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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dialogue!

The most remarkable piece of head-patting condescension you will see this year.

From our friends at the Reporter, natch.

Which, after one of its periodic hiccups of moral sanity, returns to being the cavalcade of frivolity we all know and love.

Watch as a truth-as-Rorschach-Test advocate tut-tuts at a woman who bears all the marks of sainthood.

I mean, what else can you make of this [beginning and other parts snipped]:

Her distress evident, she continued:
“I do not know why women keep trying to be Jesus. They should try only to imitate the example of humility and obedience of our Blessed Mother.”

“Abena, are you saying that men should not try to imitate the example of Mary?”

I struggled to contain my anger. And I succeeded because this was Abena, a very simple woman, not a bishop, the pope or a Vatican spokesperson, all of whom, I think, should have a broader view of church history and the place of culture in determining our ever-evolving, collective understanding of God.

How very white man's burden-ish of her to "contain her anger" toward such an obvious simpleton. "Ever-evolving collective understanding of God." OK. Whatever else it means, it's pretty obvious the "collective understanding" necessarily excludes the experience of the "very simple."

But I have this strange feeling that it is very favorable to the enlightened world view of upper middle class leftish Minnesotans.

Call it a hunch.

She laughed readily, “Of course, we all should. But what is more important is that women learn the beauty of raising children.

“Just today God has answered my prayer. The husband of a sister of ours planned to divorce her because she has not been pregnant in many years. I learned today that she is two months with child. God is so good!”

My blood nearly boiled at the sexist content of this assertion and her archaic proof of God’s mercy.

prig, n. a person who obeys the rules of correct behaviour and considers himself or herself to be morally better than other people; see also National Catholic Reporter, Essayists for.

The delight in the impending birth of a child and its ascription to God is an archaic sexism that makes her blood boil?

[Cue Don King voice]: "Only in the Reporter!"

Yet, I forgave her immediately because I recognized that she is a product of her culture.

Remember, children, that one should never fail to forgive ignorant foreigners for their culturally-driven foibles.

Only recently from Cameroon, she was jailed there for her faith. Shackled, she was beaten on the soles of her feet. Now, walking is difficult. Wearing shoes is still painful.

“They wanted to break my spirit,” she laughed when she told me. “They only strengthened my faith!”

She is temporarily here, illegally, an accident of clerical errors (or the truest intervention of the grace of God), awaiting deportation so she can return to spread the Gospel to prisoners until she is again jailed and, as she anticipates, tortured to death. As she awaits deportation, she cares for dying women in their homes. Between chores, she prays the rosary many times a day. Paid in cash by grateful families, she lives on handouts, saving the money to send basic necessities like soap, underwear and food to her beloved prisoners. “In Cameroon,” she said, “if you have no family to care for you while in prison, you die. We are all family in Jesus,” she said. “So, we must care for these brothers and sisters.”

This is the story Ms. Helminski should have written--a remarkable drama about a living saint facing deportation (unjustly so? Why can't she tell us?) and death with the true spirit of Christ. Instead, she wastes the better part of 901 words talking about what a theological rube her courageous friend is.

To paraphrase Mark Shea: "Fixating on women's ordination makes you stupid."

Proof? Try this, which shows the good--no, make that heroic-- work Ms. Helminski has done by adopting two Chinese children and assisting children inside China who have been orphaned by AIDS, and her 100% condescension-free essay on what motivated her to do so.

Too bad that woman doesn't appear in this little bleat.

* * *

I respect her a great deal.

Yeah. Can't you just feel the respect, wafting up from the page.

I admire the depth of her faith.

Which is why she described it as being very simple, archaic, unevolved, sexist and conditioned by Abena's impliedly-backward culture.

What's not to admire?

I am also aware that there is just so far the edge of her theological understanding will stretch and it is way back there on the opposite side of the church from where I stand.

Which is in far left field, heading for the warning track...

* * *

Evenly matched in both strength of conviction and respect for each other,

[Clunk.

Splat.

Bzzzzzzzzt!

"OUCH!

Dam-

Gah!

It's burnt, that's why!"]

Sorry about that--my jaw hit the keyboard, my tongue lolled out and I got an electric shock from the keyboard. Watching a complete disconnect from reality does that to me, sometimes.

we gently volleyed questions back and forth. Although she did laugh a few times, I detected no malice or disrespect. It was my questions themselves, questions she had never considered, that she found amusing.
Unlike others with whom I have entered into such discussions, she was not intent upon recreating my soul in her image. Nor was I intent upon asserting my view to the exclusion of hers.

That sounds wise--no headway possible at all on this one.

I felt profoundly blessed as Abena pointed to the truth in her own experience without condemning the truth in mine.

If the Holy Spirit truly guides the church, it is our responsibility to stand at the point God has placed us within the church and proclaim from the honest depths of our souls, “This is how I see God!” and respect each vision as equally valid. If the whole church entered into such respect-filled dialogue, surely the Kingdom of God would be manifest upon the earth.

If this is "respect-filled dialogue," then I'm begining to understand why the Common Ground Initiative quickly became a progressive monologue.

First, there's no talking with people who regard you as exhibits in an unusually freakish petting zoo. Ms. Helminski's exercise in theological condescension applies equally to American Catholics opposed to her views.

Without that whole risk of impending martyrdom, to be sure, but just think how much "respect" she has for those who aren't facing death?

Second, the "each vision as equally valid" shtick has been tried. It's called the Episcopal Church, USA. And the progressives are chasing opposing "visions" out with pitchforks and torches.

More to the point, it's wrong. There's no "equal validity" between diametrically opposing views. Someone is wrong and will come out on the losing end, eventually. Even Ms. Helminski believes that. With all her heart. Her last-minute assertion that Abena's view is "equally valid" is grimly humorous, following as it does a litany that began with describing that view as "very simple" and ended with a claim that it was based in cultural inferiority. Peg is right and Abena is wrong, and that's clear from the outset.

Intra-church dialogue is a non-starter. Pleasantries can be exchanged, to be sure. But when you go in acting like an anthropologist among the primitives, it's going to end with your "subjects" making for the exits sooner or later.

[Hat tip to Diogenes at CWN.]

[Update: in response to a good catch by commenter mermen, I have revised the section about her adopted children and her charitable work--apparently I conflated her work with AIDS-orphaned children in China with her own adoptees, who, while from China, were not affected by the virus.]

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