Catholic


Slide1Let’s face it. Most of us are here on this earth because our parents had sex. As honest as this statement is, it likely makes people squirm. Who wants to think about their parents naked, sweaty and humping one on top of the other or grinding side-by-side on the dining room table or in the back seat of the car or in the tent next to you in Yosemite National Park? Certainly, not me. I’d rather scratch my eyes out. Our squirminess and discomfort points to a huge problem in our nation. While the common hegemonic sentiment of America is one of superiority, in reality, we Americans have failed miserably to accept and fully embrace our human sexuality. More specifically, we have failed to apply scientifically-sound and medically-accepted knowledge in public health and public education to benefit those who engage in sexual activity safely and responsibly. And who is responsible for this failure? I’d argue that those responsible are a misguided minority with their knickers in a knot over human sexuality. They go by many names but together they’re really the self-appointed morality police who run for political offices mostly on a conservative ticket, who prey on women outside abortion clinics, and who work for or are members of organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the Catholic Church or Operation Rescue. These morality cops are all about promoting abstinence only sex education in schools, sustaining propaganda campaigns about the evils of masturbation, telling bald-faced absurdities about a raped woman’s body shutting down a potential rape-related pregnancy, denying the spectrum of sexual expression, and ignoring the scientific data about the safety and efficacy of contraception and abortion. Sexual behavior for these folks certainly seems, well, icky on so many levels. And we as a nation pay a stiff (no pun intended) penalty.

In addition to their narrowly informed heteronormative perspective on sexuality, this minority further constrains natural human sexuality with their religiously informed myths about intercourse being only for procreation. Doesn’t that just take the fun out of an afternoon romp in the sack for post-menopausal Auntie Joyce and Viagra-defunct Uncle Tony? Such a heterosexist view clearly ignores the sexuality of our LGBT brothers and sisters.  It also ignores the perfectly natural practice of going it alone because, in their worldview, the two concepts—pleasure and masturbation—are the work of Lucifer. And such a view surely ignores those lovely, lively priests with predilections for little boys. But I digress.

Let me say a bit more about some of the religious conservatives’ bias in favor of opposite-sex relationships of a sexual nature, and against same-sex relationships of a sexual nature—aka, what is called heteronormativity. The problem here is that they take their sexual bias to an extreme in educational settings. In many states, their bias has rewarded with state funding to discriminate against LGBT children. Specifically, their homophobia is rewarded with adopted state laws – sometimes referred to as “neovouchers” – to transform state money into private Christian school scholarships used at religious-based schools that prohibit gay, lesbian or bisexual students from attending. These schools are essentially given a license to emotionally and physically bully and expel children who fail to be straight.

Abstinence only = Unwanted pregnancy

Abstinence only = Unwanted pregnancy

Listen, I have no argument with being sexually conservative, heterosexual and/or abstinent. It’s a right that should be respected just as individuals who are not hetero should be respected. But, I do have a big argument when their penchant for prudery and balderdash leads to serious health consequences for real children. I’m talking about their misguided drive to demand abstinence-only sex education in public schools and as the price to play for charter school funding (at the cost of decreasing public education funding). Abstinence-only sex education is a well-documented financial waste as well as an epic education disaster that has resulted in the United States having one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and the highest rates of sexually transmitted infection rates in the industrialized world. Thanks, in part, to abstinence programs, female teens are more vulnerable to sexual violence because abstinence isn’t a realistic response to peer pressure. Among the general teen population, one out of four has a sexually transmitted infection. The STI rate for African American teens averages 50%. And for all teens, if left untreated some of their STIs can cause permanent damage, such as infertility and even death.  Of course, the response of the Panties-in-a-Wad crowd, this bastion of heteronormative bias, is to point a judgmental finger at the individual teen and wag their tongue about the evils of having sex. But my response to the Panties-in-a-Wad crowd is to illustrates the impact of states with predominantly conservative and religious views and the teen birth belt.TeenBirthRateStates

A further response to this uber conservative minority is say that their work is disingenuous. Teens are sexual beings. Not providing comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education is the moral failure of conservative, religious thinking.

And speaking of moral failure, consider all the bickering over the Affordable Care Act and contraception. Church-going entities like Hobby Lobby, the Catholic Church, and Chik-Fil-A went ballistic over their obligations to provide contraceptive insurance for their employees. Let’s be honest here. We’re talking about white men making a fuss about paying for health care for the women in their organizations because it goes against their beliefs while making no religiously-informed complaints about paying for Viagra or Cialis for men.  Let’s also be clear that statistical studies illustrate the majority of women (Catholics, Christian Evangelicals alike) who are married to these men use contraception. Hypocritical much?

Access to contraception, while clearly a smart response to reducing unplanned pregnancies and abortions, is seriously problematic for many who protest outside abortion clinics and for those who legislate morality in the state and federal government. They believe that contraception causes abortion, is dangerous, and is immoral if outside heterosexual marriage. The bigger issue with those who don’t believe in abortion or contraception is their attempt to impose their beliefs on others. A comparison of the United States to countries where abortion is legal reveals that other countries have much lower rates of abortion, have healthier perspectives on human sexuality, have better health care systems and have normalized sexual education for children and teens.  What we have here in the United States is staggering puritanism informed by a peculiarly aberrant form of Christian ethos that is seriously harming our children with the abysmal failure of abstinence education. So much for the claim to be pro life, to uphold family values.

Those with their eyes wide open have witnessed the stunning waste of taxpayer dollars over legal battles about DOMA, about the Affordable Care Act and contraception, and about targeted regulations against abortion providers based on nothing more than willful ignorance of science and, no doubt, their god-deluded sense of moral righteousness. Like the epic failure of prohibition on alcohol during the early 20th century, this ongoing battle against our God-given sexual nature has failed our nation. Attempting to prohibit or constrain sexual behavior according to the mythically-constructed boundaries of the sexually thwarted and perverted minority, is dishonest, unhealthy, disingenuous, and immoral.

ImageYou are forever talking about what you know is right for women, what women want, and what they really need.   You’ve even told clinic staff, doctors and nurses that you know they could do better in another line or work. With your particularized notion of moral righteousness, you’ve lodged complaints with police about what you know are your rights to free speech at abortion clinics. You’ve written letters to private citizens, neighbors of doctors and clinic directors, asking them to tell these professionals to find a new job, because you know better, you know what’s right. But your self-obsession as well as your presumptuous omniscience conveniently ignores the rights of others and summarily dismisses the knowledge women have of their own lives. Behaving, as you are wont to do, foolishly believing you are right when you are really wrong on so many levels, you reveal more truths about your nature than you might imagine or want. Let me spell it out for you.

  • To begin, it’s not right when you call escorts, staff, and doctors murderers because they don’t murder anyone. The carnivalesque act of calling someone a murderer is convenient because it frees you from thinking about the sacredness of women and men who offer and choose abortion services.
  • It’s not right when you use grotesque images that defy the reality of abortion. Aborted fetuses look remarkably different from all the manipulated grotesque images you use in your visual propaganda. Using such images only serves to shame, hurt and demonize women and, consequently, alienate them to your message.
  • It’s not right to say that All Women Regret Their Abortion. Documented scholarly evidence illustrates that overwhelmingly women have no regrets about their abortion. Not one bit. People make choices and live with them. It’s called life. Some women have sadness about their choice to end their pregnancy, but choose abortion anyway because they know it’s right for their situation. Your bombastic overgeneralization only makes you look ignorant and desperate.
  • Forced Birther Screaming in Women's ears with Megaphone

    Forced Birther Screaming in Women’s ears with Megaphone

    It’s not right to scream at women we’re here to help you. Take a good look at yourself. You’re a stranger who is screaming. What reasonable person would want to trust you or anything you say? It makes you look doubly foolish and deceitful when you follow with the disingenuous high-pitched scream God loves and so do we and, immediately afterward, shout, you’ll regret this day the rest of your life. Again, take a good look at yourself for you are nothing but a vacuous and mean-spirited provocateur.

  • It’s not right to publicize your own sexual fears and perversions. Telling women that the doctor will perforate their rectum and uterus illustrates your own salacious fascination with debauchery. Telling well-endowed women with cleavage, “You look like you’re all set up for breastfeeding” reduces you to a common pervert. Telling women to abstain from sex reveals your prudish anxiety about human sexuality.  In your ill-conceived attempts to lie about body parts and sexual matters, you embarrass yourself in a most undignified way, earning a big fat 10 on the Ick Factor Scale.
  • It’s not right to lie. Remember thou shalt not lie? Until you have an M.D. after your name, you should rely on reputable medical and scientific sources and not junk science in LifeSiteNews. The evidence is there for you to read. Let’s face it. You rely on the scientific and medical credibility of pediatricians, cardiologists, dermatologists and internists. Yet you throw out medical and scientific evidence when a gravid uterus is involved. Here’s the evidence: There is no post abortion stress disorder. There is no abortion-breast cancer link. There is evidence that the morbidity and mortality in pregnancy and childbirth can be more dangerous than abortion. It’s also a fact that the United States is 50th in the world for maternal health. Such transgressions illustrate the disturbed fascination with fear mongering that is your lingua franca.
  • It’s not right to inflict your religion on others. Humiliating and dehumanizing women is morally unacceptable.  Manipulating your faith to justify your heinous actions displaces your responsibility onto your God.  Like the Nazi war criminals that claimed they were only following orders, you antiabortion protesters claim you are doing God’s will. Barking like a madman “in the name of Jesus” as preface to a hurl of toxicity hardly seems godly. Face it; your morally bankrupt behavior only serves to show how unchristian and blindly intolerant you are towards others.
The Anti Abortion Brain

The Anti Abortion Brain

When I think about the pornography of your madness, your frothing, detailed rendering of humiliation of women and men who choose and provide abortion services, I have to say that the unintended consequences of your own behaviors illustrate how karma works. In plain English, you get what you give. And what you give is intolerance, disdain for truth, misogyny, desperation, alienation, and misanthropy.

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 8.37.13 AMReligious freedom in the United States allows those who love a particular tradition to share it with others. In fact, particular traditions obligate their followers to proselytize. It’s a tradition no different than acts of charity. But sharing your faith can be like an overly enthusiastic used car salesman. It’s like sharing that pushes too far, fails to listen and, sadly, too often lacks civility. In fact, claiming that one’s faith tradition is the only way to salvation to an unwilling audience is unethical. These are practices that anti abortionists engage in, not out of love, as they claim, but out of their own proclaimed rights to free speech and rights to practice their religion, otherwise known as pure propagandizing and harassment. Just ask those who are experiencing the anti abortionists’ proselytizing if they experience their actions as loving. If they do not, then the antis will have found the limits of what they ought to be doing. Anything more and they are no longer educating or witnessing, but propagandizing and harassing. It’s what anti abortionists do every day they lurk outside clinics.

Several years ago, a woman decided to take the protesters’ offer of a free ultrasound and traveled with them to the hospital. She said the women were very nice but that they just didn’t listen to her and didn’t respect where she was in her life. They refused to hear how she simply could not carry on with the pregnancy. They refused to help her on her terms. So she returned to the clinic and had the abortion.

Another story from a few years back centers around a young woman who arrived in a cab with her young daughter. Because the appointment would have been difficult for the daughter, all the escorts in the parking lot entertained the young child while her mother went inside. After the appointment, the woman retrieved her daughter. She and the little girl in the little umbrella stroller left the parking lot followed by doggedly determined protesters chewing in her ear all the way to the Mc Donald’s across the street. On and on, babbling, offering to buy her stuff, help her. But not listening to what she was saying. Never listening. It was a week later, when the young woman showed up again for an appointment. One protester called J-Dog recognized the young woman. Her first words to this young woman were heated, curt. She barked at her, “I TOLD YOU we would help you.”  No words of love or kindness. Just pure nastiness.  What’s comically pathetic is that after words of nastiness come recitations of prayers—all out of the same mouth, in the same breath.Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 8.39.49 AM

This combination of nastiness and prayers is particularly evident in another protester called Linebacker. Ever busy toting her rosary and praying about spiritually adopting babies about to be murdered, this anti is also very quick to anger. She’s also quick to point out that her anger is righteous anger. (Oh, give me a freakin’ break!) One day about four years ago, Linebacker showed up at the clinic entrance with a framed image of our lady of Guadalupe. As an aside, it is noteworthy that some Catholics worship graven images of all sorts of folks. They use these images to ward off evil spirits, to talk to, and to threaten people at abortion clinics. So, back to the story. Linebacker used her show-and-tell piece to yell at a woman entering the clinic, shoving the image in the air saying, “the blessed mother is angry at abortion.” Now, here’s where the connection between religious proselytizing and anti abortion protesting goes terribly wrong. Linebacker pivots on her heels and really yells directly at me. Keep in mind, I’m videotaping all this for a documentary. She grasped her graven image firmly, raises it upward and toward me and yells, “The blessed mother is very, very angry at you Kate, you and all those who will watch your stupid documentary.” It had to be one of the funniest things I’ve witnessed for its nonsensical religious rage.

One last story comes from the likes of a Pappa Smurf look alike, white beard and all, named Gerry. He is a man who believes in himself. He once said to escorts who were rightly laughing at him, “Laugh at me and you laugh at God.” But the crowning psycho-religious comment happened when a mother and daughter arrived at the clinic. The mother revealed that her daughter had been brutally raped. Gerry’s response, in typical My-proselytizing-is-more-important-than-your-situation, was “If your daughter is pregnant because of being raped, it’s the way God wanted it.”

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 8.41.19 AMThe common denominator amongst the anti abortionists is a belief in a position of superiority with their faith as the only true faith. The see anyone outside their belief system as inferior, filled with errors, Satan-inspired, bound to an eternity in Hell, in need of prayers and on and on, ad nauseum. So it is little wonder that when these lovelies assume such a position in their religiously informed antiabortion proselytizing, that they are met with objections, disdain and reciprocal disrespect. Show no respect, get no respect. It’s the basics of Ethics 101.

 

 

“It is my conviction that there is no way to peace – peace is the way.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Every Thanksgiving I’m reminded of the fairy tales taught in school about pilgrims and Native Americans. All the little hands who make quaint pilgrim hats and “Indian” headbands made of construction paper in November celebrations belie the tragedies foisted upon Native Americans. It’s our shameful heritage that never makes the elementary history books. Contemporary celebrations have long forgotten the Native American genocide in favor of a gluttonous affair that’s packed into one day. It’s the consumerist approach to all things American.  And speaking of consumerism, despite the underhanded attempts to buy the 2012 election, the GOP, drunk on a weird brew of American virtue and Christian Armageddon, refuse to understand the American majority. So, they got a whopping spanking. And I’m thankful for that.
To those in the GOP who blamed the decline of America on homosexuals, abortion, gay marriage, non-believers, separation of church and state, evolution, science, you should know that you are what is wrong with this country. I’m thankful that your draconian ideology didn’t work. I’m very thankful that President Obama won a second term, despite his many foibles.

On a more regional note, I’m thankful to all those who have donated time and money to those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Especially, to all the thousands of utility workers from across the nation who left the comfort of their homes, thanks for working such long hours and laboring so diligently to restore power to those without.

And for all things reproductive, to those clinics that endured difficulties to ensure access to women seeking abortions during and following the hurricane, you are heroes to those of us who respect and trust women. Similarly, I’m thankful to technology that can diagnose pregnancy and fetal anomalies earlier than ever. It’s making the battle against later abortions a shrinking target for protesters. I’m also thankful for the contraceptive revolution causing a steep drop in abortion rates through better prevention. And along those lines, I’m thankful for the open conversations about contraception costs and economic justice. All too often economic and class issues are smothered to death by the onslaught of GOP debris.

And speaking of debris, let’s talk about the rubbish over abortion laws. Let us pause for a moment to remember 31 year old Savita Halappanavar, a 17 week pregnant woman/dentist/daughter/neighbor/wife/citizen/friend, who tragically lost her life because she had the unfortunate circumstance to land in an Irish Catholic hospital. The University Hospital Galway demonstrated utter disregard for this young woman’s life by refusing to provide an abortion, a refusal of treatment that is typical of the global culture war on women. Despite the shameful and horrendous circumstances of her death, women and men from around the world have spoken out and stood up against institutions that allow a woman to die because of their bad faith. It’s ironic that for all their propaganda about prolife, the sanctity of life, it’s the Catholic Church that essentially killed Savita. For their solidarity on behalf of Savita and other women here in America and beyond, I am thankful.

I’m thankful, as well, for the women who are using social media to tell their abortion stories. They poignantly reveal the emotional and physical as well as the pragmatic elements of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy. Their stories reject other people’s limited perceptions of them and, thus, counter ignorance as a point of view.

And, last, on a local level, I’m thankful to Harrisburg PA city council for recognizing how the seams of respect have been ripped loose by antiabortion activists and for creating a buffer zone for women entering and leaving abortion clinics. While it is well documented that escorts provide a buffer against the protesters’ shameful departure from civilized norms of society, it’s often not enough to facilitate women’s perceptions of a safe passage.  I can only hope that the rest of the state will follow.

And to all those progressive, philanthropic individuals contributing to abortion funds, reproductive health care associations such as the Abortion Care Network and to the building of a new abortion clinic in the Lehigh Valley, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Last Saturday, outside a Lehigh Valley PA abortion clinic, Joe, a dyspeptic old white man, afflicted with a condition known as echolalia, repeated the same refrain, “Your parents were prolife, why aren’t you. Why don’t you emulate your parents?”  Over and over and over for two hours, he repeated, “Why don’t you emulate your parents”? The saying “A fool can ask more questions in an hour than a wise man can answer in a year” seems especially apt here. Joe’s foolish presentation of self is a weird concoction of fetal worship embellished with a blend of perverted Catholicism and draconian masculinity—one that in all likelihood is an insane reaction to feeling impotent, disempowered and humiliated by feminism and homosexuality. But I digress.

Let me return to the “emulate your parents” refrain, which, on so many levels, defies sensibilities. At the most fundamental level, why would anyone want to emulate someone who has a voracious appetite for all things monstrous? As an anti abortion activist, Joe sports a tattered, grotesque image of an alleged 21 week fetus. To passers-by and to incoming clients, he flaunts the image toward anyone who will pay attention, hoping that the dead fetal image’s loud and monstrous voice speaks of all things evil. His fetish for the fetus is obvious when clients approach the clinic and he “speaks” for the voiceless saying, “Mommy, I wanna live. Don’t kill me, Mommy. I love you, mommy. I wanna go to da beach, I wanna play ball.” I wonder if Joe’s behavior is what his children should emulate?

If I were to respond personally to Joe, I would tell him that I most definitely imitate my parents, but only to the extent that I was taught to think for myself, as they do. I was taught to stand up against bullies like Joe and his God-intoxicated friends. Like my parents, I choose education as a life choice against those who are drunk on fairy tales and their weird brew of American virtue and Christian Armageddon. From my parents’ tutelage, I grew to recognize those within the religious right as embodiments of intolerance, hatred, bigotry and hypocrisy. And while my parents chose to have three children, they were and are very prochoice. Standing up for women’s rights is what I learned from my parents. I express my choices, as a proud feminist, when I speak out against domestic violence, anti abortion zealots (like Joe) and anti contraceptive neo-nazis. I also learned that Christianity should facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness. But the Christianity I see outside the abortion clinics is altogether something else.  Lying to women while knuckle dragging rosary beads, terrorizing women with frightening utterances magnified by megaphones, and carrying grotesque and ignorant signs is not love and compassion. John Ruskin wrote in 1875, relevant and now, “It is neither Madonna-worship nor saint-worship, but the evangelical self-worship and hell-worship — gloating, with an imagination as unfounded as it is foul, over the torments of the damned, instead of the glories of the blest, — which have in reality degraded the languid powers of Christianity to their present state of shame and reproach.”

So, thanks for asking about my parents and me. But, Joe, I’d caution you about asking your kids to emulate you because you’d be asking them to be homophobic, anti Semitic, and racist. You’d expect them to do as you have done to call a gay Jewish volunteer a stiff-necked Jew or to talk about Martin Luther King, Jr. only when a person of color arrives at the clinic. You’d be asking them to disregard any other religious perspective; to be  as myopic as you are.

To emulate their father, you’d be asking your children to have a fetish for fetuses that draws them into your religiously fantastical swirling imaginarium of slaughtered babies. You’d be asking them to have no respect or deep compassion for the dominion of any conscious human female over the insides of her own body. They would only feel compassion for an as-yet insentient embryo/fetus that the woman doesn’t want there. Asking your children to emulate you means asking them to avoid a factual reality that is more obscured by obstinate prejudice and intransigent, willful ignorance supported only by emotionally charged irrational belief and misinformed and uninformed opinion and in which the consequences of this failure to face and accept truth, reason, and understanding are catastrophically and mercilessly cruel for women.

On the contrary, as a self-proclaimed Christian, an assertion you broadcast with hubristic regularity, I’d suggest you ask your children to emulate the life and works of Jesus and not their father.

Abortion Law

Abortion Law

Many years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that unmarried people were actually allowed to use birth control.  Can you believe it! Yes, on March 22, 1972 the Court confirmed this outlandish notion in Baird v. Eisenstadt – a case that was seen as the precursor to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion just a year later.

And now it’s fifty years later.  Since that decision men have walked on the moon, the computer was invented, it was discovered that there are homosexuals in our community, we started drinking non-fat milk and the Red Sox finally won a World Series.  And, amidst all of this progress, today the Republican candidates for President are talking about birth control again.  Talk about going Back to the Future.

Abortion

Abortion

Now, to be fair I have yet to find any of the candidates declare outright that they would “ban birth control,” although that is what many Democrats and left-leaning pundits are suggesting.  But where Rick Santorum, et al made a mistake is that they just started talking about birth control in the context of the Obama health care bill – and their opponents jumped all over it.

Santorum has acknowledged that he and his wife do not use birth control, hence his seven kids.  Good little Catholic he.  And ole Mitt Romney has said, well, I haven’t checked today to see what he said last night.  I’ll get back to ya on that one.  But the fact that they are even talking about this issue boggles my mind, especially in light of the fact that 95% of the Catholics in this country use birth control anyway – the Pope be damned.

R v W March

R v W March

But there is a method to their madness.  They are talking about this issue and religion in general because, to get the Republican nomination, they need to go as far right as possible.  I mean, to the right of Genghis Khan.  You’ve heard the speeches:  “I am a true conservative in this race, I’ve always been a true conservative, I wear conservative shoes and use conservative toothpaste.”  And, early on, they learned that if they just mentioned birth control and religion and Obama’s secret plan to deport every Catholic, the right wingers at the rallies sucked it up big time.  Hey, this is a good stuff, I gotta keep this up!

It’s gotten so crazy that a few days ago Ron Paul made headlines in certain media when he announced that, when he was a practicing Ob-Gyn, he actually – I hope you’re sitting down – PRESCRIBED birth control.  OMG!  A Republican running for President actually participated in this pernicious practice (one, by the way, that would reduce the number of abortions).  Lynch him, cried the Tea Partyers!

Of course, the good news is that all of this talk about birth control – in any context – is welcome news to the Obama gang.  They’re just sitting back and having a hell of a good laugh.  And I’ll betcha anything that they got the commercials in the can right now warning women that the nominee is gonna take away their pills.  The good news is that Republicans talking about that nasty little pill may win them the nomination, but it will lose them the election.  Keep it up, boys.

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