Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Shortest Trip to Change My Life -- Happy Valentine's, Neighbor!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

One of my favorite things about being Catholic is that I have never been asked, as an action of faith, to go door-to-door throughout my neighborhood for any reason whatsoever. Don't get me wrong -- it's not that I am reluctant to talk with people about matters of faith (quite the opposite, in fact). It's just that, while I am rather outgoing in many circumstances, when I'm home I tend to go into hermit mode. I mean, not full-blown hermitage, but I'd definitely say that home time is when the more introverted part of me kicks in and just wants to be minding my own quiet, peaceful business and thinking my own lovely thoughts. When door-to-door folks of faith come proselytizing, I loathe it and sometime avoid answering the door altogether, but not because I don't want to talk about faith... it's because I'm at home! So needless to say, I don't really know any of my neighbors.

It's a terrible commentary on my faith life, really, to admit that I don't know a single one of the people in my immediate neighborhood very well after living here for a few years. I mean, I know the Bible mentions loving your neighbor on a number of occasions, and I'm pretty sure this concept is more demanding than the little wave I give when I see that one neighbor taking out their garbage can and the way that I generally avoid contact with the rest of them. I was recently thinking that I should do better in this regard, but as usual, made no concrete plans to do so.

The weather was so nice today that I suggested to my girls that we take a walk in our neighborhood. And then my girls asked me to let them go door-to-door to all the neighbors on our block to give out Valentine's cards while we were at it.


Everything inside me rebelled, but I knew I had to let them do it, at the risk of my own personal inconvenience and very probable embarrassment. I never could have guessed that the next hour would change my life. Here are a few highlights:

House 1: a kind older lady, presumably the wife of the man to whom I occasionally wave over garbage can transport. She was really happy to receive the girls' Junie B. Jones paper Valentines and to finally meet us, and sincerely thanked us several times for coming by, even though I was still kind of embarrassed and trying to get off her porch in pretty short order.

House 2: some kids peeking through the window, followed by their dad opening the door holding a bottle of Windex and, clearly far more embarrassed than I had ever been, apologizing to us in case we had overheard whatever it was that he had yelled at one of the misbehaving children. We handed over the Valentine's, I told the kids to be good for their dad, and a little while later a couple of the kids came out to their yard to yell a thank you to my girls for the cards.

House 3: a mom and her 3 children who we actually had met before when we were having a yard sale quite a while ago, but who we haven't seen much since because I am a procrastinating hermit (the worst kind). The mother had shared that they are Catholics from Israel who have been wanting to have their children prepared for the sacraments, and I had been meaning to follow up. They were so excited to see us again, and I honestly have seen few children as happy as those 3 were when my girls gave them their Valentines.

House 4: the young guy in his shorts and tank top, who looked groggy and possibly hung over, but couldn't stop smiling when he heard why we were there.

House 5: the guy who was cleaning the house after all of their furniture had already been moved out, and who apologized that they were leaving just when we came over to say hello. (Little did he know that we're about two years late, and not the regular welcome wagon.) He gave a big thanks, and we wished him well on his family's move.

House 6: the friendly but kind of strange guy across the street who I remember also coming over to our yard sale, but he seemed to have no recollection of who we were. He seemed happy enough about the girls' Valentines, although it kind of seemed like he thought I might be hitting on him. Hopefully, my facial expression accompanied by my nasty sweats and greasy pony tail made it clear that I was not, and we continued on as he waved goodbye.

House 7: the elderly Asian lady who, when I told her we were neighbors and the girls just wanted to give her Valentine's cards, tried to explain that she didn't speak much English. I tried to explain, through simple words and gestures, that the cards were for her. She looked happy and asked how much. I said, "No money; free, for you!" Her expression changed from confusion to gratitude, and I saw her eyes get teary as she gave an emotional thank you. As we walked down her driveway I turned back to see if my younger daughter needed help with her scooter, and saw the woman still standing there, smiling and watching us. A while later, I saw her on her driveway with a younger man (maybe her son) pointing down the street and looking our way.

You guys. My girls were just giving out these little paper Valentine's:

And I was just walking with them, trying to explain that we were neighbors just giving out some cards. I didn't even bake anything (which is probably for the best for all involved).

And everyone we saw was so happy.

It was really cool.

I'm not going to lie to myself or any of you and say that we're going to make this a regular event (because who wants Valentine's in March, anyway), but I definitely learned some great lessons from today, the most important of which can't really be put into words.

But I think my favorite lesson is that, when you have children who you school in the faith, they're bound to school you soon enough and you better hop on board for the ride.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The UN vs. The Holy See: Who Has Moral Authority?

Welcome back, Coffee Talkers!

It seems that all eyes are on the Catholic Church, and on Pope Francis in particular. As the media tracks his every move and (mis)reports his every word, there seems to be a keen interest in both secular and religious communities to see if and how Francis will set a moral compass for the world. And while his teachings and activities are no departure from his predecessors, his sky-rocket to star status in less than a year of papal reign is notable. Already named person of the year by Time, The Advocate, and GQ, the only cover left un-Poped was, until recently, Rolling Stone. I was gearing up to read my first Rolling Stone article, until a few paragraphs into the nearly 8,000 words of half-truths, gross mis-characterizations, and crude ad hominem attacks on Benedict XVI, I realized that, as Kimberly "Sweet Brown" Wilson so sagely explained, "Ain't nobody got time for that." Clearly, just because people see Pope Francis as a rock star doesn't mean that they 'get' Catholicism or regard the Church as having any kind of moral authority.

Thankfully, I was able to find some other interesting reading in the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child's 16-page lambast of the Holy See. While the UN report was certainly more interesting than the so-called article from Rolling Stone, it seems to have been based on a surprisingly similar lack of factual information about the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. 

Since the UN Committee's concluding observations open by chiding the Holy See for their previously delayed response of approximately fourteen years, I've decided to help the UN out by offering some initial insights right away, at least a decade sooner than they expect to receive a formal response from the Vatican. I will reply to a few key points from the document.

1. The Convention recommends, in a variety of ways that the Holy See (a.k.a. the Vatican) make a full review of all Canon (or Church) Law, with the goal of ensuring that it is in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

I'm not sure how to break this to the Committee. I mean, the Vatican did get back to them (albeit 14 years late) the last time they were in touch, but they may not be on the top of their list of priorities. More importantly, last I checked, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was in no way nor at any time mentioned or cited in the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or in any other official Church documents. To put it simply, the Holy See does not consult a UN convention for the soundness of the Church's internal laws of governance.

2. The Convention is very concerned with the rights of the child, the reporting of abuse, and the prevention of any further incidents. To this end, they make numerous recommendations to the Holy See regarding the implementation of rules, policies, and programs that would raise awareness, mandate reporting, and educate children, volunteers, employees, seminarians, and religious in appropriate policies and practices.

All of this has been going on, in a thorough and systematic way, for the past decade within the Catholic Church. Honestly, these recommendations were the most absurd to me, because it genuinely seems as though no one on the committee actually took the time to see the extensive work that Church has done in this regard. The work is far from done, I freely admit, but every one of the recommendations in this area has not only been met, but far exceeded, in Catholic schools, parishes, dioceses, and other Catholic organizations throughout the world.

3. "The Committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalisation of homosexuality." The Committee also "urges" the Holy See to change our Canon Law to permit abortion services for pregnant girls who are at risk.

First, let's take a look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where it's teaching on homosexual persons clearly states that "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided" (CCC 2358). Again, did anyone on the committee actually consult the Church's teaching before asking them to change it?

Next, it seems particularly twisted that the committee on the rights of the child did not at all mention the rights of the pre-born child in the womb but only of the young pregnant girls (whose abortions are often performed under duress with no consideration of rights of the pregnant girl nor the pre-born child), but in any case let me explain that it will be a cold day somewhere south of Rome before the Vatican changes any doctrines or canons based solely on the recommendations of a UN committee, and certainly not on abortion. The Church does have bioethical norms that explain what might happen in the dangerous case of an ectopic pregnancy, for example, but I fear this may be too much to explain to a committee who apparently cannot even look up simple citations from the Catechism.

Lastly, and most remarkably, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child just appealed to "the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority." Read it again. It's really the most amazing part of the whole document wherein the UN Committee, after just having spent many pages criticizing the law, doctrines, and practices of the Catholic Church and urging them to come into alignment with the UN's own policies and practices, admits that the Holy See has moral authority. 


I’ll be anxious to hear what Pope Francis has to say about the document as well, and while it might make the cover of a popular magazine, I think I’ll wait to read his actual words and see what moral direction he, and the Holy See, have to offer.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,