The gift of trolls

July 23, 2007 | Atheism | 67 comments

***UPDATE BELOW***

I just sat down to do my naptime email and blog reading and came across this gem from my inbox. I’ve edited it slightly for clarity, brevity and profanity, but here’s the gist:

your site is such a waste of time. have u ever thought of writing something that isn’t stupid? well done…..i just wasted more time doing nothing but reading garbage.

This reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about lately, one of the oddest twists in my spiritual journey.

When I think back over my conversion process, I often marvel at how my faith increased rapidly over a short period of time starting sometime late last year. I went from a mostly dry, intellectual conviction (with plenty of doubts) to pretty solid faith and a deeper, more personal understanding of God over the period of just a few months. I’ve thought a lot lately about what happened to bring about those changes.

There were a lot of reasons, some of which I discussed here. But I recently realized that a surprisingly significant factor in my growing closer to God during this time came from the most unlikely of places: trolls. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a “troll” is a person who leaves a nasty comment on a blog or message board.)

There was a time when my posts were not infrequently met with the comments of folks who adamantly disagreed pretty much everything I said, and some of those comments were not very charitable (some examples here and here — warning, some profanity). As anyone with a blog knows, it’s surprising how much words from a nameless, faceless person out there on the internet can bum you out.

I remember the first time I sat down at my computer to check comments to this blog and read something that made me feel very insulted, and infuriatingly misunderstood. I actually don’t remember what the comment said or which post it referenced, just that it was something very hurtful. After spending a moment fantasizing about all the things that I would do if I had this person’s home address and phone number (OK, all the things that “Alternate-Universe Assertive Jen” would do), my frustration level reached such a height that I actually decided to turn to prayer.

And the prayer went something like this: “God, look at how much this guy sucks! Look at these unfair, terrible (not to mention incorrect) things he said! Poor me!”

Oddly enough, my prayer did not leave me with a sense of peace. As additional comments rolled in that were insulting to various degrees (the original commentor found my site through a link on an atheist chatroom, as did many others), I continued to turn to prayer. And when I actually took a breath and paused my “Whaaaa! I’m so misunderstood!” whining, an insight occurred to me that I believe was a direct answer to my prayer.

The thought popped into my head that I needed to take a hard look at why these comments were hurtful to me. And when I did, I didn’t like the answer. I made my best attempt to come up with convoluted explanations about rules of etiquette and the way that disagreements should be phrased, but I quickly realized that it all came down to one thing: pride. God gave me the grace to realize the absurdity of my situation: I was being called a moron and a fool for believing in God, and my first reaction was to think about me, me, me. In fact, I was so consumed with the impact all this had on my ego that I’d completely missed the fact that I was witness to a great tragedy: I had just read the words of a person who does not know God. And rather than immediately bow my head in prayer, I’d turn inward to focus exclusively on how it all impacted me.

In my spiritual journey so far, I’ve encountered few things that have made me look my pridefulness in the face as effectively as the “trolls”. I’d sometimes read a comment and turn my eyes upward to God, asking, “Even him?” — meaning, “You said we’re supposed to love our enemies…but not these idiots, right? I can feel hateful towards this guy who just called me a ‘stupid b-tch’ for being Catholic, right?” But, of course, I knew the answer as soon as I asked the question. If I’m to call myself a Christian I’m supposed to be kind to everyone, to avoid fostering hateful thoughts toward even the people who insult me most. The guy who said I was a terrible mother for raising my kids with faith? Even him.

At one point I was tempted to write a post reminding certain commentors that behind every blog is a real person with real feelings, so they should watch what they say. But, again thanks to prayer, I realized that I was actually the one who could use the lesson: behind every post in my combox is a real person — and the more hateful and vitriolic their tone, the more likely it is a person who is in pain.

