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When I read Lori’s absolutely spot-on post, I was right there with her, saying “Amen!” out loud. It seemed promising to hold a summit in the Vatican to address sexual abuse in the church. What was accomplished? Nothing in particular. The Pope is still noncommittal about making substantive changes and no action plan was made. In a way, he’s become a trope. A symbol of The Oblivious Guy in Charge. Of the One Percent, living opulently as others struggle. Of the patriarchy.

Every so often, I feel I’m slightly psychic. My late mother did, as well. When I’d visit her, she’d talk at length about Nostradamus’ and Edgar Cayce’s predictions. Recently, I found something interesting from twenty years ago in a folder of her effects. It’s a list she wrote, describing the specific sequence of events that portend the end times!

One of the things she wrote was this: “The news media declares The Pope dead.”

Notice it doesn’t say that he died, but was declared dead by the media. So many people are so fed up with his lack of leadership during this crisis, it’s as if he doesn’t even exist for us anymore.

In normal times (remember those?) I would never throw a stone at a respected religious leader. But these times are decidedly abnormal. And respect has to be earned. I pray for the Pope’s safety and would never wish ill to befall him.  Now if only he’d make safety in the sanctuary his highest priority as well.

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We’ve seen protests of all kinds in the last few years: Black Lives Matter, MeToo, immigration. To be honest, I’m astounded that there aren’t daily protests in the streets over the global scandal of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.  In truth, it’s a crime against humanity. Those responsible should be brought to the Hague before the International Court of Justice.

The MeToo movement, in particular, started a seismic shift in the world. I’d like to propose another idea: EtTu. A rallying cry for the survivors and families of these horrific acts, perpetrated by priests and buried by bishops. The cover-up is still happening, even now. Catholic bishops at a recent conference were told by the Vatican to “delay voting on measures to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect children from sexual abuse.”

Retired Catholic University Professor Stephen Schenk believes that the bishops “can’t be trusted to police themselves. I think the ultimate solution, especially here in the U.S., is going to require an active, permanent role for the laity, because of the problem of oversight.”

These issues are difficult to discuss, but when I saw this victims’ statement video, their toxic effects became clear. An 84-year-old man described his experience from 1947. If even one bishop had spoken up instead of covering it up, it could have saved all the subsequent children from becoming victims. One survivor said, “It’s very lonely. Especially when it’s your word against God’s.” But as our Lori wisely said in her post, “They are men of God. But they are not God. The Church would do well to remember the humility of its founder.”

I just read an interesting article: “NASA Chief Wants to Send Humans to the Moon – to Stay.”  Well, now. I can think of a few people I’d like to give the old heave-ho into the heavens right about now.

I’m out of patience, for instance, with the pope. Forgive my bluntness, but how long should we expect to wait until he makes real reforms in the wake of multiple sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church? I hear him saying a lot of words, but nothing is changing. Could it be he’s not sure what steps to take? Let me help, if I may.

  • Defrock all priests proven to have abused children
  • Give them no retirement plan or benefits, just cast them out
  • Same goes for the bishops who covered up the abuse
  • Removal of statute of limitations re: long-ago abuse
  • Class action to remunerate all victims
  • Criminal action to put offenders in jail
  • Global database documenting all confirmed abuse cases
  • Total transparency and public access to the data
  • Sweeping reforms to protect children in the church

So. All of the above. Or, option B: Pope Francis resigns.

This may sound harsh, but I’d also like religious leader Joyce Meyer to retire. In a sermon last week, she recounted the sexual abuse by her father she endured for years. She said, flat out… wait for this one… “I’m glad it happened.” She said it had made her a better person.  

Well. Okay. She’s canceled!

Where to begin? What a disservice this is to victims of sexual abuse. Some child is going through this right now. And her abuser, who probably thinks he’s a good Christian in all other ways, hears his preacher say it’s actually not such a bad thing after all.

I know I’m probably just in a mood from the recent doings on capitol hill,  but someday, we’ll look back in shame on this era of the innocent being hurt by those in power. Maybe the next generation will come up with a way to make sure it never happens again. If it means sending offenders to a colony on the moon, well, I’m okay with that, too.

Even though we live in different parts of the country and have varying spiritual beliefs, Lori, SueBE and I tend to agree more often than not. I was nodding in agreement and Amen!-ing as I read  Lori’s timely post on the recent clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

Hmm. Didn’t I just see an article about the Pope that I wanted to read later? Yes. It had the words “outrage” and “action” in it. As it turns out, it wasn’t about the abuse scandals, but plastics in the ocean.  So I searched online to see what his response was to the abuse scandals, and what he’s pledged to do to change the culture that allowed it to happen.

“It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast a light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasize the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole,” he said, according to a transcript published by the Irish Times.

The failings of many. Nowhere did I see him say, The buck stops with me. I’m the head of this church, and it’s up to me to atone for the past and find a way to make it right. Heads are gonna roll!

Contrast that with what he said about the the environment:

“In a message focusing on the ‘precious element’ of water, Pope Francis has called for urgent action to combat the “emergency” of plastics littering seas and oceans.

“At last year’s climate talks in Bonn, Francis rebuked those who denied the science behind climate change, and urged negotiators not to fall prey to such ‘perverse attitudes’”.

What is wrong with this picture?

Although I don’t belong to the Catholic Church, I do belong to the human race. With all due respect to the pontiff, if our children aren’t protected in houses of worship, where can they ever be safe?  

Pope Francis spoke out this week in support of Dreamers and in opposition to climate change deniers. (And before you say, “Who asked him, anyway?” let me tell you — journalists.) I am proud of my Church’s Papa, proud that he puts love and justice and mercy above other considerations. He is walking with Christ on these issues, welcoming the stranger and being a caretaker of God’s bountiful gifts to us.

In other news, Steve Bannon railed at the Catholic Church for its support of illegal immigrants, saying the Church needs them to “fill the pews.”

Oh really?

Immigrants to this country bring with them their faith. My own great-grandfather helped build the first Catholic church in South Dakota, knowing full well there weren’t any priests in the area, but believing nonetheless that one would come. Mr. Bannon’s ancestors, who arrived with the tide of Irish fleeing the potato famine (and who, by the way, never had official papers of any sort, who were reviled by so-called “natives” and blamed for lack of employment, among other things) brought theirs. Somewhere along the way, Bannon lost the thread of the narrative, which has always been love. A Christian who is without love is no Christian at all. The fact that his own predecessors were the Latin Americans of their day seems to evade him entirely. If you are glad that this great country embraced your own ancestors, how can you deny that embrace to someone — anyone — else? Who are you to say “too many”?

But back to Dreamers. And walls. Specifically, walls that the Mexican government will never, ever pay for, not now, not ever, never. The recipients of DACA are not criminals. They never have been. And they contribute significantly to our GNP. If we lose them, we lose money — lots of it. Surely, that’s an argument even the most hard-hearted can understand? How does America become “great again” by cutting off its nose to spite its face? And then building a wall around it to point out its stupidity in the most glaring of ways?

Love, mercy, justice. Anyone who claims ownership to faith in Christ must claim ownership to these qualities in their everyday, working lives. Day in, day out. Even politicians. And, yes, even “street fighters.”

As I read through various blog posts on Friday, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Pope Francis had done a TED Talk?  No way!

But, he had.  For those of you who have missed out on these talks, TED stands for Technology, Engineering and Design.  Thus the first talks were all pretty techy and many of them still are.  But the people behind TED have branched out with talks on creativity and writing and how people see each other.

This past Tuesday, the Pope addressed the TED conference which this time around had the theme “The Future You.” In working within this, he addressed the power that each “you,” each individual in this world has to make change.

Francis discussed how deeply interconnected we are and how this connectivity works. To truly connect, and I’m paraphrasing all of this because he spoke in Italian which was translated, equality and solidarity have to be the goal.

And not just the goal on Sunday.  Or when we are doing churchy or charitable things.  Equality and solidarity have to be the goal of politics, of economics and even of science. This means, according to Pope Francis, going beyond our culture of waste in which it is okay for certain people, individuals and groups, to be cast aside. People, he reminded listeners, are not statistics.  They are not numbers.  It isn’t enough for us to have good intentions and talk about social justice.  We have to get out there and make it happen like the Good Samaritan or Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Like them, we need to be individual candles in a world of conflict.

In doing, we will create hope. Where one of us is there can be hope.  Where many of us are, there can be revolution.

That said, he calls on us to create a revolution of tenderness. This needs to be a revolution of tenderness to hear and see the hopeless and those who are crying out, to hear and see the damage being done to our Earthly home, It means to use our hearts and our hands to take action.

A revolution of tenderness.

Wow.

Just wow.

–SueBE

How I love our Pope! Did anyone expect such a firebrand? He stands with the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. He stands with our Mother Earth. And this week, he made a pronouncement that’s sure to send conservatives into a lather: He said, essentially, that it is better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic.

What’s a hypocritical Catholic? Let’s speculate. Perhaps it is a person who claims to follow Christ but does not welcome him in the form of immigrants. Perhaps it is a person who vows to respect all life, but doesn’t believe in providing help to those in need or protecting our planet from those who seek to plunder it for profit. Heck, maybe it’s me — I’m far from perfect. Whoever or whatever the hypocritical Catholic is, the Pope’s words are a challenge to us: Put your money where your mouth is. If you talk the talk, you better walk the walk. If you want to truly follow Christ, you better leave your ivory tower or diamond-encrusted cage and get down in the dirt with the least of God’s children.

I know several atheists. They are good people. They do good not because they believe in a theological or religious system, but because doing good makes sense to them. Because they want the world to be a better place. Even the most embittered atheists have to make moral choices. That they would make positive ones, without any spiritual model to back them up, is nothing short of wonderful.

And yet, supposedly Christian and Catholic people make bad choices all the time. I can think of several Catholics in government positions who think cutting health care, Medicare and assistance to the poor is a sound fiscal and moral idea. Sure, our country was founded on the separation of church and state. But if being a Christian Catholic is who you are at your core, it ought to drive everything you do, right?

Jesus was known for calling people out on uncomfortable realities. It seems Pope Francis is walking in his footsteps. That’s a very good thing.

  • Father Jacques Hamel, 85, was celebrating Mass when two men entered his church and murdered him in the name of ISIS. A servant of God, a man who could have retired long ago and not continued the active shepherding of his flock, was killed in cold blood doing sacred work for the people of God. This priest died because of his faith. That makes him a martyr. You know what doesn’t make someone a martyr? Dying in a hail of bullets after cutting the throat of a priest. That’s not dying for your faith. That’s committing a criminal act and getting the reaction a criminal act receives.
  • In happier news, Pope Francis is in Krakow today celebrating the 31st World Youth Day. His message? “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7). It is one of the Beatitudes, the great and golden rules taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It is a particularly timely message. In this period of political divisiveness, mercy is hard to come by. Pope Francis reminds us again: If you want to get it, you have to give it. Even when it’s hard.
  • The Vatican sent out an Apostolic Constitution on women in contemplative life — i.e. cloistered nuns. These are nuns whose life consists of prayer for others. While the Pope praised the nuns, insisting that “The Church needs you!”, he also warned against “listlessness” and suggested ways to run a tighter ship. I find myself saddened by this. First, with all the problems in the world today (and within the Catholic church), listless nuns do not figure prominently, if at all. That these women, who have devoted their lives to God, need to be chided like children strikes me as the height of patriarchal nonsense. Come on, Francis. You’re better than this. (See above.)
  •  The Nuns on the Bus continue their journey apace. Their message? “Mend the Gap” — that is, the economic and social gaps that keep people in positions of inequality. The sisters’ focus is on seven areas: tax justice, living wages, family-friendly workplaces, healthcare, housing, citizenship and democracy. I am rooting hard for these women and their message of inclusiveness and fairness. We seem to have forgotten, as Americans, that “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” (That’s Ben Franklin I’m quoting.) In other words, please try not to listen to people who want to divide us, to cause rifts instead of understanding. As the 2016 election process careens into Fall, it is the best advice I can give.

Pope Francis, in his great wisdom, has named 2016 the Year of Mercy. Yet a number of us seem confused by what exactly “mercy” means. It’s like forgiveness, but not quite. Like empathy, but not quite. Like forbearance…but not quite.

The world is greatly in need of mercy right now. Mercy takes us out of ourselves and causes us to look with compassion at those around us. If we all did that — and then acted on what we saw — in what grand and spectacular ways might we change the world? It is a thought worthy of poetry.

What is mercy?
Nothing much. An eye
turned outward. A seeing.
One heart bursting
its home of bone
to say, “I see you.”
To say, “I’m sorry.”
To say, “You matter.”

What is mercy?
It is a choice of roads:
one narrow, one broad.
It is leaving home
for a foreign place,
learning the language,
feeling it on the tongue.
Grasping the verbs, the adjectives.

What is mercy?
It is a bearing of burdens,
balm, bread, blood.
It is entering the wider door,
apprehending the aerial view.
It is naming each stone,
tenderly, but letting it lie,
in the manner of itself.

It’s one of those weeks. My brain has not got a single, complete, coherent thought in it. I am beset on all sides by questions spiritual and temporal, moments of joy and phases of confusion. There is nothing for it but to let it all out. Excuse, in advance, my rambling.

  • I just got back from a trip to St. Mary-of-the-Woods, IN, my alma mater and home to the Sisters of Providence, of which I am an Associate. The visit, for a board meeting, was equal parts mentally invigorating and exhausting, but overall, filled with joy. I got to see many of the faces I love, my friends Maria, Sheila and Martha, Jen, Monica, Diann, Li-Chih and Kathleen — among others — as well as many of my most beloved Sisters of Providence. How I wish I scoot Missouri out of the way, like one of those puzzles where you rearrange the squares to form an image, so as to make Indiana closer to Kansas. (Sorry, SueBE! I did think of you with great fondness while whizzing past your hometown on the interstate.)
  • The Synod on the Family has ended in something of a jumble. Some bishops have shown base disrespect for the Pope by dissenting, before crucial subjects could even be discussed, what they perceive as the “hidden agenda” of the synod: namely, to allow divorced, remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion, and to accept into the fold those who support homosexual marriage. All poor Pope Francis has to say is, “let us have understanding and be accepting,” and all the scared chickens start shouting that the sky is falling. They’ve issued a petition, which (to date) 182 bishops and 600,000 people have signed, begging the Pope not to alter, in the least, Church teachings or doctrine on these matters. That’s right. Let’s just slam the door in the faces of people, deny them the forgiveness Christ extends with open arms, and put a boot on their necks so they don’t forget they are sinners. Also, let’s deny that times change as human understanding changes. (Maybe the earth is the center of the universe!) I wonder if special technology will be developed so that I can be identified at the church door as a liberal and thereby banned from the pews.
  • Her name is Salome. She recently turned five, and she lives in Colombia. In her photo, she stands, arms akimbo, head tilted, a wry smile on her face. I loved her at first sight. (Although, yes, as my husband guessed at the time, I was looking for a child from Costa Rica so I would have another excuse to visit my friend Tina, who lives there, growing chocolate and making the world a better place.) I am sponsoring Salome through the group Unbound (unbound.org). She has a “complicated” family life, and a home that makes mine look like the Taj Mahal. And I am doing the absolute least a compassionate human being could do to improve her life. There is so much need out there, at times I feel at a loss. And then I remember that even a single, small gesture of kindness can kindle a flame that might, in turn, spark another, and another, into life. It is hard to hope for a conflagration, and yet, at times, hope is all we have.

And so, with happiness and heartache, sadness and celebration, we come to the end of my news. So many things bubbling away on the stove! Who knows what will be added to the pot next week? We can only face it with prayer. (And maybe some lunch. Who’s hungry?)

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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