It’s after one a.m. in Madrid, and the dinner guests left only a short time ago. This is normal for Spain, they tell me. I couldn’t live like this all the time, but boy, is it fun now.
Above, a selfie with the Spanish journalist and Catholic novelist Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, author of The Awakening Of Miss Prim. A couple of years ago, I wrote about this delightful novel (“The Ben Op As Light Fiction”), which has become a favorite in Ben Op and classical education circles in the US. Natalia came for coffee late this afternoon.
[Picking up the story now on the train to Sevilla. I fell asleep after writing the last word.]
So, about my busy Sunday. It began actually in the morning, with the Divine Liturgy at the Orthodox church of Santa Maria Magdalena. After coffee hour, I gave a talk about the Benedict Option to about 40 people who stayed around. Father Andrey, the pastor, translated into Russian. During the question-and-answer period, the first question came from a brave young man, 14, who said that he attends a Catholic school, but is pushed to the social margins because he does not affirm LGBT ideology and feminism. They call him a macho bigot who is a slave to the patriarchy.
He said that he is not that at all, that he believes in treating everyone with kindness. But he will not abandon his Christian beliefs. He finds it hard to understand how he is the only high schooler in a Catholic school who believes in Christian teaching on sexuality. This young man was so gentle and respectful. I refuse to believe that he is any kind of bully. In fact, based on his testimony, he is the victim of social bullying.
I congratulated him on his courage, and told him that there is no choice but to endure this kind of mockery, for the sake of Christ. Maybe, though, he can find others in Madrid his age who share his convictions. Earlier in my visit, I met a high school student from a different Catholic school whose leadership recently brought in some “genderqueer” people to do an education session. Without informing the parents in advance, this Catholic school’s instructors taught the kids about anal sex, and many other forms of sexuality, and encouraged them to “explore your gender.” They passed out a quiz asking students which gender they were “assigned at birth,” and which gender they identify as today. This student and his parents were deeply shocked, especially because this is a Catholic school. Now they are trying to decide what to do.
The places we think are safe places may not be safe at all. That is one of the big lessons for Christians in our time: we cannot automatically trust our religious institutions to be faithful to the religious they profess.
After the talk, I went back to my hosts’ home for a quick nap. Then Natalia came over. It would not be fair to her to write in detail about our conversation, but boy, was it a delight. She told me that as a young woman, she lost her faith, but when she had a re-conversion, “it was like falling in love.” So strong was her reconversion that she realized how incompatible Christianity is with secular modernity, and that most parishes were not prepared to live and teach this. She became a Traditionalist — someone who goes to the Latin mass. She is not a member of the SSPX; she is in full communion with the Roman church. But she does attend the Tridentine mass.
Natalia has such a light spirit — exactly the sort of person you would expect after reading Miss Prim. We laughed at the role the Benedictines of Norcia played in our two books, even though we didn’t know each other’s work when we wrote. Natalia emphasized the importance of Christians today recognizing how important it is to be countercultural. This is a theme that keeps coming up in conversation with Spaniards.
Natalia couldn’t stay for dinner, which is too bad, because she missed a great conversation. Tote Barrera came, with his wife Christi; he is a Catholic who directs the Alpha Course in Spain. Father Andrei came. Another Catholic priest came, a Father Manuel, but I didn’t get his last name. And a young man named Ramón, a member of Opus Dei.
Again, out of respect for the guests’ privacy, I won’t blog about our conversation. But generally, we talked about the state of Christianity in Spain. Tote had an interesting observation: he said that the Catholic Church in Spain is operating on a model that derives from the Council of Trent (that is to say, from the Counterreformation), but it no longer works. Most bishops know this, he said, but can’t figure out what to do about it. There are many initiatives being taken by lay Catholics and by visionary priests who are starting new communities (this, as well as the well-established movements, like Communion and Liberation, Opus Dei, and the others). I came away from the long conversation with a very clear awareness of the depth and breadth of the Church’s crisis in Spain, but also with a real sense of hope from the “creative minorities” at work here now.
Only my host, E., had read The Benedict Option, but by the end of the conversation, I had the sense that all of the guests affirmed that it speaks to the heart of what’s happening in Spanish Catholicism now at the grassroots level. That was great to hear.
Side note: You know what else was great? This chicken tagine my host E., also an accomplished home cook, prepared:
Back to the Benedict Option. I’ve only been here for a couple of days, but already my experience is a repeat of what I have encountered in Spain and in Italy: a strong sense of joyful hope and resistance among young Christians who are clear-eyed about the seriousness of the crisis, but who are also determined not to wait for someone to solve the problem for them, but rather to figure out how to do it themselves.
My publisher told me on the train to Sevilla just now, “Here in Spain, we are used to being ten to twenty years behind you Americans. But maybe in this, we are ahead of you.” Yes, that is certainly true. They have lived through de-Christianization, which is continuing, and even, under the current left-wing government in Spain, getting more intense. We in America are still near the beginning of the process. It is still possible in the US for Christians who don’t want to see what’s happening now, and what’s coming in the future, to live in denial. That luxury does not exist for the Christians of Spain. We American Christians need to watch them and listen to them. We are going to need their wisdom and their friendship in the years and decades to come.
A reader of this blog who lives in the province of Navarra writes to say that the leftist government of the province is now trying to quash Catholic education. He gave me some details, but asked me to keep them confidential for now, as his job would be at risk if he were identified as one of the Catholic Deplorables. He said I should ask Spaniards on this trip about how the war on the faith is being played out in educational policy today, especially in Navarra. The reader writes:
The 1930s are back, they were just frozen for several decades.
He directed me to this blog, which discusses Skolae, a mandatory sex-and-gender education program in Navarra schools. Excerpt (translated roughly by Google):
“Skolae, berdin bidean – growing in equality” is the program through which the quadripartite will convert gender ideology into a compulsory subject for absolutely all schools in Navarra, private or arranged. Although this is a long read, Skolae’s program (of which we include a link at the end of the news) demonstrates the undisguised purpose of converting the entire public and concerted educational system into a channel through which the far left imposes its vision of the world, the person, the relationships of couple and the sexuality to the children of all.
The program is pure ideology and its treatment is absolutely one-sided, it is simply that, at the educational level, the ideology of the extreme left is no longer optional and becomes obligatory. The natural state of the child who receives this ideological bombardment will, logically, be the total confusion over his sexual identity.
To the child as they go through the courses repeat like a parrot the whole program of gender ideology, word by word, they call for the child to develop his “critical thinking”.
Here is a photo from the Skolae website, listing some of their goals:
Here is a translation of No. 2 on the far right, the part with the highlighted text. This is the Skolae program for children ages infant to six:
To make visible the diversity of bodies, all of them sexed and valued. Reflection on images of different sexual persons in masculine and/or feminine, different ages, cultures, functional diversity … Recognition of child sexuality from birth by decriminalizing the recognition and experience of this sexuality at school and in the family (sexual vigilance, erotic games, etc.).
Encourage dialogue and trust in communication about sexual issues both at school and in the family as a factor in the prevention of child abuse.
This is insane. You get that, right? They’re using the words “dialogue” and “prevention of child abuse” as a way to radicalize children into gender theory and the like. This is what parents in the province of Navarra have to deal with. There is no way to escape it, not even in Catholic or private school.
The Benedict Option in Navarra would have to take this into account, and figure out a way to fight this. If it is not possible at the present time to overturn it politically, then Ben Op Christians must figure out a way to teach their children that this indoctrination is a Big Lie.
Here is a link to the PDF (in Spanish) of the Skolae program, produced by the regional government. An excerpt, translated by DeepL:
SKOLAE is articulated around different concepts that cross the whole itinerary; the prevention of the violence against women and girls, women’s visibility and contributions, respect for identities, women’s rights, and the rights of women and girls, cultures, sexualities and their diversity, social participation and the shared commitment to make the world of equality a reality.
You see how this works? They use the language of anti-bullying and violence prevention, and of egalitarianism, to justify the radicalization of children along sexual lines. More from the government’s document:
It is necessary to reflect on the multicausal nature of social phenomena and, as is evident, also of gender inequality. Angela Davis, for example, elaborates the concept of intersectionality in order to “understand the categories of gender inequality.
race, gender and class as connected, intertwined and intertwined elements”. It is necessary to make visible the diverse categories that generate and reproduce inequality: race, gender, class, ethnicity or culture.
It is necessary to incorporate progressively some keys of analysis that question the influence received from a sexist society. The radical demand for the full exercise of economic, social and political rights by women and men. The value of equality within the ethical principle of justice. The right to a safe and full life, the need for early training in the detection of the symptoms of gender-based violence and in the opportunity to be able to articulate both a challenge to those actions and a response to them.
These keys to analysis must progressively make it possible to identify both the historical invisibility of women’s contributions to the development of their own lives and their own. our society, as the sexist elements that still perpetuate this invisibility (language, mass media, cultural consumption…)
One more passage:
The coeducational school must train for the identification and assessment of the egalitarian achievements made in our environment by feminist movements and by equality policies; moreover, it must be able to propose new ones. achievements yet to be made. From the co-educational commitment for a more egalitarian world, identities must be strengthened — egalitarian, diverse but committed to the exercise of the right to equality in both the public and private spheres.
Likewise, a new imaginary of healthy and equitable coexistence relations and social organization guidelines must be presented. which promote equality between women and men. The school must be able to identify concrete egalitarian components, that must be present in a personal commitment to change towards an egalitarian identity. In addition, the following should be encouraged visibility of the citizens’ and associations’ movement, whether mixed, women’s or men’s, in favour of the equality that exists in the social environment.
For all these reasons, the school environment must be aware that it is one of the few spaces in which it is possible to guarantee that the students are involved in self-analysis about what their personal, interpersonal and collective participation will be in the conquest of the full exercise of citizenship by women and men. Furthermore, the school should be a space for active learning, for permanent promotion of creativity, as this is an essential contribution to making it possible to create different responses to the sexist pressures of differential socialization and in the configuration of one’s own personal identity.
If you read Spanish, read the entire document here. This is as radical as it gets — and there is no escaping it in the schools of Navarra. They really are using the schools to create 2019’s version of the New Soviet Man.
Do you have the slightest doubt that if they had the power in the US, our intersectionalists and Social Justice Warriors would work to impose the same thing on all American students? You should not. We have to use whatever means are at our disposal, politically and legally, to fight this, but that will not be enough. We have to fight it culturally as well. And we should prepare for the day when, as in Navarra, political means of resistance have failed. We cannot give our children to these monsters without a real fight.
Natalia Sanmartin said nothing about Skolae, but having read about it this morning, I can understand very clearly why she says that nothing short of radical countercultural Christianity is capable of meeting the current challenge.
If you are in Spain, and would like to come to one of my presentations, here is the schedule. One reason you might want to do this is to meet other Christians who are interested in the idea.