Friday, May 29, 2009

God's Gift to Us: Mothers, and Mother Church

I am a mother. In my chosen vocation, I have had to study human nature, in order to accurately and effectively correct errors and character flaws in my children. As a result, I have had to learn to read faces, interpret meanings, read between lines, stop mind games and call out my children when they were splitting hairs, deflecting blame, redirecting bad behavior onto their siblings and overall trying to avoid facing responsibility for what they have done.

I can do this well and it doesn't stop with my children.

I am patient with my children in correcting this behavior. I am not so good with tolerating it among adults. My husband knows it well, and has had to learn how direct an American can be. This has actually helped him face some horrid memories. He has learned I have very little patience for excuses. Excuses from him, or from anyone who has done evil.

This generation seems to be the generation of "It's not my fault!" As a mother, I have learned that the first kid that denies doing anything wrong is the one to focus the investigation upon. Human nature propels people to deny wrongdoing when they are guilty in order to convince, first and foremost, themselves. Consequently, the current heirarchy within the Catholic Church, being a reflection of the current age, are also faced with the same flaws in character. "It's not my fault. I didn't do it. You can't prove it. But even if I did do it, noone would believe you because I'm more important than you are." As happened in the Boston diocese, the Irish Catholic Church is echoing the same mantra and making all the same mistakes.

Since posting my last blog about the sadness behind smiling Irish eyes, certain individuals have notified me I may be in violation of some laws. As I feared, there are people who are more interested in preserving their image than in preserving their souls. Sadly, it seems the Church has trodden down the path of legalities once again, and the actual truth is meaningless. All that really matters is whether it can be proved in a courtroom. Ironic, when one considers the fact that the perpetrators know what they did and know how often they did it, yet they preach to everyone else the importance of being honest to oneself. If they are so concerned about the image of the Church, wouldn't it make more sense for them to meet personally with each victim, and admit their transgressions? Wouldn't it be better to take responsibility and face the consequences than to hide behind lawyers, website apologies, and public relation spokesmen? Most of all, wouldn't it be better to deal with the temporal punishment, than the eternal one?

Last I checked, the Catholic Church teaches that Confession absolves a person of sin and eliminates the eternal punishment, but Holy Mother Church also teaches that avoiding the temporal consequences is not the objective of receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In other words, if you are trying to get out of the consequences, can do! (Notice how the term "Holy MOTHER Church" seems to have a parallel in this article?)

Truth be told, they fear the very truth itself. Mirrors can be intimidating, and many learn not to gaze at their own reflection, for fear of what they might have to face. A mother knows it is worse to ignore the problem in the child, as it has a snowball effect. As my 96 year old grandma, a deeply devout Catholic convert, often said, "Maria, you have to be cruel to be kind." For those in the Catholic Church who have sinned while acting as an agent of the Catholic Church the sin is the scandal, not the fact that it now coming out in public. While hiding behind the rationalization that Jesus said not to bring scandal on the Church, they put a lie in the mouth of Christ. They distort Jesus' meaning, and demand people put up or shut up, in order to preserve an artificial image of the Catholic Church. But Jesus didn't want that. He simply was telling us not to DO anything that is scandalous, not to avoid taking the responsibility for doing it!

Unfortunately, we still live in this world and the people running the Catholic Church are human beings, full of the same character flaws that a mother sees and corrects in her own children. If we, the Church, want to grow and learn from the horrendous reality we face from the Ryan Report and beyond, we must be willing to step forward and call people out on the things being done in the Name of Holy Mother Church. As a good Mother, she knows it is better to let us face a little skinned knee than to have the injury develop into an infection that causes the total loss of the leg.

It will take some time to encourage those who know the abusers to come forward and speak out. But it must be done, if we are to make a better Church for our children and grandchildren. After all, the Church is built on us. We are the Church, the Body of Christ. If one part of the Body becomes infected, the whole body is affected. Only when we address the actual problem in the sick part of the Church will we see better health for the whole Body of Christ.

In other words, listen to your Mama and take your medicine.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Vices and Virtues: The Sadness Behind Laughing Irish Eyes

Today, the Catholic Church in Ireland had the wind knocked out of it. Most people, my own husband included, know first hand the severity of child abuse in Irish schools. He suffered at the hands of a young priest in ****** ****, *****, who later went on to be a Bishop of the ****** Diocese. My husband is just one of over 14,500 such cases. And that is just the number who have sought restitution thus far. There are thousands more who have suffered in silence. Some suffered so much, they took their own lives, believing the lies pounded into their heads by abusers who said they were worthless demons, devils, heathens. Content editted due to legal considerations.

The most insulting thing is the way the government executed the report. The report took over ten years, but it fails to name any of the perpetrators. Ironically, it does name the names of some of the victims. This occurs in order to protect the government, who deferred responsibility of schooling to the Church, from costly litigation. Not one criminal case will be produced from the report. It was an attempt to osticize the victims.

After reading portions of the report, I just want to know one thing: Who is Brother X (a Christian Brother) and is he still alive or coherent of his surroundings? Here is an excerpt of his cruelty:

If you turned up late ... he ...(Br X)... used to do an inspection, if there was a speck of dirt, that would trigger it off. He used a leather, hand, cane on the legs, hand, arse or wherever ...(he)... had a temper, you would be black and blue, you would be on the floor. He used to make you take your trousers down and he would give it to you on the behind or wherever, he did it to me a few times. You wouldn’t do anything because he had a whistle and he would call other Brothers and they would weigh in, when these guys got going you would do nothing, if they couldn’t get you one way they would get you the other, kick, hit, you were knackered.

He ...(Br X)... flogged me one time, I was working in the piggery. I used to be starving,the pigs used to get the Brothers’ leftovers and one day there was lovely potatoes and I took some and I took a turnip. Br ...X... caught me and he brought me up to the dormitory, he let down my trousers and he lashed me. He always wore a leather, around 18 inches ...(long)... and it was all stitched with wax, his leather was very thin. It was about an inch and a half, others had leathers about 2 inches. He lashed me, he flogged me. sec 7.28

They say where the greatest good is, there exists the greatest evil. Ireland is known for deep faith, but with that deep faith and devotion is a horrible truth yet to be uncovered. That horrible truth is the evil that exists in the hearts of some who are charged to preach the Good News. Sadly, it only takes one or two to spread the cancer. Brother X terrorized, not just the children placed in his care, but his fellow brothers. In fact, some tried to comfort the children clandestinely, but the rule of obedience always superceded any charity. Brother X was in charge and the only person who could override his authority was the bishop.

God never intended for the Church to use her authority to abuse and inflict horror on a child. Jansenism aside, it was never Jesus' intent to penalize us all for our flaws. Quite the contrary...He took the punishment for us. Here is where poor Brother X shows his very weak faith. He, like Judas, just could not believe that Jesus died for his, or anyone else's sins. He believed himself to be evil, and lived that lie. The sickness in his soul was allowed to perpetuate, which is the sin of his superior.

Every bishop in this country should be on their knees, crying with true remorse, for allowing the least of God's little ones to be lead astray. They were lead astray in thinking they were too sinful to be forgiven for some of the very least of offenses. They were lead astray at the hand of an evil man who hated everyone, most of all, himself. Some were lead astray to the point of despair. They took their own lives. Some simply left the Church.

While my husband has chosen to forget the past, I ache to see the hurt and sadness removed from his Irish eyes. I yearn for him, along with every child who suffered at the hand of the Church, to know they are precious in God's eyes. God knows their sorrow, and their innocence. He knows the sin of a Church that is flawed. Flawed because it is made up of weak men and women, products of the same type of abuse, from the lowliest brother up to the greatest bishop. Only this bishop never apologized.

Had the then, priest really understood his catechism, he would know to be truly sorry for the sin of abusing my husband and so many others in that school. He would have known Jesus was shuddering every time he kicked a student. The, then priest, would feel the horror of shame, knowing he was hammering the nails into the hand of Jesus. He would cry, knowing he did the opposite of that which Christ commissioned him to love one another, even as Christ loves him.

There is only one thing that any good, practicing Catholic can do in the face of such a report with this type of abuse. We must first, recognize with genuine sorrow, the injury inflicted on the innocent, under the banner of the Catholic Church. Second, we must resolve to guarantee this is stopped, every place, every time, from now until eternity. WE are the Church, not the bishops, priests and nuns. WE must take the Church that Christ founded back from the hands of Evil. Evil thrives when the good do nothing. WE must refuse to allow evil to thrive.

Otherwise, we might as well hammer the nail into the hand of Christ ourselves.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Finding the Real Middle Ground of the Abortion Debate

This weekend, President Obama called for tolerance to find the "middle ground" in the abortion debate. Here is where my husband, an Irish Democrat, went crazy. "How do you halfway kill a baby?" It left me scratching my head. It was a little like saying I was a little pregnant when I had our eighth child. It is a yes or no proposition and I believed that there was no middle ground.

At this point in the conversation, my husband gave me a pearl. Pearls are what I call the wisdom that comes from a hidden truth, as in the Pearl of Great Price,(the parable Jesus once told.) My husband does high level negotiations with the CEO's of million dollar corporations. He quoted his number one rule in negotiations. Make the middle ground as far on your side as possible.

When my husband enters a room to negotiate a contract, he asks for more than he wants. He never asks for less. This instantly forces the opposition to negotiate away from their position. In addition, the stronger of the two entities pulls naturally towards the middle, forcing the other side to acquiesce. My husband is a very strong personality, so he is usually successful, while at the same time, the other side feels they have walked away with more for their side. My husband, though, knows who had the real advantage.

Pro-life Catholics are that strong personality in the negotiation. They see no compromise in the issue of abortion. The subject is the life of a human being. Science has already settled this question, so the only option is to make a new middle ground, closer to their position, while suggesting it is close to what pro-choicers want. This is where the listening becomes vital to the posturing in the negotiation.

In listening to the other side, a pro-lifer will discover a wealth of information that can be learned. For example, I learned how to zero in on the real issue that worried most teens and young women when they had abortions. Truth be told, it made me a more effective hot line counselor. Their biggest fear was the immediate response, and how it will impact their lives. I would remind them their parents love them, and, once they scrape them off the ceiling, their parents will be there to support their decision.

Crisis motivates people to make rash and often regrettable decisions. The TARP funds and the Stimulus Bill are evidence of this. The same is true in a crisis pregnancy. One addage that always seems to hold true: Any decision made in a rush and without careful consideration of all the facts, leads to regret at some level. If we want to build a new middle ground, why not remind everyone about this reality? Will abortion really open a door? Or does it actually close one? Is the decision really another crisis diversion where the cure is worse than the condition? How will it feel in 7 (or 7 1/2, or 6 1/2) months when the mother would have delivered? Will she really feel relief then? Or regret?

If regret doesn't come, what is she really denying? Yes, the 'problem' will have been easily avoided, but there is no free lunch. Anyone who says you can have your cake and eat it too is lying to you and themself. Truth is, the middle ground exists here. It exists in the hearts of those who have made a decision on either side, and those who will make the decision. Those who have had abortions will (if they are honest) admit a sense of loss in the process. If they don't admit some sorrow or regret, they are likely to be suppressing a LOT of anger, (my suspicions regarding J. Garofalo.) Those who have given birth have a very different point of view.

I fit into this category. It was tough, but enduring built character in me. I now have a beautiful daughter, one of many, who is quite successful, even at the tender age of 25. (Two books coming out next year to prove it.) President Obama's mother could also say this. He was an unplanned pregnancy, but his mother chose to see beyond the immediate crisis and focused, instead, on what the future could hold.

One is a position of negative justification,(will I abort my fetus to get where I want to be in life?) The other is a positive one (by giving birth, I will able to take pride in her accomplishments, and I can still accomplish my goal, although with a little more difficulty.) Most women fail to consider the latter. I was just fortunate to be raised by parents and grandparents that knew to consider it. They passed this pearl of wisdom on to me.

The critical component in this is to remove judgement at the moment of crisis. If one removes judgement, the woman can remove her emotions (fretfulness) long enough to consider the future positive possibilities, rather than the negative. When judgement exists, defensiveness ensues, and the person is unable to be objective.

Women who have struggled with depression after abortion understand this. Judgement of herself is the biggest issue, and it can be debilitating. It is so, because the human soul knows intuitively right from wrong. The more we try to deny the truth, the more sick our soul becomes. Depression is a sickness of the soul, eminating from the constant need to turn off the voice in our head that tells us we did something wrong or bad. Sometimes that voice is created by others, and sometimes it is made by the things we do. Sometimes there is an organic component (like the sudden shift of hormones) but it is usually given greater power with guilt.

Guilt becomes a polarizing element in the debate. But like Pain, Guilt is a gift to help us know how to behave within society. For those who believe in God, it is what tells us we have stepped away from God. The sadness this brings is a natural consequence. If we step away from Our Creator, by going against His Creation process, we distance ourselves from the One who created us. It's like a child never speaking to a parent again. There is a sadness that comes with it that can't be explained until the two begin to converse again.

Pro-lifers should play this hand, now that the President has suggested it. Don't compromise on the principle, but open the discussion for the sake of those who are facing crisis pregnancies. Take anyone who has had an abortion, and anyone who has opted to give birth, then compare their lives and attitudes. Who would you want to be like? Who would you want to trust? Which one is truly happy? I guarantee you, there is not one woman who is genuinely elated with abortion, in the same way one is elated after giving birth.

Even though BOTH have negative and positive aspects to their decision, only one is content with life. The other is constantly driven to justify what they did, in order to prove it was the right decision. The other simply continues on with their plan for life, despite the bump in the road (or belly.) By default, it proves which decision is the better choice.

The key to the whole middle ground issue is focusing on the person in the crisis WHEN they are in the crisis, and trusting they can make a good decision when presented with all the facts. By removing the element of 'crisis,' they will see the possiblities. The world won't end if things don't go exactly as originally planned. But if we adapt to new circumstances, the rewards have the potential for greatness.

I'm sure President Obama's mother would agree with me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Vices and Virtues: The Art of Suffering

A few days ago, I took a good hard fall on the playground equipment while playing with my kids. This is typical for me. I always thought it was due to just being clumsy or ungraceful. I later discovered there was actually a name for it. It's called Multiple Sclerosis. I fall about once a week, and no matter how hard I try, I just can't convince my feet and legs to work the way everyone elses feet and legs work. Simple reality. And when I do fall, I am reminded how pain is a gift. Allow me to explain.

Pain serves an important purpose. It helps us know when we are in danger of potentially life threatening situations. When my MS takes over my arms and hands, it makes my limbs numb to touch. This is mainly a problem when I take objects out of the microwave. Note to self: Objects with high sugar content should only be removed from a microwave with potholders. I usually only know a day or two later when the inevitable return of sensation comes back in full force, and hypersensitivity makes me realize I was stupid for not paying attention to what I was doing. Pain warns us, and those who are not gifted with it, discover only too late they should have stopped while they were ahead.

Pain also builds character. Case in point: Keith Zeier. This guy suffered HUGE pain when he took a hit while serving in our country in the Marines. Now he raises money for our fallen heroes by turning the pain he endures every day into a commodity. He runs despite agonizing pain to secure financial contributions for his charity, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. So far he has raised over $41,000 and is pushing hard to demonstrate that pain doesn't need to be feared, but rather, conquered. (If you want to learn more about Keith's charity, go to )

Most of all, pain highlights the ultimate battle we all face: Fear of death. But suffering and pain can be used as a catalyst to show others how a small, weak or delicate individual, such as Farrah Fawcett, can be strong, determined and great. Although criticized for the reality TV approach to her own struggle with cancer, Farrah does us all a huge favor. She shows her great faith in every step of her agony. In her story, she shows us that which is greatly feared, namely pain, is something we can all overcome and endure. How does she do this? By looking for the reason for her mission. She sees her cancer as a mission to accomplish, and death is NOT the end. Faith helps Farrah to see beyond death and, thus, gives her pain a purpose: She shows us how to be brave.

Both Keith and Farrah have learned the secret to overcoming pain. By giving pain a purpose, and suffering for the sake of others, they take the power from the pain as a victim and twist it. They take control and cease to be victims of the pain inflicted by others, or by an unknown entity. They become survivors, even in death, to show us that WE are the architects of our own destiny. Ultimately, they embrace the very pain that causes other to recoil. In doing so, they lift themselves, and others, up.

When I was 18, my grandfather, Alfonso Merino, died from cancer. He decided he would not look at the pain, but at its purpose. He offered his suffering up for those in his family who had left the Catholic Church. Some may question the effectiveness of this, but noone can argue the impact. His suffering went on for ten months, and when it was over, most of us were sadly relieved. But we all knew his determination to offer his suffering for the sake of our souls. Even if you were an aetheist, you couldn't help but admire his determination to give his pain a purpose. As a result, those who knew him, always thought fondly of him and his courage, not his suffering. While we have to wait to our own deaths to know if his suffering worked to save the souls of others, there is no denying his sacrifice was noble.

When you take control of the pain and embrace it, you discover the real power you have. You discover the value of pain, and the art of suffering nobly for others, just like Keith, Farrah and my grandpa. Ultimately, you discover your foe, is your friend. Pain and suffering become the vehicle to strength and courage.

So the next time I fall, I will simply laugh and say, "Oh, I meant to do that." In doing so, I will have done so.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Full Circle Time: The Little Boy President Who Cried "Crisis!"

Okay kids...let's all get on the mat for full circle time. It's time to tell you a story about the Little Boy President Who Cried "Crisis." Do you remember the original story, where the little shepherd boy cried wolf, and all the townspeople came running. He did it to MANIPULATE the townsfolk to his own perverse sense of pleasure. But when the time came that a REAL wolf appeared, the townspeople thought his cries were another b.s. alarm and they wouldn't come to save him. What happened to the little boy? He was torn to tiny pieces by the wolf...and rightfully so. Do you think ANY of the townspeople shed a tear? Well, I'm sure some saw the boy was still a youth and too narcissistic to realize the impact his decisions were having on the townspeople, but most of them probably said, "He had it coming! Serve the little jerk right!"

Does anyone remember where we were, boys and girls, about two weeks ago? That's right! We were at the Tea Parties on Tax Day. And what was our purpose there? Right again! To remind people that our government should be OF the PEOPLE, BY the PEOPLE and FOR the PEOPLE. Now in our story of the Little Boy President Who Cried "Crisis", the Little Boy President saw all of us standing around, protesting the bad decisions made by our so-called 'representatives' in Congress. He began to throw a temper tantrum because the people did not want to play the game his way after he changed all the rules to make himself the winner. So the little boy devised a nice little idea that would make people stop gathering.

First, the Little Boy President Who Cried "Crisis" thought, "I'll show those American Townspeople!" So he took his favorite airplane and fighter jets and had them fly low over Manhattan, just to make the American Townspeople run away scared to think there was another terrorist attack coming. The American Townspeople in Manhattan began to cry because they were AFRAID that their city was going to be dessimated again by men that hate Americans. But just when they thought the plane was going to crash into a building, it tilted and someone said, "Hey, isn't that the Little Boy President's plane? Why is he trying to scare us? They got angry that the Little Boy President was so stupid as to think he could scare us away with his planes. So the American Townspeople stopped being afraid.

Next, the Little Boy President told some of his little boyfriends in the White House to take a little bottle of un-medicine that the world hasn't seen since 1977 and, before that, 1950, ( and release it in rural Mexico where the silly little peasants would never know what hit them. Then, it would spread and they could tell everyone what a deadly disease it was and how everyone should stay inside because it normally KILLS PIGS but now it is KILLING HUMANS. The Little Boy President had his best little boy friend, the Little Boy Vice President, even say on national television that he wouldn't have his own family ride the trains, even though the Little Boy Vice President LOVES trains. The American Townspeople heard this and began to worry. They stopped gathering, because they were AFRAID of this sickness. You see, boys and girls, noone really remembered having it before, and fewer understood how it managed to jump from just making pigs sick to making humans puke their guts out, so the American Townspeople were very scared of getting sick. Really, they were just afraid of throwing up so hard that vomit would come out their noses, but they were more afraid of that which they didn't understand.

After a few days, when people who got sick from it started to feel better, the American Townspeople began to realize that, just like every other illness humans get, our immune system fights it pretty well, and we get better, although some of us had the added advantage of having such violent vomitting and diahrrea that we finally dropped those pesky few pounds that wouldn't come off after having the last baby .

Well boys and girls, in the original story, it only took the townspeople two times to realize the Little Boy was full of crud and they began to ignore his cries of the wolf coming. But the American Townspeople haven't stopped being afraid when the Little Boy President cries Crisis. Although he has cried Crisis with the Economy, with the Auto Industry Collapse, the Banks, and now, with the Pig Flu, the American Townspeople still respond out of fear. But the American Townspeople are starting to be brave and not be so afraid. Pretty soon, they will begin to ignore the Little Boy President altogether when he shouts about the new Crisis of something or other.

And although the American Townspeople want to make sure their town is safe from all the silly Crisis, they now understand that things like a bad economy, having to find a new job and paying cash for everything sometimes has a good side. They understand that we all get sick, and some sicknesses, like viruses, actually PROTECT us from some forms of cancer and worse illnesses: chicken pox versus Shingles...Cow pox versus Small Pox...common cold versus brain cancer .

The American Townspeople began to be BRAVE just like their forefathers. They began to remember, they live in the 'Land of the Free, Home of the Brave' and that the two can't be seperated. They realized that being Free, meant being Brave. They started coming back together in town to protest, to let their voice be heard. Most of all, they began to ignore the Little Boy President every time he cried Crisis and started to live life again, without fear.

After they did that, they all lived HAPPILY EVER AFTER.