Over the weekend I tussled with a Catholic traditionalist troll.
This happened on Twitter/X, of course. I have the app open all day while I’m writing in a tab, which is how I got famous for constantly doomscrolling there. He was male, the kind of traditionalist troll who says “based” all the time. I think he was originally offended because I said that exorcists are con artists, and after what I’ve been through I don’t apologize for that belief. But then he saw my post on the anti-immigration rally and it was off to the races. It wasn’t just calling me fake Catholic and gleefully informing me I’m going to hell, of course. I’m used to that. He also made fun of my wrinkles. He said I was prematurely aged because of my sins.
Personally, I’m proud of my wrinkles. I used to have perfect skin, back when the Poly-cystic ovary syndrome was undiagnosed and I had bad water retention as well as out of control weight gain. After I finally got a diagnosis, at the age of 36, and went into ketosis as a treatment for the blood sugar, I lost thirty pounds and got healthier. I’ll always be fat and being fat isn’t a bad thing, nor is weight loss always a healthy thing. But fat loss can reduce the flare-ups associated with PCOS because PCOS is a hormonal disorder and hormones are stored in the fat cells, so for me it was good. I’m smaller, my blood sugar is stable, my fatigue isn’t destroying my life anymore. In exchange for this, my skin sags. I like my crow’s feet. They’re a badge of honor. The remarks about the wrinkles didn’t hurt very much.
I blocked him and went on with my day. I noticed he’d gone on to make fun of all the people who jumped on the thread to defend me, and I’m sorry for all the heretics and modernists and fake Catholics and s*d*mites and groomers and Jesuits and other friends of mine he attacked. I’m just guessing as to the names he used there, because he was blocked, but these gentlemen always have a certain repertoire of nasty names.
Today, I met another Catholic traditionalist.
“Traditionalist” was right in her bio on Twitter; her handle was “Maria Elena JMJ.” Her profile pic was a painting of the Virgin Mary, of course. They always claim they speak for Mary. Maria Elena was lecturing everyone on how childbirth isn’t dangerous but always a healthy thing that women are meant to do. She claimed she was an ICU nurse, and that was why she had the authority to make such an assertion.
This all started in a thread about abortion, of course. I’m against abortion. I have discovered that the pro-life movement as it exists in America today is a confidence game, but I never want people to get abortions. But I had to object to her insistence that pregnancy is harmless, because everyone knows it’s not. Of course pregnancy is risky. It can kill you. It has killed countless people. It almost killed me. That doesn’t make it not worthwhile; it just means it’s risky. And I said so. I even mentioned that I’m desperate to have another baby, so she’d understand a little about who she was talking to.
Her response had me shuddering with flashbacks for an hour.
“Driving a car is risky. Heck, eating dinner is risky (people have died while choking on their food). Have you heard of house fires? God made you and me to participate in the most miraculous amazing creation of life. Fear comes from Satan. Have faith. You were made for this. *heart emoji*.”
She said that to my thirty-nine-year-old infertile face. She said that to someone who still has bad attacks of PTSD from my disastrous attempt at a natural childbirth twelve and a half years ago, which I’d tried to tell her about.
The shuddering slow-motion descent into hell which is known as a flashback started right away.
I’m proud of my wrinkles, but the fact that I almost died in childbirth and never got a do-over with a second baby actually does still sting. I’ve spent one too many mornings crying in the bathroom clutching a used pregnancy test. Like traditionalists, women who have birth trauma and secondary infertility have a repertoire of nasty things we say. I let her have it. Fear of childbirth isn’t from Satan, Traditionalists are, and I said so. I called her a simpering Antichrist.
A silly social media friend responded to all of this with a quip I’d like to get tattooed on my sagging skin: “If Trads don’t want to be treated like the worst people God ever created, they are always welcome to stop behaving like it.”
Traditionalists do not have values, they have assumptions. They don’t have consciences, they have rules. They don’t see human beings, they see lay figures to preach at. And they don’t care who they hurt. They are the opposite of Christ.
I would like to follow Christ, and if Christ is anything worth my time, Christ is not rules. Christ is not a list of “thou shalt nots” you mustn’t disobey. Christ is not an in-crowd who beat up on the suffering. Christ is not a prize you get for jumping through all the right hoops and then being a smarty pants about it. If Christ is anyone I want to know, Christ is compassion. If compassion makes you a fake Catholic, then Christ is a fake. Better a fake than a bully.
I’m so tired of people without compassion claiming to speak for Christ and His mother.
I am, just generally, tired.
Thank you to all the heretics and modernists and Jesuits and fake Catholics and what have you who said kind things to me over on social media. I do appreciate my friends.
Let’s try to make the world a little less terrible this week.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.