Nuns and Sisters: To Inhabit the Habit, or Not?

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The old-fashioned habit that was worn by women religious for several hundred years is a romantic garb.

It is, in its own way, more high fashion than anything coming out of Paris, Italy or New York today. It harkens back to the days when Europe was going through a prolonged cold streak, when buildings where the common folk lived went mostly unheated.The habit began as the fashion of the day and, as time moved onward and the fashions of the days changed, it became an icon of religious identity for the women who wore it and those who saw them.

The habit meant something rather grand, speaking as it did of the mysteries of the sealed-off world of the convent and lives lived according to vows of lifetime commitment to Christ and His Church. The habit, when worn by Ingrid Bergman or Audrey Hepburn, was not only living religious icon, and high fashion; it was high Hollywood, as well. 

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No wonder the laity longs to see its return and many young girls like to wear it. But given that it is bound to be a rather uncomfortable and hot dress for today’s climate and an altogether unwieldy one for much of today’s work, no wonder so many other nuns were only too happy to shed it.

Fifty years on in this experiment of habit-less nuns and sisters, the question remains: To inhabit the habit, or not? Should nuns and sisters wear this garb as it always has been, or should they wear a modified version of it, or, should they abandon it altogether?

I am not a nun or a sister. I don’t, as we say here in Oklahoma, have a dog in this fight. 

What I want from sisters and nuns is the same thing I want from priests: Authenticity of purpose and fidelity to Jesus. 

I do think that it serves an important purpose for God’s vowed ones to be identifiable in public. Priests wear the collar. But they don’t wear it on the basketball court or the swimming pool. They take it off to go out for dinner with their friends and family. 

Nuns playing basketball

From what I’ve seen, sisters and nuns try to wear their habits at all times, even when they are engaged in physical enterprises which make it clumsy or even dangerous. I think that is kind of extreme. 

Maybe the question should be more along the lines of what should nuns who are active in the world wear for a habit, rather than if they should dress like civilians. As I said, this isn’t my fight. The only reason I’m writing about it is because I see a crying need for sisters who will engage in ministries such as human trafficking, prostitution, and other crimes of violence against women. 

The truth is, many of the women who escape from these things are unable to relate to any man in a healthy way, and that includes priests. They are deeply wounded, maimed even, on a spiritual and emotional level. They need people of God to work with them, and it would be very helpful if at least some of these people had the authority of religious vows. 

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It can’t be men; not in the early stages. It has to be women. That, to me, means sisters. The reason I bring up the habit is that I can see that a full-bore, head-to-toe habit might be a barrier between a sister and the people they are ministering to. Victims of this kind of terrible violence have enough survival barriers they’ve created inside themselves without adding more with something like the clothing you wear. 

To me — and I’m going to say for the third time that I’m out of my depth here — but to me the question about whether or not to wear a habit should revolve around what purpose it serves. I think women religious should wear something that is uniform to their calling and that distinguishes them from the laity. But I also think that transporting middle ages fashion to the 21st century may not always be the best way to go. 

I’m not saying it’s wrong to wear this type of habit. It’s fine. But for certain kinds of ministry, it would interfere with the sister’s ability to minister. On the other hand, dressing like just anybody who walked in off the street would hamper that ministry, as well.

I mentioned the collar and black and white clothes that priests wear because I think they are a good solution. It is a distinctive and uniform look that anyone who sees it recognizes as clerical garb. At the same time, it does not inhibit a priest’s ability to walk, run, sit or drive a car. Priests even wear short-sleeved shirts in summer, which seems kinder than wearing a full habit to me. 

Priests also take their clericals off when they want to play golf or go jogging. They even take them off for private social occasions. 

Why can’t sisters and nuns exercise the same common sense in their clothing? 

I’ve read that the orders which use the full habit are growing while those that don’t wear a habit are declining. I don’t know if that has to do with the habit or with the spiritual practices and mission of these orders or what. I would like to think that young women are joining religious orders for much more important reasons that what habit they wear. 

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As I said, my interest in this comes from what I see as a crying need to have women religious in certain ministries. The lack of women religious to help in the fight against violence against women is a sadness to me. I know that they could make a profound difference for the good, but there are not women religious to do this work, at least none that I know of. 

This is a rambling post that goes off in several directions and doesn’t come around to any conclusion. That’s because I’m thinking this through as I type. 

What do you think about all this? 

Also, do you know of an order of sisters who might be interested in the kind of work I’m talking about? 

The Church needs nuns and sisters. It has to have them to do the work of evangelization that it has set for itself. 

Where are all the good people dead: In the Heart, or In the Head?

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Sheila Pott, mother of Audrie Pott, with photo of Audrie 

Here are the facts.

  • Fifteen year old girl attends a party in one of the elite zip codes in this country.
  • She drinks. Maybe she drinks too much. Maybe her drink was doctored.
  • What is certain is that she was raped by boys she thought were her friends.
  • The boys put graphic photos of the rape on the internet.
  • The girl hanged herself.

I have had to deal twice with situations like this in my job as a representative. One was a girl who killed herself after a gang rape by five men who took photos and showed them around, including to the police. When the police told the girl there were photos, she went home, got in the bathtub and killed herself with a shotgun blast to the face.

The other girl tried to kill herself. After four days in critical care, she survived. 

I’m going to post an excerpt of an article about the little girl who hung herself. I want to talk about the attitudes that show through this article. I have no grievance with the person who wrote it. They’ve just fallen into our societal trap of cleaning up what should be faced and excusing that for which there is no excuse.

The article begins by saying that 15-year-old Audrie got drunk at a party and when she woke up, concluded that she had been “sexually abused.” Let’s get our terminology straight. She concluded, probably due to some grisly physical evidence, that she’d been raped. 

Remember that word: Rape. It’s ugly and people don’t like it. But the word isn’t the real ugliness. The ugliness is living in a society where 15-year-old girls can be treated like this and then suffer the further indignity of having reporters try to clean the horror up for the perps with the use of “soft” expressions like “sexual abuse” to describe what happened. 

These upstanding young men posted “graphic” photos of their rape of their friend on Facebook. After Audrie saw the photos on the internet, and endured the mockery of emails and texts circulating about what had been done to her, eight days after she was raped, she hung herself.

According to our reporter, “the case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.”

Is that what’s this “case” is about? “Sexual abuse” and “callous” use of technology? 

If we accept this kind of bland obfuscation of the brutal rape and murder by suicide of this young girl as a problem with technology and “cyber-bullying,” we need to burn our Member of the Human Race Card and go sit in the corner with the trolls and monsters of our deepest darkness.

To paraphrase a line from the movie Grosse Point Blank, where are all the good people dead:  In the heart, or in the head? 

Let’s get one thing clear: I don’t talk about misunderstood mass murderers and rapists who are otherwise such good people on this blog. You won’t see sweet-face lists of these young men’s accomplishments and wonderment about “how could such fine boys do this?” You’ll not read a word of sympathy and grief if they get sent to the prison where they belong, no matter how much they cry for themselves when they are sentenced. 

They were without pity for Audrie. I don’t care if they bawl their eyes out for themselves. I hope they spend the rest of their lives in jail. I don’t think they should ever breathe another free breath again. 

If you do something like this, then I put you in the monster column. The only way to get off that column is to manifest extreme remorse and humble grief for what you have done, coupled with a willingness to admit that you have in fact done it and that you are willing to do anything it takes to make up for it and to change. Even then, I want the proof of a changed life, and I mean a really changed life. 

Nice people do not rape their friends. They do not — ever — treat other people like things. They do not take photos of their raping and then post them on the internet, along with sending emails and texts to taunt, degrade and destroy their “friend” socially. What these men did to this girl, the rape, was physical torture. What they did later was emotional torture. What this young girl faced was social death.

People who treat other people like this are monsters. They will remain monsters so long as they continue to excuse, defend and deny the utter depravity and sub-human cruelty of what they have allowed themselves to become.  

From The Washington Post: 

SARATOGA, Calif. — Fifteen-year-old Audrie Pott passed out drunk at a friend’s house, woke up and concluded she had been sexually abused.

In the days that followed, she was shocked to see an explicit photo of herself circulating among her classmates along with emails and text messages about the episode. And she was horrified to discover that her attackers were three of her friends, her family’s lawyer says.

Eight days after the party, she hanged herself.

“She pieced together with emails and texts who had done this to her. They were her friends. Her friends!” said family attorney Robert Allard. “That was the worst”

On Thursday, sheriff’s officials arrested three 16-year-old boys on suspicion of sexual battery against Audrie, who committed suicide in September.

The arrests and the details that came spilling out shocked many in this prosperous Silicon Valley suburb of 30,000. And together with two other episodes recently in the news — a suicide in Canada and a rape in Steubenville, Ohio — the case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.

“The problem with digital technologies is they can expand the harm that people suffer greatly,” said Nancy Willard, an Oregon-based cyberbullying expert and creator of a prevention program for schools.

Santa Clara County sheriff’s officials would not give any details on the circumstances around Audrie’s suicide. But Allard said Audrie had been drinking at a sleepover at a friend’s house, passed out and “woke up to the worst nightmare imaginable.” She knew she had been assaulted, he said.

She soon found an abundance of material online about that night, including a picture. (Read the rest here.) 

 

What if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

What would the world look like today if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

What if, when Satan offered Our Lord all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus had said yes?

What if, like the Saturday Night Live skit, dJesus, Our Savior had used his powers to force people to bend their knee to Him?

These questions strike to the heart of other questions. Why does God allow people to rape, torture and murder innocent children? Why would He allow cancer? Why doesn’t He stop us from harming one another so viciously?

Why, in short, does He tolerate a creation that rejects Him and what He has taught us to do and so often goes in the opposite and entirely cruel and destructive direction?

If He is God, why does He allow so much suffering?

I have heard people say things like this when they were in the extremities of pain and loss. Their question was not so much an accusation as it was a kind of prayer, a cry from the depths.

On the other hand, it has become fashionable in certain circles for privileged people to ask questions like these as a method of self-justification or simply as a way to attack faith. This  nonsense of blaming God for our sins is becoming an increasingly accepted way to brush aside personal responsibility for our actions. Instead of acknowledging what we have done wrong, we point out that someone else is doing just as bad or worse.

Who better to blame for all the sins of humanity than a God who has the power to stop us from harming one another and will not do it? So, the fashion of the day is misplaced blame. We hold God accountable for human depravity.

But what would happen if God stopped us from sinning? What would have happened if Jesus had been the kind of conquering messiah the Jewish people wanted? What, in short, would happen if God was more like us?

I am the first to admit that if I was God every rapist and child batterer on this planet would be a pile of ash. Poof! And they would be on their slimy way to hell.

But God doesn’t operate that way, even when we wish He would.

He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. 

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus said “No” to Satan’s offer of worldly power. He turned His back on the temptation to use His power for Himself, even for something as simple as turning stone to bread to eat when He was hungry. He said no to all of it, and by doing that took the first steps to the cross.

Our eternal salvation began with that series of “nos” to the prince of darkness and his tempting offers to make right with might.

The truth is that even when God directs us, he always leaves us the choice of saying no to Him. He sets before us life and death, and then He lets us chose. He gives us a radical type of freedom that allows us to literally do our worst, including mocking, criticizing and attacking Him.

When Jesus said no to the control of earthly kingdoms, He was also saying no to the use of force to convert us.

God’s Kingdom is made of free people who freely chose to follow Him. The narrow way is narrow precisely because so many people would rather go the way of power and license, of selfishness and greed rather than give themselves to a Lord Who chose suffering and death over all earthly power.

Why the cross? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die on the cross; beaten, tortured, mocked, naked and humiliated? Why was this necessary to save us? Why didn’t He just reach out and save us with a magical touch?

From the beginnings of Christianity to now the cross has been a scandal. It is the subject of mockery from today’s evangelical atheists just as it was the subject of mockery by the Romans. The Romans saw the cross as ignoble. It was shameful, a disgrace, to die in such a manner; proof that the person who suffered it was from the scum classes of society and essentially worthless. The idea that Christians claimed such a victim as their god was, to them, ludicrous.

Today’s atheists are not so class conscious. They hang their critiques on a distaste for the whole affair. They sneer at the bloodshed and suffering and rebuke Christians for what they claim is a morbid worship of death.

But in truth the cross was the greatest gift of love ever given to humankind. The cross was not the only way God could have saved us. But it was the only way He could have done it and left us free.

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I Am Catholic, published an interesting post a few days ago. He commented on the Saturday Night Live skit, DJesus, that mocked our Lord by casting him as a violent, vengeful killer who wreaked havoc on everyone who ever crossed Him. Frank raised the question, “What would things be like if Jesus had been this vengeful god the skit portrayed?”

I think another way to ask that question is, What would things be like if Jesus had said yes to Satan in the wilderness?

The answer is probably along the lines of Jesus as He is portrayed in the SNL skit, only much worse than anything we can imagine. People of the first century were accustomed to gods who hungered for power — over each other, and over human beings. Humanity had long worshiped various deities who craved death and demanded that their followers slaughter their children, captives and other helpless ones as sacrifices to them.

How is that so different from our current culture of abortion, euthanasia and meaningless wars? St Augustine said these early gods were in fact demons. If he was right, then it appears these same demons are working through people today. They have not changed their tactics. They have only changed their names and their arguments.

God doesn’t allow suffering. He allows us our freedom and we cause the suffering. God doesn’t rape and torture. He doesn’t send drones, tell lies and ignore the elderly, sick, poor and helpless in our midst. We do that.

What God does is allow us to choose who we will serve. Jesus was born in a stable and died on a cross to open a path to salvation and eternal life for us. He suffered all this because by suffering it  He could both redeem us and leave us free to reject the redemption He offered.

God lets us chose. He sets before us life and death and then He lets us chose. That is the way things are because on that day so long ago, Jesus made His own choice. He said “no” to satan and turned His face to the path that led Him to the cross.

“Legitimate Rape” Senate Candidate Arrested in 1980s Pro Life Protest

Mr Foot-In-Mouth, Missouri senate candidate Todd Akin, just rose in my opinion. 

Remember Todd Akin? He was the senatorial candidate who basically affronted the dignity of everyone with two X chromosomes by making a statement to the effect that if a rape was “legitimate” the woman’s body would protect itself and not allow her to get pregnant. Aside from the garbled way he expressed himself and the fantasy biology he seemed to believe, his apparent attitude toward rape victims was … well … horrible.

His own political party pressured him to withdraw from the race but Akins refused and doggedly campaigned on. He must be doing surprisingly well. The reason I say this is that opposition groups, including People for the American Way have “researched” his past, looking for an embarrassment or two. In my opinion, they might have left well enough alone.

It turns out that Todd Akins was arrested a number of times back in the 1980s for criminal trespass and resisting arrest in front of a St Louis abortion clinic.

According to the St Louis Post-Dispatch archives,

a 37-year-old William Akin from Creve Coeur — whose name and address matches other information about the future lawmaker — was among a group of protesters arrested on March 15, 1985. The newspapers account said: “Nineteen anti-abortion demonstrators who refused to leave the waiting room of an abortion clinic in the Central West End were carried out by St. Louis police officers.”

Three weeks later, another six protesters, including Akin, were arrested at another St. Louis demonstration. “Police had to carry Akin into an elevator,” the story said.
On April 5, 1985, Akin was arrested again as one of 10 protesters who were “attempting to block entrances” at the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Ill., according to the paper. One clinic employee told the paper that the protesters caused minor damage and leveled “verbal abuse” at women entering the clinic.

Akins has confirmed that he was arrested 25-years ago, but won’t give out further details. “We’re not talking about that at all,” Akin told the AP. “It was 25 years ago, and I think it underlines the fact that I stand up for the things I believe and I’m pro-life, and we’re just leaving it there.”

I think these opposition researchers would have done better to have stayed with the outrage over Akin’s earlier comments. The arrest they discovered seems more like confirmation of his dedicated pro-life stand than a scandal. It sounds as if he was practicing the time-honored tradition of non-violent civil disobedience as a form of protest. It confirms that no matter how bad he is at expressing himself — and he deserves some kind of prize for that — he has a life-time dedicated pro-life stance.

Christian Persecution: It is Time for Christians to Stand Together

Do you read the stories?

Christians burnt alive, beheaded, stabbed, crucified, shot, gunned down. Christians tortured, imprisoned, raped, sold into slavery. Christians unable to work, forbidden to worship, forbidden to train new priests. Bibles, crucifixes, religious medals banned.

Have you lived the discrimination?

Christians mocked, ridiculed, belittled, slandered. Christians constantly forced to defend their faith in the face of aggressive jerks who feel an entitlement to force their way into private conversations, push themselves onto web sites and chat rooms to denounce the faith and belittle anyone who has the temerity to refer to Christ in public.

Have you seen the bigotry?

Christianity and Christ Himself, belittled, slandered, mocked, reviled and constantly lied about in a repetitive way by people who evidently feel an entitlement to leapfrog into any discussion or situation and unburden themselves of their verbal offal.

Have you seen this? Are you aware of it? Do you understand what it means?

We are at a fulcrum. If we do not stand for Christ now, here, in America, there is a tsunami of persecution out there under the water, waiting for all Christians, everywhere, including here.

It is time, it is past time, for us to stop sniping at one another over our narcissistic God ownership issues.

I am a Public Catholic. People who hate Jesus, or people who hate the Catholic Church, often seem to view me as the receptacle for their hatred and spleen. I think I may have heard every repetitive, factually inaccurate bit of pamphleteering claptrap anybody ever used to attack Christianity, Jesus, or the Catholic Church. I’ve heard it all. Several times a week. For years.

I do not reply in kind. I try to answer what are unreasonable attacks with reason. I use facts against lies. I do my best to answer gently and to keep on answering, even if it means I have to say the same things over and over again.

I never, ever, ever try to poke holes in other Christian’s beliefs. I do not feel called to deliver long-winded analyses as to why their particular denomination is wrong. I don’t do it because I think this kind of behavior is both nonsensical and destructive.

I am going to say this as clearly as I can:

There is only one Jesus.

We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’ve said before on this blog that I think that if we had the power to judge, no one would ever go to heaven. We’d all condemn one another to hell. I believe that’s the truth of it.

We are fallen people, living in a fallen world. These attacks on one another at a time when we need to unite and stand together are a symptom of the burden of original sin that we all carry. They are, to be blunt, the devil’s work, his weapon against us that we use on one another. If we are arguing over these silly things with one another, we are also wasting time, energy and intellect that we could be using to speak for Christ.

Almost all the attacks on the Catholic Church which I have to deal with are based on claims that are factually untrue. The same goes for the many attacks that I hear against Christianity as a whole and Jesus in particular.

I believe that in both instances — the attacks on the Church, and the attacks on Christianity — the people who do it are really acting out their own narcissism. If they were even slightly interested in the truth they would have checked these things out themselves.

Christianity is aggressively attacked all over the world, including here in America. It is ignoble that we are arguing over whose church is the best while Christians are dying for Jesus in Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia, and parts of Asia.

Millions of Christians will go to sleep tonight under the blood moon of Persecution. Christians in America allow Jesus to be mocked reviled and slandered and duck their heads in shameful silence. The courts push every mention of Christianity to the corners of life. The HHS Mandate puts the government itself in the business of forcing the church to abandon its teachings or face crippling government fines.

What does it take to get our attention?

If we don’t stop bickering among ourselves and stand for Christ as one redeemed Christian people, we may well be the generation that lets freedom of religion pass from the face of the earth.

It is time, it is past time, for us to grow beyond our narcissistic claims of God ownership on behalf of our various denominations. It is time for Christians to stand together.

The Atheist Boys Club and Online Misogyny as Sport

On-line misogyny. The anonymous crime against human dignity.

Leah Libresco, who blogs at Unequally Yoked and bills herself the “geeky convert” wrote a fascinating post last week about online misogyny from the atheist perspective.

Her post, Ave atque vale, Jen McCreight, discusses how one female blogger has been forced to retire from blogging due to online attacks from the atheist boy’s club. Ms McCreight’s  explanation for quitting is both straightforward and poignant. I just can’t take it anymore, she said. According to the post, the group primarily responsible for these misogynist attacks bills itself FtBullies.

I’m not going to repeat the things Ms McCreight has suffered at the hands of these people. Leah Libresco covers it in her post, as does Ms McCreight in hers. If you want to see it, you can follow the links. I’m also not going to discuss her beliefs.

The important issue to me is that she is a woman and she has been attacked to the point that she feels compelled to remove her voice from the public debate simply because she’s a woman. Do I need to tell you that this is wrong? I doubt it. Anyone who sincerely tries to follow Jesus Christ already knows that.

The simple fact is, we should never treat human beings made in the image and likeness of God in this degrading manner. We do not have the right terrorize women into silence with threats of rape and by sludging their names all over the internet. Brutalizing women, whether it’s done physically or verbally, is wrong. It is a sin.

Before I began writing this post, I googled “internet misogyny.” I got a pageful of hits with more pages to follow. It was, for the most part, articles by women trying to defend women against this sadistic menace. You can look here, here, here or here. I picked these because they were the first four hits. I don’t vouch for their brilliance or even the specifics of their facts. What I do vouch for is that they point to a real and growing problem of misogyny directed against women in our society.

The debate following Leah Libresco’s post evidently fell along predictable lines. I didn’t read it, but she did, and what she read moved her to write two more posts, defending Ms McCreight’s decision to step down. Based on what she said in these posts, I am assuming that some people felt that Ms McCreight should just toughen up, “take the heat,” and get on with it.

My first thought about this was that it sounded suspiciously like they were expecting the victim to “handle” what no one should be asked to “handle” in a civilized society. Do we believe that misogyny is something that women should learn to accept, and that if they don’t learn to accept it, there’s something wrong with them?

As I said earlier, I’m not going to address Jen McCreight’s beliefs. Whatever she believes she has the right to talk about it in public venues without being assaulted by the misogynist boys club competing in their favorite sport. I’m also not going to discuss the irony of such rampant misogyny from the self-proclaimed “tolerance” police of our society. Ms McCreight did a fine job of that in her post How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism that you will find here.

My point is that misogyny is wrong. It is cowardly. When it’s done anonymously over the internet, it sinks to levels of spineless cowardice that defy description. It is also a particularly virulent form of cyber-stalking, which means that it is probably illegal and punishable by criminal statutes.

However, the message I want to convey with this post is not about legal sanctions. It’s about us; about Christians and how we should treat other people. It is simple. If you are a Christian: 

Do not engage in misogynist attacks against women.

Do not go to websites that do this.

Do not click on links that lead to it.

If one of your kids starts using their computer time for this, stop them.

We bear the name of Christ. He has taught us to be better than that.

Money Where Our Mouth Is: Five Things Pro Life People Can Do For Rape Victims

Platitudes are for the lazy ones.

Those of us who actually want to do something to help other people are often left floundering at the gate by platitude profferers. Our desire to help and heal dissipates in the wallow of insincerity and we go back to our internet-browsing. That’s what will probably happen with the media storm over Congressman Akins’ remarks about rape. People will wear out their outrage by being outraged and nobody will help anybody at all.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you are not one of the lazy ones, if you do want to help heal our culture, here are five suggestions.

Money Where Our Mouth Is:  Five Things Pro Life People Can Do For Rape Victims

1. Preach from the pulpit that rape is a sin. I was the spark plug behind the Day of Prayer for an End to Violence Against Women here in Oklahoma. As far as I know, that’s the first action of this kind, anywhere. My reason? I’d been sitting in pews for years, and I had never heard even one sermon, one homily, one aside, saying that rape is a sin.

When I brought this up in speeches to women’s groups, the result was invariably a firestorm of “right-ons,” “you-said-its” and “amens.” When I tried to talk to clergy about it, they either got angry with me for daring to question them, or they started talking about the evils of abortion.

That situation inspired the Day of Prayer for an End to Violence Against Women. The plan was to get the heads of denominations, as opposed to rank and file clergy, to come to a luncheon and sign a pledge against violence against women.

I don’t think it would have gotten off the ground except for my own wonderful religious leader, Archbishop Eusebius Beltran. Archbishop Beltran said yes immediately. His name had enough mojo with the other heads of Oklahoma denominations that they started signing on.

Archbishop Beltran also wrote a pastoral letter speaking out against violence against women from a theological standpoint. Father (now Bishop) Anthony Taylor came up with the idea of having the laity in all our parishes sign a petition proclaiming their support for an end to violence against women. The Priest Council, with Archbishop Beltran’s full support, got behind this and we ended up with over 20,000 signatures.

But the key thing from my perspective was that I finally got to hear a sermon saying that rape was a sin.

I remember Archbishop Beltran’s face as well as that of my own pastor. They neither one said it out loud, but you could see it in their expressions: That’s all you want? For us to say that rape is a sin?

The answer is yes. That’s what I want. I don’t know when clergy got so diffident about things like sin and hell, but they need to get over it. Rape is a sin. It is a mortal sin and those who do it can go to hell for it.

The Church needs to use its moral and prophetic voice to tell people that violence against women in general and rape in particular are sins. It may sound obvious, but we live in a culture that gives such mixed messages on this that it is absolutely essential. If you are a priest or pastor, nuff said. If you are a pew-sitter like me, maybe you should raise the issue with your pastor.

2. Agitate for laws that lock monsters up and keep them there.I know that this one is going to get me in bad with a lot of people. But so far as I’m concerned rapists are one of the best reasons for prisons that I know.

3. Agitate for laws that support and help pregnant women. Over on Slactivist, Fred Clark wrote a post on August 10 criticizing pro-life groups because they aren’t supporting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HR 5647.) The legislation intrigued me. I think I may author a similar bill on the state level. I had the staff at the Oklahoma House of Representatives analyze the bill looking for abortion funding or some such hiding under its skirts. There is none.

What that means is that while Mr Clark and I obviously disagree on the issue of abortion, we both support this piece of legislation and would like to see it become law. I don’t think that his criticism of “pro-life groups” is well-taken, btw. Most of these groups operate within a laser-like focus on legislation that directly affects the sanctity of human life. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, while it certainly will help create a climate that will allow women to chose life for their babies and is thus pro-life, does not deal directly with abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and euthanasia. Political action groups have to focus if they are going to be effective.

I know from personal experience that the leaders and members of these same groups do support legislation of this type as individuals. They’ve helped me when I tried to pass it in the past.

In my opinion, the reason this legislation is being ignored by pro life people in Congress is that they can get away with it. No organized group that put them in office is pushing them on it. More to the point, they are against it (although most of them wouldn’t admit this in public) because the corporations who paid for their campaigns and who own them almost like indentured servants don’t want it.

It so happens that the party which is the most completely owned by corporations (notice, I said the most owned; both parties are to some extent.) is the Republican Party. Those who get elected by saying they are pro-life also tend to be Republican. That means that so-called “pro-life” members of Congress are the ones most likely to oppose this bill.

This also means that pro-life people are especially well-placed to advocate for this and similar pieces of legislation. After all, whose votes put these birds in office in the first place? Write them a letter. Then, check and see if they tell you the truth when they answer.

4. Donate to your local rape crisis center. 

5. When a political candidate comes to your door, sends you a survey, or asks you for a donation, tell them that you want them to do something to help rape victims. It’s ok — in fact, it’s good — to tell them that you are pro-life and pro-woman. Then follow through by asking him or her later what they did in this regard.

I could go on with this. I could tell you that when you talk to political candidates about this, they may lie to you. But you already know that, don’t you?

We’ll deal with that issue later. For now, it’s enough that you look at the Money Where Our Mouth Is list and pick out one thing that you’d like to do to help rape victims.

We are pro-life. That means we want to heal our culture. These are baby steps, but real steps, down that path.

The Child Isn’t The One That Needs Killing

The Child Isn’t The One That Needs Killing.  Rob Roy produced by MGM

We are at a stalemate on the issue of abortion. For forty long years we’ve yelled at one another across the cultural divide. If vitriol was virtue, a good number of us could warp off to heaven like a convoy of Elijahs right now.

Nothing revs up the combatants in this on-going war faster than combining the words “rape” and “abortion” in one sentence. That’s like sounding the bell for a group of race horses lined up at the starting gate.

The foot-in-mouth comments of a Missouri politician brought all this to the fore Monday. Here is what he said:

Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri who is running against Sen. Claire McCaskill, justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy.
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

His comments are so absurd they would be funny if their impact wasn’t tragic. Morally callous biological nonsense coming out of the mouth of a pro-life politician makes pro life people sound like moral ingrates and idiots. His bizarre statement will be bandied about as proof of many of the prejudices that are used to destroy the pro-life movement’s credibility in public debate.

People we might otherwise convert to our cause will be persuaded that we are too heartless for them to listen to us. Every time someone like this exhibits such indifference to women, he makes it harder for the rest of us to convert the culture.

I’ve been fighting the battle to achieve justice for rape victims most of my adult life. I was one of the six founders of the original YWCA Rape Crisis Center here in Oklahoma. I’ve lost count of the number of pieces of legislation I’ve authored to either try to help rape victims or lock up their assailants. Along with the Oklahoma Coalition on Domestic Violence I helped put together the Statewide Day of Prayer for an End to Violence Against Women, the first such event that I know of in the country.

I can not contemplate the sheer indifference to the suffering of other people that rape represents. It wounds me when I try.

Despite all this, I have been hammered repeatedly by legal abortion advocates because I won’t kill a baby that is conceived in rape. They have gone so far as to claim that I want women to be beaten and raped, that I hate women.

I believe that the leaders in these attacks know that they are lying. They are, in the parlance of our pro-life movement, truly “pro-abortion” in that their motivations are to promote abortion rather than to help women.

I have never answered them in kind. Even though some pro-life people have criticized me because I won’t fall in line and call pro-choice people names, I refuse to do it. I do not research their histories to try to find ways to attack them. I never answer their ugliness with more ugliness.

I let them have the low road.

I’ve been on both sides of the abortion wars and I know that there are good and sincere people who feel pushed into a pro-choice position simply because they can’t see any other way to help women who are faced with terrible situations. These are the people we have to convert if we want to change the face of our society.

We can’t change the culture by high-five-ing one-another. We’ve got to change minds and hearts. We must convert those who are genuinely pro-choice rather than pro-abortion. We need to do missionary work among those good people who think abortion should be legal because of their concern for the welfare of women. We can not do this without changing some of our tactics.

We need to try to put another face on our movement than that of social bully. We have far too many people who say they are pro-life but who are more interested in winning arguments and dominating discussions than in saving lives. If we want to build a pro-life culture, we need to stop yammering about what terrible people those on the other side of the debate are, and start speaking about the values we believe in.

We believe in the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. We are working to build a culture that honors the value and dignity of every single person, no matter how young, old, sick or disabled. We are trying to teach the world the Sermon on the Mount.

That is a noble cause. We should advance it with noble means.

Our values are not about overpowering those who disagree with us with verbal nastiness. They are also not about enforcing some rigid pro-life political correctness that says we have to denounce those who disagree with us or be attacked by other pro-life people ourselves.

I will go a step further and say that we should never answer their unkindness with unkindness of our own. We need to stay on our great and glorious message of the sanctity of life for all human beings. That, and not name-calling and denouncing people, is what will win the day.

The question of abortion for rape victims is a case in point. We should never make unkind or dismissive statements about the victims of horrible crimes like rape.

Representative Akin is mistaken. Women do get pregnant from rape. And they suffer horribly. Rape is a monstrous, dehumanizing terror that frightens almost all women and can be a kind of psychological death for those who have to survive it. Rape is another of those mortal sins that, if unrepented, can send those who commit it to hell.

None of this affects the fact that it is wrong to kill a baby. From the moment of our conception, we are all unique and precious individuals, children of the living God. A baby is not a terror. A baby is a person.

I think there are a lot of good and compassionate people who honestly favor abortion in the case of rape because they care about the rape victim. I also believe that there are lot of equally good and compassionate people who oppose abortion in the case of rape because they care about the life of the baby.

If we are going to heal our culture and bring the abortion wars to a life-giving conclusion, we have to bring these two groups of good people together. We need to stop focusing on saving the baby OR the mother. We should focus instead on saving the baby AND the mother.

Rape victims need a lot of help recovering from what has been done to them. Above all things, they need Christians to accept them as whole, unblemished people who are worth as much as they were before the rape. If they become pregnant from a rape, they will need a great deal of support. They need our help. Most of all, they need our love.

I get weary of empty-headed politicians and their callous statements. It tires me dealing with them and their indifference to human suffering.

As for rapists, I won’t go so far as Rob Roy and say that they need killing. But I do believe the unspoken sub-text of the statement that the person who should be punished is the rapist. The woman who was raped is innocent. A baby conceived in rape is innocent. The guilt, shame and the full punishment should fall on the one who did this terrible thing, not them.


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