Why I Lost Faith

I left the church completely when they turned their back on a child in need. This is happened years ago, but Charlie Pierce has an essay up that made me rethink about my own relationship with the Church. My thoughts are far too complicated for twitter, and I’m not sure they will make any sense with the blog, but all the hoopla on the Church lately has made me think about why I walked away from Catholicism and the Christian faith. I left because of the sheer hypocrisy of the Church.

I had a client, years ago, who was a devout Catholic. As with all of my clients, this young man was sexually aggressive. While in the world of treatment, his case was not necessarily the worst I had ever seen, he had done great harm to his victim, her family as well as his own family. His family came to me for treatment, and I worked with him to address his thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Given his level of activity in a peer group he was considered lower-risk. The family, who was accustomed to getting strength from the church ,assured me that this young man would continue to be embraced by the church community and receive the requisite spiritual and social support necessary to live a positive life.

They turned to the church, and the church kicked my client not just out of the youth group, but his school as well, citing his non-adjudicated offense as the reason why he could not be around children his own age.

Let me be perfectly clear: The kid offended someone much younger. He had no contact with kids of that age any more. He wasn’t on probation, he was diverted. This means he wasn’t even in the Juvenile Justice System because the authorities in the State’s Attorneys Office deemed him to be low risk.

So the Catholic Church, which goes on and on about forgiveness, redemption and social service turns its back on a parishioner who needed help. Meanwhile, the Bishops are shifting pedophiles and hebephiles around like collectible collecting cards. Here was a kid who was ready, willing and able to work through his shit.  They walked away from him.

The kicker:  I knew the pastor of that church.  He was, when I knew him, a good man who cared about children of all kinds.

The Church did nothing for this kid, while they have gone to the MAT for adults who have offended dozens of children.

This was a kid who could have–and  I should point out, was–helped without the guidance of the Church. As far as anyone knows, he’s relapse free for at least five years.  During those five years, the Church has continued to shelter pedophiles and turn its back on people in need based on sexual orientation or gender.

I beat up on the Church because the Church chose to protect and shelter pedophiles, and because it abandoned families in need.  Their hypocrisy drove me away.  And now, despite my desire to believe in the hereafter, they can’t get me back.

On Being Okay

Before I started writing this, I had a clear message about what is, and what is not, okay. When I started writing, I realized that this is something that may not be suited to a blog post. That should have stopped me from writing, but, I do think that being okay is something that we, as a culture, really need to discuss more. I should make it clear: I’m not mad at me or anyone else. I am just trying to process what Being Okay really means.

Being okay isn’t easy and let me be perfectly honest: I don’t think it should be. On some level, we should always strive to be better people than we were the day before. Some of us (myself included) take this too far and we beat the hell out of ourselves for things we should have let go of years ago. Other people are too full of themselves/selfish to realize the shouldn’t be okay with who they are… But this isn’t a therapy blog, nor is it really my place to deem who should (and shouldn’t be) okay.

Being okay is a baseline: It is the state of mind from which we can determine if we are doing well or if we need help. If hang ups, thoughts or feelings get in the way of being okay, then its time to do something about them. Take time off, talk to someone, turn off the TV…And if we can’t do that, then its time to talk to a professional.

Being okay is actually a pretty difficult place to be. But it is a worthy place to be.

7 Years

Listen to the song as you read the post…

Today marks the 7 year anniversary of my mother’s passing. If I don’t acknowledge this, I’ll get nothing done. I know that now. I’ve actually known it for years…

Anyway. My mother would have become a huge Decemberists Fan. How do I know this? By the time I moved out, after she had recovered from my dad’s passing and her own relapse, she wanted a copy of everything I had, “except for the Led Zepplin you listened to in High School.”

I left her with all the music I had, except the Zepplin.

Seven years later, I still do not know how to put everything I feel into words.  I can cry about it.  I can laugh at the stories she tried to tell (she wasn’t the story teller, my dad was).  I can think of how she would react to the life that I have made with Shannon (she’d be thrilled) and with how to make the world a better place (she’d be busier than ever).  Hell, I could even tell you what she’d be doing (taking the train to visit Tony and I for the Supper Club/Graduation Party we are throwing for my brother).  But ask me to describe how I feel, and the best I can do is blubber.

I don’t know if I’ll get around to doing another Judy post, but I can promise you, dear reader, that I’ll be thinking about her all day.  And if you ever knew her, I bet you’d think of her too.

If there is a heaven, this is what it looks like:

I like to think my dad is just off-screen, making irish coffee and mocking dead republicans.




A Simple Guide to Political Categorization

Given that human beings have a tendency to categorize, it should come as no surprise that this peculiar human trait is also used when discussing particular beliefs systems. People fuss over the definition–and label–of terms like progressive, liberal, conservative, big D Democrat, big R Repulican, Blue Dog and fascist. I could spend all of NaBloPoMo trying to suss this out; however, I think that in order to do it properly, I’d get far too involved with blogging to get any other work done. Instead of trying to define and label all of these terms, I’m going to focus on particular event that can cut across a number of these categories; furthermore, this event can be used heuristically to help identify what labels are appropriate.

In short–and this is a continuation of yesterday’s quick thought–I am proposing this simple test: If you blame a victim of sexual assault and bandy about terms like “personal responsibility” and “boys will be boys” you are disqualified from being considered liberal, progressive and a feminist.

I recognize that it is difficult to define certain philosophies. I also realize that “moral absolutes” and universal statements are dangerous places to go philosophically. In addition to these realizations, I’m pretty sure that this this kind of a statement will make some of my readers–new, old or established–upset because I’m being too harsh.

When one blames a victim for a crime, one is saying that (at best) their poor judgement is the moral equivalent of the pain that has been inflicted on them. Minimizing, Justifying and rationalizing a crime with the statement of, “well she should have known better” is a distortion displayed by the people perpetrating the crime. When the larger community blames a victim, it continues to traumatize the victim.

In short, if you blame a victim, you are traumatizing the victim. You are showing a callous disregard for their experience. In my experience of talking with victims and victim advocates, victims of crimes–especially victims of a sexual assault–already have an inordinate amount of guilt and shame. Victims feel as if other people are holding them responsible for their victimization. These feelings, for some victims, continue inward to the point where a victim blames oneself for their pain. As a result of this emotional trauma, they begin to feel that they have this pain coming, that they have somehow deserved this because they are bad, stupid or “slutty.”

Blaming a victim is one step away from abusing the victim.

I honestly do not care if this is considered too harsh. I have seen multiple generations of families suffering from victim blaming. I have read far too many victim statements and talk to far too many State’s Attorneys who have told me far too much about how the victim “is spiraling out of control and no one is able to help her.”

When a person is victimized, the offender is the one that is responsible for their trauma. They are the ones who chose to cross boundaries. They are the ones who decided to violate societal norms for their own needs. If you want to blame society for sexualizing young women and having conflicting sexual mores, feel free to do so. But if you are going to blame a victim, recognize that you have far too much in common with an offender than I am comfortable with.

If you’re uncomfortable with the dissonance you might feel, then change your mind about victim blaming. Don’t rationalize it. Do not justify it. Change it.

Wrong Battle: An Open Letter to Cardinal Francis George

Your Holiness, Cardinal Francis George (and certain other Catholics),

The uproar you have started regarding President Obama’s upcoming visit to Notre Dame is disgraceful, unwarranted and a slap in the face to the moderate and liberal branches of the faith. This is yet another example of how you taken the faith away from the core principles that once guided the church.

Cardinal, you have been quoted saying:

Whatever else is clear, it’s clear Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation,” George said, “and didn’t anticipate the kind of uproar that would be consequent to the decision, at least not to the extent that it has happened.”

George said he continues to talk to the university about the invitation, which he said “brought extreme embarrassment to many, many people who are Catholic, including their own bishop.”

The embarrassment, sir, belongs to you and any other person of Religious faith who refuses to dialogue with others. This entire argument stems not from the “culture of life” that I was raised in, but in a right wing, dogmatic response to the question of abortion.

The President is pushing for Abortion Reduction, a series of interventions both pre and post natal designed to ensure the safety of the fetus, mother and the eventual child. The Church I remember, an organization that I once turned to for comfort and guidance, would relish the opportunity to work with someone to achieve that goal.

Instead, you and others of your ilk, cling to practices and beliefs that would force a nine year old victim of repeated sexual assault to carry a fetus to term. An action that is both life threatening and psychologically destroying. And while you scream from your self-righteous pulpit, you refuse to address the skeletons in your own closet:

A Catholic priest, the Rev. Kenneth J. Martin pleaded guilty to molesting a teenage boy in 2001, yet was found working for the Archdiocese of Chicago last month, despite promises from the cardinal that the convicted priest would not be coming back to Chicago.

Both of these behaviors are an insult to the memory of Cardinal Bernadin, your predecessor, who worked to clear the churches name. You foster a false division within the Church, and ignore the damage the shepherds have done to the flock.

You have chosen to fight a battle that you should not engage in. Defending the sanctity of human life goes beyond abortion. The Culture of Life also reflects questions about war, human rights and quality of life issues. You did not cry foul when the previous president, who waged a war completely against church teachings, spoke at commencement. This is yet another shameful act you have undertaken.

As a Bishop, you cannot pick and chose which battles to fight for. The Culture of Life, every aspect of it, must be defended by individuals of your rank. Your continued failure is just another reason why many Catholics of my generation leave the church. Your leadership continues to push away the rationed, reasonable and educated faithful away, and prevents reconciliation with those who struggle with the spiritual. Your zealotry has made you blind to the larger picture.


Hell. For Realz

Yesterday’s post set up some homework for today: Listening to the This American Life episode about Heretics. Specifically, Revered Pearson, an evangelical preacher who preaches the Gospel of Inclusion. Pearson doesn’t preach about hell.

Now, I grew up believing in hell. Kinda. It never made much sense to me. God, who loves us humans so much, is going to have us burn for eternity? Does that doesn’t make sense. He cannot be all forgiving and have you burn. Even if you reject Him, He’s supposed to be a font of love and compassion. He’ll forgive that too…

One can ask for forgiveness or it can just be given. I’m pretty sure God can forgive people, even without them asking for it.

The establishment of Hell seems to be a method of control. “Do what we say or you burn. Follow our rules or your soul is forfeit.” It is my understanding that Evangelical’s replaces “our” with “God’s;” however the Bible itself has been translated and re translated by other parties, typically those in authority, that “God’s word” has been replaced by, “divinely inspired author, who just happens to be paid by the Royal Bank.”

My dad** believed in more than just Hell. He flat out believed in a pervasive evil force in this world. I also think he believed that individuals are inherently good; however, the evil force corrupted people and their intentions. Hell, and the Devil, gave him the wiggle room to keep both thoughts in his head.

He wasn’t an idiot, nor was he zealot. He was religious, but he could curse better than any sailor I’ve ever met (well, nuclear sub tech). He was liberal and religious. I mention my dad in this only because he had an idea of Hell, and evil, that doesn’t sit well with me either. I don’t think that God can be the most Benevolent if he lets people who’ve been seduced or influenced by evil, burn for eternity.

If God isn’t benevolent, then why should I praise Him? Why should I live a Christ Like Life if he’s going to turn his back on individuals who don’t follow His (or, really just the Evangelical) way? And if God’s going to let people who have 11th hour conversions into heaven, but keep out Atheists who do a lifetime of good work, then God’s neither benevolent or omniscient. He becomes a spoiled brat who takes his ball and goes home when people don’t follow his rules.

So give me your views of hell and damnation. Why do (or don’t) you believe in hellfire?

**If you’re new to the blog, you should realize that my dad wasn’t stupid. He was a lawyer, a public defender, and he worked in the homicide task force. He defended the people that most other individuals would be hard pressed to talk to. It was his job to ensure that they received the full protections enshrined int the Constitution. Before he died, he was certified to try Death Penalty cases in the State of Illinois and sworn in before the US Supreme court (I have the coffee mugs they give you as mementos).

**Edit: I published this yesterday after Shannon left for the hawks game. It didn’t publish, it’s saved. Sorry about that. I’m only publishing this now, with the right date, for my records. Not for Nablopomo

What I believe

Today I’m taking a break from economics, politics, social science, sexually aggressive children and Liberal Anger to think about the past four years. Stay with me, as I’m going to ramble. I’ll try and proof this at some point, but I don’t promise a damn thing.

Four years ago, I raced down the Eisenhower Expressway to get to Loyola so I could say goodbye to my mom. Actually, that’s not true. I did 120+ down the Ike to tell my mom not to go. I missed her by five minutes. The day before, her oncologist reminded her that, “there may come a point where the fight’s over.” The point where the radiation, chemo and cancer treatments would not even maintain her quality of life. My mom told everyone as best she could how much she loved us, then she passed away. Knowing her like I did–a story in and of itself–I know she passed away without much fan faire because she did not want to be a burden on her kids. I also think she wanted a few moments alone to make peace with herself and God. It was her one selfish act, and she had earned it.

When I asked a few weeks ago, “What do you believe?” I was going through the early process of missing my parents. I want to believe that there is a heaven, a communion of saints, a benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient God. I so I want to believe in the idea that when I die, I would get to live on in some form with my parents. I want that comfort.

Yet, I do not need that comfort to continue living. It would make life easier, hence the “want”, however I refuse to believe in something just to make my life easier. That is a form of moral and intellectual dishonesty that my parents would be appalled at.

Like Seth and Torteya, I fear oblivion–and not just for myself. When I think of the atheist’s idea of the end, I want to scream for my parents. It is unfair, unjust and just plain wrong to snuff out who they were. Of course, I am thinking of myself in this regard: I miss their guidance, my dad’s wit and wisdom, my mom’s amazing ability to make peace (or surprise me with a well placed F-bomb); yet I also think of my friends and family who have been touched by them in some way. How many problems could have been dealt with with one single phone call from my dad (I know one recent reader knows exactly what I am talking about) or how just talking to my mom would make an unbearable weak turn into an opportunity.

My mom brightened up the cancer ward at Loyola. The nurses loved her. She would help the other patients with small acts of kindness–helping to pass out cookies, telling them which part of the ward had the better snacks, listening to them talk about their own treatments–even when she just wanted to worry about her family. Not herself, but the burden she felt she caused her family. This is not a woman who should be confined to oblivion.

I do take comfort in the fact that she knew that her friends and family relished the idea of being able to help her in her time of need. Her church friends loved sharing their cooking with her. Old friends from her teaching days loved to talk politics and keep her company. The year I moved back home to take care of her will be one of the highlights of my life.

Before my parents died, I was a casual Catholic. After my dad died, I still believed. Hell, I was determined, on some level, to maintain my Catholic identity in the face of its co-optation by the Right. I still believed shortly after my mom died. Now, four years later, I struggle with the idea God. Like YvaDiva i am repulsed by the idea that my parents were “duped” into belief. I am scared and angry that they may be gone forever. Without my parents guidance, my faith is far smaller than a mustard seed.

Losing my parents harmed my faith. I don’t find the platitude, “the Lord works in mysterious ways” to have any modicum of comfort. It is a cop-out of the highest fucking order; however, in all fairness, I find solace in Woody Gutherie’s words.

I know I am still angry about my parent’s illness and death. Hell, I’m mad that my faith in God was harmed by my church community. My family was betrayed by a priest and my parish turned on the best pastor we ever had. I have seen my faith turn it’s back on its mission of social justice and turn into a monster of a monolith. I know my mom would be disappointed in this; however, she wasn’t so close-minded to believe that one must be a believer to be a good person.

The more I think about it, the more I believe in what my mom believed in. I believe that people are inherently good. I believe that people can change. I believe that hard work should be enough to guarantee one success in life, but that it doesn’t always work out that way. I believe that being kindness is the way to solve most of one’s ills–but that does not mean one has to cave, be weak or give up.

Like her, I believe that you don’t stop fighting until you’ve done everything you can do. And even then, you go out with grace.

I don’t have my mother’s faith, and I know that makes me a weaker person than she was. At the same time, I know she wouldn’t want me to believe in her ideals just because they were hers. I also know that she wouldn’t want me to miss her as much as I do, I know she would be touched at how I try to live like she did.

I miss you mom. More than I can really ever say.