Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Parents as Ministers

One of the most horrifying things I've seen as a chaplain intern is a mother curled up in bed holding her dead teenage daughter. I've seen a half-dozen families with babies in the ER. Recently, I had to minister to the parents of a severely injured young child. I have to say that rarely does a weekend go by that the first thing I do when I got home is not hold my infant son.

So, what is a parent to do in my situation? Is it a detriment to my ministry if I see my boy in the face of every pediatric patient? Is it bad for me to sympathize with all parents, especially mothers? Do I risk putting families above all other patients in my priorities? Do I risk not being able to see clearly due to my own biases? Here are a few of my thoughts on the situation:

How to treat parents

As part of my internship, I had bi-weekly supervisory meetings with the head of the Spiritual Care Dept. Once, we reflected on my work with the family of the aforementioned severely injured child. I admitted to my supervisor that as I went to meet with the family, I tried to put myself in their shoes. I thought, "What would I be thinking or feeling if I were them? What would be most helpful for me if I were them? What would be least helpful?"

I think that last question is the most important one for a parent/minister to ask. Every person and every situation is different. The parents of this patient have their own stories and backgrounds. You can't use your worldview to judge theirs. There may be emotions felt and expressed that you may never know or imagine. They may need something that you'd never think of. But, at the end of the day, we're all human and while you can't use yourself as a gauge on what to do, you can usually use yourself as a gauge for what not to do. Although there are some people who are more sensitive than others, generally speaking we're all offended and hurt by the same kind of things.

For example: Some people are huggers, some people are not, but most people would agree that laughing while someone else is crying is extremely insensitive. 

Yeah, jerk!

Now is not the time or the place to swap dirty diaper stories or to talk about your own children and parenting adventures. The topic at hand is the sick child and the goal is to help the parents in any way you can, period.

How does being a parent affect my priorities

Clearly, you cannot put parents first, above all of the other people vying for your time and attention. You will want to and it's only natural to want to. As a parent/minister, you can most sympathize with the parents and you have deep concern for any and all sick children. But that doesn't mean that you shirk your responsibilities to the rest of the hospital.

Yup, ALL of these people AND their patients AND their patient's families AND their patient's friends. That is A LOT of people.

Priorities need to be set regardless of how well you can relate to the patient and family. My priorities tend to be set as follows:

1) Those who clearly need spiritual assistance come first. (i.e. those who directly request a chaplain)
2) Life threatening injuries and illnesses
3) Provocative cases (for example, suicidal patients or cases in which there is more than one patient from the same family)
4) Everybody else

Notice that my priorities say nothing about the age of the patient (although the age of the patient could be a factor in any of these) nor does it say anything about the religious affiliation or lack thereof of the patient. Most of my patients are not religiously affiliated. I think that might be a product of the overall culture (more and more people are calling themselves "spiritual, but not religious" for a number of different reasons).

Being able to see clearly

I have to admit that when I see a child injured or sick, I am taken back. But the trick for me is to not let that paralyze me from doing my job. For some reason, in our culture, we find it hard to believe that young people can get injured or sick. We associate youth with health. Regardless if you are a parent or not, seeing a child unconscious on a hospital bed does lead to some cognitive dissonance. When you are a parent, there is an added layer of seeing your own kid in the face of the kid who is hospitalized. It's natural. It's okay to see your kid in the sick kid and to have some of that parental instinct come up. Of course it's going to happen because being a parent changes everything!

You can't let it get in the way of your work though. You have to funnel it to give you energy to help the family, not to start crying yourself in the waiting room. You don't need to make everyone else's job harder by being the chaplain who can't keep their stuff together. The patients don't need that and you're just making yourself look unprofessional. At the end of the day, by all means, cry! You need to get it all out but, don't do it in the moment in front of the family.

Seeing your work through the eyes of a parent can also be a blessing. Your identity as a parent gives you just one more thing in common with our Father in heaven: You know what unconditional love feels like. You know how much God loves every single person in that hospital. So, your identity gives new meaning to your work as you know part of your job as God's representative is to reflect that love to everyone. "What am I to do?" you ask. You are to do what you think God-who-is-Love would do.

And I think that is what it all boils down to. Of course your identity as a parent is going to affect how you minister. You can't stifle all of that nor would you want to. But you can't let it get in the way of your job. Your job at the moment is to care for all patients and their families. But, again, being a parent kind of gives you an inside track into understanding the mind of God. As it says:

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. - Isaiah 49:15

God loves everyone more than you love your own child. Doesn't that blow your mind?


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Priest, Prophet and King: Reflections on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

"The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God;" - Isaiah 61:1-2a

In the Gospel today, Jesus reads this passage from Isaiah and concludes that "Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Today, I tell you that this passage needs to continually be fulfilled by the Body of Christ on Earth.

After we were baptized, we were anointed with an oil called the Holy Chrism. This is the same oil that is later used for the sacraments of confirmation and holy orders. As we are anointed with this oil, the priest says:

Priest: The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and
brought you to new life through water and the Holy Spirit. He now anoints you with the
chrism of salvation, so that, united with his people, you may remain for ever a member of
Christ who is Priest, Prophet and King. 

We are anointed priest, prophet and king following in the footsteps of Christ. Jesus was a priest in offering himself up as a sacrifice for us all. He was a prophet in declaring the Kingdom of God. He was a king in his service to everyone in healing and in setting an example for us all of a life lived in holiness. Not all of us will literally be priests. Some of us will not take Holy Orders and some of us cannot take Holy Orders. Not all of us will be called to preach on street corners like the prophets of the Old Testament. This idea of evangelization frankly scares most Catholics. Not all of us will be in leadership positions. The Church won't run well with too many cooks in the kitchen and some people just don't want the responsibility. But we can all be priests, prophets and kings in our own way.

So, where did this idea come from? I see plenty of evidence in the Bible of Jesus being a priest, prophet and king, but no where is this explicitly said. You're not crazy. It isn't explicitly in there. It is mentioned in the early 4th century by Eusebius of Caesarea and it has been expounded upon by the likes of Sts. Augustine and John Chrysostom and this idea was used extensively by the Protestant Reformers. It's called the "Threefold office." It is used to explain how Christ fulfilled all of the Old Testament predictions of the messiah. It is also used to expound upon our mission as part of the body of Christ.

So, what does this have to do with my everyday life? How can I be a priest? Well, for beginners, there is lay ministry. With the vocational discernment shortage, there is a huge demand for lay people to step up to the plate and do some of the things that the religious used to do like visit the home-bound or run Catholic schools and hospitals. But, not all are called to do lay ministry. So what do you do then? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (902, to be exact) mentions that parents play a special role as priests in passing on the faith to their children. If you don't have children, you can take time out to spend with God. Deepening your prayer-life and earnestly trying to follow God's will are both wonderful ways of fulfilling our call to be priests.

What about prophet? What exactly is a prophet anyway? Don't they just sit around and tell the future? Well, not exactly. I like the Old Testament definition of a prophet: A person who speaks by divine inspiration or as the interpreter through whom the will of a god is expressed. A person gifted with profound moral insight and exceptional powers of expression. (Source) A prophet doesn't necessarily tell the future. A prophet spreads God's message. Any Catholic can fulfill this call by teaching the faith or evangelizing. Or, if you don't want to put yourself out there like that, you can always be a prophet by your everyday words and actions. Simply by being the best Catholic Christian you can be, you are prophetically witnessing to your faith. You can be a prophet by making the world a better place and making your opinions known.

How on earth can I be a king? I live in America (Okay, I'm assuming so because most of my audience is in the US, but if not, that's cool). America doesn't have kings! First of all, Jesus said, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as 'Benefactors'; but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves." (Luke 22:25-27) So, our kingly office is not literally an office of leadership. We practice our kingly calling by serving others and by trying to live a moral life. Those are two things everyone can do.

In today's Gospel, Jesus points out these three parts of His calling and consequently our calling. Like Jesus, we are anointed. Like Jesus, we are to give sight to the blind (through the priestly office of teaching). Like Jesus, we are to proclaim liberty to captives (through the prophetic office of witnessing to our faith). Like Jesus, we are to let the oppressed go free (through the kingly office of service).

The following is a live performance by Casting Crowns of their song "Love them like Jesus." This song speaks to how we are to imitate Jesus in our everyday lives, even if that means sometimes just being present to someone who is suffering.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I was lucky: Why I am a Pro-life Feminist.

In September of 2011, I received the biggest shock of my life. I was pregnant with my first child. At the time, my husband and I were actively trying to avoid pregnancy. The plan was that we would wait until I had established myself as a certified hospital chaplain. I did not want to get pregnant in Syracuse, NY, half a continent away from all of our friends and family.

But I was lucky. I was happily married. My husband (Matt) had a secure, well-paying job. Except for the very end, my pregnancy was easy and complication free. And James was born a perfectly healthy and happy bouncing baby boy.

Many, too many, women out there are not as lucky. I imagine what would have happened if Matt wasn't there. I would have been forced to drop out of grad school just 3 credits short of my degree. I would have needed to find a full-time job somewhere, anywhere. Jobs are hard to come by for a woman with a BA in Philosophy and an unfinished MA in Ministry.

What if James was not so healthy or the pregnancy wasn't so smooth? I would have been forced to depend on my family, charity, and the gov't for help. It's very humbling to admit you can't do it on your own.

What if Matt and I did not believe that life started at conception? It was inconvenient to have a child before I could finish certification for chaplaincy. Now, even with Matt's support, I will not be able to finish the certification process until James is in school. Thankfully, with Matt's support, I was able to finish my MA.

What if James was unwanted? Matt and I had planned to have children, James was just 2-3 years earlier than planned. What if I hadn't wanted to have kids at all?

I cannot understand what a pregnant woman who has no money or resources is going through. I was extremely lucky on that count. James was extremely lucky on that count. I do know the feelings of grief however. Grieving the life you had intended to have. Grieving the plans you had made. Worrying about how we were going to afford this (Matt makes good money, but not enough money to completely take that worry away). Worrying about what my future was going to look like now that my plans have been smashed to pieces.

This is the reason why I'm a pro-life feminist. I believe life starts at conception. I've always believed that. Years before I became a Catholic, much less Christian, I was the weirdo pro-lifer among my Wiccan friends. I also think that it logically makes sense to be pro-life: if you don't draw the line at conception, where do you draw the line? There is no other clear-cut line except for birth, and I think most of us can agree that life starts at some point before birth. I don't remember ever making a decision to be pro-life. I think I've always been this way.

Link to article about how she underestimated women

As I've gotten older, however, I've learned that abortion is way more complicated than whether or not the child is a life. There are all sorts of socio-economic issues at play. In our country, women are still forced to choose between a child and an education, between a child and a career. Even worse, women are forced to choose between the child in her womb and feeding the children she already has. A woman should never have to choose between a child and an education or career. A woman should never have to choose between her children. Women protest in the streets for the right to choose, but none of these situations sound like much of a choice at all. It isn't a choice if your personal circumstances force your hand.

Here are the latest numbers: Of all women seeking abortions:
~ 75% say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents,
~ 75% say they can’t afford a child,
~ 69% are economically disadvantaged,
~ 61% already have at least one child,
~ and 44% of all abortions are performed on college-age women.

Pregnancy discrimination is illegal in the United States, but it is still an every day occurrence. It is the fastest growing form of employment discrimination. It often goes unreported, however, because women just don't have the resources to report it when it happens. (More info)

Abortion just serves as a band-aid on the huge gaping wound of gender inequality. Women deserve real solutions, not "quick fixes." We deserve equal treatment in the workplace. We deserve support as pregnant women and as single mothers. We deserve the right to not have to choose. This week was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Almost 56 million children have been killed. Millions of mothers have been forced to choose.

On both sides of the abortion debate, there are heated words and the absolute refusal to try understand each other. In the feminist pro-life cause, I see a middle ground. No one wants to see abortion numbers rise. No one wants think about the fact that a quarter of all African American babies conceived since Roe v. Wade are dead simply because racism in the workplace and education is not dead. Instead of talking about gender and racial inequality, we are just making it easier to get a procedure that does nothing to address the underlying causes.

A child is a gift. James has derailed some of my plans, but if you think about it, events happen everyday that derail plans.

I might not be a certified chaplain before I'm 35, but you don't have to be certified to work as one. This time at home with him has given me the opportunity to work toward my big life-long dream of being a writer. And you cannot know what it feels like to love someone until you have a child. You might not feel ready, but you'll never really be ready. No one is ever ready to have a child just like no one is ever ready to be married. You just have to jump in feet first and pray to whatever deity you believe in that you don't royally mess up. A baby changes everything but it's completely worth it.

Above is an old Johnson and Johnson commercial that I think of every time I look at my kid.

The following is a 9 minute long video in which the organization "Feminists for Life" respond to an actual recording of Roe v. Wade.

More sources:
This article connects lack of access to an abortion with poverty. I ask why is there a connection and why are these women on the brink of poverty in the first place

The official Feminist for Life website

More disturbing statistics on why women get abortions

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Waiter refuses to serve family who insults a child with Down Syndrome

In today's world, you don't often see things that make you proud to be a human. I thought you'd like this. I sure did:

Waiter shows some moral courage

I hope I'd have the courage and the presence of mind to do the same thing in the same situation.

Woman!: Reflections on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus was here.
In today's Gospel reading we hear about Jesus' first miracle. And right there by his side is His mother, Mary. Mary is very important to us Catholics. We sing about her, we pray through her intercession, we name churches after her, we celebrate feasts and solemnities in her honor...Mary is kind of a big deal. So, what's up with Jesus calling her "woman"? And why is she such a big deal?

And why am I sharing this cartoon? Because it's funny and topical, that's why.
Jesus calling his mother "woman" provokes our modern sensibilities. Women think, "If my son talked to me that way, I'd smack him up side the head." Our feminist bent recoils at the idea of Mary being referred to simply in terms of her gender. It doesn't fit our view of women.

On one level, this is simply a linguistic misunderstanding. When Jesus calls Mary "woman," He isn't disrespecting her. In the ancient world, "woman" was a term of respect, roughly equivalent with our "lady." It was a title; female rulers, like Cleopatra, were referred to as "woman."

Yes, I did that. Be kind, I don't have a lot of experience manipulating pictures. I call it, "Mary the Riveter."
On the other hand, Biblical studies has a lot to say about this particular verse. Some translations of the Bible feature Jesus never calling his mother "mother." They have him consistently calling Mary "woman." This intrigues scholars who engage in typology. Typology is the study of words, phrases and images to make connections between the books of the Bible. It is especially used to show how the Old Testament foreshadowed parts of the New. For example, the Israelites going to Egypt and escaping from Egypt foreshadows the Holy Family going to Egypt to escape the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.

In the case of the "woman" Mary, in calling His mother "woman" Jesus is making clear Mary's place in salvation history. It is linking her to Eve and Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." Calling Mary "woman," underlines the fact that Jesus is the new Adam and Mary is the new Eve.

It also links her to the end of time in the book of Revelation chapter 12:1-6
1 A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
2 She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
3 Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.
4 Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth.
5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
6 The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days.    
It is believed that this unnamed woman is Mary after her assumption and her son is Jesus. Some theologians believe that this entire passage simply underlines her identity as the "Mother of the Church."

And here we come to, "Why is Mary such a big deal?" Catholics do not worship Mary, worship is due to God alone, but she is put high on a pedestal. She is seen as a role model for all Christians in her faithfulness and her willingness to follow God's will even when that will didn't make much sense (remember the annunciation. How would you feel if some angel came to you and said God was going to get you pregnant with His Son?). She is believed to have been born without sin because God cannot be in the presence of sin and she gave birth to God; as you see, everything that Catholics believe about Mary ultimately points us back to her Son. A woman who held God in her womb for nine months, gave birth to Him, and followed Him to His death and beyond cannot be an ordinary woman.

But, on the other hand, she was a woman. A woman who played and continues to play a pivotal role in our salvation in her intercession for all of us with her Son. So, we should not cringe when her Son calls her "woman," because that is what she is.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

HIPAA, Mental Health, and Gun Background Checks

Yesterday, President Obama signed 23 Executive Orders to get the ball rolling on tougher gun control measures. One of these has been quoted in the media as saying:

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system. (Source)

This order would make mental health records part of the background check that is done before the purchase of a gun. Right now, states are supposed to provide a list of people who have been involuntarily institutionalized for the sake of background checks. Very few states actually do this, however, due to concerns about HIPAA.

HIPAA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This law passed in 1996 protects patients from numerous privacy violations in regards to their health care records. If you have been to a doctor's office recently, you've probably signed at least one document related to HIPAA. You've likely had to sign something giving the doctor permission to discuss your records with their colleagues. I'm sure you've had to sign something saying that you have read and you understand the clinic's privacy policy.  These are just two of the many documents required by HIPAA.

HIPAA assures that only the people who need to have access to your health information has access to it. There are a few exceptions to this however. For example, your information (minus any identifiers like your name) can be used in research. Also, when served with a subpoena, your doctors can release your information if it is needed for the investigation of a crime. The one exception that I could find that is related to this issue of gun control is:

Serious Threat to Health or Safety. Covered entities may disclose protected health information that they believe is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to a person or the public, when such disclosure is made to someone they believe can prevent or lessen the threat (including the target of the threat). Covered entities may also disclose to law enforcement if the information is needed to identify or apprehend an escapee or violent criminal. (Source)

(Covered entities are the people who are allowed access to your records.) 

Under this exception, if you could argue that someone with a mental illness poses an imminent threat to society at large, their records could ethically be used in background checks. 

While some of the most recent mass murders did have a mental illness, study after study has shown that past mental illness is not a predictor of future violent behavior. People who have suffered from a mental illness are statistically no more likely to commit a violent crime than someone who is mentally healthy. Studies have shown that mental illness alone does not cause violence. Often in the case of mentally ill murderers, the mental illness is compounded by drug use or a triggering event in their lives (ex: divorce or death in the family). Mentally ill mass murderers are often not diagnosed with a disorder until after the crime was committed. So it would seem that using mental health records in background checks would be a pointless violation of HIPAA. (Source)

Sure, it would make us feel better to know that there are barriers for the mentally ill to get their hands on guns, but it would not actually make us any safer and it would violate the privacy of millions of individuals. Most mass murderers have no history of mental illness. This would simply be an example of using anecdotal evidence instead of actually looking at the numbers. We know that the shooter at Virginia Tech was mentally ill, so all mentally ill people cannot be trusted with guns. Well, we know that the Virginia Tech shooter was an Asian-American too, so should we bar all Asian-Americans from having guns?

It seems to me that this is just another symptom of the stigma of mental illness in this country. I think that is one of the real issues. People don't get help because they are afraid they will be looked down upon. Health insurance companies still do not treat mental illness as seriously as physical (another one of the Executive Orders signed yesterday will hopefully help with that). The mentally ill are not dangerous crazies. They are ill, like someone with pneumonia is ill, and they need our support.


I can't believe I'm arguing for gun rights. I am arguing for reasonable gun control measures that will actually make us safe, not creating dangerous precedents for HIPAA violations.

Interesting article about the fallacy of using past behavior to predict future behavior

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vatican vs. "Call to disobediance"

I feel this is a good follow-up to my post about Cardinal Dolan because this is a clear display of talking past each other, not to each other in the Church.

So, here's the story:

These priests in Austria sign a petition saying they want to see the following changes in the Church:

  1. In every liturgy they will include a petition for church reform.
  2. They will not deny Communion to faithful of good will, especially remarried people, members of other Christian churches, and in some cases those who have officially left the Catholic Church.
  3. As much as possible they will avoid celebrating multiple times on Sundays and feastdays, and avoid scheduling circuit rider priests unknown to the community. A locally-planned Liturgy of the Word is preferable.
  4. They will use the term “Priestless Eucharistic Celebration” for a Liturgy of the Word with distribution of Communion. This is how the Sunday Mass obligation is fulfilled when priests are in short supply.
  5. They will ignore the prohibition of preaching by competently trained laity, including female religion teachers. In difficult times, the Word of God must be proclaimed.
  6. They will advocate that every parish has a presiding leader – man or woman, married or unmarried, full-time or part time. Rather than consolidating parishes, they call for a new image of the priest.
  7. They will take every opportunity to speak up publicly for the admission of women and married people to the priesthood. These would be welcome colleagues in ministry.

Now, like Luther in his 95 Theses, these guys bring up some valid concerns, but you'd never know it because they are so weighed down with a lot of ideas that they know will never happen in the Church (at least they should know it, if they know anything about how the Church works and what the Church teaches).

For example: Clearly these guys are concerned about the priest shortage and the impact of the shortage on the community. They don't like seeing parishes consolidated (see 6 above) and they hate seeing priests preach to parishes they've never even met (see 3 above). I think both of those are valid concerns and I share them. But, the solution isn't married clergy (some of your most conservative dioceses have the most vocations) and we've already had an arguably infallible statement that women can't be priests (and I don't feel prejudiced against).

I share their concern about closed communion. It broke my heart that my parents couldn't receive communion at my wedding. But, again, the Church has good reasons. The Eucharist, in addition to being the Body and Blood of Christ, is also a sign of unity. If you are not in unity, you shouldn't receive it. It's even in the Bible, "For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself." (1 Corinthians 11:29) Now, you may argue that the passage is talking about someone eating knowing that themselves are unworthy, not someone else deeming them unworthy, but I would say that is begging the question. And, in the situation of my wedding, my mother didn't mind it at all. In fact, she refused to even be blessed, because "it's not my religion."

Preaching is very important. I love preaching. I'm discerning a vocation as a Lay Dominican for crying out loud. And laity can preach (I'm preaching right now), just not in the Mass.

This issue is only compounded by the rhetoric on both sides.

On the left: Church leadership is "paternalistic" and "unyielding." This is clearly a power-play, with the Magisterium scared they'll lose. The Church is an "absolutist monarchy" and is closed to all reform. The Pope is intolerant of all dissent. Priests seem to not care about the situation.

Sources: The Vienna Review, The New York Times, Women Priests, Reuters, and Pfarrer-Initiative (which is the organization that authored the document).

On the right: These priests want to give communion to "adulterers" (that is the quote that inspired this post, calling names is not going to fix the divorce crisis!). They are "pedophiles." They are leading their flocks to damnation. They are "heretics" (I would argue that 7 above could be classified as heresy and these priests apparently do not understand what the Church means by priesthood) They are doing the work of the devil.

Sources: Mundabor's Blog, Fr. Z, E F Pastoremeritus, and The Eponymous Flower (1 and 2).

The Pope is not a soulless dictator. He is the leader of the worldwide Church that is also one of the oldest continuously existing organizations in the world. These priests are not evil. I have seen the devil and these guys are not it. Let's just get those two points out in the open right away. Everyone at the table is beautiful and loved in God's sight.

I liked a post I saw on Rorate Caeli. Benedict XVI seems to know what I'm getting at. The disobedience of these priests seems to be misguided even though their hearts seem to be in the right place. The Vatican, on the other hand, needs to be open to change, as long as that change does not contradict Scripture or Tradition. The changes that these priests are calling for contradicts both Scripture and Tradition, but the problems they seek to resolve do need to be addressed. Name-calling and assuming each others motivations is not going to solve anything.

There is room in the Church for the left and the right as long as both sides are open to dialog. These sides of the Church could be complimentary if we let them. The left can challenge while the right keeps us from careening off the path. The left can open a window to let the air in while the right keeps the building from blowing away.

Meaningful disclaimer: I am, surprise-surprise, a liberal. My lovely husband is a conservative. We are both faithful Catholics who are very involved in our parish. If we can run a household, raise a child, and take communion (and often give communion, we're both Eucharistic ministers) at the same Mass, the right and the left in the Church can be civil. My husband and I have been together for going on 6 years and we will be buried together, despite the fact I'm a registered Democrat and he's a registered Republican. If we can do it, anyone can.