French Culture – Marriage, Family Life, and Sexuality – Interesting Links

My latest at the National Catholic Register touches on some interesting bits of French culture where marriage is concerned.   I didn’t have room in a short essay to create an annotated bibliography, and anyway I stumbled on more interesting stuff than I’ll ever write about.  Here’s a list of assorted links of potential interest to select readers, with a few comments at the bottom related to my essay topic.

In talking about cultural contrasts, here’s an article on France’s military-run brothel system, dating from World War I.  Here’s a short history of the United States’ approach to the problem of venereal diseases during the same period.  The differences are striking.

This Google preview of Fathers, Families, and the State in France, 1914-1945  has some history of the role of paternity during that time period.


All kinds of interesting parental-rights cases from the European Court of Human Rights are summarized here (in English).

On the question of legitmacy: Children Born Outside Marriage in France and their Parents. Recognitions and Legitimations since 1965.  Text is in English, and loaded with statistics concerning changes in practice over time.

Here’s a research paper exploring the range of issues in how biological versus social paternity is handled across Europe.  It is useful as an introduction to the kinds of issues that are in play, and how different countries have dealt with them.

Some Wikimedia articles that highlight the way French law handles questions of maternity and paternity:

A more academic discussion of the question of genetic testing legislation in Europe is here.  The European Journal of Human Genetics discusses the legal situation in Western Europe here.

Wikimedia’s English-language summary of the history of posthumous marriage is here: Note there is a slight error, it is Article 171 that gives us the pertinent law.  The related topic of proxy-marriage is discussed here:

There’s a bit on the case law concerning posthumous marriage in Europe if you scroll down to paragragh 247 of Le Couple et la Convention Européenne des Droits de l’Homme .  Google translate struggles a bit on this one.  The French Code Civil (in French) is here.

On the topic of posthumous marriage, the only Church document, at all, which I could find was this:  The relevant part is here, boldface mine:

24 – Chers chefs de famille, votre place n’est plus à démontrer, et votre responsabilité est capitale. L’impact de votre action peut être positif ou négatif, selon que vous agissez conformément ou non à la volonté de Dieu. Il vous donne de prendre soin des personnes qu’il vous confie. Votre mission est à la fois honorable et complexe. C’est sur vous que repose la cohésion de la famille, en matière de dot, de gestion d’héritage et de conflits, de traitement des veuves, des veufs et des orphelins. Dans cet ordre d’idées, à la lumière de la tradition et de l’Evangile, nous dénonçons la pratique illégale qui consiste à demander une dot trop élevée. Respectez ce que prévoit le code de la famille (art. 140). Nous condamnons la pratique du mariage posthume (versement de la dot lors du décès de la conjointe). Appliquez-vous avec courage, avec toute votre force, à accomplir dignement votre mission de chef de famille.

Nous vous assurons, de notre soutien, de notre proximité, de notre prière et de notre bénédiction.

The context is not (at all whatsoever) the French civil law on posthumous marriage.  Rather, the bishops are condemning the practice of asking too high of a dowry, and therefore also the practice of “posthumous marriage” as a vehicle for receiving the payment of the dowry when the bride has died.

By way of comparison on the topic of the French civil code’s practice of posthumous marriage, here’s the Code of Canon Law on the topic of “radical sanation,” which is something completely different.  It’s of interest because it shares the concept of “going back in time and fixing things” where marriage is concerned.  And that’s it — no other connection between the two.


File:Zingende boerenfamilie Rijksmuseum SK-A-376.jpeg "Singing Peasant Family"

I searched on “French Family” and the results came up Dutch.  Thanks Wikimedia!

Papal Economics + We Don’t Want Your Stinkin’ Snow Plow

Over at the the blorg bookshelf, I do a book club bleg.  I’m reading Papal Economics, which is a good book, but one that wants to be discussed.  So if that’s your scene, get a copy and chat with me.  Your place, my place, whatever suits.  Let me know what you like.


Meanwhile, speaking of economics:

1) Usually snow does not actually cause any more problems in the South than it does anywhere else. That thing going on in Atlanta is an aberration.  And really? Atlanta?  It’s Atlanta.  ‘Nuf said.

2) Ice causes problems.  There is an economic case to be made in favor of below-ground power lines.  But the call-before-you-dig people probably have the winning charts, so I bet our lines stay overhead for a long, long time.   And really, the ice mostly just makes things cold and unpleasant.  It can cause the same terrible problems it can cause anywhere. But most people don’t experience that.  So you’d have to have some serious cost-benefit studies before even taking on much in the way of anti-ice measures.

But, please, dear northern friends, do not form a 501(c)3 and start collecting funds for poor, snowplow-deprived southerners.

3) Because here’s the clincher: When we get “winter weather”? We want to stay home.

Not only is there no financial justification for, say, your county owning a snow plow when you have a perfectly good Sun that will be back again by Friday . . . who’d want one?  Why on earth would anyone want to go to work on the only snow day in a year? If you’re lucky enough to get snow that often. Way better to get out the ATV, hitch up a towline and an inner tube, tell the kids to hang on tight, and do donuts on the school playground.

Clarification: I don’t actually think parents should do this.  But I approve of the spirit of such recreation.  Only mean nasty evil people think innocent children should do school work during the Snow Minutes.  Sheesh, one shouldn’t even have to do housework doing the snow minutes.  You shouldn’t have to go to bed.  You should just admire, photograph, touch, shape, throw, sculpt, and roll in the stuff.

I do feel cheated, though, because NOAA’s revised their forecast, and it’s not supposed to hit 60 by the end of the week.  I was looking forward to short sleeves.  Meanwhile, yes, of course we have harvested our icicles and tucked them away safely in the freezer.  Waste not want not.

My vote for Most Important Book of 2012

I just spent 3 days in the largest Catholic bookstore in the world.  I bought one book.  This is it:

Then I was stuck in an airport for five hours.  Perfect timing.

What it is:  Tiến Dương is a real guy about your age (born 1963) who is now a priest in the diocese of Charlotte, NC.  Deanna Klingel persuaded him to let her tell his story, and she worked with him over I-don’t-know-how-long to get it right.  Fr. Tien is a bit embarrassed to be singled out this way, because his story is no different from that of thousands upon thousands of his countryman.  But as Deanna pointed out, if you write, “X,000 people endured blah blah blah . . .” it’s boring.  Tell one story well, and you see by extension the story of 10,000 others.

The book is told like historical fiction, except that it’s non-fiction verified by the subject — unlike posthumous saints’ biographies, there’s no conjecture here.  It’s what happened.  The reading level is middle-grades and up, though some of the topics may be too mature for your middle-schooler.  (Among others, there is a passing reference to a rape/suicide.)  The drama is riveting, but the violence is told with just enough distance that you won’t have nightmares, but you will understand what happened — Deanna has a real talent for telling a bigger story by honing in on powerful but less-disturbing details.  Like, say, nearly drowning, twice; or crawling out of a refugee camp, and up the hill to the medical clinic.

–>  I’m going to talk about the writing style once, right now: There are about seven to ten paragraphs interspersed through the book that I think are not the strongest style the author could have chosen.  If I were the editor, I would have used a different expository method for those few.  Otherwise, the writing gets my 100% stamp of approval — clear, solid prose, page-turning action sequences, deft handling of a zillion difficult or personal topics.

Why “Most Important Book?”

This is a story that needs to be known.  It is the story of people in your town and in your parish, living with you, today.  And of course I’m an easy sell, because the books touches on some of my favorite topics, including but not limited to:

  • Economics
  • Politics
  • Diplomacy
  • Poverty
  • Immigration
  • Freedom of Religion
  • Freedom, Period
  • Refugee Camps
  • Cultural Clashes
  • Corruption
  • Goodness and Virtue
  • Faith
  • Priestly Vocations
  • Religious Vocations
  • Marriage and Family Life as a Vocation
  • Lying
  • Rape
  • Suicide
  • Generosity
  • Orphans
  • Welfare
  • Stinky Mud
  • Used Cars
  • Huggy vs. Not-Huggy

You get the idea.  There’s more.  Without a single moment of preaching.  Just an action-packed, readable story, well told.

Buy Bread Upon the Water by Deanna K. Klingel, published by St. Rafka press.

3.5 Time Outs: Glocks.

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who is nothing if not capable of punching a man-card.

Click and be amazed.


Darwin reminded me I needed to write a Glock post.  No blog is complete until you’ve done that.  And look what I brought home from the library the other month, when I needed something completely different to get my mind off life for the weekend:

The boy took one look, and asked, “Why would Barrett write a book about Glocks??”  He recognized the name of the CEO of a competitor, because um, because he did.  Y chromosome on that child, confirmed.

I pointed him to the inside back cover.  “I think it’s a different Barrett.”  It is.


Anyway, I enjoyed the book even more than I’d expected.  Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun tells the story of Glock Inc. from the time Mr. Glock decided to try his hand at designing the weapon, through it’s rise as a market leader in the US, and into the human resources nightmare that ensued when radical success met original sin.  Well told — Paul Barrett is a great story teller, and he explains the technical bits with the detail you need in order to understand the story, but without losing the non-technical audience.

As a business book, it is top-notch.  Great look at the talent and plain old good fortune that made the company so successful — including some surprising twists in the gun control movement that helped spur sales and raise margins.  Ideologically, Barrett is pretty firmly in the middle of the road on gun topics, and he keeps his politics out of all but a few annoying paragraphs of opinion* near the conclusion — you can just skim and move on.

Language caution:  Don’t let the Amazon preview fool you, Barrett’s sources get quoted saying all kinds of words not allowed around my house.  It isn’t overdone and I did not find it bothersome as an adult reader, but it’s not a g-rated book by a long shot.

As a morality tale, Glock is a brilliant study in human weakness, and the way that vice unchecked leads to perdition**.  Barrett is Mr. Neutral through all of this — neither disturbed nor impressed by Glock’s sales tactics, other than to observe that they worked and they were legal.  Turns out men are fairly predictable in certain realms.

–> For this reason, the book makes a great parent-teen book study . . . but only once your boy is already aware of the various perils men need negotiate.  I held off on letting Mr. Boy read the book just yet.


Why is it that it only takes 2 seconds to accidentally upload a profile pic on Twitter that, taken out of context, will totally horrify 98% of the people who have often suspected as much . . . but it takes about an hour to get Twitter to accept some innocuous substitute hiding in the same file folder?  I suspect a plot to trap the careless.


Speaking of talented Catholic young men who like guns abridged anime – if you share the same interest, check out this guy: Mattroks 101’s You Tube channel.  And with that you know more than I do, for I am utterly out of my depth on all things anime, except maybe you are wondering how I ended up linking such a thing . . .


PS: Link day.  Help yourself if you are so inclined.  Post as many as you want, but only one per comment or the spam dragon will eat you up and I’ll never even know.

*It is possible that if you read here, you secretly enjoy reading annoying opinions.  Good for you.   There’s three or four paragraphs you’ll just love.

**Not just eternal souls, though of course those are not to be neglected.  But also small things teens can appreciate, like your colleagues trying to kill you, stuff like that.

Book Recommendation : 5000 Years of Slavery

I have been frustrated in trying to find a good book about slavery.  Most in our library focus entirely on the history of slavery in the United States, with perhaps a brief mention in passing of the existence of slavery in other times and places.  I find this limited treatment of the topic leads to some problematic misunderstandings — in many ways perpetuating the same racism that enabled American slavery and the subsequent post-emancipation civil rights abuses.

So I was glad to discover this book:

This is an introductory treatment, very readable and with lots of pictures, but it is not for young children.  What I like:

  • Separate chapters on slavery in the ancient world, pre-colonial Europe, Africa from ancient times to present, in the Americas among indigenous tribes and states, in Asia, and in the modern world internationally.
  • Precise scope.  Serfdom, for example, is mentioned only when the conditions truly amounted to slavery — mere garden-variety medieval serfdom is passed over in favor of actual slavery in the era.  In the same way, contemporary slavery is restricted to true slavery — forced labor with no option of departure — rather than degenerating into a diatribe against poor wages and lousy working conditions.  (Those are serious problems, but they are not slavery.)
  • Honest who-did-what-when reporting.  No bizarre cultural biases or weird anti-European narratives.
  • Factual but not voyeuristic accounts.  The realities of rape, starvation, torture, and the like are all mentioned where the historical record shows they happened, but there is no morbid dwelling on gruesome details.

What it amounts to is a book you can take seriously.  Good starting point, though it certainly left me wanting to learn more.  Highly recommended.


Book Review: Why Enough is Never Enough

So I have told you to buy this book about three times now.  But perhaps you were waiting for your tax refund.  Or perhaps you holding out for my official Catholic Company review, because you, too, had noticed I’d utterly forgotten to post it.  Now you will have to think up a new excuse.

The book you want is:  Why Enough is Enough: Overcoming Worries about Money — A Catholic Perspective, by Gregory S. Jeffrey (OSV, 2010).

What you’ll be getting is:  A book about how to develop a healthy relationship with money.  This is not a book about how to write a budget.  It is not a book about whether to pay off your credit card or your student loan first, or which kind of retirement account to have.  There are other books about that, and they are worth your time. I like those books.  I am a firm believer in the message of [many of] those books.  But this book is more important.

–> If you don’t have a healthy relationship with money, you will never be able to manage it well.

You might be able to accumulate it.  You won’t be able to live well with it.

And conversely: No matter how diligent and prudent and immpeccably sensible you are, it is possible that you just won’t have much money.  Life can be hard.  There is something about your relationship with money that matters much more than your bank balance. And this is what the book is about.

Is this book too hard for me?  No.  Very readable.  Lots of funny stories.  Good candidate for a book club or a parish study group, because it is approachable, friendly, encouraging, and a quick read.

Is this book protestant-friendly?  I think so.  It’s a catholic book, for sure.  Talks about things like “The Church” and “The Catechism”.  But I can’t recall anything that a non-catholic would find objectionable.

But I’m money master, and I have the 401K to prove it.  Surely you don’t mean I, too, should read this book??  Actually, yeah. That ‘buy’ recommend is across the board.  Because though the topic is money, the topic is really your spiritual life and your relationship with God.  If you have a great handle on money, this book is exceedingly helpful in showing you how to take the principles you are using without knowing it when it comes to cash, and applying them to other areas that you do struggle with.

(In keeping with sound financial principles, make that a “borrow” or “beg” recommend, if you don’t have the cash on hand.)

Can I skip around and stuff?  I don’t recommend it.  And I don’t usually say that.  Read it from page 1 forward, you will get the most out of it that way.  BUT, it is so chock full of useful tidbits, that I, the reviewer, can just randomly open anywhere, and find nice review-quality quotes.  Like this:

The notion of trading pleasure for joy works particularly well for almsgiving.  Money can provide a certain amount of personal pleasure, and that can be a good thing.  But the pleasure that comes from spending money is different than the joy of giving it away . . .  to help another person — to provide food, clothing, shelter, education — is a joy that lingers. (p. 116)

Or this:

To believe that every success is motivated by a heart filled with greed is to expose the envy in your own (p. 40).

And this:

God intervenes in our lives constantly.  Not in the sense that he forces: love does not impose.  Rather, we are offered a never-ending series of invitations that await our cooperation.  Even though burdened with self-deception, we can hope to learn humility, because we are aided from on on high. (p.6o).

And one more I really like, and then I promise to quit:

Imagine if we replaced the language of “social justice” with that of “personal justice”.  What if, instead of speaking of “unjust social structures”, we examined “unjust personal behaviors’?  Again, that is the proper starting point.  Society is made up of individuals.  To have any hope of changing social structures, we need individuals willing to embrace their own call to holiness.

–> FYI on this last one: Jeffries is not arguing that we should ignore problems that are properly dealt with at the governmental level.  Read it and see — in fact there is a great story about how the homestead laws of the 19th century had a very powerful — negative — structural impact on North Dakota farm life.  But yes, if it is your opinion that other people’s money should be spent to relieve the poor, but your own wallet is clamped shut, then indeed he will take you to task in no uncertain terms.


So that’s the book.  Get one of your own.  Courtesy of our very patient sponsor The Catholic Company, who reminds me  to remind you that they are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

I also see that The Catholic Company is . . .

STILL Accepting new applicants:

With the completion of our new review book ordering and reporting system, we are now capable of handling more reviewers.  You are welcome to invite other bloggers to join in the fun.  You can find info on joining at

So if your book appetite dwarfs your book budget, sign up.  Great program.  [And FYI, even though I keep ending up with books I really like, they want you to post honest reviews.  I just happen to honestly like this one.]