Since that time I’ve received very few comments that I would classify as trolls; yet, as those of you with blogs can probably imagine, I do occasionally get comments that I find irritating or even a little insulting, like that email above that I received today. I almost always end up with unsettled feelings like frustration or even anger — yet I now realize where those sensations are coming from: my own pride. I’m a looooong way away from peacefully praying for anonymous commentors who have annoying things to say. Yet I do think they’re a sort of gift, to remind me how incredibly full of self and empty of agape love I really am.

***UPDATE***
Reading through the comments made me realize that I should have been more clear in the paragraph where I said “I had just read the words of a person who does not know God”. I wasn’t trying to say that all “trolls” don’t know God. I was thinking back to certain comments that were left by self-described atheists (not all of which were contained in the two posts I linked to, those were just some examples).

67 Comments

  1. eileen

    Jen: Wow, it’s great to read your blog. Thanks for showing us “cradle” Catholics how it’s done. You express the truth of our faith so very well. I’m an infrequent poster, but know that I remember you and your family in my prayers.

  2. Kristen Laurence

    What a lovely reflection! How you have turned something ugly into something beautiful. I love it!

  3. :o)

    that’s turning the other cheek AND making suffering redemptive!

    Don’t you wonder why that person bothered to read your blog and take the time to comment? Why wouldn’t he just keep going once he figured out it wasn’t of interest to him?

    it’s a puzzlement!

  4. Adoro te Devote

    Great post. I actually recently recieved a comment from a troll, completely disconnected to anything, not in reference to a post or a position or anything.

    All she said was, “Oh, you poor Catholics, you’re so abused, Get a life already!”

    Or something like that. I was thoroughly puzzled. What was she TALKING about!????

    I still have no idea. I’m still mystified as to why someone would need to send that kind of stuff as opposed to just moving on quietly.

    Fear biting, that’s what it is. From the wounded. You nailed it.

    Of course, another troll, about a year ago, upon reading a post from that time, went into my archives and to an older post where he wished me a fiery death in a car accident on our way to our campground.

    What a sweetheart.

    These people are usually just looking for a reaction, and so the best thing we can do is pray.

    Like you, though, my pride got involved in a major way, and I think I came to the same realizatio you did, albeit differently and you stated it so much better than I ever could have!

    Well done, and great reminder for us all.

  5. Christina Martin

    Ok, now I feel a little guilty, after ready your reflection, about my first instinctive response: it’s hard to take seriously the “stupid” criticism from someone who can’t spell “i” and “u.”

    I guess that means I need to do some praying, too.

  6. Anonymous

    In fact, I was so consumed with the impact all this had on my ego that I’d completely missed the fact that I was witness to a great tragedy: I had just read the words of a person who does not know God.

    And you know for a fact that “this person” doesn’t know God because…??

    Do you realize just how patronizing and holier-than-thou and condescending this comment is?

    Do you never stop gloating over how frickin’ special and holy and more loved by God (in your own head) you are/

    How dare you assume someone doesn’t know God just because they dare to disagree with you, or point out where you are in the wrong, or get really annoyed at the shallow, self-serving speculation you engage in?

    On what day did it become up to you to decide who does and does not know God based on an, um, internet interaction…? What do you know about anyone else’s life that makes you think you can make a call like that? How dare you!

    God makes that call, sweetie, not you. The day you claim to know who does and does not know God is the day you have become Satan. Because an condemnation like that comes from a place that is completely of pride and ego, and pride, little girl, is Satan’s. That’s his domain. And he sure has you, doesn’t he?

  7. Anonymous

    Oh, and while you think “trolls” are God’s little gift to you, some little sub-species of not-quite-human-beings you can feel holier and better than, merely put in YOUR path by God, because it’s all about YOUYOUYOU 24/7, “trolls” are real people, too, not just the high holy Catholic bloggers.

    You are so nauseatingly full of yourself and so appallingly ignorant of the humanity of other people, it’s disgusting.

    You are not the only person on the planet, God actually thinks about other people besides you, and you do not know the first thing about anyone else’s relationship with God, and to assmue or assert you do is the most vile kind of sin I can imagine.

