Recently in Marriage & Family Category

[UPDATE: I have updated part 6 below for a second time. My initial understanding of the time-frame for RC promises now appears to have been incorrect. There may also be other updates as I am now receiving more information from LC sources. - Pete]

With the Holy See having announced an apostolic visitation of the Legion of Christ, a modest discussion is taking place in the canon law world over a number of canonical and pastoral issues relating to the Legion and its lay affiliate Regnum Christi (LC/RC). I've formed my own reflections, some of which I share below.

Before I begin, there are three things I feel the LC must do to restore credibility and regain the trust of orthodox Catholics outside the movement (and many on the inside) who are both angered and hurt by this crisis. That is, besides accept and implement what reforms the apostolic visitors may reccomend.

The first is a clear and sincere apology to Fr. Maciel's alleged victims. The second is to speak the truth plainly about the current situation. And the third is to stop playing hardball with its critics.

In the recent past the LC/RC has sued ReGAIN, as well as that involving the Sellors, who founded the Familia programme before falling out with RC (click here). Now there are reports, from the same sources that helped convince the CDF to reopen the investigation against Fr. Maciel that led to his 2006 invitation to retire, of a Legion priest mentioning a lawsuit against a parent of a Legion seminarian who showed up at a Legion apostolate and persuaded his son to come home with him.

While I haven't heard the Legion's side of the story - I've been unable to get a contact number for Legion spokesman Jim Fair [Update: a reader emailed me his number late Monday evening] - my communication with sources close to the family tell me the son came voluntarily, albeit somewhat grudgingly. So I haven't seen any evidence of kidnapping.

You can read more about the incident here. If one believes the father acted criminally, then call the police and press criminal charges. Otherwise, if what was allegedly said by the LC priest is true, then parents may think twice before allowing their sons to go off to Legion seminaries in the future.

Besides, with the Legion currently asking everyone's patience and understanding, the alleged content of the priest's phone call reminds me an awful lot of what Christ warned against in Matthew 18:28-34. Specifically, "I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?"

On to my other points:

1 - How does a diocese find out what LC/RC apostolates are taking place within their diocesan boundaries?

I'm far from being an expert on this point, but my understanding is that many RC apostolates in North America are incorporated under the Mission Network. A list of their apostolates can be found by clicking here.

Personally, I see a lot of good ideas there being implemented by a lot of good laity who are simply trying to carry out lay apostolate in fidelity to the Church. No matter what happens, I hope the RC can be salvaged, especially since most RC with whom I have corresponded are very open to reform. What I think would be helpful is if bishops and pastors provided stronger oversight over RC, or at least closer collaboration. In fact, this crisis has really taught me to respect the role of the diocesan bishop in the life of Church ministry, as both a successor to the Apostles and as the legitimate hierarchical authority within his diocese.

2 - Additionally, Archbishop O'Brien in Baltimore has been a model for demanding transparency from the LC/RC in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He has also prohibited LC/RC from giving spiritual direction to minors in the Archdiocese. I believe this to be a wise and prudent decision on his part, and think that other dioceses should take a good look at the Archbishop's reasons for doing so.

3 - Along the same lines (and this comes more from being a pro-family journalist than a canon lawyer) the LC operates minor seminary-type boarding schools for boys as young as twelve. Some of my friends attended these schools during their teens. I hardly saw my them after they went off to these schools.

Several parents have told me the boys are limited to approximately two weeks during the summer, and a short Christmas and Easter break. The rest of the time is spent at the minor seminary, where contact with parents is extremely limited, and reportedly monitored.

I really question how healthy it is in today's society and culture to separate young people from their families, especially in light of Pope John Paul the Great's Familiaris Consortio. I know many older churchmen who I admire, including the current pope, attended minor seminaries of youth. But today is a different age. And besides, as far as we know, Our Lord received his religious education from the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph.

In today's society, where our greatest ministerial need is to the family and family structure. So shouldn't we be encouraging as much formation in the family as possible?

As a pro-family journalist, God has blessed me with the opportunity to interview many great bishops, priests and religious about their vocation. With one exception, all have stressed how essential their family was to fostering their vocation, as well as how their experience with family life while growing up greatly aided them in pastoral ministry within today's context.

Additionally, this raises another pastoral concern that I keep hearing about from many RC parents. They discern the need to take some time away from the movement while the Holy See sorts things out, but are not sure how to pull their sons (who they seldom see anymore) from the Legion's minor seminary-type schools. This further complicates the pastoral process of spiritual healing, in my opinion.

4 - There has been a lot of speculation and debate - among canonists, pastors and laypeople - about the content of LC/RC constitutions. I cannot comment authoritatively because I have been unable to obtain a copy from LC/RC sources, despite multiple requests in the past. However, the following on wiki-leaks purports to be sections of their contents.

To the best of my recollection they match those that were previously available from the ReGAIN Network (a loose association of concerned former LC/RC members) prior to the 2007 or 2008 legal settlement that forced ReGAIN to remove LC constitutions from their website. (ReGAIN ran out of money and could no longer afford the legal fees).

As an interesting side note, my understanding is that the LC did not contest their content, but rather the Legion reportedly argued theft of intellectual property. (See WaPo write-up here).

5 - As far as leaving Regnum Christi, I understand that RC members make private promises (or vows, depending upon who you talk to in the movement) when they join. These can be dispensed by the local ordinary (diocesan Bishop, vicar general, or episcopal vicar) in accordance with canon 1196. The process in most dioceses is pretty simple. Simply approach your parish priest or bishop, explain the situation, and request a dispensation from the promises or vows. Many bishops and priests are concerned with what's happening, and will gladly assist you. It's a pretty simple process in most dioceses.

A - For purely pastoral reasons, I suggest you meet with your pastor (or if possible the local ordinary) after the dispensation is granted, should you decide God is calling you to pursue one. I feel that pastoral followup is important because several former LC allege (and have told me, both publicly and personally) that the expression "Lost vocation, sure damnation" was repeated to them in the past.

Many who leave the movement purport to continue struggling with this thought after their departure, some for years. I'm not sure how credible this claim is - except to say the individuals who told me this also proved credible in other allegations they made against the Legion - nor am I sure whether it carried over to the RC. However, if this was shared with you or you personally struggle with this issue, bring it to your pastor or local Ordinary.

B - Whether one discerns God is calling him/her to stay and reform the movement from within, or to leave, I have strongly suggested to every RC member seeking my advice that he or she write the diocesan bishop, expressing both the positives and negatives. This goes back to what I believe to be one of the fundamental problems of the movement, namely, that in many dioceses the LC/RC appear to have limited contact with diocesan authorities.

6 - Along these lines I hope the Apostolic Visitors won't be limited to the LC, but that they will also be given the mandate to visit and make recommendations about the LC. My biggest concern is the apparent lack of stability of Third Degree members. If I understand correctly, they make a commitment to the movement that are renewable every two years. (Again, making their constitutions available would help clarify discrepancies that have arisen over this point.) This strikes me as the ecclesiastical equivalent of living together without the benefit of marriage (minus the sin of fornication, of course!).

[Update 2: I have deleted a section here that noted contradictory claims over whether the commitment to RC Third Degree was one or two years, vows or promises, after coming across the following article on the RC website. As of April 7, 2009 at 1:20 p.m. Eastern, it appears to be promises renewable every two years. That being said, the problem here, in my opinion, is not whether they are vows or promises, for one year or two, but whether RC Third Degree receive adequate health care coverage and other benefits while dedicating themselves to full-time RC apostolate.]

With all the caveats that come when one hears from former members who don't recall the most positive of experiences, several former Third Degree RC members allege that they were without health insurance and other basic benefits during their time as Third Degree, having been told to trust God. Some also claim to have been suddenly sent home when they developed medical issues.

Again, I haven't heard the LC/RC side of the story, but there are enough former members making this claim publicly that it's being added to the allegations swirling about the Legion. Thus bishops and parents of potential Third Degree members may want to ask questions, and the RC may want to take a proactive approach, to ensure that the LC/RC is meeting the Church's social justice obligations.

7 - I have heard similar complaints (again without getting the LC/RC side of the story) from former LC about LC seminarians, also called brothers. Additionally, I have heard - both from LC and former LC sources - that their seminarians are not given a specific time frame for ordination, but that it just kinda happens when the LC feel a brother is ready. If true, I am reminded of Fr. Frank Morrisey's classes on religious law. Fr. Morrisey is one of the Church's foremost experts in this area and he always stressed the importance of having a specific time-frame (albeit with some flexibility) toward ordination or permanent incorporation into an institute of consecrated life. This is another area that I hope the apostolic visitors will look at.

8 - For some reason, more than any other institute, comparisons to Jesuits or Opus Dei keep popping up when discussing the LC/RC. Other people who interact with the movement report the same phenomena.

With apologies to Jesuit and Opus Dei readers, I tend to hear variations of: "I thought RC was just like Opus Dei, but more active and connected to a priestly apostolate," or "I thought the Legion was the new Jesuits, practicing obedience the way the Jesuits use to."

On the surface, there appears to be some similarities. This in itself is not problematical in that an institute's charism belongs to the Church, and so institutes throughout the Church's history have borrowed from institutes that came before. Thus as a Catholic journalist much wiser than me noted, the problem does not appear to be what LC/RC borrowed from the Jesuits and Opus Dei, but rather what they may have forgotten to borrow.

With regards to the Opus Dei comparison, I believe the spiritualities are quite different. For RC members who are curious why, I recommend reading St. Josemarie Escriva's The Way and/or Frances Fernadez's In Conversations with God to gain a better understanding in Opus Dei spirituality. I assume RC individuals raising these questions are already familiar with RC spirituality.

As far as the Jesuit comparison, Nathan O'Halloran, a Jesuit scholastic and Franciscan University of Steubenville alumni, who prior to entering the Jesuits was encouraged to consider the Legion as an alternative, has blogged an excellent reflection. In it he contrasts the Jesuit understanding of obedience with what he believes to be the Legion practice of obedience. Although I found a few of his comments to be a tad polemical, he offers some excellent insights on how Jesuit obedience is sensitive to a person's conscience when asking for religious obedience. You can read the article here.

9 - All of us, both inside and outside the RC/LC, need to take refuge in St. Joseph, patriarch and protector of the universal Church.

Giving credit where it's due

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Wow! I'd better take my temperature. Hugo Chavez, that anti-Catholic tinpot Commie dictator-wannabe, is saying something that sounds laudably sensible!

Apparently some Venezuelans have turned plastic surgeries into routine quinceañera gifts, an idea which is, on the CL scale of foolishness, "nuttier than a cheese log". Hugo agrees with me.

Good job, Hugo! I'm sending a whole "peace sign" your way today; usually, I'm only willing to give you half.

Mulieris Dignitatem, 20 years on

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Genevieve Kineke, the Catholic writer on authentic femininity, has news about a noteworthy anniversary for Catholic lay life:

It is our great joy to learn that the Pontifical Council for the Laity is encouraging the faithful worldwide to observe the 20th anniversary of Mulieris Dignitatem in the coming year. This Apostolic Letter (signed August 15th, 1988) was written by John Paul II to encourage women in their vocations, to highlight the essential feminine genius that they provide to the world, and to restore spiritual and physical motherhood to a culture that was quickly losing sight of the very meaning of nuptial love.

The Catholics of North America have been asked in particular to consider the document in light of one overarching theme: The Dignity of Women in a Technological and Consumeristic Society. To that effect, a website has been created in order to provide a comprehensive resource for those looking for ways to reflect on this timely anniversary. Dignityofwomen.com will point to books, speakers, study guides, and other initiatives that will bring the beauty of this document to as many people as possible, while constantly integrating suggestions, additions, and a bulletin board of events for women to access over the coming year.

Your help would be greatly appreciated in spreading the word, contacting the appropriate persons at the parish and diocesan level to alert them to this anniversary, fostering the publication of articles on the topic for various periodicals, encouraging local women to gather and discuss the theme in various settings, and to pray for the message in Mulieris Dignitatem to be studied and lived. This is also a marvelous opportunity to reach out to women of good will in other denominations and faiths, inviting them to prayerfully consider its themes and to see if common ground could be found. We invite qualified speakers to submit a request, and thereby add their names to the site. Similarly, relevant books and organizations are welcome to provide their links.

The timeliness of this observance cannot be overestimated. With debates raging over the nature of marriage, the sanctity of human life, the needs of children, and how the gifts of women are best promoted, what better way to form ourselves than by returning to the foundational questions of who women are and why the divine plan hinges on their cooperation.

Kindly help us share this good news with as many as you can and please pray with us for a fruitful observance. Any questions, suggestions, or submissions of resources should be sent to gskineke at feminine-genius.com. May Our Lady, in whose fidelity the entire world rejoices, bless this coming year and all our efforts to understand the richness of the feminine vocation.

[addendum: I will be discussing this with Teresa Tomeo Wednesday morning on EWTN Radio at 9:45 EST]

Happy Assumption Day!

I don't think it was valid

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Reuters cites the Roman Rota's annual report on annulment appeals:

Smoke got in his eyes. Too much of it, so he asked the Roman Catholic Church to annul his marriage when his wife refused to kick the nicotine habit.

That is just one of the, well, hazy cases that wound up before the
Vatican's Sacra Romana Rota, a top court which hears the most complicated of marriage annulment requests. [...]

In the case of the non-smoking husband, the health and physical fitness enthusiast asked his girlfriend to marry him on condition she would eventually quit smoking.

She said yes and after they tied the knot she tried her best but her addiction was stronger than her and the marriage went up in smoke -- at least from the husband's point of view.

A first diocesan marriage tribunal granted him the annulment but a second tribunal overturned that decision. They are still married in the eyes of the Church and the case is now before the Vatican's Rota.

Hey, Pete, what do you think of this one? Is it even possible for someone to validly vow marriage when his or her consent depends on a future condition?

Philosopher John Haldane:

One thing that I would point to as a looming crisis -- which is also an opportunity --is the disintegration of the family... In Italy by 2050, halfway through this century, 60 percent of Italians, almost two thirds of Italians, will have no brother, no sister, no first cousin, no uncle, no aunt. In 45 years time... people will just be isolated atoms with no familial relationships. When that happens it will be a disaster and a tragedy, and we should be preparing ourselves, trying to warn people, trying to say that “Look what you’ve chosen, your lifestyles, haven’t enriched your lives. It has impoverished your lives. You’re poorer than you were, not richer than you were, and the only richness that you cannot recover is the richness of deep personal relationships, of family, intergenerational relationships and so on...

TOB at the kitchen table

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Winston was a young cowboy who lived near The Kitchen Madonna, so she gave him some advice about finding a good woman.

It figures that such a capable lady would live in the Heart of Dixie.

If any of our readers happen to be family lawyers in the state of Arizona, would you take a moment to look into a family that needs help?

Nancy Sandrock is a practicing midwife and mother of twelve in Maricopa County. Seven of her children live at home, but they were removed by the Arizona CPS recently in connection with a complaint against her 18-year-old son.

