Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why I can't stand sidewalk counseling.....

Most people who know me, despite my liberal viewpoints, would know that I'm also pro-life. I was the kid in high school who wore a Rock for Life T-shirt, complete with fetus playing guitar on the front and an inflammatory message on the back. In college, I've attended my fair share of anti-abortion protests, I volunteer at a CPC (a non-coercive, non-deceptive one, I may add) and I'm planning to attend a March for Life with my friends this coming January. Yet, I have my own issues with the pro-life movement. I don't like that none of the major pro-life organizations also denounce family planning counseling and contraceptive usage. I don't like that many politicians who claim to be "pro-life" also are too willing to cut funding for SCHIP, public education, or WIC, programs that would actually help the mother and child before and after birth. Mainly, the one thing I cannot stand: Sidewalk Counseling.

Sidewalk counselors make me ashamed to admit that I am pro-life. From my own observations (not all, but a good portion) as well as video footage (, all I see are people harassing women. They surround them like vultures, armed with Bibles, rosaries and Our Lady of Guadalupe, repeating their pleas over and over again. "Don't kill your baby, it's a decision you can never take back!" "We'll take care of you!" They don't stop with speaking or shouting. They'll do everything they can to get as close as possible to the girls and women, to the point of grabbing them (something that is a violation of the law). Some of these girls look so young, younger than my sister, and frightened. Meanwhile, you have people in the background chanting Bible verses about sin, hell, and murder. It's quite the scary scene.

I do not support abortion. I don't see it as a right. I see it as a sign that we've failed. If women cannot keep a job, access health insurance, or face a world free from stigma, have we met the needs of women? If so many of our teenagers are getting pregnant, where have we failed in that regard? And if so many health issues and complications arise from pregnancy, are scientists conducting research, in order that we may be able to save two lives? These are the questions that run through my mind.

At the same time, if abortion is a right in this nation, if it is seen as a sad but necessary evil, how can you berate those girls and women for their choices? The choice to terminate a pregnancy rarely comes easy. Most women want their pregnancies to be positive experiences. Many dream of a healthy child, a little boy or girl. At the same time, if you're just barely feeding yourself, how can you take care of a kid? What if adoption is not presented well, but is used as a coercion tactic (look up Leslee Unruh)? What if you have serious medical issues, serious enough that one or both of you could die? What if you were the survivor of rape/incest? What if you could lose a scholarship? What if you could lose your job? What if your partner was abusive or neglectful? What if you were trying to figure out how to care for children you already had?

I believe we need to focus on these ills, to focus on bearing burdens and creating solutions for these larger issues. At the same time, I do not believe it wise, compassionate or a good use of faith to browbeat these women. Abortion comes with possible physical complications (as every medical procedure does) and emotional experiences that differ from woman to woman. Yes, it ends a life. No, it's not always easy. It's scary. The whole experience is scary. They know what it means to be pregnant. They've thought and prayed about their choices. Many think it won't happen to them until it does.

Is it too much for the pro-life movement to step back and have some compassion? If we're going to make any progress at all, it isn't through chasing after people on a day that's already stressful for them.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I bind my heart in a code of silence,
A wall of strict stone,
Armed with gun and cannon,
Fortified by the most valiant
Of soldiers.

For, if I revealed to you,
What it is I truly feel,
I might as well perish
In the cruelest of

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Moment of Meditation

Let us take a moment to remember Jasper Howard, a UCONN student, athlete, friend to many, and expectant father, who was murdered this past weekend.

May all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

May the Angels lead you into Paradise, may the martyrs great you at your arrival and lead you into the Holy City, Jerusalem. May the choirs of angels greet you and like Lazarus, who was once a poor man, may you have eternal rest.

I pray for him, those he left behind, and for the safety of all I know and don't know who attend.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Doubting Thomas" = Defensor Fidelis?

I am a Catholic. If you know me, this is usually the first thing you come to know. If you don't, you usually figure it out pretty quickly. I'm proud to be Catholic. My weekend plans include a Sunday Mass, my bag contains a rosary, and I'm involved in my Catholic community in many different ways. I also have the habit of connecting everything to a saints' day (example: "I'm seeing a U2 concert on the Feast of St. Michael!" Yeah, I'm that person). I live by Church teaching, even the hard ones, but at the same time, through all of it, there are many disagreements I hold with the Church. I believe contraception should be a couple's choice, that women should be welcomed into the priesthood, that maybe premarital sex, when done out of love, isn't as horrible a sin, even if it's not my personal cup of tea. I believe that religion shouldn't influence public policy with regards to same sex marriage and I don't understand why priests should be discouraged and forbidden from marriage (this for the Roman Rite-Eastern Rite is different).

