Category: Catholicism

Grieving Together: Review and Giveaway

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

Ten years ago, I lost our sixth and last baby in an early miscarriage, a baby who was planned, wanted, loved.  I’ve never written about it here.  In a very dark period of my life during which I lost first the baby, then my dream home, and finally almost every possession to fire, it was and remains by far the most painful of the losses I suffered.  I don’t like to talk about it and I’ve never wanted to write about it.

But I decided to share just a little today in the hopes of helping ease the burden of others who have lost babies.  There are so many of us, which is something I hadn’t realized until I miscarried and women started whispering words of commiseration: “It happened to me too.  It is hard but it will get better.”

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

When I was deep in grief–a longer period of time than I would have expected–when all I could do was lie in bed and sob while clutching a board book, the only thing I had bought for the baby, I felt very alone.  I looked online for resources, as one does these days, and found very little.  Eventually my husband and I conducted our own private little ceremony of praying together and naming the baby.  This did bring closure and healing to him, but my grieving process was very different.

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

I wish that I’d had a copy of Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage.  This is the book you never want to need, but are so glad exists if you do.

Reading it even now, I felt affirmed, comforted, accompanied.

Laura and Franco Fanucci have authored a much-needed treasure, a companion and guide to grieving together as a couple.  Having experienced infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss in their own marriage, they know intimately the grief of their readers.  That experience informs the book and their empathy is tangible.  Reading a book from people who have been in your situation is uniquely comforting.

I was impressed by the book’s breadth–it starts with the more practical aspects of miscarriage: what it is, what the experience might be like, considerations of medical treatment and funeral arrangements.  But this section is anything but clinical–it is still animated by Laura and Franco’s love and concern for their readers.  The next section covers grief, including the ways the grieving process may be different for each partner. This is followed by a section of practical suggestions of support from friends, family, the community, and the Church, making this a book that’s valuable to more than those who have suffered loss themselves.  Finally, the last section discusses life after miscarriage, whether your path includes adoption, another pregnancy, or no more babies.

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

This is a Catholic book, published by Our Sunday Visitor, with Catholic prayers and rites, concrete ways parishes can help, saints to pray to for comfort and guidance, and more.  Other than our pastor’s sincere sympathy, my parish offered no support to us when we lost our baby, and I suspect that is pretty standard.  So this book would make a great gift for your pastor, along with a suggestion for a ministry to serve couples who have suffered miscarriage.  The Catholic Church is well known for concern over unborn babies threatened by abortion, and sponsors ministries for post-abortive women; her concern for babies lost involuntarily and their parents should be a natural outgrowth of these pro-life convictions.

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

Grieving Together is available now on Amazon. (If you purchase it through links on the blog I will receive a small commission.)  I received the book free in exchange for my honest review.

Or you could enter the giveaway below and win a copy for yourself, a friend, or your parish.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To Hear His Voice/Until I Rest in You: Mass Journals for Catholic Moms and Kids

I’ve written before about my discovery of prayer journaling and how much it has enriched my prayer life.  Since then, I’ve participated in online retreats, book discussions, and other practices that are helping me grow in faith–maybe I will share more about some of them in another post.  And now I’m ready to try Mass journaling.

Probably about a year ago I started hearing about Mass journals and seeing them online.  And I was curious.  Then my friend Ginny designed one especially for kids.  I thought it was a cool idea but I couldn’t imagine that Lorelei would be interested in such a thing.

Ginny just published her third installment of To Hear His Voice–they’re seasonal–and this time she launched a version for mothers too!  When I heard about Until I Rest in You, I knew that this was the journal I wanted to try.

Lorelei saw me looking at it online and asked me what it was.  When I explained, she said she thought that sounded interesting and she wanted her own!

So that’s how I ended up having the opportunity to review both the mom and kid Mass journals! (I received free PDF copies and was not otherwise compensated, and my opinions are my own.)

But let’s back up a minute, in case you are wondering what a Mass journal is and what you are supposed to do with one.  Ginny’s journals contain the Sunday readings with reflection questions and space for writing and drawing.  The journals could be used to read in advance of Mass to prepare, to follow along during Mass while taking notes, or to re-read and reflect afterward–or any combination of the three!

Now let’s talk about some of what makes Ginny’s journals special.  First of all, they are visually appealing.  The covers are so pretty, and so is all the lettering, and the decorative details throughout the books.  Ginny pays attention to detail, and it shows.

The journals are divided by week, and I love that each section starts off with a list of the Feast Days for that week, and is prefaced with an inspirational quote from one of the saints.  The kids’ journal also includes Reconciliation and Adoration Journals at the end.

The writing prompts are original and thoughtful, inspiring genuine reflection on the readings and connecting Scripture to every day life.  The prompts in the children’s journal are age-appropriate yet challenging.  And there is plenty of room to write in both journals, whether you are a mom with a lot to say or a kid with big handwriting!

The journals are available in PDF format or in hardback, and if you need a closer look before you decide, Ginny will even send you a sample chapter.  For a more detailed description and explanation of the journals, click here for To Hear His Voice and here for Until I Rest in You.  To purchase right now, click below!

If you purchase either book through the links in this post, I will receive a small commission.

A Knoxville Fall Weekend

Remember summer?  It seems so long ago! Not the hot part–that lasted well into October here–but the not-being-in-school-and-having-daily-adventures part, which ended for us in early August.
We’ve had adventures since then, if not so many; what I lack is the time to share them here.  But since I have a spare moment, I’m going to write a few words about our lovely fall weekend.
I love fall so much that I really can’t stop smiling when I’m outside at this time of year! And I’m blessed to live in a part of the country that really knows how to put on a fall colors show.  Plus there is always something going on every weekend–multiple things, actually.
The Farmer’s Market will only be happening for a few more weeks, so Emily, Lorelei, and I headed downtown first thing on Saturday.   We hadn’t counted on the football game.  No, we didn’t get caught in traffic, but the normally free and plentiful downtown parking sported Event Pricing of $20.  This being Knoxville, that meant we had to park five whole blocks away and pay the meter about three dollars.  On the bright side, it was a beautiful day for a stroll.
fall weekend 3
We had hot apple cider and pumpkin bread, enjoyed free entertainment provided by the various buskers, and bought eggs, cheese, apples, and some vegetables too.  Then we went to the 90th anniversary open house at the Tennessee Theatre.
I first set foot in the Tennessee Theatre in the 1970s, watching Gone with the Wind for the very first time, courtesy of my grandmother.  I was so lucky to be introduced to it in exactly the kind of place it was made to be seen! Knoxville’s “Grand Entertainment Palace” narrowly escaped demolition around 1980, and underwent extensive restoration and renovation in 2005.  It’s truly a treasure and it was such a treat to get to go backstage to explore the dressing rooms and the green room, to see the Mighty Wurlitzer organ up close, and have time to take all the pictures I wanted.
tennessee theatre interior
We dropped off Lorelei to volunteer for Feral Feline Friends of East Tennessee while we had coffee at my sister’s house, then went home and finished off our fall fun by taking the dog to the park.
Sunday morning Lorelei, William, and I went to Mass (John being under the weather).  Our parish has a rosary procession at the Catholic Cemetery on the first Sunday of November, and I wanted to go, but since circumstances did not permit, I decided to honor the dead in my own way.  After we ran errands and I returned the kids and the groceries to the house, I went off to explore a graveyard a bit closer to home.  A reader of one of my other cemetery posts alerted me to the existence of Pleasant Chapel Cemetery.
fall weekend 2.jpg
I will write more about it later after I’ve had a chance to do a little research.  It has been way too long since I visited a new graveyard.  It was so peaceful there.  I wish I could share the smell of the leaves and the dirt and the sounds of chirping insects so you could experience the full atmosphere.  Anyway, I was happy to be there and to say a prayer for all the dead, who are unlikely to be Catholic but would surely appreciate the prayers anyway.
fall weekend 1.jpgThen I came home, made coffee, and sat on the front porch to start reading The Gift of Invitation, which I will be reviewing here this week.
It was a perfect fall weekend, and I am sad to see it end.  Now on to Election Day! (Yikes!)  How do you like to spend fall weekends?

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Sydney and Calvin Have a Baby: A Book Review

One of the coolest things about blogging is getting free books in exchange for sharing my honest opinion of them here.  As I might have mentioned, I love books.  I love them so much that I have big stacks of them and so sometimes I don’t review them as quickly as I am supposed to.
But not this one! Sydney and Calvin Have a Baby has such a compelling premise that I could hardly wait to read it.  And since William had to have a root canal this week, I had a perfect opportunity to do it all in one sitting.  In fact, I had just a few pages left and I read them while sitting in the Arby’s drive-thru on the way home because I just HAD to know what happened.
I read a lot of young adult novels because my daughter loves the genre and brings them to my attention. But this one is different for a couple of reasons–one, it’s a specifically Catholic novel, and two, it starts with a rape and ends with a baby.
That’s pretty heavy stuff for a teen novel, and let’s throw in a couple of deaths, an orphan, mean girls, a close call at the abortion clinic, and dysfunctional families aplenty.  But the lovable, quirky main characters and the fresh narrative voice (Calvin, whose British accent you can almost hear) add humor and humanity without ever glossing over the truly terrible events in the story.
Perhaps when you think of a Catholic novel you imagine characters who pray all the time, lots of priests and nuns, and plenty of preaching.  That’s not what you’ll find here.  The Catholicism is mostly background–the kids go to a Catholic school, the families are nominally Catholic in that they go to Mass on Sunday and not much else.  The only truly devout Catholic we see is Calvin, and the Catholic heart of the story is in its redemptive message.
I enjoyed this novel so much that I would love to read more about Sydney and Calvin.  I would especially recommend it for a Catholic youth discussion group.

Author:  Adrienne Thorne

Publisher:  Gracewatch Media



Use the above link, or the one in the first paragraph, to purchase this book, and I will receive a small commission.

Book Review: Pope Francis, Builder of Bridges

It is a secret to no one who knows me, whether on social media or in real life, that I love Pope Francis.  So when I was offered the opportunity to review a picture book about him, I jumped at it.  I didn’t jump on the reviewing part quite as quickly as I should, for which mea culpa.  Read on to see what I thought–and know that while my review copy was free, I was not otherwise compensated for this review, and my opinion is, as always, my own!
I was hooked immediately by the title–Pope Francis:  Builder of Bridges.  You may know that one of the Holy Father’s titles, Pontiff, comes from the Latin pontifex, literally bridge-builder, and I have always thought it described Pope Francis especially well.
I love that the story starts with young Jorge Bergoglio, walking through Buenos Aires at his grandmother’s side, dreaming of playing soccer.  Since this is a children’s book, it makes sense to start with a child, someone young readers will relate to.
pope book 1
The book showcases events from Jorge’s Bergoglio’s life that shaped his future path, from his relationship with his faithful grandmother, his father’s example of hard work, his encounters with the poor in his city, to his decision to join the Jesuits.  It offers humanizing anecdotes, such as the movie nights he hosted for neighborhood kids.  The story continues through his election as Pope and after to some of the events that have happened since, such as his decision to wash the feet of prisoners, Muslims, and women on Holy Thursday and his writing of Laudate Si.
pope book 2
Visually this book is very appealing, with colorful illustrations that support the text, and accurate portrayals of the Pope.  I especially love the inside covers, which depict stained glass windows.
There are many details here for adults to appreciate too, like the glossary, the many direct quotations from the Pope with their sources provided, a timeline, and a bibliography.
Pope Francis: Builder of Bridge would be the perfect gift for any Catholic family.  I loved it and I am delighted to have it in my library!

Author:  Emma Otheguy

Illustrator:  Oliver Dominguez

Publisher:  Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Use the above link, or any link in this post, to purchase this book, and I will receive a small commission.

Rush Not to Judgment: Why I Am Giving Pope Francis the Benefit of the Doubt

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 from the Holy Spirit

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.

25 Things to Read about the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal

Gird yourselves with sackcloth And lament, O priests; Wail, O ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God . . . ~ Joel 1:13
When I am disturbed about world events, I head to my computer, looking for something to read.  I read for facts, for analysis, and to process.  Fortunately, in such times as these, others are moved to write to provide for this need.
So I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about the sex abuse crisis in the Church, and I wanted to share some of what I’ve read with you, hoping to provide insight, suggestions, and comfort as well as inspiring discussion.
Including a link here does not mean that I in general am a fan of the publication in which the piece appeared, or of the author, nor that I agree with or can confirm the truth of every position taken, as I will qualify below.  I’m a little hesitant about sharing from some of these sources, frankly.  I read from a variety of publications, some “liberal” and some “conservative” for lack of a better way to describe them; I feel very uncomfortable with using political terminology to describe matters of faith but I think we all know what I mean by these shortcuts in this context.
I don’t agree with the aims and philosophies of every source, nor do I endorse every word written.  I’ve included links to author bios when available and to the home page for each publication so you can decide for yourself what weight to give their words.  I’m including along with the link to each piece a quotation that gives a preview of the article so that you can decide whether you’d care to read more. Every article either helped me, informed me, or gave me something to think about as I deal with this.  I hope that you may find them useful or at least interesting, and I’d love to know your thoughts.

Provocative Questions

I’ll start with some of the most challenging and thoughtful articles I’ve read, pieces that engage with some very difficult questions.  All of us want to understand how this happened and how to put an end to it for all time.  Everyone has his pet theory:  It’s celibacy! It’s the gays! It’s the lack of women in the priesthood!  (None of that is what I think, for what it’s worth.) Some of these perspectives are represented in the writing that follows.  I don’t pretend to have the answer to any of this, and I cannot confirm the truth of every story, although all of it appeared in trustworthy publications.  Brace yourself before reading the personal accounts of priestly formation.  If even ten percent of it is accurate then I don’t even know what to say about the future of the priesthood.
I.  From Eve Tushnet on Patheos:
A Closeted Subculture
There is no way to have a church without gay priests. What you can have is a church where the only gay priests are those unscrupulous enough to lie about their orientation and longings, plus those so frightened and ashamed that they couldn’t bring themselves to admit those longings even to themselves. You can have a church, in other words, with only the most damaged (and vulnerable) gay priests possible.
II.  From Paul Blaschko in Commonweal:
Inside the Seminary
From 2008 through 2010, I was a seminarian in St. Paul, Minneapolis, an archdiocese now entrenched in its own abuse scandal. My experience there led me to believe that the problem of priestly sexual abuse is due, at least in part, to the failure of seminaries to provide adequate human and sexual formation to men studying for the priesthood.
III.  From Rod Dreher in The American Conservative:
Inside the Seminary Closet
I would have held anyone’s secret in order to keep my own from being exposed. The reason I lay these stories bare now it because of my strong belief that this pervasive dysfunctional culture is at the deepest core of the cover-up, abuse, and scandal of all forms–not just sexual–that continue to be rampant in these church circles.
IV.  From Massimo Faggioli in Commonweal
Trent’s Long Shadow
This new phase of the clerical sex-abuse crisis is more a crisis of the Tridentine church than of the Vatican II Church, because the church in which that abuse took place is, in terms of its institutional structure, still essentially Tridentine. The effort to reform the church in light of what we now know about sexual abuse and abuses of power must look back further than the Second Vatican Council, which did not so much open a new era as begin to close down an old one whose remnants are still with us. 
V.  From Simcha Fisher of I Have to Sit Down:
Would a Female Priesthood Disrupt Sex Abuse?
 It’s not the evil of maleness that is the problem. It’s the evilness of humanity. It’s the weakness and corruptibility of human nature. We don’t need more women on the inside. We need more clear-thinking, courageous women and men on the outside, willing and able to see clearly and speak loudly, and, most importantly, capable of bringing the guilty to justice.
VI.  From Andrew Sullivan in the Daily Intelligencer:

