Thursday, 24 April 2014

That Phone Call

I am still in shock that Benedict XVI abdicated, so really there is no point talking to me about the latest news about Pope Francis.

I mean, Benedict abdicated!


What pope abdicates unless he is darned well forced to, or because he was really an anti-pope, or was pope only because he was some mediaeval pawn? Cardinal Ratzinger is the greatest German theologian still living today. He's no mediaeval pawn. So what the hey? The Queen is 88 and still going strong, up at dawn, having her cup of tea, reading the contents of her dispatch boxes. She's been doing this since she was 25 years old. It does not occur to her to abdicate. And nobody wants her to abdicate, just as nobody except a handful of vengeful and imaginative theology profs ever dreamed that Benedict might do so.

However, the latest news or rumour or gossip or MSM wishful thinking is that Pope Francis picked up the telephone and told a woman civilly married to a divorced man that she could go ahead and receive communion. The divorced man then quite understandably made this public. But so far we only have the lady's and her civil husband's word for the whole thing. Ear-witnesses to Pope Francis tell me that it can be hard to understand what he is saying, as he speaks in an informal, off-the-cuff, sort of way, which is a complete contrast to Benedict's measured discourse. So we can give the lady and her civil husband the benefit of the doubt that they did not get what Pope Francis was saying.

As a divorced-annulled-and-unmarried Catholic, I feel that I have a valuable point of view in the whole Divorced-and-Remarried Issue (which seems to be rapidly turning into a Crisis). And my first question is how many divorced Catholics bother applying for an annulment and if not, why not? It is my belief that so many Catholic marriages fall apart relatively soon because Catholics are no long mature enough to marry or have the freedom to marry. Society is raising us to be materialistic teenagers, and I am positive this is stunting our growth. I had a very teenage mentality until I was thirty-two or so. I'm not kidding. Thus, there may be many more Catholic couples that we know of whose marriages would be found invalid through reasons of immaturity or lack of freedom. I know a guy who was visibly drunk when he made his vows. After their divorce, his ex-wife didn't apply for an annulment; she just married outside the Church. Well, hello?!

I despair of the Baby Boom generation, really. But for my own generation, I beg that the annulment process be demystified. When I applied for one, I tried to find a book on the subject and found nothing It was if someone though just having decent information about it would encourage divorces.

The first rumour about annulments that must be cleared up is that they are expensive or some way of lining clerical pockets. Let me settle that right away. I paid for mine in 1999, and it cost me personally $600. It would have cost my ex an additional $600, but he wanted nothing to do with the process, so my diocese paid the extra $600. (I wonder if I put that much in the collection over the five years I was in the diocese. Oh, actually! Maybe I did!) I paid less for the annulment than I paid for my divorce lawyer, who took one look at me and actually said, "Legal Aid rate, I think."

The second rumour about annulments is that there is no point getting one unless you want to remarry. No. No. No. You must apply as soon as the ink on your divorce certificate has dried because the annulment team will want to talk to witnesses who know both you and your ex-spouse, and they can't do that if those witnesses are now dead or scattered across the world, address unknown, can they?

The third rumour about annulments is that they are somehow ludicrous and you don't need the Church to tell you that "Jesus still loves you". The Church which has the power to bind also has the power to unbind if it turns out your marriage was not sacramental. And that is very handy to know if you are divorced-annulled-and-remarried and you run into a member of the "Rubber Stamp" faction. The Rubber Stamp faction, who have no access whatsoever to your trial notes, are wont to disbelieve in your annulment and even to insinuate that you are fooling yourself and are now just a scrubby adulterer like your divorced-and-remarried brethren. Or, if you are dealing with an angry divorced-and-remarried member of the "Rubber Stamp" faction, that you are fooling yourself and are just a goodie-two-shoes suck up who thinks she's better than everyone else. The angry divorced-and-remarried person is easier to forgive for his/her nastiness, as obviously there's a lot of fear and pain there.

Well, I must bake a cake now, but those are my thoughts on the matter. I don't think the annulment process needs to be "streamlined"; I think it needs to be demystified.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Glory and the Horror

Writing my four lectures for the women's May retreat in Kraków ( sign up now!) was an intense experience. First I read my past work, and also work by and about Dorothy Day, Simone Weil and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). I reviewed my old notes and articles on Bl. John Paul II. And I made and reviewed notes on Blessed Natalia Tułasiewicz, painfully translating one long quote from her writings. I wrote my "brainy" lectures. The other two lectures are the "fun" lectures, in which speaker and listeners can just let their hair down and relax a bit.

Ha! What a shock to move from the sublime thoughts of saints and philosophers to the messages women get every day from pop culture. My paper on "The Role of the Single Woman in Family and Society" was not terribly depressing, although it acknowledges that pop culture's cardinal rule for women is be sexually attractive to others. But my paper on "Warnings from the West: Western Challenges to Femininity" is shot through with abject gloom.

Oh, I forgot twerking. I was going to mention Miley Cyrus and twerking. How to explain to Polish women that in American dance clubs one runs the risk of a complete stranger rubbing his crotch into your behind? Is there twerking in Poland? I asked a Polish girl, and she goes only to hipster bars where, if anyone twerks, they twerk ironically. Hipsters are hilarious.

Anyway, abject gloom. Part of the abject gloom is linked to the ab*rti*n rates in the USA, Canada and the UK. In Poland, it became very high (200,000+) in communist days and then dropped like a stone after 1989. In 2011, there were one million one hundred thousand ab*rti*ns in the USA, and only 669 in Poland. Naturally, we mourn the deaths of the 669, but as a matter of fact ab*rti*n laws in Poland are very strict, and most significantly, unless they belong to far-left parties, Poles don't want ab*rti*n.

The largest group of women who get ab*rti*ns in the USA, Canada and the UK are between 20 and 24, which suggests to me that from a humanist, not even a Catholic, point of view unmarried women should just not have sex before they are 25. Really. Honestly. Generations of unmarried women managed not to get pregnant before they were 25. Of course, that was before 1962. I would happily support a government campaign that said "Wait until 25", even if it got me into trouble with fellow Catholics who took a no-compromise approach and wanted the government to say "Wait until marriage."

My abject gloom deepened as I refreshed my memories of Ariel Levy's "Female Chauvinist Pigs" and checked the manosphere for tales of young American sex tourists sleazing their way around Central and Eastern Europe in their eagerness to bed women who are "still feminine" and "uncorrupted by American feminism." The only thing that makes me feel remotely better about such men is the suspicion that some Polish men try their luck with foreign female tourists. I am a bit old for such things, but if anyone hits on me, I will certainly let you know.

"Słuchaj," I will tell him. "This is for science and in the service of Almighty God. Are you hitting on me because I look foreign and you believe foreign women are easy? Or is it some other reason? And what are the factors in contemporary Polish society contributing to your behaviour? Wait--do you have a pen?"

To be fair, though, it will probably be because I looked at him. When I am in Poland, I like to look at Polish people, and occasionally young men do a double take and give me The Look. Maybe people don't look at each other in Poland. It is probably rude. Przepraszam.

Anyway, to cheer myself up, I will now think about the beautiful writings of St. Edith Stein which were adopted and developed by Błogosławiony Jan Pawel Drugi and taught by him in Mulieris Dignitatem, which we all, men and women, should read.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


No blogging or correspondence until I get my lectures finished. If you wrote me an email over the past four days, I've read it, but I can't answer until later this week. Thanks!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter Report

My Easter was very busy, full of church and writing papers for my retreat in Kraków on May 2-4. I sneezed and coughed and blew my nose a lot. Two more papers and some Easter baking to go. I am sorry I didn't get my baking done for actual Easter Sunday, but I had these papers, and my cold, and Easter is 40 days long anyway. Thank heavens.

Imagine if I had children on top of that. I don't know how working mothers do it.

I was too sick to go to Holy Thursday Mass, but I went to the Good Friday service, and then to the Easter Vigil (shorter in the Extraordinary Form, believe it or not!), and the next morning to Easter Sunday Mass. Then it was the usual Cup of Tea of Peace in the parish all, and then the Gin and Tonic of Brotherly Love, and an Easter Sunday Lunch Blowout in Morningside, featuring a large number of lifelong Singles, plus Mr and Mrs McAmbrose, who danced a waltz as the Master of the Men's Schola played the piano. We were totally outnumbered, as usual, but this strikes us as entirely normal.

Feel free to report on your Easter in the combox; I have to go back to writing papers and bewailing my inability to master Polish.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Saturday, 19 April 2014

"The Deepest Longing of a Woman's Heart...."

The deepest longing of a woman's heart is to give herself lovingly, to belong to another, and to possess this other being completely. This is revealed in her outlook, personal and all-embracing, which appears to us as specifically feminine. But this surrender becomes a perverted self-abandon and a form of slavery when it is given to another person and not to God; at the same time it is an unjustified demand which no human being can fulfill. Only God can welcome a person's total surrender in such a way that one does not lose one's soul in the process but wins it. And only God can bestow Himself upon a person so that He fulfills this being completely and loses nothing of Himself in so doing. That is why total surrender which is the principle of the religious life is simultaneously the only adequate fulfillment possible for woman's yearning.

--Edith Stein (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), "The Ethos of Women's Professions" (1930).

Friday, 18 April 2014

Pick Up Your Cross and Follow Him

Today is Good Friday, and I feel well enough to go to church. Good Friday is a good time to remember that suffering is part of every human life.

Simone Weil, whom I will talk about at the Majówka (May holiday) retreat in two weeks, wrote a lot about suffering, and the indelible mark that comes from some kinds of suffering which she called "affliction." Weil actively sought suffering, so as to be more fully in solidarity with those who suffer privation: hunger, sleeplessness, discomfort, harsh physical labour, the humiliations of early 20th century factory work, the dangers of war.

Weil took things too far--one of her biographers talks of her spiritual anorexia, and Weil's fasting practices almost certainly made her physically anorexic. I am reminded of St. Ignatius of Loyola and how his early disciplines permanently damaged his health, leading to his veto of his Jesuits doing any such things themselves. But she, the compassionate daughter of a rich doctor, reminds me of how God Himself took on humanity and shared human suffering.

The Son of God chose suffering out of love for us--it is an awesome thought. And his sinless mother suffered, too. Any Catholic who does their best to be good and to live a pure life and yet suffers terribly would do well to remember all the sufferings of Our Lady. We can say (or beg, rather, as in the Dies Irae) that it our redemption was the reason for Jesus's suffering (so let it not be in vain!), but did Our Lady sign up for her suffering? Not exactly but--"let it be to me according to Thy will." And what could be worse than seeing, before your own eyes, your Son scourged and crucified, left to die in the hot sun?

Back from church. This post looks very unfinished but....zzzzzz....