Why I Didn’t #MeToo

I didn’t jump on the #metoo bandwagon not because I have not been sexually harassed. By God’s grace, I have never been assaulted or raped and it is only His grace that I give credit, because there have been times I sensed very real danger, but got out of it quickly. Yes, most women in the military have experienced some kind of inappropriate remark or sexism and the cases of sexual assault/rape are astonishingly high, including for men. Some of the stupid comments were a part of being the only woman on a watch team with ten men. Sometimes the men forgot I was there, by the way, and I forgave their oversight. I sat in a separate area with a curtain across it because of the nature of my mission.

My actual experience of sexual harassment was when I left the military and became a civilian. I felt deeply violated and sick to my stomach when it happened and for quite a while afterwards. It was disgusting what this pervert said to me. My work blamed me because it was a customer and profits came first, but I was too poor to do anything about it. I left my employment shortly afterwards because I was too sickened to look at my boss any longer who swept it under the carpet and blamed me for it. I ended up having to deal with the creep who harassed me again because there’s nothing like re-victimization when it’s covered up. The problem here is a mix of greed and objectification, by the way. Not to mention, the majority of my friends in early adulthood had either been raped or sexually abused as a child. One of the friends I helped who was in a dangerous relationship, threw me under the bus for a promotion when all of this happened to me.

My issue here is not that there is not a serious issue, there is, but I once again disagree because of the lack of balance. There is a never-ending war on men. Yes, there are perverts, predators, and creeps out there who should go to prison and don’t. The objectification of women is a rampant problem, but we forget that we also objectify men and we allow ourselves to be objectified in the name of freedom. The hook up culture is the objectification of both the sexes. Our culture objectifies people as a whole. Since utilitarianism is a prevalent philosophy (the idea that we can use people for our own pleasure/happiness and discard them) in our culture we use and abuse one another and then blame the other.

Women, I’m sorry. We don’t get to do whatever we want and constantly blame men for our choices. We have obligations towards our brothers in Christ in charity. If we decide to run down the street in a sports bra and booty shorts, then we are looking for attention. I am a runner. I do not need to run in what amounts to a bathing suit to get the job done. I run when it’s 85-90 degrees in a tank top and shorts just fine. That is a choice and we need to start being honest with ourselves that we are intentionally seeking attention. I workout and while I’m not the fittest woman out there, I have my ridiculous struggles with vanity too. A little self-reflection and honesty is warranted. We aren’t dressing in a provocative manner for some kind of freedom, we do so for our own pride and attention. Freedom is not wearing next to nothing in public. No, I’m not talking about wearing burlap sacks. A woman can be beautiful without showing every inch of her body to the world. Yes, men need to work on custody of the eyes, keep their hands to themselves, and keep their terrible remarks to themselves, but we need to stop pretending that men are not visual by nature and that this isn’t a deeply difficult struggle for those who are trying to learn to control it. As Jesus said, cast the first stone if you’re without sin.

We need to stop allowing ourselves to be objectified. Stop buying Cosmo or whatever other trash we are being sold. Stop going to movies and watching TV shows that objectify women and men. I saw Catholics justifying the pornographic 50 Shades of Grey because it’s not in pictures. Come on! Porn is porn! Let’s teach our sons and daughters how to respect the dignity of one another. They are seeing pornography–which is the ultimate in objectification–at a young age. I was in grade school when my neighbor showed me his father’s collection of Playboy. With the Internet, it’s shockingly young.

Yes, women have been harassed, assaulted, and raped wearing burkas. My point is that we need to stop pretending that we aren’t adding to our own objectification and consider our own culpability in–not the evils done to us those are not the victim’s fault–but the objectification of women as a whole in our culture. Consider how shows like Sex in the City taught an entire generation to objectify women AND men. And we need to stop pitting the sexes against one another. That is how we figure out a way to heal this horrific rift that grips our culture when so many men and women have been harassed, assaulted, or raped. Yes, even men have been raped, by both men and women (yes, women can rape men through drugs and alcohol as well).

When I was in the Navy, we had to warn men not to allow their drinks to go unattended in Baltimore because men were spiking other men’s drinks and raping them. We live in a culture that thinks we should use and abuse other people no matter what. Like I said with the mass shootings, when are we going to examine our own hearts to see where we are failing? Once we see that failure, what are we going to do about it?

When I found out so many of my friends had been raped or abused, I volunteered as a rape counselor for my entire Naval service. I designed and taught training courses on this topic, as well as sexual harassment, at multiple duty stations and I listened to many stories from real victims and tried to help them however I could. I’ve helped women out of abusive relationships and tried to find resources for them to heal. I’ve fought alongside women who had to go against the Chief culture in the Navy because higher ranking people still think they can rape or assault lower ranking sailors with no consequences.

What are we, what are you, *doing* about the problem? My problem with social media initiatives is they are largely empty words or hashtags. It’s easy to type #metoo #unitedwiththiscountry #vegasstrong etc. What are we doing to fix this brokenness and evil in our culture? I’m sick of social media initiatives that are largely empty words. Let’s be people of action. Let’s stop objectifying one another each day. Yes, it is more of a struggle for men, but let’s stop looking at them as our enemy and start looking at them as fellow Fallen human beings trying to overcome sin. if they aren’t trying, then let’s teach them why chastity matters; the same goes for women. Real predators should go to prison, but stop yelling at the guy holding the door for you! Let’s find a way to make it easier for women and men to report this type of vile and evil activity to the authorities without them being blamed for their own victimhood by becoming lawyers, police officers, and judges of character and virtue. Let’s teach men how to be men and embrace authentic masculinity AND femininity. This all begins in the home with our own children. We need to get rid of the filth in our own homes first.

Suffering is an opportunity to do something good in the face of pain. I’ve suffered plenty. We can either wallow in sorrow or we can heal with the right help and then do something about it. It isn’t easy, but revealing such wounds in the culture should allow us to bring healing out of it. I don’t see an empty social media campaign doing that. It’s a cliche, but actions speak louder than words. It’s easy to feel like only posting in social media is doing something, but it isn’t. Change doesn’t come from a virtual, largely distant posting. I’m a writer because God gave me this gift, but I do not pretend that it is enough. Change comes from reaching out to others in our communities in person.

Now that we know this is a problem (we’ve known this is a problem for quite some time), what are we going to do about it? Starting in our own communities is the place to begin. We have to walk alongside our neighbor and we need to be honest enough to confront the darkness in our own hearts. I do that by helping women at Planned Parenthood, many of whom are there for abortions to cover-up their rape or sexual abuse. Think about THAT. Now, there’s a cover-up!  And it’s all in the name of an evil understanding of freedom…

The Blood, We Thought It Was Some Kind Of Fluke

Two months ago, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to my husband yelling for me. He was standing over our sink coughing up blood. He had coughed up blood a few years ago and had a lesion on his lungs, but it healed. We thought it was some kind of fluke.

It wasn’t. It was the first sign of a mysterious disease. Over the last two months, doctors have ruled out every normal possibility from tuberculosis to bronchitis to fungal infections. He’s been negative on every single test.

Yet more cavitary lesions (holes, for lack of a better word) continue to form in his lungs. We are now faced with a series of intense tests to definitively see if my husband has a very rare disease known as pulmonary vasculitis. He will have an open lung biopsy performed by a thoracic surgeon in the next couple of weeks along with a MRI, MRA, even more bloodwork. A neurologist has also been brought in to begin seeing if he has the even rarer form of brain vasculitis. Either is a difficult disease to diagnose and treat. The treatment comes with serious risks, including premature death.

Read the rest over at Hour of Our Death.

Catholic Exchange: Men Are in Desperate Need of the Church

I realize that I didn’t post my Catholic Exchange piece from last week to the blog. Here it is:

Our culture launches a brutal assault against men. It comes from two different fronts with seemingly contradictory attacks. The first is the radical form of feminism that has grown in prominence over the course of the last 40-50 years. This radical feminism spreads the narrative that men are sexist, pigs, brutish, predatory, inferior, barbaric and on and on. Social media is filled with these kinds of vile mischaracterizations of men that go after the jugular of masculinity. Watch closely in your favorite sitcom: the wife is usually the strong intelligent leader of the family while the husband is a bumbling idiot.

On the other front, we have a culture that is obsessed with hedonism in which men are told to lust freely after women, or men. Pornography is normal, as are things like masturbation, adultery, and promiscuity. The massive pornography industry, along with the advertising industry, has exploited and profited off of the visual tendency of men. These images are everywhere, from social media to television to grocery stores to billboards. It is impossible to avoid it. Lust isn’t just an issue outside of the Church, as much as we would like to think so, to our own detriment. This is happening in our own pews. Far too many of our brothers in Christ are waging a terrible battle and we largely ignore their struggles, either out of ignorance, because we have taken on the culture’s view of men, fear, naivete, or apathy.

The failure of finding authentic masculinity and femininity 

In the wake of Vatican II — while far too many people greatly misread, misapplied, and distorted conciliar documents such as Gaudium et Spes —radical feminism found sway within the Church. A great project to feminize the Church began, and while the Church needed to embrace authentic femininity, in many corners it has largely disregarded its own heritage and applied cultural principles of feminism as opposed to the theological understanding of feminism so beautifully taught by St. John Paul II in Mulieris Dignitatem and his Theology of the Body. Instead, many women took the helm on far too many projects and left men to their own devices; everything has to have a female touch and typical masculine traits are discouraged.

Everything needs a balance of authentic masculinity and femininity which find their perfection in the Blessed Trinity. God is pure spirit. The “He” is found in the relations of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, not in a biological sex or gender (St. Thomas Aquinas). God has revealed Himself to us as a relation of Divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Church’s understanding has always been that the sexes are equal in dignity by virtue of being made imago Dei, but differ at a biological and an ontological (the level of being, existence, reality) level in their masculinity and femininity. Both sexes possess masculine and feminine traits, but each of the sexes embodies these traits not only physically, but spiritually. Biological sex is also a reflection of spiritual realities. The Church is not either/or, she is a both/and in her teaching. The Church is the only vestige left that embraces authentic femininity and masculinity.

Men by virtue of their masculinity—and this is a great good—are defenders, protectors, providers, and deeply oriented towards ritual. I know this not only as a Catholic, but as a U.S. Navy Veteran. These traits are universal and, while our culture seeks to tear down the qualities that make men men, we have an obligation as Catholics to live in conformity to truth and reality. Men have a very distinct and crucial role to play in the Church. It is time we stop expecting men to be anything other then men. It is time to start allowing men to participate in the life of the Church through their distinct expressions of masculinity.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: Healing the Wounds of Rejection

It happens to every penitent who frequently seeks forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance. We trudge, once more, to the confessional door and upon our entry, lament to the priest that we are once again confessing the same sins. It’s been a week, a month, a year, and it’s the same sins. We are tired of confessing the same sins over and over again with little or no perceived progress. Those of us who write a list down during our examination of conscience, fight the temptation to keep it for next week or the following week’s Confession, since we know the sins will be the same. This would be wrong, however, since we are absolved of those sins and forgiven by Our Lord. Rip that piece of paper up or throw it in the fireplace! Progress in the spiritual life is slow going and it can feel more like back-sliding than steps up the mountain.

One of the great struggles in the spiritual life is coming to understand why we commit certain sins over and over again. There are the theological answers: pride, we are Fallen, we flee from God, we don’t trust in God’s goodness and love, we violate our own nature, weakness, etc. These are all true, but one of the greatest struggles we face as human beings is the reality that we do not truly know or understand ourselves. We are great at self-deception. We do not fully understand our motives. Many of us have been deeply wounded since childhood, which means we’ve developed habitual sins in the face of suffering. A good many of us never make the effort to try to understand why we sin in certain ways.

There are certain sins we tend to commit when we are suffering, hurt, or are under tremendous stress. Psychology is filled with explanations for why some people eat and drink to excess, turn to pornography, lose themselves in video games or social media, watch copious amounts of television, or recklessly spend money. Many of the points made by modern psychology are helpful, but what are some of the spiritual answers for why we engage in these behaviors when we hurt?

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Holiness is the Answer to Evil

Yesterday I decided to briefly post some of my thoughts on the recent horror that occurred in Las Vegas on Facebook. In typical fashion, the abominable event has turned into a chance for political grand-standing. As a human being and as a Catholic, I have grown tired of this typical fight that inevitably does us no good. I say this as someone who has lived through a horrific event. I was stationed near DC on 9/11, and like my fellow service members on the same base as me, I thought that I was going to die on that day at 20 years of age. A couple of days later, I volunteered as a relief worker helping the families of those murdered at the Pentagon. So please, understand that if anyone understands the horror of post-lapsarian mass murder, it is me.

Here is what I posted on Facebook:

“Every mass shooting is a great tragedy and Sunday night’s is astonishing in its large loss of life and wide destruction. We keep asking ourselves why, but we never seem to get the answer. All we hear is more guns, less guns, as if this is primarily a political problem. When did we start worshiping the state?

The issue is moral, with the political only serving a small part. The problem lies within you and me and the darkness in our own hearts. A darkness that has to be ripped out of us by the Divine Physician.

We live in a culture in which people mistakenly think they are gods. *I* set truth. Might makes right as long as *I*have power. *I* don’t need anyone. *I* set the rules.

Our country murders its own children at an astonishing rate. Over 60 million to date. We have told men and women that they can murder their own child. How do we not expect the bloodshed to spill into our streets? If parents can kill their own children, then how can we not expect a psychopath to take advantage of a moment of power and murder in our streets? After all, the individual sets truth.

We have a deep heart problem and a loss of truth and morality problem. Please, keep making it about more or less guns. It makes us feel better about ourselves and gives us a sense of moral superiority. Meanwhile more lives will be lost, if not at the hands of a psychopath with a gun, it will be a psychopath with a bomb, a truck, or an airplane.”

Those who follow my writing and people who know me, understand where I am coming from in this post. As a graduate student theologian, I see how the philosophies that under-gird our society–nihilism, relativism, materialism, utilitarianism, secularism, etc.–have destroyed the fabric of our society. We can no longer decipher objective truth because everything has been reduced to the subjective. We are more concerned with the I than the we and the consequences have become dire.

More than anything, I meant these words from a Christian perspective. We have failed to evangelize our culture. We have failed to live the Good News so that we can bring the world into conformation with the Most Holy Trinity. This is our baptismal call as we share in the Divine Offices of Christ as priest, prophet, and king. My greatest struggle as a Catholic writer is that we focus too much on polemics and not enough on the call to holiness. The social order cannot be transformed if we are not working towards holiness by fostering the virtues in our daily lives. We must help people to see that we are made for beatitudo (happiness) and that happiness can only come from communion with God.

The necessity of the virtues is evident in how we respond to such great evil. If we respond emotionally in the wake of such devastation, then we will often respond hastily and run the risk of causing even more destruction. I think some of this can be seen in our response to 9/11. I also see this in my own life, since prudence is a virtue I very much struggle to foster day-in-and-day-out. We cannot resolve conflicts within our society through emotions. We must get through the grief and the pain and then make decisions guided by reason and faith. We must always appeal to the good, the true, and the beautiful as we seek out justice.

I think we forget that our battles are not just material in nature. We wage war against “powers and principalities” in the supernatural realm as well. Many Catholics–thanks to great misinterpretations of the documents of Vatican II–have become functional materialists. I don’t think they mean to respond in this manner. The response is always a form of of we must do something every time a great injustice occurs. There isn’t an immediate appeal to prayerful consideration of how to respond. What that something is does not tend to be guided by charity, authentic justice, an appeal to prudence, as well as intense prayer in order to see what we may be missing in a given situation. We must also consider that we wage intense spiritual battles.

I think anyone who has prayed at an abortion clinic can tell you that Satan is real and there are in fact demonic forces “seeking the ruin of souls” prowling about the earth. I had to laugh when a Jesuit theologian recently said that Satan was a mere symbol.  I guess he hasn’t seen what I’ve seen or experienced of the Evil One. Regardless of such falsehoods, we must respond to evil with an authentic Catholic understanding of the world, not primarily as Americans. Our politics are down the list, after being Catholic and our vocation in life. It is not first. Politics are important, but they make up a small aspect of our daily lives, nor are they the primary instrument of change as we understand it.

This Facebook post was not considered largely objectionable among my friends, since many either agree, or know that I predominately write from the perspective of our need to grow in holiness, rather than politically. A friend of mine, however, decided to share it and inevitably I came under attack as some kind of Right wing person who loves guns and thinks people should die. First, I left the Republican Party years ago when I saw that it had abandoned truth. My pro-life stance has made it impossible for me to ever be a Democrat. In full disclosure, I consider myself to be most in line with the American Solidarity Party. What ended up happening–this is unfortunately typical–is many Catholics decided to judge me based on their own political ideology. This is a big problem in social media. We have allowed ourselves to be so overcome with our ideology that we believe our ideology is Catholicism. It isn’t. We attack our brothers and sisters in Christ who are merely reminding others of our need to fix the evil in our own hearts first and then tackle the world’s problems. Our Lord and Savior tells us the exact same thing in his discussion on splinters and planks. Remember?

The most astonishing aspect of the debate–that I waded into up to my knees and then decided it was not worth the aggravation–was that my appeals for us to grow in holiness to change the world were met with a scoff. “That takes too long!” I was told. Indeed, it takes a lifetime and is wholly dependent on God’s timing, not our own. What I find distressing is that this is the excuse we constantly give to others and tell ourselves so that we don’t have to put in the work. I’ve made this excuse myself when I find myself failing once again on the path. This is too hard! Of course it is! Holiness is too hard, but social programs or laws run by the government are immediate. Unfortunately, because we lack prudence–since we find the virtues too difficult–we often make huge errors in our response and harm even more people. We want immediacy, when in reality, everything takes time.

If we want to transform the world and our culture in particular, then we must focus on growing in holiness first. I cannot possibly provide proper solutions to the problem of evil if I have not first consulted the One who made me and asked Him how best to serve others. I cannot help others if I have not made the often unbearably difficult, but necessary, request for God to heal me of the evil within me. If I do not repeatedly fall at His feet begging Him to help me overcome evil then I will be unable to help my family, my neighbor, or someone in my community. If I do not bring the problem of evil to God and ask Him to transform me first, then I will be incapable of offering true help born of charity. In fact, I can even drag people down with me! Every single one of us must ask ourselves: “How do I contribute to the problem of evil in our culture?”

Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Along with St. Dominic, St. Francis transformed the 12th and 13th Centuries through nothing other than a genuine call to holiness. St. Francis radically changed the world because he lived a life mirrored after Christ. He served the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the lost. He was able to do this because he united himself fully to Christ in charity. It is through radical holiness that we can transform our communities one person at a time. The saints teach us this truth time and time again.

Most of us are not called to be presidents, Congressman, or world leaders, but all of us are called to be saints. I can’t change what happened in Las Vegas or on 9/11. I can, however, change the world by helping my family grow in holiness. In that holiness, we are then able to go out and serve our community one person at a time by revealing the face of Christ to them. We want major fixes that most of us in principle lack the power to bring about. This powerlessness leads to anger, helplessness, and despair. In reality, what we can change is ourselves and then help others. That is where we can make genuine progress in the battle against evil. Pray, receive the Sacraments regularly, foster the virtues, and beg God to make us saints. That’s how we begin. Yes, voting is important. Laws are necessary, but in the long run they will not radically transform our broken culture.

There will be many who will scoff and say that I am preaching inaction. No. I am reminding all of us that we cannot possibly hope to transform the world if we are not first confronting the darkness in our own hearts. Ask Christ to truly show you what you are capable of. I promise it will be horrifying, but then Christ will reach down, wash away those sins or proclivities, and bind the wounds so that we can live our lives following Him. He will guide us on the path to holiness and show us the way. He will pick us up every single time we fall and tell us to begin again.

I fear that far too many Catholics scoff at holiness and say it is a form of inaction. Too many, including many in leadership (no this is not a shot at Pope Francis, so do not take it that way), give the impression that holiness is too tall of an order in today’s world. This is a denial of what it means to be Catholic. We focus on the supernatural–the higher goods–first and the material second. Our souls must be conformed to God before we can be effective in the world. These Catholics are correct in that we cannot do it alone. Holiness does not come from our own power. It comes from Almighty God, creator of Heaven and earth. Holiness comes from the power of the Paschal Mystery and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We rely on God to succeed, not our own power. It is time to stop limiting God’s power. We limit His ability to bring about change through holy lives.

I never thought that my switch as a writer away from polemics to the path to holiness would be so controversial. Yes, becoming a saint is excruciatingly difficult. The second priest in Confession reminded me that becoming a saint is to be refined in the fire. Since Christ has had two different priests–years apart–tell me this while in Confession, I think He wants me to hear this message loud and clear. So, yes, it’s hard, but it is the proper ordering of reality. If we want to bring people to Christ, then we must do so by our lives, not just our ranting in social media. Holiness is attractive, it is contagious. Contemplate the face of St. John Paul II or St. Teresa of Calcutta. Afterwards you will be begging God to make you a saint. Their joy is infectious. The only way we can gain the upper hand against the widespread evil in our world is by giving our lives entirely over to Christ so that He can turn us into saints. St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic never would have said that holiness is too hard, takes too long, or is a form of inaction. May they both intercede for us on the journey.

Keep Getting Back Up

I realized that my writing may make people think I have it more together than I actually do. The thing about writers is, we see great truths–especially in the grips of suffering–and want to share those insights with others. That doesn’t mean we’ve actually mastered what we write about. I am no exception.

I have officially reached the status of overwhelmed after everything we have been through in the last year, seven years, really. And when I get overwhelmed, I crash and burn hardcore. It is because I know what the end is supposed to look like that I will tend to leap out prematurely and forget that this life is about small steps forward, not giant lunges over valleys. I also have breaking points when the weight of my Cross gets to be too much and I find myself crying face down in the dirt.

Thank God for Confession! The enemy wants to convince us that we are unforgivable, that we will never succeed, that holiness is impossible, and that God cannot possibly love us if He allows this much suffering. Oh, I hear the enemy ringing in my ears. He is rather relentless. He’s the one who tells me to avoid Mass or Confession or do it later. And I said “no” to him today by going to Mass even though I failed so utterly yesterday that I wanted to throw in the towel. And I walked up to my priest after Mass and asked if he could hear my Confession today; not tomorrow or the next day when it is offered in two parishes locally. Today.

God doesn’t expect us not to fail. We are weak, broken, sinful, and wage intense battles. The point is to get back up. GET BACK UP! When we fall , we must ask Him to help us once again trudge up this monstrous mountain towards holiness. Mercy does not overlook sin. God’s justice helps us seek forgiveness and His mercy binds the wounds we receive when we sin.

So when you read my writing, I am not writing as someone who has succeeded on the path. By God’s grace, one day I will hear “Well done thy good and faithful servant.” I write to help others on the path with me. The very same people who are overburdened and hurting. Those people who are weak and struggle with habitual sins. The people who battle anger, like me. The people who want to be a saint, but keep falling. Christ helps us back up. When we fail, don’t allow the enemy to keep you down in the dust. Ask Christ to forgive your failings and give you the strength to get back up once again. St. Teresa of Calcutta reminds us that ‘we are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.’ So if like me, you’ve found yourself once again lying face down in the dirt, then get back up, get thee to Confession, and begin again.