Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Don't Lecture Me on my Vasectomy

I had a hockey game last weekend, and one of my teammates was telling a few of us on the bench that he and his wife had just had their first baby. After some high-fives and congratulations, another teammate joked about how after his first child he gave himself the best Christmas present he ever received—-a vasectomy.

Certainly this bothered me, and I made some quick pro-children comment before we all hopped the boards for a line change. But the teammate who just had the new daughter is Catholic, perhaps only nominally, and I really wanted to say something more to him. I really hoped to find some way of turning the conventional wisdom on its head. Mainly, I was interested in finding a polemic against surgical contraceptive procedures that is not too overtly Catholic--something you could easily explain over a few beers with neighbors, co-workers, teammates, Protestant friends, etc., who do not understand and/or follow the teachings of the Church in these matters.

Below is the core of the argument. Please critique/add/flesh-out/etc.


The whole idea seems-- to use a highly technical medical term-- bass-ackwards. An unhealthy person goes to a physician when something is NOT working properly, in hopes the physician can make it work properly again. In the case of a vasectomy and other such procedures, a perfectly healthy person goes to a physician in hopes the physician can make something that IS working properly NOT work properly anymore.

Why would a healthy person go to the doctor to get unhealthy? We wouldn't do this with any other aspect of our health. "Hey, Doc, my digestive system seems to be working perfectly fine. Got any suggestions?" Or, "my immune system is in perfect health, Doc. What should I do?" Yet many people go into a doctor's office basically saying, "Well, it seems my reproductive system is working just like it's supposed to. You gotta help me, Doctor!"

Something just doesn’t seem right to me about that…


Certainly, there is nothing new in this argument-- it's Natural Law 101, and all contraception is meant to frustrate normal, healthy reproductive processes. But unfortunately, the modern mind is not too well aquainted with Natural Law-- and so I want to work something out that can be the beginning of a dialogue.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Voyage of the Dawn Patrol

I've added a new blog--The Dawn Patrol--to the list of Catholic blogs. It is one of the most aesthetically pleasing blogs I've seen and she posts a lot of videos which I like. She has great pro-life stories.

She has a fascinating story herself: Jewish to Evangelical and--this very Easter--Catholic. Reading her story is well worth digging through the April archives.

Here is a post on her blog that relates so directly to what Frank wrote in his Alterboys piece that it's almost eerie. I'll borrow the quote, the full post is here.

Um, folks, I was raised Catholic. I’m of an ethnic group (Irish) where I am presumed to be Catholic. My aunt is a nun. Anyone who hears that there are six children in my family almost invariably mentions Catholicism. Even though I am officially an apostate now (ask me how!), I still have trouble not thinking of myself as Catholic, and I know that others assume I am still one. ...The main reason why I no longer attend a Catholic Church and now attend our lovely Episcopalian Church is because of the nature of recent converts. They have all but destroyed our parish.

That's right folks, we Church-loving converts destroyed her parish! Maybe I should rename this blog "Homewreckers".

Eastern Orthodox Tools

Another convert friend whom I'm recruiting for the X-Catholics book just made me aware of this site by a convert from Eastern Orthodoxy.

Our Eastern brethren are perhaps our most educated and, er, "firm" interlocutors and this is a welcome resource.

As many here know, I was *very* close to becoming Orthodox myself. Indeed, just *weeks* before realizing I had to become Roman Catholic I declared--quite confidently as Frank will no doubt remind me--that I had *clearly* come to the conclusion that Orthodoxy was the way to go.

What went wrong with my little plan is a matter for another post however.

Jerusalem Post on Pius XII and Hitler

Today there is a very interesting defense of Pius XII in the Jerusalem Post (link).

It gives very specific evidence against the blatantly anti-Catholic propaganda surrounding the myth of "Hitler's Pope".

Pope Joan?

I recently had an inquiry regarding a so-called "Pope Joan". This comes up from time to time from various sources not friendly to the idea of the papacy whether it is from a Mormon source such as Peter and the Popes (BYU Press) or a liberal Catholic source wishing to promote female ordinations (though even liberal Catholic poster child Dick McBrien calles it a "legend" in his _Lives of the Popes_. If not even Tricky Dick McBrien is willing to make use of this legend, that ought to tell you something).

The short version of the story is that there's nothing to it. The bottom line is that there is "no contemporary evidence for a female pope at any of the dates suggested for her reign," and goes on to say that "the known facts of the respective periods make it impossible to fit [a female pope] in."

Oxford Dictionary of Popes, 1988, page 329, ISBN 0192820850

Yet it keeps coming up. Why? It's relevant to note that Popess Joan makes a brief cameo in the Da Vinci code. The way these things work is to show lots of pictures of stuff that really exists. Their really are the episcopal thrones with holes in the seats, there really are weird routes in papal processions, some Medieval writers did speak of a "Pope Joan". Conspiracy theories make their living by being kooky explanations of *real* facts.

