Category Archives: Opinion

Fish on Fridays: Catholics aren’t bothered, why are you?

I’ve only been to Bella Casa, a pizza place on  the corner of 16th and Farnam, a handful of times, but already I’m recognized by the owner as the girl who gets cheese pizza on Friday. 

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to have the once-a-week-vegetarian talk with people I know.  If I go out to eat in a group, I spend the most time looking over the menu, trying to find something meatless (and I don’t do fish), that will also satisfy my need for protein.   I’ve become accustomed to asking waiters what they recommend for vegetarians and with that becoming an increasingly popular trend for health or ethical reasons, they’re more than happy to help. 

It’s really not a big deal.  I actually really like veggie burgers, and grilled portobello mushrooms make a good, filling meat substitute without tasting like meat at all. 

But when I explain to people why I’m being such a high maintenence foodie,  I get the whole gamut of reactions.  Everything from interested questions, timidly insincere nods, to being publicly quizzed on whether or not I know why Catholics are called to abstain from meat.  “I bet you didn’t know that Pope So-and-So only instituted that practice because he had family in the fish mongering industry.”

Actually, I have heard that one before, several times, in fact, and I’ve done some research. I’ve found nothing conclusive to support that claim.   In fact, it was surprisingly hard to find anything that answered my question about when and why that tradition came into being, other than that we do it in memory of Our Lord’s Passion, though no one said why it was the meat of warm-blooded animals. 

I heard long ago (and found some others say it on various forums that popped up on Google) that because warm-blooded meat was a rich man’s food, and fish, a poor man’s food,  the pope wanted the rich to identify with the poor in this way.  This doesn’t seem likely to me either,  but a whole heck of a lot more likely than the idea that a pope was taking religion-changing measures to help out the fish industry during a time when, due to the availability of fish and the conditions of the majority, it was probably doing well enough on its own.  I get that there have been corrupt, power-seeking popes in the Church’s history, but I’m just not buying it.   

Eventually, I found that the teaching is first mentioned in The Didache of the Apostles, written in the 1st Century.  Hey, good enough for me!  The Didache contains basically all the other core truths of Christianity.

Whatever happened in history, though, I can think of one reason that abstaining from meat on Fridays is good for Catholics: It reminds us of who we are.   Most of the week,  it’s easy to forget you’re Catholic.  Since high school, I’ve gone months at a time where every waking moment was spent either at a church, at a convent, with nuns and prayer schedules and in all other ways, identifying as Catholic in a routine that was just taken for granted.

Between August and December of last year, I worked at my Church and its school and went to Mass every day. When the semester ended and I got a paying job, I still went to Mass several times a week until moving to the other side of town made only Sunday Mass possible.  And I miss it.  I miss feeling as Catholic as I did.  And yet, there are people who’ve never had the opportunity to have daily reminders of who they are and their duty to the Church.  For all of us who have to live in the world and can’t spend life kneeling in Adoration, we have Fridays.  Fridays that make us think before we order a Bacon Double Cheeseburger: “Oh, shoot, it’s Friday. Guess I’ll go home and… make a PB&J.”  Whatever was in the heart and mind of the man who first gave us this duty, God surely saw the benefits of this. 

The same goes for my scapular, and my veil, and all the other little things required of Catholics that make us put in the little extra effort, that remind us that men are meant to be in the world and not of it.

I don’t mind explaining to people that there is one day a week that I don’t eat meat.  Some people are genuinely curious and thoughtful.  I’ve had very nice people, non-Catholics, say how much they love my scapular, and sound proud to show that they even recognize one when they see it. 

No, what bothers me is the people who presume to tell me that my traditions are dumb.  People who won’t say anything negative about Muslim women in a Hijab, (these are often feminists who, I would think, would be the first to recognize this as a gross injustice against women by their male oppressors. Instead they admire the courage it takes to go against the American-Judeo-Christian grain in such an open way.  Apparently, sticking it to one Man is more important than sticking it to another) or even acknowledge that they’ve noticed it out of fear of being accused of bigotry or hate, will openly laugh at my religion’s traditions.  Literally– the same individuals.   Jews have much more finicky diets than Catholics in regards to meat, (for much stranger reasons) and I don’t hear anyone scoffing at them.

