Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Life's Companion: A Reflection on 10 Years of Marriage

An immersive six-month course on all things marriage-household-and-family led by Christopher West himself could not have prepared us for the past 10 years.

It has been nuts.

Five homes. Five kids. Five cars (nursed through various stages of decline and death, always unexpectedly).

One giant faux leather sectional that has only fit properly in one of those five homes but that we refuse to part with because it is like a child to us.

Two dogs, one cat, an outdoor opossum, and two off-site hermit crabs.

Ten thousand family photos in which every person is smiling except one.

One year of life that we can't even remember -- just empty files in our brains. (It's probably a coincidence that it's the same year the twins were born.)

So many jobs -- I stopped counting at eleven.

One kidney stone, five ER trips, one adenoidectomy, one tonsillectomy, three myringotomies, one tympanoplasty, one laser eye surgery, one craniosynostosis repair, one kid with braces, two kids with asthma, and to date, zero stitches. KNOCK. ON. WOOD.

One pocket door installation that nearly destroyed our marriage -- but didn't -- and now makes us think we're DIY-invincible.

Four parishes, all of which were in the middle of new building fundraising campaigns.

Miraculously, one set of dishware that will apparently be with us until the end of time. 

What a life. What a life's companion. 

Excerpt from "The Jeweler's Shop"
By Karol Wojtyla 

We were just walking on the right side of the market square
when Andrew turned around and said,
”Do you want to be my life’s companion?”

That’s what he said.
He didn’t say: do you want to be my wife, but: my life’s companion. 

What he intended to say must have been thought over.
He said it looking ahead, as if afraid to read in my eyes,
and at the same time as if to signify that
in front of us was a road whose end could not be seen --
there was, or at least, could be, if I replied “Yes” to his question.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Why I Spoke With A Reporter About The Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal

Several weeks ago, an investigative journalist reached out to a friend and me about our involvement with a protest and prayer vigil led by local laity. He noted that journalists always interview the victims, they try to interview the bishops, and usually, we hear the voices of disillusioned Catholics who will never go back. But no one talks to the Catholics who choose to stay.

As a faithful Catholic who continues to tithe and stay involved with our local parish, who still wants her sons to be altar servers and priests, who still believes there is beauty and truth and salvation in the Church, but who's also mad as hell that sexual abuse is happening and still being covered up with payouts and bureaucracy in the hierarchy, I feel somewhat isolated. 

On the one side are those who have left the Church, suggesting that staying enables the abuse: our tithes are funding lawyers and payouts, our presence provides a flock to abuse. 

On the other side are fellow faithful Catholics with insistent whispers to just be quiet and let the pope and bishops take care of it. These admonishments often come in the form of, "Our most important job right now is to pray," with the implication that anything more makes the Church look bad, is unbecoming of laity, and undermines God-given spiritual authority.

I believe there's a place for faithful Catholics to stand up and say, "Enough." We love our Church. We love our good and holy priests. Here, we find Jesus, the source and summit of our faith, and we will not leave. But we also won't stand for those gifted with authority in our Church to abuse it. 

(The reporting team assured us that post-production would take only the best of our words, magic away the awkwardness that's revealed any time I hold a mic, and remove every physical imperfection. My hope is that our love for the Church and honesty about the current crisis are both communicated clearly. We'll find out sometime next week.)

Do the bishops have it covered? Are they capable of establishing an effective system of oversight for themselves? 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] is meeting next week. They're slated to talk about the clerical sex abuse scandal, among other issues, on day two of three.

Bishop Christopher Coyne, the USCCB Chairman of Communications, doesn't even seem to recognize there's a legitimate, present-day problem:

"Many people still believe that the abuse of children and the cover-up by church authorities is an ongoing issue and that the bishops haven't done enough to address the issue. That's contrary to the evidence in contrast to the number of reported abuses since 2002. We have to continually say the charter is working and doing its job."

I can't deny sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in America has greatly decreased since the Dallas Charter went into effect in 2002. Any layperson who's been subject to a full background check and mandatory sexual abuse training with biennial refresher courses just so they can hold the door open before Mass can attest to increased oversight of laity as a result of the Charter. We're all more aware. We're all watching. And as mandatory reporters, we're all ready to report. 

However, if the Dallas Charter were fully effective to address sexual abuse in our Church, why are priests who were credibly accused of abuse still shifted around their diocese in active ministry? Why are civil authorities saying they did not receive reports of sexual abuse while the diocese claims they were filed? Why were seminarians sexually harassed and abused by a bishop for decades with no reports and no consequences, except the bishop getting promoted to cardinal

As the bishops meet to address sexual abuse once again, it seems a valid critique to recognize that the men who wrote the Dallas Charter 15 years ago -- the same men who intentionally wrote themselves out of its oversight and accountability -- are claiming they can get it right this time around. 

I know, I know, I KNOW that we have good and holy bishops in the USCCB. 

But asking a community of people, among whom are potentially guilty abusers, to write their own protocols for oversight is just bad practice.

Many bishops have attempted to placate the public outcry with promises to release the names of credibly-accused clergy. Bishops releasing self-compiled lists of credibly accused clergy only perpetuate the sexual abuse cover-up, yet this time, under the guise of transparency. 

It took a courageous whistleblower in the Diocese of Buffalo to uncover the problem: where do bishops draw the line for who's on their list and who isn't? In Buffalo, there are communication documents that prove the line wasn't drawn at whether abuse allegations were credible; it was drawn at whether the diocese had done anything about the abuse. Priests with credible accusations against them -- who were still in active ministry -- were left off the list.

So even in their Pre-General-Assembly good faith gesture, our bishops prove their inability to self-police. 

This is not innately a church problem, a religious problem, a male problem, or a 21st Century problem. This is human nature. It's why corporations and non-profits have boards of directors. However, this problem is exacerbated through secrecy and enabled by spiritual abuse and clericalism

I'm not an expert in theology, canon law, civil law, ecclesial management, or sexual abuse. But I'm a baptized Catholic, and that's enough. (St. Catherine of Siena -- a doctor of the Church, renowned for calling out the pope with scathing letters to quit being a political puppet -- dictated her letters until she learned to write at age 30.) 

Lay Catholics have always inspired change in the Church. I'm not exactly sure what change is needed today, but others are offering suggestions for consideration, which is at least a starting point. 

I spoke to a reporter because I agree that the world needs to hear the voices of faithful lay Catholics: we love our Church, we see what's happening, we're angry, we will clean house, we will speak out and take action toward true and lasting change.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Is Feminism To Blame When Men Fall Short?

At some point, in between our first spoken word and first professional email, woman’s language becomes spattered with cushions of irrelevant apology

This phenomenon is distracting enough that Chrome designed a plug-in – specifically with women in mind – to help us eliminate the non sequitur verbal clutter of conditional language (and punctuation!! And emoticons :-O).

Why might women experience pressure to constantly and unnecessarily apologize for fault that isn’t theirs? Let’s review some recent issues that reflect an extensive cultural problem.


On sexual assault, consider the unfortunately popular idea that the root problem of rape culture is drunk women:

Adopting this perspective, if a girl is exhausted because she pulled an all-nighter to study, would she carry partial blame for the rape committed against her? After all, we don’t have full control of our senses when fatigued and studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause impairments equivalent to those caused by intoxication from alcohol. Why was she around men when she was tired? What did she think would happen?

God forbid these men get married and have to be in bed next to a sleeping wife. A passed-out woman, right there -- in her pajamas no less! It’s like she’s asking to be raped.

(When I’m really tired, my husband doesn’t have sex with me because he knows it wouldn’t be consensual. He also recognizes that it wouldn’t be mutually enjoyable, and he prioritizes my pleasure as equal to his own.)


If not women, then who is to blame when men act out the worst version of themselves? 

We have two parties at fault: 1) individual men who make individual choices, and 2) a toxic culture that grants them permission to behave poorly if they aren’t treated with deference by a fearful, dependent, and insecure member of the opposite sex.

Due to society's implicit bias to blame women when men act out, this reporter headlined an article on domestic abuse and murder with, “If she had just been a good wife despite his domestic abuse, this man would not have killed his own innocent children.” 

Consider a more accurate headline: “Abusive Man with History of Anger and Control Issues Kills 5 Children.”


A brave, business-savvy, unmarried woman is no more a threat to true masculinity than a fearful, uneducated, emotionally-needy woman is an affirmation of it, because the one (virtuous manhood) does not depend on the other (deferential women).

Going a step further: a confident, competent, married woman who chooses to view her husband as protector, provider, and lover -- incidentally, this describes me -- is neither the source of his manhood, nor the responsible party for his personal choices in exercising virtue or vice.


Please read the rest -- blaming women for men's violence, unaddressed social issues, poor character development, inability to be godly, delayed adolescence, aversion to marriage, and avoidance of children (and pondering which other factors might be more likely to blame) -- over at FemCatholic!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

5 Reasons A Pro-Life Catholic Might Vote For A Pro-Choice Candidate

We're conditioned to view our faith through an incredibly polarized political lens in America. Yet even on issues of gravest matter, such as abortion, neither Democrats nor Republicans fully embrace our values. 

For many years, I believed (on threat of eternal damnation) that Catholics were morally obligated to vote only for candidates who claimed pro-life platforms.

This assumption is not actually Church teaching. (Further discussion on this under #5 below.)

The intent of this post is not to argue the morality of abortion or any related pre-born-human issues, nor is it to cast stones at those who are navigating these sensitive and deeply personal situations. There are other sources available for that discussion.

Five reasons that a pro-life* Catholic might, in good conscience, vote for a pro-choice candidate:

1. Neither major political party in America is anti-abortion. Both major political parties in America are pro-choice.

Jesus tells the parable of a man with two sons. He asks both sons to work in the vineyard. The first son says, "No," but then does the work anyway. The second son says, "Yes," but does not do the work.

If a father cannot take at face value the stated positions of his sons, how much more, as voting Catholics in secular politics -- as sheep among wolves, encouraged by Christ to be both wise as serpents and gentle as doves -- can we not take at face value the words of each party?

Yes, the Democratic Party is clearly pro-choice. But the Republican party -- despite claiming to be pro-life -- is conclusively pro-choice as well.

There is a very profitable, large-scale abortion provider in the United States (not Planned Parenthood) that is almost completely self-regulated and enjoys unlimited bipartisan support.

As pro-life voters, we need to recognize that the destruction of pre-born human life does not occur solely in women’s health clinics for the poor. It also occurs increasingly and extensively in fertility clinics for the wealthy.

The process of in vitro fertilization [IVF] creates 15-20 embryos in each process, of which only 1-2 are implanted. The rest (~86% of created embryos) are disposed of as medical "waste," indefinitely frozen in storage, or donated to science.

While the abortion rate in women’s clinics has declined steadily over the years, the CDC estimates, as of 2015, nearly 1 in 50 children are born through assisted reproductive technology. As of 2014, Texas had 28 clinics that offer abortion. Texas currently has 78 fertility clinics.

And yet, Ted Cruz described abortions as "crimes against humanity" when done at women’s health clinics while assuring voters in 2016 that he’s "not interested in anything that restricts in vitro fertilization."

Perhaps, we could argue, IVF is different because people are only killing unborn babies with the intent to create life. 

Perhaps, we could argue, IVF is different because people are so intent on creating life that they don’t even mind killing unborn babies.

What does it matter, some ask, since Democrats are also completely ignoring the dignity of human life lost by IVF?

This is the crux of it: despite claiming a "pro-life" platform, Republicans are clearly pro-choice. The ending of pre-born human life -- even on a large scale for unregulated, very profitable clinics that give their medical "waste" of living embryos to scientific research, as occurs in IVF -- is acceptable.

Our decision, as pro-life voters, is no longer between a pro-life party and a pro-choice party. No matter what their platforms declare, both Democrats and Republicans are demonstrably pro-choice.

2. With two pro-choice parties, our only attainable goal as pro-life voters is to decrease abortion, not to end abortion.

To be clear, our mission includes working toward a world in which a human at every stage of life, even and especially prior to birth, receives the right to life. However, given that both major political parties support abortion (whether admittedly or not), our votes cannot accomplish an abortion ban.

Therefore, the goal of pro-life voting is to discern how best to decrease abortion. In this, people of good faith can disagree about best approaches.

3. Historically, Republican politicians at the national level do not have a strong anti-abortion legacy, personally or legislatively.

Many Republican candidates claim to be "pro-life," but they'll fund an abortion to hide an affair or support and use IVF. They stumble through talking points at debates and then avoid the topic at all costs.

Both Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) -- landmark cases that supported abortion as a right -- were decided with a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. The plurality opinion in Casey, fundamental to upholding Roe, was actually crafted by three conservative Justices appointed by Republican presidents.

Despite having control of both houses of Congress from 1995 – 2001 and 2003 - 2007, Republican politicians did not address abortion. Despite having control of both houses plus the presidency from 2003 – 2007 and 2016 - 2018, Republican politicians did not address abortion.

Most recently, in 2018, there was legislation for a 20-week abortion ban. The House had already passed it. President Trump promised to sign it. All that had to happen for our country to have a 20-week abortion ban was for the Senate to approve this legislation.

President Trump -- a self-proclaimed "deal-making president" who identifies as pro-life -- didn’t make last-minute phone calls, cancel out-of-town trips, or invite influential Democrats to the White House for private meetings, as he’s previously done to pass controversial legislation (tax reform, for example -- which Republicans bent over backward to make happen).

No one attempted to dialogue with Democrats from red states that just might go for it (though three pro-life Democrats did vote for it). Did McConnell even make a phone call? Did Lindsay Graham put himself in front of cameras for an impassioned, epic rant about justice? Did Republicans stay late to work out needed details? Did this even come up in bipartisan conversation? No one hosted a press conference. No one held other controversial legislation ransom over it. No one revised the bill to gain signature votes. There were some virtue-signaling tweets, but not nearly the storm that Republicans are capable of creating over signature issues. It almost felt like Republican politicians didn't actually mind whether a national abortion ban passed.

Again, what does it matter if Republicans fail at passing legislation that decreases abortion in our country? At least they’re trying, which is more than we can say for Democrats. (Keep reading.)

4. There are more ways to decrease abortion in our country than the traditional Republican approach. 

Policies sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats can create deterrents and incentives against abortion, whether intentionally or unintentionally. 

Both pro-life Democrats and pro-life Republicans claim respective policy success in decreasing abortion. Ironically, both groups quote different statistical data to downplay the influence of the other’s policies on national downward trends in abortion rates.

Accordingly, there are two valid voting options for pro-life Catholics who want to decrease abortion:

1) voting for a Republican candidate whose policies will decrease abortion by increasing regulation (clinic ambulatory standards, mandatory ultrasound viewing, wait times, limiting doctors, etc.), or

2) voting for a Democratic candidate whose policies will decrease abortion by increasing family-friendly policies (accessible/affordable healthcare that includes maternity care, preventive care for the poor, parent-friendly workplace solutions, livable wages, disability services, fully-funded special education programs, etc.).

Whether or not it’s the stated goal of a candidate to decrease abortion is immaterial as to whether or not the policies they support successfully decrease abortion.

Pro-life political groups usually prefer the first approach, regulating abortion providers to decrease access and therefore, numbers.

