Bathroom Wars

mod toiletJust when I thought the culturewar was done, the public restroom seems to have replaced the public property nativity scene as the new battlefront. I confess I don’t get it. And I say that as father of a daughter, husband of a wife, and friend of too many women who have been raped or abused.

tmi alert …

I avoid the use of public restrooms. I don’t use urinals. I sit down to “go,” even at home. Clean, neat, more comfortable, and a habit from potty training. (My mom had a thing about cleanliness and order.) If I have no choice but a wall unit in a facility or a trough of male urine in the middle of a ballpark restroom I will go elsewhere.

I can tolerate stalls with those bottom and top openings. I stress “tolerate.”

I think the fight over public restrooms will have some collateral damage. On facebook, it’s a joke about bathroom police. But when women perceived as unfeminine are targeted, it’s no joke. I suppose some self-appointed folks will make some errors on this front. I can only hope they reap a proper portion of personal consequences. Inevitably those might be legal in nature.

Maybe all the fuss will put everybody into single-use private rooms before another generation passes. Plumbing joins other trades as part of American infrastructure refurbishment. And maybe I would use the restroom more often.

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Amoris Laetitia 39: Comfort and Accompaniment

amoris laetitia memeSo, the world is wrong. Do we let it stay that way? What do we say and do about that? We continue with Pope Francis on this theme. It’s important to him that Christians manage the balance of how to be critical without letting it dominate the message of love.

39. This is hardly to suggest that we cease warning against a cultural decline that fails to promote love or self-giving. The consultation that took place prior to the last two Synods pointed to the various symptoms of a “culture of the ephemeral”.

Some specifics, most of which will resonate with those of us in the First World:

Here I think, for example, of the speed with which people move from one affective relationship to another. They believe, along the lines of social networks, that love can be connected or disconnected at the whim of the consumer, and the relationship quickly “blocked”.

I don’t know if he intended this, but I think the blogosphere is a perfect iteration of this. Otherwise, think of the relative speed of the classical romance novel compared to a television or cinema version of love. In real life, love usually blossoms over months from meet-cute to marriage commitment. In a book, a few days. In video media, a few hours.

No wonder people fret about commitment:

I think too of the fears associated with permanent commitment, the obsession with free time, and those relationships that weigh costs and benefits for the sake of remedying loneliness, providing protection, or offering some service.

The last priest I worked with in campus ministry noted this. “Making and keeping commitments” was his mantra not only with couples, but with young people in general. From what I’ve seen in parishes, some older believers also struggle with the principle.

And the disposable:

We treat affective relationships the way we treat material objects and the environment: everything is disposable; everyone uses and throws away, takes and breaks, exploits and squeezes to the last drop. Then, goodbye.


Narcissism makes people incapable of looking beyond themselves, beyond their own desires and needs. Yet sooner or later, those who use others end up being used themselves, manipulated and discarded by that same mind-set. It is also worth noting that breakups often occur among older adults who seek a kind of “independence” and reject the ideal of growing old together, looking after and supporting one another.

Too negative? I don’t think so. Pope Francis has hit upon a few major currents that underlie the surface observations of divorce, broken families, sex outside of marriage. It is easy enough for a believer to say, “Live like I do.” But the factors listed above–and others–are what drive people to behave as they do. Forget about disobedience for its own sake.

Amoris Laetitia is online here for reference.

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Amoris Laetitia 38: Positive Examples

amoris laetitia memePope Francis is seen as a buzzkill in some quarters, mainly conservative, but he offers some affirmation here:

38. We must be grateful that most people do value family relationships that are permanent and marked by mutual respect. They appreciate the Church’s efforts to offer guidance and counselling in areas related to growth in love, overcoming confict and raising children. Many are touched by the power of grace experienced in sacramental Reconciliation and in the Eucharist, grace that helps them face the challenges of marriage and the family.

The sacraments of the Church provide ample nourishment for those open to their graces.

In some countries, especially in various parts of Africa, secularism has not weakened certain traditional values, and marriages forge a strong bond between two wider families, with clearly defined structures for dealing with problems and conficts. Nowadays we are grateful too for the witness of marriages that have not only proved lasting, but also fruitful and loving. All these factors can inspire a positive and welcoming pastoral approach capable of helping couples to grow in appreciation of the demands of the Gospel.

In the past three generations, one can find strong marriages yet. I think of the witness of many intentional efforts at Christianity. Progressives had their countercultural moments in the 70’s and 80’s, and more traditional-leaning Catholics are rather more prominent today.

When should we rightly complain about secular values? The Holy Father suggests when it drains verve from our pastoral efforts:

Yet we have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness. Many people feel that the Church’s message on marriage and the family does not clearly reflect the preaching and attitudes of Jesus, who set forth a demanding ideal yet never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals like the Samaritan woman or the woman caught in adultery.

This is an important note. Sometimes Catholics themselves fail to provide good example: married couples and priests alike. Sometimes we also fail to imitate mercy, which is no doubt the direct example of the Lord in dealing with real live people.

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is in pdf format here. Read ahead or back, as you wish.

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Amoris Laetitia 37: The Dynamism of Marriage

amoris laetitia memeRemember that Amoris Laetitia is online in pdf format here. Read ahead or back, as you wish.

More self-criticism for the Church. Accurate or unfair?

37. We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life.

Marriage: lifelong burden or dynamic path to development?

We find it difficult to present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment than as a lifelong burden. We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.

The last sentence I’ve seen quoted in a few places the past few weeks. My sense is that the imposition of conscience often results in a certain sullen quality in the approach of people who haven’t really formed their consciences, but are just imitating those they see as virtuous. Or worse, those who hold themselves up as prime examples.

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Amoris Laetitia 36: Self-Examination

amoris laetitia memeSpiritual work of mercy #3: self admonishment. Or at least, being able to admit when, as the Church, we are part of the problem.

36. We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation. We need a healthy dose of self-criticism.

I was in a Facebook discussion earlier this week about this one:

Then too, we often present marriage in such a way that its unitive meaning, its call to grow in love and its ideal of mutual assistance are overshadowed by an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation.

One of my young friends went on about procreation. But the Holy Father’s instinct is correct here. Not all couples are able to procreate biologically, but I do think that all sacramental couples have a responsibility to be generative. Generativity is a more broad virtue and suggests that couples have a role for expanding the reach of the Gospel not just in their homes, but in their communities.

Nor have we always provided solid guidance to young married couples, understanding their timetables, their way of thinking and their concrete concerns. At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families. This excessive idealization, especially when we have failed to inspire trust in God’s grace, has not helped to make marriage more desirable and attractive, but quite the opposite.

This is accurate. It is necessary to take things in steps. Especially with people who are far away. Such persons may yet reject God’s grace, but it will not be for a lack of hospitality and accompaniment.

You can check Amoris Laetitia online in pdf format here. Read ahead or back, as you wish.

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There Is No Full Moon Tonight

earth_atmosphere_moonI don’t know who started this meme. A few friends on my facebook feed have insisted that today, a Friday the 13th, we have a full moon. It just happened in 2014 and doesn’t occur again till 2049. Transits of Mercury are more frequent.

I had to check the sky the other night–it’s been remarkably clear for some days now in the Pacific Northwest. Tuesday I noticed a crescent moon in the west. No way is that satellite going to be full by Friday, I thought.

Like this tune says, “This is the Space Age. Just don’t worry.”

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Amoris Laetitia 35: Efforts To Motivate

amoris laetitia memeRemember that Amoris Laetitia is online in pdf format here. In engaging with the modern world, Pope Francis advocates neither retreat nor citing rules:

35. As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer. It is true that there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.

The question is: what does generous mean? My sense would be something that also runs counter to modern sensibilities: actually getting to know people outside of our safe circles of believing Catholics. Perhaps it is a mission mindset. The frustration is that it is also very slow work and may, ultimately prove unfruitful to our eyes.

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