Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Throwing Your Heart in the Trash

He who is sated loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.  
Proverbs 27:7
Now that the feminists have made the world safe for neanderthals by clearing away all the rules and taboos and social norms that once kept boorish behavior in check, and put the kibosh on the sexual exploitation of women, all sorts of things are acceptable that should not be.  And now that the unacceptable is not only acceptable but respectable, many women seem unable any longer to distinguish between a good catch and a loser.  It is at once amazing, frustrating and heartbreaking to see what members of my sex are prepared to put up with in the name of Not Being Alone.  In our oversexed world, full of promiscuity, fatherless families and irreligion, we have been trained to view ourselves as nothing.

This is a depressing tide that I cannot stem alone.  But I still want to do my poor bit to shed some light into this overwhelming darkness.  So, for all the ladies out there who are in a bad situation or teetering on the brink of one:

Your Boyfriend Is Probably a Loser If:

...He Is Violent and/or Emotionally Abusive.  Yes, this should be obvious, but sadly, for many, it is not.  Where there is true love, there is peace and trust.  Real love wants nothing but the best for the beloved; in fact, the ultimate goal of real love is the salvation of the other person as well as oneself.  No one who truly loves you is going to use physical force on you.  Period.  No one who truly loves you is going to terrorize you, or keep you in a constant state of frenzy, or belittle you or manipulate you.  Such behavior is repugnant to true love.  True love would rather die than treat the beloved that way.  If that is the treatment you are getting, run, and don't look back

...He Is Chronically Unemployed.  Bad times hit us all.  I have been out of work in my life, and I know exactly how harrowing it is to have bills mounting and no money coming in.  But if your boyfriend is out of work, what's he doing about it?  Is he out pounding the pavement?  Is he at the unemployment office coming the classifieds, sending out resumes, making phone calls, visiting potential jobsites, signing up with temp agencies?  Is he taking anything and everything that comes along, no matter how grueling or humiliating, until he finds a good job?  Sending out an application a day is not looking for work.  Devoting ten minutes a day to job hunting and spending the remaining 23 hours and 50 minutes to sleeping and playing video games is not looking for work.  Waiting to be named ambassador to the Court of St. James is not looking for work.  Is your boyfriend capable of holding a job for more than two weeks at a stretch, or has he had six jobs in the last six weeks?  Does he show up on time to work, and do his job diligently?  Or does he party all night and then sleep until 3:00 p.m.?  Is his mother paying his bills?  Are you?  If a guy is not serious about work, how can he be serious about a relationship?

...You Are Taking Care of His Financial Obligations to the Criminal Justice System.  First off, if your boyfriend has constant entanglements with the criminal justice system, don't walk, but run for the nearest exit.  He's not in all that trouble because the cops are out to get him: the common denominator in all his woes is him.  Secondly, if you are constantly bonding his ass out of jail, or paying his fines, or paying for his court-ordered domestic violence treatment that he has to do because he beat you up, that should tell you everything you need to know about what he thinks is your mission in life.

...You Are Constantly Accompanying Him to Court.  This might be your turkey's idea of a date, but it should not be that of any woman in her senses.  Add another three strikes if the reason you're accompanying him is because his driver's license is suspended and you are his ride.

...He Does Drugs or Abuses Alcohol.  A guy who does drugs is not taking care of business.  He is, however, wasting a lot of time and money on his habit.  Habitual drug use does impair your mental faculties over time, and it does stunt your emotional growth -- and yes, this includes marijuana.  Also, if the guy does illegal drugs in your home, or uses your car for his illegal drug activity, you could end up having your property forfeited out from under you.  Plus, people do steal in order to nourish their habit.  A guy who abuses alcohol will be a source of endless domestic misery even if he can hold down a steady job.  Marrying an addict will not cure the addiction.     

...He Asks You for Sex.  Startling -- in this day and age -- but true.  Sex is not merely recreational.  It is the deepest expression of love and commitment possible between two human beings.  It is a total self-giving.  It leads to the creation of life.  It calls for reverence.  That is why it is only for marriage.  Anything outside of marriage is a mockery.  A man who wants to bed a woman down without any sort of commitment is only using her.   Every good father understands this: that is why good fathers are the natural enemies of boys who want to bed down their daughters.  It is a shame that so many girls grow up in fatherless families, and therefore never learn this.  But if you have a good father, or know one, think about this: run from any man who wants to do anything with you that that father would protect his daughter from.

...He Wants You to Shack Up.  Remember this, ladies: shack-up relationships are made to be walked away from.  What else could possibly be the point of playing house without a marriage license?  Moving in with him will not make him marry you.  Repeat: moving in with him will not make him marry you.  All you are doing is providing this jerk with a housekeeper, an economic advantage (is he even working?) and commitment-free sex into the bargain.  And by the way, you will not hang on to the bum by getting pregnant by him, either.  If he really loved you and any future kids, why would he be afraid to enter into a legally binding commitment with you?

Ladies: it is perfectly okay to be alone.  In fact, that may well be your vocation.  It is far, far better to be alone than to live in the captivity of an emotional slave-driver.  If your man is a bum, he doesn't just need the love of a good woman.  If he is a bum, he is incapable of appreciating you or your love, except to the extent you serve his purposes for the moment; you cannot fix him.  If he is a criminal, it is beyond your poor power to reform him.  You will not succeed where the criminal justice system, with all its money and coercive police power and shrinks and probation officers, have failed.  The cube of sugar he tosses you now and then is not worth the gallons of bile you get the rest of the time. 

A man is not a unique fixer-upper opportunity.  If you can't cure a decent man of annoying little habits like leaving the seat up, or throwing his socks on the floor, or filling the bathroom sink with his whiskers, how much less can you expect to succeed in making Sir Galahad out of Al Capone.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Front Widens in the War on Children

I have previously reflected in this space on our society's hatred of children under a veneer of sentimentality.  Until now, nothing made this more clear than the twin scourges of contraception and abortion, jealously guarded and cherished as "rights," coupled with the spectacle of western governments attacking the seal of the confessional in the name of "protecting" the innocence of children.

As the much-reviled Ann Coulter correctly points out in her book Guilty, marriage has been effectively destroyed as an institution that protects children.  We have grown complacent in the face of wave after wave of assaults on marriage, and therefore children: the promotion of licentiousness under the guise of freedom; the divorce of the sex act from procreation; the wide acceptance of concubinage and fatherless families; the movement for "sex education" for younger and younger children, together with the distribution of contraceptives to children; and, most recently, the increasing legal recognition of "marriages" between people of the same sex.

Now that we are so nonchalant about promiscuity, and homosexuality has come out of the closet, is it any wonder that aficionados of other forms of perversion are feeling a little bolder? Now the pedophiles are lobbying to have their twisted predilections removed from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  At a symposium hosted by a child-molester advocacy group called B4U-ACT, Dr. Fred Berlin of Johns Hopkins University gave the keynote address, expressing his support for the destigmatization of sexual attraction to children.  It is claimed, among other things, that "children are not inherently unable to consent" to sex with adults; that pedophiles "have feelings of love and romance for children" indistinguishable from romantic feelings between adults; and that "the DSM should 'focus on the needs' of the pedophile, and should have 'a minimal focus on social control,' rather than obsessing about the 'need to protect children.'"  There is now even a euphemism with its own acronym for pervs: "minor-attracted people" or "MAPs."

There can be no doubt that ours is an age in which the unthinkable quickly morphs into the commonplace.  A hundred years ago, who could have imagined that by 2008, 41% of all children born in this country would be born out of wedlock?  Fifty years ago, who could have imagined that by 2011, the number of abortions performed in this country since 1973 would approach the total number of those killed during World War II?  Thirty years ago, how many people seriously believed that by 2011, ten countries and six of the United States (not to mention D.C.) would legalize gay "marriage"?

So perhaps we should not be so quick to dismiss the disgusting pretensions of the cho-mo lobby.  It is now a crime in some countries to publicly ventilate views consistent with the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality; we may very well live to see a day when it will be a crime for parents to keep their children out of the reach of degenerates.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 16, 1917: Death of Fr. William Doyle, S.J.

I hope one of these days, August 16th will become the feast of St. William Doyle, the "Trench Priest" who died in the midst of his ministry to the dying at the Battle of Ypres 96 years ago today, a martyr of charity.  But for now, it is simply the anniversary of the death of Servant of God Willie Doyle.  Fr. Willie has appeared several times in this space (e.g., here, here, and here).  An entire blog is dedicated to his memory: for the ether's best compendium of Fr. Doyle commentary and biographical material, as well as Fr. Doyle's writings, visit Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ.

Fr. Doyle does have a cause for canonization, but it has been in the deep freeze for decades.  Let us hope and pray for the rekindling of devotion to him, so that he may once more step into the trenches to the rescue of his beloved Ireland and Society of Jesus.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Amil Myshin, R.I.P.

Today, a multitude of family, friends, colleagues, judges, prosecutors and court staff descended upon the chapel at Summers Funeral Home in downtown Boise to pay their respects and say farewell to a great lawyer and remarkable human being.

Three years was all too short a time in which to get to know Amil Myshin.  I enjoyed going up to the fifth floor of the courthouse and watching him on his hind legs, when my own calendar permitted.  But the best thing was the lunchtime conversations.  Amil was a great raconteur.  Whether he talked about old cases, or his sons, or his days in the service, or my first boss who used to work with him, or his scuba-diving adventures, it would have been a delight -- if it were possible -- just to sit and listen to him tell stories all day.  And laugh.  Amil had so much laughter in him that it would have taken a concerted effort not to laugh with him.  It was as much fun to watch Amil laugh as it was to laugh oneself.

The Gospel of Matthew says that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks; and so it is possible to learn a lot about a man as much by what comes out of his mouth as by how he conducts himself.  What sort of a man did Amil's words and conduct reveal?  It was clear that he enjoyed a good fight; but -- if one can trot out a metaphor -- he was no common, swaggering street brawler.  Amil was a gentleman.  And -- to extend the metaphor -- it was not for the sake of seeing blood spurt from wounds or feeling bones crack beneath his fists that he enjoyed a fight, but for the contest of wit and skill and endurance that he carried out with quiet dignity.  And he never forgot that matters of life and death hung upon his skill.  His courage always rose to match the stakes for which he fought, stakes than which there are none higher in the legal system.   

What mark should decades of defending accused murderers -- looking at crime scene and autopsy photos and poring over gruesome reports and listening to witness accounts of unspeakable brutality and witnessing a client's execution -- leave on a man's soul?  No lawyer or his family could come entirely unscathed through such ordeals. Amil was no different: he took some real blows on account of his work.  The danger of taking on hardships is that we may permit the toughness they build up to carry over into callousness.  But during the time that I knew Amil, in the last three years of his life, he was kindly, patient, gentle, modest, self-effacing, understanding, and cheerful.  In fact, considering all that he had seen and gone through over the years, his character was as remarkable for those things that it lacked as for those that it possessed.  Amil's vocabulary was not always the cleanest -- that is unfortunately a side effect of our trade -- but his professionalism was such that I never heard him utter a harsh word all the time I knew him, even in his moments of exasperation.  Even a consummate professional like Amil must occasionally let slip some flaw, whether he wants to or not; yet every time I interacted with him, I was struck by the complete absence in him of bitterness, egotism, pettiness, vindictiveness, meanness, vanity or pusillanimity.  And I could not -- cannot -- help considering how poorly my own behavior and attitude compared with his.  Even the last time I talked with him, when he was obviously ill and weak and distracted, he was uncomplaining and dignified, and still managed a few laughs.

But years and years of high-pressure, high-stakes, high-profile cases take their toll at last.  Amil shone out as a clear beacon over miles of rough seas, but the tower that housed that beacon was crumbling.  He struggled hard to go on preparing his last big case, even as his strength ebbed, until finally even his still-robust spirit had to yield to his physical exhaustion.  By the close of August 6th -- the Feast of the Transfiguration -- all was over.

Greater love than this no man has, said Jesus, that he lay down his life for his friends.  What I saw of Amil, especially toward the end, convinced me that he did indeed lay down his life.  Who were the friends for whom he laid it down?  Anyone who has ever worked as a public defender, as he did, could rattle off a fairly accurate description.  Clients who worked hard to try his patience.  Clients who called him 20 or 30 times a day and left threatening or raging messages on his voice mail.  Clients who tried to manipulate him and play him off against his co-counsel.  Clients who complained about him.  Clients who wrote nasty letters.  Clients who tried to make trouble for him and get him fired off their cases.  Clients who would do and say things publicly that would blow weeks' worth of his hard work all to hell, and create weeks' worth of additional work into the bargain.  Clients who fought him every step of the way, even though he was their only friend in the whole system.  Yet, for their sakes, he was glad to give all he had, even the strength to go on living.  Amil savored the thrill of combat, but in the end, he fought -- and died -- for love.

I do not know whether Amil thought of it in those terms, but with all that he had and all that he did for them, he loved every last societal outcast that he defended, no matter what they stood accused of or what they had actually done.  I do not know what level of commitment Amil had to the Christian faith, but he clearly knew something about sacrificial love.  He clearly knew, and lived, the love that is not a warm, fuzzy feeling, but an act of the will.  He knew, and lived, the love that wills to serve, freely and voluntarily, to the best of one's ability -- and even to the death -- people one knows will repay one with nothing except rank ingratitude.  Can such a love as this fail to cover a multitude of faults?

I trust that, in that supreme moment, when Amil stood before his God in the greatest trial of all, upon whose outcome depend the greatest stakes of all, it did not.  R.I.P.

Amil Norman Myshin, Jr. (1946-2011)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Worshiping in Glass Houses...?

Bishop Tod Brown -- who, by the way, used to be the Bishop of Boise -- wants this to be the next Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.   In fact, the diocese has upped its offer to purchase the building from $50 million to $53.6 million -- cash. 

I dunno.  On the one hand, subscribing as I do to the Catholic Church's peculiar claim to be the One True Church, I kinda like the idea of the Catholic Church baptizing a building that had not previously been devoted to Catholic worship.  Plus, it is suggested that this may be the best the diocese can expect in the way of a new cathedral from Bishop Brown, who (a) is running out of time before he has to tender his resignation to Rome; (b) has a great desire to raise a Tod Mahal in the Diocese of Orange, and (c) is a man of the same stamp as the Cardinal who gave Los Angeles the Taj Mahony. 

On the other hand, there are some inescapable facts about the Crystal Cathedral:

-- It's ugly.

-- It was not designed to serve as a setting for Catholic worship.

-- It's ugly.  

-- The present bishop of the diocese is not likely to want the Crystal Cathedral to look like a space for Catholic worship.

-- It's ugly.

-- The next bishop may very well want a Catholic-looking cathedral, making this a huge white elephant to cope with.

-- It's ugly.

And what about the fact that southern California is where we keep a huge percentage of all the world's earthquakes?   Sure, the Crystal Cathedral is still standing, but it's only 31 years old: it hasn't really exactly stood the test of time.  I can picture hundreds of worshipers being julienned under a Niagara of shattered glass.

And did I mention: the Crystal Cathedral is ugly?

It is true that the current Cathedral of Orange is notso hotso, and that the diocese could really use a new one.  But maybe it's time for Catholics to stop resigning ourselves to settling for the least ugly alternative.  Surely, the best thing would be to leave the relatively small current mess to the next bishop, whoever he is, rather than saddle him with the enormity now contemplated.

Bishop Brown turns 75 this November 15th.  Let him offer up, for his flock, the sacrifice of not being able to give the diocese his own peculiar stamp.

And the Crystal Cathedral would indeed be peculiar.

Monday, August 08, 2011

O Wondrous Hope

Dominican student brothers sing the Dominican Hymn O Spem Miram:

And here is our friend Giovanni Vianini teaching the Dominican chant version.

What wonderful Hope thou gavest in thy dying moments to those who were in sorrow around thee, when thou promised that thou wouldst help thy brethren after thy death. Fulfill thy promise, Holy Father, and help us by thy prayers. Thou who so often showed thy strength by healing the bodies of the sick, and bring to us also the power of Christ and heal our sick spirits. Alleluia. 

And on this feast of Holy Father Dominic, I learned of the passing of Amil Myshin, an attorney I worked with.  Amil was a kindly man, full of laughs, a gentleman and a fine lawyer who spent himself in the service of some very challenging clients and died in harness.  Please pray for the repose of his soul.  R.I.P.

UPDATE: Idaho Statesman story on Amil.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

To Save Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks

I have been thinking lately about an occasion on which a friend in the Charismatic movement decried the rules and conditions attached to novenas, the gaining of indulgences, the practice of pious disciplines, etc., and the alleged tendency on the part of many people to get so caught up in these rules as to deprive themselves of peace of mind and freedom of spirit.  Some relief was expressed over the fact that many of these rules have been abandoned over recent decades.

Naturally, I objected, and registered my protest.  I admit to being of a legalistic bent -- it is no accident that I became a lawyer.  But although I have previously decried, in this space, the tyranny of petty rules and regulations, the question of religious disciplines and devotions does not come under the category of petty rules.  Rules that help us in the primary business of our lives on earth -- gaining heaven -- cannot possibly be thought of as petty.  In fact, I submit that Catholics who would like to do away with rules and disciplines in the Church come dangerously close to courting a parsimonious, judgmental spirit that may one day lead them out of the Church altogether.

It would be wonderful if we were all so mature in our faith as to be able to fly straight to God like an eagle flying up to the sun, instead of needing signposts and guides and road markings and other things that assure us that we are on the right path.  But Jesus knew better when He instituted the Church, and gave her the power to make rules in His name.  These rules are not bludgeons against charity; they are the product of charity.  They are tutors.  They help us to love God in the way He wants to be loved.  They help us to persevere in prayer.  For some, they help to make up for a lack of childhood formation.  They make it clear whether or not we have attained some spiritual goal for which we have striven, such as the gaining of an indulgence.  (Some Catholics, by the way, are in the unexamined habit of conceding that Martin Luther was right about indulgences, forgetting -- if they ever knew -- that he opposed not merely the sale of indulgences but indulgences themselves, which violates the teaching of the Church.)  In short, the rules are teachers, helpers and supports.  They are a means by which God not only meets us halfway, but actually stoops all the way down to us in our littleness.

There are those who think that obedience to rules is a bad reason for ever doing anything for God's sake, and that if we are going to pray or attend Mass or use the Sacraments, it is worthless unless we do so in a spirit and with a feeling of joyful generosity.  The ultimate end of such thinking is the belief that it is wrong to require Catholics to attend Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation, or to receive Holy Communion or go to confession at least once a year.  I submit that this view is not only foolhardy but opposed to generosity.  The inescapable facts are that we still suffer the effects of original sin, and therefore most of us will not do what we ought to do unless we are required to.  For proof, one need look no farther than the effective abolition of Friday penances.  If we have the choice whether to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year, then most of us will not do it.  I did not do it until I entered the Order of Preachers, in which year-round Friday abstention is still practiced.  Nor can the case be made that the world is a better place for the failure of Catholics to observe disciplines.  This is probably one of the reasons why the bishops of England and Wales are bringing back mandatory abstention on every Friday of the year.

But those who don't like obedience are overlooking one very important thing: God does like obedience.  Ask any faithful priest or religious, in whose lives obedience is central.  St. Faustina teaches that the tiniest acts stamped with the seal of obedience are of immense value in God's eyes.  And most of us ought to know from experience that most of the time, God wants us to labor in obedience in order to train us up in the will to do His will.  Good feelings about doing things for His sake are a pure gratuity that He grants or withholds at His good pleasure, and so it is a mistake to judge the quality of good acts based on their presence or absence.  Merit lies, not in our feelings, but in our will.  And our will, tainted by the effects of original sin, needs training.  Hence rules.

Rules consistent with the Gospel and made in charity uphold the weak.  For some people -- maybe many or even most people -- obedience to rules is all they have to keep them on the straight and narrow.  Far be it from anyone to judge the quality of their love for God, or to take away their only support during hard times.  To abolish the rules is not freedom.  It is not mercy.  It is in fact an act of brutality.  It is the breaking off of bruised reeds, and the quenching of smoldering wicks.  God save us from those who want to "save" us from rules.