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Give Me a Hug, Bro.

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subtitle = Two brothers, two views of God and sex

by Aaron Milavec

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The author has placed a warning on this post for sexual content.

My father had two sons.  The first he named “Aaron.”  The second he named “Kevin.”

They loved each other fiercely.  They distrusted each other entirely when it came to God and sex.   They had two opposing views of love and romance as well.

Kevin always had a certain insecurity because he was always #2.  Hence, he was prone to compete with his older brother in almost everything.  When it came to climbing trees, using a sling shot, hitting a home run, Aaron always exceeded Kevin.  Aaron tried to encourage Kevin, “Don’t take it so hard, Kevin.  In three years, you will be doing all the things I do and more.  Just wait and see.”

But Kevin was not consoled.  He urgently needed to be #1, and it grieved him that he was not able to do so.  But, then, God heard his prayer, and Kevin, just after his marriage, finally found an arena wherein he could excel over his brother.  Kevin became a “Providentialist.”

“A Providentialist,” he was proud to remind me just about every time we met, “is someone who does not practice any form of birth control—not even Natural Family Planning (NFP) that is permitted by the Catholic Church. This person simply trusts God to give him and his wife as many children as God wants for them—no more, and no less.”

It made me sad to see my brother swallowing the doctrine of the Catholic bishops hook, line, and sinker.  His position would fit well in the 12th century, but it was patently absurd today.  So the next time that Kevin boasted of being a Providentialist, I said to my brother in a very quiet voice, “What kind of father would say, ‘My first child was born with a cleft lip.[i]  God must have known what he was doing; hence, as a Providentialist, I will accept this as God’s will and not interfere’”?

On the second occasion of his boasting, I said this: “What kind of father would say, ‘My second child was born with myopic vision.  God must have known what he was doing; hence, as a Providentialist, I will accept this as God’s will and not interfere’”?

On the third occasion, I said this: “What kind of father would say, ‘My third child was born with chickenpox.[ii]  God must have known what he was doing; hence, as a Providentialist, I will accept this as God’s will and not interfere’”?

My brother was visible shaken every time I said these things. I was raining on his parade.  On one of these occasions, he grew furious and blurted out bitterly, “You are always winning.  You can’t even let me win an argument from time to time.  I hate you!”

There, he finally said it. His rage had boiled over. I stayed absolutely silent. I calmly looked straight into his eyes, gave him a big smile, and said in a whisper, “Even when you’re wrong, I still love you.”  Then, I hugged him and held him in my embrace.  This disarming gesture caught him completely off guard.  As I held him, I could feel his pent-up rage dissipating like the end of a thunderstorm.  Hot tears spilled out of his eyes and fell upon my neck.

We never talked about this.  Neither of us had the right words to say about such an unprecedented event.  If fact, looking back, I would say that something powerfully changed between us.  Words would have only banalized the power of that unique event.

After that event, I realized that I had no interest in upsetting Kevin’s core beliefs.  He had a right to his beliefs, just as I had a right to mine.  Every man puts his life and his future on the line when he confesses his beliefs about God and love.  That’s the way things are.  No two men handle this in the same way.

I clearly saw the flaws in my brother’s beliefs; but, upon reflection, I realized that I was blind to the flaws in my own beliefs.  Kevin claimed that he saw the flaws in my beliefs, but, at the same time, he was afraid to listen to me for fear that I might sow some doubt in his mind.  As Michael Polanyi taught me, “Every belief works in the eyes of the believer”

Even when it comes to deciding when to have sex with his wife, how could Kevin decide whether God wanted them to have sex every day of the week or just on certain days (e.g., on Sundays or on birthdays).  Does this matter?  It sure does!  If Kevin insists that God is totally in change, then God must be seen as exerting his control over the process (how often to have sex) in order for him to better control the outcomes (how many children are conceived).  If God had no rules regarding the frequency of sex, therefore, it must be supposed that even God wanted each set of parents to come to their own decisions as to when and how often they had sex.

The same thing holds for the position of the partners during ejaculation.  Since God has no rules regarding the advantageous and disadvantageous position of the partners during the time of ejaculation, it must be supposed that even God wants each set of parents to come to their own decisions in this matter. What decisions they implement, however, necessarily has the effect of either increasing or decreasing the probability of conception.  Thus God cannot be said to be the sole determiner of when a conception takes place.

Kevin maintains that he wants to place his family planning entirely in the hands of God.  To maintain this illusion, he has to abandon all attempts to keep track of his wife’s fertility cycle. Furthermore, he and his wife need to have intercourse at random times using random positions so as to convince themselves that they are not trying to influence the outcome.

But what if God is not in the business of doing family planning for those who fail to take the time and effort to do it for themselves?  Then my brother’s family is cooked!  He is like a man who takes his hands off the steering wheel because he believes that God will take over the driving of his car.  This would invite unwanted accidents to happen. God, after all, does not have a driver’s license, and he has no record of being a safe driver.  So one cannot count on God to do something that he is not prepared to do.  Because of this, I am afraid for Kevin’s future.  This is a reckless way to live.  This invites unwanted accidents.

Even Pope Francis would agree with me.  In 2015, he visited the Philippines and met with the bishops there.  The bishops were taking a tough stand against the government’s new Protective Health Law of 2012 that permits clinics and hospitals to make contraceptives available for the first time.  Prior to this, only NFP was allowed.  The bishops tried to invalidate this Law, but the Supreme Court upheld its legality. At the time of the Pope’s visit, the bishops were busy conducting seminars that were designed to prepare Catholic health care workers to defy the government on the grounds that “on the basis of conscience . . . a health worker is not obliged [to make contraceptive available] and may refuse to refer a patient to anyone else from where the contraceptives may be obtained.”

Pope Francis was not happy with the initiatives of these bishops.  On the plane trip back to the Vatican, Pope Francis held his usual press conference.  “Catholics,” the pope said, “should be speaking of responsible parenthood.”  “How do we do this?” Francis asked. “With dialogue,” he said.  “Each person with his pastor seeks [for him/herself] how to do that responsible parenthood.”

“God gives you [Catholics] methods to be responsible,” he continued. “Some think that — excuse the word — that in order to be good Catholics we have to be [breeding] like rabbits. No [way].” (

I just love it when Pope Francis breaks free of all the stuffy papal etiquette that surrounds his office.  I broke out laughing when I read that he was associating “good Catholics” and “breeding like rabbits.”  He was right on target, to be sure.  Most Catholics in my generation routinely associate the “holiness of parents” with “the size of their family.”

I was tempted to tell my brother of this papal interview.  In discussing this with my wife, she cautioned me saying, “Don’t you think that Kevin is suffering enough with the realization that he is a dying breed and that even his own children will someday be laughing at him behind his back whenever he begins one of his rants about being a ‘Providentialist’?”  I agreed with her entirely.

Some years later, Kevin was in a stable marriage, and his wife had just birthed his second daughter.  I, meanwhile, had discovered the love of my life and, our daughter, Jessica, was thriving in kindergarten.  In this period, I decided to write out my philosophy of living and loving.  This was so satisfying that I decided to write a letter to my brother in the hope that we might be able to discover some common understanding of God and love.  Here is my very first letter to my brother:

Dear Kevin,

When my wife and I together decided to go off contraceptives, we checked her vaginal mucus each night and, when it got slippery, we knew this was the beginning of the fertile segment of her menstrual cycle.  That night, we had a very long and very delightful sexual exchange  because together we imagined that we were creating (with God’s help) our future daughter.

The next three nights were the same.  The great sex that was our constant gift to each other was there, but now it was infused with a special urgency because we were anticipating our future daughter. . . .  We fucked like rabbits throughout the night.  We laughed and played and kissed for hours. This was like the unrestrained sexual ecstasies that we had for the first two weeks after our wedding. . . .  It was glorious.

But we were mistaken.  A conception did not take place. And don’t you dare ever trying to tell me that God was punishing us because we had used contraceptives for four years in order to allow Linda to finish her studies and to get a firm foothold in her profession.

So, when our daughter was not conceived, we were not in the least bit discouraged. In discussing this with our friends, they told us that “this was not unusual.”  So when the sign of the slippery mucus came again on the following month, we rushed into our marital orgy just as we did in the first month.  It came upon us with the naturalness of dew falling off of the morning leaves.  Again, we felt our future daughter was palpably there with us, and we loved her along with loving each other nonstop.

But again no conception took place.  After six months, we suspected that something was not quite right, so we consulted a specialist in fertility studies. We didn’t do a novena or have Masses said for our intention because we were fully aware that God was on our side and that he wanted us to have a daughter as much as we did.

The medical expert told us that we both were “marginally fertile.”  Hence, we continued our monthly orgies of sex for two full years.  Near the end of the second year, the vision of our daughter had grown dim.  In its place, our love making now was drenched in tears of pain and loss.  Good sex, believe it or not, can mix with tears that heal memories and mend wounds that life imposes on those who love God.  I wonder whether you have ever known good sex mixed with bitter tears.  If so, I’d enjoy hearing your story.

Then it happened.  We did not get pregnant.  No.  But the love that we had so faithfully generated for our future daughter had mysteriously moved a complete stranger from Guatemala who had crossed the Rio Grande and was being detained by the INS awaiting deportation to beg my friend Margaret a special favor: “I’m pregnant.  I need to find a couple in the USA who would take me in and love my baby.”

And so Margaret called me in the middle of the night and told me her “good news.”  She was like the angel who said, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). And so we gave Zoila the residency rights that she needed, and she gave us the beloved daughter, Jessica, that we were ready to love even more than a child conceived within our own flesh. Who could have anticipated such an amazing story that left all of us blessed.

Your beloved brother, Aaron

When Kevin had digested my letter, he responded in only twenty-five words:

You took the short route, Aaron.  If you had faithfully entrusted your future to God as I did, he would have performed an even greater miracle for you.

I wanted to shout back,

Hey, bro.  You don’t get it.  God did perform the “greater miracle” when Zoila came to live with us. . . .  In any case, despite all our differences, I still love you.  Give me a hug, bro!

Financial fraud and stonewalling at Liturgical Press

No one likes to be caught red-handed when they are being lazy, neglecting professional duties, or showing their incompetence.  Hence, from the very beginning I adapted the attitude that I might be able to gently win over my would-be adversaries and to reveal to them serious flaws in their current system that needed to be corrected.  My motto was: “You attract more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.”

Who am I?

I am a research theologian who published two books with Liturgical Press: (a) THE DIDACHE (2003) and (b) SALVATION IS FROM THE JEWS (2007).  My Didache book (110 pp.) is affectionately called “my mouse.” My thousand-page volume (“the elephant”) published with Paulist Press is the powerful protector of “my mouse.”  Thanks to my online forums and online blogging, “my mouse” continues to attract roughly the same level of sales today as it did when first published in 2003.  My annual royalties are roughly $1000.  I estimate that, over a period of twenty years, I have contributed roughly $60,000 to the operating costs of the Press.  When my next and final Didache volume (“my kangaroo”) appears, I anticipate a surge in the sales of “my mouse.”

Mini-Biography: Aaron Milavec began his career as an innovative teacher and oral story teller.  After devoting twenty-five years to the training of future priests and lay ministers, Aaron turned his attention to creating online courses in gender studies and the empowerment of women.  Aaron has gained an international reputation as a Didache scholar.  He has published eighteen books, eight chapters in collected works, and seventy journal articles.  His two most recent books are occupied with the graced power of love: The Red String Chronicles (2017) and What Jesus Would Say to Same-Sex Couples (2019).

Prof. Aaron Milavec, theologian, author, public speaker, advocate, Didache and Polanyi interpreter, Current research fellow with the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

My Purpose

I am writing this narrative for the authors and the staff within Liturgical Press. I believe in your mission and your role in bringing a big dream into reality.  I fear, however, that the arrogant and authoritarian leadership style exhibited by Sandra Eiynck, the CFO, and by Therese Ratliff, the CEO, are bound to inflict harm upon the staff and authors of the Press.  As I wrote to Abbot John:

In brief, the two most powerful persons at Liturgical Press show themselves quite easily inclined to be authoritarian and brutal, not only to me but to all those others who, like me, have had and will have the audacity to question their hidden financial irregularities.  In brief, we are dealing with systemic mismanagement.

I am writing this to alert authors and the Board of Directors that Sandra Eiynck, the Chief Financial Officer, has sanctioned and promoted policies from 2017 onward that are ineffectual and self-serving.  As a result, authors who share their research and talents in the form of books for sale (a) fail to receive their royalty payments in a timely fashion and, when they do receive such payments, (b) the number of eBooks is underreported and the calculation of the net sales is invariable flawed.

Some of my readers may imagine that I have a vendetta against Sandra Eiynck and that I am intent upon embarrassing her by exposing her rudeness and incompetence.  Far from it.  From the very beginning, I presented myself as a research scholar, as a productive writer, and as a concerned friend and collaborator.  Moreover, even after receiving repeated and undeserved abuse, I still had goodwill toward all concerned.  Here is what I wrote to Sandra:

In closing, I want to say that I honor you as a resourceful and just Director of Finance.  Your resistance to my appeal to justice can be dismissed as a momentary lapse of judgment. My intention is not to scare you or to belittle you.  On the contrary, I want to save your legacy of honor that you have built up so far.  I want you to [someday   be able to] retire with honor.

My final hope was to bring a greater efficiency and economic justice within the operating procedures surrounding the computation and distribution of royalties.  As it turned out, my innocent discoveries and my reporting of financial irregularities were met with disbelief and dismissal.  Then, when I endeavored to bring this to the attention of Therese Ratliff, the Director and CEO, and Abbot John Klassen, President of the Board of Directors, I was met with either open hostility and stonewalling or an inappropriate silence.

In the end, even my spoonful of honey failed to attract the least bit of interest in investigating how and why authors failed to receive timely and just royalties.  Thus, as things now stand, the conduct of Sandra Eiynck from 2017 to the present goes unnoticed and uninvestigated.  No one knows how many authors have been cheated of their just remuneration.  Furthermore, due to the open hostility and stonewalling of Therese Ratliff and due to the uncritical support she receives from Abbot John Klassen, President of the Board of Directors, there is little or no prospect that Liturgical Press will ever be transparent and just when it comes to computing and distributing royalty payments.  Is this a harsh judgment?  It may appear to be so.  All I can do is narrate the events, and to allow you to decide for yourself.

The positive and supportive relations of 2003

5 Things Geese Can Teach Us About Teamwork. By: Len WilsonAs the Canadian geese honked during their V-formation as they flew over my home in Cincinnati to escape the bitter cold of another Canadian winter in 2002, I was removing the passenger seats from my Mazda and packing all of the clothes, books, and camping equipment that I would need during my nine-month stay on Vancouver Island in Canada. I was fortunate enough to have received a Research Fellowship on the Interface of Science and Religion at the prestigious University of Victoria.

This fellowship came at just the right moment.  My life in Cincinnati had surrounded me with a whirlwind of activities.  Now I was heading off to a life of peace and quiet and contemplation.  In order to save money and to satisfy my life-style as a nature lover, I would be camping on each of the six nights along the way.  The total driving distance is 4000 km.  Driving six hours each day would suffice to get me to the ferry that will bring me to Vancouver Island.

Two books were in the process of being prepared for the printers.  “My mouse” was being handled by the staff of Liturgical Press.  I remembered, before falling asleep at night, how the Liturgical Press staff was so helpful and informative.  I had suggested to them a cover design and, without missing a beat, they accepted my ideas enthusiastically.  They consulted with me when designing advertising copy as well.  Our give and take relationship was a joy to behold.

In contrast, Paulist Press staff was very secretive and resistant to my suggestions.  Their mantra was, “Just relax, Aaron.  Let us do what we know best.”  But, truth to say, they chose a very  blurred image of Jesus taken from a primitive ossuary for use on the cover.  A friend of mine told me that the blurred image appears to be a man walking a circus bear.  Furthermore, they wanted to change my text in more than a dozen places in order to harmonize my narrative with popular devotional prejudices upheld by most Catholics. My senior editor, a scholar in early Christianity, happily silenced these uninformed “editors” on my behalf.  If it had not been for him, I would have completely backed out of my contract with Paulist.

I share there things because I want to show how positive and supportive my relations were with the Liturgical Press staff in 2002-3.  In 2023, all this goodwill was squandered and turned around.

The conduct of Sandra Eiynck, Director of Finance

Here are the seven emails that detail how I gained the ire of Sandra Eiynck. The opening email comes from her assistant, Lynn Tamm.

From Tamm, Lynn on 2022-11-03

Hello Aaron,

I hope this email finds you well.

Your inquiry about royalties was brought to my attention.  We encountered an issue with our software program, which has since been corrected and we are in the process of getting the payments out.  [Notice that Lynn acknowledges that there was some unspecified problem with “our software program,” but that this has been corrected and “we are in the process of getting the payments out.” This is good news.]

I noticed in our notes that you prefer your payment to be paid by EFT.  But I’m not sure if we have the correct banking information for you.  Could you please confirm where it should be transferred to, please?  [I respond by sending out my banking information = router number for bank + my account number]

Also, let me know if there are any other questions or concerns that I can help you with. [This is a welcome invitation.  See #2]

With warmest regards,
Lynn Tamm


From: Aaron Milavec <>
Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2022
To: Tamm, Lynn <>
Subject: Re: Royalty Payments

Dear Lynn,

It distresses me to hear that for all these years, the royalties were being returned and no one was making the effort to contact me and to correct the problem with the defective wire transfers.

Do you recognize that the dollar in 2022 is worth less than the dollar in 2017?  Using the inflation calculator [], I get the following result:

$777.48 in 2017 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $945.24 today, an increase of $167.76 over 5 years. The dollar had an average inflation rate of 3.99% per year between 2017 and today, producing a cumulative price increase of 21.58%.

Thus, for the six royalty payments (rounded off to the nearest whole dollar):

2017    777–>945
2018    1014–>1203
2019    1068–>1245
2020    958–>1103
2021    1079–>1187
2022    962–>962
$6645 = total amount due adjusted for inflation

In addition, the LitPr [abbr. Liturgical Press] might want to consider imposing a voluntary fine for each year that the monies wired were returned but no “due diligence” was taken to correct this.  Since I have been injured by this lack of due diligence, this fine would also be added to the required royalty payments adjusted for inflation.

