Pope Bashing {What it is... and isn't}

I've decided to add another 1000 words or so to the endless stream of digital blab in the latest papal plane drama. But I'll tell you three things I won't do:

1) I won't engage in personal attacks.
2) I won't try to interpret the Pope.
3) I won't pretend I'm not angry or confused.

The rest of the internet has those three covered pretty well. The most respectful thing that we can do when the Pope speaks is to take him at his word. He is not an infant or an idiot but a grown man and a prince of the Church. I read what he said. And then (in spite of the million internet column inches written by Catholics denying he meant what he said) I read a confirmation of his position (of his word and intent) by the official Vatican spokesman. There's nothing else to be said on that count. It is shocking. But it is done. (Unless, of course, there is a further clarification coming.)

That leaves us in a pretty uncomfortable place as Catholics but we've been here before throughout the centuries. Been awash in confusion. Been stuck with some pretty lame and corrupt leaders. Been confused by heresies and divided by schisms. We've more recently been rocked by the priestly abuse scandals and watched some of the most revered and notable names in the Church fall. And fall hard. Today's first world Catholics may be more sheltered than ever... but our circumstances are really not that different from our forebears in faith. 

We've got to face the facts... we've got a confusing Pope. That's the only descriptor I'm going to use because I don't understand his reasons so I can't address them further...

  • But I'm not going to defend what is not defensible.
  • And I'm not going to run reckless interference for what may be ignorance, error, ill-intent, or carelessness.
  • I'm not going to interpret the Pope according to my preferences and call it "respect."

To "bash" someone means to strike a damaging blow. You can accuse me of "pope bashing" but you'll be wrong. I won't attack him personally and I have no comment that can possibly be more damaging than his own reckless words spoken on a plane. 

Let me be clear... I love the man. He is my spiritual father and head of the universal Church. I love him like I love any priest. I look to him as the visible head of the Body of Christ. But...

We are not obligated as Catholics to defend the poor choices of a Pope when he has loose lips on a plane... but we are obligated to uphold the teachings of the Catholic faith. We worship Jesus Christ and follow the teachings of His Church. Consequently, we honor the holy office of pope. If the words of a pope on a plane and the teachings of the Church ever come into conflict, we DO know what to do:

Persist in charity. And hold fast to Truth.

We are not obligated to defend the indefensible even if it stings our pride. And it is not "pope bashing" to fight for the truths to which we have pledged our lives. Our identity is in Christ, not any man. Even the best of men.

We are not papal fangirls... we are Catholics.

When the Holy Father gave a strong indication that he would support contraception within marriage, I was shocked. I read and reread his words and no amount of interpreting by bloggers and Catholic media could set that confusion completely right. It was a bad scene all around and a lot of people just assumed that the Pope had to mean something else. Because... who's more Catholic than the Pope? He MUST mean something else because the alternative is... horrible. 

But when the official Vatican spokesman clarified the Holy Father's words and confirmed what on its face is a break with Church teaching? It's time to be very clear...

We do not serve the fashions of men. We serve Christ alone. 

Our Pope is not an imbecile. He is not naive. He is an adult man who knows what he's doing when he opens his mouth on a plane. We can at least give him that respect. And then we can give our God the ultimate respect by holding fast to the Truth, come hell, high water, or Father Lombardi. 

We say we want to be saints. But we too often forget what the saints endured. Most were not "culturally relevant." They were tortured, exiled, rejected, hated, spat upon, and scorned for defending the faith. Not just the BIG things of the faith... but all of it. They didn't always die or suffer for only dogmatic issues... but often for the minutiae of love. Because they knew Christ was at the center. 

"If we are 'out of our mind,' as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us..." {2 Corinthians 5:13-14}

Who do we think we are? Are we so holy that we can afford to let go even one small aspect of our Christ-identity? Do we decide which elements of doctrine can be changed or altered? Can we give that permission or make that allowance for others?

No. We aren't. We don't. We can't.

It is not "pope bashing" to be who we are made to be and speak out in defense of Truth for the sake of our souls, those around us, and those who lead us. 

The Holy Father owns (or at least has access to) a copy of the CatechismHumanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio, and other relevant Church documents. Let's assume that he has read them and understands them. And then if he deviates, we must also assume that it is not we who have stopped being good Catholics... but he who has wandered off the reservation. I assume that is not the case here... and eagerly wait for a clarification of the clarification. That it has not already been done is surprising. And damaging. 

