Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D



Rebuilding:
Forming Traditionally Christian Communities
 





Back in the day, Europe was Catholic. The people who lived there could let their children run and play, safe in knowing that those who lived around them shared their basic views of what is True, Good, and Beautiful. During the day, while their men worked, women were surrounded by extended family and by other women who believed as they did about the basics in life. They'd drop by each others' homes for a kaffeeklatsch, talking together over coffee and cake. Their children would play together while the women socialized and shared their problems with each other, and if any of those children acted the fool, any of the mothers could step in and correct them without fear of being accused of something nefarious. In the very olden days, women would share labor, doing things like meeting at the river to wash their families' laundry, or getting together to bake up things in advance of feast day celebrations. Women had their world, men had theirs, and the two weren't in competition, but supported each another.

Immigrants from Europe to the United States created little oases made of those co-ethnic, likeminded people who still shared their core values and ways of life. "Little Italys," and Polish, Irish, and German neighbhorhoods were built around parishes and populated by large families who grew up together, went to church together, and went to school together. My city, for example, never had enough Italian immigrants to have an official "Little Italy," but the people who came here from the Old Country lived in the same area. My paternal grandparents attended an Italian personal parish and lived among Catholic Italian Americans, with the Catholic Irish Americans close by. Two of their seven children moved a few houses down from them when they got married, a grand-daughter -- a girl from a family with eleven children -- moved into the house next door to her parents when she married, etc., so that the people of my family lived all up and down the same street. Aunts Teresa, Catherine, Frances, and Mary had each other and Nonna; their many children had them and each other.

So what happened?

These beautiful, close neighborhoods were intentionally destroyed in order to destroy Catholic solidarity, something E. Michael Jones writes about this in his book "The Slaughter of Cities,"1 which he discusses in mp3 format here. Paul Likoudis, of "The Wanderer," writes that Jones's book explains:

how the elites used World Wars I and II to 'Americanize' Catholic ethnics, used the crisis of war production to transport millions of poor blacks North for factory work and housed them in Catholic neighborhoods, branded Catholics as racists for resisting this influx, invented and employed sophisticated propaganda tools 2 in the major media to persuade Catholics the suburban life with a car and garage was superior to a close-knit neighborhood, and that public school was superior to the parochial school, and so much more.

But the destruction of those neighborhoods and the great exodus to the suburbs did more than just destroy Catholic solidarity; they put a burden on the Catholic family that's played a big role in the destruction of family altogether. Where women once had their own culture, and a sorority made of literal sisters, aunts, mothers, grandmothers, and neighbors -- women to talk to and share work with -- they now had no one but their husbands. Isolated in the suburbs, with no family and relatively few Catholics around them, they were desperately alone. Desperately alone, they became unhappy. Unhappy, they became feminists. And becoming feminist, they came to blame men for all of their problems.

The Rolling Stones have a song, "Mother's Little Helper," with rather mocking lyrics that describe the very real turmoil women came to find themselves in:

"Kids are different today, " I hear every mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she's not really ill, there's a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of her mother's little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

"Things are different today, " I hear every mother say
Cooking fresh food for her husband's just a drag
So she buys an instant cake, and she burns a frozen steak
And goes running for the shelter of her mother's little helper
And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day

Doctor, please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

"Men just aren't the same today, " I hear every mother say
They just don't appreciate that you get tired
They're so hard to satisfy, you can tranquilize your mind
So go running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
And four help you through the night, help to minimize your plight

Doctor, please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

"Life's just much too hard today, " I hear every mother say
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day -- Hey!

The relative ease of making an instant cake or preparing a frozen steak does nothing to ease loneliness and feelings of being uprooted, so women turned to drugs like Valium, prescribed by the billions by doctors in the 1960s and 1970s. Women were in pain. And women in pain want to talk about it. But when a woman's alone with no one but a husband who's been working hard all day and, very understandably, doesn't want to come home to misery but to a place of peace and nurturing, fights break out, and marriages break down. Men tend to personalize their wives' unhappiness, wondering why their women are so discontented when they work so hard to give them everything. Being men, they're also typically not highly emotional creatures who want to talk about feelings all night. But women are women, social creatures needing emotional validation, needing to kvetch when things aren't right with them. With no females around, all of those emotional needs get poured out on the poor husband, and both husband and wife end up exasperated for good reason.

Bottom line: women need other women. And men need other men. And children need other children to play with. We need to restore Catholic communites.



Moving Forward

When traditional Catholics think of surviving modern life, it seems that most get the idea of moving to a rural area and living off the land. That's fine and good, of course, but not all Catholics are meant to grow crops or engage in animal husbandry, and moving to the country doesn't help with the problem of women and children's isolation. The old-school neighborhoods written about above weren't typically situated on farmlands, but in cities, and it's cities I want to focus on here.

I envision Catholics banding together in groups of at least three families (though the more the merrier), choosing a parish or chapel that offers the traditional Latin Mass and all of the traditional sacramental rites, and moving together to houses close to that parish or chapel, and very close to each other -- next door to or across the street from each other, if possible. Another option is for a wealthier Catholic to buy a few duplex homes, condominium complex, or small apartment building and rent them out to Catholic families. Such a building with an enclosed courtyard would be a tremendous boon in terms of children's ability to gather and play together safely.

