Sunday, March 28, 2010

Crazy Sad. Crazy Angry: Pope actively refused justice for 200 boys.

I read on about the lawyer who uncovered documents showing that the Pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger, transfered a pedophile priest.

Jeff Anderson has filed thousands of lawsuits alleging sex abuse by priests and has won tens of millions of dollars for his clients, but he's had a bigger goal in mind for nearly two decades. He wants to bring his career-long legal crusade against misconduct in the Roman Catholic church right to the top.

He would love to question Pope Benedict XVI himself under oath. Though that is extremely unlikely given that the pope is a head of state, documents Anderson has unearthed have the potential to take a scandal that has plagued dozens of dioceses around the world and place it at the doorstep of Vatican leadership.

The documents, which became publicly known in the past week after Anderson shared them with the New York Times, show that a Vatican office led by the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, halted a church trial of a Wisconsin priest accused of molesting some 200 boys at a school for the deaf.

The Pope actively refused justice for 200 boys molested by a pedophile priest at a school for the deaf from 1950 to 1974.

I guess we shouldn't be totally surprised. I guess it's even predictable in a way, given the clerical culture, the history of the Church and this pope's misguided (to put it nicely) allegiance to it. Still, it's disappointing, isn't it? The Pope, even.

We had 10 children in Adventure Village this morning. Two little boys are in foster care--they come from a family environment where the mother is alcoholic. We have several other couples in our church who care for children in that way, providing caring, stable and loving environments for them. Anyway, I think about the sacred responsibility we have to care for these children in ways that show them the love of God. They are so vulnerable, so trusting. It just makes me crazy that anyone would violate them so heinously. Crazy sad. Crazy angry.

Perhaps this scandal should crucify the institutional Catholic Church so that it can rise again in some other form, one not so tempted by patriarchy, by worldly power, by such arrogance that it believes its representatives shouldn't live balanced lives.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform

David and I watched the House vote on the healthcare reform bill last night. What a wonderful thing...finally. As Nancy Pelosi said in her speech, this could really contribute to a better economy because people will be free now (or here pretty soon) to try out an entrepreneurial spirit without the burden of worrying about healthcare. I don't how many times I've heard people say that they can't do this, or they can't do that, because they have to have the healthcare coverage afforded by their current employment. Now they are more free to experiment and take business risks. It could bode well, I think.

Our laws reflect who we are as a nation. It's important to me that we are a nation that cares about the widow and the orphan, those who cannot care for themselves as easily as the rest of us. If the churches had the wherewithal to do that, or philanthropy took care of it, that would be fine--it's not that I'm in love with big government. I just want someone to do it. Government, it's up to you! i.e., it's up to all of us, and I don't mind paying more in taxes to help that happen.

This American love of the individual is just way out of control, it seems to me. One of the Republican representatives last night was obviously a fan of Ayn Rand. I agree that individuals should have reasonable freedom to be all they can be, to create and accomplish. But we're in this country together and when the 'least of these' suffers, there is some sense in which we are all diminished. That's a core belief for me. Executives making millions of dollars when their employees make minimum wage? Uh, No. Let the executives be 'free to be all they can be' with fewer dollars at their disposal.

Each time a Republican stood up there and said we need to start over, I almost gagged. I'm sure the bill that has passed is indeed flawed, but start over? Get real. It would be forever before another bill got off ground, and in the meantime people are going bankrupt because of medical bills, people are totally stressed from their lack of good (if any) coverage, and people are dying from an inability to get competent medical care in this country.

Conservatives think it costs too much money. I agree we should balance the budget and live within our means. So let's withdraw or greatly scale back our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan -- how much would that save? Let's raise taxes, especially on rich individuals and corporations -- how much would that help? There are ways to pay for healthcare. And if the Dems are right, in the long run our fiscal house will be better off with healthcare reform.

After the vitriol of last summer's town hall meetings, I really thought that the forces of evil were winning the day. We're looking at the issue of theodicy in my class this week--the problem of evil and suffering. One book I read reminded me of Hannah Arendt's study of Adolf Eichmann in which she noted that he wasn't 'demonic or perverse.' No, Eichmann was thoughtless, shallow and had an authentic inability to think critically. It's the banality of evil that gets us, because as Martin Buber said, good is the struggle for beauty and truth. It takes work to stay on the path. Evil, on the other hand, can manifest from inattention and distraction. Evil can happen when we close our eyes and just don't look, when we don't bother to do the hard work of critical thinking.

And while I have some problems with the implication here from Buber that good doesn't come naturally (I think it does, as much as does evil), I do think there's a powerful point in this. We have to be willing to pay the cost involved in thinking critically about our society and culture. It may hurt to realize that we've been blind, but it's just so important to let that kind of pain come and work our way through it to a new worldview. Systemic evil exists.

Systemtic evil exists, and I think it's pretty easily seen in this TeaParty movement whose principles are in large measure Randian--free market, constitutionally limited government, and fiscal responsibility. Give the individual the space to be free!!!! [Never mind that my freedom inevitably limits my neighbor's freedom. That is simply inevitable. I cannot do whatever I want without eventually spilling over onto other people.]
  • The free market, while it's great in allowing creativity and promoting entrepreneurship, also bolsters greed. There must be interference from the government to limit some individual and economic liberty and put some reigns around human greed.
  • This reverence for the Constitution is fine as long as we understand the Constitution to be a living document, one that itself has the freedom to be applied to new situations in new ways. To say that the founders' original intent is what counts is...dangerous fundamentalist thinking. People evolve. God is always creating the New.
  • Fiscal responsibility? Yes of course. The rubber meets the road on this issue, though, when we ask whether fiscal responsibility is so that 'I can spend the money that is the fruit of my own labor' [that's language from the TeaParty website] in any way I want or whether fiscal responsibility is so that there will be enough for everyone to have a decent life.

So when people against healthcare reform call Barney Frank a f-----, and they call John Lewis a n------, what am I to think? Do I think, Oh, they just got excited in the heat of the moment? or do I think, oh, these are just the fringe element of the TeaParty-ers, like all movements have fringe elements? or do I think something else?

Do I think this is the predictable outcome of an evil philosophic system that refuses to acknowledge our interconnectedness? You bet, that's what I think. And yes, I think it's evil, and yes, I'll continue to name it and to stand against it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sixth Anniversary

Today is my 6th wedding anniversary. Not a particularly notable year, 6, but David and I are both celebrating! Of course he's today driving home from a week at a Habitat for Humanity worksite in Alabama--I won't see him until tonight--so the celebration is just in our hearts. Still, it feels good that we've missed each other this week and have repeatedly voiced these last couple of days in our phone conversations how GLAD we are that we're married.

I'm grateful.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Meditation and other spiritual practices

Wednesday night. The "week" is over and it's time to start anew, put on my 2nd hat, and focus on my class instead of my church work.

Except that it's spring break so I don't even have to do that! yeah!

Usually Wednesday night signifies the end of one job (part time at the church) and the start of my teaching job. Since January, there's been a distinct line drawn through the middle of my week. Switching gears. Putting aside one stack of papers and finding the other!

So, this Wednesday night I can relax. Tomorrow I'm getting my nails done, meeting some friends for lunch, attending a funeral, seeing a client, and then (assuming I have the energy for it) working on next week's class.

Saturday I'm spending the day in Small City to the South at a church judicatory event -- an "ecclesial council" for someone seeking ordination in our Area. Normally I'd be dragging my feet regarding attending, but this is Manda with whom I've worked now for two years and whom I know to be an exceptional human being. I'm eager to give her my vote of approval to the Ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on Saturday. She's been an outstanding colleague and has ministered to the youth of our church with creativity and grace. Check out her blog...she's a great writer, too.

I'm home tonight from having given a little presentation on Christian Meditation at another church. My preparation for it did double-duty in that I was able to also write my church newsletter article! Here tiz-- (guess this makes it triple duty!)

Christian Meditation
I was asked to do a little presentation recently at another church on the topic of Christian meditation. While preparing, I started to think about how the actual meditation experience itself isn’t the point. Indeed, it’s often not during meditation, but instead during our regular daily routines, that the benefits of meditation are experienced. I like to think of meditation as exercising our ‘spirituality muscle,’ so to speak. Any spiritual practice has the effect of making us more spiritually aware, more attuned to the Spirit in our lives. Little moments that would otherwise go by unnoticed become strangely important when we’ve been engaging in a spiritual practice.

John Cobb is a process theologian, and this quote from his Christ in a Pluralistic Age has always stayed with me:
“There are times when we feel peculiarly alive….These moments exercise an influence upon their future that is greatly disproportionate to their temporal endurance or frequency. We can dimly imagine what it might be for us to be continuously alive in this full sense, in each moment growing beyond our past through its inclusion in a richer whole that includes others as well."
Those little things we begin to take note of in our daily lives -– like feeling “awash in love” when we look at our grandchildren, or stopping in our tracks at the sight of a beautiful sunset, or suddenly becoming viscerally aware that “I’m alive!” or “I’m free!” -– those moments can impact our future in a way that goes far beyond how long they last or how frequently they occur. And when we engage in a regular spiritual practice of some kind then we become more and more aware of those moments and of the importance of pausing and taking note of them so that their influence can grow.

What spiritual practice fits you best?

Daily devotional Bible reading?
Lectio Divina?
Taizé prayer?
Centering prayer?
Mindful walks? Walking the labyrinth?
Intercessory prayer?
Noticing beauty?
Doing some kind of artistic work?
Service to others?
Working for social justice?
Trips to the Japanese Gardens?
Spiritual direction?
Devotional reading?
Practicing trust?
Singing or playing an instrument?
Attending worship services?
Looking for the Christ in others?
Sacred Conversations, a Circle of Trust?
Small group?
Enjoying the joy of children?
Writing psalms of your own?
Practicing the “present moment”?
Counting your blessings?
Saying the Jesus Prayer?
The Breath Prayer?
Practicing simplicity?

Whatever your spiritual practice (and there are many others), what difference is it making in your life? How is your spiritual practice helping to transform you more and more into the image of Christ? (or however you would articulate that transformation). How are you becoming more aware of God’s Spirit in your life, even in the little moments?

With you on the journey,

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Accepting This" poem

In our Sacred Conversations group yesterday (it's a Circle of Trust, Parker-Palmer style), we used this rich poem by Mark Nepo called Accepting This:

Yes, it is true, I confess,
I have thought great thoughts,
and sung great songs--all of it
rehearsal for the majesty of being held.

The dream is awakened
when thinking I love you,
and life begins
when saying I love you,
and joy moves like blood
when embracing others with love.

My efforts now turn
from trying to outrun suffering
to accepting love wherever
I can find it.

Stripped of causes and plans
and things to strive for,
I have discovered everything
I could need or ask for
is right here--
in flawed abundance.

We cannot eliminate hunger,
but we can feed each other.
We cannot eliminate loneliness,
but we can hold each other.
We cannot eliminate pain,
but we can live a life of compassion.

we are small living things
awakened in a stream,
not gods who carve out rivers.

Like human fish,
we are asked to experience
meaning in the life that moves
through the gill of our heart.

There is nothing to do
and nowhere to go.
Accepting this,
we can do everything
and go anywhere.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

She Wants To Be Free

I asked a client the other day if she really wanted to change. She's been struggling with shame.

"Yes," she replied.

"Why?" I asked.

She paused long time, looking down, and finally she raised her head, eyes glistening, and said, "I want to be free."

(With that, my eyes did more than glisten.
Moments like that make it all worthwhile. So beautiful.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

About those presentations today...

Robin asked me to say a little more about the presentations in class today. First of all, let me say that this is the class to which I gave a copy of Robin's own writings about her son's suicide, with her permission, of course.

To Robin:

Like me, the entire class was powerfully moved by what you wrote. Two children of one of our presenters completed suicide, and at one point in her [I'll refer to her as "A"] presentation she said something like, "I can't understand, I will never really understand, the kind of pain they felt." In our processing of the presentations later during class, one woman said that your beautiful, wrenching essays, Robin, gave her the sense of that same kind of expression. And I agree. What you wrote helped these future ministers, and me, get a sense, at least, of the powerful mystery involved in this unspeakable pain and suffering, this horror. We are the better for it.

Relating to that, "A" also today mentioned something else that tore at my heart and that I can begin to apprehend in Robin's richly evocative writings. Talking about this level of Pain that she'd never fully understand, "A" said that she'd read recently that when a loved one completes suicide, all that Pain, (which she or he can no longer bear), explodes outward toward the loved ones who remain. It's a strangely recognizable metephor. An explosion of Pain, transferred from one who finds his or her release, to the ones they most love. A testament, I suppose, to the inevitable narrowness carried within the very marrow of this kind of Pain. In my own way, I can get a small glimpse of this.

One of the last things my mother said to me, as she lay dying of COPD, was "Well, Katy, I'm giving you what you've wanted." I can't know what she actually meant with those words, but my heart will always carry the wound they, and my interpretation of them, inflicted. And when I think of that unholy experience in terms of this metaphor, it was indeed as if my mother's life-Pain exploded outward from her toward me.

Not to blame. Not at all to blame. In fact, I'm wondering now as I write these words and relive my own experience...Hmmm....I'm wondering whether my forever-wounded heart can now, sixteen years later, transform the Pain into the kind of Love that willingly receives the Pain in order to transfigure it. Does that make sense? I'm remembering somewhere in my reading of Process theology the notion that God-as-Love absorbs the ache of the world and recalibrates it into joy. Assuming that one of the last things my mother wanted to say to me was intended to hurt me (and I'm not sure of this...she was saying all kinds of unclear things during those last days), but assuming it was, perhaps now I can allow Love to do its job. I mean, perhaps my Love for my mother can open fully to absorb the Pain, her-Pain-now-mine, and in that freely-given absorption transform it back into Love. Perhaps, in some sense, all Pain is love-gone-awry, anyway.

Well, I don't know. These are the reflections that come to me as I process today's amazing experience.

Robin, I've no idea how you will read these words. In some sense favorably, I hope and pray. The horror of your experience, and your soul-filled and utterly compelling manner of writing, was in my heart all day today. In some small way (although not really small to me), I have here experienced healing, as I've reflected on the day.

It seems that God is always at work.

Jan, I hear you

Jan, I hear you. Thanks for wanting me to "come back" (I'm smiling at that!).

Well, a little catch-up:

My absence has been because I'm so busy. Ugh. Yes, BUSY. Writing that feels kinda like a joke. I received an email yesterday from someone saying he appreciated what I wrote about Eckhart Tolle -- didn't say what exactly, but it was probably what I wrote concerning Tolle's definition of stress being simply "wishing I was not here, wishing I was finished, or wishing ...whatever."

Sheesh! Have I been letting myself feel stressed? Yep. Have I been living in the present moment? Nope. Not much. I've been concerned about keeping up with my class on Grief and Loss, the class that I'm teaching at the seminary. --The class that's been 'eating my lunch,' in the sense of finding the time to teach it with integrity, providing the students with information but also imparting what I really have to give them, i.e., my own learning about the art of pastoral caregiving. It's hard. I'm just not sure I know how to teach that very well. I'm making rookie mistakes, that's for sure.

And, of course, my little perfectionistic ego hates that! Well, I guess it's some progress that I'm not beating myself up about it. Not today, anyway. Today, in fact, I feel rather free from that kind of self-flagellation.

That's probably because I was so moved by the presentation made in my class today. I had two guest lecturers who spoke about providing care in the form of suicide-survivor groups to the community. Oh, it was powerful. I was literally in tears a couple of times listening to them. I guess I touched something holy today through their words, their healing presence. And it energized me.

Then D and I went out for dinner and had a great time. He's taking some students from his university to a Habitat for Humanity project in another state over spring break. I'll miss him!

Tomorrow our granddaughter is coming for a sleepover at Bubba and KK's! (She has 3 sets of grandparents, so that's what we told her to call us. Believe me, we smile when she skips in yelling our special names!) We're also going to celebrate Young Man with Integrity's birthday tomorrow and Deep One, Lovely Passionate Feminist and Beautiful Genuine Musician are coming as well. Really looking forward to this family time. (And I definitely need to update my names for them--but that's for another day.)

Jan, I love you!~ Thanks for missing me, my friend. I promise to do better, so check back often, OK?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pregnancy-related deaths.

I'm loving Obama's determination to get something passed on Health Care Reform.

And here's another reason--This morning I received an email from Amnesty International which talked about the appalling number of women who die in childbirth. It began with this global statistic:

"Women worldwide are dying of pregnancy-related causes at a rate of about one a minute."

It never gave the number for the U.S., but I assume it's much higher than we expect.

"Too many women are dying in the U.S. from pregnancy-related deaths that are entirely preventable. In fact, half of these deaths can be prevented. Many of these women have no access to healthcare or proper maternal care. In fact, nearly 13 million women between the ages of 15 and 44--that one in five women of reproduction age--have no insurance at all. Many begin pregnancy with untreated or unmanaged conditions that can get worse with pregnancy.

"The story only gets worse when you look at the rates of pregnancy-related deaths among minority women. African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. In high-risk pregnancies, the disparities are even greater.

"If we're going to see to it that all pregnant women get the care they deserve, then we have to convince Senators and Representatives to get with the program. That's why from March 29-April 9th we're taking our message to the streets--and hometowns--of our elected officials.

"During these dates, clusters of human rights supporters will mobilize in local districts across the country to tell elected officials face-to-face that these women don't have to die. We've seen the powerful effect that these meetings have on Senators and Representatives. When they are forced to answer tough questions, they are forced to identify real solutions.

"We can fight this tragedy, but we have to be organized. AI has prepared step-by-step guides to support this work and other instructional opportunities to ensure that you feel prepared before you meet with your elected officials." Signed: Chris McGraw, Amnesty International