When Priest Pray for the Death of the Pope

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.Screen Shot 2019-03-11 at 5.49.20 PM

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.

 


Women Mourn Jesus

Lent Obsession

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.

My Weakness

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.

Prayer

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. 

Women Mourn Jesus

Stations of the cross at St. Andrew’s Abbey


Open Letter to Catholic Bishops

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.


Moving In

This morning as I was going to Mass I passed a mom hugging her son and crying as the father stood by stoically. The son kept reassuring her he would see her soon. It was clearly a struggle to let him go. She had done her job and now she was sending this young adult off to find his way in the world. He will face new challenges and if he embraces the challenges he will grow into a productive member of society that can give others what his parents have given to him.

I love move-in days because it is a hopeful time of the year for students, parents, and faculty. Parents are sending us their greatest accomplishments in life and trusting us to help them transition into adulthood. We will help them build on the foundation their parents gave them. It is our responsibility to help students seek the truth, but not to define that truth for them.

As an instructor of nurses, both novice and experts, it is my responsibility to introduce students to the art and the science of nursing at multiple levels. It is also my responsibility to foster in nurses a sense of duty to those we care for that must sometimes outweigh self-interest. As with any art, nursing requires a passion for the vocation because without passion the skills and knowledge alone will not sustain one when there are too many patients, too few nurses, or not enough resources. Likewise, with students, it is the passion for nursing that will sustain them when there are too many pages to read, too many papers to write, and not enough time to memorize every possible medication.

As a teacher, I strive to recognize students that are having difficulties and help them to find a path to success. I have found in my career that it is those that came to me with the greatest difficulties, that when nurtured, became the most loyal and productive. I know from my own experience that early failures are not always a predictor of future success and thus it is important to look past grades alone and assess work habits, drive, and determination. The student is responsible for embracing his or her vocation, striving to learn, exploring personal motivations, and seeking guidance and assistance when needed.

We began Mass in the presence of new students and their parents singing “All Are Welcome“. It is never more meaningful than the beginning of the academic year.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions… All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

The students enter with hopes and dreams for the future. Some will cling to what their parents taught them and some will choose another path. I hope that in all I do I encourage students to seek the truth through academic endeavors. I always remind myself that students see me in all I do and all I say. Let us all embrace our status as role models and know that parents are looking at us to be the role models in their absence.

It is time once again to help students fill their intellectual toolboxes, but it isn’t our job to ask them to throw out the gifts their parents gave them.


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