Pro-life crisis pregnancy resource centers find success in the second approach. They work to meet the needs of those who feel abortion is their only choice -- connecting women with prenatal healthcare, government safety net programs, infant supplies, education, job stability, and community support. (Granted, this doesn’t necessarily align solely with a Democratic Party approach. It’s simply an example that pro-active empowerment policies over punitive regulation policies can be a valid pro-life approach.)

Conscientious citizens of any political identity would surely agree that we must weigh the effects of policies, not solely the intentions. 

5. Guidelines provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] give specific circumstances under which a faithful Catholic can vote for a pro-choice candidate.

As outlined in #1 above, self-proclaimed "anti-abortion" candidates -- even those most lauded by pro-life organizations -- are actually "pro-choice." 
As a result, prolife Catholics ultimately vote between pro-choice candidates, Democrat or Republican, regardless of their stated official platforms.

The only authoritative voting guide for Catholics is the USCCB’s document on Faithful Citizenship, despite many voting guides that claim to be Catholic, even from seemingly reputable Catholic sources.

Sections 34-37 of the USCCB document address abortion, among other intrinsically evil issues. This is official, non-partisan Church teaching:
"A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position… 
There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil." - USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

The USCCB document does not state that a Catholic is morally obligated to vote for a candidate who claims to be pro-life, even if this candidate is running against a pro-choice candidate.

The document does state: 

1) "Partisan preferences" are not an acceptable reason to vote for a candidate. (Just because someone hates the Republican Party, it’s not a justifiable reason to vote Democrat, and vice versa.)

2) A person can vote for a pro-choice candidate as long as the candidate's pro-choice position is not the reason for the vote, and if grave reasons exist. (Well-meaning Catholics often add further definition to "grave reasons" in an attempt to severely limit its application to anything short of voting for a psychotic terrorist; however, this phrase, "grave reasons," is intentionally left non-specific and subject to one’s own conscience and culpability. It is repeated -- and, again, left undefined -- in the final paragraph of this document by Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, regarding a Catholic’s worthiness to receive Communion based on voting habits.)

Section 36 of the "Faithful Citizenship" document is most relevant to today's American political landscape, since both parties are demonstrably pro-choice, despite stated platforms (see #1 above).

ection 36 clarifies how to vote when every candidate (regardless of stated platform) supports an intrinsic evil. 

"When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods."

The document does not state we must vote according to what an organization, candidate, or party claims will decrease an intrinsic evil (i.e. a candidate declaring their way is the only way -- whether by increased regulations or increased family-friendly policies -- to end abortion).

The document does state:

1) It’s okay not to vote, noting this is an extraordinary step. It’s preferable for Catholics to find a way to participate in the democratic process.

2) It is up to the voter to determine which candidate is "deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods."

To emphasize this point, in Section 37, the USCCB offers additional points to consider: 

  • Candidates' commitments (i.e. obligations to donors who funded their campaign, statements about future voting intentions), 
  • Candidates' character (behavior in private and public), 
  • Candidates' integrity (honesty in personal and political affairs) 
  • Candidates' ability to influence a given issue.
On that last point, does this candidate just repeatedly vote for unsuccessful legislation as a virtue signal to voters, or are they able to work within our flawed political system to advance legislation toward authentic human goods?
"These decisions should take into account a candidate's commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue. In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching."
In Conclusion

The manipulative interplay of politics and religion in our country brings me to this conclusion: Conscientious pro-life Catholics voting with the intent to decrease abortion are not limited to one political approach or one political party as a means to this end.

For too long Catholics have allowed secular big party politics to manipulate our spiritual values. How committed a person is to one political party or another has become a litmus test of our orthodoxy. The way forward is bipartisan.

My hope is that devout, pro-life Catholics can send a loud message to both parties: our votes are not a given for either party, and if any politician wants to represent us, they need to earn our votes with knowledge, competence, action, and consistency.

*For the purpose of this article, the term "pro-life" describes only the position of being "anti-abortion." It does not consider the "whole-life" or seamless garment reasons that a voter might support a pro-choice candidate. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

5 Ways Dads Can Help With Postpartum Depression

As with many things related to pregnancy and childbirth, dads often feel helpless when it comes to postpartum depression (PPD).

Dads, worry no more. The women of the FemCatholic Forum want to empower and equip you with practical tools to transform your concern into actionable support.

So, how can you help a partner struggling with PPD?

1. Acknowledge it.

Please don’t assume the mother of your child(ren) has it all together simply because everything seems fine and PPD hasn’t come up in conversation. Be aware. Ask her about it. If she brings up concerns about PPD, believe her. This is a common experience and topic of conversation among Catholic moms.

Understand that prenatal and postpartum depression are biological responses caused by dramatic hormonal changesin a woman’s body. Resist the temptation to try to solve the issue, “fix” her, or convince her that everything is okay if she tells you it isn’t.

It is vital to recognize that PPD is not a spiritual state that simply necessitates more prayer or better spiritual direction. The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations, Archbishop Jurkovich, addressed this concern at a meeting of the Human Rights Council in 2017: “Spiritual care should not be confused with, or mistaken by, so-called ‘faith healing’ to the exclusion of medical, psychological, and social assistance.” The Catholic Church supports a comprehensive approach – spiritual, medical, psychological, and social – when it comes to addressing mental health.

Read about four more concrete action items to help support a loved one with PPD at my contributor post on FemCatholic...

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Dear Laity

The clergy sex abuse crisis doesn't actually affect me or my family.

One of my kids received First Communion last year. Another's in line for it this year. We love our parish community. Our priest and council already have stringent standards in place for safety, transparency, and accountability. Honestly, we're fine.

Sure, there's corruption and in-fighting over at the Vatican. And yes, there's scandal up in Pennsylvania. There's even evidence that our archdiocese has mishandled clergy sexual abuse cases as recently as this summer.

But ultimately, my own little Catholic world is working A-OK, and it would be a reactionary waste of time and energy for me to get involved with what doesn't actually affect me.

Except, it does affect me. And it is affecting my children.

My older kids -- ages 7 and 8 -- have started to notice a change in our parish. They're confused by strange announcements before Mass, mentioning the need to talk to police officers, and vague homily references about sorrow and young victims. 

Even if I were to quiet their fears within our little domestic church while remaining silent to the Church at large, it would clash dissonantly against my vocation as a Catholic mother.

Saints have testified through centuries of cyclically rotten Church leadership that all laity -- empowered through baptism as priest, prophet, and king -- are called to sanctify, teach, and govern within our faith as sharers in the ministry of Christ.

It's tempting to cloister my family from the scandals of the Church and simply grasp for the Sacraments, only occasionally brushing the edge of her messy bureaucracy. But we have the ability, and the calling, to do so much more.

In scripture, laypeople Priscilla and Aquila interrupt Apollo's teaching to help him more fully teach the Gospel.

To St. Francis of Assisi, a poor layperson with no social or religious standing, the Lord pleaded for him to help reform the Church: "Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins."

Yes, we pray and fast and mourn in the quiet of our homes and local parishes. But we also speak truth and seek audience with those who can change the course of Church history.

St. Catherine of Siena admonished Pope Gregory XI in 1376 to quit being a French political puppet and return to Rome: "May ardor of charity be in you, in such wise as shall prevent you from hearing the voice of incarnate demons, and heeding the counsel of perverse counselors, settled in self-love, who, as I understand, want to alarm you, so as to prevent your return... I tell you that you have no need to fear."

When we act and speak in times of crisis, we are not working against the Church. We are working for her.

IApostolicam ActuositatemPope Paul VI encourages the laity in their God-given commission to "build up the Church, sanctify the world, and give it life in Christ."

Far from usurping the jobs of priests, bishops, and cardinals, our voices and actions in times of crisis are the very antidote to saving our Church.

As Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen appealed to the Knights of Columbus in 1972: "Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, and the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and your religious act like religious."

If you’re also a lay Catholic mother, wanting to help change the course of our Church, you’re in one of the most powerful positions possible. We hold the audience of our children. We form the hearts and habits of the next generation.

For this reason, I decided to include my kids in the current reckoning within our Church. (This is a loose transcript of the conversation I had with my older kids, ages 7 and 8, about the sexual abuse crisis.)

A couple weeks ago, we participated as a family in a peaceful protest against sexual abuse and cover-up in our archdiocese. The kids jostled over signs and snacks while representing the youth our Church has failed to protect. 

Our message of accountability spread quickly and easily among other laity gathered outside the Co-Cathedral, unaware of the protest scheduled for that day. I received many nods of agreement and quiet words of affirmation as we stood with our signs on the sidewalk. I thanked passing priests for their blessings of my kids.

I can't say the number of police officers who nodded in approval as they walked past. One officer even stopped his patrol car, called out to us, and waved with appreciation and encouragement.

Many commuters, stuck in downtown rush hour traffic past the Co-Cathedral, silently read our signs, which expressed both love and concern for our Church. What an important message for us to share with non-Catholics: we're not naively putting our heads in the sand, denying there's a problem, and carrying on as usual.

Our kids are young, but they’re learning that as baptized Catholics, their voices are important in our Church. They have a right and a duty to speak truth, both in our Church and in the world at large.

Dear laity, dear friends, let's not remain silent in this dark hour of our Church. This is not a crisis our bishops can navigate alone. Their spiritual isolation is what allowed this deep-seated scandal to go unaddressed for so long.

It’s not hypocrisy for those of us also struggling in our various personal sins to call out the egregious sin of our leaders. We’re not virtue signaling when we voice concern. We’re not stepping out of line when we participate in an event organized by laity. We’re not wasting time and energy when we repeatedly remind our bishops and cardinals – in love and respect – that anything short of a complete overhaul of current policies on transparency and accountability is not enough.

When we pray, speak, act, and advocate in unity with others, in response to a very real crisis in the Catholic hierarchy, we are living out our God-given commission as laity in care for our beloved Church.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

How I Talked To My Kids About The Catholic Sex Abuse Crisis

Below is a conversation I had with my boys about the sexual abuse scandal in our Catholic Church. It’s not perfect, but it’s a starting point. Please feel free to offer your own suggestions or experiences in talking with kids about this difficult issue.

Mom: “Hey, guys. Come sit with me. I want to talk about something pretty serious.”

The kids, excited to stay up past bedtime, snuggled in close.

Mom: “You know how Father Philip said he was really sad during Mass last week?”

Josh (age 7): “Yeah. He looked really sad.”

Mom: “Do you know why he’s sad?"

Joe (age 8): “No. I didn’t get what he was talking about.”

Mom: “Well, he's sad because some priests weren't doing their jobs, and they hurt people. Do you know what the job of a priest is?”

Josh: “To do Mass!”

Joe: “To give us the sacraments.”

Mom: “Yeah, that’s right. Do you guys remember what Jesus asked Peter to do when they were walking on the beach together after Jesus was crucified and came back to life?” 

Josh: “Ummmmm…” 

Joe: “Something about sheep?”

Mom: “Yeah -- Jesus asked Peter to feed and care for his sheep. And who are the sheep?”

Josh: “WE ARE!”

Mom: “Yep. That’s right, Josh. Everyone is a sheep. And whose job is it to take care of the sheep?"

Josh: "The shepherd!"

Mom: "That's right. It’s the job of the shepherd to take care of the sheep. Well, Father Philip and a lot of us are really sad because we’ve learned that there are some priests who weren't doing their job. They were hurting people instead of taking care of them.”

Joe: “How were they hurting them?”

Mom: “You know how everyone has private parts, and we want to protect everyone's privacy, so we don’t talk about or look at or touch other people’s private parts?”

Joe (hesitantly): “Yes.”

Mom: “Well, there were some priests who didn’t do that. They hurt people instead of helping them.”

Josh: “That’s weird.”

Mom: “Yeah, it’s not right at all. You know how Daddy and I want you to trust your ‘uh-oh’ feeling? Do you remember what that is?”

Joe: “Yeah. If something doesn’t feel right or someone makes me feel scared or weird, I get away.”

Mom: “And then what can you do?”

Josh: “We come and tell you.”

Mom: “Yeah, Daddy and I want you to come and tell us, so we can make sure you're safe and make sure other kids are safe too. That's our job!" 

Josh: "Yeah, that's your job!" 

Mom: "Do you guys know whose job it is to make sure priests do their job?"

Joe: "The bishop!" 

Mom: "That's right. If a priest hurts someone, it's the bishop's job to make them stop. But a lot of bishops didn't do that." 

Josh: "So whose job is it to make sure bishops do their job?" 

Mom: "Joe, do you know?" 

Joe: "The pope?"

Mom: "Yes, the pope. And he didn't do very much to help either, so that makes us even more sad. Whose job is it to make sure that priests and bishops and the pope do their jobs?"

Josh: "God?"

Mom: "Yes, it's definitely God's job to help everyone do their jobs! But I'm thinking of someone else. Whose job is it to make sure priests and bishops and the pope do their job?" 

Joe: "The president?"

Mom: "No... it's OUR job!"

Josh: "What? No way!"

Mom: "Yes way! All the regular people in the Church are called 'laity,' and we have a very special, important job. We speak the Truth that God gives us, we connect people with Jesus, and we are leaders by example." 

Josh: "That's a lot." 

Mom: "It is a lot. But God gives us a special helper. Who does God give us to help us?"

Joe: "The Holy Spirit." 

Mom: "That's right, Joe. And that's why we're so sad. The Holy Spirit helps us to do our job. And the Holy Spirit is helping us to see how some priests and bishops have hurt people. So now, what do we do since we know people are hurt?"

Josh: "Tell somebody!" 

Mom: "Yep. Because what happens if we don't tell somebody?"

Josh: "They keep getting hurt." 

Mom: "Yeah. Can I tell you what St. Catherine of Siena said happens when we don't say something?" 

Joe: "Yeah." 

Mom: "She said, 'I see the world is rotten because of silence.' What does it mean that the world is rotten?" 

Josh: "Like, people are getting hurt and bad things are happening." 

Mom: "Yeah, that's exactly what it means, and that's what's happening in our Church because people chose to be silent instead of doing their jobs. So what should we do so that we're not silent about people getting hurt?"

Joe: "Tell someone?" 

Mom: "Yeah, we need to say something. You're right. And we need to tell someone who can do something about it, right?"

Joe: "Yeah. Who can we tell?" 

Mom: "Well, we're going to stay up late tomorrow night so we can join with other laity all the way downtown in what's called a 'protest.' We're going to make some signs for people to read. What should our signs say?"

Josh (laughing): "Hey, bishop, do your job!" 

Joe: "How about 'Don't hurt people'?"

Mom: "Those are both good sign ideas. We'll keep thinking about different signs we can make. But can you guys think of anything else we can do about this sad problem?"

Joe: "I don't know." 

Mom: "That's just it, Joe. I don't really know either. What do we do when we have a problem, and we don't know what to do about it?"

Josh: "We pray about it!" 

Mom: "That's a great idea, Josh. Can we pray about it right now, together?"

Josh: "Yeah!"

Mom: "Dear Lord, please help us. We don't know what to do. People have been really hurt by priests and bishops in your Church. Help us to know what to do."

Joe: "And please help the people who were hurt."

Mom: "Hm-mm. Josh, do you have anything you want to add to our prayer?"

Josh: "No, not really. Um, Hail Mary?" 

Mom: "Yeah, why don't you start the 'Hail Mary,' and we'll pray with you?"

Josh: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."