Category Archives: catholic

Psst! Did You Hear the One About the Pope?


i’m guessing that for the part of the country that is outside of the ny, pa, dc area the fact that the pope was in the u.s. was just a headline somewhere. but in the middle of the tri-cities of his visit, there was a popenato of epic proportions.

here in philadelphia there was the typical mixture of excitement and grousing and at times the grousing out-shouted the excitement 4 to 1. now, that may have been a result of the stupid things city officials said in the run up, like “treat this as a severe storm event (which translated means to stay the hell home)” or that the secret service coordinated a lockdown situation that paralyzed a good portion of the city, or that at times there seemed to be no logical coordination between the secret service, public transportation and city officials.

whether the event lived up to expectations or broke records, it seems that the only measure worth talking about is whether pope francis can successful lead his church in a direction that brings people back. it’s no secret that participation in the roman catholic church has been dropping off – due mostly to (finally) the public airing of the horrors perpetrated by the church and their continued failure to not only acknowledge them but right them.

i was raised in the catholic church – 12 years of catholic schooling, followed by 30 years of a tenuous relationship where c and i participated in the church only to raise our children with some kind of tradition. but as the same sunday sermons from decades ago continued on as an opportunity for priests to berate the crowd for disobedience with the edits of the church—oddly enough only centered around issues of sexuality and not morality, most of which have to do with controlling women — i transitioned from not listening to drifted away. then, like most people i know, when the horrors of the sex-abuse scandal and systematic cover up hit the headlines i decided i was completely done with the roman catholic church.

in order to even stay with the church for as many decades as i had, required me to recite the mantra: “render unto ceasar what is ceasar’s and under god what is god’s”. meaning: ignore church bullshit and concentrate only on the lessons of christian tradition that matter: love one another and take care of one another.

then along comes pope francis. there has been much written about his life and how he has lived the teachings of christianity and it seems that he is carrying that into his leadership of the church. and to a large extend that’s true, certainly his words are a much more thoughtful message that has to do with love and forgiveness, mercy and inclusiveness not to mention just taking care of one another.
and then… well, then it’s just more business as usual. his inspiring words were followed by a visual of a cathedral filled with white men and the visual of seminarians and local priests, deacons and bishops – all men. men who ignore or distain women while dressed in dresses and funny hats. it all just looked so irrelevant.

sure, the pope was careful to include women in his words, but i think that’s because without them (the slave class) the church cannot function so it seemed like that was more about protecting an investment than sending a message of inclusion. and here in philadelphia there was the additional message from a hard-liner, perpetually ornery archbishop chaput who chose to use this stage to issue a ridiculous remark about the only real function of sex is to procreate, ignoring all the other more relevant messages that could and should have emanated from his moment in the spotlight.

and for all of its moralistic preaching about sexuality what is the true origin of priestly celibacy? don’t answer jesus ‘cuz that’s not it. property. and money. no married priests then no families to support and no nasty legal battles about rights of inheritance. the true reasoning is not high and mighty.

in his defense, pope francis has accomplished a lot of revolutionary things within the church, not the least of which is cleaning up the vatican bank (you want to know something about real scandal? read god’s bankers by gerald posner).

listen, i’m all for carrying on ancient traditions and rituals, in fact very much so when those traditions involve rituals where a family and a church family are able to share meaningful moments together. but when the trappings of a religion far outweigh its reason for being, i’m out.

francis may be delivering the right message, but he’s stuck delivering it in the wrong container.

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Filed under catholic, lies, Love, politics, religion, scandal

In the Land of Plenty, Sacrifice is Good for the Soul

this year’s lenten season began on march 5th with ash wednesday.
for those of you who are not christian, lent is 40 days of fasting and reflection in preparation for the resurrection of jesus Christ.

“the term is derived from an old english word which meant the lengthening of days. we move out of the cold barrenness of winter and, as the days grow longer, long for the promise of new life which comes with spring.” words by deacon keith fournier

my childhood was immersed in all things catholic – i went to catholic schools from grades 1 through 12, almost all of our friends were catholic and i volunteered at the catholic hospital next door to where we lived. my year was driven less by secular calendar or even seasons, but by the catholic calendar. but for personal reasons and for all the negative reasons that the catholic church has been in the news lately, i walked away from it. i don’t want to be associated with an institution that has been far, far away from any kind of moral compass. in other words: i am a recovering catholic.

still, there are lessons in the writings of the church and the rituals it established. there’s a comfortable rhythm to those childhood days of preparation for easter sunday. lent is a reminder of mortality and while that may not be a thought we wish to have, the fact is that we’re all going to die.

“in an age drunk on self-worship, a reminder of the brevity of our days should draw us to our knees” source: catholic.org

i like that quote. i especially like the phrase “drunk of self-worship” as i think it sums up the age we’re living in. so, a little self-sacrifice in these days before easter can go a long way to replenishing the soul.

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Filed under catholic, religion, spring, tradition

Lost Children, Forgotten Fathers


if you haven’t seen the movie philomena, do yourself a favor and schedule a time to see it. i won’t say too much about the story than is revealed in the official description from the production company:

“based on the 2009 investigative book by bbc correspondent martin sixsmith, the lost child of philomena lee, philomena focuses on the efforts of philomena lee (judy dench), mother to a boy conceived out of wedlock – something her irish-catholic community didn’t have the highest opinion of – and given away for adoption in the united states. in following church doctrine, she was forced to sign a contract that wouldn’t allow for any sort of inquiry into the son’s whereabouts. after starting a family years later in england and, for the most part, moving on with her life, lee meets sixsmith (coogan), a bbc reporter with whom she decides to discover her long-lost son.” source: rottentomatoes.com

there is so much more to the story than that simple description, but i’m very glad i didn’t know more. as the story is revealed through the movie, there are layers and layers of deception and irony, anger, disappointment and some forgiveness. what struck me about philomena lee was her lifelong attachment to her lost child. maybe that would seem like a duh! idea, but it’s so often how we think about boys who father children.

but what occurred to me after i watched the movie was how i would like to see a movie about a teenage pregnancy from the boy’s perspective. i’m going to choose to reject the notion that all boys just saunter along, conveniently forgetting about the girl and a child that is also part of them. i’m also going to reject the snickering hollywood portrayal of sperm donors.

certainly boys are never made to feel the same sense of shame at fathering a child out of wedlock, but they must feel something. or, is it that an unborn baby is just so theoretical to men that they are unable to make any kind of association or connection? i think there are boys who feel badly about the inequality of punishing attitudes toward girls who are sexually active vs. young boys who are. maybe they don’t have the capacity to feel it when they are young, but i’m betting they do as they get older.

there seems to be research being done recently that hopes to examine the thoughts of these fathers and maybe giving them a voice.

and maybe, if we read and hear and watch their stories, or more importantly, when other boys are exposed to these stories we could witness a change in attitude. imagine the benefit to young teenage mothers and most importantly to the children.

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Filed under catholic, family, Love, movies, Parent

Big or Small, It’s Better Than Nothing at All

Did you hear the one about the Pope who published an encyclical and got called a Marxist? I’m confident that the Pope really doesn’t give a blessed host what Rush Limbaugh thinks, but it’s been interesting to hear people line up on both sides of this story.

As is his role in the world, Pope Frances challenges us to think purely, that is, without cynicism. It’s easy to be cynical. Cynics would disagree, but for many of us it’s the first “go to” because not being cynical makes us vulnerable. Pope Francis’ EVANGELII GAUDIUM speaks thoughtfully about economic inequity around the world, which is apparently so frightening that wing nut commentators feel the need to trash the Pope. Or, more accurately, guys like Limbaugh need to protect their turf and it’s not a philosophical turf, it’s the turf paved with coin for saying whatever makes him coin. Here’s only some of what Pope Francis said:

53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Okay, so it is pretty Marxist. But maybe we’re due for a kind of hybridized capitalism, or maybe Pope Francis is advocating for just an attitude change, not a systematic overthrow. Here’s the thing about attitude changes: sometimes a small change can make a big difference. And sometimes one person can change an entire world.

At this writing, I have just learned of the death of Nelson Mandela, a perfect example of one person changing a world. Though his struggle for change lasted decades, he was one person who made a decision to speak out for change.

I admit I was mostly ignorant of the history and conditions in South Africa for most of my life. When I was in college, one of my professors came scurrying into class late one day and announced that Anthol Fugard had been taken into custody in South Africa and that an international coalition of artists and activists were working to have him released. We spend the entire class writing letters to the U.S., South African and worldwide governments asking for the release of Fugard. We were part of the outcry that allowed him to be released and travel so that his anti-apartheid plays could be performed around the world.*

We were each one small voice but together we were a huge outcry. Pope Frances is a huge voice, so imagine what will happen if many of us join him.

*I just read (with great pride I might add) that Fugard is now Adjunct Professor at my alma mater, University of California, San Diego and I wonder whether he isn’t here because of my college professor.

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Filed under catholic, Charity, civil rights, courage, economy, Uncategorized

thanks, but no thanks

so, last week thousands of kids who attend catholic high schools and grade schools in the philadelphia area were told by the archdiocese of philadelphia that they were out of luck.  a blue ribbon panel recommended that 48 grade schools and 4 high schools in the archdiocese should close.  soon to follow, 50 parishes worth of catholics will be told that their parish is no more.  (but by the way, DON’T FORGET TO GO TO CHURCH AND PUT YOUR CHECK IN THE COLLECTION… AND GO TO CONFESSION, SINNER!) 

people were (and still are) devastated. 

i didn’t go to school around here, but i did go to catholic schools (my high school is now still there in name, but long gone as the school that i went to).  the philadelphia area catholics are a different breed of catholic from california catholics (you can imagine).  when i first moved here, people would routinely ask what parish you were from or live in as opposed to the township or municipality.  (there are many who still do)  loyalty reigns.  rivalries abound. there are schools that were closed decades ago who still have loyal alumni who meet regularly and raise money for scholarships so other kids can go to other catholic schools in the name of their now closed school.  (they deliberately do not give money to the archdiocese) 

we live a very good school district so we sent our kids to public school and sent our kids to catechism training at the local parish.  we (and our kids) were (are) considered second class catholics (even though the large majority of catholic kids in our parish did not attend the parish school but did attend ccd)  it was made clear that we were not terribly welcome.  we stuck it out until our kids made all the sacraments necessary to continue the faith if they so chose.  

then came the sex abuse (abuse of power) revelations.  done and done.  i could not stomach being associated with such utter corruption and filth.  we knew plenty of people who stuck it out, believed what the church said about fixing itself.   

and now this.  and no one believes that all of this would be necessary if not for the huge settlements in the sex abuse cases.  

lies and deceit charge very high prices.  what is being lost right now is incalculable. 

C quotes St. Peter as looking down and saying, “I built a church and this is what you guys do with it?”

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Filed under catholic, religion, scandal