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The weblog of the Empress Norton (Lynn GAzis-SAx) about life, the Internet, and everything. ("Do not irritate the lions")
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   Saturday, August 24, 2002
Seminary screening

An excellent post at Sed Contra on why attempting to screen out all candidates with any homosexual inclinations is a bad idea. Thanks to Father Jim for the link.

Eve Tushnet on faith

Eve Tushnet gives a moving account of why the current scandals have not shaken her faith in the Catholic Church. Of which I will ignore most of the good stuff and pick on the last paragraph: "I'll try to post more on keeping the faith as I think about it more. But for now, that's what has been sustaining me. That, and prayer, especially prayer to the saints."

I'd be interested to hear Eve, or anyone else from St. Blog's, explain a little more about prayer to the saints. I want to be clear that I am not posting this to start a Protestant argument about how prayer to the saints is idolatry, and I am not looking for the theological explanation of prayer to the saints. I think I more or less understand Catholic doctrine, at that level. One venerates the saints, but worships God. Or, one gives doulia to the saints, hyperdoulia to the Virgin Mary, and latria to God. And prayer to the saints is, really, asking the saints to pray for us in the same way that we ask our fellow Christians here among the living to pray for us. So that the Church here, and in Purgatory, and in Heaven, is all linked by bonds of prayer. At least, I think this is roughly how Catholic doctrine goes.

What I'm wanting clarification on, from Catholics, is more the devotional experience of prayer to the saints. What does prayer to the saints add to your devotional life, that wouldn't be supplied simply by prayer directly to God? I could ask my husband, but, though Joel loves the saints in the sense of reading about them, filling the house with books of saints, and telling me stories about them, he is pretty much an agnostic when it comes to prayer, and the only time I see him pray to a saint is when he occasionally hits up St. Anthony for a lost article. So I'm curious as to what prayer to the saints means in the lives of Catholics for whom it is a more regular part of their devotional life.

A passage from "The Power and the Glory"

Found this, while I was looking through the book for another passage I had remembered:

'There are times,' the mother said, 'when I lose all patience with you. And now the boy has been talking to Padre Jose.'

'This is a small town,' her husband said. 'And there is no use pretending. We have been abandoned here. We must get along as best we can. As for the Church - the Church is Padre Jose and the whisky priest - I don't know of any other. If we don't like the church, well, we must leave it.'


She said, 'I would rather die.'

'Oh,' he said, 'of course. That goes without saying. But we have to go on living.'

The Pope is not God

Error 503 has a cute article about how God has let us down which I guess must be a take off on Rod Dreher's criticism of the Pope. Give me a break! The Pope isn't God. He isn't, even in Catholic terms, infallible except under special circumstances. He can, at times, appoint the wrong bishop. He can, at times, be too slow (or too fast) to remove a bishop. He has his reasons for his decisions, of course, and sometimes he may even have very good reasons, which I don't understand, for making a decision that I don't approve of. More than once, I've thought the Vatican to be way off base on something, only to read John Allen's column in National Catholic Reporter, for example, and discover that there was more sense to the Vatican's actions than I realized. And I haven't by any means given up, not now, on seeing a wise and helpful response from the Pope to the current scandals. But still, the Pope is not God. Please tell me it's not just my heretical Protestant ways that lead me to see a difference here.

Infertility web sites fail to meet quality standards

An article in the British Medical Journal reports that only one in 50 health sites meets four standards which would allow the accuracy of its information to be evaluated. The standards used are as follows: "The sites were tested to see whether they named the people accountable, including editors, for the content; cited references and copyright information; provided information on sponsorship, ownership, funding, or any other type of support for construction of the website or its pages; and posted the date that content was first uploaded or last updated." And, "Fewer than half the sample sites satisfied one or more of the core standards." So there's an awful lot of information out there on infertility with no reference to who is responsible, how anyone knows the information to be true, and when the information was last checked.

Dedicated Toronto security guards

Grey Bird is away, and her friends are having great fun describing her trip in her absence. Such as, for example, her admiration for the dedication of Toronto airport security guards.

Evil Blogs

Jody of Naked Writing complains about being only the second ranked evil blog. Ah, but Jody, a blog devoted entirely to spelling flames requires depravity beyond the reach of ordinary mortals.

   Thursday, August 22, 2002
Back from the San Diego Zoo

I saw an old college friend and Bible study partner for the first time since my wedding a little over fourteen years ago (though we've kept in touch by snail mail and, more recently, by email). Joel and I and she and her husband and teenage daughters went to the San Diego Zoo. Hua Mei, the two-year-old panda who was born in the zoo, and is soon to be sent back to China, was unusually active. Other hits: the rhinocerouses, the hippopotamuses, the pigs, the small cats (which look a lot like exotic domestic breeds), and the poison arrow frogs. The poison arrow frogs are small, brightly colored frogs which contain a toxin, and which are therefore used by South American tribes to make poison arrows. Joel tells me that some people lick them for the hallucinogenic effect. Fortunately for the zoo's legal advisor, though, these ones are behind glass, and nowhere near the petting zoo. Joel will have pictures up at his blog soon.

Lots of catching up about what had happened to various friends from Stanford that one or another of us had kept in touch with, as well as various members of both of our families. Which led to various other discussions. Like (discussing one very out gay man that both of us had known at Stanford) how neither of us had known any out gay people in our high schools (nor had our husbands), but, it turns out, the teenage girls do. Four different high schools, in the 1970s, and in all of them we either could think of no one gay or just people who were rumored to be gay, but certainly weren't out about it if the rumors were true. Or (talking about other friends) why is it that women sometimes seem to move between long term relationships with one sex and the other, but we don't know of any men who have that kind of history. Or why are so many people unhappy? And is there a way for never married (or even otherwise partnered) people to nevertheless lead contented lives? Or what is the effect of infertility on faith in God? And so on.

All in all, a good day.

"Male Choice"

Now that I finally have a few minutes to write about this, I'm having trouble finding the posts I wanted to respond to. Guess next time I should bookmark them for later. I've seen two sets of arguments made for not holding men responsible. One set had to do with the unfairness of giving women a chance to abort and not giving men a chance to opt out of responsibility for a child. Lots of people have taken that reasoning apart, and I agree. To me, it seems to be based on a nonsensical expectation that men should be entitled to risk-free sex (when was sex ever risk-free), that people should be entitled to expect that sex has nothing to do with reproduction (no matter what the cost to the child involved), and that fathers somehow have less to do with babies than mothers.

There was also another argument made, and I regret no longer being able to find the site which made it, that men should be allowed to opt out of paying because we need disincentives to out of wedlock childbirth, and letting men opt out of their responsibility makes out of wedlock childbirth worse for women, and therefore gives them more of an incentive to avoid it. Now, men are just as capable of not having sex as women, and there's this nifty method of birth control called a condom, of which I can say that any man who is having uncommitted sex and not using it is pretty much an idiot, so I can't see where women have any greater ability before the child is conceived, to avoid conception, than men do. Saying women have any greater say at that point is basically saying that since, sure enough, even under the current system of requiring child support, an unexpected pregnancy burdens women more, women are more sexually cautious than men. And it hardly seems ethical to burden the already more burdened sex even more, while removing entirely any disincentive for men. So the argument must be that abortion is morally preferable to carrying an out of wedlock child to term, and so very much more preferable that it is important to punish carrying an out of wedlock child to term, even if, in doing so, you also have to remove incentive for men to show a little caution. I find this idea morally repugnant. And, it turns out, judging from Ampersand's article, the statistics actually work the other way, and, surprise, you get less out of wedlock childbirth when both parties involved have a strong incentive to avoid it.


Amy Welborn has the text of a letter from Voice of the Faithful to its members (scroll down to Tuesday if the archive link doesn't get you there). Father Jim Tucker has an interesting article on Natural Law and Traditional Sexual Morality. Sursum Corda has a good article on global justice. Tolle Blogge is worth reading on Iraq. Congratulations to Crazy Tracy, who finally has her nursing license for Ohio. An interesting reflection on Psalm 120 (one of my favorite psalms) at Who will go for us? That same site also has interesting posts on the Bible and prayer.

   Wednesday, August 21, 2002
Site transfer woes

Well, it looks as if a site transfer has resulted in the entire world losing permission to read this site. I was too tired to help Joel out with it when he discovered the problem at midnight last night, and this morning I find I can't do much beyond complaining to tech support, since I don't know the site password yet (Joel does, but I was asleep when he was working on it, and he's asleep now). Not too much point in blogging when I have no idea when anyone will be able to read it.

Death Threats to Christian Peacemaker Team in Colombia

The Fellowship of Reconciliation has put out an alert about death threats to the Christian Peacemaker Team in Colombia. Please give them your prayers and support. You can check the alert for possible actions.

   Tuesday, August 20, 2002
I'm a Carmelite? How did that happen?

what's your order?

I wonder what answers would make me a Venus flytrap

what's your inner flower?

[c] s u g a r d
e w

Once again, a quiz that says that I'm just like my husband.

Buying the Needy for a Pair of Sandals

I've been following with interest the postings of Locust Eater on how Christianity intersects with economic matters. I particularly like their article True and False Conservatism. Too often, we make a split between more spiritually minded Christians and those who concern themselves with matters of social justice, but perhaps aren't seen as having as strong a prayer life and as much of a focus on God. But this split is very unBiblical; within the Bible, the prophets both condemn economic injustice in the strongest terms, and speak eloquently of the claims of God. The same prophet, Amos, who says, "Hear this, you who trample upon the needy, and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying 'When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great, and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals, and sell the refuse of the wheat?" - this same Amos, who so stridently condemns the Enron executives of his day, is the one whose great fear is of an impending famine which is "not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord." For Amos, love of the Lord and justice for the needy are intimately tied together. As they should be for all of us.

   Monday, August 19, 2002
Just Links

I may comment on some of these later, if I have time.

Experts comment on sexual abuse in Catholic Church: First, National Catholic Reporter has an article on Leslie Lothstein's remarks on the causes and effects of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests. Or, you can go here to read the full text of the interview. Second, The Troy Record (link from the Clergy Abuse Tracker) has an article about Rev. Canice Connors' remarks on the same topic. Leslie Lothstein is described as Director of Psychology at the Institute of Living, while Rev. Canice Connors is described as "an acknowledged expert in the field of clinical treatment for pedophilia."

"Male Choice": I wonder, as I read the multi-blog debate on this topic, whether there really are so many people who think it's OK for fathers to abandon responsibility for their babies, or whether it's just one of those views which looks more popular on the net than it really is. This certainly isn't the first time I've encountered this belief on the net, but I don't seem to ever hear it from people I know in real life. Anyway, excellent posts on paternal responsibility from Amptoons and Ginger. Thanks to Eve Tushnet for both links.

Assisted suicide: Good post by The Rat.

You take the High Mass, I'll take the Low Mass: Father Jim Tucker answers my question (OK, I wasn't one of those who emailed him, but I was wondering the same thing) about just what the difference is between High Mass and Low Mass. He also has a post on humility, but I know I have no problem being humble, so I'm not going to bother to read it.

Some dyke links: DykeWrite has an interesting review of an HBO docudrama on the "rise and terrible fall" in the modelling world of Gia. Norah Vincent joins the blogosphere, and sees "a sad but all too true portrait of lesbian insularity" in "Queer As Folk", a NY Times magazine article about the lesbianization of folk music.

Some non-dyke links, but still about homosexuality: Joshua Claybourn starts a discussion about the origins of homosexuality, in which he concludes that "In the absence of conclusive proof for the cause of homosexuality, individual choice seems to be the logical conclusion." Doug Ferguson (evidently like me in being both committed to his marriage and sometimes attracted to his own sex) reflects on his own experience, and Jody of Naked Writing summarizes a great deal of interesting, though not conclusive, research on sexuality, and takes issue with Josh's conclusion.

Personally, since, like Josh and Jody, I don't see research on the origins of homosexuality as conclusive, I have no firm opinion on how far it is genetic. But as I read this discussion, I can't help hearing, running through my head, an old Laurie Lewis song, "Love Chooses You". Of course a study by the Advocate is going to find that most homosexuals feel they are born with their orientation. Don't all of us, at least in some measure, feel that who we fall in love with is a mystery and a surprise, more than it is a conscious decision? I don't know if I really believe that, as Laurie Lewis says, "In the wink of an eye, love looses an arrow, We control it no more than the flight of a sparrow," but she clearly enough describes how love feels. If there's any choice involved, I think it must most often be unconscious and gradual (even if I am probably the poster child for those who would see sexual orientation as somewhat flexible, I still haven't experienced my orientation as a matter of conscious choice).

Update: Joshua continues today with some questions about same-sex marriage, and a link to a collection of columns on the issue from all sides in the National Review. Meanwhile, the NY Times announced yesterday that they will be running same-sex announcements with their wedding notices.

When a pastor is removed: Peter Nixon of Sursum Corda links to and summarizes an article in America on this topic. After all those stories (many of them linked over the past few months by Amy Welborn) recounting loyal parishioners who, whatever the accusations and evidence, seem to have nothing on their mind other than wanting their removed pastors back, it's a relief to see that the reaction in this parish is more complex, with an understandable uncertainty and mixture of sympathy for the pastor and for the accuser.

Scandal posts

Really long post by Father Bob Carr about the scandals, basically to the effect that they are being delibierately used to discredit the moral authority of the Church on other matters. Now, much of what he relates as evidence doesn't trouble me. I don't have a problem with people calling on Cardinal Law to resign. I don't, frankly, see a problem even with non-Catholics calling on Cardinal Law to resign, so long as they are doing so because they believe that he's been covering up criminal activity (it is the business even of non-Catholics whether Catholic bishops are sheltering from the law people who sexually abuse minors - even if many other things under dispute right now, such as the merits of a celibate priesthood, are none of our business). Likewise, I don't think I have a reason to be troubled by VoTF. However, there was one part of his post which did worry me, and that was this sentence: "The House of Representatives in the State of Connecticut voted with all but two votes to end any legal protections of the Sacrament of Reconciliation." Is this true? Can this be confirmed? Because, if this is true, I do find it very disturbing. Ending legal protection of the Sacrament of Reconciliation does harm to the Catholic Church (and other churches, such as Orthodox and Episcopalians - even if the rite isn't often used in the Episcopal Church, it seems to me that it matters that it be available and confidential), while not doing any particular good in terms of bringing pedophiles to justice. After all, how often are priests really confessing under seal of the confessional to molesting minors? This is not where the current problem of coverup lies.

Meanwhile, Father Rob Johansen had comments, on Friday, on the Catholic World News story (since disputed by an Associated Press story) that the Vatican was planning to send the bishops' sexual abuse policy set in Dallas back for revision. The part of his article that caught my eye was, "Most interesting is the Vatican's concern with the Dallas policy's 'failure to address root causes of sexual abuse.' Does anyone else read that as a veiled reference to the problem of homosexuals in the priesthood? It sure seems that way to me. What other 'root cause' is there for pederasty? Could it be that the largely inarticulate recent rumblings of Rome on this subject will be followed up by a demand that our bishops get their house in order and act with regard to disobedient homosexual priests like the St. Sebatian's Angels? Dare I hope for so much?" Now, I have no problem whatsoever with the Catholic Church acting regarding disobedient homosexual priests like the St. Sebastian's Angels. If you take a vow of celibacy, the Church is entitled to hold you to it. And yes, "root causes of sexual abuse" might be a code word for homosexuality. It often seems to be, these days. But, given that the vast majority of homosexuals outside the Church are, as Mike Hardy used to say, having sex with adults, adults, adults, I have to suspect that there is, indeed, some root cause for pederasty other than simply homosexuality.

What that is, I'm not sure, partly because I'm not sure I have a good feel for how "normal" it is for adult men to desire sex with teenagers. Some things (the fact that the porn video store clerk's blog relates that "barely legal" porn is very popular, the fact that I was approached by men old enough to be my father while I was still a teenager, and the truckload of "teen cheerleader" type porn spam that shows up unsolicited in my email box) make me think that this may be quite normal (if disgusting, immoral, and hurtful for the teenagers so abused). In which case, maybe all it would take to see men having sex with teenage boys would be a homosexual subculture which actually condoned such behavior (note: not homosexuality by itself, but homosexuality plus a disregard for normal moral restraint). On the other hand, sometimes I think that any adult who is really prepared to carry on an affair with a teenager must be warped in some way: perhaps looking for a sexual partner he can dominate. In which case, maybe he's going to resort to whatever teenagers are available and can be seduced, even regardless of whether they're the sex that he'd ideally prefer. And nobody's ever been letting teenage girls spend the night at a priest's house, or go on solitary trips with a priest. Either way, I don't see this sort of man, in the priesthood or out of it, as being driven simply by homosexuality. Too many gay men, celibate or sexually active, are not ever having sex with teenagers for me to see it that way.

Finally, Amy Welborn has some scandal links today, including one to an article reporting that thirty-one bishops have removed priests since Dallas, but other dioceses say that they need time to revamp their church panels or are waiting to see the Vatican's response.

   Sunday, August 18, 2002

The Husband Sneaks in

My friends call me Meg, or they would if I had any.
Which Disney Princess are you?