Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Pope And Kim Davis -- A Jesuit "Fast One"???

I have often been accused of being "Jesuitical" in my way of thinking. I say "accused" because those who observed this about me were not being complimentary. Not at all. I used to be rather ashamed of this fact about myself, as I do think it is an accurate observation. As I have entered midlife, though, I have chosen to embrace it.

So, here we go.

I was thinking about the Pope's meeting with Kim Davis. This has some people wringing their hands and others jumping for joy. But -- let us remember -- the Pope is a Jesuit. And I'm wondering if the Pope pulled a Jesuit "fast one."

I am probably going to get a phone call from the Vatican because of this blog post, telling me that I am ALL WRONG. That's okay. It would be sort of cool to get a phone call from the Vatican. And I still think that what I have to say might be worth considering, even if it's not a Slick Jesuit Papal Maneuver.

I was reading the NPR article on the Pope's visit with Kim. (I just love NPR, don't you? They are always so calm and professional. I also love Ezra Klein on Vox. He is witty and hilarious and sort of a sexy nerd. But, I digress.) In this article, I noticed that the Pope used the term "conscientious objection" when discussing his visit with Kim. This is very interesting to me. VERY interesting.

I grew up during the time of the Vietnam War, and there were many conscientious objectors. My parents and their group of friends were rather divided on the validity of being a conscientious objector. Most of them thought that these individuals were, basically, unpatriotic cowards. Some of them, though, admired the values and courage of the "peaceniks."  I once dated a guy -- for a little while -- who had been a conscientious objector. I decided that it was probably a good thing he had been thus, because he basically couldn't seem to stay awake. EVER. The dude would have been a very poor soldier. I would not have wanted to go into battle with this dude. He did have a cool car, though. And he helped me on a limnology project that I basically would have failed without his assistance. After said project, I never saw him again. I suppose traipsing around all those bodies of fresh water convinced him that I was MUCH too energetic for him. (OMG. I am digressing SO much today!)

Let's think, though, about conscientious objectors. In Vietnam, anyway, they were excused from the draft. I guess some of them did non-combat jobs. But, NONE of them performed the duties to which they objected. Why? Because they were excused/dismissed from the job which entailed those duties, meaning they were excused/dismissed from the job of being a soldier.

And this is the point. A conscientious objector was not allowed to become a soldier and then decide -- according to his conscience -- which of his duties he was going to perform and which of his duties he was not going to perform. Either he was in. Or he was out. And if he wanted to conscientiously object, he was OUT.

This is relevant to the case of Kim Davis. If she wants to hold the job that she has been holding, she needs to do that job. ALL of that job. As in the case of the soldier, she does not get to decide which duties she approves of and which she is going to abstain from. That kind of thinking brings chaos and anarchy. We would soon be a country resembling Gotham, if everybody got to do that. (Have you been watching the new season of "Gotham"? It is INCREDIBLE. They totally gave it a face lift from last year's season. And -- yes -- I have digressed again.) So, if the law has changed and Kim conscientiously objects to it, that is her human right. As the Pope stated. But, I bet the Pope is clever enough to realize that a conscientious objector needs to be excused -- or excuse himself/herself -- from the job to which he/she objects. Just as the soldier does not get to define his role, neither does Miss Kim. Perhaps this is the Pope's indirect and understated -- but, very Jesuitically clear -- message. And even if it's not his message, it's mine. ;-)

Now, I do think Miss Davis is a decent lady. She has basically been emotionally hijacked by and made a pawn of religious right-wingers. So, I kind of hope that the county for which she has worked will find her a new position that is both amenable to her conscience and provides for her needs. Do I think it's necessary for the county to do this? No, I don't. But, I think it would be decent. She probably won't need another job, though, because she's probably going to make a lot of money off the right-wingers. You know? With public appearances and podcasts and a YouTube channel and a book. There will probably even be a movie made about her by a certain university with which I am acquainted. Maybe I'm being cynical. I don't know.

Pax. :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Things That Make Me Go "Hmmm..."

