:: Musings of an Amphibious Goat ::

theology, philosophy, mythology, art, literature, piracy, marian shrine shot glasses, and glass chickens
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ABORTION
EXPLOIT$
WOMEN!

stop the violence.
[::..pro-life&feminist..::]
:: Feminists for Life
:: Feminist Pro-Life Quotes
:: Feminist Case Against Abortion
:: Pro-Woman Answers to Pro-Choice Questions
:: Women Deserve Better
:: Feminists for Life NY
:: Pat Goltz
(FFL co-founder)
:: Pro-Life Feminist Gear
:: Nurturing Network
:: Feminism & Nonviolence Studies
:: National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
:: Seamless Garment Network
:: Catholic Worker
:: Habitat for Humanity
:: SBA-List: Take Action!
[::..post-abortion..::]
:: After Abortion
:: Project Rachel
:: Rachel's Vineyard
:: Silent No More
:: Silent No More Awareness Campaign
:: After Abortion Blog
:: Remember:
Partial Listing of Women Dead from Legal Abortions
[::..essential books..::]
:: Prolife Feminism Yesterday & Today
:: Pro-Life Feminism: Different Voices
:: Swimming Against the Tide: Feminist Dissent on the Issue of Abortion
If you have any trouble finding the books above, contact Feminists For Life.
:: Real Choices: Listening to Women, Looking for Alternatives to Abortion
:: Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion
[::..catholic..::]
:: Catholic Feminism
:: "A Woman's Place"
:: Great Catholic Sex
:: JP2 on Great Sex
:: Bible
:: Daily Reading
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:: Patron Saints Index
[::..catholic news..::]
:: ZENIT
:: Catholic World News
:: Byzantine News
[::..funstuff..::]
:: Aztec Calendar
:: TV W/O Pity
:: Urban Legends
:: Act One
[::..folks..::]
:: Mark Shea's Blog
:: Mike Epstein
:: Barbara Nicolosi
:: Michael Jameson
:: Catholic Blogs
:: Pious Ladies' Books
:: Meniere's.Org
[::..blog archive..::]

:: Thursday, September 26, 2002 ::

A Few Answers for an Abortion Advocate

Dawn Olsen wrote on her blog:
"People ask me why I am Pro-Choice ....For every abortion, as sad and unfortunate as they are, that is one less child who may be abused, it is one less child who will be unwanted and used as a punching bag by a parent who doesn’t value the inherent worth of themselves or their own flesh and blood."

I was once a regular at a diner where I made friends with most of the employees and other regulars. During the last presidential election, one of my friends there told me she was voting for Gore only because he is "pro-choice" and she was convinced that legal abortion would decrease the numbers of abused children. So I gave her this article from The American Feminist by Karen Gordon, which explains that since the legalization of abortion, child abuse has quadrupled. There is a disturbing correlation between the dramatic rise in child abuse and almost three decades of eliminating the unwanted children by abortion.

What was my friend's response to the article, you may ask? Because it did not jibe with her prior belief that legal abortion should decrease child abuse, she refused to accept the Bureau of the Census and Department of Health and Human Services' figures. (And people claim pro-lifers are unreasonable???!)

Dawn Olsen also saked:
"Explain to me NOT USING religious rhetoric as to why a non-involved party should have anything to say about my or anyone's decision to have an abortion? I want to know. I really do."

I assume that no matter what argument I give, no matter how religion-free, it will not be accepted on the grounds that I am a religious person. For that reason, I recommend the following non-religious pro-life websites:

In addition to those, I would include these groups, which also avoid religious arguments:I think you would be intrigued to find, Dawn, that many pro-lifers argue against positions you've taken on your blogsite (e.g. "Life in my mind begins when a child is viable and can live outside the womb, no longer dependent on its host, the mother") precisely because they are based on an entirely unsupported, fideistic "belief." They would label your beliefs, by which you allow for abortion, irrational and based only on faith.

Dawn also wrote:
"Pro-life people are far more concerned with the unborn than with the children who are already here and in need of attention."

I think that if you investigate further, you will find that this is definitely not the case. Feminists for Life, for example, works on lots of different pro-life issues, including child abuse & infanticide, domestic violence, rape, equality in the workplace, euthanasia & assisted suicide, fathers' responsibilities & rights, war, etc. etc. FFL is a "consistent life ethic" organization which promotes activism in all these areas. The Fall 2001 issue of their American Feminist magazine was about how to raise kids inexpensively, while an early 2002 issue was about human rights violations against women around the world.

If your focus is "what are they doing for children?" consider all the topics addressed in the pregnancy resources forums that FFL sponsors at colleges and universities around the country: on-campus child care, financial and medical assistance, student health insurance that covers pregnant and mothering students, housing for pregnant and mothering students on or near campus, etc. All of these things benefit children (not merely in the womb, but after birth) as well as mothers.

We pro-lifers are doing all these things and more. But it's very difficult to get the message out when in the news media:

  • abortion-rights advocates are quoted more frequently and characterized more favorably than are abortion opponents
  • events and issues favorable to abortion opponents are ignored or given minimal attention by the media
  • columns of commentary favoring abortion rights outnumber those opposing abortion by a margin of more than 2 to 1 on the op-ed pages of most of the nation's major daily newspapers
etc. It's true. (Read the entire text of David Shaw's four-part Los Angeles Times study of major newspaper, television and newsmagazine coverage over 18 months, including more than 100 interviews with journalists and with activists on both sides of the abortion debate, confirming that there is substantial media bias against pro-lifers.) Why is it so much harder for me to get a letter to the editor published when it offers feminist reasons for being pro-life than when it offers other reasons? Some people don't want you to know that there are pro-life feminists. Likewise, it suits some people's preferences better if you don't know too much about the many humanitarian works of pro-lifers....

I hope that helps, or at least gives you some food for thought.
:: John 9/26/2002 05:39:00 PM [+] ::
...

:: Tuesday, September 24, 2002 ::

Another Woman Pressured Into Abortion

The song remains the same, my friends. You will, of course, remember my post called "Abortion: Liberation or Capitulation?" and my more recent offering called "Have an Abortion or Give Up Your Job!". Now there's a new article explaining that "Nicole Appleton has revealed how she was forced to abort a baby fathered by Robbie Williams." Appleton's record label just wasn't cool with that, so give your child up or get out.

This is not a rare story. This is the story of the overwhelming majority of women who get abortions: the majority of women who get abortions admit that they capitulated to pressure from others and believed that abortion was their only choice. Recall the statistics from the Alan Guttmacher Institute:

  • 3/4 say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities
  • 2/3 say they cannot afford a child
  • 1/2 say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner
Women are not having abortions because they think it will be a fun, fulfilling, or emotionally satisfying experience. Women are having abortions because their jobs and schools refuse to cooperate with the needs of pregnant women and mothers. As you see above, a few threaten to oust pregnant women. Many pregnant women are made to feel quite unwelcome even without the overt threat. Women are having abortions because they do not know anyone who will share or give them practical resources, like food, housing, medical and legal services, clothing, baby supplies, etc. Women are having abortions because their parents, husbands, boyfriends, and/or friends do not provide them any emotional or material support, and in many cases actually ask or expect them to abort. Frederica Mathewes-Green listened to women who had procured abortions to find out their reasons for making that choice. Her conclusion? "No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg."

This is why Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, says "It is time for us to systematically eliminate the coercive factors that drive women to abortion --primarily the lack of practical resources and emotional support. We invite all organizations -- including women's organizations that differ with us on abortion -- to join us. Every woman deserves better. We don't have to settle for less." Since its founding, Feminists for Life of America has been working to do just that: to eliminate the coercive factors which lead pregnant women to believe they have no choice but to abort. Other terrific organizations have compatible goals, like the Nurturing Network, an "extensive employment, medical, educational, counseling and residential network [of volunteers] which enables a mother to continue the life of her unborn child without sacrificing her own hopes and dreams."

