Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Uncertain trumpets, smoldering wicks, and ignorant sheep

Fall is coming, and that means it's time for me to start blogging again. I know, I know, I keep giving it up. But then I miss it. And we repeat.

Besides, how could a Catholic fail to comment on a story like the tale of Robert Fuller, a man who considered himself a Catholic in good standing as well as a shaman and a partnered gay man and a man who was about to commit legally-sanctioned suicide with, apparently, the blessing of his parish (including a bunch of kids who had just made their First Holy Communions)?

But wait! said the Archdiocese of Seattle as they issued a statement saying that the pastor and parish didn't know at all, not even in the least, that Mr. Fuller intended to kill himself (they are silent on the question of whether the pastor and parish knew that Mr. Fuller was living in an openly gay partnership or that he considered himself a pagan shaman). The archdiocesan statement was supposed to settle the matter: the priest in question had only been told that Mr. Fuller was dying, not that he intended to bring about the matter.

Not so fast, says the intrepid Christine Rousselle at CNA, as she reports that on Mr. Fuller's Facebook page there was information indicating that parish leadership did indeed know that Mr. Fuller intended to kill himself (though we're calling it "euthanasia" these days). Mr. Fuller scheduled his funeral ahead of time, which is pretty well impossible in cases of natural death. Mr. Fuller also spoke to parish staff about his plans, invited first a parish musician and then the parish choir to come and perform at his suicide party, and wrote that his "pastor/sponsor" had blessed his end-of-life plans.

This is a scandal, and a crying shame. While Mr. Fuller was still alive there were, apparently, any number of Catholics including, allegedly, a Catholic priest who knew he intended to take his own life and didn't do anything to try to stop him. He was even given a Catholic funeral.

We can hope that Mr. Fuller was ignorant enough, and repentant in the last moments of his life enough, to be still within reach of Christ's mercy. We can and should pray for him. But I think it's also quite reasonable to be angry with the parish and with the archdiocese here.

Why the rush to absolve themselves from blame? Why the haste to put out a statement that dissolves under scrutiny? Why the lack of concern for the truth, and the priority of keeping up appearances?

The parish failed Robert Fuller, and even if the actual pastor did not know, the actual pastor is clearly not teaching the truth to these people. In a parish where the fullness of Catholic teaching is proclaimed loudly and fearlessly from the pulpit, it would be pretty much impossible for a partnered gay shaman to expect his fellow parishioners to celebrate his suicide with him.

But this is the situation on the ground in far too many dioceses and parishes in the United States (and elsewhere) these days. Bishops are uncertain trumpets; pastors are smoldering wicks; and parishioners are ignorant sheep who will not run from the wolf, or even call it evil.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Another break

I just said last week that I missed blogging and intended to do it more often, and here I am taking that back.

I still miss Catholic blogs and Catholic blogging, and I will still make time for this blog when I can. But I thought I could just make a daily blog post happen amidst the other writing projects I'm trying to accomplish. Frankly, I was wrong.

My fiction writing is, in all honesty, more important to me at this stage of my life. I still manage to sell a steady trickle of books, and I hope to increase my sales and the number of books available. I'm about to start writing the second book in my Wizard's Mischief trilogy, and am editing the first one, as I've said.

The writing that earns me some money, even if it's just a tiny amount so far, has to come first. Surviving on one income is tough, as many of you know, and if I can help at all with even the smallest of bills then I need to focus on that.

This blog won't go away or be archived or anything like that, but my book blog and my fiction writing will take up nearly all of my spare time for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Business as usual at the USCCB

I had intended to blog yesterday, but the day got away from me. Today's post will be brief, too, and then the rest of this week I already know will be too busy for me to get any writing (including blogging) done. Every year I think things will settle down after Easter; every year I realize things actually settle down--just a little--around the Fourth of July.

But I didn't want to let today's session of the USCCB's General Assembly go unmentioned. I enjoyed reading JD Flynn's Twitter updates today as he kept Catholics on Twitter informed of the proceedings. I think there were a few moments of encouraging discussion. But overall, I have to admit that my impression is that nothing much has changed, and nothing much will change in regard to the ongoing crisis in the Church due to the second wave of the Scandal.

The bishops--or many of them, anyway--appear to think that things are much better than they used to be, which is what many of them say every year anyway. There's the usual discussions about measures taken and measures still needing to be taken. Their Excellencies are now discussing what should happen when a bishop is accused of sexual abuse or misconduct, something that ought to have been discussed nearly two decades ago. But if anybody's talking about the elephant in the room, the question of what should be done when the bishop is not accused of sexual abuse or misconduct but of aiding, abetting, concealing, and denying such abuse or misconduct following credible allegations of such abuse or misconduct against one of his diocese's priests--well, I've missed that conversation. And if anybody has raised the question of what to do when a bishop hands out large cash gifts to his brother bishops in the midst of serious allegations against that bishop--well, maybe they'll get to that topic another day.

I mean, it's nice that the USCCB's own Twitter feed has taken on a cheeky, felt-banner-bashing persona; it makes for an interesting change. When it comes to more substantial changes, however, the USCCB appears to be conducting business as usual. Maybe I'm just cynical or burned out, but I would be agreeably surprised to see anything good come from this conference.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Not a real post tonight

After writing such long posts on the topic of modesty earlier in the week, it's time for a short post today.

I watched a hockey game tonight. It was an exciting contest displaying much skill and fortitude.

That is all. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Gentlemen, we women are tired (a modesty post)

I thought I was done talking about modesty, but it turns out that I still have a couple of things left to say.

The priest whose Twitter post started all of this (a post I read, but which got out of hand very rapidly in terms of the comments) has deactivated his Twitter. This is sad, even though I think he was both wrong and imprudent to post what he did. I don't like mobs, and Twitter mobs are the worst. While we should all be careful not to say stupid things online, I don't think the punishment of hounding people off of the platform is at all called-for in the vast majority of situations.

Sadly, some of this priest's defenders are already casting him as a martyr for truth, saying that the reason he was attacked was because the "Modernist Catholics" love to be immodest in their clothing and will not brook being called out on it. Um, no. One person even posted the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover and said something sarcastic about this being okay attire for a woman in the "Novus Ordo" (by which, of course, they mean what is today called the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite). Rest assured, nervous gentlemen, that even in the O.F. we don't have women walking into Mass in barely-there swimsuits, regardless of how much your diseased imaginations might picture it happening.

This brings me to one of the two things I want to say. Pretty much everyone I know agrees that some clothing items are actually immodest if worn in public (Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition swimsuits, Victoria's Secret lingerie, Halloween costumes with the word "sexy" in front of them, etc.). I gave examples in my first post this week of what an immodest top and an immodest dress look like. Nobody I know of thinks that "anything goes" is the rule when dressing for Mass.

Moreover, if anything, people are dressing too sloppily for Mass, not donning a sleeveless dress with wide straps that Jackie Kennedy might have worn, inadvertently (or wantonly) revealing shoulders. If we want to make the case that people ought to dress up a bit for church (which is very different from saying that women are showing up dressed immodestly all over the place) then let's make that case, and not clutter it up by blaming women again for random instances of male lust.

The second thing I want to say is this: Gentlemen, we women are tired. The reason you're seeing such a reaction to the modesty posts is not because women hate modesty and want to dress like harlots at Mass; the reason you're seeing such a reaction is because women are so tired of the male assumption that every single clothing shop near every single woman is just filled with things Grace Kelly or Jackie Kennedy would have been happy to wear, and it's only feminism that makes women bypass the lovely dresses, decent skirts, and charming blouses in order to grab all the sleeveless tops and (gasp) slacks.

Some of you gentlemen have wives who are of an average height and weight and who can wear just anything off the rack and they also have plenty of money to spend on clothes, and yet you have no idea how much even these much-to-be-envied women must struggle to find Something to Wear. Those of us who are petite, tall, plump, skinny, well-endowed, flat-chested, or any other variation from the norm will start shopping approximately six months in advance of any kind of special occasion in the hopes of finding a single suitable outfit, and we will still end up down to the wire, frantically ransacking the outlet mall because we learned at the last minute that the one slightly-less-horrible dress we found is the exact same color the mother-of-the-bride is wearing. And you want us to engage on this same level of extreme shopping for every Sunday outfit we own? (You can stop right there before you suggest a woman can get by with one or two Sunday dresses, just like you get by with one or two suits. Dresses for women in this day and age are not made to last. Many of them must be dry-cleaned after each wearing. Fabrics on sale in the spring will be freezing in the winter; fabrics on sale in the winter will produce heat exhaustion in the church parking lot in summer. Suits are easy.)

The fact is simple: women are not trying to get away with immodesty. We want to look decent not just in church but everywhere. We aren't trying to cause men to lust, though ultimately it's more their responsibility to control their lust than ours. All we want is to get dressed, in normal, readily-available, 21st century clothing.

Picture this: what if men were told that slacks on men were immodest? What if the fact that slacks show off your cabooses (among other things) made people start to murmur? What if somebody interpreted a first-century Christian saint's writings on modesty to mean that men must always and everywhere don robes like monks wear? What if the hoods on a monk's robe were considered especially important in that they shadow the face (women are turned on by handsome faces!) and make custody of the eyes easier? What if women chided those of you who refused to wear robes as being totally careless of your sisters' struggles to remain virtuous? What if priests posted on Twitter about how they had to give monastic robes to men who showed up in scandalous trousers? How long do you think you'd put up with that kind of mindset and mentality?

We've been living with that attitude our whole lives, and we're sick of it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Male lust is a male problem

As I said in yesterday's post, we tend to take for granted the idea that in order to preserve men from the sin of lust, women must adopt an arbitrary standard of dress that sometimes veers back to the 19th century in terms of what is considered appropriate for a woman to wear. We also tend to conflate the appropriateness of an item of dress for the modesty of that item. One blogger points to the dress code at Vatican museums, which forbids sleeveless tops, shorts, mini-skirts, and...hats. Okay, but hats are a very traditional choice for a woman to wear to Mass, and nobody I know of suggests that women should be barred from wearing hats to church in the name of modesty.

If you want to argue until the bovine creatures return to their place of domicile that sleeveless tops or dresses are not appropriate for Mass, you may proceed! I have a lot of sympathy for the ideas of certain dress codes and think it's a pity we've abandoned so many of them, even though my personal preference is for comfortable garments and things that do not require dry-cleaning. So long as you're holding everyone to the same standards of appropriateness and leading by quiet example instead of by handing out extra clothing to those who may have shown up unprepared for your standards there is really no issue.

But the minute you say "Sleeveless tops must not be worn to Mass because they are immodest, because they inflame men to sin, because they create lust in the hearts of ordinary men who unwittingly see them by displaying the wanton shoulders of the hussies who wear them..." you are saying that sleeveless tops are not merely inappropriate for Mass, but so much an occasion of sin for ordinary men that they must never be worn anywhere in public, at any time, for any reason. That's what "immodest" means--it doesn't just mean "inappropriate for this particular occasion."

If you Google "traditional Catholic modesty," (though I don't recommend it) you will find lots of articles, blogs, etc. where people are saying exactly this sort of thing. That sleeveless tops are always and everywhere sinfully immodest. Ditto for shorts, leggings, skirts that don't hit at least mid-calf (and there's quite a war out there between the mid-calf skirt crowd and the ankle-length skirt crowd), and slacks of any kind or description. One blog I saw said there was no such thing as a modest swimsuit and that after all our Catholic ancestors survived for 1900 years without women falling into the trap of thinking swimming was anything other than a male pastime (strongly hinting that swimming itself is immodest and unsuitable for women). This is where you end up when you start out by saying that clothing which is perfectly ordinary in your own culture is somehow immodest.

Look: I get it. Our culture also includes people like Miley Cyrus and other bad examples, people who can turn jeans and a t-shirt into a skin-tight, low-cut, "sexy" occasion of sin. But most of us aren't even close to going for that kind of a look when we don a t-shirt and jeans, or a sleeveless top, or a knee-length skirt or skort or shorts. Those of us here in Texas are trying not to succumb to the heat, most of the time. We aren't trying to inflame anybody to anything.

But this attitude persists that women have an extra-special duty and obligation to scrutinize our daily wardrobe selections and ask ourselves anxiously, "Is a man going to lust after me if I wear this?" and that this, far from being an anxiety-inducing road to self-hatred, is the bare minimum of charity women must have for the opposite sex. I call balderdash on that.

Male lust is a MALE problem. Yes, men are biologically wired to find women attractive, and tend to be more visual in what attracts them. Covering the most private parts of the body--the "bosom/belly/buttocks" rule--is common sense in the majority of situations (though I maintain, and will do so forever, that breastfeeding a hungry infant is more important than worrying that no skin is even momentarily visible). But the message we send to women and girls--especially to girls--again and again is that being female, having a female body, and trying to dress that female body in clothing that is readily available in the 21st century is fraught with moral peril and places you at the risk of becoming not a person, but a near occasion of sin.

Because no matter what you do, you will find someone, somewhere, who will criticize you for it. Some girls get told they shouldn't wear t-shirts. Others get told they shouldn't wear blouses. Still others are told that turtlenecks are a problem--too form-fitting! If a girl has a bust size larger than a B-cup, there is bound to be someone (usually another girl!) waiting to tell her that her female curves must be hidden lest she cause her brothers to stumble.

The idea here is that women must recognize that their bodies are temptations, and that they sin against modesty and charity if they wear some rather ordinary piece of clothing which for some reason some man thinks makes them look sexy, and then commits sins of lust in his mind. She bears the blame for his sin. In some "purity culture" churches, the man is absolved from any responsibility because she "made" him think those things.

I don't have to spell out how dangerous and misogynistic that way of thinking is, do it?

But let's just pretend for a moment that no man ever commits any sins of lust when surrounded only by modestly-dressed women. If that were true, then the following women would never experience rape, sexual assault, or any similar violation:

  • habited Catholic nuns
  • Orthodox Jewish women who wear traditional dress
  • Muslim women who wear traditional dress
  • Amish women
and others who wear full covering.

Unfortunately, the reality is that in some of these groups the rates of sexual assault and rape is higher than it is in the general population. It's almost as though teaching women and young girls that preventing male lust is their responsibility has a tendency to backfire, and to make men even more inclined to view women as objects to be used to satisfy their own sinful and lustful desires. 

It's high time that women started to tell men, "We understand that some clothing items are problematic for you because you are struggling with lustful thoughts. But while we're willing to agree that there are a few things no decent woman ought to wear in public, we are not willing to toss aside normal, ordinary garments that are neither intended to produce, nor do produce, lustful thoughts in spiritually mature men simply because a few of you have an extreme version of this problem. In charity, we ask you to examine your own objectification of women, your porn habits, your ability to see titillation where no such thing was intended, and your callous disregard for your own mother and sisters which exists every time you see some total stranger as a sex object. We remind you of the value of frequent Confession and exhort you to seek the most pure and Immaculate Heart of Mary as your refuge against the kind of thoughts that arise when you see a middle-aged female shoulder. We sincerely weep with you over your loss of purity that has led you to this point, and are willing to do what is reasonable to help you conquer your demons of impurity; however, this does not include adopting a style of dress that is antiquated, not readily available, impractical, and will do you little good when you go out into the wider culture, where temptations that include really deliberate immodesty may abound."

Because male lust is a male problem, and only men can solve it.

Monday, June 3, 2019

But does it fall on our shoulders?

Just in time for me to make good on my pledge to start blogging more often (a pledge I made to get myself writing regularly again, not out of any delusions about readership and whatnot), Catholic Twitter has erupted into that perennial debate: are women who wear sleeveless tops or dresses to Mass brazen hussies guilty of inflaming the hearts of all the men who behold them with uncontrollable lust that plunges the hapless males into mortal sin, or are they merely clueless about the reality that a woman's shoulders are the sexiest part of her body and should be covered or hidden at all times?

I'm exaggerating just a tad. There were also plenty of women rolling their eyes, and plenty of men chuckling at the idea that the shoulder is somehow a Jezebelian tool of lust. But the fact that we're still having this conversation at all in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and nineteen kind of underscores the notion that some men still have really odd hangups about women's bodies and appearances.

I've written about the topic of modesty so many times over my years as a Catholic blogger both here and on my old blog that I will probably end up repeating myself somewhat. A quick rehash: yes, modesty in dress is a thing. It's a thing that applies to both men and women, and it essentially means: don't wear anything shocking that reveals what should be concealed. A man in Speedos (tm) at Mass is a no-no. A woman in a red carpet cutout gown is also a no-no (she shouldn't wear it on the red carpet, either, frankly). But to take the position that a woman's shoulders--her shoulders!--are something that must be concealed and that it is therefore immodest to reveal them is to live in a kind of fantasy-land where it is still the late 1800s and the ankle and the elbow are equally inflaming of male passions.

That reflection takes us someplace the Rad-Trad man would not like us to go: it takes us to the reality that while some things will always be immodest (public nudity of anybody older than the diaper/toilet training age, for instance), most standards of what does or does not constitute immodest dress fluctuate at different times and in different places and cultures. Some cultures have strict rules about who can wear what, and when certain things should be worn, while other cultures have few such standards.

And in 21st century America we are in one of those standards free-fall moments that happens from time to time. Things will settle out eventually, but the truth is that within a fairly rapid amount of time--a mere handful of decades, so to speak--we went from having common standards of dress to having very few such standards. There are men who own and wear suits to work, and men who don't own a suit and never wear one. There are women who have closets full of dresses ranging from casual everyday wear to church dresses to formal gowns, and women who haven't worn a dress since their own wedding.  As a nation, our dress standards have been trending toward the casual for a long time now, and we've reached a point where it is no longer an automatic insult or cultural faux pas to fail to dress up for events in one's ordinary life. Normal, comfortable, washable, casual clothing has become the default option--and as much as some decry the lost formality of past ages, there's nothing wrong with rethinking the idea that every person must own, in effect, two complete wardrobes, one for every day wear and one for church, business, and formal interactions. At the very least, trending toward simplicity in dress is something that has a certain solidarity with the Gospel values of detachment and a less material outlook on life.

But every time women adopt one of those more casual garments as perfectly acceptable Sunday attire, we seem to have the same fight about it. Slacks were declared immodest. Skirts that didn't go all the way to the ankle (or at least the required holy seven inches below the knee) were declared immodest. Short-sleeved tops that displayed wanton elbows were declared immodest. Shirts cut low enough to show the collarbone instead of being buttoned to just below the chin were declared immodest. Sandals and open-cut shoes were declared immodest. Leggings, even when worn with a short dress or a tunic that reached to the knee, were declared immodest (though funnily enough a woman could wear a knee-length full-skirt dress with sheer stockings, a la Grace Kelly, and be praised for her modesty, though she was showing a great deal more skin). And now it's time to have the same fight about sleeveless tops or dresses, because a priest on Twitter posted that a brother priest "was forced" to make a woman at Mass cover her scandalous shoulders.

As I've said before, there are sleeveless tops and sleeveless tops, so to speak. Below I will post exactly four links, two that will go to a perfectly modest sleeveless top and dress, and two that will go to immodest ones. Men are warned not to click on the second set of links, especially if the sight of immodest garments on fashion models is an occasion of sin for you:

Modest sleeveless top

Modest sleeveless dress

Immodest sleeveless top

Immodest sleeveless dress

As you can see, there's a difference, and it's not just in how the clothes are presented. There's a difference in the clothes themselves. The first two links show ordinary garments that any woman might own and wear. The second set...well, let's be charitable and suppose that people who wear that sort of thing honestly don't know any better and haven't been taught. But all four items are sleeveless, and it's problematic when Catholic men, especially Catholic priests, insist that all four are equally inappropriate to wear to church.

There was a time when women only wore sleeveless items on the most casual of occasions: to the beach, to picnics or barbecues, to participate in sports, and so on. That time was already beginning to come to an end when I was a child in the 1970s, however. As sleeveless tops and dresses began to be accepted in more and more settings, the idea that a woman wasn't really "dressed up" unless her shoulders were invisible began to disappear--and ironically enough, the most formal of dressed-up occasions often involved dresses that had no sleeves, and sometimes no straps, either.

Many Catholics voice the opinion that we've become too casual about how we dress for Mass. It is true that we are dressing more casually for Mass than our ancestors did--but we're also dressing more casually for business, for outings, for restaurant meals, and for many occasions where our ancestors would don suit and tie or "nice dress" without a second thought. You don't have to like this trend, but you do have to acknowledge it, and to accept that it is entirely possible that we dress more casually for Mass because many of us no longer own or maintain the kind of wardrobe that is needed to dress formally on a weekly basis, not out of malice or disrespect for the Eucharist or for any similar reason.

Still, when people talk about how men dress at Mass, they tend to decry the casual look and the general sloppiness many men present. But when the conversation turns to women's dress, the imputation that women are being immodest by buying and wearing perfectly normal articles of clothing is nearly always raised. Women are expected to adopt nineteenth century dress codes because it is taken for granted that the burden of preserving men from unwanted lustful thoughts falls solely upon our shoulders. But does it? I have a thing or two to say about that...tomorrow.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

I miss blogging

The other day when I was reading some news item or other, the thought struck me that I really miss blogging.

I get into that mood from time to time, even though blogs aren't really much of anything anymore. But I'm a person who thinks in paragraphs, not sound bites or pictures, and I used to enjoy this blog as a place to "think out loud," whether or not anybody was reading it.

I need to be more disciplined in my writing anyway.

So, blogging will be resuming in June, and I'm going to try to write on a daily basis again, even if it's a short bit of nonsense. Even if nobody else needs this, I do.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Do you hear the people sing?

I had not intended to blog this month, and especially not during Holy Week. April is one of my three major fiction writing months of the year, and Holy Week is not usually a period teeming with lots of spare time. I'm already behind schedule in my Camp NaNoWriMo project for this month, too; it's not awful, but I'm going to need to work very hard if I want to finish the manuscript by April 30.

But yesterday's events, the dramatic and tragic fire at Notre Dame in Paris and the ultimately hopeful news that so much was spared (the relics, some of the art, the irreplaceable rose windows) have made me think about a lot of things, and if I don't write them down I will just keep thinking in circles.

One of the most beautiful and profound images so many of us saw of the events unfolding yesterday were the crowds of people who gathered not only to pray, but to sing--that is, to pray in song, to sing prayers to Our Lady as Notre Dame burned. They were there not merely to pray for a building, but for their shared Catholic faith and heritage as expressed in so many centuries of Masses and holy celebrations in that sacred place. Beauty matters, and sacred art and architecture does far more than provide a pretty backdrop to our acts of worship. When it is done properly, when it is venerable with age and rich with the legacy of the faith of our fathers, it acts as a doorway that invites us into worship, and calls us to recognize that our actions and prayers at Mass transcend time and space, and make us one with the Church throughout the ages.

The same thing is true of music. I listened to the people of Paris singing together, singing hymns they all recognized and had heard from infancy, even if not every person there was devout or regular in the practice of worship. They lifted their voices together in song because they knew the song (even if perhaps a few of them had to turn to the Internet for the words of some of the verses).

I have been involved in my parish choir for over a decade. We have built up a repertoire of familiar hymns and songs, and we have a penchant for the traditional and the seasonally appropriate. When I attend Mass at other parishes, though, I realize that this isn't true for many other places. The vast array of hymnbooks, especially the disposable ones from the Oregon Catholic Press, pretty much ensures that Catholics from one parish will feel out of place at another, and few hymns are anything like universal (and that's before we talk about the present state of Spanish-language hymnals or hymnals in other languages spoken in dioceses in America).

No one who ever walked into Notre Dame de Paris had to wonder if he or she was standing in a Catholic Church. The art, the architecture, the stained glass, the relics, the altars, the indications of the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, all of these things were visible reminders of the Catholic faith--and not mere reminders, but a Catechism in glass and stone. As the smoke clears today the determination to restore and rebuild is heard throughout the world, and the world indicates its desire to help; there is a recognition that this is a place of transcendent beauty that must survive, and even those who don't share our faith respect the presence of Our Lady in the midst of Paris as a presence that must be preserved.

Similarly, no one who hears a song to Our Lady being sung in the streets will wonder for long what the people are singing. Nobody would gather in the streets to sing "All Are Welcome," just as no one would expect the international community to help rebuild an architecturally banal and liturgically tepid church. The clergy and experts who for nearly fifty years who have tried to cheat Catholics out of our birthrights should view these scenes and tremble--and I write this as someone who has no problem whatsoever with Mass in the Ordinary Form, but every problem with the tendency to reduce the Mass in the Ordinary Form to a pale shadow of its intended glory for the sake of the transient hubris of the wreckovators who cannot understand beauty, and try to remove it at every opportunity.

Do you hear the people sing, you who for decades have insisted that "Hi, I'm Father Bill!" is the right way to begin Mass, you who strip Latin and traditional hymns from even the smallest corner of the hymnal, you who would like your churches to look like unadorned conference halls and your liturgies to resemble motivational speeches? The people of Paris were not singing for you and for your agenda. They sang for Notre Dame in all her glory, because she is beautiful and transcendent, and because she is true. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Signing off for a while

I'm grateful to have a handful of loyal readers who don't really care that blogs are "over." I value your time and I want to continue this blog as long as I can.

At the same time, I'm about to start writing the fifth and final book in The Adventures of Ordinary Sam series, and I know from past experience that the best way for me to write my children's books is to write the entire first draft during one of the three months of NaNoWriMo. April's Camp NaNoWriMo has seen a new "Sam" book each year for the past four years, and after this year I'll need a new set of books to write each April.

In order to concentrate on my upcoming fiction project, then, I've decided to take a break from this blog for the time being. If you're at all interested in my fiction writing, I invite you to follow my writing blog, Erin Manning Writes, which I will update during the month of April.

See you back here in May!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


It's Lent, which is a good time to be open about one's spiritual faults and failings, so here's one of mine: I'm getting to be awfully cynical in my advancing age.

Take, for instance, the latest Great Papal Outrage known as Ring-gate, in which Pope Francis is caught on video capriciously refusing to let pilgrims kiss the papal ring. One side immediately rushes into attack mode, talking about how this is just more proof that Pope Francis is a terrible selfish person, probably an anti-pope, and most certainly the sort who has humility contests every time he has to get on an elevator or something; the other side rushes to defense, pointing out that sometimes the pope is okay with the ring-kissing, and anyway nobody's required to kiss the papal ring, and nobody cares about this sort of thing except anti-mercy E.F. types.

And I start to feel the old cynicism rising, the sort that says, "Yes, but if Pope Benedict XVI for some reason didn't want people kissing the ring, the exact same people attacking Francis would be telling us that there's some ancient text that when read through a window in the Sistine Chapel spells out in perfect Latin the exact circumstances under which a pope may forbid ring-kissing, while the people defending Francis would be assuring us that Benedict's refusals were proof of his elitism and subtle misogyny." It really is a matter of whose ox is being gored.

Or, for another example, take the Jussie Smollett case, which has had a most surprising twist--surprising, that is, if you're not at all familiar with Chicago and its environs. Did anyone really expect a celebrity to be punished in the way an ordinary person would be for faking a hate crime? In Chicago, of all places? I can assure you that only a straight white Christian Republican male celebrity would be in any danger of any such thing happening, and even then the most important factor would not be his race or religion or voting preferences or even his sexual orientation, but the level of celebrity status and money he actually had, and how willing his various managers and handlers might be to, um, "grant access," by which I mean access to some of the celebrities' good friends, the ones whose pictures he carries around in his wallet.

At least my cynicism spares me from some of life's disappointments--I am not foolish enough to suppose that anybody on either side of the political aisle, let alone the ladies and gentlemen of the Press--will have learned anything at all from the Mueller Report, so I will not be disappointed when this turns out to be the case.