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You swore to yourself a long time ago
There were some things that people never needed to know . . .

And you can’t talk about it
Because you’re following a code of silence . . .

That’s not the kind of code you’re inclined to break
Some things unknown are best left alone forever . . .

You’re never gonna to lose the anger
You just deal with it a different way

But you can’t talk about it
And isn’t that a kind of madness
To be living by a code of silence
When you’ve really got a lot to say?

Excerpt from Code of Silence by Billy Joel

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Father Frank Richards was the principal of Knoxville Catholic High School when I was a student there.  He was a big bear of a man, soft-spoken with a kindly smile.  My Senior year, he presided over the special outdoor Mass at our retreat, the one where we all held hands.  He presented me with a plaque and congratulated me after I made the valedictory address at Graduation.  He also raped three boys.

Of course, none of us knew that then.  Nor did we know it the next year, or the year after that.  I learned the sordid truth from an article in the local paper over fifteen years later, about the time that I and everyone else in our Diocese learned that our beloved former Bishop was also guilty of decades-old sexual abuse, after one of his victims decided to go public despite having been paid over $100,000 by the Church for his silence.

Catholics seem to operate with the understanding that silence is golden when it comes to anything at all that could bring bad publicity upon the Church.  This attitude extends to more than cases of priestly sexual abuse.  I’ve continued to encounter this attitude throughout the Catholic education of my older children.  On several occasions, teachers left abruptly under mysterious circumstances and neither parents nor children were given any information or explanation, but were rather left to sort through the rumors or, in one particular egregious case, read all about it in the local paper.  The thought process seemed to be that if we didn’t talk about it at all, maybe it would go away.

As for Father Richards, they simply expunged him–the video put out to celebrate the school’s 75th anniversary just leaves him out of the list of KCHS principals, skipping right over the 1981- 1985 school years without comment.   Bishop O’Connell, having founded our diocese, couldn’t be forgotten so easily, but they took his name off a building.  And everyone tried to forget.

And why not, right? After all, we’d suffered so much embarrassment over the abuse scandal.  Some had even left the Church over it! Protestants were saying bad things about Catholics and looking suspiciously at every priest, even though we all knew that priests are no more likely to abuse children than anyone else.  We instituted Diocesan policies and took our Virtus classes so that we could continue our volunteer work and put up signs forbidding children to use the church bathrooms alone.  Why couldn’t everyone just move on?

Many of us really did think we could put this all behind us.  We didn’t know that more revolting revelations were forthcoming.

But many people did know.  The priests who had committed abuse and continued in ministry.  The people who had reported being abused by priests and bishops.  And Bishops who ignored victims, or didn’t believe them, or paid for their silence, and moved abusers from place to place–in some cases watching them advance in stature and responsibility–instead of removing them from the priesthood or reporting their crimes to authorities.  They knew, and they chose to remain quiet, one presumes from a misguided belief that their silence would avoid scandal.

In our Catechism we learn that scandal is “an attitude of behavior which leads another to do evil . . . [it] takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized . . . [it] is grave when given by those who by nature of office are obliged to teach and educate others” [CCC 2284-2285].

Our Bishops have failed dismally in their obligation to teach, educate, lead, protect, and shepherd the faithful.  My faith in the Church is unshaken, but my faith in its hierarchy is at an all-time low, and I am not alone.  The faithful laity will no longer be satisfied with apologies and committees.  We must demand change–accountability, penance, resignations, and complete transparency.

Bishops, the silence IS the scandal! It’s time to shed some light.

Silence IS

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Sometimes I think back to when I first started this blog–eight years ago, if you can believe it!  I didn’t have a clue.  I didn’t know how to get people to read it.  I didn’t know anything about branding.  I had never heard of SEO.  I didn’t make pinnable images.  I didn’t have a Facebook Page.

If you aren’t a blogger, you may not even understand the first paragraph.  If you are, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Like it or not, if you want people to read what you write, all that stuff matters.  And it’s hard work, and takes time that you could be devoting to writing, and sometimes it just sucks the soul right out of you, to be honest.

I like writing guest posts, and participating in blog hops.  I like writing reviews and getting free things. I love what I am learning about branding and want my blog to be what it needs to be in order to open the door to future opportunities for me.

BUT . . . I also just love writing, telling stories, ranting about whatever, letting y’all know what I am doing and what I think about things.  I don’t like it when my stories don’t get told because I don’t have the time to edit pictures and create a featured image.

So this summer I am going to conduct a little experiment in less is more.  Yes, I am still going to do all that blogger stuff I mentioned above.  But not all the time.  Sometimes I am going to do what I am doing right now, just sharing thoughts and feelings with y’all the way I used to.  I hope that you will read and share even without all the bells and whistles, but even if you don’t, I will be WRITING instead of mostly not writing.  This will be my own little summer adventure!

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I was eight years old, curled up on the naugahyde sofa in my grandmother’s basement, when I found my great-grandmother’s copy of Gone with the Wind, the commemorative movie edition.   I read it literally to pieces and I can recite the entire first paragraph by heart.

gone with the wind cover

In grade school I was taught that the Civil War, to my surprise at the time, was NOT inspired primarily by the desire to continue to enslave African-Americans, but by an argument over States’ Rights.

My great-great-great-grandfather was a Confederate brigadier general, and I was raised on family legends of his valor.

Col. James Hagan

My ggggrandfather Confederate General James D. Hagan, who was born in Ireland.

Up until my house burned down, I owned a small Confederate battle flag, which at one time I displayed along with the flags of the United States, Scotland, and Ireland, a small tribute to my ethnic heritage as I understood it at the time.

This is where I come from.  I am proud to be a Southerner.  In my blog bio, I describe myself first of all as “Catholic and Southern.”  That’s at the core of who I am.

Like many Southerners, particularly those with ancestors who served in the Confederate army, I feel an attachment to statues like the one in Charlottesville.  But the character of those who rallied on Saturday in protest prove that its removal is necessary.  This confederacy of dunces would have been denounced by General Lee, who was not even in favor of secession, and by James Hagan, who was repatriated and worked for the U.S. government for the fifteen years prior to his death.

Emily on the General's Grave

My oldest child, Emily, at the grave of her great-great-great-great-grandfather, General James D. Hagan

 

As his descendant, I disavow and repudiate the Unite the Right protesters and anyone who shares their hateful beliefs in the strongest of terms, and I call upon all descendants of Confederate soldiers to join me in condemning them.  They don’t represent the South and we don’t need these modern-day Carpetbaggers to tell us how best to preserve our heritage.

We do no honor to the memory of the Confederate dead by supporting disgusting displays of racism.  I do not judge my ancestors as harshly as some might– they were the product of a different time.  But that time is long past.  If you feel that Robert E. Lee deserves to be honored and remembered for valiantly fighting for what he believed in–his home state of Virginia–then do what he asked after the fighting ended: “Remember, we are all one country now. Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring [your children] up to be Americans.

 

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On November 2, 2016 I joined Pantsuit Nation, an online community of Hillary supporters.  The group, now almost four million strong, comprised people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, united by our support of Hillary and fear of a Trump presidency.

I posted an introduction after joining, which you can read here.  And I was overwhelmed and overjoyed by the welcome I received.  Over 3,600 people liked my post, and there were 412 comments.  Many people asked for permission to share what I had said elsewhere.  I was showered with love and affirmation, not only from fellow pro-life Catholics but from people of every imaginable ideological stripe, including many, many pro-choice women.  After a year of feeling adrift and alone, it was a heady sensation.

Too bad it didn’t last.

It turned out that without Hillary to hold us together this great movement of women is breaking down along tired and predictable lines, and those of us who are both pro-life and progressive are left out in the cold once more.  The New Wave Feminists, erstwhile official partners of the upcoming Women’s March on Washington, are now officially NOT.  Pantsuit Nation now overflows with post after post of women sharing their positive experience with abortion.

I felt this backlash coming and it’s one reason I’ve mostly only lurked on the pages of the state and local offshoots of Pantsuit Nation.  I’m so tired of being marginalized for one reason or another.  I am sick at heart over the notion that there is only one kind of feminist–our pro-life feminist foremothers be damned!–that the right to unlimited abortion apparently trumps all and that some of us are not woman enough to participate in a Women’s March!  As I posted on Facebook, “It’s like you are not an actual woman if you are not pro-choice.”

Rebecca Bratton Weiss makes an excellent case for why the feminist movement needs to embrace pro-life feminists.  This resonated with me especially:  “We have risked personal and professional relationships in our staunch opposition to Donald Trump, our refusal to accept him as representative of anything remotely pro-life. I personally lost a business associate when I spoke out against his boasts of sexual assault, and the latent misogyny in those who dismissed this as ‘locker room talk.’ I’ve been spied on and screen-shotted by right-wingers who seem more interested in controlling women than in saving lives.

I, too, was attacked for my constant opposition to Donald Trump.  As I wrote days before the election:  “Already today I’ve received tweets hashtagged hypocrite, babykiller, and cafeteriaCatholic.  It’s just another day in an election season during which I’ve been unfriended by an actual family member, deemed excommunicated by the friend of a friend, and attacked in a public Facebook post by someone I thought was a friend, all because I shared political articles that they didn’t agree with.

Alice Paul, author of the original Equal Rights Amendment, said that abortion is “the ultimate exploitation of women.”  For pro-life feminists who risked a lot to vote for and publicly support Hillary, it’s adding insult to injury to not only end up with Trump as President but also to be sidelined by those who should accept us as allies.

Note:  I am happy to report that the Knoxville Women’s March has chosen not to officially adopt the national march’s platform and is aiming for an event that is unifying and non-partisan.

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Dear Facebook Friends:

Next time you are tempted to gleefully post about how happy you are to see ObamaCare repealed, I want you to think about the people whose lives are going to be affected dramatically when that happens.  I want you to think about people who are terrified of losing their coverage, who went years uninsured,  who saw doctors only when in dire need, who went bankrupt due to medical bills, who visited the emergency room for care because they didn’t have the money a clinic would have demanded up front, who spent hours researching online and filling out forms and chasing down doctors for signatures to get prescription medication payment assistance, who figured out which of their medications they could forgo in a given month, who held their breath in the pharmacy drive-through line while they waited to hear the terrible total.

You are entitled to your opinion and the ACA isn’t perfect, but it’s sure better than the nothing many people had before it was passed.  You can suggest changes and discuss drawbacks and talk policy without appearing to be enthusiastic about the fact that millions of Americans stand to lose their care and that some of them are going to die.

Consider, please, how it makes me (and others) feel when I see people who are supposed to be my friends celebrating the fact that my family may soon be without health insurance and thus effectively without care.  In my posts on this topic in the past I have always been careful to affirm my friends who told me that the implementation of the ACA had caused them difficulties like higher premiums and changes in doctors.  I was always sympathetic and willing to concede the imperfections in the ACA, as evidenced by my many honest posts  (which I will link at the end).  I agreed that improvement–although not repeal–was needed.

Remember that there are suffering people who see your Facebook posts, people who are frightened, for whom this isn’t about politics or partisanship or finances but about staying alive.  Remember that, and if you care about those people, watch the tone of your posts.

Your friend,

A Once and Possibly Future Uninsured American

My previous posts on ObamaCare:

The $64,000 Question, Answered

Who Are the Uninsured?

Uninsured No More

ObamaCare Update

ObamaCare Update 2

ObamaCare:  My Latest Update

ObamaCare Revisited

More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by Obamacare

It’s Good to Be Insured: An ObamaCare Update

Obamacare in Practice:  An Update

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I didn’t write anything about how awful people were when the little boy fell into the gorilla enclosure.  I didn’t say anything about how quick people were to judge the poor parents whose child was killed by the alligator.  What finally put me over the edge were the comments on an article about the most recent instance of a baby dying in a hot car, left there by her father due, as usual, to a change in the family routine.

It was an accident, terrible and tragic.  Witnesses saw the father sobbing in the driveway.  His child is dead.  Nothing can change that.  And although it WAS an accident, he will forever believe it was his fault.  He will never stop going over that day in his mind, imagining what he might have done differently and wishing that he could have a second chance.

And yet the comments on this article were vicious.  Inhumane.  Merciless.  People wrote that he should be locked up forever–or in a hot car for a few hours.  They accused him of lying, said he did it on purpose, called him a terrible father.  How could he, they asked.  I would NEVER forget MY kid, they said.

The same hate that has polarized the country over issues like gun control and presidential politics has seeped into every area of public discussion.  We are all firmly entrenched in our little self-righteous camps, unwilling to listen to one another or to extend any benefit of the doubt or God forbid any mercy to ANYONE.

Loudly judging other parents arises from fear.  It’s our way of saying that we are not like THOSE parents and that something like that could never happen to OUR kids.  It’s a way of asserting control but it’s just an illusion because no one can control everything.

Chances are your kid won’t fall into a gorilla pit or be eaten by an alligator.  But let me tell you, at some point a Bad Thing will happen to your child.  Maybe he will break a bone, or be in a bad car accident, or flunk out of school, or use drugs, or shoplift, or get caught drinking underage.  Maybe she will wander away from you in the mall and get lost, or turn into a Mean Girl, or develop an eating disorder, or experience an unplanned pregnancy.  And if people find out they will talk about how you weren’t protective enough, how you weren’t paying attention, how you didn’t raise that kid right, how there must be something wrong with you, how that would never happen to THEIR kid.

And you will probably be telling yourself some of those same things.

Let’s cut each other some slack, shall we?  Let’s accept that we are human and make mistakes, some of them with tragic consequences.  Let’s concentrate on what we really CAN control–loving our kids and offering mercy to those who need it.

Blesssed are the Merciful- Showing Mercy to Parents Who Need It

 

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TOO MUCH STUFF

Americans have a lot of stuff.  Let’s take a look at some of these statistics excerpted from Joshua Becker’s article in his blog, Becoming Minimalist, shall we?

  • There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

I have no intention of counting, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  We used to have a really cool book that showed people from various countries standing outside their homes with all their earthly goods.  The contrast between Americans and just about everyone else was staggering.

  • The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).

Remember The Brady Bunch? Three boys in one room, three girls in the other?  That wouldn’t cut it nowadays.  The house we are currently renting has an astonishing eight bedrooms (one is used as an office).  They are not big rooms, but everyone has his or her own.

  • And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).

That would be us, despite the aforementioned large home, but ours is just for the old office files.  Isn’t it bizarre, though, that we as a country own so much stuff that we pay extra rent to house things we don’t use?  Does this make financial sense?

  • 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).

Us again.  Besides the usual garage stuff, ours has more office files, and a lot of furniture we are hoping to offload to our big kids as they move out.  And did you know that with houses of a certain size, it’s hard to sell them unless they have a THREE-car garage?

  • 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).

As my regular readers will recall, in 2011 our house burned down, leaving our kids with very few toys.  I am astonished at how quickly that changed.

  • The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).

I’m pretty sure I am below average here, but only because after all my clothes burned up I consciously decided to only buy what I absolutely needed and to ruthlessly purge things as soon as they did not fit or were not being worn.

That’s actually better than I would have predicted.

  • But our homes have more television sets than people. And those television sets are turned on for more than a third of the day—eight hours, 14 minutes (USA Today).

We currently have three working televisions for five people in residence.  And they are not turned as long as that, but we won’t discuss the computers.

  • Currently, the 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe account for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent (Worldwatch Institute).

That’s just sick, y’all.

  • Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they do not need (The Wall Street Journal).

In the years since I lost everything, I have resisted cluttering my life and my home up with more stuff.  The rest of my family has not resisted.  Despite regular trips to Goodwill, our house is still overflowing with unnecessary and redundant items.  You would think the stuff breeds secretly after we are all asleep.

Today I saw this book, which I have been hearing a lot about:

I’m wondering if this would help me get a handle on the situation around here.  As I type, Lorelei is making (while whining about it) multiple trips upstairs carrying junk of all description which she has left where it does not belong.  The irony? She is cleaning up to prepare for her birthday party, at which she will be receiving MORE STUFF.

nablopomo

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