Thursday, November 2, 2006

Jim McGreavey and Infantilism

As a healing aid after surgery or a serious illness, a perceptive physician might recommend the traditional “sea cruise” cure wherein the patient might retreat temporarily into a pleasant, relaxing fantasy land, breathing the clear sea air and relishing gourmet meals. One might (as recently I did myself on such a trip) read mindless mystery novels where the bad guy always seems to be called something like “Mendoza” who wears a black slouch hat pulled way down over his scary eyes. Of course, the good guy, the hero-white knight, always escapes from impossible situations by daring exploits which would make Superman look juvenile. Such “retreat”, temporary in nature, can be healthy and innocuous. Knowing that the voyage is for a very short period of time, no one believes the daring tales or seriously swallows the glitter of shipboard experience. It is escapist and meant to be such.

However, on my sea cruise, I happened to catch an interview with the out-of-the-closet homosexual former governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreavey. He was hosted by the liberal CNN through Larry King and his slightly nauseating softball questions. The “interview” with its massive falsity and infantilism, almost made me want to “frowup” which the cruise ship did not. Obviously, everyone, at times, needs to “retreat” from the occasional harshness of reality. However, mental health protocols insist that one’s “emotional feet” be planted relatively firmly—for the most part—in that which is real. To live in the Make Believe is to court emotional disaster. The McGreavey interview was classic for its LaLa land dimensions and infantilisms. It was far beyond the boundaries of common sense reality.

McGreavey, (cosily called “Jim” by King), twice married and (possibly) twice divorced with a daughter from each marriage, often pursued his insatiable need for same sex at Highway rest stops, anonymously, while he was married and sitting as Chief Executive of the State. There was no problem with back seats for his lust even while he was Governor. Nor was he hesitant to appoint his then lover (who had no credentials) to a sensitive post in Homeland Security. This particular same sex relationship is currently seen (ex post facto) quite differently. His ex-lover says that he was pressured into same sex behavior by gubernatorial power while Jim somewhat airily dismisses “it” as “…… just happened…”

The group watching this fiasco with me all got the impression that McGreavey believes (or tries to convince himself) that his behavior is “normal.” And this in spite of the overwhelming evidence of the human experience of at least 3,000 years. He seems to see himself as some kind of prophet sent (by whom is unclear) to illuminate the unenlightened masses. He speaks as if his Irish Catholic mother approves of his life style—with the abandonment of two wives and two children. He fantasizes that any negative impact on his children will be minimal or zero. And that his Marine drill instructor father will be quite accepting of his only son’s homosexual behavior.[1] He speaks of his recent ex-wife as a “class lady” as she sends him off with love and kisses to his new life with his current lover whom he met at a “Gay” bar. His facile description of her graciously stepping aside for his new love is too implausible to believe. As Bill O’Reilly would say “Come on.” To the experienced psychologist’s nose, this doesn’t merely smell. It reeks of classic rationalization, fantasy and infantilism. Self delusion has been practiced by the human animal in every century. In ours it is fast becoming a favorite pastime. To expect reasonably objective observers to buy into this particular delusion is a “bit much.” Is it that Jim McG hopes that, by persuading others of his “happiness”, he might really believe it himself? He even inserts into his pitch that he spent some time in retreat in a Benedictine Monastery where he sorted all this out. One was left with the impression that this was a Catholic Benedictine monastery until he “slipped in” its location. It is not Catholic but Episcopalian where he would more likely find some approval of his sexual behavior.

There is no obvious malfunction in McGreavey’s cognitive levels. He was apparently quite capable in politics, the art of compromise. Human beings can have skills in certain areas and be seriously deficient in others. There are psychological histories of persons (as in the case of the Idiot Savant) having enormous talent in s single area but being practically illiterate in others. McGreavey is certainly not I.S. but he is clearly underdeveloped or arrested in his sexuality. This is not a question of intellectual ability but one of an emotional or visceral reaction stemming from some unconscious conflict of earlier years.

Elementary insight into human behavior indicates a significant residual of infantile desire in all adults which, with maturity, is acceptably absorbed in adult ways of resolving life’s problems. The infant wants what he wants instantly/now. Doesn’t every parent know this? Any kind of delay might cause him to scream ear splitting yells, hold his breath, turn blue or stomp his little feet with great vigor. He might try to wound or manipulate his “nasty” parents (because of their constant “Don’ts) by using his ultimate weapon: “I hate you.”

Every family counselor of any significant experience has first hand data on such behavior. And every professional obviously understands the need for what is called “Tough love.” This translates into the need to help children grown up as responsible adults and to support them healthily lest they get mired in the perpetual and driven narcissism we find in the active homosexual. The all permissive and allegedly all loving parent is, in fact, an unconsciously hostile parent. This is also partially true of the well meaning “tolerant” straight with his misplaced compassion. The former Anglican Bishop of Atlanta, Bishop Bennett Simms rightly stated: “compassion does not mean endorsement.” This resonates the spirit of Jesus who certainly forgave the public sinner but reminded her, in effect, “Don’t do it again.” Forgiveness more than implies reformation of life. It requires it.

McGreavey’s performance almost shouted out that he (emotionally) is practically on the level of the high school freshman who wants what he wants regardless of anything or anyone. Implicit in his presentation is the politically correct idiocy[2] that if one really desires anything, it is unhealthy to deny such urges. There is no indication here of any adult delay of libidinous “wants.” Yet, the mature adult accepts the reality that sometimes life simply cannot be what one wants. His impassioned insistence that he “tried” so hard sounds more like the airy verbiage meant both to elicit sympathy from the uninformed and to mask his continuing self destructive behavior. Hopefully, the driven toxic lifestyle of his past is under some kind of self control. However, does his previous promiscuity suddenly vanish with the appearance of the out-of-the closet lover? One has to wonder! If emotional constancy is expected in same sex “unions”, sexual fidelity is not.

His constant response-----the teenaged “yeah” as compared with an adult “yes”----told much about him. He wants to be seen on some level as a little boy—to be cared for and loved. One viewer noted (I think accurately) that he came across as “syrupy.” Indeed, his current lover described him, on the air, as “cute”, a word used extensively in the homosexual community. This current Lover was finally brought onto the set with a big defiant big smack on the lips of his Jim. They semi-cuddled, flapped their eyes at each other and flashed love sick swain-like smiles. Those of us watching experienced spontaneous revulsion. But why?

Gay activists would probably---- in their characteristically knee-jerk fashion—scream the awkward shibboleth Homophobia. This is usually meant to silence any criticism of same sex behavior. But as difficult as it may be for activists to understand, the average citizen’s spontaneous revulsion stems not from fear or hatred of homosexual persons but rather from an instinctive sense of fundamental disorder. Many critics (like myself who has spent the last 12 years working extensively with and for same sex attracted people) have affection and compassion for those afflicted with this anomaly. We do not fear or hate the same sex afflicted person. On the contrary, I and other Catholic counselors dearly wish that our SSA brethren have peaceful and meaningful lives. We have seen too much depression and seriatim sexual liaisons with their painful breakups to believe the falsehoods perpetuated by the activists.

Even an elementary study of human anatomy and physiology will illustrate the magnificent plan and design of the Creator wherein the Order of things is actually rooted. In fact, the very chromosomes of the human race trumpet what the French so colorfully champion “Vive la Difference.” Men and women, while similar in some ways, are profoundly different in others. Jesus clearly teaches in Mark (ch.10) that the Creator made them male and female. There is an ordered system in the sexual framework. Even granting the occasional anomalies, there is a design from God Himself indicating how things ought to be. Lynn Boughton, one of this generation’s classic Scripture scholars, points out as an example, the force of “Design” when she notes that Cross Dressing or Transvestism is abnormal and unnatural since it violates God’s design (Deut. 22:5). What is revolting about cross dressing? Does it hurt anyone? Why is it wrong? Because, it, like same sex behavior, fetishes and the like, seriously contravene God’s Plan. This is not homophobia. This is insistence on basic Order.

There is nothing in Sacred Scripture which tolerates same sex relationships[3]. Nor a third sex. Nor paraphilic behavior. Any Biblical reference to the homosexual dimension is always pejorative. Scripture sees males and females complementing each other in fundamental ways impossible for same sex “lovers.” This is unequivocal. Same sex “lovers” simply cannot procreate.[4] This is utterly foundational for society’s welfare and survival.[5] Even beyond the sexual dimension, however, it is commonly accepted that the sexes relate differently on emotional and other levels. These different modes of relating are largely conditioned by the mysteries of biology. For example, Dr. Judy Bardwick, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, claimed in a television interview with me that males and females are wired differently. Neural grooving in males and females is simply different. Many people believe she very well might be right.

The often repeated claim that hetero and homosexual marriages are just the same is clearly absurd--- and patently so! To hold such an unreal position would seem to be a case of either ignorance or quasi-psychosis or deliberate distortion. Or do activists really know the truth but mask the reality by manipulating people’s minds by lies? On the other hand, it might be that those involved in same sex living which they so desperately want, simply have their minds clouded. They simply cannot see the facts. Is it really a matter of psychology and not truth?

The Catholic Church believes that sexual activity is good and holy only between a man and woman in lawful marriage. Again, this is neither “homophobia” nor injustice. This is Order which also strongly requires that homosexual persons be treated with dignity and respect. There is no Catholic toleration[6] of discrimination against these afflicted ones for whom Christ also truly died and who are clearly God’s own children as well as any other baptized child of Adam.[7] And it is within this framework that real identity is clarified. People cannot be classified or defined in terms of sexuality. We are all defined fundamentally as children of God. This is what gives value and true self awareness. Definition by sexual terms is degrading, insulting and narrowing for the human being.

The former Bishop of Brooklyn and Palm Beach, Bishop James Dailey, has said that one of the best kept secrets within Catholicism, is the support group called Courage, founded in New York City to assist SSA persons in their struggles. This group, totally in sync with our best Traditions, offers not only spiritual and psychological support but clarifies the meaning of one’s basic identity as God’s child. Through Courage, countless men and women have achieved peace of soul, a realization of their own true identity and the meaning of friendship without the use of illicit genitality. They have released punishing angers, even rages. They have learned to forgive. In effect, they have learned the Catholic truth that even though they did not really choose to be homosexual, there are ways of managing their sexual drives besides indulgence. Without necessarily changing their orientation, they have found the key to living happily as chaste celibates. It becomes apparent that the wild and nearly insatiable sexual needs of people like McGreavey are really symptoms of problems far deeper than gonads.

Ultimately, all human beings are bound by God’s law of chastity, whether married or not. When McGreavey breaks up with his current lover, his P.R. people will couch the “end” as friendly and cordial. But unless Jim has a real breakthrough, he will go on to the unending futile search for the non-existent Mr. Right. He hopes and hopes. Perhaps this time. Or the next. Or the next. The search is not the answer. The grace of the good God is. I cite the Courage group to compare an approach to life (for SSA persons) which is healthy and holy. In essence, it works. Courage works if one works Courage. Infantilism is no answer. Remaining an emotional teenager is no answer. Acting “silly”[8] as campy Gays often do, is no answer. Raging sarcasm and sophomoric demonstrations are no answer. And obviously acting out infantile fantasies leads nowhere. It is only with the Lord’s grace that one can become free.

