The Real Elephant in the Room on Oscar Night

By this time, you should know that the film Spotlight took home the Oscar for Best Picture. The film tells the story of the journalists of the Boston Globe and their investigation into the Archdiocese of Boston’s handling of pedophile priests and the scandal of sexual abuse of minors by priests including John Geoghan. The scandal rocked not only the local community, but the entire Catholic world. It drove Catholic-convert Rod Dreher, who was a journalist covering the scandal, to Orthodoxy and many more to run for cover. It also resulted in Cardinal Bernard Law’s resignation as the diocesan administrator and brought in then Archbishop (now Cardinal) Seán O’Malley.

This movie highlights a time of great pain for the Church not in the scandal of the revelation but the facts of what happened. Priests had done horrific things to children, and in the Church, this was covered up.

I cannot and will not excuse what happened in the Archdiocese. The fact that these things have come to light is ultimately a good thing, despite the pain. Dioceses across the US have “safe environment” training now. Even our confessionals have a window in the doors now. The bathrooms children use in our Catholic schools are not to be used by any adult under any circumstances.

I haven’t seen the film Spotlight yet, and don’t know if I will but what I did see and hear last night, was this:

“This film gave a voice to survivors and this Oscar amplifies that voice which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican,” said producer Michael Sugar, who accepted the award with his co-producers. “Pope Francis, it is time to protect the children and restore the faith.”

Read more:

Wait, what? Like Joan Desmond said in her article, I was confused. Very confused. Apparently, as Desmond herself surmises, Sugar simply thinks and believes that the Boston Globe journalism is where this story ended. Ahem. As a faithful Catholic, I suggest Mr. Sugar take a long hard look at what’s been going on in recent years and his own industry.

This award was given to a movie that tells a true story of horrors by a group of electors whom we all know ignored actors of color this year but who also awarded child-rapist Roman Polanski Best Director for The Pianist in 2003, the year John Geoghan was murdered in prison. Polanski has stayed out of the US so that he would avoid prosecution for his crimes.

And let’s not forget this is an industry that sexualizes young children in films and the countless young women who’ve felt they’ve had no choice but to sleep with men under duress for jobs. That’s also known as prostitution.

Apparently, Mr. Sugar believes that abuse is only abuse if a priest does it or it occurs in the Catholic Church. Because it’s the price of doing business in Hollywood.

As Federalist Senior Editor Mollie Hemingway put it:

Hollywood, feel free to make movies about scandals that bring attention to abuse, human trafficking and other controversial topic, but before you begin to lecture anyone on these topics make sure you have the complete story.


Growing Up

2016 is a year of firsts for my oldest son.

Thus far, Joseph has made his First Confession and in just under 2 months will make his First Holy Communion. Today is another first, his first soccer game on his first ever sports team. (We missed the first practice on Thursday night because the governing body decided Wednesday night to move the start week up by one week surprising both the club and the coaches and it was way too last minute for us.) Last night, Jeff took him to Dick’s to buy his first shorts, socks, cleats and shin guards…

When we moved we could not have anticipated the changes in our kids. While the move has not always been smooth and has presented us with some very unexpected challenges, over all it has been good. Joseph has fared probably the best of all of us. He was always smart and did well in school but we’ve seen him blossom academically. He also has developed socially as well in ways we did not anticipate as he is incredibly savvy for his age. We’ve tried for the last two years to get him into soccer but the league where we lived previously was very poorly organized and run. Despite a rough jump start, we’ve been impressed with our current club.

I really didn’t realize until this last week how much my son needed this move. Don’t get me wrong, he loved his old school and misses his old friends, but he needed to grow and mature in a way that our old community was just not conducive to. He needed to plant roots in fertile soil that we were only able to halfway provide in our old community through our home and parish. It was unthinkable where we used to live that it even be suggested that kids visit the woefully inadequate public library or even go into the school library except with their class. Here, he is encouraged to do both. Here he is encouraged to take responsibility for his education and his choices both inside and outside of school. He has the freedom to be held accountable and it has become apparent since our move just how stifled he was and just how much he chafed under the restrictions of where we lived before.

