Pride Month Equals Hanging My Catholic Head in Shame

As a nurse and an educator, it is important to address the impact of implicit bias. “Thoughts and feelings are “implicit” if we are unaware of them or mistaken about their nature”.  Most of us have some bias that influences the way we interact with others. One way to identify your implicit bias is to take an Implicit Association Test.

The best known is the Implicit Association Test (IAT). This measure assesses “strengths of associations between concepts by observing response latencies in computer-administered categorization tasks” (Greenwald, 2009). For example, in measuring implicit attitudes about Blacks and Caucasians, slower responses (longer response latencies) to African- American first names paired with positive words and Anglo-Saxon names paired with negative words, and faster responses to African-American first names paired with negative words and Anglo-Saxon names paired with positive words, indicate a more negative implicit attitude in response to African-Americans. Over the last 20 years, a significant amount of research has been conducted with various forms of the IAT to assess implicit biases about women, members of various racial/ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, persons of various religions, and rural vs. urban individuals.

Implicit association has a negative impact on people. If you train girls to expect they will do poorly in math and better in languages then that is exactly what will happen, but it goes further.

Studies have also demonstrated that implicit attitudes can also influence how teachers respond to student behavior, suggesting that implicit bias can have a powerful impact on educational access and academic achievement. https://www.verywellmind.com/implicit-bias-overview-4178401

Imagine the implicit associations the Priest and Bishops are inflicting when they say pride month is “toxic and immoral”. They are telling the doctor, the nurse, the teacher, and the police officer that people who are LGBTQ+ are dangerous. They are attempting to stereotype all who are LGBTQ+ even when there is abundant evidence that what they are saying is not accurate and will cause harm. Implicit bias results in prejudice and discrimination in schools and workplaces. It can impact hiring practices, performance reviews, and treatment provided to patients. Implicit bias can result in differential grading by teachers and thus have long term impacts on the lives of their children. Further, it can result in bullying of the children of people who are LGBTQ+. Screen Shot 2019-06-03 at 7.00.14 PMHomophobia and/or lack of respect for individuals that are LGBTQ are attitudes that cause great harm to people and especially when it comes from people that are supposed to be moral leaders and examples of love and compassion.

What is harmful to children? The greatest harm to children is a lack of love, safety, and not meeting their basic needs of food, shelter, education, and medical care.  It is harmful to children to be in the presence of those that should protect them and do not. It is harmful to children to expose them to bigotry and stereotype them or their parents as dangerous. It is harmful to children to separate them from parents and put them in cages. There are many things that are harmful to children, but there is no evidence that attending a Pride month event is harmful.

The church for decades has known all too well what is harmful to children. They have covered up sexual abuse of children and moved priests around in a manner that allowed them to prey on even more children. Screen Shot 2019-06-03 at 7.21.43 PMI think the moral authority to discuss what is a danger to children doesn’t belong to the church or its leaders. 

The Bishops and Priests along with all Catholics would be well served to focus on reducing implicit bias as one way to make lives better for children. Kendra Cherry recommends three ways to reduce your own implicit bias:

  1. Focus on seeing people as individuals
  2. Work on consciously changing your stereotypes
  3. Adjust your perspective.

I would recommend adding one more:

4.  Don’t preach hate and intolerance in the name of God.

I hope one day we have a church that will not deny anyone their human dignity. That the clergy at all levels, the lay ministers, and the faithful promote a culture that is welcoming. Sadly, I think to get there we have to reject the teaching that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered. We also have to reject the saying to “Love the sinner and hate the sin” because it all too often looks more like hate all the way around. How would you feel if your nurse told you I hate that you are _________ but I will provide you the same care as a normal person? Calling someone intrinsically disordered or a sinner is saying you don’t see them as normal or good. Would you believe the nurse was really going to provide you the same care? Would you not wonder how much implicit bias was going to seep out when she or he took care of you? I would request another nurse. Likewise, if I were LGBTQ+ and a priest said something like the Priest or Bishop did in the tweets I would find another Priest. Love isn’t in their words.

I do not have it in my heart to feel anything but happiness for a person that finds love and I refuse to be part of teaching intolerance.  I choose love over hate and fear. I will not blindly follow teaching that is morally dubious.

There is no fear in love…perfect love drives out fear. (1 Jn 4:18)

 

 

Greenwald, A. G. et al (2009). Understanding and using the Implicit Association Test: III. Meta-analysis of predictive validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(1), 17-41.


I Won’t be a Prayer Hitman

I’m a horrible Catholic. It isn’t intentional it just seems to come naturally to me. I don’t have it in my nature to blindly believe nonsense just because it comes out of the mouth of a Priest or Bishop. Don’t misunderstand I believe without question the Crede and I’m mesmerized by the miracle of the Mass. As much as there are things that I object to about the institutional Church I am drawn to it.

When I first came to Knoxville I joined a parish. It was a beautiful church with classic Catholic architecture. The priest was friendly and the parish was welcoming. After a few months, I was added to a prayer list. At first, it seemed normal enough. Then the prayer list stated naming people for whom to pray and the list was always of politicians that were Democrats. It was a prayer of those they hated. I don’t hate.

I may disapprove of an action, but I do not have it in my heart to hate people. I will not pray for people in a manner that says dear God I’m superior to that person whose views repulse me. I’m more likely to pray that I will understand them, be open to a conversation with the person, and strive to see what is good in the person. I prefer my prayer to focus on my failings rather the perceived failings of others because I absolutely do have it in my heart to judge people and to find their actions immoral and repulsive. I even have it in my heart to think I’m intellectually and morally superior at times. Fortunately, I recognize those as personal flaws. 

Prayer to end abortion

I will not pray to end abortion. I think abortion is often a bad decision made under difficult circumstances that are out of the control of the woman and other times it is the only decision to save the life of the mother. When we pray to end abortion we are saying that we have all the answers and at the same time we are using it to avoid painful conversations with women who are suffering. Do any of us doubt that a woman who chooses abortion is not suffering? I’m willing to pray with her that God answers her prayers and grants her peace, but I’m not willing to pray in a way that says I think I’m morally superior to you.

Prayer for victims of gun violence

There is not a single day in America that multiple people are not killed with guns. People send prayers but then do nothing. They have no intention of doing anything. The prayers are only a way of publicly saying I’m a good person despite the fact I have no intention to act to end gun violence and I may even fight against any action that limits access to guns even for those with serious mental illness. When my brother was murdered I didn’t need you to pray, I needed you to do something to get the guns out of the hands of people that should have never owned one. I needed you to write a letter to your representative to require gun locks, gun safes, safety classes, and mental health assessments. I needed action. Prayer should not stand alone and they should not be used with false intent.

For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy. – St. ThéRèse of Lisieux

If the heart is the dwelling place where God lives I don’t want anyone to ask me to put hate in the dwelling place of God. I left the parish that sent out the prayer list I perceived as a prayer hit list. I didn’t want to turn my relationship with God into something filled with animosity. I may be a bad Catholic because I won’t pray to end abortion or for people who disagree with me to agree with me, but I don’t think it makes me any less a Catholic.

I think I will pray for the insight to understand others, for the skills to make meaningful change in the world, and for the drive to work hard even when I’m not seeing progress. Prayer, meditations, and silence are too important to one’s spirit to use it as a political club. Twitter and the pen are my political clubs.

Prayer and meditation are my communion with God. I refuse to be a prayer hitman.

 

 

 


Pro-Human Dignity Revisited

“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 last few weeks have been filled with angry people aligning with pro-choice versus gloating people aligning with pro-choice. I hate both terms. They do little to describe what many of the people in the groups actually want. Pro-life is associated with people that want to end abortion, but many if not most of those people have little use for programs that support women before, during, and after pregnancy. In fact, some propose the death penalty for people that perform abortions or life in prison. Likewise, some people that are pro-choice only mean as it relates to women’s choices about their bodies. They frequently are not in favor of choice about such things as school choice or open carry laws for guns.

It would seem obvious that human life is sacred and that there is inherent dignity in all humans.  However, a quick look at public policy, media, and even individual human actions reveal that it is not at all obvious that life is treated as sacred or that there is inherent dignity in all humans.  One only needs to ask what it means to respect life and a heated debate may ensue with all parties proclaiming to be the sole holder of truth.  Most such discussions never proceed beyond abortion, the death penalty, war, and guns. Recently, I have seen more people add LGBTQ+ as an issue where no one can hear the other and where some brave soles like James Martin, SJ proclaim it to be a life issue and especially in countries where you can be executed for being same-sex relations.

When asked what is human dignity, a frequently provided answer is the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  No, it was not a question about the Declaration of Independence.  Yet, it appears that the representatives that signed the declaration understood human dignity and its foundation in our creation in the likeness of God, in stating, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Why then is this not part of the intellectual reasoning process when discussing these issues among friends, family, and colleagues and in public policy?  And, why for our entire history have we failed to live up to these words in the Declaration of Independence?

As we approach challenges to Roe v. Wade, let us consider life.  Life is a right.  Unfortunately, it is a right that we appear not to value as a society and a right for which we too frequently fail to give meaningful thought.  Here are a few areas where there is significant disagreement, and where life is either not treated as a right, or the issue gets inadequate attention.

  • Abortion
  • Contraception
  • Culture of violence in video games, movies, and music
  • Death penalty
  • Domestic violence
  • Drug, alcohol, and substance use
  • Health care & mental health care- inadequate
  • Homelessness
  • Genocide
  • Guns
  • Malnutrition
  • Obesity
  • Poverty
  • Sex trafficking
  • Terrorism
  • Torture
  • Violence (rape, hate crimes, child sex abuse, etc.)
  • War

All of these either prevent, end, shorten, or seriously impact life or the quality of life.  There is no public consensus on how to address any of these issues.  Imagine what would be said if there was a gun law passed as restrictive as the Georgia or Missouri abortion laws. Imagine making it a crime to release a person from the hospital when you know they have no home and will be living on the streets. Imagine a 95-year sentence for the health care provider that over-prescribed opioids resulting in addiction and an overdose.

The next time someone asks you if you are pro-life be sure to consider whether life is sacred and whether it is the foundation of your moral vision of society.  We can only protect human dignity and have a healthy community if we protect human rights and fulfill our responsibilities to each other.  We cannot shrug off poverty because it will always exist and ignore our responsibility to the poor and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot justify rape because the vagina was not ripped to shreds or it was “consensual” and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot let our children be murdered or sexually assaulted (or cover up the same in our churches) and claim to be pro-life. We cannot turn a blind eye to sex-trafficking and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot fulfill our responsibility without first recognizing the value of sharing ideas, cooperating to advance policy that supports human dignity, and admitting that no one individual is the sole purveyor of truth.

As some states march toward an essential ban on abortion consider whether abortion is blinding us to all other aspects of life and human dignity and whether a sole focus on protecting the unborn has resulted in public policy that ignores the threats to life that are all around us.  Likewise, consider whether treating abortion as a bad decision made under difficult circumstances would impact our approach to human dignity in other areas.  Advancing the cause of human dignity in public discourse requires us to fulfill our responsibilities and that must begin by listening to other people and hearing those perspectives with an open mind.  Maybe we would be more successful if we became pro-human dignity.


The Hypocrisy of Abortion Politics Revisited

Human dignity rests above all on the fact that humanity is called to communion with God. The invitation to converse with God is addressed to men and women as soon as they are born. For if people exist it is because God has created them through love, and through love continues to keep them in existence. They cannot live fully in the truth unless they freely acknowledge that love and entrust themselves to their creator.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #19.

As a Catholic, I struggle with the issues surrounding abortion. I am at one time horrified by taking a life and equally horrified by forcing a woman to be pregnant especially when that pregnancy endangers her life or results from rape. I recognize abortion as the most difficult decision a woman will ever make and know that whether legal or not ultimately the decision is hers alone.

This week we had one governor sign into law legislation that would ban abortion after six weeks with no exception for rape even if the person raped was 10 years old and the next day the same governor allowed the execution of a man.  Missouri has passed a law outlawing abortion after eight weeks with no exception for a medical emergency or rape of a child. In other words, it is acceptable to let a woman die which will also result in the death of the fetus but essentially says it is not acceptable to save the mother if you can’t save the fetus.

Thus we have learned this week that pro-life is an obsolete word that is without meaning. It isn’t obsolete because people of faith do not believe that abortion is morally wrong. It is obsolete because it has been co-opted by opportunistic politicians that are no more opposed to abortion than anything else they espouse and then do absolutely nothing to change. Worse, they focus solely on the act of abortion and ignore all the factors that lead to abortion.

The Catholic Church is consistent in its teaching that life begins at conception and many faith traditions agree, but certainly not all. Officially abortion can be forgiven, but it can also result in the most severe punishment in the Church – excommunication. It is maintained that from the moment of conception a human embryo is fully human and deserving of all the protections of any human being. If one viewed this statement simplistically, it seems compassionate. We must treat this new life as if it were the same as a school child or a treasured grandparent. It is when one realizes that in saying “all the same protections of any human” it must necessarily mean that the mother is subservient to the human embryo so what is clearly meant is the same protections as a man. She must give up the control of her body to that human embryo, which is why some people make caveats for rape, incest, and life of the mother. If we logically followed this reasoning a man should have to do the same, but there are no laws requiring a father to give an organ to save the life of his child or for that matter to even give blood for his child.

hypocrisy of abortionPoliticians and pro-life and pro-choice advocates were outraged by the statement of Donald Trump when he suggested that women who have abortions should be punished during his campaign and to avoid that we have decided that if a physician performs an abortion it is murder, but the person that contracted for the murder has no guilt. It is no surprise that pro-choice advocates and most women were outraged then as they are today. However, for pro-life advocates and politicians who build careers preying on the faithful, it is nothing short of hypocrisy. We have already heard of two politicians that had their children aborted. Those that claim outrage against Trump’s statements need to consider what he said and what they claim to believe. Claiming the woman should be punished is consistent with what I would expect of someone that believes that the human embryo is the same as a child or an adult in rights. If a mother killed her 6-year-old or her neighbor, it would be expected that she would be punished. If one believes abortion is murder, then it would be expected that the person who committed or hired someone to commit murder is punished. However, what isn’t consistent is not also punishing the person that incited the murder – the father, or the driver that waited in the getaway car while the murder was committed. If one believes life begins at conception, and the human embryo is fully human and deserving of human rights rather than potentially human from that moment, then one should support Donald Trump’s original statement. Likewise, we should do away with all those fertilized embryos waiting to be implanted. Isn’t the physician that isn’t implanting them holding them hostage and when they dispose of them doing the same as the person who performs an abortion?

What about rape? Even if one agrees that the fetus is fully human and endowed with human rights by six weeks then what is being said about the child of God that has been raped and is pregnant. We are saying it is acceptable to enslave her body for nine months against her will. We are saying it is acceptable to treat her like nothing more than a human incubator. We are saying it is acceptable to endanger her life, cause her pain, and attack her every day for nine months. If we say the child is innocent then we are saying the rape victim is not. We are saying her well being is less important than that of the child of a rapist. This is what I cannot reconcile with reason or my conscience.

The Compassionate Alternative

Wanting to punish a woman for having an abortion shows a complete lack of compassion for a woman in trouble. Isn’t that what we teach with excommunication. When we say we punish the woman and not the man we are clearly setting different standards for men and women, doctors that do abortions and women that hire them, and mothers, fathers, and significant others that drive women to the abortion appointment. If one truly believes that abortion is a mortal sin, then to condemn the woman as a murderer is too easy and self-satisfying. It is too easy because it allows us as a society, a faith community, and as individuals to do nothing to help her through the pregnancy, to dismiss her as immoral, and to condemn her and those who assist her as murders and consign them to the criminal justice system. Calling abortion criminal allows us to continue to advocate against abortion without showing the same concern for women before pregnancy, during pregnancy, or after birth.

The child/fetus in the mother’s womb is drawing its life directly from the mother, and she must be nurtured, nourished and protected. Only then will the child develop to its full capacity. Not only is it necessary for a mother, a woman, to be cared for during her pregnancy, but we know through medical science that nutrition is essential even before conception. What we are doing for all women of childbearing age we are also doing for the child she will one day nurture. When we fail her, we fail to defend the integrity of the human embryo that will grow into a child.

We can begin our compassion by ending the use of the terms pro-life and pro-choice. Let us start saying what we believe. 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 and further grow our flawed criminal justice system. I reject be label as pro anything. 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.
  • However, 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 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 child care, few 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 decision – women are endowed with consciences and can make moral decisions.
  • Pregnancy is stigmatizing – society values fertility, but not the 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 being 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. It cannot be to take away safe abortions and not explore laws to help women care for their children. We should begin with compassion and start by passing laws and making policy changes that will encourage women to give birth and value pregnancy.

  • Paid maternal leave for six months
  • Affordable child care based on income
  • Educational support for pregnant teens and new moms
  • Adequate nutritional assistance for all women of childbearing age
  • Free adoption that isn’t limited by religion, sexual orientation, or whether one has a fire extinguisher in their house (don’t ask as you will be angry)
  • Women’s health care in all communities that is free to all women of childbearing age
  • Corporations that don’t disadvantage women with children
  • Mental health care for all women that have been raped and all with unwanted pregnancies

If we put the same passion into supporting pregnant women as goes into preventing abortion, the result may be surprising. I look forward to the day we are praying in the streets outside of community health centers and family practice clinics insisting that they provide women’s healthcare including maternity care or that we march on Washington every year to insist that all women have paid maternity leave and affordable childcare. This week taught us one important lesson – justice must include compassion. It is inhumane to treat women seeking abortion and physicians that care for them as criminals.

I cannot find it in my heart to condemn a woman to carry the child of a rapist. I find it to be inhuman to not recognize rape as a crime that should not punish the woman by forcing her to carry the child thus being raped over every single day for nine months. I can understand the fetus as innocent, but I also understand the woman as innocent. If we ask a woman to suffer and recognize her as having equal human dignity then if she is forced to carry the child to term we must fully support her.  Certainly, we should not ask her to pay the medical bills, to forgo her education, to have anything less than the best and most nutritious food, to have a fully funded education for that child, and to provide her all the medical and mental health support she will need.

This is not an easy issue and I would never violate the teachings of my faith, but I will not ask others to abide by them. I will only encourage people to explore all the implications, consider the possibilities, and know I will never turn my back on a woman struggling with the most difficult decision of her life.


Catechism of the Catholic Church on Abortion

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Letter to His Holiness, Pope Francis

women deacons

A detail from the “Procession of Female Saints,” a Byzantine mosaic in the Basilica St. Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy.

His Holiness, Pope Francis

Apostolic Palace

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,

Roberta Lavin


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)


Spiritual Confusion and Gardening as a Measure

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 infullsizeoutput_3961 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.fullsizeoutput_2e00 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Bishop Called

I was in St. Louis last week when my mobile phone rang and it was a St. Louis number I didn’t recognize. I assumed it was someone I knew. The person introduced himself as Frank Krebs. I immediately recognized the voice and his name as he was the Bishop of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion in St. Louis. When I was in Webster Groves I attended mass there for a few months and then would occasionally visit. He called because he noticed that I had not been around.

There is a part of me that wanted to point out I moved in June 2018 but I was too shocked that first, he noticed and second, he called. I am a fairly faithful parishioner. I donate money. I attend Mass regularly. I even attend talks and other events. In my adult life, I have never had a Priest or minister of any kind call me. I’ve had them notice when I’ve been gone for a couple of weeks but never had one call or visit. I was shocked that the call I got was from a Bishop.

The Ecumenical Catholic Communion is not Roman Catholic. They allow married, female, and LGBT Priest. They allow lay people to preach and have changed the mass to use gender-neutral language. My open and accepting side preferred them. However, my traditional side missed the music, the incense, and the beauty of an old church. Ecumenical Catholics are the people I wanted to be my friends, but in the end, I couldn’t give up the beauty of a more traditional mass. I wonder what I would have done if the building and music had been different.

Alas, there is no Ecumenical Catholic Communion in Knoxville as there is no Soto Zen center. I have to admit I liked it that he called. I wonder how many people would return to mass if ministers called and appeared to care. It must be what it feels like to a student if the professor calls when they miss a class.