Celibate In Name; Abuse of Minors (ccr)

Well, Gentle Reader, I begin this ramble with only a vague idea of the end.  ‘Heartsick’ is not enough to describe where my reading has taken me.

Growing up with total belief in my church I was sad when my grandfather scoffed by telling stories of priests with girl friends.  Why bother with a church that vows celibacy and keeps women.  (Isn’t that an ugly expression–keeps women.)

About 30 years ago I knew a young man contemplating the priesthood.  We talked often as he sorted priorities.  During one particularly intense conversation, he was crying with pain I did not yet understand.  “I will be safe there”, he said.  “I will be safe with who I am and I will find a partner.”

As a senior in her 60’s, a woman revealed her story of  childhood abuse by a trusted family friend, a Catholic priest.  Her first confidant was her sister, trusted, loved and a life-sharing friend.    These sisters held hands and hearts through every chapter of their lives, except this one ugly secret.    Today, they rarely see one another and speak only on the most general topics, avoiding any degree of trust.  The abused sister betrayed the church by speaking out.

Five years ago, one of my grandson’s received the sacrament of Baptism in another country.  After the sacrament, the priest and his female companion returned to the home they were renovating together.

Small incidents?  Perhaps.  Personal and significant only to a few?  Maybe.

But they reveal a pattern of naiveté that partially explains my deep and compounding sadness  as I continue this horrible search.  My church, managed by a nominal celibate clergy, claiming  omnipotence in matters of faith and morals, has systematically hidden sexual abuse of minors.

Richard Sipe writes for The National Catholic Reporter.  On April 28, 2010, his article, Secret sex in the celibate system, gives an overview of the history of sexual violations from the year 315 through  a 2001 document and up to the depth of the current scandal.  Sipe reports wide-spread abuse of the mandated vow of celibacy and makes perfect sense as he leads the reader to understand why secrecy prevailed.   His writing is available at http://ncronline.org

Know what, Gentle Reader?  It is unbelievably tiring, this disassembling of a lifetime core.  Yet, rebuilding requires the destruction of the damaged, the unafraid ripping of that infested core, the gouging away of oozing sores.  Nothing less can forgive the sins.

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Mark THAT Day

The memory of the photo is as clear as if I held the paper in my hand.  His tiny arms reach for the next step as my first-born attempts his climb up the concrete steps of Jardine Terrace Student Housing.  He is less than a year old and refuses  help.  I stand behind ready to break any fall yet knowing he will make it to the top.

A recent article on the levels of letting go, of saying good-bye to our little ones brought this photo to instant recall.  Of course, we never really do let go, but we learn to step back and keep the silence.  We learn that every experience has a part of becoming, the child-to-adult journey.

As I have written before, my memory  has some very annoying circuitry and specific incidents often lack detail even though  emotions flood the recall.   Details take second seat to the feelings unless and until specific phrases spark the whole picture.

After reading the article and experiencing the emotional flood of mommy-stuff, the phone rang.  That year old little boy has climbed a long way from those concrete steps graduating to mountains, to ice climbs and now to long distance kayaking.  His first-born is about to graduate from high school.

Our conversation takes us to his 11th summer and the Big Beer Incident in St. Agnes Woods.  Talk about a moment of wanting to let go, to throw up my hands, shake my head and wonder at the wisdom of encouraging independence.

This was the time before  the teaching of fear through Stranger-Talk.  The neighborhood was safe and the kids had the run of sidewalks, summer days and banging screen doors.   We were a village and every house had something to drink, a cookie or two, a welcoming back yard and bathroom privileges.

Mark’s mini gang rode bikes to the small creek in St. Agnes Woods, a place of hide-outs, adventures and growing up.   His awesome stingray bike was the big gift of the previous Christmas and definitely  his ticket to ride.  He loved that bike.

On this day the boys explored, searching for hidden treasure.  They found it!

Five cases of beer, probably  stashed by students from the nearby high school, unearthed by curious 10 and 11-year-old kids.  And of course we all know what boys do with beer, right?

