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…

I Will Not Be Joining the New Pro-Life Movement Anytime Soon

I will not be jumping on the New Pro-Life Movement bandwagon anytime soon. Mainly because I find the constant bandwagons of the Catholic blogosphere tiresome and intentionally divisive. I have studied moral theology and Catholic Social Teaching in-depth. The two are intimately linked with the dignity of the human person grounding all other aspects of her teaching. That means the right to life holds supremacy and we work from there to achieve the common good through the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity. There is a hierarchy and “seamless garment” arguments only work if the dignity of the human person is at the top of everything else.

Like most movements like this, it seems to be predicated largely upon straw men. The idea that the Republican Party is evil (of course it is, it is run by Fallen men, sin is a part of secular institutions just like the Church. The only thing that keeps the Church from collapsing under the weight of our sins is the Holy Spirit sent by the Glorified Christ) and the folks in the movement clearly support the sacrilege of someone like Fr. Pavone fuels their arguments. Never mind that there are fringes of all movements both inside and outside of the Church.

In reality, a great many of us left the Republican Party years ago sensing the immorality of both parties and decided to begin truly living CST and our mission–as explained in Christifideles Laici–on the ground rather than relying on an immoral and corrupt system in need of major change. We can only change the system from the ground up and that means evangelization, charity, and sacrifice. In-fighting doesn’t accomplish much at the ground level.

What many of these folks forget is that in bringing the Culture of Life to the world, God calls people to different missions under that umbrella. We cannot be stretched across the vast deep that is the Culture of Life. For instance, I have had four miscarriages and suffer from secondary infertility. I understand the gift of motherhood at an ontological level in a way many do not. I know what it is like to lose a child, four children. I also study philosophy and theology, so I can swim deep into the reality of motherhood, as a gift from God, and share it with others. God called me directly to the abortion fight, much like he calls others to slow the tide of euthanasia or other “medical” issues, soup kitchens, refugee ministries, inner city programs, prison ministry, etc.

The idea that those working against abortion–and are in need of saving from more “enlightened” Catholics–do not live CST is a straw man at best and malicious at worst. Our community lives the four pillars of Catholic social teaching by praying in front of PP in order to share the dignity of the human person made imago Dei with everyone. When someone comes into our care (whether a pregnant woman, boyfriend/husband, child, or abortion worker), we employ the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity with an eye on the common good by coming together to find these men and women work (many in our own businesses), medical assistance, childcare, adoption options, education programs, baby and needed items for living, food, financial assistance for debts, bills, or other issues, working with women newly out of prison, friendship and community to those from broken families with poor social networks, and any other need that arises well after the child is born.

I myself am in the middle of walking a journey with a mother who has the same due date that I would have had if Andrew had not died. Yeah, hardcore entering into the Cross and offering it up. I do it regardless of the pain and continue to do it through a lot of tears, but that is what Christ asks us to do. Self-sacrifice. Bloviating in social media does not equate to entering into the suffering of the poor, lonely, and struggling within our communities. And the figureheads of a movement do not automatically point to reality on the ground. I am also a writer, but I am under no illusions that my writing equates to works of mercy.

The idea that the pro-life movement on the ground is out of touch with CST is utter bunk. Many of us help the homeless, do prison ministry, and help in other ways as time allows us outside of the mission given to us by God. We can’t do everything and others have been called to work in different areas of poverty. We have an extensive Haiti mission in our church that I would love to join, but God has called me where He has called me. I see poverty up close and personal with my service to single mothers. Most of these women come from broken and dysfunctional homes, so the healing of marriage is essential, since CST goes from the individual to the family to the local community on up to the federal government and international community. That’s subsidiarity. We are trying, and failing at times, to be the hands and feet of Christ within our communities. I will happily continue to do work in the pro-life movement as we live it here in solidarity and I will continue to study and pray with the Church’s social encyclicals, documents, and the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching.

Public Discourse: Abortion’s Miscarriage Problem

The topic of miscarriage is one that is still largely taboo in our culture. It has only been in recent months that women and men have come out of the woodwork to publicly share their grief and anguish at the loss of an unborn child. Their bravery is often met with scorn, derision, or apathy.

I know, because I am one of these women. I have had four miscarriages. The most recent occurred just a month ago.

The sad reality is that many people are either afraid or unprepared to deal with the grief of miscarriage publicly. In a culture that lauds abortion on demand and dehumanizes the unborn child, this is understandable. Why talk about it? Until our society acknowledges the humanity of the unborn child, the pain of parents who lose their children before birth will continue to be ignored.

My Battle with Recurrent Miscarriage

My husband and I have one living daughter, and we have lost four unborn children in the first trimester. Each time, we have shared our pregnancies with family and friends immediately upon receiving positive pregnancy tests. It seemed completely natural to share the joy of our pregnancies, since a new life was created each time. A unique person of great dignity and worthy of celebration was coming into the world. Yet our openness meant that we shared the heartbreaking news of losing a child on four different occasions.

I cannot say that I knew the risks of miscarriage with my first pregnancy. It did not become a reality until we lost our daughter’s twin, and then we began down the path of recurrent miscarriage. Most doctors do not begin testing until two or three miscarriages occur. This makes it difficult for families to get answers early on in order to prevent recurrent miscarriage. After my third miscarriage, I went through a myriad of tests with a Catholic physician trained in Natural Procreative Technology (NaPro) and discovered that I have estrogen and progesterone deficiencies, which are usually treatable. For me, however, the treatment has not yet made a difference. I lost my most recent child while on natural progesterone and HCG injections.

Read the rest over at Public Discourse.

The Strange Ways God Heals Our Sufferings

**I will be on Al Kresta’s radio program, Kresta in the Afternoon, on Wednesday, October 19th at 4pm EST.**

To be a Catholic is to live paradox. We may not be consciously or intellectually aware of this fact, or refer to it as paradox. Our Faith is centered on the greatest paradox of all, namely, the Cross. It is death that brings new life. Christ’s bloody, tortuous self-gift on the Cross brings about salvation for all of mankind. Saint Paul says it best in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25:

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.” Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

While I study and marvel at the paradoxes of our Faith, it is only recently that I found myself living paradox at a visceral level. In fact, when the world looks at someone in my circumstances it sees either “folly”, envy, or hatred. The truth is always stranger and much more interesting than fiction or perception.

My Cross becomes heavier.

Two months ago I lost my fourth baby in miscarriage. We named him Andrew Thomas. We discovered his death on August 8th, the Feast of St. Dominic. We named the baby after my hero, St. Thomas Aquinas, on a Dominican feast day. The pain of the last couple months has been intense and filled with questions, anguish, anger, and confusion. The sorrow of this miscarriage is coupled with the very likely reality that I will not be able to bear any more children to term. The NaPro hormone treatments I was on throughout the pregnancy did not increase my hormone levels at all, and after seeing a beautiful healthy baby with a strong heartbeat twice, our baby boy died. My family and I carry the dual Cross of the death of another child and infertility. We are living proof to a world that thinks it can control fertility that only God decides family size. It should also be a reminder to Catholics who struggle with being self-righteous, that not every family with one child is using contraception.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

The Federalist: Are Pro-Lifers Who Grieve Miscarriage Merely Envious of Abortive Women?

I just realized that I never posted my most recent article at The Federalist on the blog. Please read it carefully. I am arguing the pro-life position while systematically examining a question that I have been asked many times: Am I envious of women getting an abortion because of my miscarriages? This article takes a very abbreviated Thomistic approach. Honest intellectual inquiry means examining the other side and drawing conclusions, and even, similarities. Here’s the article:

On the surface, it may seem the pain, grief, and suffering a miscarriage causes the child’s parents could blind their ability to serve at abortion clinics or within the pro-life movement in charity and truth. Some have a pronounced emotional reaction to losing a child in miscarriage. Grieving individuals can lash out at others and envy what they do not possess—namely, a child or more children.

It seems logical for a person grieving a miscarriage to turn in hate towards those who choose to abort their unborn children. These individuals of their own free will intentionally kill their unborn babies, and those grieving a miscarriage want a child. While the danger of envy and hatred exists, reality is much more interesting.

To Parents, Children Are People from Conception
From the moment a pregnancy test reveals a positive sign, the mother and father begin to plan and dream about their new child, a specific person. Men and women experience parenthood in different ways, but come together to discuss names, purchase baby items, contemplate how to rearrange the house if necessary, and plan for the future. They start to see their family with the unique person growing in the mother’s womb.

There is great joy in discovering that a new person has entered the world. Pope John Paul II’s letter to women, “Mulieris Dignitatem,” discusses the deep bond formed at conception:

“The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and ‘understands’ with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the ‘beginning,’ the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings – not only towards her own child, but every human being – which profoundly marks the woman’s personality.”

From the beginning, a woman unites to her child in the very depths of her being and understanding. It is possible to suppress this understanding, which occurs in abortion. Those who endure the loss of a child in miscarriage, however, often profoundly experience this understanding. There is no question in their minds that a child, their child, is lost. This is precisely why the grief is so profound, even if it is done largely behind closed doors.

Read the rest over at The Federalist.

Miscarriage Grief: No We Aren’t Going Crazy

Grief is an arduous journey for all of us to walk. It is also a process we have very little control over and we have no choice but to walk it; often only relying in trust and hope that God walks beside us. Grief is a lot like being in a dingy in the ocean. The shore is somewhere off the port side, but we can’t see it. It’s foggy and dark and all we feel are the enormous swells. When periods of peace do come, they are often not serenity, but numbness. In fact, we may have days, weeks, months, years of numbness and then some trigger will pierce through and torrents of tears fall once again.

I have been in a period of numbness for a couple of weeks. Once the miscarriage finally ended the initial intensity subsided and the numbness set in. The miscarriage itself stopped and started over a period of 2.5 weeks, prolonging the initial agony. It now seems to have completed and the numbing–somewhat zombie like–period has begun. I started to wonder why I couldn’t seem to cry. I cried for days in the beginning, but then I couldn’t cry anymore and the ache turned to emotionless nothingness. This numbness is often worse than the intense suffering. Numbness leaves me wanting to reach out, but I can’t seem to grasp anything solid.

The numbness lifted temporary in the last few days. The tears began anew. Every mother and father grieving a child lost in miscarriage has different triggers. In the past, an infant Baptism at Mass would reduce me to a blubbering mess. I battled mightily in my first three miscarriages with the pain caused by my inability to baptize my babies before they died. Years of theological study and my trust in God’s mercy finally lifted that burden. Through the direction of different priests  and theologians, I was guided to a place of trust, even if I lacked solid answers. God assuaged the pain I felt because my babies died unbaptized.

This time the trigger is toddler and infant boys. My husband and I believe our most recent loss was a son, Andrew Thomas. Named for St. Andrew and my hero St. Thomas Aquinas. This past weekend, I once again returned to tears after attending Mass where five male altar servers served with great reverence in the more traditional cassock and surplice. This is such a rarity in my Diocese that the beauty from seeing it alone would have reduced me to tears. Instead, watching the youngest boy serve with the teenage boys reminded me of how much I miss my sons Andrew and Caleb.

The youngest boy serving must have been 7 or 8. He clearly had just received his first Holy Communion this year and the teenage boys towered over him, but they treated him with great care and guided him through the Mass. This young boy followed the great dance of the Liturgy (no I didn’t say liturgical dance….shudders) beautifully. His reverence and attention were remarkable in one so young. He did just as well as the older boys.

The second time I ached for my children was while we were at a park. My family and I went camping this past weekend. On our way home, we stopped at a park so our daughter could play. There was a little boy toddling around the playground. He clearly had only been walking for a short time. He was trying to keep up with the rest of the children playing around him. He was adorable.

My husband and I sat watching our daughter and the other kids play while we discussed adoption. We greatly desire more children, but it does not seem to be God’s will that they come from us. We have been contemplating adoption for over a year, but we are taking our time discerning when to put in our application. We want to make sure we make a clear-headed decision because we are grieving so deeply at this time.

Adoption is a long, invasive, and difficult process. We have four adopted nephews, so we know it is a rough process. It is also extremely expensive. It will cost us $15,000-25,000. Yes, you read that right. That’s for a domestic adoption. We have already been through orientation at our local Catholic Charities, so our decision will be made understanding that we will have to cut back tremendously, save a lot of money, and probably stay in our current home for a few more years rather than buy our dream home, which is a small farm. It’s a matter of choosing greater goods, and a human being is always a greater good. Pray for us as we discern God’s path for us.

Grief is a long process and it never fully goes away. There is always that slight prick whenever the lost person or persons is remembered. The ache to hold my children will never fully dissipate until, Lord willing, I meet them in Heaven. My daughter’s loneliness serves as a reminder that I have not been able to give her a sibling. And I even battle the pain that my writing has expanded to wider audiences because of my suffering. Writers often expand their audience because they are willing to enter into suffering. I would give up writing another word to have my children back, but that isn’t possible. Instead, it appears that for reasons not entirely clear to me, God has called me to bring attention to the miscarriage-abortion connection. Doors keep opening that I never imagined or thought possible, even as I sit in my dingy off the shore.

If like me, you are journeying through grief, you may have moments when you feel like you are going crazy. It seems like small things set you off and torrents of tears come streaming, even in public. There may be times the sobbing is uncontrollable and the wound that seemed to heal ever so slightly is gaping wide open once again. This is a part of grief. The senses are how we understand the world around us, which means our senses will trigger memories. Seeing a baby, hearing their laughter or cries, or any other type of sensory response can remind us of the lost child we miss so deeply. All we can do is ask for God to walk with us during this time of intense suffering. We have to hope that good will come of all of this, even if we don’t understand it on this side of eternity. Know that I am praying for all of you grieving. I know that I am not alone in my pain and so you remain in my thoughts and prayers. Pax Christi.