Offense Taking is Immature

I’m not sure I understand exactly what our obligation to “not give offense” is when everyone is hair-trigger offended all the time.  But the rest is interesting.

“Being offended is a sign of immaturity because it’s an unwillingness to acknowledge and live in the truth”

“To choose to be offended is to choose to be a victim”

Is old film the answer to forming our children’s imaginations?

Anthony Esolen thinks so.  Our children need not just our example or direct teaching to form their imagination and moral sense, but good art, including film.  If it isn’t explicitly religious or moralizing, all the better.

Why the Miley Cyrus generation needs the old movies…urgently:

For I find this black mark impinge the man,
   
That he believes in just the vile of life.
   
Low instinct, base pretension, are these truth?
                   
– Robert Browning, from The Ring and the Book

…we should welcome our allies wherever we may find them, particularly among the creators of films that celebrate marriage and innocent life, piety and faithfulness, before such things became controversial. The unconscious witness of people who are not party to our current confusion can be most powerful indeed. A film like Penny Serenade, about a marriage that hangs by a thread, between a good man who is a failure at work and a good woman who cannot bear children, has more to say to us about not tearing asunder what God has joined together, than any number of lectures in theology…

Here someone will object that the people who made those films were often not at all pious. Some of them did things that, if you knew about them, would make it almost impossible for you ever again to take any pleasure in their work. What then separates them from the people who make films now? Aren’t they all sinners like the rest of us? And cannot bad people make great art?

Yes and no. There are sinners who feel the pain of their sin because they acknowledge how far they fall short of the glory of God. That might have described the hard-drinking, fist-throwing Catholic director, John Ford; and the womanizing Gary Cooper, who became a Catholic shortly before he died, partly because of the example of Ford. But then there are sinners who are numb to their sin, because they no longer acknowledge the glory of God. They are like the wicked man whom Robert Browning’s pope describes in the quote above. They believe “in just the vile of life.” For them, all piety is sanctimony, all patriotism is bigotry, all chastity is prudishness, all innocence is naïveté, all tradition is hide-bound, all judgment is arbitrary, and all love is but selfishness with sugar.

Such people cannot make great art. They can be a part of great works of art only to the extent that they are borne up by the faith of better people around them. They cannot otherwise raise themselves out of the mud…

We wish not only to tell our children what the truth is, but to show it to them. This we can do by the example of our lives, but because children so often feel the need to place some distance between themselves and their parents, if only to win their separate identities, we must turn to others to confirm that truth. We can do much on our own to form their memories. We can do little on our own to form their imaginations. That is what good art and great art are for.

We cannot hand over their imaginative catechesis to people who, en masse, reject or despise our trust in God and in the coherence and beauty of the nature which God has created and sustains. That is not because they are bad people. As people they may be much better than their principles. It is because their principles are bad; the well is bad from the source…

And since, for most people, imagination leads and reason follows, we are fooling ourselves if we think we can ignore it. The forming of the imagination is not a part of a Christian education. It is a Christian education.

That does not mean that we turn to specifically religious art. Again, a religious vision of the world often strikes home more powerfully when it is like the fresh air, or like health…

But I hear an objection: “Our children cannot watch the old movies!” Their attention wanders if they are not regularly needled and sparked by noise, a visual and aural and neural overload, an induced Saint Vitus’ dance. If that is true, their imaginations need more than formation. They need healing.

Education and the Benedict Option

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option has received a good deal of commentary recently.   Certainly we are living in post-Christian times.  This review makes me more interested in reading it.

In Fearing Dreher: Why the Benedict Option Scares Christians, Thomas Ascik writes:

But it is most interesting that Mr. Dreher barely talks about the curriculum of public elementary and secondary schools. He emphasizes, instead, the peer culture of the school environment. Christian parents may try very hard, but everything can be undone by “the toxic peer culture” of public schools. In addition, the parents themselves may neither understand nor be capable of resisting. The effects are pervasive. Mr. Dreher quotes communications to him from parents of children in public schools who describe the startling number of public-school students who have come to believe that that they are transgender or bisexual. In the bluntest statement of his whole book, and one aimed directly at Christian parents, Mr. Dreher asserts that “two or three hours of religious education weekly is unlikely to counteract the forty or more hours spent in school or school-related programming.” The conclusion: Christian parents should remove their children from public schools.

