Hey, girlfriend. Can you stop selling self-loathing?

Heyyyyy, girlfriend. Long time no chat! Missed you, girl! Do you have two secs to read a blog post that could change your life??? #whatsholdingyouback #investinyou #cannibalizeyourfriends

 

Okay, okay. Everybody likes to rag on MLM sellers. But as long as the promise of money is there, people are going to keep on trying to unload shakes, wraps, powders, gels, leggings, and of course oils on their friends, relatives, and sisters-in-law of niece’s friends that they met one time at that thing, girl!!

 

I know some folks do it because they just plain need the money, and can’t figure out any other way of getting it. I know what it’s like to need money. I remember feeling sorry for opium farmers who are just trying to feed their children. Growing opium is awful, but still, you do want to feed your children.

 

So I’m not going to tell you to stop trying to sell to me.But here’s what I am asking, since you make a point of selling stuff woman-to-woman: Can you sell your thing without telling normal women they look like crap? Can you do that?

 

I’m talking about when you post before and after pictures of women that have clearly been photoshopped, and you can actually see the bathroom door frame bending in along with the “after” waist. (Gosh, your wrap is so powerful, it actually warps space!)

 

Or when you share before and after pictures that have clearly been taken on the very same day, just with different outfits, better lighting, a smile instead of a schlumpy frown, and makeup instead of no makeup. (Heavens, this serum is so miraculous, it applies bronzer to your skin! )

 

Or even worse, un-doctored before and after pictures of women with a caption describing the “before” one as “puffy” and “bloated,” even though she’s slender and pretty and looks happy, but isn’t yet rail-thin. (Awesome, she’s smaller than I was when I was six, and also apparently an intolerable lard-monster.)  That one hurts.

 

Or maybe worst of all, a before and after picture where the “before” picture shows a woman who has just given birth. (Never mind that she still has her Pitocin IV in; why can’t this lazy cow fit into her high school prom dress yet?) That one really hurts. That one hurts all of mankind, when we tell the world it’s wrong to look like you’ve just had a baby when you’ve just had a baby.

 

I know you’re not going to stop trying to sell your stuff, but can you at least not sell it like that? For sisterhood, woman to woman, can you not do that?

 

I want to say I’m not stupid, and it’s true. I can spot a clumsy photoshop job a mile away, and I can tell the difference between “her skin has been radically transformed on a cellular level” and “she is now wearing eyeliner.” But I’m a lot more susceptible to the other kind of manipulation, that depends less on careless viewing and more on habitual self-loathing. I know when it’s happening, but its still effective.

 

My husband likes how I look, my little kids think I’m beautiful like a princess, and objectively speaking, I know I look fine, and sometimes quite nice. But show me enough photos of women who look like me, and then tell me they’re the loathed, detested, unacceptable “before” version, and I will start to listen with at least part of my ear. I start to think I’m fooling myself that I look okay. This is what you’re doing to me, because you want a commission.

 

Self-loathing is a hell of a drug, and just about anyone who markets products to women leans on it heavily. I’m asking you, as a woman selling to other women, not to do this. You can decide not to do this; and if any part of your marketing includes talk about sisterhood or women supporting each other or building relationships with your clients, you damn well ought to decide not to do this. If it’s personal, then act like a person, and don’t drum up business by making normal women feel ugly. I’m asking you for this one specific thing as you ramp up for the holidays: Choose not to tell women there is something wrong with them as they are.

 

I believe you when you say you think you have a good product. I believe you when you say you think your product is so much better than the cheaper version sold in stores. I believe you when you say you think your product really does something, and isn’t just a placebo. Most of all, I believe that you really need the money.

 

But if you truly believe you have a good product, you should be able to sell it on its merits, without training women to look at themselves with disgust so they’ll be more likely to order from you. Can you make the choice not to be part of the industry of self-loathing? Yeah, you can. Invest in yourself, girlfriend.

 

From Sessions to Synodality, can we please stay mad?

Something weird happened last week.

Okay, lots of weird things happened last week. If you stick with this post, you’ll find out what I think about the Pope and the Synod that went “splat.” But one weird thing that made me giggle was the spectacle of thousands of people streaming through the streets of the nation in righteous outrage to protest the unjust firing of . . . Jeff Sessions.

You remember Sessions, America’s darling, pictured here in happier times:

Tee hee, just a little joke. But you do recall that, when Trump picked Sessions for Attorney General two years ago, there was a lot of tooth gnashing, and not undeserved. The man does appear to be a bona fide nativist, if not a racist, and that’s why Trump chose him. Back in 2016, when Trump assumed he could utterly control him, Jeff Sessions was the new Jim Crow, said The Root, for instance. Nancy Pelosi, as many have pointed out, thought in 2017 that “anything less than [his] resignation or removal from office is unacceptable.”

But now 2018 is winding down and who is Jeff Sessions? Why, he’s the only thing saving us from being annexed by Russia, that’s all! La Pelosi now weighs in on the scandal of his resignation or removal from office that she demanded:

She’s right, of course. The Muller investigation is wrapping up and Trump hasn’t managed to fire his way out from under it yet, so he finally got rid of Sessions. And now everyone who very recently wanted to redecorate their condo with Jeff Sessions’ head on a pike is now weeping tears of blood because the Tyrant Trump has quashed our savior, Jeff Sessions.

Please don’t mistake me here: Everybody is terrible. Sessions is terrible, Trump is terrible, Pelosi is terrible. Russia is terrible. And one more time, for good measure: Trump. Terrible.

But also terrible is the terribly, terribly short memory of the news-consuming public. We can’t even remember what we were mad about six months ago, because right now there are different headlines in front of our faces. Different headlines, do you hear? And we forget what we’re supposed to be outraged about, and why, and who the perpetrator is.

I don’t actually care much about Jeff Sessions, but here’s something I do care about: The recent Synod, and how useless everyone knew it was . . . until the Pope quashed it.

A few weeks ago, every American lay Catholic who hasn’t been in a coma for the last five years was disgusted beyond measure with our bishops. After spending decades playing pervert valet, they finally got caught out; and they responded first with silence, and then by blaming priests and blaming the laity, and then by rolling out countless tone deaf, toothless, worse-than-useless statements and action plans.

We were pretty mad. One fellow on my Facebook wall (and I probably should have saved a screenshot for the FBI) wanted the bishops beheaded in St. Peter’s; but even those non-crazy among us wanted metaphorical heads to roll. We wanted mass resignations from the worst offenders, and we wanted true contrition, true repentance, and true reform. Remember?

And they offered us guidelines, mission statements, and ass-covering; they bought themselves pretty houses, were swatted down, and then bought themselves more pretty houses; and they gave each other awards for how much money they raised. They complained that donations were down.

Remember when Cupich said “we have a bigger agenda than to be distracted by all of this,”— “this” being the sex-abuse scandal and cover-up — and told a seminarian “I am sleeping OK”? I remember!

And so the one thing we all knew was the Synod was going to be useless. We were mad when they went ahead and whooped it up at World Youth Day, and we were violently skeptical that anything useful or self-aware could come from this group of men working together and overseeing each other.

And yet, the last few days of Catholic social media have been full of laymen outraged at the Pope for how he treated our beloved USCCB, for how he undercut, humiliated, and castrated them with his brutal, top-down swat-down. And that’s insane. I’m still mad at the bishops, and you should be, too. Nothing has changed except the narrative.

Don’t mistake me. I’m not defending the Pope’s actions or motives. The way he handled this situation was crappy. I pray for his soul and I pray that his future actions won’t cause more harm to the Church, but I don’t see a single reason to hope that he’ll suddenly become the man to dig out the institutional church’s deep, deep roots of corruption. I have given up on this pontificate. He doesn’t have some satanic plan to oversee the deliberate degradation of the Church;  he just doesn’t want to see how bad things are, he doesn’t want to know why they’re so bad, and most of all, he just plain doesn’t like it when people don’t knuckle under. Thus the stunningly bad optics of his actions, which predictably came across as “I heart child abuse.”

But for crying out loud, bad optics is all this is. Nothing more. Nothing good was spoiled here. Nothing worthwhile was quashed. No ground was lost. I say this with confidence despite not knowing the first thing about what the bishops decided in their synod, because there’s not a scrap of evidence that most of them (not all, but most) ever understood what the hell the problem even was. Unless Our Lady of Fed-Upness stopped in and smacked the synodial hors d’eouvres out of their hands and made them smarten up, I guarantee you they came out of there just as clueless and self-serving as they were when they filed in.

And so it’s bizarre and dispiriting to hear so many howls of despair over this allegedly crushing blow to synodality. Oh, no, they didn’t get to vote! Oh, no, the synod came to naught! So what? Remember who got us here. Don’t let the latest outrage sway your focus and turn the bishops into some kind of victims who are trying so hard to reform things but the mean pope won’t let them. That’s not what’s going on here.

As canonist Ed Peters said on Twitter:

While Rome has (needlessly but not illegally per Canon 455) forbidden US bishops from adopting NATIONAL standards for episcopal accountability, nothing prevents individual bishops from presenting PERSONAL provisions for same, whereupon other bishops might choose to copy them.

Let’s see some of that, your eminences. Let’s see how well you understand your flock and what they need. You wanted to be able to act, so let’s see some action. I haven’t given up on you. But I’ll need more than a “big bad pope” narrative to make me trust you.

 

 

 

****

We Are All Loyal Klansman image uploaded by Bcrowell at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain,

Photo by Simcha Fisher of painting titled “The Cardinal’s Portrait” by Toby Edward Rosenthal

What’s for supper? Vol. 150: Now and forever, let it be meat

I see this is a milestone edition, #150. The only conclusion I can draw is I’ve finally hit upon a surefire way to make sure I stick with something: Let it be meat.

A little music, maestro!

I bless the day I found food
I want to stay around food
And so I beg you,
Let’s go and eat.
 
Don’t take this bacon from one
If fat must cling to someone
Now and forever,

let it be meat.

Each time we eat, love
I find complete love
Without this meatloaf, 
what would life be?
 
So never leave me starving
Tell me that’s beef you’re carving
And that you’ll always
Let me go eat.
Ahem. Excuse me. Here’s what we had this week:
SATURDAY
Sugar rub chicken thighs, brats, chips

Damien made supper. Good stuff. Chicken rub recipe card below.

SUNDAY
Cuban sandwiches, cole slaw, mangoes

Something I’ve been thinking about for a while, Cuban sandwiches. Damien roasted the pork in a low oven, and then I sliced it and layered it on sourdough bread with mustard, Swiss cheese, ham, pickles, and more Swiss, and then grilled and pressed it. YUHM.
The cole slaw was very basic, just cabbage, mayo, vinegar, sugar, and pepper. I just needed to not serve chips or fries for once. The mangoes were good.

Overall, too much sweet in this meal, but I somehow forced myself to eat it.
MONDAY
Sausage, mushroom, and cheddar omelettes, home fries
I occasionally make omelettes to order, which is a pain in the neck, but it’s the only way I can come up with a decent omelette for me and Damien: By screwing up many, many other omelettes first. It seriously takes at least seven tries before I know what I’m doing. The first one, I’m like, “Hurr? Is the egg supposed to be in the shell or out of the shell? And is this a pan that one operates with one’s elbows?”
But by the time I get up to the adult omelettes, I am clear: You let the pan heat thoroughly before dropping on plenty of butter; you tilt it to spread the egg out evenly; you sprinkle your fillings on the side that’s less cooked, so you can flip the more-cooked side over more easily; you wait a little bit longer than you think you should have to before folding it over; and you approach the folding part with confidence, even arrogance. Eggs know when you are frightened, and they retaliate by splurting, damn their eyes. Ha!! Because “ei” in German is “egg,” and . . . that’s not a joke. Never mind.

The home fries or oven potatoes or whatever you want to call them are always a hit: Scrub and cut potatoes into wedges, cut some onions into big wedges, and mix it all up with olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic powder, paprika, whatever. Roast ’em up.

TUESDAY
Zuppa toscana, apple pie

Tuesday was, of course, (ptui ptui) election day, and the sky wept. It was drizzly and gusty and miserable and so were we all, so it was a good day for soup. It’s such a simple recipe, and you can add whatever you like. I liked olive oil, sausage, onions, red potatoes, plenty of kale, mushrooms, chicken broth, plenty of pepper, and half-and-half thickened with flour. (Recipe card below.)
After I made the soup and read some political commentary, I felt an urgent need to make some apple pie. I used the Fannie Farmer crust recipe, and had some help from my trusty pastry assistant.
Fannie Farmer is usually an honest gal and a straight shooter, but when she says “enough dough for a nine-inch two crust pie,” she’s lying through her teeth. I know this, and yet that’s the dough I made anyway. So I ended up making an open-face apple pie and covering the apple’s nakedness with ice cream.
Thanksgiving is coming. Do you know the pie crust secret? You chill the butter and then grate it on a cheese grater. This makes it so easy to incorporate into the dry ingredients without overworking it. Of course some of us prefer to overwork it.
I don’t really have an apple pie filling recipe. We peeled, cored, and sliced apples until it looked like enough, then added some flour, sugar, and cinnamon and a little salt, then stirred it up and piled it into the dough in the pan.
Then we added some dots of butter on top.
I covered the pie with a metal bowl for most of it so it wouldn’t dry out, and then took it off for the final ten minutes or so to brown up the edge crust.

You know what, let’s call it a galette. That galette got et.

WEDNESDAY
Grilled chicken on salad greens with almonds, feta, and cranberries Dominos

Guess who splurged on boneless skinless chicken tenders to cook up easily, and then never put them in the freezer? Hillary! I mean me. I did it. And it went bad. So I sent Damien out for pizza. We all agreed that whatever it is they sprinkle on their crusts (it’s garlic salt), it’s delicious and wonderful. It’s garlic salt.

THURSDAY

Spaghetti and meatballs
I have five pounds of ground beef, but the moths had gotten into the breadcrumbs. That’s what I get for laying up for myself breadcrumbs on earth. So I used what panko crumbs I had, and then made up the rest with an entire jar of parmesan cheese. Yeah, I’ll be doing that from now on. Yuhm.
I make my meatballs in the oven on a pan with drainage (this is an old pic, but it demonstrates how much grease you miss out on when you cook the meatballs this way)
then I transferred them into the IP on slow cook with the sauce, and let it simmer all day.

I also threw in a bunch of leftover sliced mushrooms and some leftover sausage, and life was good, at least while we were eating.

FRIDAY
Quesdillas with jalapenos and scallions

Actually, we’re probably headed to Applebees, since my son is in Mama Mia and I remember how important the after-show party at Applebees is, but I sure don’t want to drive into town and back one more stinking time.
Oh, we also made soul cakes last week. It’s supposed to be for All Soul’s Day, but from what I hear, dead people stay dead all throughout the month of November, so we made them late. (recipe in link above)
Someone remarked that she’s impressed at how often I let the kids help out in the kitchen.
This is something of an illusion, like when you take a picture of yourself on the rare days your hair looks awesome, and then years later you look through pictures and think, “Aw, my hair used to look so awesome all the time!” I will let the little guys grate cheese or mix stuff occasionally, and I will lean on the older kids to finish up meals if I’m out of the house, but in general, I find it very stressful to have kids in the kitchen when I’m cooking.
However, I remember how it was The Fun To Crown All Funs to cook and bake when I was little, so I do force myself to do it occasionally.
We do soul cakes once a year, and I approach it as an activity for the kids that I help with, not as a baking project that I let them help me with. Soul cakes is a good recipe to do this with, as they really aren’t very good, so the stakes are not high. They are basically thick, soft cookies, and have a mildly spicy, cider-y taste. They’re not bad, but they’re just, you know, brown. Sift a little powdered sugar on top and eat them hot.
Anyway! Here are some pictures of the kids making them, which I am posting to make you feel like an inferior mother. They are pictured wearing their church clothes. Usually they dress in stained rags with trashy sequins and immodest Walmart leggings with holes in the knee. Still feel bad? Blame Hillary, why the shit not.
Here’s the recipe cards for the week:

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

Cuban sandwiches

A spectacular way to use up leftover pork, but also worth cooking pork just to make these sandwiches

Ingredients

  • sturdy bread. We like sourdough
  • olive oil for grilling
  • pork roast, sliced thickly
  • sliced ham
  • mustard
  • Swiss cheese, sliced
  • sour pickles, sliced thinly

Instructions

  1. Make sandwiches in this order:
    Bread, mustard, cheese, ham, pork, pickles, cheese, mustard, bread.

  2. Brush grill and bread with olive oil. Grill sandwich for a bit, then press hard with something heavy. Turn and do the same on the other side. 

  3. If cheese isn't completely melted, put sandwich in a medium oven for a while. 

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. 




Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. sweet Italian sausages
  • 1-2 red onion(s), diced
  • 4 medium red potatoes, sliced thin with skin on
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • olive oil for cooking
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour

Instructions

  1. Squeeze the sausage out of the casings. Saute it up in a little olive oil, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. When it's almost done, add the minced garlic, diced onion, and sliced potatoes. Drain off excess olive oil.



  2. When onions and potatoes are soft, add flour, stir to coat, and cook for another five minutes. 

  3. Add chicken broth and half and half. Let soup simmer all day, or keep warm in slow cooker or Instant Pot. 

  4. Before serving, add chopped kale and sliced onions and cook for another ten minutes (or set Instant Pot for three minutes) until kale and mushrooms are soft. Add pepper. Add salt if necessary, but the sausage and broth contribute salt already. 

  5. This makes a creamy soup. If you want it thicker, you can add a flour or cornstarch roux at the end and cook a little longer. 

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

The GOP is forcing me to stop them because they won’t stop themselves

I’m a lifelong registered republican, and I’ll probably vote straight democrat today. I’m not trying to persuade anyone. I’m just telling you what I’m thinking, because I know there are plenty like me.

.

I’m pro-life, always have been. I’ve always voted for whoever seems the most likely to benefit unborn children. That’s the most important issue for me, because you can’t be any poorer than dead.

.

But there are no abortion-related battles in my state right now, and anyway, the moderate republicans are identical to the moderate democrats in practice on abortion issues. It may be different in your state.

.

Our current republican governor voted to expand Medicaid for another five years, and I’m tempted stick with him as a pro-life voter based on that. This is how I vote pro-life: I look at abortion first, and then I work my way outward to intertwined issues. The next closest pro-life issue is healthcare. This isn’t code for “I’m really pro-abortion, and I think it’s pro-woman to allow choice, but I’m co-opting pro-life language to salve my conscience.” Nope. I’m fiercely opposed to abortion, because it hurts women and children and men and society. I think republican policies tend to create conditions that make abortion seem necessary. It means nothing to say “You should give birth” but then make it impossible to survive giving birth unless you’re rich. But as I said, our current governor is about as pro-life as his democratic rival, and he did vote to expand Medicaid. So as a pro-lifer, I’m on the fence with that race.

.

Why am I on the fence? Why not just vote for the republican who more or less does what I hope he will do? Why even consider voting straight democratic ticket?

.

Because the republican party as a whole is directly responsible for Trump and for what he has done. It may be true to that there are multitudes of reasons Trump came to power, but it’s also true that you can blame original sin for the guy who knifed my tire, but I’m still gonna look at the guy actually holding the knife. And the guys egging him on, and the guys who held his jacket while he did it, and the guys already working on the “More Knifings 2020” campaign.

.

So yeah, the GOP is responsible for the 2016 election. And most importantly, they are responsible for what he and his coreligionists will certainly do more of as they get bolder and bolder, in the next election and in general. I love my country and I hate what they’re trying to turn it into. As a woman, as a Jew, as the granddaughter of immigrants fleeing poverty and violence, as a lover of the Constitution, as a parent who values decency and justice, and as a follower of Christ, I see no safety or goodness in the GOP as it exists today.

.

They’re not going to stop unless someone stops them. They’re just getting started. They need to be swatted down and told, “NO, this is not what we want our country to look like.” So I will most likely vote straight Democrat. There is very little else I can do, except love my neighbor.

.

I don’t want to vote democrat. I don’t like the democratic party. I don’t like most of the ideals at their core. They hold dear many values I have always found repugnant. But even in their errors they are recognizably American, and their mistakes can be remedied. That sets them apart from where I see the GOP taking us. The GOP is taking us down a road that leads off a cliff. These things do happen. You can ruin good countries. It could happen to us. It is happening to us.

.

I’m angry that the democrats are putting me in the same position that the republicans have done for so many years: saying “hey, we know you hate what we do, but what other choice do you have?” That’s not representation, and I’m angry that I’m not represented. This is not how the system is supposed to work.

.

But what I keep coming back to is this: We are becoming a nation that is learning to accept atrocities. Before atrocities happen, people must become accustomed to them, and this is where we are now. The worst are gleeful about what’s happening to us, and the best are measured and patient. That’s not good enough. If my grandchildren ask me what I did to stop atrocities from happening, at least I should be able to tell them I freaking tried to vote them out.

.

So that’s my course of action, as a voter, with very limited power. I’m not falling prey to relativism; I’m refusing to pretend there’s an easy solution. But you know who did have an easy solution? My party. My republican party, for whom I stood out in the snow with homemade campaign signs when I was eight years old, because they told me they loved our country and I believed them. They’re the ones who could have done the easy thing and stopped Trump and Trump wannabees in their tracks.

.

They had so many chances. My party had a chance to not nominate him. They had a chance to not support him. They had a chance to repudiate him and his rhetoric. They had a chance to distance themselves from his policies. They had chance after chance after chance to constrain the ugliest impulses of the far right, and they decided not to, over and over again. In many cases, they modeled their approach after his, which in turn emboldened individual citizens to do the same.

.

They didn’t stop him. So it’s up to me. I usually vote for or against individual candidates based on their merits, but today the GOP as a whole needs to be swatted down. They are irredeemably polluted.

.

If republicans had done the right thing, I’d be voting for them now. But they didn’t, and so I won’t. It’s not a punishment or revenge. It’s an emergency.

mister fat plush: a search terms poem

i. chico marx and tallulah bankhead

grapefruit spoons
cannoli shells
simcha fisher hock

brown stain ceiling
catholic dying
medjugorje hoax

dolpih poorn
wiggle low
medjugordje fake

sexblog
sex.blog
feshar sex
homeschool catholic horny

ii. timothy o’donnell uh resigns

went to school and i was very nervous
irration fear of prostitutes
get berserk island cup cakes
poren caren fisher

should single women be allowed to row boats
do i have to obey my husband catholic
what to do when your nipples throbes
is medjugorje a hoax

the bible said woman breastfed your husband very well?
short women’s breasting feed men
why do people say i’ve been so blessed
where does simcha fisher live

moms think i m dad
thrilling sex
frog and toad tomorrow

responsibility and men
what i don’t belong down
medogorje is a fake!! and then some

****

****

Do you have a website? I want to hear your search terms poem! The only rule is you can’t change anything, but you have to use the search terms as they appear on your dashboard. Warning: You will not end up feeling better about your readers.

More poetry composed entirely of search terms that sent people to my site:

moral obligation to vaccinate simcha fisher

visions of women who went to hell because of wearing trousers

i want to turn into a dog but how?

people accidentally swallowing moths in sleep

i feel so moron

 

 

 

Dora’s Terrifying Halloween Playlist!

Today, it’s my daughter Dora’s turn to be world famous in Poland! Here is her playlist of Halloween music, which certainly reflects her diverse upbringing. It certainly does.

WEREWOLF BAR MITZVAH from 30 Rock:

SPOOKY SCARY SKELETONS (Remix)
(Warning: I’ve never heard this before and it instantly gave me a headache. Argh!)

For reasons I can’t explain, I scrolled down to the comments on YouTube, and this caught my eye:

So you can see that robust discourse is alive and well in America today.

Next, a song I loathed the first time I heard it at age 10. It just pissed me off, and when I finally saw the movie, I was even madder. It ought to be taken out and shot. Yeah, yeah, Bill Murray made it watchable. Oh no, when else will we have a chance to see Bill Murray on fillum? Anyway, sorry, Dora. Here’s your song:

Palate cleanser! WEREWOLVES OF LONDON by Warren Zevon

This one, I endorse. A great antidote, and it shows how a pop song can be catchy and repetitive without being maddening.

Next! More werewolves with this timeless classic from MST3K, WHERE, O WEREWOLF

Okay, I have mixed feelings about Oingo Boingo, but if you had to be around for the 80’s, you could do worse:

Dora also included Weird Science, but I saw this movie in the theater, too, and I’m still angry over losing my three dollars. You can hear the song (which is, admittedly, the least intolerable part) here.

The inescapable and inexplicable MONSTER MASH by Bobby Pickett:

Then look what happened. The poor SOB found himself on TV again a few years later with THE MONSTER SWIM. But check it out:

“He always said that he had the best kind of celebrity that there is, since no one really recognized him and he was never really bothered but everyone knew the song,” says Nancy Joy Huus, Pickett’s daughter. Given up for adoption when she was a baby unbeknownst to Pickett, Huus and Pickett later reunited and enjoyed a close relationship preceding his death, with Huus being a fan of the track throughout her life without knowing it was her father who was singing. “When I found him, he was out-of-his-mind thrilled since he thought he was going to grow old alone. I still remember the night I told my kids that Grandpa is the ‘Monster Mash’ singer.”
Aw!
Next, the immortal Cash with GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY
This video is immensely cheesy, but Corrie insisted this was the version we want:
  

SCOOBY DOO THEME from 1969, because why not?

She includes SWEET DREAMS ARE MADE OF SEVEN NATION ARMY. Why? I dunno.

IT’S ALMOST HALLOWEEN by Panic! At the Disco. This is essentially a Wiggles song, but what are you gonna do.

Okay, M1 A1 by Gorillaz. Definitely an acquired taste. This song tests your patience, for sure, but I hear what she’s hearing.

Dora also included DRACULA, which apparently I’m too old for.

PSYCHO KILLER by The Talking Heads
This is, uhm, one of Corrie’s favorite songs.
REMAINS OF THE DAY from Corpse Bride
Tim Burton, which I spell with a capital meh. Still, Danny Elfman. He knows what he’s doing.

Legitimately scary: SILVER by The Pixies

And finally,

DECOMPOSING PUMPKINS by Brainkrieg (via Homestar Runner)

Next up is my mom getting back from book club! So we’ll all need to get out of the way, so she can pull in.

And what’s on your essential listening list for Halloween?

Disappointing holidays are hard on mom. This is normal.

Why is your toddler lying on the sidewalk writhing around like an angry centipede? Or why is she scowling like a gargoyle and refusing to get out of her stroller?

Most likely because it’s Halloween, and we know who the real monster is: It’s you, the mom. You’ve gone to great effort and expense to buy or make the Halloween costume your child asked for repeatedly. You’re going out and doing a fun, special thing, and she likes fun, special things. You’re giving her candy, and she likes candy. People are making a fuss over how cute she is, and she wants people to make a fuss over how cute she is. HOW DARE YOU, MOM.

All of my kids have acted this way for their first several Halloweens. They are dying to go trick-or-treating, and they’re super excited about it for weeks ahead of time; but when they time actually comes . . . forget it, mom. It’s Toddlertown.

If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I would have warned you not to put a lot of time, effort, or money into a toddler costume, because chances are very good that costume will go to waste. Exhibit A: Here is child, age 2.5, who asked repeatedly to be Dashi for Halloween. Then, in the days before Halloween, she insisted on wearing her sister’s Wonder Woman costume morning, noon, and night. Halloween comes, and this is what she actually wore:

This was after she had three tantrums and tried to bite everyone who offered her candy. She is wearing two different shoes. I was fine with this, because I’ve been a mom for 21 years, and I have learned to recognize “she isn’t currently biting anyone” as a howling success. Here is a more typical toddler Halloween experience from a previous year:

I forget what costume it was I painstakingly made for her, but she sure ain’t wearing it. Her face is smeared with Snickers and tears. Happy day!

Here’s one more: The child is wearing a “pink mummy ghost” costume, whatever that is, and it keeps getting caught in the stroller wheels:

and everyone was mad at everyone else. That was our Halloween, while the rest of the country was enjoying a perfect day of cute happy fun cozy pumpkin spice adorable! Or so it seemed.

The first few times toddler Halloween bombed, it was really tough for me. Like, ridiculously tough. So tough that, in retrospect, it was clearly about more than Halloween.

Part of it was because, as a new mom, I was fairly young myself, and it hadn’t been that many years since I was the trick-or-treater. Even though I loved my babies and was glad to be married, I also routinely dealt with a lot of feelings of loss and deprivation, because suddenly I couldn’t eat what I wanted, spend my time how I wanted, eat what I wanted, or even sleep when I wanted. Basically all of my old comforts were gone. That was so much harder than I felt like it ought to be! I wanted to be an excellent wife and mother who was lovin’ every minute of it, and I didn’t cut myself enough slack for learning how to deal with a life that had been turned upside down.

I felt this all the time, but especially on holidays. Heck, here’s one of our trademark cozy happy family Christmas Eves:

Merry and bright indeed.

So. Holidays carry a lot of emotional freight, and it’s very normal to feel like it’s Very Important to do them right, for several reasons:

-so you can recreate the happy times you remember from your own childhood,
-so you can rescue what was unhappy about your childhood, and do it right now that you’re in charge,
-so you can prove to everyone, especially the skeptics, that you are an A#1 mom,
-or even just so you can feel like you get to have some fun for once, in the midst of an endless stream of spit up and poop and cracker crumbs.

Instagram and other platforms just ratchet up all these pressures, because everyone else seems to have it together. For weeks now, moms who are better than you have been sharing gorgeous photos of their little homemade punkin sitting cheerfully on a sanitary bale of hay with plenty of corn stalks and bokeh in the background. And your kid, lest we forget, is writhing around on the sidewalk like a centipede.

Holidays are intense, and you may find yourself really bearing down on your little kids to make special days be what you (maybe subconsciously) want them to be. This leads, of course, to everyone being miserable on a day that’s supposed to be especially pleasant, so you can add guilt to the other stinking pile of unpleasant emotions. What to do?

The best way I know to deal with this: Try to take the long view.

Remind yourself that days are just days. No holiday is an all-or-nothing event that proves anything about yourself or your life. They’re just dates on the calendar. It’s okay to want to have stuff for yourself — the nice picture, the happy experience, the cute occasion. There’s nothing wrong with wishing you can have it, so don’t beat yourself up over wanting it. But remember that you’re in this — parenthood and marriage — for the long haul, and there are very few individual make-or-break days; and they almost never match up with Hallmark’s schedule.

Looking back, I have only a few memories of holidays that were perfect holidays, but many, many happy memories of random Thursdays that happened to go well, or unexpected mornings with floods of sweetness for no particular reason. That’s just how life be. So train yourself to notice and relish and cherish those memories, so that you value them as much as they deserve to be valued.

And for the days when things fall flat? Train yourself to just sort of lean in to saying, “Yeah, this is a disappointment. I am disappointed. But it’s just one day, and there will be many, many other special days to come. My goal today is to try not to completely lose my dignity.”

But what if you’re still feeling those big feelings? How do you manage them? A good first step it is to be honest with yourself about why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. So if you realize (or someone tells you) you’re overwrought, take some time to work out why, exactly, the stakes are so high for you.

Is it because you feel like you’re not as good as your other mom friends? Is is because you think you’re a good mom but you think other people don’t think so? Is it because you’re feeling neglected yourself and could use some fun or a day off? Or what?

These are things you can address — but not if you keep telling yourself it’s really truly only all about this damn bee costume, and if you could just get the wing lace to go on straight, you’d stop crying. It’s probably not about the bee costume! It’s probably about you and your life as a mom, and it’s normal for a new mom to be overwrought. Why should you have it under control? Do you become an instant expert at anything else? Then why should you be an instant expert at being a mom, including an expert at dealing with mom emotions?

Motherhood is hard. Mother emotions are hard. As a mother of toddlers, elementary school kids, high school kids, and college kids, I can tell you that all stages of it are hard (at least so far!); but there are so many hard things about those first few years. If you’re feeling a lot of big feelings, you’re in good company. Motherhood is big, and it takes a long, long time to grow into it. Be patient with yourself. Have a Snickers, take a smeary picture, and let yourself be disappointed for a while. There’s always next year, and all the years to come.

Anti-vaccine talk cancelled at Catholic Church

A Catholic New Hampshire parish announced plans to sponsor an anti-vaccine speech, then abruptly cancelled it after protest from parish staff and other laymen.

Ste. Marie in Manchester, NH announced last week they’d be hosting a talk called “Vaccine Inflation” by Jenna Pedone, who describes herself as “a Registered Pharmacist for 20+ years with experience in retail pharmacy and pharmaceutical sales [who] has for over two years vigorously studied and reviewed vaccine science and ingredients as a concerned parent and healthcare professional.”

Pedone said she “studied under Dr. Sherry [sic] Tenpenny in her Mastering Vaccine Info course in 2018.”

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny is an osteopath who believes vaccines cause autism, food allergies, and speech impediments. She advocates a total refusal of vaccines and antibiotics. Tenpenny rejects germ theory and has no specialized training in infectious diseases, immunology or microbiology. When Gabrielle Giffords was shot, Tenpenny blamed vaccines.

The “Mastering Vaccine” course she offers, which consists of a series of online “modules,” explicitly promises to train participants to influence others in their churches to reject vaccines.

As a Catholic, I was alarmed to see the church sponsoring what was clearly going to be an anti-vaccine presentation marketed as information for “prolife Catholics.” The graphic Pedone provided for her speech shows pills marked with five-dollar bills.

Although vaccines are not administered in pill form, the image suggests that vaccines are promoted for financial reasons. I contacted Pedone for more information on the content of her speech. She told me:

I want to empower Catholics young and old to do their OWN research, trust their gut, believe in the immune system God have them. I was initially struck by something my pastor said about no boys being ordained this year in our diocese. It prompted me to email him sharing what I have researched about how vaccines are destroying our boys brains and how at the rate we are vaccinating, 1 in 2 boys will be autistic by 2030 so who will run our churches? Who will father our children and grandchildren? I want people to leave the talk feeling empowered that they don’t need a medical degree to learn about vaccines and health for their family and grandparents.

Pedone is apparently referring to a 2014 claim by a “senior research scientist at MIT” that half of all children will be autistic by 2025.

The scientist in question, Stephanie Seneff, is trained in computer science and has no training in epidemiology. She made her startling claims about autism based the assumption that correlation is causation, and that trends will always continue at the same rate.

But the rate of autism spectrum disorder diagnoses is not increasing. It has stabilized in recent years in the US, and most researchers believe that the apparent increase in autism in the past decade was due to improvements in diagnoses, and not to an increase in actual cases. In other words, it’s likely that more children do not have autism these days; we have simply become better at understanding what autism is and at recognizing it.

No study has ever established a causal connection between vaccines and autism. Countless studies have looked for and found no causal connection.

Moreover, boys with autism can and do grow up to father children and become priests.

Pedone said when she proposed making her speech at Ste. Marie, she did not speak to the pastor directly, but she had spoken to his secretary. Pedone said the secretary “was open to people seeing the information of which vaccines contain fetal DNA. People can learn and then make their own determination.”

No vaccines contain fetal DNA. Some vaccines are produced using cell lines derived from fetal tissue. Researchers have debunked reports suggesting that vaccines produced from fetal cell lines are “tainted.”

But even if these vaccines are safe, are they ethical, since they are derived from cell lines obtained through abortion? Pedone said that her speech would include “what to know as a prolife Catholic if you are going to follow the CDC recommended vaccine schedule.”

The Church has issued a statement about what pro-life Catholics need to know before they vaccinate:

The Church has asked us to protest against the practice of producing vaccines using cell lines derived from fetal tissue, to demand ethical vaccine production, and to ask for ethical alternatives if they are available; but the Pontifical Academy for Life has said it is ethical to use these vaccines. It says that doctors and parents who use vaccines produced unethically participate only in “a form of very remote mediate material cooperation” with the evil of abortion. Another example of remote mediate material cooperation is paying taxes as a citizen of a large country which may use some miniscule portion of that money to fund some unethical activity.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center says:

One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.

[…]

There would seem to be no proper grounds for refusing immunization against dangerous contagious disease, for example, rubella, especially in light of the concern that we should all have for the health of our children, public health, and the common good.

After I talked to Pedone, I contacted Ste. Marie to ask for more information about the speech. On Wednesday, Fr. Moe Larochelle called me to say that the talk had been cancelled, and that the cancellation would be announced in the bulletin and at Mass.

He said that he did authorize the speech, but at the time, he was not aware of how much controversy surrounds vaccines.

“Jenna [Pedone] presented it as if she were just giving information, so people could decide for themselves,” he said.

Once he became aware that the topic was much more controversial than he realized, he decided to simply cancel the speech, since there wasn’t enough time to organize a speaker who could present an opposing point of view. He said the parish did not want to create the impression that they were promoting any particular point of view.

He said that, in the future, if someone proposes giving a presentation on the topic, especially since it involves bioethics, the parish will handle it as they would handle a political presentation. “Now that I know, before I do anything, I’ll call the diocese,” he said.

Tom Bebbington, Director of Communication for the Diocese of Manchester, said that the diocese does not routinely give pastors or parishes guidelines about what kind of talks or presentations can be sponsored by the parish.

Bebbington said “there is no process for those invited by pastors/parish staff to speak in parishes. The concern is that it would too much for us to handle, especially for seasonal missions in parishes (e.g., Lent).”

The number of unvaccinated children in the US has quadrupled since 2001, and recent outbreaks of chickenpox, pertussis, measles, Hib, and pneumococcal disease have been traced back to vaccine refusal. Non-medical exemptions for vaccines, including religious exemptions, are on the rise in many states.

Our pastors are responsible for keeping abreast of innumerable kinds of information, and they may need our help in understanding how fraught the topic of vaccines is, and how much dangerously flawed information, both medical and ethical, is being circulated about the topic.

The “Vaccine Inflation” talk at Ste. Marie’s was cancelled because staff at the church and a number of concerned parishioners understood how problematic the upcoming speech would be, and they were able to dissuade him from allowing it to appear that the Church sanctions the ideas the talk contained. All educated Catholics who understand the importance of vaccines, for individual health and for the safety of the community, should ready to do the same.

Just as Catholics have an obligation to push for the production of more ethical vaccines and the obligation to protect the vulnerable from preventable diseases, we have an obligation to be vigilant, guarding our local parishes from even the appearance of condoning pseudo-science and pseudo-ethics. We must be well informed about our medical and ethical responsibility surrounding vaccines, and we must be prepared to speak up when dangerously erroneous information makes its way into our communities, especially under the guise of pro-life concerns.

What’s for supper? Vol. 147: Kimchwho?

When I sat down to plan my weekly menu, I looked through all my recipe emails, supermarket flyers, my bank account, and my calendar.

They all said in chorus: You will be eating a lot of chips and frozen food this week. And so it came to pass.

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips

That is what we had. Not even the pretense of a vegetable.

Oh, I forgot, though, I have a pretty cake to show you! This was Friday, and I was pooped. I had finished two essays, sent off invoices, did an interview, prepped dinner and did not strangle the toddler, even she was super asking for it.  Time to go! As I grabbed up my keys to launch into afternoon errands before I could go home and collapse, I suddenly realized . . .

I had to do another interview and make a birthday cake.

The sound that escaped the gates of my teeth was not a happy sound.

But I made my excuses for the interview, filled my pockets with fruit snacks, dragged the toddler where she needed to be dragged, and made all my stops, including buying cake stuff. (Just a box cake and a tub of icing. I am not a masochist.) Got that thing baked, cooled, frosted, and decided it was going to be an autumn tree cake. Not well-thought-out, but look! It’s bright!

The leaves are hard candy that was smashed, melted into thin sheets, cooled, and re-smashed.

I put waxed paper on a pan and sprayed it with cooking spray. Then I put butterscotch and cinnamon hard candies in bags (double bags, because the seams break) and smashed them with a can, because I couldn’t find a hammer. Then I spread the pulverized candy in the pan and put it in a 250 oven for . . . sorry, I don’t know how long. Maybe 20 minutes, until it was melted. I let it cool, then snapped it into jagged little bits for leaves. It would have been better if I had had more colors and had let them mix more. I also sprinkled little red balls and gold sugar over it to give it more texture. This actually works better with Jolly Ranchers, but they weren’t in the colors I wanted.

I have used this technique for a campfire cake

I think I may have shared these cake pictures before, actually. Oh well. I have also made some cakes with sugar glass, which I made from scratch, but now I’m wondering if I could just use those terrible clear minty hard candies and save a lot of work. Anyway, kids are always impressed. Here is a Frozen cake, with sugar “ice”:

and a “broken glass” cake, with food coloring blood:

We also use crushed and melted hard candy for stained glass cookies, very pretty.

and — ooh, this is an old picture! That baby is Benny — for  a”make your own lollipop” party activity.

 

SUNDAY
Sausage subs with onion and pepper, onion rings, ghost pops

Sunday is usually the day I’ll make a more complicated meal, but we went apple picking after Mass. You think I’m going to have a ton of apple recipes now, but no. The apples were kinda spotty and weird. But there was a horse!!!!!!!!!!

Knowing we’d be home late, I opted for an easy and crowd-pleasing dinner. Lot of sweet Italian sausages browned up and cut lengthwise, lots of onions and green peppers sauteéd in olive oil, served on rolls with pasta sauce and parmesan. Frozen onion rings.

I had the older kids supervise the younger kids to make rice krispie ghost pops.

This picture kills me. Look at Benny’s face. Look at Corrie’s ghost’s face.

Hee hee.

It was a kit that came with ghost-shaped molds, icing, and sticks, but it would be pretty easy to make these without a kit, she said while lying on the couch and telling other people what to do. Pretty easy indeed.

MONDAY
Hot dogs and fries

I don’t remember Monday. I never remember Mondays. I think there was a cross country meet. I think it rained and froze and the morning glories died. I think I cleaned out a closet and found what was making that dead mouse smell (a dead mouse).

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers and chips

There was a concert on Tuesday. I liked it, and no one was beatboxing, so I didn’t have to say “boo-urns” under my breath while I clapped.

WEDNESDAY
Greek chicken salad with toasted pita

Wednesday was a bit less busy, so I bestirred myself a bit for supper. I coated some chicken breasts with olive oil, and put on plenty of salt and pepper, garlic powder, and dried basil and oregano so they were really crusty with seasonings, then roasted and sliced them, and served that over salad with various olives, feta cheese, cukes, grape tomatoes, diced red onions, and hummus.

I also made up a batch of yogurt sauce with Greek yogurt, lemon juice, minced garlic, and salt, and I cut pita bread into triangles and toasted it in the oven with olive oil, garlic powder, and salt.

Toasted, salty, garlicky pita bread triangles, with crunchy tips and warm, chewy insides are way more delicious than they have any right to be.

Although if you put olive oil, salt, and garlic powder on dead leaves and toasted them, I’d probably eat that, too.

THURSDAY
Korean beef tacos with kimchi and Sriracha mayo, and rice

Bit of a chance here. I tried a new recipe from Damn Delicious. Much of the family likes the Korean Beef Bowl recipe, and this beef is basically that, but not quite as sweet. I cooked it in the morning and then put it in the crock pot for the rest of the day.

Okay, so, kimchi. I’ve never had kimchi before, but have long enjoyed a sort of low-simmering curiosity about it. I didn’t think most of the family would like it, so it didn’t seem worth making myself; so I bought a jar. I was a little alarmed at the warning on the cap:

Hm, bulge. My mother had always regaled us with horrible stories of people whose cans of lima beans were bulging, but they ate them anyway, and then they had to have their legs amputated or something. If you even smell it, it could kill you! Your eyeballs would go bursting out of your skull with a sickening pop! Or something. I wasn’t really listening, because I didn’t like lima beans at the time. Anyway, this jar was definitely bulging. Sure, it said it was supposed to be, but what if it was intentionally bulging and botulism bulging? How would I know?

I figured I would taste a little bit, and if I died, well, at least I would die knowing what kimchi tastes like. So I leaned carefully over the sink, draped a napkin over the lid as suggested, and twisted as hard as I could . . .

even harder . . .

sheesh, hard lid to get off . . .

. . . GRRRRRRRRR . . . . .

. . . RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

–and then KABLAMMO! The cabbage came surging out like a living thing! Like the violent urgency of life itself! I’m telling you, this kimchi needed a Rite of Spring soundtrack!

It also got on my shirt, bleh.

So I sauteéd it up with some sugar in a pan, and we had tortillas with beef, caramelized (okay, it didn’t really caramelize. It never really caramelizes) kimchi, mayonnaise with Sriracha stirred in, and a bunch of cilantro and fresh limes. It was . . . a little challenging. It was sort of like when an Afro-Cuban bembé comes on the radio and you’re like, “Oh, this is neat! This is so — wait — it’s — what? — help!” because you really want to dance to it, but you’re just too damn white. What I’m trying to say is, I liked it, but I also only ate one.

Actually, I made a bunch of rice, and I had extra rice with lime juice and kimchi. I’m like Area Grandmother. Very familiar with rice, thanks.

FRIDAY
Tuna boats

So I went to my new spiritual director and he asked how I was, and I said I was pretty good, and he said, “Oh, we won’t be needing these today!” and he jokingly took the tissues away, but then I cried anyway. And that’s what kind of food blog this is. Natural bubbling and pressure. Just lay a napkin over the top, it’s fine.

The Church is someone, not something

The internet will teach you how to turn a “no” into a “yes.” The phrase  appears in tutorials designed for salespeople, but also in more sinister contexts.  In militant men’s rights groups, there are forums and even study guides that teach men how to manipulate women and extract the sexual goodies they want from them.

They understand that, in these whacky times, women may pursue legal prosecution for rape or assault if you don’t listen to their “no;” so men who consider sex a right coach each other on how to pressure, manipulate, disorient, confuse, and guilt women into yielding a reluctant but legally watertight “yes.” Rather than being ashamed of this gross display of inhumanity, these men preen themselves on their skills. They know that, if they are challenged for their behavior, they can point to their victim’s coerced consent, and then she will be blamed for what happened to her.

Healthy men would vomit at the very idea of approaching a woman this way. No man enjoys rejection, but they do understand that women are human, and shouldn’t be treated like an object whose body and will can be forced into whatever position you like. No means no. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept it.

I’ve heard this approach before, in an entirely different context. I’ve heard this refrain of “I hear your ‘no,’ but I refuse to accept it, and I even feel proud of my persistence. So I’m going to keep chipping away at you with everything I’ve got in hopes that you’ll give in and let me have what I think I’m entitled to.”

Here’s what I hear:

“All the other churches go along with this stuff, so why won’t you? What’s wrong with you? Why are you so uptight?”

“Of course I love you, Catholicism! That’s why I want to see you change.”

“No one can possibly love you, you Catholic Church, if you keep on acting this way. I’m the only one who could put up with you, and you better give in, or I’ll leave, too.”

It’s the language of Catholic dissenters — including myself, at times, to my shame. It’s the language of people who have heard her say “no” very clearly — “no” to contraception, “no” to women priests, “no” to gay sex. But they love her, they say, so they just keep chipping away, threatening, negging, pressuring and wheedling, priding themselves on their persistence in trying to wear her defenses down, to turn her “no” into a “yes.”

When we hear pressure and threats from a would-be rapist who clearly despises women as much as he craves their companionship, it’s easy to see these tactics for what they are: Abuse. An abuser allows himself to speak this way because he doesn’t really recognize the humanity of his victim. He sees her primarily as something that could potentially deliver what he wants, if only she would know her place and cooperate with his demands. He sees her primarily as a thing, and not as a person.

I am here to tell you that the Catholic Church is a person. It is the Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ has a right to her bodily autonomy. She is not here to assume whatever position will satisfy our current appetites, whether they’re intellectual or spiritual or psychological or social. The Church is Someone, not something, and she has the right to say “no.”

Now let me make some disclaimers, because I know I’ve said something tough to hear.

When I talk about people pressuring the Church to change, I’m not talking about people who are sincerely struggling, even angrily struggling, bitterly struggling, fearfully struggling with some of the hard teachings of the faith. Healthy relationships have struggles. I struggle, sometimes angrily or bitterly or fearfully, with some fundamental teachings of the Church, just as my own beloved husband almost certainly struggles with some of the things that make me fundamentally me. It’s not always easy being in love. So I’m not saying that struggling with doctrine is abuse. Struggle is normal, and struggling with the Church does not make us abusers.

And more importantly, I’m not saying that the Church is not in need of change. God knows it is badly in need. Sometimes there are things about your beloved that ought to change, and insisting on that change sometimes truly is an act of love. Many loving spouses will eventually find occasion to hold their beloved to account for intolerable behaviors which must be changed if the marriage can survive; and so it it is with faithful Catholics and the Church. Wanting to reform what is wrong in the Church does not make us abusers.

Does the Church need reform? Oh literally sweet Jesus, yes. The hierarchy and much of its pastoral authority is deformed almost beyond recognition. They don’t even seem to realize that they have lost our trust and need to work to regain it. There are abusers in power. There are structures in place that make it impossible to hold abusers and their enablers to account. There are too many ways to keep horrible secrets; too many places for abusers to hide. God’s word is used to shout down victims and their defenders and to amplify hypocrites, opportunists, and predators. This is the state of the Church today. These are the things that must, please God, change.

But these grotesqueries, these deformations, are not who the Church herself is. They are like parasites living off the Body of Christ. They fight like mad to preserve their host, not because they love her, but because they need their daily feeds. They must be scoured away so that the body of Christ can be pure again. I don’t know how, but I see it must be done.

But there is change, and there is change. If we want to preserve our loving relationship with the Body of Christ and not unwittingly fall into patterns of abuse against her, we must learn to make the distinction between who the Church is, and what her members and her representatives do — what they have done, in fact, to her. The latter must often be changed; the former is inviolable.

We can learn who the Church is by what she teaches, what she says. And sometimes, what she says is “no.” This is inviolable. She is inviolable.

Lately, we have perhaps become used to thinking of the Church as the abuser. So many people have been maligned, mistreated, guilted, shamed, or literally raped by those who call themselves the Church. But we must see clearly. Those who abuse and enable abuse in the name of Christ are not the Church; they are to the Church as a pimp is to a sex slave. They will defend her, not because they love her, but because she brings them power and money. They are the ones who must repent and reform, not her. She is the victim. She is not the one who needs to change. The Church is a person, and she has the right to say “no,” both to those who abuse her outright, and to those who want to blame her for being abused.

We will not purify the Body of Christ by attacking what and who she is, and that includes what she says. No means no. Like anyone whose demands have been rejected, we don’t have to like it, but we do have to accept it, especially if we say you love the Church. She is someone, not something. When she says “no,” she means “no.”

 

Image: detail of photo by Stefano Merli via Flickr (Creative Commons)