Yet many things in my life have made me defend the Church, even despite my own disagreements.

I attend a very liberal university. This in and of itself would not be a problem, except that the words "liberal" and "tolerant" only apply if you agree completely with what others say (making the words meaningless). Though I myself am very politically liberal, my Catholic faith and pro-life beliefs have gotten me into hot water with many of my classmates. I have had experiences where I was the only person in my bio class who actively stood against turning human embryos into commodities. I've been the only person in my class defending the Church, not even when I absolutely agreed with the Pope but because my professor or classmates turned the discussion from honest inquiry to an excuse to bash Catholics, conservatives and other groups. I've been told my views are ridiculous and that my religion is horrible because of past events that no one in the Church has any control over. I've had friends come out of class frustrated for believing the same thing. I'm even afraid to get the groups I help run involved in certain events, because I'm afraid of situations devolving into a fiery pit of arrogance, insults, and an utter lack of respect or decency.

To me, the Church is my family. Even when I question my faith in God, I cannot deny the spiritual and cultural home I've found in Catholicism, nor can I deny the friendships and communities I've found because of it. Even as I question my priest on views of birth control or homosexuality, I cannot deny the good man of God that he is or underestimate the power of his faith, love and intellect combined. I cannot deny the peace I find in attending Mass or saying a rosary, even if I wish I could see a woman on that altar with the Church's blessing. Moreover, I cannot deny the honest inquiry, both intellectual and spiritual, of many theologians, the hope and faith that they are getting something right, that they really are following the will of God. I also cannot deny the heroes of Catholicism, the heroes that inspire me in my own faith, my own activism, the people whose faith was their momentum and reason for all that they did, even if it lead to their deaths. Even if I myself cringe at the wealth of the Church, I cannot deny the selflessness of the many Catholics, lay, religious and clergy, who give their hearts, minds and souls for the cause of Christ and the cause of justice.

Yes, I have my own struggles with certain teachings. At the same time, for this reason, I defend them and those who believe in, simply because I understand. I hate bigotry and disrespect more than I disagree with the men of Rome. Also, while I disagree with my family on certain things, I would never let someone speak ill of my own mother and father. Neither will I allow someone to speak evil of the main source that inspires me to do good: my faith in God through the Church.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No Excuse

I went to U2 last week with a dear friend of mine. The whole time, I was so excited, seeing my favorite band, my favorite celebrity, people who have not just inspired me with their music but with their passion to create a better world. This is a band whose music has calmed me during times of stress and whose mission motivates me to push forward with all that I believe in. The whole time, I kept screaming, "I can't believe I'm seeing Bono!" My friend looked at me and said, "Who knows? Maybe someone someday will say, 'I can't believe I'm seeing Katie!'"

Immediately, I rebuked him. I'll admit, I'm a very proud person, it's my biggest flaw, and I just don't take compliments well. Looking back, I feel bad, because I know he meant it, but at the time, I just could not stand an accusation of greatness. Yet, it was an event I went to tonight, an event on Interfaith Leadership with Eboo Patel as the speaker, that made me realize I had no excuse. I do no good hiding behind my insecurities. Humility does not come from being less of who I am but from being all of who I am, all of the time.

Throughout the talk, Mr. Patel brought up several points. One of his key points was that the population of Iraq, Afghanistan, and India, all troublesome spots in our world, are very young populations. Disadvantaged youth are hearing a message of faith that is only accompanied by a gun or a bomb. At the same time, religious leaders who have made a difference, such as Gandhi, Dr. King, and the Dalai Lama, all started their leadership in their late teens/early twenties. As the head of my school's Interfaith Council and as a young person myself, these stories hit me hard.

I've always wanted to do something great, to define my life by a life of courage, service, and compassion but have always felt I wasn't good enough, talented enough, intelligent enough, faithful enough, or kind enough. Yet I feel God has been correcting me in that regard. I would say, "I wish I could combine music and international issues like Bono." "Bono didn't read music when he started and he didn't finish college. You do both things." "I wish I could be as great as Mother Teresa." "She did her work despite little opportunity. You have been given a lot." "I wish I could (insert whatever)." "Well, my child, DO IT!"

It's an absolute sin to hide who you are, to wall yourself in the mask of insecurity, for fear of greatness. That's not humility. That's pride masquerading as such. It walls you inside yourself and prevents you from being great, from shining your light to all people and living as who you were made to be. The leaders of the world did not focus on their own securities. They focused on the work that needed to be done and the talents and skills they could offer to do it. I know I myself could do better with that.