Friday, March 30, 2012

Where do Muslims and the Muslim religion come from?

Dear Rev. Know it all,

Where do Muslims and the Muslim religion come from?

Charlene “ Chari” A. Law

Dear Charlene,

This is difficult topic, but an important one. First let me say that the issue is not one of better or worse as much as it is one of clear distinctions. 

When I was in seminary after the heady days of the council, we were much enamored of theologian Karl Rahner's idea of the “anonymous Christian.”  He theorized that non-Christians could “accept the salvific grace of God, through Christ, although they may never have heard of the Christian revelation.” In other words all good people were Christian whether they knew it or not. 

This struck me as a most arrogant idea. “You may think you’re a Buddhist, or a Muslim or a Hindu, but you’re a nice guy, so you must really be a Christian, even though you don’t know it. I suspect that this is still believed by politically correct young liberals who, as they approach the age of 80, still control the diocesan bureaucracies.  So it is, that our excessively polite society cannot admit that there are people whose ideas are genuinely different from our own. It is dishonest, shallow, and worst of all, disrespectful of other religious frameworks and those who espouse them. To say that all beliefs are essentially the same is as foolish as it is arrogant. 

It is more genuinely respectful of Islam to recognize the real differences. From the perspective of Muslims there are things that Christians believe and do that are wrong. From the perspective of  Christians, there are things that Muslims believe and do that are wrong. It is not helpful to begin by saying that one is better, the other worse. The most useful thing one can do in this multi-cultural mélange in which we modern and progressive westerners live is to know thoroughly and precisely what Islam teaches as well as what Christianity teaches. The inquirer must know as much as possible and make his own  decision as to which belief and way of life is preferable, or if neither is. 

The original question, “Where do Muslims and the Muslim religion come from?” is very simply answered. Muslims would answer, “from Allah.” (The Arabic word for god, a god, or the gods is “Allah”) It is the word used by Christians as well as Muslims in the Islamic world. For clarity’s sake I will refer to the god worshiped by Muslims as “Allah, using the word “god” for non-Muslim deities, and while I’m at it, Islam is an Arabic word, meaning submission (to Allah) and a Muslim is “one who submits.”  There has never been a true religion but Islam. In this sense, Islam pre-dates Muhammad. Thus, Muslims believe that all true prophets are Muslims. Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus are among the Muslim prophets. 

Muslims believe that the religions that look to Moses or Jesus as their founder have falsified the teachings of those true  prophets. Above all, Jesus is not a god nor divine. He did not die on the cross, but was hidden away by Allah. The text of the New Testament is a falsification of what Jesus actually said, just as people in the “Jesus Seminar” and some feminists claim. The true Jesus, the Jesus of history preached the pure religion of Allah which was corrupted by the followers of Jesus. So, all true religion is Islam, and all true believers are Muslim.

The answer for non-Muslims is a bit more complicated. In a certain sense Islam is Muhammad Ibn `Abd Allah Ibn `Abd al-Muttalibth, whom Muslims call the apostle and prophet of God,  the last and greatest of the prophets, and the most perfect. He is the perfect man, to be imitated in all things. He was born in 570AD in Mecca, a trading city in western Arabia. He was a merchant, and, at 25 married Khadijah, a prosperous widow, fifteen years his senior. Muhammad started to spend time alone in the desert in prayer and meditation and in 610 he told his wife that he’d had a vision of an angel who commanded him to recite: “Proclaim! in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created man, out of a  clot of congealed blood.....”  and so began the series of visions and revelations that Muhammad shared with his disciples who in turn wrote them down and which form the  Koran.

At first Muhammad thought he was being attacked by a demon, but his wife and her Christian cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal, reassured him. Eventually he started to preach one god, Allah and to denounce idolatry.  Mecca, in addition to being a trading city, was famous for the Kaaba, a cube shaped stone building that housed the many idols worshiped by the pre-Islamic Arabs. Mecca's most important idol was Hubal,  placed there by the Quraysh, Muhammad’s own tribe.

In 622AD, Muhammad and his little band of followers were forced to flee to Medina, a city north of Mecca. Mecca was a largely Jewish city, and Muhammad saw himself as a restorer of Judaism. Those Jews who did not accept his reform were either executed or expelled from Medina, to which,  like Mecca, entrance is prohibited to non- Muslims.

