Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ministering to the Needs of a Parish: What to do, and What NOT to do in Watertown after the Boston Marathon Bombing

I live in Watertown, Massachusetts - normally a quiet, safe city slightly west of Boston.

All of this changed for one terrifying week, leaving all of us scarred in some way, whether we participated in the Boston Marathon or not, and whether we knew someone who was injured, or was injured ourselves. This week has left its scar on everyone in one way or another.

The Red Lentil, a local vegetarian restaurant, had a free brunch on Sunday to help in the city's healing. I left a note for my son so he'd meet me up there after he got up, then I headed off to church. Some of my friends know how difficult it's been for me to get to any church in the winter, plus I have my severe reservations regarding the Catholic Church (I was born and raised in the Catholic Church)... the appointment of Pope Francis has given me hope, although recent news indicates he may not change anything about the Church's exclusion of women and gays both saddens and infuriates me. Still, I thought I'd give my local parish a try.

So - I decided to give my local parish another try. Certainly, I was in dire need of community after the terror that all of us went through in the Boston area - those of us in Watertown especially... I woke up Sunday morning with a feeling, that I can best describe as feeling shattered.

My local Catholic parish, St. Partick's, is less than a mile away, but I underestimated the time it to walk there from my house, so I arrived a few minutes late. It wasn't too long before the priest began his sermon.

So - as everyone pretty much knows by now, I live in Watertown... which means only a couple of days before, after the terror of the marathon bombings, we lived through a complete shut down of the city, and had the added terror of the two, eventually one (since the older brother didn't survive after being run over by his brother) terrorist roaming our densely populated city.

Before Father Joe spoke (I asked his name before I left) I looked around, and wondered how many people had friends and/or relatives who had lost limbs in the bombing... or maybe they themselves helped in what turned into a virtual war zone.

I waited for some comforting words from the priest... only to hear the beginning of a talk about bringing in men for the priesthood.

No mention of the past week - as though it never existed.

Still, I waited...

Still, he continued in his animated talk about how to encourage young men to the priesthood.

Still, no mention of the violent and life changing week previous to this service. No mention of our shared terror. No mention of friends, relatives, loved ones who may have lost a limb or two, had their lives shattered, or even of the three who died. No mention of thanks to the amazing, brave, cohesive work by all the police, both from Watertown and the many other cities who helped, the FBI, Fire Department and so many others who worked around the clock to keep all of us safe.


Finally, I could take it no more, and rose to walk out. In retrospect, I wish I had the courage to speak up in this large church, but it didn't even occur to me. I was so upset I just stormed out, stopping to speak briefly with the two men waiting to collect donations. They were, in fact, as one of the older gentlemen told me, just talking about the previous week (of course they were - we NEED to talk of this!) I asked the name of the priest (My usual place of worship is St. Anthony's Shrine in Boston) and I briefly shared with them that this was the final straw for me - I intended to go to another church.

I walked over & took the 71 bus the short ride to the Church of the Good Shepard right off of Mt. Vernon St. here in Watertown. I only realized it was Episcopal after I walked in - at that point I didn't care. I previously had looked at their website, and remembered that it seemed to be very inviting. That was all I needed to give it a try.

What really matters is this: the priest, Pastor Amy (yes - a woman!! Hooray!!) spoke at length about the tragedy that we lived though. Their Bishop, the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, also was there, along with two young women, parishioners who participated in the marathon and are physically unharmed. They had an enormous, delicious brunch right there after the service - it was to be a Newcomer's Brunch, which, Pastor Amy said, after the events of the past week it turned into an ALLcomer's brunch - because everyone needed it so much.

There's so much more I wish I could write, but this would go on forever - so I'll make it as concise as possible, hopefully without sounding as though I'm gushing (I am!) all over this church: the sign of welcome went on for what seemed forever, with no one making me feel odd or strange at attending a brand new service by myself (I entered late, too). In fact - I never felt so welcome in any parish before - and I can sense when greetings are put-on and not true! The welcoming greetings towards me, and towards people everyone knew, were warm, welcoming, and full of love. And the words of both Pastor Amy and Bishop Shaw were comforting and encouraging, and spoke of our shared experiences in the recent tragedy, on both a personal and larger scale.

Pastor Amy said, before communion, that all are welcome to receive either or both of the bread and wine in communion - or, if  you prefer, cross your arms for a blessing. I eagerly took part in both. I have an aversion to drinking the wine at services, since my immune system isn't all that strong - but I compromised by dipping the bread (which was a homemade bread, closer to the reality that was shared during and after Jesus' time).

I cannot begin to express the joy I feel (granted, I ended up having TWO free brunches, hahahaha - but seriously, I'm not speaking about that). I have been waiting so long, determined to stand and fight in the Church I loved for so long.

If I continued to wait, I would be long in the grave before those serious changes actually took place - if they EVER do! There is so much, so very much I would miss. Instead - I am living my life, now, more fully - and with JOY!!

Thank you, Pastor Amy McCreath and the parishioners of the Church of the Good Shepard in Watertown for your sincere, warm welcome. It was truly a drink of water, living water I need so very much!

As for St. Patrick's and Father Joe's sad sermon on Sunday - I wonder why I'm even surprised. Let me first say that St. Patrick's parish does a lot of good - they have a food pantry in which anyone in Watertown can receive groceries twice a month. They help in other ways, too - I myself am so very grateful for how they've helped me in the past. However, this omission on Sunday was very serious, and cannot be ignored. (let me also add a little hint to Father Joe: the way to make sure you DON'T get anyone interested in any participation as a religious in any church, whether in the priesthood or in other any capacity, is to totally ignore the needs of a parish, a parish that needs a compassionate leadership to keep it from being broken from within).