I want to emphasize that I hold no animosity toward LitPr.  I do expect, however, that LitPr will continue to act honestly and promptly in repairing what is my due.

Peace and joy,


From Tamm, Lynn on 2022-11-18

Dear Aaron,

I cannot make any decision on this. I have brought your request to the attention of Sandy Eiynck and she will be in touch with you in the next few days.  [Lynn provides a response that is informative.]

Thank you,


From Eiynck, Sandra on 2022-11-19

Dear Mr. Aaron,

Lynn Tamm forwarded your message to me concerning your royalty payments.

We are not in a position to pay you the additional amount your [sic] are requesting.  There is nothing in the contract you have with us that addresses the non-receipt of payment or a fine for the non-receipt.  [Sandra completely dismisses my appeal to the injustice of paying a 2017 debt with an equal amount of 2022 dollars. Sandra falls back entirely on the fact that the contract does not address how to deal with late payments. Since the contract presumes that annual payments of royalties are being paid, it is no wonder that the contract saw no purpose in addressing such a question. Sandra seemingly has no ability to think outside the box. Alternately, it is quite possible that Sandra was shaking in fear that all her financial irregularities would be exposed once an investigation was underway. Hence, her hiding behind the letter of the contract was her lifeboat in her moment of danger.]

We do our best to get in touch with authors when payments are returned, but do not always have current information.  Oftentimes we need to wait for the author to reach out to us in order to get payments made.

Sandy Eiynck


To Eiynck, Sandra, 1 more… on 2022-11-20

Dear Sandra and Lynn,

When you say, “We are not in a position to . . . ,” I hear you to be saying, “We are not in a position to act justly.”

You say that I was contacted.  Help me understand this.  On what dates and by what means and by whom?

The U.S. Bishops pastoral letter, “Economic Justice for All” calls us to act thusly:

Justice has many nuances.(9) Fundamentally it suggests a sense of what is right or of what should happen. For example, paths are just when they bring you to your destination (Gen 24:48; Ps 23:3), and laws are just when they create harmony within the community, as Isaiah says: “Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security” (Isa 32:17). God is “just” by acting as God should, coming to the people’s aid and summoning them to conversion when they stray. People are summoned to be “just,” that is, to be in a proper relation to God, by observing God’s laws which form them into a faithful community. Biblical justice is more comprehensive than subsequent philosophical definitions. It is not concerned with a strict definition of rights and duties, but with the rightness of the human condition before God and within society. Nor is justice        opposed to love; rather, it is both a manifestation of love and a condition for love to grow.

The US Department of Labor stipulates the following interest tables when calculating back pay:

  1. Purpose and Rate of Interest. The purpose of applying interest on back pay awards is to compensate the victim(s) for the loss of the use and purchasing power of their income. Interest on back pay is calculated at the same percentage rate as the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) underpayment formula. Interest on back pay must be compounded quarterly under the laws OFCCP enforces.

  2. Rate Adjustments. The IRS may adjust its rate on a quarterly basis. The interest rates applicable to various periods are available on the IRS website at

I urge you not to act rashly.  Seek the advice of those who cherish justice.



To Eiynck, Sandra, 1 more… on 2022-11-23 13:54

Dear Sandra,

At this moment, I have a grievance.  You say that there is nothing in the contract that addresses my grievance.  Hence, some exploration is required.

Here are the qualities that you identify in yourself: “Critical Thinking, Microsoft Office, Grant Writing, Leadership, Public Speaking, Editing, Event Planning, Research.”  For our task here, critical thinking and research are called for.  You take pride in having such skills.  With this we can securely go forward.  [I wanted to learn more about Sandra.  I did a Google search.  Among the items I found were Sandra’s self-evaluation.  I accept her self-evaluation and honor it by way of implementing what follows.]

Three questions:

Q1. Do you recognize that the dollar in 2022 is worth less than the dollar in 2017?

Q2a. If so, do you think that there would be some merit in taking into account the devaluation of the 2022 dollar when paying out the royalties that were calculated in 2017 dollars?  [For the moment, do not factor in any praise or blame for the delay in the payments.]

Q2b. My book, THE DIDACHE, is currently listed as costing $19.95.  What if a customer came in with an add that listed my book as costing $12.95 (printed in 2013) and insisted that he should be able to buy my book for that amount today?  How would you respond to him?

Q3. You say that I was contacted when the bank money transfer of 2017 failed to go through.  Help me understand this.  On what dates and by what means and by whom?  [As Director of Finance, it might be of interest to you to discover just how well your staff is functioning.]

Peace and joy,



To Tamm, Lynn, 1 more… on 2022-11-30 11:12

Dear Sandra,

For twenty years, my little book, THE DIDACHE, has been selling steadily.  In the years to come, this steady seller will be the Liturgical Press’ golden goose.  Most books taper off after the first five years.  Not so for THE DIDACHE.  Every year, without fail, it continues to lay golden eggs.

What I liked about the production staff [in 2002-2015] is that they were open to innovative ideas.  They let me design the front and back cover.  After ten years, they encouraged me to update and to expand this golden goose.

Now all of this good will and mutuality built up over twenty years is in danger of being dwindled away because you have chosen to ignore my appeal for economic justice.  Your case, as I see it, is exceedingly weak.  You argue that the contract says nothing about how to handle cases where the bank returns royalty payments for a period of five years.  That’s why I cited the US Catholic Bishops in their pastoral letter on economic justice.  That’s why I cited the ruling by the US Department of Commerce regarding how they require justice when making late salary payments.

Maybe you think that by ignoring me, I will just eventually go away.  I am sorry, but I will not do this.  Here is what I will do.  I will begin by going to your Supervisor at LitPr.  Then I will explore whether LitPr has a mediation process that resolves such disputes. If none exists, then an outside mediator will need to be found.  Finally, if all else fails, I will go to the Small Claims Court.  At this point, however, my patience with you will have been exhausted.  I will, in the end, be awarded the $794  (plus interest) that is my due, but I will be bitter that I had to waste so much time in order to achieve the justice that you denied me.  Meanwhile, nearly all the good will and mutuality built up over twenty years will be dwindled away.  You will be retiring with a legacy of shame.  I will be telling the story of how I was mistreated by LitPr.

My intention is not to scare you.  On the contrary, I want to save your legacy of honor that you have built up so far.  I want you to retire with honor.

For the moment, however, the ball is in your court.  You can continue to ignore me, but you will know what is coming. Your eyes are opened.  You can answer the three critical questions that I sent in my last email.  That will put us back into dialogue.  That will allow that I have something to learn from you and that you have something to learn from me.  If we remain in dialogue, we will find a mutually acceptable solution somewhere down the line.  You take pride in being intelligent, resourceful, and a problem solver.  If so, please respond to my three questions in a timely fashion. You will find that I am a gentle and loving person but that I do not tolerate anyone who functions as a dictator.

Maybe you don’t have the time to dedicate to dialogue and mediation.  Then, in that case, I would advise sending $794 as quick as possible.  If you do this now, (a) you won’t have to defend yourself and (b) you will miss out on the adventure of staying with this issue until it is mutually resolved.  On the other hand, sending $794 will get that “pest of a theologian off your back.”  More importantly, the good will and mutuality built up over twenty years will remain intact, and it will continue to grow for the next twenty years.  You will retire with honor.

I myself do not want to be a dictator.  Hence, I give you permission to share my emails with those whom you regard as trusted advisors.  You are free, at any point, to take their advice or to reject it.  The ball is in your court.  If you choose to ignore it, you will thereby be enabling me to win “the game.”  You get to decide.

In closing, I want to say that I honor you as a resourceful and just Director of Finance.  Your resistance to my appeal to justice can be dismissed as a momentary lapse of judgment. My intention is not to scare you or to belittle you.  On the contrary, I want to save your legacy of honor that you have built up so far.  I want you to retire with honor.




The conduct of Dr. Therese Ratliff, Director and CEO

Therese L. Ratliff New Director, CEO of Liturgical Press | Shelf AwarenessAs for starters, I wish to note that Therese Ratliff did not allow her email address to be listed and that when I finally did get it [due to a personal contact within LitPr], I noticed that she had taken  To my knowledge, the other 34 employees have taken an email address which consists in the first letter of their given name followed by their family name without the “001”.   Peter Dwyer had taken  Hence, I presume that Therese Ratliff had deliberately added the “001” by way of affirming her rank as #1 and by way of preventing outsiders from being able to contact her because they would wrongly presume that is her email address.

All in all, Therese Ratliff never responded to any of my emails.  She never even acknowledged that she was receiving them.  Behind the scenes, however, Therese Ratliff contacted the company lawyer and directed him to write a letter of complaint to me that ended with a “cease and desist” warning.  Here it is:

Here is my reply transmitted on 27 March 2023:

Dear Therese L. Ratliff, PhD, Director and CEO

It pains me that you, as yet, have never written a single email to me. This is a very unorthodox way of doing business with one of your distinguished authors.

It is doubly-painful in so far as you evidently reported to your lawyer that you were being “repeatedly harassed” by me.  Does it not occur to you that I was awaiting a simple acknowledgement that you have received my complaint?  I wrote in my emails, “I do not know whether you have received my complaint.”  A single email saying, “I have received your complaint and am considering the merits of your case,” would have halted any repeated attempts to contact you.

If this explanation seems plausible to you, please tell me and we can then mutually drop the accusation of “harassment.”

Your lawyer also prejudices my letters to Sandra Eiynck by characterizing them as “defamatory communications.”  In matter of fact, my letters have been respectful. I needed to alert you to the impoverished notion of justice and civility manifest by one of your cherished employees.  Read in the context of my expressed hope to safeguard the reputation of Liturgical Press for the future, I am surprised that you completely overlook my good intentions to improve the performance level of the Press.

If this explanation seems plausible to you, please tell me and we can then mutually drop the accusation of “character assassination.”

Your lawyer makes a case for placing the blame entirely on my shoulders, by referring to calling to mind the case of “a bank account, insurance policy, credit card account, magazine subscription” where “it is your responsibility to notify the paying party or vendor of any change of address.”  Except for the case of payouts of an “insurance policy,” your lawyer is correct in his observations.  However, the text of his letter implies that I had changed my mailing address and/or my email address without notifying Liturgical Press.  This is completely erroneous. No such changes had ever taken place.  Even when I moved to China, I maintained my USA mailing address on 2739 Queenswood Drive.

Three points:

#1 Royalties are a contractual obligation made to remunerate authors.  Not to employ due diligence to pay such royalties constitutes a breach of contract.  This is not the case for “a bank account, insurance policy, credit card account, magazine subscription.”  Would you agree with me, therefore, that David W. Koehser is making the error of not separating the apples from the oranges.  Paying royalties in a timely fashion is a requirement of the contract.  If electronic payments are not going through, then the contract argues strongly in favor of requiring that the royalty checks be mailed to my home address as was the former practice for fourteen years.  No one seems to notice this.  Here again, the absence of fail-safe procedures leads to breaches of contract. Would that the lawyer had been consulted as to whether there was a contractual obligation to pay the royalties due even if that meant reverting back to mailing out checks.

#2 LitPress [abbr. for “Liturgical Press”] was diligent in sending out the annual royalty checks from 2003 to 2016.  They were faithfully mailed to my family home on 2739 Queenswood Drive [and later sent to 1649 Sutton Ave.]

Then [in 2017] the treasurer made preparations in order to expedite delivery of royalties using electronic bank transfers.  Notified of this, I contacted my bank and obtained the routing number and the checking account number for my PNC Bank.  They correctly informed me that these numbers were clearly printed on the bottom of every check that I use. Hence, from my side, no error was possible. I sent these to LitPress. I am 100% certain that I trusted them to implement their new system in a way that would not leave me hanging.

My trust was misplaced.  For six consecutive years, the treasurer knew or should have known that my royalty checks were being returned.  No evidence has been put forward demonstrating that notices were sent to my email and home addresses.  No investigation was made to track down how a clerical error might have altered my routing number or my checking account number when they were being transcribed into the new system.  No attention was given to the possibility that, after a simple five-minute phone conversation with my PNC Bank, the error might have been easily corrected.

#3 I hold Sandra Eiynck responsible for not drafting and implementing fail-safe procedures from the very first moment when electronic payments were first being introduced.  More especially, she should have employed the widely used fail-safe procedure whereby major companies, after transcribing the numbers, they make an electronic transfer of $.47 by way of alerting authors that “the system is working correctly for you.”

In cases when the $.47 was returned, further procedures would be necessary to determine whether transcription errors were somehow introduced into the numbers that I originally sent.  If an in-house error is not verifiable, then further procedures would entail sending out notices to my email and home addresses on record requesting that a voided check be sent to the Press.  On the bottom of a voided check, the correct routing number and the checking account number are printed. This insures immediate success.

It does not bode well for the future of LitPress to have a treasurer who is blind to the importance of drafting fail-safe procedures. It is solely the responsibility of LitPress to detect and correct the bugs in their system.  Authors have no competence or responsibility to do this (contrary to the opinion of your lawyer who wants to hold authors as entirely responsible). Going further, it does not bode well to have a treasurer who is so self-assured as to be certain that she has nothing to learn from my sad story. How many others suffered as I did?  You will never find out the truth in this matter.  But have you even tried to do so?

I am sure that Sandra Eiynck functions quite well in most areas of her professional life; yet, this should not blind you to the fact that there are at least three areas that I would judge as needing improvement: (1) Drafting and implementing fail-safe procedures for electronic transfers of royalties; (2) Acquiring skills to listen to and to appropriately respond to persons who disagree; and (3) Leaving room for self-improvement, admission of shortcomings, and being able to say, “What can I do to make up for the pain I caused you?”

O.K.  Now the ball is in your court.

#1 What are the merits and short-comings in your lawyer’s analysis?

#2 What are the merits and the short-comings of Sandra Eiynck in this case?

#3 How can we move together toward a mutual understanding and a financial settlement that allows me to continue to sing the praises of LitPress and allows you to redeem this whole sordid affair in your favor?

[Notice here that, in #3, Aaron shows himself ready to arrive at a mutual understanding and a financial settlement despite the supreme lack of civility and fair play on the part of Sandra Eiynck and Therese Ratliff.]

Your devoted servant,

PS: The U.S. Bishops pastoral letter, “Economic Justice for All” calls us to act thusly:

Justice has many nuances. Fundamentally it suggests a sense of what is right or of what should happen. For example, paths are just when they bring you to your destination (Gen 24:48; Ps 23:3), and laws are just when they create harmony within the community, as Isaiah says: “Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security” (Isa 32:17). . . Biblical justice is more comprehensive than subsequent philosophical [or legal] definitions. It is not concerned with a strict definition of rights and duties, but with the rightness of the human condition before God and within society. Nor is justice opposed to love; rather, it is both a manifestation of love and a condition for love to grow.

The US Department of Labor stipulates the following interest tables when calculating back pay:

  1. Purpose and Rate of Interest. The purpose of applying interest on back pay awards is to compensate the victim(s) for the loss of the use and purchasing power of their income. Interest on back pay is calculated at the same percentage rate as the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) underpayment formula. Interest on back pay must be compounded quarterly under the laws OFCCP enforces.

  2. Rate Adjustments. The IRS may adjust its rate on a quarterly basis. The interest rates applicable to various periods are available on the IRS website at

How would you rate (using a scale going from A+ to F) the conduct of Therese Ratliff relative to her [   ] Christian civility and her [   ] pursuing justice? How would you rate (A+ to F) the conduct of Aaron relative to his [   ] Christian civility and his [   ] pursuing justice?  Any reflections?

The conduct of Abbot John Klassen, President of the Board of Directors

Father John Klassen OSB, Elected 10th Abbot of Saint John's AbbeyAs President of the Board of Directors, Abbot John Klassen was a major player in identifying and in vetting Therese Ratliff as the future Director and CEO for Liturgical Press.  Here is the press release:

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. — Abbot John Klassen, OSB, is pleased to announce that Therese L. Ratliff, PhD, will be the next director and chief executive officer of Liturgical Press, the publishing apostolate of Saint John’s Abbey. Ratliff will succeed Peter Dwyer, who is set to retire in June 2022 after 33 years of service to the Press, 21 years as director.

Ratliff will be the second layperson and the first woman to lead Liturgical Press in its 96-year history. . . .

“We are thrilled to have Therese Ratliff come on board as director of Liturgical Press,” said Klassen. “She is an energetic, vibrant person who brings a rich set of leadership experiences in the world of Catholic publishing. I am confident that she will continue the Benedictine mission of the Press as it seeks to serve today’s believers in exciting new ways.”

“I am thrilled to be joining a talented, top-notch team and look forward to building on the extraordinary reputation of Liturgical Press,” said Ratliff. “We in Catholic publishing must meet the moment our world faces in diverse new ways, and I’m confident that, together, we will find new pathways and explore new directions for the Gospel to take root and flourish.”


I am pleased that Abbot John finds Therese Ratliff to be “an energetic, vibrant person.”  Therese, for her part, speaks boldly about the “new ways” she intends to introduce: “We will find new pathways and explore new directions for the Gospel to take root and flourish.”

I wonder if Abbot John asked Therese Ratliff about her experiences with “social justice in the workplace.”  When I finally get the opportunity to meet Abbot John, this will be one of the areas that I would like to explore with him.  I already know that “pursuing justice” and “seeking to heal those deprived of justice” is high on the list of Abbot John’s priorities.

But how about Therese?  She speaks enthusiastically of  “new directions for the Gospel to take root and flourish.”  Do you imagine that Therese was imagining, as Director and CEO, that she would examine the strengths and weaknesses of the already present “conflict resolution procedures” among the staff of Liturgical Press?  Do you think that Therese had any prior experience in conflict resolution in her rich background?  Do you think that Abbot John asked about such things when he was vetting Therese?  One can’t be sure.  The only evidence we have in this area is how she responded to Aaron when he brought to her attention the abysmal conduct of Sandra Eiynck.  Instead of reaching for “conflict resolution procedures,” Therese’s impulse was to silence the messenger by threatening him with a lawsuit.  Do you think that Abbot John will do much better when Aaron comes knocking at his door?  Let’s see.

#1 email sent to Abbot Klassen on 24 May 2023

Dear Abbot John Klassen,

Here is what I wrote to one of my colleagues:

I have made nine attempts[i] to contact Abbot John Klassen using his email address =  My purpose is to present evidence of financial irregularities, abusive conduct, and stonewalling on the part of two employees of Liturgical Press.  At this point, I cannot be sure whether Abbot Klassen has inadvertently not opened my emails or whether he is deliberately avoiding having to deal with a messy affair that involves serious misbehaving.

Here is another email I have sent:

I am trying to assess Abbot Klassen’s record regarding misbehaving monks.  Did he promptly inform the police?  Or did he encourage misbehaving monks to turn themselves in?  Did he encourage misbehaving monks to take steps to make restitution?  Did any monks actually serve prison sentences?  Why or why not?

I find it noteworthy that Abbot Klassen has not dismissed behaving monks but that they work out the consequences of their crimes while staying in their abbey.

Here is the testimony of one of the victims:

“It was time for someone to step up, and he did,” he said.  Abuse victim Allen Vogel said the abbey rebuffed him when he told his story 12 years ago. But things went differently with Klassen. “He’s the leader St. John’s has been looking for for decades,” Vogel said.

I also want to applaud your investment of time and energy to enter into dialogue with the Native Americans whose children were incarcerated in learning institutions deliberately designed to give them a passport to the American dream by destroying their way of life, forbidding the use of their native languages, and indoctrinating them into becoming Roman Catholics (for the benefit of their immortal souls).  The theme of turning enemies into friends and seeking restorative justice show up consistently in this setting.  I honor your insightful and courageous endeavors in this arena.

[Notice that 85% of my first email is spent honoring Abbot John for his courageous efforts to reach out to the victims of horrendous crimes.  This is deliberate on my part.  I want to signal that his “turning enemies into friends and seeking restorative justice” gives me hope that he will extend to me this treatment as well.]

For all these reasons, I now ask you to come forward and begin the dialogue with me and with those others like me who have been sorely mistreated by two of your high-ranking and invaluable employees at Liturgical Press.

Your servant and Brother,


Response to #1 email = total silence

As the days turned into weeks, Abbot John’s silence tightened my gut and gave me the sinking feeling that I am of no importance to him.  I have installed software that indicates if and when Abbot John reads my email.  So I am assured that I have his correct email address.

Why this silence?   I am a “servant and Brother” reaching out to him.  So how do I account for his cruel silence?   Even my attempts to confirm his email address in the opening weeks of May were met with a total silence.  Thus, I am forced to conclude that Abbot John was disposed to entirely ignore me even before he had received for me any details of the crimes committed by his cruel Sisters.  I must presume therefore that Sandra Eiynck or Therese Ratliff had already poisoned his mind against me.

The poison had already blinded him.  He was unable and unwilling to receive me either as a Brother or as a whistle-blower.  All in all, I am dismissed without a hearing.  I am a throw-away person of no consequence. Lazarus is my middle-name.  Thus, I use Lazarus as the theme for my next email.  I sent it to all three of them.


#2 email sent to Abbot Klassen and his cruel Sisters on 12 June 2023

Case of Lazarus  (a midrash)

Lazarus and the Rich Man (5 Lessons) — Parables of JesusPoor Lazarus.  His body is covered with sores. His health is in a rapid decline. No one will hire him now.  So, what does he do?  Each day, he gets up at the crack of dawn, and he parks his sorry ass in front of his former employers’ home.  It turns out that he worked as a butler for twenty years for the three brothers who were prosperous and lived in their family home.

During an evening supper, the three brothers voiced their favorite opinions:

The older brother said,

“We dismissed Lazarus just in the nick of time.  He was in good health when he left us; hence, no one is holding us responsible for those ugly sores that now cover his body.”

The second bother chimed in saying,

“Right you are, dear brother.  As I see it, he brought his bad fortune upon himself.  Had he consulted a doctor when the first sore showed up, he might have hoped to be cured.  As it is now, his savings have run out and the poor guy cannot ever dream of finding a doctor willing to take him on as a charity case.”

The youngest brother broke into the discussion saying,

“Brothers, let’s stop all of this useless discussion regarding Lazarus.  Each one of us has a God-given and God-approved calling.  These are the things of consequence that the Lord will require of us on the Last Day.  Lazarus is of no consequence.  Hence, I refuse to cave in to his current silent protest in front of our home.  The best way to deal with such trouble-makers is to entirely ignore them.  Don’t even give them a greeting.  Don’t even be willing to give them the time of day.  To give them any notice, at this point in time, would only serve to encourage a host of other malcontents to begin imitating his example.”

After some heated discussion, all three brothers firmly concurred with the youngest brother’s assessment.  Hence, from that moment forward, the brothers never spoke of Lazarus.  They saw Lazarus as of no consequence whatsoever.  

But Mary raised her Son to believe that God saw things differently and that those who are now seemingly “of no consequence” are indeed of first importance when it comes to God’s concerns.  [For details, see Luke 1:52-55.]

Thus, Jesus continued his parable with a sober reminder of this:

16:22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.16:23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.16:24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’

Notice here that the eldest brother dies first and that he addresses Abraham as “father.”  This is a habit formed during many years of being a pious Jew who relished reading the story of Abraham.  Notice, too, that even in Hades, the eldest brother treats Lazarus as though he were still employed as his butler.  But he is also aware that Abraham might not like him doing so.  Hence, with his shrewdness still intact, he calls upon Abraham to bring him relief from his suffering by forcing Lazarus to again become his servant-boy.

16:25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.

Notice here that Abraham honors the eldest brother by acknowledging him as his disciple.  The translation fails to capture this by using the term “child.”  But the eldest brother cannot be thought of as a literal “child.”  Rather, he is a “spiritual child of his father Abraham.”  The severe problem, however, is that the eldest brother relies upon establishing his ancestral kinship with Abraham as his advantage when, in fact, it is not (Luke 3:8).

Notice, too, that Abraham does not belittle the eldest brother, nor does he shame him for his past conduct.  Rather, he simply draws attention to the great reversal in God’s way of judging things as expressed first by Mary in Luke’s Gospel and later by Jesus (Luke 16:15.).  Those who are “of no consequence” are exalted while those who were formerly exalted are now humiliated by suffering (presumably due to their lifelong indifference to their suffering brothers and sisters).

16:26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’16:27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house‑16:28 for I have five [two] brothers‑‑that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’16:29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

Notice that, at this point of time, the parable of Jesus presumes that everyone will be carried by angels into Hades [not to be confused with the medieval “hell”].  In Hades, however, some are suffering and some are resting with Abraham.  As of yet there is no provision for the saints to be “carried into Heaven” for the beatific vision.  To explore how the nature of Hades shifts in the 2nd century and later gives rise to a geographic separation of the elect and the damned, see

Notice that the elder brother does not give up easily—when Lazarus does not get sent to relieve his torments, then a new request is directed toward sending Lazarus to alert his two brothers who have no idea of the consequences of their way of life.  Father Abraham replies to this second request by noting that “Moses and the prophets” have already delivered this message to the children of Abraham.  Thus the slim hope is that the remaining brothers will reform their lives by reading and putting into practice what one finds in Moses and the prophets.  The surmise, at this point, is that the message of Jesus does not significantly differ from what one finds in the message of Moses and the prophets.  Catholic commentators can easily miss this.

A little while after this parable of Lazarus, Jesus is reported to be saying to his disciples:

17:3 Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive.17:4 And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”

This is the message that the Lord addresses to me.  I am ready to forgive.  Are you ready to repent?

P.S.: My dear wife gently admonished me yesterday in words somewhat like this:

How can you threaten your three adversaries with jail sentences and steep fines?  Is there not the danger that they will comply with the law because they are unwilling to suffer the shame of being incarcerated and of paying fines?  Where is the power of the Gospel in all of this?

So I beg your pardon for not appealing to the Gospel first.  This was my failing.  I hope that my biblical reflections and midrash based on Jesus’ parable might provide the nourishment needed for your souls.  Moreover, I hope that you would return to  thinking of me and treating me as a cherished Brother who has suffered due to the shameful conduct accorded me during the last six months.


Response to #2 email = total silence

#3 email sent to Abbot John Klassen on 16 June 2023

Dear Abbot John Klassen,

Last June I pledged to you to do all in my power to lead Saint John’s monastic community through a period of healing and reconciliation, and all 183 of our confreres joined me in that pledge. Because you are an important and valued member of Saint John’s extended family, it is important to me and Fr. Gordon Tavis to keep you posted from time to time on our progress. . . .

Much of the groundwork for our work today was laid by Abbots Jerome Theisen and Timothy Kelly long before I became Abbot. They set in place a successful process to provide for assistance to victims of abuse, treatment for offenders and extensive education on related issues for all of our monks. As Formation Director during some of that time, I helped implement the changes and I can testify to their effectiveness. To my knowledge, not a single additional monk has offended since our monastic formation process was changed by the new policies and procedures.

The Abbey has had success responding to victims’ concerns. Last June attorney Jeffrey Anderson accepted our invitation to join in a mediation process to settle all of his firm’s cases alleging abuse without going through a judicial process that might be lengthy, uncertain, traumatic and more costly for survivors and for the Abbey. Assisted by mediators Margo Maris and Michael Ciresi, we met August 12-15 and reached a settlement that included compensation and non-compensation components. Mr. Anderson joined me in a press conference October 1 in the Abbey Chapter House to announce the settlement. I am grateful to Mr. Anderson for his assistance during the mediation process, and I was pleased by his public praise for the Abbey’s role in achieving a settlement that was agreeable to everyone involved.

I note likewise your determination to bring those first nation parents who saw their children violently captured and brutally indoctrinated by priests and sisters who violated the right of parents to raise their children according to their own faith and their own traditions.  Your objective to turn these embittered parents into friends seems a step of vital transformation in this process of healing.  The steps toward restitution are bold and unprecedented.

To whom much has been given, much is expected.

It pains me therefore to see how you are collaborating in the stonewalling and in the silences of Therese Ratliff and Sandra Eiynck.  By collaborating with them, you sanction their grievances and their inability to listen to a brother in pain at the mistreatment received.  Do not fail to miss this.  Regardless of the merits of my grievances, I have not been treated as a thoughtful and respectful brother/scholar/collaborator calling them to take notice of some financial irregularities. I am the “Lazarus” that they treat shamelessly “as of no account.”

So, dear Brother, is the time of your silence nearly over?  Are you ready to bring a new order of transparency and accountability to those whom you have entrusted the inner workings of Liturgical Press.

Fraternally in Christ,

PS: My own personal grievances do not stand in isolation.  I was not the first to receive the rough treatment that Sandra Eiynck was able to dish out to those who disagree with her.  Likewise, Therese Ratliff’s ability to overestimate the inconveniences that she suffered and her willingness to resort to having her legal “dogs” threaten me with further harm serves to reveal her propensity for mistreating anyone who calls into question the unsearchable ways of her employees.  In brief, the two most powerful persons at Liturgical Press show themselves quite easily inclined to be authoritarian and brutal, not only to me but to all those others who, like me, have had and will have the audacity to question their hidden financial irregularities.  In brief, we are dealing with systemic mismanagement.

Response to #3 email = total silence

#4 email sent to Abbot Klassen on 23 June 2023

23 June 2023

Dear Abbot John,

I am curious as to why you have not contacted me.  Is this “hiding” a positive virtue on your part?  Is there something in the Rule of St. Benedict that supports this practice?  Is this the way to treat a Brother? What do you think?

Perhaps you think that “if I ignore him, he will go away.”

This was the strategy used by Sandra during the past five months.  Sandra’s logic is the following: “If it’s not written into the contract, then I am under no obligation to take into account the devaluation of the dollar.”  In saying this, she completely overlooks the fact that the contract requires that royalty payments be made in a timely fashion—once each year.  She completely overlooks the fact that, year after year, the electronic transfers were returned. She knew this, but did nothing to correct it. She completely overlooks the fact that, when she switched from sending out paper checks to making electronic transfers, she had the obligation to make sure that the new system was working.  There was a sure-fire way to insure that the bank numbers were correct, but Sandra failed to use it or, more probably, she was not even aware that there was such a simple sure-fire solution.  So the failure of the system to deliver the annual royalties was due to her lack of knowhow and her lack of due diligence.  Thus any investigation of the case of Aaron inevitably leads to a series of embarrassing errors and the absence of due diligence.

How does Sandra resolve this? Quite simply: she hides everything. Because I don’t agree with her twisted logic, she has nothing more to say to me.  I am a person of no consequence.  Thus, she refuses to read my emails.  Quite possibly, she reroutes them into her junk email box.  Everything is hidden.  She boasts that she is a resourceful problem solver.  I threaten her self-understanding.  So she give me her silent treatment.

This reminds me of how Eve hid herself in the Garden. This reminds me of how some of your monks tried to hide their sexual abuse of minors.  This reminds me of how the US Catholic bishops tried to recycle misbehaving priests into new parishes while concealing their former crimes. This reminds me of how the “good Sisters” running the tribal schools resorted to using progressive violence against recalcitrant children and how they diligently hid this from outsiders.  Yet, in every one of these cases, the truth finally emerges in one way or the other.  When it does emerge, the strategy of “hiding” and stonewalling shows itself to be an additional crime/sin that destroys personal integrity and erodes trust of those in authority.

So I am curious as to why you have not contacted me.  Can you really justify this “hiding” as a positive and constructive virtue?  Is this what St. Benedict practiced?  Is this what your Board of Directors advised you?  Or was it your lawyers? When the whole story becomes public knowledge, will your community members think more highly of you?  Will the other authors give you high marks when they learn of your stonewalling? And, last but not least, what would Jesus, the Son of God, say to you?

[When I make contact with the Board of Trustees, I will be asking them whether Abbot Klassen’s inability or unwillingness to deal with the grievances of authors makes him unfit to be a member of the Board.]

Let the truth-telling begin,

How would you rate (using a scale going from A+ to F) the conduct of Abbot John Klassen relative to his [   ] Christian civility and his [   ] pursuing justice? How would you rate (A+ to F) the conduct of Aaron relative to his [   ] Christian civility and his [   ] pursuing justice?  Any reflections?

Q1. Can you suggest any course of action at this point that might win back Abbot John as my Brother? 

Q2. Is there any prospect that I and other authors like me will find a fair hearing and restorative justice within Liturgical Press?  

Q3. Joe advised me, “The US Bishops learned accountability only after they were being sued by their victims and their families.  Within Liturgical Press, unfortunately, you are meeting the same patterns of denial and secrecy. Stop wasting your energy on them. Bring a court case against all three of the stonewallers.  Only then will they begin to respect you as a person of consequence.”  To what degree would you agree or disagree with Joe?  

Authors who wish to contact me privately on this issue can reach me by writing to   Authors willing to share their own story of grief are especially welcome.

I have strong evidence to believe that Liturgical Press is underreporting sales of eBooks and is miscalculating the net price of such eBooks.  This will effect the royalties for every author who is selling their eBooks with Liturgical Press.  I don’t want to display my evidence here just yet because this is a research in progress.   Authors who wish to contact me privately on this issue can reach me by writing to 


To: Abbot John

From: Aaron M

Date: 29 June 2023

You can see what’s coming down the road for you.  Your fame will be turned to infamy.  The Board of Trustees will call you on the carpet.  Your monks will snicker when they discover your dark side.  When you give your next talk on “the role of justice in the rule of St. Benedict,” no one will think you have any right to talk about “justice.”  Etc.

If you were a man of honor, you would do something like this:

  1. Sit down and have a long talk with Therese.  In preparation, ask her to rate the performances (A+  to F) as indicated above and to make comments as well in writing.  Talk about her past experiences of justice and injustice. Talk about “Christian standards of civility” and “procedures to address grievances.”  At the end of your exchange, ask her what would be her game-plan if she had a chance to do it all over again. Ask her to write this out and send it to you within seven days.

  2. If Therese shows a capacity for self-reform, have a second talk with her that is directed toward having her evaluate the performance of Sandra in detail. Create a climate of trust by confessing to her one or two instances in which you acted unjustly.  Then, once a climate of trust is present, encourage Therese to explore with you how and when Sandra might have acted with more civility and justice toward Aaron.  Then, maintaining the climate of trust, encourage Therese to explore with you how and when she might have acted with more civility and justice toward Aaron.  At the end of your exchange, ask her what would be her game-plan if she had a chance to do it all over again.

  3. Prepare Therese to have an exchange with Sandra following the general lines of your initial talk with her in #1 above.  If she feels hesitant to do this, appoint a trained facilitator to accompany her.  If she still balks, then explore with her how her position as CEO requires her ability (a) to investigate possible financial irregularities and (b) to challenge and to “retrain” staff who have acted improperly. . . .  Bend over backwards to offer her any help she might need to be able to perform in this capacity.   If she is unable and unwilling to do this, then talk about redesigning her job description and conducting a search for a trained facilitator and trouble-shooter that would “clean up the mess” that Sandra has left behind. This might entail a pay reduction.

  4. If Therese is ready and willing to interview Sandra, then let this take place with an audio and video recorder running “as part of my training to become a facilitator.”  Near the end of this exchange, Therese will ask Sandra what might be her game-plan if she had a chance to do it all over again. Ask her to write this out and send it to you.

  5. After the interview, have Therese walk through the interview with you paying attention to body language, to hesitations, to moments of discovery.  If you feel incapable of effectively doing this, bring in a trained facilitator to help both of you to “see” and to “feel” the tacit components within the exchange. Examine Sandra’s game-plan together. What are the merits and deficiencies?  Decide together how to go forward. . . .

  6. Somewhere down the line, a full-day workshop on “conflict resolution” should be planned that would bring together all the staff significantly involved in person-to-person relations.  The big three, Abbot John, Therese, and Sandra, would be ready to reenact their “initial responses” to the grievances reported by Aaron. A trained facilitator and an expert in “role playing reenactments” would be at hand.Sandra might well begin by describing her annoying emails from Aaron. Then she might explain how, at a certain point, she decided to ignore him completely. Then the facilitator would invite small-group analysis leading to a big-group reporting and consensus building. Sandra would then come forward saying, “I’m glad that you were able to see the serious flaws in my treatment of Aaron. Here are a few things that you didn’t notice. . . .”  Then later, “Thanks to Therese, I was able to learn a style of conflict resolution that was much more humane and just. . . .”After a short recess, Therese would dramatize her earlier annoyances: “Aaron was bombarding me with emails asking whether this was my correct email address”  & “Aaron (male privilege?) was badmouthing Sandra.”  So I called our company lawyer and asked him to put “the fear of the Lord” into him.  Here, on the screen, is what he sent. . . . Then the facilitator would invite small-group analysis leading to a big-group reporting and consensus building. Therese would then come forward saying, “I’m glad that you were able to see the serious flaws in my treatment of Aaron. Here are a few things that you didn’t notice. . . .”  Then later, “Thanks to Abbot John, I was able to learn a style of conflict resolution that was much more humane and just.  Let me tell you about this. . . .”

In the afternoon, you, Abbot John, might briefly explain how you responded to Aaron. “I didn’t know what to do or to say, so I did nothing and I said nothing.”  “What do you think?  Was this a successful strategy?”  Then, after a few minutes, ask: “Why is Aaron coming to me?  What does he want from me?”  Project my first detailed letter of 24 May 2023 on a screen or have someone read it dramatically.  “Here you can hear Aaron speaking for himself.  Why is Aaron coming to me?  What does he want from me?”

At some point, someone will say something more or less like this, “Aaron is in pain because his grievances have been ignored.”  With this, the role-playing expert takes over.  “Who here can feel Aaron’s pain?”  “Stand up and come forward.  Imagine a “pain intensity scale” on the floor here.  On one end (go there), the pain is slight.  Then it rises.  At this end (go there), the pain is severe.  Very quickly, place yourself on this scale.”  Using this, the facilitator will thereby find the person ready to role-play Aaron.  “Here is Aaron’s hat. Would you want to wear this as a symbol that you are speaking for Aaron?”  In this way, the scene is set for someone to give voice to Aaron’s pain.  “Here is the Abbot’s chair.  It is empty.  It is waiting for one of you to come forward and give a response to Aaron’s pain.”  The facilitator will interrupt Abbot#1 after 20 seconds.  Then a second chair for Abbot#2 is prepared.  An alternative response is heard.  “What do you think?  Does Abbot#1 or Abbot#2 best connect with Aaron’s pain?  Why so?”   “Let’s ask Aaron.”

The upshot of the whole workshop will be (a) to create an atmosphere of communal safety wherein everyone’s contribution is valued; (b) to enable the big three to have an occasion to acknowledge their earlier short comings and to show off their new skills for “conflict resolution”; (c) to use role-playing as a dynamic and playful way to examine tough issues; (d) to move toward a community consensus as to what guidelines are to be used and expected in future instances of “conflict resolution”; and (e) to provide a forum wherein the use of “name calling,” “threatening,” “bullying,”  etc. are seen and experienced as destructive in almost all situations.

The genius of this solution is that (a) your faith in broken people will be rekindled and (b) those who did the tearing down will become, with a little help, those who are building up.  Think here of the case of Saul/Paul.  He started by arresting Christians and turning them over to the temple police; he ended up being a promoter of the very movement that he formerly hated.  This is a case of  “restorative justice.”

The mercy in this solution is that the big three get a rare opportunity (a) to reflect on their bad conduct and (b) to design a game-plan that allows them to do it all over again – but this time with Christian love wedded to humility and investigative justice.  Think here of an imaginative revision of the Jesus parable where Abraham says to the eldest brother, “O.K. I’m going to send you back to your brothers on Earth for two weeks.  Let’s see how successful  you can be in turning things around.”

So, following this imaginative retelling of the Lazarus parable, I’m going to give you two weeks to think through your options.  You will either create for yourself a game-plan (a variation on my 6 points above) or you will immediately draft your letter of resignation to the Board of Trustees explaining that you are incapable and/or unwilling to carry through the investigations that would result in the rectification of the defective processes whereby royalties are calculated and distributed.

Send one or the other or both to me at on or before 13 July 2023.  Meanwhile send me immediately a few words indicating what future most attracts you.

After all the disappointments, I still believe in you,

Aaron, your Brother


to: Sandra Eiynck, Therese Ratliff, Abbot John Klassen, OSB

from: Aaron Milavec

date: 08 June 2023 (original); date today: 12 July 2023

re: wage theft ==== Your time is running out.  Either move to open dialogue as befits Christians or face the consequences. . . .

From 17 Nov 2022 to the present, I have tried to encourage open dialogue and common-sense economics to demonstrate (a) that my royalties/wages were unlawfully withheld for one to six years and then, later, (b) that my wages were unlawfully underpaid because no account was taken of the devaluation of the dollar.

The US Department of Labor stipulates the following interest tables when calculating back pay:

  1. Purpose and Rate of Interest. The purpose of applying interest on back pay awards is to compensate the victim(s) for the loss of the use and purchasing power of their income. Interest on back pay is calculated at the same percentage rate as the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) underpayment formula. Interest on back pay must be compounded quarterly under the laws OFCCP enforces.

  2. Rate Adjustments. The IRS may adjust its rate on a quarterly basis. The interest rates applicable to various periods are available on the IRS website at

My efforts to come to a resolution in a just and charitable manner were met with stonewalling, misrepresentation, an abusive legal ploy, and stoney silences.  Thus, you give me no option but to bring my grievances to the attention of persons that you will not be able to abuse and ignore.  See Matt 5:24-26 and Luke 12:57-59.

Misdemeanor violations (amendments to Minn. Stat. § 177.32)  
Under existing law, an employer found to have hindered or delayed the commissioner in the performance of duties required under the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act or the Prevailing Wage Act was guilty of a misdemeanor. The new Wage Theft Law adds that any employer hindering or delaying the commissioner in the performance of duties required under Minn. Stat. §§ 181.01 to 181.723 or 181.79 is also guilty of a misdemeanor (New).

New:  Crime of “wage theft” and criminal sanctions for committing “wage theft” (amendments to Minn. Stat. § 609.52) 
The crime of “wage theft” occurs when an employer, with intent to defraud:
•  Fails to pay an employee all wages, salary, gratuities, earnings or commissions at the employee’s rate or rates of pay or at the rate or rates required by law, whichever is greater.
•  Directly or indirectly causes any employee to give a receipt for wages for a greater amount than that actually
paid to the employee for services rendered.
•  Directly or indirectly demands or receives from any employee any rebate or refund from the wages owed
the employee under contract of employment with the employer.
•  Makes or attempts to make it appear in any manner the wages paid to any employee were greater than the
amount actually paid to the employee.
“Employer” is defined as “any individual, partnership, association, corporation, business trust, or any person or
group of persons acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee.”
“Employee” is defined as “any individual employed by an employer.”
“Wage theft” has been added to the criminal definition of theft under Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(19), and
sanctions for committing wage theft are as follows:
•  Imprisonment for not more than 20 years, payment of a fine of not more than $100,000 or both if the value
of the wages stolen is more than $35,000.
•  Imprisonment for not more than 10 years, payment of a fine of not more than $20,000 or both if the value
of the wages stolen exceeds $5,000.
•  Imprisonment for not more than five years, payment of a fine of not more than $10,000 or both if the value of wages stolen is more than $1,000 but not more than $5,000.

[Using the IRS interest rates, I compute my lost wages as $1021 as of 01 July 2023.]

•  Imprisonment for not more than one year, payment of a fine of not more than $3,000 or both if the value of
the property or services stolen is more than $500 but not more than $1,000.

Having read all of the key emails that were exchanged in this case, what observations or judgments do you want to share in the comment box below?   Your participation is appreciated.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~end note~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[i] My initial emails to Abbot John during the first half of the month of May were by way of confirming that was the email address that I should use to contact him regarding the misbehaving of two high-ranking members of Liturgical Press.  Since Abbot John is President of the Board of Trustees, I assumed that he would want to be advised of the exact nature of their misbehaving.  Sad to say, Abbot John has not acknowledged me as a Brother or as a whistle-blower.  To date, he has not sent a single word to me.

Even my attempts to confirm his email address in the opening weeks of May were met with a total silence.  Thus, I am forced to conclude that Abbot John was disposed to entirely ignore me even before he had received for me any details of the crimes committed against me.  I must presume therefore that Sandra Eiynck or Therese Ratliff had already poisoned his mind against me.

Be that as it may, I still believed that Abbot John had a remarkable record of dealing with victims and their abusers found within his own abbey.  With each of my emails, I expressed my hope in him at the same time that I offered him strong medicine to shake him out of his lethargy.  I failed.

The poison had already blinded him.  He was unable and unwilling to receive me either as a Brother or as a whistle-blower.  All in all, I am dismissed without a hearing.  I am a throw-away person of no consequence. Lazarus is my middle-name.

The Limits of Christian Forgiveness


When I was a young child, the story of salvation given to me by the Ursuline nuns at Holy Cross Grade School in Euclid, Ohio, was something so simple, so compelling, and so wonderful.  Adam sinned and we inherited the consequences: God’s grace dried up and the gates of heaven were sealed shut.  For thousands of years, people were dying, but no one was able to get into heaven.  Everyone was waiting for God to send a redeemer.  Then, Jesus finally arrived and died for our sins on the cross.  And, as my Baltimore Catechism so clearly demonstrated, at the moment that Jesus died on the cross, there, way up in the clouds, the gates of heaven were again being opened.  Finally the souls of all the good people who had died could enter into heaven and be with God for all eternity.


While the Catholic Church has not officially endorsed any specific soteriology,[i] the most popular by far is the theology whereby God forgives all sins due to the merits of Christ’s passion on the cross.


During my eight years at Holy Cross Grade School in Euclid, Ohio, I recall vividly how we knelt on the wood floor next to our benches every morning and faced the large crucifix above the blackboard as we recited our morning prayers.  On Fridays in Lent, we were herded into the church and confronted with an even more vivid reminder of

10th Station of the Cross: Jesus is stripped of his garments

the drama of our salvation.  The Stations of the Cross consisted in fourteen graphically depicted sufferings of Jesus, which covered the sidewalls of Holy Cross Church.  At the beginning of each station, Fr. McMonigle, vested in his somber black cope, called out in a loud voice, “We adore thee, O Christ, and we bless thee.”  All of us children then dropped to our knees and answered in a deafening chorus, “Because by thy holy cross thou hast redeemed the world!”


The Limits of Forgiveness


Should the thousands of young women humiliated, raped, and savagely murdered in the Jewish wars (66-70 and 135-136 CE) or in the recent wars in Bosnia[ii] (1992-1996) be told that they must learn to kiss and embrace their perpetrators when the new age dawns?  Should the young men cut down in wars–especially those who died crying in pain as they slowly suffocated in their own blood–be told, at the time of the resurrection of the dead, that all wars were good and all wars were justified because everyone fought for what seemed to them a just cause and everyone was expected to follow orders?  Should those who spent their lives “weighing down with toil the oppressed” (Did. 5:2) and those who served as “advocates of the rich” (Did. 5:2) be granted equal and ready forgiveness along with their victims?  The members of the Didache would not have thought so.


Dostoevsky, in his Brothers Karamazov, tested his own objections to the fanciful preaching that Jesus “can forgive everyone for everything because he himself shed his innocent blood for everyone and for everything” (2.5.4) in the character of Ivan.  Faced with the innocent suffering of children, Ivan objects to the notion that Jesus (or anyone else for that matter) had the right to forgive, either now or at the final judgment, the torture inflicted on children.  Ivan provides Alyosha, his brother, many graphic examples culled from the daily newspaper.  One such tale he narrates is the following:

A little girl of five was abused by her parents, “descent and most respectable people, well educated and cultured. . . .”  Those educated parents subjected that poor little five-year-old to every conceivable torture.  They beat her, whipped her, kicked her till she was black and blue, all for no reason.  Finally, they thought of the ultimate punishment; they shut her up all night in the outside privy, in the cold and the frost, because she wet herself at night (as if a five-year-old, sleeping soundly like an angel, could excuse herself in time)‑-for this, they smeared her face with her excrement and forced her to eat it, and it was her mother, her mother who did this to her!  And that mother slept unconcernedly at night, oblivious to the sobs of the poor child shut up in that foul place!  Can you understand such a thing: that small child, unable even to comprehend what is being done to her, in the dark and the cold of that foul place, beating her little panting breast with her tiny fists, sobbing, weeping humble tears of bloodstained innocence, praying to “Dear Father God” to protect her. . . (2.5.4).

Only a pious, romanticized Christianity that mindlessly rhapsodizes about the unbounded love of God but has never felt the broken bodies and broken lives of the innocent victims of torture, of racial degradation, of systemic injustice would propose that everyone, no matter how heinous their crimes, need merely cry out for mercy in the face of the divine fire threatening to utterly destroy them and expect to be saved by Jesus.

The Jewish survivors of the Shoah (wrongfully called “the Holocaust”) are much more on target when it comes to the issue of forgiveness:

  • (a) No one can forgive on behalf of another;
  • (b) No one ought to forgive unless there is teshuvah (“turning around” and repudiation of past crimes);
  • (c) Finally, even when forgives comes, there is an obligation never to forget the past lest such crimes be repeated.

The survivors of rape, incest, torture, spousal abuse, and of systemic injustice are likewise today wisely counseled to hold on to their rage since only by embracing it to its depth can they be healing of their victimization (see #12a).

For the innocent victims, there might arrive a moment for forgiveness, but this forgiveness cannot come too early or too late, neither can it be given too promiscuously or too parsimoniously‑-otherwise the very justice of God would be mocked.  If God is not committed to bring justice and to insure that “the gentle . . . inherit the earth” (Did. 3:7), then the entire community of the Didache would have to become a subversive organization bent upon devising means to bring justice in the face of a false god unwilling or unable to protect the victims of this world from the exploiters and abusers.

When the victims of the Shoah are raised from the dead and called by their heavenly Father to enter into his Kingdom that has finally arrived on the face of this earth, they will never go in if they see that God has chosen Nazi guards to hand out the invitations and to form orderly lines among the masses rushing to enter into Paradise. Accordingly it might rightly be said that only someone who has been unjustly victimized or someone who has wiped away the hot tears of those who have been victimized would be capable of discerning the thin raw echo of victimization that runs through the Didache and the Gospels.


Jesus’ Atoning Death and Solidarity With Victims


More than one scholar has noted that the Didache makes no reference to the efficacy of Jesus’ death in God’s plan of salvation.  For that matter, the Didache likewise refrains from casting any positive light upon suffering as such.  This may strike many Christians as curious since most Christians have become accustomed to accept the efficacy of Jesus’ suffering on the Roman cross as imbued with God’s mysterious plan of salvation.  Hence this issue deserves some consideration.  I frame my considerations within two test cases: (a) the suffering-death of my own mother; (b) the suffering-death of a million Jewish mothers.


The Suffering-Death of my Mother


By way of beginning, consider the following reflections upon suffering that my mother read from her prayer book while her pastor, Fr. McMonigle, was quietly reciting the Latin prayers that constituted the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”  I specifically chose her prayer book because she used this during the seven years when she was bursting with health and during the last seven months of 1946 when her body was being eaten away by an inoperable cancer.

  • “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. . . ” (Mt 5:5, 10-12).
  • By sufferings we become like to Christ and His blessed Mother, our Lady of Sorrows. Suffering was the lot of all the saints.  Suffering is very meritorious.  Suffering intensifies our love of God.  Suffering has a refining influence upon our character. . . .
  • Suffering is conducive to sanctity, for every sorrow, every trial, can be turned into a blessing. . . . Ignatius Loyola says: “If the Lord send you great tribulations, it is an evidence that he has great designs upon you, and that he wills that you become a saint. . . .”
  • “The Son of God,” says St. Theresa, “has accomplished our salvation by the means of sufferings; He would by this teach us that there is no means more proper to glorify God and to sanctify our souls than to suffer” (My Prayer Book: 84-88).


Recently some Christian women have become alarmed by the distorted piety found in prayer books like the one used by my mother.  Joanne Carlson Brown and Rebecca Parker stepped back from the sentiments named above and concluded that “Christianity [such as this] is an abusive theology that glorifies suffering” (cited in Heyward:384).  They accordingly tried to discover the source of this distorted theology fixated upon suffering:

Is it any wonder that there is so much abuse in modern society when the predominant image or theology of the culture is [a celebration] of “divine child abuse”–God the Father demanding and carrying out the suffering and death of his own son? (cited in Heyward:384).

Struggling to retain both their faith in God and their solidarity with victims, Brown and Parker ended up affirming categorically that “suffering is never redemptive and suffering cannot be redeemed” (cited in Heyward:384).


The great lie: “God loved your mother so much.”


At the time of my mother’s death, a pious aunt whom I greatly admired tried to console me by saying that, “God loved your mother so much that he took her early to be with him in heaven.”  As I pondered her words in the days follow the funeral, I discovered that her words upset me more and more. “How could God love my mother so much and, at the same time, to love me so little?”  Even as a little boy, I knew that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was transported, body and soul, into Heaven. “Why did God take my mother away from me?  He already had his own mother with him in Heaven. I, on the other hand, was very much in need of my mother.”

From that day forward, I slowly began to realize that God was not the “nice Guy” that everyone made him out to be.  I stopped praying to God entirely.  All my prayers were addressed to Mary and to my Mom in Heaven.

As a teenager, I realized that, for seven months, my mother suffered terribly before she died.  It was then that I slowly came to the understand that my aunt did not understand God at all.  Considering the terrible way that my mother slowly died, it was impossible for my aunt to say that “God loved your mother so much. . . .”  My logic was heart-rending and true: “When you love someone, you take care of them.  My God, as it turned out, did not take care of me.  He did not love me, and, he did not really love my Mom either.”

Even as a boy of eight, I sensed that I was moving into uncharted and dangerous territory.  I was confused. I was upset.[iii]  I felt cheated.  I felt abandoned.  My Baltimore Catechism had these words: “God made us to know him, to love him, and to serve him in order to be [after death] eternally happy with him in Heaven.”  The truth is that I wanted to go to Heaven solely in order to be with my Mom again.  I knew that she would immediately understand my “distrust” of God and that she would be able “to fix it.”  Until then, I had no interest in ever being alone with God.  If God could not patiently wait for another ten years—the years when I most needed my Mom—then why could I trust him to be remotely capable of making me “eternally happy”?  God failed me “big time” in 1946 and some future happiness “with him” seemed very unattractive and very unlikely. My Mom and the Virgin Mary knew what I needed; my God, on the other hand, appeared to me to be entirely clueless!

This darkness of the soul overshadowed me for the next eight years. Then, at the age of sixteen, the veil was lifted.  “God does not kill people because he wants to bring them (early) to Heaven.”

When I recall the events surrounding my mother’s death today, I notice how unprotected I was when it came to digesting the awful implications of my aunt’s remark.  I also came to realize how sensitive and thoughtful Christians can sometimes say dreadfully toxic things when faced with the enormity of the loss experienced by survivors.


A Million Jewish Mothers Die


Just to see how far some Christians have gone in order to extend the mystique of suffering, consider the responses made by highly educated Catholics to the extermination of the six million Jews during the Shoah (also referred to as “the Holocaust”).  Cardinal John O’Connor, acting as the Catholic Archbishop of New York, had this to say as part of his reflections upon visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Israel:

The crucifixion and its enormous power continue mystically and spiritually in this world in our day and will continue to the end of time.  Christ . . . continues to suffer in his Body, the Church. . . . And this suffering has a purpose and an effect, as does ours if we conjoin it with his, if we “offer it up”. . . .  [Consequently] if the suffering of the crucifixion was infinitely redemptive, the suffering of the Holocaust, potentially conjoined with it, is incalculably redemptive (47-48).

Archbishop O’Connor was seemingly horrified by the mountain of shoes that were removed from the feet of mothers and children destined for the furnaces of the extermination camps.  Mesmerized by the infinite redemptive suffering of Christ, Archbishop O’Connor undoubtedly thought he was honoring the suffering within the Nazi concentration camps when he associated their sufferings as being redemptive in a way analogous to the sufferings of Jesus.  Many survivors of the death camps and their relatives (see Jacobs: 52-55) were neither flattered nor consoled by the Archbishop’s crude attempt to extend a Christian atonement theology to cover the enormity of evil involved in their loss.  The protesting Jews didn’t mind that Archbishop O’Connor wanted to sugar-coat the sufferings of one Jew (Jesus); but they were totally livid when he tried to take his warped Christian theology and to use it to sugar-coat the Nazi campaign that brought about the death of a million Jewish mothers.

Sorry to say, even John Paul II has flirted with applying a mystique of suffering to the Shoah.  When addressing the Jews of Warsaw on 14 June 1987, he spoke as follows:

We believe in the purifying power of suffering.  The more atrocious the suffering, the greater the purification.  The more painful the experiences, the greater the hope. . . (cited in Jacobs:53).

A year later, while visiting Mauthausen Concentration Camp, the Pope further observed that “the Jews [killed here] enriched the world by their suffering, and their death was like a grain that must fall into the earth in order to bear fruit, in the words of Jesus who brings salvation” (cited in Jacobs:53).

Such language is confusing and/or outright blasphemous in the ears of most Jews.  Does a Jewish father whose daughter has been conscripted to provide sexual favors to the German troops in the front lines tell his daughter that her suffering will purify her love, purify her body, purify anything?  Does a Jewish mother tell her little son who is about to be separated from her and to die a slow starvation in the transport trains that the more painful the experience, the greater hope he ought to have?  Hope for what?  Even popes, one can see, sometimes make silly and injurious remarks when they are blinded by an unexamined and unreflective doctrine that seemingly inflates the benefits of the sufferings of Christ.

The truth is that Golgotha and Auschwitz do have a common thread of interpretation but this has nothing to do with a distorted mysticism of suffering or with the forgiveness of the guilty due to the death of the innocent.  The common thread is that any system or person systematically dehumanizing others and using prolonged torture and slow starvation to make his/her point is acting cruelly and inhumanely.  Inflicting torture cannot be sugar-coated.  The screaming victims cannot be imagined as gaining for themselves or for others some mysterious benefit in this world or in the next.  One can only say that the torture should never have happened and that the survivors stand as a witness to the depth of sin in the world.  As for God, we should never even hint that God would encourage, allow, or make use of torture.  Rather, we can only say that this kind of stuff makes God cringe and to avert his eyes such that the torture victims themselves cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”


Edward Schillebeeckx, in his two-volume investigation on Christology, came to this same conclusion after investigation the whole gamut of biblical references pertaining to the suffering and death of Jesus.  By way of reflecting upon his findings, he wrote:

God and suffering are diametrically opposed. . . .  We can accept that there are certain forms of suffering that enrich our humanity. . . .  However, there is an excess of suffering and evil in our history. . . .  There is too much unmerited and senseless suffering. . . .  But in that case we cannot look for a divine reason for the death of Jesus either.  Therefore, first of all, we have to say that we are not redeemed thanks to the death of Jesus but despite it (1980:695; See also 724f, 729).


There is neither the time nor the place to develop how Schillebeeckx moves through the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures in order to arrive at this stark and unexpected conclusion.  It suffices, for our purpose here, to note that the Didache deliberately refrains from making any positive gesture toward the crucifixion of Jesus whatsoever.  My hunch is that the framers of the Didache, like contemporary Jews and like the young boy who lost his only mother, are repulsed by any notion of God that glosses over and makes torture acceptable.  Whether it is Jews being tortured by medical experiments in the camps, or Jesus tortured on a Roman cross deliberately designed to humiliate and prolong death, or the case of a young mother tortured by the cancer eating her body‑-there is no divine reason for any of these.  God cries out with the victim and tears his garments in grief as he does so.  Any other God cannot be said to be in solidarity with victims.


God Tears his Garments and Grieves for Jesus’ Death


The closer that one examines the passion narratives, the more remote the Christian theology of atonement becomes.  According to this theology, Jesus’ death on the cross is the brightest moment in salvation history.  According to the Synoptics, however, it is the darkest: “From the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour” (Mt 27:45 and par.).  At the moment of Jesus’ death, my childhood catechism presents the imagined image of the Gates of Heaven being thrown open after having been locked ever since the sin of Adam and Eve.  According to the Synoptics, however, it is the temple veil that is rent in two “from top to bottom” (Mt 27:51 and par.).  In most instances, this rending of the veil has been interpreted to signal that the crime of the priests is so grievous that God abandons the holy of holies‑-tearing through the temple veil as he exits.  Such an interpretation fails to take into account that the disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem went to the temple daily to pray and to teach (Acts 2:46, Acts 3:1, Acts 5:42).  Seemingly they have not the slightest hint that the temple has been vacated; they pray and teach in the temple and experience the closeness to God as usual.

Other scholars have suggested that this tearing “originally represented Jesus’ death” and later became a “supernatural portent of Jesus’ deity” (Gundry 1994:575).  But what sense does it make to represent Jesus’ death symbolically when, in actual fact, the event itself, with all its gory details, had just been carefully narrated?  The Letter to the Hebrews makes an oblique reference to “the new and living way that he opened for us through the [temple] curtain” (Heb 10:20), but it would be risky to transpose the theology of Hebrews back into the Synoptics.

Following a suggestion of David Daube (23-26), a Jewish scholar, here is an interpretation that Christians have been prone to overlook:

One has to be aware of the modes of expressing grief then current among the Jewish people.  When a father of Jesus’ day would hear of the death of a son, he would invariably rend his garment by grabbing it at the neck and tearing it from top to bottom [see, e.g., Gn 27:34, Job 1:20, b. Moed Qatqan 25a, b. Menahot 48a].  This is precisely the gesture suggested by the particulars of Matthew’s text: “The veil of the Temple as torn in two from top to bottom” (27:51).  In truth, God is Spirit.  Symbolically, however, the presence of God within the holy of holies was rendered secure from prying eyes by the veil that surrounded that place.  As such, the veil conceals the “nakedness” of God.  It is this “garment” that [the] grief-stricken Father of Jesus tears from top to bottom when he hears the final death-cry of his beloved son.  Even for the Father, therefore, the death of Jesus is bitter tragedy and heartfelt grief (Milavec 1982:57).

This should provide my readers with a point of departure for reeducating ourselves how to distinguish various kinds of suffering, how to recapture our rage and indignation at the suffering of the innocent, and how to wrest the message and death of Jesus from being a soft-headed plea for submitting to evil and forgiving enemies under any and all circumstances.



[i].Soteriology seeks to make sense of how God offers salvation to his/her people.  Jesus and his immediate disciples anticipated the coming of God from heaven to gather the Jewish exiles and to establish his kingdom on earth.  The Church Fathers preferred to think that the divine Logos had become human in order to establish that humans could, by successive stages, attain to that divinization to which they were destined by God.  During the medieval period, Christians were preoccupied with sin‑-Adam failed God in the Garden and accordingly, all his children were conceived in sin and destined for eternal damnation.  Jesus, the Son of God, however, became human such that a human could make complete satisfaction by his death on the cross for all the sins of the world.  Whether God is envisioned as bringing the kingdom or as restoring human access to divinization or as providing satisfaction for sins makes a big difference in how God is understood and how Jesus relates to God and to our salvation.  Interested readers might read Karen Armstrong, A History of God (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993).

[ii] During the Bosnian war, 50,000 Bosnian women faced gang rapes and forced impregnation in what became known as “rape camps.” Today there are 2,000-4,000 children born out of that war. The children born following these rapes are neither Serbian nor Bosnian; they are invisible. Now, as adults, they struggle to cope with the past and its consequences. Moreover, any hint of their existence in public life is reduced to a faltering silence.

In support of the ethnic cleansing strategy engineered by the Serbian authorities, genocidal rapes aimed to “plant the seed of Serbs in Bosnia” and produce little “Chetniks.” Also, it intended to prevent the captives and their families from returning to the region. A whole system was constructed – villages transformed into rape camps, gynecologists were on shift, and to avoid miscarriages and abortions, women were released only in advanced pregnancy.

[iii] What I felt at the age of eight was “raw anger.”  I couldn’t say this out loud, of course.  I was raised as a “nice boy.”  If someone does something nasty, one immediately thinks of getting ready to forgive.  No one was talking about times when it was permitted (nay, even necessary) to be “angry with God.”  Being a “nice boy,” I was raised only to “love God.”  So, my own rigorous religious formation refused to give me permission to be “angry with God.”  Thus, I was entrapped and crippled in the web of my own beloved faith tradition.

Film review of “Women Talking” –The Limits of Forgiveness

Just watched “Women Talking.”  This is the most moving film that I’ve seen in the last five years.  I come away feeling the “outrage” of asking these women to forgive the guilty men.  As one of the women so rightly puts it, “No way is it possible for me to forgive those men.  Even if it means being condemned to hell for an eternity.”
Quotes from the film:
The elders told us it [the unexplained pregnancies] was the work of ghosts or satan. Or that we were lying to get attention. or that it was an act of wild female imagination.

We were given two days to forgive the attackers before they returned. If we did not forgive them, we would be ordered to leave the colony and be denied entry to the kingdom of heaven.

It is part of our faith to forgive. We have always forgiven those who have wronged us; why not now?

I cannot forgive them. I can never forgive them.

We have been preyed upon like animals. We should respond like animals.

Just leave with the rest of the “do nothing” women.

Women Talking Movie Quotes

Where I come from, where your mother comes from, we didn’t talk about our bodies. So when something like this happened, there was no language for it.

In that gaping silence was the real horror.

Why did my feet keep moving forward when hers couldn’t?

Perhaps we need to know more about what we are fighting to achieve rather than what we are fighting to destroy.

We’re women without a voice.

All we have is our dreams, so of course we are dreamers.

We know that we must protect our children, regardless of who is guilty.

Are you saying the attackers are as much victims as the victims of the attacks?

None of us have ever asked the men for anything, not a single thing.

Sometimes I think people laugh as hard as they’d like to cry.

How would you feel if, for your entire life, it didn’t matter how you thought?

When we liberate ourselves, we will have to ask ourselves who we are.

I love it. Isn’t that strange?

I won’t speak of it or anything else ever again.

I want to help, and I don’t know how.

Time will heal. Our freedom and safety are the ultimate goals, and it is men who prevent us from achieving those goals.

One day, I’d like to hear that from someone who should be saying it.

If I were married, I wouldn’t be myself. So the person you loved would be gone.

They made us disbelieve ourselves. That was worse than…

If God is a loving god, then he will forgive us himself.

I will destroy any living thing that harms my child. I will tear it limb from limb. I will desecrate its body and burn it alive.

I will become a murderer if I stay.

Women Talking Movie Quotes
Here is a review:
Published Dec. 22, 2022  Updated March 6, 2023
Women Talking
NYT Critic’s Pick
Directed by Sarah Polley
1h 44m

Every so often, “Women Talking” lets its attention wander away from its main concern (which is, as you might have guessed, women talking) to observe the hands of girls as they draw pictures, play complicated clapping and string-figure games or braid one another’s hair into intricate plaits. The grace and discipline of those activities, and the creativity they express, are woven into the film itself, which seems plain-spoken almost to the point of artlessness and turns out to be as layered and whorled as a hand-woven tapestry.

The women are members of an agrarian religious community that has kept its distance from modernity. An outsider’s pickup truck blasting the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” is one of a handful of signs that this movie, directed by Sarah Polley from a novel by Miriam Toews, takes place anywhere near the present.

Toews’s book was suggested by actual events that took place from 2005 to 2009 at a Mennonite colony in Bolivia, but the film version doesn’t specify a location. That vagueness reflects both the universality of the story’s themes and what the women know of the secular world, which is very little. Though many of them can recite the Bible from memory, they haven’t been taught to read and write.

Their educations have been minimal, but their wisdom, acquired through farm and household labor, child-rearing, prayer and intuition, is vast. Or at least sufficient to spur the emergence of a powerful and sophisticated collective political consciousness. How they arrive at a clear understanding of their oppression and potential liberation is the film’s subject, a source of suspense, emotion and inspiration.

What the women are talking about is what some of the men in the colony have done to them. Or maybe not quite that: They all know that a large number of their husbands, brothers, relatives and neighbors have been sneaking into the bedrooms of women and girls at night, equipped with a spray used to tranquilize livestock, and raping their unconscious victims. A few flashbacks to the aftermaths of some of the attacks are sufficient to convey their horror. Now that the colony’s elders have admitted the problem and the secular authorities have gotten involved, the question is how to respond.

While most of the men are away, bailing the accused perpetrators out of jail, a group of women meets in a hayloft to hash out a course of action. The women of the community have already voted in a referendum offering three choices: do nothing — forgive, forget and hope for the best; stay and fight; or leave. The first option having been soundly rejected, they settle in to debate the other two, arguing the relative merits of exit and voice.

Many of the participants favor exit, but “Women Talking,” as its title suggests, is mostly voice — a weave of voices in varying arrangements of harmony and dissonance. The calmest and most measured, but also in some ways the most passionate and principled, belongs to Ona (Rooney Mara), who is pregnant. Salome (Claire Foy) and Mariche (Jessie Buckley), two mothers of young children, provide antiphonal chords of anger. Both are victims of male violence, but they often turn their rage on each other. Two older women, Greta (Sheila McCarthy) and Agata (Judith Ivey), offer sympathy, perspective and occasional grandma jokes, though the necessary spark of mischief comes from the younger generation, boisterously represented by Liv McNeil, Michelle McLeod and Kate Hallett.

There’s also a man in the barn, whose job is to take the minutes of the meeting. His name is August, and he’s played with appropriate sensitivity by Ben Whishaw. In the book, he is also the narrator, but Polley has replaced him with a woman whom it might be a spoiler to name, leaving August as a reminder that while not all men are monsters to women, every man is implicated in the arrangements of power that enable the monstrosity.

But the movie isn’t about the men. They are a blank that it’s easy enough to fill in, a set of facts implied in the words and silences of the women. Away from their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons, the main characters experience a comfort that is clearly familiar, and a freedom that feels new. Their personalities peek out from behind the scrim of their defined, taken-for-granted roles.

“Women Talking” compels you to think about their plight, but it also invites you to enjoy their company. It seems contrary to Polley’s democratic method to single out performances for praise, but I found myself coming back to the wit that percolates underneath Foy’s ferocity, the deep sorrow behind McCarthy’s patience, Ivey’s beatitude, Hallett’s rambunctious high humor, Frances McDormand’s heartbreaking silence and August Winter’s unaffected dignity as a gender-nonconforming character named Melvin.

And also the poetry of Polley’s images (shot by Luc Montpellier), which show the beauty of life in the colony. Following Toews — and the women themselves, whose faith informs their rebellion — Polley takes the religious life of the colony seriously, refusing to treat it as exotic or outlandish. The point of leaving isn’t to reject belief, but to reestablish it on a firmer, more coherent moral basis, to imagine “a new colony” of trust and safety.

That idea is by definition Utopian, and also consistent with the radical Christian tradition that the existing colony represents. The root of Protestantism, after all, is protest — against arbitrary and unaccountable authority in the name of a higher truth. “Women Talking” reawakens that idea and applies it, with precision and passion, to our own time and circumstances. The women don’t want pity or revenge. They want a better world. Why not listen?

Please add your own reflections below. 

Waterbirthing in China

Regarding birthing, here is a very descriptive article in

Mother to Give Birth in Water

Just over a week after China’s first waterbirth, another Shanghai woman is preparing to deliver her baby underwater, perhaps as early as Tuesday.The delivery will once again take place at Shanghai Changning District Maternity and Child Health Hospital.

Ma Nan, a 27-year-old local teacher, was the first to try waterbirth at the hospital on March 1.

Now her 24-year-old friend, a woman surnamed Zhang, wants to follow in Ma’s footsteps.

“I got to know Ma at a training class for pregnant women and we became friends. Since she chose waterbirth and delivered the baby so successfully, I also want to follow her.”

The birth will take place in a semicircular tub with the woman lying in about one meter of water. According to doctors, the tub is filled with hot, disinfected water, in which the mother to be sit during labor.

“Being in water during labor can be very soothing,” said the hospital’s head nurse, who would only giver her surname, Lin.

“Once the woman settles into the warm water, her contractions hurt less and she finds little need for medication. With decreased pain experienced, she will feel less anxious and her adrenalin levels also decrease,” said Lin. “Because muscles are supported in the water, a woman becomes less tense and can cope with the contractions easier.”

Medical staff also says women who deliver their babies in water lose less blood and deliver the baby quicker than normal.

The warm water is also helpful for the baby to adapt to the outside world, as it grows in the fluid-filled environment of the womb, doctors said.

Waterbirths have been around for decades in the West, but have never gained large popularity.

Other maternity hospitals in Shanghai question whether their is enough demand for the service to set up a waterbirth delivery room and also fear that it can cause infections if the water and tub are not properly disinfected.

“Delivering a baby in water requires strict disinfection of the water and the facility. Since the woman is so vulnerable when delivering, the water can result in serious consequence if it is not clean enough. In addition, we don’t think many Chinese women and their families will choose waterbirth,” said a spokes-woman for Shanghai International Peace Maternity and Child Health Hospital.  (source = March 11, 2003)

The conjecture = we don’t think many Chinese women and their families will choose waterbirth–was absolutely wrong.  In the last 20 years, more and more women have deliberately chosen waterbirth in China.
Here is a segment from a research paper:

Women who are seeking water birth and undisturbed birth have usually considered the consequences of interference with the birth process. They may have read about the impact of early childhood trauma, including birth trauma, on the developmental neurobiology, endocrinology, immunology, and epigenetics of this new human being (Karr-Morse, 2010). Many women are not just looking for pain relief but a way to remain drug-free, relaxed, and with some control over the process of letting the baby out. Over the past three decades, I have assisted hundreds of women in the birth pool. I have observed closely, listened carefully, and recorded many actions and characteristics in mothers and their caregivers. I have heard many caregivers and mothers retell their stories to friends, to families, and to their babies. More than 2,500 women have completed surveys about their water-birth experience through Waterbirth International, often using the same words to describe how their babies responded after birth and in the months and years that followed (Harper, 2008). Is it just the water that caused these babies to be alert, calm, responsive, connected, present, and aware? The use of warm water immersion aids and assists the mother in feeling calm, relaxed, nurtured, protected, and in control, with the ability to easily move as her body and her baby dictate. From the mother’s perspective, using water becomes the best way to enhance the natural process without any evidence of increased risk. A calm, relaxed mother is more likely to experience a calm, relaxed baby after birth. (source)

Delayed-breathing and delayed clamping of the placenta as a strong benefit

Immediately after birth, the cardiac output to the lungs must increase from the 8% level in fetal life to a 45% level necessary for neonatal life and adult circulation. Therefore, some of the blood from the fetal “lung,” the placenta, is needed by the neonatal lungs for draining of the fetal lung fluids and adequate expansion and recruitment of lung tissue. Immediate cord clamping eliminates the many benefits of placental transfusion and compromises lung expansion and function. The infant is left with only the blood that was in the body at the time of cord clamping, which is not adequate to create an increase in the circulatory bed at the same time that the infant’s organs (lung, liver, kidney, skin, gut, and brain) begin to assume the functions that had been sustained by the placenta during fetal life (). In other words, the more blood that flows from the placenta into the newborn, the higher the blood volume. The more blood volume and the thicker the blood, the more fluids are able to leave the lung tissue.
The many mechanisms that function to switch the newborn from fetal circulation to newborn status take place over the course of hours and sometimes days. Not all the fluids that were in the lungs prenatally are drawn out into the vascular circulation. The fluids that remain are drawn out of the lung tissue through the lymphatic system, which is stimulated over the following 72 hr by skin-to-skin placement, self-attachment, and breastfeeding.
One of the many benefits of water birth is immediate and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact. Water-birth providers have learned so much from observing what normal full-term healthy newborns do in the habitat between the breasts. The neonate who is placed skin-to-skin regulates all his systems very quickly but is usually extremely quiet. The absence of vigorous crying is not indicative of the absence of newborn breathing. Quiet stable newborn breathing happens often without a single peep out of the baby who is immediately placed in the habitat (; ). This is frequently observed of babies who are born in water. (source)


In 1960, Dr. Siegel published a study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology entitled, “Does Bath Water Enter the Vagina?” Pregnant women were put into bathtubs that contained iodine-stained water. Before entering the bath, a sterile, starched white tampon, without a string, was inserted into the vagina. After 15 min of soaking, the women left the bath, the tampons were removed, and not a single one was stained with iodine. Common advice from physicians at that time was to avoid bathing in the third trimester and definitely to not bathe while in labor or after membranes have ruptured. Dr. Siegel concluded,

Thus, the fear that bath water may infect a pregnant or puerperal woman is not founded on fact, since normally no water enters the vagina. Therefore, restrictions on bathing during and after pregnancy are not warranted on this basis alone. Moreover, this teaching represents another classic example of error. (source)

Need for Pain Relief

The Nutter et al. (2014a) review looked at eight studies that included this outcome and found that people who give birth in water use less pain medication than people who give birth on land. This agrees with the findings of the Shaw-Battista (2017) review, which also found that people who labor in water report less pain and anxiety. Four research teams found that fewer people who gave birth in water required any pain relief at all (Otigbah et al. 2000; Geissbuehler et al. 2004; Chaichian et al. 2009; Torkamani et al. 2010), and two research teams mentioned that people who had waterbirths had a 0% epidural rate (Thoeni et al. 2005; Zanetti-Daellenbach et al. 2007a).

Potential benefits of waterbirth

  • Less pain and higher satisfaction with the birth experience
  • Less medication use for pain relief—this may be important for people who want or need to avoid epidurals or narcotic medications during labor
  • Less use of artificial oxytocin and possibly shorter labors
  • Higher rates of normal vaginal birth
  • Lower rates of episiotomy
  • Higher rates of intact perineum, especially in high-episiotomy settings
  • Possibly lower rates of severe tears (3rd or 4th degree), especially in high-episiotomy settings
  • Possibly lower rates of postpartum hemorrhage

It is not clear if waterbirth provides any health benefits to newborns. The studies we have are complicated by the fact that care providers help some mothers out of the pool for medical reasons—leaving the more straightforward births to take place in the water.

Potential risks of waterbirth

  • We need more research evidence on waterbirth, so this makes it more difficult to make a truly informed choice.
  • There may be a higher rate of mild labial tears from waterbirth in low-episiotomy environments such as homes and birth centers
  • Umbilical cord snap is a rare but possible occurrence. Care providers need to take care not to place too much traction on the cord when guiding the infant out of the water.
  • There have been several case reports of water aspiration. These cases have not been observed in prospective research since 1999, and almost all of the infants in the case reports made a complete recovery.  (source)

Watch the video of Kaylee and Jordan

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about posting this video.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the most intense experience, and the most emotional day of our lives. Some people question how we could share such an intimate moment with the world. Leading up to this day, I watched hundreds of birth vlogs on YouTube, and the ones that truly helped empower and prepare me for this moment were the ones that were the most raw, real and vulnerable. That is why we chose to share our story in this way.  [Aaron: This is why I have chosen this raw, real, and vulnerable video for your viewing.]

Click here to begin the Video.

Should husbands be permitted to take part in the birthing process?

And how about the men?  There has been a movement to keep them out of the birthing room.  One doctor said, “The first person to faint are the husbands.”  Is that true?   Or is it the sentiment of an OB who didn’t want any men in the birthing room (save himself)?

Preparing fathers to assist their wives in the birthing proces

Many first-time fathers do not know what to expect when preparing for the birth of their child. It may seem very overwhelming, intense and complicated when thinking about the birth process. You may have your own worries and concerns outside that of the mother and new baby. Here are some steps on how to prepare for the birth of your child:

1. Join in on a childbirth class. Lovelace Labor of Love offers classes on what to expect before, during and after your baby is born. Mothers love for their partners to join them in these classes because you both can experience this amazing process together. There is much for the both of you to learn. We offer Baby Care Basics, Breastfeeding Basics (Yes dad, this one is for you too!), and Prepared Childbirth. Two free classes for both mom and dad/partner to consider are Loving Families and New Parent Group.

2. Recognizing when your partner is in labor. You will know your partner is going into labor when she starts feeling the onset of contractions. Usually, a woman will start feeling contractions before her water (amniotic sac) breaks. If the bag of waters breaks, she may go into labor shortly after. She may feel lower back pain; this is normal. One thing to remember is your partner might experience false labor, also known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These contractions are not as intense and may come and go. This is why it is very important to keep time of her contractions. Once her contractions start lasting longer and occurring closer together, it is time to head to the hospital. Be sure to ask your midwife or doctor who and where to call if you think you are in labor.

3. What can you expect during labor? It is important to know all the stages of labor so you can try to understand what your partner is going through in that moment. Consider preparing by watching videos or reading about labor and delivery, as well as, attending classes.

Labor has three stages:

  • The first stage of labor has three phases. In the first phase, also known as the early phase, your partner may start to feel her contractions getting stronger than before. This phase can last from hours to days. In the second phase, which is the active phase, contractions for your partner are a lot more intense. This is the phase where you may want to ask your partner if she will be wanting to receive any pain medications, if she can. In the last phase, transition, your partner is having intense contractions and it is almost time to push! She may be cranky, so don’t get offended if she says anything hurtful to you.  She is in pain, frustrated, and is ready for the baby to be born.
  • The second stage of labor is the actual pushing and birth of your baby. This can takes minutes to hours. Sometimes for first-time mothers, this can take a while, especially if she has had an epidural [pain-killer]. It is very important to support your partner in this stage because it may be when she needs you the most. After your baby is born and whenever possible, your baby will be placed on the mother’s chest for skin-to-skin contact. We call this the Loving hour. It is a time meant for bonding and for mom to help regulate baby’s vitals and to prepare for the first breast feeding. The father is also more than welcome to have skin-to-skin after the Loving Hour.
  • The third stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta. Your partner may have another push or two just so the doctor or midwife can deliver the placenta. The placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to your baby while he is in the womb. You may be able to take a look at it, some people actually take it with them. The decision is up to you and your partner.

4. How can you provide comfort for your partner? It is very important to comfort your partner before, during and after the birth of your child. Ask her before labor begins so you have a few options that may work depending on how she is feeling. You can help physically by actually giving your partner a massage or getting her something to eat. You can use comforting phrases such as “You’re amazing” or “I am here for you” or “You’ve got this.” She may just need quiet during this exhausting, yet breathtaking experience.

The birth experience is a wonderful process. We want you and your partner to enjoy this very special time. Attending classes together will allow you to be aware of what to expect and what to do when it is time to welcome your child into this world. Please do not be afraid to ask questions of the doctor, nurse, or midwife during your partner’s labor and delivery.  (source)

Story of an expectant mother in the 7th month

“Can you hear me, baby? Can you hear mommy?”
More soft movements as a response. I feel a limb slide against me from inside. The baby’s probably just feeling out its environment for the first time. I rub my belly very very sofly.
“It’s alright, baby. You’re inside me…you’re inside mommy. You’re safe…”
Thump. Another sharp kick. “Ohf! Alright, easy, baby-” But it starts kicking more and moving around a lot. A lot more than I’m used to right now. I just hold onto my belly and leave the bathroom. I’m not sure how to get it to stop, so I slowly pace myself to the living room and sit down on the couch for a bit, rubbing my belly back and forth. “Shhhh…stop…please”
Soon Aarene [her partner] comes in through the door and finds me sitting slumped into the couch. S/he gives me an odd look with an eyebrow raised. “Hey? What’s up?” s/he asks.
“C’mere…” I eagerly motion for him/her to come sit down. “Here, feel.” I place a hand on my belly for him/her to feel.” His/her eyes light up as s/he realizes that our baby is kicking me. Right there, I start feeling more and more connected with this creature growing inside me. Me and Aarene looked at each other and shared a mutual feeling of excitement in our smiles for the first time in a little while.

Over the next few months Aarene and I just sit around feeling my belly and doing research on our baby’s movements. It becomes so much fun that we lose track of time and before we know it I’m seven months along. I’m really starting to waddle now, and my hips are widening a fair bit. I’m getting used to walking with this new shape of mine, which is difficult since the baby is able to shift positions inside me so much. My belly changes shape a lot. I’ve been wearing mostly dresses and baggy shirts I used to wear to hide myself. Now they’re the only thing that will fit.
“You look great in that dress!” Laura tells me one night while at our place for dinner. I blush slightly less than usual, as I’ve been getting more and more flattering comments about my appearance from Aarene as I’ve gotten bigger.
“No really,” Laura continues, “some women just end up with an uneven sagging belly. Yours is so round!”
“Yeah, you actually have a really good body for this,” Aarene adds.
Okay, so these comments make me laugh and blush a little bit. I’ve been having this strange juxtaposition of feeling thrilled and embarrassed about my body over the past couple months. I feel another firm kick from inside me and softly caress my belly from under the table. Over dinner Laura tells us stories from her pregnancy experience, many of which I can relate to.
“Walking became so embarrassing! Up to a few weeks before the birth I was waddling half the time wherever I went around the house. Sam loved it, though,” she laughed. “He thought it was adorable.”
“I remember that!” Aarene giggled, “I made fun of you so much!”
“You did! I was hoping I would be able to get back at you this time around!” Laura smiled. The three of us laugh together, me and Laura exchanging a look of mutual respect. Aarene looks over at me and smiles.
“You will eventually.”
I’ve usually been pretty quiet during social occasions, as conversation over the last seven months often turned to focus on me. I’ve become less shy about it it seems, but that may be because I’m with Aarene and Laura, two people whom I’m quite close with.
“How’s walking been for you?” Laura asks me.
“Uh, it’s usually not that bad when I’m carrying high up, but sometimes the baby descends downward and lays right in my pelvis. Those times are the worst because I always end up waddling to the bathroom in a hurry.”
“Oh man, that’s where mine rested all the time. There was so much pressure down there toward the end of it,” Laura says.
I smile and blush a little, once again happy that I know someone who can relate to what I’ve been going through.
“Have you guys thought about the birth yet?”
I freeze. No, I haven’t thought about the birth.
“You’re right!’ Aarene jumps in. S/he turns to me. “I think we should have a home birth! Maybe a water birth with that,” s/he says almost between gasps.
Suddenly all the embarrassment came straight back. I’ve learned to get used to waddling, throwing up every morning, and getting distracted by movements inside my belly, but this is too much now. My fantasies of pregnancy and childbirth haven’t been matching the real experience. I realize now that it was a very private and personal thing for me, and exposing it to the people I care about has been just too embarrassing. If I didn’t want this I wouldn’t have gone through with the coin toss. They know part of me wanted this.
She had to say birth. Not delivery or due date.
“I had mine in a pool,” Laura goes on. “It was incredibly comforting. I’d recommend it to anyone. I’m totally up to help you guys out if you need it. I am a midwife, after all.”
“Yes!” Aarene exclaimed. “It’ll be just the three of us, right here as well!”
Oh great. Now one of my best friends is going to see me go through this as well.
“What do you think?” Aarene suddenly turns to me.
“Uh…” I completely draw a blank. I think I wasn’t totally prepared for this.
“What’s wrong? You seem tense now. Are you scared?”
“No, I…”
“Don’t be scared! You’ll be great, trust me!” Aarene smiles.
“Yeah, somehow I think you’re going to do quite well at this,” Laura says.
Suddenly this conversation has turned into Aarene and Laura cheering me on. Do well at this? She said it as if giving birth were a sport or something. It’s not a sport, I tell her, trying to playfully hide my embarrassment.
“Meh,” she shrugs with a loose smile, “I like to think of it as one, now that you say that. Some girls do really well at it and stay calm the whole way through. Some girls panic and need a lot of extra help.”
Yup. Sounds like me. I can see it now.  (source)
Further Resouces
Mei X, Mei R, Liu Y, Wang X, Chen Q, Lei Y, Ye Z. Front Psychiatry. 2022 Dec 15;13:1091042. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2022.1091042. eCollection 2022. PMID: 36590638 Free PMC article.
  • Buddhism provides abundant healing resources for dealing with childbirth on the practical level. Overall I contend that Buddhist healing resources for childbirth served as an effective channel through which Buddhist teaching, worldview and concepts of gender and body were conveyed to its supplicants. Through this investigation, this dissertation contributes to the understanding of the association of Buddhism with medicine, the influence of Buddhist discourses and practices of reproduction on China, and the transmission of Buddhist views of gender, the body, and life to China through its healing activities related to childbirth.

Lin, Hsin-Yi, Dealing with Childbirth in Medieval Chinese Buddhism: Discourses and Practices.  2017 Doctoral Thesis, Columbia U.

I say to Cardinal Marx, “The Holy Spirit calls me to change Ratzinger’s defective ‘dogma’ on homosexuality”

Aaron Milavec 9/14/22

Recently, at the close of the German Synod, Cardinal Marx gave an interview in which he declared: “We don’t want to rewrite dogma, but move the discussion forward” (La Croix 9/13/22).  He was, of course, speaking to the fact that the initiative of the Synod included an appeal to Pope to officially open dialogue and research in favor of offering blessings (rather than curses) to same-sex unions within the Catholic Church.  A vocal minority of bishops unexpectedly spoke out forcefully of the unthinkability of such a proposal since Ratzinger’s ‘dogma’ of homosexuality had already excluded such a proposal in 2003.

In this tense climate, Cardinal Marx made his statement “We don’t want to rewrite dogma.”  I, for one, wish that Cardinal Marx had said, “The Holy Spirit compels us to revisit some areas of Catholic moral teaching that cause severe and unnecessary suffering. . . .  It would be a mistake to categorize these areas as ‘off limits.’  As long as needless suffering continues, our Father in Heaven is concerned; hence, we have no option but to be concerned as well.”

Would Jesus be keen to meet homosexuals?

To such a question, I would have delivered a resounding “NO” if homosexuality was to be associated with the handful of unsavory encounters that I had with gays as a teen.  These early experiences disturbed and repulsed me.  Thus, I would very much doubt that Jesus would have wanted to meet those gays I encountered as a youth growing up in Cleveland, Ohio.

Had my experience of homosexuals been arrested at this point, I would have turned into a gay-basher for the rest of my life.  I might even have joined “concerned citizens” who prowled the back streets of my hometown in hopes of coming upon some unfortunate “queer” who needed to be taught a lesson that s/he would not soon forget. . . .

I thank God, however, that my experiences did not stop at this point and that I was granted three very significant positive experiences of homosexuals that set me on a path to become their advocate rather than their sworn enemy.  Some people never have any significant positive experiences and, as a consequence, they spend the whole of their life locked into some distorted version of homophobia.

A troubled teen asking for help

A teenager (I’ll call him Jim) came to me for help in 1966.  He confessed to me that he was tormented by the idea that he might be “a queer.”  This was a courageous act on his part.  For years, he had been frozen in fear.  I was the first person that he trusted to hear his secret fear.  I told him that teenagers sometimes feel a fleeting sexual attraction to someone of the same sex–but “this usually passes.”  I knew that some psychologists theorized that a domineering mother who fails to emotionally bond with her son can inadvertently inhibit her son from normal bonding with women later in life.  Jim had such a domineering mother.  I’m glad that I didn’t say anything about this to Jim because I have since discovered that such psychological theories are faulty and that the disposition toward same-sex unions appears to be genetically determined and that most boys with domineering mothers do eventually move into a passionate and lasting bonding with a woman later on in life.

An Extended Interview with a Lesbian Couple

My second encounter took place two years later, in 1968, when I was doing graduate  studies in the hotbed of social experimentation in Berkeley, California.  In the context of a course, Human Sexuality, the professor invited a lesbian couple just five years older than me to come in and talk about their experience of growing up, of dating boys, of discovering that they were “abnormal,” and. then, in the course of time, struggling within the unfamiliar lesbian turf that hopefully leads to a deep friendship that turns into a committed union.  I thank God that I had this very positive experience at a time when I was still only mildly hostile towards lesbians.  Here are some of my journal entries that I made at that time:

  1. This ninety-minute encounter persuaded me that most homosexuals are not scratching messages on bathroom walls or answering ads for sexual encounters; it persuaded me that most homosexuals are confused, afraid, and feel very much “out of step” with the rest of their companions which they would describe as “normal” in so far as they embodied the “norm” as far as sexual attraction was concerned.
  2. Prior to this encounter, I was persuaded that a “normal” person could spot a “queer” a mile away. All one had to look for was effeminate attitudes or gestures in boys or the absence of femininity in girls.  But here, with these two women, there was nothing about the way they dressed, moved, or behaved that allowed me to even get a hint that they knew themselves to be lesbians.  They had to tell me, or else I would never have known.  Hence, this encounter happily challenged a popular stereotype that was potentially dangerous and demeaning.
  3. Thirdly, this experience opened up a whole new world that had been hitherto “closed to me.” I was now talking and listening across the boundaries.  I was now hearing how these two women had moved from “trying desperately to fit in”[1] by imitating patterns of flirting and dating exhibited by their friends.  Then, after years of frustration at not being able to develop a deep, emotional bond with a man that would confirm that they were “normal,” they slowly came to the frightening realization that they were irrevocably “queer.”  This destroyed any positive self-image that was left to them.  Now they entered the pit of hell—they hated who they were and hated God for playing such a dirty trick on them.
  4. Fourthly, after many trials and errors, they both “unexpectedly” found each other and, for the first time, they were mutually “surprised” and even “in awe” at encountering another human being who could “understand and cherish them to the very core of their being.” Their mutual love thrived.  Progressively they gained a powerful self-acceptance that kept pace with their mutual self-surrender that exceeded all human understanding.  “My partner’s love for me gave me back my lost love for myself.  It was magical.”
  5. Fifthly, I came to realize that, even given the healing power of true love, this lesbian couple still had occasional disagreements, they sometimes disappointed each other, and they felt pangs of jealousy–the whole host of human experiences that heterosexual partners also encounter.
  6. Sixthly, in the months following, I realized how tragically mistaken it was for me and for the hierarchy of my Church to presume that they were entitled to judge what was lawful before God when it came to the life-style choices of lesbian couples. Having deeply listened to these two women made me feel humble and utterly unequipped to offer them any sound guidance “from God’s side.”

Invitation to a Lesbian Vow Ceremony

I now jump ahead twelve years.  Two women in my parish that were very well known to me (let me call them Martha and Mary) approached me and invited me to join with a dozen others at their home to witness “our vows of permanent friendship.”   They asked me not to publicize this event since it was for them “very private” and they felt that it would only “have the effect of unsettling other members of their faith community.”

My mind raced ahead to the time that Jesus was invited to heal the son/servant of a Roman officer in the occupying army.  Undoubtedly Jesus did not agree with the brutality associated with Roman occupation; yet, since Jewish elders commended him saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue” (Luke 7:5), he went.  He went not to approve the Roman occupation but to respond to an authentic human need.  He may have received flack for it later; yet, Jesus was accustomed to disapproval and didn’t act to gain the applause of his disciples or of the crowds.

My mind also raced ahead to the time that a menstruating woman came up behind Jesus and touched the tassels of his cloak.  According to the Jewish tradition, menstruation was no light matter.  Leviticus makes it clear that a woman in this condition is absolutely forbidden to circulate in society and prohibited from offering a sacrifice in the temple.  Even for men, any man deliberately having sexual relations with a menstruating woman was delivered over to death (Lev 18:19; 20:18).

Yet, Jesus appears to have regarded menstruation much differently.  Maybe his own parents, Mary and Joseph, already had a private opinion whereby they judged that the needs of others allowed them to override the rule of menstrual impurity.  Mary, for instance, might have visited a sick friend at a time when she was in her period.  She didn’t hesitate for a moment: “Her sick friend needed her” and she was quite confident the “God would have understood.”  In any case, Jesus does not upbraid the woman and use this occasion as a teachable moment to enforce the importance of God’s commandments regarding menstrual impurity.  Unexpectedly, healing power flows from Jesus to the woman.  Jesus does not take credit for this.  Rather, he congratulates the woman saying, “Daughter [of Abraham], your faith [in God] has made you well; go in peace” (Luke 8:48 and par.).  This was not just an ordinary menstrual flow, to be sure.  She had been afflicted with unregulated spotting for the last twelve years.  So, prompted by these thoughts, I accepted the invitation of Martha and Mary.

When I arrived at their home, the couple greeted me warmly.  I met others who were invited.  Most were already known to me.

Their rite was very simple.  They emphasized that they were not thinking of “marriage” but of a “permanent partnership.”  They also mentioned that they were living in dangerous times wherein they could be easily punished for what they were now doing; yet, it seemed to them that it was “vitally necessary to share who they truly were” with a few trusted friends. Accordingly, they joined hands and faced each other and promised an exclusive friendship and fidelity in sickness and in health for the rest of their lives.  They then exchanged rings as “a visible sign” of their permanent partnership.

The unwelcomed condemnations of Cardinal Ratzinger

At the time when these things were taking place in Ohio, Joseph Ratzinger (b. 1927) was being elevated as the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by Pope John Paul II in Rome on 25 November 1981.  Ratzinger held this office until 2005 when he was elected as Pope Benedict XVI.  Within his twenty-four years as head of the CDF, Ratzinger, more than any other man in the Church, had full authority to formulate and promulgate a string of four binding statements respecting the theological analysis and pastoral response that was required by the new wave of public homosexuality that was emerging worldwide.

Ratzinger decided not to consult the worldwide bishops in this matter. Nor did he call upon the Pontifical Biblical Commission or the International Theological Commission—the latter being the international group specifically designed to advise the CDF regarding important doctrinal matters. Seemingly Cardinal Ratzinger was not interested in open consultation.  He appeared to be self-sufficient and entirely competent to deal with the biblical and anthropological dimensions of homosexuality.  Overall Ratzinger was trained in systematic theology—developments in biblical and moral theology were largely outside his specialization.

His first publication was the Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (01 Oct. 1986).  His last was the Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons (03 June 2003).  Let me briefly remind my readers of the key proposition made in his 2003 letter:

Proposition: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.  Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law (§4).”

Analysis:  Cardinal Ratzinger here takes an essentialist viewpoint.  For him, every sexual act is permitted only to married couples, and every conjugal act of intercourse must be open to procreation (hence, contraceptives are prohibited).  By contrast homosexual acts have neither the sanction of an exclusive life-long commitment nor the prospect of conceiving a new life.  According to natural law, same-sex partners cannot conceive.  Their sex acts, consequently, are automatically to be classified as “intrinsically disordered and able in no case to be approved.”[2]  Thus, it naturally follows from this that homosexual unions cannot be considered “in any way similar or even remotely analogous” to marriage.

Critique:  Cardinal Ratzinger fails to properly evaluate marital sexuality.  In some marriages, sex functions as a tool for dominating and humiliating of the subordinate partner.  It brings forth bruises and tears of pain from one partner and cries of triumph from the other.  In such instances, the vows of marriage are mocked and trampled upon.  To call this “holy” and “what God intended” would be a farce.  From an essentialist perspective, one never gets to notice that, even in the case of marital sex, things are not always what they ought to be.

On the other hand, what can one say of the union of Martha and Mary (described above)?  Have not these two women mutually accepted each other “as God has designed them”?  Has not their mutual love brought self-acceptance and healing to the injuries and disappointments that have been visited upon them by hateful strangers and enemies?  Does their promise of mutual and faithful love “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part” nor draw down the blessing of God and of those who share their affection?  Cardinal Ratzinger mentions none of these things.  This is a serious defect.  He appears to be blissfully unaware of the experiences of Martha and Mary and, even though he considers himself “the expert” in this field, he is a blind to them and deaf to those who cherish them.

For Cardinal Ratzinger, everything hinges on the assumption that same-sex couples are having sex.  Sex, as Ratzinger relates it, is firmly tied to reproduction.  Ratzinger never explores how, even for heterosexual unions, the vast majority of their sex acts function to consolidate their mutual love and to produce a pleasure bonding that celebrates and enhances their developing intimacy.  If I have found this to be true in my heterosexual love-making, who am I to judge that Martha and Mary are incapable of functioning “in many ways similar and analogous” (and, at times, even superior) to what I have discovered within my heterosexual marriage?  These questions occur to me because of the three earlier experiences that I related above.  Ratzinger, on the other hand, cannot even entertain my questions as pertinent to the discussion at hand.  And why not?  Because he never had the requisite sympathetic encounters with same-sex couples to begin with.

If the only experience I had of homosexuality was ads for sex scratched into the bathroom walls and the public wildness and nudity of gay parades, then I would expect my peers to challenge my competence to write and publish a credible Catholic position paper on the morality of homosexuality.  In the case of Ratzinger, however, he seemingly surrounded himself by yes-men, and there was no one there to save him from the shame of having passed judgment on a group of Catholics that he never knew (and never wanted to know).

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson to the rescue

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary of Sydney, Australia, spoke at the Ways of Love conference on pastoral care with LGBT people (14 Oct 2014, Rome), as follows:

It was God who created a world in which there are both heterosexuals and homosexuals.  This was not a mistake on God’s part that human beings are meant to repair; it is simply an undeniable part of God’s creation. . . . The only sexual acts that are natural to homosexuals are homosexual acts.  This is not a free choice they have made between two things that are equally attractive to them, but something that is deeply embedded in their nature, something they cannot simply cast aside.  Homosexual acts come naturally to them, heterosexual acts do not.[3]

What Bishop Robinson was affirming, therefore, is that Cardinal Ratzinger’s judgment that “homosexual acts go against the natural moral law” only applies to heterosexuals.  God has uniquely designed homosexuals such that “homosexual acts” are natural to them while “heterosexual acts” are repulsive.  Bishop Robinson would therefore say that Cardinal Ratzinger’s analysis is not trustworthy because he makes the categorical error in taking the natural law formulated for heterosexuals and applying it indiscriminatingly to homosexuals and heterosexuals alike.

Oh, how do I wish that Bishop Geoffrey Robinson had been chosen by Cardinal Ratzinger as his personal advisor and critic.  Things could have been so different. . . .


I began with my personal experience because, when everything is said and done, my concrete encounters with homosexuals massively impacts how I regard gays and lesbians within my society and within my Church.  In this, there is no neutral starting point for me or for anyone else.  No matter how many degrees one has earned or how many ordinations that one has experienced, no one can escape their personal experiential base.  Anyone denying this is not sufficiently self-aware and cannot be trusted.

By virtue of my encounters with homosexuals, I can be absolutely certain that Cardinal Ratzinger does not speak for me.  The same goes for most of those bishops and delegates at the German Synod.  Cardinal Ratzinger speaks forcefully to those who have had uneasy or traumatic encounters with homosexuals.  This is why I needed to clarify why Ratzinger mistakenly believes that he had a public duty to preserve the Church and civil society from the inherent evils of going soft on homosexuality.

Ratzinger’s ‘doctrine’ is pernicious because it continues to outlaw the positive experiences that Catholics like myself are having with neighbors and friends who are happy and productive people who thank God for having gifted them with their “special” sexual orientation. I know a mother of four who prays to God every night that at least one of her four children will turn out to be gay, because she feels that she has “a special gift for raising that sort of child.”  I am not ashamed to say that I join my prayer with hers every night.  I look forward to the day when my entire parish would have parents ready to nurture a gay child.  My parish will be ready to sponsor a “Parent Support Group for Special Children” quite soon.  Six months ago, two handsome men presented their adopted male twins for a public baptism on a Sunday.  They were enthusiastically accepted!

So, in the end, I want to say to Cardinal Marx, “If ‘dogma’ serves to protect the tacit homophobia of some of those within the Church, then my calling from God is to expose that ‘dogma’ as a dangerous heresy that dishonors God and his special children.”

[1] To appreciate the full scope of “fitting in” to the dominant heterosexual culture, consider reflecting on “30+ Examples of Heterosexual Privilege in the US”  URL = <>

[2] Ratzinger uses the phrase “intrinsically disordered” to indicate those actions which can never be considered as permissible due to special circumstances.  Ratzinger further judges that “although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin [because it is not freely chosen], it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil [illicit sex]; and thus the inclination [toward unnatural sex] itself must be seen as an objective disorder” (Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, §3).

[3] To fully understand all of Bishop Robinson’s nuances, examples, and explanations, I urge interested persons to read his entire text.  URL= <>

Does a valid baptism require wooden conformity?

Note: My response to the validity of baptism when the words used are “We baptize you. . . .” has two parts:

(1) The short and simple answer and

(2) the longer and more complex answer (here below):

In June 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith  [abbr:CDF] published a Responsum to a question posed regarding the validity of baptism when the priest says, “We baptize. . . ,” instead of “I  baptize. . . .”  In the judgment of the CDF, the use of “We baptize” gives rise to a false notion of baptism.  Here are the words of the CDF:

In the specific case of the Sacrament of Baptism, not only does the minister not have the authority to modify the sacramental formula to his own liking, for the reasons of a christological and ecclesiological nature already articulated, but neither can he even declare that he is acting on behalf of the parents, godparents, relatives or friends, nor in the name of the assembly gathered for the celebration, because he acts insofar as he is the sign-presence of the same Christ that is enacted in the ritual gesture of the Church. When the minister says “I baptize you…” he does not speak as a functionary who carries out a role entrusted to him, but he enacts ministerially the sign-presence of Christ, who acts in his Body to give his grace. . . . (Source)

So the complaint of the CDF has two parts: (1) the minister does not have the right to change the words used and (2) the affirmation, “I baptize you. . . ,” affirms that, in every case, Christ is the one baptizing.

Relative to the second complaint, the CDF appeals to Augustine when he says:

Although many ministers, be they righteous or unrighteous, should baptize, the virtue of Baptism would be attributed to Him alone on whom the dove descended, and of whom it was said: ‘It is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’ (Jn 1:33)”. Therefore, Augustine comments: “Peter may baptize, but this is He that baptizes; Paul may baptize, yet this is He that baptizes; Judas may baptize, still this is He that baptizes»[13].  (Source)

Why the “I” cannot be Jesus

What the CDF affirms here is that, while there are many ministers of the Sacrament of Baptism, in every instance, it is Jesus Christ who imparts efficacy to the Vatican approved rites.  Hence, when a priest says, “I baptize you. . . ,” in reality the “I” is Jesus Christ who is baptizing.

This explanation is defective for various reasons:

  1. This explanation does not correctly interpret the meaning of the baptismal formula. The priest affirms, “I baptize you . . . in the name of the Son” who is Jesus Christ.  If the “I” was Jesus, then one has a confusing circularity for Jesus would effectively be saying, “I [Jesus Christ] baptize you . . . in the name of Jesus Christ.”  If Jesus is the “I,” then it is redundant for him say that “I am acting in the name of Jesus Christ.”  Thus, it must be the case that the “I” is someone else.  Here, in this rite of baptism, the baptismal formula is placed on the lips of the minister who acts “in the name of Jesus Christ.”  The fears of the CDF that the presence of Jesus would go unnoticed or that the efficacy of the rite would be due to other forces is this counteracted by the open acknowledgment that the priest acts “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Thus, the words of the priest make present the Creator and the Sanctifier, in addition to Jesus, our Redeemer.
  2. The inherent theology of the baptismal formula can be more easily understood by reflecting on the meaning of undertaking some activity “in the name of Jesus Christ.” This Hebraic expression of acting “in the name of x” has to do with the way that a disciple or a servant is authorized to act due to the training or mandate received from his trainer/master.  According to the Christian Scriptures, for example, the Twelve heralded the kingdom of God and apprenticed disciples “in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18, 5:28, 9:27, 9:29).  At other times, they are presented as baptizing (Mt 28:19; Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5, 22:16), healing (Acts 3:6, 3:16, 4:7), and exorcising demons (Acts 19:13‑16) in this same name.  Contrary to a widespread misunderstanding, “there is in the New Testament no belief in the magically [or even supernaturally] potent names; in fact, there are no mysteriously dreadful words or names at all” (TDNT, p. 278).
  3. After every baptism, no one imagines that the minister of the rite would personally bring the one who was baptized to love Jesus. Nor will he be the only one who will, over a period of time, make use of the Gospels to train his new “disciple” in right thinking and right living.  Parents and grandparents will do these things.  God-parents will do these things. Teachers and role models (saints) within the church community will do these things.  Hence, one way to acknowledge this providential situation would be to say “we baptize you . . . .”  Indeed, “it takes an entire village [/congregation] to train a child.”
  4. The CDF leaves the impression that “retaining the official words” is absolutely necessary. The CDF enforces the notion, citing Vatican II, to the effect that no one, “even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority”[8].  Going even further, the CDF emphasizes that any change in the official words is not simple a “liturgical abuse,” it is, moreover, “a vulnus inflicted upon the ecclesial communion and the identifiability of Christ’s action.”  Vulnus is the Latin word that refers to “an ugly wound inflicted on someone’s body” or “an offense capable of destabilizing a principle or norm.”  Thus, the CDF takes the position that any liturgical change is a vulnus.  I take this as an emotionally charged attack on any and all liturgical innovators.

    In my 25 years of teaching in three different seminaries, I have known instances wherein candidates to the priesthood were taught that any inadvertent errors or deliberate changes in the rites results in committing a “sacrilege.”  As a result, many newly ordained priests were literally traumatized.  I myself witnessed a priest literally shaking when celebrating his first Mass. What should have been a joyous affair with his family and friends in attendance became a personal trial dominated by fear.  The CDF has unfortunately tried to revive an atmosphere wherein both priests and the faithful are prompted to question the validity of their infant baptism based upon a liturgical terrorism—Did the minister use the exact words?

  5. What the CDF fails to tell us is that there are two kinds of innovations: one that destroys and one that builds up. The CDF classifies all changes to the words as destructive.  The use of “we” instead of “I,” as understood by the CDF, has the effect of denying the centrality of Christ who is the unseen administrator of every baptism (as explained above).  But let’s see why the CDF does not want us to see, namely, liturgical innovations that “build up.”  Here is one such formula found in the official rites regarding the Sacraments of Initiation:

Celebrants should make full and intelligent use of the freedom given to them either in Christian Initiation, General Introduction (no.34) or in the rubrics of the rite itself. In many places the manner of acting or praying is intentionally left undetermined or two alternatives are oered, so that ministers, according to their prudent pastoral judgment, may accommodate the rite to the circumstances of the candidates and others who are present.  In all the rites the greatest freedom is left in the invitations and instructions, and the intercessions may always be shortened, changed, or even expanded with new intentions, in order to fit the circumstances or special situation of the candidates (for example, a sad or joyful event occurring in a family) or of the others present (for example, sorrow or joy common to the parish or civic community). The minister will also adapt the texts by changing the gender and number as required.


No tradition for the wooden recitation of memorized prayers

One finds no tradition for a wooden recitation of memorizing prayers within ancient Judaism (other than the Shema of Dt 6:4f), it would have been a remarkable “departure from tradition” had Jesus imposed upon his disciples a prayer of fixed words (“recite after me”).  The Lord’s Prayer, as a result, was seen to be a schematic summary or abstract that invited spontaneous expansion and adaptation to present circumstances on the part of the one chosen to pray on behalf of the assembled group. The thematic summary that has been understood as the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew’s Gospel is not what one finds in the Gospel of Luke or in the Didache.  If the early churches had a wooden repetition norm in praying, one can be sure that there would be only one formula (instead of three).  Needless to say, there was no movement within the early churches to suppress this “legitimate diversity” in the Lord’s Prayer. This is probably due to the fact that Jesus himself never prayed “the Lord’s Prayer” in exactly the same way on any two occasions.

This same line of reasoning applies to the eucharistic prayers.  Here, as in the Lord’s Prayer, the plural form (“we” and “our”) indicates that one is dealing with a prayer normally used in a group setting.  The one chosen to lead the prayer would be expected to know the thematic summary and to expand and adapt it to fit the special moods and concerns of the group assembled.  In the case of delayed rains, for instance, the Mishnah goes so far as to suggest that the prayer leader chosen to lead the morning prayers on the day when the fast begins ought to be “an experienced elder who has children and whose cupboard is empty so that his heart should be wholly in the prayer” (m. Taanit 2:2).  The choice of an “experienced elder” with hungry children surrounding him at home was clearly done with the expectation that his personal engagement combined with his mastery of the prayer form would allow him to weave together the standard themes with a heart-felt expansion that moved those present.

Prayer leaders in ancient Judaism or in the early church were not expected to memorize and recite fixed prayer formulas.  Justin Martyr (C.E. 150), for example, spoke of “the presider” at the eucharist as giving thanks “at considerable length” and “according to his ability” (First Apology 65, 67).  He surely was not thinking of a rote recitation of Did. 9-10 which would take less than two minutes.  The Apostolic Tradition (C.E. 220), in its turn, presented an elaborate set of eucharistic prayers for use by the presiding bishop on various occasions.  Following this set of prayers, however, this telling rubric was offered:

It is not at all necessary for him [the bishop] to utter the same words as we said [note oral emphasis] above, as though reciting them from memory, when giving thanks to God; but let each [bishop] pray according to his ability.  If indeed anyone has the ability to pray at length and with a solemn prayer, it is good.  But if anyone, when he prays, utters a brief prayer, do not prevent him (9).

Here again, the prayer of the celebrant was characterized as being “at length” and “solemn”–terms that could not apply to a “canned” prayer where the length and mood were fixed in advance.  The rubric, “Let each pray according to his ability,” undoubtedly prevailed in the Didache community as well.  The prophets, more especially, were prized for their ability to improvise dynamic prayers that nourished and healed the hearts of those who heard them.  Concerning this, the Didache says: “Let the prophets eucharistize as much as they wish” (Did. 10:7).  This free-flowing style of spontaneous prayer that characterized the prophets was cherished and seen as a necessary compliment to the more stylized expansion of the eucharistic prayers offered by the celebrant (Did. 9-10).

All in all, one does not find a movement to standardize public prayers prior to the mid-third century (Hanson:173-176).  Beyond this, the push to regiment prayer leaders and to require that they “read” standard prayers from a printed text only came about after the invention of the printing press.  Presumably this penchant for “reading the approved text” came about as a backlash of the Protestant Reformation where Latin prayers were simplified and translated into the common language of the people.  The Council of Trent vigorously suppressed all of the variations that had entered into the Mass especially among the religious orders of men.

For 25 years I taught in three Catholic seminaries.  During this time, I lamented the fact that future priests were “solemnly warned” never to deviate from the approved “printed” prayers under any circumstances.  This was at a time when the Catholic Charismatic Movement was in full swing. I witnessed seminarians (imbued with the Spirit) offering inspiring and forceful (free-style) prayers.  But then, in their liturgical preparation, the Spirit was shackled and they were taught NEVER to deviate from the approved text.  To this day, I consider this as the “sin against the Holy Spirit” that has served to kill the prophetic aspect of liturgical celebrations.

Where do we go from here?

The CDF is not playing with a full deck of cards.  They have presented us with bogus reasons to support the notion that Jesus formulated the words required for a valid baptism in Matt 28:19.  They have failed to notice that early baptisms were done “in the name of Jesus” and only after two generations did the trinitarian formula take its place.  They have presumed that the standard formula was used generation after generation down to the present day.  They have failed to notice that even the Didache does not have the standard formula.  In truth, the so called “standard formula” did not emerge until the late middle ages.  But they don’t want us to know this.  They want us to believe that the only way to keep the sacredness of the rite is to use the standard formula.  They give no credit that Jesus did not use standard formulas for his prayers.  Every time he prayed to the Father, he improvised using the template [= what we now call the “Our Father”].

But the CDF does not want us to notice this.  They want to imagine that God wants to commit himself to those who follow wooden memorized prayers.  Having the right words is the sole way to guarantee validity.  So they want to discredit every deviation and to breed fear in the faithful whenever their ministers deviate from the standard formula.  They are wrong in this.  They have divinized the words and acted as though the divine magic does not work unless the right words are pronounced in just the right way. They want to freeze the official words and to insure that there are no more deviations because all change is, for them, a vulnus.  They cannot allow that the rite of baptism was changing from the very beginning even during the New Testament period. In the centuries that followed the rite and the theology of the rite continued to change in order to continue to be used to address the needs of the faithful.  As Cardinal John Henry Newman said, “To live is to change; to grow perfect is to have changed often.”  He applied this to the Sacrament of Baptism and he applied this to the Church.

But the CDF wants us to distrust all innovators at all times and all places.  This is a false ideal that subverts true religion.  Jesus was a pioneer and a prophet.  He was never content with wooden conformity.  His disciples also followed this principle.  Only the CDF wants to take charge and freeze-dry the entire process.  They want to sow fear in the hearts of Catholics such that they run away from innovating priests.  Parce domine!  [Latin: “Spare us O Lord.”]


If you have never visited an Orthodox Church, then I would invite you to get an interesting overview of just how different Orthodox Churches are.   Click here to open up a 4-minute video now.

Russian Orthodox baptism by immersion in the River Jordan

The Second Vatican Council was a watershed in terms of readjusting the Catholic Church’s pastoral approach toward. Over two thousand bishops were called to Rome between 1962 and 1965 to discuss how the Church would face the challenges of the modern world. The Church, according to Peter A. Huff, largely redirected its concern from internal stability to external dialogue.  Seventeen Orthodox Churches sent observers to the council who participated in discussions, specifically on ecumenism between the two churches. One of the council’s primary concerns was to bring about the unity of all Christians.  Significantly, at the close of the council Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras mutually lifted their respective excommunications in the Catholic–Orthodox Joint Declaration of 1965. This removal of excommunications was the first step toward restoring full communion between their churches.

Dialogue and ecumenism

The Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism has driven Catholic efforts to reach out to the Orthodox over the last 60 years.[Notes 2] The dialogue that took place between 1963 and 1979 has been described as a “dialogue of charity”.  This transitioned into a “dialogue of doctrine” with reference to the history and tradition of the early Church.  Here is the mutually agreed statement of 1999:

The Orthodox and Catholic members of our Consultation acknowledge, in both of our traditions, a common teaching and a common faith in one baptism, despite some variations in practice which, we believe, do not affect the substance of the mystery. We are therefore moved to declare that we also recognize each other’s baptism as one and the same.  [source]

For more information regarding the diversity within the Orthodox Churches, click here.




Q1 In the Acts of the Apostles, thousands of baptisms are described.  At no time does the sacred text indicate what words (if any) were used to administer the rite.  Must we then doubt the validity of these baptisms (as the CDF proposes)? 


A1 By no means. The CDF cannot responsibly make a ruling that has the effect of invalidating the baptisms described in the Acts of the Apostles.


Q2 In the Acts of the Apostles, baptism was being administered by immersion in water.  The repeated use of the Greek term, baptizein, means “to immerse in water.”  What does this illustrate?

A2 This demonstrates that, in the primitive church, immersion in water was the normative mode of administrating baptism.   Today, however, we have become accustomed to forget this because 98% of Catholic baptisms involve pouring small amounts of water over the head.   Baptist and Orthodox Churches, for example, have maintained this requirement even today.  That is why it is not uncommon to see YouTube sites that argue that their faith is more authentic because they are actual in harmony with what the primitive church practiced.  Chick here, to see an example of this.

Q3 When did the early churches begin to baptize without full immersion in water?

A3. There is no evidence of this in the New Testament texts.  In the Didache, however, we find the first evidence that there were valid baptisms without full immersion.   Here is how the text reads:

7:1       (And) concerning baptism, bäptize thus:

            Having said all these things beforehand,

            ïmmerse in the name of the Father

                             and of the Son

                             and of the holy Spirit

            in flowing water‑‑

7:2       [1] if, on_the_other_hand, you should not have flowing water,

                 immerse in other water [that is available];

            [2] (and) if you are not able in cold,

                 [immerse] in warm [water];

7:3       [3] (and) if you should not have either,

                 pour out water onto the head three times

                        in the name of [the] Father

                                    and [the] Son

                                    and [the] holy Spirit.

The Didache puts forward the general rule that the immersion should take place “in living water” (en hydati zônti)–an expression that means  “in flowing/moving water.”  The preference for flowing water most probably hearkens back to an early period when natural rivers were used for baptizing.  Recall that John the Baptist made use of the Jordan River for his baptisms (Matt 3:6 and par.).

Q4 Do the Gospels then recognize that Jesus himself was baptized with full immersion?

A4 Absolutely!  There can be no doubt of this.

Immersion baptism today in living water

Q5 Does the Catholic Church allow baptisms by immersion?

A5 It not only allows them, it encourages them as the preferred form for administering baptism.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the triple immersion in water “as the most expressive way” to perform a baptism:

1239 The essential rite of the sacrament follows: Baptism properly speaking. It signifies and actually brings about death to sin and entry into the life of the Most Holy Trinity through configuration to the Paschal mystery of Christ. Baptism is performed in the most expressive way by triple immersion in the baptismal water. However, from ancient times it has also been able to be conferred by pouring the water three times over the candidate’s head.

The last line makes reference to the Didache.

Q6 What do we learn about early baptisms from the Didache?

A6 When read as a whole, the overriding norm was to give preference to “living” water (Did. 7:1)‑-flowing and cold in natural rivers.  When this was lacking, then non-flowing cold water (Did. 7:2)‑-as in a pond or lake‑-was permitted.  Such cold water had the natural temperature of “living” water but was inferior since it was not flowing (Niederwimmer 1998:127).  Finally, when cold water was lacking, warm water was permitted.  Vööbus surmises that “warm water” refers to “the kind to be found in cisterns, pools and reservoirs” exposed to the Mediterranean sun (Vööbus 1968:24). 

If none of these kinds of water were available, then it was permitted to pour water over the head of the one being baptized.   One can imagine that three ceramic jars filled with water were used.  Pouring “three times” was by way of insuring a complete soaking.  Parts of the body still dry would become the natural target of the second and third jars of water.  Dousing the person in water would have been a near equivalent to immersion.

Q7 When was the Didache composed?  And by whom?

A7 The Didache bears the title, The Training of the Twelve Apostles.  Based on the content of this document, however, we can be certain that the twelve apostles did not actually write this text.  However, those who did use the Didache regarded it as  containing the way of training used by the twelve apostles.  Scholars are not in agreement as to the date when this text was composed.  Since I am a specialist in this text, I have concluded, on the basis of internal evidence, that the Didache was composed between 50 and 70 CE.  Not everyone agrees with me, however.  The majority place the time of composition late in the first century.

Q8 Does the Didache use the formula, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

A8 No, it does not.   In fact, however, the Didache presents us with very different words that were to be recited prior to the baptism.  These words summarize the intensive training that was given prior to the baptism.  It takes about ten minutes to recite this summary of “the Way of Life” (Did 1:1-4:14). Then the candidate was warned to keep far away from “the Way of Death”  which also gets spelled out in clear details (Did 5:1).  It takes a little more than one minute to recite this.   

Q8 Does the decision of the CDF and of Bishop O to declare all baptisms that do not use the standard formula as invalid run into some trouble here?

A8 Assuredly.  By affirming that only one formula must be used, the CDF not only invalidates early baptisms reported in the Acts of the Apostles, it invalidates all other baptisms (as in the Didache) where this one formula is not used.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:

1240 In the Latin Church this triple infusion is accompanied by the minister’s words: “N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In the Eastern liturgies the catechumen turns toward the East and the priest says: “The servant of God, N., is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” At the invocation of each person of the Most Holy Trinity, the priest immerses the candidate in the water and raises him up again.

By presenting the usual form used in the Latin Church next to the usual form used in the Eastern Liturgies, the intent of the Catechism is to demonstrate that valid baptisms have been celebrated using two different forms.  This has the effect of demonstrating that the inability to honor the form used in the Catholic Easter Liturgies has the effect of calling into question the clear intention of the Catholic Church to honor various formulations of the words used.  In 1999, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches agreed to  honor the legitimacy of their respective rites:

The Orthodox and Catholic members of our Consultation acknowledge, in both of our traditions, a common teaching and a common faith in one baptism, despite some variations in practice which, we believe, do not affect the substance of the mystery.

This agreement is very important.  There is one common teaching and one baptism even when the rites used for administrating baptism are not uniform.  This is what the CDF and Bishop Olmsted should have said: “The Catholic Church has always acknowledged a legitimate diversity in the words used to administer baptism.  Hence, the variation used by Fr. R can be understood as valid even when it deviated from the usual sacramental form used by Catholics.”

Q9 Is there any reason to believe that the Catholic Church always and everywhere administered baptisms using the formula, “I baptize you in the name of the Father . . .”?

A9 None whatsoever.  No where in the Christian Scriptures does one find “the exact words” that must be used in every valid baptism.  If there were such words and there was also an absolute command to use these and no other words, then the CDF would have made its point. 

Even when it comes to the gestures and words used by Jesus at the Last Supper, each of the three Synoptic Gospels has a variant telling.  Here again, we would have to insist that “absolute uniformity” is not requirement for a valid Eucharist.  The Didache, for example, offers us a very rich Eucharist without needing to repeat what Jesus did.  John’s Gospel, in like fashion, presents us with Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as a symbolic metaphor of the hidden message of the Last Supper. 

Relative to the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew provides one variation; Luke provides another; and the Didache provides a third variant.  No one in the church sought to remove these variants and to mandate a single formulation to be used to edit out of existence the variants.

When I was attending Holy Cross Grade School in Euclid, Ohio, as an impressionable youth, Sister Margaret told us children that the Our Father printed in our Catechism was the only valid version that we, as Catholics, were permitted to use.  More especially, Sister Margaret told us that the Protestant version was an “invalid prayer” and should “never be used.”   The implication here was that God heard our prayers because they were approved.   Protestants, on the other hand, used unapproved versions of the Our Father and it was very unlikely that God would smile upon them when this did so.

If you go to the internet, you will find some Christians saying that “God gives us no warrant for infant baptism.” or “Only full immersion baptisms are valid.”  Those who do these things are misled and are misleading.  They are another version of Sister Margaret who wanted us children to take pride in our version of the Our Father and to despise anyone who uses a variation.

Q10 But is that not what the CDF is doing today–namely trying to impose on all Catholics one version while, at the same time, invalidating all variations?

A10 Some might think so.  In any case, to the degree that the CDF is doing what Sister Margaret did when I was in the fifth grade, they are to be opposed “in the name of Jesus.”