Deborah Gyapong: November 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Aussie Catholic's critique of new evangelization efforts

Brian Coyne runs which has a lively forum on Catholic issues, mostly from a liberal perspective. He has a most interesting critique posted on evangelization. Here's an excerpt. His emphases:

I've been involved in I don't know how many "evangelization endeavours" over the last few decades. In hindsight I think they were all almost a complete waste of energy and time. I don't hold any higher expectations for the present initiatives. I have found myself today wondering why I have reached these conclusions.

In the final analysis I think there are two major but related obstacles at the moment that militate against any evangelization intiatives having even the slightest chance of any success. The first is simply a huge, and still growing, gap about what the final objective of evangelization is. It's this problem that nobody agrees anymore what the ultimate objective in "being a Catholic" or "going to Church", or "believing", or "practising" is meant to achieve.

Related to that — and this is the second problem — the vast majority of people (including priests and even bishops) are not allowed to talk about this BIG elephant in the room i.e. that there is no longer any workable consensus about what the ultimate objective of the entire exercise is. When anybody speaks publicly about any objective they have to be extremely careful to watch all their ps and qs so as to not upset a small, almost fundamentalist sector in our midst who do think they know what the objective is. Over their dead bodies they are not going to allow anybody else to articulate any alternative propositions. Effectively then, and as I have argued in other contexts, we have an entire institution that is effectively "reduced to silence (except for our nutter and fundamentalist fringes)".

None of the subjects that the people who might be prime candidates for evangelization or re-evangelization might like discussed are effectively allowed to be discussed. When you therefore read newsletters or tracts on Evangelization, Re-evangelization or the New-Evangelization, they are virtually all talking this antiquated language that is basically irrelevant to the real issues in people lives today that might make them open to listening to any "wisdom" that Jesus Christ might have to offer us about life or living today.

I can't see any of that changing while Benedict and men like him "control the agenda" at the very top. And this is the real damage that has been caused in a country like Australia in what was done to Bishop Bill Morris. He, like a goodly number of bishops and priests and teachers who do care about these things, was trying to open a dialogue — trying to find the language that might possibly work. But what does Rome do, stamp down on it all like a ton of bricks. A large and intractable problem I see is that the men at the top simply have no experience whatsoever of raising families and having to communicate with young adults today — and here I mean the broad range of adults near the mean of social attitudes. Yes, they can recruit a small segment who are basically naive and green-behind-the-ears, but whenever I see these kids that are favoured by our nutter bishops I just know from my own limited experiences as a parent and as a former teacher at secondary and tertiary level that this sample they talk to are NOT representative of the broad mainstream of young people in society today. Placing hopes in this small gaggle of young people to "go out and bring the Good News to ALL people" is simply delusional thinking. It is never going to work. They themselves simply don't have "the language" to communicate into the broad mainstream of contemporary society.

I probably fall into his "nutter and fundamentalist fringe" category, but to me the objective of evangelization or new evangelization is the same: setting aflame a passion for a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, something kindled by the power of the Holy Spirit when people who love God proclaim the Good News. Coming to know Jesus in this way requires supernatural means, not worldly techniques like finding the language to speak to the culture. Not that there is anything wrong with trying to find a language to speak to the broad mainstream of contemporary society----but I think that has been tried and, well, it hasn't worked all that well, has it?

Jesus placed his faith in a small gaggle of young people--12---and one betrayed him---and look what happened.

Archbishop Hepworth goes to the police

You can find a television story here, and get a glimpse of some of the cast in full, living color.

Here's a portion of the transcript that explains why Archbishop Hepworth objected to having Michael Abbott as the independent QC investigating his case.

The Catholic Church commissioned prominent QC Michael Abbott to investigate the case, and he has cleared Monsignor Dempsey after a three-month process. Archbishop Hepworth had refused to take part, despite repeated attempts by the QC's solicitors to contact him.

JOHN HEPWORTH: We've engaged over the years in a fairly hostile way, and therefore I felt a great difficulty in trusting Mr Abbott with such an intimate thing in my life.

MICHAEL ABBOTT, LAWYER: I mean, I thought the only reason that was given that I'd cross-examined him in a case I'd forgotten about and thought he had, that was nothing to do with this matter. I thought the fact that he used that as an excuse was quite odd.

MATTHEW SMITH: Archbishop Hepworth said a non-Adelaide person should have led the investigation, and totally rejects Mr Abbott's findings. The Catholic Church says it has previously encouraged him to go to the police and welcomes his decision.

What I don't know is this: did Michael Abbott, QC, reject all of Hepworth's claims? i.e. the ones against the two deceased priests Pickering and Stockdale and the abuse that began when he was a 15-year old seminarian in Adelaide?

Or only the claims against the monsignor in the Adelaide diocese who is still alive and vigorously denies having any sex with Archbishop Hepworth, consensual or otherwise.

Has this inquiry rejected the decision of the other independent inquiry by the QC in Melbourne, who found in Hepworth's favor?

The Australia saga continues to develop

For details into the Abbott Inquiry, CNS reports:

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, who appointed a Michael Abbott, queen's counsel, to conduct an investigation into the claims, said, "Mr. Abbott found that there is no substance to the allegations made by Archbishop Hepworth."

Archbishop Wilson said Nov. 28 that the lawyer's conclusions were arrived at "after an examination of all of the relevant facts and circumstances."

"Mr. Abbott's report is a significant document of over 150 pages, including multiple annexures, and it reflects a very extensive and completely thorough investigation of every aspect of Archbishop Hepworth's allegations," he said.

"I am satisfied that Mr. Abbott examined all of the allegations raised by Archbishop Hepworth. He personally interviewed 29 witnesses, including many who were present at the time that the events were alleged to have occurred. He also examined a very large body of relevant documents, including those still in existence from the period dating back to the relevant period."


Archbishop Hepworth said he made his accusations four years ago, so Archbishop Wilson said he also had Abbott examine the question of whether the archdiocese delayed responding to the abuse allegations.

"In this regard, Mr. Abbott found that there was no basis for any criticism or complaint about how the Archdiocese of Adelaide dealt with Archbishop Hepworth's allegations. He found that the matter was handled in a completely appropriate and professional way, in accordance with proper procedures and sensitivity towards Archbishop Hepworth," Archbishop Wilson said.

Most interesting.

From The Australian:

Mr Abbott yesterday defended the credibility of his inquiry. "Archbishop Hepworth chose not to make any written statement; he chose not to put anything in writing; he chose not to give me any list of witnesses to contact; he chose not to participate -- full stop," he told The Australian.

"On the evidence that I had, I think my findings are very comprehensive."

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'm trading my sorrows . . .

I love this song.

All hell breaking loose in Australia

Thankfully I have committed myself to no longer fretting about this. And God seems to be giving me grace not to get upset about this any longer. All I can do is pray and trust that Jesus Christ is Lord and He knows about this and the Truth will set us free.

For those who are interested, Father Chadwick at the English Catholic has links to a host of stories about a report from the Archdiocese of Adelaide, saying the rape charges made by Archbishop John Hepworth have no validity. A sample, from this article in the Australian:

THERE is no substance to a breakaway Anglican church leader's claim to have been raped by a Catholic priest, Adelaide's Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson says.

Traditional Anglican Communion Archbishop John Hepworth said earlier this year he had been the victim of violent rapes by three priests that began in 1960, when he was 15.

Senator Nick Xenophon named Adelaide priest Monsignor Ian Dempsey as one of the rapists under federal parliamentary privilege, saying the Catholic Church had taken too long to investigate.

However Adelaide Archbishop Wilson said today an independent inquiry by Michael Abbott QC had found there was no substance to the allegations.

The investigation included interviews with 29 witnesses, many of whom were present at the time the events were alleged to have occurred, and examination of a large number of documents including those dating back to the relevant period, Archbishop Wilson said.

Free trial

“I am satisfied that Mr Abbott examined every aspect of the allegations raised by Archbishop Hepworth,” he said in a statement.

Archbishop Wilson said Mr Abbott also found there was no basis to Senator Xenophon's criticism of the Archdiocese's handling of the complaint.

“He found the matter was handled in a completely appropriate and professional way ... and in accordance with proper procedures and sensitivity towards Archbishop Hepworth.”

Here's the latest from The Australian, in which Hepworth fires back:

TRADITIONAL Anglican Communion leader John Hepworth has rubbished a Catholic Church inquiry that yesterday cleared Catholic priest Ian Dempsey of raping him nearly 40 years ago.

Archbishop Hepworth, who was first a Catholic and then an Anglican priest and is now the primate of the breakaway TAC, said no other victim of clerical abuse could feel safe after the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide's handling of his complaints.

"No victim in the world will be safe after this type of attack," he said. "Given that so many perpetrators of abuse were moved from diocese to diocese this process leaves the way open for findings in favour of victims in one diocese to be reconsidered by another diocese and overturned.

"I was told I would have to bear the costs of bringing witnesses before the inquiry, which I could not afford and I was also told that no witnesses would be indemnified.

Free trial

"Adelaide's process, as far as we can discover, was a retrial of the Melbourne process."

Mr Hepworth had accused three priests of raping him.

The Melbourne process, conducted by the Archdiocese of Melbourne's independent commissioner, Peter O'Callaghan QC, earlier this year resolved his complaint against the late Ronald Pickering of Melbourne. Mr Hepworth received $75,000 compensation and an apology on behalf of the archdiocese from Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart.

Mr O'Callaghan also accepted that Mr Hepworth suffered "many other instances of sexual abuse by members of the clergy in South Australia".

But barrister Michael Abbott, QC, who conducted the inquiry for the Catholic Church in Adelaide, found there was "no substance to the allegations".

South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon, who named Monsignor Dempsey in parliament, said the process used by the Catholic Church was a "whitewash that was deeply flawed and lacked credibility".

"The Adelaide Archdiocese of the Catholic Church should hang their head in shame," Senator Xenophon said. "How can this be credible when no evidence was heard from the person that made the allegations?"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Msgr. Charlie Brown goes to Ireland

Archbishop-elect Charles Brown at CDF in 2008 Rocco Palmo reports:

And so it is: as first relayed on these pages Thanksgiving Eve, at Roman Noon on what would've been Charles M. Schultz's 89th birthday, in a convention-shattering move on multiple fronts, the Pope has named Msgr Charles Brown, 52 -- priest of New York and longtime cherished aide of B16's at the CDF -- as apostolic nuncio to Ireland.

Elevated to the rank of archbishop with the appointment, Charlie Brown's been given the titular see of Aquileia.

I met Archbishop-elect Brown in 2008 when I took the Church Up Close seminar for journalists who cover the Catholic Church put on by the Pontificial University of the Holy Cross. He took us on a tour of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Rocco is using one of my photos from the tour.

In 2005, when our Anglican Catholic Church of Canada Bishop Peter Wilkinson had a date with Cardinal Ratzinger to meet him on his birthday (they had had a correspondence over the years by mail) and the Cardinal had to cancel because of the Conclave, he sent Msgr. Brown to the lunch instead. Msgr. Brown remembered Bishop Wilkinson well.

Congratulations, Archbishop-elect Brown. I think the Holy Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, has selected the right man for the job of rebuilding the Church in Ireland. We're sorry to lose you from CDF, though.

And thank you for your kindness to us in the Traditional Anglican Communion.

Sensitivity training? No, this is lawfare

Brian Lilley writes about the latest moves to destroy freedom of expression in Canada.

Michael Erickson also want to control our minds, our thoughts, our feelings. He wants to control what we say. One of his other demands.

“SENSITIVITY TRAINING for every employee in Quebecor and its subsidiaries who earn over $90,000 a year. The sensitivity training should be no less than 3 hours and should build awareness and sensitivity of trans, transsexual, transgender, two-spirited and intersex identities and experiences with the goal of building a long term capacity for equality and respect of diversity in your corporation.”Erickson has other demands including a public statement from the company on trans issues and an audit of our portrayal of trans people to make sure it is to his liking.

Don’t do these things and he will take us to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, the group that can yank our licence, and try to get them to force us to do it.

He will also demand action from the Advertising Standards Council even though this ad has already been cleared by the body set up to screen TV ads.

This is an attempt at lawfare, an attempt to harras us into accepting his point of view and not allow any others.

This is an attempt to shred the Charter of Rights and Freedom which does not grant but guarantees free speech.

For daring to exercise our own free speech and allowing others to do the same, this man wants to take control of many aspects of this television station.

All of this comes at the same time as a boycott has been launched by gay activists in Toronto targeting the advertisers of the Toronto Sun. The reason, a print version of this very same ad.

These folks are asking people to call, bully and harass the companies that do business with the Sun until we bow and scrap before them and their point of view. The boycott appears to have the backing of the paper Xtra.

Rather sad if you ask me but that’s the way things are.

Is this what Canada stands for now?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We are all Utilitarians now?

That said, I still rejoice at this decision.

In a landmark ruling, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Bauman on Wednesday ruled that Canada’s ban against polygamy violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but is constitutionally sound because of the “pressing and substantial” objective of preventing the “many harms” arising from polygamous practices.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Finally, alleluia says Bishop Henry on Section 13

OTTAWA - Catholic human rights advocates welcome federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson's support for a bill that would repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Nicholson announced his support for Conservative MP Brian Storseth’s private member’s Bill C-304 during question period Nov. 16, when Storseth asked what the government’s position would be.

“Canadians across the country are increasingly concerned that Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act infringes upon our most important human right, namely the freedom of expression,” Storseth told the House.

Section 13 deems anything “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” discriminatory if it involves an identifiable group.

“Our government believes that Section 13 is not an appropriate or effective means for combatting hate propaganda,” Nicholson responded. “We believe the Criminal Code is the best vehicle to prosecute these crimes.”

Nicholson urged MPs to support the bill and promised amendments to strengthen the Criminal Code’s hate provisions.

“We were very encouraged to hear Mr. Nicholson come out in support of this change,” said Catholic Civil Rights League executive director Joanne McGarry.

Constitutional lawyer and law professor Iain Benson also applauded the move. Benson said “hatred at the moment has been over-extended to cover what I call ‘hurt’ speech.”

Catholics who have run afoul of Section 13 or related provincial acts have also rejoiced at the move.

“Finally, alleluia!” said Calgary Bishop Fred Henry, who faced complaints in 2005 under the Alberta Human Rights Act for a pastoral letter defending traditional marriage. “This section is such a no-brainer that it should have been excised long ago.

“The ‘feeling offended’ nature of the clause was an open door to not only adjudicate, but also to promote a politically correct agenda,” the bishop said. “Ardent secularists tended to use commissions as swords rather than shields and targeted others for ideological reasons.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Don't water down Gospel says Archbishop Lacroix

I loved working on this story from start to finish.

Read the whole thing over at B.C. Catholic.

Archbishop Lacroix says softening the message not part of the new evangelization
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

OTTAWA (CCN)—Quebec Archbishop Gerald Lacroix believes it is a mistake to “mellow down the Gospel” to draw people.

Softening the message has nothing to do with the new evangelization, says the Primate of Canada, though some people have tried to make the Gospel “sweeter” and “easier,” telling people “it’s not as difficult as you think” or “you don’t have to convert completely.”

“That’s not what will attract people,” Lacroix said in an interview from Quebec City Nov. 14. “Our mission must be to preach the truth of the Gospel, and the full message of the Gospel.”

“The rest does not belong to us,” he said. “Some will convert and will follow Christ; others will reject us and persecute us for being different.”

At the recent plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Lacroix said he exhorted his brother bishops to make the New Evangelization “absolutely first in our pastoral activities.”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mark Shea updates Pascal's famous wager

He writes:

Ironically, those enamored of the New Atheism often solve this problem of an empty meaningless existence by worshipping their own intellects and aggressively preaching the gospel of the New Atheism. It gives them something to do to fill the silence of the Void.

Sacred text: In the beginning there was Nothing. Then Nothing exploded. The Nothing became Meat and dwelt behind my eyeballs, full of pride and a sense of settled superiority.

It’s a pretty barren gospel, more like a virus than an actual idea (one might even call it a “meme”), since it consists of the negation of the Logos. But the funny thing is that the depressing barrenness of the thing is sold by atheists as a feature, not a bug. “Ours is a high and lonely destiny” is the tenor of the thing. “We do not lean on hope as a crutch. We are the strong men of metal who look into the emptiness and meaninglessness with courage! Not like the simpering weaklings who need a Father figure to give their lives meaning, etc.”

Right. Talk to the antidepressant prescription rate, pal. The Big Talk may work for a while, but outside the little hothouse of the evangelical atheist Circle of Affirmation we both know atheists are as troubled by the Big Existential Questions as any nun and are just as prey to the fears and doubts to which flesh is heir as the most credulous snake-handling bumpkin in Appalachia.

Does this render Christian truth claims true? Of course not. But it does render Evangelical Atheist BS about being Okay without God, Meaning, and Ultimate Hope the BS we all know it is. There’s a lot of whistling past the graveyard in atheism. And religious people are not the only ones who put on the shiny happy face and pretend they’ve got it together when their lives are in misery and chaos. Atheists are quite as capable of being full of utter denial and BS about their unhappy, screwed-up lives as any Christian. Only atheist dogma and pride leaves atheists with bloody few resources for confronting that while Christians have someplace to go with it that actually helps them deal–a fact now empirically demonstrated.

If you are a depressed atheist, why not take a suggestion from a Christian who struggles with doubts about the point of his life, whether there is really hope, and all the other questions you struggle with and consider the possibility of taking it to God. To paraphrase Pascal, what have you got to lose? If we Christians are wrong, you spent some time to talking to four walls and hanging out with some nice people. If you are as tough as you say you are, you can survive that. If we’re right, you have a chance to tap into the Meaning of Life. Worth the wager, at least.

This article on same-sex adoption

Is apparently causing a lot of grief for the Prince Arthur Herald, a unique, student-run and edited conservative online journal.

The author who has practiced in the field of psychiatry for three decades writes:

Children have a right to and a need for parenting by both a father and a mother. This need should be recognized by the state and by professional groups as far more important than an adult’s supposed right to adopt.

The views presented here are based on extensive social science research and scholarship, on my clinical experience as a psychiatrist that includes consulting with adoptive and foster children for several years, treating adoptive children for almost 35 years, writing about their treatment in a textbook for the American Psychological Association (1) and as the father of three adopted daughters.

What he says may be politically incorrect, but should heads roll for publishing this? If you disagree, can you be civil about it?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why Newt is looking better and better to evangelicals

I agree with this assessment.

Seraphic Singles: a most interesting blog

Seraphic Singles gives advice on nagging:

When you like someone, it is very hard to watch him do things that you think are bad for him and neglect those things you think are good for him. You don't think he should smoke, especially not so much. And you don't think he should drink, especially not so much. You don't think he should waste his fine mind watching so much TV or playing so many video games. You think he should use his God-given talents more often. You think he should stop seeing the girl he is currently seeing and ask out another one instead. You think he should eat a vegetable sometime before 2015.

However, unless this directly effects you, or he is doing something clearly criminal and/or gravely sinful, you should probably keep your mouth shut. The time to raise your voice against the ciggies, the booze, the video games or the bone-idleness is when you are asked to "be his girlfriend". This is when you smile and say, "Oh, I could never be seriously involved with a heavy smoker/a man who gets drunk every day/a man who spends so much time with video games/a man so laid-back."

This gives Sigsimund the Ciggie a choice: girl or smokes. He might pick the smokes, of course, but that is his right. Then you can pass serenely (at least in appearance) out of his smelly orbit.

I know we all get fixated on whoever we get fixated on, but sooner or later, we all have to ask ourselves "What can I live with?" and tell the truth. Men are not like old houses; they are not fix-it jobs. What you see is basically what you get, especially if they are over 30. The only time you can bargain for any kind of reno is when they ask you to be their girlfriend or wife. Tell them truthfully what you can live with, and what you can't, and stick to it.

Hilary asks "What do you want to be doing when you die?"

Over at Orwell's Picnic, Hilary gives a poignant update on the options facing her now that it is clear her cancer treatment was not going to be over and done with quickly with no life-altering implications.

She writes:

I am a believing Catholic and that means that I look forward to the next life to be the better one. And as the medical condition worsens, I have no qualms about admitting that having less and less to lose as we go along is maybe also no bad thing. Releasing and relinquishing life and the things in it, including things long hoped-for but now unlikely ever to materialise, is something we all have to do eventually, and it's better to have less baggage to carry. John Muggeridge taught me that as I watched him let go of things in the last weeks of his life.

But that question, "What do I want to be doing when I die?" has begun to loom very large in my mind since they told me the news last week. It is obvious that I am not now doing it. Whatever I need to be doing when my life is over, I'm not doing now.

To be blunt, I am now extremely unlikely ever to be married. And I am incapable of ever being a mother. No religious order will take me, even if I still had the slightest spark of an idea I would want to be taken by them, which I don't. One of the things that cancer has finally put an end to, therefore, is the vocation question. I don't have one. And whether I ever did is now moot.

The "single life," never desired, always a repellent thought, is what I've got and will have. I have never believed this NewChurch drivel about the "single life" being a vocation in itself. The multiple catastrophes of universal divorce, the "sexual revolution," the ruin of the family and the abortion and contraceptive cultures have simply demolished the possibility of marriage for a huge number of us. I would venture to say that these things have ruined the hopes of marriage or the religious life for most of the people of my generation. We are simply so damaged as to be incapable of fulfilling the married or religious life. This kind of happiness and hope is something many of us simply cannot have, and all the blither about the glories of "the single life" falls upon our ears like a cruel jeer. I hope the fad dies out in the Church quickly.

If you can't choose it, if it is something that can be forced unwanted upon you by circumstances you can't control, it is not a state in life, but a mistake. I suffer from no delusions that a life lived without any sort of ontological connections can be inherently sanctifying, which is what a vocation to a particular state in life is for. If unmarried, unvowed people want to be holy, they have to do something else.

So the question remains, what, therefore, can be the next step down? No sanctifying state of life. No ontological context. Only me, and an "occupation," the doing of some thing that will not rule out a holy life. Of course, it could simply be that I can just carry on doing what I'm doing. I am set up now to live a fairly happy life, as long as it is likely to be short anyway. But it has become clear that I'm not now doing what I want to be doing when I die.

Interesting reflection by Rod Dreher

Here's an excerpt:

I remember once being in mass at my Catholic parish in Dallas, wondering how many people around me (the church was full) really believed what the Church taught. If our congregation was representative of the US Catholic population as a whole, the answer was not encouraging. Which in one sense is fine, or at least not my business. But in another sense, it’s hugely important because if people believe that the Church’s teaching is optional, that what makes one a Catholic is one’s choice to attend a Catholic church, what is there to bind one to the faith, if not for mere custom and habit? Custom and habit were enough in ages past to maintain the spiritual community. They aren’t today — nearly half of all Americans today have changed their religion/church. (I am among them.) This was hardly thinkable by most people in ages past. Now it is a normal part of our condition. It is good in some ways, bad in others, but it cannot be gotten around.

Now, could you not simply say that the way to find out what one must do is to rationally weigh the claims of the various churches, and make a rational decision? Yes, you could, and some do. One big reason I became a Catholic is because the Catholic claim for its own authority made overwhelmingly more sense to me than the Protestant claim. I never considered the Orthodox claim until many years later. But it’s also the case that none of us chooses with pure disinterest. We go by a mixture of intuition, emotion, social context, and reason. We are finite creatures. We are subjects. Before I had my own crisis of faith in Catholicism, I truly believed that one should rationally weigh the competing arguments among the churches, and decide that way. I’ve written before about my telling a friend in the 1990s that as he decided whether or not to become Orthodox or Catholic, he should not think about the worship environment in which he would raise his children, but rather simply evaluate the arguments each church makes for its own authority. When I had kids of my own, I saw how wrong-headed that was. It’s easy for theologians, intellectuals, and mere bloggers to argue these things out on paper. When you have the moral lives and the souls of your children at stake, it matters at a different level. My friend could not separate his thinking about which church he and his family should join (they were leaving the Episcopal Church, and their only choices, they believed, were Rome and Constantinople). He said that catechesis was a disaster in much of the US Catholic church, and he worried if his kids would grow up to hold the faith at all if they grew up in Catholic parishes.

I bring this up not to argue about Catholicism vs. Orthodoxy, but to illuminate how subjective considerations inevitably affect the choices we make. If you are reading this in a small town in Nevada, the mother of three children and without a spiritual home, and the nearest Orthodox church is 500 miles away, I would question whether or not you should even investigate Eastern Orthodoxy. I say that because I truly and deeply believe that to be redeemed is not to hold the correct ideas, but to submit to the Holy Spirit, and to be changed from within, to become more Christ-like. It’s hard to do that alone, and even harder to help your kids do that alone. What does it avail you to unite with the truest form of Christianity (as I believe Orthodoxy to be) if you will be all alone in the practice of it? You may be called to do this, but I would wonder if your growth in holiness would proceed more within the Baptist church (if a good one was close to you) or within the Orthodox church, which does not exist in a manifest form near you? As I see it, it’s better to know Jesus imperfectly than to not know Him at all. How you unite yourself to a Baptist (or Catholic, or Presbyterian) church when you believe that the Orthodox Church contains the fullness of truth is a difficult problem.

Anyway, this is what I was trying to get at with the “subjectivity” of religious truth — and why I am a lot more open to the view that religion is what people do, not the ideas in their head. Again, I deny that it’s an “either/or” — it’s really a “both/and”. My point is simply that religious claims belong to an order of truth that can only be truly known not by being affirmed in one’s mind, but also must be inwardly appropriated with enough passion to make them change one’s life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

For news on the United States Ordinariate

Best place to start is The Ordinariate Portal.
My other blog with Fr. Anthony Chadwick, The English Catholic, though we haven't said much there.
Or The Anglo-Catholic.

I was feeling so down in the dumps

And then I watched Ezra on some news I missed yesterday because I was focusing on Palliative Care:

This is such good news.

The price of religious freedom

Holy Post:

The firing of broadcaster Damian Goddard, who was let go from Sportsnet six months ago, is turning into a test case about religious freedom in Canada and the right to declare those views in public.

Mr. Goddard lost his job after he wrote on Twitter only marriage between a man and a woman is a “true” marriage.

“I do not hate homosexuals,” the devout Roman Catholic said in an interview this week.

“But if I remain silent I am consenting to something I don’t believe in. I have 2,000 years of Christian history backing me up on this. I’m good with that.”

On Wednesday, it was announced Mr. Goddard had been hired as a spokesman for the Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance, a wing of the National Organization for Marriage, which is working to stop legalizing same-gender marriage in the United States.


“In Canada we’ve become far too sanguine about restrictions on speech when in fact we should be encouraging speech, not restricting it,” said Iain Benson, a lawyer whose expertise is constitutional law and religious freedom.

He says the bill that legalized gay marriage in Canada six years ago included several clauses that protected freedom of expression, including this one: “[N]othing in this Act affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion and, in particular, the freedom of members of religious groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs and the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.”

The lawyer, who would not comment directly on Mr. Goddard’s case, said there is now a dangerous atmosphere in Canada in which comments protected under law can be twisted to appear as hate speech.

“Hate speech needs to be related to inciting violence, not hurting feelings,” he said.

“I draw a distinction between ‘hurt speech’ and hate speech, and the culture has shifted in which hurt speech has become hate speech.”

Religious persecution . . .of Christians . . .in America?

Russell Shaw writes at Patheos (h/t The Anchoress)

"What the Catholic Church in the United States really needs to stiffen its backbone is a good persecution." How often, I wonder, have I heard somebody say something like that? How often have I said something like it myself?

Be careful what you ask for—you may get it. The persecution of religion in America has begun, with the Catholic Church a prime target.

Don't think I'm making the wild-eyed claim that this new persecution either is or ever is likely to become a bloody one resembling the purges of the French and Mexican Revolutions or the Communist war on religion—eruptions of violence in which thousands of clergy, religious, and lay faithful were killed. It won't be a repetition of the Spanish civil war, just 75 years ago, when death squads of the anticlerical left executed the incredible total of 12 bishops, 283 religious women, 4,184 priests, 2,365 religious men, and an unknown number of laity whose only crime was being faithful Catholics.

No, the persecution of religion in the United States won't be like that. It will be a tight-lipped campaign of secularist inspiration in which the coercive power of the state is brought to bear on church-related institutions to act against conscience or go out of business.

We're seeing this in Canada, too, especially in encroachments on Catholic education.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Archbishop Miller defends religious freedom and conscience rights

Vancouver archbishop urges Canadians to guard their religious freedoms

Archbishop Miller (CNS/courtesy of Archdiocese of Vancouver)

By Deborah Gyapong
Catholic News Service

OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) -- Although Canada has traditionally had a healthy relationship between church and state, Catholics need to remain alert to protect religious freedom, said Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, British Columbia.

A secularist agenda "basically wants to privatize religion and leave it restricted to the private sphere," Archbishop Miller said in a mid-November interview from Vancouver.

Pressures to compress religious freedom into private belief and private worship are not what is intended in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or universal human rights documents, he said.

More at CNS

Archbishop Timothy Dolan at the USCCB

In his speech to the plenary as president he says:

Our urgent task to reclaim “love of Jesus and His Church as the passion of our lives” summons us not into ourselves but to Our Lord. Jesus prefers prophets, not programs; saints, not solutions; conversion of hearts, not calls to action; prayer, not protests: Verbum Dei rather than our verbage.

God calls us to be His children, saved by our oldest brother, Jesus, in a supernatural family called the Church.

Now, and here’s number two: since we are a spiritual family, we should hardly be surprised that the Church has troubles, problems . . . to use the talk-show vocabulary, that our supernatural family has some “dysfunction.”

As Dorothy Day remarked: "The Church is the radiant bride of Christ; but her members at times act more like the scarlet woman of Babylon."

It might seem, brother bishops, that the world wants us to forget every Church-teaching except for the one truth our culture is exuberantly eager to embrace and trumpet: the sinfulness of her members! That’s the one Catholic doctrine to which society bows its head and genuflects with crusading devotion!

We profess it, too. With contrition and deep regret, we acknowledge that the members of the Church -- starting with us -- are sinners!

One big difference: we who believe in Jesus Christ and His one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church interpret the sinfulness of her members not as a reason to dismiss the Church or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the more! The sinfulness of the members of the Church reminds us precisely how much we need the Church. The sinfulness of her members is never an excuse, but a plea, to place ourselves at His wounded side on Calvary from which flows the sacramental life of the Church.
Read the whole thing over at Whispers in the Loggia

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mark Shea on Penn State and on McQueary

Very interesting analysis by Mark Shea, who explains why we should not be so quick to judge Mike McQueary, the young coach who came upon Sandusky raping a 10-year old boy in the Penn State shower.Link

I think Mark makes some very, very interesting points but . . .I am reminded of Kathy Shaidle's famous remark: When we blithely say, "We don't know what we'd do under those circumstances", we make cowardice our default position.

Sadly, my original link to Kathy's quote doesn't work any longer. But you can find Kathy blogging at FiveFeetofFury.

Here's some Mark Shea:

But though lots of combox warriors are quite adept at fantasizing about how bravely they would have behaved and how vile Mike McQueary is in comparison to their brave selves, how they would have taken a baseball bat to Sandusky had they caught him in flagrante, the reality is that, if the Milgram experiments are any indication, a huge percentage of people are pretty well programmed to avoid trouble with authority figures rather than open a can of whupass. Sorry, but that’s the stuff we fallen humans are made of, as our first Pope learned when he confidently declared, “Though everyone else deny you, I will never deny you.” Indeed, despite the flattering and heroic picture so many Laptop Ninjas have of themselves, righteously battling evil with flawless martial arts moves and utter rectitude like Buffy and Angel, the real picture of fallen humanity given to us by revelation is that of the apostles in Gethsemane on Holy Thursday: big talk, sleepiness while Jesus sweats blood, a brief show of bluster and bravado against the wrong person (resulting in a severed ear) and then bolting, ass-saving panic such that one of the disciples peeled out of his clothes and ran off naked rather than defend the innocent from evil authority figures. That story is painful to read because that story is a paradigm, not an isolated incident. It has been replayed again and again down the centuries and we chicken shits in comboxes boasting about our courage over Those People Over There know it damn well. That’s why we talk so big.

So I look at McQueary and think, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Recall that his awful discovery and act of cowardice all happened before the sex abuse scandal in the Church brought the issue to the fore of public consciousness and gave them a chance to think “How should I prepare to react if I ever encountered something like this?” Recall that McQueary just stumbled on the scene and was flummoxed. People do weird things in such situations. I hope I would have instantly assessed the situation and, like Buffy and Angel, cleaned Sandusky’s clock, kicked his ass into next week, and called the cops. But had I been in McQueary’s shoes at the time and place, who knows? If the evidence of, not just bishops and clerics (and the apostles of Jesus Christ), but even the parents of victims is any indication, people often respond to monstrous acts of evil by… doing nothing, or trying to kick the problem upstairs to somebody in a position of power who will make it alright and not drag them into further trouble. The fight or flight reaction tends to favor flight since fight often gets you dead or injured. People gripe that McQueary was a big strong guy and should have manned up and kicked butt. So was Peter. But when the big buff fisherman was confronted by a serving maid with the words, “Are you not also one of his disciples?” he displayed utter cowardice and then went and wept bitterly as the cock crowed.

More than this, though, is something beyond fear–something much more powerful: a perverted understanding of love. It is relationship, far more than fear, that makes people avoid trouble. Sandusky is your friend. Sandusky is your colleague. Sandusky is beloved. Sandusky is charming. Sandusky has done all this charitable work. Surely there’s an explanation. We don’t have to instantly go nuclear with cops. Something can be worked out. He means well, but he’s “troubled”. He’s one of our guys. Children are resilient. I couldn’t live with myself if I destroyed the guy’s career. He’s done a lot of good things too, you know. It will kill his family.

And so forth. For ten more years. We are built for relationship and we have to be very hard-pressed to take the step of destroying it. And we cling to relationship even in the case of very weak relationships.

Simcha Fisher on John Tesh

Hilarious as usual. Please read the comments, too. LOL to the "John Tesh" one.

I was listening to “The John Tesh Radio Show: Intelligence for Your Life” the other day, and I thought—

Hold on, let me back up for a minute.

The reason I was listening to John Tesh is because, see, my husband was working late, I mean really late, and I kept on eating Fudgsicles while waiting for him to come home, and I still had to clean up the kitchen, and I knew I’d never put the Fudgesicles down and do the dishes if I didn’t have something to listen to. But the kids broke the antenna off the radio, so the only station that comes in clearly is a station which sucks you in by playing something good, like U2, and then something tolerable, like Tracy Chapman, and then the next thing you know it announces that you’ve been bopping your head agreeably to something called Adult Contemporary Continuous Soft Hits, and without even realizing what’s happened to you, you’re halfway through a Phil Collins marathon.

And you kind of like it.

Now, where I come from, that’s a misdemeanor on a good day. Continuous soft hits, I mean. That’s what my 9-year-old son does to my 13-year-old daughter allllllll the way home from school, and he does it just lightly enough that she can’t tell if it’s on purpose or not; but just to be on the safe side, she knocks him across the nose with her algebra book, and I can hardly blame her (but I do anyway, loudly enough to startle the pigeons as we drive by).

Then we hit that part of the road with construction delays, and just to pass the time, my other son sort of apologetically throws up into his Batman backpack. It’s all I can do to keep from yelling, “I’m a taxpayer. YOU COULDN’T DO THAT AT SCHOOL?”

Read more:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hillbuzz on effects of childhood sexual abuse on gay men

I am a big fan of Kevin Dujan over at Hill Buzz, while I don't necessarily always agree with him. He responds to a question from a mother of a gay son, who asks whether the sexual abuse of the young boys at Penn State will make them gay later in life.

Here's an excerpt of Kevin's thoughtful response to give you food for thought:

You might find this controversial, but I believe there are clues to a person being gay that you can indeed pick up on if you are attuned to them. In the majority of cases you can tell if a boy is gay by looking at his eyes and watching his behavior. I have no idea if this is true for lesbians and I don’t want to speculate, because I have absolutely no ability to tell if a woman is a lesbian…but I have never been wrong about guessing if a man is gay. I can see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice, and detect it in his mannerisms…no matter how hard he tries to conceal who he really is.

It’s not magical Gaydar…but just the observation of the secret behind the eyes that is bursting to get out, and the nervousness that comes from constantly trying to hide who he is inside…even at a very young age when boys as young as 5 or 6 clearly realize they act and think a little differently from the boys around them and start doing their best to fit in and tamp down those mannerisms.

It’s my opinion, based on the stories I’ve heard and everything I’ve read and observed on the subject, that sexual predators clearly detect the signs of a young boy being gay and in many cases decide those boys will be the victims. If you ever want to watch a good movie with this them, rent DOUBT (starring Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman). The mother in that movie (Viola Davis) realizes her son is gay and takes an odd stance towards him being abused.

Not all boys who are abused by people like the coach at Penn State grow up to be gay, but I bet there is a disproportionate number of gay boys who end up being abused because the predators detect them and choose them for victims…perhaps figuring these boys are the least likely to tell anyone about the abuse (for fear of outing themselves), or maybe that the boys would enjoy what’s happening and not want to tell.

I will tell you this: when boys who are abused sexually grow into men, they are much more likely to be promiscuous and become addicted to smoking, drinking, and using drugs.

Writing this response to you, I sat down with Justin and between the two of us we came up with about 35 guys we know in Boystown who have told one of us that they were abused in some way as boys. There is a clear trend in all of these men:

* almost all of them are the kind of guys who go to bathhouses, have unprotected sex (“barebacking” in gay terms), cheat on their boyfriends, have very short or nonexistent relationships, and sleep with strangers on a regular basis

* these guys all drink heavily and the majority of them smoke at least a pack a day

* they all do drugs

* these guys burn through their paychecks with reckless abandon and don’t seem to think much about the future

* MOST, but not all, of these guys end up having a fetish for older men…and tend to gravitate towards guys who are the age their abusers were when the rapes happened. For instance, one guy who’s grandfather abused him still has a thing for Santa Claus types. A lot of the guys who were abused get into the kink and leather scene too, where a lot of these older guys also troll for sex. A small percentage of the guys who were abused as kids end up wanting to be the older person in the relationship who is paired up with a young “twink” guy.

Read more

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's a neoCatholic?

Hilary explains in a note she wrote to someone in the Catholic media:

You are using the term "neocatholic" incorrectly and it will cause a lot of confusion. The definition, because it is a term more or less invented and used by Traditionalist Catholic bloggers, is somewhat ambiguous, but it is most decidedly NOT synoymous with the kind of "liberal" Catholics to whom you are applying it in your latest piece.

As the term is used on the internet (by people leveling it [me] and by those denying it applies to them [Mark Shea]) it refers to a "conservative" Catholic, often an American convert from evangelical protestantism, who adheres generally to and likes to make a show of defending the sexual moral teachings of the Church but is generally satisfied with the direction taken by the modern Church and the modern world.
Whoops. I'm a Traditional Anglican, but I would suspect I have not a little neoCatholic about me.
I tend to be traditional but not traditionalist.

Evangelicals progressives at heart?

Sounds like an interesting argument:

Add this eyebrow-raising thesis to the mix: in From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism (a book whose title and subtitle should have been switched), historian Darryl Hart argues that "the evangelical temperament is inherently progressive." Despite being the largest single voting bloc in the Republic Party, evangelicals-owing to their religious and moral idealism-are no more fitted to traditional conservatism than an armadillo is suited to Antarctica. Currently a professor at Hillsdale College, the premier academic enclave for conservatives, and prolific author of such books as A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State, Hart offers a historical account of evangelical political reflection since World War II.

Focusing on the evangelical intelligentsia rather than the rank-and-file, he considers "the reasons that representative born-again Protestant academics and pastors give for political participation, their understanding of the good society, or the value of the American polity." The literary evidence that Hart marshals is impressive. He takes us through the writings of young progressives in the 1970s (Richard Pierard, David Moberg, Mark Hatfield, Richard Mouw), historical revisionists (Peter Marshall, Jr., Francis Schaeffer, Donald Dayton), correcting historians (Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch, George Marsden), fundamentalist "party crashers" in the 1980s (Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Pat Robertson), faith-based pundits (Chuck Colson, Ralph Reed, Marvin Olaskey, James Skillen), leftist evangelicals (Jim Wallis, Randall Balmer, Tony Campolo, Ron Sider), and "heroic conservatives" (Michael Gerson, Joel Hunter, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren).

Hart then turns to traditionalist conservatives (Russell Kirk, Roger Scruton, Michael Oakeshott, Mark Henrie, Patrick Deneen) for an alternative to the "redemptive utopianism" that prevails among evangelicals. In Hart's account, latter-day evangelicals, for all their internal differences, closely resemble their revivalist ancestors, stitching a patchwork quilt of American exceptionalism and providential benediction, patriotism and piety, evangelism and social action. "Deep within the soul" of members of the Religious Right, Hart observes, beats "the heart not of a Burkean conservative but of a Finneyite activist." If we follow the levels of reading in How to Read a Book, Hart has reached the highest level as a syntopical reader, placing multiple books in relation to one another and constructing a new and perceptive analysis on the subject. However, I do question how much can be extrapolated about the political ethos of evangelicalism-a remarkably pluriform movement-from literary evidence alone.

According to Hart, evangelicals forged a third way between the accommodationist posture of mainline Protestants and the separationist posture of fundamentalists. They found their political calling in the postwar years when the character of the United States was tested in the crucible of secularity. Animated by a transformationalist vision to reclaim America as the new Israel or redeemer nation, evangelicals developed a parallel universe with all of its insularities, myths, and propaganda, leaving them bystanders to the arguments and institutions of modern conservatism. Traditionalists, anti-communists, and libertarians shaped the conservative outlook between 1950 to 1965 as they debated the future of the American republic.

Bringing "a Sunday school mindset to the public square," evangelicals arrived at the eleventh hour. "Despite supplying voters for conservative politicians," Hart boldly says, "the born-again faith added nothing to the conservative mind." Why? Evangelicals tend to believe that a political philosophy resting on anything other than special revelation denies "the priority of faith to all aspects of human existence; it is to suggest that Christ or the prophet Amos need to takes notes from lectures by Aristotle, John Locke, or James Madison." Indeed, it is a bizarre notion that "a book written millennia ago is capable of addressing the specific challenges of modern statecraft," as if the mission of Jesus or Paul was to form "a more perfect Union." Even so, readers of this book would benefit from an excursus on the Bible's proper role in public policy, political reflection, and the professional lives of public servants. Hart leaves the impression that the alternative to "Bible-onlyism" is an evacuation of holy writ from the halls of power, which, if true, puts him in the company of John Rawls more than John Calvin.

