Iuvenescit Ecclesia made simple

brothers-835169_960_720Much time and vast amounts of server space and printer’s ink have been devoted to an analysis of Iuvenescit Ecclesia, the letter issued in early June to the Bishops of the Catholic Church.

We Catholic are skilled complicators, so the subtitle of the letter says it is “Regarding the Relationship Between Hierarchical and Charismatic Gifts in the Life and the Mission of the Church.”

Sounds complicated – but doesn’t have to be.  So, here is the non-theologian’s take on it:

  • The “Hierarchical” refers to what I would call the institutional church, the dioceses and parishes that are defined having authority in a particular geography.
  • The “Charismatic” refers to the congregations and movements that are joined by a particular spiritualism and tend to wander around various geographical authorities.
  • There is tension between these two.
  • The Vatican suggests that since they are all in the Catholic Church and trying to save souls, they should get along and not squabble.

This reminds me of a scene from my boyhood, which I recall with mixed feelings.

My dad loved to drive.  It being the 1950s and 1960s, his love of driving led to summer vacations spent in the car. There was an advertising slogan – “See the USA in your Chevrolet” – that he apparently took to heart.

We drove from Ohio to Florida and back.  To Washington DC and back.  To Oregon and back.  To Quebec and back.  To Boston and back.

My younger brother and I spent a couple weeks every summer sitting together in the back seat of the car trying not to get into trouble with mom, dad or each other.  Boys being boys, we sometimes failed.  Failure tended to generate a rather severe commentary from the front seat.

I recall an especially creative spat between my brother and me that produced my mom’s comment:  You boys really should fight – one of these days the rest of the family will be gone and you’ll just have each other.  And there will never be anyone who is closer to you than each other.

The message from the Vatican to the hierarchical and charismatic is much the same:  you are brothers and ought to stop fighting; you are closer to each other than to anyone else.

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Boys will be boys…


What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and all things nice,
That’s what little girls are made of.

— Nursery Rhyme, 19th century

Life was simpler in the 19th century.  Boys were boys and girls were girls and they even had nursery rhymes to point out the difference.  Most people likely thought it was good there was a difference.Kindergarten_is_fun_(2908834379)

There carried on a long tradition of the two genders wearing different clothing.  Boys wore pants and girls wore dressed.

Boys still wear pants most of the time, although there are the occasional kilt guys; nobody ever accused Sir Sean Connery of looking girlish in his kilt.

Girls still tend to wear dresses for “dressy” occasions.  But pants are common for women; I’ve seen Scarlet Johansson wearing pants in a couple movies and I didn’t get confused and think she was a guy.

But I think parents are wise to give a bit of direction to small children on gender-appropriate attire.  Pants for boys, dresses for girls – with the choice dictated by biology.

This puts me at odds with educators in the UK, where it is reported that as many as 80 schools are offering “gender neutral” uniforms.  The schools want to be sensitive to “trans” children, thus allowing students to decide for themselves whether to be boys or girls (at least in how they dress).

While this would give me pause under any circumstances, I find it rather astonishing that students as young as 5 years are being given the choice.  So there are Billy and Betty entering kindergarten and being confronted with one of life’s greatest identify crises.  Am I a he or a she?  Or have we meandered to the place where everyone is an it?

This is the place where I recommend responsible parenting.  It goes something like this:

Billy, you are a boy and will wear pants to school

Betty, you are a girl and will wear a dress to school

This might be putting a bit of pressure on some parents, but it is time the grownups got a handle on this.  You wouldn’t let a five-year-old plan his own diet, medical care or education.  You wouldn’t let a five-year-old drive a car or fly a plane.

Why would you let a child decide he is different than how God created him?

Making the world a safer place

fcoI traveled to Rome and back last week, a pretty good gig I admit.

But this isn’t about the sights of Rome or the joy of working for a Catholic organization, although those are certainly topics of interest.

Instead, I offer my perspective on airport security; my expertise is related to standing in line.

I flew out of O’Hare, a very large airport.  And it is staffed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The TSA treats everyone the same.  Whether you are a decrepit granny or a gun-toting lunatic, you get the same screening and you stand in lines for a long time.  For the most part, the TSA agents are friendly and polite.  But they are more like theater ushers than police.  If my home were being invaded, I wouldn’t call a TSA agent for help.

I flew into Rome (FCO), also a very big airport.  And it is staffed by more serious security people.

The Italian security people treat people with selective seriousness.  In other words, they adjust to their perception of people and, well, profile.  This makes more sense to me, although I don’t really understand everything they do – or why I had to go through so many steps.

After getting a boarding pass, the first security person checked it and asked where I was going.  I suppose she couldn’t assume that I was going the same place it said on the boarding pass.

Next, she turned me over to an elegantly dressed, attractive young woman who asked me a series of questions:

  • What is your job? (Communications for a Catholic organization.)
  • Where do you work? (Chicago.)
  • Where is the organization headquartered? (Rome.)
  • What are your hobbies? (Fishing and playing the piano, not always in that order.)

If she had asked me my astrological sign I would have feared she was looking for a date.  But this wasn’t the right environment or circumstances, so after these strange questions, she ushered me along to the next checkpoint.

After I put my electronic chargers and cords in plastic grocery bags, a nice woman in a blue uniform helped me take things out of my luggage and navigate the x-ray equipment.  She didn’t ask me any flirty questions.

Then it was off to the departure area.  Before actually getting on a plane, I had to show my boarding pass and passport three more times.  They were really sure I was me.

One other little detail about the airport in Rome; they have real SWAT folks hanging around.  We’re talking body armor, assault rifles, lots of ammo and serious faces.  If my home were being invaded, these are people I would ask for help.

Both the Americans and the Italians exhibit imperfect security systems.  Each could learn from the other.  But the Italians sure seem more serious.  I like serious.