Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Tragic Day for Marriage

Supreme Court Decisions On Marriage: 'Tragic Day For Marriage And Our Nation,' State U.S. Bishops

June 26, 2013
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court decisions June 26 striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and refusing to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 mark a “tragic day for marriage and our nation,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
The statement follows.
“Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage. It is also unfortunate that the Court did not take the opportunity to uphold California’s Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth. These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance.
“Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.
“Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it.

“When Jesus taught about the meaning of marriage – the lifelong, exclusive union of husband and wife – he pointed back to “the beginning” of God’s creation of the human person as male and female (see Matthew 19). In the face of the customs and laws of his time, Jesus taught an unpopular truth that everyone could understand. The truth of marriage endures, and we will continue to boldly proclaim it with confidence and charity.
“Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life. We also ask for prayers as the Court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fatherhood, Marriage, Faith, and Family: Father’s Day Thoughts 2013

Paul Adams

All the young families at Mass today, together with our new young parish priest and several other spiritual fathers, made vividly present to me the links among fatherhood, marriage, faith, and family.  

Fatherhood and marriage
Marriage created fatherhood. Not biologically, of course.  When men mate, most will sooner or later become fathers.  All of us alive and dead had a father.  But not all our fathers were married or stayed married.  Marriage creates fatherhood as a social role, in the sense of a male caring for children he knows to be his (see Miller, 2000 on “The Troubled Dawn of Fatherhood”), a sense unknown to our closest kin, the chimpanzees.  This was the explicit aim of marriage law from the very earliest known legal codes in Mesopotamia, which concerned themselves mostly with marriage, its nature, rights, and obligations. Their point was to give to the child the mother and father who made the child. They created fatherhood, so to speak, with the stroke of a pen.

Marriage is the institution through which one generation sacrifices itself for the next.  It is the institution that binds fathers to their own children.  It is the institution that enables and supports a man’s decision, as between the choices all males face, to be a protector rather than a predator.

Faith and family
As Mary Eberstadt compellingly argues, there is an intimate and complex tie between faith and family.  Not only do the religiously observant have more children, but couples with more children are more likely to be or become religious.  Children drive their parents to church.  Christianity, in particular, with its God as Father, its Holy Family, is hard to comprehend in the absence of a natural father who loves and protects, guides and corrects.  Where such fathers are rare in the experience of communities, Christianity atrophies. Christianity and the natural family rise and fall together.

In our community of Ave Maria, we see fatherhood, marriage, faith and family, thriving together and supporting each other.  This has, of course, ceased to be the norm in the larger society in the West.  Even a place like this is not immune to the anti-family, anti-marriage, secularizing influences expressed in explicit promotion of the sexual revolution and all that attends it as official government ideology - the new state religion.  Or in the ubiquity of internet pornography.  Each in its way delinks sex from marriage and both from children.  It is astonishing to me now to see how openly a show like Frasier, not to mention Seinfeld or Sex and the City, promoted casual sex as normal, morally acceptable, and healthy, as well as how minimal (exiguous to the point of nullity) a role children play in their individualistic ideology of sexual expressionism.  

Strong faith and large families are the norm here, but for some of us, myself included, it was only, in Hegel’s metaphor, with the coming of the dusk that the owl of Minerva spread its wings and took flight.  And no-one imagines that even the young who grow up or study in this community are uniformly virtuous.

There is any case, no utopia on earth - the very etymology of the term, coined by St. Thomas More in 1516, tells us that there is no such place.  We fathers are, in the English understatement, no better than we should be.  Our efforts to do the best by our families are shaped, enabled and constrained by the community of faith and family life around us - and the wider pressures of media and government that impinge on it.

Fatherhood, we are reminded today, is a social role shaped by the experience of millennia.  It is created by and tied to marriage and to faith.  The results of breaking those links are disastrous - the social and personal costs of fatherlessness in our society are staggering.  We are reaping what the sexual revolution in its myriad social, legal, and ideological expressions sowed.  The weakening of the links among marriage, sex, and fatherhood has affected even the way we define and conceptualize marriage.  This is apparent in the widespread tendency to reduce our concept of marriage to a kind of Hallmark card sentiment, having to do with the feelings of love and commitment between two adults (so long as the feelings last), but nothing intrinsically to do with sex, sexual complementarity, or children.

