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How do I process my grief?
Does suffering have any meaning?
Do we live in a random chaotic universe?
Is it time to re-evaluate my understanding of “God”?

This book is for anyone who has suffered a loss – of safety, of one’s home, of health, of a loved one or a relationship, or of one’s faith … and found themselves asking, “Why?” And then wondering, “Who am I asking?” and hoping they were not alone.

http://www.amazon.com/Traces-Hope-Surviving-Grief-Loss/dp/1937943275

traces of hope

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A Mother – protecting her children (the membership) from historical truth and theological insight, and the responsibilities of independent thought. Trying desperately to keep her babes from leaving the nest.

A Lioness – protecting her cubs (the clergy) by hiding them from attack, redirecting attention away from them, retaliating against their attackers.

A “Uriah Heep” – whose only concern is to protect and gain control over the moneys taken in by the business. Motivated by greed, and putting on a face of insincere humility.

A model of the Church of “Bishop” Francis? – I remain hopeful.

A history lesson the whole church should be given!

Another Voice

I thought I would take advantage of “sede vacante”……there NOT being a pope……to reflect on facts and fantasies about the papacy.

Concerned about the Catholic Church and the survival of the papacy, one of my pen-pals has been sending emails, reminding people that “Our Blessed Lord picked Saint Peter to be the first pope and he will surely take care of the church today by selecting a new one.”

An American archbishop wrote in his diocesan paper a few days ago that “Our Lord selected St. Peter to be the first pope, making him the rock on which the Catholic Church would be solidly built.”

There are facts, for sure. There are a lot of fantasies as well.

Let’s start from the very beginning……..

Peter was a young married man, probably around twenty years old. Most likely he had children but we don’t know for certain. He must have been…

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For reasons of health  and advanced age, Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28, 2013.

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What will they do? Will they elect a new King?

 

cappa magna being worn by a cardinal

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And continue to close their eyes to their crimes?

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Or will they search for the light of the Holy spirit?

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And imagine a New Beginning, A New Creation?

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truth

And what will the Church do? Because … they are not the Church; the People of God are the Church. And it’s time to stop waiting for Rome to change – or for the perfect Pope, the Council that best expresses your views, the best translation of the liturgy. Start being the Church you want the Church to be. Like the brave women and men who have recently received excommunication.

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It seems that I have fallen under the spell of magical thinking. Although clear about the nature of priestly ordination NOT making any kind of magical, ontological change in the persona of a priest, I apparently still harbored similar ideas about religious vows.

I have treated my brother James as if his capacity to bear the burdens of others was deeper and wider simply because he was a professed religious. It didn’t help that he was indeed more compassionate, gentle, patient and tender than most brothers, or Brothers. This in fact made it harder to recognise how we all in the family were taking advantage of him and expecting him to bear burdens beyond those of ordinary mortals or even ordinary friends or siblings.

The truth is he has borne those burdens, often juggling one parent’s or one sibling’s needs against another – often more than just one other in fact. And he has borne them alone. Unlike the rest of us – with husbands, wives, children, grandchildren – he has had no permanent presence in his life. No daily confidant or consoler. And he has lost many of his dearest friends in the last few years, reducing the number of support people in his life and increasing the pain and loss in his own relationships.

I have shared these reflections with my brother and our siblings, but I felt the topic was worthy of public comment also.

For those who are committed to going forward in the community of the Catholic faith it is vital that we reconsider our view of religious and priests, and most importantly our view of the vows that we have taken. Yes, all of us are under vows (solemn promises to perform an act, carry out an activity, or behave in a given way) taken for us by our parents at Infant Baptism, renewed by us at Confirmation, and reaffirmed by us every time we recite our creed and pray the Lord’s prayer. Implicit in these sacraments, faith statements and prayers is the promise to live by the beliefs expressed. We are not promising to support priests and religious as they live out their “calling,” we are acknowledging that we, too, are called, that we, too, are committing to live out this common calling, this shared vocation.

The Catholic faith community will not survive unless all Catholics accept their role, their burden, their joy of living a “vowed” life. The role of priests and religious should be seen as supporting us all in this life, not the other way around. This is a good time to reclaim  not the priesthood of the people but the people of the priesthood, or even better the people of Christ.

This excites me. This energizes me. How will this look?

I don’t know if I can call myself Catholic any more, in fact I think I am embarrassed to do so. Yet, as a victim of sexual assault by a priest, I feel I can have more impact if I remain Catholic and continue to speak my truth within the Catholic community.

I get very angry about the assumption that all victims are Catholic haters and no longer part of the Church, as if being raped by a priest is an excommunicable offense. Or perhaps it’s just telling the truth about it that is unacceptable: victims must be liars. But can that be it? Since when has lying been an excommunicable offense?  Is it the fact that we are accusing priests, then? Is that the unforgivable offense? If so, then the problem is with Catholics who believe that priests cannot be predators, who assume that a priest cannot be both loving and compassionate in ministry and also calculating, predatory, and criminal in their sexual behavior. Such naive beliefs are fed by the archaic view that priests are higher human beings by virtue of their ordination, that a transformation takes place in that sacrament raising priests closer to God than ordinary mortals will ever get!

These beliefs must be challenged. They are based on a magical view of priesthood and the sacrament or ordination that needs to change, and who better to challenge it than victims – especially ones with divinity degrees. So I struggle to hang on to the Catholic community, to remain within its borders, searching for wisdom among Catholic writers and enjoying the occasional gospel mass where the priest doesn’t look like my abuser and panic attacks remain at bay.

(Edited.  Apologies for the previous version; it was a comment in process that became frozen in cyberspace and I didn’t realize it had “defrosted.” I need to visit my blogs more regularly!)

According to the Jesuit poet G.M. Hopkins, the “grandeur” of God flames out in the world and in nature.  Hopkins believed that, despite our destructive ways, humankind cannot destroy the presence of God’s grace in nature, renewed by the Holy Spirit each day at dawn. In a similar vein, I believe that the sins of the Catholic leaders cannot destroy the power of God’s grace being experienced today in the faith and hope of so many Catholics.

Thousands of Catholics are committed to a church in which the priestly vocations of women are treated with equal respect to the priestly vocations of men, and in which a life of celibacy is not a pre-requisite for a life of priestly ministry.

This is a time for renewal, a new dawn for our Church.  The momentum for change is building at the grass-roots level, the people of God.  All the disenfranchised need a voice; all the abused and betrayed deserve to be heard.  And the journey forward will not be easy.

But what about the abusers in our church? Can’t a priest be forgiven and receive the grace of God to overcome his compulsion to abuse children? As Elizabeth Dreyer eloquently expresses in Manifestations of Grace, grace has the power to transform, to bring life out of death, hope out of despair. I firmly believe in God’s grace and that I am alive only through the power of God’s grace. God’s grace is not in question. The issue, however, is not God’s grace, but the power of the human person to remain open and respond to that grace.

Repentance is not enough; reception of the sacraments is not enough. Neither personal repentance nor communal sacraments have the power to change a sexual disorder.  Our bishops made this assumption in the past with horrific results, But now it should be clear to them: credibly accused pedophile priests must be taken out of ministry, regardless of statutes of limitations.

As a survivor who still considers herself a Catholic, the most pressing issue right now is not how can I heal (I have learned what I need to do) but how can the church heal?I do believe, as Jesus himself modeled, that the greatest challenge for any Christian, any human being, is to turn evil into good. Great evil has been perpetrated against our children, and also against our whole church community through the deceptions and cover-ups that made the Catholics in the pews unwitting accomplices in a morally corrupt institutional structure. The pain of healing will be no less than the pain caused by that evil. Our journey to forgiveness and healing will be long.


Some people worry when they have questions about their faith, or when they begin to realize that the old explanations, good enough before, no longer seem to offer coherent meaning. This worry is misplaced. To believe means to want to understand, and to want to understand means to be asking questions … Faith is precisely the opening of one’s mind, one’s understanding to God. But what God reveals to us is not apparent instantaneously….”

 Monica K. Hellwig, Understanding Catholicism  (Paulist Press, 2002)

I wrote the excerpt below in 2004. I was very optimistic then. Has the Church learnt anything since I published these words of hope?  The recent revised norms seem to suggest not.  Women who desire nothing more than to follow the calling of the Holy Spirit of God, God’s Shekhinah (a feminine characteristic, ironically) are portrayed as sinners who deserve nothing less than excommunication, along with any Catholics who support them.  Is it time to give up?

The Journey Forward for our Church

…  According to the Jesuit poet G.M. Hopkins, the grandeur of God flames out in the world and in nature.  Hopkins believed that despite our destructive ways humankind cannot destroy the presence of God’s grace in nature, renewed by the Holy Spirit each day at dawn. In a similar vein, I believe that the sins of our leaders cannot destroy the power of God’s grace being experienced today in the faith and hope of our Catholic community.

This is a time for renewal, a new dawn for our Church.  The momentum for change is building at the grass-roots level, the people of God.  All the people need a voice; all the people deserve to be heard.  And the journey forward will not be easy. 

…But what about God’s grace? Can’t a priest be forgiven and receive the grace of God to overcome his compulsion to abuse children? As Elizabeth Dreyer eloquently expresses in Manifestations of Grace, grace has the power to transform, to bring life out of death, hope out of despair.  I firmly believe in God’s grace and that I am alive only through the power of God’s grace. God’s grace is not in question. The issue, however, is not God’s grace, but the power of the human person to remain open and respond to that grace.

. . . I do believe, as Jesus himself modeled, that the greatest challenge for any Christian is to turn evil into good.

Where is evil to be found in our church? In the crimes and careers of abusive priests and religious; in the coverups, legal manipulations and obfuscations of bishops, cardinals and Congregations; in the rejection of victims of abuse, and in the attacks on individual Catholics who are committed to justice, equality and fidelity to God’s grace. 

I don’t believe that giving up on the church is the right answer.  The church has nurtured and nourished my faith and the faith of millions, often despite its official doctrines and decrees. Today the church continues to nourish and nurture my faith but not through the liturgy, certainly not through any parish preaching, but through the courage of Catholic activists and writers, women and men, laity, priests,  and religious.  Contrary to Vatican opinion, these women and men do not risk their eternal souls, because fidelity to God’s Holy Spirit in the pursuit of  truth and justice can never, logically, be a sin. It may be an offense against Vatican sensibilities and official doctrines and norms, but how can it be an offense against God?  It would be a profound tragedy if these courageous individuals give up on the church, even if the official church is so ready to give up on them.

Call to Action    has co-sponsored a petition with USA, CORPUS, RAPPORT, WATER and Women’s Ordination Conference.

“We, the undersigned, express our solidarity with Catholics who continue to seek equality, including those who practice feminist ministries and those who are ordained.”

Michelle Lesley

Give me church ladies, or I die.

John Paley

Philosophy, nursing, research

Dave Barnhart's Blog

Building a community for sinners, saints, and skeptics who join God in the renewal of all things

The World of Pastoral and Spiritual care

Sharing with others the intricacies of chaplaincy and spirituality in difficult times