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Archive for November, 2005

Our Person

I have a habit of collecting examples of language, particularly biblical and liturgical texts, mangled by a misguided effort to make them gender-neutral. It’s not particularly healthy, a bit like the compulsion to pick at a scab, but for the similarly afflicted, here are a few recent instances:

My wife, for whom it would be very out of character to create a slanderous lie, claims that a written history of a parish in this area contained a reference to "Our Person of Lourdes."

But at least that wasn’t an official translation of an important text. Last week’s Gospel (I think it was last week’s) was the passage traditionally translated as "Call no man father." I’ve forgotten the exact phrasing now, but what we heard at Mass substituted "no one" or "no person" or something like that. Fairly harmless, really, but funny: a scrupulousness as to whether it might be offensive to assume that fathers are male. Although I suppose the impetus was not so much that as to try to reduce the overall number of references to maleness.

And this one, from the Sept. 11 Gospel: "No one lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself." I’ve been puzzling over whether this is actually ungrammatical or just very weird. Perhaps someone with more technical command of grammar can tell me. I think it’s grammatically wrong. "One lives for oneself" is
perfectly fine. But the negation of the first "one" seems to wreck the
reference of the second "one." At any rate I’m a bit hyper-sensitive to this sort of thing, and my reception of that reading couldn’t have been more disrupted if the reader had pulled out a chalkboard and dragged his fingernails over it.

Oops, sorry, "his or her fingernails." "One’s fingernails"? Whatever.

Maclin Horton

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An Open Wound

Recently we received news that a couple we know, a couple we were once
close to, had received an annulment.

They had been married for twenty-odd years, had brought nine children into the world, and had homeschooled them. They were an NFP teaching couple and had taught marriage preparation classes in their diocese. The husband for years earned his living working for a Catholic prolife apostolate. In other words, this was the archetypal Catholic countercultural family, deeply committed to their faith: well-read, articulate Catholics. Then a few years ago the wife, in what her friends can only suppose was a fit of menopausal madness, left her husband and children (remember when midlife crises were only a male
phenomenon?). After some time she applied first for a civil divorce, then for an annulment. To everyone’s dismay but hers, the annulment was granted.

I understand that the annulment process is highly personal. Perhaps some deep dark secret lurked in their past. If so it must have been deep indeed: to all appearances the husband is a fine fellow, even-tempered and loving. The wife, while unduly intense, struck everyone who knew her as bright and
devout.

This annulment seems to those of us who knew them as a hypocritical outrage. My reaction was if they can get an annulment anyone can.

While I recognize that there are valid grounds for annulments, and know many cases where this is true, when I see this sort of apparent abuse, I think that in such cases, where clear grounds for annulment do not exist, it would be better to adopt the Orthodox approach: remarriage is allowed as a concession to human weakness, but it is not a sacramental union([and remarriage to the partner
in adultery is not allowed). The service is penitential, and the couple is expected to abstain from Holy Communion for a fixed time afterwards.

At least with this praxis the offending party cannot pretend all is well. As it is, my friend, who initiated the breakup of her marriage and inflicted untold harm on her family, can marry her new man in a big Catholic wedding if she wishes, walking down the aisle with a conscience assauged by the Church itself.

That the Church has come to this–providing excuses for sins against God and man–is a scandal, an open wound in the Body of Christ.

Lord have mercy.

Daniel Nichols

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The French “Riots”

I can’t decide which commentators are more frustrating: the ones who see this as a Muslim insurrection, pure and simple, or the ones who see no element of that at all, and can’t bring themselves to describe the perpetrators of the violence as anything more than "youths" (or maybe "unemployed youths"). The ones who pronounce France as effectively conquered, or the ones who think social programs are the answer.

As best I can tell, though, one outcome that seems possible or even probable is the recognition of areas of France as being self-governing by Muslim councils, and that’s disturbing. Opinions?

By the way, I put "riots" in quotes because that doesn’t really seem to be the right word after–what? twelve days?–even if "insurrection" or "intifada" may be overstatements.

Maclin Horton

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Robert Johnson and Me

There are only two degrees of separation between me and the King of the Delta Blues.

Maclin Horton

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Good Country People

Pine Hill, Alabama, residents scam Red Cross.

Pine Hill is a hamlet in south Alabama, maybe a hundred miles inland, a poor area in a poor state. It apparently had very little damage from Hurricane Katrina–it fared worse in Ivan last year–but it seems a suspicious amount of Red Cross money found its way there.

As word got around that the cheating was going on, the chief of police, John Brown, broke up a gathering at one house where seventy-five people had gotten together to work on filing false claims.

"Some of the Red Cross funds arrived at the Western Union inside the Piggly Wiggly grocery in Camden, the county seat about twenty miles to the east…. [T]he store’s manager said he became curious…when he saw a steady stream of folks from Pine Hill picking up money….[H]e said ‘When folks came in, you could tell just looking at them that something was not on the up and up.’ He asked one ‘little old lady’ who came to pick up a $350 check if she had suffered any losses from the storm. ‘She said no, they were just giving out money.’"

This was not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme. One perp told Brown that "she ate a good meal and went to the Wal-Mart in Thomasville." Says the chief, "Wal-Mart got most of the Red Cross money."

Maclin Horton

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