I held this in for as long as I could.

However, I am now to the point of anger about the praises the new pope is getting for his one-liner headlines. I am saddened that people are grabbing at those sound bites without further reading or at least asking a few questions.

I guess it’s what people want to hear. And I guess the Vatican did a great job choosing a pope from a country near where the World Youth Day was held. Hmmm. . .isn’t that a co-incidence. . .long in the making?

Here’s my take and my take only.

Pope Benedict was a disaster for the Roman Catholic Church. They thought rigidness in the “old time” ways would keep people in the pews, in their comfort zone, and feeling safe. What they didn’t realize was that the world moved on since Vatican II along with many Roman Catholics. The pews were emptying out and so were the coffers.

So the Vatican, probably, conceded that it must step into the 21st century. They probably hired consultants to show them the ropes of the media and what people want to hear through sound bites and headlines because that’s how people hear their news and make their decisions today. They probably had secret focus groups, too.

They probably paid lots of money because they found a Jesuit who is, probably, a good and loving soul with a sense of humor. Most of the Jesuits I know and respect are that way. They care and strive for social justice. These must have been the buzzwords the consultants told the Vatican to focus on.

And, the Vatican must have gotten to work in finding that man…years in the making. They found him. They placed a future World Youth Day near where they found him.

Then the time came to take that courageous step that would “prove” to the world that the Roman Catholic Church was changing. They would relieve the current pope, something that had never been done in the history of popedom, and get a new one. And it paid off. They chose the perfect guy. These probable consultants were very deft in their job.

People are gullible and lazy and fearful. Especially Roman Catholics, because we are conditioned at a very early age to believe and do what we are told and to ask no questions, or else. It’s easier that way.

I expect that the general population that has no background in Roman Catholicism or “good” Roman Catholics to bite the carrot. But it saddens me that so many of my intelligent and worldly friends have fallen for the press hype.

The Roman Catholic Church is not changing. I say this not against the pope himself, necessarily, because I really don’t know who he is. But I believe the Vatican is using his gifts splendidly.  He is quieting the voices pleading for compassion and social justice. But he is doing nothing to change the bottom line.

That is my take.

The recent headline is the most disturbing yet. And it doesn’t even hint at the second bombshell.

“Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?”

If you read the entire article, you will see that he was referring only to celibate priests that have recanted their “sin.” Now that they are celibate and have recanted, their sin can be forgiven and forgotten. That’s to what the one-liner is referring. Nothing has or will change in regard to accepting LGTBs fully into the church.

The second bombshell was the firm affirmation that the door has been closed to the idea of women sharing their love and gifts in the priesthood. But rest assured, women of Christ, the men are taking good care of us by developing a “theology of women” especially for us.

I was a Roman Catholic for fifty-six years. For the last forty or so, I kept up hope that the Roman Church would keep moving forward with what Vatican II began.

I never lost hope that it would accept women as equals and welcome them into the priesthood. I know that Jesus would see our LGTB sisters and brothers just as people he loves and should be given the equal opportunity to share that love within their church. Why shouldn’t priests be allowed to marry? Divorce? Contraceptives? Compassion.

I never lost hope until I couldn’t look the other way any longer.

From the lectern one Sunday morning, the pastor moved gravely to the microphone wearing a sad face, shaking his head, and clicking his tongue sharing that it wasn’t fair for the press to “air the church’s dirty laundry in public.”

Next,he asked us to give another percentage of my income, above and beyond the weekly offering and above and beyond the Archbishop’s yearly extra percentage request, for upgrades to the local seminary. We were assured the funds would be put into a completely separate fund out of the diocese hands. The money would stand-alone and only be used by and for the seminary.

And why is that?

My take on it, and only my take, is that it is because the Roman Catholic Church is being sued across the world for the heinous actions of their well-hidden and still protected pedophiles. The Roman Catholic Church will not accept any blame, offer any apologies, and is spending its time and money moving as much of its wealth as possible. For when the inevitable lawsuits happen, some of their money will remain safe. I wonder how many consultants have been hired for this process, too?

Read the full articles, my friends. Listen to the entire speeches. Search for news about the day-to-day decisions being made behind closed doors of the Vatican that don’t make for good press sound bites. You don’t have to read between the lines. It’s there in black and white.

Women will never be priests in the Roman Catholic Church. But they will give us the benefit of the doubt with our own, separate, male-guided and approved  “theology of women.” I wonder what Jesus would say about that? Did he have his own theology for men and a separate one for women? Of course, the nuns will have to fall into step behind a male bishop who will allow the religious women to clean up after him. Oh, and pray for others, of course.

Gay people will be “sinners” in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. Only if they repent from their “sin” and never do it again, then they will deserve to be welcomed at the table.

And the Roman Catholic Church’s dirty laundry will be kept well hidden within the Vatican, because for them, it is no one else’s business.

I guess I should mind my own business.

I stepped away about a year ago from the Roman Catholic Church. I found a world of wonderful people in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion who worship God and Jesus the way I understand.

What is the best part of this moving on?

I am learning to release that Roman Catholic guilt from all aspects of my life. It’s hard. It’s well established. It’s what I’ve held onto for over fifty years to prove that I believed in God.

But I now ask myself, why did I ever want to hold onto a god that is constructed by power hungry men? A god that has little compassion and keeps people away from the table by using it as a reward for “good behavior”? A god who sees women as peons and not as important as men? A god who looks the other way when the church doesn’t share its outrageous wealth while his children go hungry and homeless.

That is not the god in which I believe. I’m pretty sure I never believed in that god anyway. I grasped the comfort of guilt because I was made to believe that I was a sinner and never good enough. But I was promised that if I worked hard, followed the rules, and was truly sorry for all the horrible things I do, I would be loved by god.

I am learning to believe that when I look in the mirror I now see God who is within. Not a male, because I am not a male. I see compassion peeking out wanting to spread through me to the rest of the world. I see laughter and joy and an unbridled wealth of sharing. Hard work, too. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows. There is a lot of hard work to be done.

But it’s there, inside of me. I am breaking down that solid wall of rules and regulations of “salvation” that began construction on the day water was poured over my head.

It’s a thick, unforgiving wall.

And I will smash it to pieces to let the love of God shine through me.


An actor begins the walk onto a stage
without sets, without backdrops or props or costumes

coming to center simply spiked by two torn pieces of
finger-crossed tape acknowledging a presence on boards

painted black, thickly covering the years, filling in scuff marks,
smoothing over voices that pour blood onto the floor

night after night, the mark where you stand alone
under one spotlight blinding your view, but not theirs

judging how you move, angles of your body,
color of your hair, sound of your voice

they await the spark of your soul
and when you speak, shoving aside fear,

ignoring their whispers,  you breathe life into that dark hollow,
your life, the actor’s soul, you learn to trust

darkness, open your heart to the faceless evaluating
your pain, your joys, your naked self

you bleed, not for accolades from hungry eyes
yearning to be entertained, you bleed for a chance

to confer an understanding, propose compassion,
for just an hour or two you ache to give yourself wholly and

without restraint to provoke, to accord clarity,
a different view point,  to comfort or place a moment of mirth

in a life you do not know, nor will ever meet
and in a minute or two a thank you rolls from the darkness through

blinding light into your ears and you are excused, to hope,
to move on, and not look back.


Author’s Note:
When you ask me what I am, I now answer “Teacher.” But that is not true. It is a lie.

I am an actor.

The truth is that once you discover this, once you realize that you are an actor, you are never anything else. You may do lots of different things in your life, but the soul of an actor is tenacious. It does not give in or up.  It has found a comfortable place to live and you will be defined by “I am an actor” for eternity.

When I am in the presence of working actors, when I see performances, that soul twinkles and cheers and lives another life.

And, no matter what I do or who asks, there is always the quick, under whisper from my heart, “I am an actor.”

I Couldn’t Sleep Last Night

I couldn’t sleep last night.

Earlier in the evening I attended the Underground, our youth group at Church of the Holy Family led by Fr. Scott Jenkins. I am no “youth.” Yet, at fifty-seven years of age, I was invited and found myself walking through the doors to the meeting.

There was exploration around the theme of social justice, a Christian way of living.

Some words repeatedly made themselves known to me through the evening’s discussion that continued onto the Underground Facebook page.

Agitated, addictive personality, abuse, discernment, hubris, fixer, and self-care
camped-out in my unsettled thoughts.

I was too agitated to sleep.

I didn’t know why.

Morning Ride

This morning on my way to my writing group I grappled with a lingering question. How do I find compassion when abuse is part of the equation?

Mental illness played a large part of my formation into adulthood. On the surface I understand, from years with a schizophrenic and alcoholic mother, that beneath the outward abusive actions, there are things that simply cannot be controlled. Luckily for me, physical abuse towards me was minimal. I only remember a few minor incidents that I have never shared with anyone.

However, the verbal and mental abuse aimed at me was stellar. Our family doctor assured me that my mom loved me and that she couldn’t help herself. My dad was there to smooth things over.

My mom was institutionalized several times and subjected to shock treatments. The end of her life was somewhat easier. Drugs were better by then. My dad was retired and spent twenty-four hours a day with her making sure she took her meds and kept her away from alcohol. Being that he is OCD, it worked out well.

I still don’t know if my mom really loved me, or could love me.

The Social Justice Way

I also connected with a statement from one member of the group. During the previous evening we weighed out the positives of the Social Justice Way with its inherent dangers. One group member said he wonders if he is missing something by doing the action part of social justice and not participating more fully in the communal prayer of Christian living.

I understand from where he is coming, only in the opposite direction. I always wonder if I am too prayerfully self-absorbed and not active enough.

My head tells me that I should be more persistent in the Social Justice Way. I want to be more involved in helping others who are marginalized, on the fringe, especially understanding how mental illness comes into play. After listening to the discussion, I realized that I might just already be there.

I am a teacher.

I am in a school with a large population that along with very stable families also includes homelessness; refugees; illegal immigrants, single parent homes in constant transition; children living with grandparents while parents complete their jail time; and children who have been removed from their parents for lack of care. I am in a school with a Behavior Disorder program, Integrated Learning Classroom (ILC) for those with low IQs, and students with physical and mental disabilities.  I work with all of these children and I am charged with teaching them how to read.

When my students come to me tired because of the fighting in their homes or from sleeping on the floor because all the beds are taken; when they come to me in the same clothes they have worn for three days straight; when they come to me dirty and without breakfast; how do I ignore all of that, put it aside, and just teach them how to read?

I want to fix it. I want to fix it all. Hubris?

I want my six and seven-year-olds to be happy and healthy and clean and full and not tired. I want those sweet souls to feel safe and trust me. I want them to know they are loved just for who they are and not because they might give me the right answers or have proficient test scores.

And I don’t want the administration and politicians and the general public looking at data telling me I am not doing my job because my kids aren’t “grade level.” Even though some of my kids came to me two or more grade levels behind and made “only” a year’s growth according to the standards, I know they have grown tremendously in other ways. Test scores are not the only touchstone for me.

What matters to me is the day I hear the first student in each new school year call me “mom.” I know then that I am doing my job.

And I don’t want someone who is mentally ill walking into my classroom having easily obtained a gun and shooting every one of my first graders dead.

I want people to know this is how we feel – the vast majority of teachers. I love my kids, your kids.  And I will stand up for them and give my life for them, each and every one of them.

I want someone to stand up for me, too, and recognize that teachers cannot fix everything. I want administration and politicians (forget about the test makers who influence all of the above decision making) to realize that kids are not numbers. They are not test scores. Those scores, no matter how high or low they fall on an arbitrary scale, are not going to make successful people. Success should have nothing to do with teaching and becoming an adult.

Compassion should be our outcome. And I believe academics will fall in line if our kids are compassionate and love themselves and believe in themselves. Good test scores alone will never, ever deliver that.

I guess I am, after all, in a daily battle for social justice. And I can’t fix everything.

The Other Ways and the Enneagram

Reading through the other Christian ways of living that were presented at the meeting, I see myself during my life moving through the Contemplative and the Holiness Ways at different times. I have never been called to the Charismatic Way, nor the Evangelical Way.

The Underground will eventually explore personality types through the Enneagram.

I took the free Enneagram test and I came out with a perfectly tied score between 4 and 6. After some discussion, it was strongly suggested that I pay the ten dollars and do the extended test. I did.

My results:  4 squeaked ahead of 6 by one point. I am a 4 and 6.

I clearly see myself in both type descriptions. I will delve deeper into the Enneagram trying to understand myself with more compassion and acceptance and love.

Self-care, you know.

Until then, I believe I have more than enough material to discern for the next few weeks until we meet again.