I have tried repeatedly to write this and couldn’t get it out. So, I’m going to do it straight and from the shoulder.
I am not sure what kind of Catholic I am anymore.
I believe in the Eucharist.
I believe in what the Church teaches.
But I don’t believe that the bishops care if women are raped, tortured and murdered. I don’t believe that the men who run and control the Church care what happens to women and girls.
When I was in office, I helped organize a Day of Prayer for an End to Violence Against women. Several groups, including Catholic Charities of Oklahoma, participated in this. My bishop, Archbishop Beltran, stepped right up to participate. We got the leaders of all the organized denominations in Oklahoma to come to the capitol for a lunch and sign a pledge against violence against women. Archbishop Beltran authored a pastoral letter on the human rights of women. I have the greatest respect for this good man.
I did all this because I had spent my entire adult life advocating against violence against women. I had passed so many laws on the topic that I honestly do not remember them all. But nothing changed. One in four girls is still a victim of sexual assault. The number one cause of death for pregnant women is still that they are murdered. Rapes and murders are still the entertainment on true crime shows. Girls and women still live in fear of violence everywhere they go.
I hung on because I love the Church and I thought that, even though it is totally a boy church that is dominated completely and absolutely by men, it would listen and respond. It got tiresome over time, dealing with Church “teaching” and various statements from male clerics telling me about me. I knew without any quibbling that their talk-talk about “women’s role” and “women’s dignity” was slick bullying. There is no discussion about “men’s role” in life. It is assumed that men can do anything they want. But the men who run the Church expend a lot of verbiage seeking to define the “sphere” and the place where the half of the human race that they are not can be allowed to exist.
I got that this was outrageous claptrap designed to limit and control women. Got it from day one. But I love the Church, so I just ignored it.
I even did my best to overlook the virgin martyrs. Every year when the day which remembers little murdered Maria Goretti rolled around, I shifted my attention away from the Church. This was a little girl who a pedophile tried to rape and then stabbed her 14 times, murdering her. The little girl forgave her murderer on her deathbed and he — get ready for this — was so touched by her behavior that he became a a lay brother in a monastery. Do you know of a sicker story than that one? What kind of woman-hating creep holds that up as an example for little girls?
The message, right out there for any little girl to absorb, is that she’s better off dead than to survive a rape.
The 20-year misery we’ve all been through with the fact that a lot of priests and bishops are either child rapists or they cover up for them and they won’t stop doing it, puts an unwelcome exclamation point at the end of that story. There’s something twisted and sick in these atitudes toward the evil business of using other people like things for sadistic sexual gratification that no one I know of has really explored. I don’t understand it, but I see it and smell it and know that it’s there, like rotting meat in a broken refrigerator.
I managed, because of the forgiveness and love that I had received in the Church, because of the healing power of the Eucharist, because of the truth and constancy of the Church’s teachings, to stay the course with gratitude and peace in spite of these things. I stayed the course even when I realized that nothing had changed or would change.
It was and is possible to ask a bishop or bishops to make a statement against violence against women and get them to do it. But that’s where it ends. It’s just a statement. It is necessary to go back, repeatedly, to keep reminding them of the issue. Because as soon as you stop reminding them, they drop it and are done with it.
I saw this and I knew it. I knew nothing had changed.
But I didn’t change myself until Trump.
Religious leaders of all sorts of denominations went all in for Trump. In order to back him, they did everything but tear the Gospels out of their Bibles and then toss the them in a big pile in the parking lots of their Churches, pour gasoline on them and light a match. They refuted the Gospels from the pulpit and in their public statements on behalf of Trump, over and over again.
The fact that Trump is a women-hating, woman-abusing serial sexual predator who brags about it didn’t bother them one bit. They backed Roy Moore for the Senate, even though he was a child molester. That didn’t bother them, either. I think the anguish and conflict I felt over all this was the primary reason one of the arteries in my heart kinked up and almost killed me with a heart attack.
But my real and absolute breaking point was the Kavanaugh confirmation. I think the reason why is that there was nothing at stake; it was all straight up misogyny. If the Senate had failed to confirm Kavanaugh, Trump would have just nominated someone else. It’s happened many times, with many presidents. There was nothing — and I mean nothing — riding on the confirmation of this particular man.
We all watched Christine Blasey Ford’s gut-wrenching testimony. But it didn’t matter to the religios. Not one bit.
Their indifference to violence against women is so absolute you could freeze ice on their hearts.
What happened to me in those days of that hearing was that I suffered an unmendable break. Something inside me went snap. I was reading all this screaming vitriol, defending this horrible man, attacking Dr Ford, calling me names for supporting her, and I saw that every single bit of it was coming from other Christians, most of them other Catholics.
I watched her testify, sitting there alone, and I listened to the rhetoric coming from the clerical set against her, and I listened also to the yawning silence of the rest of the clerical set who would not defend her, and it was like something in me snapped with an audible snap. The thought, I don’t belong with these people, I am not one of them, came unbidden into my mind and sat down to stay.
I have suffered greatly with all this. I love the Church. I sill believe what the Church teaches. I go at night and sit alone with the Eucharist because He is there and I am healed and comforted by that Presence. I have, throughout this, never felt any distance between me and the Holy Spirit.
But the distance between me and the bishops who find violence against women a nothing much that is just a bothersome whiney woman thing and not important like men stuff, is, I guess, absolute.
I don’t believe them anymore. It’s as simple as that.
I’m writing this today for one reason.
I write for the Catholic portal here at Patheos.
I do not want those of you who read what I write to be confused or misled. When you read the things I write, you are not reading the thoughts of a faithful Catholic. I never intended to be a Catholic apologist. I am not in any way qualified for that role. But now I am something far different.
I am a believing Catholic who does not believe that the institutional Church and the men who run it care if women and girls are raped, tortured and murdered. That changes everything for me. It is the end of trust.
I’m not going to be little goody Catholic in what I write from here on out. I’ve struggled with this for a long time, and the struggle has rendered me mostly mute. I haven’t been able to write because of the inner conflict involved in not representing myself in a fully honest manner to you, my reader.
You need and you deserve to know that when you read what I write, you are reading the writing of someone who is not even sure what being a Catholic really means. If being Catholic means cherishing and believing in the sacraments and believing what the Church teaches, then I’m Catholic. But if it means believing that the bishops actually care about the female half of the people entrusted to them, then I am not Catholic.
I know bishops who are good men. I know bishops who are good people and sincere Christians. But as a group, they have failed the women and girls in their flocks with their utter indifference and disregard for the endemic, socially-accepted violence directed against them.
The Church’s misogyny is not of Christ. I do not accept it. I do not believe it. And I will not be governed by it.