Our blog neighbor Alicia the midwife (May archive) has visited the family in the past and knows the mother well, so she's been posting about the case.

What they need most now is legal help to stop apparently abusive state social workers from bulldozing their family.

Is gay sex necessary?

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The L.A. Times tells us that "Sex is essential, kids aren't," in an editorial by David P. Barash, professor of psychology at the University of Washington. It seems that the psychiatric profession, or at least this guy, embraces the idea of free will wholeheatedly:

And evolutionary biologists (including me) are asked, "How can this be?" If reproduction is perhaps the fundamental imperative of natural selection, of our genetic heritage, isn't it curious — indeed, counterintuitive — that people choose, and in such large numbers, to refrain from participating in life's most pressing event?

The answer is that intentional childlessness is indeed curious — but in no way surprising. It is also illuminating, because it sheds light on what is perhaps the most notable hallmark of the human species: the ability to say no — not just to a bad idea, an illegal order or a wayward pet but to our own genes.

When it comes to human behavior, there are actually very few genetic dictates. Our hearts insist on beating, our lungs breathing, our kidneys filtering and so forth, but these internal-organ functions are hardly "behavior" in a meaningful sense. As for more complex activities, evolution whispers within us. It does not shout orders.

People are inclined to eat when hungry, sleep when tired and have sex when aroused. But in most cases, we remain capable of declining, endowed as we are with that old bugaboo, free will....

Ignore (if you can) the smug, facile cheerleading for the culture of death, and the blithe disregard for what German depopulation will mean for the world's future. (Hint: no beer, no pork sausages.) Isn't this the perfect argument against those who argue that homosexual behavior is pre-programmed into certain people? Even if it is, David P. Barash, professor of psychology at the University of Washington, says that homosexuals don't have to obey it.

Taking this a bit further, we often hear that teenagers "are going to have sex anyway" so we might as well equip them with condoms and pills to protect against the consequences. But if David P. Barash is right -- and I think he may be -- young, unmarried people don't have to get it on! It's just an urge, and they can say "no" to it!

Wait...you say the professor might not agree? But those are the clear implications, aren't they?

Forming Character

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Columnist Betsy Hart is on C-SPAN's Book TV tonight:
"We live in a culture that doesn't want to admit that the greatest danger to a child is the foolishness of his own heart."

"...even when it comes to caring for kids, too many parents idolize their children — almost, it seems, wanting something FROM them in the form of their accomplishments and achievements. Or they are spending so much time pursuing the golden ring of achievement themselves so they can give their kids stuff (and be liked in return) that they don't give their kids what they really need: Time. And an effort to reach their child's heart — not just an effort to get the child to Harvard."

"My goal for my kids is Heaven, not Harvard. Now, if they get into Harvard on the way to Heaven..., that's marvelous. But that's not my goal."

K-Lo interviewed Betsy Hart in September. Here's her book.

Sad news

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My grandmother, Rose M. Schultz, passed away today. She was very old and infirm.

I remember fondly that she was a daily communicant, and had stacks of prayer cards she would use to guide her prayer each day. She raised a ruckus at her parish when all the saint statues were moved to the cry room in the back of the Church.

Rest in peace, Nana. We will miss you as we miss all those who have cared for us and helped guide us toward the truth.

Writer Elizabeth Sandoval has a good take on abstinence in the McPaper today.

The happy event of Dom and Melanie's wedding reminds me of Michael Medved's 1996 piece recommending that new couples look to a Jewish wedding tradition. The new couple doesn't take off for a fantasy honeymoon in isolation, but spends the first week being installed in their new home and being welcomed by the community they'll live in.

New blog: Feminine Genius

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Take a look at Feminine Genius, a weblog by three smart voices in the authentic Catholic women's movement, all of them writing from Rhode Island: Canticle magazine editor Genevieve Kineke, writer Abigail Tardiff, and life-issues columnist Dale O'Leary. Welcome to St. Blog's Parish, friends!

The above quotation is from St. Thomas, who in the Summa answers the question "Whether a betrothal is a promise of future marriage?". That's a most interesting phrase.

More to the point: in "Whether a betrothal can be dissolved?", Thomas discusses many of the questions people brought up in the previous post about the Georgia man who intends to marry his troubled bride-to-be, despite ample evidence that she might be nuts. Fornication, fidelity to a promise, etc., were all discussed by Thomas eight centuries ago. Why would anyone need another theologian?

Color her: single

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Now, I'm not an expert in church law as Pete is, but I get the feeling that this story shows a couple with obvious grounds for annulment even before the wedding. If you haven't heard about it (lucky you), some gal in Georgia panicked on her wedding day, skipped the ceremony, and fled across country, setting off a multi-state manhunt. When she turned up safe and sound in New Mexico, she pretended to have been kidnapped, but eventually came clean.

Speaking of coming clean, what's the bride's latest outfit: a beach towel? Her ensemble included a daring multi-colored burqa -- I mean, veil: just what a young lady needs to duck through the airport unnoticed.

Earth to groom: start practicing sentences that contain the word "re-evaluation".

Here are the details. The lesbians will likely win since BC is Canada's California, and those currently sitting on the Human Rights Tribunal are holdovers from the previous socialist government. We desperately need a revolution in this country.

I thought of this when I read Richard's link to the parody drug commercial: ever seen the ads for that birth control patch? They say it causes "blood clots, hemorrhaging, weight gain, stroke, etc." and they make no attempt to minimize it with a statement like "these effects were similar to other patients who received placebos," probably because nobody would want placebo birth control. ("I was in the placebo group? I'm not even married! I was just doing this for the two hundred bucks!")

Also, normal birth control pills contribute to osteoporosis and an increased risk of cancer. Ah, contraception: you gave us casual sex, rampant bastardy, and you strike at the very heart of marriage and family life. Is there anything you can't do?

All you La Leche League moms will be pleased to see that the word is getting out: a campaign urges mothers to breast-feed their newborns exclusively for the first six months.

Today's letter from the CDF, a meditation on man and woman, reminds us that in the Christian understanding of reality, God created beings with distinctions among them, and he created humanity in two kinds. These differences are not illusory and baneful, but good and based in the ontological character of the created beings.

WIthout distinctions between beings, there is no relationship between them. Certain Eastern religious ideas affirm only one Being, with no fundamental difference between God and us, and even all the things and persons that we experience. Christianity affirms the difference between the Creator and the creature as true and as the most fundamental distinction of all. This difference makes possible a relationship between an 'I' and a 'You', not merely an 'I' and itself.

CDF writes:

The first text (Gn 1:1-2:4) describes the creative power of the Word of God, which makes distinctions in the original chaos. Light and darkness appear, sea and dry land, day and night, grass and trees, fish and birds, each according to its kind. An ordered world is born out of differences, carrying with them also the promise of relationships. Here we see a sketch of the framework in which the creation of the human race takes place: God said Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' (Gn 1:26). And then: God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gn1:27). From the very beginning therefore, humanity is described as articulated in the male-female relationship. This is the humanity, sexually differentiated, which is explicitly declared the image of God.
The very first sin, as described in Genesis, involves the failure to acknowledge the difference between Creator and creature. This breach disrupts the relation of God and man, and has repercussions on all the other relationships: that between man and woman, and between man and other creatures.

Acknowledging the other as other, and as good, is absolutely necessary. Without it, there is no possibility of love.

"Bear one another's burdens."

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Or maybe just bear one another.

Is carrying your wife a bit of rustic chivalry? Man's exploitation of woman? Woman's exploitation of man? Maybe a symbol of mutual self-donation?

It gives medical malpractice attorneys new grounds for claiming damages. Isn't luv beautiful?

Julianne Wiley wants to engage the culture:

Massachusetts Marry-Pranksters! Time to get out there with your dogs and cats, in pairs and groups, and demand marriage licenses for all 3 or 4 or 5 of you!

I'm kidding, but I'm not kidding. Guys, get your 3 best poker friends --- ladies, get the gal next to you at Curves --- and demand a license! See if you can re-marry your spouse PLUS the Best Man! See if they refuse you?! If they do, threaten a lawsuit! Make sure you bring your digital camera.

At least get out there with a picket sign that says, "Kitty Catastrophe is My Best Friend! Why Don't You Recognize Our Love???"

~Make a little mischief~

I'd do it.

Parental Rights

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From the Associated Press

A woman has no parental rights over the twins she was raising with her lesbian partner - even though she is the childrens' genetic mother, an appeals court ruled.

and

The court said though the genetic mother was a loving, at-home parent, "functioning as a parent does not bestow legal status as a parent."

The Daddy Blog is getting good

The latest addition to stblogs.org is Fathers Know Best, a weblog for Catholic men talking about famliy life; and a bunch of great guys are posting. Get over and read Allen Browning's piece about his 19-year-old Sam.

Hats off to Mrs. MacFarlane

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Via Vociferous Yawpings: Bai MacFarlane is fighting the divorce in court, God bless her.

The story of how the couple met isn't on his web site CatholiCity any more, but Google's cache still has it.

It's hard to imagine these two very public Catholics being eligible for a declaration of nullity, and I presume Mrs. MacF. will make the case against that too if it comes up.

What the heck went wrong?

Back to the ConCon

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The so-called "compromise" proposal that would have forced Massachusetts voters to choose between full gay marriage or civil unions, with no option to refuse both -- is on the way out. House Speaker Tom Finneran has moved to separate the two issues and give voters a choice. Offering two amendments to the voters -- one to ban gay marriage and one to establish civil unions -- looks like a compromise package that pro-family legislators can legitimately support.

Family vs. Fraternal Organization

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Probably the main topic of conversation at last weekend's meeting of the Alhambra's international board of directors was How do we sign up younger members and keep them active?

Of course, being by far the youngest member of our board, many of the other gold tassles turned to me for some possible answers. One of the things I proposed is that the Alhambra shift from a Catholic fraternal organization to a Catholic family organization. De facto, this is how many of our younger caravans (local branches) in terms of membership already operate, and this is how I intend to operate in Ottawa. Basically, these younger caravans keep the monthly meetings short, and invite wives and children to attend as well. All their activities involve the entire family, rather than just the boys. I myself keep pointing to Pope John Paul II's Familiaris Consortio and all that the Holy Father has done to promote the family apostolate. In fact, long before he ascended to the Throne of St. Peter, Fr. Wojtyla was leading a family kayak trip when he first received news that he was to be consecrated a bishop.

Anyway, there seems to be some interest in exploring this idea a little more, especially since our younger caravans in terms of leadership are already operating as de facto family organizations. Nevertheless, there continues to be much divergence of opinion among 1) our WWII era membership who want to keep this exclusively an old boyz club, 2) our boomer membership who see this primarily as an equality issue and want to see women become full members, but are wishy-washy when it comes to families, and 3) our gen-x membership who are basically pushing for full family membership. In case there is any doubt, I fall into the third category.

What I am interested in finding out, therefore, is whether you would be more likely to join and become active in a Catholic fraternal organization that operates as an all boys club, or whether you find a Catholic family organization that gets the entire family active within our Catholic apostolate more appealing? Please use either the comments box or private email to share your answer, and it would also be helpful if you shared your age and marital status. Thanks...

Says the Globe poll: opposition to "gay marriage" has risen from 43% to 53% since November; from 47% to 66% among Catholics.

Giving Credit Where It's Due Dept.

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Once again the news confirms that nobody's wrong all the time, or in the words of the aphorism, "even a stopped clock is right twice a day."

Thanks to Rep. Barney Frank who has come out ... in opposition to San Francisco's illegal same-sex marriages, because, well, they're illegal. And dittos to gay-paper editor Fred Kuhr, who argued the same point on O'Reilly's show Friday evening.

Feet to the fire

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Marc Zappala's weblog Transcendence is hardly out of the box, and already he's laid into the following subjects with acute attention and a few acerbic poems:

  • pro-aborts who are at some level anti-choice
  • people who still regard Bill Clinton as an innocent scapegoat
  • why Margaret Cho is so bitter
  • the gay lobby's reflexive support for abortion
  • W.'s failure to understand and pursue American interests
  • his own temptations.
Welcome to the parish, Marc.

Cohabitation and Marriage

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A December article from New Scientist claims that cohabitation before marriage is good for men's health. I didn't read all of the argument because of the logical flaw in the first paragraph:

Cohabiting is better for men's mental health, but marriage is better for women's happiness, suggests a new study.

Don't these weirdos know that whatever isn't good for a woman's happiness will ultimately manifest itself in her man's mental health???

"Ghaos" in Massachusetts?

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So far on day one of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention (a joint session of the legislature), the ConCon has rejected two proposed amendments.

By 94-104, they rejected a text from the Senate Dem and Rep (!) leaders that would ban same-sex "marriage" but require the establishment of "civil unions"; and by 98-100, they rejected a compromise by the House Speaker that would ban same-sex marriage and allow the option of civil unions if the legislature so chose. The original text, which would ban both gay marriage and civil unions, will be on the agenda Thursday afternoon.

My guess is that the anti-family forces have done their part to stack the deck by bringing the Speaker's compromise proposal up for a vote first: if the strongest version had been debated first or second and failed, the compromise text -- restoring the legal status quo before Goodridge -- would have remained an option acceptable to pro-family folks. Now Thursday's vote will be for all or nothing, and if it's defeated, the anti-family forces will have what they want -- excepting a possible legislative end-run -- and the nationwide legal battles will be on.

Correction: I previously stated here that the Senate text had been proposed by my State Senator. That was incorrect; however, he did vote for it, sad to say.

Thousands rally for marriage in Boston

This may have been Your Catholic Voice's first public event, but it'll have to be just the beginning: about 2000 supporters of marriage rallied in the cold Sunday afternoon in front of the Massachusetts State House. Coverage from AP and Reuters.

In separate statements, black ministers and a multi-faith coalition speak in support of the proposed constitutional amendment.

Our Black-Robed Masters (thank you, Mark) at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court have taken away the remaining wiggle room from politicians wanting to avoid the gay-marriage question. Civil unions, say the Justices, do not meet Our requirements: you, the legislature, must pass laws letting homosexual couples marry as We command.

The weaselly state Senate president, Robert Travaglini, wanted to obstruct a vote February 11 on a proposed state constitutional amendment to protect marriage from the Goodridge decision, but his excuse -- the lack of clarity on whether civil unions would satisfy the judges -- has just evaporated.

Bad Baby Names

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AP writes:

Tacking Jr. or II onto a boy's name is too common, a new father decided, so the self-described engineering geek took a software approach to naming his newborn son.

Jon Blake Cusack talked his wife, Jamie, into naming their son
Jon Blake Cusack 2.0
.


Most bad baby names are just embarrassing, but this one's philosophically bad. Let's get this one straight, parents: babies are not products; people are not things. OK?

An interesting article by Stanley Kurtz about Nordic countries' experiment with gay marriage. He claims that gay marriage, far from strengthening traditional marriage, has contributed to the latter's decline.

I don't think Kurtz proves his case. He does prove that gay marriage has done nothing to stop the collapse of the family in Nordic countries. However, I don't think you can make the leap to say that it has hastened it, either. More interesting are some other points, particularly that mothers working outside the home, bastardy, and weak family bonds are caused or at least aggravated by a huge welfare state. (In other words, if you're a Catholic Democrat, you are in favor of creating conditions where sexual sins will flourish.)

Here's some good news, though, about the Nordic folkways and their growth in Europe:

Yet the pattern is spreading unevenly. And scholars agree that cultural tradition plays a central role in determining whether a given country moves toward the Nordic family system. Religion is a key variable. A 2002 study by the Max Planck Institute, for example, concluded that countries with the lowest rates of family dissolution and out-of-wedlock births are "strongly dominated by the Catholic confession." The same study found that in countries with high levels of family dissolution, religion in general, and Catholicism in particular, had little influence.

My ancillary theory, based on being in Norway for a couple of weeks, is that Scandinavians have a very high incidence of beautiful women in their population, and that it would take severe mortification to avoid temptation. But my view has not gained ground among social scientists.

From AFP's end-of-year wrap-up:

SANTIAGO - After living together for 57 years, Isolina Ojeda, 107, and her 86-year-old lover Oscar Martinez finally decided to make it official by getting married. After the ceremony, the blushing bride, slightly hard of hearing, said: "We had to get married, as God intended. It's a sin to live the way we were living."

A side-altar wedding?

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A friend of mine sometimes answers questions from non-Catholics over the Internet, and he recently got a puzzling e-mail from a man interested in the Faith. The gentleman and his Catholic wife were apparently married in a Protestant ceremony (presumably without a dispensation). His wife has been under the impression that if he becomes Catholic and they marry in the Church, the ceremony would "have to" be conducted at a side altar.

I'm not familiar with that practice, though according to what I find on the 'net, it apparently used to be customary for mixed marriages to be solemnized away from the main altar of a church. Does anyone know when this practice went away? Was it a matter of law?

In this couple's case, if he becomes Catholic, it won't be a mixed marriage, so even if the rule were still in place, it wouldn't seem to apply. All in all, the lady's concern may be unnecessary.

The logical end of gay marriage

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...is the end of legal marriage, argues Stanley Kurtz.

1+1=4

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Well, there are now four Veres in our household. This past Wednesday, as the President signed the ban on partial-birth abortion into law, Angla Zo Vere weighed into the world at seven pounds, nine ounces. Both Sonya and the baby are doing well, and Jasmine is settling into her role as big sister. It was a wonderful culture of life moment all around. We were also blessed to be under the care of a pro-life ob-gyn who had come highly reccomended by some friends of ours (a doctor and a lawyer). This couple is quite active in the pro-life movement and only frequent pro-life doctors. While in the hospital, we were surprised to discover that the nurses consider him the best ob-gyn in the area and their favorite to work with when it comes to delivering babies.

Over the past year, Sonya and I have come to appreciate the blessing a pro-life doctor is throughout the childbirth process. Both Sonya and I found it really comforting to know that the doctor delivering our baby (the same doctor who worked with Sonya to get her system back up last winter) shares our view of life.

Evidence for reparative therapy

Psychiatry professor Robert Spitzer of Columbia is back in the news: some time ago, he interviewed 200 volunteers who reported a change from homosexual orientation to heterosexual orientation with the help of various therapeutic means, and often with a religious motivation for the effort. His report has now been published, and NARTH has a summary.

Should I stay or should I go?

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In some cultures, it's still conventional that fathers aren't present at childbirth, but in the technological West, when women started having to bear their children in a room full of strangers, it became accepted and even expected that fathers would attend and assist at births, somewhat as an advocate for the mother vis-a-vis the medical professionals.

So says obstetrician Dr. Michel Odent. However, his experiences have led him to believe that in many cases the father's presence and his excitement make labors longer and more difficult for the mother.

With words, most modern women are adamant that they need the participation of the baby's father while they give birth; but on the day of the birth the same women can express exactly the opposite in a nonverbal way. I remember a certain number of births that were going on slowly up to the time when the father was unexpectedly obliged to get out (for example to buy something urgently before the store is closed). As soon as the man left, the laboring woman started to shout out, she went to the bathroom and the baby was born after a short series of powerful and irresistible contractions (what I call a "fetus ejection reflex").
The full article is available online.

"The decline of marriage is not inevitable"

Maggie Gallagher wonders whether the family is still declining:

How many children are living in intact families, with their own married biological or adopted parents?

At a fascinating Health and Human Services-funded conference last week in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the National Poverty Center, we finally got the answer. And the news is good. The analysis of the National Survey of America's Families (a survey of 40,000 nationally representative families) was done by Urban Institute scholars Gregory Acs and Sandi Nelson:

Between 1997 and 2002, the proportion of children under 6 living in intact married families actually increased. So did the proportion of all children in low-income households (the bottom quarter) by close to 4 percent.

It's encouraging evidence that the apostles of despair are wrong: The decline of marriage is not inevitable. Social recovery is possible. In fact, it is under way.

(Now, if only we could get Maggie to do something about that awful photo of herself.)

Back in the Spring, a number of our readers asked me to post excerpts from a talk I gave to a regional CUF conference in Tucson, AZ. In this talk, I had contrasted the Rosary and contraception as far as their effects on marriage is concerned. I had mentioned at the time that this talk was being edited into an article for CUF's magazine The Lay Witness, and I would let everyone know once it was out. For those who are interested, CUF has now made this piece available on their website under the title The Battle of the Bond. Here's an excerpt:

Take the Joyful Mysteries, for example. In the Annunciation, we recognize Marys complete and total self-gift in consenting to be the tabernacle of the Incarnate Word. Her simple fiatlet it be to me according to your wordwould change the course of human history. Because she humbly consented to the beginning of the divine life within her womb, man was to find redemption and salvation. Yet, in contraception, we find man frustrating the beginning of life in such a way that he becomes a self-contradiction by being opposed to (contra) his own conception. He becomes the arbiter of life and sets himself up as a god.

Pro-Life Progress!

"For every 10 births in Russia, there are still nearly 13 abortions." --Steven Myers, NY Times

Yet Russia's new law is a step in the right direction: it restricts the permitted grounds for mid- and late-term abortions to:

...rape, imprisonment, the death or severe disability of the husband or a court ruling stripping a woman of her parental rights. Being a single mother or a refugee [or divorced or in poor housing...--RC] is no longer reason enough to abort a pregnancy after the 12th week.

As before, pregnancies can still be aborted after 12 weeks on medical grounds, including severe disabilities of the fetus or a threat to the mother's life.

It won't have a big effect on the raw numbers, and it leaves several obviously immoral reasons undisturbed, as well as all abortions up to the 12th week -- but removing some of the "reasons" is a good step that will save a few lives.

One Man, One Woman, One Fish

My latest piece concerning the homosexualist threat to the institution of marriage is up at Enter Stage Right. Given ESR's strongly libertarian bent, I'm grateful that they allowed me to publish paragraphs like the following:

As previously mentioned, marriage is no mere private contract between individuals. It concerns the good of the individual, the good of the family and for the good of society as a whole. While the marital contract is entered into as an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman, marriage nevertheless possesses a social dimension into which children are born, nurtured and educated. Subsequently, marriage is unequal to other to other contracts between humans; by its very nature, its effects are not merely restricted to those who contract the marriage. Rather, marriage both profoundly and directly impacts upon the lives of others, namely, the children born into the relationship. For this reason, a society can never exclusively define marriage in terms of individual rights without placing its stability at great risk. Unlike other relationships that merely concern private individuals, marriage cannot be left to succeed or fail upon the merits of the individuals who contract it.

Also, please keep John Pacheco (who helped me with the above piece) in as he is one of the key promoters. of today's pro-marriage gathering on Parliament Hill.

Viva Galeone!

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Bishop Victor Galeone, the new ordinary of St. Augustine in Florida, has written an admirable summary of Catholic doctrine on marriage and sexual ethics in his pastoral letter, "Marriage: A Communion of Life and Love".

The bishop knows that the Gospel of Life runs counter to secular thinking, and he makes a point of saying so:

The vast majority of people today consider contraception a non-issue. So much so that to label it a disorder sounds like a gross exaggeration. And to revisit it seems analogous to studying a treatise from the Flat Earth Society. But contraception is an issue, an absolutely vital issue. To comprehend why it is wrong, its first necessary to understand what God originally intended marriage to be. In the opening chapters of Genesis we learn that God himself designed marriage for a twofold purpose: to communicate life and love.

(Thanks to Jeff and Alicia for the link.)

Ruh-roh!

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A mathematician and a psychologist have devised a 94% reliable method for predicting whether couples will divorce.

[...] the couple's ability to communicate was marked using a scale that gave positive points for good signals and negative points for bad signals.

For example, jokes, a positive tone of voice, smiles and affectionate gestures all resulted in positive scores. Bad signals such as rolling of the eyes, criticism, mocking and coldness led to a negative score.

Rolling of the eyes, criticism, mocking, and coldness? Uh-oh: going by what's in this blog, I don't think I have any other modes of communication!

RI: Humanae Vitae Conference

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Here's an upcoming event for us New Englanders; Genevieve Kineke from Canticle Magazine sent the announcement over:

A Day of Prayer
35th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae
25 July 2003
1:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Portsmouth Abbey, Portsmouth, RI

NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING
Questions? Reflections? Concerns?
Bring them to "A Day of prayer".

For details, read on...

JP2 on Work and Family

Over on the Catholic men's mailing list I operate, the question of women and work came up, and as you might expect, Pope John Paul has written on the subject in his encyclical Laborem Exercens.

His teaching obviously does not correspond to some bumper-sticker slogan about individualistic "women's rights" or a repressive notion of "women's place". Instead it's about how people are more important than money, about the dignity and value of child-raising, and yes, about motherhood as a distinct role and a vocation, whose value society needs to respect and foster.

Let me summarize the main points:

  • the working world should accommodate itself to the variety of workers, men and women, to their special talents, and to their family responsibilities;

  • a "family wage" should enable a father to support his family, so that the mother has the freedom to care for the development of her children.

Here's the passage:

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz


You write, we post
unless you state otherwise.

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