Bishops, Biden and the Eucharist

Before I begin to write about the controversy that has engulfed American Catholicism (and much of America that is not Catholic), I feel that it is only right for me to admit that I am, at best, a very bad Catholic. There are many ecumenical teachings that I am unable to incorporate into my own beliefs, I have (and still do in many ways) lived in sin and I am at odds with some of the most fundamental teachings of not only the Catholic church, but Christianity as a whole. At the same time, I do still consider myself to be a Catholic – perhaps in a way not so different from the way that Biden does.

For those who may be unaware, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops recently met and discussed possible changes to the Eucharist, with much of the purported conversation said to be on changes to who may be eligible to receive the Eucharist. For those of you who are Christians but not Catholic, this is of especial importance to Catholics, as the belief is not that the Eucharist is a symbolic meal, but the literal incarnation of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and participating in this sacrament brings one closer to Christ Himself (to the best of my limited understanding).

This then leads us to the controversy around President Joe Biden. Biden will often, both on the campaign trail and otherwise, talk about his personal life as a devout Catholic, and how it influences his life on a wide scale. However, one of the belief that Biden holds in his public life is in the legal right of women to have access to abortions. For many Catholics, this public action and support by Biden is in direct contradiction to Catholic teaching and contributes to the wholesale genocide of American pre-born children.

As an aside, in order to be transparent, I should say that I am not pro-life (if you are at all interested, you can read my thoughts on this in my essay “The Sanctity of Suicide”). At the same time, I am anti-abortion. For me, the difference comes down in two essential steps – I believe that life begins at conception, and I believe that if one is to condone the killing of a human life (specifically suicide), there needs to be a conscious decision made, which is completely impossible for a pre-born infant.

Due to Biden’s support of the legality of abortion, many Catholics believe that Biden goes in direct contradiction of the teachings of the Catholic Church – this action is one that many believe should bar Biden from participating in Communion, which is in many ways removing him from the ability to actively participate in the Catholic tradition.

At the end of the day, I do believe that Biden should be refused the Eucharist, due to his active and wilful denial of the teachings of the Catholic Church. I do not believe that there is a single practicing Catholic on this planet who can be said to be in full agreement with the teachings of the Catholic Church (I would be hard pressed to even say that the Pope himself does), the main difference in Biden and, say, someone like me, is Biden’s public and political role. Someone condoning this wholesale slaughter of innocent life that is unable to defend itself is not someone who I believe should be allowed to be in communion with the Catholic Church.

And, to be honest, someone as bad of a Catholic as myself? I am not sure that I deserve to be in communion either. Perhaps, for both Biden and myself, as well as anyone else out there who considers themself to be a Catholic (and particularly those that, like me, consider themselves to be bad Catholics on their best day), the question is not whether or not we deserve to be in communion – not whether we are worthy of being in communion with Christ, but what promotes the most Christ like behavior. And, to be honest, I do not know what the answer to that question is.

On the Necessity of Ritual War

Many of us will have either heard, or seen a dramatized version, of the young tribal man, who having just finished puberty, is snatched out of his bed by the tribal elders and sent to complete some daunting task, often on his own and in legitimate danger of losing his life. While to some of us this may seem like something out of a horror story and in opposition to our modern sensibilities, there is a beauty and even necessity in these rituals that has been lost in our modern society.

In ancient mythology, there was a concept of the “Puer Eternaus” which was a god of eternally childlike visage. Carl Jung appropriated this term to denote the individual that occupies the body of a man but has never truly matured past the adolescent. Speaking from personal experience both internally and from others in my life, as well as countless anecdotes, I believe that it is fair to say that this is a concerning phenomenon that plagues much of our modern culture.

For myself, for half a decade I struggled with being the “Puer Eternaus” myself. I fell into this mode of being through my addiction – through a constant intoxication that prevented the both my desire and ability to engage in voluntary suffering, the necessary ingredient into becoming a man (which I touch on in other posts). At the age of 23, I made the decision to get sober, and one of the steps in this process was attending therapy. One of the first things I was told was that I had not matured beyond 15 years old. While I had been told this many times, it was the shock of hearing it from a trained and seasoned professional that caused me to begin to challenge my adolescent behaviors. I am still working on this, even after 3 years of sobriety – I imagine that I will be for decades to come.

Another term described by Jung and one that I think is prevalent in today’s proliferation of these adolescent men is the idea of the Devouring Mother. While he offers an understanding of this term that is certainly more comprehensive, intelligent and lasting than mine, I am obligated to offer my own description, as I do not completely agree with the one offered by Jung. For me, what this term represents is a parent, of any gender who, in perhaps good faith, overbears on the child to the degree that thet do not have the chance to mature past their necessity to rely on the parent for all things – all answers, physical necessities and emotional security. While this is (I believe) relatively in line with Jung’s definition, I want to expand this understanding. While there is an immense amount of responsibility to be placed at the feet of parents who play a role in the stunting of their child’s growth, I believe that there are two more aspects of the Devouring Mother that have emerged in our culture today.

