Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In Defense of Single Parents

Katrina Fernandez' recent post at The Crescat initially made me kind of frustrated and a little annoyed. Fernandez seems to resent the fact that the “gifted gays” got so much Synodal attention while single parents got only a one line mention. My first reaction was: Why do we feel the need to fight over the crumbs from the family table? The folks who kindof, sortof got maybe a little recognized (tentatively...) at the Extraordinary Synod are mostly people who have been routinely sidelined and marginalized within our community. Agreed, single parents are also in that boat. But why can't you say “Hey, we need recognition too” without implying that other people don't need recognition as much, or don't deserve the modicum of acknowledgement that they've received?
Then I read the com-box.
Then I thought some more.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane

This is one of the talks that I gave for Trinity school for Ministry over the weekend.

Beyond the Culture Wars: Listening to LGBTQ people in the Parish Today

I've been told that there are two types of people in the world. There are people who work from the particular to the general: they start with a single concrete example and then they work out from there, deriving principles along the way. A lot of contemporary writing, especially writing for women, is in this style. You pick up a woman's magazine and the story almost invariably begins with a little slice of life, someone's particular story, or a cute event that happened while the author was baking apricot crumble. There are other people who work from the general to the particular. They start with grand universal theses and then slowly focus in their particular area of interest. Everyone who has ever attended high-school knows that this is the way that we are taught to write the introduction to a formal essay. You start with a grand statement like “Star-crossed love has been a perennial fascination since first human beings began to tell stories around the fire,” and you end up with a tight, focused thesis like “Romeo was a trumped up playboy, and Juliet was a ditz.”

Monday, September 8, 2014


I've been rooting around on the internet for Catholic resources aimed at helping transgender people and their parents. It's a bit of wasteland. Most of the articles that you can find aren't even intended to be helpful to someone who is dealing with this – as a community we seem to be more concerned with defending Catholic sexual ideology than with ministering to trans people.

I think that there are several key misconceptions about transfolks that fuel that largely negative response. I'd like to briefly treat six of them here.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Homeschooling and Paranoia

13 years ago, when I was a young mother standing on the pro-life picket line I was in an unusual position. Because I had a baby I was treated as one of the adults by the older members of the group and was therefore privy to all of the adult conversations about child-rearing, homeschooling and the dangers of modern society. As a 21 year old I was also accepted by the teenagers who had come along with their parents, and I encountered a curious effect. The parents raved about the advantages of homeschooling, particularly how they had been able to shelter and protect their children from all sorts of malign influences – especially too-early exposure to sexual information. From the teenagers I heard about how they had to shelter their parents from the realization that actually, secretly, they knew the same stuff that the secular schoolkids knew.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pain, Labour and Suicide

The internet has been awash for the past couple of days with discussions of suicide. The discussion seems to break down into three basic groups: people who have actually experienced suicidal depression who are trying to explain what it is, people who have never experienced it but who are trying to offer compassionate support, and people who have never experienced it but are pretty sure that people who do are whining narcissists.

At the heart of the debate over suicide is a basic disagreement that has troubled philosophy for as long as people have been asking the Big Questions: Is it possible for a person to experience suffering of such intensity that they become functionally incapable of rationally exercising their moral free will?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Eros & Thanatos

In these philosophical dialogues, questions of love, sex, death and retribution are explored by a group of characters representing a wide diversity and experience.

Unlike many books with a dialogue format, this one doesn't have a Socrates character who is always right. Each character brings some aspect of truth to the table and it is only through a clash of ideas and insights that they approach a solution to the problems they confront.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Criminalizing the Buying of Sex in Canada

Many political conservatives in the United States are accustomed to looking at Canada as a hotbed of liberalism, where the consequences of the sexual revolution have progressed further than they have at home. So it’s nice to be able to write about something that Canada is doing right.

Bill C-36, the Conservative government’s proposed prostitution bill, is currently being fast-tracked through Canada’s legislative system following a decision by the Canadian Supreme Court to strike down the existing prostitution laws late last winter. The existing laws were challenged on the basis that they endangered prostitutes in order to advance a Victorian agenda of social decency.

Read the whole article at the National Catholic Register here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Unclean Spirit of Gender Ideology

There's been some buzz around the internet lately about the concept of gender ideology, and Pope Francis referring to it as “demonic.” So I wanted to talk about what exactly “gender ideology” is, and how it relates to the experience of transfolk.

