Note: This is a re-post from my old blog, dated March 2012. I have tagged this entry with blogger Elizabeth Esther's name because I have a reason I'm re-posting this, which I'll blog more about soon. I have also included, down at the bottom, some of the better responses that were left in the commbox for this entry, which was a commbox that had over 50 comments at the time.
Wanting to compare notes on Catholics who are constantly open to life
and don't use birth control with Protestants who are constantly open to
life and don't use birth control, I recently read this book:
Turns out the book is more about the "Protestant" Patriarchy Movement
than it is the Quiverfull Movement. Even so, boy, were my eyes opened!
I've been slowly coming to realize, the conservative Catholic realm is
lapping up Protestant trends and doctrines right and left, ooohhhing and
aaahhing over things that sound good, but are non-Catholic in almost
every regard. Not that all non-Catholic things are bad. They aren't. But
it behooves me to understand why overtly non-Catholic doctrines and
trends are being overly-promoted by Catholics (especially homeschool
Catholics) at every turn.
A prime example is the Christian-movie-du-jour, "Courageous."
I'm sure it's great and all, and I'm sure we can all appreciate a
clean, Christian-themed movie. But the thing is, the movie is filled
with non-Catholic beliefs and practices, including many that aren't even
Biblical (if that's the yard stick you want to measure things with.)
Let's start with virginity/purity pledges made by young girls to their fathers,
which is a part of this movie. Where in Catholic tradition is that? Or
in the Bible? It's not. Plus, it's creepy and gross. A girl's/woman's
virginity belongs to herself, or to God, or maybe to her future husband,
but it certainly doesn't belong to her father. Alongside such practices
come purity rings and purity balls - all concepts invented by
Protestants, using literal, to-the-letter Biblical interpretations (key
word here is "interpretations") as a way to monitor, preserve, and
protect a young girl's purity.
What the movie "Courageous" won't
tell you is that alongside these purity pledges and covenants often
comes forced courtships and even, sometimes, young men paying fathers
for the right to marry a daughter (i.e. transfer ownership). Most of
this garbage comes from a religious organization called "Vision Forum,"
which from what I can tell, is ten times more dangerous, insidious, and
controlling that any Regnum Christi or Legionaries of Christ group. (By
the way, the ties between "Vision Forum" and the "Courageous" film are
many, but sublimated, in the same way no one knows that the Legion of
Christ is behind the movie "Bella" and a couple hundred other Catholic
groups and organizations.)
It's like with all the Catholics
wearing long skirts, etc. That's not Catholic! Oh, modesty might be
Catholic. But this "uniform" of drab modesty is American Puritan at
heart, and more specifically, a vestige of Calvinism.
of Calvinism, reading this book made me realize the dozens upon dozens
of beliefs and attitudes carried and promulgated by so many conservative
Catholics have their roots in Calvinism, rather than Catholicism. Sure,
one can go into Catholic tradition and make things "fit." But it seems
to me it's always a reverse process: Get ensnared or enchanted by some
"good" Protestant practice and then determine that Catholicism fits in
nicely with that same practice. It's rarely the case where one delves
deep into the teachings and traditions of Catholicism and comes out
wearing an ankle-length skirt.
And that's because Catholicism
doesn't ask one to check their brain at the door and isn't Puritan.
Puritanism is Protestantism, period. But for some reason, many
conservative Catholics are attracted to this (usually) outwardly visible
sign of purity and "rightness" and propriety, and the only place they
can get this attraction fed is via a Catholic version of Protestantism.
And hey, if that floats your boat, great. But don't call it Catholic
because it's not.
Most of this book was about the Patriarchy
Movement in Protestantism. Granted, the book was written from a very
"anti" (i.e. liberal) point of view, which one has to keep in check as
one reads, but overall, what I discovered was scary and oftentimes
abusive. Young girls being taught to think of and sometimes even address
their fathers and husbands as "lord." Whole families buying into the
concept that girls shouldn't go to college, but should instead stay home
serving their father until they are courted out into marriage.
that Josh Harris book, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye"? Yeah, I read that
too, many years ago. Well, Josh Harris and the concepts taught in that
book were exposed in "Quiverfull," and none of it is Catholic. At all.
What's even scarier to me is the fact that I know dozens of Catholics
who think that book and the concept of courtship it espouses is the best
thing since sliced bread. In response, I ask why our Catholic heritage
isn't the best thing since sliced bread? Oh, yeah right, there's nothing
overtly taught in our Catholic tradition about how one meets and
develops a relationship with a future spouse because Catholic tradition
actually honors and respects free will and individualism.
deeper I fall into this crisis of faith I'm having [now having better worked itself out, 2/13], the better I think
I'm seeing the true lines, which might be a blessing in disguise. While
the TRADS (and especially the SSPX types) will preach until they're blue
in the face about how "right" and "Catholic" they are, I see that
besides the authentic mass they attend, there is so much about their
practices that goes against true Catholicism. I understand now why
people who refuse to let their kids trick-or-treat makes me flinch: The
origins of shunning Halloween come from Calvinists, not Catholics. The
same applies to so many other things that it makes my head spin to think
of them all.
As to the Quiverfull Movement, it seems that their open to life and non-contraception stance might be correct. However, their reasons
for doing so aren't the same as Catholics. Catholics follow these
principles because of natural law. The Quiverfull Protestants are doing
it in order to raise up a multi-generational army who will fight for
restoration of God's government here on earth (it was sounding reaaallly
Mormon-ish, if you want the truth.) Sort of like happy, shiny little
soldiers for Christ.
Oh, and Natural Family Planning (NFP)?
That's forbidden because it's contraception, didn't you know? Which is
why critics of the Quiverfull Movement allege that many in the movement
have made idols of large families, since the only possible way you can
be serving the Lord in purity is to be having as many children as
possible, no matter what level of suffering you are going through. Like I
said, Catholicism doesn't ask you to check your brain, free will, or
extenuating circumstances at the door. The Duggars ought to take note.
(I'm not against large families. But large families aren't for everyone
and Catholicism respects that.)
Even homeschooling - another
prominent topic in the book - was begun in this country by
Puritan-minded Calvinistic Protestants in the 1970's. Only later did
Catholics jump on the bandwagon, following suit. (I'm now toying with
the theory that if Catholics had stayed and fought the good fight back
in the 70's/80's, trying to get Catholic schools up to snuff, maybe our
Catholic schools could have been saved. Or maybe not. It's just a
fleeting thought going through my head.)
See, again, modern
Catholic tradition doesn't include homeschooling. Rather, being a "good"
Catholic meant honoring the responsibility to put your kid in a
Catholic school. Only when the Catholic schools went down the shitter
did homeschooling pick up steam. Understandable. But rather than
homeschool AND simultaneously try to find a solution to the problem,
these Catholics abandoned ship and adapted an American Puritan notion
that the family unit has Christian sovereignty - which is the notion, by
the way, that drives the political Constitutional Party. Which makes me
think our decision to put Alan in an "authentic" non-diocesan Catholic
school is really and truly Catholic. But I digress.
against Protestants. Hardly! My kid goes to a Protestant program once a
week. I once was a Protestant! What I'm simply pointing out here is that
too many Catholics grab onto Protestant ideas and concepts without
giving it another thought, thereby passing on non-Catholic standards
that get held up as the norm, and worse, the bar for growing in
I'm keeping my eyes wide open from now on.
Head coverings aren't just an issue in orthodox Catholic circles,
either. It's an issue over in the Patriarchal Protestant circles, too.
Isn't that interesting? Some people are just drawn to this stuff.
If anyone is offended by what I've written here, I'm sorry. However,
this blog is for me to explore the thoughts rolling around in my head.
A few, select comments from the original post:
Don: "Modern home-schooling may not have had its beginnings in Catholic
circles, but it does conform to the very Catholic principle of
Subsidiarity, which states that matters should be handled at the
lowest-level competent authority. IMO the parochial school concept
arose out of clericalism."
Me (in response to Don): "Your comment begs the question of why most Catholics don't know
(including myself, very much) what subsidiarity is and that it's a
Catholic concept. But they'll buy their daughter a purity ring. See
where I'm going with this?"