A senior in a large public high school located in a major western city recently told this reviewer that he did not know any Christians at his school. Now, since there are obviously students there who are Christians, that means that the Christian students never identify themselves as Christians nor say or do anything identifiably Christian. Plainly, those students think that a public school is not an environment where it is appropriate or even permissible to be an open Christian. So, we may ask, if you never express who you really are, aren’t you inevitably changing who you really are?

***

In order to combine Christian education with an education in the liberal learning of Western civilization, Mr. Dreher endorses the classical Christian school movement and gives both Catholic and Evangelical examples. If such schools are too expensive or not available, the alternative is to homeschool.

I couldn’t agree more that the public schools in our country are a disaster and the best thing you could do for your kids is to keep them out.  Here are a couple recent examples of the sort of negative influences in school he’s talking about.

A Florida teacher demanded her 9th grade student remove a cross necklace that she was wearing.  The teacher’s room is full of LGBT posters and rainbows.  She’s allowed to proselytize the kids, but the kids can’t even wear a symbol of their faith?  Although the girl obeyed the teacher’s demand at the time, she and her parents aren’t taking this without a fight:

Together with her attorneys, this brave ninth grader is asking for the right to express her faith, which is already guaranteed to her by the Constitution. Students should never have to check their beliefs at the school house door — or anywhere else for that matter.

Emily Zinos writes “A ‘transgender’ kindergartner registered at my kids’ school. That’s when the madness began.”  She goes on to describe what happened in her school district: the school’s attempts at accommodation, the “trans” kid’s parents suing anyway, school sponsored meetings telling the rest of the parents they had to comply and when these parents funded a meeting to counterpoint the school’s presentation, “Well over a hundred local pro-LGBTQ protesters came to the presentation, prompting the local police to send a sergeant and two patrolling squads as protection.”  Because tolerance, folks!

The rest of Ms. Zinos’ article is interesting, especially that a group of feminists has joined the fight against transgender activism because of common ground of ensuring the rights of biological women.  Here is her conclusion about what’s happening in the schools:

institutionalizing gender ideology will require that schools ignore the evidence that it causes real harm to children. You can’t extol the virtues of gender ideology and question its soundness at the same time. By celebrating transgenderism as a valid identity, schools are promoting a body-mind disconnect that may very well bring on the gender dysphoric state they were attempting to prevent. And when the widely accepted “affirmative” medical treatments of gender dysphoria in children are both poorly studied and glaringly injurious, we have nothing to celebrate.

We’re building a school-to-gender-clinic pipeline that will feed this new pediatric specialty with young patients. There are now more than thirty gender clinics specializing in youth across the United States, and the young patients who are under their care are often given bone-destroying puberty blockers at eleven, potentially sterilized with cross-sex hormones at sixteen, and permanently mutilated by plastic surgery soon after that.

Make no mistake, schools that endorse and celebrate transgenderism as valid are endorsing child abuse.

Given examples like those (and those are only two, only the tip of the ice berg where trans-issues are but one problem among many), I’d say Dreher isn’t wrong about the state of education in America.  He also opines that most of the American colleges may be beyond saving – unless they are replaced by truer places of secondary learning.  What about his other ideas?

Mr. Dreher, who visited the Benedictine monastery at Nursia, Italy, in preparing his book, holds that the Rule is a “manual of practices, and its precepts simple and “plain enough to be adapted by lay Christians for their own use.” He derives eight main principles from the Rule and states why each would literally be a godsend for Christians in the modern, secular world. Against the disorder and loss of tradition of the modern world, the first principle is that it is order—ordered daily life, rather than today’s randomness—that sets the stage for “internal order.”

The second is prayer. “Prayer is the life of the soul,” Mr. Dreher quotes a Benedictine monk, and time must be set aside for it. The monastic emphasis on regular, daily prayer is the precisely needed antidote to the maniacal busyness of the contemporary world. Echoing the standard understanding of the role of prayer in Christian life, Mr. Dreher suggests that “if we spend all our time in activity, even when that activity serves Christ, and neglect prayer and contemplation, we put our faith in danger.”

Third, against the intellectualizing of everything today, Benedict’s Rule understands that the involvement of the body in manual labor is an essential part of human work. Again, Christians today, having been forced out of some of the professions, may have to resort to more labor by hand, Mr. Dreher concludes.

Fourth, contrary to the supreme modern principle of satisfying one’s own desires, “relearning asceticism—that is, how to suffer for the faith—is critical training for Christians living in the world today and the world of the near future.”

Fifth, even that most monastic principle of stability—that is, staying in one place—has some relevance to lay Christians, for what is the overall benefit of our constant mobility?

Sixth is community, the human architecture of a monastery, but also of a family, a neighborhood, a city, a society, and a polity. We readers might add to Mr. Dreher’s analysis the observation that we now increasingly live without a sense of shared life, without a “collective consciousness,” as Emile Durkheim put it. We are “free, equal, and independent,” but, pace John Locke, we are alone.

Seventh, contrary to Mr. Dreher’s critics and to a true understanding of the Rule, hospitality is a daily duty not only of monastic life but also of lay Christian life. Pilgrims and visitors are to “be received like Christ.” But hospitality, like all the virtues, must be practiced with prudence and according to the other principles of the Rule. A visitor cannot disturb or disrupt the community.

Mr. Dreher adds an eighth principle—balance, partly derived from the Benedictines but also from his own reflection and observation. By being too strict, some Christian communities have fallen apart or become “cultlike.” On the other hand, since abandonment to the will of God is the goal, Christian communities cannot be based on “spiritual mediocrity.”

Coexist (with cows)

Religions should be able coexist you say?  What about when religions have diametrically opposed beliefs?  Like one thinks hamburger is great and the other thinks cows are sacred.

Muslim man dies after attack by cow vigilantes in India

A Muslim man has died after he was attacked by hundreds of vigilantes while transporting cows in India, police said Wednesday, as tensions rose over the slaughter of an animal Hindus consider sacred.

No arrests have yet been made, but police said they had registered a murder case over 55-year-old Pehlu Khan’s death in hospital on Monday, two days after a mob attacked his cattle truck on a highway in Alwar in the western state of Rajasthan.

At least six more people were injured when the truck was attacked by around 200 Hindu vigilantes, who police are still trying to identify.

But police also said they were preparing a case against the survivors of the attack, whom they suspect of trying to smuggle the cattle across state borders.

Cows are considered sacred in Hindu-majority India, where squads of vigilantes roam highways inspecting livestock trucks for any trace of the animal.

If someone really and truly believes something, it will change how they act.  And if someone believes that it’s wrong to kill cows but not wrong to kill people who kill cows, people is gonna get killed.  Modern society has been spoiled by Christianity because Christians tend to wring their hands and pray when someone does something they find abhorrent.  They don’t form mobs and wander around looking for people breaking Christian practices.

What Gender Used to Mean

It isn’t something you “choose” or can “change,”  Yes, the human species has two biological sexes that have innate differences — and that isn’t a bad thing.  What used to be common and unquestioned knowledge not so long ago, is today forgotten by so many. Mama Needs Coffee reminds us about The Beauty of Gender: Our Differences Aren’t Scary, They’re Beautiful (and Essential):

Male and female created he them; and blessed them… – Genesis 5:2

This morning I was strolling a leisurely stroll on the treadmill and enjoying 45 minutes of toddler downtime (thanks, Brandy in kids club) when my eyes drifted to the newsfeed on the bottom of my tv screen where a “breaking news” alert was scrolling.

What constitutes breaking news in 2017? That’s a loaded question. But for this local ABC affiliate station, the answer was “Australia considering banning fairy tales from schools.” I rolled my eyes into my frontal lobe because probably it was offensive to real witches and living fairy godmothers, all that questionable detail Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, etc. go into about their lives and various motivations and ways of being.

But, no.

Apparently, it’s because fairy tales “encourage outdated gender norms” and that children “as young as four” are reportedly manifesting “gender biasing behaviors” in their play and make believe…

 

First of all, kids as young as four display “gender biasing behaviors” because children as young as age four do, in fact, have genders.

Fetuses, it turns out, also have genders… And gender – in parlance common up until just a few short years ago – was basically interchangeable with “sex” – and nobody was going to bat an eye or shred an admission form over it.

Children, like the rest of us, are male or female, and as such, they typically exhibit a few characteristic (but not exclusive) behaviors common to their gender. Boys, for example, as anyone who has ever birthed, raised, or even tangentially known one, are loud and they are intensely physical. Not all boys and not all the time, but overall, there is a certain exuberance that belongs to the male sex that is right and beautiful.

These boys will become men who lend their strong voices to the pursuit of truth and goodness. They will speak up for what is right, and they will take action to defy evil when they see it. Because that is what men are designed to do. Men are action-takers and pursuers of truth by nature. They image God in their strength, both physical and moral. And that is beautiful. (And does not, incidentally, exclude women from being action takers and pursuers of truth.)

***

We are foolish when we typecast certain “behaviors” into rigid gender norms and then insist that our children refrain at all cost from manifesting them, should they match up in a way we are currently collectively frowning upon.

What good is there to be gained by discouraging a boy from expressing strength and courage on the playground, whether he is shouting down a bully or rallying his friends to the winning kickball run? And what good is served in correcting a girl who longs to be told that she is beautiful – who in fact has a profound and fundamentally good desire to be affirmed in her beauty on a soul-deep level – that she ought not be concerned with something so trivial or vain?

Conversely, if a boy enjoys cooking and art and a girl is an absolute terror on the lacrosse field, these, too, are good and beautiful manifestations of their particular individual giftedness. This does not indicate a confused or wrongly-assigned gender, but normal and healthy diversity in this thing that we call being human.

Being a mother is intractably a female role; being a hairdresser is not.

While the world frets on about the sexism of fairy tales, about girls dreaming of true love and affirmed beauty, and boys about vanquishing dragons and journeying into uncharted territories, I’ll be sitting here reading Cinderella and the Chronicles of Narnia to all of them, male and female alike. And they will perhaps get different things from the same story. They will perhaps encounter it with their male or female minds and focus on particular aspects which attract or repel them, and that will be fine. That will be good.

Our differences are our strengths, and denying the intricate design of the complementarity between the sexes is to deface the image of the Creator Himself.

Some Cultures Deserve to be Destroyed

History, like life, is a complicated thing.  The more one tries to simplify it, the more inaccurate the story becomes.  A recent trend in the presentation of the history of the New World, the Americas, is the idealization of the indigenous cultures.  The politically correct version contains a great deal of revisionism and applies today’s standards backwards onto people who lived in a very different time and place — well, as you will see, they’re only applying moral standards onto one group of people: the Europeans. Another instance of Moral Relativism at work, and the result isn’t very pretty.

When studying the discovery and conquest of Central and South America by Spain and Portugal, the more recent presentations tend to focus on the cruelty of the Europeans and the “tragic” loss of the “advanced” cultures of the Mayan, Aztec and Inca (among other lesser known tribes).  While abuses by the Conquistadors are undoubtedly true to some extent, to what extent is difficult to determine considering that even at the time there were numerous forces working to paint Spain, in particular, as evil.  This propaganda is referred to as the “Black Legend.”  It was politically and religiously (by Protestants), useful to depict the Spaniards as immoral, greedy hypocrites.  Today of course all European colonization of Native cultures and lands is seen as despicable.

If it is wrong to idealize the conquerors as primarily intention-ed to bring Christianity to the natives and be kind in doing so, it is also wrong to demonize them all as selfish and cruel.  Many holy men (Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, etc.) accompanied the explorers with the intent of converting the native peoples — not forcibly, but with persuasion. Often these priests and monks lost their lives.  When abuses of the soldiers were made known to leaders of State and Church in Europe, they were denounced and those in the New World were admonished to cease their cruelty.  Events “prompted Pope Paul III in 1537 to issue the bull Sublimis Deus in which he declared: ‘The said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ.'”

One must also remember that the majority of the Europeans in the New World were hardened soldiers.  Theirs was of necessity a brutal existence.  To make the journey and explore lands that were wild and unfamiliar to them, they had to endure much hardship. They were all at least minimally Christian, being immersed in European Christian morality, if not actually practicing it well.  What they discovered in the New World was so horrifying that we might excuse at least some of their supposed brutality in response.

When Hernando Cortez and his forces encountered the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan — a city on a partially man-made island in Lake Texacoco — they were amazed by its beauty, sophistication and cleanliness.  There were paved streets and numerous canals laid out in an orderly fashion and intricate carvings and designs.  They were welcomed with gifts by the natives who were so astonished by the arrival of these strange beings that they suspected they were gods (this belief was influenced by the fact that their calendar was predicting an important god return to the city that year).  Then, and imagine their shock, they discovered in the temple district that the stairs and walls and statues were liberally splashed with blood, so much blood that one description speaks of the stench of decay.  And the evidence of human sacrifice, walls of skulls for decoration. They would later learn that the Aztecs sacrificed tens of thousands of people every year. Can you imagine how you might have felt in their position?  It is the stuff of stories indeed: one discovers a fantastic new civilization, appearing quite advanced and civilized in fact, only to later uncover the horrible truth of the underlying savagery.  I wonder if when faced with such horrendous evil, it might be understandable if a person might “go off the deep end” a little and react by trying to wipe these frightening and inhuman practices out by any means necessary?

The Aztecs are the most well-known for their fierce fighting and warring and love of human sacrifice, but the Mayans, who predate them, and many other lesser tribes, whether enemies of the Aztecs or allies, were also fond of such blood-shed.  The Incas of Peru, who I have seen described as mostly “peaceful,” were especially fond of child sacrifice.  There is archaeological evidence that captured Spaniards and indigenous allies were used for sacrifice (and possibly cannibalized), which should come as no surprise since that was the typical fate of captured enemies.

Older historical resources tend to have a harsher presentation of these realities, while newer ones skim over the human sacrifice bit and focus on the other interesting bits of culture: art, astronomy, architecture and technological advances, and lament the loss of these cultures at the hands of the Europeans.  I’m not sure if all the other “advances” or “achievements” account for much when the culture’s core is so rotten. How can I appreciate the interesting statues and carvings when many of them represent blood-thirsty gods with insatiable desire “to eat” hearts ripped still-beating from living people, that these images were once deliberately splattered with human blood?  Can we “appreciate” such “art?”  Is it morally acceptable to “celebrate” such cultures or mourn their demise?

One presentation I heard said basically “that’s what worked for them and that’s all that matters.”  Can we not see what is evil any more?  How can those practices ever be ok? People who think this way have no imaginations.  How would they have liked actually living in those times?  How would they have liked being “chosen” as a sacrifice or having their child chosen?  Moral relativism and modern inconsistency leads to harsh criticism of the Europeans for their conquest of natives, but refrains from condemning human sacrifice.

