Five Years of Troublemaking: A Retrospective

Five Years of Troublemaking: A Retrospective January 21, 2021

I am still reeling from the inauguration. I still can’t believe it’s over. I hardly know what to do with myself.

I’ve never exactly been in this situation before.

I’ve never been a writer with a public platform in a world where Donald Trump wasn’t a looming threat.

I started my writing career, such as it is, in late March of 2016, just as Trump was making a serious move toward being a presidential candidate nominee. I still couldn’t believe he was much of a threat, mind you, but the more I dismissed him, the more he remained prominent. I didn’t like Hillary Clinton either so I didn’t much care. And then, suddenly, he won the nomination. And then, somehow, he was elected. And I found myself walking around the ritzy end of LaBelle late on a rainy November night, panicking, staring at TRUMP PENCE 2016 yard signs in the front gardens of wealthy people, and wondering how we got to that point. I’m still not entirely sure.

I never intended to write about politics. I don’t like politics. I like nature and art and standing up to bullies and finding ways to help the poor. I thought I’d write about that.

In late March of 2016 I thought that the pro-life movement was well-meaning but very myopic and naïve. I thought we were all on the same side and with a little reform, we could speak truth to power and save lives. I truly believed that they would eventually grow a spine and prove themselves to not be mere shills for the Republican party.  I had actually admired Father Frank Pavone for his tenacity in saving lives– that’s what it appeared he was doing, at least. I thought that the objections against Pavone were the results of calumny. And then 2016 happened. One moment he was saying that Trump was not perfect but Hillary was pro-abortion so he had to. The next moment, he was head over heels in love with Trump. The turnaround gave me vertigo.

I confronted Pavone on Facebook, before he blocked me, about how his sudden avid love for the man would look to rape survivors retraumatized by this whole election cycle– I still thought it would just be a one-year election news cycle back then, you see; I believed that after November I wouldn’t have to write about politics anymore. And his brashness and cruelty in his answer shocked me. I had thought he was compassionate. Then, the next thing I knew, he was decorating an altar with human remains, further traumatizing my friends who suffered miscarriages and stillbirth and my post-abortive ones as well. I was overwhelmed with anger at his callous disregard for a human body, a temple of the Holy Ghost, someone who deserved a proper burial. I became nearly obsessed with tracking down where he got that poor child’s body, and I have been compiling the evidence people send me ever since. It’s far, far worse than I thought.

I somehow became the one whose blog post went viral when I discovered that Pavone isn’t even a priest in good standing in the first place. That was no secret. But few would talk about it publicly, as if there was some danger of telling the truth. I’ve been trying to track where he’s incardinated ever since, with the help of my fellow Patheos bloggers. I keep talking about it because the lack of responsibility from everyone involved shocks me. And every time I talk about it I’m accused of calumniating a priest. Some of the worst trolling and harassment I’ve ever gotten is because of my work demanding accountability from Frank Pavone– I won’t call him “Father” anymore. I didn’t set out to do this, it just happened.

And the same thing happened with Abby Johnson and her horrific, racist, abusive, libelous behavior online, her conspiracy theories that could get people killed. And the same when I discovered how Norma McCorvey had been used.

Human life is sacred and deserves to be protected and cherished, from conception until natural death. But the more I look at it and the deeper I dig, the more I come to the conclusion that the pro-life movement is a confidence game. I don’t mean that the men and women working to help mothers and children and provide what they need so they won’t feel pressured to get abortions; I mean all the shouting and picketing and lobbying and money. The big name pro-life organizations are frauds. They want money and they want power; the unborn are just the carrot they use to stay in power. And they wedded themselves to the most evil, abusive, disgusting misogynistic would-be tyrant imaginable. And actual babies have died as a result. In 2017, the first year Trump was in power, Planned Parenthood reported a sudden jump in abortions and their best year of federal funding so far. In 2020, thanks to the president’s crass mishandling of the epidemic, abortion rates skyrocketed so that the clinics were overwhelmed. We won’t know the full extent of the carnage for awhile yet, and by then I’m sure the big name pro-life shills will have made up an excuse for why it’s not the Republican party’s fault. That will be a lie, just as they’ve been lying all along.

I didn’t mean to talk about this, but here I am. I don’t like it, but in conscience I don’t see how I’m supposed to stop.

I insist on a better way. There has to be a better way to save lives, and I won’t stop demanding it because I believe my faith requires that of me.

Michael and I lost our parish, we lost friends, we’ve been harassed and humiliated. I don’t like what we’ve been through. But I don’t exactly regret it.

This is my first full day as a professional writer in a post-Trump world.  Donald Trump still exists, but his influence has been effectively castrated since the Epiphany Riot two weeks ago. And I was going to write about how strange it is– I’ve never been a writer with a platform in a world where that man wasn’t a threat.

But the more I think about it, I realize that my place in all this hasn’t changed.

All the factors that sent us into these four years of chaos are still here.

My old nemesis Frank Pavone spent the weeks leading up to the inauguration ranting that this was all a sham and Trump would be inaugurated on the 20th. A few days before, he switched to ranting that Democrats needed to go to the psychiatrist and to make public repentance for their sins. He’s now saying televised Masses from his hidey hole in Orlando, and referring to them as “Mass of Thanksgiving for Donald Trump,” ranting that “this is the end of the Democrat party” as if that mattered. And people still listen to him. People are still on social media spiritually abusing others by claiming it’s a sin not to vote Republican and that Trump is pro-life. The events of 2016 could easily happen again, with a new figurehead. And if they don’t, another similar fight will take its place.

A great deal of unmasking has happened since March of 2016, but the situation remains the same.

We are Christians, in the world but not of it, committed in the name of Christ to protecting life from conception until natural death. The spirit of the world has a different agenda. The agents of the spirit of the world do an excellent job convincing people that to serve them is to serve Christ. We must keep our eyes on Christ, and we must denounce and warn against the anti-Christs misleading the faithful as we do.

I’ve found this one part of what’s mine to do.

And whatever happens, I’m just going to keep doing it.


Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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