Letter from a Vagabond 26 February 2019 Gob smacked by it all…


In the middle of last night, I started, sure I heard a woman screaming.  Sitting up in bed, I realized it was the fierce night wind screeching through some crack in the house where I am staying.  Rolling over, I went back to sleep, choosing not to be disturbed by several more hours of wind roiling Martha’s Vineyard.

This house looks over Edgartown Harbor to Chappaquiddick, beyond that to the Atlantic. The harbor is choppy and white caps dot the ocean past Chappaquiddick.  The threat of wind disrupting ferry service is the reason I came to the island a day earlier than planned.  Here for a few days, I am manning Edgartown Books while Lisa, the year rounder, goes on vacation.

It’s been a pleasant day.  I reviewed films for the Wilbur Awards, given by the Religion Communicators Council, answered some emails, prepped for a couple of conference calls, went grocery shopping [and it is SO true, you should not grocery shop on an empty stomach! I have food for two weeks when I will be here for one].

It is the dead of winter. Outside the wind is still roaring, sounding like nothing so much as if I were inside a jet racing somewhere.  When friends phoned me while I was in my car, I thought the car might actually be tossed over while we chatted.

The world is rocked by the sexual abuse scandal of the Roman Catholic Church.  Cardinal Pell in Australia has been convicted.  Cardinal McCarrick has been defrocked.  The Church held a meeting at the Vatican about sexual abuse – a landmark moment that has been derided by some for doing not a lot.

Long ago, I joked I hadn’t been abused because I wasn’t cute enough.  But then, when I was kind of cute, I wasn’t abused.  When I hear some of the stories from the Catholic past, I shudder and am grateful I escaped it all, for reasons I am not quite sure.  And am embarrassed by my joke.

Had I been, would I be alive today?  I wonder.

There is a man I knew, god rest his soul, who spent his life tormented by that abuse.

The Catholic thing troubles me, circles back every time I read another article and wonder how I had missed seeing it?  Because all through my Catholic life, it was happening, only learning of it when, in my adulthood, friends have spoken of it, carefully.

Brother This did that.  Father That did this.

It has been a very long time since I have thought of myself as a Roman Catholic.  Being a gay man and being Catholic doesn’t mix so well and so I retreated, finally attending Episcopal services in Hudson where I felt community in way I hadn’t before.

All of this is closer to the surface of my life than it usually is because of the events of this first part of 2019.  Participating in the Lokahi Foundation event in Beirut, opened, again, all the questions about the role of religion in our lives and the upward battle so many are fighting to make things better in the world because they have faith.

My wonderful brother is in Honduras, giving medical care through a Catholic organization.  An incredible Sunni Muslim is devoting his life to helping restore the Yazidi Christian homeland.

The good and the bad done by believers belies our ability to understand it.

ISIS has killed, tortured and raped so many.  And there is a woman of faith I know who goes to help them, every day, the victims of that horror.

To this day, I remain, gob smacked by the wonders and horrors done in the name of religion.

And the abuse and horror done by men and women of religion to their fellow congregants because they felt they had the power.

Sitting at this table, darkness having fallen, still feeling as if I am in a seat on a plane because of the roaring wind, I am doing my best to come to terms with the dichotomies we exhibit in the way we live.

God forgive us all.





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