I am glad that the dominant civilizations of ancient Central and South America were wiped out!  The barbarity and cruelty of their religious practices make it difficult for me to summon up sympathy towards these peoples or condemnation for the Europeans who ultimately destroyed their cultures.  It takes a Saint to respond with kindness and compassion.  In 1987, then Pope John Paul II spoke to a gathering of Native Americans in Arizona:

“The early encounter between your traditional cultures and the European way of life was an event of such significance and change that it profoundly influences your collective life even today. That encounter was a harsh and painful reality for your peoples. The cultural oppression, the injustices, the disruption of your life and of your traditional societies must be acknowledged. At the same time, in order to be objective, history must record the deeply positive aspects of your people’s encounter with the culture that came from Europe. Among these positive aspects I wish to recall the work of the many missionaries who strenuously defended the rights of the original inhabitants of this land. They established missions throughout this southwestern part of the United States. They worked to improve living conditions and set up educational systems, learning your languages in order to do so. Above all, they proclaimed the Good News of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ, an essential part of which is that all men and women are equally children of God and must be respected and loved as such. This gospel of Jesus Christ is today, and will remain forever, the greatest pride and possession of your people.”

Note that he was speaking to North American natives who weren’t infamous for their love of human sacrifice.  I doubt “disruption of your life and of your traditional societies” would be considered a bad thing morally speaking, even if it was perceived as a negative by the people themselves, when that traditional society included human sacrifice.  However, the good results of European conquest apply to those natives as well or one might argue even more so.

The World is Confused About the Nature of Love and Suffering

One might argue that the zeitgeist is confusion, especially confusion about what it means to love and how to handle suffering — both one’s own and that of others.  No one seems to understand what is true or even that there is such a thing as truth.  To illustrate this confusion, people embrace relativism and “personal truth,” but then turn around and decry what they perceive as politicians telling untruths (with great shock and outrage it might be added, as though they’ve missed all the jokes about lying politicians).  In How TIME murdered truth, and framed Trump, Jonathon Van Maren, points out the irony (which no one seems to notice) that TIME Magazine’s recent cover, “Is Truth Dead?” (apparently referencing Trump’s “lying,” so-called “fake-news,” etc.), follows on the heels of this cover: “Beyond He or She: How a new generation is redefining the meaning of gender.”

Of course truth is dead. Our culture killed it, long before Donald Trump showed up…

We now reject every constraint on our own so-called right to radical self-determination, even if those constraints are biology and reality. That is why a full-grown man can decide to leave his family and live as a six-year-old girl, and the media coverage of this is largely subdued and respectful. That is why there is a new group of human beings who identify as non-human beings—rather, they are “Otherkin,” people who identify as certain animals. This is treated with long-faced solemnity by our cultural elites, because truth is dead and people can be whatever they want, even if they are obviously not what or who they say they are.

For those who are baffled by each new absurdity, there is an extensive arsenal of labels awaiting them. Homophobe. Transphobe…Otherkinphobe? And so it goes.

Our culture is no longer self-aware enough to recognize humans who claim they are not human as fundamentally disturbed, and men who claim to be women and women who claim to be men as suffering from some delusion deserving of treatment rather than celebratory front page stories in iconic news magazines. TIME Magazine can mourn the loss of truth merely a week after they have championed its departure, and almost nobody will notice.

In these times of confusion about even the nature of biological sex/gender, people are understandably confused about the nature of marriage as well, even among Catholics who should know better. According to John-Henry Westen, Pope Francis is playing with fire and adding to the confusion:

But as we’ve laid out above, there is massive confusion in the Church about where exactly the Pope stands on the matter. Even though a thorough assessment clearly shows the Pope backing communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, there are cardinals and bishops who suggest the Pope means the opposite.

For those who knew Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio prior to his election to the pontificate, this is nothing new. I spoke to a few priests from Buenos Aires who worked with Cardinal Bergoglio in different capacities and from them learned that confusion is emblematic of his ministry…

Shortly after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, a forward-thinking critic warned that it would become unworkable for the Church if the bishops in Germany would wink at divorce and remarriage while across the border in Poland it would be mortally sinful. Yet who could have envisioned that we’d see bishops and cardinals voicing opposing opinions on what the Pope himself believes and teaches?

The dichotomy is clear evidence that the Pope himself, in refusing to clarify despite the formal and public request of the four Cardinals and associated pleas by countless other Catholic clergy and laity, is guilty of betraying the entire Church. By letting this charade continue he has sown confusion into the hearts of the faithful. This confusion could lead to mortal sin and thus eternal damnation.

Pope Francis is indeed playing with fire. Hell fire.

It is sad that Pope Francis, whether deliberately or not, seems not to understand or be able to clearly articulate consistent Church teaching as well as some laity can.  Leila Miller, author of the soon-to-be released book Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, has an article on Catholic Answers summarizing: Eight Things You Have To Know About The Church’s Teaching On Divorce.

As Catholics, we are called to a higher standard than the secular culture, and we must rejoice in and embrace Jesus’ insistence on the indissolubility of Christian marriage. The Church’s unbroken teaching reveres and protects the spouses, the children, extended families, society, and the order of creation itself. Our response to marriages, and families, crumbling around us should be a commitment to live, teach, and defend these little known and often rejected truths about the immorality and effects of divorce. As St. John Paul II said in a homily, “The person who does not decide to love forever will find it very difficult to really love for even one day” (The Love Within Families).

The Church teachings that she summarizes are not as well known as they should be.  One response commended her article for being “straight out of the Catechism… founded in Scripture” and had this to say:

The fact is, life is about the cross. Take everything TV and movies say about marriage and throw it out the window. Marriage is a great source of joy. But real joy and peace comes from the cross… Some marriages will be exceptionally difficult. So what? There’s a million things that can befall a person that would make life difficult. We are still bound by moral rules… The points in this article need to be preached over and over and over. They used to be well understood. They need to be made that way again.

A Catholic friend of mine recently announced that she is getting divorced.  This has been a long time coming and was no surprise.  Hers is one of the hard cases.  Her suffering and that of her children has been great (and probably will continue to be so). Changing Church rules would not alleviate their suffering.  Unfortunately, only a miracle and the much needed change of heart and healing of her husband would do that.  She’s hoped and prayed and worked for that for years without any results.  A hard and sad case indeed.

Likewise another example of hard cases are those of infertility and reproductive technologies.  This mother deeply regrets not having fully understood or been told firmly the truth about Catholic teaching.  Because she ignored teaching about IVF, she is now in a difficult moral situation involving frozen embryos.  Her response to the blogger who wrote about the truth of Catholic teaching: “I truly wish I had read your posts about IVF four years ago… that one stung, but it was so necessary. You’re right, of course, but the truth hurts.”

It has been said that hard cases make poor law.  So too do hard cases make poor Church policy. It is a mistake to attempt to turn the Church into yet another in institution solely bent on eliminating human suffering on Earth, at the expense of speaking the Truth, and would make the Church just another failed institution of “social justice.”  Trying to alleviate suffering by telling people to go and do whatever they want and patting them on the back for all their dysfunctional and self-destructive choices as though that were showing love — because we wouldn’t want to make anyone feel bad about the way they are living their lives — will only lead those suffering people to greater suffering and ruin in the long run.  Sometimes a mother must tell her children hard things for their own long-term good, though it may seem unkind in the moment.  Good mothers tell their children “No” as often as necessary.

Jesus said we must pick up our crosses to follow Him.  Following Jesus sounds nice, but no one really wants to pick up his cross because crosses equal suffering and who would want to embrace suffering?  Sometimes living the way we should can be extremely painful.  The world is uncomfortable with suffering: people try to escape suffering for themselves and think the best way to help others is to try to remove their suffering in any way they can.  Yes, some human suffering can and should be eased if at all possible, but sometimes the way to help isn’t to try to snatch away your neighbor’s cross and fling it as far as possible or pretend it isn’t there; sometimes the best way is to come alongside and offer to help carry his cross, like Simon of Cyrene did for our Lord.