Shake the cans violently, open the tops and have beer fights squirting one another,  playing War until the last beer emptied.  Hair, body, clothing and bikes drenched.  The smell rivaled any a brewery and the boys were filthy from falling in the dirt, leaves and creek mud.  They ached from laughter and the fun of forbidden fruit.

I swear I smelled them coming and my first thought was not one of loving protection and clutching helicopter mom.  Talk about not wanting to hold his hand!   He reeked.  And he tried to look contrite, but the fun was too deep and the smile could not be contained.  “We had a beer war and we won!”

“Who lost?”, I wondered.

And the dads reactions?  Absolutely perfect.  “What a waste of good beer” spoken between bouts of laughter.

I will forever treasure Mark That Day.

60 Minutes And Adderol

A human unit–body, mind and spirit (soul)— inseparable and packaged to be birthed,  to grow, to diminish and die within what we call a lifetime.

Science and medicine have increased the span of many lifetimes by discoveries formed into pills and offered for hundreds of bodily ills.  The same science and medicine have salved the dis-eases of the mind thereby greatly improving the quality of lives in need.

On Sunday, April 25, 60 Minutes aired a piece on attention deficit medications that have become the drug of choice for sharpening the mind, diminishing the need for sleep, and making the all-nighter stress free and very productive.  Adderol was one such pill and a friend reports that it is available in many area high schools, though 60 Minutes focused on college use.

During the interview, one student said she had used Adderol while others avoided talking about personal use, choosing to talk about campus use in general.  Attempts at discussing  morality sort of floated in the conversation, but the students never took that bait until the final sentence.   The last speaker did not declare his position but opted to say that he believed others would not have a moral problem with the use of these drugs.

I admit confusion.  Where does this go, this sorting of pills into moral and immoral columns?  Devil’s Advocate is not a comfortable position for me, but maybe that pinch is necessary.

Birth control pills have always been branded immoral by the Catholic Church, but these days average Catholic families are no larger than non-Catholic families.  And I can pretty much guarantee that Catholics don’t give up sex after that statistical 2 1/2 kids arrive.

Medical marijuana continues to be supported by patients and families suffering through chemo or glaucoma and condemned by those without a clue to that suffering.

Obese patients take drugs to drop the weight they are unable to regulate.  Some resort to surgery to improve the quality of their lives.

Diabetics take pills or injections when diet control is not enough to regulate insulin.

Heart patients who might be helped by diet and exercise opt to take a pill rather than adjust a life style.  Ditto those with high cholesterol.

Brain adjustment drugs improve the lives of so many who would otherwise find the pain of daily existence to be intolerable.

All medications have side effects, some extremely serious and even life threatening.

As always, my disclaimer admits to abuse but abuse does not negate the valid need.  My further disclaimer accepts that the ‘unfair’ label might apply….popping study pills is unfair those who manage without the drugs.

‘Unfair’ also applies to patients refusing to adjust lifestyle to reduce the need for life saving drugs.

‘Unfair’ pretty much sums up the situation of a Catholic couple faced with decisions about family size, church teaching, and a normal sex life.

Help me out here, Gentle Reader.  Where is the line separating the moral/immoral use of science/medicine to improve the quality of our very short lifetimes?

Retirement, Alzheimers And Beyond

Oh the places we go, the topics we touch, the feeling we share…

I have two brothers, both married to wonderful women, and two sisters, one married to a special man, Mike, and one sister, divorced.  Each month we meet for breakfast to catch up on children, grandchildren, solve the problems of the world and simply enjoy being together.  At our ages, hospital visits and funeral rituals can become the primary gathering time, so breakfast is  the most important meal of the month.

The youngest of our group, Barbara, retired on April 15 and her sadness was evident.   She had hoped to continue working 20 hours a week, but no part-time position was open with her employer.  For 10 days she has emotionally wandered, wondering how she will fill her days once the closets get sorted.

Last month, Susan talked about her retirement which lasted 30 days until she took a new position, saying that becoming invisible was not an option.  I, too, found retirement unsatisfactory and have filled my time with far too many volunteer commitments.

Susan’s comment about invisibility was appropriate in that we reflect so much of ourselves through our jobs,  partially defining each day by success or failure linked to performance at work.  More than that, when working we are productive, contributing and earning our way.  When work ends at retirement, we get one more glimpse through the veil of mortality.  We are old enough for society to send us home.

But we are not a family to sit back and wait for the inevitable.  We challenge the definition of retired.  We know the end-game, but we intend to keep playing until the end-moment.

And of course, because we face the prospect of Alzheimer’s  our breakfast bunch constantly investigates new and challenging activities so those brain cells can multiple.  We admit to being terrified of losing that part of ourselves stolen from Alzheimer’s victims. Nothing is too bizarre for consideration.  Line dancing for the two-left-feet-rhythm-challenged, wood crafting for the computer security expert, quilting for the spatially inept, even the dreaded (and dreadful) Sudoku for the wordsmiths become new challenges.

So Barbara left, armed with ideas and propped with the support of the family who recognize her as extremely talented, genuinely empathetic and absolutely up to the challenge of handling retirement with the same grace by which she has managed her life.

I don’t remember what we ate to nourish the body, but it is totally clear how we nourish the spirit.

Michelle Obama and Childhood Obesity

Some time ago, I wrote about The First Lady’s campaign to change  eating habits thereby alleviating many of the physical and emotional consequences of obesity.  That piece of writing received some major derision and no small measure of sarcasm.  Some of you, Gentle Readers, would direct Michelle Obama’s efforts into areas that you see as more important.  Some said that it was not possible to change eating habits, that sugar and fat will never be moderated by vegetables.

I do stand by my support of Mrs. Obama’s efforts.  I do believe it is possible to diminish the number of obese children as we have diminished the number of young cigarette smokers…not eliminated but diminished.  I believe that children and parents are teachable, that the welfare of children is important to parents, that health professionals support the need to reduce the crushing consequences of obesity, and that early intervention is vital to success.

Some recent happenings reinforce my belief.

A friend spoke with anguish when describing her addiction to food and her inability to give up her obesity and all that such dependence entails.  Her suffering was real.

I observed a playground where most children played with focus and energy.  Not so the children burdened with childhood obesity.

As adults, we dedicate millions of dollars  to reducing plans, prepackaged foods, diet books and organizations designed to handle food addiction.

While visiting in a hospital, I observed the astounding number of obese health care professionals obviously in need of re-education, of help with their addiction.

The pulmonary doctor was direct and pulled no punches.  Someone very close to me will live the rest of a lifetime tethered to oxygen, diminished by the need for this crutch.  During the discussion, the patient admitted to the need to drop 60 pounds.  “We all have our addictions and science is trying to help solve that one,” was the doctor’s response.  “Obesity is deadly”, she continued.

An old Johnny Depp/Leonardo DiCaprio  movie,  What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” depicted a family’s struggle with an obese mother who eventually died trying to haul her body up the stairs to the second floor.  When her children realized that firemen would use a crane to lift their dead mother from a window, they choose to burn the home rather than subject her to that humiliation.  Admittedly, an extreme but extremes illustrate the depth of some of the pain.

I salute and support Michelle Obama’s efforts to re-educate for the sake of our children’s health now and into their futures.

Discovery Through Journaling

Arts In The Heart is an ambitious enterprise of Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas.  As a 1958 graduate of Donnelly, I participate in some volunteer activities which opened the opportunity to share an arts presentation with another graduate, Pat Callaghan.  Pat and I also graduated together (1956) from Bishop Ward High School.  During those high school years, I believed that Pat Callaghan was totally smart.  She IS totally smart and totally involved in the causes of her passions. Of course I relished the chance to share the presentation with her.  Wise decision on my part.

Pat has taught classes on journaling and she jump started the presentation on that topic, starting with an exercise of a five-minute sprite in which the pen is not to come off the paper–keep writing for five minutes.

This five-minute stream of thought convinced me that my method of journaling needs dramatic revision.  I write on sales slips, old envelopes, the checkbook, margins of newspapers and occasionally my hand.  The desk and the computer table are right-brain filed (piled).

Are you, Gentle Reader, sensing a ramble revving?  Sort of, but a directed ramble encouraging you to start with a five-minute sprite and get hooked on journaling—-in a note-book!

Pat Callaghan spoke about journal entries being kernels of more complete writing, preludes to thoughtful pieces.  And they are, but I loved what my five minutes forced from me.

Tuesday, April 20 2010 at Donnelly College  Five Minute Sprint

Dr. Dorothy Height, Civil Rights Activist, died today at age 98.  That means I have 27 years to become, to be reborn in courage….to become the woman I want to become…starting over at 71… our planet is choking on plastic, an island of it the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean…zero tolerance for intolerance…growing older isn’t actually a journey as much as it is  a grapple, an endpoint…as the body looses strength the spirit begs to soar…reconcillation isn’t forgivess…forgiveness isn’t forgetting…do-overs never work…no personal action happens in a vacuum…I need my church to be my leader…I need my leader to be …

Time!  Indeed—Time.

A Lot Of Bull

Maybe I look retired-school-teacher-granny woman, but old never starts out like this.  Turn back a few pages, and I was breaking  ice in the stock tanks, slinging bales of hay (well, dragging bales of hay) and crimping wire along the electric fence.   Bob loved it all.   I loved Bob—-so there you have it.

Our herd usually had eight to ten heifers/cows and our wide shouldered, mean faced, powerfully built, short-legged bull with the creative name of Black.  In the interest of full disclosure Bob was not exactly expert at creative naming.  One Spot, Two Spot, Three Spot and A Boy Named Sue were his best efforts.

During that sip to siphon fiasco (Napa We Are Not),  Bennie came to call.  Guessing that the odor of plum/cherry/white grape alcohol was irresistible as Bennie pulled up a chair and let loose with a running commentary on the fine smell, the pretty colors, how much he loved fermented fruit.  Before long he was slipping a tumbler in the flow as he offered to help keep the floor clean.   We had never met Bennie before, but country hospitality is what it is.  We knew there was purpose in his coming so we had the courtesy-smarts to wait for the punch line.  It came.

Bennie had seen Black from the road and wanted to bring his heifers to our place for service.  By the time that punch line came, Bennie was blushing and back pedaling as he tried to stay on the delicate side of explaining the service Black was to perform.

With two green bottles in his giant over-all’s pockets, Bennie left his phone number and started for home, ready to load his ladies in the pick-up.  Twas the season and Black was pawing to perform.

Time passed and we had some additions to our herd, so we guessed that Bennie also had results, though we had not heard from him.   The calves grew to market size. Older cows and Black filled a few freezers and yet another summer slipped into autumn.

Bob worked on weekends. I was finishing the raking, staking and general fall chores when I heard a noise on the front porch.   Tiptoeing in case the noise was the local legend bob cat, I eased up to the corner of the concrete porch and found myself staring into the face of long gone Black, short legs and all.

Our Black was a gentle giant who sometimes followed like a puppy so I was unafraid of Black, Jr.

“Move.  Get off.  Shoo.”    Lame shouting while I prodded Junior with the rake,  not even denting that armoured hide.    So I got behind him, strategically placed my hands and pushed,  shouting and shoving with every muscle.  By now, the bull was snorting and I was getting worried.

Ducked inside the front door and found Bennie’s phone number.  When I explained the situation, Bennie let loose a string of expletives urging me to stay inside and lock the doors.  “Him’s the meanest  bull God put on the earth.  When he’s a-snorting, he’s set to get a-goring.  Me and the Mrs. are on the way.”

Tiny orange clown car rattles up the long drive, the Mrs. handling the wheel and Bennie standing on the running board— gun in hand and bull whip dangling from his belt.  Before she screech-stops sending gravel flying, Bennie jumps off and races toward the porch, whip cracking and air shots echoing.  Grabbing Junior’s nose ring, Bennie pulls, the bull bellows, inching forward with each tug.   This man is a wrangler.  Seconds pass and the bull moves to the front of the car.  Mrs. is gunning the sewing machine motor, Bennie is screaming, shooting and high snapping that whip! Obviously, they plan to herd Junior all the way home!

As they disappear around the curve, I double with laughter.  Just wait until Bob says, “How was your day?”