On Giants' Shoulders

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Distributists, Catholic Workers, and La Leche League

So what do all of the above have in common? Well, for one thing they all read Chesterton and seemed to quote him frequently in the past (some Catholic Workers no longer do and LLL doesn't seem to anymore either). The movements all got started by people who were familiar with papal encylicals like Rerum Novarum and embraced Catholic social teaching. The Catholic Workers movement of today seems to encompass a real diversity of viewpoints, some of them not Catholic at all (despite the name). La Leche League also embraces a variety of viewpoints and claims no connection with Catholicism at all (again despite the name). Yet, the Catholic worker movement and La Leche League still retain some of the philosophical positions that they began with. Catholic workers are still devoted to hospitality to the poor and La Leche League is still trying to help enhance the mother baby relationship (you can't get more small and local than that).

I've spent a lot of my time lately reading about the Catholic Worker movement. The most recent book I'm tackling is Mark and Louise Zwick's The Catholic Worker Movement, Intellectual and Spiritual Origins. I'm finding this one really helpful, almost even more than The Duty of Delight (which is the edited journals of Dorothy Day). It's helping me get some perspective on the founding principles of the movement and to understand the ways in which critics have frequently misunderstood both Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. They were not Communists, nor even Socialists. Despite the impression given in "Entertaining Angels," Dorothy Day was not even particularly interested in the movement for women's suffrage (and in fact never voted herself). I'm still not sure I always agree with them, and I continue to believe that some of the ways in which the Catholic Worker branches have sometimes moved away from the Church have to do with the way that things were set in motion at the beginning (and particularly as pacifism became such a prominent feature of the movement).

I must say the more I read both about the Catholic Worker movement and about Catholic social teaching on economics the more Chestertonian I become. I have also found of late that when I'm struggling with the muddled thinking of some people around me (even when it has nothing to do with theology, philosophy, or economics directly) that reading Chesterton has the same effect as splashing cold water on your face when you're sleepy. His very lucid thinking has a way of waking you up and helping you think clearly.

This is a post from a while back, but it seemed apropos to post it again. I went looking today for links between distributism and La Leche League and low and behold my own blog post came up in first place.


At 12:34 AM, Blogger Coffee Catholic said...

Hello, Liz! I found your lovely comment on my blog and I've added your blog and your daughter's blog to my list - that way I'll see whenever you update!

I was just about to launch into saying more but Ingebjorg is screaming. Cheers for now haha!

At 3:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your lovely and reassuring comment. I find that I am second guessing myself a lot (probably just a new mother thing), so it's good to hear success stories from those who went against the status quo (i.e. family bed).

PS I just love Chesterton and your liking him to splashing cold water on your face is so true :)

At 2:26 AM, Blogger Coffee Catholic said...

The crazy thing is this: when our friend was staying with us (she stayed three months, one and a half months before and after the twins arrived) people were so BITTER and resentful of me having her here! They treated me as if I were some awful wretch for having her doing stuff. And they always made a point to tell me how THEY never needed such help and this and that.

I have to ask: not only where has all of the "christian charity" gone... but also where has all of the compassion for disabled people gone?? I can't even get folk to work with us in our parish so that we can attend mass. I end up banished to the back room where I can't see or hear anything. And if the kids get at all noisy folk shut the doors and further cut me off! Going to mass is misery. 3-4 four hours total trip. A total circus with three kids... and then I can't even participate. We have a tiny church and the only space availalbe for us is filled with chairs, a trinket table, and a never-used keyboard. Everyone refuses to move them out of the way! They are, obviously, far more important then a family being able to participate at mass.

I'll admit. It's all totally overwhelming. And I can see why women on these islands only have one or two babies. The whole system is set up so that it's impossible to have more! But as I'm Catholic I have to face the insane and terrifying reality of being separated from my family and home with every pregnancy... and my husband going broke having to pay to hire farm labor, hotels, transportation, child care... (Child care!! My poor kids stuck in child care away from me and their own home! It kills me.) The Church says, "Be open to life or else you'll go to hell" but then it says, "By the way, you're on your own in that. Good luck!" **Sigh**

It's these kinds of details that add up and overwhelm a woman. I'm already stressed and depressed about a future pregnancy that hasn't even happened yet. That coupled with me and husband having to be chaste for who-knows-how-long... it's nuts.

At 2:26 AM, Blogger Coffee Catholic said...

Hello! I read your comment on Dr. Gina's website and what you say is so true. I was reading Mrs. Kimberly Hahn's "Life Giving Love" book and she touches on that subject a lot.

Our parish is surprisingly inert. We don't even have a single ministry for any of us, let alone anyone outside of our parish.

That whole lack-of-self-control thing is so true! (In and out of churches.) If I do fall pregnant again I know I'll be treated like I'm bad and irresponsible. "But you already have three children to take care of!" I've heard it all ready. When I expressed the desire for more kids one woman snippily replied, "I figured with THREE you'd be content!" Although I felt furious at that reply I forced myself to smile sweetly and then I said, "Not at all. I will never be content. Creating life is addictive. I want at least twelve!"

But yeah, I'm in a position where hardly anyone wants to give on-going practical help (or those that do help also give me bad additudes in the process, as if I'm a lazy bum and making them miserable...) hardly anyone wants to give help but they have no problem letting me know that if I get pregnant again I'm a bad woman, bad to my husband, bad to my kids.

We have no NFP training. No ministries in our parish to help moms. No maternity hospital. Nothing. I couldn't believe it when the OB so offhandedly told me that I'd have to go live in the maternity hospital down south. He never gave a single thought to my LIFE. And how cutting a woman off from everything, including her husband and kids, is insane! I ended up getting a surprise phone call one evening at 7pm. It was a midwife and she caught me at a time when I was exhausted and mentally weak and for some crazy reason I agreed to be sent south to the maternity hospital by air ambulance. I ended up totally depressed within moments of my arrival. And once there I never got communion... no priest visited me even though I requested a chaplin. Nothing. I didn't even get to say confession before going in for the c-section! I had to lay there on the operating table hoping that God had forgiven my sins so that if I died there... uuuugh it was awful!

In the end we did had help though. For which I am so greatful. But it's no gurantee that we'll have help again. And the help ended promptly as soon as our friend and later my aunt and sister returned to America. After that we were, and still are, on our own.

I'll continue this huge comment...

At 2:28 AM, Blogger Coffee Catholic said...

P.S. No La Leche League here either. I was reliant on over-worked and under-staffed midwives to try and teach me how to breastfeed. It took two days before I got instruction! The first time around the midwife stuck the baby on my nipple and then said, "I have to go." and walked away. I was stuck with Elspeth ripping my nipple off and me screaming and my arms still half-paralized from the spinal block. The second time around I never did get my breasts to work.

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Liz said...

I do identify with the problem of arms not working after a spinal. I had a c-section with my daughter and the spinal took literally hours and hours and hours to wear off. I was already a LLL Leader at the time and I still couldn't get the nurse to get my baby properly positioned. However, we worked it out as soon as my arms were working again and I could move about a bit.

It's not unusual to have difficulty after a c-section, particularly if you don't get good help from the nursing staff at the outset. I see posts from people from the UK on a LLL board I answer questions on frequently, and it sounds like the situation there is pretty dire as far as in hospital maternity care. Ironically, because there is the option of midwives who deliver at home, some people think of the UK as a great place to have a baby, but apparently the breastfeeding rates there are much worse than in Vermont in MA.

There are some helpful books and even videos around, and it certainly is possible to breastfeed even twins after a C-section, but it does require a bit of support which it sounds like you really didn't get.

I'm sorry your parish is so unsympathetic. Our parish doesn't have a real place for moms with babies either (people either duck into the confessional or go out into the vestibule), but the parish itself is pretty tolerant of baby noises. However, having been to Mass with my granddaughter and seeing the Herculean effort it sometimes requires to keep her content for an entire Mass makes me remember all over again what a challenge it is to have very tiny people in church. Three is a real challenge I'm sure.

Have you been able to read any literature on NFP? I personally found John and Sheila Kippley's The Art of Natural Family Planning to be helpful. It not only has all the guidelines, but it includes charts where people either were able to detect their fertility, even in months that were a bit odd, or had surprise pregnancies where the authors showed where they went wrong in their interpretation of the charts. That part was particularly helpful in showing how careful you need to be in actually adhering to the rules. I never attended an NFP class and our diocese hasn't been making them all that readily available either. I did have friends who were involved with Couple to Couple League when my babies were little and I probably did learn a little just listening to them, even though we weren't even interested in CCL at that point.


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