The Muslims and the Meccans continued to skirmish until in 624. At the battle of Badr, Muhammad decisively defeated his own tribe, the Quraysh and executed those most opposed to the Muslims, such as two Quraysh who had dumped a bucket of sheep excrement over him during his days at Mecca. In 628, Muhammad signed a truce with Mecca freeing him to attack the Jewish oasis of Khaybar. He then sent letters to Heraclius, Christian Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, Khosrau the Zoroastrian Ruler of Persia, the ruler of Yemen and to others, inviting them to except Islam or to suffer the consequences of their stubbornness against Allah’s revelation to him. They neither responded nor submitted.

Eventually, in 630, the truce with Mecca broke down and Muhammad attacked with 10,000 troops. After the surrender of the city, he cleansed the Kaaba of its idols, leaving only the Black Rock, possibly a meteor, thought by Muslims to have been placed there by the prophet Abraham and his son Ismael, which is there to this day. He declared an amnesty, excluding ten men and women who had mocked him. Of these ten, some were later pardoned, some were executed. Most of  Mecca accepted Islam and Muhammad’s rule.

(To be continued.....)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Letter to Helena Hahn Basquette - part 4

letter to Helena Hahn Basquette continued...)

So, let me sum up my position. The pill is a disaster because recreational sex is a disaster. Recreational sex destabilizes marriage, it demeans women, it makes men irresponsible, it makes children homeless through the break up of their families. They may have houses, but they don’t have homes. They don’t have brothers and sisters that a large family provides. They are shuttled from day care to school to Dad’s house to Mom’s house, then to Grandma’s and back to Dad’s house then to day care again. They live in their parents’ cars just as surely as the families that I met parked in their broken down old cars in front of the rectory of the church I pastored in Uptown. They are orphans when their parents are alive and twice orphaned when their parents die.

Sex is not recreation. It is a gift that brings a man and a woman together to create the stable, life long relationships that are necessary for the well being of the culture and the security of children. Though it can be a source of joy and of pleasure, it is more importantly the cause of love. Real love. Sacrificial love. That Love which is God. 

In marriage there is meant to be an unbreakable linking of the three loves, eros, philia and agape. The love which is desire, the love which is friendship and ultimately the love which is sacrifice come together in a faithful marriage and family.  Our modern age demands the right to stop at eros, (desire) so it never arrives at friendship (philia) and that love which is God Himself, sacrificial love (agape). 

What a wonder it is to see two old people in love. The fires of youth have cooled to the warmth of friendship and then billows out once again into the passion of sacrifice, a life lived for others, a life lived for one another, for children, a life lived for God. We moderns end the process when eros cools, because we know no other kind of love. We say, “I am no longer in love with you. I have gotten a lawyer. I am taking the house and the kids. Get out.”  We never experience what love can be when we end it unreasonably. 

You may counter with “We practiced birth control and we did just fine, no divorce, close to the kids and the grandkids. It’s all good.” Maybe you did. Most of us didn’t.  You were fine in your lifeboat while the ship sank. Congratulations. You avoided a lot of hard times. Still, hard times are meant to stretch us. Children are the teachers of love, because they demand sacrifice.

My mother was the daughter of privilege. She told me that when she was married she had never cooked a meal nor touched an iron. As a girl, she spent summer on the Canadian shore in a twenty-room “cottage” or sometimes went on summer cruises on the Great Lakes. She went to the best Catholic schools and graduated from college in about 1929. She grew up surrounded by servants when her father was flush, and when he wasn’t they pretended.  She met a boy, a young university graduate at a party. He was her brother’s best friend. They called him “Si”. He wasn’t from prosperous people, but he was ambitious. He sold newspapers to put himself through university. In addition he taught rhetoric and debate to put himself through grad-school. He planned to become a lawyer.

They met at a party on the eve of Easter. He invited her to come along on his paper route with him. Her brother and “Si’s” girl friend, also at the party, were going along. It would be fun. After a while, Dad’s girl friend and mom’s brother got tired and gave up, but mom continued with the paper route and as the sun rose, they went to early Mass together. They were Catholics. Soon they were engaged.

The depression hit, Dad got a real job, left school and they married. My father did well despite the depression. He didn’t make much money, but managed to stay employed. He was an up and coming young stock expert, I think with Dun and Bradstreet. Things were tight in the depression, but Mom was a social worker and they managed to hire a girl to act as nanny and housekeeper and the future looked bright. He and his friends came up with the company through the great depression into the hard times of the war.

In about 1946, the company transferred Dad to Chicago. They found a house they could afford in a parish they liked with a good Catholic school and settled in. The company called again and said that they were going to transfer him one more time. The sixth child had been born. The seventh was on the way. He couldn’t uproot them again. He found a job with Morris B. Sachs. They gave him lots of titles and not much money. They had old furniture and threadbare rugs. The days of privilege and ambition were long gone. 

I can remember Mom on wash day, wearing her old dress and tying her hair back with a shoe string. She had almost no jewelry and no furs. Even the diamond chips had fallen out of her wedding band. My Dad always kicked himself that he had never made a million. All his friends in the “freshman class” at Dun and Bradstreet were millionaires many times over.  I remember our “vacations” back to Detroit where we stayed with Uncle Ed in his very nice home or went to his “cottage” on the Canadian shore. We would visit family and friends from my folks’ youth. I remember they all had such nice things. 

Mom and Dad put all seven of us through Catholic schools including university, and eventually Dad’s very canny investments paid off and they were comfortable. He kicked himself that unlike his old friends form Dun and Bradstreet, he never made a million. He plodded through a job he hated and why? Because he loved his children and his wife more than he loved the security and the things that money could buy.  Every time Mom found out that she was pregnant, Dad would say, “Where will we find the money?” Mom would say “God will provide.” and He did. They were Catholics.

There is an old Yiddish lullaby. “Du, mein Sohn, mein lieber Kaddish..” Kaddish is the prayer said for the dead among the Jews. It is an old custom to call one’s child his Kaddish, because that child is the one who will recite the mourner’s Kaddish at his parents grave. If another Catholic teaching is true, that love goes beyond the grave and that prayer reaches heaven, who will pray for us when we stand at the judgment seat of God? 

 I am the seventh child of two people who sacrificed all their ambitions for me and my brothers and sisters. Friends worried about my mother and her pregnancies. They encouraged her to “do something about it.” I was born a month late. I’m sure my father worried that he was going to lose the woman he loved in a difficult labor. I’m sure my mother worried too, but she never told me. That was all a long time ago. They are dead now. Thirty years after his death, twenty after hers, I still go to their graves to pray. I am so grateful for their sacrifices that gave me life and faith. When I say Mass, at the memorial of the dead, I think of them with love and pray for the repose of
their souls. 

I am their seventh child. I am their Kaddish. 

Rev. Know it all

PS:I know that this letter in 4 parts is pretty rough. And I know that I get pretty personal and paint things in my family life as pretty rosy. Believe me, they weren't. As
anyone who knows me  will tell you, there was at least one screwball in the family, the one who writes this column. 

My parents were convinced by their faith to obey papal authority in the most intimate details of their life, and, as I have pointed out, I didn't really accept or teach these ideas in my early ministry. I was convinced of the easy Catholicism that swept the Euro/American members of the Church and their clergy. If you were convinced by idiots like me to salve your conscience and do what you pleased, don't beat yourself up. 

"Well, isn't it a little late?" It's never too late as long as God gives us life in this world. The goal is sacrificial love. If you are long past the time when Humanae Vitae and artificial birth control are an issue, do a little sacrificial loving. Visit a hospital. Call a sick friend. Volunteer at an orphanage.  Better still volunteer at a pro-life crisis pregnancy center. Tutor at an inner city school.  Bake a cake for a shut in neighbor. Donate to a worthy cause. If you can't do any of those, pray! My wonderfully wise mother once said, as I effusively apologized for something I had done, "Don't just say you're sorry! Do Something!!!   

