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I was given the opportunity to participate in Amy Thomas‘s “Why I Love Being Catholic” series at Catholic Pilgrim.  Amy writes beautifully about the beauty and truth of Catholicism and I am honored to appear on her blog.

If you’d like to know my favorite saint, my favorite Catholic place I have visited, and my favorite part of the Mass (and more), click here!

I was about 14 years old, looking through the stacks in the downtown public library, when a young man passing by made physical contact with me.  I wasn’t sure if it was on purpose or an accident, but it felt wrong somehow–and I still remember the way he smiled.  I didn’t tell my mother because I felt embarrassed and wasn’t really sure if I imagined the whole thing.

Leslie at 14 2

I was around 15, walking around our subdivision alone, as I often did on summer days, when a boy unleashed a screaming tirade of obscenities at me through the window of his home.  I didn’t tell anyone, and avoided walking by that house as much as I could from then on.

I was maybe 16, hanging out in the guidance counselor’s outer office with other kids, waiting for a meeting.  Some of the boys started making openly sexual comments, directed at me and my body.  I was shocked at what they said to me, but I didn’t tell anyone.

Leslie at 16

I was 17, on a bus tour of France with my grandmother, struggling to avoid Mr. Chavez, a middle-aged traveler in an open-necked shirt who wanted me to help him shop for leisure suits when we got to Paris.  My grandmother had to ask our tour guide to keep him away from me.

I was 18, getting off the van at the D.C. housing project where I tutored two little girls, when a young man standing across the street casually exposed himself to all of us.  We did our best to ignore it.

Leslie at 18

I was 19, walking home with my roommate from an evening on the town, when we found ourselves surrounded by a crowd of laughing younger teenage boys, who groped our bodies as we whacked at them with our handbags before they vanished, still laughing, into the night.  We never talked about it much afterwards, but I know we were both afraid we would encounter them again.

Leslie at 19

I was 20, working at a restaurant in the Marriott hotel, when one of my customers whispered in my ear, “When can I have YOU for dinner?” The manager told me that if I had smacked him she would have fired me.  She also refused to fire the bus boy who would corner us whenever we were alone in the silverware closet and put his hands all over us, refusing to stop when we asked him to.

Leslie at 20

I was 21, walking to my fiance’s apartment, dreading the moment when I would have to pass the parking lot where several men seemed to be always hanging out.  They would stop whatever they were doing to stare intensely at me as I walked by–every single day.

Leslie at 21

Those are my #metoo experiences–the ones I can think of off the top of my head–and I was so lucky.  I don’t remember every detail, although some are still quite clear.  And I certainly haven’t forgotten the fear, the embarrassment, the shame.  Although my trauma was not lasting, when each of these events occurred and for some time thereafter, they caused me discomfort, dread, inconvenience, and fear.

Last week during family discussions leading up to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I kept remembering more and more of these incidents, most of which I hadn’t thought of in years.  “Does every woman have these experiences?” asked my husband, incredulously.  One middle-aged white male, at least, learned a lot last week–and altered his outlook.

I, too, was 15 in the summer of 1982.  I, too, spent most of that summer at the swimming pool and hanging out with friends.  Luckily for me, my friends were all girls and we did our socializing at all-girl slumber parties.

I’ve heard people criticizing Dr. Ford’s testimony, calling her unbelievable and “rehearsed” because she sounded timid and scared and unlike the career woman she is.  Leaving aside the fact that a professional and confident woman would be even less likely to be believed (remember Anita Hill?), Dr. Ford was not her professional and confident self that day.  We saw the 51-year-old woman who was able to summon up the courage to appear before the nation to be questioned about her allegations, but we heard a girl: 15-year-old Chrissy Blasey, terrified and traumatized.

I believe Chrissy Blasey, and I believe Dr. Christine Ford.

If you were reading this blog about four years ago, you would have seen a lot of posts about homeschooling.  It was my first year teaching Lorelei at home, and I was full of plans and eager to share them.

Lorelei spent her first four years of schooling at a parochial school.  It’s an excellent school, and her former classmates seem to have been very happy there.  But Lorelei was showing signs of stress and anxiety from the ever-increasing amount of homework, even in the summer time.  And I wanted to spend more time with my last baby.

Lorelei First Grade

Lorelei’s first day of first grade

Sending her back to “real” school eventually was always my plan:  when we would do it and where she would go were left TBD by needs and circumstances.  All I was sure of was that the transition would occur before high school.

I’ve homeschooled four of my five children for varying amounts of time, and it’s been a different experience with each of them.  I’ve come to realize that homeschooling does not provide the best learning environment for every child.

I am not sorry that I removed Lorelei from an environment that was stressful for her.  At home, we were able to recognize that she suffers from anxiety and take steps to combat that.  I was able to get to know her very well, and to spend time with her, and we are very close.  And she was able to devote extended time to non-academic pursuits.  Lorelei has always loved art, and I’ve been amazed to watch the changes in her pictures over the years.  She also became involved in an online group devoted to making music videos, and I was beyond impressed to see how she navigated the online community and taught herself skills both online and off.  I learned (and I think she did too) how very capable she is.

She also played outside a lot, as children should.  And remained a little girl longer than it seems most girls are allowed to these days.

Lorelei on the rock

Lorelei playing outside

Lorelei 13

Lorelei on her 13th birthday

But the academic side of homeschool was a real struggle.  Part of that was my change in circumstance from the last time I did this. I’m at home, but I’m working several hours each day, and I have to get things done.  But part of it was Lorelei herself.  When I taught Teddy at home, for example, I could read off a list of assignments and he would do them on his own.  Lorelei would complain and resist and insist that she couldn’t understand; she would freak out about possibly putting down the wrong answer even though her mother was the teacher and there were no grades; or she would go off to work and never return for her next assignment, and I wouldn’t even notice because I was so busy.  Every day, every subject, every assignment was fraught.  There were many days when we didn’t even attempt school, and we both felt guilty about it.

I’ve always known Lorelei was smart, of course.  She made high grades when she was enrolled in school.  But I had about decided that although she was a very capable person, she just wasn’t academic.  We all worried about what would happen when she returned to school.

Lorelei started eighth grade at the local public middle school in early August.  And she is thriving.  The transformation has been remarkable.  First progress reports are in and she has straight A’s.  Her Language Arts teacher has commented more than once that Lorelei should be teaching the class.  Her Social Studies teacher asked her if she would like to be in the Honors class.  Her art teacher invited her to apply for Art Club membership.  She joined the Book Club.  She comes home chattering animatedly about her classmates.  She stays on top of her homework without prompting.  And she joined the Youth Group at church to continue her religious education without complaint, and is enjoying that too.

So what happened?  Where did this motivated, happy, energetic, self-directed, intellectually curious student come from?

summer 80

Right after her getting-ready-for-school haircut

The answer, I believe, is that Lorelei is an extrovert.  She is drawing energy from the school environment and applying it to her studies.  It never would have occurred to me that this could be a factor–she wasn’t pining for school by any means; she was happy to have been removed and enjoyed being with me.  But the evidence is clear:  Homeschooling was not an academically good fit for Lorelei; traditional schooling is.

Again, I have no regrets about removing Lorelei from school.  The homeschooling experience may not have been an academic success, but it was valuable in other ways.  And she is quickly making up any ground she may have lost.  But I also have no regrets about putting her back in!

Some people–I was one of them once–are very tied to a certain way of educating their children.  “This is how our family does things,” they think.  For me, it was the ideal of having all my kids graduate from the parochial school attended by my sisters and me, and then going on the be members of the third generation of our family to attended Knoxville Catholic High School.  Family circumstances and the individual needs of my children forced me to rethink and relinquish plans I thought were set in stone, and my kids are the better for it.

Meet Rameses

I am not a dog person.

Confession time:  I have never understood my children’s obsession with animals.  While I enjoyed the occasional zoo trip as a child, animals in general did not occupy much of my thoughts.

But I can fall in love with animals on an individual basis.

And here is my new love.

Rameses 4.jpg

About two years ago, Lorelei started begging for a dog.  I said no.  Never again.

Like I said, I am not generally a fan of dogs.  They smell, they bark, they demand lots of attention, we have four cats already, and to top it all off John is allergic to them.  Our first dog was very old school.  He was an outdoor dog who loved the outdoors and was perfectly content with his dog house and the garage in cold weather.  But we adopted him around 2003, before the internet told me that my dog needs to be in the house with us.  While I still think Balthazar was perfectly happy, I would now feel plagued with guilt to have a mostly outdoor dog.

Lorelei wrote a manifesto explaining exactly why she needed a dog of her own.  It was in a folder and there were several pages to it, and while I can’t remember now exactly what it said, I do remember that its logic and emotional appeal were unassailable and all of us who read it were forced to concede.

So we said she could get a new dog eventually, but she would have to find one that was as hypoallergenic as possible and that could get along with cats.  And that she would have to prove she was responsible enough to care for it, because I have enough to do.

She pored over the internet and dog rescue sites and changed her mind several times before she decided on a greyhound.  In the meantime, she took on the litterbox duty and feeding of the cats to prove responsibility.  She earned money to buy everything the dog needed and learned all the internet could tell her about greyhounds.

We went to the local meet-and-greet sponsored by the Greyhound Rescue folks, eventually started the approval process (which was nerve-wracking but ultimately not as bad as I’d feared), and about a month ago welcomed Deco Cannon Fire (rechristened Rameses, because greyhounds hail originally from Egypt) into our home.

Rameses 6

In his former life, five-year-old Rameses was a racing greyhound.  You can see him in action here.  That was a treat for me to see because we have never seen him run.  At the most, at the dog park, he trots around the perimeter sniffing the fence.

Rameses 2.jpgLorelei could not have picked a better breed.  In a month, Rameses has barked maybe five times? He doesn’t have a smell (seriously, if you sniff your hand after stroking him there is no dog aroma).  He hardly notices the cats, who are beginning to learn that there is no need to run out of the room automatically when they see him.

Rameses 3.jpg

He likes attention, but doesn’t demand constant petting.  He’s like a cat in that respect, which is probably why I like him so much.  He spends most of his time sleeping.

Rameses 1.jpg

Lorelei keeps his crate in her room, and she handles all of his feeding and outdoors time and cleaning up after him.  Emily and I do help with the walking when she’s at school, but I leave the clean up for her.  We have a new park less than half a mile away with an enormous dog area, and we’ve been taking him there at least once a week.  He barely notices the other dogs, and we can’t get him to run, but he does enjoy exploring and sniffing!

Anyway, we all love him, even John who really doesn’t care for dogs, having been made sick by them for as long as he can remember.   We aren’t sure if he’s allergic to Rameses, because he’s had two colds since the dog arrived and the seasonal allergies are terrible here right now but at this point I don’t think he’d care.

Rameses 8Rameses 5Rameses 7I would never in a million years have thought of getting a greyhound.  I don’t think I’d ever even seen one in person before that first meet-and-greet.  But I couldn’t be happier with Lorelei’s choice.

I love making plans.  In fact, I often enjoy planning things more than I enjoy doing the actual things!

When I am feeling overwhelmed, I comfort myself by looking to the future and making plans for the next season.  When school is going on, I think how much easier everything will be when I can sleep later, not have to drive anyone anywhere, and not have homework to deal with, and I make plans to fill all that extra time.  When it’s summer, I fantasize about school starting, being back on a schedule, and not having the kids underfoot, and I make new plans.

My original plan for the summer was quite ambitious and was all about things I wanted to do for myself.  I was going to go to the gym regularly again,  I was going to walk several mornings, and I was going to go to Mass a couple of times during the week.  I had a plan in my head for what I would do each day.  Once I made it, I thought it over often and looked forward to implementing it.

But I didn’t follow that plan.  If you’ve been reading this summer, you’ll already know what I did instead.  I have to work, albeit at home, and there just wasn’t time to do what I wanted for myself AND for the kids.  So, I  gave up all my own self-improvement plans, and devoted myself to giving my children a fabulous summer instead.

And you know what?  It WAS a fabulous summer.  For the first time in years, I really wasn’t eager to get back into the school routine, because we’d had a routine–a fun one–that gave shape to our days.  We weren’t bored and stir crazy and sick of each other.  It was delightful!

This year, Lorelei went back to school after having been homeschooled for four years.  I am now blissfully alone in the house for hours every day.  Taking kids to school has almost always been John’s responsibility for the past twenty-plus years.  But Lorelei and William attend schools that start at the same time and are in opposite directions from our house, so this year I must leave the house each morning to drive one of them to school.

When I realized this, a plan formed almost by itself, and I feel safe telling you about it now since I’ve followed it more or less successfully for a month  (yes, school has been in session THAT LONG ALREADY down here).

Mondays and Fridays, I drive Lorelei to school.  Her school happens to be right across the street from the closest Catholic church, which offers morning Mass at 9:00 a.m.  Furthermore, there is a walking trail on the grounds of this church.  So after I drop her off, I take a walk while saying a rosary until it is time for Mass.

All Saints 1

Part of the walking trail at All Saints

Tuesdays and Thursdays, I take William to school.  The gym I belong to just happens to lie on the route home.  So now I stop and work out, so far for only about half an hour but I am adding time each week.

Wednesdays William has a morning appointment so I take him to school when we are finished and then generally head straight home to work.

I am so excited and pleased with myself.  For me the biggest hurdle to doing pretty much anything is making myself leave the house.  Now that I have no choice but to leave the house every morning, the rest is easy.  I love my new schedule which has me back home ready to begin work around 10 a.m.

It would be nice to work in writing time somewhere, but you can’t have everything. 🙂

When I read the reports of Archbishop Vigano’s accusations concerning Pope Francis late Saturday night, I felt physically sick.  I think I have made it pretty clear here and elsewhere that I love Pope Francis.  And because I am a faithful and obedient Catholic, albeit a bad one, I would have been sickened by such allegations levied against any Pope, because I really believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on Earth, chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead the Church.

So at first I felt spiritually unmoored.  For the first time in all of these scandals, I felt a shaking of my faith.

But again, as a faithful Catholic, I felt bound to give the Pope of all people the benefit of the doubt, to withhold judgment while waiting to hear more.  By morning when the mainstream press was unable to independently corroborate Vigano’s statement with documentary evidence, I started to calm down.

See, I don’t know much about Church politics.  I mean, I know they exist, but I hate to think about such petty and worldly concerns being mixed up with God’s Church.  I don’t like the bandying about of terms like “liberal” and “conservative” Catholic, even though I know what people mean when they say that.  I’ve been accused of being “liberal” but I see myself as quite orthodox and challenge anyone to point to any occasion I have ever dissented from any Church teaching, feeling quite confident that they won’t be able to.

So when I saw that a person of some prominence in the Church had accused Pope Francis, my initial reaction was to believe him, because why would he not tell the truth?  But then I realized that he was the person who set the Pope up with Kim Davis, and I learned of his reputation of being too involved in U.S. culture wars.  And I started to think about where the accounts had been published–usually the first thing I look at in assessing news, but which I had overlooked in my distress–in sources I know from my own experience to be right wing and slanted in their reporting.   I noticed that the mainstream press wasn’t finding anything to write even though they were investigating hard.  Finally I saw exactly who was–not sorrowfully, not regretfully, but eagerly–leaping on the anti-Pope bandwagon and I thought I could see what was happening.

I’ve been downright horrified since this Pope was elected to see some of the things people have said about him on social media–people purporting to be faithful Catholics and held up as holy by many.  I’ve even had to unfollow some people and pages that seemed to me were bordering on heresy in their comments about our Holy Father.  I had always thought that respect and reverence for the Pope is a baseline qualification for being Catholic.  I personally wasn’t all that excited when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected, but as soon as he became Pope Benedict, that was it for me.  He became my Pope and I gave him my respect and my obedience.   And yet it was obvious that Francis-haters–some long declared as such and some who had been staying quiet out of, one presumes, respect for the office–were leaping out of the woodwork to announce their unqualified belief in Vigano’s testimony.

Do you remember the Steele dossier?  Remember how the mainstream press wouldn’t release it because they couldn’t confirm it?  I think it was BuzzFeed that leaked it initially.  Why do you think Vigano’s representative disseminated his testimony through the outlets he chose?  Why do you suppose he didn’t call The New York Times or The Washington Post with his bombshell news?  Because he knew that the mainstream media would have sat on it, as they did on the dossier, and rightly so–until they could confirm it.  Perhaps he knew that would never happen.

I waited anxiously for the Pope’s response, and I have no trouble admitting I was disappointed at first; but now I think he was being very smart.  First of all, he did not allow himself to be forced into making intemperate remarks on an airplane–as he sometimes has in the past–which seems clear to me is what his opponents were hoping to orchestrate by releasing the document when they did.  If he had openly denied the allegations, what would have made his detractors take his word over Vigano’s anyway?  Therefore, he offered the equivalent of “I am not going to dignify this gossip with a response,”  and he asked the journalists to investigate the claims, knowing that this is the only way his name will ever be cleared.

Think about it–we can and should ask the Vatican to investigate; we can and should ask the Bishops to investigate–but who really believes any of them anymore?  The USCCB came out with a statement which seems supportive of the Pope while also calling for further investigation, but not only is the credibility of the bishops at rock bottom right now, how much credence will anyone give to a show of support to the man who has the power to fire them all?

And let’s remember who else isn’t talking:  Vigano.  Why is no one upset about that?  He made allegations and now refuses to be cross-examined about them.  How can an investigation go forward under those circumstances?

Amidst calls for the Pope’s immediate resignation, I found it telling that the founder and spokesman for Bishopaccountability.org, a site dedicated to providing transparency regarding charges of sex abuse in the Church, is not yet among them.  Even though Pope Francis doesn’t have a spotless record on the site from his days as a bishop, Terry McKiernan told Our Sunday Visitor that he believes “Archbishop Vagano has ‘an axe to grind,’ [and] that there still should be a thorough investigation into what the pope and bishops knew about former Cardinal McCarrick, and when they knew it.”

Until that happens, I’ve been “investigating” myself the only way I know how:  by reading a wide variety of sources and trying to understand what is going on.  I have linked several of them below.  I am prepared to be accused of providing “liberal” sources.  I don’t believe that is accurate, but if it is you can chalk it up to the fact that the stories I am linking and the points of view they showcase seem to me to be underrepresented in what I’ve been reading on Catholic Facebook.

My “investigation” leads me to believe that conservative culture warriors have seized this opportunity and hijacked this crisis in an attempt to bring Pope Francis down.  They attack the Pope, his supporters respond, and now the conversation is about church politics instead of the abuse, the cover up, and the victims.  This, I believe, is one reason Pope Francis did not immediately answer the accusations–because he wanted the focus to remain on the sex abuse crisis, as it should.

Now, many faithful Catholics I know are sincerely alarmed by Vigano’s testimony and confused by the Pope’s response, and either don’t believe or may not realize that they are being manipulated by people who don’t care one iota about the sexual abuse or the victims but are playing politics and trying to split the Church into factions, much in the way our country has become divided along harsh partisan lines.  This is in itself a symptom of a sick sinfulness in the Church that exists alongside the sex and the silence.

Tactically I think the Pope’s response was the correct one.  Pastorally, not so much.  People are confused and upset and they want, need, and deserve answers.  I feel the Holy Father has always intended to provide them but I think he needs to do so sooner rather than later.  If there is never any documentary evidence, though, and if the people who could confirm key parts of the testimony–like Pope Benedict and Theodore McCarric–refuse to speak, I have to wonder whether the choice of whom to believe will continue to break along those same tired ideological lines, and whether the political divide in Christ’s Church is the real sin we need to be discussing.

I’ve always been on the side of the truth, ALWAYS.  I’m the obnoxious person who goes so far as to correct misinformation being passed around in emails and on Facebook, even when my own confirmation bias is triggered.  But right now, when we can’t know the truth, as a devout Catholic I stand with Pope Francis until I have more than gossip to go on.

RELATED LINKS

From the Associated Press:

Document in hand, Tosatti then set out to find publications willing to publish it in its entirety: the small Italian daily La Verita, the English-language National Catholic Register and LifeSiteNews and the Spanish online site InfoVaticana.

All are conservative or ultraconservative media that have been highly critical of Francis’ mercy-over-morals papacy.

The English and Spanish publications translated the Italian document and all agreed on a Sunday morning embargo, coinciding with the second and final day of Francis’ trip to Ireland, where the Catholic church’s sex abuse and cover-up scandal dominated his trip.

Tosatti said Vigano didn’t tell him where he was going after the article came out, knowing that the world’s media would be clamoring to speak with him.

From The Washington Post:

Pope Francis has long faced criticism from traditionalists — a group that includes academics as well as cardinals — who say the church is too willingly following the whims of the anything-goes modern age.

Much of the dissent has remained within the Vatican walls, as Francis’s opponents worked to stonewall reforms. A few high-ranking church leaders have questioned him publicly about his teachings. But the simmering opposition has suddenly exploded across the Catholic world, with a former Vatican ambassador accusing the pope of covering up sexual abuse — and demanding that Francis step down.

From Vatican Insider in La Stampa:

That it is not simply the outburst of a Church man tired of the rotten things he has seen around him, but of a long and carefully planned operation, in an attempt to get the Pope to resign, is demonstrated by the timing and the involvement of the same international media network that for years has been propagating – often using anonymous ones – the requests of those who would like to overturn the result of the 2013 conclave. This is attested by the same testimonies written in the various blogs by the journalists who published the Viganò dossier: always in the forefront in the defense of the traditional family, but careless to drop the bombshell on the very day in which Francis concluded with a great mass the international meeting of families. 

From Our Sunday Visitor:

In his letter, Archbishop Viganò also wades into ideological battles roiling the Church in the United States. He singles out several bishops who were appointed by or are close to Pope Francis, questioning their sincerity and commitment to rooting out sex abuse. And in a time when the role of homosexuality in the clergy sex-abuse scandals is being hotly debated, the archbishop accuses some prelates who are close to the pope of belonging to a “homosexual current in favor of subverting Catholic doctrine on homosexuality.”

McKiernan, of BishopAccountability.org, called Archbishop Viganò’s long statement “a uniquely comprehensive salvo in the Catholic culture wars.” He added that clergy sex abuse cuts across ideological lines.

From The New York Times:

The clerical sexual abuse is not only a personal and professional tragedy, but an institutional one, said John Carr, the director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University.

“We need to find out who knew what when, and what they did or did not do to protect young people,” Mr. Carr said. “The weaponization of the sexual abuse scandal uses the suffering of the vulnerable to advance ideological agendas and makes a horrible situation worse.”

From Steel Magnificat:

For a moment, it was all about the victims. Not people who dislike the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite or people who believe conspiracy theories, the actual victims. People who were raped or molested and then shamed into silence because it was more convenient to pretend they were lying than to work for justice.

Then the people who didn’t care about the victims found a way to make it all about them, and what they want the Church to look like, and how much they hate Pope Francis.

And I’ve heard barely a word about the victims since.

Hope is one of the great theological virtues, one of the three things that last.  Its opposite is despair, which I have often heard referred to as the one unforgivable sin.  The temptation to despair is great right now.  Every day brings some new reprehensible revelation or confusing controversy.

But this painful purification of the Church is necessary, and we must hold onto hope.

Read the rest at Everyday Ediths.

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