As I've said before, if you have not read Frederica Mathewes-Green's Real Choices, you really must if you want to understand why real women have abortions. Then PLEASE start supporting Feminists for Life and the Nurturing Network! In fact, here's 30 ways you can support FFL in their 30th year!
:: John 9/24/2002 06:29:00 PM [+] ::
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:: Saturday, September 21, 2002 ::

Robert Sungenis Off the Deep End!
Boycott Catholic Apologetics International!

Until now, I have refrained from commenting about Robert Sungenis' increasing weirdness and offensiveness. Mark Shea, Bill Cork, John Betts, and others have been doing an excellent job documenting Sungenis' bizarre turn into geocentrism and nauseating apparent descent into anti-Semitism. Even now, I write only to ask you to read their blogs (both current & archived) regarding the Robert Sungenis/Catholic Apologetics International problem.

John Betts recommends that all Catholics boycott Robert Sungenis' books and his organization, Catholic Apologetics International. Catholic apologist Mark Shea has endorsed this boycott.

Bill Cork has been trying to figure out what, apart from mental illness, could turn a good Catholic apologist so bad in his post called "The Root of the Problem". I think this is an excellent attempt to answer that question, and I provide the following links to those of you who want to read the relevant Church documents:

All of these documents are avilable in handy, inexpensive paperbacks from the Daughters of St. Paul's Pauline Books & Media stores.

Like Bill Cork, I am a convert to Catholicism from Protestantism, and I will never cease to be profoundly grateful to my Catholic Scripture prof who made our class read these Church documents over and over and over again. If you want to read Scripture like a Catholic, you have to understand the mind of the Church, and these documents are a crucial step towards that understanding. Another crucial part of my own formation, which I highly recommend to all Catholics and Protestants, was Louis Bouyer's The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism [Scepter Publishers].

By the way, here's a terrific article regarding the Catholic Church's official position on evolution.
:: John 9/21/2002 10:45:00 PM [+] ::
...

Have an Abortion or Give Up Your Job!

Many of you will remember my earlier blog called "Abortion: Liberation or Capitulation?". The abortion advocates have been telling us that the "pro-choice" position is "liberating" to women. In reality, however, most women experience abortion as a capitulation to outside pressures rather than a personal liberation. In the previous blog, you learned that three female EMTs procured abortions because they were told that pregnancy may result in job termination. Now there's a brand new article: same story with different characters.

Here are excerpts from the Washington Post article as it ran in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Choice Between Child, Paycheck
Lawsuit claims coach told assistant to have abortion or give up her new job.
by Jessica Hopp and Greg Sandoval - Washington Post
Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Washington -- While head coach at the University of California, Marianne Stanley, now coach of the WNBA Washington Mystics, gave an assistant coach a choice between having an abortion or quitting, then left the pregnant woman at a hotel during a Midwest recruiting trip. The assistant, Sharrona Alexander, was paid $115,000 two years ago by the university to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit after she refused to have the abortion.

During sworn testimony for the suit, Stanley said she told Alexander that "if you are going to continue with this pregnancy, you're not going to be able to fulfill the job duties; therefore, I am then going to have to hire another coach."

In an interview last week and in her deposition, Stanley denied attempting to force Alexander to have an abortion. She said she did not fire Alexander but "asked her for her resignation."

Federal and California state laws, in most cases, forbid employers from firing, refusing employment or denying a promotion to workers based on pregnancy. Stanley said in the deposition and in the interview that she does not believe a pregnant woman can withstand the physical demands of being an assistant coach....

Dr. Sherrie McElvy, a fetal medicine specialist at the University of California-Davis, says she advises pregnant women to continue the physical activities they were doing before their pregnancy right up until giving birth --- as long as it doesn't involve using their abdominal muscles or there is a high risk of suffering trauma.

"For the most part, there would be nothing about coaching that would exclude her from continuing," McElvy said.

Stanley testified: "To protect the program I had decided that I had to tell her -- that it's her choice.... That's a personal decision between her and her God and her conscience, and I respected that, whatever she decided. But... if she was going to continue with the pregnancy, that I was going to have to find someone else who was going to be able to do the job."

Alexander told Stanley later that she had called a clinic in Atlanta and scheduled an abortion. Alexander signed a contract on June 25, 1998.

Alexander testified Stanley paid for her to fly to Atlanta and offered to pay for the abortion. Stanley denies arranging the trip and said she doesn't know who did. She denied offering to pay for the abortion but said she offered Alexander a loan.

Both women said in their depositions that when Alexander met Stanley in Indiana on July 7, 1998, to begin a recruiting trip, Alexander told Stanley she had decided to keep her baby. Alexander said Stanley told her she "needed time to think about" what to do.

A day later, the Berkeley coaching staff flew to Chicago. Alexander testified a clerk told her Stanley wished to see her in the hotel's restaurant. When Alexander arrived, she noticed a list in front of Stanley that included all the items Berkeley had supplied Alexander: a cellphone, laptop computer, credit card and clothes. In addition, Alexander testified, was a note that said: "letter of resignation."

"My heart just sank," Alexander testified.

Stanley asked Alexander to return the items and write a letter of resignation. Alexander testified that when she refused to resign, Stanley fired her. Stanley has denied firing Alexander, but both agreed Alexander was ordered to return her supplies.

The conversation ended with Stanley driving away. Alexander testified she was left with 90 cents and a rental car. "My whole life is, basically, at this point, gone," Alexander testified....

Carnes said that on July 10, 1998, Stanley drove to her home to apologize. Alexander and Stanley were unable to resolve their differences, however. Alexander filed her suit seven months later, accusing Stanley of forcing her to decide "between her child and a paycheck."

Alexander, now 30, said she since has applied for public assistance. She now works at a clothing store. Alexander has applied for assistant coaching jobs at four schools. None has hired her....

"This has ruined my life," Alexander testified. "I went from thinking I am going to take care of my son and be able to provide for myself, and to be on food stamps and on welfare and be degraded.... You can't imagine how this has changed my life. My reputation... how hard I had worked to get to that point was just thrown down the drain because I couldn't -- I couldn't just go to a clinic to abort my son."

Here is a woman, Sharrona Alexander, who refused to capitulate to the pressure to abort, but she has suffered the consequences. Why would any woman ever pressure another to abort?! In the words of pro-life feminist Paulette Joyner, "What kind of 'sisterhood' have we wreaked upon ourselves?" No one can EVER tell me that abortion "liberates" women. Bullshit! This is CRAZY.

Some Relevant Pro-Life Feminist Quotes

"Tunnel-visioned pro-abortion feminists cannot see to help [us] develop real alternatives to abortion, programs of support for women with hardship pregnancies, a change in society's attitude toward pregnant women so that young women won't automatically think that, once pregnant, they can never attend college, never pursue a career, not go on living. Pro-abortion feminists are part of the problem --they contribute to a 'pregnancy as disease', 'fetus as cancer' attitude that turns a normal, natural function of a woman's body into something to be attacked with a curette and vacuum. Is this creative thinking? Is this women supporting women? What kind of 'sisterhood' have we wreaked upon ourselves?" --Paulette Joyer

"As a pregnancy counselor, I had not dealt with a single woman who thought about aborting her baby because she thought it was best. No, it was her parents who thought it was a good idea, or a boyfriend, or a husband, or a boss, or a frowning, judgmental society which was too much for her to withstand." --Judie Gillespie

"Because abortion undeniably involves a degree of physical and emotional pain, the abortion decision cannot be viewed apart from the factors that motivate it. Those factors --personal problems, social pressure, lack of support from family, society, or friends-- suggest that the choice is never a truly voluntary one. It is more likely in fact that women submit to abortions, not so much because they have a choice, but because they feel that in their own circumstances, they have no choice at all.... Abortion does nothing whatever to promote social and economic justice, nor does it compensate for the lack of it." --Elizabeth Moore Sobo

If you haven't read it yet, please read Frederica Mathewes-Green's fantastic book Real Choices.

And please, start supporting Feminists for Life now!

Are Feminists for Life Speakers Visiting a College or University Near You?

