One: Fraudulent Catholics

June 14, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In my last post, I mentioned that in May I had spent a week in western Massachusetts at a cabin on a lake near our grandkids, Wylliam and Nora. We had a pretty good time with them, though I do tend to think, after a week with a three-year-old and a five-year-old, that parents who manage not to be truly violent deserve a medal.

I also mentioned that on Pentecost Sunday I went to the Catholic church near Wales, the Massachusetts town where we were staying. I am generally wary about churches I’m not familiar with, but it was Pentecost, for Pete’s sake, so I decided to take my chances.

The service itself was unmemorable, except for the fact that it could have passed for a perfectly good Mass at the parish I grew up in just over the city line from Philadelphia circa 1959. In the sermon, most of which has mercifully left my memory, the pastor referred to the disciples at the Last Supper as “Jesus’ first priests.” This reminded me of a pronouncement by the ever-retiring Sister Elizabeth Johnson, back at, I believe, the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Francisco in 1997. “Let’s be clear,” EJ announced. ” Jesus didn’t ordain anybody.” And at the end of the Mass, before he left he altar, the priest and the congregation together prayed a lengthy prayer to the Virgin Mary–maybe it was the “Hail Holy Queen”–and a second prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel that I had totally forgotten., though I knew every word of it. Both were in English, I’m pleased to report.

The striking part of my visit to St. Christopher’s, however, took place while I was hanging out in the lobby waiting for my husband the Baptist to pick me up. There was a  poster on the bulletin board titled “Fraudulent Catholics.” That sounded pretty interesting, so I sauntered over and gave it a read.

It was a poster warning Catholics about US politicians who claim to be Catholics but actually aren’t because of their voting record. There were either sixteen or twenty photographs of people like Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sibelius, Barbara Mikulski and John Kerry, Ken Salazar and a bunch more–folks you’d be quite familiar with. 

The poster, it turns out, was published by the American Life League, a pro-life group. I wondered why a group called the “American” Life League gets to decide who is and is not a Catholic, but it turns out, it’s a “Catholic” group, if not a very catholic one. I tried to find the poster on their web page after I came home but it wasn’t there. I wrote to their contact email address asking for a copy but never heard back from them. Guess they don’t reach out to the likes of me.

Myself, I have thought from time to time of writing something about “bad Catholics,” by which I mean Catholics like the people in my family, and families like ours, who did their best, but were not exactly saints. Like my my great-grandmother, Hannah Kelly, an Irish domestic, for example, who married an Episcopalian and sat saying the rosary in her rocking chair every Sunday while her husband took the kids to church.

“Fraudulent” is another matter, though. Has kind of a nasty edge to it. Hard to fit it in with the things Jesus was given to saying about loving your enemy. Clearly, these American Life League folks are offering a variation on the kind of Catholicism I was writing about in my post, “Only Sex Matters,” except this time the title can be narrowed even further: “Only Abortion Matters.” As for Nancy Pelosi, who worked her butt off to secure health coverage for thirty million or so Americans, a good number of whom won’t need to have abortions because they’ll finally have access to regular medical check-ups as well as contraceptives, who cares about her?

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On Vacation: Kids, Pollen, Books!

June 1, 2010 at 11:33 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Last week Keith and I drove up to western Massachusetts to spend the week in a cottage on Lake George near our grandkids, Nora, age 3, and Wylliam, age 5. We spent a lot of time chasing them around, pushing them on swings, resolving altercations, serving popsicles and juice boxes, etc., etc. The kids especially liked the paddle boat on the lake from which they could fish, wearing their dear little life jackets. They each caught little fish which we  threw back after cheering them for being such brilliant fisherpeople. 

I’m m not actually much of a country girl; not for nothing do we live in the bowels of Brooklyn. But beyond my basic preference for cities, the pollen in western Mass was really dreadful last week; you could actually see it flying toward you in the wind, great masses of it. I suffered most of the time we were there from an overweening desire to sleep, even as I lived on Sudafed. Doesn’t make for great grandma-ing I’m afraid, but the kids were fairly patient. I read somewhere that the huge increase in pollen in recent years is a result of global warming–longer warmer seasons grow more plants that produce more pollen–so I have got me an appointment with an allergist. Weekly shots are better than sleeping all the time, doncha think?

A favorite part of the vacation, for me, were my two trips to the Book Bear, an amazing second-hand book store on Route 9 up above the grandkids’ house in Warren, Mass. Even grannies deserve the occasional escape!The Book Bear’s  religion collection, in particular, was terrific, and I bought twelve books for fifty dollars. Among them was a study of the Presentation BVM Sisters of South Dakota, Women with Vision, written by two women’s historians who tie the nuns into the history of the American west in ways  that really stick in your mind. At one point, for example, the original sisters, who came from Ireland to work with the Native Americans, lived in a sod hut as the pioneers did, but had to give up when they couldn’t support themselves from the tiny group of students they managed to recruit (and then the tribe moved on). Another group of them developed techniques for begging when they ran out of food–among them, hanging a flag out the window so the Catholics in the town would come to their rescue. I’d have been tempted to go back to Dublin.

I also found a life of Mother Cabrini by an Indian (subcontinental) Catholic and a biography of Mother Seton which, when I got it home, I discovered had been written by Leonard Feeney, the infamous “Father Feeney” whose interpretation of “outside the Church there is no salvation” got him excommunicated in 1953. It wasn’t easy being to the right of the Holy Office before Vatican II, but Feeney managed to do it. I’m perishing to hear his take on Elizabeth Bayley Seton,

Well, there are nine more books to tell you about, but I think I’ll save that for another post. Also, you simply must hear about my trip to St. Christopher’s Church, near Sturbridge, on Pentecost Sunday, where I listened to a sermon that could have been preached, word for word, in my childhood parish in Philly circa 1959. Stay tuned.

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