Again I regret being so blunt and so harsh, but I suspect that there is a grizzly bear just behind us, and I thought I should mention it. Perhaps I am mistaken, but it sure looks like a very hungry grizzly bear who is  going about seeking someone to devour!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Letter to Helena Hahn Basquette - part 3

Are you still reading this? I just called you a monster! Perhaps I was harsh.  I realize there were and are people who agonized over these things. There were then and are now marriages that are in difficulty. There were and are those with serious medical issues. I had one sister who couldn’t conceive and another sister who couldn’t keep from conceiving. We discussed these things at length over dinner in my home back in the early sixties. If you struggled to obey, if you agonized over your  decisions, God keep me from condemning you.  It’s not you that I blame. The real monsters are those who made or make the decision glibly thinking only of the inconvenience or expense of large families. The monsters are those who sacrifice children to Moloch and Baal, the Canaanite gods of prosperity.

In the current age it is simply assumed that one will be sexually active before marriage and will practice artificial birth control. It is routine when a doctor interviews a young woman, married or unmarried, he asks “What kind of birth control are you using?” (It is interesting to note that a doctor never seems to ask a young man the same question. Another victory for feminism, no?) Extra marital sex is the assumption and small families are the expectation. Chastity, marital fidelity and large families seem  odd, or even irresponsible now.   

The monsters are those of us who, for love of ease and money have grown callous to the beauty and sacredness of human sexuality and its relationship to the family. Further, we, the clergy are the ones to blame for the monstrosity. We failed to teach the Catholic Faith. We encouraged you to pick and choose those teachings that were most useful and least challenging.    
“Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1) 
We, the scoffers of the 60' and 70's will soon have to face God and I tremble because of all the people I misled. Thinking it was kindness, I failed to say the hard things. Now as my life hurries to its final chapters, I realize that I deprived people of the truth, I deprived them of real love by trying to be polite. If there is a lion about to devour you, is it kindness on my part not to point it out? If I fail to warn you of danger simply because I don’t want to upset you, or to anger you, is this love?

We clergy in the years after the Council taught a diluted faith that made few demands. Fasting was no longer important. Marital fidelity was a high ideal, but not really practical. Mass was optional. Frequent Confession was tedious and an invasion of privacy. Father would make up the Mass as he went along, and use bread baked by the liturgy committee that was tastier than a dry communion wafer. He used wine that had a bit more zing, like a good port. We had general absolutions at Christmas and Easter. Everybody should go to communion, because we were now all sinless. God understands our weakness. 

What  we did mattered not so much as what we felt. It was our good intentions that mattered. If we had made a “fundamental option” for God, then the rest was unimportant, after all St. Augustine said “Love God and do what you will.” We taught you to pick and choose among the treasures of the faith. 

Now I see people my own age who, when they talk about their children, get a far away look in their eyes. “Yes, my daughter lives in California. That’s where her career took her. She was married, but got divorced and the grand kids spend their time going between Nevada where their father lives and then back to California. We see them on some holidays when it’s mom’s turn to have them, but it’s all right... they seem OK. They were baptized, but I don’t think they go to church much. I’m not sure..... My son lives in California too. He never married and I hear from him fairly regularly.... He’s always going on trips with his friends. He’s taken some wonderful vacations, and sends us photos, but he doesn’t come back to the Midwest much...” 

I have this conversation all the time, or ones like it. It breaks my heart. I want to run away and weep, not because you have sinned, but because I have. I taught a kind of Christianity that inspired no one because it demanded nothing. All truths were the same. All religions were as good, one as one another. The old man in the Vatican couldn’t tell me or you how to run our lives.

I remember now with great shame going to dinner with some fellow seminarians on Ash Wednesday. We of course ordered meat, just a sign of “Christian Liberty.” It was purely an act of defiance. If it is true that love is sacrifice, then I taught narcissism as if it were love, just as I had been taught by a seminary of priests who left the priesthood. I remember a dramatic reading of the Song of Songs that was the grand finale of one my theology school classes. It was read antiphonally by a priest professor and a friend of his, a nun. They did it with great feeling looking longingly at one another and reciting in hushed breathy tones. A month or two later they ran off together. Haven’t heard of either of them since. So now our churches are empty, our nests are empty and our hearts are empty. God forgive me. And, as God is my witness, I cannot do it any longer. Perhaps there is still time.

