Cooperating with Evil

I woke up this morning and I was still Catholic. I had to ask myself why? Would I belong to a Sorority if a significant number of the leaders had raped children? Would I join a country club if I knew that they raped the children of the members, knew it was happening and covered it up guaranteeing that even more children were raped? Would I give money to a charity that I knew had been abusing and raping children for most of my lifetime?

I bet almost everyone is saying of course not. You and I would stay far away from such organizations. Yet, I find all manner of justifications for staying.

  • I enjoy the sense of community which I share with others who have similar beliefs about social justice. It doesn’t even seem right to use those words in association with the Church today.
  • I find the churches, the art, the music, and the liturgy beautiful. But the beauty on the outside hides an ugly truth.
  • I go for the Eucharist which the Priest brings to life for us, but did God intend it to have such a high price. Would God have created such evil and hold us hostage so that to have access we must go through rapist and those that cover for them?

The truth is I don’t believe in running from evil or abandoning a person that commits an act of evil.

It is true that we are told the number of pedophiles and rapist is small but is 300 small? It isn’t to me. Because of all the secrecy, how do we know it is only 300 hundred in 6 dioceses? After each scandal, there is a promise of transparency that only turns out to be another lie by the Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals. They knew they hadn’t told the whole truth and they knew transparency was one more lie told to the hostages of their faith.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
Maring Luther King, Jr.

I believe faith is a beautiful thing, but I don’t believe it should be a justification for being cooperating in supporting evil. If there were 300 priests in 6 dioceses that were rapists that is about 50 in each. Considering the number it is impossible for me to believe that every Priest, or the vast majority, in those dioceses didn’t know along with all of the United State Council of Catholic Bishops. It is too many for that to have been kept secret.

Some priests are displaying their anger and indignation and telling the people of the Church to do something. I’m curious what they would have us do. Do we get a vote in how the parish is run? Do we get to select our own Priest? Is there any hope that we, especially women, can have a leadership role? Can we vote them all out? Can we fire all of the Bishops?

It seems the only thing we can really do is withhold our money which only hurts the people served by the Church, vote with our feet which leaves those that will turn a blind eye to evil, or stage a protest demanding that the evil is removed. Could we all meet outside the churches and not come in until every last person that raped, covered up rape, or remained silent is no longer a member of the clergy? Could our protest be in the form of prayer vigils outside the parishes across the country? What would happen if a million Catholics marched to the USCCB building and refused to leave until everyone that knew stepped down and voluntarily committed themselves to a life of penance? Would we have the power to end the cycle?

I have no idea who is a good priest and who is raping children or abusing seminarians, but I know who does know – Priest, Bishops, and Cardinals.

If we all walk into Mass this weekend and do nothing we are cooperating with evil. What are we going to do? I for one am not willing to do nothing and I’m not willing to let them steal my faith or my Church from me. I hope one of you has a brilliant idea of what to do because I’m feeling like any good idea must make a strong statement while being compassionate and respectful and that is a tall order.


Finding Clarke in All Places

When I went to Clarke University to teach nursing I felt I found my soul. I was able to let go and be the person I imagined I was born to be and not the one forged by 20 years of federal rules and regulations. As I taught nursing I learned how to be a better nurse. When I left the spiritual safety of a Catholic university I feared I would regress or in some way have my faith diminished by not being constantly in the presence of those dedicated to freedom, education, charity, and justice. What I didn’t know is that everywhere I go they are present.

Today I went to the Catholic Worker House to help prepare food. It wasn’t the organized preparation we had in St. Louis for the St. Patrick’s meals, but rather the Zen method of taking whatever has been donated and turning it into a tasty and nutritious meal to take downtown to distribute in the park.

One of my tasks was to find the scissors and in the process found Sr. Mary Dennis. She quickly introduced herself and told me she was from Iowa. As soon as I said I had taught at Clarke she beamed and announced she was a Clarke graduate and a Presentation Sister from Dubuque. We talked about our love for the place and what it means to us and promised to talk more over coffee.

I came home to Knoxville, but Clarke and especially the Sisters that helped me with the transition to higher education continue to touch my life and faith. In every city I’ve lived in since I left Clarke I have run into a Clarke graduate and without exception, the one thing they have in common is their love for the place and the life-changing impact.

catholic-worker-logo-1I feel blessed that God sent a Clarkie to Knoxville to live in the Catholic Worker house, care for those that live there, and provide hope to those that are homeless in Knoxville.
Sr. Mary Dennis and the people of the Catholic Worker reminded me that it is my job to carry with me everything I learned from the BVMs. There will always be reminders along the way that we are a community of love and part of sharing that love is recognizing the dignity of every human being. It is the education we have and share with others that helps us develop our gifts and share them. I learned to be free. I will always be free.


Good Nursing is Prudence

The intellect and not our will must guide our decisions. Yet, it is often our will that gets in the way of sound reasoning. Don’t we all want what we want? Would we not prefer to get our way? I know I would and at times my own will has gotten in the way of hearing what others had to say.

When I joined the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) I wanted to work with the poor and underserved. I had a mental image of what that meant. Simply, it was those in poverty or homeless. It had never occurred to me to consider those in prison or detained by immigration as poor or underserved. Nor did I ever consider the disproportionate impact that disasters have on those that are poor or homeless.

Late in my career, I accepted a job with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) working for Daniel Schneider, who is now the Executive Director of the American Conservative Union and CPAC. I was fascinated by what he described to me. He wanted an office that would address the human services needs of people impacted by disaster and especially those that were poor or marginalized. He wanted the office and programs to be built on the principles of self-determination, self-sufficiency, federalism, flexibility and speed, and support to states. Of equal importance, he wanted a close working relationship with faith-based organizations. I was free to develop it as I saw fit so long as I understood that I was fully responsible for any success or failure. It was an opportunity to combine my work in disaster management and at the same time return to working with the poor and the underserved. I was all in and then I had my first meeting with faith-based groups that worked in disasters – ouch!

The first meeting was eye-opening. It was clear that people were angry and especially the person from the United Methodist Committee on Relief. There was bad blood and before I would ever be able to make progress fences needed to be mended. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it alone. Two amazing organizations stepped forward and offered to help. The first was Catholic Charities, USA that filled me in on what had transpired following Hurricane Katrina. While I had worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response since 2001 I had no interaction with the human services programs. The second organization was the American Red Cross who suggested I let them host meetings on neutral grounds. I was grateful and realized that I needed to do a lot of listening.

While I listened I also knew that good policy had to be evidence-based or adapted from a policy that has historically been effective. It could not be based on emotion or lack intellectual reasoning. I understood that there had been hurt feelings and a lack of listening in the past, but I would not ignore that there were successful programs that could serve as models. While the population served was different the goals and objectives were the same. We needed to get to mutually agreeable principles and we needed to use evidence-based policy.

The stakeholder meetings revealed that health care was largely excluded from the services offered by Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADS) and case managers rarely had health care experience. I wanted the case managers to be nurses, but the VOADS and my contracted faith-based organization wanted them to be lay people. We compromised and had a combination of case managers we trained and nurse case managers. When all the research was completed and the program pilot tested it turned out that what was primarily needed was the lay case manager with nurse case managers to be available for people with complicated medical needs and for consultation. Because I first listened and because we were all willing to follow the evidence we ended up with a program that we could all support. You can learn more about the ACF Disaster Case Management program at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohsepr/response-recovery/disaster-case-management .

I considered the development of the Disaster Case Management program a great professional accomplishment. I had an amazing team, exceptional partners, and political appointees that trusted us to do our jobs and have the best interest of the country in mind. There was mutual respect. However, the sense of professional accomplishment paled in comparison to the change in my spiritual life.

When I was in Baton Rogue with Catholic Charities, USA I was asked to stay with them at the retreat center. They gave me free access to the grounds and the chapel and said I could use it anytime. I hadn’t been to a church of any kind since my twenties and so I was amused. Then I listened as CCUSA had to remind the Catholic sisters that they couldn’t give away all of the food. I watched as CCUSA personnel and volunteers worked with compassion and patience and with their dedication exemplified what it means to serve. I, on the other hand, could only see a mission to be accomplished and my cadre of young officers as tools to accomplish it. While CCUSA saw the humanity in everyone I wasn’t even seeing it in my own people. By the time I left something had changed. I was no longer listening with my ears, but with my heart. The VOADS and the faith-based organizations had a different perspective than the government. It wasn’t about sitreps, or numbers proving the success, but rather compassionate care provided to people that were suffering.  I woke up one day shortly after our time in Baton Rogue and announced I intended to retire. Not long after the project was completed I was working for a small Catholic university where I found what I sought and though I left the university after three years what I found and what they nurtured has never left me.

Following the evidence resulted in a policy that ensured better services to the poor and underserved impacted by a disaster. Letting the spirit transform the knowledge into an accomplishment for good put the program in hands that are filled with compassion. By being open to what was good and just rather than tactically efficient government and faith-based organizations were able to bring the best of what each has to offer to serve those in need.

I am forever grateful to Dan for the opportunity, to the administration at the time for prioritizing the poor, and to Brent whose faith I am sure crafted the principles on which the program was built and through which I found my faith. The experience showed me what I lacked as a human being, what I no longer wanted to be, and a path to a more compassionate existence.

Prudence is the birth mother of all virtue.

compassion


Growing as a Nursing Professor & Administrator in 2018

I love New Year’s resolutions and letting go of the past. Resolutions are a bet with myself that I can make a difference. Starting around Christmas I begin to think about my resolution. This year is different because I have reached a point in life that I realize that my purpose may not be to make the change, but rather educate the one that will be the change. My concern is that I won’t recognize the gifts the person has and know how to nurture their calling. How did my teachers see in me what I couldn’t see in myself in my early twenties?

Nineteen years ago I spent the holidays working a mass migration in Guatemala. It was one of the saddest and most memorable moments in my career as a US Public Health Service nurse and one of the moments that I recognized how much I owed to my nursing professors. They taught us to adapt and use the knowledge and resources we had to provide the best possible care.

They taught us things I thought I didn’t need to know and would never use and of course did need to know and did use. They knew what we didn’t, life is not predictable and if you have a strong foundation you will be able to adapt to any situation.902683_10200964806901714_356566915_o

The beauty of the deer in the field as the fog began to rise was almost enough to momentarily forget that if I turned around there were 500 people that had been rescued from a ship that was helping them flee China for the freedom and promise the United States. The promise engraved on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” had beckoned to them. I still wonder what it must be like to desire freedom and not have it. What must it be like to get on a ship that isn’t seaworthy and risk one’s life for freedom only to have it cut short in Guatemala? 

The feeling of helplessness as we told them they were being returned to China and having young women fall to the floor and cling to our legs asking for us to help them is life-changing. Never again were my views on immigration the same. Never again could I see that promise on the Statue of Liberty as anything other than an oath.

The trip from the air base where they were detained to the airport opened my eyes to the poverty all around. As we were on the bus the women were staring out the window and one commented that “these people should escape to China”. The poverty in Guatemala was so shocking to the Chinese women that they couldn’t imagine why anyone would stay.

Some people come to the U.S. for freedom, others to escape war and torture, and some to escape devastating poverty. All hope for a better life. All seek the promise we offer. This year I hope we live up to that promise and give the Dreamers a path to citizenship. I hope we find a way to open our borders rather than closing them. I pray for all those men and women I could not help and hope that in my lifetime we will recognize that when we turn away the poor, the hungry, the huddled masses yearning to be free we fail to recognize their humanity and we fail in our oath to the world.

In many of my experiences as a nurse, I wanted to reach out and thank those that prepared me. There were so many lessons that were both formal and informal. Lessons that taught me what was excellent work for one may be inadequate for another because they had different abilities, which was especially important as a supervisor of young officers. Or, the unspoken lesson that presentation and professionalism matters. Probably most important was to do with a smile what you know you are going to have to do anyway.

This year my resolution is to take the best of all the professors that taught me and use it to be the best possible professor and administrator. I want to reflect on the influence of others in my life and my successes and use them as a guide in my daily life and interactions with students and faculty. I want to be the example that I had. Each day I hope to reflect on my journey to grow as a nurse, a professor, and an administrator.

Mind

My door is open to any student that wants to learn more than what can be offered in the classroom. Every Wednesday I’m in town we will have coffee and discussion of nurses that have changed their communities, the profession, or inspired others to make the world a better place.

Body

We ask so much of our students we need to be healthy to give them our best. This year I intend to give up the things that raise my stress level or cause me to be sedentary or distracted. When I’m stressed, distracted, or moving too slow I’m not available to others. First on this list is to stop reading tweets from @realDonaldTrump. Life is just too short for that much dishonesty and nastiness. Meat isn’t something I need and I feel better when I don’t eat it. No animal needs to die for me to eat. Television is a time pump and mind-numbing (Lady Vols Basketball being an exception). If the television is on I need to be cleaning, exercising, or otherwise engaged in something that involves moving. Motion is lotion and especially as I get older.

Spirit

Let faith guide my career and my decisions. This may be in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas – faith, hope, love, prudent, just, brave, and temperate. Or, it may be through the acknowledgment that all the wrong karmas made by me were created from beginningless attachment, aversion, and delusion. Born of the body, mouth, and mind. I now repent all of them wholeheartedly.

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. — Albert Einstein


Faith, Feminism, and Head Coverings

As a proud feminist, I believe in equality of all human beings. Equality is fundamental to human dignity. This week I watched with great sadness as men and women alike criticized women for what they did or did not wear.

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 8.20.36 PMI’ve never understood why people get so outraged about what a woman wears on her head. After all, we don’t worry about what men wear. When a man wears a head covering to show respect for God and Judaism we do not question it and know it is done as a sign of respect. And yet, when a woman wears a head covering to show respect for God and Catholicism she is both criticized and praised. However, if she wears a head covering to show respect for God and Islam she is resoundingly criticized.

There are many places where we consider it appropriate to wear a head covering. The most beautiful of head coverings are seen at the Kentucky Derby. People actually enjoy the hats and some of us watch the race just to look for the best hat. Likewise, while a shrinking number, women do still wear hats to church. Certainly, women in the military wear the required cover just as do men.

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 8.21.58 PMWe should ask ourselves two questions.

  • Why do we criticize a woman when she covers her head out of custom or respect for religious preferences and yet we do not do the same with men.
  • Why is it acceptable for a man to cover his head at a holy place within Judaism, a woman to cover her head when in the presence of the Holy Father, and yet inappropriate when in a Muslim country?

Whether male or female covering one’s head to show respect for God should not be criticized. Respect is essential in a civilized society.  While I’m sure most of us question how civilized we have been acting the last few years surely we all recognize that we should do better.

If you call yourself a feminist then you should not criticize any woman because she chooses to show respect for God. Nor should she be criticized because her faith or her respect for the faith of another leads her to cover her head.

Let us all show such respect for others that we are at least willing to try and not offend them when visiting.

“Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” —Hillary Clinton


Compassion Should Guide Our Discussions

This weekend I entered into a twitter conversation with some people that expressed fear of those that are Muslim and spoke in a disparaging way about the Qur’an. It always seems that fear of others leads to the great evils in our society. We then use that fear as justification to attack the other. Some attack physically and other with words. Yet there is something particularly worrisome to me when the words used to attack are from sources meant to be our guides to faith. I’m always struck by people who choose to pick a single verse and interpret it in the most negative possible manner. In truth, Christians also do that with Bible verses. We take them out of the context of the time or the situation and we use them as evidence of our own views most often that the other is wrong.

Rather than approaching  the Bible or the Qu’ran with fear, embrace it with compassion and love.

In my conversations, I always try to remember what imprint I will leave on a person. Even if the person leaves the conversation thinking me a fool, too liberal for my own good, or merely misguided, I hope they also leave the conversation believing me to be compassionate, kind, and patient.  I hope they see my faith and my love for humanity.

Today in Mass we were challenged to remember that the Shephard left his imprint on the sheep and so they will always be able to find him. It is important for us not to fill the air with so much foul discourse that the sheep loose the scent of the Shephard because of our actions.

Can we loose the strident denunciations of the other and be a littler closer to Shephard? – Fr. Brown

I choose not to measure any human being by their neighbor, relative, fellow citizens, or co-religionist. It is your words and your deeds that matter to me. I will always first reach for what is Holy in you.