Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A Friendly But Love-less Conference

It appears public sessions are over at the Fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. From all over the country, the bishops of the Catholic Church gathered, and one of the items on the agenda was the treatment of pro-abortion public figures who present themselves to receive Communion, the body of Our Lord. It is wrong to receive the Eucharist while in the state of mortal sin, and the Catechism leaves no doubt that participation in abortion is a grave matter. “The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life,” (Par. 2272). Further, the Catechism holds that “the inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation,” (Par. 2273). In other words, the burden of protecting the embryo is placed directly upon us and on the shoulders of government – and who, or what, is government? It’s our elected and appointed officials, as I’ve pointed out before.

In recent months, there has been scandal in the Catholic Church as public officials who have participated in abortion by voting against measures that would restrict it have publicly denied this responsibility. These same figures then present themselves for Communion in a state of mortal sin. The dilemma that the Bishops were to address at this Fall conference was whether or not Communion should be withheld from these officials until and unless they repent and convert. There appears to be a great deal of disagreement among the Bishops. Some think it should be withheld from them. Some think it is the Bishop’s duty to provide more education about the Eucharist, and still others will not deny the Eucharist to anyone under any circumstances. There are good arguments for each of these positions. I wish I had had the opportunity to hear the Bishops’ debate.

Unfortunately, this morning they decided to table the discussion. The decision was unanimous, with no dissenters. Speculation has it that they found out in private meetings just how divided they were, and they had no desire to air more dirty laundry in the public sessions by opening up the floor to debate. This is the saddest decision I’ve heard in a very long time. Apparently they are aware that the lay faithful, in large numbers, want this question decided, but it has no impetus on this esteemed body of men.

As I listened to them joke about finally adopting Spanish language text for Blessings, Baptisms, and Matrimony, I was still in shock, not sure I had heard correctly. Had they just approved a motion to forego oral discussion of the matter? Did they have weightier things to consider for which they needed to make time? Then those who were meeting moved on to voting on rules of meeting for future meetings. Well, what meeting wouldn’t be complete without deciding whether next year the chairs should be in semi-circles or classroom style? Here they were in a public forum, for a very short time, turning a blind eye to what has been one of this country’s and this Church’s most divisive issues in the last few months.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”
The Gospel of St. Matthew 23:23-24

It saddens me to learn that they have ignored justice and mercy and faith. They ignored justice when they failed to protect the lives of the unborn and the souls of those who will participate in their deaths. They ignored mercy when they fell back on their pride, and decided to keep secrets again. And they ignored faith when they failed to defend the very Body and Blood of our Lord.

Did they ever stop to think that their failure even to discuss this matter gives implicit approval for Catholics to be pro-abortion? A few did speak clearly prior to the election about the sin of voting for pro-abortion candidates, but too few. It seems they don’t think abortion is a priority, which is what this discussion is really about. Some might say it’s only about our free will to sin, but if they do, they forget they have been called to lead, not to follow the sheep over the cliff. Withholding the Eucharist sends a very clear message that the one who cannot receive is committing grievous sin.

During this Fall Conference, they spent quite a bit of time discussing the issue of homosexual marriage. It seems they are highly motivated to work for the preservation of marriage between a man and a woman. Yet from what does this motivation stem? They can hardly be considered family-friendly when they fail to publicly denounce those who support the killing of its tiniest and most fundamental components: the infants, those who would otherwise, with the grace of God, grow into more of His faithful people but for the abortionist and the silence, this vast silence that surrounds their deaths. What kind of shepherd allows the wolves to devour the youngest in his flock without even saying a word of protest?

Do they act from fear? I have read that some priests have been treated harshly for speaking out against abortion. But what can these men of faith have to fear? And are they not faithless if it is a lack of courage that holds them back? Jesus told us to have no fear of persecution, “and do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” (Matthew 10:28). But if they are to fear, it should be more for their eternal souls if they do nothing to intercede, to warn those who are in danger of hell for eternity, or have they forgotten Matthew 18:5: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” The shepherd must guide his flock, and that means by hook and by crook when necessary.

They have neglected mercy. They have forgotten to forgive themselves for the scandal of sexual abuse. They have forgotten to forgive those who caused the scandal. It is only obvious that this is the case, because otherwise, they would not fear more scandal. But they do. Bishop after Bishop, Eminence after Eminence, they stood up while they were discussing the annual compilation of sex abuse data and said they were worried about stirring this issue up again and again for the media to play with. Before they remanded the Marriage protection project back to the task force, many of them stood up to express their concerns that they would be sending the wrong message to the media.

We only worry about what others think of us, or say about us, when we are full of pride. It was pride that caused our troubles to begin with – not just in the Garden of Eden. When Church officials hid criminal behavior from the authorities and failed to act to protect children from abuse, they did so because they thought they were the final authority themselves. They were full of pride. And they are still full of pride, not wanting to continue to air their dirty laundry in public, tired of the humiliation, and failing to see that they have some spiritual healing to do. They need to forgive themselves, and become humble, so that, as Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, they can become teachable, which is to become wise. We need wisdom to guide us in our Church. We need to see the Bishops forgive themselves, and show mercy to each other, so we can all become more merciful as a result. They should discuss these issues, in and out of public, so we can all learn.

Finally, they neglected faith. In this Year of the Eucharist, as it has been proclaimed by the Holy Father, they are neglecting to protect Him from abuse. Is it that they no longer believe in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist? I wonder sometimes. Archbishop Sheen told a heart-wrenching story about a little Chinese girl who gave her life to protect the Blessed Sacrament. Many of the saints did the same. Yet the Bishops do not honor Him enough even to discuss the possibility that He might be profaned when they place Him in the hand or mouth of someone who avers that abortion is a “constitutional right,” and while he respects what his Church teaches about embryos, what Christ’s Church teaches, he opts out.

The Catholic Church does not allow non-Catholics to participate in the Eucharist because they cannot be sure they believe that He is the bread and wine. Once they convert, they are taught, and then it is appropriate for them to approach Him in this form. They do this to protect our Lord. So they must be certain that He requires protection. But they did not act to protect Him this morning, and they have not acted in a way that encourages the laity to have faith in Him, either. There wasn’t even enough respect for the Eucharist to motivate them to talk about a defense plan.

The Bishop’s Conference was so “friendly,” as a matter of fact, that I’m still not sure what was accomplished, beyond their bizarre appointment of Bishop Trautman as Chair of the Committee for the Liturgy – a man who supports the use of gender-neutral language. “Our Parent, who art in heaven….” No, it doesn’t ring true.

There’s too much emphasis on being friendly. Jesus was not friendly. He wasn’t a nice guy. When the Canaanite woman came to him because her daughter was possessed, he ignored her pleas at first. Then He told her, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” (Matthew 15:26). That’s not very friendly, is it? But it was purposeful, and the woman was of course rewarded for her faith, as He rewards each of us for ours. When Peter rebuked Him for telling them He was about to die, He called him Satan. That isn’t a nice thing to say.

Jesus wasn’t nice or friendly, but He was loving. He loves His people, and those whom He loves, He chastises. We have to do that to the ones we love sometimes, in order to make them better people. We do it precisely because we love them. When will our Bishops love us enough to do the same?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Pro-Abortion Corporations

"To become humble is to become teachable; to become teachable is to become wise."

~ Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

This is a beautiful site:

For information on businesses who support life and those who support death, visit this group:

They need our help to keep the list up to date.

Note with interest on the list of companies who support the culture of death that there are at least two who are famous for lacking charity toward their employees as well. Corporations, like government, are ideas. They are as moral as their most moral leaders, and when they do not value life, it seeps into every area, including having no compunction against stealing from their employees either directly or by robbing them of a decent wage and benefits.

There is at least one company listed as a pro-abortion supporter whose marketing "genius" includes killing off their own end users - they make baby supplies like talcum powder, lotion, bottles, etc., and from their advertisements, you might imagine they just love babies. Why they contribute to the deaths of 1 of every 4 of the infants who need their products is a mystery. Sure, infants don't shop, but adults don't buy supplies for dead children, either.

The Children of the Rosary website offers excellent advice if you want to write to these companies to explain why you choose not to purchase their products or services, as well as the template for making inquiries of businesses not listed.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

A "Civil" Civil War


The election ended more than a week ago, but we are still a divided country, almost as divided as we were before our Civil War of the nineteenth century, as pundit after pundit points out. Tom Brokaw, in an interview shortly after the election, bragged about virtuous America, which can hold an election, be deeply divided, but install the winner without tanks or fighting in the streets. I would call Mr. Brokaw an ideologue, but the word has been so perverted in recent months that I’m afraid he would be insulted, and that would not be my intent. There isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with ideology, which is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as: “the body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.” Our Constitution is nothing but ideology. Nevertheless, the losing side of the last election persists in using it as a dirty epithet, even days after the results when we should be working side-by-side on another ideological concept – the United States.

It would be nice to think we are accepting the results and going on with our business, but there is still radical talk of people leaving the country, and even a suggestion that secession is a possibility – a silly notion proposed only by those who do not remember the full consequences of the Civil War. The media persists in asking the defeated candidate his opinion on events as if it mattered, and sometimes it seems the lamentations will never end. It is remarkably similar to the reaction of the press upon the election of Abraham Lincoln, as when the Richmond Whig responded by saying it was “‘undoubtedly the greatest evil that has ever befallen this country.’” (Ward, p.26).

What were the full consequences of the United States Civil War, the bloody conflict that parallels today’s more “civil” civil war? What divided our nation when, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln won the Presidency with only 40% of the popular vote? What grave moral issue was at hand that caused the schism? Shortly after the declaration of the war, at a special church service in Auburn, New York, the pastor’s wife wrote: “The sermon was a radical discourse, and recognized slavery as the underlying cause” (Ward, p. 49).

Historians like to look back on events with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, and there are scores of books written on the causes of the Civil War. There were many factors that could be identified, states’ rights vs. the federal government, etc. These make good reading, and there isn’t room to evaluate them here. But one historical fact cannot be changed by any number of suppositions and political theories. When the Civil War started, slavery was legal in some of the United States. When the war ended, it was not. President Lincoln was elected by the free states of America – he won them all, and lost all of the slave-holding states. It is safe to say he won that heatedly close election on the basis of moral values.

Would anyone today argue that slavery was not a moral and social evil? Unfortunately, there are still bigoted extremists in our society who would agree with the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens, who wrote: “Our new government [the Confederacy]…rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man…the first in the history of the world, based upon this great physical and moral truth,” (Ward, p. 30). Slavery, a moral truth? It is no more absurd than John Kerry’s remark that abortion is a “…constitutional amendment I will always fight to protect,” (Columbia University, On the Issues,

Did I miss something? Did we vote and pass a Constitutional Amendment to legalize abortion? No, I didn’t miss anything, but I believe Senator Kerry and the Democratic Party have missed many things – or they would not have lost this election. Even if such an amendment were proposed, it would fail for lack of support, because the truth is that a little more than half of this country is fighting to keep morality in government, while the other side of the conflict is fighting to protect its own interests, in the same way that slave-holders and others who were economically dependent upon slavery fought to keep it “safe.” They were divided in greater numbers then than they are now, as reflected in the popular vote Mr. Lincoln received. Since the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement of the last century that finally brought its fruits to bear, we don’t hear any defense of slavery because those who are still morally deluded have dwindled in numbers. Interestingly enough, they were made to accept the morality imposed on them by the members of their government, and our society is inarguably better for it.

Senator Kerry believes he can stand apart from morality and admire it, as if it is merely a nice jacket or tie, something to put on and off. When asked during one of the debates whether it wouldn’t be wise to obtain stem cells without the destruction of embryos, Kerry responded “I really respect the feeling that's in your question. I understand it. I know the morality that's prompting that question, and I respect it enormously,” (ibid). He affirmed again and again throughout the campaign that he would not impose his values on others by bringing his morality into government on the issue of abortion. What if the politicians of the Northern states of the Union had held that position?

There’s a serious misconception here. Government doesn’t really exist. It is not a thing we can see or touch. It is not a person to whom we can appeal. It has no body, no physical substance, no conscience and no soul of its own. It is an idea, created by ideologues. Because it has no form of its own, it can only be defined as the total ideology of its members. Its members, of course, are our elected and appointed officials. If these members, the only visible and viable parts, do not bring morality into government, government has no morality. How, then, can it fulfill its social responsibilities within moral constructs? What happens to a society when its government is not just immoral, but amoral?

Just as government is a moral reflection of its members, society becomes a moral reflection of its government. Our founding fathers decided to do nothing about slavery, and by 1860, the last year of peace before the war, one of every seven Americans would belong to another (Ward, p. 12). According to President Lincoln, “…we began by declaring that all men are created equal, but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is ‘a sacred right of self-government.’” (Ward, p. 21). If this sounds familiar, it should. The right of self-government is euphemistically referred to by pro-abortionists as the right to “choose.” In 1860, it was legal to “choose” to enslave human beings. Today, one in every four pregnancies will be terminated by abortion, because it is legal to “choose” to kill an inconvenient child in the womb.

How pervasive was the moral evil of slavery in 19th century America? Well, it had been legally sanctioned by that revered body, the Supreme Court. In 1857, Dred Scott, a former slave, sued for his freedom on the basis of his residency in a “free state.” The Supreme Court rejected his suit. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote the majority opinion: “…neither slaves nor their descendants could ever have standing in court, could ever be American citizens.” (Ward, p. 24). If you who read this are descended from American slaves, it should make your blood run cold. Had the ideologues of this country not fought that morally myopic Supreme Court, and fought hard, you would not be equal citizens today.

A government without moral structure is not compelled to provide for its people, yet government has no useful function unless it does just that: government exists to provide to the people those services that are not practicably obtained by individuals. A government trying to operate without moral structure does not care about the people it is sworn to serve. The compulsion to help the disadvantaged and protect citizens is a call from our social consciences – whether the call stems from compassion for the less fortunate, or from the ideal that society is only as healthy as the majority of its individual members, that call from the consciences can only come from the members of government who have them.

The straw polls of the 2004 Presidential election are revealing. 47% of the electorate asked to identify a single-issue that decided their votes chose social issues, areas in which government must reflect the compassion of its citizens: education, war, financial security, and health care. These voters favored John Kerry by a wide margin – 73% to 80%. But when it came to those who considered moral values the single most important issue (22% of the electorate), 80% voted overwhelmingly in favor of George Bush ( There was only one fundamentally moral issue at hand in this election on which the candidates differed greatly, and that was the protection of life from conception through natural death. All of the social issues named above are marred by discrimination and oppression if government is not first required to extend its protection to all of its citizens.

The Democratic Party is considered by some to be the party of social responsibility, although the evidence to support that opinion is weak. It was the Democratic Party that led the South into secession in 1860 in order to preserve the immoral institution of slavery. It is the Democratic Party today that marches to preserve the immoral act of legal infanticide, even the barbarism of partial birth abortion, which makes the beheading of civilians look like a mere slap in the face. Jim VandeHei, in the Washington Post, wrote, “The abortion issue that has Democrats the most concerned -- a ban on the procedure critics call partial-birth abortion -- is resurfacing after a federal judge in San Francisco ruled on Tuesday that the ban is unconstitutional.” (

The Democratic Party is most concerned with protecting a procedure that is performed solely to take the life of the child who would otherwise become a U.S. Citizen. There need be no provision for protecting the life of the mother, as it is never medically necessary. It flies in the face of reason to imagine there are people who really don’t see anything wrong with partial birth abortion, as hard as it is to imagine anyone successfully arguing today in favor of enslaving another human being. If you don’t know what this procedure entails, you should, because while this war may be civil, it is not un-bloody as some claim. Just as Harriet Beecher-Stowe awoke a nation to the suffering of slaves in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, so should all Americans be alerted to the suffering of infants, legally, at the hands of someone who was originally trained to heal, not to kill. Labor is induced in a woman who is say, seven months pregnant, eight, nine – all the way to full-term. She could be scheduled to deliver her child alive the next day, and choose not to. The abortionist stops labor’s progress while the child’s head is still in the womb. He or she inserts a scalpel at the base of the baby’s skull. The child’s feet are seen moving outside the womb as it feels the birth struggle (and the child feels, as we can see in its neurological development by 12 weeks of gestation). After the scalpel, the abortionist inserts a suction tube into the hole he made, and he sucks the child’s brains out. The feet eventually stop moving.

Defense of this grotesque and barbaric behavior is every bit as bad as the worst pro-slavery rhetoric ever battered about before the Civil War and “…its great ennobling outcome – the freeing of four million black people and their descendants from bondage.” (Ward, XVI). Yet the Democratic Party and its representatives will fight every bit as hard as the slavery supporters to keep it legal, if we are to believe John Kerry: “I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade” (Columbia University).

He may as well say he supports the Dred Scott decision, because it was made in the same manner as Roe v. Wade, and he calls that a Constitutional Amendment (after thirty years in the Senate, I would expect him to know the correct terminology, so I can only assume he truly believes the Supreme Court alone can amend the Constitution, a dangerous supposition that leaves all of us at the mercy of an unelected body that has a history of making mistakes). The descendants of slaves live on in freedom because of ideology and ideologues who would not give up fighting for that free existence. We must not give up fighting for the free existence of all Americans ourselves. We must begin by listening to the moral consciences of our citizens, because they have been right before, and they are in the right today. We must not give in to those who believe not in the separation of church and state, but in the separation of morality and government that more closely resembles fascism than democracy.

We must ask ourselves why the majority of Americans voted for George Bush, just as Don Fehrenbacher asked of our ancestors: “Why did so many northerners vote for Lincoln, knowing that his election would be disturbing the peace of the nation?” (Fehrenbacher, p. 84). Slaves could not vote, and were almost as voiceless as the unborn but for brave former slaves like Frederick Douglass. The moral conscience of the United States’ government, as defined by its individual members and our citizens, won out and changed the very construct of our society for the better. It was a noble purpose based on high ideals and aspirations. What great ennobling outcome will there be to our current divide, this “civil” Civil War?

Sources in addition to those cited above include:

Fehrenbacher, Don E. “Why The War Came,” The Civil War, 1990. Alfred A Knopf, Inc., pp. 84-87.

Ward, Geoffrey C. The Civil War, 1990. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

~Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

Things I cannot change:

Some will treat my blog as an opportunity for psychoanalysis, which may dilute the pro-life, anti-abortion message.

These same people may post information that will be extraordinarily helpful to others, in spite of me and my own agenda, including testimony from other women harmed by their abortions and the dire psychological consequences. This will strengthen the pro-life message.

A regular examination of conscience is necessary for spiritual health. However, obsessive self-reflection is narcissistic. It is prevalent because we live in a “me” culture influenced by the unwise: pop psychologists who confuse healing with judging, and materialists who are obsessed with their favorite things. We cannot talk people into good mental health simply by issuing edicts, and we will not find eternal life in the transient things of this world. Life is richer and more complex, thank God.

Humans fall into despair at times, and while it is undesirable to remain in that state, it is not unreasonable to move in and out of it throughout our lives. People die in this world, so it cannot be all joy. Some people will continue to insist that constant happiness is attainable through obsessive self-examination, and they will blame unhappy people for not trying hard enough to change. It can be difficult to understand that happiness and unhappiness are not states to which blame can be applied. They are emotions which can paradoxically co-exist in the human heart. Those who try to help the unhappy are not heartless – far from it. They are hardest on themselves when they feel unhappy, because they have the unrealistic expectation that if they would only do everything “right,” they would be happy all the time. It is a falsehood that confuses and misguides many well-intentioned souls. At times, they may desire the healing of others to show themselves the way to healing, too, but they are bound to be frustrated in this quest.

People will make snap judgments about where I am in the healing process even though this is not the forum, and they do not have enough information to do so. The information provided herein is controlled solely by me, and it is not possible, even for a professional therapist, to elicit the information needed to reach conclusions about my psychological, physical, or emotional conditions. The temptation to offer advice unasked is great, and all compassionate people do it to a certain extent. It is a sign of their compassion. We will be better served when we learn to offer our hearts to others who suffer instead of road maps. Words of sympathy will further us all on our journeys, particularly since each of us must follow his or her own signposts. My route may not be the same as everyone else's, but travel it I must. We must discern when a caution sign placed before others is absolutely necessary, as for example, when they take a path that endangers their immortal souls, and when it is only backseat driving.

People often ask others the questions that they most need answered for themselves, and while they feel they can successfully shed light on everyone else’s problems, they will fail to see their own reflections no matter how brightly lit it is around them. This is especially true of those who participate in the healing arts, or those like me who have aspired to them.

I cannot fulfill everyone’s expectations.

Things I can change:


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

"Thou Shalt Be Comfortable"

It’s been awhile since I’ve written here to pour out some worries or troubles in my heart, and it’s starting to back up like a drain clogged with hair. I have a major stoppage now. I gave into the blackness and hopelessness, and didn’t attend Mass last Sunday.

The dark thoughts that are keeping me from creativity and kept me home ill from the only spiritual nourishment I receive each week stem from deep disappointment in some of the members of my Church, even those charged with the care and salvation of the flock. We are so politically correct and afraid of insult that the only commandment remaining is “Thou shalt be comfortable.”

When Zacchaeus was up the tree in the Gospel of St. Luke (19:1-10), trying to get a glimpse of the Lord, Jesus didn’t send a person from the crowd, or even one of his disciples to tell him, “Yeah, I see you. Get down already, you bother Jesus.” He went to Zacchaeus himself, and then went even further – he went to stay in the man’s house. When Saint Peter was walking out on the water toward Jesus and began to sink, Jesus didn’t tell the other disciples to row a little closer to him and save him. He restored him himself and kept him from drowning in spite of his lack of faith. When the blind called out to him for healing, he healed them. He didn’t delegate his responsibilities to others when someone directly asked him for help. He never ignored a direct plea, even when it was the demoniacs calling out to him.

It is shameful for a man of God to ignore the cries of the wounded. It is also a thing of great sorrow. In the Gospel of Saint Mark 2:15-17, we read, “And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

It is difficult to work with sick people. Ask any health care worker, whose patience is so often admirable. Sick people can be messy. They sometimes whine. At times they annoy us with their demands when they ask for what they need. It’s not a pretty business, and it can make us uncomfortable to be around people who are sick. Yet it seems that even some of our pastors shrink from touching the sick, and do whatever they can to ignore them or let others care for them instead.

Sinners are really just messy sick people. They have difficulties about which they whine; they have strident emotions because they lack the peace of Christ; they can be obstinate in sin if they don’t receive the authoritative Word; and they take so much time and effort to heal. It is much easier to tell everyone to be comfortable, and if they are happy, then it is good. After all, why would the shepherd leave the comfort of the soft grass and shady trees to retrieve one small sick lamb that is wandering in confusion, especially if he can convince himself that the rest are grazing in peace and oblivion? He does not see evidence of confusion or sickness in them and believes as a result that there is none.

There are absolutes in this world: good and evil, right and wrong, black and white. Jesus never shirked his responsibility. He didn’t refrain from discussing the absolutes with all of the authority vested in him by his Father in heaven, even when those absolutes made his followers leave him (The Gospel of St. John, Chapter 6). Yet, many who have the authority of the pulpit and the Magisterium of the Church avoid this responsibility and consequently stray far from the image of Christ. I wonder if they would even recognize him if he came to them today. They would certainly not hear him if he spoke about a controversial topic, especially if he did so with any zeal. Yet Christ was a zealot, and he was fervent. Or do some imagine that his overturning of the tables in the temple was done quietly and politely, with respect for the opinions of the money-changers?

I have just one more question for the clergy who discounted the protection of life in the womb as the most fundamental issue at hand in the last election, in spite of the message of the Church that it must be considered as such. Why are you so concerned with war, oh men of little faith? Doesn’t Scripture tell us that this world will end in war, war like we’ve not yet seen and probably cannot imagine? War has been with us always, and will always remain with us, like the poor. It is Scripture, yet you resist the truth because the truth makes people uncomfortable when they don’t want to accept it. While you stand around comfortably dealing with the minor details of your pastoral life, putting Band-aids on the scratches of the thin-skinned, the rest of your sheep lie around you in the field mortally wounded and bleeding to death.

It is a fact of life that men will fight, and sometimes it is justified. Had we stood still against the terror of Nazi Germany, many more people would have died and our world altered by great evil. However, it is a truth of natural law, a truth of moral law, and a truth of spiritual law that there is never a justifiable reason to kill a child in the womb. If you believe there is, then you are not Christ-like and if you are leading a congregation with this veil over your eyes, you are leading them away from heaven and into the abyss.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Legacy


You’ll be glad to know it isn’t about me, today. Even when it is, though, I’m not looking for your sympathy or tears for my sake. To continue the analogy, like someone who drives a little more defensively after driving past a bad auto accident, I’m here to make you slow down and think about the consequences.

I’ve complained more than once that I want to meet the pro-abortion woman who insists her abortion improved her life. Sometimes, I am denser than a fencepost – I’ve already met her and I’ve already talked to her. She is my mother, and it’s time to talk about her.

So far, particularly if you’ve read my testimony at, you’ve seen just one dimension. But none of us is made up of just one part, or one moment, although there are singular events that can change us forever. I didn’t describe her fully in my testimony because that wasn’t my purpose and it wasn’t the forum. It still isn’t, and I won’t go back and change that testimony. But because it may appear to you that I have not forgiven her, let me tell you what I know about my mother’s life.

She became a mother for the first time when she was 16. Does that sound familiar? Yes, these things run in families. Her reasons for being sexually active at such a young age are similar to my own at the root, although not similar at all in detail. When she had me, in 1963, she was already the young mother of two boys, aged four and two. I was the girl she prayed to have.

When I had grown up and returned home to visit from college, in my early twenties, Mom and I would often sit around her kitchen table, talking, and getting drunk. Now, please don’t write to me about that. If it shocks you to learn that my mother and I had some drunken chat sessions, you are in the wrong place. During these “round table” discussions, as she called them, Mom would often open up and reveal things I had never been old enough to hear before. We talked about deeply personal events. We laughed, at each other, at other people in the family, at the funny things we’d done together – like how every time we went shopping together, one or the other of us would knock down a display, or drop something, and the one who didn't break the stuff this time would burst into giggles and act like she didn’t know that klutzy woman over there. We cried together, too, but we didn’t argue with each other. My mom and I were good friends. Does it surprise you to hear that? Don’t be. All relationships are multi-dimensional, filled with emotions we think cannot co-exist but do.

My mother was a loveable woman. She lived in great physical and emotional pain, but she didn’t complain, and few knew. Many people compared her to Lucille Ball, because of her sense of humor and fun. She was a waitress all her life, and she was proud of it. Imagine, waiting tables through the pain of rheumatic fever and vascular disease. She worked hard, she was a dedicated employee, and she had a following of regular customers who would eat whereever she worked, just so they could see her. She didn’t just serve them food, she cared for them.

She was a beautiful woman with contagious laughter, tall, leggy, and boisterous. She loved music, and loved to sing, but never got a chance to develop her own voice. Every Halloween, she would work hard to create an original and exciting costume to wear to work. Her people, her “regulars,” as she fondly called them, came to expect it. And every Sunday when she worked, she wore her special earrings – little plastic toilet bowls, one in each ear. She would leave the tiny lid up on one miniature toilet, and down on the other, so people would ask why. Why, because one was the Gents’ and one was the Ladies’, of course.

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, she would invite into her home at least one person, often more, anyone she met who had no family, no home-cooked meal to eat, and no one with whom to share holiday cheer. She had a generous spirit. Many of her regular customers were elderly, because she lived in a community with lots of retired folks, and their problems were her problems. When one died, or became ill, she would make sure to show them her affection with gifts, kind words, and special attention. She remembered their names, their afflictions, their family situations, and she would always ask about them. She supported her co-workers, encouraging them when they were having personal problems or work problems, and she motivated them to be better, to think highly of themselves even if they worked in what is traditionally a “servile” role, and even though restaurant customers can be rude and demanding. She knew she was there to provide service – it was her hallmark, and she was an expert – but she did it with great dignity and pleasure, knowing that for many people, eating out is all the fun they have. She instilled that in those with whom she worked. It was important to her that people were happy, and she wanted to be the one to make them feel that way.

Little by bit, during shopping trips, visits, and round-table sessions, my Mom told me about her childhood, and about her own legacy, as we came to know each other again after our separation. She said when she was growing up, my grandfather was abusive, cold, controlling, and violent. He is still alive, but since he doesn’t even know my name, I really don’t care about protecting his reputation. Her mother, my grandmother, also died at a relatively young age. She and my grandfather divorced long after my mother had grown and moved away with her husband and children. My grandmother’s death hit my mom very hard, because they hadn’t seen each other in a decade before she died. To a certain extent, it helped us to bond with each other. She didn’t want to leave me with the same kinds of unresolved emotions she had herself.

My mom was a victim of sexual assault when she was a girl of thirteen or fourteen. I remember the day she sat me down and told me about it, when I was also young - about ten. She used her own experience and the pain of it to warn me about stranger-danger. I can only retell it as it was told to me – just about everyone who could corroborate it is dead.

She said she was walking home from school one day when the attendant at the neighborhood gas station lured her into the place. I don’t know how, but I remember her story started with “Don’t take candy from strangers,” so perhaps he used what we now think of as a stereotypical lure. He raped her, and told her he would kill her if she told anyone about it. She ran home, where her mother was, and in spite of the threat, she told her what had happened. The year would have been 1953, 1954 – somewhere in that time period. My grandmother, instead of calling the police and reporting a crime, did everything she could to keep it quiet. It was a different era, first of all, and secondly, my grandmother lived in a hostile environment. She insisted that my grandfather could never know, because she feared he would kill the man, and he would be angry with my mother. I was too young to grasp this part of the story.

Grandma literally threw my mother into the bathtub, gave her a steel-wool pad, and told her to scrub herself, “down there,” and then warned her that she’d better not get pregnant. The last phrase was just as threatening as it sounds. In retelling it, my mother’s eyes took on that other-look, as she steeped herself in the painful memory. Mom wanted me to learn this lesson, too. She wanted to protect me from people who would harm me the same way. She also wanted, in the way we all have when we want someone to understand us and not judge, to tell me something about herself, something that would also make me grateful to her for giving me a different kind of childhood from the one she had.

She didn’t get pregnant from the rape, she said. But when she met my father, she was just 15, and in our later years together, she revealed that she had wanted to get pregnant by him. She wanted to leave home more than anything, and she wanted my father to rescue her. When she got pregnant, they got married, because that’s usually what you did in 1958. My oldest brother was born in 1959, and named in part for my father, who was just eighteen, himself, barely grown. My parents divorced when I was in the second grade. Their marriage was not happy. There was abuse and betrayal, sickness and debt. My father is still living, and although I do not have a relationship with him, I will not go into any more detail about his personal life with my mother out of simple respect. I’ve heard some of his side, and I don’t hate him any more than I hate my mom. They were young, and they were deeply troubled.

Mom spent most of my earliest childhood in the hospital. She had rheumatic fever, and she had a shocking cholesterol problem. Now they know all about genetic, Type II hypercholesterolemia, but back then the only treatment they could think of to reduce her 900+ cholesterol count was to hospitalize her, and put her on a diet she described as “fish and water.” My poor mother – she hated fish. It didn’t work, of course, because her body was manufacturing the cholesterol. She could have lived on air, and the numbers would have been too high. Our family doctor, reasonably frightened that she was on the verge of a stroke, could do nothing in the mid-sixties but treat the rheumatic fever with penicillin and remind her again and again that she could not eat high-cholesterol foods, as they knew them then. Thereafter, she lived in constant pain that only someone who has had rheumatic fever can understand.

When she divorced my father, she changed. She was in a strange town far from home, far from family members to whom she wouldn’t have turned anyway. She made a deliberate and conscious decision not to go home, as a matter of fact. She said Dad gave her $100, and that was the last dime she ever saw. She went to work waiting tables, at night. It was many years until she could afford to switch to the day shift. Few people knew that my mother didn’t have a high school diploma, or a GED. She didn’t need one to work hard putting food on the table and to do her best to keep a roof over us, and she was gifted. My father initially took the two oldest boys, leaving her with just me, but eventually my oldest brother came home to his mother. She met my stepfather, and they married not long after her divorce was final. Somewhere in between the divorce and remarriage, she got pregnant and had an abortion.

I was twenty-three before I learned about it. We were sitting together at the round kitchen table, having a chat and more than a few glasses of wine or beer. We were pretty-well sloshed by the time the subject of abortion came up. For the first time, she asked me to tell her what happened when I left her in the waiting room seven years earlier, and she wanted to know if I hated her for it. It sobered us up immediately. Her eyes, an unexpected shade of green flecked with gold, were tear-filled, but resolute. She told me – she didn’t ask – she told me in no uncertain terms that she had done what was right, and she would do it again. I argued with her, which was uncommon. We got along well, as we were very much alike. I told her it was not good for me. I told her I did not think my life was better for having terminated my pregnancy. She refused to believe it. She told me I didn’t know what I was talking about, because she had deliberately acted to change the course of my life so that I wouldn’t know, so that I would never be a young, overburdened mother who was most likely going to be abandoned and alone. My mother lived in constant fear of poverty, even years after she and my stepfather had gained financial security. Her sense of independence and self-reliance was over-developed, stemming not from confidence, as I used to think, but from the strongly-held belief that she was alone, would always be alone, and could trust no one.

She asked – so I told her the details of my abortion that night. When I came to the part where they were injecting sodium pentothal, she laughed. It was a horrible laugh – she got the “other-look” again, and turned a cynical gaze toward me. “I didn’t have ANY anesthesia at all,” she said, and my jaw dropped with the shock she intended for me to feel. “When?” I asked, steeling myself, and that’s when she told me she had been to Los Angeles for an abortion. She would not say exactly when. She would not tell me who the father was. She said only that there was “no way” she would have been with him. She said he was someone she met in between my stepfather and my father. It isn’t my business to figure it out, and I’ve stopped trying. These days, though, I think often of my missing sibling, and my husband reassures me many times that when my mother died, she had a couple of children waiting for her. I say that with joy, because I believe they are reunited now in love.

Her own abortion experience was awful. I don’t remember the details, because I could not stand to hear them then, so while she talked, I shut it out. But still, I would not back down that, given another chance, I would have refused to have an abortion, and she would not back away from her belief that she had done what was best for me, because she loved me. Of course, she didn’t back down. She couldn’t, because if she admitted it was wrong for me, then it had been wrong for her, and she had harmed two of her children – she couldn’t face it. I didn’t want to make her face it, either. I understood, not through any ability of my own, I’m sure, but by God’s grace, that she was also emotionally crippled. I stopped the argument, and I told her that I did not hate her for having done what she did, and that was, and remains, the absolute truth.

At the level of our souls, where we live in eternity, I forgave my mother a long time ago. You see, my mother loved me very much. She loved me like a mother bear loves her cubs. Did she do everything right? No, of course not. Who does? But she wanted to protect me. She would have given her life to protect me – she would have given anyone’s life to protect me, and that’s what she felt she had done. My child, who she didn’t know, did not matter to her as much as I did.

At times, as I relive memories I have deliberately avoided for many years, the emotions are revitalized, and that is what you hear as a lack of forgiveness. Just because the anger seems fresh doesn’t make it present. It is just memory. Of course I forgave my mother. I love my mother, and I miss her.

The hardest part is that our legacies led to my letting her down when she was diagnosed with lung cancer and died within three weeks of the diagnosis. She was gone before I could offer her any meaningful support or help. (In my didactic way, I bombarded her with self-help books, as if she could cure herself if only she knew how). She’d already had open-heart surgery twice for the blocked arteries, starting at age 50, and when she died she had at least 13 stents. We always thought it would be heart disease that would take her.

They didn’t find the small cell lung cancer until it had metastasized. Because of her damaged heart, she signed the Do Not Rescucitate order before starting therapy. The outlook was grim – eighteen months at the most, but they were going to treat the cancer as aggressively as they could. But before they could do much she developed a staph infection, introduced through her chemo tube, and she died one Saturday noontime, within twenty minutes of my arrival at her bedside. She never spoke, but she opened her eyes at the end, and she looked long and deep into her husband’s eyes, turned toward the ceiling, closed them, and the ragged breathing that had greeted us when we first came in stopped – and didn’t go on. Mom was gone. If it sounds familiar, it should – former President Reagan was able to give a similar gift to his wife, and we all heard about it on TV during that mournful period. I marveled at the similarity, and the gifts God gives His children. Just imagine how many of these dramas are played out all over the world, at this moment, even, and we don’t hear about them.