Cleansing the Catholic Church of Its Sins

We may still believe in Jesus. But precisely because of that, we can no longer believe in the church. No one is untouched. . . . This is no time to shore up the institution. It’s time to open it up and cleanse it. 

How should the Church respond?

There is no shortage of opinions on this question.  And end to the silence, as I wrote myself last week, is the centerpiece of every article out there.  Also prevalent is the need for a thorough housecleaning with massive resignations.  Once again, I don’t agree with every word in every piece and I have highlighted some of what struck me.
I.  From Simcha Fisher of I Have to Sit Down:
Dear Priests, I Am Begging You to Speak about This Scandal
We need to know that you are as struck with horror as we are. We need to know that you would be on our side if we were the ones calling the police. We need to know that you care for us more than you care about falling afoul of some toothless pastoral directive from above. We need someone to be with us in this free fall of horror.
II.  From Peter Jesserer Smith in the National Catholic Register:
Erie Bishop Models What a Real Apology to Victims Looks Like
You may be aware that we recently unveiled new policies and implemented procedures to ensure that this criminal behavior is stopped.  . . . But this is not the moment to focus on our efforts. Today, I simply stand before you, humbled and sorrowful.
III.  From Courageous Priest:
Finally, A Faithful Apology from the Pulpit
You can laugh at me and think I am crazy but when I heard the news about former-Cardinal McCarrick two things surfaced in me at once: (1) anger; and, (2) the thought that I should sell all my belongings, shave my head, live in a stone hut, and start a new religious order.  How will we rebuild from this mess?  Who will do it?  The answer throughout all of history in the face of moral crises in the Church has always been saints.  Everyday people make a more radical decision for Jesus and that starts healing and repair and roots out the corruption and evil.  I’m probably too weak to be a St. Francis of Assisi… I don’t know… but we need some new men and women who will radically reform their lives and that of the Church.
IV.  From ChurchPop:
What Should a Priest Do When a Stranger Yells “Pedophile!” at the Store?
We’re all rightfully angry at these crimes and their cover-up. Catholics, lay and clergy, shouldn’t get defensive.
V.  From Rosary Bay:
**I am certainly not in agreement with what seems to me to be the radical traditionalism espoused by this publication, and I am not even sure this rite is valid any more, but it would be satisfying to see it used on a few bishops, anyway.
Rite of Degradation of a Bishop
Next, one of the assistants gives the degrandus a crosier, which the degradator takes from the man’s hand, saying: “We take from you the shepherd’s staff, to indicate you no longer have any claim on the pastoral office which you have mismanaged.”
VI.  From Mark Thiessen for the Washington Post:

The Catholic Church needs a #MeToo moment – and it should start here in Washington

The episcopacy as an institution has been corrupted. A culture of silence allowed a culture of abuse to flourish. Bishops consumed with what the pope called “the thirst for power” have through both action and inaction allowed evil to spread through the church. That evil must be rooted out.  It is time for the Catholic Church to experience its own #MeToo moment. And it should start here in Washington – the modern symbol of earthly power. 

VII.  From Elizabeth Scalia of The Anchoress:

How Can We #RebuildMyChurch? Cardinal Wuerl Accidentally Points the Way

It’s very clear that too many bishops and cardinals have shown themselves to be untrustworthy overseers; they need to learn how to be priests again, and there is no better way to do that than to toss them out of the cushy offices, greatly reduce the number of personal assistants, end the entourage, discourage the gold cuff links and the bespoke shirts and the limos. Send them forth with a pair of good shoes and a working phone, into the mission territory of their parishes.

How should the Church NOT respond?

I.  From Sohrab Ahmari in the New York Post:
In the face of horror, the Catholic Church is worried about PR
The most painful aspect of all this is the blasé response of many American hierarchs and especially those, like Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl, who are implicated in the report. Wuerl and his colleagues have treated the report as a PR headache rather than a moral and spiritual wake-up call. They have acted like corporate reputation managers rather than successors to the Apostles.
II.  From Jake Tapper and Clare Foran on CNN:

Pennsylvania AG: Cardinal under scrutiny over report on priest abuse ‘is not telling the truth’

In a statement to CNN, Shapiro said, “Cardinal Wuerl is not telling the truth. Many of his statements in response to the Grand Jury Report are directly contradicted by the Church’s own documents and records from their Secret Archives. Offering misleading statements now only furthers the cover up.” 

How should the laity respond?

I know, I know, it isn’t our fault.  But we are the Church, and we are called to respond to this crisis.  Prayer should always be our first response, but not our only one.  Following are some ideas for prayer and other actions.
I.  From Paul  Begala on CNN.com:
Catholics in the Pew Must Unleash Their Anger
Like so many Catholics, I am reeling. I am praying that Pope Francis will institute reforms with teeth — yet I also believe that the Church is the People of Christ, and so the laity must lead.
II.  From Dr. Susan Reynolds on Daily Theology:
** I chose to sign this letter.

Statement of Catholic Theologians, Educator, Parishioners, and Lay Leaders on Clergy Sexual  Abuse in the United States

Today, we call on the Catholic Bishops of the United States to prayerfully and genuinely consider submitting to Pope Francis their collective resignation as a public act of repentance and lamentation before God and God’s People.
III.  From Haley of Carrots for Michaelmas:

What Can *WE* Do About the Abuse Crisis?

If one thing is clear, it is that now is the time to become a saint. That’s what the Church needs. I pray that the Vatican and the bishops will do the hard work that must be done to protect the innocent and bring justice to victims. But we need St. Catherine of Sienas to rise up.
IV.  From Emily of Our Home, Mary’s Mantle
Silence IS NOT Always Golden…
Protect one-another. Pray for each other. Show love and kindness. And please, don’t leave our Faith. As imperfect as leadership may be. Let’s take our responsibility and no longer be complacent, but reticent and watchful.
V.  From Pray More Novenas:

Novena for the Abuse Crisis | Accountability, Transparency and Healing

This novena is meant to help us pray for the victims of these terrible acts and for the Church. We will pray that all the abuse stops and any priests and bishops involved will be held accountable.
VI.  From my post last week:
Sackcloth and Ashes
I know many of you are tired of hearing folks offering thoughts and prayers whenever there is anything bad happening in the world.  I agree that when people who have the ability to act ONLY offer prayers, that’s an insult to God, who gave us brains and hands and blessings in order that we would cooperate with Him in bringing about good in the world.  But that doesn’t mean prayers are useless!
VII.  From Anni of A Beautiful, Camouflaged, Mess of a Life:
25 Ideas for Non-Traditional Fasting
Yesterday, the Pope called for the faithful to a period of fasting and prayer. The Catholic bloggers and artisans were already planning to kick off #sackclothandashes. . .  But, I am nursing a little guy . . . So, I had to get a little creative. These are all things I have done to “fast”. . . The purpose behind fasting for faith (not medical purposes) is to be intentional! Offer up your desires and will to God. . .
VIII.  From Laura of A Drop in the Ocean:A Litany for Our Church in Crisis
If you’ve not prayed a litany before, it’s a style of prayer with a list of intentions and responses. The response for each group of intentions is given in italics after the first line and is repeated after each individual intention. It can be prayed individually, or in a group where one person reads the intention and other say the response. It is meant to be prayed slowly as we reflect on each specific intention.

Personal Reflections

I will close with some outcries from the hurting heart of a faithful Catholic, reflecting the devastation and betrayal we all feel, as well as some words of wisdom and comfort from a friend.
I . From Mary Pezzulo of Steel Magnificat:
Better the Millstone: On the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report
Our shepherds have failed us. They have sinned horrendously. They have sinned, and if they don’t repent they will burn in the pit of hell, and that will be nothing more than justice for them. And they did it over a thousand times.  I don’t know where to go from here.
and
Sanctissima: Meditations on a Dark Assumption Day
If things go on as they are– if no changes are made, if the bishops keep stammering their “sadness” and “concern” without repentance, without resigning and going away, if everything goes on as it is– where will I be next year? On Assumption Day, Anno Domini 2019, will any of us still believe in things invisible?
II.  From Jeffrey Salkin in Religion News Service:
An open letter to my Roman Catholic friends
As difficult as it is now, as betrayed and as befouled as you might now feel – I urge you to cling to the idea that your faith might yet be more powerful than the malfeasance of those whom you once might have trusted.  God stands above our humanly-created structures. God alone deserves your faith.
These represent only a fraction of what I’ve read.  They have brought pain, challenge, conviction, healing, confusion, doubt, and conviction to me.  I will continue to read and pray and I welcome your suggestions.
The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers, a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.   ~Hilaire Belloc
 

Sackcloth and Ashes: A Movement of Laypeople Praying for Our Church

In their streets they have girded themselves with sackcloth; On their housetops and in their squares.  Everyone is wailing, dissolved in tears. ~ Isaiah 15:13
If you are a Catholic who follows any Catholic pages on Facebook, I’m guessing you have seen this graphic, because it is everywhere right now.
sackcloth 6
Spearheaded by Kendra and Bonnie, it started as a way for Catholics with a platform to DO SOMETHING about the current scandal in our Church.  Here’s the pledge:
sackcloth 1
Now, when I first saw friends talking about the campaign on Facebook,  I had a knee jerk reaction that went like this:  Why should I pray and sacrifice?  I haven’t done anything wrong! This is just like the laity being forced to take all those safe environment classes when we weren’t the ones who molested anyone.  
I’m far from being the only person who felt that way.  Eventually I decided to join in for a few reasons.

  • I know many of you are tired of hearing folks offering thoughts and prayers whenever there is anything bad happening in the world.  I agree that when people who have the ability to act ONLY offer prayers, that’s an insult to God, who gave us brains and hands and blessings in order that we would cooperate with Him in bringing about good in the world.  But that doesn’t mean prayers are useless!
  • I AM acting–to the best of my limited ability–in using my platform to write about the scandal, but as a Catholic layperson in an institution run by a hierarchy, my powers are limited.  THIS I can do!
  • I felt called to do something, and I feel like this is a moment when the efforts of the laity are definitely called for.

And it also helped when I got a better understanding of what it means to pray in reparation, which you can read about right here:
sackcloth 7
And then Pope Francis even suggested we should be doing this!  That’s quite the endorsement!
So for the next 40 days, starting today, I’ll be praying more and making small sacrifices each day.  If you’d like to join in, here’s a good prayer you could say first thing every morning:
sackcloth 2
Or you could say this beautiful Litany for the Church in Crisis–there’s a printable available and I am keeping mine on my desk.
You can also use your rosary to say a Chaplet of Reparation:
sackcloth 5
If you want to make a sacrifice you should know that it doesn’t have to mean giving up food.  Anni has some great suggestions here.
And you could share this post, or the images from it, to let more people know, because the more of us who are praying the better.
In their streets they have girded themselves with sackcloth; On their housetops and in their squares. Everyone is wailing, dissolved in tears. _ Isaiah 15_13
 

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