The first is, again, within the individual. However, this does not lay at the feet of the parent but of the child. Again, here I am speaking from some personal insight. If this is my own foible and no others, then so be it, but I do believe that there are other men out there who have struggled with something similar. Here, I would like to call this new aspect Starving Loneliness. Even when a child has a plethora of friends, this phenomenon can begin to encompass their lives. This loneliness that seeks to devour everything in its path is spurred by arrogance. This arrogance is centered on the belief, usually with little to no proof, that the child is better than the others around them. The child may imagine themselves as the hero of their lives, often conceptualizing their lives as a story. In this, the child becomes to believe that they are the hero and thus above the others around them and likely entitled to things that others are expected to earn. This hero complex then follows this intentionally lonely child throughout their lives, until they are challenged to break it through some external cause. If there is no external force that causes the child to move past this phase of life, then there will be no end to it.

The second new development of the Devouring Mother that I believe has manifested since Jung developed this term is based not in the individual, but in Western culture as a whole, particularly American culture. This second development is a bit of a paradoxical one. In our culture today, there is a prevailing belief that both men and women should be self sufficient, independent to a degree rarely seen in history and contribute, in a meaningful way, to society (although this “meaningfulness” is left intentionally opaque). These requirements by our society, for a not insignificant portion of our young people, are simply unattainable, either in part or whole, in our modern society. When we are taught that we are to achieve certain things, which for many are impossible, the lives of our young people seem to indicate that the opposite will instead be enacted. If one is prevented by the culture at large from contributing in a meaningful way that is idiosyncratic to their nature, then they will instead use their idiosyncracies to tear down the structures in their way. If they are unable to become independent to such an insane degree as is espoused by our society today, then they will go to college for a decade, or live with their parents into their thirties, or find a way to live off the goodwill of others.

In order to counteract this inability to leave our cultural adolescence where it belongs, one aspect of the solution will lie in reestablishing meaningful, challenging (perhaps mortally so) ritual into the lives of our adolescents. However, this immediately poses the question of what these rituals should look like today. They will not look like living in the savannah, surviving off the land and avoiding predators. They will not look like going raiding with your Viking fathers. What, then, will they look like? How can we integrate our modern culture and infrastructure to create an environment that can be used in such a way so as to encourage those in our society to leave their childhoods behind and take on the responsibilities of modern society adulthood? Or do we need to redefine these responsibilities?


Growing up, my favorite (and often only) pasttime was reading. Usually this would be novels like Lord of the Rings, the Belgariad, or other fantasy novels. I loved the chance to get lost in these worlds, in these stories. For me, it was the chance to experience something so detached from reality so as to make the life I lived, which was (and is) a wonderful one, seem more wondrous in its own right.

Today, while I still enjoy getting lost in these stories at times, I find that my portal to different worlds, often fantastical worlds, is through the exercise of asking questions. These questions are often based in reality, but when they themselves are responded to again and again with more and more questions, the original premise often finds itself, while ostensibly based in the world that I and others inhabit, so far off from the land of reality that those around me often exclaim as to their ridiculousness, often with voices heavily steeped in exasperation.

While these questions usually do abound in reality to begin with, it is the sheer impossibility of the following questions that I find the most joy in. A question about being adopted may stray into questions centered on the morality of, well, frankly, whatever. How these questions meander down into these unrelated landscapes is something that I am unsure of, but I am quite certain that I love the experience.

For me, the question is not whether or not I enjoy this process, but why. For me, the value of a question does not lie in the answer that follows from it. In fact, I believe that finding an answer inherently devalues the question that answered it. This is not to deny the practical necessity of answering many of the questions that we have – it is merely an affirmation of my joy in the unanswerable nature of certain questions.

Perhaps the true joy of an unanswerable question is simply the quest to find this eternally hidden answer. Seeking the solution to these questions leads to more and more questions, some of them with solutions that enrichen, some with answers that call into question the central nature of who we are as a person. More often than not, however, the quest simply ends once the mental exactitude of creating more and more questions finds itself run out of gas.

At the end of all these questions, I often find that the people around me ask, sometimes kindly and sometimes otherwise, what the point of it all is. Perhaps the joy of these unanswerable questions (and sometimes unending) is the utter and complete lack of practicality and purpose. The process of asking these queries is the purpose in and of itself. It is the painful ecstasy of realizing that there often are no answers, or at least no honest ones, to morality, God, politics, family or a million other things. That there is no point, that there is no end, that there is no purpose whatsoever, that is why I engage in these questios – or dialogues when the situation is perfect.

In our modern culture, we are often (but not always) told that our actions should always have a goal. When we have spare time during the week, we are encouraged to develop a side hustle, become entrepenours on the side, expand our income generating abilities. When we are exhausted, we are told to take some time to “recharge our batteries” so that we can get back to the real world of production and generation of whatever the fuck it is that we are supposed to generate. We are not machines with batteries to recharge. We are not income earners, or capitalists (or Marxists for that matter) – we are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, students and learners, we are those without the answers. And at the end of the day, there is nothing quite so pursposeful as seeking through the unending exercise of questioning.

Montana Memorial Day

On the rooftop,
Where the sunshine floats, and
The clouds are sovereign.

On the sidewalk,
Where the people chatter, and
The pigeons interrupt.

On the road,
Where the bikes breeze by, and
The storefronts beckon.

On the mountaintop,
Where the treetops sing, and
The snowmelt prepares the way.

On the porch,
Where the grandparents nap, and
The dog steals dinner.

On the bed,
Where the lovers meet, and
The moon presses back the night.

A Montana Memorial Day