You may have read the comment made by "Ricardo" on my last blog post. When I read it, I pretty much felt like Hester Prynn. Into my mind came all the images of women -- misunderstood, abused, ostracized, shunned, shut down -- because they were/are sinners. I especially felt that way because I am a Catholic and Ricardo is a Catholic deacon. Thankfully, not at my parish. Although, he does live a few doors down from me. And I admit that every time I walk down the street since reading that comment, I hyperventilate and feel rather faint (which I do twice a day, when I walk my dogs).

Now, as a Catholic, I do not deny that I am a sinner. I know that I am. I am also grateful that I was not brought up in a Catholic environment inhabited by people like Ricardo. I was brought up in an environment inhabited by people like Pope Francis.

I read today some words that Francis spoke in Cuba, addressing priests and bishops (members of the clergy who hear Confessions). Deacons do not hear Confessions, thanks be to God. And these words reminded me why I have faith in Jesus. Because Jesus EMBRACES the sinner. He has MERCY and COMPASSION on the sinner. He does not smack the sinner to the ground as she makes herself vulnerable and tries to get up from a fall. Rather, He gives her His hand.

I would like now to share these words of our wonderful Pope Francis with you, so that you may understand why I am still Catholic, in spite of what people like Ricardo might say to me:

"....there is a privileged place for the priest where this last one, this least one, this smallest one is found -- and it is the confessional. And there, when this man or this woman shows you his misery -- careful because it's the same misery that you have and from which God saved you, eh? from getting to that point. When he or she shows you his misery, please, don't scold him. Don't scold him, don't punish him. If you don't have sin, throw the first stone. But only under that condition. If not, think of your sins and think that you could be that person and think that you could potentially fall even lower, and think that you in this moment have in your hands a treasure, which is the mercy of the Father. Please, priests, don't get tired of forgiving, like Jesus did. Don't hide in fears or in rigidities. Just like this nun (a sister from the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity who had spoken before the Pope) and all of those who are in the same ministry as she is, they don't get furious when they find a sick person who is dirty, but instead serve him, clean him, take care of him. Just like this, you, when a penitent comes, don't react badly, don't get neurotic, don't cast him out of the confessional, don't scold him. Jesus embraced them. Jesus loved them. Tomorrow, we celebrate St. Matthew. He was a thief and beyond that, betrayed his people. And the Gospel says that at night, Jesus went to dine with him and others like him. St. Ambrose has a phrase that moves me a lot: 'where there is mercy, the Spirit of Jesus is there; where there is rigidity, merely his ministers are there.'

"Brother priest, brother bishop, do not be afraid of mercy, allow it to flow out of your hands and through your embrace of forgiveness. Because this person or that person who is there are the least ones, and therefore it is Jesus. ....Poverty and mercy....that is where Jesus is."

And isn't that how we come to conversion -- a turning away from the bad and toward the good? Isn't it through being shown love? Isn't it through being shown mercy? Not from having your lack of logic pounced upon. Not from being compared to "pagans" who practiced child sacrifice. But from being embraced by love, by compassion -- by Christ. And he isn't walking down the streets of our cities right now -- but, we are. And we who call ourselves Christians have a very serious obligation not to push people away in His name.

There are people who believe in God and people who don't. There are Jews and Hindus and Muslims and Pagans and Buddhists. Among all of these, there are people of goodwill. All deserve to have their faith -- or lack, thereof -- respected. All deserve love and mercy and compassion. Because we are all kind of a mess, when you think about it. Nobody -- really -- is in a position to cast that first stone. I mean, look at Jesus. Christians believe He is God and -- thus -- perfect. And even He does not cast stones. Rather, He holds us close and wipes our tears.


P.S. -- Please pray for me to forgive Ricardo. I admit that it isn't easy. I want to be able to walk by his house and offer him a kind hello, instead of fainting in his driveway. ;-)

Friday, September 18, 2015

What The Republicans Are Doing Is Downright Dangerous

I am talking about their effort to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

I am also talking about all these misrepresentative videos the "pro-lifers" have been putting out.

This is all wrong-headed and dangerous.

And I'll tell you why.

This whole thing about selling baby parts for profit and the controversy over fetal experimentation is nothing new. And I'm not saying we shouldn't be disturbed by at least some of what we heard in those videos.

But, there is a danger. A very real danger.

Let me tell you a story:

Years ago, when conservatives were talking about the selling of baby parts and fetal experimentation, I had an acquaintance who was pregnant.  She started to miscarry. She bled pretty badly. But -- she wouldn't go into the hospital. Why? BECAUSE SHE WAS AFRAID THEY WOULD EXPERIMENT ON THE BABY AFTER SHE MISCARRIED. That's right. And this was an intelligent woman. She was very conservative, though, and was wont to listen to all the conservative propaganda about this issue. And by the time she finally did go into the hospital, she came very close to HAVING TO HAVE A HYSTERECTOMY, because the medical personnel feared that they wouldn't be able to get the bleeding under control in time to save her. She actually endangered her own life and her reproductive health because she was misled by all of this "pro-life" propaganda.

And this makes me angry. So. Very. Angry. It is wrong to use misleading scare tactics to win people over to your side -- even if you passionately believe your side is in the right.

Hear that Republicans??? You are putting people's lives in danger -- including the lives of the unborn, because women might be afraid to seek care when they need it. I mean, what if my acquaintance's baby could have been saved if she had sought help in a more timely way? It's probably unlikely anything could have been done, but we'll never know, will we? Why? Because of people like you, Republicans. This lady did go on to have more children -- children she was almost not able to have because of conservative fear-mongering. So, that would have been on you, conservative fear-mongers.

(If you are getting the idea that I am totally pissed, you would be right. My apologies.)

And let me tell you one other story. This is a personal story that I have never told anybody, because I was ashamed. Now, right up front, this is not my abortion story. This is my almost, could-have-been abortion story. And I hope you will all still speak to me afterwards.

Years ago, when I was still in college, I was in a very bad place in my life. I had broken up with my fiance -- and it was awful. I was not getting along with my parents, AT ALL. I felt all alone. And I messed around with a guy one night, because I was lonely and heartbroken and not feeling very self-protective. We didn't have sex, but we came pretty close. And then my period was late. And I panicked. I prayed and prayed that I wasn't pregnant, because I didn't feel like there was anyone I could go to. I wouldn't have gone to my parents, because things were horrid between us. And there was no way that I wanted this guy to end up being the father of my child. And his family was pretty dysfunctional, as well. All my close friends were Christian. None of them would have supported me in getting an abortion. And I don't blame them. I certainly didn't believe in abortion. But, when I look at it honestly, I probably either would have had an abortion (and felt like absolute crap about it) or committed suicide. And I'm not exaggerating about that. Suicide would have been a very real danger to me, at that point. Now -- thankfully -- I wasn't pregnant. But, as I have watched the "abortion wars" over the years, I have often thought about myself in this situation. And I guess I am glad Planned Parenthood would have been there. Yes -- the baby would have been lost, but I wouldn't have been. And I think there is value in that. There is potential hope in that. For you Christians reading this, I'd say, "My baby would have been in God's hands. And I would have had the chance to heal -- and repent." For you non-Christians reading this, the repentance part might sound silly, and I respect that. But, it wouldn't have been silly to me. 

There are many abortion providers. There will always be abortion providers. But, at least Planned Parenthood is a non-profit. I bet a lot of the providers aren't. Abortion services are also a small part of their total activities. And -- if you look at their website -- the information is quite accurate. If you really don't want to get pregnant or a sexually transmitted disease, all you have to do is look at the information and follow it. I actually had a young woman who worked for a pro-life pregnancy center tell me that she used to refer to the Planned Parenthood website, because the information was very complete and very accurate.

Of course, I'm sure that there are Planned Parenthood affiliates that operate in a less than ideal manner. But, let me tell you one more story:

I heard a woman from Texas speak once. She had run an abortion clinic. I think she actually owned it. And I don't believe it was affiliated with Planned Parenthood. She said that they used to purposely give young women the least effective birth control pill because they knew a lot of them would get pregnant and come back for abortions, which her particular clinic actually profited from. At least, with Planned Parenthood, they list -- quite accurately -- the effectiveness rates of the various methods of birth control, so you know what you're getting.

Now, at this point, I don't know if I have any friends left. But, that's okay. I have never lived my life for the purpose of seeking people's approval. I hope, though, that conservative people will at least look at these issues in a way that is more even-handed and less accusatory. It breaks my heart to see what much of the "pro-life" movement has become.