"The Feminist Case AGAINST Abortion"
by Serrin M. Foster, President of Feminists for Life

Fall 2002 Speaking Schedule

  • September 23, 2002. Senate Briefing with Jennifer O'Neill - Washington, DC
  • October 23, 2002. Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, Maryland
  • November 4, 2002. University of California - Lost Angeles, California
  • November 6, 2002. University of California - San Diego, California
  • November 7, 2002. University of San Diego - Pregnancy Resources Forum
  • November 16, 2002. Georgetown University - Washington, DC

"Refuse to Choose: Reclaiming Feminism"
by Sally A. Winn, Vice President of Feminists for Life

Fall 2002 Speaking Schedule

  • September 07, 2002. Arizona Right to Life Annual Conference - Phoenix, AZ.
  • September 09, 2002. American University - Washington, DC. (closed audience)
  • September 25, 2002. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, MI.
  • September 26, 2002. Michigan State University - East Lansing, MI.
  • September 28, 2002. Right to Life of Michigan Annual Conference - Kalamazoo, MI.
  • October 01, 2002. Oberlin College - Oberlin, OH.
  • October 02, 2002. Kent State University - Kent, OH.
  • October 03, 2002. Ohio State University- Columbus, OH.
  • October 05, 2002. Ohio Right to Life Annual Conference - Columbus, OH.
  • October 08, 2002. Oregon State University - Corvallis, OR.
  • November 02, 2002. St. John's University - Jamaica, NY.
  • December 04, 2002. University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign, Illinois.

All dates are tentative and subject to change, so check www.feministsforlife.org/cop/schedule.htm as the date nears. For more information about how you can support courageous pro-life students in your area or to bring FFL's College Outreach Program to another campus, please contact FFL at 202-737-3352 or check out FFL's website at www.feministsforlife.org.
:: John 9/21/2002 10:01:00 PM [+] ::
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:: Thursday, September 19, 2002 ::

Intriguing Vandalism

A couple of weeks ago, a bumper sticker which said "REAL feminists don't kill babies" was stolen from my car (presumably by someone who thinks that real feminists should kill babies). Stealing bumper stickers. That's a new one on me. When I told Sally Winn, VP of Feminists for Life, she said I should be glad I didn't have my car keyed. That has happened to her.

Unfortunately for the vandal, the bumper sticker theft has convinced me to replace the old sticker with several new ones, including "Peace in the womb! Abortion is violent!" (Victory Won), "Abortion: The foundation upon which to build a violent society" (Victory Won), and "Question abortion" (Feminists for Life). I like to combine my pro-life bumper stickers with others I consider compatible: "No one is free when others are oppressed," "If you want peace, work for justice," "Children are people too," "Execution is NOT the solution," and "'It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.' --Albert Einstein."

Drop Your Ace!

You know who I'm talking about, Michael Jameson!
:: John 9/19/2002 05:32:00 PM [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, September 18, 2002 ::

Feminists for Life to Reach 4 Million Students at Highest Risk of Abortion
17 September 2002 Press Release

Feminists for Life of America launched a nationwide ad campaign to reach women at highest risk of abortion, announced FFL President Serrin Foster. "By the end of this year, four million students at top campuses across the country will hear our pro-woman message: Refuse to Choose.SM Women Deserve Better.SM"

"One out of five women who has an abortion is a college student -- and the abortion industry knows it. They target vulnerable women who have been abandoned by those they count on the most," said Foster. "We are here to tell them that they are not alone, and there are perfect strangers who will help them and provide unconditional love and support."

Foster is inviting pregnancy care centers across the country to take their Health Clinic Kits directly to the campus clinic. "We know abortion clinic staff markets directly to the clinic on campus. They need to know that nonprofit pregnancy care centers can give women the rest of the choices."

Not only has FFL focused on those at highest risk, but much of the campaign will strategically target students in states with the highest rates of abortion --California, Texas, New York, Florida and Rhode Island.

The Feminist Majority has targeted Feminists for Life with their "Know the opposition" collegiate campaign. "I hope they do just that. Lots of young women who have never known a day without legalized abortion reconsider it once they see our website or attend a lecture," said Foster.