The Courage members manfully carry their Crosses like Him Who went before them to show the real way to freedom and peace. In chastity they have found the masculinity which has eluded them for so long. I pray for all the misled Jim McGreaveys of this world. Would that they could take the word of Jesus as it is!
[1] There was a subtle insinuation that his early relationship with his father was less than enthusiastic. This can give a clue as to much of Jim’s ”problem.”
[2] That is from a psychological point of view
[3] The term “relationship” in homosexual circles usually means sexual (genital) behavior
[4] The notion of adoption of children by gays is seriously questioned by many researchers. There is great concern about the potential psychic harm which can occur for these children. US Cong. (Calif) Tim Leslie has extensive material on this point
[5] It was noted last summer in Provincetown on Cape Cod that “straight” visitors to this beautiful town run the risk of being called “breeders” by some flamboyant summer residents. Years ago this same homosexual group pleaded for acceptance into the town on the basis of needed diversity.
As the Population proportion has changed, so has the “tolerance” level.
[6] There have been nominal Catholics acting in discriminatory ways against SSA people. They act contrary to Catholic teaching.
[7] Catholic teaching sees all human beings of Good Will who follow their consciences, hopefully enlightened, to be part of the Mystical Body of Christ. Cf. Encyclical of PPius XII, Mystici Corporis.
[8] A liberated” SSA person recently gave as an example of typical “ silly” behavior, the oft used gay remark “I have my high heels on today.”

Saturday, September 9, 2006

On the Nature of Denial and the War on Terror

On the Morning of August 10, 2006, America awoke to the terrifying news that 21 Islamic terrorists were arrested in Britain for a near successful attempt to blowup—in mid-air—at least five, possibly ten commercial planes, headed for the United States. Due to the collective expertise of British, American and Pakistani intel, the plot was thwarted, thereby saving almost 5,000 lives. Clearly, the primary credit for this remarkable breakthrough belongs to the United Kingdom whose security is not stifled by the drum beating of ACLU and Hollywood types. Apparently, British pro-active behavior stems from a more realistic understanding of the nature of terrorism as well as a more flexible legal system which allows Keepers of the Peace to move on a legitimate suspicion.

Only a few days prior, the American public had been bombarded by liberal criticism of the “extreme” measures taken by the American government (and certainly by the Israelis) in their drive to protect their own people from terrorism. Alleged Civil Rights “violations” into telephone privacy were cited as reasons why the American government should not monitor incoming cell phone messages from known terrorists. At the same time, leaks allegedly had been made available through the New York Times and CBS to alert the terrorists about American monitoring which fact they did not know previously, thus crippling some aspects of our own Homeland Security. We heard the old saws – “the public has a right to know”----“we have nothing to fear over here from the Islamic extremists” and the usual self justifications.

Some extreme leftists argue that all the military activity is basically unnecessary and that international diplomacy and talk (especially at the UN) would solve our modern problems. There is little mention of the relatively unsuccessful and weak UN record (e.g. Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, etc.). Some of these extremists charge that the United States is responsible for the world’s woes, and, by extension, particularly George Bush who was blamed by one such extremist for Katrina since he didn’t use his omnipotence over weather. Some elected politicians now urge a “cut and run” policy in Iraq believing that America can just leave it all to “them” and that we should just take care of our selves. Somehow, they imply, it will all turn out all right (?)

The suggestion is now being made that the real resolution to terrorism is understanding those who wish us harm. All would be well, we are told, if we (read Americans) would try to understand the Islamic frame of mind. Understanding and love would solve all problems. The day after 9/11 I was confronted by an elderly swimming acquaintance with the assertion that such “behavior” could have been averted “if only we understand where they are coming from.” I suggested that the same “understanding” should have been applied also to the Nazi Holocaust era. We should try to understand the Nazi drive to exterminate Jews, priests and gypsies. Since the person in question was Jewish, the dialogue ended abruptly.

Perhaps, it is a convenient and selective memory loss for the Hanoi Janes, the Barbara Strieslands, Michael Moores, Alec Baldwins and the like who seem to be unaware (or don’t care) of what has happened historically! Most of us can recall 1983 with the 200+ Marines murdered, the USS Cole, the Twin Tower Bombing of 1993, bombings of American Embassies around the world, 9/11 itself!! All of these occurred before we entered Iraq. What does it take for the Left (Liberal?) to understand that there is a real and present danger to the United States? Even this recent concrete example of 8/10/06 seems not to have penetrated the naïve defenses of the Liberal mind. Recently, a near senile, retired Television interviewer came out of his retirement to interview the President of Iran whose oft stated intent is to annihilate Israel.[1] The liberal old timer came back to the United States to laud his host’s virtues and was apparently totally unaware that he had been used for Propaganda purposes. He really thought he was acting as a responsible journalist!!

The brutally honest documentary “Obsession” (which surprisingly is not making it to the usual Networks) graphically shows that the Intent of these people is to destroy us! It is their highest religious value to destroy Americans and their way of life. To suggest to terrorists that they might settle for a lesser goal is impossible for them to accept. It would be totally irreligious for them as would it be for Catholics to give up belief in the Eucharist and the Divinity of Christ. This is why some serious scholars privately say that negotiation is a waste of time. While those of us who lived through the World War II era are acutely aware that war is indeed hell, we also know that sometimes it is tragically necessary. Of course, it is public knowledge that Catholics value life as a primary base. It is clear that Pope John Paul II urged us not to go to war with Iraq. Yet, as Scripture tells us, there is a time for war. (Eccles. 3,8)

Sometimes and rarely, a war can be justified. Is a stated and serious threat to a national survival sufficient grounds to take up arms? Is America in mortal danger? Are we justified in using our military might? In spite of Catholic revulsion to killing it is interesting to note that in the 16th century a Christian coalition led by the papacy went to war to drive back a Turkish (Islamic) attempt to invade Europe. My Jewish forbears were fierce warriors and Moses was a spectacular military leader. Jewish ethos reverberates with Psalm 144 with its opening lines: “Blessed is the Lord, my Rock, who trains my arms for battle and who prepares my hands for war.” Spiritual warfare, truly but also physical warfare to protect God’s people from their enemies. Against such a background I find it a bit amusing to observe radical peaceniks engage in cover-up tap dancing to somehow obscure Biblical and religious history.

In our contemporary world, is Hollywood, for example, really such a LaLa Land that fantasy and illusion replace reality? After listening to some outbursts from the Left Coast, I had a flashback to my South African days when the locals would describe some “nut job” as being out in the sun too long! It strikes me that these Child-flower type people live in a kind of quasi-psychosis. Hopefully Truman Capote’s jesting (?) remark that for every year one spends in California, he loses one point off his I.Q., is mere witticism. Perhaps the West Coast liberals are living in a naïve fantasy world where they believe that they are protected from evil by the huge Pacific ocean on the one side and the vast continental mass on the other. Farms, prairies, mountains cannot really protect the glamorous ones from fanatical terrorists. Vigilance, courageous diplomacy and military deterrence represent our best hope not only to protect out own people (including the juvenile-minded “stars” of the Movies), but also for a whole world. Appeasement and denial inevitably fail.

This is why students of the mind will point out to us the existence of a contemporary, massive denial of reality. The most primitive defense of the mind against what is perceived as a threat is called “denial.” Many of us have observed this defense in the case of the alcoholic who constantly denies to himself that there is a problem with his drinking. How often I have heard my alcoholic clients slur out remarks which clearly express denial. “I can handle it.” “I can stop any time I want.” “I only drink socially.” “I need a drink to pick me up/reward me.” “I’m O.K. I can drive quite well….”

Denial takes many forms one of which is the widespread denial of death. Handling the end of one’s life requires some kind of resolution. Some refuse to believe that they will die like everyone else! Some say, in bereavement, “He didn’t really die. I pretend that he is coming in tonight as he always did…” Funeral directors understand this in their skillful “cosmetizing” of death. Substantive denial is the behavior of the infant. “Make it go away.” “Make it ALL right.” Perhaps to face reality absolutely would be catastrophic for anyone. Perhaps we all do need some minimal blunting of the factual in order to survive. Yet, as a rule facing reality is ultimately easier than hoping that the fearful and troublesome and unpleasant and terrifying will somehow disappear in the manner of the infant! The alcoholic who drinks himself senseless in the face of a serious problem will still have to face that problem when his head clears the next day. It just doesn’t go away!

The Israeli/Hesbollah conflict is an interesting example. It is uncomfortable to admit to oneself that there are truly evil people in the world. Or even that evil exists at all. The terrorists intentionally aimed their rockets at civilian populations since they believe that this will break the will of the nation. They have no feeling for the old, ill and children. Nothing matters except to destroy. This is evil. At the same time, they will embed themselves within the civilian population, fire their rockets and rely on the reluctance of the Israeli military to do “collateral damage.” The Israelis will inform the area beforehand that it is about to be attacked. They give sufficient time for non-combatants to leave the area. There is a clear distinction between the two approaches. The Liberal mind will for some reason see the Israeli approach as unfair while the Terrorists are really “just oppressed people seeking justice”.

Basically, the movement to “bring the boys” home really is putting one’s hands over one’s eyes and hoping that it will “ all go away.” Maybe they will leave us alone and maybe they won’t fly planes into our buildings anymore. Again denial. The reality is that there is a fundamental conflict between cultures and ideologies. This age old conflict has erupted, in fact, into a war. This is so uncomfortable to contemplate that the Deniers will just try to wish it away. But it just won’t go away. In the l930’s, the terrible fear of war moved good people to deny its possibility The memory of the slaughters of World War I with its Verdun and Marne and Argonne was still too raw.. But it led World leaders into an unbelievable denial of real danger. Naively, leaders assured their people that we have “peace in our time.” Such denial led to the most terrible war in human history. Denial won’t make peace with terrorists. Only reality orientation will.

[1] The “in” crowd claim that the United States is next on his agenda.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Eating in Restaurants and Finding God!

I am a Spiritual Materialist! Oxymoronic?
Eating in Restaurants and Finding God!

Since I was a mere stripling of fifteen or so, I have been delighted with Hilaire[1] Belloc’s little ditty: Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine/ there’s dancing and laughter and good red wine/ at least I have always found it so/ Benedicamus Domino/. My delight stems, I think, from my deep seated Catholic sense of the essential goodness of the material and its intended synthesis with the spiritual. I believe that both matter and spirit are basically good. My Scriptural background does clearly indicate that God looked upon what He had done and said “It is very good.” (Gen.1, 31). This certainly includes “matter”, that which we call the material.

Catholics believe that evil often surfaces, not from the material itself, but from the misuse and misdirection of “things” thus differing from the plan of the Creator. The dour, grim, unsmiling deviation which one sometimes finds in neurotic Catholics (and certainly in those other religions which doggedly chase witches, drunks and gamblers who smoke) is hardly within our real tradition. It is not alcohol, betting, sex or food, per se, which are intrinsically evil. It is the way we use them which causes departure from the Lord. Drunkenness, gluttony, avarice, lust, covetousness are all offenses before God, caused not by things but by the perverse will of the human being. However and obviously, there is a profound tendency in all of us to misuse the gifts of the earth.

In theological circles this tendency is called “Original sin.” An adult spiritual life, seeking healthy balance, contains and controls such a tendency. The Blessed Apostle Paul recommends a little wine for the sake of the stomach. We teach that Sexual love between a husband and wife is holy and righteously to be enjoyed.. This is Incarnational Theology or the role of the physical in the Great Plan of God. Limited betting at the Racetrack, if it does no injustice to others, can be a legitimate form of recreation and appropriate enjoyment. Eating while essential for the survival of the human being, can be a source of exquisite pleasure, enjoyment and, I argue, holiness.

With such a Catholic/Belloc conscience and a healthy stomach, I enjoy and relish ( I hope appropriately), eating, especially at eventide, in Restaurants of almost any stripe: Italian, Spanish, French, American, Portuguese, Chinese, Irish, Turkish, Moroccan, Mexican and others. Eating in restaurants for me usually is a fulfilling and delightful experience. To be with good friends whose conversation and company I enjoy while savoring fresh, well prepared food in a charming spot---pampered by waiters, preferably with European accents and manners----this suffuses me with a warm and expansive gratitude. Gratitude to Whom? That’s easy. To the Lord God Himself. Such eating brings me closer to God rather than the opposite.

When I am enjoying a pungent dish of escargots with good friends, I can easily overlook what otherwise might be a source of annoyance (or even uncharity) for me. The guys who eat with their baseball caps on or the screaming babies whose parents seem unconcerned, or the loudmouth who spouts ignorant slurs on my Church, are all “ignorable” in the flush of my God-given enjoyment. I think this applies even to the Hot Shot who wears his cap backwards with the peak scratching the nape of his neck! When a glass of red wine courses through my veins, when my friends and I publicly ask God’s blessing on our fun and companionship, when I eat good food, when I feel the excitement of open and spirited conversation, my being is drawn to the loving Father, Who is God, for providing such bounty to my life. Recently, at a charming Italian restaurant in New York’s Theatre district, I had a wonderful dinner with a Catholic family. We laughed and shouted and reached Cloud 9. We kidded with the waiters. We drank wine. We ate heartily. We all held hands in a circle and acknowledged Our Lord and Master to the surprise and, I suspect, the envy, of other diners. This was Community and the fusion of the spiritual and the material at its best! This was also the Catholicism of which Belloc writes.

It was the heretical Manicheans who saw Matter as intrinsically evil, not authentic Catholics. But how many good and intelligent persons have been seduced by this and similar errors! It was so with the great St. Augustine and the brilliant Rene Descartes with his Cartesian “split” between the spiritual and the material!! Both were misled to such a philosophic false extreme.

The Catholic Church has always, as a Church, respected the material. There are innumerable blessings of the “physical”. Note the blessings for crops, animals, automobiles, marriage beds, airplanes, corpses, and all appropriate[2] material things. We have the blessing “Ad Omnia”—for Everything. I consider the great Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady to be a triumphant validation of the “material.” So holy was her body that it was not allowed by the Father to decompose. In fact, it is a Catholic belief that all dead bodies will rise again on the last day. How is that for esteeming the physical dimension of us!

The Catholic Church promotes the beautiful with unbelievably gorgeous Churches and Cathedrals, with music that lifts the soul, with paintings and sculpture, with poetry, and with liturgy which features incense, color and choreographed movement. All of it uses the physical, the material. While there have been the extremists certainly in other religions who despise matter and who lust to destroy religious art, we have had some misled Catholics who have ranted also in Christ’s own Church. We have this periodic rise of Catholic extremists who shout for “getting back to basics” while grimly missing the warmth and richness of Belloc’s Catholicism.

I remember an analogous reference to extremism by William Langland in his work Piers Plowman when he wrote of certain Jansenist nuns who “….are pure as angels but proud as devils…” Clearly, imbalance is always a danger in the spiritual and emotional life. Chastity is a jewel for loving God and, at the same time, highly congenial, not antithetical, to appropriate enjoyment in life.

I recall the wonderful book, “Keys of the Kingdom” by the Scottish physician author, A.J.Cronin. The central character, Fr. Andrew Chisolm, enthuses with his little nephew about the beautiful bounty of God in filling the lake with so many fishes for people to enjoy eating. It does appear that regardless of extreme vegetarian stances, it is the Will of the Great God that we should be delighted with Dover Sole, Red Snapper and Irish Salmon. Who would dare dispute with Jesus Who, as God, cooked fish for his followers obviously encouraging others to do likewise?

I certainly won’t but I fully intend to enthuse about my Lord. I will sing His praises and thank Him now and hopefully for all eternity. I will continue to link my pollo scarparliello with my Faith while I trumpet the Catholic insight about Matter. Viva Belloc and his notion of “wherever the Catholic sun doth shine.”

[1] Sometimes he called himself “Hillary” after a great saint. I prefer for esthetic reasons to use Hilaire since the other resonates an unpleasant note relative to a political figure.
[2] I note that in the First World War the Pope refused to bless armaments which are clearly meant to destroy.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Who Are These Christian Brothers?

I was a fourteen years old graduate of the Paulist Gammar School where I was protected and taught by the loving and maternal Holy Cross Sisters. Soon, I was to be thrown into the care of some mysterious, tall, black robed men known as the Irish Christian Brothers.[1] It was rumored that each one of them had a brown strap hidden in his Robes which he would whip out at the slightest provocation. Teen aged boys allegedly trembled in fear at the very sight of this tool of control! Horror stories of beatings and strange goings on swept our neighborhood. . I was in a near panic.

My good Jewish father had wanted me to go to nearby Commerce High school where I would learn business basics for “making it” in this tough world. Besides, it was free. No tuition. No fees. All the freebies one would need. And, on the other hand, the Brothers at this fancy sounding school, Power Memorial Academy, would charge ten dollars a month! And they taught “useless” stuff like English Literature, French, Latin and Religion!

However, my simple Irish Catholic mother, though usually acquiescing to my father’s wishes, stamped and stomped her way to my enrolling at a Catholic High school. With marvelous trust in the Almighty, she knew that although we had no money, somehow the Lord would figure out a way of digging up that enormous sum each month! And, of course, the Lord came through in the person of a gentle Paulist Father, Fr. Paul Ward, who paid my tuition for the four years, enabling me to have one of the most satisfying, productive educational experiences of my life.

The school was located in Harlem, on 124th street right off Lenox Avenue. Power Memorial Academy was actually three or four crummy looking, old brownstone houses. And into them were crammed several hundred boys, a cramped “lunchroom” in the basement, a tiny chapel on the second floor, “classrooms” where walls had been broken down to accommodate the young scholars, a back yard passing as recreation space adorned with primitive basketball hoops and, of course, quarters for the Brothers.[2] It was not Phillips Exeter or Fordham Prep but we all loved it.

These men had unbelievable dedication to the kids. They were superb educators. They were strong masculine role models and exemplars of Faith. They did demand excellence in scholarship which resulted in an impressive record of college scholarships and generally a sense of “how to study” for the students. The stories of beatings were largely mythical, the kind of exaggeration one might hear sitting before the fireplace on a winter’s night. If the strap was used at all, it was largely symbolic, amounting to no more than a slight sting on the hand. It never destroyed the psyche as is claimed by the contemporary bleeding hearts of Public schools. On the contrary, most of the boys who got so disciplined knew they deserved it and understood its meaning. It was not only justice but love. It helped us mature and become truly masculine. One need only check the reactions of Power alumni over the years to realize how strong was the bond between the Brothers and students.

I needed 10 cents each day for the subway in addition to my homemade sandwich which I always found in my satchel through the “courtesy” of my mother (or grandmother when Mom was away on a job). Here I learned the practical meaning of “God will provide” or, as the Brothers taught me, Deus Providebit. I never worried about the daily dime or the sandwich. I knew they would be there. It left me free to enjoy the thrill of learning about Caesar and Vercingetorix, the dynamics of the quadratic equation, the fluid sound of “Bon jour, mes enfants”[3], the fun of Shakespeare and the endless excitement of the opened mind. It also pervasively taught me, almost like an osmosis, what it means to be a Catholic.

Where in God’s Providence did these guys come from? How did they wind up in the Inner City teaching dirty necks like me the basics of reading, writing and computing? What made them tick?

It started in Co. Waterford, Ireland with a layman named Edmund Rice (1762-1844), a prosperous businessman whose wife had died leaving him with a seriously ill daughter. It was a time when his land had been oppressed by foreign powers leaving the Irish impoverished and generally uneducated. This man who had a lively devotion to the Mother of God, the Blessed Mother, decided to spend some time teaching the many urchins floundering aimlessly around Waterford, giving them some skills in making a living. He did teach them basic computation and reading but it was always against the background of the Catholic Faith. Edmund who has been declared Blessed by the Catholic Church believed in the eternal destiny of all while at the same time being apparently a hard headed Merchant who knew how to turn pig’s ear into a silk purse. He was a Believer who like all saints will have empty pockets and “impossible” dreams but will dare to challenge the “Common Sense” of the world.

His charisma, wonderful to most, insane to others, drew scores of good hearted men who eventually developed into that Congregation then called Irish Christian Brothers and now the Congregation of Christian Brothers. No longer just Irish[4] but Indian, African, Australian, American, Hispanic and even English names dot the International Roster of the Congregation.

But it is always the spirit and vision of Rice which dominates the Monks. Although they number noted scholars in their ranks, they all commit to caring for the young. Recently, I had dinner with an old friend who, as a teenager, was totally disoriented relative to his future. By some strange twist of God’s plan, “Ray” entered Power Memorial and indeed was truly saved. A young Br. “Boney” Power took him over, directed him personally and educationally, to a career in the Board of Education of New York City where he became an able and successful leader. Now in retirement he openly (and often) states that his life was saved by Br. Power. Once a confused agnostic, he is today a practicing and proud Catholic. This is the plan of Edmund Rice and one which has been realized thousands of times around the world since those difficult early days in Waterford.

In my years in South Africa, my initial impression of these Monks was re-enforced and highlighted endless times. They ran the prototypic high level Secondary school in Kimberly, the number one school in the country. The Headmaster, Br. McManus was called “Mr. Education” nationwide. He was consulted by Government Ministers as the ultimate source of “What to do” in this field. I gave an annual retreat to them at Kimberly, went on vacation with them, played tennis with them and shared their lives as much as a non-Monk could. But it was always the same. Dedication. Faith. Commitment to the young. Continual Study. True fraternity. Edmund Rice was written all over them.

I met them in Fiji where they ran a top level school in the Inner city for the indigenous children. They greeted me with warmth and hospitality, even introducing me to the bitter local brew as the natives clapped their hands in delight. I met them in Hawaii where they run a top school for American kids of that area. I was welcomed as their “Brother” and shared their food and shelter. Edmund Rice, who probably never left Ireland physically, was spiritually right there smiling and encouraging them. I met them in Sydney, Australia, where they invited me to share my thoughts at their National Education Convention. Edmund. Edmund. Edmund. He was always there also—urging, challenging, even demanding his spiritual sons to carry on the Message of Jesus.

In my own years at the “Academy” I was obviously drawn myself to become “Brother” Lloyd so attractive and symbiotic to me was their life It was all I ever yearned for—with one monumental exception! I had a huge and undeniable need to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Why couldn’t I be a Brother and priest at the same time?[5] I understand very well that the Vocation to be a Brother is a special and separate call. When Br. John Mark Egan, the superb Christian psychologist was asked why he didn’t become a priest and go “all the way”, he correctly and profoundly replied: “Then I couldn’t be a Brother…” In the mysterious and beautiful makeup of the Mystical Body of Jesus, there are different and equal “calls” as the Blessed Apostle Paul tells us.

Perhaps, one of the three greatest human beings of my life was Br. A.A. Loftus (called “Austie” by the insiders). No one so deeply influenced me on multiple levels. He is the one who invited me to “come along with us” i.e. join the Monks. Like so many others, I wanted to be like him. He was an incredible scholar who taught me Virgil’s Aeneas, Solid Geometry[6], Trig, American History, Catholic theology, Cicero’s orations on Cataline, the Odes and Epodes of Horace.. All on superior levels of teaching. He was a top flight athletic coach winning in successive years the City championships in both basketball and baseball. He was extremely devout in his Faith, deeply Catholic, loyal to the Magisterium. Yet, as with many intellectuals, he relaxed with detective stories and Yankee ball games in the stadium.

If he was displeased with us, we were exceedingly uncomfortable. His approval was essential. When as an insufferable Big Shot senior of 17, I was “goofing off” (slacking in my studies) he ordered me to school on a Saturday intending to whack me over the bottom. As I bent over the desk, with my knees quivering, his basic sensitivity took over and he relented with a verbal reprimand. I had been on the verge of leaving school in mid-year, possibly for a dead-end and mediocre life. Austie set me straight for what I consider my own “great ride”.

Austie, the Ph.D. par excellence, became the Professor of philosophy at Iona College, later President of the College, later Provincial of the Brothers of North America and finally, the top dog, the Superior General of the world wide Congregation. After his retirement, I met him at Power; in fact in the Brothers chapel where he sat mystically gazing at his Eucharistic Lord in the Tabernacle. I had been deeply impressed, as a teenager, at his bouncing into the little Chapel at Power before class, oodles of books under his arm, with a quick genuflection asking the Master’s guidance on his day. I asked him if he was planning to return to Iona to teach philosophy. He laughingly replied that he was going to a high school because “that is where all the fun is.” It was in a high school chapel that he was stricken and quickly was taken to his Lord and Master.

I have been invited several times to preach the Annual Retreat to the Monks at Power, Iona and elsewhere, It has been a strange feeling for me to see the wise, holy, wonderful Monks sitting before me listening with incredible humility to my words on the Spiritual Life. There was Br. Tom Perry at ninety with his hand cupped to his ear least he miss any of my spiritual gems (?). It was he who taught me French, English composition and basic theology! There was the genial, scholarly Br. Blondie Vaughan who taught me about the angles and triangles of Plane Geometry. There were Provincials and scholars and skilled professors listening with some pride to one of “their boys.”

For ten years in my own retirement, I was privileged to say Mass for these Brothers as they became old and infirm. In a beautiful facility run by the Brothers themselves, the grand old men who gave so much of their love, talent and Faith for others wait patiently for their call to the Lord. Even with age and illness burdening them, they almost automatically radiate Edmund’s spirit. They are for others. They always welcomed me, their brother who was a priest as one of their own, making me feel at home with them. Sometimes, they made me laugh as did the Alzheimeric Brother who ran up to me one morning to announce that he was getting married the next day. I kiddingly asked if his bride was good looking and he replied with a satisfied and beaming “absolutely.” Others I comforted and encouraged as they worried about their very few inadequacies prior to meeting God. I was so grateful to minister to my dear friend, Br. Alexander Thomas as he lay dying in the Hawthorne hospice. He with whom I had so much fun competing in Bridge games and who in his own way taught me so many of the delights that God provides--- the cigar, the goblet with Grand Marnier, the French jokes------

So many wonderful memories I have of these good men, these sons of Edmund, these champions of and believers in young people. Who are these Christian Brothers? How much time does one have to listen…. “Arma virumque cano…..”I sing of religious men and their battle against ignorance, bigotry, coldness and that which is not of God.
It has been my pleasure and privilege along with literally thousands of others to say:
“I know them and they know me.” May God be praised.

[1] The title IRISH Christian Brothers was subsequently changed to Congregation of Christian Brothers as a more accurate reflection of the ethnic makeup of the more recent vocations to the Community. CFC is the present official “sign” after each Brother’s name.
[2] When one got on the “inside” one learned that they were called “Monks”
[3] Br. Tom Perry entered the classroom each morning thusly greeting us in French. with a pronounced Irish accent
[4] Indeed Ireland no longer supplies recruits as of the old days. Irish Vocations are almost non existent. It is India, New Guinea, Africa and what was known as the Mission area which keeps the Congregation alive. The present Brother “General” or Leader is from India.
[5] In fact, years later, as the Director of Pastoral Counseling at Iona College, I became the first priest to become an associate Brother, entitling me to add CFC to my name.
[6] He demanded in his scholarship class that everyone who took the Regents exam in Solid Geom., get 100% on the exam. This was “passing” to him. I who could hardly add, under his leadership, aced the exam with 100%. His secret was check and check and check your work. Repetition was his answer.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

The Mysterious and Inexplicable “Pull” of Jewishness

Although only “half” of my being is Jewish since I had a Russian-Jewish father and an Irish mother, I have felt throughout my life a pull or draw (which I can’t explain) to the warmth, energy, laughter and loyalty to whatever we mean by “Jewish.” This tendency is all the more amazing to me since I am a Catholic priest, totally devoted to my Faith, delighted with the joys of Catholic spirituality and convinced that Catholicism is the fullness of Religion as revealed by God, bar none.

Yet, I have a Mezuzah on the door post to my office which I touch reverently as I begin my day of counseling God’s suffering children. I have two yarmulkes which I use at appropriate times. I love Jewish humor and I love to “hang out” with Jewish friends. I bristle and suffer when someone makes an anti-Semitic remark, particularly when the “bigot” has no idea of my Jewish side since, as they tell me, “You look so Irish.”

A snide remark about the Jews is an attack not only on the Jews but particularly on my father and on me! Never mind that such bigotry is insulting to my Jewish Lord, Jesus, and His holy Jewish Mother and all my Biblical heroes, the Big Fisherman, sweaty Peter and the bald headed, bandy legged enthusiastic Paul and John and Mary Magdalene as well as later pals, like Edith Stein, among so many others . It is, also, insulting to my Catholicism which declares such behavior to be overtly sinful. Certainly, my own instant rising to the challenge is not only my conscious Catholicism but also, I suppose, the unconscious awareness that had I been in Dachau in l938, I, too, could have ended up in the oven. Irish looking or not. Devout Catholic or not. I definitely have Jewish blood. I must wear the Star on my sleeve and declare myself as Juden.

As a kid, during the devastating economic depression, my father, mother, sister and I worked Jewish Hotels in the Jewish Alps (the Catskills) as the “Social staff.” We could get no other form of income. The Jews provided one. We sang, danced, did skits, juggled, and ran Bingo games for the old Jewish gals. We ate Kosher food in which case I would scandalize the good simple Jewish waiter (Emil, with the heavy Central European accent) when I insisted on having a glass of milk with meat. I have never forgotten the warmth and cordiality and these Jewish good times from my adolescent years.

Yet, the attraction can hardly be environmental when I recall that I was forbidden to meet my Jewish grandparents because I was a clearly defined Christian (even an altar boy).[1] I had little Jewish contact apart from the summer jobs. My name had been changed from Rosenbloom (my birth name) to Lloyd. I was brought up in a totally Christian, non-Jewish world. I was identified de facto as Gentile, not Jewish. How come this almost mystical feeling in me?

I even recall one of my Christian relatives, a good, simple, uneducated man, utterly without thinking, would shout “Ya Jew Bastard” at any one who would cut him off. The offending motorist could be black, yellow or brown, Catholic, atheist or animist. Somehow he had co-mingled an unarticulated anti-Semitism with low tolerance for conflict into this automatic epithet. Of course, he had easy access to similar putdowns for blacks, Poles, Italians and Puerto Ricans. If he had had any other ethnic makeup than his own, I am sure he would easily have been able to classify the Irish as Donkeys and Micks.

I, as a psychologist, am very much aware of identity formulation. Even my good friend and colleague, Dr. Arnie Zucker, who is very Jewish[2] and a psychiatrist, frequently sings into the ears of his twin grandchildren to solidify their Jewish identity. Believing that behavioral data, even at this early age, will be recorded deep in their young psyches, he sings them little ditties like: “Aren’t you glad that you are a little Jewish boy? Aren’t you glad you were not born a goy?” While some observers believe that the term “goy” is itself an ethnic putdown, nevertheless the process of identity is taking place.

I have probed my own identity formation and asked why do I feel so protective of things Jewish? Whence this kind of pride I feel in Jewish history? I personally revel in the knowledge that such a small percentage of the human race has made such incredible contributions to the world. While I cannot equate everything which is Jewish with the state of Israel, I am amazed how such a tiny country, outnumbered and besieged by hostile neighbors, has been able to give to the world so much of what makes life joyous and livable. I see the startling non-correlation between a small world Jewish population and their disproportionate representation in various fields. Out of a relatively tiny ethnic population comes a large percentage of Jews in professional fields like medicine, law, the arts, education, and certainly business.

How often I have heard the off-hand remark: “Go get yourself a good Jewish lawyer” meaning, I suppose that this would ensure a more pleasing outcome than if one hired a non-Jewish attorney. The compassionate human concern of the Jewish physician is legendary. The dominance of Jewish comedians has been obvious especially to me with my show biz background. How often have I enjoyed belly laughs with Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Alan King, Henny Youngman, Uncle Miltie Berle, Don Rickles, Jackie Mason and on and on and on. Even within the world of sports, I enjoyed in my early youth the antics of Jewish boxers like Maxie Baer, Benny Leonard, and Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom. I remember the great Hank Greenberg with the Detroit Tigers and the All-American running back, Marshall Goldberg, at the University of Pittsburgh. In effect, I am very aware that positive Jewish influence is very widespread, certainly in the history of the United States.

I find myself rooting for Israel and praying for her safety and success. I am nauseated by remarks such as the one made by the President of a European country that Israel is an insignificant “sh---y little country”. My reactions are as if I were fully Jewish and an Israeli. Why is this?

Some years ago when I was hosting a television interview show for WNBC in New York, my guest was Fr. Dr. John Oesterricher, the Founder and Director of the Institute for Judeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University. My concern and interest was to explore the identity of the Jew. He, a convert to Catholicism with a Germanic background, in response to my question “What is a Jew?”, spoke of “people.” He dismissed notions of race, nationality, religion and the like. We are a people, he said. He was a devoted and convinced Catholic priest but he was a Jew and always would be. To him the notion of people hood transcends other specifics. He did not believe that Judaism and Jewish-ness are co-terminous. Nor do I.

Yet, is there some kind of “spiritual” gene? Is there something in the spirit of people which is passed on to descendants? I , with wide eyed amazement, read Cahill’s carefully written “The Contribution of the Jews”. Clearly, God has chosen Jews to be His own people. I, as a Catholic, believe I incorporate the basic and, perhaps, inchoate Will of God as found in Biblical History. I understand and admire the deep loyalty to family and community which Jews have for their own People. Franz Werfel, Jewish, author and admirer of Catholicism described in his “Between Heaven and Earth” why he could not become a Catholic as much as he was so inclined. To leave his people in their hour of need and join the “other side” would be, in a sense, a betrayal. The “pull” for the People of God is enormously strong. I know it. I feel it. I am the anomaly. I am fiercely Catholic and consciously Jewish. And I like it even if I can’t really explain it.

[1] A situation which has been a source of deprivation and even resentment for me. I was never forbidden by my mother’s family, only my father’s. This can be explained by the experiences of my Jewish grandparents in Russia/Poland relative to the brutal pogroms.
[2] He sings as a Cantor in his own synagogue and is deeply involved in its activities. He sees his work at Iona and his friendship with me, at least partially, as a witness and spokesman for the Jewish world.

Sunday, July 9, 2006


When I was a bit more than a lad, Ole Blue Eyes Sinatra used to croon a spectacular and special tune--- “I Fall in Love Too Easily…” Spectacular and special for me, that is, because it resonated with my most romantic, emotional, adolescent self. When I was 16, every beautiful starlet in the Saturday morning movie starred in my own fantasies as I played Gable or Robert Taylor to her inviting eyes. Or I was dumbstruck and gooey-eyed by the pretty girls at the Parish dances as they pranced around in saddle shoes to the latest Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller musical scores. Walter Mitty-like, I melted into the wall as I fell for every charming gal I met.

Perhaps, some of that adolescence has stuck to my recessed (not repressed) memory because every so often I, unbelievably, find myself enthralled with the various goddesses of my life. And I am eighty-five! They are, usually, thank heaven, unreachable lest I forget my age and become the drooling teenager I played so well. Last year, for example, as a guest on the Coast-to-Coast Television News Show, co-hosted by Ronnie Reagan Jr., (similar to his Dad, Ron, only in name) and by a gorgeous, blonde, intellectual, Monica Crowley, I forgot that I was 84. Before getting into the heavy stuff, I proposed to Monica!! On National television! I, a dinosaur, bald, Jewish-Irish Priest! I said: “Monica, if priests could get married and you were single, I’d propose to you.” Before the guffaws began, there was a wide mouthed incredulity. I could almost hear the dropping of loose dentures! Ronnie pursed his thin lips disapprovingly. But, Monica sent me a signed photograph accepting my proposal—were it possible! It hangs on my office wall where it proclaims to all visitors my sexual orientation--- were that ever to become necessary!

I have also been infatuated with Peggy Noonan, Laura Ingram and Michelle Malkin. They are all beautiful, intelligent, funny, articulate, and hold to the same values which I cherish and champion. They are, now, all officially registered in my GWW[1] which is a very select and elite society. I also notice that they all arouse a paralyzing fear in light weight talk show hosts, superficial standup comics, buffoons, pseudo-intellectuals and party hacks.

Of course, speaking of intellectual and powerfully articulate women leads me to the newest entry in GWW---- Ann Coulter! How does one describe Ann Coulter? That she is beautiful, incredibly intelligent, very funny, quick as lightening, fearless, and has marvelous eyes? Or that she has written block busting books: Treason, Slander, High Crimes and Misdemeanors and now Godless, the Church of Liberalism? Or that she is a frequent stimulating guest on TV shows around the country? Or that she has been named one of the top public intellectuals in the country?

Right now I am deeply impressed with her newest book, Godless, which says what so many of us wish we could articulate. The most important factor in human existence (in my mind and in the minds of millions of others) is the loving and concerned God Who loves us all and Who gives meaning to everything. True religion openly acknowledges the Lord and worships Him. It is not interpersonal relationships which basically constitute religion. Loving interpersonal relationships come after we have centralized the Almighty as our true focus. We love others because of God’s image in all of them. When DeTocqueville called Americans a “religious people”, his assessment was obvious (for that historical era) and roughly reflective of the above view of religion. In modern America it might be quite a different story. Religion, as described above, is under serious (if sometimes imperceptible) attack. Those who mock this fear are either in denial, or perhaps ignorant, or, worse, in complicity. The reality is as David Idler writes in the Summer edition of Crisis: “ I do not see what is controversial about Ann Coulter’s new book Godless, the Church of Liberalism for I see nothing controversial about stating the obvious.” Ann Coulter is a kind of modern Paul Revere alerting the citizens of a terrible threat: the loss of our National Soul.

Recently, I met, by chance, a verbal (and leftist) local talk show host, who upon seeing Godless under my arm almost convulsed into a panic attack. It was as if a “True Believer” had met Old Nick face to face. He writhed as he asked if I thought Jesus would write such a book as this and if I agreed with Ann’s “attack” on the “three poor women from New Jersey” who were grieving their lost husbands. I asked him had he read the book and did he (as any honest lawyer should and would) see these references within the context of the author’s overall intent, i.e. to expose the attempted takeover by quasi-religious Liberalism of the role of Religion and its unscrupulous use even of bereavement to further its cause? In response he physically backed away from me--- with a jocose (?)[2] remark that I should go to confession myself for supporting Coulter!!!! Thus, the illiberal liberal responds to a view opposing his own. His criticism of her centered on his belief that she doesn’t attend the Church in Connecticut as she claims! Therefore, by some kind of weird logic, her ideas have no merit. The old strategy surfaces: Destroy the Messenger if the Message is too difficult to demolish. There has even been a frantic attempt in a tabloid newspaper to accuse her of “plagiarism”. This is an obvious ploy to divert the public from the core point of her book—i.e. Traditional religion is under attack and is being replaced by a man-made religion called “liberalism”.

Nevertheless, despite the pious incantations from the left and despite the un-American attempt to prevent her from airing her “different” point of view at a University (to which she been legitimately invited), she does have a serious and valid point to make. She names the “High priests” of the New Religion who often claim to have been Baptized in a Christian Faith. If he is a nominal Catholic, this “cleric” often recalls that he was an altar boy thereby apparently proving something, but will substantively depart from the basics of Traditional Religion. Sometimes, these gentlemen attend services with huge Bibles in hand, provided there are sufficient Media people present to reinforce their version of Good News. However, these leaders will relentlessly repeat the dogma/slogans of their Religion, hoping that the masses, the great intellectually unwashed, will be lulled by the modern Panem et Circenses.[3]

These “nostrums” usually echo some form of the following:

 Keep you hands off my body! (a thinly veiled attack on Pro-Life philosophy and The lynchpin of the New Faith since Abortion is the most sacred sacrament)

 Marriage is everyone’s right--- certainly same-sex attracted people!

 Guns kill. (Second Amendment under attack)

 The earth is being destroyed by oil “barons”

 Bush is another Hitler

 Protect the rights of criminals, especially terrorists

 Save the whales

 We need to raise taxes

 Government needs more control

 Keep Traditional religion out of the Public Square. Keep on stressing Separation of Church and State. Never allow them to quote the Founders who believed in the integration of Religion with government. Make them think Religion itself is banned.

 Anti-Semitism is a No-No. As is anti-gay and anti –black. Anti-Catholicism is OK[4].

 Darwin, Marx, Freud and Dewey are canonized saints in this “Church” and must be regarded with reverence and awe. Ignore the many refutations modern critical analysis offers.

 Cut and run----right now or reasonable facsimile thereof.

 Do not think for yourself and, if possible, suppress your sense of humor.

 Never question these “thoughts” but accept them on Faith. The Leaders say so—hence it must be true.

These are required dogmas for the new faithful. Any deviation from the party line will be swiftly punished by casting the offending unbeliever into the outer darkness of the political world. Should he differ from the illuminations of the saintly ones like portly Michael Moore, pathetic Cindy Sheehan and potty Barbara Streisand, he will be forced to function without the support of this “Church”. Should he disagree politically with the hierarchy of his “Church” he might have to run as an Independent even if he is Jewish. These are the new Infallibility and Excommunication powers of the Liberal Church. And they are being widely accepted by the good hearted and sometimes naïve American people.

Her chapter on Abortion, the Holiest Sacrament, is priceless. For example, a famous TV interviewer assures viewers that the “non-existent partial birth abortion occurs only about 600-1,000 times per year…” But, Coulter presents the statistic on ONE abortion clinic in New Jersey which performs (ca) 1,500 partial birth abortions every year on babies 20-24 weeks old. It sounds like the interviewer was either lying or ignorant. She notes the off-the-cuff observation of the mother of the Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito—“Of course he’s against abortion…” which created a wild furor which, in turn, focused on the NARAL and Washington Post stance that “No one is for abortion.” If every one is against abortion, why the furor that Alito is against abortion? The answer is that abortion is central to the New Religion. It must be preserved at all costs. If necessary, use double talk or issue fogging.

Clearly, Abortion is the Sacrament. Roe v. Wade is the Holy Writ. It sounds like somebody is pulling a fast one here! Which is it? Are we for or against abortion? If someone won’t or can’t answer this question which basically involves brutal violence, there is only one way out: lying! A. Solzhenitsyn summed it up nicely: “Violence does not and cannot flourish by itself; it is inevitably intertwined with lying.” Is this why I am so troubled that a certain Father of Lies might be in back of all of this?

I am also troubled that all Americans are not allowed to vote on this matter of suctioning the brains out of half-born children. I am troubled at the Liberalism church taking control of children’s lives (and souls) in the desired (almost de facto) monopoly of public education. I am troubled that children in the First grade are being taught that same-sex “marriages” are natural and right! Is my discomfort mere fantasy? Or Paranoia? Yet, Coulter quotes from The American Prospect [5] thusly: “This country cannot have a woman on any federal court if she interpreted a law that says a parent has to be notified of a minor child’s abortion to mean that a parent has to be notified of a minor child’s abortion. That’s like the Nazis!” I can hardly believe this is in print, yet such dogma is essential to this Liberalism which, to my ears, is sounding more and more truly totalitarian.

I am amused at the almost paralytic terror I sense in some cookie cut inadequate males who try to take her on. When they unleash a furious all out attack/attempt to invalidate her thesis, a psychologist sees the lights go on and the bells peal. We may well have an unresolved oedipal conflict here! These chaps are so basically insecure in their masculinity that they see her as a threat who might psychically castrate them as they feared their own Mommies might have done!!!! Their quite puny “tries” remind me of the old vaudeville gag about the height of presumption. The gnat crawling up the trunk of the elephant with ideas of fornication!!! The gifted Coulter swats these guys away as if they were tiny mosquitoes.

So, is there a Church of Liberalism?

To sum up, Ann tersely replies: “Liberals love to boast that they are not “religious” which is what one would expect to hear from the state-sanctioned religion. Of course liberalism is a religion. It has its own cosmology, its own miracles, its own beliefs in the supernatural, its own churches, its own high priests, its own saints, its own total worldview and its own explanation of the existence of the universe. In other words, liberalism contains all the attributes of what is generally known as religion.”

No wonder the seculars are up in arms and ready for war!

Oh, about the Jersey girls. Within context, even granting Coulter’s “barbed wire” language instead of sweet sugarcoat, the point simply is that these women used their bereavement for political purposes. No decent human being (including Ann C.) begrudges the terrible sorrow one feels at the loss of a loved one, particularly under such barbaric circumstances as 9/11. Many informed Americans feel that these women (unlike so many other widows from that disaster) were plainly trying to convert their personal tragedy into attempts to control national policy. Ann Coulter puts it more directly: “(they) wanted George Bush to apologize for not being Bill Clinton.” They have a legitimate right to mourn. They do not have the right to turn that mourning into a tool for the Liberal “Church.”

[1] Great Women of the World
[2] Freud opined that often behind “humor”, in spite of its apparent jollity and laughter, lies a font of aggression and enmity. This might explain the mysterious discomfort sometimes felt when one is the butt of public jokes or “satire.” This is beyond being “thin skinned.”
[3] The variation of the old Roman trick of giving loads of free bread and spectaculars to keep the troops happy. Or Marie Antoinette’s gig of “let them eat cake…”
[4] See Philip Jenkins on “The New Anti-Catholicism—the last acceptable prejudice” Oxford Univ. Press.
[5] Page 89 Godless

Monday, June 26, 2006

Was There Really a Priest Pedophile Problem?

I knew a battled hardened, old Paulist debater, Fr. James M. Gillis, who used to thunder at priests-in-the-making that we must insist on definition before we discuss any matter of serious import. A basic finding in debate research, he taught, is that the victory belongs to him who frames the debate.

In striving for precise definition and intelligent debate, it is essential to know the difference between the connotative and the denotative meanings of words. The connotations of a word can range all over the verbal landscape and can apply to all kinds of marginal meanings, including that which the listener might wish to inject into a concept. It can be a kind of Rorschach journey, akin to looking at floating clouds and giving a personal meaning or perception to each. On the other hand, the denotative meaning of a word is specific and univocal. There is practically and usually no other meaning to it. A debater might unethically use a word in a connotative sense and hope that his opponent doesn’t pick up his somewhat sloppy intellectual behavior. This occurs more than we like to admit. Unless one is used to demanding definition, it is highly possible that exchanges move off into what has been called “airy persiflage.” There is no common ground achieved but only hardening of respective positions despite fancy talk and impassioned articulation. All of us, certainly including this writer, must be honest in the use of our terms if we are to be faithful to the Spirit of the Lord and be helpful to others.

One fascinating example of the misuse of language, deliberate or otherwise, surfaced many times in the priest scandal reporting. This was the imprecise use of the word “pedophile” which has a denotative and specific scientific meaning. The word itself, taken from Greek roots, in the world of psychology, refers to the sexual molestation of and attraction to pre-pubertal persons ---i.e. before puberty, roughly and denotatively prior to the age of 12. The philia or “love” is toward children, who are younger than the stage of puberty. This is vastly and substantively different from being sexually attracted to adolescent or teen age persons.

Hence, when the media or special interest groups refer to the priest “pedophile” scandal, they are inaccurate or, more precisely, incorrect. The overwhelming majority of these cases has involved persons in the teen years, anywhere from 14 to 19. The professional categorization for teen age sexual molestation is called Ephebophilia, again from Greek roots, specifically and denotatively, meaning sexual attraction to older adolescents.

This distinction is well known and easily verifiable. So, the blurring of the word-usage is somewhat puzzling. In a recent public lecture I gave on the roots of Same Sex attraction[1] (homosexuality), I attempted to clarify the distinction (using perhaps a barbed wire approach) that there wasn’t a pedophile scandal at all but a homosexual one. A person who apparently identifies himself as “gay” was deeply upset by my distinction and wished to peg the word “pedophile” on the unfaithful priests. In the dialogue with him, it became clear that since both sick heterosexuals and sick homosexuals are probably equally guilty of molesting little children, the gay world preferred to label the priest “thing” as pedophilia thereby shifting the focus away from homosexuality. The hype stance was: “Don’t blame us (gays)—blame the Church.”

Actually the media (and many gay-friendly lawyers) often employ a very elastic and connotative use of the word “pedophilia” to include anyone under the age of 21. However, when the studies (particularly the John Jay report) came out clearly indicating that anywhere between 80% and 90% of the cases since 1950 have involved homosexual priests, there was a wild scurrying about to fog up the findings. We were told that these were not really homosexual priests but only priests seeking some kind of sexual discharge and the young men were the nearest sexual experience they could have without women. Whatever the internal tensions of these priests were, the descriptive word generally applied to an adult male having sex with a teen aged male is “homosexual”. In the mood of the old story, perhaps the King does have a beautiful suit on but he looks stark naked, not only to kids but to most people whose eyes are open.

Occasionally, some courageous and independent-minded journalists break out of the conformist mold and dare to confront the facts. One such was Joe Fitzgerald of the Boston Herald on March 11, 2002 when he blatantly entitled his column “Homosexuality is True Plague of Priesthood” which, predictably, raised the proverbial hackles of the gay Catholic community. He wrote “…militant homosexuals and their timorous allies in the politically correct movement are hell-bent on perpetuating the disingenuous notion that the crisis engulfing the Catholic Church has its roots in pedophilia. It does not. It has its roots in homosexuality, and to call it anything else is to insult the intelligence of anyone who’s paying attention, especially anyone with access to a dictionary.”

Even granting a touch of paranoia on my part, I have noticed the media tendency to imply not only that this is an on-going problem with Catholic priests but that it is massive in nature. The accurate (honest and fair?) appraisal is that the tragedy of these homosexual priests reached its apex in the 1970-1985 period, that it is, in a real sense, unhappy ancient history and that the situation has improved enormously. Why don’t we hear such statements in the media? Is there an agenda signaled by the word blurring, e.g. pedophilia and the little remarks about priest “pedophiles” periodically sneaked into some piece of Catholic news?

Recently, Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop of New York made the following public statement[2]:

“We must never lose sight of the fact the Archdiocese of New York has an extraordinary presbyterate and that our record is very likely the best in the nation. When compiling the list of allegations for the national audit, the Archdiocese amounted to less than 1% of the thousands of priests who have served and continue to serve the Archdiocese for the past 50+ years. The New York City Public Schools, on the other hand, had more allegations of sexual abuse of minors by teachers in the first semester of this academic year alone than the Archdiocese has had in more than fifty years.”

Dr. William Donahue, President of the Catholic Defense League and a professional sociologist, observes that in the year 2005, there were 21 allegations that involved minors as victims but only five were found credible, two were still under investigation and in two other instances, there was insufficient information. Ultimately, there were at most nine priest cases for the year. He notes that we had approximately 42,000 priests in 2005 which means that .02 percent had a credible accusation made against him. One unfaithful priest is too many for me but the facile implication of widespread abuse (by misuse of words and mindless statements) is dishonest and unjust. Why wasn’t it reported that in 2005, 99.98 percent of the priests in the United States had no credible accusation made against them? It was nowhere reported. Incidentally, Dr. Donahue sharply reminds us that the term ephebophile is never used to refer to heterosexual acts, only homosexual ones.[3] The term is probably ideologically coined and rarely used. But it is precise in its meaning. The overwhelming percentage of the heinous acts by those erring priests was with adolescent males. There have been feeble insinuations that priests will now molest altar girls but the interesting fact is that after 12 years of female serving at the altar, there are no such problems. As Donahue points out “…it is still the males that the molesters want.”

Dr. Donahue makes the bold assertion: “I am willing to bet that there is no institution, demographic group or profession in the United States today that has less of a problem with sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church…” So, from where come the vicious attacks? And why?

Obviously, there is some open, outright prejudice against the Catholic Church as Dr. Philip Jenkins of Penn State so brilliantly proved in his “The New Anti-Catholicism, the Last Acceptable Prejudice.”[4] This type of “enemy” is tolerable. The more serious and difficult to understand is the enemy within. In World War II, we were all familiar with the term of disgrace: “Quisling” which meant the Enemy within our own ranks, pretending to be loyal to our Cause but secretly working to destroy us, with full understanding or not.

It looks like we have the deepest problem with our own “troops.” One of the clear implications of the recent Vatican document establishing criteria for evaluating SSA seminary candidates, was the likely tendency of such candidates to have a false tolerance (such as that described by Rev. David Kennedy of Florida as the “last virtue of a degenerate society”) or even encouragement of intrinsically sinful behavior. The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual behavior[5] is intrinsically immoral and can, in no circumstances, ever be approved.

Yet, resistance from within remains a factor. How can one explain priest-confessors (in the sacrament of Penance itself) advising SSA penitents that they should not be hasty in breaking up same sex “relationships” (read sexual)? Or advising that God understands their sinning? How come a Pastor in a “gay” neighborhood will become visibly indignant when he is challenged by a Courage member on the Pastor’s refusal to discuss Chastity from the pulpit? How come that Pastor suggests to his challenger that he “go somewhere else for Mass”? How come another Pastor will sugarcoat the Catholic teaching because the gays in his parish give generously whenever he needs money? How come another Pastor, with reputed ambiguous gender identity, will call Fr. John Harvey, loyal son of the Church and real founder of Courage, “a Bastard” when Harvey will reveal, with permission, frightening information given by Courage members? How come a Catholic Bishop announces publicly that he will no longer discuss the Church’s position on homosexual behavior lest it bother gay sensitivity?

Is this masking? Or lying? Is it that gender confusion/arrested development are in the clergy itself? Asking challenging and even uncomfortable questions will not surface all the causation of the problem. Nor will it reveal forms of resolution. It will, however, reveal the name of the real problem.

This is a serious situation. It is more than mere semantics or arguing about verbal nuances. The meanings under the words carry huge social and spiritual import. So, the question in the title “Was there really a priest pedophile problem?” is rhetorical. If the reader followed the reasoning presented above, it is obvious. Homosexual, yes. Pedophile, no. No wonder Church leaders are concerned about the sexual identity of priest personnel. If I were Pope, God forbid, I would be extremely concerned. Wouldn’t you?

[1] Same sex attraction (SSA) is a modern term used to describe the sexual tendency towards one’s own sex. It is thought to be more respectful than “homosexual” in that SSA regards the person as ordered while his tendency is disordered. The term “gay” has more of a pervasive sense to it, moving the person to equate his personhood with this tendency. Such an equation is rejected by the Catholic Church.
[2] To New York Priests’ Senate, May, 2006
[3] Catalyst; June 2006
[4] Oxford University8 Press, 2003
[5] This can mean any kind of sexual behavior exclusively reserved for husbands and wives in marriage Catholicism does not accept any definition of marriage other than that between a male and a female as defined in Genesis and Scripture in general.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Should We Cohabitate Before Marriage?

Often when I have questioned the prudence of young people considering cohabitation before marriage, I am met with the quizzical look and the “now” remark: “C’mon, Father, get real.” I am told that living together before marriage is a good way for couples “to find out whether they really get along.” I am reminded of the high cost of living and how two can live more cheaply than one and that everyone is doing it. Marriage is just a piece of paper, anyway. What’s the difference? Besides, it’s good preparation for marriage. And all the facile, mindless bromides and rationalizations that pass as “street smarts.” This is popular “thinking” as evidenced, for example, in a National survey of high school seniors which found nearly 60% approving this trend. In fact, a new report shows that half of all first marriages are now preceded by cohabitation.

The Catholic Church, however, has traditionally insisted that marriage is a “holiness producing institution”, a sacrament, and that the sexual component is truly holy but strictly reserved for a man and a woman in this specific state of marriage. Cohabitation is, in this view, inappropriate (or more bluntly, sinful, as is any use of sex outside of marriage). Obviously, such a stance in this era is counter-cultural, almost radical. Of course, some young Catholic couples disobey their Church and do cohabit before marriage and sometimes even substitute such a relationship for marriage. They join the 4 million unmarried couples now living together (compared with less than half a million 40 years ago.) Clearly, they act counter to Catholic teaching.

But it is heartening to read of the monumental study out of Rutgers University (Feb. ’06) which challenges the popular thinking by publishing the opposite viewpoint. This study runs utterly opposite to the cheerful illusion that it doesn’t really matter whether or not couples cohabit before marriage. I have heard some uninformed Catholic priests make such observations (perhaps I should say non-confrontational or peace at any price priests). But this professional challenge is based on sociological and psychological grounds, not on religious ones. Somehow, the voices of the secular are heard long before the Clarity of God’s will.

It is entitled “Should we live together before marriage? What young adults need to know about cohabitation before marriage.”[1] As part of the New Jersey schools’ National Marriage Project, researchers David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead conclude that “cohabitation does not reduce the likelihood of eventual divorce; it fact it may lead to a higher divorce rate.”

Their major findings include the following:

1. Living together before marriage increases the risk of breaking up after marriage.
2. Unmarried couples have lower levels of happiness and well being than married couples.
3. Living together outside of marriage increases the risk of domestic violence and the risk of physical and sexual abuse for children.

While these findings are factual, the reasons for their reality are not clear. What underlies the findings? Why is this so? The authors state: “Although cohabiting relationships are like marriages------they typically differ in the levels of commitment and autonomy involved.” The results obviously did surprise many people but the report stated: “Perhaps the most obvious explanation for the striking statistical association between cohabitation and divorce is that the people willing to cohabit are more unconventional than others and less committed to the institution of marriage.” Professionally, I can recall from my many marital counseling cases how often the roles of commitment and autonomy formed the fundamental core of interpersonal discord. But how much more so must it be with cohabitating couples who have anemic commitment and infantile notions of autonomy?

I submit the glaring case of two Catholics living together for a year with huge interpersonal problems. She, with a fancy Catholic college background and desperately wanting marriage, he, an inactive lawyer with a comfortable trust fund on which to live, with an obsession for roller skating, expensive restaurants and no interest in marrying. They had low commitment and high self-centered autonomy. When they consulted me for some kind of mediation, he blatantly stated to her: “I have no responsibility to you. I owe you nothing…” This after a full year of living together with required sexual intimacy. With an infantile idée fixe, he insisted that sex was better without marriage. Marriage, with all its added responsibilities, would only spoil the pleasure. He asks: Why rock the boat? Does it take a Henry Kissinger I.Q. level to predict the future of this “relationship”?

The shrill ever present modern battle cry “I have a right to happiness” rings hollow here. Their “happiness” level was abysmal even as their grim sexual life was rapidly becoming jaded.

Apparently, the pattern of low commitment and high autonomy is hard to unlearn. Popenoe and Whitehead, along with other researchers found that the cohabitation attitude which is pervasively operational in these couplings, changes people’s view of marriage itself. The study suggests that cohabitation moves people either to make marriage less likely or if marriage takes place to make it less successful.

That specter lurking in the background of cohabitating life is always whispering sotto voce the “anytime breakup” possibility. With no strings attached either partner can pack up and steal away into the sunset seeking the elusive “Mr./Ms Right”. Should this occur, the battering and bruising of the psyche (especially of a woman) can be incalculable. Obviously, there are no real assurances in cohabitation where commitment is so essentially tenuous. This is particularly problematic in the case of the “serial” cohabitor. The authors have concluded “the experience of dissolving one cohabitation for another generates a greater willingness to dissolve later relationships…” - hence, less real commitment and greater risk for a future marriage.

It is stated that the study may hold the answer to the question why pre-marital cohabitation should affect the stability of a later marriage. Despite its intrinsic narcissism, the “I owe you nothing” message is the warp and woof of cohabitation. When the young guy says to me “Get real, Father” how can I help him see the reality of the dangers of cohabitation? I’m sure no one is totally immune from his environment so how could this underlying sense of instability not influence a cohabitating relationship?

The “elephant in the living room” of this problem is assiduously avoided by those who beat the politically correct drum. The “elephant” is the low level of happiness of the cohabitors! This study courageously faces what happens within the relationship itself. Get this surprising finding! “Cohabiting couples report lower levels of happiness, lower levels of sexual exclusivity and sexual satisfaction, and poorer relationships with their parents.” It is also noted that within two years, about half of all cohabiting relationships are terminated. It is either complete breakup or marriage. And after five years, only about 10% of couples are still cohabiting.[2]

It is noted that the annual rates of depression among cohabiting couples are more than three times that of married couples. Further, women in these relationships are more likely than married women to suffer physical and sexual abuse. These statistics indicate that aggression is at least twice as high among cohabitors as it is among married people.

A Great Britain study (quoted by the authors) found that “compared to children living with married biological parents, children living with cohabiting but unmarried biological parents are 20 times more likely to be subject to child abuse, and those living with a mother and a cohabiting boy friend who is not the father face an increased risk of 33 times. In contrast, the rate of abuse is 14 times higher if the child lives with a biological mother who lives alone…”

Those who are concerned about the welfare of children might well ponder the concluding statement: “….the evidence suggests that the most unsafe of all family environments of children is that in which the mother is living with someone other than the child’s biological father. This is the environment for the majority of children in cohabiting couple households…”

Where is the outrage from the Media? Where are the flamboyant champions of children’s rights? Why has this information not been publicized? I thought that the public has a right to know the truth. Is there some kind of slanted, selective reporting at work here? I recall the outcry when the Catholic Church opposed the use of condoms in Africa as the means to contain AIDS. While a detour from the focus of this paper, the example illustrates my bewilderment. The Church was assailed by the usual invectives: Backward. Anti-progressive. Un-real. Non-compassionate. All the usual pejorative adjectives. But why, in this case, wasn’t I told the whole truth? For example, that South Africa has reached a 22% infection level of the entire population in spite of a massive inundation of condoms? Or that Botswana where condom sales rose from 1million to 3 million now has a rise in HIV infection cases from 27% to 45% among pregnant women? Or that Uganda with a 43% Catholic population has 4% HIV-infected adults following not condom use but abstinence? Uganda uses the National motto: “Change your behavior, change your behavior.” Why am I not told the truth? Was the repression of the facts based on personal bias?

This media selectivity “covers up” the truth about Cohabitation. The truth is: “If you want to be married for a lifetime, then you should know that cohabitating promotes the opposite outcome.” And as the Rutgers report says: “Despite its widespread acceptance by the young, the remarkable growth of unmarried cohabitation in recent years does not appear to be in children’s or society’s best interests. The evidence suggests it has weakened marriage and the intact two-parent family and thereby damaged our social well being, especially that of women and children.”

If current society were to have no real interest in maintaining a fairly healthy level of the marriage state, we would not only have gone collectively insane but we would also be committing massive social suicide. It would mean the end of the American Experiment as we have known it. The perspicacious among us are fueling the movement to educate American youth not only about the dangers of cohabitation but also about the drive for same sex “marriage.” Both of these corruptions are serious enemies of Marriage. The country should know this. The hypothesis of the study follows: “...society wide, the growth of cohabitation will tend to further weaken marriage as an institution...particularly if one or both parties had cohabitated with some one else or brought children into the relationship.”

Can we get the word out? Can we stop institutionalizing cohabitation and get back to revitalizing marriage? How do we publicize the findings of sociology and psychology as they try to catch up with the Wisdom of God? After all, it was the Lord Jesus Who made marriage a Sacrament. I don’t recall Him ever attending parties for fornicators or sodomites! When the Lord God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, He did not stipulate a time limit or statute of limitation after which Cohabitation and Same Sex unions would become holy. C’mon, USA, get really real!!!!!!

[1] Available from the National Marriage Project, Rutgers—the State University of New Jersey. 25 Bishop Place, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1181
[2] The caveat: cohabitating couples living for a short and immediate prelude to marriage can be the exception providing one or both partners have not cohabited with someone else or brought children into the relationship.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Puzzling Case[1] of R.: Homosexual, Transsexual, Transgendered or What?

R. consulted me, a Priest/Psychologist, after reading some Sexuality articles on my Website. Even after a series of frustrating and unhappy meetings with well-meaning, but somewhat uninformed Catholic priests, R. was still seeking some kind of functional relationship with the Church from which she felt estranged. It is difficult, presuming sensitivities and the lack of an absolute judgment reserved to the Lord alone, to know how to refer to R. Should I say “he” or “she”? While R. was born with XY Chromosomal structures (male), R’s behavioral history has been functionally feminine, as if there were a basic XX Chromosomal structure (female). I opted, for psychological and compassionate reasons to use female pronouns in my dealings with and writing about R.

R. was born routinely, but from a mother whose estrogen levels, R. claims, “surged” to 3 or 4 times the normal pregnancy level. This factor has not been identified by anyone (so far) as important in the ultimate personality formation of R. Is it Nature? Or Nurture? Or some kind of mix? The infant was born with undescended testicles and normal phallus and was immediately identified as a male child. It is important to state that all data in this article are exclusively from R. as she shared the specifics of her life via e-mail. Truth or falsity or calibrations thereof are not really known. Any prudent appraiser must be aware of the possibility of distortion or exaggeration. It would be appropriate to remember the ancient wisdom: Quidquid percipitur, percipitur secundum modum percipientis (What is perceived, is perceived according to the mode of the perceiver). How did (and does) R. see her “reality”? Through what lens?

One of the shrewd observations of Freud was his axiom that “things are rarely only what they seem.” It is difficult surely to be apodictic about the underlying factors of the symptoms listed below but it is very clear that R. suffers from pain, confusion and anger. And it is in that emotional/ spiritual area in where the Church can be helpful.

After an early childhood which was troubled with difficulty interacting with male children, the adolescent R. wondered whether or not he was homosexual. He did private research and began questioning his possible transsexuality. He had no body hair, and unlike his brothers hardly ever shaved. His voice did not “shift” as those of his peers. He grew “breasts” in college while his skeletal structure did not “masculinize”. He did poorly as an undergraduate, dropped out of college and attempted suicide by overdosing with sleeping pills. All medical attempts to move him to a more male level failed. Even massive doses of testosterone injections made no difference. He remained gender dysphoric.

Gradually, he moved emotionally and socially to “presenting” himself as a woman. The word “presentation” is significant in that nowhere does she use the common parlance of the transsexual. The usual TS (transsexual) refers to self as a “woman trapped in the body of a man” or vice versa. R’s self concept at least hints that this has been a tentative move. Surgery or estrogen injections are not mentioned. There were weak attempts in the past to enter the male/masculinity world with the help of R’s father. It almost sounds like she “backed” into her ambiguous sexual identity. It is also significant in such a self presentation, that she dresses more as a unisexual person. She does not own a single dress or high heels. She wears male underpants alleging this to be a widespread practice among young contemporary women. Her hair is long. However, in her present role as a “presenting” woman, she does not have to compete with males or engage in any form of male to male quasi-combat/competition. She can now have friends of both sexes without the stress of her earlier life.

She went back to college “presenting” as a woman, gained a Master’s degree, and is now enrolled in a Ph.D. program. The current “she” insists that she is presently peaceful, more compassionate, more able to help others and more at ease with herself. However, R wrote me basically for one reason: “The only worry I have is with my Church which from what little I have been able to find, seems to say I am condemned for what I am doing. …….my Church has seemingly isolated and exiled me…I have tried for many years (to assume the male role) and I failed every single time.”

So, what will a priest (who is a psychologist) say about this tangle? There can be no question, from a Catholic point of view, of the value of the soul of R. Jesus died for her as He did for millions and millions of others, in a most horrific manner, on a cross around two thousand years ago. Her value, before God, is beyond any doubt. Hence, she is to be treated with compassion and sensitivity and never to be mocked. It is essential that, at least cognitively, she knows this. It is unfortunately possible that an emotional awareness of this spiritual truth might evade her because of her interior confusion. But, condemned? In no way does her Church condemn her. Frown perhaps, but with loving hope of her moral stabilization.

Further, one might, with some degree of psychological sophistication, understand that much of what is so socially abnormal, is, in fact, a response to a huge inner conflict probably far beyond the awareness of even the conflicted person. Unconsciously, the conflicted one seeks a compromise solution to achieve some kind of inner peace—to be freed from the terrible inner turbulence which tormented her[2]. The external “anomaly”, weird as it appears to the average person, can be at least a temporary comparative “bliss” and relief to R.

In Catholic thinking, there can be a basic tension between what is considered to be objectively sinful (intrinsically evil) and that which is considered to be subjectively acceptable to the troubled person in terms of her personal insight or pressure or experience. Moral guilt might well (before God) be alleviated by subjective tensions or drives. Hence, a common pastoral practice is to throw the possible moral guilt (or judgment) back on the Mercy of God --- a variation on how “God sees it.” Of course, each of us has to bear personal responsibility to some degree but each of us can expect some understanding from the Lord. But how far does such an approach go? Where is the “mix”? Well then, what is viewed as “objectively evil” by Catholics? Seeing the official positions might throw some light on a possible pastoral approach to R. and similarly conflicted persons.

It is the position of the Church that the plan of God is laid out very clearly in Scripture (beginning with the Genesis blueprint: “Male and Female He made them”). There are, in spite of the protestations of radical feminists, substantive differences between the sexes. The French had a word for it: “Vive la Difference!” The difference is far beyond the anatomical, the biological, and the psychological. It is profoundly teleological, i.e. it has meaning and Divinely planned function. Hence to disguise or mask the Scheme of God is a violation of His Will. Even in terms of how we dress. In Deut. 22,5, it is plainly taught that men who dress in women’s clothes are “Toevah” or abominable, disgusting before God. This is the only place in Scripture where the problem of Transvestism is addressed, but it is addressed in terms of violating the Divine Plan.

Obviously (to most people of Faith), sexual behavior of the same-sex level blatantly transgresses God’s plan. Twice in Leviticus the act of two men lying with each other “as if with women” is unequivocally condemned. Such behavior, similarly, is explicitly blacklisted by the Blessed Apostle Paul in Romans, 1 Cor. and 1 Timothy. Incidentally, nothing is said of orientation or inner feeling, even of inner compulsion. The traditionally strong moral condemnatory position, prima facie, (particularly in Judaism) is specifically about external behavior[3]. Additionally, the whole tradition of Catholicism has officially supported the condemnation of same-sex behavior, as has most of mainline Christianity, and traditional Judaism and Islam as well.

Were conflicted persons to seek relief from SRA (surgical re-assignment), objectively he sins because of an act of unnecessary significant mutilation, unlike excision of a diseased appendix, uterus or gangrenous leg where excision or amputation is vital for the survival of the person. If one applies the notion of subjective morality here, it might be possible to understand the behavior of the conflicted person. It is also interesting to note that many of the Centers which had performed the so-called sex change operations have slowed down their previous enthusiasm. Where before the axiom was “since we can’t change the psyche to fit the soma, we will change the soma to fit the psyche,” the stance is presently more cautious. There have been too many unsatisfactory consequences to the radical SRA with a multitude of new maladapted cocktail waitresses, alcoholics, melancholies, suicides or attempted suicides and street prostitutes. There have been multitudinous serious failures in adaptation to the “new” personhood. Of course, there are a few “stars” like Christine Jorgensen, Renee Richards and Jan Morris. But out of this statistically minimal population, it has been mostly deep depressions and enormous regrets. Of course, it is deeply puzzling since there does exist huge gender dysphoria in this unhappy group before psychological and medical intervention. For the most part, however, it is clear that the SRA has very serious inherent reasons for caution.

There was the recent misfortune of a new SRA Australian person suing the medical profession (post surgery) since he/she claims that he was not “rational” when requesting the procedure. The aftermath has been devastating and irreversible. He is now doomed to living as a mutilated male and reports deep unhappiness. However, he blames others for his misery! He claims that they should have seen his “irrationality”. Perhaps, medical personnel mean well and perhaps the procedure was done by well-intentioned, tender-hearted surgeons whose goals are to alleviate human suffering. But good intentions in the face of very hard realities ought to be rigorously rethought.

Arno Karlen points out in his monumental “Sexuality and Homosexuality”[4] that SRA persons are well aware (in their own depth levels) of their own XX or XY chromosomal structure, regardless of what society or the law proclaims or what public bathroom they use. When a man has been castrated and equipped with a vagina, is this person really a woman now? Karlen suggests that only he (the patient) thinks so - and then with reservations. Unconsciously, the “new” re-make knows that chromosomes don’t ever change.

Dr Paul McHugh, a psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins Hospital, a leading pioneer Institution in the study and research of transsexuality, wrote in his article “Sex Change”[5] that the practice of SRA is under deep scrutiny at that Institution. He suggests that many bad judgments were made and that the staff would have been more helpful if they worked on psyches rather than on gonads. The pathetic experience of the aging transsexual with his coarsening male features protruding from under the desperate fake female mask has made many a SRA surgeon think again. The forced and highly contrived TS[6] struggle to maintain the microbehaviors so automatically and effortlessly learned by little females is sad to observe. These second thoughts of Medicine occur after many years of observation and evaluation of sex change adaptation. Are clinicians catching up with Catholic wisdom? Is it a case of “the King has no clothes on”? Have SRA people been simply missing the obvious all these years? Aren’t people wired for gender?

In any event, R. has factually violated some norms of Catholic morality and has as such committed, at least, objective sin and, at present, intends so to remain. How the good Lord judges her is not within human comprehension. Our approach for ostensibly good hearted people[7] like R. is simply “Take the next best possible step.” Her decision does not absolve her from basic obligations of worship. This means that R. should attend the Holy Mass every Sunday, even as a “presenting” woman. I suggest her attending Mass even during the week when, perhaps, she can make quieter contact with Jesus. I suggest that she begin serious affective[8] prayer with strong emphasis on listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit of God. I suggest that she investigate the “sense” of the Mother of God wherein R. might experience the beauty and joy of accepting God’s Holy Will. R. needs to read spiritual literature chosen with the help of some spiritual director who is knowledgeable and realistically accepting. Of course, R. needs to talk with someone who can supportively challenge her without scolding and judgment. She needs to know that God does not give up on us! In His own time, He will touch R. with His calming grace.

She looked me up by e-mail which was a good idea. Unfortunately, for practical reasons, I cannot be her face-to-face guide. I will pray for R. that she will find peace and God and a capable spiritual director. Whether she is homosexual (same-sex attracted), transsexual, transgendered --in a sense-- is secondary. Primarily, she needs Hope and a surety that God will never desert her even in the darkest of her times.

[1] I use the word “case” reluctantly since it has such a cold clinical sound to it. This study involves a human being with a serious problem and in no way do I belittle the pain by using such a technical sounding term.
[2] Perhaps, this “torment” is discoverable only by depth pastoral therapy
[3] Jesus would include the fantasies of “lust” as sinful, in se, even without external behavior. There is a moral dimension even should the “activity” be restricted solely within the mind.
[4] W.W. Norton, New York City
[5] “First Things” New York, 2005.
[6] transsexual
[7] R. did try valiantly, according to her testimony, to assume the male role
[8] Meaning: great opening of the heart to God