Monthly Archives: July 2012

Weighing in on the LCWR debate

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I’m sure that, by now, everyone has heard the arguments about the investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious (LCWR) by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).  Nationwide protests have occurred to “support the nuns.”  And countless straw-man arguments have been made against the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  I’ve been reading and watching these things all over the interwebz… for instance, this video (as hosted on Crescat) where a very patient and awesome priest calmly debates with a rather erratic and emotional protester, or this recent post about an NPR interview.

Now, I’ll be quite honest.  I’m not 100% sure why the CDF is investigating the LCWR.  I am 95% sure that the investigation has been going on for some time (as per information I heard from I-don’t-remember-where-maybe-Fr.-Ted-in-that-Crescat-video but definitely someone who Knew Stuff).  And I am 100% sure that, if the sisters are actually walking the straight-and-narrow, they have nothing to fear from the CDF.  At all.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t any justification for governmental invasions of privacy or whatever–simply that the job of the CDF is to make sure that every organization who claims to be Catholic is actually true to the Truth.  If they smell something funny or get reports of something illicit or immoral, they will investigate.  Simple as that.

However, in this debate, there is a lot of vagueness, misunderstanding and, quite frankly, point-missing.  My goal here is to add a little substance to the straw-man arguments and make them into flesh-and-blood people, if possible.

To begin: not all sisters are part of the LCWR.  Father Ted in the above video says so himself.  Having only had contact with Sisters of Saint Joseph, I can’t speak much on personal experience.  Nevertheless, the LCWR does not represent “all the nuns.”  (I won’t get into the difference between nuns and sisters, or how many “sisters” disparage “nuns” because “all they do is sit around and pray.”  That’s a rant for another time.)

Something which constantly and inevitably comes up in these discussions is something to the effect of this: “But look at what the hierarchy did with all those pedophile priests back in the 60s through the 80s!” or whatever time period they so choose.  I will never, ever justify the actions of these priests or the bishops who covered them up.  Nor will I simply “explain it away” by blaming the culture of the time.  Those men did horrible things.  Nonetheless, the Church is a hospital for sinners, rather than a museum for saints.  AND–let me just say this–pulling out the horrifically-abused “pedophile priest” argument in the midst of a conversation about whether or not the LCWR is actually in union with the teachings of the Church is an absolute non sequitur.  It’s like discussing how Germany is saving Greece’s sorry butt economically and then having someone interject, “But the Nazis killed so many people in the Holocaust!”  True?  Yes.  Horrible?  Yes.  Pertinent?  No.

Another note: “the nuns” in the LCWR aren’t the only ones in the world feeding the poor.  They’re not the only ones within the Catholic Church feeding the poor.  Some of them don’t even feed the poor and instead work at fancy private pseudo-Catholic high schools teaching watered-down theology.  Having seen my fair share of sisters who are rather “rah-rah” for “women’s leadership” (another rant for another time), I’d be inclined to say that sisters (more often nuns, who live in community) who keep a more humble profile and don’t feel the need to be in a “Leadership Conference” would be out and about doing charity work.

Basically, do your research.  If you’re going to get upset about something, know what’s going on.  Remember that the LCWR represents a portion of the female religious, not all of them.  And please, keep your personal beefs and pet peeves with the Church within their relevant arguments.  Galileo, pedophile priests, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Crusades all have their rightful places.  For instance, discussions and debates about religious groups adhering to the Faith or about the validity of the Sacrament of Baptism under strange circumstances (I’m from Rochester, ’nuff said) are not those places.

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Works of Love

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“How could one speak properly about love if you were forgotten, you God of love, source of all love in heaven and on earth; you who spared nothing but in love gave everything; you who are love, so that one who loves is what he is only by being in you!  How could one speak properly about love if you were forgotten, you who revealed what love is, you our Savior and Redeemer, who gave yourself in order to save all.  How could one speak properly of love if you were forgotten, you Spirit of love, who take nothing of your own but remind us of that love-sacrifice, remind the believer to love as he is loved and his neighbor as himself!  O Eternal Love, you who are everywhere present and never without witness where you are called upon, be not without witness in what will be said here about love or about works of love.  There are indeed only some works that human language specifically and narrowly calls works of love, but in heaven no work can be pleasing unless it is a work of love: sincere in self-renunciation, a need in love itself, and for that very reason without any claim of meritoriousness!”

~ Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love

Distinguo

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Something has been bothering me as of late.  It is rampant, and particularly egregious on college campuses.  This issue is the intensely fallacious tendency to compare libido to hunger.

To begin, those who even consider the idea are working under a false set of premises.  Not only is their world-view painfully skewed towards Idiocy, but They Fail Biology Forever.  You do not become emotionally attached to the food you eat at dinner.  Sure, you’ll favour some over others.  And if something is particularly tasty, it may release endorphins.  But oxytocin is completely out of the picture when eating dinner–however, it is the reason women “go crazy” and become possessively attached to men after sex.  It’s the same hormone shows up right after childbirth, allowing mothers to connect with their children.  Chemical bonding is strong.

Not to mention that one’s sex drive is, unlike hunger, not necessary for the survival of the person experiencing it.  People die of hunger all the time.  I have yet to hear of someone (outside of truly bad fanfiction or The Onion) who died of sex deprivation.  I’ve heard of it being used as a method of persuasion (Lysistrata, anyone?) but never actually heard of anyone dying from it as a direct cause.  (If it has ever really happened, post it in the comments please.  I’m curious.)

The problem here is that, while libido and hunger are both innate human cravings, the act of sex carries with it a LOT more implications than the act of eating food.  You can taste around, try foods, etc–and your body isn’t thinking that you are bonding yourself to this food for life.  That’s what it thinks when you sleep with someone, however: that’s why all the hormones and chemicals go crazy.  Your body is hard-wired to be monogamous for life.  That’s what it really wants.  And isn’t modern society all about treating our bodies well and giving them what they want?  In all serious matters, you think of both the short and long-term consequences of your actions.  If you want to get in shape, you develop a regular exercise routine (that’s the short-term) and then gradually get in better and better shape (that’s the long-term).  If you want to become a professor of philosophy at a university level, you must first go through undergrad, a Master’s program, and a PhD program.  The short-term is picking your schools and the long-term is the end goal, something you desire.  For some reason, though, college students are willfully ignoring the long-term consequences of their actions (and these actions come in many flavours) and instead choosing to live solely in the moment.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for seizing the day (carpe diem, anyone?), but somehow you need to acknowledge the fact that you will wake up in the morning and face the consequences, be they good or bad.

Run the Race of Grace

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“Grace gives an immense scope to our aims and desires and leaves them the freest possible play.  At the same time grace has this great advantage: we need only to desire it in order to find it; to receive grace, we need only to love its Donor.  By this ardent desire for grace and for heavenly happiness, and by a sincere love for the Father, we acquire and merit all good gifts, and that according to the measure of our love and desire.  Why do we not manifest here a holy greediness and importunity?  Why do we not, like St. Paul, forget the things that are behind and stretch forth our hand to those that are before us?  We should measure the soul’s profit and advantage not by the treasures already in our possession, but by those which are to be acquired.  The Apostle ran the course of perfection with rapid stride, but we do not hurry; we often pause in our course, as though the smallest part of the eternal and highest good were already sufficient.  The Apostle considers himself as not yet perfect; and yet in his good works, in his countless sufferings and glorious miracles, he has the best pledge and evidence of extraordinary perfection; still, he always seeks something higher and more perfect.  That which we still lack is without limit; that which we already possess is little and insignificant.  But God, who is most liberal in dispensing His gifts and Himself, ceases to increase our small fortune only when we tire of our progress.  Why do we commit such an injustice against God and His grace, and against ourselves?  Let us remember the wife of Lot, who instead of looking forward looked behind her and was turned into a statue of salt.  Let this example serve to make us prudent and to spur us on to a holy zeal.”

~ Fr. Matthias Scheeben, The Glories of Divine Grace

Yay milestones!

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We hit 2500 views today!  Small beans, I know… but for a little site like this, I think it’s pretty great!  We’ve been in operation for a little over year now, so to hit 2500 around our one-year anniversary is pretty cool.  (I can’t believe I didn’t even notice the anniversary!  Some admin I am…)

Thanks for reading!

Goodness in the Media: Avatar: The Legend of Korra

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(This is a simul-post with Ignitum Today)

As Catholics, we live in the world but are not of it; we must dialogue with the culture but not fall prey to the worship of it.  And, in some cases, we must be able to cite common cultural references of our generations and be able to discuss them with our peers and friends.  After all, what is friendship but shared interests?  (Aristotle would suggest this is merely one kind of friendship, but that is a post in and of itself.)  For many years now, television has been a part of entertainment.  From “I Love Lucy” to “The Brady Bunch” to “Pokémon,” each generation has something they remember in particular.

One of the latest crazes which has been sweeping the generation who affectionately call themselves “90’s kids” is a callback to a show which ran on Nickelodeon as part of Nicktoons.  The first show, which started running when many 90’s kids were within the targeted age demographic (those born from 1990 to 1993, however, were just older than the target audience), was Avatar: The Last Airbender (or in Europe, The Legend of Aang, according to Wikipedia).  The three seasons of this show were so well-received that the writers promised a sequel, which was released this year.  Avatar: The Legend of Korra just finished with its first season finale (and ridiculously epic story arc) a couple weeks ago.  It was the talk of Facebook and much of the internet (right after Avengers) and rightly so–the writing was top-notch, the characters were lovable (or hateable), and the plot had matured since the first series.  The conflicts were believable and the action scenes so well-choreographed and well-drawn that both of us regularly found ourselves rooting for the good guys out loud.  And best of all?  It was, and is, a kid’s show.  So there is nothing excessive which frequently inhibits the near-nonexistent plotline of “adult” shows such as How I Met Your Mother (which really needs to end [1]).  Since the writers are writing for children, it has to be engaging, clever, fun, and–above all–age-appropriate.  Not to mention that a large amount of college students were watching the show as it came out because they watched Airbender as children.

A little backstory: The Last Airbender was a lighthearted adventure story, describing the path of the Avatar (Aang, who was the last airbender) as he mastered the art of “bending” all four elements [2].  It had a lovable cast of characters and just the right amount of drama to accompany the story.  As a more-grown-up  sequel, Legend of Korra takes place 80 years after The Last Airbender in a city known as Republic City, in an era very reminiscent of the 1920s.  Its primary conflict is a political one: a powerful speaker, Amon, calls for non-benders to rise against the benders and make them all “equal,” citing bending as an “impurity” and declaring a sort of class warfare on the benders, claiming that non-benders are “oppressed” by the benders.  Korra, the current Avatar [3], is in Republic City so she can learn airbending, the last element she must master.  However, she is rash and hotheaded and often allows her impulsiveness to heavily cloud her judgment.  Shortly upon her arrival in Republic City, she finds herself involved in pro-bending, a new sport developed in Republic City, and the affairs of the City Council–after all, she is a public figure.  Oh, and the scariest part about this whole situation?  Amon has the remarkable ability to take away bending, an ability only known by viewers as held by Aang, the most recent Avatar (and the star of the first series).  And he is hell-bent on taking away Korra’s, in order to make an example of her.  Belligerent and independent Korra finds herself heavily relying on her city friends (who she met through pro-bending) to help bring down Amon.

And now for the good talking points! (Oh, you thought it would be over at the plot summary?  Oops.)  The Equalists, with their communist-style propaganda and secret gatherings, could be any number of anti-establishment regimes.  Visually, the movement calls back heavily to the rise of Soviet Russia or Communist China–an anti-religion, forced-atheism, forced-socialism regime.  Much like the rise of communism in these countries, there were some legitimate complaints with the system: some repression, corruption, incompetent leadership, etc; however, the response to these complaints were the absolute wrong path.  Instead of seeking to change the leadership,  alter the police system, or finally crack down on the organized-crime underground, total revolution and extermination of benders is the path chosen.  Obviously, since this is a kid’s show, the good guys win in the end and Amon is vanquished (after his dramatic and astonishing backstory is revealed, of course)–but the leadup to this ultimate victory is compelling, fascinating, frustrating, and, above all, intense.

The Legend of Korra has been the talk of the internet since it was announced.  It was much-anticipated as it was released, one episode at a time, on Saturday Morning Cartoons.  Each new character and plot twist became ongoing discussions (Tenzin and Tenzin’s beard, anyone?).  And this is because, quite frankly, it is a Good Show.  The plot is good, the morals of the story are hidden enough that they’re believable (friendship, teamwork, and The Right Thing will always win) and there is no smut to be found anywhere. (In fact, it’s so good that I’m considering getting my mom into the Avatar series once we’re done with Firefly. ~Ink)  Stories which have the Good Guys winning in the end will ultimately be more satisfying than “He loved Big Brother” because we as fallen humans crave Goodness and union with that Goodness.  Even by rooting for the Good Guys and watching them win, we feel as though we have shared in some small part in their victory.  A truly good story allows us to share the joys and sorrows of the heroes.  The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra do just that.[4]

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[1] For my rant on why How I Met Your Mother needs to end, drop me an e-mail. ~Ink

[2] These are the four classical elements: earth, air, fire, and water.  To be able to bend them is a sort of psychokinetic martial art, and having that ability in the first place is something with which you are born.  We are not quite sure as to whether or not it is genetic (Punnett square-able or maybe a “carrier” situation) or works the same way as magical ability does in Harry Potter (tends to run in families but occasionally you get a wild card where a person from a Muggle family can use magic or a person from a magical family cannot).

[3] The Avatar follows the same rules as the Dalai Lama.  If they exhibit certain abilities which seem Avatar-like, they are offered a selection of toys and told to choose three.  If they choose the three which were chosen by the former Avatar (and therefore all former Avatars), then they must be the Avatar.  It also has a cycle where each new Avatar is incarnated into one of the four tribes.  The cycle as of Korra goes “earth, fire, air, water,” with Korra being a waterbender and Aang, the Avatar before her, an airbender.  Before Aang was Avatar Roku, a firebender, and before Roku was Avatar Kiyoshi, an earthbender.  But this is extra.  Basically, the writers did some serious research.

[4] We are considering expanding this post into a series of posts which go through both Avatar series individually (and probably story-arc-by-story-arc), laying out the good things.  We also have post-fodder in many other kinds of media.