I love my faith community, but I think this week they failed the community. It is Sunday and I stayed home. I am not sick, but I did get off a plane at 2:00 AM Saturday morning. I took all reasonable precautions and probably some that were overly cautious, but I would feel horrible if I went into what is a mass gathering and unintentionally put others at risk.
I fail to understand why we canceled university classes and religious leaders are not canceling services. For example, the University of Tennessee closed until April 3, closed the library (I chuckled that they feared a mass gathering), and put all classes online. Why didn’t the university parish which serves the larger community also cancel services? They are creating a mass gathering. Do people of faith really believe that they are not creating a risk situation by gathering, or do they think God will protect them, or is it that their own self-interest is more important to them than the health of the community?
If I am sitting in a pew there are going to be a minimum of 12 people within 6 feet of me. That means one person that is infected can easily expose 12 more. They may not be coughing or sneezing, but they are touching the pews, singing, and reciting prayers. Even talking distributes droplets. I think we have all had the experience of talking to someone and have spittle land on us. Singing is likely to spread those droplets further than talking in a normal tone. Now add 100 – 500 people in a church, synagog, mosque, or another place of worship and imagine what you are potentially doing.
I am saddened to see our places of faith being less responsible than sports teams. Next time you talk about universities being the places that teach self-interest and are concerned that they don’t put the community first or don’t teach moral values, you need to take a look at all the churches that chose to hold services knowing the risk and then compare that to all the universities and sports teams that cared enough for the community to act quickly.
We don’t have to be physically together to pray together. While it may help to clean the church, not pass collection baskets, and remove the holy water that is not social distancing. It doesn’t stop droplets and it doesn’t stop the respiratory spread from droplets in the air. People with no symptoms can spread coronavirus without knowing they have it. Be compassionate and know that God doesn’t live only in church. I am grateful to all of those that did cancel services and for all of those that took the time to pray at home. If you didn’t cancel your services you are not helping to flatten the curve.
I know for many their place of faith is a support system and not being able to attend is emotionally difficult. If you are sick or worried during this time I will promise to pray for you daily by name if you post a request and I will ask my friends to do the same. We can be a community and be in community with each other without being physically together.
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I woke up yesterday morning and wanted to paint. Painting is what I do when I need to see the beginning and end. It focuses my mind on the straight lines in my life of which there are far too few. Fresh paint brings a clean look that covers the scratches, dust, and general wear of times when I wasn’t careful enough. It covers errors and at least for a while all is new.
I didn’t make it to the basement to start painting but instead went to Mass where the Priest reminded us that we all have difficult times when things do not go as we planned, but God has a plan and there is a purpose.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
As I sat there too self-absorbed in my own life and difficulties a woman came in near the end of the Mass and sat down directly in front of me. Her body odor was strong and acrid.She wore multiple coats and carried yet another. In her left hand was a plastic bag and over her right should a pink backpack like children carry to school that still had a tag on it. She knelt down on one knee with her right arm draped over the pew in front of her and rested her head on the pew. She looked exhausted.
As a nurse who started my career in an acute psychiatric admission unit, I’m used to all manner of malodorous smells. They rarely bother me. It is even more unusual when I want to escape a smell. This was one of those smells that invades one’s nostrils and sinuses. As my sense of smell screamed at me to move over I could not bring myself to do so. Clearly, this woman had sought refuge in a place that was warm and safe. It was a morning Mass and like most, there was enough room to be far away from others if that was what she wanted. It is usually what I want. She chose to sit directly in front of me and knelt in a way that she could see my face. It could have been that she was hypervigilant about who was around her, but if that were the case she would probably have chosen another seat.
When Mass ended I left and she stayed. There was a time that I spent a couple of nights a week working with those experiencing homelessness. I never knew why I was so passionate about homelessness, but I’ve always suspected it is my own insecurities and fears. The fear of being alone, or unloved, or without the basic necessities of life. I have no idea where such fears come from as I’ve never experienced any of those things. Like all people, I face difficulties and disappointments, but perspective is important.
When your Dean asks you to share something you’re grateful for in a meeting there is a certain amount of internal pressure to say something. Of course, request like that cause my brain to immediately become a vast wasteland of irrelevant thoughts. Worse yet ask me when I’m working on accreditation reports and massive sarcasm floats to the top. I remained silent for fear of saying what I was thinking, “I’m grateful CCNE only comes every 10 years.” Ah, sarcasm my defense mechanism to sharing my true feelings.
Now that I’m home and I have a solid draft of the CCNE self-study I have time to reflect on the year and be grateful. Let me begin with the things that are truly important as I get older. I’m grateful for the scientist and the pharmaceutical industry that invented and manufactured my ACE Inhibitor, Motrin, and Tums and the federal government that provides the vast majority of the money for the research that makes such miracle drugs possible. I’m also grateful for being a nurse and having the skills to monitor my own blood pressure and adjust my meds when CCNE self-study stress causes my blood pressure to rise from the combination of stress and stress eating french fries at lunch with all the associated comforting fat and salt.
I’m really, really, really grateful that I work with nurses who by their natures are nonviolent, compassionate, and don’t harm me when I make repeated request for the same data, but divided by the various different dates that don’t align for USNews & World Report, CCNE, the Tennessee Board of Nursing, and PhD self-study and all the other people that make requests and seem to have absolutely no idea how much time all the reporting eats up. I would be more grateful if they would all learn to share and pull the data from one source and cut it whatever way they want for themselves so I could actually focus on curriculum and making things more efficient for students and faculty.
I’m grateful to have five cats. When I get home they could care less about data. They care about food, bird watching, letting me know about all the ladybugs they found in the house, and of course standing in front of the computer screen to remind me they are much more interesting than anything on the screen.
I’m grateful for amazing friends that have stuck with me throughout my life. I’m grateful my friends are so diverse and keep me grounded in the reality that what seems true to me isn’t always true to them. Long ago I forgot what it feels like to struggle financially, but some of my friends still do and they remind me to be a good friend means to share. I’m grateful to those of color who remind me that what I experience as a white woman is not what they experience and I need to work every day to check my own privilege. I’m grateful for those that are progressive and conservative because their friendship reminds me that good people see the world differently and their difference do not mean they are any less children of God or any less deserving of my love and respect. I’m grateful to those of faith for lifting me up when I struggle with my spirituality and am grateful to those that are atheist because they remind me it isn’t faith that makes one a moral person. Friends make the world a much more beautiful place and I love them all.
It should go without saying that I’m grateful for a good job that I love, a husband who is the love of my life, a family that brings joy, and all the may blessings that I probably fail to notice every day.
Happy Thanksgiving and may you be blessed with amazing food, family, friends, and gratitude. As I enjoy a good meal I pray:
This food comes from the Earth and the Sky, It is the gift of the entire universe and the fruit of much hard work; I vow to live a life which is worthy to receive it.
I returned from New Mexico where I visited San Felipe de Nero Church and bought a new Rosary. Not because I needed another Rosary, but because it is as beautiful and I find the faith. I was reminded that I never finished this post probably because I’m conflicted about the issue of abortion in some circumstances, but not the least bit conflicted about the religious freedom of nurses to decline to participate in abortion when they have a reexpressed objection.
Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in April 2019 broadens the ability of HHS to enforce existing laws preventing discrimination based on conscience and essentially reinstated the 2008 rule with enhanced enforcement and clear definitions. The most significant change beyond enforcement is the definition of “assist in the performance” which is now “to participate in any program or activity with an articulable connection to a procedure, health service, health program, or research activity, so long as the individual involved is a part of the workforce of a Department‐funded entity.” It does not override existing law including EMTALA.
As part of the background for instituting the rule, HHS cited the cases of nurses who exercised their conscience rights and suffered discrimination as a result.
In 2010, Nassau University Medical Center disciplined eight nurses when they raised objections to assisting in the performance of abortions.26 Nurses in Illinois and New York filed lawsuits against private hospitals alleging they had been coerced to participate in abortions. Mendoza v. Martell, No. 2016‐6‐160 (Ill. 17th Jud. Cir. June 8, 2016); Cenzon‐DeCarlo v. Mount Sinai Hosp., 626 F.3d 695 (2d Cir. 2010). A nurse‐midwife in Florida alleged she had been denied the ability to apply for a position at a federally qualified health center due to her objections to prescribing hormonal contraceptives. Hellwege v. Tampa Family Health Ctrs., 103 F. Supp. 3d 1303 (M.D. Fla. 2015). Twelve nurses in New Jersey sued a public hospital over a policy allegedly requiring them to assist in abortions and for disciplining one nurse who raised a conscientious objection to the same. Complaint, Danquah v. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, No. 2:11‐cv‐6377 (D.N.J. Oct. 31, 2011).
Rosary from San Felipe de Nero Church
One can easily argue that the rule goes too far and favors the provider over the patient and that it makes it difficult for people in rural areas or areas where the only access to care is through a faith-based hospital or clinic. However, it does not prevent any facility from providing reasonable accommodations to the healthcare worker in such cases. In other words, as an administrator, if I know that a nurse objects to participating in abortion I can reassign that nurse to other responsibilities to prevent the nurse from having to violate conscience. That is not to say that the nurse could be reassigned to non-nursing duties, but other nursing duties.
What does it mean to be a Catholic nurse?
Long before I understood and deeply pondered Catholicism I knew I wanted to be a registered nurse. The decision to become a family nurse practitioner came much later, but the reasons are similar. Nurses provide for the holistic health care needs of others. The care provided ranges from education, to preventive services, to highly technical care. It can and does frequently include care for the needs of family members, addressing social concerns, and spiritual care. As a nurse, it is a privilege to walk with people as they journey through life. However, there are times that their journey may take them down a path where I chose not to follow. As a provider, I have always ensured I understand my responsibilities so that any conflicts would be clear upfront. I’ve intentionally avoided jobs that would put me in regular conflict with my beliefs.
When I entered nursing there was no social contract that said I must give up my immortal soul to be a nurse. If you ask me to participate in abortion you are asking me to commit a mortal sin, risk excommunication, and take a life. I passionately disagree with the belief that “If you don’t want to provide abortions, don’t go into healthcare.” It is as if there is one truth and those of some faith traditions don’t know it. Of course, that lack tolerance goes both ways as anyone that has ever interacted with the “Right to Life” movement knows. Of equal importance is the fact that the vast majority of health care has absolutely nothing to do with abortions so why would one believe that a refusal to participate in abortion should be an exclusion criterion?
“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow men and cooperate with them.”
—Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
The Pew Research Center has a great deal of research on where major religious groups stand on abortion. However, official teaching does not mean that members believe that abortion should be illegal or even that religious people don’t have abortions at the same rate as the general population. One of the beauties of the United States is that we can freely practice our religion and for the most part firmly believe we should not force that religion on others. Thus, I can be Catholic and believe that while you should not have an abortion in most cases that you currently have the Constitutional right to make that choice.
I will not block your way or give you false information if you seek an abortion. In fact, I will do my best to give you all the relevant information. That is where I part ways with the new regulation. I do believe we have a responsibility to refer a person to another provider that shares their beliefs if that is what they desire. I also believe that I must always be honest with the patient. If as a provider I am unwilling to instruct a patient on abortion I should be upfront that my beliefs prevent me from doing so. The regulation does require facilities to post or give notice about what they will not do based on religion but does not require a referral to someone that will provide the requested information or care. While it appears clear that notice must be given to the patient about the limitations of services I worry about the willingness of this administration to enforce that section.
What would it mean to have no Catholics in healthcare?
Approximately 21 percent of the population of the United States of America is Catholic. Therefore, it would be reasonable to assume that 21 percent of all nurses in the USA are also Catholic. There are 660 Catholic hospitals and 1644 Catholic continuing care facilities in the USA alone. There are approximately 750,000 employees caring for almost 5 million admissions including 1 million on Medicaid each year. That equates to 1 in every 7 patients being treated in Catholic facilities.
If one excluded all Catholics that followed the teaching of the Church from practicing it would devastate our healthcare system. We would lose about 15% or our hospitals many of which serve already underserved areas. We would also lose about 20% of our nurses and physicians which means many would go without care.
A rational solution not based on hate of those who choose life.
As nurses, we have the ability to see the world in a way few can. We have walked with those that are rich and poor, from many cultural backgrounds, many countries, and just as many perspectives. We have seen people experience great pain and great joy. We have cared for the victim of violence and the person that committed violence. And, we have always tried our best to provide compassionate care.
I believe that Catholicism made me a better human being just as Soto Zen practice does. In stating our beliefs, we may find common ground that brings us together to find solutions that don’t criminalize acts of fear and desperation or ignore the needs of women whose beliefs do not equate abortion to wrongdoing.
Here is what I believe:
Women are fully human – not less than men or human embryos or human fetuses.
A human embryo has all the genetic material of a human being but is not sentient from the time of conception.
The human embryo/fetus is drawing its life from the mother.
Self-determination should be a right for all sentient beings – rights come with responsibilities to make moral decisions.
Pregnancy is a choice in most circumstances – rape, incest, and the life of a mother are special circumstances that force choices between the good of the human embryo and the human fetus and the good of the mother.
Contraception meant to prevent implantation is not equivalent to abortion – it does violate the teaching of the Church, but can result in a reduction of abortions.
Poverty, abuse, lack of childcare, fewer education options for women with children, fewer job opportunities and discrimination against women with children, and inadequate support for those that are pregnant impact a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
Abortion is a moral and healthcare decision – women are endowed with consciences and can make moral decisions.
Pregnancy is stigmatizing – society values fertility, but not always the pregnant woman especially if she is unwed or poor.
The objective act of abortion being immoral does not equate to the person carrying out the act as either good or evil.
The compassionate solution cannot be to build a wall between women and legal and safe abortion and expect it will end abortion. We should begin with compassion and start by passing laws and making policy changes that will encourage giving birth and value pregnancy.
Paid maternal leave for six months
Affordable childcare based on income
Educational support for pregnant teens and new moms
Adequate nutritional assistance for all women of childbearing age
Women’s health care in all communities that is free to all women of childbearing age
Corporations that don’t disadvantage women with children
Nurses must practice in a manner that gives great consideration of the patient’s needs. This requires carefully working with an employer in advance to ensure one’s views don’t unreasonably compromise access for a patient. Nursing is a big profession with many options so it is important to consider options.
If a portion of a job violates one’s conscience think carefully about the extent to which one’s views impact the care of the patient.
Make any conscience objections known in advance and in writing.
If one’s views would prevent providing life-saving care then it is inappropriate to take the job.
Always show respect for the patient which can be done without violating one’s own conscience.
Like no other, the nurse has a direct and continuous relationship with patients, takes care of them every day, listens to their needs and comes into contact with their very body, that he tends to. –Pope Francis
Let us as nurses show the same compassion to and respect for each other.
Catechism of the Catholic Church on Abortion
2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76
2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77” by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”80
“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”81
2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.
Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safeguarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.”82
2275 “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.”83
“It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.”84
“Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity”85 which are unique and unrepeatable.
The curse of a nurse is an educated mind often formed by religious and social backgrounds combined with work experiences which enable us to see things from a little different perspective. Principles of religion, education, and nursing practice illuminate what is wrong in our society.
We are both blessed and cursed with what we see and experience. The day of an average nurse is full. It is full of cultural perspectives, love and hate, grief and joy, violence and compassion, and fear and bravery. Nurses see people when they are vulnerable and willing to share truths, but they also see them when in the delirium of medication or pain they reveal what they would normally never give a voice. The nurse in the clinic or at the bedside sees the end result of failed policy, bigotry, and poverty. The nurse also sees those with privilege, success, and wealth and realizes the results of disparities.
Nurses experience all we see and what we see fills our lives with wonder and a search for the truth. There are days that we are bone tired with aching feet. The best we can do is ramble on about what we have seen to supportive family and friends. There are times when the mind is too tired to resist and in those times the truth is most apparent. There are also angry and frustrating times when we can identify with the worst instincts of humanity. It is a unique perspective and empathy that drives us to work for social justice. Out of our wonder, we find joy.
Many nurses are called to address social justice in the world and see it as part of what it means to be a nurse. It is tied to our spirituality. I write from my perspective as one who embraces the curse of a nurse and strives to pursue social justice in my small piece of the world. Love my perspectives or hate them, but know I have a thick skin and think we all grow through open and honest conversation even when it is difficult.
And so the [hu]manwho philosophizes and wonders is ultimately superior to one who submits to the despairing narrowness of indifference. For the former hopes? – Joseph Pieper
A detail from the “Procession of Female Saints,” a Byzantine mosaic in the Basilica St. Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy. By Visual Intermezzo – Shutterstock.com
His Holiness, Pope Francis
00120 Vatican City
May 9, 2019
Dear Pope Francis,
I am writing to ask that you call women to be ordained deacons in the ministries of the liturgy, work, and charity. I am aware of the committee findings, but at some point, we must admit the evidence is clear. To say it is not is to ignore facts and history. When we ignore the truth about women we are all diminished.
There was a time when I prayed every morning and evening and attended daily mass, but in the last few years, I have found it harder and harder to pray. The acts of men scream in my soul that women are less than men and do not share the same human dignity. It is so loud at times it drowns out the voice of God. I question how I can belong when I’m seen as less than a man. When I express my pain over this issue there is a segment of the Church that is condescending, insulting, and generally hateful.
The history of the ordination of women runs throughout the early church. In fact, the only person called a deacon in the Bible is Phoebe. There are even documents saying how old a woman must be to be a deacon. I understand that many people have theological arguments that relate to the Priesthood, but those are rules implemented by men in more modern times. Do we really think we are closer to God than was the early church?
I want someone that can minister to me and understand my life experience, needs, and desires within the church. When I read With God in Russia about Walter Ciszek, SJ ministering to men in the Gulag I was moved and saddened. I could not help but feel pain for the women I had never met. Fr. Ciszek was able to minister to the men in a special way, but the women were alone. Did God abandon them? Did God think men more deserving or did the hardened hearts of men cause greater suffering for women then as they appear to today?
I have spent most of my adult life as a nurse working with the poor, the underserved, and those experiencing a disaster or seeking refuge in the United States. I now teach nurses so that others will go out and do the same. I can’t imagine teaching them that because they were born male or female they couldn’t be a nurse. Likewise, I can’t imagine a world where there is no role for women to preach and minister.
When I worked in a prison almost all the ministers were men and so men in prison received greater pastoral care than women. We need more space in the church for women and especially for women that can go into the world and preach and minister to us in a way that men have not.
I believe in the equality and dignity of women and I struggle with a church that does support women as it does men. Please ask women to step up and be ordained deacons. It would send a strong message to the world that women have equal dignity with men, that we have value, and that we have much to offer the world.
I pray that one day I, and all women, will feel at home in the Church. I ask for your prayers and hope you receive this letter with the love and compassion with which it is intended.
With Warm Regards,
The letter was inspired by women who I highly respect for their tireless work on the issue of women deacons. There is more information on women deacons in the Catholic Church and I hope all people will prayerfully consider writing the Pope. Women are not less than men. The question is do we let ourselves be run out by those men or do we stay and fight for justice? I think the Catholic church needs a new generation of Suffragettes.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, 2 so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well. (Romans 16:1-2 NRSV)
I’m a Catholic, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a “good” Catholic. I’m a Buddhist, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a good Buddhist. I would describe myself as a human being trying to live a compassionate life that respects the diversity of ways of seeking.
Almost everyone that knows me is aware that I am Catholic, but few realize I accepted the precepts of Buddhism (Jukai) in 2015. I studied with Rosan Diado and now Dōshō Port. In Buddhism who one studies with is important. In Catholicism, it is not emphasized, but I will always remember that I first studied Catholicism with Fr. Gabriel Anderson, read Fr. James Martin and Thomas Merton, and truly touched the meaning of freedom, charity, and faith through wonderful Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Franciscans. Anytime I struggle I still think of Fr. Gabriel and the Sisters and what they taught me about the faith. Unfortunately, all Priests are not Fr. Gabriel and all cities do not have multiple orders of sisters that seek to teach first.
I’m on a journey. There are days the journey is to seek a closer connection with God, days it is transforming the mind, and days it is to find truth through science, philosophy, and nursing. Sometimes that means letting my logical mind rule while faith and myth are pushed aside. Every day it is to seek and express compassion, love my neighbor which I define very broadly, and seek social justice. There is never a day that my journey isn’t feminist in nature as I cannot conceive of a world where women achieve equality until equality is recognized in our spiritual lives and I do not mean separate, but equal spiritual lives.
This morning I woke up considering how I intend to pursue this journey. I was looking for something. I looked online for masses that may appeal to me because what I’m doing now leaves me detached. After the search, I decided to buy hostas instead and then mow the grass. I find more meaning in mowing the grass, seeing each pass as a line to completion, and each step taking me closer to realizing my goal. It calms my mind and shuts down the words or worry, and to-dos. Then I hit a big metal hunk from the power poll that KUB dropped in the tall grass when they were fixing whatever blew up. My spiritual life is a hunk of metal stuck in the blades of my lawnmower. When the mower stopped all the words rushed back in (some profane) along with the worry. It is time to fix the mower and my spiritual path, but unlike the mower, I can’t pay someone to fix my confused spirituality. I need to do the work myself.
I have a plan. It is as simple and complex as Mu. It is a Rosary of Modern Sorrows. It is a search for meaning and truth that doesn’t require me to be less than and make me desire to be more than. My only vow is to follow where it leads, be willing to strip away what I “know”, never ignore the truth, and always be cautious of dangers in the tall grass. When I can’t figure out the next step I will garden. I have a lot of work to do.
It was a good day…except for the broken lawnmower.
I’m rarely shocked by the hate and vileness of religious leaders. I’m not numb to their hateful rhetoric directed toward LGBTQ, women, people of other faiths, and anyone that dares to disagree with them, but I’m not shocked by it. Who doesn’t remember the vileness of Westborough Baptist Church protests at the funerals of fallen war heroes or the Islamaphobic rants of Rev. Franklin Graham? And if you are a person that follows James Martin, S.J. who promotes of a church open to all and open tries to build a welcoming environment for those that are LGBTQ then there is little doubt you have seen the daily hateful attacks on him by Priest and lay alike. Today I was shocked.
As I was scrolling through my twitter feed today I came across a post that caught my attention. It was yet another post that questions what Pope Francis knew about a case of abuse and why he has not said more. The leadership not being open about abuse is not shocking as too many seem incapable of transparency about it. The shocking part was a priest saying “God has a fix for that; it’s called “death”.” He then apparently had a brief moment of what I interpret as a realization that some may believe what he said as calling for the death of the Pope and followed up by saying, “For the record I abhor contemplating death for anyone. Better to pray for eternal life for all with the Church.” To me, this seems like a difference without a distinction. After all eternal life for all…does require death. While I think he is aware of what he wrote and the meaning of it how can any Priest encourage people to pray for the death of the Pope? What level of vileness is that and what a supreme lack of supervision by his superiors?
There were a couple of people that pointed out how shocking his comment was, but there were more that hopped on board. If we can’t look to religious leaders to promote peace and Church of love then it falls to each of us to let the world know that we don’t pray for the death of others. The laity must take back the Church least within a few generations no one can in good conscience support it. People are speaking with their feet we have already fallen from 75% attending mass weekly in 1955 to 39% in 2017. Twitter may be our end as the hate in the hearts of too many comes spilling out for the world to see.
I love my Church and I won’t give up, but my days of being silent are over.
Each year I obsess about what to do for Lent and then like my New Year’s resolution usually fail and give up in short order. This year I will try to fully engage with my spiritual side and give my rational mind a 40-day sabbatical to the extent possible for a professional.
I’m going to intentionally explore areas of self-denial, giving, and prayer rather than just picking some food item I could live without? I live in the world and I see it not as a pit of sin but a beautiful and hopeful place filled with more people of good will than bad intents. My practice during this Lent will be to find the Church I seek in my own spiritual life rather than looking for it others. I seek a Church that isn’t filled with twitter post by angry and vengeful Priests or those that are so rigid in their faith that they are unable to accept others who have different practices. I seek people that see beauty in the world and the beautiful aspects of the Church and the faith. I seek tolerance for all that that are searching. I seek a Church where it is more important to worry about and moderate my own desires than to obsess about the perceived sins of others. I will trust that others know when they are going against their consciences and they will in time address it. My role in their lives is only to provide compassion and when asked honesty that is soaked in love.
I don’t have a pet sin for which I have zero tolerance. I do have great patience for the person that has failed in self-denial of desires and who struggles and fails. At 56 most of my sinning days are behind me. I try to live lightly on the earth, give to charity, etc., etc., etc. However, my weakness is food. I love to cook, and I like to eat and drink wine so it would be hard to deny that I fall victim to the deadly sin of gluttony and spend an excessive amount of money on fine food and wine.
“The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine” (No. 2290).
My excess can be measured in wastefulness, quantity, and spending more on food and wine each week than a person making minimum wage earns. I’m going to use the CRS Rice Bowl recipes as examples of meatless meals that that are simple and frugal. Whatever I save I will give to the CRS Rice Bowl as a donation.
I belong to Zen group and recently someone asks if the members prayed, did we think the prayers were answered and was it embarrassing to admit? My husband could not understand why anyone would be embarrassed by prayer. Being embarrassed expresses a sense of self-consciousness and confusion that should ideally be absent in prayer or meditation. I haven’t been able to let go of that as I have never been able to utter a public prayer. Once Sr. Joan, the Provost at Clarke University, suggested that since I should start meetings with prayer that it might help me to write them down so all I had to do was read them. It did not help.
Lent is the only 40 days of the year. This year I’m going to let myself obsess about religion and faith. My goal is not to be embarrassed that my rational mind loses out to my faith. Rational mind be damned I’m going to try and grow during this season. At my age, it is good for the continued functioning of the brain to learn something new. I’m going to learn some more Latin (good for the aging brain) and practice by attending a Latin mass or two during Lent and memorizing some of the Rosary in Latin. I don’t want to be the person that is so rigid in my faith I can’t be open to the beauty others find in theirs and in this case a Latin Mass. I admit that I have a bias against it. I often associate it with the vengful Priest that are too critical and those that are so rigid they only see the sin in others. It is odd that I hold this view as the one person I know that attends Latin Mass regularly is a very kind young woman. This will be an exercise in addressing my own biases and looking for beauty in a different kind of practice.
Giving is Easy
The easy part is giving. Donating what I save on food and wine to the CRS Rice Bowl is obvious. I will also make a sizable donation to the parish or order of the Priest I read on social media that says the fewest hateful, condescending, or uncharitable things about others. That includes not publicly criticizing what he sees as the sins of others. Fraternal correction is not the same as public twitter comments or criticism. Twitter is filled with blowhards that appear to think being critical of others is their pastoral calling. I think good behavior should be rewarded and maybe a potential donation will mean something to a parish or order that can help me to see the beauty of the faith through kindness in their approach to the many rather than the few.
Maybe I have reached the age when I no longer care if I’m complicit in evil. I cannot make people behave the way I wish, and I cannot walk away every time they do not act. I worked in a prison where on a regular basis I cared for those I did not think belonged there, but could not change their circumstance. I worked in an immigration detention facility where for too many the crime was crossing a border without permission; they forgot to say mother may I. Was I complicit? Yes, I was complicit, but I doubt they would be better off if I had not been there. I cared passionately about their well-being and ensuring they received quality healthcare. In the same way, I care about the Catholic church, but I cannot get to the same place in my reasoning.
I’m Catholic, and I love being Catholic. I hate it that too many of you (Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals) sexually assaulted or abused men, women, and children and even more of you covered it up and have continued to do so. Don’t bother trying to tell me it is only 1%, or that it is less than in the general population, or that teachers do it too. I know all of that, but I don’t look to any of them to help me grow stronger in my faith or be closer to God, or even to be able to be more compassionate to my neighbor. Sadly, too many of you are apologists for sexual misconduct of all kinds. We see it in our Church, and now we see you doing it in society.
As Bishops, you offered arguments for the coverup and allowed it to become embedded in your culture for too long. It seems every day we learn of some new old case that was hidden while the offender maintained his position and comfortable life as his victims struggled. Making lousy matter worse you tried to blame the scandal on the sexual revolution, which is utter nonsense as the sexual revolution was about consenting adults having sex without guilt and never about rape or molesting children or even sexual harassment. The sexual revolution was about freedom and control of one’s own body while what the Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals did was about power, control, and violence. The sexual revolution and the scandal in the Church had nothing in common. In an attempt to further cloud the issues those of you that disapprove of LGBTQ tried to blame them. It is as if you did not know that a homosexual man is no more attracted to a child than is a heterosexual man. People attracted to children are pedophiles, and they are not attracted to adults. These attempts to deflect blame are easily refuted, but how many of you care what caused them to commit such evil? We can’t fix every broken person, but there are some positions which the broken should not hold. What I don’t understand is how you were so blinded to this evil in your midst and why you still try to blame others for your failings.
Sadly, I have no power to make a change in the Church. I don’t know any of you on a personal or professional level. You don’t know that last week I chose not to attend mass, that I stopped my automatic donations two weeks ago, and told some friends I was leaving the Church because I couldn’t take it anymore. I feel powerless and deeply troubled by the decision to go and desperately wanted one of you to say don’t do it. That would require you to be aware enough to recognize my absence or give damn once you did. As one of the many that have written to my Bishop and never heard back, I hope you heard my vote when I walked out and took my money with me.
I tried to convince myself to leave the Church because I don’t want to be complicit with evil. I don’t want to give money to people I can’t trust, and I don’t know who to trust. I wish each of you would write down what you knew and when, what you did to address it, and how you reconciled your actions with your conscience. I wish you would then personally address an envelope to every member of your diocese and sign the letter you wrote and once they are all sent have as many listening sessions as it took for us to all vent our frustration. I would not want you to answer questions or to say a word. I want you to listen and then take what they hear to heart and know the pain you have caused not just to the victims of their sexual violence, but to all those they have victimized through the harm you have done to the Church we love.
I wondered aloud how all this could happen and the answer was the culture of the church makes it possible. The same culture that I love.
It is the culture that says we all have a sinful nature and by that nature will make mistakes, but we are not defined by our worst moments.
It is the culture that says for every sin there is forgiveness, and with that forgiveness, there is hope that the person will sin no more. There is hope that we will learn and grow closer to God and be what we were born to be.
It is the culture that believes obedience to rules is essential. The same culture that made me a successful officer for 20 years. Rules matter.
It is the culture that says when someone confesses a sin it is confidential never to be repeated to anyone. As a healthcare provider and even a professor, I wish I shared that level of protection of confidentiality that is given to priest. I am grateful you have it and that you would never break the seal of the confession, but I think some may have used it with the intent to keep you silent.
It is the culture that says we do not recognize the power of the State over us, but instead, we handle issues within our courts, our own rules, and our laws. And it is here where the failure occurred. Because we believe in freedom of religion and separation of church and state, it is here that absolutely must fix our house least we all turn to the state to fix our Church.
Instead of leaving I should have said what I meant. I’m mad as hell, and I won’t take it anymore. I’m the person that will be at every meeting. I will write you letters and I will show up at your office. I will stage a sit-in if I have to, but you will hear about my dissatisfaction with the job you are doing. Consider this the beginning of your 360-degree evaluation. Sadly, I’m not that person. I won’t force myself on people, and I don’t participate in protests. I take my money and my faith and go home.
I feel bad for those that are good, but like me you were complicit, and you remained silent out of obedience to the false god of scandal. I will be back when there is real change, but in the meantime, I’m looking for a church where the people have a voice in the leadership and where the rules don’t result in the clergy being silent in the face of evil. I’m looking for a church that doesn’t support men that sexually assault or harass others or think a man can sexually assault anyone so long as he professes to be “pro-life.” I’m looking to ease my conscience for not taking a stand sooner.