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Monday, July 27, 2015

Sadness of Loss

The news has been filled with the Planned Parenthood Undercover Video sting.  The left is outraged and scrambling to explain why this organization, founded on a hatred of women different from the White Intellectual Elite, should continue to receive about 15.00 of my money in tax support every year.

I have, I think, a unique perspective because I was a willing participant in the murder of four of my children through legal abortion.  I was assured that my choice was my right and that I was only getting rid of a blob of tissue.  I knew it was wrong at the time, but I was frightened.  I was young, I was sexually active for all the wrong reasons, I was increasing my use of alcohol and drugs to numb the pain I felt from being me.  No one, including the family member who helped me, ever sat me down and said, "What the hell is going on here, Girl?  Why are you doing this to yourself?"  No one at Planned Parenthood ever looked over my chart and wondered why the Girl with the Tear Streaked Face kept showing up, shaking, sometimes with bruises, in the same 'predicament' time after time. 

For me, it took losing everything and having to flee Los Angeles to get out of the hell I had so willingly walked into - all in the name of freedom.  However, it was many years before I could face what I had done; to myself, to my family and to my children.  Losing a child to miscarriage years later was the straw that broke this camel's back.  I reacted to that loss by plunging deeply into the alcohol and drug scene, bloating up to 300 pounds so no man would ever want me, and then not really trying to kill myself but, instead, wanting to just wake up dead.

Listening to the pundits on both sides of the aisle this past week has stirred up a lot of old emotions for me.  Nothing horrible.  No bad dreams.  No crying jags.  No reaching for the bottle after 23 years of successfully battling my demons (one day at a time).  Nothing quite that dramatic, I'm afraid.  Rather, the emotions that have stirred have caused me to reflect deeply on how grateful I am today for the life I have right this minute.  I am grateful for the journeys of healing and recovery of which I have played a major role and I am even grateful for those who have chosen to walk away from me for being "too Catholic".  I am grateful for the occasional bouts of loneliness and I am grateful for the vast freedom that is mine, unfettered as I am by husband or children.   I am grateful that the pain I feel is pain that is real and that I can accept unflinchingly my responsibility in my past life and blame no one for the choices I made.  I was, and remain, an adult.  I had been raised right.  I had been given a loving a merciful God and I had been given the pathway to Him through the Sacraments.  I was the one that walked away because I was attracted by the glitter of potential fame and possible fortune.  I was the one that let that man into my life and chose sexual pleasure over faithfulness to God.

Because I take full responsibility for my life I do not blame anyone or anything - including Planned Parenthood - for not protecting me from myself.  However, I think it is funny that I live in a country that is up in arms about no kill shelters for animals and would never, NEVER stand for the dismembering a kittens in order to sell them for testing or research somewhere but actually DEBATES whether it is okay to do this for humans.

Now look....I love my animals.  I absolutely love my newest dog, Shaw's Rob Roy MacDuff (Robbie) who, by the way, is a Rescue Scottie from a No Kill Shelter.  I accidentally stepped on Robbie's paw last night and I don't know who felt worse, the dog or me.  I understand the value of animals and I always point to St John Bosco as having his Guardian Angel manifest as the Grey Dog. 

What I am acutely aware of is this:  we have, as a society, lost any idea of the value of human life.  We have already put ourselves on the same level as animals.  We are no longer Creatures made in the Image and the Likeness of The Creator.  Because we are not that important anymore to each other, we cannot see the irony of having more laws in place to protect the eggs of a California Condor than a woman living in California.

What Planned Parenthood has done is a natural extension of how society has come to view itself - we don't really matter.  Black lives, Brown lives, Female lives, White lives, Children's lives - all in all none of us really matter and so who cares if a doctor carefully crushes the skull of an infant inside the womb and then sells the liver for profit?

Why I love being a Christian is I have been given a reason to exist.  Why I love being a Catholic is I have been given the fullest way possible to worship God as a Christian.  Because of that alone, I now know that I do matter and so it makes me sad and stirs up old feelings of grief when it becomes clear to me how little society as a whole cares about itself.

Today, let's think deeply about why we are outraged when a dog or cat is abused and why those photos and videos that show these animals being restored to health give us such a wonderful feeling.  Let's ask ourselves why we are not outraged over the words uttered by that doctor about dismembering children for profit and let's examine if becoming outraged over that would REALLY be a betrayal of our Right to Choose. 

After all, do we really have the right to choose this kind of horror?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Thomas Aquinas and Prudence

I am currently trying to understand and read through St Thomas Aquinas' work Summa Theologica and, as you might imagine, am alternately delighted and overwhelmed.  I am delighting in the way the great saint thinks through tough questions and I am overwhelmed at the depth of his thinking.  I may not be stupid, but reading these writings is a real lesson in humility for this little Dominican.

