Thursday, February 7, 2013

Repost: Purity Rings, Quivers of Arrows, and Other Protestant Nonsense

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!

As 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.

Speaking 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.

Remember 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.

The 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.

I'm not 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 holiness.

I'm keeping my eyes wide open from now on.

P.S. 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.

P.P.S. 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 things."

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 tradition"


  1. Looking forward to the follow-up :)

  2. about 'modesty'- I have 2 friends who ALWAYS wear skirts (not me)- one friend wears skirts down to her ankles with crocs (I love the friend- but), the other friend wear a-line skirts a bit past her knees with ballet type shoes or loafers or whatever- she always looks cute and I think that she doesn't scream MODEST SKIRT even though she prefers to always wear them- I think that's a better way...but I'm wearing pants right now

    1. My philosophy is wear what you want, be conscious of how others might see you, and don't tell me God called you or told you to dress that way unless you were first dressed like a total whore.

  3. I thought I wrote a post to this on my lunch hour. Did it get lost, or was there some issue which caused you to delete it? I wrote about some of the non-religious homeschoolers who I thought came first.... that never showed up here?

  4. I recently got into a FB tussle with a Semi-Famous Catholic MomBlogger because I wasn't offended by Beyonce's Superbowl Half Time show. Granted, I watched after having a few glasses of wine, but I thought she looked awesome and I am impressed with her talent. But apparantly, I'm so jaded by pornography that I didn't see that it was a striptease and that the only thing missing was the pole. Really? What's wrong with me I wonder that I didn't find offense there. Does everything have to be griped about and a subject of censure? She's an entertainer and she appears to lead a good life - she's married to her daughter's father. Why not the uproar with Madonna's half time show? I'm perplexed.

    1. Well, I'm torn on this one.

      I saw Beyonce's show in its entirety. I know (from Facebook) that plenty of people planned on turning it off ahead of time and did just that. What irks me about that approach is that many of those same people then checked out photos and videos of it the next day in order to place their condemnation.

      Honestly, my impression of the whole thing was CROTCH. Crotch shots, crotch convulsions, shake your crotch. But see, I was expecting that from the start, so I wasn't shocked. Nor am I outraged by this kind of thing because I understand the culture we live in isn't going to change. It was the Superbowl! Beer and babes, hello! If people are going to bitch about Beyonce, then they should bitch about pretty much every half time show for the last 15 years. Janet Jackson's nipple anyone?

      However, I don't think someone who isn't outraged by this sort of thing is jaded by porn, and I think that's an unfair accusation. I'm not outraged by Beyonce's show and I can certainly state with certainty that porn has no place in my life, and hasn't for a long, long time. I'm not outraged because this is the world we live in, and that world doesn't operate according to Christian principles.

      The people who didn't like Beyonce's show should resolve right now to never watch a Superbowl halftime show ever again because it's not going to change. Trust me, the Superbowl people saw a run-through of Beyonce's act before and gave it a thumbs up. If they're mad, they should bitch about the NFL allowing it. Beyonce was just being Beyonce.

      Personally, I did thinking was sleazy, even I do think she's pretty. I also think it was all about her crotch because she was under the microscope about the lip synch thing. She barely sang a whole 4 minutes, so she had to do something.

    2. I swear Blogger just mixed my words up. It should say, I did think it was sleazy, even if I do think she is pretty.

  5. Susan, I'm not aware of any previous comment of yours and I deleted nothing. About twice a year Blogger eats a comment. I'm off my computer, so I can't check my email for an original. When I get a chance, I'll check. If it's there I'll copy and paste it here.

  6. By the way Susan, when this post went up a year ago, the who were the original homeschoolers thing was hashed out. I am specifically talking about the modern era and people who started homeschooling for religious/moral reasons, and those people were Protestant.

  7. I definitely agree with you here. It's good that you can see this. So many conservative Catholics can't. I grew up in the Bible Belt so I know what the Evangelical Protestant types really think about us. It always surprises me to see Catholics using their resources. Don't they understand that these people believe they aren't even Christians?

    But I think this raises a larger question. Can you be part of American culture and be culturally Catholic?

    1. Anna, that question is sort of the same question I was asking in my Cutsey Catholicism post.

  8. I was reading home schooling books in the 1970's and I read a lot of John Holt, who was what you might call a "hippie homeschooler." There were people homeschooling in the sixties as part of the whole, drop out of society thing. The idea was to have your kids at home, not register their births, school them at home, so that they could always fly under the radar of the "military industrial complex." Of course, they couldn't get a driver's license or a job, either. There was also a book called De-schooling Society, by Ivan Illych/ (Have to stop.)

    1. I know of some neo-nazi types out in Oregon who homeschool for the same sort of reasons.

    2. Oh dear. Well the sixties hippie types were much more innocuous than current extremists of either the left or the right. Perhaps not well grounded intellectually, but often very pleasant.

      To be honest I was more of a John Holt type homeschooler than either the Protestant homeschoolers I knew (they threw us out of their group after one session, saying they didn't want Catholics, but maybe they really didn't want Hippie types like us) or the few Catholic homeschoolers of that era, some of whom put their kids in Catholic school uniforms and sat them in desks in a basement classroom, set up to imitate Catholic school in the 1950's as far as I could tell.
      I liked a lot of things about John Holt's books, but he really didn't reckon with original sin. According to him every child would follow his gifts and educate himself and parents just had to provide opportunities and materials. Well, people do have a desire to learn, and I did see some of this in my kids. But the thing is that it is necessary for even those who care not at all about numbers, to learn their times tables. Holt would say that they would learn them when they perceived a need. I just couldn't go that far with the laissez faire.

      My oldest daughter had reached the end of third grade without learning them and there was two years of my trying to teach her, while she rolled on the floor and cried "I can't, I can't" Yet she could read at a 12th grade level. (As tested by some learning disability specialists the Catholic school she had been in sent her to.) I think that later on when she was in college and had to take statistics, she was glad she didn't have to start by learning basic arithmetic.


  9. Pretty much without fail in my experience, it's the guys who harp most on modesty that are the most messed up when it comes to sexuality.

    I remember when I was at TAC and a girlfriend of mine talked about how her husband-to-be couldn't handle going to the beach because of all the women in bikinis.

    All I could think was that I would NEVER marry a man who couldn't handle bikinis. Maybe this guy had a problem, and he was doing what he needed to deal with his problem, but I wasn't about to start out a marriage with a guy with that kind of problem. Life's hard enough without adding extra issues in.

    Luckily, my husband has no problem with beaches and bikinis---because I am a total beach girl myself, life without a beach is simply a life not worth living ;)

  10. have you ever heard of near occasion of sin. If not look it up. This is the first time I have written on your blog. Iam a freind of Allison.


    1. Kathy, the Catholic Chuch has existed for 2000 years with the reality of the near occasion of sin without having to subscribe to mostly misguided notions of Protestantism to respond to the near of occasion of sin.

      If someone feels strongly that a purity ring will help them to stay pure, fine, go for it. But don't tell me its Catholic.

      Also, I would add that something like a purity ring (and I am just using the ring as as example, not knowing exactly what you take issue with) could be put on a level with a wedding ring as a visible symbol, yes? Well, lots of people - millions and millions at last count - have worn a wedding ring and comitted adultery. So the symbol is good, but if the heart is bad, so what? Jesus said it was what was inside the person that corrupted.

      I know Allison's son has a purity ring, and I believe he got it at Steubenville? (Correct me if I'm wrong, it's been awhile since the original discussion). Again, if a Catholic wants to do that and feels it will help them, great. I'm not going to stop them. But I fear this is not only a "trend", but also gaining steam within Catholic circles as a good, accepted "rite." I worry that to be "in" at Steubenvlle, one needs to have a purity ring, etc.

  11. I grew up in a family of catholics and we practice common catholics beliefs and practices. Nobody is perfect and honestly, along the way i have committed mistakes and have broken certain rules but i believe that does not make me less of a person. Regarding common catholic practices, there are a lot and it's up to us to follow or break and when it comes to purity rings, i dont have one but would have been nice to have it but not for anything else.