling…the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness there? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to move to this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike for this particular door-keeper?” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

  • The only chance I’ve got to see if I’m persuaded by the Church’s teachings or if I don’t understand but trust or if I’ve hit a principle I can’t give up is by picking fights and making sure the other side gets a chance to take their best shot at me.

    Don’t crowdsource theology either. Take it to Adoration.

  • M

    Hi Leah,

    I just wanted to offer a word of encouragement. I found your blog recently and was delighted to find somebody else who thinks about this stuff too hard 🙂

    I’m a generic Christian- raised Southern Baptist, married a Catholic, and can’t really identify with either tradition. I’m looking into the Episcopal church now- the intellectual and spiritual base of C.S. Lewis seems like it would be A-OK with me. I appreciate the strong intellectual tradition combined with belief in the priesthood of all believers, and the emphasis on social justice. I could be wrong, of course- still researching. But perhaps that’s an avenue you might be interested in, if you decide to explore other options.

    Regardless, I greatly appreciate you sharing your thoughts as you wrestle with these questions, and the remarkable community you host here. Good to know there are plenty of other geeks interested in these subjects 🙂

  • anon101

    What you are doing strikes me as terribly naive. You are trying to outsource your doubts so that you can finish your conversion with a clean conscience. I have not doubt that you will succeed. Unlike the MIT the Catholic church has more slots than applications. The only thing they are interested in is not to accept straight-forward heretics. Good luck than the doubts come back with full vengeance.

    • Ted Seeber

      Doubt is a part of being a Catholic as much as guilt is.

  • Hi Leah,

    Just adding a quick comment but I will understand if you don’t get the time to answer it!
    Here’s what I’m having serious trouble understanding:

    “Right now, I think the Church has the best approach to thinking about moral philosophy which isn’t the same as thinking that it’s theologians always come up with the right answer on non-dogmatic issues on the first go-round.”

    You may think the Church has the best approach to thinking about moral philosophy, but as far as I can see that doesn’t make you a Catholic. What would make you a Catholic would be if you believed the Catholic religion to be TRUE – I mean actually true, not just a fancy metaphor or philosophical approach. ‘Liking the approach’ doesn’t seem to have all that much to do with actually being Catholic. To be blunt: either God’s real, or he ain’t. Which is it? I’m sure this is something you’re planning to address in the future (at least I hope it is), but I still don’t understand the reasons for your conversion. At all. From what I’ve read I can hardly tell if you even believe that God literally exists, and thus I am VERY confused as to why you’re choosing the Catholic label.

    And I’m still waiting to see some simple moral outrage, instead of wiggling excuses, from all involved here re: the topic of child rape. Everywhere I look, it seems Catholics are more concerned with protecting the Church than condemning the criminals that infest it. The response shouldn’t be “Yes, but the institution of the Church is separate to its individual members!” (which I, personally, don’t buy anyway). The response should be “Yes, child rape is horrific. It should never have happened. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.”

    It sort of reminds me of discussing sexism. No one is willing to come straight out and say “Yes, sexism is bad. This should stop.” It’s always: “Yes, BUT…[insert excuse or goal-post shift here].”

    • deiseach

      You are unquestionably right that the only possible, not to say acceptable, answer is that “this is wrong, it should never have happened, it needs to be addressed”.

      The thing is that the problem is being addressed, but in the meantime a lot of varying interests have used this opportunity to attack the church by saying “This is all the fault of celibacy” or “If only women were in positions of power, this would never have happened” or “This is because of the church’s attitude to sex”. In other words, much of the defending of the instiution is because of attacks on the institution that want to change x, y or z not for reasons of the crime involved but to further other ends.

      For instance, celibacy is the sole cause of paedophilia? Then how come it happens in other institutions like schools and sports organisations where the members are not confined to be celibate? Where there are abusers who are married and have children of their own? Where women commit abuse also? In other denominations where there are married clergy, female clergy, women in leadership positions?

      I promise, if it could be shown that only celibates ever abused children, I’d be first in line to call for the abolition of the requirement (and as it’s a matter of discipline, not doctrine, it can be changed). But I don’t think having women priests is going to change the incidence of paedophilia; better knowledge of how predators operate, tighter screening, awareness and policies in place and finally everyone being willing to work together is what is going to improve things.

    • Yes, child-rape is horrific. It should never have happened in the first place – anywhere, by anyone.

      Frankly, after ten years of battering, my emotions of outrage are pretty well dampened to a habitual cynicism. That doesn’t mean the outrage is any less; just that the emotional expression is rarely the first thing to crop up.

