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Catholic Life | Tag Archive | Failure
Tag Archives: Failure

Abortion, Prayer, and Despair

My heart broke tonight. And it is much easier to sound snappy than weepy. So here goes.

I was at the Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life. I had just met Fr. Frank Pavone a few hours before and had spent an hour reading his book (I had only previously skimmed a few parts of it). I was re-energized on the topic of abortion as I haven’t been since 2003. As we stood waiting for Mass to begin we chatted with some seminarians from Boston. They confirmed that Cardinal O’Malley would be there, which only added to my excitement.

The mass began and it was beautiful and wonderful. I laughed at myself for not being able to distinguish Wuerl’s voice from DiNardo’s. So much for being a sheep who hears a voice and knows it (maybe I should have stayed in Boston)!

Cardinal Wuerl’s opening remarks were good and I appreciated his emphasis of the young people present. Yay. I noticed that he didn’t say anything about pregnant women, but it wasn’t likely that there were many there.

Eventually there was the homily.

Vigil Mass for Life: Homily

It must have been truly excellent, because I heard the whole thing. And that is not exactly normal for me with a 5 minute daily mass homily, let alone a 25 minute exposition on unity. I kept expecting examples in the homily to tie into abortion and so was kept on my toes as they did not.

Then came the prayers of the faithful, and it finally clicked with me: something was wrong. We prayed for the pope and bishops, that “through their leadership they may re-awaken in us a respect for all nascent human life.” We prayed for elected officials. We prayed for families, including those couples suffering from infertility. We prayed for those who “promote a culture of death.” We prayed for those who are haunted by the memory of abortion. We prayed for those discerning a call to consecrate life. We prayed for the poor, sick, lonely, disabled and dying. We prayed for the deceased. And then we were done praying.

DiNardo gave some concluding remarks, and I was crushed. I had somehow thought that the bishops really cared about ending abortion, and here was the chairman of the committee on Pro-Life Activities and so many of his brother bishops who were not even engaged enough to pray for those women who might choose abortion. Suddenly the full weight of the excellent homily fell upon me. Our bishops are so immersed in their world that they simply do not have stories of real women who face issues like abortion. No one planning the liturgy was connected enough to women at risk for abortions to bother inserting one little prayer for them into the mass. I know that many women are forced into abortion, but I suspect that at least 98% of abortions in the United States are ultimately determined by pregnant women. But we somehow think that we will stop abortion by marching around DC and not recognizing pregnant women in any way in our most central prayers for life?

God obviously knew all of this and was not surprised at my pitiful complaint. “So,” came the clear response, “since the bishops are obviously not up for stopping abortion, what will you do?”

“Nothing” was my immediate response.

God simply looked at me. Apparently my answer wasn’t good enough.

But really, why should I have had a better answer planned? I am not one of the women who sits around thinking about how bishops are so clueless in their male-centric elitist world. Sure, I know that they are clueless about some things, and that Cardinal Law was not the last of his kind, but really. Bishops are pastors. They take care of people. And even if they are dreadfully condescending toward women, they still care enough about them to have a clue about their reality, right?

So why would it be anything other than utterly reasonable for me to expect bishops to lead their local churches in the fight against abortion? Why would I even consider that they might be incapable of praying for women?

I avoided answering God and instead thought about how I must be wrong. Clearly there was some intelligent pro-life strategy going on here. John Paul II talked too much about a woman’s place, and women freaked out, and so Benedict XVI took a step back to allow women to say things for themselves (albeit in a limited role with no consideration for authority in the Church). So maybe something similar had happened in the US Church. Former bishops must have said stupid things about women and abortion, so current bishops are keeping their mouths shut and focusing on general issues, the way that we are all involved. It isn’t personal, it is political. Or maybe they were afraid of touching the extremely difficult issues that come with recognizing exactly what one is saying to a pregnant woman when one declares that abortion is not, indeed, her choice. So maybe it was an intelligent tactic that I was missing because I am not trained in these things.

But how on earth could there be an appropriate pro-life strategy that requires bishops to not even include one prayer for women who will struggle with pregnancy and consider abortion?

I can accept that it is up to young women to end abortion, and that we can’t rely on old men, regardless of their religious roles. But I can’t accept that we are somehow supposed to end the evil of abortion without so much as the prayers of the bishops. For the first time I feel real despair. And beyond that, there is fear. Are we to be responsible alone, without even the support of appropriate prayer?

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Catholic Scandal

There is a Catholic saying that “the Church lives on forgiveness.” The most important thing that I could possibly express about the topic of scandal in the Catholic Church is sorrow. I am sorry.

No, I am not a bishop, so my expression of sorrow cannot officially represent the Church, but as a member of the sinning body it is only right for me to convey sorrow at the profound failure of my Church.

When someone brings up the topic of Catholic scandal I assume that they mean the sex-abuse scandal. I could attempt to address the sociological history of Catholicism which enabled bishops to simply move criminal priests from one parish to another and cover up the evil reality of abuse while parishioners did nothing. But I am not a sociologist and I do not think that the history of how this could happen is really at the heart of the issue. I could explain what the Church has done to remedy the situation. But efforts to stop failure of epic proportion do not make up for the fact that it happened.

Even if I had a perfect answer for the question of the sex-abuse scandal, there would still remain the general question of scandal in the Church. What about the crusades, Spanish Inquisition, encouraging secular governments to enslave non-Christians etc.? What about the majority of American Catholics who ignore the Church’s instructions to give to the poor, care for the environment, uphold sexual morality, and oppose unjust war? The painful truth is that the Catholic Church fails dramatically to live up to its call to represent Christ on earth.

In order to be Catholic, one must either live in denial of the reality of the Church’s failings, or else accept the difficult idea that God has chosen to work through horribly defective humans. One Catholic theologian suggested that God could have chosen to create a sort of angel-administration to run the Church, but that if God had done so we would have loved the Church in its perfection rather than the source of the Church, God. I am not sure that explanation is any more satisfying than the typical explanations for how a good omnipotent God could allow evil, but it the best attempt I have encountered.

What aspects of Catholic scandal are of most concern to you?

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