I recently got a letter pointing out that “ ...your rhetoric appears to be heading towards absolute dogmatic adherence without the necessary nuances... Empathy, Forgiveness, Charity, Reconciliation are the words I would like to hear at Mass more often and less archaic rituals."

Maybe the writer was correct.  Please understand that there is no one unloved by God, and that all one must do to receive forgiveness is to admit sin. If we can really admit that we “have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Romans3:23), then we are on the path to heaven. But to say that my sin is not sin is the surest road to hell. 

We, the clergy helped you along that road to hell by assuring you that your sin was not sin! How often have you gone into a confessional and heard the priest say, “Oh, that’s not really a sin.” You knew it was a sin. It was eating you up inside, but father told you it was okay. Do you think you will be punished nearly as harshly as I will be? I tremble to think of the wrath that awaits me! 

I remember hearing of a man who repented all his life of a childhood prank. Everyone said it was nothing. He knew it was something. As a boy, he and his friends had turned a sign on a country road so that it pointed in the wrong direction. It was all great fun. He wondered all his life how many people he had misled who never found their destination because of something he thought good fun. It haunted him on his very deathbed.  So many of us clergy turned the signs that led to heaven and replaced them with the sign that led to hell. God be merciful to us. 

The few heroes who held out for the faith were mocked and hounded into silence or obscurity. I remember going to a lecture by an old priest who questioned some of the liturgical changes. I was invited by some of the older seminarians to come along and heckle. It was all great fun. We who wanted to get along and go along, and preached the new and more pleasant Gospel. 

I believe with all my heart that God is giving us, the clergy, another opportunity to accept the teaching of the Church and to obey the pope regarding Humanae Vitae and the sacred liturgy of the Mass. What will happen if we once again refuse to obey? Haven’t the moral scandals of the past forty years been enough? What will happen if we priests once again refuse Him? I, for one, will obey this time and hope that God will have mercy on me in my old age.

Again, I know this sounds very harsh. That it sounds harsh is not the matter. More importantly, is it true?  There are people who cannot have children but long to or are able only to have a small family. I am not speaking about them. I am speaking about those who refuse the gift that God would give, and even more I am speaking about myself and the others who taught a shallow materialism. 

Once, the woman who could not bear children received sympathy. Now, the woman who has a large family is pitied and often looked down on. Have we forgotten what the Lord said on His way to Calvary?   
For the time will come when you will say, '"blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!'"hen they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? (Luke 23: 29-31) 
We are the generation of the green wood. The dry wood is surely on its way.

(You guessed it! To be continued.....)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Letter to Helena Hahn Basquette - part 2

Letter to Helena Hahn Basquette, continued:

I can hear you saying, “Isn’t it true that the world is overpopulated?”  The truth is that there is not an overpopulation crisis. Quite the opposite. The population of Russia has dropped from 148 million in 1990 to 143 million today. It will drop to 111 million by 2050. The Russian government is now paying people to have children. The population of China is about to face the same crisis. The Chinese are simply not having enough children to keep up with their death rate. 

People in China and India have a cultural prejudice in favor of male children. It is common in both India and China to have an abortion if the child in its mother’s womb is a girl. That means China and India are on their way to becoming countries populated by old men. The situation is much the same in Western Europe. Some estimates predict that at the current rate, there will be no Italians in 400 years. The situation is much the same in all of Western Europe. Amazingly, Africa is facing an under population crisis in parts of central Africa, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is the young and those of productive working age, especially women, who are missing.  China will soon face the end of its abundant work force and its economic growth. So would the United States, were it not for the immigration of young workers, especially from Latin America.

How do you define overpopulated? People have never lived longer nor eaten better than the age in which we now live. Admittedly there is starvation and a struggle for resources, but starvation seems usually  the result of political inequity and war, not of inadequate resources. 

“But overpopulation causes pollution!”  People don’t cause pollution, any more than cows or termites or any other form of organic life. Machines cause pollution. It is fascinating to note that the greatest environmental pollution is produced by countries that have controlled their population. Russia, Western Europe, and the United States are all committed to population control, or have been in the past. They also have large “carbon footprints.” Now that China has succeeded in limiting its population growth, it is taking its place among the great polluters. 

Depopulated societies are mechanized societies. They need machines to do the work that people once did.  In the USA we seem to think that it is reasonable to have one child and three cars, a summer home, a mini mansion with five televisions, six phones, a garbage can full of leftovers, styrofoam carry out containers filling the refrigerator etc. etc.  We spend our money on things because we don’t have to provide for children.

Children are not a form of pollution. They are, please forgive my reference here, biodegradable. They, like you and I, are dust and to dust they will return. This is not true of the styrofoam container that mom got at the carry out as she drove her Hummer from her job downtown to the prestigious day care academy on the North Shore to pick up her 2.3 children. The styrofoam container will still be in a landfill centuries from now. 

My mother would never have gotten carry out to feed her seven children. She couldn’t have afforded it. Leftovers became soup the next day and hash the day after that. We ate what we bought. Now our garbage cans are filled with the food we disdain to reheat and the poor rummage through our dumpsters, grateful for the feast we have discarded.  We pretend that we are concerned about the environment and pride ourselves on having limited the size of our family as an effective means of reducing pollution. We are idiots.

"How about the rights of women? Hasn’t the ability to control the size of her family empowered woman to compete in the work place and the wider world? Do you really think that birth control and abortion have improved the situation of women in the world?"

Again, forgive my unfortunate turn of phrase. The pill has created recreational sex, and who has been made the toy of this new game? Women are objectified more cynically and brutally than ever before. Internet pornography, the soft porn that passes for prime time comedy, and the constant search for the more desirable sexual trophy have made women only as valuable as their makeup. It is not the depth of their souls nor the quality of their mind that TV producers and advertising agents value. It is their ability to arouse that really matters. 

Women used to define themselves by their relationships. Now they are working drones just like men who define themselves by their dreary jobs, not by their relationships. When asked the question, “What are you?” We answer that we are lawyers or shop clerks or firemen or firewomen, bricklayers, soda jerks, whatever. We are not mom and dad, or spouses and lovers. We are our jobs, not our loves. This is the victory of feminism? 

My mother was an exceptionally beautiful woman. After giving birth to seven children she struggled to control her weight. My father was never in favor of my mother’s diets. He worried that they would ruin her beauty. She was beautiful in his eyes not despite the fact that she had born seven children, but because of it. 

Her motherhood  enhanced her beauty. She never changed her hair color and wore almost no makeup or jewelry, but my father knew that she was beautiful and so did her children. She was valued for her relationships and not for her ornamental value. She was thought of as beautiful by her husband, her children and all those who knew her well. She had a dignity that no amount of paint can confer.  She was a woman, not an aging adolescent trying to hide her years with layers of make up, dyed hair and expensive baubles. 

Her virtues were the jewels she wore. She needed no other ornaments. So many of the jewels that decorate the beauties of our age of plastic and tinsel are mined by children forced to work in the mines, digging stones like tanzanite and diamonds out of the African soil.  The gem trade and its child slavery helps fuel the wars in Africa, Asia and South America. 

We don’t waste our money on having children so we have the wealth to sit in front of the television and order jewelry that has been dug out of the rocky ground by children.  We pretend that smaller families are somehow morally superior to large families, when the truth is that we prefer things to children. We are worse than idiots. We are monsters.

(most certainly to be continued.....)

Friday, March 2, 2012

How dare the Bishops demand religious liberty...

Dear Rev. Know it all,

How dare these old men in the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops interfere with a woman’s right to choose! I am incensed at the refusal of the Catholic Church to comply with the government’s defense of all workers to receive reproductive services even if they work for a repressive institution like the Catholic Church. Democratic Congress person Connolly could not have been more correct when on February 17, he blasted Bishop Lori who testified to a House committee that the Health and Human Services birth control mandate threatens religious liberty. I was delighted when the congressperson pointed out that they were “complicit in the trampling of freedom” and that Lori and the others were participating in an attempt to embarrass the President in an election year by overstating an issue. When will you catch up to the times?

Helena Hahn Basquette

Dear Helena,

Thank you for pointing out that we are not in sync with the times. The times stink. Hooray for the Church. I have nothing but respect for the office of the presidency and the majesty of the law. I only wish that the same Barak Obama who said at Cairo University on June 4, 2009, that “It is important for western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit” would extend the same concern to Catholic Christians.

All this excitement has brought the Catholic Church’s teaching on family life and children into the sharpest focus since Humanae Vitae was first published in 1968. I remember the outrage that greeted it then and still does. There was a poster plastered all over my seminary of a stern looking Pope Paul VI in an “Uncle Sam wants you” pose, finger pointing with the caption “the Pill Is a No-No.” It was all great fun. Some of our professors believed it was their duty to help us think our way around the Catholic prohibition of artificial birth control in a sophistry that would impress the most adroit Pharisee or the most subtle Jesuit. The Dutch Catechism of 1966, all the rage in my seminary days, pointed out that the Vatican Council had not mentioned artificial contraception. “Every one can ascertain nowadays, there are several methods of regulating births. The Second Vatican Council did not speak of any of these concrete methods… we can sense here a clear development in the Church, a development, which is also going on outside the Church.” (p. 402, New Catechism, Authorized Edition of the Dutch Catechism with Supplement.)

Councils, in the belief of many of my teachers, were superior to popes, thus what the council did not say trumped what a pope said, and we should be pastoral and help people to not have such big families because it’s just too hard and the world can’t take any more children and it’s hard on the poor to keep having all those babies and if you are a good priest you’ll let people slide on this one..... Thus my education on Humanae Vitae!

And then, for those more conservative professors, there was natural family planning as Catholic birth control. Well...alright! You can limit the size of families, but you have to do it with natural family planning because the old guys in the Vatican don’t want anybody having too much fun because well, we all know that you shouldn’t be doing that anyway and you should have been a nun just like Aunt Mary Margaret said!

I got no real education on Humane Vitae. It was all about the medical aspect and what to do in the confessional about what was done in the bedroom. It was nothing about an amazing and beautiful document that has turned out to be prophetic.  In paragraph 17 of Humane Vitae, Paul VI warned us that 
“a wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.... man may finally lose respect for woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, (and) may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”  
If you think that the past 40 years have brought greater dignity and freedom to women, think about all the pornography, the glorification of one night stands, the increase in divorce which has impoverished women and children, the objectification of women and sexuality in general by the computerized proliferation of pornography and the new and raging sexually transmitted diseases. 

The pill gave us recreational sex that hasn’t really been as much fun as we had hoped, especially for women who now go to the same dreary jobs that men go to because the tax man demands a double income just to keep a roof over her head and that of 2.3 children. If daddy bails for the trophy wife, then mommy will just have to get a second job. Women can now be lawyers and senators and brick layers and waitresses and anything they want except mothers. Just tell someone you’ve got  eight children, and see the look they give you. It says, “Don’t you know that children are a form of pollution, burdening the planet with their disposable diapers and green house gas emissions? Have you no self respect?” or my favorite usually addressed to full time mothers: “You mean you’re just a mom?  Don’t you have a real job?”  

Paul the VI was a prophet and my teachers who laughed at him were fools. The scandals we have had to endure were, I believe, a consequence of the whole sale rebellion against papal authority. My morals classes and confession practica were in large measure an attempt to teach us how to help the poor beleaguered parents in our parishes find a way around obedience to the ridiculous demands of Humane Vitae and its outmoded sexual morality. And simply put, it you can think your way around one sin, you can find your way around any sin, and we priests did a fine job of it. The pope was a senile idiot in the view of some of those who taught me and they made it possible for every man to be his own pope. That would account for the moral chaos from which we are now awaking like some drunk on the morning after who wonders what became of his trousers and his wallet.

Nothing gets anyone so riled up as the Church’s teaching about artificial birth control. When I go to a pulpit and say perhaps we need to look at this again,  I can feel the narrowing of eye slits from women my own age who are past the time of child-bearing. I feel  their thoughts. “Are you saying that I did the wrong thing? Are you saying that I sinned by having my tubes tied, or insisting that the old goat have his untied?” Now, let’s calm down everybody. I think there’s a way to look at this that will not result in riots and angry torch-wielding, pitchfork-toting mobs congregating on the rectory lawn once again.

To be continued.......