      It’s especially hard to muster expressions of outrage when someone makes a vague general accusation that lumps lots of good people doing their best together with predators, with a clear disregard for the facts of the cases and a clear ignorance of what the Church actually has done to insure the safety of the most vulnerable in our midst.

      In other words, yes, I could stand to be more expressive about the horror of these crimes. However, I would appreciate it if people would recognize that outrage has been expressed at personal and institutional levels, apologies have been issued (again personally and institutionally), and structural reforms have been ongoing. Corruption is still there, no question; but it’s being rooted out as much as possible.

      The constant demand for more and greater outrage, especially combined with the inability or active refusal (by some) to engage with the facts of the matter, actually gets in the way of solving the problem.

      • @deiseach: As far as I know, Catholic priests are statistically more likely to be child rapists than your average member of society. (I did a quick google for a citation. This blog seems to have a fair comparison of the numbers:

        I’m pretty sure that indicates that there’s something wrong with the Church as an institution. II don’t see why it should be defended. I also don’t see how this adds up to Catholicism having some great “moral philosophy”.

        “It’s especially hard to muster expressions of outrage when someone makes a vague general accusation that lumps lots of good people doing their best together with predators…”

        Hey, I’m not the one lumping good people in with predators. You are the one who has chosen to align yourself with a flawed institution. If you call yourself a Catholic, don’t be surprised when people “lump you in” with other Catholics. That’s the price you pay for assuming the label. Don’t protest against the people being outraged by the crimes; protest against the ones committing them.

        FWIW I’m sure you’re a perfectly decent guy, and I certainly don’t want to seem like I’m accusing you of being a child rapist by association, as that would be ridiculous. I just know that for me personally, if a group that I was a part of repeatedly committed and covered up crimes such as these… well, I would leave. I wouldn’t want people to think that I had anything to do with them. I would be ashamed.

        Maybe all of the outraged Catholics think that they can “change the institution from the inside” or something? (I have a Catholic friend or two who’ve expressed this to me, not sure how common it is). I admire their optimism, but I’m not holding my breath. I don’t think the Catholic Church is anywhere near democratic enough for that to work.

        • Free advice: When googling for a comparison try not googling for a polemic phrase describing the result you want. That way you can avoid eliminating the real experts saying the opposite and ranking higher than your side’s advocates in neutrally phrased searches.

          On the substance, that guy extrapolates the general population perpetrator rate from registered sex offenders. A slightly more apples-to-apples comparison would be to the 6% of accused Catholic priest who were actually convicted. (And no, I’m not saying none of the others did it. I’m saying a much larger number of the general population did it which is a point every expert agrees with). Then he divides by the whole population including woman (who do far less child molesting than man) and children (who presumably do even less child molesting). And then he finds a far-fetched excuse to limit the comparison to priest ordained in the worst decade. Correct that and his factor of 100 shrinks to … well 1 basically or even a bit less. Not that that would be a particularly valid statistic (the whole approach is bunk for more complicated reasons), just a fixing of the obvious systematic bias.

          Honestly, you get better arguments from Young Earth Creationists.

          • Hi Gilbert,

            You’re right, and I should have said that the results of my googling went both ways. I guess that shows that you can do almost anything with statistics…

            My main point is that to bind yourself to a “moral philosophy” represented by a priesthood which is, at best, just as immoral as the rest of the general population (if not more), seems rather silly and illogical to me. Also to propose that the Catholic Church’s weird and unnatural position on sexuality has no impact on paedophilia seems like a bizarre assumption to make. Obviously it’s hard (maybe impossible) to empirically test that connection, but to shrug it off seems counter-intuitive.

            You can say “priests are just humans that make mistakes” all you want, but if religion doesn’t make your morals any better than your average person, what’s the point of it?

            And if you’re not a Young Earth Creationist, I’m assuming you believe the Bible is full of ‘metaphors’. Can I ask how you determine which parts are literal, and which parts are meant to be metaphorical?

          • Christ didn’t leave a book. He left men, endowing them and their successors with authority to interpret and protection from error on matters of faith and morals. That’s how we know the difference.

            That said, we don’t turn doctrines on a dime. There’s a long tradition of commentary all the way back to the Church Fathers.

    • I’ve seen lots of Catholics say what you want them to say. But after about the umpteenth time the subject comes up, their patience has probably run a little thin.

      (Most of the abused were teenage boys, fyi, not children. Still wicked, but fyi, for accuracy sake).