Inspiringlove letter

John Smeaton finds a love letter from his mom to his dad.

Copy of letter to Jack 10th November 1939
My Dearest Jack,

This is indeed the happiest letter I have ever wanted to write, and even before I begin I have a feeling that I shall probably experience great difficulty in compressing all my joyous thoughts into a single letter and yet what does it matter for I now have a whole life-time in which to write and talk to you. I can scarcely realize even now the magnitude of the wonderful thing that has happened to me and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the great honour you have done me by asking me to spend my future life with you. I am praying now that I may be worthy of you and I shall always thank God for sending me your love.

My dearest Jack, I love you very much and I am so utterly happy to be able to tell you this. I cannot imagine life without you.

I feel we have so much to discuss and plan - everything to look forward to which our life together will offer. It as though a great barrier has been lifted between us and I am confident that our united prayers have brought us to this beautiful decision.

The knowledge that we share the same glorious Faith has always been a source of great joy to me and is even more so at this moment, particularly as it was our common faith which originally brought us together.

And now Jack I must bring my letter to a close. May God bless you and look after you always.

With all my love,


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Christ is made our sure foundation

Our Office hymn today

Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone,
chosen of the Lord, and precious,
binding all the Church in one;
holy Zion's help for ever,
and her confidence alone.

All that dedicated city,
dearly loved of God on high,
in exultant jubilation
pours perpetual melody;
God the One in Three adoring
in glad hymns eternally.

To this temple, where we call thee,
come, O Lord of Hosts, today;
with thy wonted loving-kindness
hear thy servants as they pray,
and thy fullest benediction
shed within its walls alway.

Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
what they ask of thee of gain;
what they gain from thee, for ever
with the blessèd to retain,
and hereafter in thy glory
evermore with thee to reign.

Laud and honor to the Father,
laud and honor to the Son,
laud and honor to the Spirit,
ever Three, and ever One,
consubstantial, co-eternal,
while unending ages run.

Words: Latin, seventh century;
trans. John Mason Neale, 1851

Music: Westminster Abbey,

On what Cain should have said

The Anchoress:

If Cain was really nervy, he might even have said, “let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that I did make this crass pass that has been described, and that I accepted “no” as an answer — where does that put me on the sliding scale of intolerable behavior that the press has devised since Chappaquiddick and the Clinton presidency? Where does it put me compared to a Democrat congressman’s partner running an escort service out of their house? Where does it put me compared to the thorough raping of our national economy at the hands of politicians and bureaucrats who walked away from the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with their careers intact and tens of millions of dollars in their back pockets? Why would a Republican’s failings be so much more tantalizing, so much more interesting so much more dramatically heinous to you than the rapes and sexual assault occurring at so-called “occupations” in cities throughout the country?”

He needed to say, “shame on you, all of you, for being so willing to run with a story like this, you people who tried to spike the Lewinsky story and were ready to call her a “crazy stalker” until the blue dress showed up; you people who can’t be bothered investigating incidences of voter fraud or collusion between Democratic operatives and publicly-funded enterprises like ACORN. You people, who spent month after month hoping to find evidence of racism, or sexism, or homophobia, or anti-socialism, or violence at a tea party — even editing video or arguing with peaceful protesters in hopes of creating scenes to help sell your preferred narrative — while you ignore evidence of anti-Semitism, sexism, anti-socialism and violence perpetrated by hundreds of ‘occupiers.’ Why should anyone believe you? Why should I bend to your perverted, distorted and myopic vision of the nation? Why should I serve your intentions?”

Cain needed to take it to be press, and give them a public scolding for their double standards and hypocrisy in front of the whole nation — “you’ll crucify a Republican president who got congressional approval to go to war, but look the other way when a Democrat skips getting approval; you savage a Republican candidate who did not go to an Ivy League college but cower before the idea of asking for transcripts from the Democrat; you’ll mock a Republican who mispronounces a word, or stumbles over a phrase, or misspells potato — things we all have done; things that you have done — but when a Democrat talks about visiting “all 57 states,” or apologizes for not speaking Austrian, his mistake is allowed to be the forgettable flub that it is. The forgettable flub that it always is, unless it comes from the lips of a Republican.”

I could listen to Fr. Cantalamessa forever

Want a touch of Holy Spirit fire? Listen to him:

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

On vagueness in the language

Clark Welton at City Journal writes:

I recently watched a television program in which a woman described a baby squirrel that she had found in her yard. “And he was like, you know, ‘Helloooo, what are you looking at?’ and stuff, and I’m like, you know, ‘Can I, like, pick you up?,’ and he goes, like, ‘Brrrp brrrp brrrp,’ and I’m like, you know, ‘Whoa, that is so wow!’ ” She rambled on, speaking in self-quotations, sound effects, and other vocabulary substitutes, punctuating her sentences with facial tics and lateral eye shifts. All the while, however, she never said anything specific about her encounter with the squirrel.

Heh heh, nothing vague about that description! I'll have to re-examine my storytelling style. H/t Simcha Fisher who had her own example of vagueness:

The time: earlier this year. The occasion: a post-operative tonsillectomy visit with my son’s ENT. She was telling me what to watch out for as his scar sites healed. “You might see some . . . you know? kind-of-thing,” she explained. And then she just looked at me, expectantly.

“Nnnn-no,” I wanted to say. “No, I do not know what kind of thing. Because you . . . you did not say anything!” Grateful to have the printed materials from the hospital, I just bundled up my son and got out of that strange, vague place where they put you to sleep and remove parts of your body kind of thing.

The always-specific Rebecca Teti pointed out this dismally hilarious piece, “What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness.” A speechwriter searching for interns noticed

Undergraduates ... seemed to be shifting the burden of communication from speaker to listener. Ambiguity, evasion, and body language, such as air quotes—using fingers as quotation marks to indicate clichés—were transforming college English into a coded sign language in which speakers worked hard to avoid saying anything definite. I called it Vagueness.

Read more: