A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


The ‘Raising Kids Catholic’ symposium continues

We’ve just posted the latest piece in our symposium “Raising Kids Catholic.” Today’s installment is from Liam Callanan. An excerpt:

There are … obtuse dads like me, and families like mine, who face a blizzard of conflicting societal and doctrinal pressures. More plainly: There’s the Disney Channel, cell phones, e-books, and a thousand other modern diversions from a straightforward path to faith.

And then there’s the church, or rather its leaders, who I find sometimes get in the way of me bringing my family to God. This feels like a new phenomenon, but I know it’s not. I think, once again, about Matthew 19: the reason Jesus says “Let the little children come to me” is because moments before, some children had been brought forward “for him to place his hands on them and pray for them,” and “the disciples rebuked them.” Two thousand years later, some disciples are still at it.

You can read Liam’s whole story here. You can also go directly to our special topic page, where we’re featuring all of the contributions to the Raising Kids Catholic symposium in one place as they’re posted. Commenting is enabled on that page, so feel free to keep the conversation going as new installments go live. 

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

The current Hedgehog Review is devoted to parenting in the U. S., how its goals have changed over time, and how the concepts of childhood, adolescence and young adulthood have changed radically and are still changing.  Not much is said about religion and/or the loss thereof, but ISTM that one of the articles might be useful in analysing the problem.   The rather long article ("Holding Them Closer" by Bowman) relies on many, many sociological studies, and there seems to be much agreement among the studies.  The picture is extremely complex, but one thing stands out to me -- children and young adults seem to be most influenced in their thinking not by their parents but by peers.   My response to the whole problem is,  "Poor parents, it looks like they can't win".


Here is something of a summary toward the end of the Bowman article:


" .  .  .  the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman writes of contemporary culture as one in which all things—including understandings of love and the family—have turned liquid. Liquid culture, in his view, continually seduces humans with new possibilities rather than offering set norms. Even as it abandons the Enlightenment ideal of change for a larger purpose, liquid culture replaces it with change for change’s sake. As it does so, institutions, habits, and established products are scrapped for no more reason than the lure of the hunt, the passion of pursuit, the thrill of the new. This cultural logic—this kind of fluidity—ripples into all human arrangements, resulting in a diminished faith in institutions of the public sphere and a retreat into the satisfactions of an individualized present. Bauman writes in Culture in a Liquid Modern World (2011), “It is obvious today that you can no longer seriously entertain any real hope of making the world a nicer place to live in, but you might just be tempted to safeguard…that relatively pleasant, private place which you have managed to carve out for yourself in that world.”"


Go to the Arts and Letters site and double-click The Hedgehog Review's small advertisement there. 

Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate


Interesting insights Ann. I think though that the reality of our lived experience particularly in the West in inexorably moving to more "liquid culture". However, this liquidity is due in large part to the presence of the very thing we are using to communicate now; the internet. I think that the need for vital. life giving relationships remains an important part of our human striving. At the same times, bonds of community are created very differently than they are in the past.

Do the commenters and writers here at dot commonweal form what can be described as a community. I think so. The stability of the community is guaranteed by the "institution" of Commonweal just like the stability of any community is guaranteed by the stability of some fixed entity that can gather people together. But those entities themselves are indeed "liquid" but that does not make them ephemeral.

Perhaps we are reverting to a kind of nomadic existence and tribes of people are being bound together by common interests and purposes in this vast cyber-land.

But, I do not think that this reality makes us any more individualized than before. The need to form human collectives has embedded itself into the very fiber of social media.

Afterall, having comments sections following stories is relatively new even for the internet. Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook are all "social media"

And in ever kind of niche community on the internet you will find a stable group of participants not unlike "real" communities.

Social change has also been ushered in my the internet. Consider Egypt's revolution and even Obama's victories. Apparently, team Obama was very adept and good at using social media to draw younger people in.




My daughter, for example, who is 15 never goes out with her friends as I used to for coffee or hanging out. But she is on her computer and cell phone and as connected with her peer group as i was to mine and I am sure you were to yours at that age. Just different form of association; a virtual one.

Do the commenters and writers here at dot commonweal form what can be described as a community. I think so.

I think that this is a very weak style of community.

Bob Nunz used to comment regularly, then he stopped. Do you know why?

Because he died, of cancer. But no one here commented on it, no inkling was given that anyone noticed (although I learned about it by a private email from another person commenting.)

If this is a community, then it's a very shallow one, a "community" where people drift in and out, share a short bit of conversation, then they're off and and you don't know if you will ever see them again. It's a little like those commuters with which you share the morning train and, after you start recognizing them, exchange a nod, then a smile, then a few words. The relationships that are limited to interactions on this blog are about equally shallow.


I agree with what you are saying Claire and it is a fair point. But then again, does that not call for a further development of the community and new conventions based on shared experience? And is it any different in real life?

 In my "real" community people die alone in houses and are not found for weeks. And it is not a very big place. We hear a lot how even people in apartment buildings are strangers to one another.

The breakdown in bonds of association began long ago. And I think as a human family, we are always trying to find ways to forge new ones (or at least I like to think so).

And I did not know that about Bob and will stop and say a prayer for him. But, I recall being on another online forum and a family member posted under the name of someone who had been active and shared the news. People sent flowers to funeral, etc. So, I have seen it work the other way.

I think here at least we use real names (although I just use my last initial)

I am not sure, George. Once Jim McCrea went offline for a month, and when he came back I realized that I had not even noticed that he was gone! If this was a conversation with people we see in the flesh, we would notice it when someone goes missing. But there is something ghostly about blog conversations. We don't know when someone is present (reading) but not commenting. It's all very disembodied.

In real life we at least are aware that we ignore people, when we do ignore them. But here, I thought I was on somewhat friendly terms with Jim - paying attention to what he was writing, interacting via comments - yet when he went missing (on vacation) I did not see it. The relationship is an illusion. I think that's different from "real" life in the way in which it is self-deceiving, misleading. 

In fact what is the point of commenting on dotCommonweal (or any blog)?

I knew that Bob had passed. After he hadn't posted for a few months, I googled him and learned the sad news. That was when people's e-mail address was linked to their name; so I e-mailed Bob's e-mail address, and his wife very kindly replied.  He died of leukemia in September 2012, it was very  quick, he was only diagnosed in July.

I enjoyed the things Bob had to say and I still very much miss his comments.


I hadn't heard that about Bob.  I had been wondering whatever happened to him.  I'll say a prayer for him and for his wife and family.


"Perhaps we are reverting to a kind of nomadic existence and tribes of people are being bound together by common interests and purposes in this vast cyber-land."

George D. --

The Bowman article ays that one of the big differences in culture is that people move so far away from their families.  (Of course, the colonials and immigrants started that, I think.)  There is no longer the stability of a family with several generations in very close contact. And moving away is an easy way to lose the old values.

Maybe the smart phones are a small way to reduce the familial isolation that is the result of moving far away.

I agree that there are internet communities, but blogs are, I think, very different from a neighborhood or a family.  They're more like the communities we find in cities, the groups of people with similar interests we choose to belong to.  Families and neighborhoods include folks we'd sometimes like to dump, but we're better, no doubt, for having to learn to come to terms with them.

Ann, your comment that virtual communities are among those we choose because of similar interests rather than "real" communities of kinship.  But sometimes those communities do not meet our needs when we grow up  That is the reason I read and post on several virtual forums - I had not been able to find people in "real" life with some of my interests and a wish to discuss them with others, so I turned to online communities.

As Claire notes, we don't "know" one another, although we pick up information. From reading comments here, I know that Joseph K and Robert I are priests and that Jim P is a deacon. I know Jim McCrea from "meeting" him on another site. If I'm not mistaken, Ann O is a retired college teacher of philosophy. Claire lives in France (Paris?) but I don't know if she is French or American (or something else!).  I lived in Paris many years ago, for a year as a university student.  I went to mass at St. Joseph's  - the English speaking community at the time I was there.  It seems Claire has no children of her own, but has nieces and nephews in France, so I am guessing she is French, but perhaps with an American or English parent.  The personal information is of interest because it can provide at least some context for the comments and understandings of others. One does not expect the same kind of relationship with those one "meets" in discussion in a virtual community as in a "real" community, but that does not mean there is no value in these communities.

Anne C. --

I think that online communities are quite real, and some are important to us.  I'm very old and don't get out much, and most of my old firends are either in nursing homes, moved away, or dead, so I really appreciate my new communities online.  But they're limited in scope.  I wish they weren't, but they are.  They lack a dimension that non-digital relationships have -- the physical presence of others.  To be phyisically present, needless to say, gives us the opportunity to interpet facial expressions, tones of voice and gestures, those thoroughly individualized aspects of communication which are totally lost online.  Your writing on the screen looks exactly like everyone else's writing on the screen, so, sadly, much of you is lost because of it.  

I wish that the Commonweal system allowed for photograps of individuals to be posted next to names.  That would add a bit of  individuality.  And having a little bio available would also let us distinguish each other better than we do now. That Bob Nunz has left us and few of us noticed the fact (or the absence of a fact) points out the need.  May he rest in peace.  

Here is Bob's obituary w photo. I'm sure his family would still appreciate donations to the Wildlife Center or the IHM Christian Concerns Committee.

I have had several pleasant exchanges privately with people here, but in recent years, I mostly got a lot of spam and concern trolling. I'm frankly glad no one can see my home e-mail, and I would prefer not to be contacted by contributors, editors, or commenters. If I'm out of line, spreading incorrect info, or generally need to be told off, please do it here.

I do wish "subscriber" appeared next to my name; I do support the publication with a Kindle subscription. I don't like people thinking I'm a freeloader.


I don't like the accusations that occasionally come up from subscribers that those who do not subscribe are lesser beings -- freeloaders.  If the editors did not want non-subscribers to read the blog and comment, they could accomplish that easily.

And I agree that pictures would help, although it's just as easy to post a false picture as a false name.  I see no more "community" in commenting about a blog than in writing a letter to an editor.  

About the topic:  I wonder why anyone would enroll their children in an organization that discriminates against 50% of the human race.  How do you explain it to your daughters? 

The no-woman-priest thing came up with my son. I told him that a) as a former Episcopalian, I did not understand the Catholic ban on women priests (and several other things), but that Catholicism is about as good as it gets in the Christian tradition, b) women might not be able to be priests and popes, but they could be saints, which many priests and popes don't get to be, and c) he might as well give up on life in general if he's going to hold out for perfection in any human endeavor, including religion.

Whether you support the publication is between you and your conscience; I would feel like a freeloader without subscribing, but, yes, the editors have chosen to hose everybody, which I think is very catholic (small c) of them. 

BTW, thanks for recommending the "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch" book on a different discussion. I enjoyed it. 

No way I'm putting a picture of me on here. My God.

That should be "chosen to HOST everybody." Funny how one letter makes such a difference ...


(My conscience is not involved in my choice of magazines.  I don't subscribe to magazines to support them but rather to obtain material that interests or entertains me.)

(I'm not interested in women priests or in men priests.  The early church had no priests, just women and men who presided over eucharistic celebrations in their houses.  See, e.g., Why Priests? by Garry Wills.)

(Glad you liked Prairie Bitch.  Now I'm reading American Mirror by Deborah Solomon and The Men Who United the States by . . . forgot his name.)

Jean: many thanks for recovering Bob's obituary!

I don't know why "subscriber" does not appear next to your name. I never pay attention to those labels. 

Re: picture - How do you, in your neck of the woods, manage to prevent people from seeing what you look like when you go on the street?

Anne C.: I put a message for you on the dotCommonweal interface telling you a little bit about me. 

Ann O.: I agree that those communities can be important. In online learning (MOOCs) students help one another and those who are from the same region can even meet through the course, to form study groups and maybe to become friends.In a way the people commenting here and who I have not met in person are half way between reality and fiction. They're a little like characters from a book: I know a few things about them, sometimes a lot, but even more things are left to my imagination. I don't mind that, but I do mind that people can disappear without anyone noticing.

Gerelyn: I was asked that question by my 8 year old niece recently. I told her: because it's always been like that. It used to be that many professions were off for women, and the priesthood is one for which that is still the case. 

But I have to say that it does not bother me. On the plus side, it saves women from the trouble of asking themselves whether they might have a vocation for the priesthood. On the minus side, we cannot have the Eucharist if a man is not present; but, you know, we really do need men for other things as well - having kids, in particular. They consecrate the host and they fertilize the egg. Isn't that fitting?


No, Claire, it hasn't always been like that.

But as I explained to Jean, I'm not in favor of women priests or of men priests.  

(Your plus and minus sides?  Coarse.)

My Baptist in-laws claim that they're the heirs of the "early church." So do my Amish in-laws. So do most evangelicals, and, while the latter are a pretty mixed bag, generally I can't think of more sexist religion rackets than these. 

No siree. I'm in favor of priests, deacons, bishops, popes, holy tradition, the CDF, and anything else that safeguards the faith from some dim bulb with an 8th grade education and a favorite verse from Revelation in the KJV.

(Claire, people can lookit me when I go out on the street "live" if they can stand it, but the whole notion of putting up pictures of ourselves opens up a lot of cans of worms. Like how often should you change your picture to give an honest account of your true appearance? Plus, I don't want people looking at my photo and thinking, "Oh, God, she's ancient. She knows nothing." I like that respond to your words, not the way you look, how you dress, how old you look, etc. etc. I have to say that one of the things I liked best about RCIA was that for 9 months NOBODY asked me what I did for a living or where I went to college or even IF I did.)

Gerelyn, I didn't see your comment about lack of people called "priests" in the early church until after I had posted mine.

Jean, how about: "Oh, God, she's ancient. She must know everything." But seriously, are you really in favor of the CDF? Why not the Inquisition as long as you're at it? (That's what it used to be called, right?)

Jean, your Baptist in-laws ARE the heirs of the early church, as are ALL Christians.  To look down on members of other denominations because they have less education than you is not safeguarding the faith, but undermining it.  You liked not being asked if you went to college, but you deride your relatives for their 8th grade educations?  

(Take a look at the 1940 census, now available on   Just pick a random page and notice the highest grade completed by the people on the page.  You'll be surprised at the number of those pre-war people who only went to 5th grade.  And yet . . . they were the greatest generation and the parents of the greatest generation.)   


If you're happy with the all-male priesthood, fine.  Paul said in Christ there is no male and no female, no Jew and no Greek, etc.  He was well educated.  By Gamaliel, no less.  No dim bulb there.

Claire, the closest anyone has ever come to saying, "She knows everything" about me is, "She THINKS she knows everything."

Yes, the Inquisition was the precursor of the CDF. The trial by ordeal was also the precursor to the jury trial. Neither of these institutions in their ancient or modern forms were perfect. I'd say they're less imperfect now. And they frighten me less than the guy with the Book of Revelation and his literal understanding of Holy Writ.

I think you want to be careful how much personal info you put up on the internet- identity theft and all. 

The discriminatory aspect of our religion is the biggest stumbling block for me in raising my kids Catholic. But that said, having chosen to raise them Catholic despite the discrimination: I think encouraging the most active participation as possible is my best chance of making it stick. The  9 year old is an altar girl, the 13 year old is a lector and sacristan. We volunteer a fair amount for faith-based charities and my older daughter is friendly with some Sisters of Charity who provide terrfic female Catholic role models. 

I'm hoping the less they feel like bystanders,  the better the odds they'll stay.



"... half way between reality and fiction."

Claire --

Great way to describe the internet.  Not that fiction is unreal  or unimportant.  It too tells us truths about ourselves.  But that's a whole other thread.

Very late comment: I would just like to say that when I stopped going to church not a single person reached out to me to ask why, not even the ones that I did volunteer work with.  No one noticed or if they did they did not let me know.  I think people find virtual communities acceptable because many "actual" communities have already been reduced to the same level of engagement. 

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment