Friday, April 20, 2018

Ruminating on the Book Primal Loss by Leila Miller



Recently, I had some coffee talk with a more liberal Catholic friend who wondered why I am aghast at the sleight of hand in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016) concerning communion for Catholics in irregular marriages.  My interlocutor argued that I should not care as this change neither effects me nor rocks my faith and it is meant to reach out to an increasingly secularized culture that needs healing. 

The impetus of Amoris Laetitia's pastoral provision can be characterized as offering band aids to the wounded in the field hospital of faith. However, by  circumventing the annulment process with a suggestion of pastoral counseling, it seems intended to attract more wayward Catholics who have “moved on” from a bad marriage  back to the faith with the incentive of receiving the Eucharist.  Such a procedure moots the Magisterium and risks cheapening the faith and endangers souls.


This theological conversation took place as I was reading Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak (2017) edited by Leila Miller. The author graduated summa cum laude from Boston College, is a reverted Catholic mother of eight who became known for her blog “Little Catholic Bubble”.  Leila Miller has now turned to writing apologetics on thorny moral issues.  Primal Loss which aggregates the oral histories of 70 adult children of divorce in reaction to six simple but revealing questions:


1) What effect has your parents’ divorce had on you?
2) What is the difference between how you felt about the divorce as a child and how you feel as an adult?
3) Has your parents’ divorce affected your own marriage or view on marriage?
4) Asking for reactions to the bromides “Children are resilient”, “You’ll be just fine and live a successful life after your parents’ divorce.
5) Asking what would you say to your parents about their divorce and if their reactions are just unconscious revenge.
6) What should society know about how divorce affects children.

Sociologists might dismiss Primal Loss as anecdotal evidence from a self selected contributors which did not stem from a controlled study.  The author’s objective was to given unvarnished opinions from those directly impacted by a divorce and to educate people on the ignored pitfalls of the Divorce Ideology which is championed in current culture and is one of the linchpins of the Sexual Revolution.

Indubitably, divorce is more prevalent today than it was a half century ago before the widespread. implementation of No-Fault Divorce.  But those bent on accommodating the new reality of divorce culture cite the statistic that 50% of marriages in America end in divorce.  But the index of Miller’s interviewees (whom she scrupulously protected their anonymities) belie that false fact.  So many of the contributors to Primal Loss have parents who were married several times after their initial divorce.  This certainly inflates the marriage rate.  Michael Medved points to studies which show that two thirds of marriages last until one person dies.  But the bogus 50% divorce rate statistic is part of the mythology that people in troubled marriages use to justify their self-centered action of divorce.

It was remarkable to read in Primal Loss the unvarnished opinions and reflective reactions that the now adult children of divorce had to their parents breaking up their family.  Several of them chronicled abusive parents or adults mired in addiction (sometimes both parents), where it was understandable that separation was necessary for safety. Many times adultery (or the desire for a newer or more compatible mate) was the driving force for the divorce.    But more often than not, these grown children of divorce recognized that parental selfishness was at play.  Divorcing parents also broke up their families for seemingly trivial reasons under the generous guise of No Fault Divorce without weighing the devastating consequences on their children.

It was unsurprising that divorce pushes custodial parents into poverty and unsupervised parenting which makes kids prone to promiscuity, abortions and addiction to fill the void that they feel. These interviews also highlight how their parents example of divorce negatively impacts their faith.  To justify their life style choices which are contrary to traditional church teaching, previously faithful parents pull back on their religiosity and children follow suit.  The domestic church is decimated. 

There is also the uncomfortable dynamic that with joint custody, kids of divorce have to adapt to two different households and parental styles.  So during adolescence, when kids are struggling to discern their true identities, they must act to please the powers that be in their household du jour (which often may harbor bad feelings towards churchy purveyors of guilt).  Add on the feeling of betrayal and abandonment for an institution which seems to be made of straw caused a fair number of interviewees to abandon their faith, seek more conducive pastures or seek self destructive secular solutions.  As Primal Loss originated from Catholic social media connections, most of the contributors seemed to have reverted back to Catholicism.

A set of lies which the Divorce Ideology trumpets is the knee jerk reaction “Oh, kids are resilient, they’ll get over it.” and the self serving “Kids will be happy if I am in a happier relationship.”.  The tangled webs we weave when first we learn to deceive.  Children crave acceptance so they will fake it until they make it and to great extends mask their woundedness from their family identity being torn away from their through divorce.  Superficially, they’ll embrace the prospect of having two Christmases etc...  But that comes at a cost of not having a stable place of their own.  And the reality that they will have to grow up quickly, often becoming their custodian parent's sounding board about the failed marriage. 

Combine an emotionally fragile adolescent who has been wounded by their parents’ divorce and parents preoccupied with their own love life along with authority issues with step parents, these children of divorce often are laxly parented lest they scion leave (and give their divorced spouse a “victory”).  That interplay creates FINE kids, which one interviewee used as an acronym for “F-‘ed up Insecure Neurotic Emotional”.


Another reaction to their hemaneutic that divorce is OK because it allows the parent to seek a happy relationship was:


Before I say anything to them, can I slap them around a little first, and let them know that that makes me happy so they should be happy too? No. Okay...

A reconstituted family rarely runs as smoothly as portrayed in the TV myths like “The Brady Bunch”.  Most adult children revealed that they long yearned for the possibility that their parents may become reconciled.  Adult children of divorce ruefully recall that their well being was perennially put in a lower position than their parents’ happiness.  And it is usually made clear to divorced children what their place is in a blended family. No wonder the contributor harbored that slap happy reaction.


What really seemed to be lacking in a Divorce Culture is the notion of sacramentality of marriage. If one views marriage as a contract, it is relatively easy to mentally justify walking away from it if you are not happy.  Marriage ought to be  properly understood as a covenant which is a sacrament modeled as the Lord wedded himself to a stiff necked people who He called his own despite their weaknesses and infidelity.  Moreover, if we understand the Trinity as a divine relationship which results in the overflowing of love of the Holy Spirit, we should see the analogy in our own participation in creation through the sacrament of marriage and having children.  Being wedded to someone is never easy and often requires sacrifice.  And it is not just for us mere mortals. After all, the Lord endured having His only begotten Son sacrificed to reconcile with an estranged humanity. 




The Church also needs to improve its catechesis about divorce.  While dining with some on fire social justice warrior faithful, one person gave uninformed assent to provisions of Amoris Laetitia because divorced Catholics have already had it hard enough and ought to receive the Eucharist.  He seemed stunned when I observed that those who remain celibate (honoring their covenental nuptuals) can.  And those in irregular marriages (civilly divorced and remarried) can go through an annulment.  The author tried to solve this by including Catholic teaching on marriage in her last chapter, but the message is better disseminated from the pulpit as well as Catholic media.




Some Catholics consider annulments to be a Catholic divorce, and contend that annulments  are much easier to get today in America.  But the process for a certificate of nullity asks incisive questions of petitioners and their witnesses which require deep introspection.  I appreciated the suggestion by one Primal Loss contributor that couples should be allowed to go through the annulment process BEFORE having a civil divorce proceeding as it might encourage more couples to work through their problems and stay together. 

Circumventing the annulment process to allow for pastoral counseling to educate couples in irregular marriages poses several problems.  Priests already have severe time constraints and the necessity of educating thoroughly secularized consciences may make true faith formation challenging.  The reliance on abiding by individual consciences without the surety of formal pronouncement of nullity from church authorities means that either souls are endangered or the process is a fiction.  Furthermore, to continue to have an annulment process when this pastoral provision is foisted as being magisterial (which is mistaken as paragraph 3 of Amoris Laetitia indicates that it is a persuasive document intended pastorally) makes anyone seeking annulments as a pious patsy.

I appreciated the observation that when an annulment is granted, it may bring closure to the ex-spouses but it does not have the effect on the offspring as it does not change the dire circumstances of blowing up the family and snatching away their identities.  An adult friend of mine declared that he was a bastard because his parents had their marriage annulled.  I tried to tell him church teaching that while the sacramentality of the marriage was void, he was not born out of wedlock.  That nugget of truth did not change his long held self perception.

One contributor to Primal Loss eloquently expressed the resulting marred self perception of being a child of divorce:


Divorce creates its own language for a child. Much of it is unspoken and the child is the only one who achieves fluency.  It might be the voice of doubt in the back of one's mind one day, or the voice of indecision where I should be resolute another day.  This perpetually dysfunctional language replaces the language of family love that otherwise forms a child's internal dialogue. So, in a way, divorce becomes the 'everlasting gift' to the child that a child can't overcome. The dysfunction replaces the permanence and security of an intact family.

Since most of Primal Loss were oral histories grouped together by topics, it was in many ways an easy read. Yet absorbing the tales of pain, reflections on the adverse impact of divorce on kids lives and the intractable issues associated with breaking up families also made it a painful read.  A virtue of Leila Miller’s organization of the book is that aside from grouping narratives together which corresponded to her six questions, there was scant thematic argumentation, so a reader was not led to obvious take away conclusions, other than divorce is bad, it harms children in innumerable ways and ought to be avoided at almost all costs.

The penultimate chapter of Primal Loss contained Stories of Hope. Many of these accounts attest to the power of prayer. But they are not saccharine stories of sanctimoniousness.  These adult children of divorce find themselves at the brink of a marital breakup. But the reoccurring theme is that they do not surrender to selfishness and look beyond themselves, turning to prayer along with considering their childrens’ plight.

Recently, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, offered high praise of Primal Loss for highlighting a world view which denies the value of self sacrificial love along with the damaging and long lasting consequences of divorce.  This is a recommended read for anyone in a troubled marriage to contemplate before their break up their family.  These testimonials may also give real life examples for adult catechesis. For myself, it illustrated the ill born consequences of the Church circumventing the Magisterium on marriage to be more appealing in a populist driven New Evangelization.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Remembering MLK: In the Name of Love



Fifty years ago today, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee by a racist shooter. Many cities burned, including Washington DC, in reaction to this murder.

One of the early anthems of the rock super-group U-2 is "Pride--In the Name of Love", which commemorated this horrible event as well as reinforcing the peaceful messages of the Reverend King. 


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Thomas Merton on Spiritual Union

Thomas Merton on Spiritual Union

Prayer of Thomas Merton 

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,

and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. 

And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always,though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 
Amen.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

Celebrating the Chair of St. Peter

Pope Benedict XVI on celebrating the Chair of St. Peter

It may seem a bit unusual that the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.  The feast which has been marked since the Fourth Century is more than , however, is more than a celebration about an ornamented seat  in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.  It also represents the spiritual authority of the Church.  

The Church used to celebrate the Chair of St. Peter on January 18th and February 22nd. But in 1960, Pope St. John XXIII removed the January 18th feast, but the February 22nd date became a second class feast. 

Original Chair of St. Peter Woodcarving
Chair of St. Peter woodcarving, from Wood Carvings in English Churches (1910)


The wooden throne was a gift from Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald to Pope John VIII in 875. The original portion of Cathedra Petri is a plain oaken arm chair made of worm eaten wood. This chair has been cut in various spots, presumably for relics. During the Middle Ages, the Chair of St. Peter was displayed once a year as well  the sedi gestoria as when a newly elected Pope was enthroned. 

To preserve the precious relic for posterity, Pope Alexander VII encased the Chair of St. Peter into a bronze throne designed by Bernini, who augmented the Throne of Peter from 1647-1653.  The Chair of Peter is supported by statues of four doctors of the Church-- St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius from the East and St. Augustine and St. Ambrose from the West. Bernini's design seems to have the cathedra hover over the apse altar lit by a window with a dove (representing the Holy Spirit) and is surrounded with gilded glory sunrays and sculpted clouds.  On the frieze above the altar is the inscription "O pastor of the Church, you feed all Christ's lambs and sheep" in Latin and Greek.




