The Junk Food Fix is More Than One Person’s Bad Choice. It’s an American Problem.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maurice Svay https://www.flickr.com/photos/mauriz/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maurice Svay https://www.flickr.com/photos/mauriz/

My brave, witty and beautiful colleague, Katrina Fernandez, writes with the uninhibited gusto of a natural born wordsmith.

She has her finger on the pulse of the American condition. Her struggles with making ends meet as a single Mom in our current “jobless recovery” echo those of a lot of people I know, including my own family members. Her passion for Christ and His Church, her love of art and her fearless honesty make her one of the best reads on the internet.

Katrina has lately taken on the bugaboo of a whole raft of us working class Americans:  the demoralizing and doomed-to-defeat battle against overweight. Every word she writes, I can affirm from my own overweight life. Every defeat she encounters, every frustration and every small victory are experiences that millions of us have shared.

This topic of discussion fascinates a lot of us for the simple reason that Katrina is not alone in her predicament. Most of us live our lives in what Thoreau once described as “quiet desperation.” The difference is, in today’s world there is nothing quiet about our desperation.

We shout our frustrations for all the world to hear, but, despite our shouting, we do not comprehend them. How much of our food obsession and chronic widespread obesity is a reaction to the larger desperation of people who are pushed as far as they can be every single day of their lives?

All you have to do is leave this country and spend a few days in a place like Spain to come back and see and feel for yourself the driven, nerved-up atmosphere of our America. We are living through an implosion of our national wealth which is being siphoned off from the many and redeposited in the bank accounts of the very, very few.

We are, in fact and in truth, being systematically stolen blind by our government, which is the operative force in this theft.

What I’m saying is that we are getting poorer every single day. It is becoming harder and harder for ordinary Americans to make enough money to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table and a running car in the garage.

We have splintered our families to the point that vast numbers of Americans are trying to row their boat with one hand. Single parents try to be two people. But they can’t. Not really.

We work long hours for low pay and fewer benefits every year. We send our children to substandard schools that throw them into contact with drugs, gangs and that teach them moral nihilism. Our tax dollars are used to manipulate our children into a valueless worldview that is anathema to us and to their futures.

We are forced to leave our children alone in our homes for many hours a week while we try to make a living. We face a future in which any chance of getting off the treadmill to retire is being challenged by politicians who work for corporatists who want this last big pool of money, which is the retirement savings of generations, for their own use.

We are tired to the point of exhaustion almost every day of our lives. We do not have the energy and leisure for reflection and thought. At the same time, the media bombards us constantly with one pounding crisis after another. We are propagandized, lied to and manipulated in a deliberate fashion on a constant basis by this same media.

At the end of our long day, we do not feel like cooking a meal. We are too tired to wheel a shopping cart through a grocery store. It is simpler and in fact less expensive to go through the drive-through at the local fast food joint and pick up a sack of something. We can be sure that this something will be heavily seasoned with fat, sugar and salt. We can be equally sure that it will not contain anything resembling a balance of food types and nutrients.

But we have learned to find satisfaction in the sledge-hammer hit of fats, sugar and salt. The carbs and fats hit our systems like a drug fix. They energize us for the moment and the powerful tastes assuage our longing for pleasure. Eating this stuff passes for a momentary time-out. It feels like comfort.

Food, used like this, is not about nourishment. It is not the pleasurable and relaxing experience of partaking of a well-balanced, home-cooked meal with family and friends. There is no lingering over the last morsel and laughing about the day’s problems.

This kind of eating is a buy-it-quick, stuff-it-down fix. We need the outlandish calorie counts supplied by all that fat and sugar to satisfy our hunger because the food itself is so low in so many essential nutrients. The sugar-fat-salt fix soothes our taste buds and raises our blood sugar so that we feel a short-lived high.

Of course, this doesn’t last. Unlike a real meal composed of good food, the high from this something we’ve bought at the drive through goes away in a relatively short time. Unlike a meal at the kitchen table with friends and family, it does nothing to relieve the day’s pressures and assuage the anxieties that keep us up at night, even when we ache from tiredness.

Before we have begun to burn the high number of calories we’ve consumed, the gnawing hungers, both physical and emotional, are back. Our bodies push us to eat again because they haven’t been properly nourished. Our minds beg us to binge because we need surcease from being, as Alcoholics Anonymous says, too hungry, angry, lonely and tired.

We have nobody to talk to. We have no other outlets in our time-starved lives where we can vent. We are pushed around, abandoned, scared and alone with our miseries. We really are too hungry, angry, lonely and tired to fend off that call for a junk food fix.

Our national problem with obesity is not so much a problem with food as it is that we don’t have healthy options for dealing with the many desperations of our existence. We live in a nation that has been at war for almost 15 years. Our country has been economically at war since around 1939.

Our government has been hijacked by corporatists who are draining the national purse as well as our private purses and taking the money for themselves. The government tells us that inflation is flat, yet every time we go to the grocery store or fill a prescription or guy a gallon of gas, we know that this is not true. Inflation is, in fact, running pretty high. The government has just cooked the books so it does not have to admit it.

The stock market has been going up and up, yet the people of this country can’t find jobs and when they do find jobs, they can’t live on what they are paid. They do not have retirements, the roads and bridges aren’t being repaired, tuition keeps going up and scads of people can not afford the health insurance being offered by the Affordable Health Care Act.

There isn’t time in most people’s lives to drop in at a gym and work out every day. Besides, people who never get enough sleep at night don’t feel like working out. The only pleasure a lot of people in this country get on a reliable basis is stuffing down that junk food they got from the drive through.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we will not solve the problem of widespread obesity in this country until and unless we solve the problems of lost community, no free time and fear of the future that haunts the American people. I’ve also come to the conclusion that it’s up to us to do this for ourselves.

Widespread obesity is a symptom of many huge problems facing the American people. If you find your community on the internet, instead of the flesh and blood people around you, if you are chronically exhausted from lack of sleep, if you ache all over from lack of exercise, if you can’t find a job or if you have a job, it doesn’t pay your bills, if you have no idea whatsoever where you would go or who would take care of you if you got cancer or when you grow old, then you are not living the American dream. You are living the American nightmare.

Is it any wonder that you find it so hard to give up the one pleasure you have? When a Big Mac becomes the best thing in your life, you won’t be able to stay away from it, no matter how hard you try.

We the People tamed this continent. We built railroads across the wilderness, created an industrial empire like nothing the world had ever seen. We won world wars and put men on the moon. We created a standard of living, not just for the few, but for a whole nation of Americans, that, again, the world had never seen before.

Now it is being taken from us. The only thing our government seems capable of doing is waging constant war. It will not spend our money on us. It does not build roads, does not provide decent education. It goes in your face against our values and needs.

The government has steadily siphoned off the wealth of this great nation for decades now. It has transferred monies that once enriched all the citizens of this nation into the hands of a few. It has exported our industrial base and the jobs that go with it. It has ignored the people on a consistent, bi-partisan basis.

Meanwhile, We the People tear our lives apart with senseless divorces, too much debt, increasingly splintered communities, zoning out in front of the computer or the television, and of course, those trips through the junk food drive throughs.

We are sitting by while we are being stolen blind by our own government, while our young people turn feral from no family life, bad schools and sicko social values and while we commit slow suicide from overeating, under exercising and constant sleep deprivation.

I am not speaking of these thing from the outside. I am one with most of these problems. I eat out too much, don’t exercise enough and so seldom get enough sleep that when I do I am astonished by how good I feel. Over-eating, under-exercising exhaustion is my normal.

I’ve decided I’m going to join brave Katrina Fernandez and blog about my own battle of the bulge. I’ve done this before when I published a series of posts under the title, Less of Me. I’m going to resurrect that title and post under it again.

I see overweight/under-exercise/lack of sleep as a widespread societal problem and a deeply humiliating and utterly defeating personal problem.

If there is a way out of this cycle, I have never found it.

If you want to read something like Ten Quick Fixes for Weight Loss, you need to skip my discussion and go somewhere else. However, I can guarantee you before you go there that it will not help you one bit to read those ten quick fixes. Because there aren’t any quick fixes. Because the problem itself is bigger than the individual. Because when an entire nation of people experience such a devastating malady as this, there is much more afoot than simple lack of will power and bad personal decisions.

The junk food fix and everything that goes with it is a societal problem. It is a maladjustment and a source of illness for tens of millions of Americans.

I am one of those Americans.

Let’s talk.

 

 

 

 

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Six Sisters Who Serve American Indian Village Feel Blessed

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq https://www.flickr.com/photos/stijndc/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq https://www.flickr.com/photos/stijndc/

Sisters who serve feel blessed, and they are a blessing.

From Catholic News Service:

BAPCHULE, Ariz. (CNS) — Sister Pamela Catherine Peasel is a rarity in modern Catholic religious life.

She’s in her 30s — only 1 percent of women religious are. And she’s an elementary school teacher. Fewer than 2,000 women religious — 2 percent of all sisters — teach in U.S. Catholic grade schools.

Yet she said she’s joyfully where she needs to be and is not discouraged by the few number women choosing religious life.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s a drop in vocations as much as there is a drop in the ‘yes’ — you know, the response to the call,” she told Catholic News Service during a recent interview at St. Peter Indian Mission School in Bapchule. “I think God is calling and calling and calling.”

Life’s many choices can be overwhelming to young people. Considering religious life is a challenge for most, she said.

“It’s having to center your heart in prayer, listening for that call and then responding to it. The more we live that joyful attitude, I think that’s a big attraction to our life.”

 

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Court Upholds Texas Law Requiring Abortion Clinics to Meet Outpatient Surgery Standards

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Bridget Coila https://www.flickr.com/photos/bibbit/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Bridget Coila https://www.flickr.com/photos/bibbit/

Actually, it’s a no-brainer.

And no, it does not require abortion clinics to close.

I’m talking about a Texas law that requires free-standing abortion clinics to meet the same safety standards as any other free-standing surgery center. The law does not, as its opponents imply, close abortion clinics. It does make them safer for women.

It’s an odd sort of “reproductive health” that fights laws that simply require abortion clinics to meet the standards of every other outpatient surgery center. After all, the clinics perform an outpatient surgery we call an elective abortion. It seems that requiring them to meet the standards of every other outpatient surgery center would be a no-brainer.

From The New York Times:

WACO, Tex. — A federal appellate court upheld some of the toughest provisions of a Texas abortion law on Tuesday, putting 13 of the state’s abortion clinics at risk of permanently shutting their doors, which would leave the nation’s second-most populous state with eight abortion providers.

The appellate court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, sided for the most part with Texas and the abortion law the Republican-dominated Legislature passed in 2013, known as House Bill 2. It ruled that Texas can require all abortion clinics in the state to meet the same building, equipment and staffing standards as hospital-style surgical centers. Thirteen clinics whose facilities do not meet the new standards could be forced to close, leaving many regions without abortion clinics.

The court cited the explanations given by the Texas Legislature for what is considered one of the most restrictive abortions laws in the country.

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Actor Mark Wahlberg Says His Priest Saved Him from “Life of Drugs and Violence.”

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by WEBN-TV https://www.flickr.com/photos/politicalpulse/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by WEBN-TV https://www.flickr.com/photos/politicalpulse/

Parish priests are where the rubber meets the road.

If the parish priest fails, the Church fails.

We need to pray for these men in collars. They have a grave responsibility for souls.

Actor Mark Wahlberg left a life of drug and violence which resulted in him being charged with attempted murder to become a devout follower of Christ.

