Thursday, February 14, 2013

Paolo Gabrielle For Pope

I read what others are writing about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI; sometimes with interest, sometimes with eyes glazed over from reading the same thing being said over and over.  Two articles, however, caught my attention -- one New York Times op-ed written by Jason Berry and one about Paolo Gabrielle, the pope’s butler.  Thank you to Abuse Tracker for posting one article and Frank Douglas for drawing my attention to the other.

First, Jason Berry, who is very well researched, wrote about a detail that should be well known but had not been catalogued in my brain before.  In his New York Times op-ed he wrote about Cardinal Sodano.  Apparently Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, wanted to investigate Marcel Maciel, the founder of the Legionnaire's of Christ and legendary, chronic abuser of boys and women and girls and men.  Cardinal Sodano pressured Pope John Paul II to end this investigation, and he did.  The former Cardinal Ratzinger attempted other positive steps concerning the clergy abuse issue, only to be opposed by the powerful Cardinal Sodano.  Pope Benedict XVI has slime on his hands too.  He knew about abuse and covered it up too, but we should give credit for what he did do -- namely investigate and punish Marcel Maciel as well as meet with some clergy abuse survivors to hear their stories and a few other positive actions.

Why I am so concerned is that Cardinal Sodano was elected dean of the College of Cardinals which will elect the next Pope.  This cannot be good news for anyone who wants to end abuse and care for survivors wounded in our Catholic Church.

When the clergy abuse scandal burst forth in 2002, pressured by media stories and legal action, the Church made some genuine progress in it’s handling of the issue.  As the lawsuits and the bankruptcies and media coverage of the issue abated, the Church seems to be regressing.  It appears we are in for much more regression.   In my opinion this means even less support for survivors and increased likelihood for more abuse in the present and the future.  It we want to end abuse, we have to talk about it; we have to tackle it head one.  We can and should try new approaches, but we must not sweep the issue under the rug.  We must act on our moral convictions

Acting on one’s moral convictions leads me to the second article that I read that caught my attention -- a long article about Paolo Gabrielle, the former butler to Pope Benedict XVI.  Gabrielle appears to be a deeply spiritual man who is not afraid to act on his convictions.  This kind of person is in short supply and it is precisely the kind of person we need as pope -- which is why I am nominating Gabrielle for the job.  Let us forget the fact that he is married and not a priest.  You don’t have to be unmarried and a priest to be holy and inspired.  I think Paolo Gabrielle is holy and inspired.  Apparently, Church leaders were so inspired by the passion and conviction with which Paolo cleaned church toilets, that he ended up in successively better jobs in the Church and the Vatican until he became the Pope Benedict’s butler.  He is a very pious man who neither drinks nor smokes nor did he engage in premarital sex.  He is also a very devout Catholic who joined Pope Benedict XVI in prayer.  But along the way he became aware that all is not well in the Vatican, that there is corruption and moral turpitude in the Vatican.  He was slow to act, but he began to act by steering documents to a journalist, who wrote articles and a book exposing Vatican corruption.  He did not do this for money.  He did this out of love for Church and Pope, because he felt others were standing in the way of the Pope’s efforts to reform and renew the Church.  

Gabrielle knew there was a risk to what he was doing, and he did it anyway.  He was tried and went to prison for what he did.  I think that this is the sort of action that carrying your cross is supposed to refer to.  Jesus carried his cross to his crucifixion.  He did not commit any real crimes; but he carried out moral actions.  Mostly Jesus upset the status quo in the  religious and political establishment of 1st century Palestine.  Maybe his ministry was so short it elicited no mention in Roman documents of the time, but his actions and his ideas were so inspirational to the masses and so frightening to the governing elite, that his followers were mentioned by Roman chroniclers within a few decades.  

This is precisely the kind of leader that the Catholic Church needs in a Pope.  It should not be a problem that Gabrielle is not a priest and that he is married because Peter, the first pope, was married and was not an ordained priest.

So I nominate Paolo Gabrielle for Pope.

2013 (c) Copyright Virginia Pickles Jones

Please help me help survivors.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What I Learned By Forgiving Myself

In January 2007, I went on retreat with The Compassionate Listening Project, a not-for-profit that teaches the skill of Compassionate Listening as a peace building tool.  They got their start by working to heal the Jewish/Palestinian conflict.

The facilitator said, “We are all our own worst terrorist.”

This means that we repeat to ourselves other people’s criticisms of us over and over even more harshly than others do. 

I have done this all my life, but just before I went on retreat, I had made one of the biggest mistakes of my life.  I had driven away a friend and co-worker, Pavel (not his real name) with my intense criticism of him and his work.  My criticisms contained truth, but most of us learn best from our own experiences.  Most of us don’t respond positively to criticism, particularly harsh criticism. When we repeatedly criticize people or express anger at them, we drive them away.

So at this retreat I knew without hesitation which criticisms I was repeating to myself over and over.  

Virginia, you are too intense.

Virginia, you drove away Pavel with your anger and criticism.

Then the facilitator told us to think about what we were longing for.

That was easy.  I wanted to connect with the people, specifically Pavel.

So how did I forgive myself?  

My first step was to stop stating the negative as a negative but instead as the positive of what was longing for.


Virginia, you drive people away.


Virginia, you are longing to connect with other people.

By restating a negative as a positive, my next step forward became obvious.  

I shifted my thoughts and actions to how to connect with others.  Changing multiple unhelpful coping skills took me a long time.  It is easer to try to change just one or two things at a time, but it is also helpful to look forward to future steps too.  For example, I can at least try to name three ways I can better connect with other people:

  • The first thing I learned to do was to set my agenda aside until I had the kind of rapport that would open another person’s heart to my agenda.  In my case, I was always trying to get other Catholics to care about the clergy abuse issue.  I managed to alienate quite a few people and tire out a good many others.  I would talk to people about clergy abuse before I spoke about anything else.  Now I wait until people express an interest in the work I do before I mention it and unless they express more interest, I stop talking about the issue.
  • The second thing I learned to do is listen much more than I talk.  This is a challenge for me, but I keep working on it.  I try to catch myself talking and stop and just listen.
  • Ask people questions.  People are fascinated by you when you ask them about them.
  • Thank people for their time and attention.  Ask people how they are.  Say please.

OK this is four examples, but politeness and kindness work wonders to heal relationships.

My next problem that I faced at the retreat was that I had driven away my friend Pavel with anger and criticism.  Back in 2007, when I was on retreat, I was hurt by a third party, not by Pavel.  I didn’t blame Pavel, but I felt that he should have been more supportive and sensitive of my feelings and needs.  I did not like the third party and had no rapport with her.  I previously had a good rapport with Pavel, so Pavel got to hear all my feelings.  I have never managed to reconnect with Pavel so about the best I can work on is how do I manage to never again lose a relationship that is important to me through criticism and anger again.

To restate this as a positive, I want to learn to express my anger in ways that help me and others better understand what my needs are and why I am feeling hurt and angry.  I want to express my anger in ways that help me instead of hurt me.

When we are hurt, we go through the “fight or flight” reaction which nature programmed into us so we would survive meeting lions, tigers, wolves and bears.  Our heart beats faster.  We feel anxious.  Our human reaction is to defend ourselves or attack back.  It is not to listen and be compassionate.

The truth was I angry at this other person but I took it out on Pavel.  How often do we have a bad day at work and take it out on our loved ones when we come home?

So the number one rule is:

  • Be angry at the person who deserves your anger and not someone who does not.

The rest of the rules include:
  • Slow yourself down before you speak or send an e-mail.  It is a truism, but it is a true truism.  You can write down your feelings, but if you send them to anyone, send them to someone you trust and ask for their input.  Often when I am angry, I have learned that if  I just wait before I express myself, my need to express anger goes away or I express myself more diplomatically and more briefly and therefor more effectively.
  • Give yourself time and space to heal before you speak.  My self healing coping skills include taking a walk, gardening, hiking and even cleaning the house.  The house always need to be cleaned so I always feel better afterwards.  That way I kill two birds with one stone or feed two birds with one seed as Pavel would say.  Other ways of self healing are through playing music or singing, yoga, and dancing.  What helps you heal?

Last, but not least:
  • Find kinder and gentler ways of expressing your feelings when you are angry.

If I was to restate the several excessively long and angry e-mails I sent to Pavel, I would say this:

I really appreciate your hard work and dedication.  You have helped many people heal.  You have given of yourself selflessly to many people, including me, and many people, including me, have criticized you and gotten angry at you.  That is hard to take when you give so much time to other people.

I think you might feel that I used you.  I can see why you feel that way, that I came with my agenda and pursued it without regard to you or others.  Please understand that I felt that people needed to hear the truth I knew that no one had told them in public.  It says in the Bible that the truth will set you free.  I was merely trying to set people free.  I felt I had to speak about the truth because no one else would.  So maybe it is valid if you feel that I used you.  I am sorry.  Just please understand that I was trying to do good by using you.

Lastly, Pavel, I want you to know that there is nothing you said or did that was wrong.  The wrong is all other people and their actions.  If there was anything wrong, it was that your role in public events was too small.  If there was anything wrong, it was how blankety-blank facilitated things.  If I could have facilitated the event, I would have had you and Ivan share your stories.  I think that would have been much more healing and effective than what took place.  

My apology and my rewording of my anger at Pavel will probably never be acknowledged even though I have apologized other times with more words, maybe too many words. Regardless, I have two last pieces of advice to offer on healing through self forgiveness.

Keep whatever you say to yourself and others short and sweet.

Self forgiveness is what you do it for yourself whether or not other people approve or respond.  It does not matter that Pavel has never responded, it matters that I think about my actions and words, forgive myself for being human and try to move forward and do better next time.

2013 (c) Copyright Virginia Pickles Jones

Please help me work with survivors.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

As it is Done in Heaven Or What I Would Do With Cardinal Mahoney

A friend of mine, who I will call Emily, lost her job when she was in her fifties.  It is hard to a job when you are a fifty plus year old woman.  Emily struggled with despair and hopelessness.  Her friend recommended that she visit a psychic she knew, suggesting the psychic might be able to give her some insight and comfort.  The friend gave her reason why.  She had gone to see the psychic herself.  She was sexually abused by her father, but she had not disclosed this fact in public.  The psychic instructed her sit with her in stillness and quiet while she meditated.  After a while the psychic began speaking. 

She said, “I see your father.  He is in hell.  He has hurt many people.  I see him sitting in a chair.  He is surrounded by mirrors.  In every mirror he sees the pain he caused in other people.”
So personnel files were made public and it was revealed that Cardinal Mahoney tried strenuously to silence abuse victims and keep abusive priests in ministry.  Why am I not surprised?  Probably if personnel files for accused abusers across the country and the world were released, we’d see a similar pattern and many cardinals, archbishops and bishops would be relieved of their remaining duties.

Doubtless many people would like to see Roger Mahoney go to prison, but prison is expensive.  I’d rather spend the money on therapy and drug and alcohol treatment for survivors of abuse.  I think the better solution would be to surround Roger Mahoney with real life mirrors of the abuse he facilitated.

First, I would train Roger Mahoney and a group of his staffers and supporters who sit in the pews on Sunday mornings in Compassionate Listening.  (Please note that I, Virginia Jones, studied Compassionate Listening with The Compassionate Listening Project and have adapted their listening skills for my work with survivors of abuse).  One day a week, I would arrange for Roger Mahoney, his former staff and friends and supporters listen to survivors with compassion.  These listening sessions would be facilitated by someone not employed by the Catholic Church.  For  the other five days a week I would have Mr. Mahoney work in a variety of jobs that would bring him in contact with people struggling with the consequences of abuse.  For example, he can make and serve food in soup kitchens, help people dying of AIDS in hospice with their activities of daily living (ie. bathing, toileting, dressing and eating), he could work as a janitor in a not for profit drug and alcohol treatment center that serves low income clients, and he can work as the night host in a shelter for homeless families with crying babies.

Why all the homeless oriented activities?  I have read about various studies.  Figures vary in different studies but I have seen figures that between 1/4 and 3/4 of homeless people have suffered from one form of abuse or another.

I want to offer my Catholic parish as a place that Roger can begin his new ministry in service to survivors of abuse.  Ascension parish here in Portland, Oregon, hosts homeless families once every eleven weeks.  I have worked in this shelter on and off for 5 years and have met a number of child abuse and domestic violence survivors.  Usually my children and I work as evening hosts, but there is one hosting job that usually lacks volunteers -- overnight hosts.  You have to sleep on the couch and cope with babies crying in the middle of the night.  I think it is the perfect retirement volunteer job for Mr. Mahoney.  He will see the consequences of abuse and be reminded of the need for children to have loving and stable people care for them. 

Just a note about psychics: The Catholic Church does not accept the work of psychics.  However it accepts Near Death Experiences as personal revelation.  It is very common in Near Death Experiences for people to to go through a life review in which they relive their lives through the experiences of the people around them.  If you cause people pain, you experience their pain.  If you give care and joy to other people, you experience their happiness.  I spoke with this to a Catholic priest who said it reminded him of the Catholic doctrine of purgatory.

It says in the Lord’s Prayer that we are to do what is done in heaven.  Why don’t we do just that?  My way, Mr. Mahoney can serve his time in purgatory or hell on earth and make amends for his actions in the process.  

2013 (c) Copyright Virginia Jones

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