Take the question of Prudence: Aquinas asks the question of whether or not the virtue of prudence is 'in' all who have grace.  He then goes on to break it down enough so that, eventually, one can see that all who has grace has Charity and if one has Charity (which is a virtue) then one has Prudence because the virtues must be connected together. 

What I really enjoyed reading, however, was the way Aquinas thought out the idea of being diligent - how one can be merely sufficient with regard to that which is necessary for salvation and how such diligence is given to all who have grace.  However, the saint also speaks to those who care for both themselves and others in matters of salvation (and earthly needs) and that this type of diligence is not in all who have grace.

So that makes me stop and ponder - if we all have the capacity to be great saints by caring for others before we care for ourselves, what makes some of us open to that possibility and others of us too frightened to give much though to anyone other than ourselves?

I know that my 12 Step program is built on a foundation of service to others.  There is a line in the literature that speaks to our very lives being dependent upon our constant thought of others.  We can't just do it once in awhile, or when it is convenient or when we feel it will bear fruit.

Yet I also know that I fall short in that area every day.  I start out wanting and deliberately offering to my Father my will and my life and every day I get discouraged by the message around me that blares "AS LONG AS YOU ARE HAPPY THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS".

Exercising the virtues is something I am willing to do; my problem is knowing when I am doing it and when I am simply going along to get along.  Perhaps I can take some comfort in the thought that my diligence is what fades and then blossoms, sometimes several times a day, and that it is when I am able to be diligent in my behavior and my outlook that my ability to serve is strengthened.

Today I resolve to be diligent.  I resolve to exercise the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity and Prudence.  Today I resolve to keep trying to make my life one with His Life.

If I fail today, if my diligence fades or I become tired of the fight, may my Guardian Angel give me strength to keep going.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Admitting The Problem...Half the Battle

We have a belief within the recovery community that admitting we have a problem is half the battle.  We say this because that admission can be one of the toughest to make.  It essentially states to the world, and to ourselves, that there is something about us we cannot change no matter how hard we try.  It can be humiliating.  It can hurt more than you imagine.  However, the admission that we have a problem with alcohol or drugs or gambling or food or sexual gratification or pornography is like ripping a scab off of an infected wound.  The pain is awful, but once the problem is exposed the infection can be cleaned out and the wound can begin to heal.

The same analogy can, I suppose, be applied to admission that institutional racism exists in the United States of America.  It may hurt to say it out loud, especially for those of us who are both White and who try very hard to judge people by their character rather than the color of their skin.  It can be humiliating to admit that the government and country we love and support, through our taxes, through our prayers, through our participation in military service or community work, is riddled with this unreasonable belief that a person's worth is determined by whether or not their skin is lighter than anothers, or whether or not they speak English as their first language.  

We also run the risk, when we do not admit that Institutional Racism exists, of not being able to address  what is a serious problem in our country.  It is impossible, for instance, to properly address the problem of illegal immigration if bringing up the issue at all labels one as either a bleeding heart liberal communist Marxist bastard or a right-wing, poor person hating, hard hearted capitalist out to exploit the masses for material gain.

On July 6, John Metta wrote a piece entitled I,Racist that addresses the hurt feelings of his Caucasian Aunt when another member of his family made a statement about the inherent dishonesty of Northerners in regards to racism.  It is an extremely interesting bit of writing, and I found myself agreeing with much of what the gentleman stated.  As a woman of European descent, you have to dig  a little before you can find something about me to fire up your racism.  You have to ask a few questions before you find out my family are Italian Immigrants, that we are predominately Catholic or that my father's family would be considered 'poor whites from the South'.  In other words, you cannot find something about me to just hate right off the bat simply by my appearance, unless you have something about black eyes and dark brown hair.

I read the article by Mr. Metta and it made me think. 

I can absolutely accept his premise; that being that I, as a Caucasian woman, do not understand the effects of institutional racism simply because I have never been a victim of it.  I have never been dismissed or targeted based on the way I look by an owner of a store or a government official.

However, I wondered if Mr. Metta has ever given any thought to how a woman in the world must live every day. 

You see, what most people do not want to admit is this: women are targets.  We are targets of physical and sexual violence, of being dismissed because we are women, of being regarded as part of a problem simply because of our sexual organs.  Whether we are covered up in a burkha in the name of 'protection' or told we are distracting in a science lab, our mere presence in any situation puts us in danger.

Every woman knows this and we make appropriate concessions to life based on our sexual organs. If we are practical women we watch how we dress, how we speak and how we present ourselves to the world.  We know, for instance, that men are visual creatures and if we want to minimize the stares at our breasts or buttocks we do not wear clothing that reveals too much cleavage.  We are told that is modest and I happen to agree - but the implication is always going to be that if we do not dress in an appropriate manner we are somehow to blame for those same stares. 

Rape is used throughout the world as a way for men to proclaim their dominion over it.  It is used so often in some areas that it is now considered a kind of war crime. In fact, the 1970's Feminist declaration that all men are, at heart, rapists is not that far off the mark and yet I wonder if Mr. Metta would feel the same way about that statement as his White Auntie felt about being told that the racists in the North are less honest than the racists of the South because the Northerners deny their racism.  Mr. Metta would, I suspect, deny his Inner Rapist.

We see over an over again what happens when 'good young men' are thrown into situation that involve alcohol, drugs and a semi-conscious woman.  We see them stand before a judge and try to explain their actions.  We see them sitting before Dr. Phil in tears, trying to tell him that they are not that way, that is not indicative of their true character and then become speechless when presented with evidence that shows they rubbed their penis over the face of an unconscious college student, took a picture of it and then posted it on Snapchat.

I have no problem admitting my faults in terms of race.  I have no problem admitting my faults in terms of sexism.  My faults in terms of sexism express themselves this way:  If I pull up to a store and there is a group of men standing around, my heart beats a little faster.  It does not matter that I am an older woman, hardly attractive by today's standards and that I am dressed in the appropriate manner for a woman of grace and dignity.  In the back of my mind is the thought, "What do I have to watch out for here?".  There is an inherent threat for a woman when confronted with two or more men gathered together.  We have to be careful.  We don't know what might make them snap and decide to make an nasty remark when we walk by, or try and touch our body or worse, decide that the way we wore our hair that day indicates we want to have sex with a huge group of men.

I do not want to go overboard here. After all, Camile Paglia has done a much better job of ranting about this kind of stuff than I ever can.  What I want us to think about as we discuss the problems of racism in this country is this: we may have a problem that transcends racism.  We may have a problem of Power.  We may have a problem that manifests itself in the physical, mental and emotional abuse of those we deem less powerful than ourselves and whether we are beating up the dog or being nasty to the customer service representative on the phone we all suffer from this tendency to try and make ourselves feel better by making someone else feel worse.

I do not absolve our country of Institutional Racism by declaring that the problem of Power exists in all of us.  Rather, what I hope to do is start a deeper conversation about how we, as individuals, find it necessary to impose our will on those around us no matter what.  In some areas it is necessary to do so, such as the necessity to not allow a toddler to run into the street, but in other areas we have to ask the question, "Am I just demanding my own way because doing so makes me important?".

I wonder if we can start to solve the problem of racism by embracing the idea of civility.  Perhaps, and I don't know if this is true or not, by starting with good manners we can start to reclaim the notion that each person has an inherent dignity simply be reason of being a creature of God.  If we can begin to treat each other with civil tones to our voices, to our language and to our deeds perhaps we will begin to see each person in our lives as someone deserving of positive treatment.

Perhaps we will begin to lose our need to be in charge.

Friday, July 10, 2015

When a Would Be President Tells the Truth

Normally I do not weigh in on politics on my blog because with few exceptions I find professional politicians to be terribly boring and tiresome.  My tongue-in-cheek declaration has been, for many years, that I will vote for the first one that actually tells the truth about themselves.  I meant this:  the first gal or guy who stands up in front of a microphone and says, "I am a power hungry geek who wants to loot the country and the world for all I can under the guise of giving a flat damn about anyone other than myself, so elect me for President" would be such a break of fresh air that I would vote for them.

Yes, I am aware I sound cynical.

I am also aware of Church Teaching when it comes to politics.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, in part, that:

2246 It is a part of the Church's mission "to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. The means, the only means, she may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances."

She also states:

407 The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man's situation and activity in the world. By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails "captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil".Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.

So, taking all this into consideration (my cynicism, my joke about truth telling politicos, and Church Teaching) I am finding it very hard to believe that anyone with a mind for Jesus Christ and His Church can support Donald Trump's candidacy for the Presidency.

Look, I am not saying you cannot support him.  This is a free country and by golly you can support him if you want - my problem is, I cannot figure out why you would want to, especially if you are part of the working class of Americans who struggle each day to keep their head above water, send their children to good schools and keep some semblance of joy in your life.

Now, why do I feel this way?

Is it because he has spoken so despairingly about Mexicans?  Not really.  I am a Catholic and a woman and a child of immigrants. I have heard slurs about my kind all my life.  The fact that another member of the power elite doesn't like an entire group of people based on the presence of illegal immigrants in this country does not surprise me or even hurt me.  In fact, I am a little surprised at all the hand wringing and wailing about this from some of my 'look at how sensitive I am' friends.  I mean, come on...this surprises you?

Is it because he is a several times married, documented adulterer, serial father and outright hypocrite when it comes to moral behavior?

Oh heck no...shoot, if that is why someone does not vote for a candidate we would have very few from which to chose.  A bigger group of moral reprobates you cannot find than that in Congress.

Nope - it is for a simple reason that I cannot support this blowhard.

He told the truth.

On July 8th, during an interview with NBC, Donald Trump stated that Jonah Goldberg's opinion of him and his ideas should be summarily dismissed.  Why, you ask?  Was it because the opinion was not well thought out?  Oh no, no, no! 

The reason we should dismiss the man's opinion is because he is not as wealthy as Donald Trump.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, my old joke about a truthful politician became a reality.  Donald Trump stated what his criteria for determining the dignity of a human being, for listening to his or her opinion and for making the decision as to the value of that opinion - wealth.

By that criteria, not only would he not listen to anything I have to say about what I think has gone terribly wrong with my country, he would dismiss me as having any value whatsoever (unless I am cleaning his house, I suppose).

I am not really surprised.  I have suspected that every office holder in Washington thinks this way.  I have held out hope for people like Rick Santorum or Bernie Sanders actually caring about what the opinion is of someone like me but I have my doubts.  I hear a top contender for the GOP nomination say outloud how he determines the worth of a person and it just seals the deal for me.

He wants to be President for one reason - POWER.

Donald Trump, and I suspect all the other candidates because none of them have made his statement a rallying point, feels that people like me owe him our allegiance because he is a billionaire.

Now, to his defense we are a nation that slathers attention of men who become women and then pose in women's underwear on a magazine cover to protest being called less than attractive.  We are also a nation that breathlessly watches grown, overly medicated and surgically altered women throw champagne in each others' faces while screaming about how much they love their (probably) gay husbands. 

However, I really am shocked that the average American - in other words, people just like me - would let him get away with thinking that he should be worshiped and lionized because he is rich.  I am upset that the average American is defending his statements about illegal immigration when he has basically told them that he could give a fat rat's patootie about whether they like him or not because their net worth makes their opinion worthless to him.

Have we lost all sense of personal pride?  Do we not want someone in power to acknowledge, as acknowledged by The Catholic Church, that we possess an inherent dignity simply by virtue of being created by a loving and merciful God?  Doesn't a billionaire saying outloud that someone having less money than he has means he can ignore that person and their ideas bother ANYONE AT ALL?

Apparently not.

Apparently, Donald Trump thinks we are a bunch of sheep easily lead by flash and lots of glitter.

By the looks of the polls, he may be right.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fornication - WHAT??????

2353 Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Every once in awhile I revel in the long-forgotten language once used by every day people.  It harks back to an era when one did not have to be monetarily wealthy in order to be well-spoken or solidly educated.  While most of us have forgotten how to craft a lovely sentence, we still recognize one when it is spoken.  I think that's the reason so many of us like Downton Abbey.  Those people speak real good, right?


One of my favorite words is fornication.  Nowadays it is usually  spoken by an actor dressed in period costume swinging a sword at a dragon, but the word still has a strong pull on the average listener.  It  makes us go "EWWW" and scrunch our shoulders.  We don't like its sound - it sounds old-fashioned and judgmental and seems to draw a line in the sand between good and bad.  In today's society, we don't like having that line drawn - unless, of course, we are talking about a sports team or a type of food. 

I thought of that word today when I read a news article about Russell Wilson, Quarterback for the dreaded and unloved (by me) Seattle Seahawks. 

It seems that the divorced Mr. Wilson has decided to try doing his next serious relationship in a different manner; his decision has made the news because it is not only odd for a celebrity to behave this way but it is even odder for that celebrity to make it public.

He and his girlfriend are not having sex.

I know, I know...what a shocker!  In a day when a former internet porn star makes billions by showing off huge buttocks in an attempt to 'break the internet', a handsome and talented young man has made a decision to try to do things 'right this time'.  He has not only noticed that the line in the sand is still there, he has made an intentional decision to be on one side or the other.

Now, of course, he has done so with great class.  Mr. Wilson has not pointed a finger at anyone else and called them any names, he has not declared that he is perfect and he has not pretended to be something he is not.  Just as that former internet porn star saw the value in having her child baptized by Holy Mother Church, Mr. Wilson has decided to take an action that suites his way of worshiping Jesus Christ. 

My hope is this:  Russell Wilson's declaration that he and his girlfriend are abstinent because they are not married will be met with acceptance.  I hope that he will be lauded for his attempt to walk a narrow path, not one that is wonderful for everyone but one that has proven so valuable to so many for so many centuries.  My hope is that he grows from this experience and comes to understand exactly what being a Godly, Christian man means in this day and age.

And I hope he has a really lousy year on the gridiron.

Good job, Russell Wilson.  May Christ lead you and bless you, one day at a time!