“I pray every day and try to go to church every day. My faith in God is what makes me a better man,” he says, earnestly. “It’s the most important part of my life. I pray that I will live up to my intention to be the best husband and father than I can be. I never would have been able to change my life and have the success and love that I have in my world today without my faith.”

This dramatic change is a testament to what can happen when the shepherding of a priest combines with God’s redemptive mercy. It is also a testament to the fact that we are, each of us, works in progress.

The article I quote below says that Mr Wahlberg is in a “committed relationship” with the mother of his four children. It turns out that they were married in the Church after having been together for a number of years. They had three children at the time of their marriage.

The ever-forgiving, always-loving Catholic Church welcomed them home.

From Square Mile:

For the longest time, it didn’t look as if Mark Wahlberg would make it beyond the prison cells of Boston – never mind to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. As a teenager he was arrested and detained multiple times – he was once charged with attempted murder (although pleaded guilty to assault) – and was addicted to cocaine before the age of 15. His biography is almost as extensive for his misdemeanors as his filmography.

It’s something he’s asked about a lot in interviews, and something that he always responds to. It’s also what makes him a controversial actor: some believe that he didn’t deserve a second chance, particularly given the nature of some of his crimes, but he’s always maintained that he has had to put the past behind him. That ‘kid from the wrong side of the tracks’ vibe stayed with him and his image as the bad-boy of Hollywood served him well, but the most important thing he remembers from this period is his faith.

It was religion that helped Wahlberg back onto the straight and narrow after his parish priest took him under his wing, and he’s retained that faith to this day. “I pray every day and try to go to church every day. My faith in God is what makes me a better man,” he says, earnestly. “It’s the most important part of my life. I pray that I will live up to my intention to be the best husband and father than I can be.

I never would have been able to change my life and have the success and love that I have in my world today without my faith.”

 

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Can Bruce Jenner Be a Christian? Of Course He Can.

Flickr Creative Commons by  Mike Mozart https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/

Flickr Creative Commons by Mike Mozart https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/

I hadn’t intended to discuss Bruce Jenner, the person.

I don’t mind discussing what I sincerely believe is the medical quackery of “gender reassignment surgery.” This barbarism is being used as  “treatment” for people who experience gender dysphoria. This mutilating surgery is just another of the many quackeries and cruelties practiced on mentally ill people.

Gender reassignment surgery is today’s pre-frontal lobotomy. One day, people will look back on it and wonder how anyone could be so cruel to do this to another person.

Bruce Jenner is a victim of this medical quackery. He also evidently suffers from a terribly painful mental illness. He has all my sympathy. I will never write a word condemning him or what he, personally, has done in this situation. My condemnation is for those who push this barbaric surgery on people for political reasons.

The only reason I discuss Mr Jenner today is because I’ve read a smattering of nonsense out there on the internet challenging Mr Jenner’s Christian faith.

I don’t know anything about Mr Jenner’s personal life or his personal beliefs. I’ve never paid attention to the bizarre cult of personality that surrounds Mr Jenner and his family and I don’t know anything about what he believes.

I have recently read articles saying that Mr Jenner has publicly proclaimed his faith in Jesus Christ. I’ve also read absurd blog posts and combox rants claiming that, because he has come forward about his illness, he cannot be a Christian.

Rubbish.

First of all, whatever emotional/mental problems he has, they are not his fault. Does anyone seriously believe that he would undergo this mutilation and subject himself to high doses of hormones, whose side effects are bound to be long-lasting and damaging, unless he was suffering and desperate?

People who are afflicted with this mental illness are being sold harrowing self-mutilation and damaging hormone therapy as a way out of their misery. This is unconscionable on the part of the people doing the selling. But those who subject themselves to this barbarism are its victims.

Mr Jenner is in no way committing a sin by suffering from a mental illness. He is in no way culpable for the horrendous medical advice he has been given or for the cruel, sicko society in which he lives.

Even if he was fully, totally, and absolutely culpable — and I say again that he is not — that would not in any way mean that he is not a Christian.

I’ve seen it on bumper stickers, and, even though it’s a bit cliche, it’s true: Christians aren’t perfect. They are forgiven.

Transexual people attend mass at my parish. We make them welcome. I do not question their faith.  I have never heard a single word from anyone else in that parish questioning their faith. In fact, I’ve very seldom heard any discussion about them at all.

We are all wounded people. The miracle is that God loves us, heals us and welcomes us to His table without exception. All we have to do is go to Him, warts and all, and place our lives in His loving hands.

Can Bruce Jenner be a Christian? Of course he can.

Is Bruce Jenner a Christian? He says he is.

Jesus loves Bruce Jenner. That I know. Bruce Jenner is God’s beloved child.

Don’t close the doors to the Kingdom on people who sin. We all stand in sinful equality at the foot of the cross. Our righteousness is as filthy rags before God.

We enter the Kingdom by virtue of the enormous price that Jesus paid to ransom us from our sins. There are no exceptions to this. Before you condemn Bruce Jenner and claim that he is not a Christian, go look in the mirror. What you see there will be the reflection of a sinner just like Mr Jenner.

Neither one of you is fit to untie the laces of Jesus’ sandals. None of us — none of us — is without sin. Be careful about condemning specific people in this way. You do not have the authority to make such judgements. That authority belongs to God alone.

Pray for Mr Jenner. He is a suffering fellow human being who is being used by a heartless political movement and medical practitioners bent on quackery. He deserves our compassion, not our condemnation.

 

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“Freedom to Worship” is NOT Freedom of Religion

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Official Senate Photo, Public Domain

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Official Senate Photo, Public Domain

Oklahoma’s Senator James Lankford raised the question, and it’s a good one.

President Obama has staked the legacy of his presidency on a tyrannical revision of the First Amendment  to limit the Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion to activities conducted out of sight and behind the closed doors of church sanctuaries. Senator Lankford, along with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, asked if this has hurt United States’ efforts to speak for religious freedom in other countries.

From Christian Post Politics:

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins argued that limiting religious freedom to “freedom of worship” in the United States has hurt efforts to advocate for religious freedom abroad.

“I think the lack of priority on religious freedom that we have placed here domestically on our policies does send a message internationally. I think there is a correlation between the growing intolerance of religious freedom, not freedom of worship, but the growing intolerance toward religious freedom, like in the marketplace, is giving rise to persecution abroad,” Perkins asserted before the U.S. Senate’s State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee hearing on protecting international religious freedom Wednesday. “We no longer make it a priority here domestically, that sends a message to bad actors abroad that ‘America no longer puts a high priority on religious freedoms so we don’t have to worry about them moving against us based on that.’

Perkins noted how the Obamacare HHS mandate on birth control health care coverage has forced private businesses, like Hobby Lobby, to go to court to fight for their religious freedom.

In a Thursday interview with The Christian Post, Perkins clarified that there is a clear distinction between the penalizing of Christian business owners in America who stick up for their beliefs and the Christians killed and imprisoned in other parts of the world for their faith. However, there is still a responsibility for American Christians to stand up for their religious rights.

“But as Christians here in this country, if we refrain from speaking out and exercising our freedoms, we put the lives of Christians elsewhere at risk if we allow our religious freedoms here at home to be lost,” Perkins added.

Lankford, who is the co-chair of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and presided in the hearing, agreed with Perkins that the current limitations on religious liberty domestically can have an impact internationally, and added that the United States is responsible for setting a positive precedent.

“I made a comment in my conversation with the panelists that the United States has a responsibility to be a beacon of light for religious liberty and free speech and tolerance of individuals,” Lankford told CP. “When we set that example, we can multiply, we are on a good platform to do that. When we begin to limit free speech and freedom of religion in the United States, it diminishes our opportunity to be able to do that worldwide.”

“So, when universities want to be able to limit what Christian organizations can do on a campus, when Navy chaplains are limited on what they can say and do in regards to Scripture, when individuals can’t fully live out their faith in the workplace, those become serious issues because it diminishes the rights that we want to encourage worldwide within our own country,” Lankford continued.

Since President Barack Obama took office, the notion of “freedom of worship,” as opposed to “freedom of religion,” has become a contentious issue.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/does-obamas-freedom-of-worship-hurt-international-religious-freedoms-135574/#Asd8P3RTSkVZC8LB.99

 

 

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Local Businesses are Choosing to Operate Under ISIS Rule

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Global Panorama https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Global Panorama https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/

ISIS may have a few problems with the social niceties. Their tendencies to murder, rape, enslave and behead are well known, as if their love of genocide.

But it appears that many local businesses are choosing to move under their governance. The reason? ISIS operates in a predictable fashion without the corruption tax imposed by other regimes.

I wonder how long it will be before our government signs a trade agreement with ISIS and begins shipping whatever American jobs are left to them.

From The Telegraph:

The Syrian businessman was enjoying a much-needed holiday in Turkey when the phone call came from the tax inspector of the Islamic State.

His business partner in Raqqa had been arrested, the inspector told him, and he would not be released until his company paid the $100,000 (£65,000) it owed the “Caliphate”.

“They told me that because I have a lot of money, I have to pay my share,” said Ammar, whose asked that his real name not be used. “They analyse your income and take a percentage.”

As Isil works to establish its empire, the jihadists have become fastidious bureaucrats: imposing taxes, paying fixed salaries and imposing trading standards laws in a bid to create a healthy economy that will sustain their autocratic rule.

Yet despite brutal punishments for those who break the laws, many Syrian businessmen see Isil as the only option when compared to the anarchy that prevails in areas controlled by other rebels, including Western-backed groups.

• Isil one year on: how Isil has spelt doom for Iraq’s Sunnis
• The rise of Islamic State – how the jihadi group conquered territory in Iraq and Syria

Ammar, who deals in cars, houses and poultry, is largely secular and privately despises the jihadists (he refers to the Isil-held “capital” of Raqqa as “the big prison”).

Yet he admits that he now works almost exclusively in their areas, having had $150,000 worth of stock stolen by a gang in turf run by another armed faction. Likewise, when he traded in areas controlled by the Syrian government, he was detained by a pro-regime militia, who demanded a bribe of $25,000 for his release.

While Isil charges zakat, the alms payment in Islam – essentially an income tax – to those residents who can afford it, Ammar said businesses were protected from theft and corruption.

“When I take chickens that I have bought from farmers in the rural areas to Raqqa the first thing I have to do is go to the zakat office and pay the standard 2.5 per cent. They then give me a voucher that allows me to sell the produce in the city.”

The model is being applied across Isil territory in Syria, and to such a degree that businesses are now choosing to move their industry into Isil areas.

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Hundreds of US Priests Ask Church to Stand Firm on Church Teaching

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Jeff_Golden https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffanddayna/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Jeff_Golden https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffanddayna/

Catholic priests in the United States have joined their brothers in England in petitioning participants of the upcoming synod on the family to issue a “clear and firm” statement of support for traditional Church teaching on marriage and sexuality.

Nearly 1,000 American priests have signed this petition.

From Catholic New Agency:

.- Nearly 1,000 United States priests made their own a petition to the fathers of the upcoming Synod, originally made public and signed by nearly 500 English priests.

The statement’s wording is exactly that of the English version, and urges the fathers of the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family to issue a “clear and firm” proclamation of Church teaching on marriage and sexuality.

The organization Credo Priests has been circulating the petition and collecting online signatures, which are verified as U.S. Catholic clergy before appearing on the site. The signatory priests, sensing confusion among the laity after last year’s synod, said they wished to “re-state our unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the Word of God and taught by the Church’s Magisterium for two millennia.”

Among the U.S. signatures are seven bishops – three active and four retired.

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The Church Without Nuns is Like a Human Heart that’s Cut in Half

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Ben Eekhof

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Ben Eekhof

Legislators can be dismissive of clergy.

In fact, elected officials are, whether they will admit it in public or not, downright cynical about collared folk. Anyone who’s been through a political campaign and had the experience of a member of the clergy lying about them from the pulpit is bound to be changed by the experience.

In my young life, I’ve had clergy of many denominations stand behind the pulpit and call me everything but a nice person. Much of this was back in my anti-religion period when I was pro choice.

They did not confine themselves to the fact that I was pro choice. They claimed variously that I owned whole chains of abortion clinics, was a communist/prostitute/lesbian/whore/slut etc, etc, etc.

Then, when I experienced the love of Christ and converted, when I began to do my best of make up for the harm I’d done by being pro choice, I got attacked by clergy from the other side of the spectrum. They accused me of criminality (which made them lawsuit bait, btw), hating women/hating men/being in favor of rape, and, of course, sexual promiscuity and having had many abortions.

Notice that the lies always included sexual slurs. I think there’s a reason for this, given that I am female and the clergy who attacked me were all male. But I won’t go into it here. Just use your imagination.

Most elected officials end up being attacked by clergy at some point in their careers, and most of the time these attacks are among the most vicious and dishonest they experience. So, when a member of the clergy shows up to lobby for something or other, politicians tend to regard them more as other politicians than men and women of God.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by JohnPickenPhoto https://www.flickr.com/photos/picken/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by JohnPickenPhoto https://www.flickr.com/photos/picken/

Not so with nuns. The reaction a group of hardened and cynical legislators has to a nun, particularly a nun wearing a habit, is absolutely startling. The reason why is simple. They believe that the nuns are for real. They don’t see them as another political power player. They see nuns as genuinely holy people.

This leads me to the post that my colleague, Sr Theresa Aletheia Noble, published today. It’s an account of an encounter she had with a young man who had recently been released from prison. She writes,

Filled with the chutzpah that only an Italian background and the Holy Spirit can give you I rap on his window. He turns toward me with an unfriendly glare.

“Hi!” I say brightly, fully employing my “naive nun” routine, “Your mom wanted me to meet you.”

After a few moments, the man hesitantly opens the car door without looking at me.

He stays in his seat.

I wait, knowing I cannot really talk to him if his eyes stay glued to the steering wheel.

I realize that he is just as afraid of me as I am of him.

After an awkward moment he gets out of the car. I notice a tattoo on his neck in bold script: “La vida es sufrir” (life is suffering).

He moves uncomfortably from side to side.

I touch his arm and say, “I’ve been praying for you and I will keep praying for you. Feel free to come by to talk anytime. We have a chapel that you can visit.”

He takes his sunglasses off and squints in the sun, grinning slightly.

I just look at him intently as if to say, “I’m know this invitation seems absurd, but it still holds.”

We look at each other in silence for a few more seconds.

I wave and walk back to the bookstore, his mother close behind me. As I walk, I realize that, despite appearances, there is really not much that separates me from this mother’s son. Whatever he does, whatever he is involved in, it seems like it is only a few steps away. I can almost touch it. In some mysterious way I almost feel that I am him. In that moment something about my vocation clicks.

I am a sister: a sister to Jesus, a sister to gangbangers, a sister to grace, a sister to sin.

Nuns, sisters, especially when they wear clothing that makes it clear who they are, have a vocation that even they may not be aware of. They are a visible sign and a presence of God’s grace in this world.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Official US Navy Page https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Official US Navy Page https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/

Would this young man have opened his car door for a priest? Probably. But the encounter would not have been the same. There is a unique and irreplaceable personal power in the feminine that no priest can possess. There is also the public perception of nuns and sisters as people who are authentic in their commitment to Christ, who are, in fact, holy.

I dealt with people like this young man on a daily basis all the 18 years I was in office. I also dealt with frightened people, people outside the law in many ways, and victims of those outside the law.

I can’t remember one time when a frightened or lawbreaking person turned me away when I approached them. There was never a time when they offered me harm. There were many, many times when they came to me in trust and desperation; unafraid to confide in me, trusting absolutely that I would not betray their confidences, that I would help them in whatever way I could.

That is the power of the feminine, even without a habit. It is the power of mother love, even in a government situation.

Nuns are an irreplaceable component in the Church’s structure. Without them, the ministry of the  Church becomes too male to be truly functional. That is because men are not the human race. They are half of what we are as humans. Women and men together are the human race. Anything less is shorn and weak; a quasi-functional subpart of the damaged whole.

Without nuns, the Church is like a human heart, struggling to beat, even though it’s cut in half.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq https://www.flickr.com/photos/stijndc/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq https://www.flickr.com/photos/stijndc/

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Minnesota Archdiocese Charged with Mishandling Sexual Misconduct

Ramsey County Prosecutor John Choi, marching in the Twin Cities Pride Parade. Photo Source: Wikimedia by Tony Webster http://flickr.com/photos/87296837@N00/4742812922

Ramsey County Prosecutor John Choi, marching in the Twin Cities Pride Parade. Photo Source: Wikimedia by Tony Webster http://flickr.com/photos/87296837@N00/4742812922

Prosecutors filed criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St Paul Minneapolis due to what prosecutors claim was “mishandling” of “repeated complaints of sexual misconduct adjacent a priest.” According to news reports, the archdiocese was also charged with “failing to follow through on pledges to protect children.” There’s also a civil penalty in there somewhere, as well.

The six charges filed against the Archdiocese were all misdemeanor charges of failure to protect children. They carry a $3,000 fine. The civil petition is intended to allow lawsuits against the Archdiocese.

I don’t know what statue the prosecutor is using to do this. In Oklahoma, failure to follow through on a contract, which is the most legal you could get with failure to follow through “pledges to protect children” would be civil, not criminal. Perhaps that is the civil portion of this charge. But then again, I’m not sure what a county prosecutor would be doing filling what amounts to a class action civil suit.

I’ll let legal minds better versed in Minnesota law sort this out. It may just be that the news reports are fuzzy.

The charges are based on the conduct of a former Catholic priest of the Minnesota St Paul Archdiocese named Curtis Wehmeyer. Father Wehmeyer is now serving a five year sentence for criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography. He has also been charged with molesting two boys in Wisconsin.

The most unusual aspect of this case is that the prosecutor added charges that the archdiocese ignored what is regarded as normal homosexual behavior on the part of Father Wehmeyer. Specifically, they charge that the Archdiocese “placed him in his own parish, despite learning about his attempts to pick up young men at bookstores and his encounters with law enforcement at “cruising” spots where men were known to meet other men for anonymous sexual encounters.”

Usually, public officials bend over backwards to delineate between clergy sexual abuse of young boys and homosexuality. This time, the public official conflated the two things.

From The New York Times:

CHICAGO — Prosecutors in Minnesota filed criminal charges on Friday against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accusing church leaders of mishandling repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against a priest and failing to follow through on pledges to protect children and root out pedophile clergymen.

The charges and accompanying civil petition, announced by the Ramsey County prosecutor, John J. Choi, stem from accusations by three male victims who say that from 2008 to 2010, when they were under age, a local priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, gave them alcohol and drugs before sexually assaulting them.

The criminal case amounts to a sweeping condemnation of the archdiocese and how its leaders have handled the abuse allegations — even after reforms were put in place by church leaders to increase accountability — and the charges are among the most severe actions taken by American authorities against a Catholic diocese.

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