In the first year of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI noted:

Celebrating the "Chair" of Peter, therefore, as we are doing today, means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation.

H/t: National Catholic Register 







Saturday, February 10, 2018

Commemorating the Sacrifice of the Smallest Cristero Soldier: St. Jose Sanchez del Rio

St. Jose Sanchez del Rio on the Will of God





St. Jose,Littlest soldier of Christ,who's last bloody stepsbrought you to the arms of Our Lady and Our Lord,keep healthy and strongthe steps of Our Lord's soldierswho remain here on Earth,so that they may have your strength to endure and preserve to the end.Via Cristo Rey!Amen

Friday, February 9, 2018

Being At Peace With Different Measures of Glory





Athletes from Unified North & South Korean Team at Winter Olympics
The 23rd Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea are themed to be the games of peace.  This was accentuated by athletes of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) marching with their Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea) counterparts under a unified flag.


Olympic Athletes from Russia for 2018 Winter Olympics 
Due the doping ban on Russian Federation, the 169 clean Russian athletes marched as neutrals in red and grey uniforms as neutrals.  Any gold medal winning "Olympic Athletes of Russia"  will be feted with the raising of the Olympic flag and anthem. 

While the  2,952 athletes participating in the Pyeongchang games are the best winter sport athletes in the world, but only a few make it up to the medal stand to receive their glory. For most, marching in the Winter Olympics opening ceremony is the highlight of their careers. 



This makes Eric Liddell's admonition about glory all the more poignant. 


Eric Liddell on Glory

What is particularly noteworthy of Eric Liddell is not that he was the the Flying Scotsman was the first  British Gold Medal winner in track from 1924, or that he was the basis of the film Chariots of Fire (1981), or his steadfast Sabbath keeping, but for dying as a missionary in a Japanese internment camp in China in 1945. 

We should all be inspired to run a good race in life and doing our best.



Thoughts on Faith and American Life from the National Prayer Breakfast

President Donald Trump on Faith and American Life at National Prayer Breakfast


President Donald Trump spoke at the 66th annual National Prayer Breakfast, during which he bolstered lofty rhetoric about faith and American life by pairing it with contemporary examples of how we can be heroes to everybody. 



Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Archbishop Chaput Speaks the Catholic Truth in Defending Traditional Marriage

Since the Synods of the Family of 2014 and 2015, Munich Archbishop Reinhard Cardinal Marx, the Chairman of the German Bishops Conference, has been associated with the theology of gradualism, proffered by Cardinal Walter Kasper (said to be Pope Francis' favorite theologian).




That is why Cardinal Marx interview with Bavarian State Broadcasting that "there can be no rules" about Catholic priests blessing Same-Sex Marriages is so alarming.  The attitude which embraces the ambiguity coupled with the supposed pastoral discretion implements the progressive theological gradualism which is being implemented in some diocese regarding Amoris Laetitia.

To preclude the faithful from getting the wrong idea that Catholic doctrine on the sanctity of traditional marriage is gradually changing, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote a column in the Archdiocese newspaper to set things straight.


Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput on Defending Traditional Marriage
Moreover, Archbishop Chaput affirmatively issued a directive explicitly forbids clergy from blessing any same-sex union, mindful that this does not constitute a rejection of persons but is a defense of the truth of marriage.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

St. Paul Miki on the Christian Way

St. Paul Miki on the Christian Way



St. Paul Miki's wisdom about the Christian Way was all the more remarkable as he said this as the Japanese Jesuit  was being martyred with a score of Jesuit and Franciscan companions by being pierced with spears on crosses by a Japanese shogun's soldiers. 


Friday, February 2, 2018

Connecting Candlemas to Groundhog Day

An old English rhyme celebrating Candlemas, the Presentation at the Temple of Jesus, the light of the world


February 2nd marks 40 days after Christmas.  On the liturgical calendar we celebrate the Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple, the traditional close of the Christmas season. It is also known as Candlemas, as the faithful traditionally processed into the church sanctuary with Candles. This ceremony re-presenting how the Mary and Joseph brought Jesus, the Light of the World, into the Temple.



On the secular calendar, we celebrate Groundhog Day, awaiting the predictions of Punxsutawney Phil from western Pennsylvania on whether there will be six more weeks of winter (not Black History Month as some wags have wondered).  This makes sense as it roughly is midwinter (especially prior to the Gregorian calendar adjustment of 1752).  Unbeknowst to most, Groudhog Day has a direct connection to Candlemas.

In eastern Europe, which focused on light and candles, there was a folk association between how much light was in the sky on Candlemas and God's providence in the months to come. Thus they believed that if there was a lot of light in the sky on February 2nd, there would be 40 more days of winter.  Germanic peoples used an animal as their light detector, typically a hedgehog or a badger.  When they immigrated to America, they adapted their instrument and used the plentiful groundhog. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

On the Politicization of Church Life

Cardinal Raymond Burke on the Politization of Church Life under Pope Francis

Cardinal Raymond Burke gave an extended interview with Christopher Altieri for "Thinking With the Church" about matters of controversy among Catholics.  Burke's interview was recorded as a podcast and the transcript was published in the Catholic World Reporter. The Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta expressed anguish that some consider his request to the Holy See for clarifications (dubia) about the  apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016) are motivated to create a schism in the Catholic church.  

Cardinal Burke is concerned that the interpretation and application of Amoris Laetitia contradict long standing traditional teachings on the Sacrament of Marriage.  While Cardinal Burke scrupulously avoided ideological labels in his Altieri interview, he noted the Bishop of Malta's innovation regarding irregular second marriages, which clearly are progressive in nature.


One of the characteristics of Pope Francis' reign is the injection of secular progressive politics into papal pronouncements.  In Laudato Si' (2015), Pope Francis implored world leaders to approve the Paris Climate Change Accords.  Pope Francis' visit to the Mexican-US  border was a pointed ploy to champion open borders, counter to the platform of then  candidate now President Donald Trump. Even Pope Francis' annual announcement for World  Communication Day  railed against "fake news"





Pope Francis' advocated a journalism of peace, which the Holy Father defined as:

A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those – and they are the majority in our world – who have no voice,” A journalism less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflict, in order to promote deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous process. A journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence."

A true faith ought to be challenged and should not be confined to the sanctuary of the Church. There is the danger , however, that the Catholic faithful are being shepherded to take sides on secular political issues which are outside of the aura of competency of the Petrine office) and sometimes seem counter to traditional church teachings).  Those who object to this progressive polarization and stand fast to the Magisterium have increasingly been scorned, ostracized or dismissed as getting with today's program, even if the innovation is not magisterial.


For example, Chicago's Archbishop Blase Cardinal Cupich interpreted Amoris Laetitia as being a development of doctrine which the Petrine office has loosened requirements when pastorally addressing irregular marriages. But the apostolic exhortation did no such thing.  

Paragraph 3 of Amoris Laetitia indicates that the document was not doctrinal and was intended to start the conversation.  The controversy over Amoris Laetitia involves footnote 351 regarding Paragraph 305 which suggests that there might be some pastoral means of curing irregular second marriages.  But Pope Francis has refused to answer dubia's regarding the implementation. And progressive powers in the Church are attempting to steamroll their will, in a jesuitical manner, speaking with great force but not having the facts on their side.

As we grapple with the politicization of Church life, we ought to heed 16th Century Lutheran theologian Peter Meiderlin's wisdom that we ought to have "[U]nity on necessary things, liberty on dubious things and charity in all things."