Monday, March 28, 2011

Jesus Would Have Enjoyed a Thin Mint

So, I'm Catholic.  And like all good Catholics, I'm a bad Catholic.  That's just how it works, and if it sounds a little Orwellian to you, I certainly won't argue the point.

For most of my life I've struggled to reconcile my faith with the realities of history, current events, and my own weaknesses and doubts.  Over the years I've alternately embraced and rejected the Catholic Church multiple times.  And gradually I've come to realize that what I think of as "the Church" actually consists of three very distinct entities that have to be reckoned with separately:
  1. The Catholic faith, which I love.  In my own shabby and irreverent way, I am totally down with Jesus and His teachings.
  2. The Catholic Church, which was founded as a patriarchal political institution and has suffered greatly from institutional corruption and conservatism.  As in many a large corporation, its bureaucracy too often hinders its best intentions.
  3. Catholics, who run the gamut from very good to very bad people.  The best are those who try to live their faith with humility and respect for others.  The worst are those who choose to interpret God's will in ways that violate instead of venerate His word.
In my opinion, the category of violaters of the faith includes the author of a blog post I read over the weekend.  The entry, entitled "I Can't Buy Your Cookies," is from Veneremur Cernui ("Let us Adore"), which is touted as "a blog for Dallas area Catholics."  In it, the author (who is not affiliated with the Dallas Diocese except as a practicing Catholic) strikes a blow for piety and goodness by...refusing to buy Girl Scout cookies.

As it turns out, Girl Scouts are a bunch of sluts, and they must be destroyed and banished to Hell, along with their Thin Mints of Evil.

I'm paraphrasing, of course.  It's actually Tagalongs that offer the greater moral threat.

Here's the link to the actual post so you can read what this sad, bitter person has to say.  But the upshot of his argument is that Girl Scouts USA has an affiliation with Planned Parenthood that is offensive to conservative religious beliefs.  Oh, wait, what he actually writes is that Girl Scouts is "becoming increasingly co-opted by radical feminists and the ideology of childhood sexualization." 

Maybe the organization has changed since I was a Girl Scout.  As I recall, the sexiest thing we ever did was occasionally sing Bee Gees songs while learning how to do macrame.  Or maybe, since my mom was the leader of my troop, she got me safely out of the room before dropping her radical feminist agenda on the other girls.

Look, there's a lot of bilious, hate-filled crap in the post that you can read for yourself.  The author is entitled to his opinions (although obviously I disagree with him, as I'm in turn entitled to do).  But I have to call him out on two things - lies and hypocrisy - that I just don't think God is OK with.  At least the God I know.

First are the lies.  I'm just so sick of self-proclaimed bastions of morality claiming that Planned Parenthood’s main purpose is to disseminate, as this gentleman writes, "horrific, explicit sexual indoctrination materials, materials oriented towards one thing – insuring Planned Parenthood always has a steady inflow of customers for its abortion services."

Now, I was a regular patient of my local Planned Parenthood for many years.  They provided high-quality, low-cost gynecological exams when I didn't have health insurance, as well as affordable birth control pills.  (Stop the presses:  A Catholic, using the Pill?  Forgive me, Father, but back then I figured it was a lesser sin than having a baby I couldn't afford and wasn't ready to raise.  We can't all be Mary.)

In the PP waiting room, I saw many pamphlets about women's health, preventing and treating sexually-transmitted diseases, rape counseling services, and parenting education.  I never saw any bloody hooks or posters of half-naked children in come-hither poses (unless you count a baby wearing only a diaper and a smile).  I know that PP offers abortions at some locations, and I have no doubt that for those women who decided abortion was their only option, they were handled safely, discreetly, and without a side order of political or religious propaganda.

Look, I'm not a fan of abortions as the solution to unwanted pregnancies.  But to say that Planned Parenthood exists primarily to encourage women to have them is just wrong.  And by wrong I mean false, as well as noxious and untenable.

But there's more.  The author continues, "Planned Parenthood actually advises girls that they don’t have to tell their sex partners if they have HIV!!"  Nice try with the word-bending, sir, but you're a little crooked.  Also warped is his assertion is that this advice is contained in a booklet that PP gave to 10-year-old Girl Scouts without permission when they were visiting the United Nations (another institution the author probably thinks should get a smack with the Damnation Stick, although he doesn't specifically say so).  The booklet in question, which can be viewed in its entirety here, was written specifically to educate young people living with HIV, who overwhelmingly contract the virus in the womb or through tainted blood but then must live with the stigma of having a sexually-transmitted disease and often lack access to factual, impartial information about managing it (which includes information about sex). 

The blogger quotes this line from the booklet -  "You have the right to decide if, when, and how to disclose your HIV status" - as evidence of cavalier attitudes toward sexual activity, without including the next two sentences: "Safer sex is a shared responsibility. When you share your HIV status, you and your partner(s) can work together to make your sex life pleasurable and safe."  Which sounds suspiciously like exactly the opposite of his argument, so it makes sense that he ignored it.

I'm not here to regurgitate the contents of the post.  You've got the link.  But I've got to comment on the hypocrisy on display here.  The author's entire spiel begins with his sad admission that he had to turn away a Girl Scout selling cookies because they are Satan's sweets and fund baby abbatoirs and underage prostitution rings.  Again, paraphrasing.

Is it just me, or is shunning a little girl because she's associated with an organization that's associated with an organization that he finds morally objectionable a wee bit disproportionate as a response to a perceived wrong?  You're going to deny this child an opportunity to go to camp or visit a museum to punish her for...what?  Being part of a 100-year-old tradition that is supported by millions of people, including a few you don't personally agree with?  Dude, the Church has had a lot more wrong with it for a lot longer than that, and I still find a way to give to the St. Vincent dePaul Society without throwing a moral hissy fit.  I think there may a baby in your bathwater.

And finally, the author, this upright defender of what is good and right, hides behind a wet noodle of a response when the demon she-Scouts come to his door:  "Sorry, we have gluten allergies."  Really, you self-righteous hypocrite?  I find that when I don't want something, whether I'm broke or I find it repugnant or I just don't want the damn thing, there's an all-purpose answer that is clear, polite, and morally defensible:  "No, thank you."  Why do you have to embellish it any further?  I'm not saying you should subject little girls to your hateful conspiracy theories (DO NOT DO THIS, SINCERELY).  It just seems to me, for all your posturing, you might not be entirely comfortable tottering through life on the platform soles that raise you above all others, hmm?

Jesus, it's said, wore plain sandals when he preached.  I guess he didn't have to worry so much about what he stepped in.

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