It’s not all sunshine and roses. I guess a better description is that sometimes the sun can burn and roses have thorns. He’s had his share of struggles in navigating this new uncharted territory. That’s good. It’s healthy. And the fact that he’s experienced the negative effects of his choices at a young age will help him immeasurably in the future. In some ways I feel guilty that he did not get this earlier in his life, but such was God’s plan and so I know that guilt is unfounded.

A blessing of parenthood is getting to watch these children that God has entrusted to us grow and blossom into the person He created them to be. This last year has given me a small taste of how beautiful that can be.

Modeling Faith When It Feels Hard To Trust

Today I found a major downside of our new home, I’ll abbreviate it: insurance and autism. To give you a brief background, our insurance has never covered autism related therapies so the school system stepped in even with the ever-elusive ABA therapy. They had a therapist on consult in our old system.

Here things are much different. Here, military insurance is king and as such, the school system provides very few services because so much of the population can get them through the military. We are not military. As such, we cannot afford to provide services outside of school. And school is loathe to provide them because the majority of the kids can get them. So we are caught in a donut hole…and I’m having to bring up in school meetings that we are the exception and it is not right that our child has to suffer for things beyond her control which, are, in fact within the school system’s control.

I want to throw my hands up in the air and scream, “Why God?! Why did you let us make this move and make things appear so perfect only for us to find out that there was a major flaw at the center!” And inside, I am kind of screaming that.

But, my kids. My kids can’t see that I’m having this crisis, can they? Will it diminish their faith if they see their mother grappling with trusting this to God? I’m getting hit on all sides here, the school is demanding she get therapy that they refuse to provide (but could, if they wanted to) and the therapists won’t take her insurance and we simply can’t afford to pay 100% up front. No one we know can do that. I keep on repeating to myself that God will worth through this, God will carry us over this huge chasm that has us in suspended animation.

I do believe it’s good for children to witness our dry times of faith and that it is also good for them to see us struggle so they can find God in the storm, but how to do that? How to help them understand that God hasn’t abandoned us even though we are chasing our tails searching for a way out of this conundrum.

I’ve crunched the numbers, even with help from family, we cannot afford the therapy the school wants Shelby to get. Without insurance, it’s unreachable. No one offers payment plans, and I don’t blame them because we’d be dead before they ever got paid off at the rates for services and the amount of services she needs. The only solution is to find a way to get the school system to offer the services.

Faith like a mustard seed, right? David vs Goliath, right? It could happen, right?

For now, I’m choosing not to speak about this issue with or in front of the boys. I will ask Blessed Mother Teresa to intercede and allow me to continue to do this work that’s been given me in joy and not despair and maybe someday I will tell them about how hard it was to just get out of bed each morning, dreading another rejection and another request from the school. For now, I will bear this burden quietly with my family and go about the difficult burden of trusting when it feels like it’s all gone to hell.

To quote Casting Crowns:

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place…

Blessed Mother Teresa, pray for us!

The Story about Zika and Birth Control Catholics AREN’T talking about…

The Pope said some things on a plane. That’s not what this post is about.

In the days following those things being said on a plane and the “clarification,” a lot of us Catholics here in the US got, well, angry. And confused and we narrowed the lens of what was said and what was meant into the confines of our own lives. We focused on how what the Pope said hurt us personally because we were being witnesses to Church teaching on the subjects of openness to life and nfp and whatnot. And then we spent a lot of time focusing on a) how this would schism the Church, b) how to respond and c) how we still love Papa Francesco and we are definitely NOT bashing him. I know because I did it too.

And so, here we are.

From the comfort of our First World homes with air-conditioning and wi-fi, we’ve gotten upset (and rightfully so) and some of us are having trouble shaking that upset. Well, allow me to please shake you out of it.

While the mainstream US media has made Zika and microcephaly fates worse than death itself and while we’ve fretted about whether what the Pope said on a plane is a change to Church teaching…in Brazil, mothers of babies with microcephaly live their lives.

Maybe you’ve see a picture as you’ve scrolled past major news sites of a baby boy with microcephaly in Brazil who is in a bucket. Surely this is the story of despair. But, strangely, it is not.

In fact, the BBC went to meet this baby and his mother. Would you be surprised to know he has a name? It’s Jose Wesley. And his mother, Solange, thinks of him as a normal baby. And she is proud the story has gotten out because she knows that there are other families out there who can be helped by seeing and hearing it. She talks about what it was like to have Zika. And what the doctors have told her the future holds for her and Wesley but how she believes it might not happen like that. This profile (which you should watch and not just read) is not a story of difficulty and sadness, it’s a story of hope and a mother simply loving her son. Does she really look all that different from you caring for your own baby or a friend caring for hers?

The point she made by allowing her son to be photographed by the AP and later by being interviewed by the BBC without ever saying it? His life matters. His life has value. Microcephaly surely means life will be different for him than for his brothers, but that doesn’t make it less than. She doesn’t see him as the face of microcephaly and this condition does not change the fact that he is Wesley.

And what about that hope and optimism about his future?

Allow me to introduce you to Ana Carolina Cáceres. Once again, thanks to the BBC, we have her testimony:

“When I was born, the doctor told my parents: ‘She will not walk, she will not talk and, over time, she will enter into a vegetative state until she dies.’ He was wrong.”

Ana is twenty-four now and has graduated from college with a degree in journalism which she hopes will help her to give voice to others like her, who are voiceless.

Through an American-Catholic lens, we want to focus our pro-life attentions on the aspect of birth control to avoid these children possibly being born with microcephaly or stopping abortions of children showing signs of the condition in utero. We are playing into the hands of our mainstream media and secular culture by focusing solely on those aspects.

How many times, as a pro-life Catholic have you heard, “These people only care about the babies before they are born and then do nothing once they are here,” or some variation of that. Should we ignore abortion and birth control as they pertain to Zika/microcephaly or any other condition? Of course not. But we should also not talk about them to the exclusion of the issue of children born to mothers who contracted Zika (whether through sexual contact or mosquitos) and developed microcephaly as a result. The issue of their lives is also a pro-life issue; a very big and serious one that is being lost in light of the focus of disease prevention and the Pope’s statement and it’s fallout.

It is fine if you were upset or angry or confused by what Pope Francis said, but let’s take that most American of stereotypes and put it to good use by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and sharing the stories of Wesley and Ana Carolina. Let’s make those stories go as viral as any Papal pronouncement because their lives are witness to what we profess when we follow Church teaching on life…they matter. They were created by God who never, ever makes mistakes. Don’t allow the secularists or the anti-life movement control this narrative with scare tactics and confusion. Counter with life in all its glory.

I have nothing more to add but want to share this…

Melody of Blossoming Joy wrote this response to the comments of Pope Francis last week.

I wanted to share that but also to share this from Chris in the comments:

Perhaps we should send our letters of confusion to the Holy Father, instead of to eachother [sic]. St. Catherine of Sienna comes to mind as someone who personally challenged a pope. I’ve been praying for him. My mother is his age and I cannot imagine her being able to take a trip like that, not to mention the countless hours speaking and hugging handicapped people, the sheer exhaustion. So, I guess I just have been praying for him. But I might write that letter too.

The wisdom here needs to be underscored. We all have an opinion on so many things that we discuss online with anyone but the person with whom it pertains to. I think in the midst of confusion and possible dismay, Chris’ idea is prudent.


Edited to add one more great link from Kendra at Catholic All Year (which really picks up Chris’ suggestion and runs with it) and provides additional information.

Also, as Jennifer Ambrose is wont to tell me in times of trouble: if the Church could survive the Borgias, it will survive this.

On Loneliness in a Time of Facebook

For Lent I gave up my personal facebook account. It’s been a good spiritual exercise thus far for sure. Truly not seeking out the validation of friends has been an experience that has stretched and grown me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Not to mention the time I have for other things.

It’s also served to highlight my isolation since our move. I love living here and I know leaving our old community was the right choice but I had quite a few IRL friends there. Here? Well, I have a few co-workers but they all live a half-hour or more away. And there is the one mom at my kids’ school I kinda know. And then, my kids’ teachers. That’s it. That’s all folks!

99.9% of the time, that’s more than what I need. Sometimes it would be nice to have someone to go down to the beach with or share a cup of coffee with, but the reality is, I live in a community with almost nothing in common with my neighbors. We have an overwhelming sense of community but very little sense of companionship. No one in our neighborhood has kids my age and the wives are all military wives who are transient in nature and therefore stick close to their own, I get it. And as an outsider, even if you’re super outgoing (I’m not) it’s difficult to break in. All the “newcomer” stuff is geared to the military (much of it happening on base, where I cannot go).  Even the autism community meets publicly quite a ways away and has thus far managed to meet only when I have to work (I never get enough notice so I can ask off). So, finding friends with much or anything in common is pretty difficult, even one or two.

In this situation, when one closes oneself off from an avenue of social media, it’s quick to become lonely for one or two friends to talk to occasionally.

And then this is where John 3:30 comes in. In admitting I need a few friends sometimes, I am admitting I need Him. I need Him to open doors I can’t open myself to make this happen. And maybe it won’t happen his Lent, but I have to trust in His will and as I allow Him to increase, and decrease myself, I am sure it will all work itself out the way it is supposed to. It’s something I would have despaired of a few years ago, but now, can be at peace with. I’d like to take credit but I’m sure it’s all Him. For sure I would be much lonelier now without both facebook and God!

Let’s Not Let a Little Thing Like What You’re Supposed To Be There For Distract You

About a month ago my son made his First Confession. I had him wear a dress shirt, a tie and khakis. I even made him tuck his shirt in. I explained to him that God’s forgiveness is free to us at any time and in any condition, but as it was his first one, I would like us to treat it as a special occasion. Clean, new clothes to reflect our clean soul afterward. I even dressed “up” for the day.

We were a rarity. Lots of kids in t-shirts and jeans. Parents in sports jerseys and sweat pants. Different strokes, right?!

A few weeks ago, our Director of Faith Formation had a parent meeting for all parents of children who will be receiving their First Holy Communion in the weeks after Easter. This included all the parents from our parish school who had a child receiving the sacrament at our parish and the Faith Formation parents. I ended up sick that day but she briefed me afterward and told me that the main questions were about what the children were allowed to wear. She asked me if I had any questions regarding that or anything else. My answer: Joseph is getting a brand new suit.

I was curious as to what the parents might have thought was acceptable. Sleeveless dresses? Jacket optional? It doesn’t really matter. Just like Confession, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, it is our desire to receive Him that matters, but we should receive it respectfully.

I can be a judgy as the next person. I truly can. And it’s for this reason that I spend a lot of my prayer time after receiving the Eucharist with my eyes closed.

I realize that attire during Mass is a hot-button issue for a lot of people. And there are a lot of different issues that could be addressed: veiling, skirt length, women in pants, men in ties, shorts etc. I really and truly try to ignore most of it. Modesty, I believe, is a state of mind as much as a way of dressing. Personally I don’t wear nor allow my children to wear any clothes with words of them nor pictures of animals or characters, but the lady with the two toddlers who sits near us during Mass always wears skirts with patterns of animals or cute scenes. They’ve caught my eye a couple of times before Mass and before I let myself think more about them, I refocus on the massive Crucifix and the man hanging from it.

It is a real shame that people sometimes come to Mass not dressed in honor of what they are about to receive. But honestly, that’s not my concern. And nor should it be yours. At our previous parish there was a couple from Nigeria. They came to Mass each week in their brightest, best robes and dashikis, they stood out, but it’s exactly how they would have come to Mass in Nigeria, in their best. And how do I know that someone else’s best isn’t jeans and a t-shirt. Because honestly I don’t.

The reason we should all be at Mass is hanging from the Crucifix and found in the Tabernacle. When we allow ourselves to be distracted by the elderly woman talking behind us, the baby wailing or the person who receives Him in cut-offs…we’ve lost the entire point. We’ve abandoned our reason for being there altogether. As a lay person, I am there because of God’s grace and no other reason. And when I judge the state another’s soul by the clothes on their person, I’m no longer in a state where I can licitly receive the Eucharist.

Distractions happen. We’re all human. But when they begin to distract us completely from our Lord and Savior and His sacrifice and the miracle in our presence? Let’s think about that, a person’s clothing or hair or the fact that we can see her hair has taken precedence over the greatest love we can ever experience? This is something we need to understand fully and to appreciate the gravity of. It would be awesome if no one ever dressed and/or behaved in a way that even for the briefest of moments took our eyes off of His, but then the Devil wouldn’t exist at all would he? The real victory is when we actively turn our eyes away from the evil one’s distractions and refocus them on Him who is “I am.”

So, with that in mind, let’s try to pay attention, as fully as possible on what has brought us to this place and in that spirit, thank Him for bringing all of us together at His table to receive His greatest gift.