You can read more about the Legend of Pope Joan here:

Catholic Encyclopedia Article
Wikipedia Article
Full Text of _The Female Pope: The Mystery of Pope Joan

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Re-vert Story

Folks, providence recently introduced me to a really incredible young Catholic re-vert. Here are the basics of her story:

"Okay, the essential facts: I was raised by two divorced, alcoholic ex-Catholics. They despised the Church, but had it too much still in their systems not to pass on something at least of it's worldview and morality, albeit unconsciously, to their daughter -- me. I grew up loving the life of the mind and desperately needing the order and stability that my parents couldn't provide, but I also had a taste for the actor's life. So, at 18, I moved to New York (from Wisconsin -- I'm a Midwesterner, too!) and went to NYU acting school. My life quickly became even more chaotic. Finally, though, in my mid-twenties, I had a sort of crisis of conscience and decided I needed to change course, radically. I started noticing Catholic churches everywhere I walked, wanted to slip in but was somehow afraid. Then I read Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, and was hooked. I went on to Augustine, a few convert Catholic apologists, etc. I stumbled upon a journal called New Oxford Review, then upon First Things, then upon a Fr. Shall, a Fr. Keating, on from there to Chesterton, Maritain, Gilson .. and somehow eventually I found my way to Peter Kreeft. I also found myself meeting with a Dominican monk, discussing Aquinas, and then asking to go through RCIA. And I loved Aquinas by that time so much (ah, the synthesis, the order, the clarity!) that I took his own for my confirmation name."

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Importance Of Being Earnest Protestants

Among the myriad 180-degree turnabouts in perception that transpire both during and after conversion to the Catholic Faith from Protestantism is the new knowledge of and deep appreciation for the sacramental life. It has been ten years since I was received into the Faith of the Fathers, and it is just now that I am beginning to appreciate the enormous emptiness of my Christian faith prior to the Sacraments.

In short, the Sacraments provide a real, tangible way for every Joe and Jane, regardless of their lot or station in life, to be as close to God as possible this side of the Beatific Vision. It doesn’t matter how educated they are, how devout they are, how well they understand the nuances of Scripture and doctrines, or even how holy they might be. Being “Nearer My God To Thee” is as near as the nearest Tabernacle. Even if they are in a state of mortal sin, the Sacrament of Penance is always there, always available.

Before I became a Catholic, this was always the eternal question, the eternal struggle—and I continue to see this struggle played-out in the lives of my friends and family members who remain Protestant. How do I get (feel) closer to Jesus? Outside of the Sacraments, this could only be achieved by increasing intellectual activity. Think about Jesus more. Read the Bible more. And if that doesn’t work, think about Jesus more while reading the Bible more. More Bible studies, longer worship services, bigger pot-luck dinners. Pray more—which, though certainly a good endeavor, is still only an intellectual endeavor.

But if I’m a REALLY earnest Protestant, even this is not enough. I must go off to seminary so I can become a pastor and seed my own churches, or I must go off to the mission field in the most dangerous part of the world. Again, not that seminary and /or missionary work aren’t good and noble things, it’s just that there is no appreciation for the potential holiness of ordinary life, of the “little ways” as it were. And this lack of understanding begins, I believe, with the absence of the sacramental life. If one doesn’t believe that Christ can get closer to us through ordinary bread and wine, through ordinary water, in an ordinary confessional, through ordinary men—then we must do something extra-ordinary to get closer to Him.

Your Excellency, The Altar Boy

I notice with increasing frequency among persons promoting heretical and/or heterodoxical opinions-- be they former Catholics who got "saved" from the Church or an actively dissendent Catholic-- the tendency to couch their blasphemy de jour under the umbrella qualification of, "now I was an altar boy growing up, so I know what I'm talking about..." Or, "my husband was an altar boy, mind you..." I suppose in a few years, once they have become of age, a number of the "altar girls" of the 80's and 90's will make similar claims.

Apparently these folks are under the impression that serving at Mass is on par with serving on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Pray tell, is there a special knowledge infused in the pre-pubescent mind of a young server who managed to stay awake almost to the end of the first reading? What profound theological insights are stirred in the soul of a 12 year old who can't even tie the shoestrings of the black Air Jordans he decided were sufficient dress for serving at the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

As far as I can tell, the lone criteria for serving at Mass in most parishes is advancement to the 6th grade-- that and perhaps an aversion to personal grooming. Yet apparently, this distinguished position renders one a life-long theological expert on all matters of faith and morals. Come to think of it, St. Thomas Aquinas likely served at Mass as a boy and he wrote the Summa Theologica. Joseph Ratzinger served at Mass in his youth and he became Pope! Maybe there is something here...