Now before anyone goes berserk in my combox, I'm going to say it again: I haven't judged the Pope. I don't hate him. I haven't interpreted him. I respect the Holy Office of the Pope. And I'm Catholic 'til the end. That means I'm not going anywhere. Which means if this kind of crazy is going to go on in the Church, neither will I be silent.

"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we preached to you, let him be accursed." {St. Paul to the Galatians 1:8}

Hopefully, the Holy Father will set everything right today. He will affirm his unequivocal support and adherence to the teachings of the Church. He will distance himself from (and hopefully rebuke) Lombardi. And then... he will resolve to control his tongue and set firmer limits on media access. Phil Lawler said it well HERE.

The stakes are incredibly high. This is not a game or titillating blogger/media combox drama. Real souls are at stake. We need to get a hard grip on truth and wake each other up. If it means a little discomfort, so be it. 

Papa Francis... I love you. In the truest sense of the word. Which means I'm obliged to make some noise. 

Posted on February 20, 2016 and filed under Faith.

Looking for a Catholic Doula? {Where and Why}

I'm going to make this short and sweet so that you have plenty of time to visit some beautiful Catholic women committed to supporting you through birth. Because that's what a doula does...

The doula enters into the heart of the Culture of Life: the birth room... and gives her time, energy, skills, and love to help make that significant moment a time of great peace and joy.

How does she do that?  I'll let my good friend, Mary Haseltine {Better Than Eden} tell you. She happens to be an amazing doula... and a faithful Catholic...

"The role of a doula is becoming more and more valued by the wider community when it comes to birth.  Especially as the medical system stands today, the presence of an experienced, loving, knowledgable, confident other woman can make a tremendous difference in a mother and baby's birth experience. Studies show that women with continuous labor support are more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and are less likely to have Pitocin, pain medication, epidurals, negative associations surrounding their birth, the use of vacuum or forceps during birth, or a cesarean birth.  Their labors were also shorter and the newborns had higher Apgar scores upon birth with a noted decrease in newborns being admitted to the NICU.  
That's kind of a big deal."
(Read more HERE)

Yes. Kind of a big deal. And for women of faith, having someone there to support you in those intimate moments who also shares your love of Jesus Christ and His Church? That's pretty sweet.

I've opened a page on this blog to help Catholic doulas advertise their services for free because I think it's that important. Click away and read about what they do and who they are. All of these women abide by the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity to the Catholic Church. I have communicated with all of them personally (some are dear friends) and add them here with confidence and gratitude...


There are five states currently represented and I'm looking for other Catholic doulas I can support and promote here. Do you know any? Please send them my way so I can send them instructions on how to be included. They can use the form below to quickly and easily get in touch. 


Name *
Tell me about yourself!
Posted on February 11, 2016 and filed under motherhood, pregnancy, Birth.

Homeschool Milestones: Our First Graduate!

Wow. So that came up quickly. Change their diapers, teach them their alphabet and... BOOM... they're driving to the post office to mail their transcripts to colleges. It's a little like sitting in the front car of a roller coaster waiting to roll over that first giant hill.

No... wait... it's a lot more like being on a perpetual roller coaster. The coaster tunnels are like the fleeting respite of sleep; dark, but not quite long or quiet enough.

But the journey, fast and furious though it has been, has been amazing. I wouldn't change it for the world. And very little worth doing comes without a challenge...

Don't you even tell me how homeschooling is too hard, overwhelming, or stressful for you. I am living it. It's all those things, I know. And don't forget that I'm perpetually inadequate, worrying, catching up, and falling down. I am not impressed by your failures because mine are looming so big that they're blocking yours out. My biggest homeschooling success is that I simply have been too stubborn to quit.

And yet... somehow we got one through. 

Homeschooling is not about short term success. If that were the case, I'd have checked out long ago. Homeschooling is an investment of long, bloody days that somehow form a complex and incredibly rich tapestry of joy... for the sake of individual souls and the glory of God.

I like to make things particularly hard on myself by not following a particular method. I don't really know how to answer people when they ask "What kind of homeschooler are you?" The first thing that comes to mind is usually something like...

"I have no idea."
"A confused homeschooler."
"A tired homeschooler."
"I dabble in a little of this and that with a load of laundry on the side (otherwise know as 'eclectic')" 
"I try to teach my kids stuff and sometimes it works."

But if you were to ask me what the key to sticking it out through the years is, I wouldn't hesitate to tell you:

Heavy doses of God's grace along with a fierce commitment to first principles.
In my house, that first principle echoes that of St. Ignatius whose First Principle and Foundation begins like this:

The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.
All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created.
It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end.

So at the risk of sounding like a Catholic hippie homeschooler... the foundation of our homeschool is Love. Of Jesus Christ. Of each soul. How we get to the goal is a marvelously messy affair and I can't quite even say how we managed it with this child. But we have reached this one big milestone and are prepared to now support him through the bigger ones that will follow.

The irony is that even though he will make most choices independent of my oversight now, I will still feel the sting of defeat and the thrill of victory in his life keenly. I suppose that isn't really a homeschooling thing... but more of a mom thing. And come to think of it...

That's really what homeschooling is... just parents and kids making messes and memories together.

There's a popular (but erroneous) idea floating around out there that homeschooling moms have a special "calling" to do what we do. And I'm telling you plainly that it isn't true. There's no magic dust and no special graces outside of those sacramental graces every mom gets the day she is married. In fact, I wouldn't say that my temperament is particularly suited to this. Or that I wouldn't shine a whole lot brighter in another work. But that's not what this is about... 

Homeschooling is a prudential choice within the vocation of marriage. Nothing more. We are here to raise kids and to give glory to God. If we speak of it as anything more or less, it either undermines the herculean effort of homeschooling parents... or confers honors where they don't belong. 

We think it's good for our kids. We think the effort is worth it. We roll up our sleeves and we pray and work and give thanks without ceasing.

The photo below was my kid at the beginning of our homeschooling journey. The pic at the top of this post is of that same kid toward the end. Everything in between... well... that's just life. Call it homeschooling if you want. 

I know some of you will have questions about the nitty gritty and I know that I am not great at answering them to anyone's satisfaction. But here are some details to satisfy the curious:

  • I made this kid color a map when he was 6 years old. The directions said to color it and so I instructed him to do it. He moaned and groaned and disliked schoolwork for the first time. I never made him color another worksheet again. He made X's and labeled but never colored. He has thanked me for that multiple times over the years. 
  • For every hour that he pretended to do his math and did not, he spent 3 hours studying liturgical theology and playing Wii with his brother. I am not going to stress about the ultimate outcome of those choices. I'll leave that to his bishop or his wife.
  • He is graduating slightly early. It was always my hope that my departing teens would not have to spend the remaining days within the fold of their family in a flurry of frantic study and stress. There will always, always be work left to do. At a certain point, I believe it is okay to just say, "Let's enjoy the time together."
  • It is his intention to head to college seminary in the Fall. Paperwork and interviews need to be completed yet but that is the general hope and direction. He has decided to give God the opportunity to use him in the Church first... and will continue discernment in that direction until either ordination or marriage. (I will not be answering questions about his destination at this time since we have a few months before all paperwork is signed. Besides, it is not my journey... treading respectfully.)
  • No, his siblings are not like he is. And yes, they are very much like he is. Same family, unique souls. I have no idea how they will all turn out. I am still on the roller coaster and I've got a good 20 years left. I often wish I drank coffee. Or had a one-way ticket to Hawaii where I wouldn't ever be tempted to throw anyone's belonging onto the front lawn... Or neglect to plan meals and consequently serve eggs for 3 dinners in a row.... Or say stupid things to people out of fear or anger...

But that's okay. I've said it before and I'll say it a million more times...

It's okay to fall sometimesIt's the rising that ultimately counts. 

I'm incredibly proud of my boy. I pray that he remembers the joy and the goodness in our home more than he remembers the times of our failure. And that the most important lessons have not come from his books, but from the love of his family and his God. 

To conclude this rambling reflection on the graduation of my firstborn, I have to say:

I love homeschooling. It is the hardest thing I've ever done. But God never promised that the good things would come easily. And I love my kid. In the interest of full disclosure and charity, you should know... that his greatest accomplishments came through his desire, his commitment, and his hard work... not mine. 

Posted on February 7, 2016 and filed under Family Life, high school, homeschooling, motherhood.