Imagine a cul-de-sac with eight houses, each of them populated by a traditionally Catholic family.
Imagine how the women could befriend and help each other during the day. Imagine the celebrations of feast days that could be had when eight families are involved and working together. Imagine families getting together to pray the Rosary, engage in Lectio Divina, or just have fun with things like game nights and cocktail parties. Imagine how the children of those families could grow up with friends to play with, yards to play in, and an entire street to ride their bikes and play street hockey on. Imagine how much happier those families could be without having to worry so much about their children playing outdoors. Imagine three our four houses in a row with their backyards collectively fenced in so that children have some breathing room to play in.




Imagine forming such a small community, other strong Catholic families seeing what you've built, and then their moving in to the area as well. Imagine their further inspiring other families to do the same. Then imagine what things could look like after a decade.

Rebuilding Catholic communities either starts with something like this, or it doesn't start at all. Jewish people manage to have their Jewish neighborhoods,3 so why can't we manage to have ours?



Dangers

Intentionally formed communities don't come without hazards. They could easily devolve into cultish type affairs, for ex. And if "toxic traddism" creeps in, with its busy-bodying and rigidity -- well, you're doomed. The three families who initiate such a plan should know each other well enough, get along well, be laid-back about each others' foibles and quirks, be aware of and determined to avoid such things as purity spirals,4 not be prone to paranoia about or overreaction to "the world," and be nothing at all like a "toxic trad." There should be no "leader" aside from the leading and organizing needed to get three families together and willing to make such a move. And there should definitely be no "spiritual leader" other than the parish or chapel priest and the relevant Bishop.

There should be no communal anything that involves finances aside from such things as the collective purchase of a plot of land to turn into a play area or park, or for other communal use, or doing things such as collectively fencing in back yards, a situation over which which each family would exert absolute control in terms of their own property and section of the fencing. Family integrity is, of course, key.

Though legally murky to me as a non-attorney, voluntary neighborhood covenants, conditions, or restrictions ("CC&Rs") or forming a Homeowners Association may be tools to investigate and consider using in setting up such a community and maintaining certain basic standards. Covenants are illegal to use to discriminate in terms of religion (or race, color, or national origin), but they can be used to outline agreed upon expectations for certain behaviors that aren't particular to any given religion -- i.e., behaviors that are considered "facially neutral." As an example, an atheist group of homeowners might band together and form a covenant or Homeowner Association that forbids putting up light-up decorations, but they couldn't ban "Christmas lights."

Any expectations, though, whether by covenant or in terms of social pressure, should be based not on the religious life, but on secular life -- the world of everyday Catholics. Look again at the photograph at the top of this page: those people lived in the same neighborhood and trusted each other with the safety of their children, but they weren't up in each others' business, nosing into each others' affairs. The goal is the restoration of such old-school, traditionally Catholic communities, not establishing a religious order, a commune, or achieving Utopia (which means "Nowhere"). There should be no expectations of sharing the same aesthetics, such as liking or disliking the same TV shows, books, movies, or fashions. One family may listen to Led Zeppelin, another might prefer Bach; one might eat meat, and another might be vegetarian; one might watch movies another finds spiritually dangerous. And all could be well. What matter are the desire and will to live in a place where the True, Good, and Beautiful are seen and treated as Real, where acceptance of the Catholic creeds is a given, where old-school common sense (especially about what is safe and good for children) is evident, and where the overall goal is to get to Heaven.

Now those three traditional Catholic families have to find each other and begin... Feel free to use the FishEaters discussion forum and any FishEaters material to this end.





Footnotes:

1 As of this writing, Mr. Jones's books are banned from Amazon, but you can buy them through his website: http://www.culturewars.com 

2 The otherwise wonderful movie "Marty" (1955) demonstrates attitudes that go against extended family (for example, Clara's attitude toward what Mrs. Pilletti tells her about her sister's fate), that equate living in such a place with immaturity, and that buttress the idea that the new-fangled suburbs are superior to the old Catholic neighborhoods.

Example 1: Marty tells his mother, "You know, Ma, I think we oughta sell this place. The whole joint's going to pieces. The plumbing is rusty. Everything. I'm gonna have to replaster the whole ceiling now. You know what we oughta do? We oughta get one of those new apartments they're building down on Southern Boulevard. A nicer parta town, you know?"
                      
Example 2: When, out of concern for her father, Clara expresses hesitance about moving away so she can become department head for the company she works for, Marty says, "I think you're kidding yourself, Clara. I used to think about moving out, you know? And that's what I used to say. 'My mother needs me.' But when you really get down to it, that ain't it at all. Actually, you need your father. You know what I mean? You're living at home, and you got your father and mother there, and you can go on like that -- being a little girl all your life."

I haven't done a survey, but I'm willing to bet that you'd see much of this sort of thing in movies made in the late 1940s and 1950s. And after 1963 or so -- fuggetaboutit.

3 See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Jewish_communities_in_North_America Orthodox Jewish communities even have eruvim surrounding their neighborhoods --  enclosures made for the purpose of allowing activities normally disallowed on their Sabbath. They literally have fences, and wires strung from publically owned structures, like utility poles, and from phone poles, etc., to mark out an area as their "private domain" so they can do things like carry objects into a street on their Sabbath.

4 A "purity spiral," as defined by sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, is a situation in which members of a group formed around an ideology or goal become ever more intolerant and increasingly zealous, resulting in members turning on each other, more and more virtue-signalling, shunning, "cancel culture," and the like.




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