Monday, April 21, 2008

Just How Prestigious is That Honor Roll?

Congradulations honor roll students.

That's what the sign outside the school I passed on my way to the grocery read.

I'm not the only one who finds this ironic, am I?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

No Pope for Me

Once upon a time (say November 2001) in a land far far away (say Italy), I saw the pope. Not the current one, but Pope John Paul II. It was a bit of an accident. I was going to the Vatican, so it wasn't as if I saw him out having a beer in some random trattoria, but we hadn't really made any plans to try to see the pope. By some random stroke, my friends and I just happened to decide to go to the Vatican on the same day as the pope was leading a beatification ceremony. I have to say it was pretty cool, especially when the pope got in his popemobile and made his way through the crowds.

This week Pope Benedict XVI is in town, but I don't have any plans to see him, and I won't even be going anywhere that might lead to an encounter similar to the last time. In fact, I think I'm going to do my best to stay far away. Not because of the crowds (which will be horrendous) or the security (which will be tight), but because I strongly disagree with the direction in which the Church, as headed by the pope, is moving (and I also disagree with the way the Church is so stubbornly standing in place in regards to some issues).

I was born and raised Catholic. I spent 13 years in Catholic schools. My grandmother was Irish Catholic (can you get any more Catholic than that?). Catholicism is a part of my history and culture, but I can no longer, in good conscience, embrace it. And though there may be some issues of faith that concern me, my main reasons are the Church's views on social issues. Let me lay some of them out here.

1. Abortion. In my ideal world, there would be no abortion because every pregnancy would be planned and every baby wanted. But the fact is, that isn't how things are. Rape, incest, and other horrible acts lead to pregnancy. People with addictions, with no means of supporting a child, with no desire for a child, end up pregnant. In my opinion, it's better than these pregnancies not result in births because of the trauma and pain that is likely to be inflicted on that child. That's my opinion, and I know the Church has a different opinion. Let me say that I support their right to have that opinion, and I even understand where it comes from. Protecting and celebrating life is the right thing for the Church to do. Providing alternatives to abortion is a wonderful thing. (Though supporting birth control might be a good start.) What I have a problem with is the extreme stance that the Church has taken on this, going so far as to say it should be the deciding factor upon which Catholics should base their vote. Seriously? That is absurd to me. I see much bigger issues that should factor into voting, namely the way in which politicians propose to care for those already alive on this earth. How we plan to care for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the abused, the imprisoned, and the dying seems much more important to me. And in my opinion, by addressing these issues, we go a long way to addressing the issue of unwanted children. When people are in a better place, they are less likely to end up unable to care for a child, and they are more likely to have the means to make smart decisions.

2. Homosexuality. Does anyone honestly think that people choose to be homosexual? Who in their right mind would choose a lifestyle that leads to discrimination and alienation? People aren't gay because they choose to be. They are gay because that's the way they were born (otherwise known to many as the way God made them). The Church's stance that people can by gay and be okay so long as they don't act on their tendencies is total bullshit. Love is a good thing, a great thing...regardless of whether it's between a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman.

3. Women. In the Catholic Church, women are second-class citizens. How in this day and age can the Church justify its exclusion of women from the role of priest...and the higher positions that can be obtained once one is ordained a priest? Why is a man the only one who can have this highly celebrated role? Again, it's bullshit. Women can have the same calling, the same strong faith, the same ability to lead a congregation. I refuse to condone, even silently, this overt discrimination.

The sex abuse scandal and the pitiful way in which the Church dealt with it (or didn't), the archaic view of the Church on sex and birth control, and the willy-nilly way in which the Church hands out annulments are just a few other things that get me riled up.

Before I close looking like a hater, let me go ahead and say that I think the Church has done many wonderful things. I have been lucky enough to have known many amazing priests, brothers, and nuns, who have made my life and many other lives better. The Church itself is a beacon of hope for many people. It provides outreach to some of society's most forgotten and neglected people. It has the power to do real good in the world. I respect that, and I admire that.

But, at the same time, I am sickened by the Church's discriminatory nature and closemindedness. And until I see true progress in those areas, I will seek a spiritual home elsewhere.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Random Wednesday

  • At my Trader Joe's, Luna Bars and Clif Bars cost the same amount but Clif Bars have about 100 more calories, which is good when I'm hiking. However, those Clif Bars require so much damn chewing that I think I burn more than those 100 calories just trying to eat the bar. They also look like crap...literally. I think I'll stick with the Luna Bars.
  • One sign that your house is small: You can plug your vacuum in and vacuum the entire house without having to switch plugs. Yeah, I can do that.
  • If you're looking for a chocolate cake recipe, look no further than the back of the Hershey's cocoa box. For Jeff's return to the U.S. I made the "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake, and it was indeed perfect. It was my first ever layer cake (I usually stick with the much easier sheet cake), but I didn't have a bit of trouble. The cakes came out flat and stacked easily. The icing (recipe also from the cocoa box) was easy to spread. And the cake itself is super moist and delicious. We just have a tiny slice left for tonight...we've been eating it every day...and I'm almost tempted to bake up another one. Fortunately, we're going out of town tomorrow night, so I won't. But it's that good.