    • Lane

      “You may think the Church has the best approach to thinking about moral philosophy, but as far as I can see that doesn’t make you a Catholic. What would make you a Catholic would be if you believed the Catholic religion to be TRUE – I mean actually true, not just a fancy metaphor or philosophical approach. ‘Liking the approach’ doesn’t seem to have all that much to do with actually being Catholic. To be blunt: either God’s real, or he ain’t. Which is it? I’m sure this is something you’re planning to address in the future (at least I hope it is), but I still don’t understand the reasons for your conversion. At all. From what I’ve read I can hardly tell if you even believe that God literally exists, and thus I am VERY confused as to why you’re choosing the Catholic label.”

      THANK YOU. This, a thousand times.

      • I was starting to worry that I was the only person who this was bothering, and thinking maybe I’d missed something somewhere! O_o

    • Ted Seeber

      Exactly how much moral outrage do you need? We’ve thrown the guilty and even the accused into jails and cloisters, we require ALL people with contact with children (clergy and non-clergy) to get background checks, we’ve paid out billions for the care and support of the victims, every single church leader has publicly admitted the wrong in court. What more do you want?

      • Ted,

        You’re right. I guess coming from an institution that claims moral superiority, no amount of outrage will ever be enough. Because no amount of outrage can ever make it so that the crimes did not happen.

        But I guess if people were morally outraged enough to leave the Church, then that would be enough for me.

  • Kelley

    I think you are approaching this with a great attitude. Just continue being you! People will have their opinions about your journey, but you know what they say about opinions.
    Patrick Archibold makes an extremely valid point about the aggressive orthodox folks online. I’m a convert as well and approached it with a similar attitude and with a love for sparring. As I was going through this process the ‘fun’ debates became extremely real and personal though. Things people said (and wrote) that would have never phased me in the past all of a sudden cut like a knife! This was especially true in regards to the subject of my sexual identity.
    Listen to your gut and when you need a break from the internet… take it. If you need to turn off the comments or go dark… do it. You have plenty to wrestle with on your own… the other stuff can become a big distraction. I’m looking forward to reading about your journey, but what’s most important is you taking care of yourself. Enjoy the crazy ride!

  • Giovanni Tardini

    You will find that the Catholic Church “requires” you to believe an extremely SHORT list of beliefs. When you are baptised, you are not asked about your view on every supposed miracle, or any debate of our society. You are asked 6 questions, 3 refusals and 3 beliefs.
    Hereticals become a problem for the Church when they start to claim that the “actual” view of the Church is.. er, their own. To say “I am catholic but I disagree on this, sorry” is not a scandal. By the way, it is not easy to strip the Church’s teaching from all what externals (media, rumours) “add” to that, but knowing you are a thorough proofer of sample sizes and sources’ reliability you will make that job better than I can suggest. Sometimes I am (negatively) amazed what some Catholics think the Catholic Church teaches about certain matters. I hope you find on the way even more than your wonderful discovery of the most rational coincidence of objective morality, or truth, with a Person. No, wait, actually I wish you “only” to find out more about the Person: if He is not dead (as Christians say) than there’s chance to make experience of Him now. Take all of your reason in that knowledge journey, we will all be grateful.

    • “Hereticals become a problem for the Church when they start to claim that the “actual” view of the Church is.. er, their own.”

      Could you give an example of a heretic who took this route?

      • Ted Seeber

        Uh, every single one ever?

        Martin Luther. Jean Calvin. Arius. The nun in the LCWR who is preaching for gay marriage and got all American nuns painted with her brush.

        ALL heretics make this basic mistake. It is why they are heretics. It’s the meaning of the term.

      • Giovanni Tardini

        Well, all “spectacular” hereticals took that route. I name you one who had published books with heretical sentences but had no problems with the church: Joachim of Fiore. And he was an abbot and a theologist. But he did never make the claim “that’s what the TRUE church would say”. He simply acknowledged that it was his own view. I am not going to spark a discussion on every single case in history. Just wanted to make this point, no more no less.

  • keddaw

    “before anyone does anything irrevocable”
    If that doesn’t trip your warning bells then you are in need of a serious overhaul.

    “I’ll be airing my disagreements in the hopes that, if I’m wrong, I’ll be corrected, and if I’m right, I’ll be persuasive.”
    Great, but on what basis are you going to make your judgement? If you fall in line with the Catholic Church then you’re going to have to use their measuring stick which has had a while to alter* its rules and measuring stick to ensure they are aligned, which makes it a fix. If you bring your own measuring stick then you don’t actually need to join the church, just see where your sticks differ and alter your own if you think its wrong.

    *They have (thankfully), do some basic research.

    • KL

      Can you provide an example of the Church altering actual moral doctrine and/or dogma? Discipline (e.g. practical rules for everyday living out of doctrine) doesn’t count, as it has never been presented as immutable. I’m curious what you’re referring to.

      • keddaw

        Which part of basic research don’t you get? Okay, I’ll start you with a good change and a (sort of) bad one:
        Slavery was incorporated into canon law in the 13th century! Even your great thinker Aquinas was in favour of some forms of slavery. Papal bulls sanctioned slavery. Honestly, use wikipedia once in a while.
        Fortunately the Church’s position on this has shifted.

        Priests (and popes) were originally allowed to marry. They then weren’t allowed to.

        I didn’t mention anything immutable, just that it changed its rules. We tend to see slavery as quite a simple one these days that the Church clearly got very, very wrong. If Leah were alive back when the Church was in favour and her ‘Morality’ said slavery was wrong would she alter her position to match the Church, or think the Church was wrong? And on what basis would she do so?

        • Ted Seeber

          Which *version* of slavery? The Church’s version was “adoption of a poor soul in exchange for work with the owner responsible for the moral and physical well being of the slave”

        • KL

          I’m perfectly aware of the Church’s history; I wanted you to bring up an example or two so I could explain to you the difference between dogma, doctrine, and discipline, since I (correctly) assumed that you weren’t distinguishing between them.

          As Ted indicates, the type of slavery allowed by the Church, while sharing the category of “slavery,” was a very different socioeconomic structure than the chattel slavery of antebellum America. Non-chattel slavery has a long and rather distinguished history in human civilization, and was often a valid and prudent economic choice for members of lower classes or captured foreign citizens. When chattel slavery became the norm in the New World, the Church denounced this inherently exploitative and degrading practice. The Wikipedia you flippantly reference, incidentally, bears this out quite clearly. The Church’s position on human dignity, which has never changed, means that it views various human institutions differently according to their respect for that human dignity. Some forms of “slavery” could coexist with respect for and preservation of the dignity of the slave; some (including all forms that exist today) cannot. The basic moral norm underlying Church teaching on this subject, however, has never changed.

          The marriage of clergy has always been an issue of discipline, not dogma or doctrine. An analogous situation would be at a high school which has a number of school rules, among them a dress code and the prohibition against plagiarism. The dress code is a rule that students are expected to follow, but it’s not enshrined as universal and objective and could in theory be changed at any time — this would parallel practices of discipline in the Church. The proscription of plagiarism, on the other hand, will (presumably) be upheld in all circumstances as a basic value and is not open to debate. This would correspond to dogma. In other words, the Church does not claim that her disciplines (such as clerical celibacy) are divinely ordained and unchangeable. It’s simply the “way we do things” at any given time. Just as school administrators have to decide what the best dress code would be for ensuring peace and respect among its students at any given time, Church discipline simply has to do with the practical living-out of Church teachings in a particular context. It does not rise to the level of moral teaching, so changes in those rules do not reflect upon the constancy of the Church’s moral authority or instruction.

          • keddaw

            Yep, “slavery of type X is perfectly acceptable.”

            What moral compass are you using? No sane adult should ever be forced into doing work against their will. It’s really that simple. To say “we make POW’s or prisoners do it”, does NOT make it right, it makes society wrong!

            Compartmentalise, excuse, obfuscate all you want. My morality is inherently better than the Church’s because I get this really simple, straightforward, moral conundrum right and they don’t.

            And they have changed their position on it! Would the Church today allow someone to sell themselves into slavery? Would the Church accept that a child born while the mother is incarcerated should also be subject to incarceration and forced work in prison? Would the church allow a parent to sell their child into “slavery” (in any form) today? It used to…

  • Mannix Fortz

    Am praying for you Leah.

  • Patricia

    Your time at RCIA is your time to ask questions, explore, and discern. Learning about the Church and her teachings is what RCIA will teach you , but finding Jesus, making Him the center, becoming His disciple is what you really want. Believing that the Catholic Church was the Church He founded, making the decision to love Christ , means trusting Him and the Church . So it means loving and obeying her. She’s our Mother. It’s all a beautiful web, that is interconnected. We are all interconnected. The Church won’ t make your life journey easier , but it will give you the best compass there is to find your way to Heaven.

  • I want to echo the RCIA cautioning here. RCIA is not the place to learn detailed Theology and Philosophy. Most of your time actually learning the faith (…which WILL take the rest of your life…) will be done with lots of reading.

    Let me mention one name that I think you’ll already know, but the emphasis of his importance to the Church is needed: Thomas Aquinas. Simply put: if you haven’t read books about him, or have read the Summa’s (..Theologiae and Contra Gentiles…), then you simply don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to Christianity and it’s philosophical arguments. At the very least, your picture of the faith is severely limited in scope. Read everything you can about this man. Find a good Thomist and go to town (…my favorite is Edward Feser…).

    Leah….I’ve welcomed you to the “deep end of the pool” before, but I’ll do it again. You’ve got 2000 years of reading to catch up on…so chop chop ;P

  • Alex Godofsky

    The bit about your strategy with the MIT interview reminded me of this bit of research on Nigerian scammers:

  • Pasquale Franzese

    Dear Leah,
    I read an interview of yours where you said your conversion started with your feeling of having an objective morality implanted inside you.
    Being you an educate student I expect you to have a sharp understanding of what Objective means: it will not vary from person to person, nor from time to time, nor from nation to nation. If subject to any cultural influence or if deformed from any perspective or subjective view a moral code is deemed to be called Subjective.
    Now, in catholic theology the moral code god supposedly gave us is theoretically the same moral code expressed in gospels and in all New Testament. Going further, they say that the moral god endorsed in Old Testament is “completed” and “not contradicted” in the New Testament, an expression which, if I understand what words mean, indicates that any order or moral principle endorsed in OT is not cancelled, but furtherly detailed in NT.
    Now, 2 things: first, if a moral is Objective, then it’s valid both in OT, and in modern times. Which means that if you do not feel to agree with the moral endorsed in the old testament then either your moral is not objective and OT’s is or your moral is objective and OT’s is not.
    Second, if OT’s moral is objective then there is no need to alter it in any way in NT, because what was good not to forbid in OT’s times, should be good not to forbid in NT’s times, otherwise that moral is subject to change in time and therefore not objective.

    Also if you feel to have an objective moral inside you ask yourself: is it only you? or everybody else?
    If it’s only you, then is a subjective moral, you can feel not to have origin in your free will, but the same goes for your taste for foods (Notice: I’m not english in mothertongue, by taste I mean what you like and dislike, not sure if is the correct way to say so in this language), which are also subjective. If it’s everybody else… If you think it’s everybody else, then I think you should witness ethical discussions between a pro-research and an anti-vivisectionist, you will find that at least they do not share an objective morality, wich makes it subjective once again.

    If you should thank some one for your moral code I think you should thank your educators.
    I wish you a nice life and that your critical thought survives indoctrination.

    • Kewois

      Really good questions Pasquale.


    • Ted Seeber

      Pasquale, I reject your questions based on the following mistake:
      “Now, in catholic theology the moral code god supposedly gave us is theoretically the same moral code expressed in gospels and in all New Testament. ”

      Nope. That’s a subset. And the wrong order. The Gospels and the rest of the New Testament Canon were *specifically chosen* because they fit Catholic Theology, not the other way around. The Deposit of Faith from which we get Dogma includes Holy Tradition as well as Holy Scripture, and the doctrines that make up Catholic Objective Morality are a logical and reasonable extension of that modified by advancements in science and real world political experiments. Catholic morality also contains DISCIPLINE, which is merely a teaching method for teaching dogma and doctrine.

      Therefore your questions are irrational based on this error in your logic.

      • Pasquale Franzese

        “and the doctrines that make up Catholic Objective Morality are a logical and reasonable extension of that modified by advancements in science and real world political experiments.”
        If these morals have been “modified” in time… they cannot be Objective! It goes by itself that they rely on the knowledge earned through “advancements in science and real world political experiments”, so they are based on a specific perspective and therefore Subjective.
        It’s a matter of simple definition.

  • DavidM

    “It should go without saying that I’m not an authoritative source on Catholicism, and, frankly, neither is most of the commentariat.” – Whew! I’m glad we’ve finally got that out in the open. 😉

    I’d love to be in your RCIA class. All the best.

  • Kewois

    Hi Leah:

    >I won’t paper over those inconsistencies and call them insignificant,

    I hope not.
    I have faith you will answer my question about Bible atrocities and The Moral perfect agent (God) I asked.

    >One reason the Catholic Church has adults go through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) classes >is so they can make sure they actually intend to convert to Catholicism, before anyone does >anything irrevocable.

    But they baptize babies without that trouble and then when they are 8 or 9 years old they take their first Communion, not an age to REALLY decide something.

    Why irrevocable? If you were wrong when you don’t believe perhaps in the future you admit you were wrong again.

    I hope the classes can help you to….(as you said) to “We shouldn’t cleave to a flawed philosophy just to have the peace of answers,”

    So perhaps you can ask these topics:

    – What is essence and what are accidents? If I said that this chip of wood is in “essence” gold but with the “accidents” of wood, would you believe me??

    – It is contradictory to be a) all loving and all just, b) perfect and create something, c) Immutable and create something d) immutable and change your mind e) omnipotent and omniscient etc.
    An incoherent concept can not exist as for example there is no regular decahedron or no triangle of two sides. It is no an idea it is a “pseudo idea”.
    Ergo The God depicted by the Bible does not exist. Not even as an idea.


  • You’re not a Heretic yet.

    • Cous

      The force is with you, young Skywalker…but you are not a Jedi yet.

      • Anyone can be a Jedi, with the right midichlorian density, of course.

        • leahlibresco


          • BenYachov

            Indeed! I second that!

            As Obi Wan Kenobi said in the Fan Film RETURN OF PINK FIVE.

            Stacy: Don’t you have to have some of those midichlorian thingys to be a Jedi?
            Obi Wan’s Force Ghost: Oh no that’s just something we used to tell people.

  • jose

    The correct approach has led to really bad decisions throughout millenia. Correct approaches should work, especially if what they supposedly approach are true, objective solutions.

    You keep saying catholicism has the right axioms and the right approach, I still can’t see which ones they are, how they got it, and how do we know they are right if they don’t work better than others.

    • Doragoon

      Catholicism has not been tried and found wanting. It’s been found difficult and left untried.

      • liza

        well…if someone says it in a clever way…then it must be true. 😐

  • Whew! Looks like everyone has some advice for you! I don’t have much in the way of arguments or advice to give you, as many others have; just a couple of thoughts. My observation: The path of life can lead us to unexpected and amazing things. My advice: Keep walking with your eyes and your heart open, enjoy the journey! My prayer: May God be with you, whatever path you walk.

  • John

    Leah, when my wife and I were becoming attracted to Catholicism, we ran into things that we thought certainly could not be true. Two examples: the immorality of IVF procedures, and the claim that Mary and Joseph lived together for (at least) 12 years and never had sexual intercourse. Ludicrous on both counts!

    However, the more we started “looking” and thinking, and the less we succumbed to the knee jerk, the more these and other things started to make sense. The longer we are married, the more the latter makes sense as an extreme form of “marital chastity.” (We have come to *experience* the benefits of fasting/feasting cycles regarding sexual intimacy, as NFP tends to produce.)

    Anyway, eventually serious Catholics realize that the Church is wiser than them. Maybe smarter too, although in your case it might be a close race. 🙂 This realization is actually what faith is, according to Cardinal Newman, an Englishman who I feel you should become very acquainted with… at least as much so as Chesterton and Lewis. For starters:

    • liza

      It’s amazing the things you can convince yourself of when you surround yourself with people who continually proclaim that its true, you make yourself submit to leadership that tells you its true and read books, articles, letters and what-have-you that tells you it is true.

      The supposed perpetual virginity of Mary is a prime example of how the church views sex and women. In order for her to be seen as holy she must not even be permitted normal marital relations with her husband. Of course, this teaching develops in a church which eventually outlaws marriage for its priests. You can trace Catholicism’s uneasiness withe even marital sex all the way back to Augustine, a somewhat misogynistic pillar of CAtholic thought.

      • John

        Proponents of fasting are not opposed to feasting. Even those who choose a lifestyle of perpetual fasting do not oppose feasting, they merely abstain from it. Or rather, if someone who fasts were to abhor feasting, that would be an indication of an unbalanced view (and vice versa). “Good, as it ripens, becomes more and more different not only from evil, but also from other good.” (C. S. Lewis, quoted from memory…. hope its close)

        I have a hard time believing that the Church belittles the marital embrace when its beloved celibate priests, monks and nuns love nothing better than families with 10 kids!

        The Church is not fond of bulimia or its sexual counterparts, for the obvious reason that no ultimate joy can come from cultivating addictions that are against human nature and dignity… no matter how nice it seems for the moment. She teaches us to either abstain or go for broke (and yes, you do go broke with 10 kids!), because both involve kenotic love.

  • liza

    “I have a hard time believing that the Church belittles the marital embrace when its beloved celibate priests, monks and nuns love nothing better than families with 10 kids!”

    Yes, well someone has to make the people who sit in the pews, now don’t they?

    It doesn’t matter how much big families are promoted. The people who are considered the most Holy and Authoritative in the RCC are those who have taken a vow of celibacy. If the RCC didn’t believe that sex somehow sullied a person’s spirituality, even in the marriage relationship….then they wouldn’t care whether the Virgin Mary was perpetually a virgin or if their priests and nuns were married.

    The truth is that anyone who holds power in the RCC is required to be a celibate…..excepting the few priests which are let in after they are widowed, or converts from orthodox denominations.

    The doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity is a result of the rejection of normal human sexuality as something lesser, or icky, or not quite perfect in the Church’s eyes.

    • KL

      The doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity is not based on the fact that non-virgin women are less holy. Rather, early Church writings speak of Mary’s womb as the new Ark of the Covenant, which held God himself. In Temple Judaism, this was no small thing and worthy of the highest reverence and humility. Mary’s womb became the new Holy of Holies in which God has dwelt, and therefore should not be entered by another human being (e.g., future children).

      Religious men and women (clergy, monks, and nuns) take vows of celibacy as symbols of their full commitment to Christ and his Church, unencumbered by the necessary material and emotional concerns that marriage and family bring with them. Furthermore, clerical celibacy is a discipline of the Church, not a doctrine; that is, it has no moral or theological basis but has been adopted since the Middle Ages as a practical measure. (This was particularly important in medieval Europe, when heirs and property were a much bigger deal; there were lots of problems with priests marrying, having children, and then bequeathing their property — such as a parish church or the surrounding grounds — to his offspring, which as you can imagine caused some legal issues.) Theoretically, the requirement of celibacy could be lifted at any time; the Church does not require it in order to preserve some higher moral state of purity among its clergy.

      Human sexuality in the Church is seen as a great gift and a profound expression of the imago Dei. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body speaks eloquently of the “language of the body” as capable of both expressing total self-giving love and participating in co-creation with God, by which we become more like Him through our unitive and procreative act. Hardly icky!

      • liza

        Yes…that’s the RCC line….over-psychologizing and spiritualizing the whole thing. Still the only members of the club who hold power, shape doctrine, choose popes, etc…..are men who have to choose celibacy as a means of leading the RCC. Married lay people may be just fine in RCC theology….but they also have zero input into the leadership of the RCC and the formation of doctrine.

        Quite simply, married lay people may be given the line that their roles are important and as blessed by God, but they are kept firmly in their places and have absolutely no status in thedirection of the church.

        They are foot soldiers, not generals….and while being a foot soldier is honorable, nobody mistakes it for the status of being a general or welcomes the foot soldier into the officer’s quarters.

        • BenYachov

          Even if the Popes had allowed all Priests in all rites to be married, had allowed bishops to be married, and if the Popes themselves married (which was not unheard of there have be about 29 married Popes in the history of the Church. The first being Peter the last being Adrian II) I have news for ya my dear.

          Catholic dogma moral or theological would remain unchanged.

          • liza


            You have the ability to know with certainty about alternate timelines and the complex influence thousands of married priests with families would have on the shaping of Catholic doctrine?

            Highly amusing!

            *sticks fingers in his ears and yells*: There can be no reality other than the one I want there to be!!!

        • John

          liza, when human beings run an institution it is relatively easy to see the reflection of their personalities in the organization of the institution, as well as the reflection of their culture. If the institution is long-lasting, it will go this-a-way and then that-a-way. It will wax and wane. It will first hold one position, then hold one diametrically opposed. This is normal and natural, since people change and have changing opinions about how institutions should be managed. (As an example, witness how EVERY non-Catholic Christian group changed its mind about contraception, molding itself to the prevailing culture.) I do not believe the Catholic Church to be an institution of this variety, at least regarding its definitive (dogmatic) actions. The reason is that I don’t see the evidences. Instead, I see an amazingly coherent institution that is not overly reflective of culture or individuals and that has outlasted pretty much any other institution I can think of … certainly it has seen empires come and go. Would you really posit that this “club of men” is really that much better at management than any other group? If so, then that is why it should stay that way. If not, then perhaps their personalities have nothing to do with it. Perhaps they have zero power. Perhaps they are just conduits… channels.

          • liza

            Would you really posit that this “club of men” is really that much better at management than any other group? If so, then that is why it should stay that way. If not, then perhaps their personalities have nothing to do with it. Perhaps they have zero power. Perhaps they are just conduits… channels.

            The point is not whether the “club of men” is better or worse at management. The point is that they are just like everyone else with layers of agendas and contradictions. You are sorely mistaken if you think the Catholic Church of today is just like the Catholic church of 200 years ago, or 600 years ago, or 800 years ago….etc. etc. The RCC has changed its positions on some things, created new doctrines, further defined itself, and evolved over time….like any culture and power structure.

            The problem is that everyone keeps referring to the RCC as some monolithic, coherent, unified organization.

            It is not. It only appears that way because it has 2,000 years of history to pull from and thus the ability to draw from many people and sources over time. Of course, all of those who would have considered themselves Catholic throughout the ages and disagreed with the RCC wound up being declared heretics, or being made to leave. Eventually,by the time of Martin Luther came there was enough momentum for some Catholics to choose to to leave the RCC, often because the RCC would not have them any longer.

            WHen you can kick out those you don’t like, ignore those in the past church who disagreed with the RCC, and only remember the events that make you feel good about the narrative history of the RCC….then things might appear as if they are unified…..but it is an illusion created by a mind that wants to see what it wants to see and will refuse coming to any conclusion which would implicate the RCC as being in error.

          • John

            “You are sorely mistaken if you think the Catholic Church of today is just like the Catholic church of 200 years ago, or 600 years ago, or 800 years ago….etc. etc. The RCC has changed its positions on some things, created new doctrines, further defined itself, and evolved over time….like any culture and power structure.”

            liza, the Catholic Church of today *is* the Catholic Church of 200/600/800 years ago, just as I am the same person today as I was 10 or 20 years ago. Does that mean I look identical? Of course not. It means that whatever is sufficient for personal continuity exists without interruption in the stream of my development. The same is true of the Catholic Church… it is the same meta-person today as it has always been, and demonstrably so. This is the point of Newman’s essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

          • liza

            John…by the same logic Catholicism is simply God’s version of Judaism….because there has been an uninterrupted flow from it to Christianity and Lutheranism is a continual outflow of catholicism and other protestant denominations are outflows of Lutheranism……and Mormonism is an outflow of Christian protestantism…as are the Jehovah’s witnesses and so on and so on.

            Simply because you can trace a continuous line of existence for something doesn’t mean it is the same.

            The point is that you claimed that Catholic church has never changed. It most certainly has.

            Just as you are not the person you were 20 years ago, physically and emotionally.

        • Erin

          You seem to have an obsessive concern with power. But Catholics do not stay, and generally do not join, for power. This is a relationship of love with Love, with the I AM – as others have said, a courtship.

          • liza

            This is a relationship of love with Love, with the I AM – as others have said, a courtship.

            And this “relationship” is entirely mediated by those in authority in the RCC. Listen, the Catholics on this thread can wax and wane about the beauty of Catholicism and how wonderful and appealing it is, but that doesn’t change that it comes at the price of loyalty to the pope and all the former doctrinal declarations. Everything is always peachy-keen until you brush up against a cherished doctrine or the things which are important to the leadership.

            WHo holds power in an organization, and who has input to that power, is an incredibly important thing because it says a lot about the organization as a whole.

            It’s not that I’m obsessed with power…it’s that it doesn’t matter what the rank and file say about Catholicism…because it’s just them pontificating. They can say whatever they want to….but it doesn’t hold any force whatsoever as far as real, catholic doctrine and how it is implemented.

            The rank and file serve the leadership. Period. They have no input and are reassured that they don’t need to have input. That’s what priests are for. This gets portrayed as the leadership making sacrifices and serving the rank and file….but while priests may sacrifice a family, they are granted entry into an exclusive “club” and told that they are the very mediators between God and man through the sacraments…very heady stuff that can hardly be said to be without it’s own kind of appeal and prestige.

  • larry

    Did you grow up with any particular religion or denomination, or were you always an atheist? Why have you chosen Catholicism over all the other denominations?

  • grok87

    Hi Leah,
    I get your analogy. But I would invite you to think about your conversion in a different framework. Conversion literally means “turning” (in Latin). You are seeing yourself as “knocking on a door to see if you will be let in.” But I would invite you to think of yourself as having been traveling on a certain road, and then suddenly hearing a beloved voice calling you and turning eagerly onto a new road in response. It’s less about “meeting the entrance criteria” and more about following “the call.” But as Jesus points out in today’s gospel, not all those who think they are following his call are actually doing so (i.e. including perhaps some in positions of authority).
    with prayers for you,

    Mt 7:21-29
    Jesus said to his disciples:
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
    but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
    Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
    Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
    Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’
    “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
    will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came,
    and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
    And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them
    will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
    The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
    And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
    When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
    for he taught them as one having authority,and not as their scribes.