When she died, I dropped to my knees at the side of her hospital bed, and I prayed “Hail, Mary, full of grace…” I hadn’t been to church in years, and my mother was away even longer, but that prayer always came to me in times of great trouble and still does. I asked my stepfather if we needed a priest – my mom was a Baptized Catholic. He said it had been taken care of already. When I went through her things, later, I found the Rosary she received from the priest who gave her the final rites. I also found a journal she had intended to start several years earlier, filled with empty pages, all but the first page, where there was one line among a few that haunts me: “I want to love God, and not be ashamed.”

I pray her final Confession and Anointing paved her way to heaven. I think it did, because my life started to change after she died, for the better, as if I was getting some extra help. She sees me now, I am certain of it, and she encourages me to tell my story and hers, to talk about the silent legacy. It’s only by bringing these things into the light that we can understand them, and some day put my website and my new-found pro-life activism out of business.

Prayer for All Souls Day: Lord, welcome into your presence your daughter, Bev, whom you have called from this life. Release her from all her sins, bless her with eternal light and peace, raise her up to live for ever with all your saints in the glory of the resurrection. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Mothers tell your children
Be quick you must be strong
Life is full of wonder
Love is never wrong
Remember how they taught you
How much of it was fear
Refuse to hand it down
The legacy stops here.

~ Silent Legacy (by Melissa Etheridge)

Monday, November 01, 2004

Just who the &@*#! does she think she is?


I ask the question of myself - just who do I think I am, that I'm telling you all what to do? Here I sit, humbled yet again, thank God. It’s been a weekend of the highest highs, and the lowest lows. As I was considering just one of the many lessons that were sent my way yesterday, about which I will tell you soon, I asked my husband, almost in despair, “How many layers am I going to have to peel from this onion before I get rid of all my pride, anger, and defenses?” Even as I asked it, the answer came to me: hopefully, not until I'm dead. If I quit changing, I quit growing, and boy, do I have some growing to do.

It’s not really like an onion, though. I think it’s more like the TV commercial I used to see all the time when I was a kid – “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?” Onion layers peel off cleanly and precisely. I am more like the Tootsie Pop, the hard shell being worn away little by little, unevenly, and occasionally life takes a big bite out of that shell to expose more and more of the soft center. I like my shell, though. I’ve used it for years to keep things (people) out, and to keep other things (me) in. A hard shell is good protection, but if I hide inside of it, I can't reach anyone outside, and they can't see me.

“A Friend” posted another comment recently that was filled with excellent questions – questions I have to answer. If I finally forgot myself long enough to let some light in, then I think I understand that my friend is telling me I’m not going to be able to help anyone else until I have been helped myself. Hope and healing – it exists, and I have to get there, and I want to share it with you, so if you are in need, like me, maybe we can go together.

I guess the first thing I have to do is stop trying to reason my way out of things, to get rid of the voice that can turn people off. There is such an enormous difference between intellect, emotional maturity, and spiritual enlightenment. I learned this from people with more wisdom than I possess, so we can rely on it. I may have been intellectually gifted, but I’ve remained emotionally immature and spiritually retarded for a very long time, particularly because I’ve always tried to use reason and intellect alone to deal with life’s experiences.

I objectify (if that's a word) my own experiences, to remove myself from the emotions and talk about it in the third person. For example, as I considered answering the question why I was sexually active at such a young age to begin with, my first tendency was to talk about all the statistics relating to girl children who have no father figures, etc., blah, blah, instead of talking about what happened to me, and why I strayed from what was right, and what the emotional consequences were for me, personally.

As a result, when I explain just about anything, I sound arrogant and rude, because I distance myself from the pain or sorrow, or whatever emotions surround the subject. I sound as if I am above making all of the mistakes that the rest of the world makes, and I sound as if no one but me knows the truth. My tone is condescending because I use too much explanation. It isn’t that I think others are stupid, even though it sounds that way – I really feel as if I don’t communicate well unless I can explain it all, and the explanation is for me, and not for my listener - but I don't convey that impression.

Arrogance and condescension: this is so far from what I really feel inside. I’m only just beginning to learn why others have always felt so ambiguous about me. I have more compassion for other people than I reveal, and as you get to know me, you learn this. But I’m so off-putting at first that it’s difficult to get to that woman, the one who might be likeable and kind. She hides behind the know-it-all, the control freak, the pontificating bitch. Just ask my husband – he has learned all kinds of tricks to get through the shell, to get to the woman who can act unselfishly, even if she says all kinds of bunk in the process. I thank God for him.

I am not really as judgmental as I sound, which always shocks people when I tell them that – unless they see proof of it, they don’t believe me, and I can’t blame them. And if they do see a softer side of me, it sure doesn't reconcile with the hard shell. The criticism, argumentativeness, defensiveness, and arrogance that you hear when you listen to me: all of it is self-directed. I’m never as hard on others as I am on myself. Not to use psycho-babble, which I hate, but I am really not in touch with my own emotions – not yet – so my voice is too often harsh and edgy and sounds as if it is directed outward. I find my own emotions difficult-to-impossible to handle, because they can’t be reasoned with. Joy is just as hard to take as sorrow; criticism as hard to take as praise; and dislike is easier for me to accept than love.

If you hear my true voice, the honest one from my heart, it’s not so bad, I guess. I have received the kindest responses from the people with whom I’ve been the most open, even though at times the truth is mixed in with the arrogant garbage. If I preach at you, then you will know I’m touching on something deeply personal, an area in which I have failed, most likely. I hope to learn to talk to you in a voice you will like to hear; to be completely honest with you and with myself; to expose the soft, chewy center where I hide; and not to be ashamed of being fallible, emotional, and human.