“I went to Catholic school,” I said once.

“Oh, so that’s why you are the way you are,”  sneered my coworker.

“Probably.”

Replace “Catholic school” with “Buddhist monastary” or something like that, and I couldn’t imagine anyone having the gall to act like it’s anything less than extraordinary.  And dare I become indignant at this offense, and it just fans the flame, while being accused of a hate crime against any other racial, ethnic or religious group is seen as the ultimate taboo. 

People seem to think that most non-Christian religions are exotic, exciting and progressive (read: trendy) compared to stodgy ol’ Christianity.  Quote Gandhi and every 20-something (and anyone who read “Eat, Pray, Love”) in the room will solemnly nod in agreement; quote the Psalms–sublimely poetic, in even a superficial way– and you’re a religious fanatic.   Then they feel they need to fix you, to unravel those crazy ideals of yours when they’re obviously so 1489.  Outdated. Obsolete.  In so many words, I’ve been made aware my “corruption” is some people’s personal undertaking.  No, they don’t even pretend to respect my religious sensitivities.

Yes, I have a persecution complex.  Yes, this makes me angry that I, a bigoted, brainwashed, bitter (how’s that for alliteration?) Christian am more respectful of my tolerant, enlightened, open-minded liberal friends than they are of me.    It upsets me that some of my friends, who care about me, won’t read my writing because I spend too much time talking about “Catholic stuff.”  Yes, it hurts.  But that’s reality, and being Catholic is all about living in reality and dealing with it as it is. 

I’m probably preaching to the choir.  Pretty much all the Catholics I know will be nodding in agreement, I think.  We all know that the people who are crying out the loudest for “tolerance” are the ones most likely to be incited to anger or condescending antagonism  at the sight of a Catholic living his or her Faith.

Loved into Being

With gay marriage being the second most talked-about socio-political issue, my nature demands that I sort out a definitive position on the matter. This is going to be a long post, and I know it’s going to upset some people. If you’re going to write me just to tell me that, trust me, I already know. Save your breath.

“That’s disgusting” he said in a low voice, malicious, with just a hint of fascination and I followed his gaze toward two men shopping together a few clothes racks away. I don’t know if they were a couple, but judging by the stereotypes I was familiar with, both were obviously gay.

I smiled and shrugged, then turned away, worried about being caught staring, ashamed of my friend’s rudeness, ashamed of my discomfort in the proximity of gay men, and moreover, ashamed of my shame. If I were really a good, chaste Catholic girl, I would share in my friend’s revulsion at this vagrant display of uncloseted homosexuality. I should take my discomfort as an instinctive sign that I was right to recognize sin and shy away from it, indignant. Two men with frosted hair shopping together? How dare they! Don’t they know there are children around?! Instead I felt nothing but confused sympathy for the men who were possibly unaware of the contempt emanating from my shopping companion’s stare. And I was just sure that I would be declared a bleeding heart humanist were I to defend them, even in the name of good Christian charity. In fact, I feared that that was what I was. And anyway, because my opinions on the matter were vague, half-formed and possibly with more emotional foundation than intellectual–I have had gay friends and some of my family members are gay– could I say anything that would not contradict the Church’s teaching? “Well, they seem like nice people” would be beside the point. So I said nothing.

For a long time, I had a hard time making a decision on where I stood with the whole issue, and I avoided it. I couldn’t make myself believe that homosexuality was a choice. People don’t choose to have life be any more difficult than it has to be, and I don’t think anyone– Catholic, secular, gay or straight or otherwise– can deny that gays have it tough. Even setting aside the obvious things like prejudice, the pool of partners is clearly more limited than that of heterosexuals, making the opportunities for heartbreak even more abundant than it already is.

And if it’s not a choice, if people really are “born that way,” how can we Christians, whose whole religion revolves around Love and acceptance of the Will of God, treat other people, having no more control of their lot than we, with such hatred?

But then there was the “problem” of the Church’s teaching that the lifestyle is a sin, that it’s unnatural. And the Church’s teaching makes sense to me. Men and women’s bodies were built specifically for each other.

If someone had never heard of homosexuality and I told them the things that go through my head when I see a good-looking guy, they’d say: You want to put your what in his where? It’s common sense. Gay sex makes about as much sense as eating chalk, and pica is still recognized as a disorder by the APA1. Last time I checked.

[That’s Steve Gershom, a Catholic, celibate, gay man. I cannot recommend his blog enough, as it’s one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever read and gives a real-life, Catholic perspective the likes of which I haven’t seen anywhere else. His take on chastity is one of the best I have ever read, and applicable to everyone.]

Anyway, I was confused, until I first heard the term, “SSA:” Same Sex Attraction. As in, “He has Same Sex Attraction,” not “He is gay.” Finally, the vague opinions I had on the subject started to come together and make sense. Yes, the lifestyle is wrong, and acting on the attraction would be a sin. The inclination towards such a thing, a defect. No one wants to think of their friends or family or themselves as defective, but it’s true. And more importantly, it made me understand something that deep down, I think I already knew: that “SSA” is just one of the many defects we can put in the blank spot after “He/She has…” He/She has a tendency to be selfish. He/She has trouble concentrating during Mass. He/She has a drinking problem. He/She, has heterosexual temptations against purity. The tendency towards our own personal weaknesses, each unique as our fingerprints, is a defect found in all of us. Same Sex Attraction is just one of the many hallmarks of a fallen race, one of the literally countless shapes that the cross of temptation takes. Being tempted toward a vice is not a vice itself, as even Our Lord was tempted.

Then there was the matter of whether or not such a temptation can, or even needs to be, expelled entirely. “Prayed, willed or even married away,” as some believe. Elizabeth Scalia writes,

I have a theory that our gay brothers and sisters are, in fact, planned, loved-into-being “necessary others,” and that they are meant to show us something of God from a perspective that we cannot otherwise broach. I suspect art is a part of it. I do not presume to guess what attractions Michelangelo felt, but I could not view his stunning work throughout the Vatican and in Rome without recalling a quip someone (I believe Camille Paglia) once made, that when gays were closeted and presumably less active sexually, their energies had been subsumed into creating transcendent, living, time-smashing masterpieces. Now that they were “out”, said the wag, their art was mundane, mostly unmemorable, often lazy and insubstantial.

I know I am entering deep and destructive currents by even daring to swim here, but homosexual questions are all around us—gay marriage, certainly is at the forefront (and there again, we may actually have some instruction from Christ, in Matthew 19) but there is also the issue of recognizing the many homosexuals in our church who are excellent, joyful priests, faithful to their vows and their flocks—and they are questions begging for temperate, reasonable and loving dialogue.

Elizabeth, who wonderfully states that gays are “loved into being,” focuses mainly on homosexual influence in art, and I agree with her. But I would press further with the belief that people with SSA are called to celibacy, towards something even more noble. I propose that [y’all, this is where I take a deep breath and baricade myself behind my computer screen] many men have SSA because they are called to be priests. Of course, I’m not saying all of them are– I wouldn’t like it if I, a single girl, were told that since I may never get married, ought to just become a nun. The single life is a vocation as well as the married and religious life. I’m just saying that it fits.

The issue I’m tackling now is that I have to stand here, with a firm grip on what I believe now: that SSA is real, intentional by God, but a call to celibacy. How can I, an ignorant little straight girl, tell anyone else, “Sorry, but you’re just going to have to deal with it or burn in hell.” And yet, I’m Catholic and to pretend I believe otherwise would be hypocritical and dishonest, so I might as well just say it. [UPDATE: Believe you me, I want there to be some kind of a loophole, but Matthew 19, as Elizabeth cited, makes the situation pretty clear.]

I am trying not to sound as though I pity celibate gays. Perhaps I don’t know the troubles of Catholics with SSA, but as a young, single, Catholic girl, I’m no stranger to celibacy or the struggle that goes with that, and the discipline it demands to not even let your thoughts wander into dangerous territory. But celibacy is not the worst state to be in. In fact, St. Paul would argue that lifelong celibacy creates a climate in the soul that is perfect for obtaining heaven, and St. John Chrysostom says:

…celibacy is, as we said, an imitation of the angels. Therefore, virginity is as much more honorable than marriage, as the angel is higher than man.

But why do I say angel? Christ, Himself, is the glory of virginity…

So it’s entirely likely that the soul of a celibate gay man could be in better shape than a straight, married man’s. And celibacy is something not only catholic gays are bound to, but also single heterosexuals.

Furthermore, to pity them seems to imply that their SSA is the beginning and end of their being. Or really, that anyone’s sexuality is all there is to know. While theirs is a cross I can’t begin to imagine carrying, God never sends anyone one too heavy to walk with.

Blogging for the “Catacomb Rebellion”

I always feel unsatisfied when bloggers blog about blogging, and yet, that is probably what the first of my posts will be.

Catholic blogging, for me, always seemed like something I could never do.   As it is, Catholics are low on the radar, with only barely a voice in mainstream media.  Sure, I guess we have  Stephen Colbert (have you ever watched his Catholic Bender?  Hilarious!) but he helped get Obama in office, so c’mon. 

And frankly, until relatively recently, anyway, I didn’t really enjoy Catholic blogs, myself.   I didn’t think that, were I a secularist, I’d come away from it any more informed on Catholic teaching, or more warmed to the religion that so many mistakenly think is harsh, judgmental, inscrutible and yet, paradoxically, for simpletons.  I was looking for something earthy and real, that made the Catholic Church look like the reasonable, rational, timeless Entity that it is.  The ones I found were jargon-happy, seemingly written for Catholics alone, who already had at least the basics down.  Which is fine.  Those have their place, but it wasn’t what I was looking for, which was something that would showcase the intellect behind our beliefs, and that yes, we really, really believe them with our minds, as well as our hearts. 

And those were mainstream Catholic blogs–as mainstream as anything Catholic gets– written by members of the Conciliar Church who wept with joy at JPII’s beatification.  I couldn’t imagine writing a blog that focused on what I believed as a Catholic and expect it to get much attention, except from the people who, though agreed with me at least as far as the Papacy was concerned, sometimes had other misinformed, small minded beliefs that embarrassed me.  I can remember the sputterings of protest that ensued when I called some of my friends’ attention to the fact that Jesus would have looked like a Middle Eastern man and not the fair-faced European of our Renaissance paintings.   

Now, there have been books– books!– explaining the Sedevacantist position.  I’ll hopefully get a chance to address some of them individually and more extensively in later posts, but I’ll try to summarize.  In short, and in layman’s terms, Sedevacantism–derived from the Latin for ‘The Seat is Vacant” in referrence to the Chair of Peter in Rome– is the belief that the popes and priests that practiced and spread the errors and heresies of the Second Vatican Council, and participated in the further abuses and heresies that it paved the path for, excommunicated themselves by default.  And if the pope excommunicated himself,  we were on our own, a Body without a visible Head.  In the eyes of the Conciliar Church (the Church that recognizes Benedict XVI and a few of his predecessors as popes), we are in schism. 

 The main difference, along with the endless list of satellite and effectual differences, is that Vatican II was in error when it made changes in the Mass, in spite of the fact that in 1570, Pope Pius V made the Mass as it was then, the standard, as it remained until the 1960s, when Vatican II went into effect.  Sedevacantists attend Mass in its old, Latin form, untouched as it was intended to be.

Ironically, I’ve found that non-Catholics are more willing to accept this explanation than practicing mainstream Catholics.  Due to the objectivity that comes from being an outsider, they can more readily say, “Of course, if it goes against your religion to change something as fundamental as the ceremony it revolves around, and the punishment for changing such a thing would be expulsion from said religion, well then your position makes perfect sense!”  

Our camp is small, and needy.  When I’m in a romantic mood, I feel I can identify a little bit with the Roman martyrs of the early Church, at least in the sense that they are quietly rebelling against the “norm,” hidden underground, misunderstood and marginally unpopular, if known of at all.  The Catholics who do know about us have a warped idea of what we believe, some viewing us as a cult, or opposed to the papacy as an institution.

One of the most–what’s the word I’m looking for?– edifying… conversations about my Faith, for me, was the first time I talked to Catholic columnist, Max Lindenman (now, happily, a friend, and one I will be citing occasionally) who writes for Patheos. He had heard of sedevacantism, but had probably never actually talked to a person who actually held the view, and had certainly never talked to one he believed had any sense.  One of the first questions he asked me upon finding out this little quirk of mine, was if I had a problem with his Jewish ethnicity.  When I laughed and revealed that I, myself, had Jewish roots, he was surprised as he had always believed sedevacantist were anti-Semitic.  After setting a few more nasty and misinformed rumors straight for him, he generously conceded my sanity and had interest in things about sedevacantism that I had been taking for granted for years. 

As I’ve explored more, I’ve found that I read more Catholic blogs nowadays than secular ones, and have found in them the down-to-earth intelligence I craved, at least in the most basic Truths of the Faith, and only sometimes do I have to skip over either a reference to one of the most recent “popes,” who now sit in Vatican City, or some new Novus Ordo-y practice that makes me wince.  While those blogs have made me realize what I have in common with Conciliar Catholics, they’ve also emphasized the silence coming from my side, a silence I hope to fill once in a while.

UPDATE

To any readers I may have or attain later on, I ardently urge you to ask me questions about Sedevacantism. It’s much easier to address things on a smaller scale than try to capture the whole scope.

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Screaming into the Void [An Introduction to Blog #364]

I’ve started and promptly abandoned umpteen blogs.   I’ve had whiny, early-teen emo blogs,  stream of consciousness blogs, what-I-thought-were-high-minded blogs… I really thought my last one would take off and I’d be really good about keeping it running and I’d post thoughtful insights about the world, etc., etc. 

Well, I wrote two posts.   Neither of them were very good, and I soon realized a change in direction (and color scheme) was needed, but being the type that has a hard time changing midstream, I redirected my opinionated spiels back to Facebook comments while I watched everyone else’s infuriating opinions take their official place on the blaggosphere.

In my mind, I had plenty to say, but not really.   Anyone can start a blog, and there are many really good ones, (I am a marathon-reader of blogs) but many, many more reallyreallyreally bad ones.  I didn’t want to risk finding that I could produce nothing more than the kind that just blended in with the rest of those who are just screaming into the void that is the internet abyss, where inarticulate and poorly-spelled rants go to die, unread, which is probably just as well.  Was I really worthy to take up one of the few IP addresses left on the internet?  And would I be able to satisfactorily put my thoughts into readable words?

So I watched enviously from the sidelines as friends of mine articulately and intelligently bore their views–which I often disagreed with– for the general public’s scrutiny.  I was just a lowly commenter on their facebook page, proclaiming my principled dissent for far too few than my potential for monologue deserved.   And like everyone else (come on, admit it) I thought my opinions were waaaay more well-reasoned and balanced than anyone else’s.  Of course, that sounds narcissistic.  But let’s be honest, here: If I didn’t think my opinion was better than yours, I wouldn’t have started a blog. :) 

But you don’t have to agree with me.  In fact, I am a contradiction in that while I crave approval, when I actually get it, I stiffen uncomfortably and look askance at the speaker’s motives.   And there’s nothing I like more than a good debate.