Planned Parenthood of America's Insider newsletter predicted that FFL's College Outreach Program "could have a profound impact" on college campuses "as well as Planned Parenthood's public education and advocacy efforts."

According to a 1997 Gallup Poll, when women enter college, almost half of them are pro-life. Yet by the time they graduate, nearly three-quarters of college women are pro-choice.

What changes their minds? Students report that by the time the women of this year's senior class graduate they have witnessed pregnant classmates forced to leave schools that do not provide housing for pregnant students, they have cried with their best friends after an abortion, and they have seen parenting students struggle to find childcare so they can attend classes. "We are here to change all that," says Foster.

Foster's lecture, the "Feminist Case Against Abortion" has been receiving rave reviews from students. At her last lecture at the University of San Diego, the front page story in the Vista quoted students who called FFL's message "amazing," "powerful" and "mind blowing." One student told the paper that she "came pro-choice and defensive" but left thinking she may be pro-life.

Foster's speech has also been recognized as one of the 22 "Great Speeches in History" on "Women's Rights." (Edited by Jennifer Hurley, it is one in a series published by Greenhaven Press.)

FFL's College Outreach Program has demonstrated its power to reach college women and men with a message of hope and empowerment and its capacity to be a catalyst for long-term changes on college campuses and beyond.

"Today's students are tomorrow's judges, columnists, reporters, legislators, parents, teachers, activists and voters," said Foster. "It is essential that we reach them now. Planned Parenthood knows it. The Feminist Majority knows it. The good thing is that we know it too, and are taking steps to challenge the status quo. We are taking our bodies back."

For more information on Feminists for Life's College Outreach Program, go to www.feministsforlife.org/cop or contact info@feministsforlife.org.

Why the Evangelization of Mexico Required a Miracle

Many books about the Guadalupe apparitions written by English-speaking Americans either imply or directly state that a miracle was required because the Native Meso-Americans were "just too stubborn" in their idolatry. (In reality, some aspects of their native religion had already prepared them to receive the Gospel. See "Pagan Christs" below.) But as I've been telling my friends for years, the real reason that the evangelization of Mexico required a miracle was because the conquest of "New Spain" was so cruelly devastating. Could you accept a "religion of love" from conquistadors who slaughtered, pillaged, raped, and enslaved you and your family? Who forbade you to speak your own language? The priests and missionaries worked hard to defend the Native Meso-Americans and to share the good news of Christ, but the "culture of death" being imposed by the colonialist conquistadors was overwhelming:

In 1529, one year and four months before the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, Bishop Zumárraga wrote to the king to tell him that the situation was so bad that only a miracle of God could save the situation and the earth: "si Dios no provee con remedio de su mano está la tierra en punto de perderse totalmente." The missionaries prayed for a miracle.

This month the Houston Catholic Worker newspaper of Casa Juan Diego has published a spectacular article about St. Juan Diego and our Lady of Guadalupe: Why Saint Juan Diego, a Saint For Nobodies, Means so Much To Us. God did provide the miracle.
:: John 9/18/2002 04:16:00 PM [+] ::
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:: Thursday, September 12, 2002 ::

Whaddaya Know? Muhammad's Satanic Verses

I love studying various religions, and this week I learned something new: Muhammad really did speak "Satanic Verses"! Honestly, I had no idea.

Yes, according to contemporary Muslim biographers (Muhammad's contemporaries, not ours), Muhammad once spoke the words of Satan as if they were a revelation from God, leading all the Muslims and pagans who were present to accept polytheism. A short explanation of the "Satanic Verses" is available here. More documentation is available here. Fascinating.

For My Brother

Here's a little tidbit I picked up for you at Latter-Day Lampoon:

I was also amused by the following anagrams for the name "President Brigham Young":

  • "Upon gathering my brides..."
  • Big underage nymph riots
  • Bride-mongering Utah spy
  • Urging bad pioneer myths
The site's often pretty sick, but I have to admit that I find it funny.
:: John 9/12/2002 06:08:00 PM [+] ::
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:: Tuesday, September 10, 2002 ::

Brilliant Book Available Online!

Fr. Ronald G. Roberson's The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey is now available online at the Catholic Near East site, as well as in print from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This truly awesome reference book, published by the University Press of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, "provides a clear overview of four distinct and separate Eastern Christian communions: the Assyrian church of the East; the six Oriental Orthodox churches; the Orthodox church (including the Autocephalous and the Autonomous Churches); and the Catholic Eastern churches." If you are in any way interested in the Eastern Christian Churches, you must read this book! Click here to see a sample chapter on the Ruthenian Catholic Church, of which I may soon be a member. (Note: perhaps due to a defect in the code, the name "Mukachevo" looks like it contains a Chinese character.)
:: John 9/10/2002 06:02:00 PM [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, September 04, 2002 ::

Anglican Saints

For those of you who don't know, I work at an Episcopal seminary bookstore when I'm not at classes. I came to Catholicism from the Episcopal church, telling my parents that "the best way to stay Episcopalian these days is to become Catholic," so this isn't as weird as you may think.

So last week while I was shelving books, one of them was Saints of the Anglican Calendar by Kathleen Jones (Canterbury Press). The cover had the names of various saints printed all over it. Flipping it over to check which section I should shelve it in, I noticed that one of the names printed on the book was "John Henry Newman."

Now I fully expect the Anglican church to retain most, if not all, of the Catholic saints who lived prior the break between the two churches, so it doesn't surprise me at all to see folks like St. Augustine, St. Hildegard of Bingen, etc. But Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman? A man who left the Church of England to become one of the most famous Catholic apologists of all time? He is an Anglican saint? Yes, the book provides a day of commemoration for him (August 11) and has a little "hagiography" (fully acknowledging that he left the Church of England and why) and everything.

And the saddest thing is: Newman's not even a Catholic saint (in the canonized sense) yet!

The "Pagan Christs" of our "Good Dreams"

Recently there has been quite an uproar about the new Our Lady of the Angels cathedral. And not without good reason: it is a truly hideous building. There are also hard feelings among some people who feel that the Cathedral Chapel of Saint Viviana is being dissed.

But some of the hubub is about the pre-Christian imagery adorning the bottom of the inner doors. The official website describes it thus: "Beginning at the bottom of the inner doors, Graham has sculpted in relief a grapevine, symbolizing the Church. Folded in the grapevine are 40 ancient symbols that represent pre-Christian images from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America." Above these are several much larger images of Mary.

Reading Mark Shea's blog, I noticed that people are particularly peeved by an image of Quetzalcoatl, a god of the ancient Meso-American pantheon:

"You guys do realize, do you not, that among the pagan deities carved onto the door of the L.A. Cathedral is Quetzalcoatl, the bloodthirsty Aztec demon-god to whom tens of thousands of human beings were sacrificed, and whose worship Our Lady of Guadalupe came to crush." "[Quetzalcoatl] is not just a vaguely acceptable pagan god; for his sake, human beings had their hearts ripped out of their chests while still beating. I think this is as close to satanism as you can get without being the real thing."
I must take issue with comments like these.

First of all, the official description of the doors does not include the name "Quetzalcoatl." It says "Southwest Indian Flying Serpent." "Quetzalcoatl" does mean "feathered serpent," and he was frequently represented that way in ancient Meso-American glyphs and other art, but it seems that the Los Angeles sculptor Robert Graham intended the image to be understood more as "a mythical beast" than a particular pagan deity.

Secondly, the people complaining do not have any idea what they're talking about. Among the gods of the native Meso-American pantheons, Quetzalcoatl was --hands down-- the least problematic. He was their only god, to my knowledge, who actively opposed the cult of human sacrifice, calling instead for moral and disciplinary reform and promoting ascetic practices. Let me repeat that in the clearest language I can manage: if you know anything about Meso-American mythology, you know that Quetzalcoatl actively opposed human sacrifice.

Were humans ever sacrificed to Quetzalcoatl? Probably. In my religious and theological studies, I've definitely learned never to underestimate the ability of humans to "honor" their gods by doing things their gods told them never to do and not doing things their gods tell them to do. This happens in other religions just as it happens in ours.

And, as someone who has always loved the Quetzalcoatl myth, I must also add that his story is about the furthest paganism can possibly get from "satanism". In fact, I would say it's quite the opposite: Quetzalcoatl's the closest thing the Meso-Americans ever had to real prophecy!

If you're thinking, "huh?," don't worry, I'll explain.

Quetzalcoatl, according to the myths, was the god who, at the cost of some self-sacrifice, created the humans of this age. Not surprisingly, he was also a great patron to them, introducing them to many arts, crafts, and sciences for their benefit. So benevolent was this god that he became a man himself. (Note: the name "feathered serpent" is supposed to evoke the idea of a union between heaven and earth.) A young virgin found a feather that had descended from the heavens, and when she put it in her dress for safekeeping, she became pregnant. During his earthly life as a priest, Quetzalcoatl taught the people that sacrificing other humans had no spiritual benefit. Instead, they had to reform their own lives and learn to sacrifice themselves through ascetic practices. The other gods did not like this, so Tezcatlipoca disguised himself as an old man and tricked Quetzalcoatl into breaking his priestly vows and committing a sin. When Quetzalcoatl awoke from his stupor, he was overcome with sorrow, and sacrificed himself (to death) in order to atone for his sin and the sins of other humans. From death, he rose to new life in the heavens. (There are many variations to this story, both in nuances and in details. For more information, I recommend starting with Laurette Sejourne's Burning Water: Thought & Religion in Ancient Mexico.)

Any attentive Christian should be able to pick out the many similarities between the myth of Quetzalcoatl and the life of Jesus Christ, as well as note the substantial differences.

Now, have you ever read the writings of C.S. Lewis? (If not, why are you wasting another moment?) Among other brilliant things, he said, "[Before the coming of Jesus Christ, God] sent the human race what I call good dreams. I mean those queer stories scattered all through heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again, and by his death, has somehow given new life to men." When Lewis said this, he particularly had in mind Balder of Norse mythology and Osiris of Egyptian mythology, i.e. gods from the myths he knew. I would add Quetzalcoatl to this list. These "good dreams" of the pagans were the closest thing they had to prophecy, which was the particular privelege of God's chosen people, Israel. God did not leave pagans utterly helpless and hopeless, because he planned to eventually include them in his covenant and reconcile them with Israel.

Some Christians feel uncomfortable about the many pagan myths that are similar to the life of Jesus Christ. Lewis thought the opposite should be true: "We must not be nervous about 'parallels' and 'pagan christs': They ought to be there - it would be a stumbling block if they weren't. [i.e. if there weren't any 'pagan christs,' we would have to assume that God did nothing to prepare the pagans for Christ, though he did so much to prepare Israel.] We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome."

Not only do I consider Quetzalcoatl a "pagan christ" foreshadowing the coming of the true Christ in history, the Quetzalcoatl myth was an essential element in my own conversion to Christianity as an adult!

Post-script After writing the above, I found that ZENIT had recently published the following:

John Paul II began his talk [in Mexico] highlighting the extraordinary values to be found in the pre-Columbian cultures. "A thousand years ago, in the year 999 of our calendar, the fury of those who adored a violent god and called themselves his representatives, made Quetzalcoatl, the king of prophets of the Toltecs, disappear, as he was opposed to the use of force in resolving human conflicts. As he was nearing death, he carried a cross in his hands, which for him and his disciples symbolized conscience searching for harmony in a sea of ideas. Quetzalcoatl had given his people sublime teachings: 'Good will always triumph over evil.' 'Man is at the center of creation.' 'Arms will never be the friends of the word; it is the latter which dispels the storm clouds so that we can be filled with divine clarity'. In these and other teachings of Quetzalcoatl we can perceive 'a preparation for the Gospel' (cf Lumen Gentium, 16), which many of your ancestors had the joy of receiving five hundred years later."

:: John 9/04/2002 12:45:00 PM [+] ::
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