Pope’s resignation: Opportunity for change

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Pope’s resignation: Opportunity for change– Los Angeles Loyolan.

Change can be a good thing, but how can you say that when the supposed reason for the change is anything but good?

It’s pretty grim to celebrate someone’s allegedly poor health, but Monday’s announcement that Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down from his position – the first such resignation in almost 600 years, according to the article “University reacts to the Pope’s resignation” appearing on Page 1 of this issue – isn’t what I’d call “bad news.”

It’s the perfect time for major transition and progression for the often socially conservative Roman Catholic Church, which is, in my opinion, quickly losing touch with young people like myself. Many in my demographic were baptized Catholic, myself included, but quickly became disillusioned with the Church’s outmoded teachings on the role of women in the church and, especially in my case, homosexuality.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took his place as the head of the Church in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, and since then has managed to remain frighteningly stagnant on social issues, particularly about gay men and women and their relationship to the Church. As recently as last Christmas, according to theHuffington Post article “Pope Benedict Takes Anti-Gay Marriage To New Level In Christmas Speech On Family Values,” Pope Benedict XVI called homosexuality a “manipulation of nature.”

“People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being,” Pope Benedict XVI continued. “They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”

For the patriarch of a multinational organization to say something so startlingly archaic is, in my opinion, a sign that the Church itself is completely behind the times for most of the Western world. Additionally, there’s Pope Benedict XVI’s inactivity in properly responding to the Church’s sex abuse scandals. According to the Guardian article “Pope Benedict ‘complicit in child sex abuse scandals’, say victims’ groups,” the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) considers the pope’s lack of transparency about sexual abuse by clergymen to be “terrible.”

The general accusation against Pope Benedict XVI, according to the same article, is that despite his knowledge of clerical sex abuses, he has, for the most part, done little to respond to them. As the article quotes SNAP Executive Director David Clohessy as saying, “He knows more about clergy sex crimes and cover-ups than anyone else in the Church, yet he has done precious little to protect children.”

Though all the details in those cases are still being scrutinized, there’s no doubt in my mind that it is all yet another sign that the Catholic Church needs to become more progressive and more transparent. While the Catholic Church is proud of its traditions, they won’t mean much if membership in the Church dwindles – and according to the Slate article “He Didn’t Finish What He Started,” that’s exactly what’s happening.

In my opinion, the Church is in a position to make the biggest sweeping reform since the Second Vatican Council started in 1962. Vatican II changed the spoken language of the Mass from Latin to a colloquial tongue as part of an attempt to make the Church less imposing and more a part of traditional family life. However, it could be argued (as the aformentioned Slate article does) that it wasn’t enough to keep younger people involved. A more drastic shift in the Church could occur should a more progressive figure become pope, wherein things like homosexuality would be brought into a more contemporary context.

However, I’d bet that’s not going to happen. In January of this year, according to the Reuters article “Pope Benedict names new cardinals who’ll choose successor, mostly Europeans,” the retiring patriarch named an additional 18 conservative European cardinals who will participate in the papal election process. This decision raised the number of Europeans among the 125 cardinal electors to 67. This means that instead of a more diverse choice from another continent, we’re likely to see yet another conservative European.

Still, if I could implore the Catholic Church to do one thing, it would be this: Consider Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation as an opportunity to appoint someone new and different. Progress as an organization. Move beyond where you were and into present day.

The Church is quickly losing touch with our generation, and things aren’t going to get any better if the next pope stays the course. This is a changing world, and now is the time to move along with it.

A different kind of Valentine

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: A different kind of Valentine – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Having a tough time finding that ‘perfect someone’ this Valentine’s Day? Bored with the ‘same old same old’? Do you feel like the opposite sex just isn’t cutting it anymore?

This Valentine’s Day, I challenge all straight-identifying, single Lions to try something new: experiment with the same sex. Sure, you may have never thought about it before, and it might not be your cup of tea. But maybe, just maybe, the idea has been there for a while, gestating in the back of your mind. You might be a lady harboring a girl crush on Mila Kunis. Or, maybe you’re a bro who secretly loves Ryan Gosling movies – or just Ryan Gosling.

Regardless of your past relationships, there’s no better time than now to shed your inhibitions and give experimentation a shot. Here are my top tips for all you single ladies and gents who are just a little bi-curious.

1. Don’t restrict yourself to experimenting at LMU.

Take it from a guy who’s attempted to date among the approximately six openly gay men on our little campus: You’re better off away from the bluff. If you’re of drinking age, heading to the bars around UCLA and USC can reap some long-term rewards.

Then again, if you’re bar hopping and only queer for the evening, why on earth are you wasting your time anywhere besides West Hollywood? Eleven, Micky’s and Gym Sportsbar are all distinctly different but great bars with different styles, meaning curious guys will be able to survey several different flavors of dude.

Ladies, your bar options are unfortunately slimmer, but you can try out the Palms Bar for an all-lesbian experience. Then again, girls can also go to pretty much any non-gay bar and find at least a dozen drunk women looking to get Sapphic. Y’all will be fine.

2. Master the eye language.

Despite what you might think, not every homosexual is trying to get into your pants. So, you’ll have to learn the lingo, but lucky for you, it’s all in the eyes.

Ladies, I unfortunately can’t speak to this as well for you as I can for men, but the biggest tip I can give is to never approach someone before locking eyes across the room. Why? It’s actually universal to all sexualities: Think about if someone you weren’t interested in was trying to make eye contact with you. What would you do? That’s right, you’d turn away. So, if the eye contact sticks, that’s your signal to dive in. Don’t worry about the chase – if you’ve kept up eye contact, he or she is definitely interested. Go for the gold.

3. Above all else, have an open mind.

Like I said, experimenting isn’t for everyone. Some people just aren’t into it. For others, it requires an openness that can be difficult to muster. But if you’re interested in trying things out, make sure to really commit to it. Flirt it up and have a good time. Worst-case scenario, you wake up in the morning and think, “Well, never doing that again.” At least you tried something different. And maybe, just maybe, you wake up with the number of someone wonderful you might never have expected to date. That’s the kind of dream most people would kill for on Valentine’s Day.

Two-party debate: An exercise in futility

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Two-party debate: An exercise in futility – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Two-party debate

Cartoon Credit: Jackson Turcotte | The Los Angeles Loyolan

By all accounts, Tuesday night’s second U.S. presidential debate was an exciting affair. President Barack Obama showed he had some serious fight left in him. Republican candidate Mitt Romney didn’t back down. Moderator and CNN journalist Candy Crowley did what so many of us have been dying to do and fact-checked Romney on air. Compared to Romney’s dull-as-dirt total knockout in the first debate, this one was absolutely fascinating.

So why am I so unsatisfied?

From an unbiased standpoint, the debate was grand political theatre; at points, it honestly looked like the two candidates were a moment away from coming to blows. However, I’m not an unbiased observer. As an American citizen, a college student who hopes to get a job someday and a gay man who hopes to get married someday, I’m very much biased towards specific agendas, and I care about who wins this election. From that perspective, all the debates have been a bunch of, to borrow a phrase from Vice President Joe Biden, “malarkey.”

This isn’t entirely the fault of the candidates, though. It’s more the fault of the two-party debate format that makes every political battle “he said, he said.” Except for the rare moments when a moderator intervenes (Crowley’s aforementioned fact-check, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz’ relatively aggressive moderation in the Vice Presidential Debate), most of the time, viewers are left to infer whether one candidate or the other is being honest. (That is, of course, something that didn’t used to be an issue when lying in a debate wasn’t so rampant and unapologetic, as Romney has proven to be so far. So remember, it’s still kind of the candidates’ fault.)

While I don’t like the two-party format, I don’t particularly like bringing in a third-party candidate either. What’s so theoretically great about a two-party system is that the extremes are represented, and great debate can spring from the differences. Obviously, that hasn’t happened so far. Like I said, theoretically.

What the debates need is a real-time, fact-checking system. Again, theoretically, the moderator should do this, but between Jim Lehrer’s poor performance as moderator in the first debate and the ridiculous rules the campaigns unsuccessfully tried to enforce on Crowley in the second, the moderator is clearly not serving this function. Under pressure of being fact-checked, the candidates would have to provide real answers, hopefully creating some real discussion and showing the differences in their platforms. In that model, undecided voters could make an informed decision about how to vote. Additionally, policy wonks would be able to hear a real discussion about issues. Imagine that.

While political theatre is great, ultimately it is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, and I, for one, think the very biased observers – the American people – deserve a true debate.

Forgive me if I’m not holding out too much hope, though.

Don’t hate the “8”

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Should “8” play?: Don’t hate the “8” – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Graphic Credit: Alberto Gonzalez | The Los Angeles Loyolan

It shouldn’t even be a debate.

I’ll admit – I’m curious as to what fellow contributor Lauren Rockwell’s argument is regarding the LGBT Student Services (LGBTSS) Office’s presentation of “8,” the pro-marriage equality play, at LMU tomorrow night. From my point of view, not as an LGBT individual, nor as someone who is pro-marriage equality, but simply as an LMU student, I fail to see a single valid reason why the play shouldn’t be read on our campus.

Agree or disagree with what the play is arguing, the fact is that the show must go on, not because of the subject matter, but because it is an expression of a faction of students’ opinions. Their voices deserve to be heard.

For those who aren’t familiar with the play, “8” is a dramatic interpretation of the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial currently headed for the Supreme Court. The case is about the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the infamous amendment to the California constitution that banned same-sex marriage in the state. Written by Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “Milk,” “8” is an unabashedly biased and activist look at the trial, but it never pretends to be anything else.

Controversy brewed about the presentation of “8” on LMU’s campus when The Cardinal Newman Society posted an article about this on its blog. The post, which has been picked up by a couple other Catholic blogs but has failed to make a dent in the greater media sphere, argues that LMU is promoting gay “marriage” (complete with incredibly condescending quotation marks) through its production of “8.”

What The Cardinal Newman Society fails to understand is that if LMU were to shut down the production of “8,” the University would be silencing student voices simply because they are at odds with the Catholic Church’s positions – a terrifying proposition, and completely at odds with the Jesuit mission to educate the whole person and encourage learning, as LMU’s mission statement reads.

When asked about “8” in an interview with the Loyolan, ASLMU President Bryan Ruiz said that he believes LMU students’ self-expression “does need to be heard.” LMU and President David Burcham are clearly working with the same mindset, and their refusal to cancel the show is inspiring.

I’m incredibly proud to go to a religiously-affiliated school that is comfortable presenting a pro-marriage equality play on its campus while not fully endorsing it. To endorse the show would indeed be a violation of the Catholic position, something we shouldn’t ask the University to do. But to shut it down would violate our mission. So in truth, President Burcham and his administration have done the only thing they can do without appearing hypocritical to some part of the University’s identity.

You’ll notice I haven’t talked much about why I think “8” is so great and how important the message it will spread to students is. That’s because “8” isn’t great, and I think said important message is something the majority of our student body already supports.

On paper, “8” is a clumsily written play, full of preachy monologues and an unwillingness to portray marriage equality opponents as anything but morons. The marriage equality debate deserves a better dramatic interpretation, and I have no doubt that several years down the road, we’ll see one. But a show being bad isn’t any reason to censor it from running. As the Loyolan’s primary theatre critic for the past two years, I’ve certainly seen shows I didn’t like, but you never once heard me call for their cancellation out of sheer disgust. Besides, the point of “8” isn’t to be great theatre – it’s activist in nature.

The message it is spreading, however, is something I think most students on this campus and across the country already feel: Marriage equality is the right thing for right now. Even among young conservatives in the U.S., support for same-sex marriage is rapidly rising. A Washington Post-ABC News poll from May shows that almost half of young conservatives do indeed support marriage equality – and among young liberals, that number is sky-high. So, I don’t necessarily think a college campus, even a Jesuit one like LMU’s, is the most effective stage for a play like “8.”

What does any of this matter? Simple: It doesn’t. No matter how bad the play is, how repetitive its message may be or how much it may get The Cardinal Newman Society’s panties into a bunch, there is simply no valid reason to cancel “8.” At the end of the day, this is about students’ free expression, and we go to a school that values said expression.

That’s something worth celebrating, not debating.

Southwest Airlines

Kid-free flying at 40 thousand feet

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Kid-free flying at 40 thousand feet – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Southwest Airlines

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

When you’re flying Southwest – one of the only airlines that allows you to pick your own seat – there’s a science to making the right choice. You want to smile at the people who look quiet and courteous, cough loudly when the talkative and brash people give the chair next to you a glance and, most importantly, you want to avoid families like the plague.

Children are a terror to fly with simply because they’re not used to the experience: They’re in a new and unfamiliar environment and they aren’t quite aware enough to take the social cues that screaming or talking endlessly aren’t appropriate. This isn’t the kids’ fault (if anything, it’s the parents’), but you as a flier shouldn’t have to deal with the shenanigans. Unfortunately, if you’re not flying Southwest, your seating fate might be left to the airline gods. If you get a parent and child as your aisle mates, strap in for a bumpy ride.

If you get the chance to fly Malaysia Airlines, however, your child-filled flying days might be over. According to the April 12 CNN.com CCNGo Staff article “Malaysia Airlines launches kid-free economy zone,” the Asia-based airline’s flight from Kuala Lumpur to London, launching this summer, will have an upper deck reserved reserved seating assigned specifically for all passengers above 12 years old. All families that have younger passengers will automatically be put in seats on the lower deck.

To counteract any potential criticism over the move, the lower-deck will be revamped to be particularly family-friendly, with 350 seats – many more than the upper deck, which only has 70 seats.

CEO of Malaysia Airlines Tengku Azmi tweeted that “the carrier received ‘many’ complaints from passengers who fork out for the expensive tickets, but then can’t sleep due to crying children,” according to the April 11 Daily Mail article “Child-free flights? Malaysia Airlines bans children from upper deck of its A380s.” This sense of peace and quiet is clearly the primary motivation behind the new no-child zones, according to Shashank Nigam, the CEO of SimpliFlying, an airline branding company that specializes in customer service and engagement.

According to an April 9 MSNBC.com article titled “Malaysia Airlines offers child-free zone on new Airbus A380,” Nigam elaborated on the decision by saying: “Malaysia Airlines is trying to make its premium product on the A380 more appealing to the high-yielding business passengers. … They value their peace and quiet and [this way] can rest assured that they won’t be disturbed by kids on long-haul flights.”

I’m not exactly one to sleep on long flights, but I still love the peace and quiet. Airplanes are where I do my best writing – no Internet to distract me, long periods of time stuck in your seat. It’s a formula for success, unless you have a screaming child bothering you. If I ever found myself flying from Kuala Lumpur to London, I would definitely enjoy the luxury of a kid-free zone.

The question is whether this is something that will find its way into airlines in America. The policy seems less made for the family-friendly United States, but there are specific carriers that seem tailor-made for this system. The one that springs to mind is Virgin America, an airline known for its almost club-like interior and entertainment-inspired service – hardly a kids’ airline. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’d adapt to such a businessman-friendly feature, but no doubt they’d come in for a world of criticism from family organizations. I can hear the slogan now: “Moms United Against Child-Hating Virgin.”

Malaysia Airlines has the right idea. Airline travel was once all about a dream experience in the clouds instead of one long headache. Changes like these to help satisfy customers can hopefully take us back to the golden age of flying. For now, I doubt we’ll be seeing any American no-child zones on flights, despite how much I dream of that day coming, but that just makes it all the more important to find the perfect seat on a flight. My writing depends on my peace and quiet, after all.