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The Empty Chair

posted by awelborn

Go read what Fr. Rob has to say about it.



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Jim

posted January 28, 2004 at 7:17 am


1) Turning children against their parents hardly seems to be a Christian practice;
2) I’m sure all the non-aborting, non-contracepting parents of these 12-14 year old really appreciate this collective indictment of guilt against them;
3) Why stop with the empty chair? Why not send the kids home to search their parents’ medicine cabinets for contraceptives for an exercise in show-and-tell-and-indict?
The Gen-Xers have been denied something (besides a decent education, I mean): the hope for the future that Christ’s message brings. Blaming your parents is an act of despair. Collectively blaming your parents’ whole generation is an act of collective despair.



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Elizabeth C.

posted January 28, 2004 at 7:39 am


Wow, what a powerfully-presented message. Important and, to some, uncomfortable concepts are brought together in an inspired way. May God continue to bless Fr. Rob’s ministry.
Hopefully not too far off-topic, but the comment
“… And these feelings of meaninglessness and rage are so overpowering, so overwhelming, that the only way they feel they can get relief is to inflict physical pain on themselves… ”
particularly caught my eye because, as a guitarist in a Christian rock band, I listen to a fair amount of pretty hard rock (Cold, Static-X, Godsmack, that sort of stuff) to pick up on styles and techniques, and to try to understand the reasons why young people are drawn to it. The hard rock genre mirrors the above statement far more than gangsta rap does — for instance, just google the lyrics to “Last Resort” by Papa Roach (warning, f-bomb alert). Just this morning I was discussing with my husband how most of (what I call) angry rock tends to represent the anguished cries of someone who lives in what seems to them a hopeless environment, but they refuse to believe that there is truly no hope, and are crying out for someone to give them confirmation that their hope is not false. Honestly, we’ve all been in that place at some point in our lives, and though listening to that sort of music at such a time isn’t particularly productive, it doesn’t necessarily drive one off the cliff into total despair. But there is definitely a subset of that music that starts off with the unchallenged assumption that there is absolutely no hope whatsoever, none, nope, forget it, life is hopeless, despair is all there is, nobody (earthly or heavenly — heck, there’s no heaven anyway) cares so you shouldn’t either, deal with it. The people (kids and young adults alike) who latch onto this kind of music and consider it the soundtrack of their lives are the ones I pray for.
(btw, for those interested in some good, distinctly Christian alternatives to some the bands mentioned above, I recommend the CD “Picking Up The Pieces” by Seventh Day Slumber and Jonah33’s selftitled debut, which has some great hard rock worship songs. 12 Stones is a good alternative for Cold fans).



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Franklin Jennings

posted January 28, 2004 at 9:50 am


Jeeze, Jim, did we read the same homily?
Fr. Johansen, at no time, made any effort to “(turn) children against their parents.” In fact, the children who might be turned against their parents by such a message weren’t in any danger of hearing it; they are decomposing in a landfill that accepts medical waste.
There was no indictment of “non-aborting, non-contracepting parents”, but rather an indictment of aborting and contracepting parents. Reading (comprehension) is fundamental, ya know?
As for your last bullet, its so far out of the park as to make you seem unhinged. Did Father’s homily hit close too home?



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Jim

posted January 28, 2004 at 12:42 pm


Franklin:
Did you scroll down further on the link and read this?:
“So where, if at all, are signs of hope to be found? Well, it seems to me, that there is hope in our youth. I watched a little bit of the Mass for Life in Washington on EWTN last night, and I was struck by how many of the faces in the crowd were under 30. My own experience leads me to have hope: The Gen-X’ers and younger people are beginning to catch on to the fact that their generation has been savaged by abortion. Victor Lams put it bluntly last week:
‘… [T]he Boomer generation was the first generation to really selfishly turn on the next generation (my generation) and try to wipe it out through the holocaust of abortion and contraception. The boomers looked/do-look at the very existence of the Gen Xers as a threat to their youth (“Who are these youngsters? I’m the kid! I get the sex and the toys!”)…’
When young people get wind of what has been perpetrated on them, they’re horrified and angry.”
I would call this fostering intergenerational strife and I would not characterize it as Christian.



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Fr. Rob Johansen

posted January 28, 2004 at 1:50 pm


Jim:
You’re pretty funny. The boomers annihilate 38 million of their progeny in the womb; the progeny who survived the gauntlet of death are rightly horrified and outraged when they realize what happened, and I’m “fostering intergenerational strife”.
Your remarks are an object lesson in boomers’ incapacity for self-examination or accepting moral responsibility for their actions.



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Michael Tinkler

posted January 28, 2004 at 2:39 pm


Yep – I think if the indictment fits, you must convict. What DO those Catholic-two-child-families keep in their medicine cabinets? From anecdotal reports it’s not basal temperature thermometers….
When I taught high school I used to ask “how many of you think that marriages are ‘made in heaven’ — that there’s ONE special somebody out there for you? What if he got aborted?” That was a conversation starter.



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Franklin Jennings

posted January 28, 2004 at 2:58 pm


Sorry, Jim, but there’s an empty tree somewhere.
Fr. Johansen isn’t fostering intergenerational strife. He’s pointing out the existence of intergenerational strife. And while his words can be interpreted as a condemnation of every single member of a generation, I doubt a reasonable person would interpret it as such. We kids are capable of telling the difference between a 40yo who respects and loves life and a 40yo who’d have killed us all to make life easier for himself. Maybe its an intergenerational thing, but we don’t get all confused as to who the good guys or bad guys are.



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Carrie

posted January 28, 2004 at 3:58 pm


We’ve confused them about sex by creating a society in which anything goes. We’ve told them “you’re going to do it anyway. We’re not going to bother teaching you about virtue and self-control and the preciousness of sex.” We’ve just thrown contraceptives at them.
I have to disagree with Father. It isn’t by abortion that we teach our children they have no worth. It is by what he touches on with that quote. It’s by contraception that we give them that message, and abortion is just a nasty extension of the message. By choosing when and when not to have a child, we make of children a commodity not unlike a new house or a fifth pair of shoes. We take away their infinite moral worth and give them in exchange the same value as something over which we have sovereign control. In other words, we own them. They are not free and independent human beings. They are our possessions because we decided whether or not they were worthy to be given life in the first place. By choosing to contracept some of them, we dishonor all of them. We are gazing at the second (third?) generation of dishonored human beings.
Their parents lived with the knowledge as children, and grew up and contracepted with the knowledge. The second generation has been parented by those whose thinking has been altered by this knowledge from childhood on. And we keep pushing this knowledge into lower and lower age brackets via sex education.
What comes out of this changed perspective?
I try to imagine how I would feel if God held me in one hand and a Mercedes in the other, and appeared to have difficulty making a choice, or worse yet seemed to be leaning toward the car. God is the most important person in my life. If He doesn’t want me, what does it matter if anyone else does or not? If He doesn’t want me, why should I want myself? Parents are the most important people in their children’s lives, so the analogy works.
The evidence of this balancing act is played out daily on the clock. If I were a child, I might wonder what will Mom and Dad spend their time on today? Will they both be so consumed with earning money that there will be no time left in their busy day to notice I’m around? Am I merely a tool they can use to accomplish their own purpose? Someone who can cook dinner when Mom is working late. Someone who can drive my little brother to Cub Scouts? Someone who can clean the house when Mom is too busy? Someone who can babysit? If I am not valuable, but merely useful, why should I want myself? Or if I am the younger child, must I always be the one who makes my older sibling’s life inconvenient? Must I be the reason that Mom can no longer be at home, but rather gone to a job somewhere else? The possibility for self-destructive questions of this nature is unlimited.
Forty years into this thinking we may be slowly realizing what we have done, but we have structured our society in such a way that it will no longer accommodate trusting God to provide for the number of children He gives us. We have wrested control away from Him, placed priorities on things, and now we must live with the consequences, and see our children suffer from them.
I wish there was a simple solution. I wish I had even a difficult answer. I don’t. But the first step to finding an answer is to begin to understand the problem.
Perhaps a daily prayer would help? Lord, let me never fall into the trap I have set for myself of seeing my children as my possessions instead of seeing them as Your loan for which I am accountable.



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victor

posted January 28, 2004 at 5:35 pm


I loved Fr.’s homily and I stand by my comments on the Boomers.
And I do think that all of us, non-contracepting parents, genXers and Baby Boomers alike, bear the collective, national guilt of the crime of abortion.
Not many people LIKE being told that, of course…



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Barbara

posted January 28, 2004 at 5:39 pm


Re: the empty chair. The chair isn’t really empty. I understand that you are presenting a metaphor, but it would be equally correct to say that those under the age of 30 whose mother had an abortion might not be here if she had instead chosen to carry that baby. Her life would have been dramatically different, and their’s would too, if indeed it would have come about at all. Such is the fortuitousness of life.
As for Carrie’s comment, I don’t know what to say. Having fewer children doesn’t make them commodities. For many people, it feels quite the opposite. Life has changed and even most of those marching on January 22 in Washington D.C. aren’t going to entrust the number of children they will have entirely to the Lord.



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Franklin Jennings

posted January 28, 2004 at 6:24 pm


Having fewer children doesn’t make them commodities.
I believe Carrie’s argument was that contracepting makes children commodities. There is a distinct difference between her position and the position you’ve attributed to her.
Life has changed and even most of those marching on January 22 in Washington D.C. aren’t going to entrust the number of children they will have entirely to the Lord.
Heck, can we leave everything up to popular opinion? Is there anything which is wrong no matter how many people do it? Is sin merely a social construct? This seems like a dnagerous line of thought.



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Keith R

posted January 28, 2004 at 7:47 pm


As the proud adoptive parents of one child, my wife and I would have felt rather awkward – either share with everyone something we still haven’t shared with our own daughter, or have folks look at us and wonder, as was said here “What DO they keep in their medicine cabinets?”



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CB

posted January 28, 2004 at 9:02 pm


Naturally assumed from the “Empty Chair” title that the subject would be Vatican inactivity and paralysis.



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craig

posted January 29, 2004 at 11:26 am


I disagree with Carrie’s argument that contraception is responsible for making children commodities, and I say this not to defend contraception; I’m simply saying that you can’t put the problem on it alone.
The simple fact is that at most times and in most places life has been cheap. Children have historically been commodities (and the absolute property of their fathers) in many cultures that knew no contraception. Only where a Christian ethos dominates has it ever been otherwise. Christian morality does not proceed from an absence of contraception, but the other way round.



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SecretAgentMan

posted January 29, 2004 at 1:48 pm


>>>>1) Turning children against their parents hardly seems to be a Christian practice;>>>2) I’m sure all the non-aborting, non-contracepting parents of these 12-14 year old really appreciate this collective indictment of guilt against them;>>>3) Why stop with the empty chair? Why not send the kids home to search their parents’ medicine cabinets for contraceptives for an exercise in show-and-tell-and-indict?>>>The Gen-Xers have been denied something (besides a decent education, I mean): the hope for the future that Christ’s message brings.>>>Blaming your parents is an act of despair. Collectively blaming your parents’ whole generation is an act of collective despair.



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Mark Shea

posted January 29, 2004 at 6:14 pm


Jim’ argument appears to boil down to saying “It is unspeakable cruelty to deny Gen Xers the chance to contemplate the celestial glories of We Baby Boomers.” Speaking as a Baby Boomer and a member of the Most Narcissistic Generation in the History of the Human Race, I’m mortally relieved that Gen Xers and Gen Y seem to be sprouting the good sense to regard my generation as one sent into the world as a warning to others.
Nice work Fr. Rob.



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J

posted January 29, 2004 at 7:40 pm


Re: contraception, one has to read Anscombe. I have not read a better exposition. She touches on the relationship between contraception and abortion, but does’nt use that to defend the Church’s teaching.



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michigancatholic

posted January 29, 2004 at 8:23 pm


Jim,
Gen-Xers, above all, have been denied brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and classmates. Why? Because they are DEAD. Think about that.



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michigancatholic

posted January 29, 2004 at 8:33 pm


I’m intrigued by this quote from Jim (way up top):
“2) I’m sure all the non-aborting, non-contracepting parents of these 12-14 year old really appreciate this collective indictment of guilt against them;”
How many do you think there are in your parish? I bet I could count the couples between 18 and 50 who are “non-aborting, non-contracepting parents of 12-14 year olds” on my fingers.



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michigancatholic

posted January 29, 2004 at 8:36 pm


BTW, the comment above it not an excuse for people behaving this way. It’s just a sad observation.



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Carrie

posted January 29, 2004 at 9:37 pm


Craig wrote:
The simple fact is that at most times and in most places life has been cheap. Children have historically been commodities (and the absolute property of their fathers) in many cultures that knew no contraception. Only where a Christian ethos dominates has it ever been otherwise. Christian morality does not proceed from an absence of contraception, but the other way round.
Craig, you make my point. Only Christianity will lift us up out of a rather evil culture. And Christianity did so lift us by declaring that all life is valuable and children are a gift from God. Each person had value. Then we discovered how to reliably prevent pregnancy. That discovery wiped out all the gain in individual self-worth of children that Christianity had given us.
Sure non-Christian thinking will devalue life for other reasons, but that is hardly the point.



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Matt W.

posted January 29, 2004 at 11:59 pm


Carrie,
I think you are going a bit too far with the “leave it all in God’s hands” idea, or at least further than Paul VI. Humanae Vitae explicitly states that taken advantage of the woman’s natural cycles of fertility for a proper spacing of our children is a key part to “responsible parenthood.”
Seeking proper spacing is not in conflict with “leaving it all in God’s hands,” because the parents must continually be in prayer and in conversation with each other to ensure they remain open to life. That is no less “leaving it all in God’s hands” than using a spiritual advisor rather than randomly opening my Bible and seeing what’s there.
I do agree with your point about how contracepting (whether artificially or through a selfish use of NFP) along with most feritility treatments encourages (and is a result of) viewing children as commodities.



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