Walking the Way
Last month I walked the Camino de Santiago from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain with my adult daughter (see the blog posts here - working from last, April 26, to most recent, June 10).  Others we met on pilgrimage also undertook the journey at least in part as a time for family bonding.  The father-child theme is at the center of the The Way, the film by the father-son team of Sheen-Estevez.  It is also the heart of the best recent writing I have seen on the Camino, about another father-daughter team, ten years younger than us, who made the pilgrimage last year.  The father blogged the experience from start to finish along the whole of the longest, French route - see Webster Bull’s vivid and inspiring narrative - now an e-book and to be developed into a memoir.

The Camino continues to be, as it has been for more than a thousand years, many things - religious, spiritual, cultural, even athletic - to many people.  But for some of us it serves as a time of respite, of healing or convalescence.  Even without the personal drama and intensities of the movie, it is a time of restoring or rebuilding or sustaining those bonds of family and fatherhood that time along with other demands and pressures, competing ideological tendencies, and the mad, dehumanizing pace of our mundane lives, as well as our own fallen natures, vices, and follies, has weakened.

The Dutch Solution to Parents' Suffering: Kill Their Newborns

Put disabled babies out of our misery, say Dutch doctors
by Michael Cook | 14 Jun 2013 | 

Distress felt by parents of a dying newborn can justify the child’s euthanasia, says Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG), which represents doctors in the Netherlands.

In a new policy document, “Medical decisions about the lives of newborns with severe abnormalities” (in Dutch only) the KNMG explains why it is acceptable, and perhaps even necessary, to euthanase children. This is no longer headline news in the Netherlands, as newborn euthanasia is allowed under the so-called Groningen Protocol, drafted by Dr Eduard Verhagen in 2004. 

The stunning novelty of this statement is that it says that the parents’ suffering may be a reason to kill the newborn. Amongst other conditions, the policy states that a lethal injection of muscle relaxant is ethically possible when “The period of gasping and dying persists and the inevitable death is prolonged, in spite of good preparation, and it causes severe suffering for the parents.”

Dr Verhagen, one of the authors of the KNMG report, explained to Volkskrant, a leading Dutch newspaper, why parental anguish is relevant. "These children are gray and cold, they get blue lips and suddenly every few minutes they take extremely deep breaths. That's very nasty to see, and it can go on for hours and sometimes days."

The experience is extremely stressful for parents. The sight of a child shuddering in its last moments could scar them for ever. However, even Dr Verhagen admits that the child may not actually be suffering. It may feel pain and discomfort, but suffering is complex social and psychological phenomenon without scientifically validated criteria.
What is more objective is the suffering of the parents who witness the child’s distress. Doctors should spare parents the “abomination” of seeing their child die in distress, argues Dr Verhagen. It is part of good palliative care.

The criteria for euthanasing newborns are as follows (from page 54 of the report): if the child is suffering, if it cannot express its own wishes, if death is inevitable and if the dying process is prolonged, then the child may be euthanased and spare the parents further severe suffering.

Of the 175,000 babies born every year in The Netherlands, the KNMG suggests that about 650 might be cases which would be worthy of euthanasia.

“These babies, despite very intensive treatment, will certainly die in the short term. They have a poor prognosis and a very bleak life perspective. They may not be dependent on intensive care but they face a life of serious and hopeless suffering. Doctors and parents face the exceedingly profound question of whether to start or continue treatment or even whether a good action may actually be a harm, in view of the suffering and disability that may result from the poor health of the child.” 

This article is published by Michael Cook and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

Michael Cook asks, "What will happen when the same principle is applied to the elderly? Will the tears of their middle-aged children decide whether they live or die?"

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Fatherhood and the Social Cost of Fatherless Families

Fewer marriages, fewer fathers

With Father’s Day being celebrated this weekend in the US, Bradford Wilcox has a very relevant and timely piece at The National Review Happy Fatherless Day. He highlights the importance of fatherhood and the social cost of fatherless families:

In our public conversation about how best to accommodate today’s family diversity, what usually goes unsaid is that fewer marriages also means fewer fathers in our nation’s homes.

That is because marriage is the institution that binds men to their children. There is no substitute. Cohabiting couples with children are much more likely to end up on the rocks than their married peers (even in Sweden). Divorced and never-married fathers often have difficulty getting or making the time to stay in regular contact with their children once the relationship with the mother of their child is over. By contrast, fathers who are married to the mother of their children are much more likely to enjoy the day-in-day-out relationships with their children that enable them to give their kids the attention, discipline, and affection they need to thrive.

This comes amidst the soon to be released study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finding that the absence of fathers tends to result in more risky sexual activity among teenage girls.

Marriage is the only institution that binds men to their children. If a child is raised inside of a marriage, as it is currently defined, then that child will necessarily have access to a father. This is an important social reality that needs to be recognized and encouraged.

This article is published by Blaise Joseph and under a Creative Commons license and reposted here under its terms. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact them for permission and fees. Some articles on their site are published under different terms.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Walking the Way Part 3 - The Final Stretch

Paul Adams (commentary) and Katryn Adams (pictures)

This did not make any more sense in English

There were several fancier memorials along the way, but we found this humble effort the most touching

Nearly there.  Katryn's disposable poncho did not last much longer

More monuments and markers as we get closer to Santiago
Stream at Lavacolla where pilgrims traditionally purified themselves before entering Santiago
Our first glimpse of the cathedral in Santiago
The old seminary where we spent the first night
and its courtyard
The seminary holds some 170 pilgrims and is well supplied with kitchen, laundry facilities, lockers, and shop. When we arrived the city and cathedral was celebrating the feast of the Ascension and we were warned that the doors would be locked at 2:00 a.m.  We looked at each other, laughed, and the man at the desk recommended we take individual rooms at the back of the building.  We heard nothing and were asleep by 10:00 p.m. 

Inside the pilgrim office where we received our  compostelas

Catedral de Santiago de Compostela

Carved pillar from the original Romanesque doorway of the cathedral. If you look closely towards the bottom you can see the imprint of 1000 years of pilgrims putting their hands on it.
Old confessionals labeled with the languages spoken by the attending priest (in this case German and Hungarian). A wonderful young priest heard my confession in English and granted absolution in Spanish.  Katryn asked him to bless some medals she had brought for the purpose on behalf of a friend's mother in Oregon. I did a similar thing on behalf of a friend here at Ave Maria, FL.
Tombstone of Bishop Theodomirus, who founded the first church here (AD 829) 

Romanesque transept with presumably later dome

Detail of the baroque altarpiece

Pilgrims Mass: Where hundreds of thousands had been before us

The famous botafumeiro in front of the baroque altar.  Unfortunately we didn't get to see it in action. That happens on Sundays and feast days.  We thought it was a feast day but it seems they celebrated the Ascension a day earlier than the rest of the Church.  There's a clip of the botafumeiro, an enormous censer in action with Benedict XVI calmly waiting for the giant swinging flaming ball to come to a rest while everyone else gawked - in the first of this series of posts about the Camino, along with Webster Bull's excellent comment.  You can also see it near the end of The Way, Emilio Estevez's film starring his father Martin Sheen. Here's a clip, with a lot of interesting info at the beginning and end.  El Botafumeiro, use of which began in the 11th century, swings alarmingly back and forth in the transept above the heads of the pilgrims for whom this area is reserved.  As this clip points out at the beginning, "The primary reason for El Botofumeiro is to facilitate the offering of incense to God on a grand scale.  The incense smoke also provides the ancillary benefit of masking the odor of unwashed pilgrims who have journeyed across Europe to the cathedral to venerate the corpus of Saint James the Greater since medieval times."  I believe it was also meant to prevent the spread of contagious disease among the pilgrims and those who served them

Tympanum depicting the visitation of the Magi

Looking up towards the Convento de Bevis, next to the seminary where we stayed

11th-century manuscript depicting the missions of the apostles. That's St James going to Galicia at the bottom.
San Roque and his little dog

St. John with a tiny dragon emerging from his cup.  This, I learned from Wikipedia, depicts the legend according to which St. John was handed a cup of poisoned wine, from which, at his blessing, the poison rose in the shape of a serpent or dragon.

The little fruit market outside our hotel in Santiago

Le mejor cerveza
And so back home via Barcelona and some more amazing Gaudi and other Barcelona Art Nouveau architecture there

Remembering with deep gratitude all the many blessings of this wonderful journey and recalling the ancient Pilgrims' Prayer to St. James that is said at the end of the Pilgrim Mass along the way.  Its immediate sense is about the journey of the Camino itself, but it can be understood as about the journey of life that takes us to the "end of the Road." It also reminds us that before the days of modern transportation, this pilgrimage was a round-trip journey.

O God, who brought your servant Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans, protecting him in his wanderings, who guided the Hebrew people across the desert, we ask that you watch over us, your servants, as we walk in the love of your name to Santiago de Compostela. 

Be for us our companion on the walk,
Our guide at the crossroads,
Our breath in our weariness,
Our protection in danger,
Our albergue on the Camino,
Our shade in the heat,
Our light in the darkness,
Our consolation in our discouragements,
And our strength in our intentions. 

So that with your guidance we may arrive safe and sound at the end of the Road and enriched with grace and virtue we return safely to our homes filled with joy. 

In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. 

Apostle Santiago, pray for us.
Santa Maria, pray for us.

God's Architect - Antoni Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pilgrims on the Way: Walking the Way Part 2

Paul Adams (commentary) and Katryn Adams (pictures)

A friendly cat at La Bodeguina in Mercadoiro. And the dormitory building where we slept. Many pilgrims stopped off here for a drink or meal.  We stayed overnight.  All the hostels we stayed at were clean and pleasant.  We carried our sleeping bags on our backs, sleeping in bunks in rooms with ten or more peregrinos, male and female, always for ten euros or less.  Usually there were private rooms available at double the price ($25 or $26), still a great deal.  Fellow pilgrims we encountered were quiet and considerate.  I had little use for the ear plugs with which I came well supplied.  

We passed through many small old farm towns like this one

 And on to Portomarin, where the yellow arrows that were helpful almost everywhere on the Camino in this case pointed us into and out of town at the same time.  Good for business but confusing for pilgrims!
Santa Maria de las Nieves in Portomarin
El rio Mino
Misty morning at the Mino river across from Portomarin

Finally, a sunny day.  Not too much of the Camino goes along beside with the highway like this, a bit more as we approached the outskirts of Santiago, but not too much.  The markers directed to side paths and lanes that crisscrossed the highway whenever possible.

Caterpillar train! How to make yourself look five times bigger.

My favorite hostel/inn was this one, run very efficiently by two young couples, with food from the family farm.  

Young Catholic volunteers from southern Spain provided free tea, coffee and use of toilets to pilgrims

One of several 17th century wayside crosses along the Camino

Most people walk the Camino, some do it on bicycle, and a few make the journey on horseback.  If you go by bicycle or on horseback, you have to cover twice the minimum distance to qualify for a Compostela. Horses parked outside a bar in Palas de Rei

No idea what this is

Friday, June 7, 2013

Walking the Way - A Religious and Cultural Experience in Words and, Especially, Pictures - Part 1

Paul Adams (commentary) and Katryn Adams (pictures)

We flew into Barcelona, where we visited some wonderful art nouveau architecture, before making our way by train to Leon and after a short stay in that beautiful medieval city, by bus to Sarria, where we joined the Camino for the 112 km walk to Santiago de Compostela.  Even in Barcelona, it was cold (close to freezing at the end of April) and rainy.  There was such a long line to see Gaudi's famous church Sagrada Familia, his "catechism in stone" begun in 1882 and still under construction, that we decided not to stand in line in the cold and rain, though we went to Mass in a small pre-Gaudi section of the church which required no line and gave no access to the rest of the building.

And here is the Gothic cathedral in Barcelona, outside and in:

The church of Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona was funded by the dockworkers guild and there are images of them on the doors:

and on to the beautiful town and cathedral of Leon:
and on to Sarria, where we began our pilgrimage in a moment of respite from the rain:

on our way, on Ponte Aspera, outside Sarria:

Igrexa de Santiago in tiny Barbadelo, where the priest performed a mass just for us.  Most peregrinos did not attend the Masses meant specially for them along the way, though probably all attended the Pilgrims Mass in Santiago de Compostela.  But in this 12th century church, we were the only ones there apart from an elderly priest, who called us up to the altar at the end and had me read a special blessing in English.  The altarpiece was different from anything else we saw, in a primitive, folk art kind of way.

Somewhere between Barbadelo and Morgade:

A memorable moment.  As we walked past him, this man called us over to the side of the road where he was stripping the bark off a stick to make a walking pole. He gave me the pole but would take no money for it.  He asked us to pray for him at the Cathedral in Santiago.  Katryn thought he picked me out from the hundreds of pilgrims who must have passed him because I "looked sincere."  Or perhaps just old and unsteady on my feet!  In any case, along with some other commissions from friends back home, it gave the sense that we were representing others in our pilgrimage and our blessings and graces were to be shared.  The stick saved me from several bad falls on slippery rocks and mud over the next few hours and days.

Other pilgrims along the way:

These fancy corn cribs are a big thing in Galicia:
Just 100 km to go!