Sunday, August 19, 2018

Giving up television

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I woke up early (even for me) this morning - 3 a.m. Don't know why. The dog was puzzled. Our walk time isn't until 5 a.m. (a holdover wake-up time from the days when I'd have to get in the shower before three daughters and a wife got in there, and then had to drive the daughters to multiple schools and get to the school where I taught on time).

But as I headed out to the living room this morning, a thought suddenly hit me: Stop watching television.

Cold turkey.

Maybe it was the early hour. But it made sense.

Given the dreck on television these days - from the talking heads shouting at each other from one side or the other, to the lame shows promoting inappropriate moral and ethical values or mindless drivel, to the trendy kneeling athletes, etc. - there's little worth wasting my time on.

Indeed, that was often what I was doing. Flipping channels. Watching the same reruns of old shows or the same movies for the 10th or 20th time. It was too easy to get caught up with watching such programs/movies. It was too easy to have it as background (and distracting) noise when I needed to get other things done.

Then there's the shows/movies with inappropriate content that I sometimes catch a glimpse of because I wasn't flipping fast enough.

So I'm quitting.

I'll watch only when there's breaking news about major events, culturally significant broadcasts, bad weather reports for safety or work reasons, and the like. 

I can spend my time better reading, writing, practicing guitar, learning new songs, doing household chores, and so on. Indeed, today, because we went to Mass last night, I ran out to the school to check something, went to the hardware store to get some needed supplies, stopped by to visit the wife at the chapel where she volunteers (bringing her some coffee), made tomato sauce out of some of the tomatoes from our garden, mowed the lawn, helped make dinner, and read a book about St. Nicholas. While I was reading or writing, I listened to some good music (Mozart, Matt Maher, and, currently, John Michael Talbot).

This will be better for my mind and my soul.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Teachers more likely to commit sex crimes than priests

The priest sex abuse report in Pennsylvania reveals the extent of the problem - and points to many  failures.

Failures by priests. By seminary rectors. By bishops. By parish staffs. By lay people who turned their heads.

Most of these offenses took place years - decades - ago, and some dioceses have improved how they deal with the problem, screen seminarians better, and weed out the offending priests quickly and more publicly. Though, sadly, not all.

One child molested is too many. There is no excuse for what happened.

We hold clergy to higher standard that we do others in society.

Still, as bad as the priest problem is, there are worse situations.

Take the situation with teachers, another profession held to a high standard by the public. Studies show that teachers are MORE LIKELY to commit sexual offenses than priests.

The offenses are less homosexual in nature than are the priests' offenses, but they are still offenses.

There was a major a government study of the issue.

Charol Shakeshaft , who prepared the 2004 report, later said, "[T]hink the Catholic Church has a problem? The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests."

Here's the report address:

Pax et bonum

Ghostbuster Theology: No Private Acts

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Sometimes popular culture reveals more about the truth than intellectual and politically correct rationalizations.

Take Ghostbusters II, an amusing (but less successful) 1989 follow-up to the original 1984 movie (rated one of the top comedies of all time).

In G II, there is a river of malevolent pink slime beneath the streets of New York. The Ghostbusters team figures out that the slime is caused by New Yorkers' bad attitudes.


Literally, the notion of visible pink slime caused by attitudes is silly. But allegorically and theologically, it makes absolute sense.

Privacy may have a kind of fictional reality thanks to the misguided judgement of some Supreme Court justices, but is does not exist when we are talking about spiritual matters.

All our actions, good or bad, public or private, affect others.

That includes our sins. All of them. Even actions which we do in private ripples forth and touches the souls of others.

As Pope John Paul II noted in his 1984 document Reconciliatio Et Paenitentia

To speak of social sin means in the first place to recognize that, by virtue of human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others. This is the other aspect of that solidarity which on the religious level is developed in the profound and magnificent mystery of the communion of saints, thanks to which it has been possible to say that “every soul that rises above itself, raises up the world.” To this law of ascent there unfortunately corresponds the law of descent. Consequently one can speak of a communion of sin, whereby a soul that lowers itself through sin drags down with itself the church and, in some way, the whole world. In other words, there is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family. According to this first meaning of the term, every sin can undoubtedly be considered as social sin.

Again: "... every sin has repercussions on ... the whole human family."

Every time we tell a lie for personal gain
Every time we intentionally view pornography
Every time we gossip
Every time we chose not to try to stop wrongful actions
Every time we cheat on expense accounts or income taxes
Every time we participate in an abortion
Every time we use office equipment for private purposes
Every time we legislate immoral acts, or vote for those who pass such legislation
Every time we swear at another driver
Every time we have sex outside of marriage

Yes, every time we do anything wrong - even the things we try to justify and rationalize through saying it's because of love - we affect others.

We harm others.

We harm them because through even our supposedly private actions we add to the evil in the world - or at least decrease the opportunities for good to flow forth freely from God.

We harm them because all our actions color how we view the world and interact with others.

We need only think of the story of the Fall - even if it is not taken literally.

Adam and Eve committed their offense in private. There was no one else there to witness their action (except, of course, God). Yet it is a basic Christian lesson that their action continues to affect us all.

But to counter the effects of that "private" sin, Jesus dying on the cross - the action of one Person - offered us all the opportunity for salvation.

The movie even gives us a taste of good actions touching others.

When evil seems on the verge of winning, the people of New York, singing together, treating each other well if only for a few moments, spread good to others and weakens the power of evil, allowing the heroes to triumph.

We all need to keep that in mind.

Even as we exercise our fictional "right to privacy."

Because that's true reality - and not a laughing matter.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Don't let a boycott hurt what is good

The Pennsylvania report on more than 300 priests who committed sexual abuse is discouraging, and disgusting. I am ashamed.

Those involved who are still alive - whether perpetrators, or protectors - need to be called to account and suffer consequences.

One of the consequences that some lay people are talking about imposing on their own is to stop contributing to the Catholic Church.

Money is a way to hit home, yes, but if we take this route we need to be wise about how we do it.

Not all dioceses were involved. Some were, but took action years ago - as my diocese did in 2002. The vast majority of priests across the country were not involved in any way.

Parishes continue to need support, as do many good ministries. A total boycott would hurt them and the good that they do. Youth ministry. Hospital visitation programs. Food pantries. Homeless shelters. Refugee programs. Health care centers in low-income neighborhoods. Centers that help women in troubled pregnancies. And more.

And think of the good and innocent people who could be hurt. The parish priests, parish employees, the ministry employees - the custodians, the secretaries, the choir directors, the soup kitchen directors, the nurses, the shelter staff, the women religious, and so on. And, of course, there are the people who are helped - those who have lost loved ones, the hungry, the sick, the frightened mothers-to-be, the people in the pews and in the neighborhoods. 

Don't simply cut them off. If we do boycott, let it be bishops' campaigns on national or diocesan levels, especially of bishops who were involved in any way or who don't address the issue. But then redirect the money to parishes and the local programs that are serving people in so many ways.

And if we know of any abuse - report it. The clergy weren't the only ones who kept quiet for years.

Pax et bonum

Monday, August 13, 2018

Lively music is good, but young people need more

I heard yet another interview in which the people were talking about young people being attracted to other churches because the worship - especially the music - is more lively. It was described a "praise and worship" music. That is, more often than not, that the music is more contemporary.)

On Catholic sites I've seen people recently react against such music, using "praise and worship music" as an insult.

As a musician who plays "praise and worship music," I find these comments against are often narrow minded. At the same time, I accept that the music is not the sole answer.

I think many kinds of music can be acceptable, if done in the proper spirit of worship and if done tastefully and well. I can't imagine hard rock music at Mass, of course, but some folk rock - why not?

I'm all for well-played, lively music.

But while music is important, and can be a draw, it is not what will nurture a deep and mature faith. That's where I see many churches - especially youth ministry - fail. The put on flash and show and rouse feelings - a start - but fail to help the young people grow in their faith. They need to be challenged. They need role models. They need contact with all kinds of prayer - including contemplative.

Pizza parties and ice skating and softball teams are fine, but they need Stations of the Cross, and Benedictions services, and the Rosary.. They need role models. They need to take part in worship with adults. They need to be encouraged to go to daily Mass during school breaks.

There's so much more they need. If they don't get it, then when they hit temptations in their late teens and twenties they will drift away form church.

They may come back when they are older, or are broken, or are lost, but it would be better if they never left.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The books arrived!

Some books I ordered to help with Old English to Neo-Classical literature arrived, and they will prove a big help.

They have texts of some of the works I was thinking of using: "The Wanderer," "The Dream of the Rood," Everyman, Canto 1 of The Faerie Queen, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love," "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time," "A Hymn to God the Father," sonnets by Sidney and Shakespeare, and more. We'll also be doing tales from Chaucer, Romeo and Juliet, and more.

I'm really starting to gear up.

Now, back to reading Twain's Joan of Arc.

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 10, 2018

Moloch is back

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After two millennia, Moloch
is back on the clock.
Smacking his lips, he sneers, "It is good,"
as he lurks on the roof of Planned Parenthood.

Pax et bonum