Saint Fix-It

Prying_up_a_long_nailI read this guest post on Simcha Fisher’s blog. It’s addressed to the synod15 bishops, but I wonder how many of them will actually read it. The author describes a spouse burdened by the “cancer” of anger. But what is really suffered here is an addict in the household and co-dependent wife and children.

That would be an interesting theology to explore for the synod: addiction and its effects. Millstone material, if you ask me. But nobody’s asking me these days.

Illustrative of today’s Catholic mindset is this administrative comment at the end of the essay:

I have closed comments on this post. It was only up for a few minutes before people started criticizing this woman for her behavior. Please pray for her family instead of telling her what to do.

Doesn’t surprise me.

It’s not unique to Catholicism, but it is a phenomenon often attributed to men: the drive to fix things. One person has a problem at work; a companion tells how to fix it. One person writes to an advice columnist; there’s a whole journalism sub-industry that deals with relationships, cars, etiquette, etc.. People don’t know as much as they “should” about Catholicism; looks like catechesis needs fixing.

Sometimes we don’t want or need help to fix things. To cite one example, my premise would be that Catholic catechesis improved after Vatican II and never suffered a dip in quality, coloring projects notwithstanding. Something else needs fixing, perhaps–but I’m not going to tell you what it is.

I had a recent experience at choir practice where a song was clearly going off the rails. I let it go. I watched as people got more and more bothered. When it was over, mercifully, about a half-dozen voices piped up to try to fix the problem. Most of them might have been right. But it was illustrative to me that a lot of people cared enough to try to step in and fix it.

But sometimes it is enough–it is even proper–to simply listen. And accompany. And do no more. Surely a man who goes to confession regularly and Mass every Sunday wouldn’t be an addict, a “cancer” sufferer, or an angry husband. But behold: it seems true. What would Saint Fix-It counsel? Should a battered spouse take the children and abandon Mr. Angry? What if that advice were a sin and damaged somebody’s chances of getting into heaven directly? On the other hand, where is feminism when you need it?

“Please pray for her family instead of telling her what to do.” Now that is some good advice. And maybe when done praying, one can sit and experience the powerlessness of many of our sisters and brothers on this planet who suffer so unjustly against the sins of others. And then reflect whether we need more rigor, or more mercy. Especially in the face of broken things that cannot be fixed.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Saint Fix-It

  1. Melody says:

    I read the post that you linked to. Ought to be required reading for anyone who thinks the problems of families are all due to the “sexual revolution”.

  2. Jenny2 says:

    Like Monica, I read the post that you linked to. Ought to be required reading for every parish priest in the English-speaking world. Likewise for any teacher, administrator or counsellor (professed religious or otherwise) in every Catholic school.

  3. Jen says:

    Why are people dancing around calling the husband “angry?” How about “abusive?” Emotional or psychological abuse is still abuse. (And, I thought, grounds for nullity.) I’ve also yet to hear a homily about domestic abuse (in all its forms) that didn’t degrade into empty, pious platitudes and treacle.

    • Melody says:

      Yeah the “abusive” description occurred to me, too. It seems to me that children shouldn’t be left in such a toxic environment. The husband must be a very unhappy person, but until and unless he is willing to get help, the rest of the family needs to get to a place of emotional safety.

      • Jenny2 says:

        I noticed, too, that the type of “Catholic books” the original author cites in her article all seems to concentrate on the *wife’s* need “to love more, to sacrifice more, to give him affection and build him up with words” – nothing about the husband’s obligations in that direction. Or even, apparently, his even more basic obligation to behave like a decent husband, father and human being, rather than a domestic terrorist. He’s an abuser, all right, and the damage to his children will be even more fundamental than what he’s inflicting on his wife.

        It’s more than high time for a certain type of Catholic “thought” to move on from the 1950s, and putting on that extra touch of powder and mascara so that the black eye wouldn’t show.

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