Monday, June 29, 2015

Why I Remain Catholic

I may have delayed writing this post too long. It isn't that I do not know why: I do. I did not want to write a post that someone else has written. This means I have read exactly one of the Why I Am Catholic posts, and I promise you mine will be nothing like Calah's. It would be easy to tell you that I am Catholic because Jesus or Eucharist or community but I am not satisfied with those answers, so why would you be?

Sometimes I really have no idea why I do the things that I do. My thought process is robotic at times. I consider a decision quickly and concisely, then act. My overwhelming nagging guilt sense is what tells me a choice is incorrect. Leaving the Church would be too intense. Too overwhelming. Why?

Even when I have struggled to find my relationship with God, the Catholic faith has provided me with a strong moral compass. I spent nine years in Catholic schools only to return for another four in college. I have spent most of my life studying the Catholic faith. Every time I have ever questioned the logic, I have been able to prove the Church was consistent.

Catholicism has saved me in literally every difficult time in my life: my grandmother's cancer scares, life as an adolescent, the death of my grandfather, my parent's divorce, marriage difficulties, parenthood. My life is steeped in the traditions of the Church. In dark times, there is a small, quiet, and certain voice that says, "Wait."

So I do.

My favs. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Bible Quote and an Almost Saint



I am a cradle Catholic, and completely feed into the stereotype: I'm not really handy with the bible. I'm not good with verses and reading when there are numbers thrown in after every sentence. I want to read the bible more, but thankfully the Catholic Church has many ways for me to learn about my faith. This caveat noted, if my research is accurate, this verse is where the "be in this world but not of it" mantra originated.

I like the verse in this (NABRE) translation. It clarifies some things for me. We do not belong to this world. It is wonderful to be reminded that this is not the end of the road. However, sometimes it seems that folks feel they must make the world hate them to follow Christ.

The venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen has some relatable words*:


Sure. The Church has no friends in the media. We are misrepresented on a daily basis. But... BUT...

Often times we are the ones misrepresenting Christ and His teachings. We put an emphasis on truth telling and tough love, but babies born to couples that are not married have trouble getting baptized. People that are divorced are shunned in their parish. People seeking desperately to be close to Christ through the Eucharist are asked not to attend Mass because they identify as homosexual. People that feel so unloved and so uncomfortable in their own skin that they want to be a different gender all together are compared to whores in the blogosphere. So I ask, if this is tough love, where is the love?

I get it. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is tell the truth, even when it is hard. There is no love in rejecting a person while you are engaged in your truth telling. You can reject the sin, but how are you embracing the sinner?

I have known some incredible Catholics in my lifetime. Give you the clothes off their backs type of people. I have known many priests that are good and holy men. So nothing makes me crazier than Catholics making all Catholics look like cruel jerks.

Know the truth. Learn why the Church teaches what she teaches. Soak up information. Then take a class on interpersonal relationships and learn how to love people. One is not more important than the other.

And for the love of all that is good and holy and true: stop using intentionally sexist and derogatory terms to describe someone when you do not like their actions.





*I keep running into a few versions of this quote. Not sure which is correct, but if you know where it comes from, message me and I will figure it out!


Saturday, May 23, 2015

When a Child Harms a Child

*This post contains information relating to childhood sexual assault. If this will be a triggering subject for you I apologize up front and want to give you a heads up so you can just skip the post. 



No one wants to talk about childhood sexual abuse. It is an ugly reality through and through. We flip through articles and blog posts on the matter, reading to silently agree or disagree, to feel a sense of community in trauma if it has effected our lives or the life of someone we love, to figure out how we can bank the information in case we ever need it. No one wants to need the information. No one wants to have a child that is harmed in this way. It is heartbreaking to see your child devastated in such an intimate way by another person. It is particularly brutal if the one harming your child is also a child. What if the child doing the harm is your son or daughter also? Parents have an instinct to protect their own children, but which child do you protect?

Suddenly, child abuse has an active role in your family's life and it is up to you as the parent to know how to find help for your child, how to help your child find healing, and how to best handle the situation. Where do you turn for help?

As parents, we must nurture an open line of communication with our children. Talking about sex with our children is awkward. Talking about puberty is awkward. Talking about strangers or loved ones as potential threats is also awkward. We must open that door over and over, no matter how uncomfortable or how far back our children's eyes roll, because if the time comes that they really need to tell us that they have been hurt they must know we are there to go through it with them.

For clarity's sake, we will first talk about what child sexual assault looks like, how we go about helping our children, and what our church can do to help families through this sort of trauma.

What does child sexual abuse look like? Here are some examples: (taken from RAIIN. This link also has a concise list of the warning signs/behaviors to be aware of in case your child doesn't come to you initially for help.)

-Fondling 
-Obscene electronic communication (text, email, calls, etc.)
-Exhibitionism
-Intercourse
-Forced masturbation
-Any kind of sexual contact (oral, anal, vaginal)
-Forcing the viewing of pornography
-Sex trafficking
-Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare


So, what do we do if our child tells us that they have been fondled or molested or assaulted?


1. Believe them.
2. Listen to their timeline of events.
3. Don't wait. Get help immediately. (Anonymous National Child Abuse Hotline: 800.4.A.CHILD)

When you are dealing with a situation where a child is harming another child, it is important for ALL children involved to get the appropriate help. Reporting sexual abuse can be key in ensuring that the offending child can receive vital intervention services as early as possible. If you are facing a scenario where your child has harmed another one of your children, you are caring for all of your children equally when you seek help for all the children involved. It is a difficult thing to face, but it is important that we acknowledge the harm done and do our best to keep it from happening again. In order to do this, we must:

-Get help for the children that were harmed
-Get help for the children that were doing the harming


How can the Catholic Church be of assistance?

As I have noted in a previous post, studies show that religious people tend to turn to their church for help in these situations. It is imperative that the Catholic Church has the abilities to guide her laity to the best practices for addressing childhood sexual abuse. Our church has taken great strides towards ensuring the clergy abuse scandals are a thing of the past and in learning how to appropriately deal with childhood sexual abuse. Perhaps most importantly, our Church and those in positions of authority (laity and clergy alike) must know that childhood sexual abuse is not about what the victim did or didn't do. It is not merely a matter of sinning, temptation, and forgiveness. It is a serious trauma that must be addresses directly and with the help of professionals that specialize in counseling for victims or perpetrators. The best way to heal all of those involved, is to get professional help for all of the individuals involved.






Friday, April 24, 2015

A "Broken" Feminine Genius

About a week and a half ago, Pope Francis spoke on the subject of the differences (and the sameness) of men and women. You can read about it here, but it made me get something in my eye.

You see, for a very long time, I have been thinking about the term "Feminine Genius" and how I see it in me. It came to a head when I read Momnipotent. The struggle for me centers on this totally made up but not really made up conversation.

Friend: Yeah! Feminine Genius rocks! Women are awesome.
Another Friend: What is 'feminine genius'?
Friend: It encompasses all the things women are great at: their natural abilities.
Another Friend: Cool. Like what?
Friend: Oh, you know. Like child birth, breast feeding, NURTURING.

Then I pull my hair out. Four c-sections right here, and while I can probably squirt a bowling pin down from across the room with my incredible milk supply, I stink at nurturing. To hear ad nauseam that women are good and womanly things like NURTURING, and emotions, and feelings, and NURTURING is really sort of depressing (wait. That's a feeling, right?) when you just aren't nurturing.

Before I get a com box filled with fake no, that's not trues, it is. My child comes to me hurting, screaming, and crying and my first instinct is not to kiss and make it better: it is to address the snapping issue in my brain and try like hell not to cringe and back away saying "Dude, why are you coming at me I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING PLEASE LEAVE."

So, Pope Francis using fresh terms was a relief. This in particular:

We have not yet understood in depth what things the feminine genius can give us, that woman can give to society and also to us. Perhaps to see things with different eyes that complements the thoughts of men. It is a path that must be crossed with more creativity and more boldness.
THANK YOU FOR NOT SAYING THE WORD 'NURTURE'.

I identify in many ways with the new face of the new feminism movement. I speak out against domestic and sexual violence. I speak out against abortion. Just as the whole pro life thing sort of disqualifies me as a mainstream feminist, I sort of feel discounted within new feminism because my body was not naturally equipped to push out four large children, I don't enjoy breast feeding in the least, and there is no way a single person that knows me would choose the word "nurturing" as one of the three words that best describes me. What is a girl that is caught in between to do?


No way. I love my washer and dryer.

Just as there is not one type of man, women are different. We all have different strengths, different weaknesses, different fashion senses. I am comfortable in my own skin. I have things that I need to work on (it probably wouldn't kill me to be more emotive, empathetic, sensitive...) but I don't need to change in order to show how my feminine genius is not broken. I'm a woman. Boom. Creativity and boldness- you heard the pope. 

Now, Go back up to the top of the post and read the two links. 


 
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Believe Them.


An article appeared on my Facebook feed this morning. The Pink Haired Papist and I are discussing it over on my page
This is what it would look like if my disembodied head sat creepily close to Tori as she had a drink.


All joking aside, this article really breaks my heart. 

I don't really want to delve into statistics right now. Sexual assault numbers are notoriously inaccurate given the number of women that never report. So, even if "2% of rape reports are fake" is inaccurate, I'd go you one better and say of course it is inaccurate. You cannot account for something that is under-reported, because to what degree is it under-reported? And really. Can you blame victims? (No pun intended.) If you come forward with sexual assault allegations, everything you have ever worn, done or said is called into question. In my case, I lost both of my closest friends for speaking up. Imagine if I had reported it. 

When I was assaulted by my best friend in college, I felt like scum. I had willingly gone to his parent's home at night, thinking that we would just be catching up. I quickly realized that was not the case. 

When I got back to my dad's, I just wanted to go back to school. A few weeks later, I called a mutual friend and told him what had happened. He said "You know he didn't mean anything by it." If one of my best friends can make unwanted sexual advances and choose not to stop despite me saying "No." and I tell my other closest and trusted friend that I was assaulted and he doesn't believe me, why would a police officer?

The message we send women over and over again is this: If you were assaulted, report it. Then be prepared to prove that you are the perfect victim so that we will believe you.

The article that launched this post speaks mostly to campus* assaults which are most likely** the most commonly unreported sexual assault. Why? Alcohol. How many college (and high school) age women wake up the morning after, realize they have had sex without the ability to consent, and blame only themselves? Doesn't it make sense to be addressing this issue with both men and women that are college age?

This same article also brings up The Rolling Stone debacle. The author goes out of his way to ensure his readers that it all was a lie and that NOW believes it anyway. Why is the only mention of victims about lies? I have a book filled with things to say about this. If an assault is reported, it is the job of the police officers and the justice system to prosecute the person responsible. It is our job as advocates against sexual assault, not to discredit the victim, but to believe her/him and support healing and rehabilitation for all involved. Why do we get so wrapped up in discrediting the victim first? Why can't we just acknowledge that there was some sort of trauma involved and strive to help those involved repair the damage so that it stops happening?

Ask yourself: How much does it help us to assume an accuser is lying or partially to blame for a sexual assault? When we assume a victim is lying until an assault can be proven, we ensure that future victims will not come forward. 

I get it. No one wants to see lives ruined over false accusations. This is why prevention and advocacy is so imperative! It is important that we address this issue with our children. It is important that both men and women stand together to end sexual assaults. It is important that we support healing for victims and rehabilitation for perpetrators. 





*If you want to call them that- not all sexual assault happening to college students by college students are happening on campus, but I digress. 

**If you have statistics to disprove this, feel free to fill me in.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sexual Violence Against Women and the Catholic Response






Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the Catholic Church has had to seriously up her game when it comes to the subject of sexual assault, in particularly as it relates to the clergy abuse scandals. However, when it comes to sexual assault, a great deal of the training or responses issued center on rape and pregnancy.

The Catholic Church (beyond the Catechism (2356) ) does not really have a standard training for the clergy or faith counseling focused on sexual assault advocacy or healing. In my experience as an advocate, there are Catholic organizations that serve sexual assault survivors, but when it comes to one on one counseling or even educational/training materials there is most certainly something left to be desired.

The Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Findings (2011) tell us that faith communities are a likely support system for victims of violence, yet our support for survivors is seriously lacking. Poor catechisis  and modesty/chastity talks gone wrong are not doing a fantastic job of sexual assault prevention. We cannot leave our girls to believe their level of modesty is responsible for assault, and we cannot leave our boys to believe that they are nothing but a victim of their sinful urges.

I believe that the Catholic Church can put together more cohesive preventative measures and responses when it comes to sexual violence. The USCCB website has a section with parish resources related to combating sexual violence, but many of the links speak mostly about domestic violence. I believe the response must be more than this.

The inherent dignity of all people must be upheld in all aspects of Catholic faith education: from parish communities to counseling. The church has implemented the VIRTUS training program for all parish volunteers in the US as a response to the clergy abuse scandals. I believe that our parishes can work with local domestic and sexual violence programs to also train their staff in advocating for survivors. The pro life response here, is to have complete understanding of the dynamics of all forms of sexual assault, and to be able to support survivors as they heal. After all, will they not call upon their faith community for support?

The FaithTrust Institute approaches domestic and sexual violence from a religious perspective. They have resources for most faith communities, though nothing I have seen that is explicitly Catholic. When I go to the USCCB page and click on the link for resources, nothing comes up. This something that really must improve

Do you know how your parish and diocese approach sexual violence? Sound off in the comments! I would love to hear about successful approaches or working relationships between Catholic organizations and the local anti-violence programs.