The standard response by the Catholic Church to just about anything is to pretend nothing ever happens. This is what has been done with the continuing child rape scandal (now we know - there is proof - that it exists all over the world) - pretend it didn't happen and hope it will all just go away (it won't). This is how women are treated, both religious AND worshipers alike, are treated. This is how anyone, male or female, who asks for dialogue about disagreeing aspects of Church policy are treated - ignored - or silenced. And of course, this is also how the needs of our gay brethren are treated - again, ignored as though they are not valued and loved members of our Church - but since the standard ignoring doesn't seem to be working even with the generally clueless Church officials, it has, of late, been policy to demonize anyone who is lesbian or gay.

In other words, the words and teachings of Jesus are being ignored - which means that Jesus is being ignored. How sad, how alarming - but I'm not waiting anymore. I'm free and full of joy at my decision to leave, and that I actually found a church that truly welcomes both parishioners and visitors, and does all they can to tend to the needs of our little world around us. That's so little to ask - but isn't that what God's love is all about?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Cardinal Law, The Church, and Why I'm Angry

I'm from Boston, and I'm Catholic. Well, I think I am - that may change. For now, I'm continuing despite my shame, anger and disgust with what so many poor children have endured as the most vulnerable victims anyone can imagine. For Catholics who still question the reality of this, I suggest going to  Bishop Accountability and read up on everything, including Cardinal Law - http://www.bishop-accountability.org

I think it's EXTREMELY important to know the truth, especially if one is Catholic. What he did (in shifting abusive priests from one parish to another, FULLLY knowing they were raping children who were entrusted under the Church's care by believing and trusting parents) is beyond my imagination, and frankly, my forgiveness. I was an active, praying Catholic who adored him before all this - and I feel betrayed. Still.

I give nothing in money to my local church. Frankly, I still can't trust, but I do have more trust towards the Franciscans at St. Anthony's Shrine. They do so much good work & are inviting to all; I would choose them for my 'widow's mite'. Once I get to the Paulist Center, I may trust them enough to give a little in the offering -  I really don't know (St. Anthony's & I have a long history - I'd be devastated if any of their priests or brothers showed up in court records - but I still would want to know). Even if I trusted both centers totally, I still would be careful about donating anything, because of what I know.

But back to Cardinal Law - like I said, I'm still angry, all the more to know that he gets paid $10,000 a month & even has the luxury of maids at his Vatican address. And, what's worse (it gets worse???) is that he has an influence at the Vatican - as you can see by this article:


It's ridiculous. He never faced up to court like he should have. He never reported these priests to the police, ignored parents and continued to send priests all over to continue their abuses - and as a result, the Vatican rewards him in this life (he'll have nowhere to hide in the next life, although it's probably a good thing I'm not God, as he'd already be a pile of ashes).

Ask the victims in those parishes, some in other parts of the country, how they feel about Cardinal Law's 'good works'!

I can't get it out of my mind that while he was "doing so much good," many of his priests were playing tiddly with the children of parishioners who gave complete trust to those priests, our Cardinal and our Pope. And what's worse, HE KNEW and was more concerned with keeping it all quiet and just shifting them around to other parishes, where they could play more tiddly with more babes. Am I being crude? Well, not as crude as how the poor innocence of those children were shattered. I am not even a victim (nor are any of my children, thank the good God above), but I can never give that sort of trust again. Thankfully, my children are wise enough to exercise extreme caution with their own kids. Sadly, none of my kids go to church; some tell me they're atheist or agnostic - the source of that is a combination of how my ex-husband mixed his own abuse with his extreme Catholicsm, with added help by the reported abusive acts of the Church. Even sadder, I cannot give them any words to try to change their minds. How could I?  I pray, and leave their good hearts (and they have VERY good hearts) within the sacred hearts of both Jesus and Mary.

I wonder how many people (mostly boys, but some girls, too) cannot enter a church because of the living nightmares, the sexual abuse that they endured (some have - so, so sad - committed suicide). Add to that, all of their relatives and friends... and people like me, who used to give all my faith to the Church - now feel it shattered in my knowledge of what has gone on, and to some extent very recent, in some places. How many people in the world have turned away because of this, I wonder, when we consider this butterfly effect...

It's all about power for these men. Keep everything quiet, no matter what. Make sure complete obedience continues... keeping that power and control. Play the victim (again, blaming the REAL victims, even children!!!), continue to exert that power - and let's see, lets shift the focus to something/someone else - like "the gays"!! Yep, everything is their fault, the world will come to a halt if two people who have a different sexual orientation actually want to solidify their relationship in marriage (maybe even with a blessing!), and adopt children, and raise them in their love (we all know how perfectly sacred marriage with heterosexuals is treated today) - and let's put some blame on "women", too - the ones who, heaven forbid, are trying to chip away at that ivory tower and actually perform the sacred duty of being a priest - thereby taking away some of this power and control.

Cardinal Law was was first Archbishop, then elevated to Cardinal, in Boston from 1984 to 2002, when he resigned in shame after the Boston Globe exposed his part in these shameful abuses. One of the victims of abuse by Fr. parishioner in Salem, MA, and made a movie about when he was sexually abused as a child in that parish (very brave on his part, IMO) about his abuse & the history behind the priest. In the legal documents that Bishop Accountability has published, it shows his disregard for these victims - he knew and did nothing - nothing decent, that is.

One link (of many) about Law's role in this horrid nightmare:


About the film: