What’s for supper? Vol. 140: Is it too late to be Colombian?

Food! Still important. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Birthday party!

Birthday girl requested a cookout. We had a luau-themed party (and yes, I realize that a luau is a party, but the decorations were the only thing anywhere close to a luau, and that only in a passing and culturally insensitive way, so I’m calling it luau-themed. I know, nobody cares. I care.), and the kids got up early and made themselves a tiki bar for serving ice cream sodas.

I took the birthday girl and her friends to the beach, where we had it mostly to ourselves, possibly because of the driving rain. This happened last year, too. It’s okay with me.

She wanted the guests to decorate their own cupcakes. This, too, was okay with me!

SUNDAY
Cookout for home folks, Columbian feast for me

On Sunday, we went to Mass and, after Damien assured me they would eat food, I just scarpered. I drove down to Revere, which is right outside of Boston on the waterfront, and had a sleepover with my friends. Check it out: Melanie Bettinelli, Elisa Low, and Kyra Matsui.

Oh my gosh, we had so much fun. We found ourselves a tiny little Columbian restaurant called La Esquina del Sabor, where we were welcomed like honored guests. While we waited for our food, they treated us to empanadas and some kind of fried cheese with pineapple sauce

I don’t know what kind of cheese it was — it was sort of sweet and firm, but a little bit runny. Heavenly.  I will admit that I didn’t really know what I was ordering, but the whole place smelled so great, I didn’t think I could miss. It turned out to be a kind of Everything Soup

I could identify savory beans and possibly peas or lentils, sausage, big chunks of pork, I think fried plantains, possibly mango, avocado, and shoestring potatoes? on the top, with white rice and a fried egg on the side, and some kind of toasted flat bread. It was wonderful. Wonderful. It made me want to embrace the whole world and then fall asleep in its lap.

So then we stayed up until after 2 am drinking and laughing, slept late, woke up with the salt breeze coming in the windows, and sat on the bed eating baguettes and cheeses and grapes and salami with our coffee, and talking and laughing some more. That grey area in the window on the left is the ocean!

I had to drag myself away eventually, but Elisa and Kyra went on to many more adventures with more friends (and have visited at least two world class museums, so I fully expect another explosion of creativity). And what is the moral of this story? Internet friends are real friends. Oh, yes.

MONDAY
Bagel and egg sandwiches

I got home theoretically in time to make dinner, but all that scarpering wore me out, so the kids made supper. I mentioned ham, but had no takers.

TUESDAY
Chicken salad with walnuts and feta

This is how you actually eat that big box of mixed organic greens you keep buying and then not eating and then throwing away, by the way. Don’t plan to have salad on the side; made salad the main course.

I put the chicken breasts in the Instant Pot with salt, pepper, and lime juice and set it to high pressure for about eight minutes, then did a quick release, let the chicken cool, and cut it up.

So we had mixed greens, chicken, diced red onions, toasted walnuts, and feta cheese. I had balsamic vinegar on mine, and it was very good.

Oh, and thanks to whoever suggested toasting nuts in the microwave! So much easier and less perilous than doing in in the oven. I just spread the nuts out on a plate (not even a single layer like you’re supposed to) and set it for two minutes, and they came out perfect. Toasted nuts make salads so much more exciting.

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, fake Pringles, frozen peas

Wednesday, Lucy had her 3-month visit to the endocrinologist. We love our doctors, but man that is a long trip. Happily, she is doing just great. Here she is enjoying a post-visit treat, because diabetes care comes in many flavors.

THURSDAY
Chicken fajitas with salsa verde, yellow rice

I used to make chicken fajitas allll the time, a long time ago, and it was my signature Delicious Meal of Great Effort. So I was kind of excited about resurrecting this dish, even though I was just planning to use fajita seasoning packets. And what do you know, I’ve turned into a fancypants. It tasted fine; it just wan’t much to write home about.

I sliced up green peppers, red onions, and chicken breast, and marinated it in the spice mix for a few hours, then fried it up in some oil on the stovetop.

I made soooo much, thinking the kids would go gaga over it. I also thought I’d give them a treat by buying several boxes of that violently yellow “Spanish rice” stuff. Well, they didn’t care! Oh well.

I did make another batch of salsa verde, with tomatillos, onions, jalapenos, and lots of garlic

plus chicken broth, lime juice, a little sugar, and a ton of cilantro. Full recipe at the end.

I let it cook too long and it was very thick, but somehow I muscled through and ate . . . kind of a lot of it on the fajitas, with sour cream.

Fine, I like yellow rice from a box. I like it. I had taken the kids to the long-promised outdoor pool for almost three hours, and I was hongry. Then, after supper, I opened up a speech I’m giving next week, thinking it needed a little tweaking. It needed . . . a lot of tweaking. Thank goodness I ate all that salsa verde, to fortify me.

FRIDAY
Pasta and sauce

With a little bit of end-of-summer-panic on the side!

I guess I just have one recipe card to share today: The salsa verde. If anybody knows what kind of Columbian soup that was, hit me up with the recipe! I don’t think my family would eat it, but I just want to know.

Salsa verde

Ingredients

  • 10-12 tomatillos
  • 3 jalapeno peppers
  • 10 cloves garlic with wrappers on
  • 1-2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
  • 3/4 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • olive oil for cooking

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler. 

  2. Put unwrapped tomatillos, whole jalapenos, garlic cloves with wrappers on, and peeled, quartered onions in a shallow pan, and broil until slightly blackened - about 5 minutes. 

  3. Let the vegetables cool. Pull the wrappers off the garlic, cut the tops off the jalapenos (but leave the seeds and insides), and trim the ends off the onions.   

  4. Put all vegetables inside a food processor, and add a big handful of cilantro and 3/4 tsp sugar. Blend until it's pulpy. It will be runny.

  5. Heat a little olive oil in a saute pan and add the vegetable mixture. Heat, stirring, until it thickens up a bit. 

  6. Add 3/4 cup chicken broth and 1/4 cup lime juice and continue heating, stirring from time to time, until it thickens up again. 

Dear priests: I am begging you to speak about this scandal

Tonight I’m mustering the courage to start reading through the comprehensive grand jury report on sexual abuse and its coverup by the Church in Pennsylvania. And I’m looking up my local bulletin online, trying to find out when Mass is tomorrow. It’s a holy day of obligation, and my family will be in the pew.

Since the first news stories came out, I’ve had my head in my hands. There is nothing else to do. I read about a boy who was so violently raped by a priest, his spine was injured. The victim’s pain was treated with opioids, he became addicted and then overdosed, and now he is dead. I don’t know if the priest is also dead. I don’t even know what to pray for. Mercy on us all.

Mercy on our priests, who must be feeling this atrocity so keenly.

To you parish priests: please, you must speak to your flock about what is happening. Don’t let another Mass go by without saying something. I am begging you. Some of the parishioners somehow don’t know what is going on, and they must know. And many of us have been following the news with dread, and we must know that you understand how nearly unbearable this is. We can’t stand the silence anymore.

We need to know that you are as struck with horror as we are. We need to know that you would be on our side if we were the ones calling the police. We need to know that you care for us more than you care about falling afoul of some toothless pastoral directive from above. We need someone to be with us in this free fall of horror.

I know there are children in the pews, and you don’t want to frighten them; and you don’t want to test the faith of anyone who’s on the brink. But in the pews are also Catholics who have been abused before, and once again, no one is speaking up for them. There are converts who gave up family and happiness to join the Church because they believed the promise of something new and beautiful. They haven’t left yet, but they’re not hearing any Catholic talk about how badly we’ve failed. There are lifelong faithful who feel sick, bewildered, duped, and lost, and we don’t know what to do with this anger and misery, and too many of our bishops are still, still minimizing, complaining, obfusticating, justifying. Or saying nothing at all, hoping that will make it all go away one more time, like it’s gone away so many times before.

I am begging you to say something. Find a way to let us know that you, at least, haven’t turned your back on the victims of the Church. Tell us you’re bringing all that suffering to the altar. We need to hear it.

Dear, faithful priests, we love you and we are praying for you. You’re the one who moves between us and Christ; and you’re also the one who must put himself between us and every one of those wretched thousands of your brother priests who treated the bodies of the faithful like so much kindling, to be tossed into the furnace, consumed, turned to ash, forgotten.

I am begging you to say something. It is a holy day of obligation, and we will be there, listening. You don’t have to have answers for us. Just say something, because the silence of the Church is too hard to bear.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 139: Cashew! Gesundheit.

Looking back, I’m shocked at how much actual hot food I prepared, considering how hot and steamy it was all week. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, strawberries

That’s what it says on my menu blackboard. I have no memory of Saturday. What a long week.

SUNDAY
Smoked ribs, cole slaw, biscuits

I got two huge racks of pork ribs, and Damien put a rub on them the night before with mustard, then smoked the ribs on the grill for several hours.

This is our first attempt at smoking meat. Big success! Very juicy and flavorful.

Although cutting up the ribs afterwards is always such a struggle.

Is there some special trick or tool to make this part easier, or do you just have to hack away until it’s done?

I made biscuits using Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I had my doubts about these biscuits, because someone had put a bunch of pink chalk in the bottle of vinegar. I’m pretty good at ignoring things that people have put into my food, but chalk seemed like something that might change the chemical balance of vinegar, I dunno. Luckily, it wasn’t an issue, because even though I can read, I didn’t read the part where they are called “self rising biscuits” or the part where it called for self-rising flour, and I used regular flour. And those biscuits self stayed flat. I mean, I ate four, but they were flat.

We also had a good, snappy cole slaw that Lena made. Recipe card at the end.

My father came over, much to Corrie and Benny’s delight. They traded magic tricks, and my father provided this impressive multi-cake.

MONDAY
Deli sandwich bake

New recipe! A friend recommended this Italian Layer Bake, which calls for crescent roll dough top and bottom, with deli meats and cheese and egg layered inside. I like the idea of it, but was somewhat skeptical about all that egg, so I modified it to be less casserole-like and more sandwich-like.

So I just spread out crescent roll dough (and it turns out that, sometime in the last few years, I’ve changed from being someone who gets a kick out of popping open those cardboard tubes into someone who trembles in fear and then shrieks involuntarily when they burst open. I don’t like carnival rides anymore, either. I guess real life is thrilling enough. Anyway, I’m drinking more) in a pan, then layered all kinds of deli meats and cheese

then put more dough on top. When I say “put,” I mean I unrolled two cans without much trouble, but the third one was a travesty, all shredded and stuck together, so I just stretched out the bits as best I could to cover everything up.

Then I glopped some beaten egg on top (I would say “brushed, but I couldn’t find either of my pastry brushes, and the kids acted like my using that combination of words was the last bit of evidence they needed for my involuntary commitment; so I glopped it on) and sprinkled it with garlic powder and dried minced onion. I considered poppy seeds, too.

Then I put it in the oven covered for about 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 15-20 until it was a little brown on top.

It was very tasty! The pieced-together dough on top was not a problem at all. I cut it into twelve squares for twelve people, and then sliced the squares into, you know, slicees. Very filling and yummy, a very cheery food.

Definitely more brunchy than dinner-y, but definitely not breakfast-y. This would make great party food, and you can make just about any alterations you like. Everyone liked it. It was a little hard on my stomach, to be honest, but I’m old and digestively fragile. Please don’t tell me about probiotics. I’d rather suffer.

TUESDAY
Cashew chicken lettuce wraps and rice

‘Nother new recipe! This one was more popular with the older set. Pretty easy: You just cut up chicken and sauté it, dump in a simple sauce sauce and let it thicken, throw in the nuts, and spoon everything into lettuce leaves. Throw some chopped scallions on top.

It calls itself wraps, but it was too messy for any real wrapping, so we just ate it out of the lettuce. It was quite flavorful and didn’t really need the sriracha sauce I added at the end. Good basic Asian sauce, wonderful texture, easy to make ahead and then cook in a few minutes before dinner. Will probably make again. I simplified the ingredients and cooking process from the Better From Scratch recipe above.

I made the rice in the Instant Pot while the meat was cooking. I adore the Instant Pot on hot, muggy days. You can just tell it what to do and then get the hell out of the kitchen.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Taught another kid how to make pizza. We are now a five-pizza family, did I mention?.Two pepperoni, two cheese, and one half-and-half, because I forgot to buy olives.

We like to sprinkled garlic powder, oregano, and parmesan cheese on top before baking. I go back and forth on the merits of putting the pepperoni and other toppings under the mozzarella. I do like having a juicy surprise waiting under the cheese (and yes, that will be the opening sentence in my upcoming book, entitled It’s A Mystery Why I’m Fat), but the little crisp edges of pepperoni are also very fine. What a world.

THURSDAY
Pulled pork, steak fries, cole slaw, buffalo chicken salad, chocolate cake

Another self-imposed incoherent potluck meal. I put a pork in the crock pot with a can of beer and half a jar of jalapenos and juice, but I started too late, and it wasn’t really shreddy by dinner time, so I put it in the standing mixer, which got me something like cat food.

Dora wanted more buffalo chicken salad, so she won the honor of making it. I’ll add a recipe card at the end, but here’s what it looks like from a previous meal:

She also wanted to make chocolate cake with the little girls, and who am I to stand in the way of progress? I forgot to take pictures, though.

FRIDAY
Tuna burgers

We’ve recommitted to strict meatless Fridays, as a mild penance for our diocese. This is more of a penance for me, as it means I’ll go to the trouble of making tuna burgers and getting my hands all smelly, and they kids will throw them away and eat cereal. So I’m propping up the diocese and General Mills. Let God sort it out.

And here are the recipe cards. I can see that the categories are a little wonky on some of these, but I’m too pressed for time to fix them now! I’ll get the hang of this. We like the cards, yes?

 

5 from 1 vote
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Smoked pork ribs with mustard rub

Ingredients

  • 2 racks pork ribs

Pork rub

  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • Yellow mustard
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. The night before or several hours before dinner, mix together the rub spices. 



  2. Spread yellow mustard all over the rack of ribs and apply the rub. Cover and refrigerate. Let it come back to room temp before cooking.

  3. Light the fire and let it die down. Put the meat on the grill off to the side, where it will get indirect heat. Put the cover down and let it cook at least four hours. 

  4. Add salt and pepper, then separate the ribs and enjoy. 

5 from 1 vote
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Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayp
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix. 




5 from 1 vote
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Deli brunch sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 6 8-oz. tubes crescent rolls
  • 3/4 lb sliced ham
  • 1/2 lb sliced Genoa salami
  • 3 oz Serrano (dry cured) ham
  • 33 slices Swiss cheese
  • any other meats and cheese that seem yummy
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 2 tsp garlic powder, minced onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

Unroll 3 of the tubes of crescent rolls without separating the triangles, and fit the dough to cover an 11 x 25-inch pan.

  1. Layer the meat and cheese, making it go all the way to the edges of the pan. This part is subject to any kind of variation you like. 

  2. Unroll the remaining 3 tubes of crescent rolls and spread the dough to cover the meat and cheese. It's okay if you have to stretch and piece it together. 

Beat 2-3 eggs and brush it over the top of the dough, and sprinkle with garlic powder, onions, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc.

  1. Cover pan loosely and bake for 20 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until dough is slightly browned and egg is completely cooked. 

5 from 1 vote
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Cashew chicken lettuce wraps

Servings 12

Ingredients

  • 6.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, with salt and pepper
  • 2-3/4 cups cashews

romaine lettuce or other broad-leaf lettuce

  • 1 bunch scallions
  • Sriracha sauce (optional)

2 Tbsp sesame oil for cooking

Sauce

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 6 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder or minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Cut the chicken into small pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

  2. Make the sauce by mixing all the ingredients together. 

  3. Heat the sesame oil in a large pan and add the chicken. Cook until it's done (duh)

  4. Add the sauce to the chicken and cook at a medium heat, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cashews.

  5. Spoon chicken mixture into lettuce leaves. Add chopped scallions to top, plus sriracha sauce if you like. 

5 from 1 vote
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Buffalo chicken pasta salad

Servings 10

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 36 ounces dry pasta. Radiatore (ruffled spirals) is good, but anything with texture will do.

Dressing

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 10 oz blue cheese dressing (or mayo with blue cheese)
  • 1/2 cup buffalo sauce
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook the chicken.
    Instant Pot instructions: Put chicken in Instant Pot with a cup of water. Set to "high pressure" for seven minutes. Do quick release. Allow chicken to cool, then dice it. 

Cook pasta and drain (duh)

Peel and chop four stalks of celery.

Mix together sauce ingredients.

  1. Put pasta, chicken, and celery in a large bowl. Stir in the dressing and mix to coat. 

5 from 1 vote
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Tuna burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 can tuna
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • seasonings, minced onion, etc.
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Drain the tuna.

  2. Mix tuna thoroughly with egg, bread crumbs, and whatever seasonings you like. Form into two patties. 

  3. Heat oil in pan. Fry tuna patties on both sides until golden brown. 

The Bishops’ silence is a scandal in itself

I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true: I let myself believe we were past the worst of the sex abuse and cover-up scandal. But it turns out that whole thing in 2002 where we rent our garments and said “never again, never again”? There was a whole layer of garments underneath. There was a whole layer we were holding back, just in case we needed to do some more rending.

So I can’t bring myself to say “never again” this time, because I know there will be more. I know it. I say this not with despair, but just out of painful honesty. We’re not just dealing with the past, and we’re not even just dealing with ongoing problems. We’re looking to the future, and right now, the future does not look like it’s fixing to be any different.

I’ve talked to some laymen who have written to their pastors or to their bishops in the last few days, and these men are surprised to hear that the laity is so upset. Surprised! They are still so insulated, so separated from a normal human response to suffering, so utterly surrounded by like-minded peers dedicated to the cause of not rocking the boat, that they apparently think, “Well, the USCCB has put out a statement. Phew, now we can move on.”

This open letter from prominent young laymen calls for “an independent investigation of who knew what and when, a new intolerance of clerical abuse and sexual sin, and public acts of penance by Catholic bishops.”

It’s intolerable that none of this has happened yet. Intolerable.

As Dawn Eden points out,

the bishops have said they are sorry, but they have not said, as a body, that they were wrong. Without such acknowledgement, our penitential tradition insists, true contrition is not possible.

And without such acknowledgement, we have zero reason to believe that they’re committed to any kind of real change. We’re faithful, not stupid.

It’s not just “our penitential tradition” that insists on acknowledging sin. A reporter once told me that, in states that run successful sex offender and domestic abuser rehabilitation programs, part of the mandatory process is that those convicted must say out loud what they did, every single day. Without this practice, there is no progress.

You can’t change if you don’t want to change, and you won’t want to change until you face the full horror of what you did. Not what someone else made you do, not what people misunderstood you to have done, not what you were unjustly accused of doing, but what you did. You, the guilty one. You, the one who must change.

Some sins are hard to admit. Some sins are horrible to own up to. Some sins will get you locked up or sued if you acknowledge them in public. I get it: This is hard.

But God have mercy, these are our bishops. These are men who hold shepherd’s staffs. What do they think those are for? What do they think their job is, if not to lead by example? Right now, they’re straggling behind the sheep, and that’s a scandal in itself.

***

Image altered; from Nationalmuseet [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

The Woman Who Took Everything Personally: Garden Edition

(Reprinted upon request. I am now two years older and have given up on tomatoes. Other than that, everything is the same.)

People sometimes ask me* how I manage to keep up with gardening. With all my many responsibilities, how do I manage to maintain my flower beds in their customary splendor?

Here’s how you do it. First, you decide to live in a place where the soil is 78% soccer ball-sized rocks with paltry little swaths of dirt in between. Then you crank the climate way down to supidsville, so it may be Memorial Day, but you’re still squinting wrathfully at the sky and thinking, “Yep, that’s definitely a snow cloud.” You consider burning the dog for fuel. Nothing personal; it just really, really hurts to pay for heating oil in May.

This in itself should make gardening miserable enough. But if you really want to reap sorrow and lamentations as you bring forth flowers into the world, then I cannot recommend highly enough the following technique.

Take it personally. All of it!

Above is a little diagram of one of my little flower beds, which also doubles neatly as a functional map of my psyche. Every single thing that grows tells you something about me, and all of it is stupid.

That lilac tree is a sehnsucht-laden bearer of my youthful memories of this other lilac tree we used to have, alas. I wait in agony for the blossoms to open so I can smell them, thinking all the time about how quickly they will fade, alas alas.

The day lilies come up on their own, and spread like crazy, and I have to rip them out to make way for other flowers, because life is like that. Not even flowers will be allowed to flourish where they will. Death will always have his portion, and I will be his agent. Sheesh, Death.

The purple bushy stuff and the white bushy stuff, I bought on clearance, where the heartless Home Depot generation stopped bothering to water it just because it had already bloomed for the season. Can you believe that? A nice, decent flower, with so much growth left in it, just shoved aside before it’s even fully passed. Just because a flower is forty-one years old and maybe has a double chin and big arms and can’t stay awake through movies, they stop watering it, and nobody even cards it at the liquor store anymore, but this is not right! It’s not right! It’s . . . it’s just not right.

The poppies, I bought out of rage. The only thing that would have made me happier is if they had cost five times as much, because that would be just like them. Freaking poppies. I have been trying to grow poppies all my life, because they are so lovely, and I’ve never gotten so much as a single glossy petal or even an inch or two of hairy, snakelike stem. So here I go, freaking buying freaking poppies, and I HOPE THEY ALL DIE. Freaking poppies. *sob*

The daisies, I dug up from another part of the yard and chunked into my garden because the cruel mower was headed for their sweet heads. If that isn’t just like a man, humph. You stick with me, daisies. We’ll start a book club together, you and me, and you can chip in for the rent once your candle business gets off the ground. I understand.

The roses, I picked up last year at Aldi because they were on sale. I don’t even like roses, but what could I do? They were on sale. And wouldn’t you know it, they survived the winter and they’re doing fine. Thanks a lot, Aldi. By the way, your three bean salad stinks. I rate it two beans at best.

The various plants marked “??” are things that I don’t dare to weed because I can never remember if they are anything or not, because I’m an idiot.

And then there’s this beauty:

Oh, yeah, this is going to be great, I can tell already. Huge masses of fragrant, glowing blossoms will definitely ignite the senses in the fall, kindling hope anew in hearts that were beginning to falter. Totally. Yeah, I have super high hopes that we’ll see a real turnaround with this particular item.

And one more thing: did you notice that none of this was grown from seed? That’s because I stink! I stink! I didn’t even smell the lilacs today, because I stink!

In conclusion: at least Google knows what I’m talking about.

*No one has ever asked me

The Good Ole Shepherds Club

I’ve written before about the pitfalls of community — about how finding a group of like-minded people with similar interests can urge us to greater heights of virtue, but it can also affirm us in our vices.

Once you’re comfortably inside the walls that define your group, the group quickly becomes what defines you; and then, if there’s nothing from the outside calling you to account, it’s all too easy to put all your effort into making the walls stronger. No matter what your original reason was for joining that group, your sole work becomes maintaining the walls.

And inside the walls, the oxygen decreases, the temperature rises, and what was once a group of individuals becomes undifferentiated intellectual and spiritual compost that’s not even useful as fertilizer, because it never leaves the heap.

This is how we get nasty little social media cliques, and this is also how we get the alt right, how we get violent incels and other militantly misogynist and racist groups openly arguing ideas that normal people would have been aghast to even entertain ten or twenty years ago. There are no meaningful outside checks; it all becomes about maintaining your identity by shoring up the walls of your group.

And God help us, this is how we got Cardinal McCarrick and Co.

Carinal Wuerl (who, I’m just gonna say it, is talking an awful lot like a man trying to get out ahead of something ugly) thinks we can fix the profoundly ingrained systems of institutional predation and corruption in the hierarchy of the Church by forming an oversight committee made up of — you’ll never guess — the hierarchy of the Church.

This is insane. Insane.  This tells us that the group has devoured the individuals. Not in all cases, but in far too many. Maybe once these men became priests and then bishops out of a desire to serve God through serving the Church, but now far too many are putting all their efforts into strengthening the walls between them and their flock.

Just stop and think for a minute. If I, as an individual layman, knew that a powerful man was preying on some innocent person, I would call the police.  That is what I would do. I’m a member of the human race, and it is my obligation to protect the vulnerable if I can.

Why haven’t all bishops done this? Why have they not taken instantaneous, dramatic action to protect the innocent from powerful men in their ranks?

I’ve only found three possible answers.

The first is that some of them truly didn’t know. There is such a thing as a naive bishop, and there is such a thing as a bishop who is not in the loop. I do believe that, whether or not they should have, some of them truly didn’t know.

The second explanation is the threat of tit-for-tat. “You spill the beans about what I did with those seminarians, and I’ll spill the beans about [what you did with that woman] or [what you did with those funds] or [whatever awful things people do when they come into power].”

This may very well explain everything. But the only other explanation I have been able to find is somehow the worst of all, and it goes like this: “Well, after the scandals broke, we decided that we would have VIRTUS training, and that took care of predatory layman and priests, but there haven’t been sufficient channels put in place to report predatory bishops. So if anyone knew that a bishop was doing something wrong, there was simply no way to report it, even if it was a bishop himself who knew.”

What the hell does that mean? Are their phones broken? Does 911 not work when you get anointed bishop?  Can you not call the NYT like any other whistleblower? Do you lose your humanity when you put on a mitre?

This is what happens when you are so deeply entrenched in a group of your peers. You forget that there is an outside world. You forget you’re still free to act like any other human being would act, and so you don’t act. You just keep on frantically daubing at the chinks in the walls, where that awful light keeps getting in.

Bishop Scharfenberger gets it.

Bishop Gainer gets it.

Cardinal O’Malley gets it. He went after the Pope, for crying out loud, even though nobody had put channels in place for that to happen. That’s how you act when you’re a shepherd, not angling for lifetime membership in the Ole Shepherds Club.

Shepherds exist for the sake of the flock. They are supposed to be individual men who serve God by leading and serving the rest of the Church and the rest of the world. If they continue on this inward-spiraling, double-talking, no-response response, it becomes harder and harder to see why the group exists at all.

Even a compost heap is supposed to be shaken up every once in a while. You dig in with your shovels, you turn it over, you let the sun hit what was buried. I thank God for those bishops who are willing to dig in with their shovels, without worrying about how much of their own ground they’re undermining. Are there enough of them?

We laymen are watching, your eminences, and yes, we are praying for you. But right now, the view from outside the wall you’ve built is pretty grim.

 

Image By Jebulon [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

 

Your Eminence, you’re the archbishop of Shark City.

What’s coming up in August? The World Meeting of Families, of course. I saw an upbeat note about it on Twitter. August also brings Cardinal Wuerl’s latest “pastoral reflection” in which he responds to the latest agony of the Church as more layers of betrayal are uncovered. In the letter he explains the “documents” and “procedures” and “clearly articulated measures” and the “commitment [which] may serve as the nucleus of a more effective mechanism to ensure greater accountability among ourselves.”

You got a pen, your eminence?

Because right now, you’re the archbishop of Shark City, and people think you want the beaches open.

God have mercy.  As if what we need is yet another wretched document, another craven press release. The “effective mechanism” was described two thousand years ago, and it involves a millstone and a neck. You can’t just tell us you feel bad, and you can’t just demote the doddering old pervert McCarrick, wave vaguely in the direction of the sexual revolution, and consider your job done. Not while the sea is still full of sharks and you’re still hoping to cash in on August.

You can’t do this to us anymore. I want to hear the bishops acknowledging that we are their children, and they betrayed us. Priests are their children, and they betrayed them. Seminarians are their children, and they betrayed them. All in the name of saving August, in the name of money and prestige, in the name of acting in the Church’s best interest, so many of our bishops have betrayed us, and so many of them still won’t listen. They’re still trying to save face, still planning to keep the farce going.

I want to see bishops — many bishops — writing a pastoral letter that says, “Yes, I knew what McCarrick was doing. Yes, I knew what the seminaries were like. Yes, I got letters from whistleblowers. I didn’t do anything. I helped keep it quiet. I persuaded myself it was in the Church’s best interest to pretend these horrors weren’t happening, even though it was my job to protect and defend my flock. Please pray for me, because I betrayed Christ, I betrayed my office, and I betrayed you all, and so I resign.

There is no document that will be just as good. There is no one you can hire to take care of this problem, no check you can sign to make this problem go away. Go ahead and have the World Meeting of Families. Go ahead and keep the food pantries and the schools and the hospitals going. Go ahead and draft more reforms and form more committees. For God’s sake, go ahead and keep giving us the sacraments. But rend your garments. Rend your garments. If this was the work of your hands, then you must step down. If you betrayed us, you must step down.

Summer is over. To every bishop, I say: Your eminence, your kids were on that beach, too.

 

pdf version of this post

By Ewen Roberts from California (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Jesus knew about Uncle Ted

There is a permanent lump in my throat as I read the news about our Church, about who knew what, and who decided nothing should be done.

I read the news, and I don’t know what to do. I can’t see my way to withholding our paltry weekly contribution to the parishes we attend. Our money helps support the diocese, and also the soup kitchen, and the little parish school with paper flowers in the windows. Heating fuel in the winter, some modest vestments for Father. The AIDS outreach ministry. The salaries of kind, hardworking christians. And the diocese. I work for the diocese myself. Is our diocese rotten too? I have no idea. I’m told it’s naive to believe anyone and anything isn’t rotten in the Church anymore.

Last Sunday, I watched my son carry the heavy, brass cross up the center aisle. He loves being an altar boy, is downcast on the weeks when he’s not called to serve.  I’d been allowing myself to daydream of the moment when he might tell me he wants to be a priest. And now I must also think of the moment I’ll tell him how to protect himself in seminary, how to ward off attack from the depraved, how to keep himself innocent as he learns how to bring Christ into the world.

I don’t know what to do. Write to the bishop, I suppose. Demand more oversight by laypeople. Demand that they stop lobbying against extensions of the statute of limitations. Demand more transparency. I will do some penance. I will pray. I will listen to people who rage against the Church, and I will offer no defense, because all of it is true.

The answer I keep coming to: Jesus already knew. He carried the sin of Cardinal McCarrick in his butchered heart. He groaned the groan of a tortured seminarian as His back was laid open. His scalp split with the pressure of the thorny mass of lies, evasions, excuses, and accommodations as the decades passed and everybody knew, everybody knew what went on, everybody knew about Uncle Ted. And Christ knew about Uncle Ted. And He wept, and bled, and died, knowing.

You think you want to run away from the Church. You think you will find a place where there is not so much hypocrisy, so much entrenched evil, a place that isn’t built from layer upon layer of guilt and shame and depravity. You may find such a place, I don’t know. But you will not find in it a God who weeps and bleeds and dies, who has taken sin into His bosom, swallowed it whole, let it burn in His belly until it finally burns out. You will only find this God in the Holy Roman Rotten Catholic Church, where the depraved teach young men how to confect God.

It is a rotten church. But it is not rotten to the heart, because Jesus is the heart. There is more bloodshed there than I expected to see.  But Jesus is there. He knew about Uncle Ted, and He knew about everything else we’re about to find out. That is why He came. Remember this, whatever else we do.

 

Image: Jesus with Crown of Thorns by Follower of Aelbrecht Bouts [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Contest winners + I’m on The Catholic Podcast with Joe Heschmeyer

Sorry for the delay in the list of winners! Everyone on this list has been notified using the email they provided to enter the contest.

Monday
Christine Dumouchel
Julie Von Rotz

Tuesday
Victoria Treboschi
Theresa Hardy

Wednesday
Lori Magelky
Stacia Demeulenaere

Thursday
Jamie Piper
Jake Casey
Jessica Marsh

Friday
Rachel Nesbitt
Debbie McGeehan
Catherine Burnham

If you entered and see your name here and haven’t seen an email from me, please check your junk folder, or make sure that you didn’t provide an obsolete email to Rafflecopter. (If you entered using Facebook, Rafflecopter showed me the email address that is associated with Facebook.)

Congratulations! And thank you so much, one more time, to all the generous sponsors. You are wonderful.

Next order of business: I had a wonderful (well, that’s how I remember it) conversation about NFP, Humanae Vitae, chastity, and Jell-o with Joe Heschmeyer of The Catholic Podcast (unfortunately Chloe Langr, the regular co-host, couldn’t be there). You can hear the podcast here, and check out tons of other resources we mentioned in the conversation.

 

Friday: 3 monitors, 2 boxes of test strips, and a Marquette class!

It’s the final countdown! Or whatever. Today is the last day of my week of raffles. My lovely sponsors have donated no fewer than eight fertility monitors so far. Amazing! Pee on them in good health, my friends!

Today, there are three final prizes:

One monitor, donated by my friend Beth Brenner Wallace (prize for US winner)

One monitor and box of test strips, donated by Smart Loving (prize for winner in any country)

One monitor, box of test strips, and online introductory class with optional breastfeeding instruction and one year of follow-up, donated and taught by Lauren Vitale (prize for US winner)!

A little bit about Smart Loving:

SmartLoving has a range of programs for marriage enrichment and marriage preparation that aim to integrate Theology of the Body insights and modern psychology to give couples practical tools and spiritual nourishment to live the Catholic vision for marriage. We are currently investing in taking our programs into online learning to give affordable access to Couples all over the world to quality marriage enrichment and preparation.

Part of this mission is includes introducing couples to the actual Catholic teaching and vision for a couple’s fertility and promoting Fertility Awareness Methods of all kinds as an alternative to the ‘standard fare’.

See SmartLoving for more information!

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A bit about Lauren Vitale:

Lauren Vitale, who worked for many years as a pediatric nurse, says:

I first learned about the Marquette Method after my youngest child was born. Natural Family Planning while breastfeeding has specific challenges, and I found the objectivity of the Marquette Method gave me greater confidence. I was so encouraged that it motivated me to become an instructor in the Marquette Method and put my nursing knowledge to good use: helping women and couples know their fertility and be empowered to make decisions with confidence.

I have been teaching the Marquette Method since May of 2017 after being trained as an instructor through the Marquette University School of Nursing Institute for Natural Family Planning. I received my full certification in May of 2018 after completing the continued practicum through Marquette University. My training has given me the opportunity to truly appreciate the value of a research-based and scientific approach to Natural Family Planning by working with the researchers and developers of the Marquette Method. I have loved meeting so many amazing women and couples from all over the world, and I enjoy helping them learn and apply the Marquette Method to meet their family planning goals.

Read more about the Marquette method and Lauren’s practice here.

***

How do I enter? Use the Rafflecopter form below. Please be sure to use the right one for your country. It gives you several ways to enter. If the form doesn’t show up, click on the link that says “a Rafflecopter giveaway” at the bottom of the post. Only one prize per household.

How often can I enter? You may enter once per day, using as many ways of entering as you like (see form below for details). Two winners will be chosen M-W, three on Thursday and three on Friday. Each day is a separate raffle. Each raffle runs from midnight to midnight, eastern time.

Can I win if I live outside the US? Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are open only to US residents. On Thursday, there will be one prize for a US resident and two for UK residents; and on Friday, there will be two prizes for a US resident and one for a resident of any country. Please be sure only to enter the raffle for your country!

When will winners be announced? I’ll choose winners for each raffle every day on Monday through Friday. I’ll announce all the winners on Friday, or possibly on Saturday if I am a terrible person.
If you are a winner, I will notify you using the address you provided to Rafflecopter.

Do I have to provide my actual email address, even though I worry that you will use it to steal my soul and then go on a shopping spree at Forever 21? Yes, please use an actual email address. I don’t even want your soul. Your valid email is the only way I have of getting in touch with you if you win, so please make sure that when you sign up for Rafflecopter, you use an active address! If I can’t get in touch with you, I’ll pick a different winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway