1. Does it bother anyone but me when people complain about their lives but then refuse to make changes to fix what they are complaining about? Two examples:
- Homeless Vietnam vets in Wednesday’s story on homeless veterans. Three were interviewed, and while this is surely not a statistical sample, what they said backs up what I’ve learned from people in similar situations: only one in three is willing to do the hard work it takes to get help and change their lives. The vets in the story readily admit that they spend much of the money they have on drugs and drink. They also admit there is help to get clean and start over, and since they don’t work, they have time to enter rehab. Do they? No. Why? Because when you go into a shelter or a rehab program you have to accept some limitations on your freedom and some responsibility for your actions. You have to, at some point, admit that you are the cause of your problems – no one else. And as anyone who has done that knows, it ain’t easy, and Lord knows, in much of our country right now, we’re really into easy. But if you aren’t going to do it, don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for you when you complain about your life situation. Kudos to Ricky Garrard, a formerly homeless ex-Marine mentioned in the article, who has done that hard work and is on the road to clean and sober self-sufficiency.
- Overweight people who do not exercise or eat healthy who then blame their situation on heredity instead of a lack of self-discipline. Last week I saw an overweight teen who, sucking on a 336-calorie frappucinno at Starbucks explained to her friends (both thin) that being heavy just ran in her family. When one of the friends said the girls’ parents were both thin, the girl said, “Well, that’s because they run all the time. I can’t run because it hurts my feet.” Not exercising because of pain is a common excuse for those who are carrying anywhere from 20 to 200 extra pounds, because extra poundage, especially on small-framed folks, causes pain. The way to get rid of the pain is to get rid of the extra weight. The way to get rid of the extra weight is to eat less and move more. The big problem w/ exercise is that many people work out and then go eat junk because they think they burned off the calories with the exercise. They might have burned off the calories of a small ice cream or one tiny piece of chocolate by working out for 30 minutes, but they lost no weight – they replaced the 30-minute calorie burn with the junk food they ate after. It is a zero-sum game if you don’t do both. To do both, you have to decide you want to feel better, look better and live longer, and choose to do the hard work to get there. It isn’t (solely) your genes, and if you’ve come up clean on a thyroid test, it isn’t a medical condition. It is a choice. The most inspiring story along these lines is a friend of mine who weighed about 300 pounds and lost 130 pounds in a year by walking 90 minutes every day and eliminating junk food from his diet. He chose to get fit even though things hurt when he started his exercise regime. Oh, and he was teaching high school fulltime, teaching at a college parttime and finishing up his PhD while he was did this program. If he can do it, anyone can do it.
2. I was lucky enough to go visit my lovely daughter and our extended family over Memorial Day, flying from Tucson to Dallas. On the plane I figured out a few things: There’s always one really loud talker, there’s always about five people who yammer incessantly on their cell phones after being instructed to turn off electronic devices and there’s always people who treat the stewards and stewardess like they are subhuman. What, dear readers, is up with those people? And that paying for checking luggage? It’s not working so well: More people are bringing carry ons to avoid the checked-luggage fee, which has caused a dearth of overhead compartment space, which has caused the stewardesses to then have to check bags on the tarmac – at no cost to the passengers.
3. The New York Times had a story this week about Catholic seminaries being more forceful in their questioning of potential seminarians. According to the story, potential priestly candidates are now asked, “When was the last time you had sex?” and “What kind of sexual experiences have you had?” Depending on the answers to those questions and a battery of shrink-tests, candidates may be asked about liking children or use of pornography. This isn’t as newfangled as the reporter would have you believe; priests in their 50s who were asked the sex questions when they entered seminary, long before the sex crisis. What is news is reference to “recent guidelines” from the Vatican that stress the screening of potential seminarians who are gay. I’m not sure I’d call a 2005 document recent, and I’m not even sure I’d call the 2008 expansion on the 2005 document recent, but it is true that these guidelines would make it difficult to admit a gay man into the seminary.
The story makes it sound like the guidelines are working via a statement by a psychologist who has screened seminary candidates in Queens: “We have no gay men in our seminary at this time.” He clarifies his absolute certainty later with, “I’m pretty sure of it.” To which this Catholic’s instinctual response is: Wanna bet? I’d argue there are fewer openly gay men being admitted, but there might be more closeted gay men. Do they think men won’t lie just because they are wanting to become priests? While we would like it to be so – and while it is the case in the vast majority – there will always be outliers who will say whatever is necessary to get what they want.
There can be no denying that homosexuality has caused problems in seminaries. There can be no denying that rectors looked the other way when gay seminarians created a subculture where the rules of celibacy were stretched and rewritten by gay seminarians who enjoyed “sleep overs” in each other’s rooms. And, as politically incorrect as this is, there can be no denying that most of the clergy sex abuse that occurred was not with pre-adolescent girls, but with post-pubescent boys. All that said, the reason the sex abuse continued unabated was not because men in general can’t handle celibacy or that gay men in particular are unable to keep their hands off teen boys. No, as explained on this blog before, the reason it wasn’t nipped in the bud and brought to a halt is because of the culture of power and good-old-boys that ostracizes anyone (especially any priests) who dare question the status quo. Until that changes, we will always be at risk for abuses – gay priests or no.