Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

As Dominican Sisters of Peace, we committed to “promote justice through solidarity with those who are marginalized, especially women and children, and work with others to identify and transform oppressive systems.” I can’t think of a more oppressive system than the one that condones sexual assault and abuse of women and children.

I have never been sexually assaulted so I can only imagine what Professor Christine Blasey Ford must be going through.  She was attacked as a teenager during a party where drinking was going on.    What must have gone on in her head and heart after the assault?  Shame – was I responsible for it? Terror –  What if my parents find out? Will my reputation by ruined?  Fear – will he do it again?  Will he tell other boys and they will attack me? Confusion – how did I let myself get into this mess?   Hopelessness –  How can I trust a boy/man again?  Trauma affects victims in many different ways.

Sadly, we often see the victim ignored, shamed, or treated as the perpetrator. It’s a double whammy – assaulted twice – once by the attacker and then by those who are supposed to help.  Professor Ford is now in danger of a third possible attack by the Senate Justice Committee. Once again, a victim is not taken seriously… a woman is not heard.

20% of women – 1 in 5 – are victims of rape and 43.3% of heterosexual women have reported sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime (National Sexual Violence Resource Center).  These women should not be ignored.  It boils down to the fundamental principal of Catholic Social Teaching – that each and every person deserves dignity.

Why did she come forward now?  I don’t know. Perhaps she saw the possible impact on women in the future with Judge Kavanaugh as a supreme court justice. Perhaps the #MeToo movement gave her the courage to speak up. By all accounts, her actions have irrevocably impacted her life and that of her family.

I recently watched an interview of some women who are supportive of Judge Kavanaugh.  Their argument for dismissing this issue was that it happened in high school.  That they were young.  That boys will be boys.  I find this argument especially insulting for young men. They are perfectly able to understand right and wrong and assaulting a girl/women is wrong.  Today’s parents of young men must teach their sons about treating others, especially women, with respect and dignity.

As I write this, it seems clear to me that Dr. Ford is innocent.  The women above are just as sure that Judge Kavanaugh is innocent.  Without an adequate investigation, there will never be a resolution and doubt will remain. This is too important to leave it up to the testimony of just the two involved; for in addition to selecting a Supreme Court Justice, a true measure of whether women’s concerns, dignity, and voices are truly equal to men’s also lies in the balance.


Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

There is Hope

Blog by Associate Frank Martens, OPA

In this information age we are constantly reminded about wars in the Middle East, Africa and other places. We live in a time of what seems like endless war. But there is hope. Deaths from war related violence are decreasing. From 100,000 a year in the 90’s to 55,000 a year since the turn of the century. 180,000 people died every year from war related violence from 1950 to 1989. Of course, even one death is too many and we mourn for those people and their families. As we approach the 34th International Day of Peace, we should be encouraged that some progress has been made to bring about world peace.

At 12:00pm in every time zone this Friday, September 21, we can join millions of others by spending 10 minutes praying for peace. Praying for peace should be followed by working for peace.  Part of my prayer will be to ask God to give me the strength and the courage to actively practice nonviolence in my daily life. I find inspiration from Thomas Merton who said we must never lose hope that someday our world will be a peaceful world. He called it the “work of hope”.

“The work of hope requires resisting our own violence and practicing nonviolence as best we can, then communicating to others the many nonviolent alternatives available.” (John Dear Thomas Merton Peacemaker)

As sisters and associates for Peace, let us commit to discovering and sharing new and effective nonviolence alternatives and commit each day to “Be Peace.”

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

The Peace Wave…Get On Board!

Blog by Associate Marybeth Auletto

As part of the country prepares for a hurricane, I think of the power that the waves hold.  I spent a lot of time at the lake this summer. The gentle, rhythmic rolling of the water is soothing, especially at night.  And while admittedly I prefer a calm lake, I know the wind and the waves bring change, and their presence cannot be ignored.

On September 21, at 12:00pm, we have a special opportunity to be, build, and preach peace.  In celebration of International Peace Day, People around the world from all faiths and cultures are joining together to pray, meditate, and act for peace.  We can be peace as we take part of our prayer time to calm ourselves; we build and preach peace in the power of not only the strength of the many of us gathered, but the effects of this gathering in our communities.  And so whether you are at home, school, or work…dive in and encourage those around you to build the peace wave! #flashmobforpeace (no I don’t tweet but if I did this is what I would use)

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

A Lay Person to the Church Leaders: You Have Let Us down!

Column by Carolyn Woo, former president of Catholic Relief Services

The McCarrick breaches and the Pennsylvania DA report of criminal child sexual abuse by the Church drew anger, disgust, sorrow, disappointment, and sadness for the “collateral damage.” I think of the priests who made God’s love real for my husband David and me, bishops who stood up for peace and justice, and the many colleagues who labor daily with sacrifice and joy in difficult ministries.  I want the Church hierarchy to know that collectively it has let us down, diminished our work, and made it that much more difficult to serve. And they did it in God’s name and our names.

My heart breaks when parents asked why they should send their children to Catholic schools.  The question does not seek an answer as it is an expression of their anger and loss of trust. I read in disbelief of  Archbishop Viganò’s claims that constraints placed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict were undone by Pope Francis.  I saw no constraints as I and many others participated in numerous public events of worship and ministry officiated by McCarrick in the Benedict years. To hijack the abuse of children for the purpose of settling personal grievances and further demonizing gay people is a new low.

I have served on a couple of sexual abuse review boards and can vouch for the strict protocols and safeguards implemented to prevent future incidents.  We must continue to be watchful as no mechanisms are perfect.  The PA reports, however, shed light on the flaws of our current approaches. Let me name three.

First, the focus of most efforts is on prevention with the desire to put the past behind us.   Yet the victims cannot just erase the past and undo the consequences of the abuse. The past stays with us in the suffering and ravage lived out everyday by victims.  We must own this past, give an account of what happened, and acknowledge our failure. A church that embraces confession as a way back to God cannot at the same time endorse the protection of deep, dark, deadly secrets against God’s children.

Second, it is very clear to me now that the way we think of victims is transactional in nature with a good dose of caution by lawyers and insurance agents.  We support victims with payments for counseling services and compensate them with monetary settlements to close the case, silent the voice, and remove the person from our conscience.  We did not think of them as family, people under our care and whose lives we plundered.  We have offices to administer the process, but not sufficient pastoral commitment to seek forgiveness and heal the soul.  Now we wonder why victims are still angry, still hurting.

Third, the Catholic Church appears to run on “self-governance.” After forty years of observing and administering organizations, I conclude that self-governance is an oxymoron.  Our pledge to “accountability” and “transparency” is about responsibility to the “other”: the people we are supposed to serve, the stakeholders affected by our actions, the parties that support us. It is their voices, needs, concerns which must drive the scope of and methods for achieving accountability.  Self-governance holds on to the power of the hierarchy to define that agenda.

Governance in the Church is wrapped up with ordination. What are the assumptions and premises which underlie this coupling? It is time to re-examine this embedded practice to build a more faithful Church, a more inclusive community, and an engaged laity capable of living the joy of the Gospel. It is our church: let us rise up for what needs to be done.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Dominican Pilgrimage, July 2018

Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller

Who is a pilgrim or what is a pilgrimage? What does a ‘sacred place’ mean?

Most of us like to travel—some to experience something new or different; some to retreat of a place for quiet reflection close to nature; others look to re-acquaint   with family relatives and friends. To my surprise my July pilgrimage: Deepening the Dominican Spirit fulfilled all three desires as I indeed entered into the sacred places of Fanjeaux and its surrounding areas where Dominic walked, ministered and was challenged. Dominic became alive as a compassionate, loving human being whose life’s journey in listening, learning and responding to issues with prayer, dialogue and community resonates to our needs today.

Dictates and military might do not overcome human conviction.  Personal relations combined with dialogue grounded in truth eventually reach into hearts and minds. As we gradually were immersed into the spirit of Dominic in the troubled times into which he was thrust, we saw that in the life of Dominic the truth of reality was always unfolding, expanding in order to understand and respond in compassion to the errors of his time. For Dominic it was human persons who required education, respect and understanding of their issues if errors in perspectives of God and behaviors were to be changed. Our visit to and climb of Mount Monsegur where 500 Cathars took refuge to withstand French military assaults was a vivid testimony to the futility of brutal force to convert the inner strength of human conviction—even if by death by fire on the stake.

Our world is also in transition as we have forgotten our human oneness in diversity.   Individual power and status twists our perspectives of God and life as we seek to dominate this earth. How do we strive to meet the injustices perpetrated through migrations, trafficking, use of fossil fuels, earth’s pollution, ignorance and ideological stubbornness? Words may inspire; living justly in charity and “treasuring voluntary poverty” brings about change. We are all pilgrims in the   spirit of Dominic, seeking ways to bring the people of God to the Good News of God’s ways.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog