A Conversation

On Thursday, July 7, my letter referencing abuse of children appeared in the Kansas City Star. Rain-soaked, my copy was too soggy to open so a late afternoon phone call was an interesting surprise.

A former high school classmate took me to task, politely and sincerely, but with conviction. Line by line he let me know how distant I was from the truth, how difficult it was for him to understand how I strayed from the church that nourished my school years.

Peter (for this blog) gave me directions to his church where Vatican II had no place and where all the traditions of the Catholic Church were thriving: Latin Mass, busy confessionals, altar turned away from the people, servers of the right sex. Of our entire high school class, only Peter and one other classmate attended this church. Repeatedly, Peter wondered how that could be, how only two out of so many could be with the truth. Peter read his carefully written response to my letter, though he said it was not for publication but rather to inform me.

Vetting, he said, was the problem in today’s church. Candidates for the seminary are not vetted as they were in the ’40’s, ’50’s and early ’60’s. Nuns, he said, knew everything about every kid and ‘deviants’ were not allowed to study for the priesthood. That, of course, led to his position on abortion, homosexuality, the role of women, gluttony, the fall of civilizations, legal questions and his truth that life was simply a time of hardship and tears.

In high school, I knew and liked this man. During our time on the phone I reminded myself how often I had lamented the loss of civil discourse during disagreement. I reminded myself that most anger is a defense designed to shut down any fair and open discussion. Peter was sincere and I had no illusion that his mind was open to change.

Still, I tried. When I pointed out that abuse by the clergy goes well into those years when vetting plucked the weeds, Peter dismissed that as a minor problem and too long ago to actually be relevant.

I defended my position that civil authorities are denied access to records of abuse and that legal procedures should be enacted against priest’s who abused children. Peter, with disdain, dismissed lawsuits as a way to open justice.

Peter cares and defends his church. He brought his arguments without anger even though he found my thoughts difficult to comprehend. Peter phoned fifty-five years after high school graduation to express his belief that healing happens inside his version of being Catholic.

With all due respect, I don’t live there anymore.


A Time to Sow And A Time To Reap (CCR)

A correction prompted by the May 27 issue of the Kansas City Star which I just read, the day after I viewed the Fox 4 newscast.  The principal of St Patrick’s School, Julie Hess, sent the letter in question to the Vicar General Robert Murphy.  Murphy, according to the newspaper article, met with Ratigan and outlined the parameters of Ratigan’s behavior.  At this point, I do not know what Murphy, Finn’s principal deputy,  communicated to Finn.  I suggest that this Kansas City Star story be read in its entirety.  Friday, May 27, 2011, front page,  Alan Bavley and Glenn E. Rice


Friday, May 27, 2011  Fox 4 News  6:00 PM

Bishop Finn, Spiritual Leader and so-called Shepherd of The People held a news conference.  Head down, eyes averted, Bishop Finn read a prepared statement.

I did not attend the news conference so am writing of what I observed on the Fox 4 news.  During this past week, I have written about the Ratigan situation that culminated in the May 27 statement by Finn.  My blogs are summary of articles in the Kansas City Star, The Leaven and my personal reactions to the stories.

In 2008, civil law suits filed against the diocese headed by Bishop Finn, hopefully raising the shepherd’s awareness of danger to the children of his flock.

In May, 2010, the principal of St. Patrick’s School, (where Ratigan had access to the children) wrote to Finn expressing her concerns over Ratigan’s behavior towards the children.  (Correction noted…the letter was sent to the Vicar General Robert Murphy–second in the chain of command.)

The principal worked the chain going to the man expected to take firm action.  Finn admitted to receiving the letter.  Ratigan was not removed at that time.

May 2011  Finn stands before television camera to admit that:

1.  A year earlier Finn had the principal’s letter.  (May 2010)

2.  Six months earlier Finn had the images from Ratigan’s computer.  The diocese returned that computer to Ratigan’s family.  (Dec. 2010)

3.  During those six months, Finn was aware that Ratigan was not adhering to the rules laid down by this shepherd’s monitoring of Ratigan’s behavior.

A reporter attending the news conference asked Finn if he planned to resign.  According to the news story, Finn responded that he was looking towards the future–and then Finn left the room.  (May, 2011)

Perhaps Archbishop Dolan can control that nausea thing and welcome Finn to  New York.  (May 26 blog referencing The Leaven, May 20, 2011)

Perhaps Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann’s concluding prayer gets tweaked a bit to “Pray for” the Catholic People “that they  not grow weary or discouraged” despite the horrors of the ongoing revelations of the abuse and cover-up scandal that allows sexual and physical harm to children to go unpunished. (The Leaven, May 20, 2011)

Perhaps Bernard Law has an opening at the  Church of  Mary Major in Rome.

A Love Story

Seven months and seven days of  living with a new love, a newly discovered man of depth and richness.  The discovery, layered in moments of that breathless ache, threatened to consume.

When a partner is unwell the shared days and nights become lessons in management, in make-do, in setting priorities, in hiding truth.  Things like house and property upkeep silently slip to the bottom of the list.  Promises to clear out the accumulations of a life time are forgotten.

No more excuses.  The time was mine and I set an auction date, clueless as to what was ahead. Manic with energy  to mask the grief, my mission was clean up, clear out, match the emptiness.

Here, in the clutter of bags and boxes, some dating to 1972, was this man–this man rich in talents and diverse interests.

Dog tags from his time in The United States Army, trophies won for cribbage and dominoes, pilot licenses both private and commercial, helicopter and plane,  log books teaching others to fly, mounds of hand drawn schematics, books to identify birds, wild animals, plants, hunting, fishing, tying flies, building fly rods, wood carving, tools designed and created to match a need, mementos of his friendship with Jack and Russ.  The collection of Heritage House books brought a memory of how he held a book,  any book,  with a kind of reverence.

In a chapter of our personal once upon a time, we made beer and wine.  His records were meticulous right down to the important detail of how long the brew lasted–the truest measure of quality.  Next to that box, I found his collection of daily missals and his letter sweater dating back to Bishop Ward High School days.  Family pictures were in every drawer tucked where he kept reminders.

And then there were the things he collected simply because they were beautiful.  Glassware, pottery, tools, pictures, antiques— all holding the magic of  what came before.

The list of discoveries is a rediscovery of a man I had lost in the passage through  health issues.  Deterioration pushed from all sides.   How very sorry and ashamed I am for letting that man slip away from me, for not always remembering and honoring all that he was.

Robert N. Antonopoulos, 1935 – 2010    I love you.

With Due Respect (CCR)

Rev. Alberto Cutie’ , an Episcopal Priest, wrote “Dilemma:  A Priest’s Struggle With Faith and Love”, recounting some of his reasons for leaving the Catholic Church.  Rev. Cutie’ is now married to Ruhama Buni Canellis.  His book describes the Catholic Church as ‘disconnected, misogynistic and  an institution that continues to promote old ideas’.

On Saturday, January 15, Monsignor Michael Mullen’s response appeared in the Kansas City Star newspaper.  Monsignor Mullen is pastor of a Kansas City, Kansas parish.  He was also a Ward High School classmate of my husband, graduating from the Kansas City, Kansas school in 1954.   Known for years as Fr. Mike, we had great respect for him as a fellow student, a fine man and a well-respected priest.  My response to Monsignor’s writing in no way diminishes that history and respect.

In his response, Monsignor Mullen encourages the reading of the writings of Pope Benedict XVI and The Leaven Diocesan newspaper  in which Archbishop Naumann has an article.  As point of fact, I have not read either of these suggested writings nor do I consider them a definitive source for understanding the scope of the Catholic Church.

I question the efficacy of reading Pope Benedict and/or Archbishop Naumann if the hoped for result is a clear and honest understanding of the working of the Catholic Church.  The perspective would be skewed.

If one wanted to understand Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado and the Legionaries of Christ, would the writings of Maciel be the source?  Would years of accumulated material praising Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado bring counterpoint to Fr. Cutie’ criticisms of the Catholic Church?  Once highly praised (and carefully protected) by John Paul, Marcial Maciel Degollado was eventually  banished him from active ministry as the extent of his double life was brought to public knowledge.

As the Catholic Church studies the case of beatification for John Paul, would the writing of George Weigel give the balanced perspective of the life and work of Pope John Paul?  Consider Weigel’s whitewashing of John Paul’s failure in the abuse crisis contrasted with Fr. Andrew M Greeley calling the abuse crisis “the greatest scandal in the history of religion in America”.

History requires factual material laid out to the best of the recorders ability.  History requires a search for unbiased and studied materials from many sources.  History does not judge men, philosophies or movements  simply by the standards laid down by the entities’ agenda.

Rev. Cutie’, Monsignor Mullen, Archbishop Naumann definitely have the right, perhaps the duty, to preach from their perspective.  That right and duty does not extend to excluding the facts.

As a Gentle Reader, you know that the Catholic Church has been a part of my life since my infant baptism.  You also know that my readings convince me that ‘misogynistic’, ‘disconnected’ and an “institution that continues to promote old ideas” are aligned with history and with fact.  My hope is that we, lay members of the church, can bring about the openness and honesty leading to far-reaching changes.

Six Year Old Wisdom

Kansas City, Kansas is a treasure of memories.  Both Bob and I did our becoming in KCK, wandering the neighborhoods through our grade and high school years.  Favorite eating spots, parks, teen hang-outs no longer exist— closed, demolished, victims of urban decay.  The city slipped out from under us, moving south and west.

Still, I love the place.  Despite warnings that poverty pockets invite problems, I drive the corridor leading to the best of those memories.  There was a time that I wanted a home in the Westheight Area and still drive those streets ‘picking out’ my future house.    Ward High School,  St. Peter’s Parish, Tauromee Avenue, Mom’s old apartment all hold firm on the pull of their magic.

Fritz’s Train restaurant is on that 18th Street run and Bob and I have taken our grandchildren there for about 17 years.  The wonder of having food delivered by moving electric trains is a magic all its own.  During one lunch break,  3-year-old Sam watched as a fire truck pulled up and the responders came in for lunch.   True to my concept of KCK hospitality, one of the fire people saw Sam’s wonder and asked if Sam wanted to see and touch the truck.

I do love Kansas City, Kansas.

A few days ago, six-year-old Frank and I finished an adventure with lunch at Fritz’s.  The place was full and the noise level high.  At first, we were unusually quiet but Frank never stopped checking out those coming and going.  Finishing lunch, Frank was content to sit, observe and talk.

Then it came…the wisdom of a six-year-old child.

“Nana, where are the people with black skins?  Why aren’t there any black skins in this place?  I don’t see any.  Where we eat at my home, we always see people with lots of different skins.”

On this day, at this lunch hour, his observation was correct.  Not always so, but this day, in this restaurant, in this  integrated city, his observation was correct.

I would not have noticed, taking the mixed neighborhood for granted, knowing that Bishop Ward, Keeler Women’s Center  and Donnelly College are rich in ethnicity, in diversity, in acceptance.

Isn’t it pretty terrific that a six-year-old boy is keeping an eye on us making certain that we didn’t mistakenly get in the wrong restaurant?




Two Plus Two = More

Pinpointing this might be the dog vs. the dog’s tail kind of ramble, floundering as I organize what passes as my rational thought process.  A couple of blogs ago, I admitted to working on a piece about Time and the difficulty of pulling it together.  (Is my life truly measured in blog-time?)

Time is like the mercury I remember from Sister Rose Carmel’s chemistry class at Ward High School–hard to pin down and full of odd movement.  Time might give dozens of right-minded opportunities only to be ignored until Time withdraws every opportunity.  Time can fleet, offering no opportunity to think.   It happens.  It is gone.   Time is something that no timepiece can monitor.

Time’s first two passages:

A friend, a very dear friend, is in mourning.  This is not the four stage grieving of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ arrangement.  No bargaining, no acceptance will come.  Physical death is  not the event.  Profound sadness, consuming sadness, deep and painful sadness over what Time has snatched away and, quite possibly, destroyed.   Even accepting the reality of grieving is painful as it taints all the good Time that remains.  Why must she grieve for that which should never have been?

Last week, my husband visited his PCP.  “If he gets worse, take him to the hospital” was the final advice.  We struggled through the afternoon and evening.  When his weakness, spiked fever,  vomiting and breathing problems made it evident that I could not get him to the car, we called 9-1-1.   Within a very short time, the Platte County Fire Department responded and, to my mind, saved Bob’s life.   They were amazing.

Time’s second two passages

In August, we celebrated birthdays of my daughter, my son, my one year old grandson and my six-year-old grandson, plus my very special friend, Karol.  Time was celebrating, giving opportunities to be profoundly grateful for the people in my life.

My oldest grandson starts his college career this week.  I love him beyond my ability to express.  He is the first-born of my first-born, milestone births that directed my channels of Time. During an occassion scheduled for parents to visit the campus, my grandson expressed his thanks and appreciation to his dad–appreciation for both the gift of life and the ongoing gift of caring for that life.  My grandson expressed his thanks and appreciation to his step-mother for ‘being there for all the hard parts”, nurturing the insecure 3rd grader through Time and stages, bringing him to this confident and talented college freshman.

Two plus two.  Two moments of Time heavy with grief and profound sadness that have altered lives.   Two moments of Time rich with gratitude and profound appreciation for and to the people in my life.  As Dave Ramsey would say, “Better than I deserve.”

What I Never Was

What I never was…

As good as expected to be….

As bad as a secret longing….

As completely truthful as truth demanded…

As forgiving as required for that touted freedom from anger…

Close to that doppelgänger who seconded my  life…

Remotely close to becoming What I Never Was…

Despite all that, my life is unbelievably blessed:  two marriages to good men, five children of immense intellect, wisdom, no small measure of compassion,  far more than the sum of their parents. Five grandchildren  add more, so much more, to the everything of  life.  I earned money for doing what I loved surrounded by people whom I respected and admired.  My working life was  with children, diverse and amazing.  I grew into the title of Teacher.

Yesterday I wrote about 7th Street in Kansas City, Kansas.  I wrote about the diversity of families waiting at the school bus stop.  And I thought about the changes, the ongoing richness of living in that same community over 50 years ago.  My friend, Two-Names, reminded of even more aspects of the Kansas City, Kansas village, the values that have enriched our lives.   I am very grateful for those guideposts.

Thinking…feeling…making decisions…accepting consequences… personal responsibility…honoring those who came before and serving those who come after…community…guideposts.

Our recent primary election ads seem to insist that consequences are not important, that the mud of the moment splats in isolation.  This is but a small example of thinking that negates our early lessons of consequences to self, family, friends, community, country, planet.

What I Never Was is often sad and always irrevocable.  No do-overs fill in the places where we might have been more.  That leaves today, fresh, eager and pliable–today.

The good side of What I Never Was?   Complacent.