JMB: "One of Flannery O'Connor's biggest gripes was with the Jansenist
movement which made huge in roads into the Catholic Church in the 40s
and 50s. Its heart is Protestantism and that should be resisted by all
Catholics. We don't need to dress a certain way, or wear a hat or wig
or whatever to be worthy of redemption and salvation."
Alice: "Agree 100%. I am constantly realizing that I was basically raised in a
Protestant Homechurch/school that went to the sacramental vending
machine every day to get the sacraments since we couldn't make them at
home. It was a cult of the home. Homebirth, homeschool, domestic church,
etc. I'll be honest, I'm not convinced about the whole
homeschooling subsidiarity argument because it really seems like a
rehash of the Sunday School controversies of the early 19th century. The
Catholic homeschooling movement seems to understand the idea of parents
as primary educators of their children in a Protestant way, while the
traditional Catholic way is a bit different."
Kacie: "I'm with you completely in every criticism of these various cultures
within Protestantism. Clearly I'm still a Protestant, but even when I
read I Kissed Dating Goodbye in highschool I didn't buy it. Thankfully
I've never liked the Quiverfull movement, refuse to see Courageous, and
push back against all of what you're talking about. It deserves to be
pushed back against. The only thing I was a part of was having a
purity ring, thought purity balls are nonsense and my chastity vow was
never to my dad. I gave my ring to my husband when we married, and it
was symbolic. However, I'm with you in struggling to re-work my
ideas of how healthy or not the whole way we present "saving yourself
for marriage" really is, and what the effects are on the marital sex
life. Probably wouldn't encourage my own kid to get a chastity ring just
because I feel like it places the emphasis in the wrong place."
Dual Role Grandma: "It isn't so much the purity ring itself, chosen by an individual teen or
young adult. It's the whole pledging of one's virginity to one's father
by young women and girls. ICK, ICK, ICK. You are so Catholicly correct
when you say that whole thing reeks!!!!!! Boys don't need to keep their
virginity? Girls need to pledge its safekeeping to Daddy? Patrimony! If
anybody realized how anti-Catholic movies such as "Courageous" are,
they would never make it to the halls of Catholic churches. Sherwood
Pictures is run out of Sherwood Baptist Church. As for Josh
Harris and his weirdo courtship books, I've argued them in various
Catholic fora until I'm blue in the face. Those that "see no harm" are
just as poorly catechized as those who still want hippie 1960s Mass
where anything goes."
Laura S.: "I get it now! I was always a bit uncomfortable with those "IKDG" and
other books that my mom really pushed on my sisters and I after I was in
a real relationship that I had attempted to apply the principles in.
It took my parents awhile to "accept" my now husband as "good enough"
for me and a lot of the struggles were centered around my failure to
follow that route. Do you think that any of the ToB stuff strays into the Calvinistic errors that the courtship/purity ring mindset camps out in?"
Invictus 88: "If a child wants to buy a purity ring, why not encourage them into something more grounded and meaningful? A Miraculous Medal, or a scapular, would be much better, presumably?"
Heather: "Having grown up in the culture described in your book, I know how
damaging these ideas can be. It's sad that people with such a rich
tradition of faith would buy into such poorly thought-out ideas. In your
opinion, would you say it's more the Catholic men or women who first
adopt the ideas in the family? In my experience, the families were
brought in through the men, with many of the women following
reluctantly. Any doubts or concerns the women had were taken to be
evidence of spiritual warfare."
Beloved: "Thanks for writing this Char. Its so very true, especially with insular,
extremely Rad Trad groups. They've adopted a very Protestant outlook on
Elizabeth: "I've just spent way too much of my Sunday afternoon reading this post and
all the comments. I really think you have made some great points about
puritanical attitudes from Calvinism creeping into our Catholic
culture. As a Catholic homeschooler, I have to say that the peer
pressure is immense to avoid activities such as trick or treating (if
your kids are dressed as saints, it might be ok, but isn't ideal).
Ankle length skirts and denim jumpers abound, and God forbid that you
admit to reading Harry Potter. So many of the things that you mentioned
are not a part of Catholic tradition and have no place in Catholic