Basically, gender ideology is a dualist ideology that collapses all of human sexuality, maleness and femaleness, into either biological difference or social construction. As is generally the case with dualism the body is considered to be relatively unimportant in relation to the mental/spiritual/interior aspects of the self and so the relevance of biological difference is usually downplayed. Sexuality interacts with the more fundamental aspects of the person only in terms of gender and gender, masculinity and femininity, is understood solely in reference to social conditioning which proponents of gender ideology see as basically arbitrary, and usually sexist.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Alaska Townhall Event

I’m going to be involved in a townhall event today in Anchorage Alaska. Up until this afternoon I’ve been kind of dreading it: reading the bios of the other four participants I felt like I was totally the odd duck in the pond. I’m female. Canadian. Queer. Catholic. They’re male. American. Straight or ex-gay. Protestant. But we had lunch together and talked about this afternoon’s event, and I’m actually really excited for tonight. I’m still the most liberal person in the group, but I don’t feel embattled about it, which is really good. Also the form is cool. Usually when I do stuff it’s basically a long pre-prepared talk followed by Q&A. It means that I write and rehearse a performance, and then give it on the day of, ideally without visibly relying on my crib sheet. (My long-term ambition is to be able to use the ancient ars memoriae to be able to give speeches with my hands entirely free in the style of a Roman orator. But perhaps it’s better that I can’t do that, since I might be instantly damned for vanity if I ever pulled it off.)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Man Down

One of the reasons that the “distant father/smothering mother” narrative, and other related psychotherapeutic stories, continues to hold clout in Christian circles are the claims that therapists make about their own experience. On the surface, it's very reasonable to think that if someone has worked with hundreds, or thousands, of same-sex attracted clients and has seen a pattern that emerges in the vast majority of cases, their testimony can be taken as highly authoritative.

But there's a problem. Although a handful of clinicians see this pattern over and over and over again, the vast majority of psychotherapists (regardless of their ideological convictions) do not. This points towards an overarching problem with using clinical experience, rather than randomly sampled studies, in order to understand the genesis of homosexuality. What's the difference? Well, in clinical experience if you see a pattern, you might just assume causation. In a randomly sampled study, you're able to investigate whether the pattern is a) universalizable (or at least widespread) in a non-clinically presenting population, and b) whether the pattern is more prevalent in the population being studied that it is in the population generally. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Man Up

I wrote a little bit yesterday about the problem of Christian media surrounding homosexuality tending to support the psychological theories which suggest that parents are responsible for making their kids gay. I've since learned that the producers of the The Third Way actually weren't going out of their way to present that narrative – it's much more that they found it hard to find people who were willing to be interviewed for the project, and most of the people who were willing were either reparative therapists, or were folks for whom the standard narrative fit. Fair enough. People who honestly had bad experiences with their families of origin should have the right to tell those stories, and if they're the only ones who stand up, they're the only ones who stand up.
That said, there are two strong reasons why I don't think we can exculpate Christian culture for its role in perpetuating these stereotypes.

Friday, May 2, 2014

For All the Good Moms and Dads

I promised that I was going to write about "The Third Way." Tonight, I'm not going to give a complete review. I'm just going to address a single point.
It's a point that a lot of people sweep under the carpet, they say "Well, that's some people's experience, and you can't deny the right of those people to speak about their experience." True enough. Or they say, "The film had so much else right, and it didn't exactly say this..." Also true. But the point is not a little one. It's a very large one, and it's caused a lot of scandal and a lot of grief over the years.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Where Did Those Trialogues Go?

I recently posted the first few in a series of videos, they have since disappeared into the vortex. What happened? Basically, there's been a certain amount of the usual controversy about whether or not gay people in the Church are allowed to call themselves gay. The site that was hosting them has decided that it doesn't want to be embroiled in that controversy -- which is fair enough. Its primary outreach involves the promotion of NFP. If I was doing a series of posts about NFP for Spiritual Friendship, and it caused SF to be plunged into some of the uglier in-fighting between different NFP camps, I would understand if Ron said "Let's not go there."

Anyway, the videos will be resurfacing eventually, probably sometime over the summer or next fall. Basically whenever Ron, Joey and I have enough time to build a web-site.

If you're interested in something with much higher production values, albeit a higher cringe-worthy cheese factor, you can check out The Third Way. I'm in it. I'm going to be writing a fuller response to it over the next couple of days.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Apparently After 2am I Become an Augustinian

Once upon a time beauty was everywhere
But somehow when we fell it altered
Concentrated in particular moments
Made more beautiful by contrast
And the reign almost ubiquitous of ugliness
Was the triumph of the good
Everywhere truth fell to pieces
And we fed on her entrails in the dark
Yet somehow in the hungered frenzy
We tasted something Real
And knew it was a person
And longed to know His name
We cried in the darkness
And no one could explain
Except the darkness
The silence
The soft still voice beyond the waterfall
The one who could have been a raging fire
But chose to be a quiet whisper.
And that is how we knew Him
How we trusted
Because He hardly announced Himself at all
Just moved in to our heart
And became one
With no explanation, or apology
No accounting for this wonderful pain
Only truth and terrible beauty
That we long for
That we long for
Beyond desiring
Beyond the furthest strength of our hope
Where grace alone suffices.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's My Birthday Precious!

I've been away from the blog for a while. I have all the good excuses: Christmas chaos, six sick children, etc. But I've become increasingly embarrassed that the first visible post here is about Duck Dynasty. In order to correct for this egregious aesthetic fault, I provide the following reflection by Henri Nouwen. This comes courtesy of my friend Wesley Hill (if you haven't read his book, you must) on the occasion of my birthday: