Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Waiting on a response to the dubia

If only children asked questions in the form of dubia: well-worded requests for clarification requiring a Yes or No in response. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no,” after all. And that’s that. Instead of demanding dissertations on such diverse topics as Why did you forget bread at the grocery store? and Do mama chickens and papa chickens and baby chickens eat gingerbread men?

But even if we went the dubia route, the yes or no response would set off a Thomistic avalanche. While not (quite) worthy of the Angelic Doctor's time, the breadth and depth of their questions and arguments is exhausting, puzzling, and vexing nonetheless. 

Whether ice cream is breakfast food.

Objection 1: Eggs don’t really sound good to me right now. I’m tired of eggs and toast and I don’t like oatmeal anymore. It’s icky.

Objection 2: If we don’t eat it now then it will melt and that’s wasteful. You always say, Waste not, want not.” You say that, mom.

Objection 3: Yesterday you said I could have a sweet treat and I didn’t get any ice cream that time and I want it now. Okay? Okay, mom?

On the contrary, for reasons ranging from diabetes to brain-freezes, you may not have ice cream at 6 a.m.

I answered you already.

But that may be a bad example. Many of their questions have considerable depth. I am asked why men are holding hands, why people die, and when my three-year-old will “finally” be able to give birth to a baby of her own.

I’m glad she’s asking me, and not someone else. She looks to me as someone who loves her and cares for her and is the authority in her life. She’s trying to make sense of things and sometimes things just don’t make sense. A toddler can see that.

It has now been more than 100 days since the dubia were made public. There has been no response.

Children want answers immediately. All parents are familiar with the incessant: Why? Why? Why?” My oldest will say, Mama, look at me. I asked you a question. It sends them into overdrive when they are ignored—especially by their parents. And who can blame them? We should be interested in their questions. Who is responsible for addressing their worries and concerns, if not their mother and father?

The tricky thing about giving them a yes or "no, is that things become very, very clear. There is no ambiguity when I say, No, to a request to visit the park in pouring rain an hour before dinner. But a non-response, or a we'll see,” might buy me some time and peace, and the chance that they will forget.

But when I answer them they know where I stand and can react accordingly, with weeping and gnashing of teeth when their park adventure is denied, or with delight on a feast day when they are eating chocolate coins in their pajamas. They want answers.

Frans Francken the Elder, Jesus Among the Doctors, 1587

Each of us had a father and mother, and were once questioning children. Some parents answered more questions than others, some better than others. Some were Catholic, others weren’t. A big part of conversion, and an issue for many (self included) is that of authority, and the papacy. Why do we need a man in Rome telling us what to think and do? But once that starts to make sense (thank you, Devin Rose), it’s obvious that we desperately need authority. No matter our age, as children of God we still seek guidance from those who represent Christ and His Church on earth.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Having desired conversion days before Benedict XVI renounced the papal throne, I was couch-bound with a newborn, following the conclave. The entire process fascinated me. I didn’t know what any of the words meant, who anyone was, or how the process worked. 

But I was riveted as I watched that smoke, trying to guess its color with the aid of the helpful rhyme white smoke, pope; black smoke, nope. Eventually the smoke was white. There was a new pope. We had a new pope. For the first time in my life, I had a pope.

After what seemed an interminable wait, the Cardinal Protodeacon appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s and announced to the enormous crowd gathered there, and those watching and listening all over the world, Habemus Papam!

We have a Father!

And some of his children have questions.

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