A Collection of Facebook Posts and Comments

This is an unusual post for me. It is a simple collection of many of my FB posts and comments during this week following the release of the report by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury on sexual abuse and assaults by Catholic clergy and the cover-up by the hierarchy. To say I have been obsessed by this is a bit of an understatement. Many of these posts and comments appeared on a private website of Catholic women. I decided I wanted to collect them for myself and this seemed the best place to do that.
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“The tree is known by its fruit. Those who profess to belong to Christ will be recognized by their actions. However, what matters now is not a mere professing of faith. Now the crucial thing is whether one is found in the power of faith to the end. He who truly possesses the word of Jesus can even hear his silence speak. In this way shall he be perfect: he will act in accordance with his words and will be known even by his silence.” Ignatius of Antioch
Like many of you, I have been preoccupied for a week now by the massive, entrenched evil revealed in the Pennsylvania report of clerical abuse and the cover-up by the institutional hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. I have read many articles on it, thought and prayed and planned my actions in response. And of course I have written about it.
One theme that emerges time and again in what I read (especially in what I read that is written by Catholics) is that silence is complicity. That everyone and anyone who loves the Church must speak out, must act and demand action. I appreciate that and agree with it. It is too easy to fool ourselves into inaction just because we are afraid, or unsure what to do, or comfortable with our privilege, or…or…or.
(I think of my friend Carol’s determination to decrease her use of plastics. Despite my continuing concern for our environment and all I read, it is her example that has had the most effect on me, that has made me pause every time I reach for a plastic bag, that has made me think of alternatives. A living example of that old truism “Actions speak louder than words.”)
And yet, and yet…there is a silence that is not complicity but is prayer, as this morning’s reading reminds me. There is a silence that is the necessary balance to action (even the action of reading and writing). There is a silence that is creating poetry with God. To paraphrase, here is the difficult challenge:
“She will act in accordance with her words and will be known even by her silence.”
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Perhaps we are called, by these continuing horrific revelations, to identify with and care for the victims: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/suspendedinherjar/2018/08/not-church-care-about/
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“The grand jury investigation named Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik as someone who covered up abuse over the years. After the report was released this week, Zubik called upon the church to listen to victims.
“We all must take this report to heart,” Zubik said. “It’s a story of people’s lives, people who need to be heard, people who need to be healed.”
Zubik is the signatory of the letter the [Pittsburgh] priests are supposed to read this weekend.”
Aw, Mom, I’m sorry (that I was caught).
He doesn’t need to write a (expletive deleted) letter; he needs to resign and be “laicized” NOW.
https://www.npr.org/2018/08/18/639648032/beyond-anger-pittsburgh-priest-says-sex-abuse-report-shook-parishioners?sc=ipad&f=1001
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It is not enough to feel shame and sorrow over the crimes committed by individual priests. Where is the acknowledgment of responsibility for and pledge to action against the larger horrendous crime of a complicit, corrupt hierarchy that hid and enabled the abuse. The Catholic Church needs reform and cleansing: https://www.npr.org/2018/08/16/639380193/pope-francis-expresses-shame-and-sorrow-over-latest-abuse-allegations?sc=tw
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“We are guilty of many errors and many faults,
but our worst crime is abandoning the children,
neglecting the fountain of life.
Many things can wait. Children cannot.
Right now their bones are being formed,
their blood is being made,
and their senses are being developed.
To them we cannot answer, ‘Tomorrow.’
Their name is today.” Gabriela Mistral
What’s on my mind is my total disgust with the complicit, secretive, self-protecting and self-aggrandizing hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
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“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (Lord Acton) There is no better example of that truth than the Catholic Church.
From the grand jury report:
“We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost or who were afraid ever to come forward is in the thousands.”
“Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted.”
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/steelmagnificat/2018/08/5880/#hGtLirx2mo9osAIB.01
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The Catholic Church’s hierarchy can’t have it both ways: They try to identify the Church with their hierarchical structure to enforce obedience and then say “oh we are all the church” when it comes to the need for admission of sin and need for penance.
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I so badly wanted to hear from Francis. There are parts of his letter that do resonate with my grief and anger and that do seem hopeful but why is it that “… the entire holy faithful People of God [are invited] to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting…” but never invited to full participation in the church priesthood and hierarchy? Why this persistent blindness?
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-08/pope-francis-letter-people-of-god-sexual-abuse.html
When they are doing time, I will be willing to join in prayers and penance.
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“If it takes a village to raise a child. it takes a village to abuse one.’
– Mitchell Garabedian, lawyer known for representing sexual abuse victims in the Boston area during the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal, including the cases against Paul Shanley, John Geoghan, and the Archdiocese of Boston. He also represented one of the people who accused football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual misconduct.
It is not just our priesthood that is the problem… but members of the laity who enable the caste system, who treat priests like princes, who shush those who raise critical voices. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.
For those of us who grew up Catholic, we were each victimized to some extent by the ugly powerful secretive sect that the Catholic patriarchal hierarchy has become. Some of us are old enough to remember pre-Vatican 2, and the loosening of religious shackles that came with Vatican 2 – a loosening that felt like freedom and reform, but could better be compared to going from enslavement by a harsh owner to enslavement by a kind owner. It was still enslavement. We cannot make that mistake again. To change metaphors, we cannot settle for opening doors and windows, the structure needs to be torn down.
M. Night Shymalan’s The Village is not a particularly good movie, but it is a vivid picture of what can happen when those in power in a village distort reality to control thru fear.
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From the Ephesians reading for today:
“Brothers and sisters:
Watch carefully how you live,
not as foolish persons but as wise,
making the most of the opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore, do not continue in ignorance,
but try to understand what is the will of the Lord…
And be filled with the Spirit…”
Please, Lady Wisdom, may it be so.
But trying to read Psalm 34, the psalm for today, I could not get past thoughts of how hard to impossible these prayers become for those who were victimized. The depth of evil is of the devil.
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The Old Testament reading for today led me to these words in Deuteronomy 32:32-36:
For their vine is from the vine of Sodom,
from the vineyards of Gomorrah.
Their grapes are grapes of poison,
and their clusters are bitter.
Their wine is the venom of serpents,
the cruel poison of vipers.
Is not this stored up with me,
sealed up in my storehouses?
Vengeance is mine and recompense,
for the time they lose their footing;
Because the day of their disaster is at hand
and their doom is rushing upon them!
Surely, the LORD will do justice for his people;
on his servants he will have pity.
My prayer this morning is simply Lady Wisdom, let it be so.
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I had a bit of an epiphany a few minutes ago, trying to respond to a Protestant friend asking why the Catholic Church was so against priests and nuns having families.
I remembered, decades ago, a young friend deciding to leave the novitiate when the novice director refused to give her permission to attend her grandmother’s funeral – a grandmother who had raised her. I remembered the emphasis by the priests and nuns throughout my childhood on the superiority of a religious vocation (to use their words). I remembered the emphasis on obedience, on leaving everything and everyone to cling to Christ only – as embodied in the Church. I remember being taught to distrust all other earthly authority. I remember being taught to distrust my own emotions, my own insights, my own yearnings, when they differed from what the Church had taught was right.
And I remembered one of the first things I learned in my training as a mental health professional – something I saw over and over again through the decades: abusers isolate their victims. Abusers teach their victims to rely only on them. Abusers teach their victims to distrust and even despise themselves and to accept that the abuser knows best.
Make no mistake about it, all of us who were raised within the Catholic Church are the victims of abuse. Not all to the same degree, not all of the same kind. I am not trying to equate ordinary experiences with the horrendous abuse we have once again seen exposed. But I am saying that part of our response needs to be to recognize that the Catholic Church has institutionalized, normalized abuse for centuries.
Perhaps it is beneficial to lay claim to the true un-institutional holy small-c catholic Church, a beloved community of believers. That is fine as long as we recognize that the institutional Catholic Church is, and long has been, an abuser that use its power and wealth to solidify the abuse.
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https://orthodoxyindialogue.com/2018/08/19/the-scandal-of-sexual-abuse-a-moment-of-radical-conversion-for-the-church-by-gilles-mongeau-sj/
This is a wondrous piece and will be my reflection piece for this week. God provides – through you today. Thank YOU!
I don’t have an easy relationship with God or a steady faith. I have found, thru decades of struggle, that psalms, yoga and Ignatian reflection are the best ways for me to understand myself and guide my responses. Given a free choice, I would walk away from the RCC, but my choice is not free – I will worship with my 94 year old mother in a Catholic Church as long as she is alive and living with me. It is very important to her. So I need to turn to my tried and true, God-given aids for discerning my own continuing response to this horror.
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What’s worked for the hierarchy so far is a brief “heartfelt” apology….a brief uproar, some people leave, then back to business as usual. If we want something different, we have to make it happen. Personally, “I’m aiming to misbehave.”
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As the revealed abuse goes beyond scandal, beyond crisis, ever deeper into the expected but disappointing non-response of the hierarchy, I become more aware of the profound blessings of exclusion. As Catholic women, we have no vested power to be threatened or to lose. As Catholic women, excluded for centuries, we find it easier to empathize with the ignored victims. As Catholic women, we cannot turn to the established church for legitimacy but only to God. As a Catholic woman, I feel that I have some right to claim a kinship to a crucified Nazarene holy man.
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(On reading Pope Francis’ homily urging us to “accuse ourselves” rather than focusing on the faults and sins of others)
I’m done, DONE, DONE – It is all simply different versions of shut up, leave us alone, and above all SHUT UP. Twisted, self-serving theology that I cannot respond to any more except with foul language. WHERE ARE THE VICTIMS? WHERE IS TAKING UP THEIR CROSS FOR THEM?
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Do Not Judge

Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven… Luke 6:37
 
Contemplating this verse this morning, I wondered if I could remember to apply this to myself…”Do not judge [yourself] and you will not be judged. Do not condemn [yourself], and you will not be condemned. Forgive [yourself], and you will be forgiven…”
 
That is what I often have the hardest time with.

One God in Family Unity

God the Father
God the Son
God the Holy Spirit

Or, if you prefer non-gendered:
Creator
Redeemer
Sustainer

One God in Three Persons

But where, pray tell:
God the Mother
God the Daughter
God the Other

Or, if you prefer non-gendered:
Birther
Nourisher
Teacher

One God in Family Unity

Why so dense a theology?
Why so strained a philosophy?
To explain three in one, or more in one
When the family is there
God’s explanation
For all to see

Except that would mean
Recognizing
Worshipping
The divine feminine:

God the Mother
God the Father
God the Child

Holy Trinity
Holy Family
Whole

Finding God in the Negative

I am used to the idea of “mountain-top” experiences, finding God in ecstasy and peace. But I often reject the downward experiences, despair and death, depression and disease (dis-ease, unease) as being anti-God, as being a sign of the devil’s work in this world.

And yet, didn’t God make us to experience the good and the bad, negative as well as positive emotions? Jesus prayed with something close to depression and despair in the Garden, Jesus called out to a God whom he could not feel close to him on the cross. Jesus was fully human as well as fully God, but he was without “original sin”. So those so-called negative emotions – Jesus’ feelings of depression and despair and desertion – are not just the result of “original sin” and the distortion of God’s good creation.

Doesn’t that means that I can find God in the negative as well as the positive? I can accept the negative as well as the positive. I do not have to find my way out of the negative to find God.

It was easy for me to recognize and treasure God’s presence at the time of my husband Gordon’s death. There was a timeliness even in the untimeliness; there were many, many small and large mercies; there was a peace that passes understanding, and there was gratitude for the life of a good man.

It was not easy for me to recognize and treasure God’s presence at the time of my unborn twin grandaughters’ death. And yet, when I read what I wrote at the time and later, when I consider what it has led me to become, to value, to release, to feel, then I know that God was there – not in any way that I wanted, but there.

God is there with me no less in my anger with Her than in my peace with Her. And I treasure that immensely.

So I love God for the peace that She blessed me with in Gordon’s life and death and I hate God for taking the twins from us before we had a chance to be blessed by their lives. I love Her for the Scripture and I hate Her for how messed up She is allowing this world to be. I love Her for all She has blessed me with and I hate Her for what She has withheld from me.

And, most of all, I love that She is OK with all of that. She does not ask me to have a peace that I don’t have. She doesn’t ask me to accept quietly Madeleine and Lorien’s deaths. She doesn’t ask me to stop fighting against Her. I don’t have to accept without questioning or rest quietly in Her peace. I don’t have to believe in order to teach, or have a faith that moves mountains in order to love Her Scripture and the fellowship of Her people. I don’t have to feel blessed and confident in troubles and problems and disease. I can be angry and resentful and I can yell at God just like I used to yell at Gordon when I was mad and frustrated, and God will keep on loving me just like Gordon kept on loving me. And, just like I kept on loving Gordon even when I was totally angry and frustrated with him, I can keep on loving God even when I am totally angry and frustrated with Her. It’s a mystery, but love and hate, peace and frustration, gratitude and anger are not incompatible opposites with God – at least not to me.

This, to me, is the most miraculous of all miracles – more miraculous than the creation, incarnation, resurrection, trinity – that I can find God’s love for me when I hate Her as much as when I love Her. “This is love, not that we love God, but that He [She] first loved us.”

History Beautiful and Terrible

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“When you step on this, you are stepping on history,” Woody said as we left the small screen room he built to one side of their Bremo house. Of course when we sit in the screen room we are sitting within history since Woody built it entirely from reclaimed lumber, some from an 1815 barn. But that stone that we step on outside the entrance? That was part of a lock on Thomas Jefferson’s canal that ran from Richmond to Lynchburg before the railroad filled it in and built the railroad line there.

And I stand on this stone, almost certainly put in its original place by enslaved people, as I leave the room timbered with beams almost certainly put in their original place by enslaved people.

Living in Two Worlds

A British psychiatrist once said, “We live in two worlds simultaneously, the internal and the external, and constantly confuse the two.” Or something close to that.

I think, similarly, we live in two worlds simultaneously, the eternal and the now, and constantly confuse the two.

Christ died to save our eternal lives.

Christ lived to show us how to live our best now lives.

The eternal is eternally taken care of, once and for all, once for all, by the cross and the empty tomb. Even if they be but symbols (as sometimes I think they are) what they are meant to symbolize is clear. Death has lost its sting.

But that does not mean that life has lost its challenge. We do not try to live the Beatitudes and the two great commandments to earn eternal life. Eternity is God’s business, not ours. And God has taken care it. We do not earn salvation like a Scouting badge. We are gifted salvation like a birthday present.

Ah, but holiness – now that is quite another thing. To be whole in the now. Wholly loving, wholly forgiving, wholly just, wholly confident of God.

That, now, is something we can work at, get better and worse and better again at. That is why I rewrite psalms, teach Sunday School, work for social justice, and pray.

That is why in eternity I will need neither faith nor hope but will live in Love.

What Was Jesus?

[I wrote this two years ago for a women’s retreat in Valdosta, Georgia.]

Was Jesus:

  • Wanted: I was taught that He was the Messiah the Jews were waiting for; so He must have been wanted, right? But Jews expected a hero-warrior-king. [Jeremiah 23:5: The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.] Romans wanted a puppet king (Herod); Mary wanted to marry Joseph and have kids after marriage. Nobody wanted or expected what happened.
  • Welcomed: Maybe He wasn’t what they expected, but since He was so much MORE than they expected, He was welcomed by them, right? But even His family doubted Him and tried to get Him to stop. [Mark 3:21 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’] In the (almost) end, He was so unwelcome that He was crucified.
  • A liberal or a conservative: Jesus is not our favorite brand of politician; He removed Himself and His kingdom from the politics of this world. [John 18:36 Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’]
  • A feminist or an anti-feminist: He is a salvation-ist; He did not come to elevate the status of women or to keep them subjugated. He came to save women – and men. Jesus’ ministry and His disciples included women; His parables included women (sweeping the house to find a lost coin), His miracles included women, women anointed Him with oil and tears, cried for Him as He carried His cross, stood at the foot of His cross, went to His tomb, and Mary Magdalene was the first to proclaim the good news of His resurrection. [John 20:18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.] But He cannot be called a feminist any more than He can be called a Democrat or Republican – BECAUSE THAT CONCEPT DID NOT EXIST THEN.
  • A social reformer: He did not come to make the world a better place. He came to remind us that this world is not our real home and destiny. [Luke 4:42-43 At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.’] Jesus began a powerful social reform movement – one that continues to this day, including His “preferential option for the poor.” But that was not His purpose. His purpose was to deal with sin; social reform is an effect of Jesus’ mission, not His primary mission.
  • A religious reformer: He did not come to reform Judaism; He did not come to start a new religion; He came to tell us that God is with us right where we are; we don’t need religion. [Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’] Repent = metanoia = turn around: The kingdom of heaven is not with the High Priest in the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem. The kingdom of heaven is all around you.
  • Christian: He was JEWISH! Matthew chapter 1 establishes Jesus as a Jew (descendant of Abraham) in the kingship line (descendant of David). He was raised, lived and died as a Jew.
  • The savior of the world: Jesus is the savior of individuals; of each person. He did not come to make the world great again, or whole again, or fair again – He came to bring individuals out of the world and into the kingdom of heaven. [Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’]
  • God’s Son: “Son of God” is a (confusing) way of describing God-incarnate; Jesus is God: teach third grade if you don’t get how confusing it really is. [John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.]
  • A man who lived 2,000 years ago: He was born 2,000 years ago; He lives TODAY!
  • The best advice columnist ever: He told us what the Law expected in order to make it clear that we will ALWAYS fail to earn salvation by keeping the law (as St. Paul, St. Augustine, Martin Luther and Nadia Bolz-Weber remind us). Salvation is ours only by “right” of grace: the righteousness of God freely given to us. [Luke 18: 26-27 Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.’ Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.’]
  • My best friend: I “get” my best friends; lots of times I don’t “get” Jesus and I certainly don’t like what He wants of me. My BFFs are pretty easy for me to understand and love. Jesus is full of contradictions. Once we get past the Christmas and Easter feel-good stories, and pay attention to His words and ministry, things can get pretty confusing. Mary couldn’t understand Him consistently, nor could Peter, Thomas, Paul – or even your pastor.

The truth is, I don’t know, from day to day, who Jesus is and will be to me. So I have to keep going back to hang out with Him – I have to keep reading the Bible – to make sure that I am not creating an idol whom I call Jesus.

Here’s what I know: I want to know the Jesus whom Thomas (yes, the one we call Doubting Thomas) knew and I want to respond to him as Thomas responded. Thomas only speaks 3 times in the gospels, all in the gospel of John:

  • John 11:16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
  • John 14:5 Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’
  • John 20:28 My lord and my God. (The only time in the Gospels that Jesus is called God.)

I want Jesus to be the person I live and die for; I want to follow Him; I want to acknowledge Him as lord of my life and as God. That’s what I want but, like St. Paul: I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. (Romans 7: 15, 19)

Then my comfort, my peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7), my blessed assurance is that I do not have to be consistent because God is consistent in His belief in me, His love for me, His salvation of me. As the old hymn says:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.