Catholic Funeral Disrespects Deceased Teen

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Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

The other day, I stumbled upon this article from the Washington Post about the inappropriate behavior of a priest during a funeral mass for a young man who had committed suicide. The priest met with the family, as is typical before a funeral mass, in order to prepare a homily that would honor the deceased. The parents expressed that they wanted to celebrate their son’s life, but the priest had other ideas.

The priest spent much of his homily speculating that the deceased might not make it into heaven because he had committed suicide, using that word upwards of 6 times. (For full details, see the article linked above.)

The Catholic church has not been historically kind when it comes to suicide. From my own memories of growing up Catholic, I can recall the pastor of my former parish giving a homily about sin, in which he advised that all sin except for one is forgivable, and that one sin is despair. As I grew up, I came to understand he was referring to suicide. The Washington Post article corroborates my memory:

For centuries, the Catholic Church has struggled with the religious implications, and societal stigma, of suicide. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the church began taking a more benign approach to suicide, allowing parishioners who had taken their own lives to receive a Catholic funeral and be buried on sacred ground in Catholic cemeteries. In the 1990s, Pope John Paul II approved the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which acknowledged — for the first time — that many people who die by suicide also suffer from mental illness.

I suspect the Catholic Church of doing this to other families. We’re only hearing this particular story because it was so egregious that the family complained publicly. There may well be other cases -not so cut and dry, but still on the cusp of inappropriate, and they may be more common than the church might like to admit.

On a tangiential note, in my last post I mentioned the weakness of church leadership when it comes to questioning old traditions and practices. The Washington Post article brings an example of this: the church’s teaching on suicide changed for the better as of the 1990s, yet priests are still preaching that suicide leads to hell.

The article quotes a priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago and explains:

Though it has been decades since the church adopted a more compassionate view of suicide, there remains a disconnect between some outlier priests and their parishes. The Rev. Charles T. Rubey said he has seen it within the Archdiocese of Chicago and during his 40 years as director and founder of the LOSS program, Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide.
“There are still some priests who view suicide as a mortal sin,” Rubey said. “That has been categorically denied by church leadership.”

If the Pope-approved catechism statement on suicide isn’t enough to make this needed change, especially with the present-day understanding of mental health, it really calls the church’s credibility into question. This kind of thing can really push people away.

My thoughts are with the family of the deceased – this is incredibly difficult, made more difficult by the way it was handled at the funeral, and I hope the church is more punitive toward the offending priest than the article says they will be. The church needs to set a clear example that this will not be tolerated. Otherwise, I guarantee it will continue in another parish in another town, and other priests may be emboldened because he got away with it. This is their pattern of behavior.

Happy thinking,

Nancy

Netflix’ Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Critiques Catholicism

cat photoIt’s been a while since I really sank my teeth into a fantasy series. I used to love them growing up – Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Harry Potter (that last one took serious begging to be allowed to read when I was a kid) were some of my favorites. But lately, I’ve found fantasy a bit too tropey for me, preferring science fiction, especially dystopian fiction, when I wanted to venture into something speculative. But then Netflix released the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and mostly out of nostalgia for the sitcom from my childhood (another series I had to beg and beg my parents to let me watch), I decided to give it a go.

There are a lot of elements that feel super relevant and timely. Sabrina’s classmates and close friends feature a gender nonconforming character, as well as a movement to empower women and give students access to banned books. It touches on disability and disaster, family dynamics and growing up. I wouldn’t say it’s the most realistic story ever, but I’m able to check my disbelief at the door more often than not. What I find particularly fascinating though is the choice to build a world so unlike that of the sitcom, and more like the imagined witchcraft found in the Salem witch trials. Christian mythology is expanded upon to include magic power bestowed by the devil. Sabrina must choose whether or not to sign her name in the book of the beast, agreeing to do the devil’s bidding if called upon, in exchange for greater magical powers.

Once I realized this series would rely heavily on expanded Christian stories, I tried to see if I could pinpoint what branch of Christianity seemed prevalent in the writing. The answer came within a few episodes (stop reading here if you don’t want spoilers) when it’s revealed that Sabrina has been baptized a Catholic, indicating that perhaps her human mother was Catholic, and priming the audience to think about the ways Catholicism interacts with the series. In a later episode, Sabrina looks to rid a possessed character of a demon, and it’s a significant plot point that this is not something done by witches, only by Catholics priests, so how does she intend to do this when witches don’t seem to view demons as something needing to be removed?

The aspect of the show I found most difficult to suspend disbelief for is the idea that people could follow Satan as a benevolent character, when he’s attributed to some pretty f’d up sh*t within the show itself. Then again, is this where the critique on religion begins? The Abrahamic God is attributed to some downright awful things. The Exodus story (Moses leading his people away) is complicated not ultimately by Pharaoh, but by God himself, who keeps “hardening his heart” (or in 2018 speak, changing Pharaoh’s mind), making the plagues God unleashes on Egypt pretty unjustified. Or what about the flood in Noah’s Arc? That’s a pretty messed up genocide by most standards, isn’t it? The tower of Babel? The walls of Jericho?

Getting back to the point: this TV show makes a pretty strong point about the actual authority of religious leadership, and about how easily religion and tradition get out of hand, creating an unstoppable mob mentality.

There’s an episode about a Satanic, cannibalistic ritual, in which a witch is chosen to be eaten by the other witches. (I’m going to spoil the end, stop reading if you want to watch it first.) The episode centers around Sabrina trying to stop the ritual from being completed, to save the life of the chosen witch. When the Satanic leader presiding over the whole thing is eventually persuaded to say he’s had a revelation that this ritual should be discontinued, he fails to stop the devoted crowd. He saves the life of the chosen witch, but another witch springs forward, kills herself, and is devoured.

I find this scene absolutely brilliant in the context of present-day Catholicism, and discussions around the real or perceived authority of Pope Francis. The pope has said the church should focus more on helping the poor rather than condemning and punishing sinners within its ranks. He’s been far more forgiving (though I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s been truly fair) to divorced people, for example. But whenever the Pope says something mildly less conservative than a previous Pope, Catholics will be quick to declare that in that moment he isn’t speaking with papal authority. Yet I guarantee, if he gives a speech against abortion, his words will be taken at face value.

In a community that insists on obedience to a rigid set of traditions and rules that are supposed to be perfect (coming from a higher power), challenging those traditions creates major cognitive dissonance, which needs to be explained. It’s easier for a devout believer who thinks their religion is perfect to believe a human made an error, than to think their God did.

Does this story of religious authority being dismissed strike a nerve in anyone else? Or is it just me? Are there parallels in other denominations or religions I’m not as familiar with? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome, just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

 

What to Do With an Anti-Choice Gift Card

hobby-lobby-1I’m pretty sure my mom wasn’t thinking about politics while Christmas shopping, but she gave me a gift card to Hobby Lobby in combination with some other knitting related gifts. It was really sweet of her because I do enjoy arts and crafts but um–this is Hobby Lobby we’re talking about.

Yeah, that Hobby Lobby.

Since the money has already been spent at this business I’m not super fond of, my plan now is to use the gift card but make an equal or greater donation to Planned Parenthood or some other organization that supports reproductive rights, sex ed, and sex positivity.

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If you know of any good organizations, let me know in the comments.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Dear Searcher part 3: “purity and secondary virginity”

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This is my third post responding to search terms that have led people to my blog. You can read the first post here, and you can read the second post here.

The premise of these Dear Searcher posts is that I write an open letter to a person who found my blog using search terms that I find thought provoking or unsettling.

On March 14th 2016, someone found my blog using the search term “purity and secondary virginity.”

Dear searcher,

Virginity is one of the most ill-defined concepts we have in this world. Ever notice that? There’s a myriad of sexual things we can do and still be technically “virgins.” Then again, it depends on who you ask. One of my earliest memories of learning this was at a pool party in high school. I was fourteen, maybe fifteen, and one of my friends said, “If I let a guy do it in my butt, am I still a virgin?”

One friend said “Heck no!”

Another one said, “Maybe. Did he go all the way in?”

Sure, there are clinical definitions of sex, and a doctor once told me the definition of “sexually active” was “physical contact with any body parts covered by a bikini.” By that definition, I was sexually active by the end of high school, even though I didn’t have sex until I was almost done with college. But “sexually active” is different from “virginity.” Virginity is much harder to define.

Some people define losing one’s virginity as a person’s first time having penis-in-vagina sex, but by that definition, gay and lesbian people who never experiment with straight people will remain virgins their entire lives. That doesn’t make any sense. I’m sorry to anyone who was using this as a sneaky way to cheat the “rules” and remain a virgin, but  oral and anal sex are included in the umbrella of acts that can remove one’s virginity, no matter what your friend Tara says. As clear as this is to me now, I considered myself a virgin for a while after I’d had oral sex. Our culture is very heteronormative, and still views sex largely from a straight male perspective. Even though penis-in-vagina sex doesn’t really do a whole lot for many women as far as pleasure is concerned, it’s still considered the gold standard.

With all that being said, at the end of the day you’re the one who needs to decide how you personally feel about sex. The question to ask yourself is, does any of this really matter? Does whether or not you are a virgin affect your value as an individual? Does it affect your identity positively or negatively? Does it affect your self esteem?.

Virginity is not always given up willingly, but it is still considered gone if it is lost in rape. If you do believe a person’s value is tarnished by sex, do you consider it just as bad for a victim as for a person who’s doing it of their own volition?

What about gender differences? If you find out that a female friend has had sex, how do you judge her? Now imagine that instead of a female friend, it is a male friend. How do you judge him? If there is a difference? Why is that?

You may have noticed that there is one, or any other number of unsettling things about the way you view virginity by asking yourself these questions, and there’s a reason why they’re unsettling: virginity is a concept that society made up: a social construct. It’s not actually important at all. I really mean that. Virginity is as much a social construct as the way we assume video games are for boys, the way someone invented dresses and said “these will be women’s clothing, not men’s.” It could have gone the other way. There’s no biological reason for women to wear dresses, or for video games to be marketed heavily to boys. It’s not the way things have to be, just the way our culture is. “Virgin” is a label applied to people who have not had sex, but sex is, at the end of the day, an experience, not necessarily a terrible or life-altering event.

Imagine if we had a label for people who had never eaten sushi, and although we judged people for never having eaten it, we also judged people who have. Imagine if people also claimed that there was a biological difference between people who ate it and those who didn’t–a sushi barrier that broke as soon as the delicious fish slid down your throat. Ridiculous right? That’s exactly what sex is though.

It’s an experience, just like eating sushi, or going sky diving, or going to work for the first time. It’s something many people do, and while the first time may be a milestone for you, it doesn’t make you a better or worse person than you were the day before. Yes, even in women, there is NO PHYSICAL DIFFERENCE between those who are virgins and those who are not. (FYI, hymens DO NOT POP, please click the link and educate yourself. And this one while you’re at it. Trust me on this, I’m a cisgender female with a hymen who’s having sex. And yes, those are both YouTube videos. Sadly, YouTube has frequently been a more reliable sex ed resource than traditional resources.)

But your search term included “secondary” virginity, which tells me that you’ve been sky diving. You’ve had figurative sushi before, and you’re interested in becoming a virgin again. I was raised Catholic, and taught that this could be done spiritually, through an appeal to God and a promise to follow Catholic teaching on sex (abstaining till marriage) in the future. I’m not going to lie to you. This is a complete waste of your time and energy. If you’ve eaten sushi, you’ve eaten sushi. If you’ve gone on an international vacation, you’ve gone on an international vacation. If you’ve been sky diving, you’ve been sky diving. Sex is part of your life experience now, just like every job you’ve had, every friendship, every lesson, every skill. Maybe you aren’t happy with how it happened. Maybe it was the wrong person. Maybe you were a victim. Whatever the circumstances, you can’t change the past. You can only move forward. Pretending the past didn’t happen is not a healthy way to do that.

You have to come to terms with the fact that you are no longer what society labels a “virgin,” just like I am no longer a college student. The transition from one label to another is difficult because it can become a huge part of your identity if it matters to you. I loved being a college student. But I was ready to move on to the next part of my life. Try to think of sex like that. You don’t have to do it again if you don’t want to. But you’ve done it now. You know what it’s like, at least in one circumstance, and now you can learn from it just like you can with any other experience. What you take away from it is up to you.
Has anyone else encountered this idea of secondary virginity? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Gender Roles and Chores: Reading Recommendation

A friend of mine shared this post on Facebook, and it really reflected my own experiences in my family, so I couldn’t wait to share it with you. The title is a bit weird, but don’t be put off by it. It’s actually a post expanding on a previous article by the same writer, which you can read here if you’re interested, but you can get the idea from the quotes in the first link. It’s about relationships, chores, and gender roles, and the author makes some points that I think help to explain at least some of the contributing factors to the fact that my mother runs my family’s house with little to no assistance unless she begs us to help her. And that’s not healthy for family life.

When people in a long term relationship–like a marriage–live together, they have to keep the magic alive. But they also have to go about their routines, and look after their home, and take care of the kids. This person argues that the way we unevenly split the duties of taking care of a household, leaving the woman (or to not be heteronormative, one partner) with most of the tasks, eventually drains the relationship. This is because essentially one person ends up managing all of the household chores and deciding when they will get done, leading to them having to nag the other person to help out, just like our moms did when we were kids.

As he explains,

…no matter how many times you sarcastically remind your wife that she’s not your mother and you wish she’d stop acting like it, she often feels like your mother.

This is bad for your sex life.

I think the reasoning behind this idea is pretty obvious, but his understanding of this issue goes much deeper than “making your wife feel like your parent is gross and stupid.” It is. But it’s also lazy, irresponsible, and not what you do in an equal relationship.

He goes on to write about how he would always tell his wife to ask him to help her when she needed it, never taking initiative himself to learn the regular activities that are necessary for the house to function and help do them as needed. If these were tasks he’d been assigned at work, he would figure out when to do them on his own, but at home? Never. He expected her to plan out when these things would need to get done, leaving her to manage everything from the chores to the schedules for everyone in the household, which is a lot for one person to manage. He writes:

I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is “I got this,” and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.

I always reasoned: “If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

But she didn’t want to be my mother.

She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.

 

I’m not gonna lie guys. I’m very guilty of this at home myself. Most days I don’t want to do chores, and as much as I love my mom, I have to really push myself to do them.

But here’s the thing. If I see dishes that are dirty, or a dishwasher full of clean dishes, I don’t need to be told “wash the dishes” or “empty the dishwasher.” I just need to kick myself in the pants and go do it.

Most of my family members–and by that I mean the 3 males in my family–are not like that. My dad literally asks my mom (and me now, for some reason) for step by step instructions on how to do simple everyday tasks like cooking pasta or reheating chicken from two days ago. It actually drives me crazy, because I’m in my early twenties. If anything, he’s way better at all of this than I am. But I have a vagina, so I need to be prepared to run a household someday, right?

I need to be prepared to delegate chores, and manage everyone’s schedule by myself, like my mom does, right?

I seriously hope not.

I’ve never known anyone more overwhelmed than she often is. She technically works 4 jobs (part time), 3 of which involve significant preparation beforehand (teaching music and being a musician). She is no longer physically capable of keeping the house tidy AND working all her jobs. She’s just too busy all the fucking time. And nobody helps her. Because my family’s very old fashioned. And a bit patriarchal. So it’s my mother’s job to tell everyone else what their jobs are. We’re all adults here (all except my youngest brother, who’s a high school sophomore. Where did the time go?) We’re all capable of pitching in without being told. So why is it so hard?

Maybe we take my mom for granted. Maybe we don’t respect her enough. Maybe she’s stuck between the lives of different generations, having the career that women today can have, but also juggling the tasks of a full time homemaker. She’s also the one who makes sure the bills get paid each month. (Apparently when they were just married, my mom had my dad pay the bills one month, and NOTHING GOT PAID. So she took over.)

Just as she took over the dishes when they didn’t get washed. And cleaning the bathrooms and the floors and dusting and de-cluttering the house. Our house is a fucking mess, I’m not going to lie to you. My family’s relationship with chores is not a healthy one. I’m part of the problem. But I’m the second most productive chore-doer in the house. There’s a pretty clear correlation between gender and chore-doing in this family. I try not to let it bother me, but it really does. I don’t know how long it will take, but I’m looking forward to moving out, to getting married, and to having a place with my fiance, in whatever order that occurs. It’ll be nice for us to work out our own system of divying up the chores fairly. I hope we can avoid settling into the roles my parents have assumed. I want us to be co breadwinners and co homemakers. I don’t think that’s a ridiculous thing to want. But we both grew up in a very gendered world. We’ll see with time how successful we can be at defying those old expectations.

What do you think about these articles? Have any of you had experiences relating to gender and chore completion in your lives? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

Recommended Reading: Is Hell Even Biblical?

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Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s been a little while since I made a post and I don’t have a lot of time right this minute to put into one, so instead, here’s an article I found a while back that I think is worth a read. It delves into the idea that maybe the hell Christians believe in isn’t even in the Bible. If it’s true, that would certainly change a lot of things. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the arguments herein because it gets into things like translations and frankly I just haven’t studied any of the languages involved. Having said that, I think this article presents some very interesting ideas and a new perspective on hell–that place people are always telling me I’m going to if I don’t become super religious. If hell isn’t Biblical, huge portions of Christian teaching become moot. So much for Pascal’s wager…

What are your thoughts on this article? Or on hell in general as an idea? Or both? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful of other people and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Handling Stressful News as an Atheist

praying hands and bible

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When one is religious, as I used to be, the first thing to do when something goes wrong is to pray. It’s almost a reflex. When you see an ambulance drive by, you bow your head. When you get bad news, you fold your hands. When you’re anxious about something, you lay your troubles at the feet of Jesus.

I’ll admit that I haven’t had many difficult situations to deal with since deconverting. Aside from some test anxiety and performance anxiety before giving some solos for my school’s music program, my life had been pretty calm, until a few months ago. I wrote this post long before the Paris attacks and the San Bernardino shooting reawakened our nation’s fears of terrorism, but I think now’s as good a time as any to further add to the discussion about prayer and what it really does for both the person praying, and the person the intentions are for.

My fiance, who is a generally healthy person, caught a bad sinus infection over the summer. He has a pretty strong immune system, so when he gets sick it typically doesn’t last long. I’ve seen him have a fever for a day and wake up the next morning healthy, so I wasn’t too worried. Then a few days later, I woke up to a phone call from his parents. He had been hospitalized during the night, complaining of chest pains. It turns out, the infection he had was viral, not bacterial, and it moved to his heart. His heart had been significantly weakened, but it was still going. He didn’t have a heart attack, thank goodness. I went to visit him the next day, and he just wanted to go home. He was worried about his health, and significantly weakened, but he was still himself, and that put me at ease more than anything.

Medical situations are some of the worst to face. I’m seeking work now, but that’s an issue I can resolve with clear steps. I know I’m contributing to a solution even if it takes a while. That simply is not the case when a loved one is in the hospital. Nothing I could do myself would make the problem go away, and when you’re religious, that’s a time when prayer is a particularly accessible source of comfort.

Even as an atheist, I was tempted to pray, given the situation, but I resisted that urge; I knew it wouldn’t do any good. I worried about him almost constantly until I saw him. I was still worried up until the moment he was finally discharged, but once I’d visited him, I felt significantly better. It’s a bit like the way I would feel better after praying. I felt like I did the right thing, and like it was a helpful thing to do. I used to think I’d never feel that relief again, but I felt it when I visited him, doing something tangible. In fact, I felt it more strongly than I ever felt with prayer. I knew I was getting personally involved, not simply asking for someone else to do something. Besides, being in a hospital waiting for test results or for an illness to go away is a slow process filled with periods of anxiety and boredom. While it may not have affected the final outcome–he would have gotten well regardless of whether or not I’d showed up–I was able to sit with him for a couple of hours and keep him company, helping the time to pass and at least alleviating some boredom.

Some people argue that prayer makes people feel better, and I’ll admit that it does. I’ve experienced it myself. But now I know that finding some small helpful thing to do–like visiting a sick friend, cooking dinner for a struggling family, or helping someone change a tire–is by far more rewarding to both the person helped AND the do-gooder than prayer. I don’t just feel like I’ve fulfilled an obligation as I would in the case of prayer. I feel like I’ve done what I can do to help. I feel helpful. And I know that feeling is justified because it’s accompanied with action. When something bad happens, whether it’s headline news or something more personal, I hope that as a community of human beings we can all come together and find tangible ways to help.

Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy