Sunday, December 27, 2009

THROWAWAY PRIESTS

This article was printed in the National Catholic Reporter on July 20, 2007. Someone asked that it be reprinted here.
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Issue Date: July 20, 2007

Throwaway priests

Dishonored and disgraced for their crimes, fallen priests deserve our sympathy

By CHARLENE C. DULINE

Does the Catholic Church remember its fallen priests, the priests who molested children and are now serving time in prisons? Who among us has asked for blessings for them as they serve their time behind bars? The hands that once consecrated the host that became the body of Christ now reek of ammonia from cleaning toilets.

Amid the flurry of accusations, trials, more accusations, payoffs, and dioceses declaring bankruptcy, I began to wonder about the treatment of priests in prison. I wondered how their fellow inmates treated them. Were they revered as men of the cloth or debased as child molesters?
To abuse a child is a horrific act. I know because I was an abused child. Some might find it astonishing that I, the victim of such abuse many years ago, could feel sorry for these fallen priests. Despite the desire for revenge that still burns deep in my heart, something in me wanted to reach out to these men who had served God despite their failings. I wondered if our church ministered to them in any form.

Through the Internet I was able to get information on the accused priests, their sentences and where they were serving their time. I wrote to some of them. I also posted my desire to hear from them on Web sites sympathetic to the defrocked men. Some of their responses astounded me. They all asked to remain anonymous. Most of the priests I heard from indicated that they had no access to Catholic chaplains or materials, including retirement monies they thought they had a right to. It seems that the church that once embraced them and covered up their crimes has abandoned them. They have been defrocked or laicized and are now treated as pariahs. Their situation in prison is not pleasant.

One priest, now 79 years old, wrote, “Mistreatment by the young inmates is continually horrendous. Insults, curses, spitting and assaults are daily. From one attack I received 42 bruises.”

During the 11 years this priest has been in prison, several close family members, including his mother, have died. Other family members do not communicate with him because he “embarrassed the family.” He believes that he will die a lonely death in prison. He’s probably right.

While reading the three-page, handwritten letter, I had to stop several times because tears blinded me. I wept for our “lost sheep” as this priest calls himself and other convicted priests. He feels the church has thrown them away, and it is difficult to disagree with his assessment.

Another priest wrote from prison: “From the start, I was subjected to foul comments and slurs related to my crime of indecent liberties with a minor. Most inmates are tolerant, and some seek information of a religious nature. The biggest offenders are young, angry white men between 19 and 30 years old. Most black men say nothing. I have, as yet, not been physically harmed. I’ve had a TV set tampered with so it could no longer be used. I’ve had feces spread on my blanket and pillowcase, etc. Sex offenders are at the bottom of the ladder in prison. Life behind bars is a total waste of time other than when one spiritualizes it as an opportunity to expiate for one’s sins.”

Still another priest said his fingers were broken by an inmate who wanted a painting the priest had just completed. When he refused the demand, the fingers on his painting hand were broken like matchsticks.

The attorney for an 83-year-old former priest responded that his client “is an older man and his memory is substantially infirmed. I doubt that he has an accurate memory of his stay at a local jail (no prison time). I arranged for a private cell and no contact with jail inmates.”
I ask myself if sentencing men in their 70s and 80s to 200 years in prison makes us better Christians or relieves the pain of those molested. Our church ignored the problem for years and suddenly it’s first in line to condemn. There is no denying that punishment is deserved, but so is forgiveness.

Nobody knows better than victims of sexual abuse the pain and the torment that remains with us for the rest of our lives. We go through the daily motions of living as if nothing had happened to rob us of our childhood, but we suffer in silence. Rape is a vile, violent act. I weep for the children who were abused by priests. I know their pain. I used to fantasize about ways to torture the man who raped me. I wanted him to die a slow, agonizing death.

Forgiving an abuser takes more love and compassion than many of us can muster right now. Yet forgiveness is essential for our own spiritual survival. To forgive is not to forget, but rather to believe that the Lord in his wisdom is still in control and that all wrongs will be righted someday. God is loving and just to both the victim and to the abuser, and I pray that all of us who have suffered abuse will one day be able to forgive our abusers.

Charlene Duline is a retired Foreign Service officer, a former Peace Corps volunteer and a member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Indianapolis.
National Catholic Reporter, July 20, 2007

Thursday, December 24, 2009

THE HOLIEST NIGHT

[This story was selected by Angels on Earth as one of the prize winning stories in their Christmas Story Contest a few years ago. Contestants were to write their version of the Christmas story from the point of view of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, one of the wise men, the innkeeper, a shepherd, or an animal in the stable. I chose to write about a stray dog, Marian, who was there. I’m pleased to share my story with you for Christmas.]

THE HOLIEST NIGHT

It was a bitterly cold night in Bethlehem, but the little pregnant dog pushed on to her destination. Marian, as she was called, was not sure where she was going, but she only knew that she had to get there. A large, glistening star overhead seemed to guide her. Her human family had put her out into the cold saying they had no room or food for one more mouth. They had taken her in when they saw her begging for scraps of food in the marketplace. They didn’t know then that she was going to have puppies. She was grateful when they took her home with them, but as her tiny stomach began to swell with her progeny, she was tossed back onto the streets. Now, she only knew that she had to follow that glowing star.

She stopped for a moment to rest. She was cold, hungry and sad. She was too cold to sleep, and too tired to walk further, but her instinct told her that she had to follow that star, that something wonderful awaited her when she reached the place where the star shone down. She knew it would be there where her babies would be born. Marian picked up a scent, actually several scents, of animals. Suddenly she saw a pack of wild dogs coming toward her. She summoned up her last ounce of courage; she knew she would have to fight these dogs. The leader of the pack halted the group a few feet from her. He walked slowly toward her. She sensed no animosity from him, but she stood her ground. The lead dog noted her hanging teats and enlarged abdomen. He understood that she had been abandoned as had the rest of the dogs in the pack. He sniffed Marian, and then turned to his pack and sent a silent signal to them. Two female dogs came forward and went to Marian. They rubbed muzzles and stood close to her. They urged Marian to follow them into the woods where they would find pine branches for her to lay on to give birth. But Marian raised her head to the heavens, and when the other dogs looked up, they saw the dazzling star beckoning them. Marian hurried on her way, followed by the pack of wild dogs, all following the star.

Suddenly, in the distance Marian saw a tiny stable. She saw shepherds, sheep, lambs, and donkeys around a manger. A scent of welcoming emanated from the stable. The dogs hurried forward, unafraid of the huge farm animals standing around. Marian looked into the face of a baby, and at that moment every person and animal present went down on their knees before the baby, including Marian. The Baby Jesus stretched out His tiny hand as if to bid Marian to come to Him. Marian looked at the parents of the baby, seated on either side of the manger, silently asking their permission. The parents’ smiling eyes gave consent. Marian limped into the stable and went up close to the baby. He held out His hand and touched her nose. The touch was brief and barely felt, but Marian knew without knowing how that all was right with her little world, the world of abandoned dogs. She knew this was the savior she had heard people talking about in the marketplace. She knew she had been blessed by that savior. She knew also that she and her babies would be saved because she had been touched by this special baby boy. She knew that nothing in her life or the life of the world would ever be the same.

She bowed her head before the baby and limped out of the stable. The pack of dogs had disappeared. Behind the stable Marian lay down in a patch of dry grass, and there she delivered her six puppies. Each was born with a star on its forehead. As they suckled, one of the shepherds came to check on her. He gathered up Marian and her little family, and took them home with him. Before Marian closed her eyes in sleep on that starry night, the once abandoned and frightened little dog, looked once again to the star that had drawn her to the special baby boy. She bowed her head in homage to the King of Kings, and the Savior of the world. Marian rested, knowing that she had been privileged to see the one who came to save the world.

©


END



Monday, December 21, 2009

EBONY: WARRIOR PRINCESS

EBONY, WARRIOR PRINCESS



[I'm pleased to share with you a chapter from "Ebony:  Warrior Princess," a book about my adorable miniature poodle daughter who crossed the rainbow bridge two years ago. I still mourn her death.]


Warrior princess? Where did that come from? I am a queen in my house. My mommy thinks she is the queen, but I have her number. Ha,ha. Whenever a door is opened, I am the first one out! Mommy tries to hold me back, and she tries to step out ahead of me, but I hold back, and when she steps back to see what I’m doing, I lunge out the door. I know Mommy has read those books on training DOGS that say the boss is supposed to go out the door first. Well, that’s true. But I am the boss and she needs to learn that. When she takes me walking, I lead the way. I go where I want to go and she has to follow. Sometimes when I crisscross the road, she gets tired of that, and tries to tell me that I have to walk on one side or the other. Why I wonder? Why can’t I run from one side to the other if that is what I want to do? She just has to keep up. Actually she should take off the damned leash and let me run. I’m not afraid of any dogs that might be around. If people are around, I want to go up to them to allow them the pleasure of petting me, and oohing and aahing over me. They love me! Mommy gets upset when I see people and I start “talking.” My talking is vocal rumblings of pleasure that there is somebody who would dearly love to pet me. For who wouldn’t love to pet me, the Warrior Princess?

When I lived with my biological mother, Snowie, I thought we were the only two beings like us. I had no idea that there were so many things called dogs out there. When my mommy got me, she decided to take me to obedience school. I was fine until then. But at obedience school there were a lot of big mutts in the class. There was one dog smaller than me. He was a little white doggie named Blizzard. When those big dogs ran over to snift Blizzard, he would roll over on his back and they would sniff him and nuzzle him and then go about their business. But then another one would go over to him and another. He spent all of his time rolling and groveling. Somebody said that’s what small dogs are to do. Well, not this Warrior Princess! The first night of class the owners took off the leashes. Doggies were all over the floor. I tried to stay close to Mommy. I could hear the instructor yelling at Mommy to walk away from me. Those dogs followed me as I followed her. Finally I decided that I was not going to run away from them. I then turned and showed them my teeth and snarled so they would know to leave me alone. Most of them did. There was no way I was going to roll over and let some beast sniff me. Oh no, they had another thought coming. Just let one try it!

Once a baby chocolate Labrador named Hershey was standing behind us. Hershey wanted to play with me. I do not play with dogs. He kept getting closer and closer to me. His owner kept pulling him away. I snarled at him a few times and Mommy scolded me. I heard Hershey’s owner ask him, “Do you want to get bitten?” He knew I was about to tackle Hershey to teach him a good lesson. Mommy apologized to Hershey and petted him. Hmph. I turned my head. I wanted no parts of that puppy. I’m grown; I don’t play with puppies.

There was a time when I would play with other poodles. But then obedience school cured me of all that. I was quite a sweetie before my mommy dragged me off to school. And I would have been fine there if those animals had left me alone. I simply wanted to be left alone. I was not going to be sniffed. And for goodness sakes, why do those animals usually want to sniff one’s butt? I don’t do that. What’s wrong with them? I guess that’s why they call them animals – cause they are! There was a little doggie I used to play with during our morning walks. Her owner would let her out when she saw us coming. Finally, I got tired of her, and one day we walked by and she wanted to play, and I didn’t. I snarled at her. She ran back to her house. I got scolded, but I didn’t care. I was in a bad mood that day I suppose. The next time I saw her I was ready to play. She ignored me. Of all the nerve! I didn’t understand that. I thought we were friends, but the little bitch wouldn’t play with me, and ran back to her house. Thereafter, my mommy wouldn’t even let me stop and pee at the bitch’s house. I hope you know by now that bitch is the word for female dogs. I love using it for obvious reasons!! That little bitch just got on my last nerve! Ha,ha!!

Sometimes Mommy says I’m a piece of work, whatever that means. I am not a piece of anything. I am a jet black, miniature poodle, age eleven, with red bows in my hair. I am too cute. Everybody tells me so.

****

Monday, November 30, 2009

INTENTS AND PURPOSES

On November 4, 1979, Americans learned that the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran had been overtaken and militants had captured 66 American diplomats. Some Americans escaped, and some were released a few days later, but 52 were held as hostages for 444 days. The news of that takeover of our embassy sent chills through every American serving in a U.S. embassy. I was at the beginning of my second year in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Almost immediately rumors began that other countries might take hostages. Security measures were tightened, none of which made me feel any better, especially since I lived alone in a huge, three-story, 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom house.

U.S. ambassadors throughout the world were ordered to make “demarches,” i.e., diplomatic initiatives to the prime ministers of their country for assistance in getting our people released. Tanzania was non-committal, not to mention non-cooperative. It was a Socialist country and was friendlier to the forces opposed to the United States than to the United States. The Tanzanian government would not budge from its position to not assist the U.S. We Americans serving there were quite unhappy with that decision. It was interesting that none of our contacts or “friends” mentioned the hostage situation when talking to us. Tanzanians continued to come to our library and to cultural events. They continued to visit our offices in quest of fellowships to U.S. universities or for 30 day visits to the U.S. during which time they met with professionals in their fields. Those programs were especially for people identified by the U.S. government as likely to be key leaders in the future. The capture of Americans in Iran wasn't even the leading news of any of Tanzania’s media. It was almost as if it had not happened.

On January 16, 1979, the Shah of Iran had fled the country when his proposals for economic and social reforms, but not much in the way of political reforms, failed. The country was thrown into much violence by the nationalists, and the Shah and his family had to flee. The Ayatollah Khomeini who had been arrested and exiled, and who was an opponent of the U.S., returned to the country and added his anti-American rhetoric to the calls for revolution. The rest is history.

We had gotten some news about of the treatment of our people in Iran and the news was frightening. We knew the hostages had been split up and taken to different locations. One woman had remained at our library in Iran with an open telephone line telling officials in Washington what was going on. After a few days the Iranians picked her up. Shortly thereafter, 13 women and blacks were released. The woman who had been on the telephone refused to leave without her colleagues, and she and another woman remained as hostages for the entire time. Some of us thought the U.S. would consult Israel because they always managed to get their people out of tight situations. We remembered Entebbe in Uganda. And then came the devastating news that President Carter had tried to free the hostages. The plan failed, and eight U.S. servicemen were killed. We were horrified and angry that the U.S. would attempt such an escape. I know that President Carter’s intentions were good, but most of us felt that any attempted rescue would put our people in greater danger if not get them killed.

Then came the astonishing news that six Americans hiding in the Canadian Embassy in Iran for three months were free and back in the U.S. The Canadian Ambassador, Kenneth Taylor, had courageously hidden the six at great risk to himself and his Canadian staff. Our people were able to leave Iran disguised as Canadians. American diplomats everywhere rejoiced. I screamed with glee when I heard the news. More sobering were thoughts of what Iran’s reaction would be to.

I called the Canadian Embassy and asked for a photo of Ambassador Taylor. I had our staff blow up the picture and put it on an easel in the front window of our office, facing the main street. On each side of the photo I placed U.S. and Canadian flags, and beneath the picture of the ambassador in two foot high letters was a sign that read: “THANK YOU, AMBASSADOR TAYLOR!” The Canadians were thrilled and came to take photos to send home. Several Tanzanians asked what were we thanking the Canadians for. I had to take a deep breath, bite my tongue, clear my throat, and then I said we were thanking the Canadians for having the courage to hide our American colleagues who were in grave danger, when other countries were too cowardly to speak out; that they did this humane act despite the possible danger to their entire embassy and staff, and lastly for spiriting our people out of the country to safety. It turned out that the families of the six knew that they were in hiding, as did Canadian and American officials and several news reporters. Not one word was breathed because of the incredible danger those in hiding and their hosts would have been in. Two years later when I was working at our embassy in Liberia I watched a movie about the escape from Iran and even though I knew the ending, I still stood and cheered when they were safely out of Iran.

When our hostages were released I was in Washington recuperating from an unplanned gall bladder surgery and enroute to Liberia. (This was back in the days when they slashed you wide open and you had to recuperate for six weeks). Shortly after the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan, it was announced that the hostages had been freed. President Carter looked stricken. What a slap in his face by the Iranians. I felt very sorry for him. He was a good person and he meant well.

Our people were coming home! All of the U.S. rejoiced. Yellow ribbon became difficult to find because every tree and doorway sprouted yellow ribbons. Algeria lent its services to fly the hostages out of Iran. My heart bled as I watched my colleagues blindfolded, going through a gauntlet of jeering and spitting Iranians. Our people didn’t know where they were going. For all they knew, they were going to another Moslem country, instead of home. We watched the hostages board the Algerian plane and watched them cheer when the pilot announced that they were out of Iranian air space. Later I learned that the Algerians had not accepted food prepared by the Iranians for the Algerian flight crew and the Americans. They were taking no chances that the food might have been tampered with.

In Algeria our people disembarked wearing warm jackets. They looked a bit more cheerful, but still not completely aware that they were free. A few of them waved as they left the plane. Inside the terminal they were hugged by the American ambassador Ulric Haynes, Jr. and his wife, and the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher. Finally, they realized they were completely free of Iran and its terrorists. Within moments they boarded another plane to be flown to Germany for medical care and debriefing. When they arrived in Germany at an American base, they were greeted by many, many fellow Americans waving yellow ribbons and cheering. The military men were in uniform and they gave crisp salutes to the officers welcoming them. The other former hostages were dressed smartly, and their wide smiles telegraphed their joy to the world.

And then they came home to the United States, and what a homecoming it was! As each officer appeared in the doorway of the plane and began his or her descent, the noise of the crowd overwhelmed them. They stood straight and proud. They were Americans and they were home again! These were our heroines and heroes and I wanted to honor them. I wanted desperately to be in that crowd, but it was too soon after my surgery for me to be out. Buses met them upon their arrival and as their caravan moved slowly into Washington, DC, crowds along the way cheered and waved, and the former captives leaned out of the bus windows acknowledging the welcome. All of Washington was awash in yellow. Yellow ribbons fluttered from every tree and doorway. The caravan came down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the White House, and then on to the Department of State. The entire country was in a festive mood. Free at last! Free at last! Our hostages were free at last! We cried, we laughed, we prayed and we saluted our brave, indomitable men and women who never let the bastards get them down, but who remained what they always were – proud, dignified Americans who had been held for 444 days.

It wasn’t until 1987 that the American public learned that the “honorable” President Reagan had gotten the hostages released in exchange for giving weapons to Iran. He and his campaign strategist, William Casey, later named head of the CIA, determined that if the hostages were released before the presidential election, President Carter would probably win. Therefore, despicably, Reagan’s people held secret meetings with the Iranians and instructed them to hold the hostages until after Reagan was sworn in.




***

Monday, November 23, 2009

A BLESSED THANKSGIVING


Greetings:

I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving Day and month and year. Sometimes it is difficult to see what there is to be thankful for. But then I remember our priests in prison and I am so thankful that they are in my life. Our Lord seems to have put us together and here we are. I am the better person for knowing and loving each and every one of them.

Tears fall when as I remember family and friends who are no longer here. I just wish I could tell them now how much they meant to me. We always seem to think that our loved ones will be with us forever. We dare not think of the unthinkable. Everyone in my small family is gone. I had no siblings. My mother had 6 siblings and they are all gone. My last aunt, Aunt Bess, died six years ago at 98 yrs. of age. I used to tell her that she had to make it to 100. She tried. During her last stay in the hospital I told her that it was just the two of us left and she could not leave me. She nodded. And she tried. Two weeks later, the last time I saw her, I realized how selfish I was being. I told her that it was OK to leave me. I said, “Your mother and brothers and sisters are waiting to greet you. It’s OK to leave me. I’ll be fine.” She smiled and nodded, and within hours she was gone. She and I were the ones other family members looked to for advice. She was my support and then she was gone. But I was not alone, not without love.

The Lord blessed me with “other parents,” Mama Gladys (Mother’s best friend) and Daddy Dougie. I love those two people. They have always introduced me as their daughter and they have taken good care of me during these retirement years. They are both 86 yrs. old. I have “sisters” Bernie and Joyce who have been best friends of mine since grade school at St. Bridget’s. Bernie and I entered first grade together. They were my support system during those dark days when I felt so alone in the world.

I threw myself into volunteering: animal handler at the zoo; Crown Hill Cemetery tour guide; volunteering for everything at the Women’s Prison, teaching a weekly class there, and establishing a Prison Ministry at my church. And then because I asked a question some incredible priests responded and my life changed. I had a new ministry. Somebody needed me. We hugged each other through our letters as they poured out their hearts and souls to me.

I have become their advocate. I will never let another diocese ignore a priest’s health if I know he is sick in prison. I will beat down the doors of some bishop’s office to get medical care for him. I promise I will never let a diocese ignore their health as it did another priest who died on my watch. Dolores Crowley, another dear sister, called the diocese several times trying to get medical help, but she was ignored. When I learned of that priest’s death – due to mistreatment in prison and lack of medical care – I was shocked, hurt and outraged. I promise them by all that is holy that I will never let that happen again. Church officials tremble at the thought of SNAP or VOTF knocking at their doors. Just wait until I call upon them.

I will tolerate no mistreatment of my fallen angels and I will storm heaven and earth to see that justice is done. They are serving prison sentences as their punishment according to law. That does not include additional punishment such as mistreatment by guards or other inmates; deliberate withholding of medical treatment; food that animals won’t eat, or the lack of Catholic Masses or access to Catholic priests and/or Deacons and Catholic materials. I have only to know!

Last year one of my fallen angels had open heart surgery. I was extremely worried. I didn’t hear from him for weeks. I then began calling the prison. At first they refused to give me any information about him since I was not a family member. I only wanted to know if he had survived the surgery and was back at the prison. I had to rant and rave and threaten to contact everybody from the governor down. Finally I was connected to the medical unit and the nurse did not want to give me any information, but he realized that I was not going to go away quietly. There would be blood! He then told me that the priest was back on his pod. That meant he was out of the hospital and apparently doing well.

A few days later I received a letter from Father.
“Nurse H. told me some woman was asking about me but ... as per prison policy he was not able to tell you anything. I wondered who was so caring. I did thinkit might have been you or Dolores. I had the heart surgery..The cardiac team was so supportive – I was a patient first and not ever a prisoner to them. We all prayedbefore the surgery. They also waited for a priest to visit and give me the Sacraments before they would do the surgery!”

Yes, Dolores Crowley and I are hell on wheels (and off wheels too, truth be known!) She cares as much about priests in prison as I do. Twice we have visited a priest in prison in California. Last month we drove to Ohio to visit another priest in prison, and on her way back to CA she stopped to visit Fr. K. in Texas.

She had been told that she could not have a contact visit with him since she was not a relative or a spiritual advisor. She reluctantly accepted that. When she arrived at the prison amazingly enough she was allowed a contact visit with him for 4 hours! Methinks Dolores could talk her way out of hell! Surely she won’t have to, but she could!

And so, this Thanksgiving month I am most thankful for all the fallen angels in my life. I thank them for coming into my life. I thank them for their love and their prayers. I am humbled and honored. Yes, tears still fall, but they are tears of great humility and thankfulness.

As I always say to priests in prison - Never forget: God loves you and so do I.


The Lord’s Peace, always

Monday, November 9, 2009

GOD LOVES YOU AND YOU ARE HIS

GOD LOVES YOU AND YOU ARE HIS

I am strength for all the despairing, healing for the ones who dwell in shame…
                                                           - David Haas *



In January I journeyed to New Mexico to attend a Memorial Mass for a priest who died in prison. His name will be omitted here because of his family’s concerns about hate groups. Father was the first incarcerated priest to write to me when I reached out to ask how priests were being treated in prison. He never asked for sympathy. He was forthright about his imprisonment, other inmates, and he answered all of my questions. We wrote regularly to each other as friends until his death late last year.

Father died in November but we didn’t learn of his death until mid-December when a priest friend of his went to the prison to visit him. He walked out of the prison in shock and numb. He telephoned me as he sat in a nearby park and we cried together as we mourned the death of our friend.

I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you from all your fear

In January this priest arranged for a Memorial Mass to be held for Father in New Mexico. On January 28, 2009, four noble priests of the order of Melchizedek concelebrated a Mass for Father. Also present were three women there to honor a man and a priest who had been so vilified. Due to the past negligence of the diocese in New Mexico, we concluded that permission to have a Mass said for Father in a Catholic Church would have been refused, so the Mass was held at another location. Those present came from California, Texas, New Mexico and Indiana.

The readings for that day spoke of priests and seeds planted and nourished, as we remembered Father's joy in the small garden he planted and tended. On the altar were flowers and a framed watercolor painted by Father, a gifted artist. Our Mass cards featured an exquisite water color painting done by him. Some letters written to us by him were laid at the base of the "altar." Those letters spoke of his dark night of the soul, his love of his priesthood and his faith, his angst over his sins, his search for forgiveness, and his acceptance of his punishment. Pain hung heavy in that room. One celebrant asked if a man should be remembered for the worst thing he ever did and no thought be given to the good things he did. We remembered Father for his priestly ministry that he tried hard to live.

You will hear My voice
I claim you as My choice

As we prayed and sang, I felt like the early Christians must have felt when they met in secret in the catacombs. Twice I heard loud sounds from somewhere in the building and I wondered if our Mass was going to be disrupted by hateful factions. After Mass the seven of us went to the cemetery to visit Father’s grave where we placed flowers, prayed, and sang. Each of us knelt for a moment and touched his grave. We were not able to be with Father when he died, but we were with him that day, and he was certainly with each one of us.

I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see

This priest’s suffering went beyond his prison sentence. His talented fingers were broken once when he refused to give an inmate some of his artwork. On a visit to a doctor, his ankles and legs were shackled so tightly that the doctor was unable to examine him and complained to the warden. He was never taken back to the doctor. Instead, every morning he was given an aspirin and some “lotion” for his legs. Nobody in the diocese cared enough to check on him, despite phone calls asking them to do so.

In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light

In his final days, a guard put him in solitary for a trumped-up charge. He was supposed to be there for two days, but he was “forgotten” and left there for two weeks. There were apologies, but at that point Father had lost his will to live.

Come and rest in Me

On November 13, Father wrote what would be his last letter to the priest who visited him monthly. In the letter he indicated that he had made funeral arrangements because, “I feared the New Mexico prison system will treat my dead body with the same disrespect with which they have treated my living body.” He died of a broken heart. He is buried in a plot donated by an order of nuns.

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name

There is no doubt in my mind that this wounded priest is in heaven with our Lord.

In Psalms 85 we are told that – “Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss.” I pray that it will happen during our lifetime.


I will bring you home
I love you and you are Mine.












*You Are Mine”

by David Haas

Friday, November 6, 2009

SPIRIT

SPIRIT


"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can
be judged by the way its animals are treated."
-  Gandhi




The black and white dog dragged herself along the deserted street with great difficulty. She had to get further away from those who had injured her so badly. Every step caused excruciating pain. Someone had placed a firecracker in her rectum and ignited it. When it exploded she frantically tried to remove the painful, fiery thing with her mouth. Now her mouth was burned and was as painful as her backside. She knew she was badly injured. Humans had caused her injuries, but she knew in her heart that all humans were not like the bad ones who hurt her. She searched for a caring human.

As she rounded a corner she saw a car just drawing to a stop in front of a house. The dog limped to the driver’s door. When the car door opened, a woman got out and the injured dog managed to crawl into the car. The woman and her daughter, who was still in the car, saw the singed fur and terrible burns on the animal. They realized she was badly injured. While the daughter remained in the car and spoke softly to the dog, her mother ran inside to call the Humane Society. She was told to bring in the dog and they drove frantically across town.

That evening a shocked public watched, and many cried, as the TV nightly news showed the courageous animal struggling bravely to walk from the car. Veterinarians examined her and despite the tremendous pain, she bore it all bravely. The firecracker had caused appalling damage. She was burned inside her rectum and all around it, and her mouth was burned when she tried to remove the burning firecracker.

The Humane Society caregivers named her Spirit because of her gutsy nature. She won the hearts of everyone who read about her or heard about her. She underwent all the painful treatments with a resolve that was awesome. Spirit caught the attention of an admiring public and checks poured in for her extensive and expensive medical care. Ebony and I took toys, blankets, pillows, treats, and more poured into the shelter.  Spirit happily shared them with the other animals. A lot of prayers were said, especially to St. Francis, to help Spirit’s healing. Her condition was updated daily by the TV stations.

The Humane Society reported that Spirit wore a collar and appeared to have been taken care of. Where were her owners now? People wanted answers as to who tortured this precious being. No one ever came forth to claim her. Some speculated that someone in the family that owned Spirit had injured her and the family did not claim her for fear of prosecution.

Spirit spent several weeks recovering at the Humane Society. Hundreds of people wanted to adopt her. One lucky woman who had worked with Spirit during those long, painful weeks became her adopted mother. When Spirit healed and was ready to leave for her new home, the public was invited to meet her. The Humane Society held a farewell party for Spirit so that her friends and admirers could meet this wonderful, loving dog whose spirit had touched so many. Spirit was indeed spirited at the party. She greeted each guest, wolfed down her special cake, said her good-byes, and walked majestically out the door and into a new life, healed in body and spirit.

Wicked people critically injured her; her owners turned their backs on her, but with that incredibly lovable manner of dogs, Spirit remained trusting and gentle. Should Spirit ever meet her torturers in the future, she would, in the extraordinarily wonderful nature of dogs, undoubtedly greet them with warmth and affection.

Spirit is owed a debt of gratitude and thanks for the valuable lesson she taught us about love and forgiveness.

Why can’t people be more like animals?




***

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who Am I?

WHO AM I?


The best passion is compassion.
- Jamaica





You may be asking yourself that question, as well you should. Let me introduce myself. I am black, Catholic and female. I know what it is to be a pariah. I also know what it is to be a victim of a violent rape. But I am a child of God, and His loving mercy allows me to minister to priests in prison for the same offense that I suffered – not at the hands of a priest. In the past few weeks some of our more visible entertainers have said rape is not rape when committed by a celebrity, and they seem to conclude that there are degrees of rape. Rape is rape – always has been and always will be.


I hasten to add that not all priests in prison are guilty, and not all accused priests are guilty. Yes, many have fallen from grace, but they remain priests because that special mark can never be erased. Most of our Church leaders are so afraid of being heckled by the likes of SNAP and VOTF that in their haste to dispense with the priests they view as troublesome, they have swiftly thrown those priests to the wolves, slammed shut the Church doors, and seemingly have forbidden the priests in their dioceses from having any contact with imprisoned priests. Indeed, they have willingly sacrificed their common sense.


As a victim of rape at age 11, held down on a bed with a gun to my head, I know there is no way that I can ever forget that. I am surprised that anybody believes that a rape victim suddenly remembers being raped some 30 or 40 yrs. later. As the Church offered more and more money, many “victims” suddenly began to “remember” being raped by a priest. Those millionaires and their greedy lawyers are enjoying their money now, but they will have to face the Lord on Judgment Day. I would love to be a fly on the wall on that Day.


Some of you may remember reading the article I wrote that was published in the National Catholic Reporter on July 20, 2007, titled, “Throwaway Priests.” I wanted to know how our Catholic priests in prison were being treated. The response was overwhelming. I heard from priests in dioceses, priests in prison, priests who married, and priests who had left the Church for various reasons. I now write to some 30-40 priests in prison who have opened their hearts to me. I ask what they need and try to obtain newspaper and magazine subscriptions; books; money for telephone and commissary items. Friends who initially frowned on my ministry are now helping a bit. Every now and then someone will send $25 or so to purchase paper, ink cartridges, or stamps. I am thrilled with that. I have asked friends not to send me any more birthday or Christmas presents, but instead to send the money to Fr. Gordon J. MacRae’s defense fund.


Our priests in prison don’t want sympathy and they don’t whine. They don’t hate anyone and they aren’t angry at anyone. For the most part, they are puzzled as to the silence from their brother priests. That is what hurts them most of all: the lack of visits or messages from their brother priests, some of whom have had the audacity to tell these wounded priests that they want no contact with them. What a slap in the face. It’s as if their being in prison is contagious, and a letter to or from them will contaminate those outside. In fact, every priest is only one telephone call away from being behind iron bars themselves. I remind you again that every priest in prison is not guilty.


The Catholic Church that I joined (after much angst from a reluctant mother), taught about love, forgiveness, compassion, and justice. I have seen precious little of that vis-a-vis our priests in prison, and they are OUR priests in prison. Many of the imprisoned priests are very elderly and don’t have family members still alive. Priests in prison suffer from the lack of Catholic materials. Few have access to a priest or a confessor. Some imprisoned close to their home parish have never had a visitor from anyone connected to that parish. Their families live in fear that some organization unworthy of being named here, will find out where they live and picket their neighborhoods, and on it goes. I call that unabated hate and ignorance. What kind of people are we who sit by silently, never asking publicly for prayers for priests in prison? No one ever speaks of forgiveness and compassion in their regard. No one ever asks What Would Jesus Do? Why? Because they know the answer.


From their pulpits our bishops literally embrace “victims” and beseech us to pray for them as they, the “victims” reach for the money being thrown at them which is probably more welcomed than the prayers. Few of their former parishioners care enough to reach out to them. I have felt the presence of our Lord every day since the night a gun was held to my head. I was going to die that night; the rapist told me so. He said he was going to kill both of us after that horrible act. I could only think of my mother walking in and finding us dead. I had to spare her that. I was traumatized, but the Lord must have given me the words to convince him that I would remain silent. I was silent for 45 years, but I never forgot. I wish I could have.


I pray that we may be responsible, forgiving, compassionate and loving members of our Church.


I pray that we see the plank in our eyes before we complain about the splinter in the eyes of others.


I pray that our Lord will wrap our incarcerated priests in His loving mercy.


I pray that priests who live under bridges as vagrants, will somehow find comfort in the words of our Lord that He will never abandon them.


I pray that the love that we have for each other will be enough to share with our sick and wounded priests.


I pray.



Friday, October 23, 2009

Death of Bishop Pat Ziemann by Charlene C. Duline

Z

"A mighty oak has fallen..."
                   An African proverb



Today I learned that Bishop Pat Ziemann died yesterday at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Arizona. A few weeks ago I learned of his illness and pending death. He was dying of pancreatic cancer. Bishop Pat, as I called him, is as a monsignor referred to him, “head and shoulders above the rest.” This bishop was crucified like Christ, not guilty of any sins against children, but of a personal indiscretion with an adult who tried to blackmail him. He suffered and now he’s gone.

A few days earlier Fr. Gordon MacRae asked for prayers for a bishop who was dying of pancreatic cancer.  He would not say who the bishop was because of the bishop's concern that the media and agenda - driven groups would use this information for their own ends.

*Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.

I met Bishop Pat eight months ago at the monastery where he resided. He was an humble figure, a man, a priest, who cheerfully waited on tables and washed dishes after dinner. There were quite a few visitors at the monastery. Most were there in their splendiferous motor homes parked on monastery property. They come yearly to help the monks repair, paint, etc. and to enjoy the quietness, the spirituality, the interaction with Bishop Pat and others.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.

I was introduced to Bishop Pat by a longtime friend of his, Dolores Crowley. She and her late husband, Dr. John Crowley, spent many wonderful times with Bishop Pat. They did not desert the bishop after his fall from grace. We visited him at the monastery and he told me that his fall was the best thing that could have happened to him. He said, “It put me back in touch with my spirituality. As a bishop I was too focused on management... (and other tangibles).” Now he had dispensed with all of the trappings of being a bishop and humbly served others dining at the monastery. I was very impressed with his humility. On our last night in Benson Bishop Pat took us out to dinner at one of his favorite Mexican tiendas. What a fun evening it was. We ate and laughed. I hear his laughter now. I see his smile.

I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush

Dolores was visiting me when she brought up her home newspaper on her computer.
She looked at me in shock and gasped, “Bishop Pat is dying!”

And then I was in shock! What on earth was she talking about? Bishop Pat dying? Yet, from her ashen face I knew she was not joking. Who could joke about such a thing? I sank down on the nearest sofa and waited for an explanation. I barely understood what she said. It was something about the Press Democrat, pancreatic cancer, few weeks to live, and we both began to cry. Not Bishop Pat. Not the gentle, humble man I had come to know and love. Not the man designated by a friend of his to head a group to assist priests coming out of prison and with no place to go. His friend envisioned setting up a place isolated from the likes of SNAP, VOTF and the media; a safe place where priests released from prison could go to reorder their lives, figure out what they wanted to do in the future, and be safe from those who feel it’s their duty to cause these men to suffer for the rest of their lives. He wanted medical personnel in place, spiritual advisers, psychologists, and any therapists the priests would need in order to succeed in the next phase of their broken lives. Bishop Pat won’t be here to head the innovative and desperately needed organization, but his imprint is on the man who conceived the idea, the man who attended the seminary with Bishop Pat, the man who decided not to become a priest, but whose “brother," Bishop Pat, made him the caring man that he is today.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

A few nights after we placed a call to Bishop Pat, he returned our call. His voice was weak. He apologized to Dolores for not telling her himself of his fatal illness. I told him how much it meant to me to meet him and to spend a few days at the monastery. I wanted to ask for his blessing, but I could hear that it was an effort for him to speak. I tried unsuccessfully to choke back tears. I managed to tell Bishop Pat that I loved him, and I handed the phone to Dolores. She told him that her husband, John, will be standing at the gates of heaven to greet him. Bishop Pat said he was ready to go to his heavenly home. I’ve never blessed a bishop before, but in my heart I blessed Bishop Pat. May he go in peace. May he rest in peace.

No, the letter Z in the title of this blog does not represent Bishop Pat’s last name. The Greek letter Z means he lives. Bishop Patrick Ziemann will never die, for he lives on in the hearts of those who know and love him.

Peace,

Cee









*"Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep," Mary E. Frye