    MEMYMINEMEMEMEMEME…do you ever even bother to think about anyone but your stupid, shallow, selfish, dumbass self all day long? MY personal holiness, MY sainthood, MY sacrifices, blahblahblah…what a bloody bore…

    And what an appalling witness to any of the good left in the Catholic Church. You are the personification of everything gone wrong with Catholicism over the past fifty years. Everything.

  8. Literacy-chic

    (Sorry, typo)

    At least if we know we are erring in a way that allows us to think more generously of someone than we are otherwise inclined to do, we are reaching toward our own limited conception of who God is. Bless you in all of your efforts and what you give to others, Jen!

  9. another Jen

    Dear Anonymous,
    I’m sorry if you took offense at the use of the word “troll” to describe people who leave comments that are designed to be mean and hurtful. I believe that the term is referring to this definition of the word “troll” (citation included):

    Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary (Beta Version) –
    troll [trəul] noun

    an imaginary creature of human-like form, very ugly and evil-tempered

    I am making no assumptions on physical appearance, but some comments left anonymously are evil-tempered. Basically, that means that they consist of the types of things that one doesn’t say in civil conversation.

    I believe that Jen refers to trolls as a gift because sometimes one person challenging another’s beliefs pushes us out of complacency. We, as humans and as Christians, often are challenged to consider viewpoints that vary from our own. I believe that Jen was referring to that when she said

    “And the prayer went something like this: “God, look at how much this guy sucks! Look at these unfair, terrible (not to mention incorrect) things he said! Poor me!” “

    That was where she was pushed out of complacency. It’s kind of a scary place. You feel exposed and it’s not a comfortable place. I think most people respond defensively when they feel attacked. I know that it is the first response of children.

    If you continue reading, you see that the paragraph following the last quote stated that she didn’t feel any peace after her prayer. So, she kept trying. Suddenly, insight! Why was she upset? Jen realized that it was her own sense of self-righteousness (aka pride) that made her feel the way she did and pray the way she did. It kept her focus on herself, rather than on God. In particular, I found the last bit insightful:

    “Since that time I’ve received very few comments that I would classify as trolls; yet, as those of you with blogs can probably imagine, I do occasionally get comments that I find irritating or even a little insulting, like that email above that I received today. I almost always end up with unsettled feelings like frustration or even anger — yet I now realize where those sensations are coming from: my own pride. I’m a looooong way away from peacefully praying for anonymous commentors who have annoying things to say. Yet I do think they’re a sort of gift, to remind me how incredibly full of self and empty of agape love I really am.”

    I’m sorry that I missed the parts where Jen referred to her own holiness and how God loves her so much more than everyone else,
    but what I did notice was her reflection on how much further she had to go. Maybe Jen was incorrect to assume that the sender of the “nasty gram” didn’t know God, but I think that fits into the context of the post, which was a reflection on how the “trolls” in her life remind her of how much further she has to go in her walk towards Christ.

    Oh, one more thing, if you find Jen’s blog to be so nasty and troll-like, don’t read it.

  10. Anonymous

    Oh, but if I didn’t read it and didn’t comment, OMIGOD, how would precious Jen EVER become so goddam holy you could choke on it? Because I’m not really human, I don’t know God, and God just created me to make Jen holier, his little gift to her…

    Puhleeze…

    And if you don’t like my comments, don’t read ’em, and don’t respond…duh.

  11. Mahsheed

    Jennifer,

    This is a beautiful reflection and I think you are triply awesome for the classy way you handle negatives.

    Someone once gave me advice that wherever I go there will always be someone who completely rejects me, regardless of whether or not I deserve it. Not that it makes it any easier but it takes away the shock to expect it.

    Anyhow you are an example to us all.

  12. Sarah

    Jen,

    Once again, finding the extraordinary in the unfortunately everyday. I am so proud of you. Although I certainly wouldn’t think less of you if you just deleted the trollish comments as I usually do;).

    When I assume that someone doesn’t know God, it’s usually because I see no evidence of fruit in their lives. If someone assumes that I am not a Christian, I usually end up on my face before God, asking him why I gave that impression, and repenting of my negative or sinful actions.

    Anyway, your blog is obviously being read, even by people who are “bored” by it! Keep up the good work lady!

  13. Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin

    I used to fish with an aunt of mine. One style of fishing she taught me was to drag a noisy lure in the water as she drove the boat very slowly. She called this “trolling.” It’s my guess that “internet trolls” are people who are presumed to be doing the same thing: dragging some noisy opinion through a community to see who will strike at it; “trolling” for anger instead of fish.

    @Anonymous,
    when Jennifer, Adoro, and others (such as myself) look at a combox post and say, “this person doesn’t know God,” we make that assumption based on the evidence for the presence or lack of the seven Gifts and twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord, and fortitude (or courage). The twelve Fruit of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, longanimity (or longsuffering), goodness, benignity, mildness, fidelity, modesty, continence, and chastity. As to which of these your posts display, I’ll allow you to be the judge.

    In humility, Jennifer said her first reaction was exactly as you described: “This person is making ME angry! They’re trying to make ME look stupid! They are insulting ME!” But her admittedly delayed reaction to such posts was compassion. The purpose of her blog is to share her journey and walk with God. She has no reason or ability to share mine, yours, or anyone else’s. I found this post to be a lovely example of self-examination and recognition of the need for her own growth — she isn’t competent to judge the growth of others, particularly yourself, as I’m sure you’d agree. But by her example, I’ve also learned to seek the same flaw within myself, and with the grace of God, to overcome it and replace it with compassion.

  14. Anonymous

    You cannot make such a judgment based on a comment in a combox on a blog on the internet. Get real.

    That Jen, who has been Catholic for five minutes, now believes she has the ability to determine whether or not other people know God and/or what their relationship with God is, is an appalling witness to Christianity.

    You can’t know anyone well enough to claim to know all about them after one comment or even a series of comments on one topic.

    If you will look at the post Jen links to, you will see that her initial post was pretty troll-like to begin with. The assumptions she was making about perfect strangers, her proposed “experiment”, and the spectacular lack of humility and Christian charity behind the entire concept were not exactly Christ-like at all. So do I now get to determine that Jen doesn’t know God?

    Jen spends HOURS each day endlessly gazing at her navel and pondering the wonderfulness of herslef. When I was her age, and had three kids, I didn’t have time to waste on some endless, self-obsessive exercise in narcissism as she so obviously does. But then I actually took care of my kids, actually wanted them, actually loved them, and didn’t see them as mere things, mere objects that I could use to show off how holy and Catholic I was.

    Back in the day, Catholicism wasn’t relentlessly and incessantly about the self. It used to be about other people, about encounter, not about walls and division and showy, prideful, egotistical self-promotion.

    I’m sure Jen luuuvvs to be Catholic — she gets to think about herself, her “personal holiness”, and her road to sainthood 24/7, and she gets to paste up all sorts of posts garnering all sorts of really creepy over-the-top praise about how fabulous she is every day.

    What an ego-trip. It’s great to be Catholic if it never leaves the blogosphere or the self! Hell, no wonder she converted — where else could she get this constant ego-stroking but the Catholic blogosphere?

    The arrogance behind her comments on knowing whether or not another person knows God is disgusting.

    And just why the hell does she think anyone would want to know God, anyway, if she was their first encounter with Christianity?

    Frankly, I don’t see God at all in this post. She did this to antagonize and to self-promote her false holiness.

    God knows what’s going on here.

    If Jen really believed in God, she wouldn’t think she could pull crap like this and get it past him.

  15. Anna

    “I was being called a moron and a fool for believing in God”

    Since, Jen was referring to someone who called her a fool for believing in God I think she can safely conclude that they don’t know God.

  16. Anonymous

    In the incident to which she is referring, and to which she has linked, she was not being called a moron and a fool for believing in God.

    She was being called arrogant and trollish and unChristian for proposing to play a trick on atheists so she could show them up.

    Neither she, nor you, nor any one else here can claim they know someone else doesn’t know God.

    That is pure evil. For Jen to assert that I don’t know God, since I made the comments, is wrong.

    She is as wrong as wrong can be, and she knows NOTHING about my life or what I’ve been through.

    She’s just a mean, cheap, selfish, narcissistic little gossip who isn’t remotely interested in anything other than the empty, false praise of people on the internet.

    If she had ANY humility or genuine desire to do any kind of serious soul-searching, she might ask herself what part she plays in causing others to become angry and resentful.

    When you act like you’re better than other people, when you plan to play tricks on other people so you can show the world how much better you are than they, then you tend to piss people off.

    Only she’s found the perfect safe-haven for the worst kind of unChristian and selfish behavior — the Catholic blogosphere, where the self rules supreme and endless navel-gazing is the order of the day.

  17. Anonymous

    Oh, and “safely concluding” anything about anyone else’s relationship with God is a very, very foolish endeavor indeed.

    It’s not like God is safe, you know…

    But Jen’s God is, because Jen has created a god in her own image. That’s always safe. Because you can always be right and anyone who calls you on your shit is wrong and a troll and you can count on your silly, empty-headed little internet friends to jump to your defense and there’s never any real reflection or learning or growth going on. Just endless ass-kissing and ego-stroking.

    I wonder just how long Jen could manage to stay Catholic if she had to do it without talking about on the internet 24/7. Would it really be any fun for her to be Catholic if she had to do it without an audience?

    I doubt it.

  18. Margaret in Minnesota

    “By their fruits you shall know them…”

    Anonymously or otherwise.

    Thank you for sharing your struggles with pride. I can relate in a HUGE way, since every challenge to my will is usually met with a big interior whine of “Why ME? ME? ME?”

    You hit the nail on the head already with your reflection that we must pray for those who misunderstand and oppose us. Just wanted you to know that there was another big, fat, prideful Catholic out there who is full of love (if not humility) for her fellow blogging momma, Jen.

  19. Anonymous

    And your fruits are…?? The typical Catholic gang-bang?

    Yep. By their fruits you will know them…and people like you, Margaret, and Anna, and Jen, and all the other holier-than-thous and perpetually self-absorbed have sure shown me what you are.

    And you’re all just as anonymous as I am. I’m just more honest about my anonymity.

  20. Sarah L.

    Atta girl, Jen! Nice reflection.

    I find it amusing when trolls complain that a blog-author’s posts are all about “me,me,me.” Um, isn’t that what blogging is all about? I like reading your reflections on your life, Jen, and they often help me in sorting out things in my own life. Thanks.

  21. Sarahndipity

    Ok, now I feel a little guilty, after ready your reflection, about my first instinctive response: it’s hard to take seriously the “stupid” criticism from someone who can’t spell “i” and “u.”

    That was my first thought too. I’ve always wondered why trolls can’t spell. Though I guess that’s not the most charitable thought in the world. 🙂

    This is a great post. My blog isn’t nearly well-known enough yet to attract trolls, and I have comment moderation anyway, but I hope I can be as charitable as you when I get my first troll. I guess you’ve “arrived” in the blogosphere when you get your first troll. 🙂

    And I think it’s quite ironic that this post attracted a troll.

  22. Anonymous

    Atta girl, Jen! You go girl! You’re soooo perfect and the bestest Catholic ever! Can’t imagine how the Church survived without you for over two thousand years! Why, who needs God — we have Jen the perfect!!

    See, Jen, no matter what you do, you’ll have enough affirmation through the Catholic blogosphere that you’ll never, ever once have to do any true, sincere, genuine examination of conscience. You will always be able to blow off anyone who sees through your infinitely narcissistic and self-centred ramblings as a troll and someone who doesn’t know God and all your supposedly Catholic friends will agree with you all over again, and you can all be rightrightright on teh interweb and be convinced that you’re going to heaven faster than anyone.

    Deliberately baiting people so you can feel better and holier and special is anti-Christian behavior. Period.

    And that’s EXACTLY what you intended to do with this post. You know it. I know it. And God knows it.

    You can all commence with the idolatry and worship of your fellow blogger here.

    You’ve shown me who and what you really are. And it stinks.

  23. Anonymous

    sarahndipity, this post was emailed to mje.

    That’s what “attracted” me. It was written with the intent to bait me and then dropped into my inbox by some Catholic prick who has nothing better to do than cause trouble.

  24. SteveG

    You cannot make such a judgment based on a comment in a combox on a blog on the internet. Get real.

    But you seem to be doing the exact thing you are accusing Jen of based on little more?

    If you will look at the post Jen links to, you will see that her initial post was pretty troll-like to begin with. The assumptions she was making about perfect strangers, her proposed “experiment”, and the spectacular lack of humility and Christian charity behind the entire concept were not exactly Christ-like at all. So do I now get to determine that Jen doesn’t know God?

    Wait, haven’t you done just that? And actually you’ve gone much further. You have accused her of doing the work of Satan.

    Later in your post you say…

    If Jen really believed in God, she wouldn’t think she could pull crap like this and get it past him.

    …which is the same as saying that she doesn’t know God.

    I am willing to bet that if Jen could rephrase that, she’d suggest that was her impression based on the comments and would deny that she actually knew any such thing about the commentor.

    Would you be able and willing to do the same and retract all your accusations here about the state of her soul, and her belief?

    She gets to think about herself, her “personal holiness”, and her road to sainthood 24/7

    So, when her kids are napping, she’s not allowed to keep an online spiritual journal about her own reflections? How do a couple of posts a week constitute navel gazing about her personal holiness?

    It’s great to be Catholic if it never leaves the blogosphere or the self!

    And you know this is the case how?

    When I was her age, and had three kids, I didn’t have time to waste on some endless, self-obsessive exercise in narcissism as she so obviously does. But then I actually took care of my kids, actually wanted them, actually loved them, and didn’t see them as mere things, mere objects that I could use to show off how holy and Catholic I was.

    Can you honestly not see that in a mere few comments you’ve managed to be more insulting, more condescending, nastier, and more judgmental than anything you’ve shown Jen to have done.

    To imply that this woman who you know very little about doesn’t love or care for her children but sees them as objects for her to show off is so far over the line that you should be truly ashamed of yourself.

  25. Anonymous

    Well, then, maybe this woman ought to be more careful of the company she keeps online.

    If her little cyber boyfriend hadn’t emailed me this post, I doubt I’d have seen it.

    The intent was to get me as pissed as I am now, and now that she’s gotten what she wanted, she runs and hides and gets all her little cyberbuddies to jump on me.

    How typical. No surprises there.

    She judged first. She dehumanized first. And she is the one who goes on and on and on and on and on about her frickin’ holyholyholy self and her road to holiness and how her way is the only way and that people in nice houses or who send their kids to college or women with interests outside quilting bees and cooking are bad mothers and bad Catholics, blahblahblah…

    You know why? Because she’s jealous. She’s made this big showy choice to be the mostest Catholicest ever mommy in all of Texas, but now that means she can’t have all the stuff she wants. So she has to make having the stuff she wants a bad thing in order to make herself feel better.

    And if she doesn’t like what I write here, then she shouldn’t link to my comments in old comboxes and get her dirty little buddies to send me the link.

    She wanted me to feel bad. She wanted me to know she thinks she’s better than me. She wanted to piss me off. Well, she got what she wanted. What the hell are you complaining about, then? And why can’t she do her own dirty work for herself? Cowardly, maybe? Just a nasty little instigator who likes to cause strife and sit back and laugh? Who’s the real troll here?

  26. Anonymous

    Oh, and right back atcha, Jen — I’ll just consider you the “gift of selfish, stupid, shallow Catholics”, God’s way of showing me just how evil the Catholic Church has become.

  27. SteveG

    If her little cyber boyfriend hadn’t emailed me this post, I doubt I’d have seen it.

    So she’s responsible for someone else sending you an email linking to her post?

    The intent was to get me as pissed as I am now, and now that she’s gotten what she wanted, she runs and hides and gets all her little cyberbuddies to jump on me.

    I couldn’t begin to guess the intent of whoever sent it, but how can you possibly know that 1) she intended it to get to you, 2) that here intent was to upset you.

    You are imputing ill will on her part with little or no evidence. I think that maybe this all spun out of control because you are assuming too much instead of asking ‘hey, what’s the deal here.’ That might have saved a lot of anger and bitterness on both sides.

    As to her running and hiding, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t accuse her of not caring for her children, spending too much time navel gazing and looking for ego stroking 24/7, and then in the next breath complain that she doesn’t spend enough time in the comments discussions. Maybe she’d love to be in this discussion, but is busy caring for her kids and getting ready for number three the other 23 hours she’s not online.

    She judged first. She dehumanized first.

    Who judged first, the person who said…

    “your site is such a waste of time. have u ever thought of writing something that isn’t stupid? well done…..i just wasted more time doing nothing but reading garbage.”

    …or the person who (however imperfectly you think it done), tried to make some sense out of such an insult and see if she could come to a better understanding of how to interact with such attacks?

    And if she doesn’t like what I write here, then she shouldn’t link to my comments in old comboxes and get her dirty little buddies to send me the link.

    Again, how do you know that she had anything at all to do with that?

    She wanted me to feel bad. She wanted me to know she thinks she’s better than me. She wanted to piss me off. Well, she got what she wanted. What the hell are you complaining about, then?

    I am complaining that you are assuming way to much. Based on nothing but assumptions you have come here guns blazing, trying to kick some ass, and asking questions later.

  28. Anonymous

    Oh, puhleeze….she’s the queen of assumptions. She’s only getting what she deserves. If she’s going to ASSUME I don’t know God, I’ll assume what the hell I want about her.

    She’s the one who sits here and PUBLICLY assumes things about people she doesn’t know, and when they get pissed at her for it — rightfully so — she calls them trolls.

    She needs to get the hell over herself, grow THE FUCK up, and start being a real parent to those very real children who need an adult parent to look after them, not some self-absorbed little brat who only cares about how holy she looks on the internet.

    And if she didn’t keep such sleazy company, her posts wouldn’t get emailed around. But there’s a certain crew around here who loves to do that, and she loves to dish the dirt with them, so, again, she’s getting what she deserve.

  29. Jennifer

    Great post—I’ve come to enjoy trolls and flame wars because I have come to see them sort of as a sign of a kind of…

    well..

    exorcism.

    When something is powerful, when the Holy Spirit is working through something it seems to draw out goodness (folks who write to say they’ve been changed by your blog or have been moved by you)

    and it also seems to draw infection to the surface—

    personal demons shake in their boots at your conversion and clamp down tighter on those who have not found the healing grace to be set free—

    pray for those still in their grasp but laugh and dance for the Lord that you have been freed!

    I can bear witness to the power of your blog and feel the Holy Spirit strongly at work when I read it!

  30. Sarah

    Dearest anonymous commenter,

    I was initially SO very angry at your comments that I would have responded out of anger. So, I decided to sleep on it. Then this morning there were more “gems” to read! I’m responding to you now, and am going to “attempt” to remain in the Spirit while doing so. I recognize that it is doubtful that I will be able to do so.

    OK, so everything is much clearer now. Jen must have hurt/embarrassed you very deeply by linking to an old comment of yours (to use it as a negative example). Have you received negative feedback because of your dissenting opinion? I’m sorry if you have. I’m quite sure that was not Jen’s intention. When we post something online, even in a comment box, it really becomes fair game (as you clearly believe).

    I’m a protestant. I use birth control. I would love to have a writing career apart from raising my children. If possible, I will pay to send my children to college. I have NEVER felt demeaned by Jen, or any of her commenters. It’s OK to disagree. Jen is simply passionate about some things that God is showing her for her life. It’s a blessing to many that she chooses to write about them so openly.

    When someone sends a nasty comment to a young pregnant woman, it is generally assumed that that person is a mean-spirited, vindictive person who doesn’t know God. I’m not going to get into why it’s OK, to judge this way, but it is made clear in scripture. I think that it is much more important to note how hurt you clearly are. You obviously carry a deep wound, and as someone who is currently in a great deal of pain, I am very sorry for your sorrow. I can’t apologize on behalf of the Catholic church, because I have never been a part. I can, however, apologize of behalf off Christians in general. We’re human, we fail, and I’m sorry for that.

    May the God of all comfort draw you to himself.

  31. SteveG

    She’s the one who sits here and PUBLICLY assumes things about people she doesn’t know, and when they get pissed at her for it — rightfully so — she calls them trolls.

    I am curious as I am having trouble following this. How do you know she was saying that about you in particular? I am honestly confused by that. I am trying to track back through all the discussions and am beginning to suspect that you have a misunderstanding of who she was saying that about (I could be wrong).

    If she was saying that specifically in reference to the declared atheists in the discussions she linked to, would it be fair to say that they don’t know God?

    And if she didn’t keep such sleazy company, her posts wouldn’t get emailed around.

    What sleazy company? Who emailed it to you? How do you even know she is friends with that person? Maybe it was on of the other commenters in those discussions? Maybe even one of the atheists? This is the internet, anyone can pick the link of her post up and send it to you. How do you know she had anything to do with it?

  32. Anonymous

    Yes, Jen…remember, I’m your gift from God. Your own, special, little gift from God. Any bad feelings or pain or strife, you asked God to give me so I could be his gift to you. Because it’s aaaaalll about youyouyou, 24/7.

    You want God to make people suffer, or, better yet, you want God to approve of you making people suffer, so they can be used by you to promote your icky-poo holiness.

    And, “Jennifer”, could you be any more dehumanizing, condescending, or egotistical with that last comment?

    Funny how you want God to gift you with trolls, how you are sooooo egotistical to think that God creates suffering in others just for you and your purposes. Really. Funny how your version of Christ needs to make other people suffer just so you can write some big phony blog post and get the other mindless twits on the internet to come suck up to you.

    That’s a hell of a God you created, Jen.

    Oh, and funny how anyone who doesn’t kiss your ass is demonic, evil, a troll, doesn’t know God, blahblahblah, but everyone who praises you and strokes your ego is just soooo goddamn holy…

    You know, it’s a lot easier for Satan to work through people who praise you and never criticise, disagree or get pissed off than it is to use someone like me.

    Oh, it’s easy for you and Stevie-boy and your other creepy cyberhangerson to hate me and jump on me and point to me and imply that I’m possessed by demons, but it’s not so easy to admit that you’
    re wrong and to apologize, is it? It’s easier to believe all these little hypocrites who are getting something out of this on some sick personal level, and who are telling you how divinely fab you are, isn’t it?

    Because you’re all about the spiritoooooal growth and all, right…? Or are you just about never having to do any of the hard work…yeah, that’s it.

    Sarah, what the hell does the fact that Jen is pregnant got to do with anything…? And why was it okay to email me this nastiness anonymously — because I’m not pregnant…? What kind of retarded thinking is that?

    Jen’s title is “The Gift of Trolls”. She wants them. She wants them so badly that she had to dig up something and get someone to email me the link so I’d come back and troll her again. Hey, SHE’S GETTING WHAT SHE ASKED FOR!!! Why are you complaining?

    Hell, she’s practically one the fucking holyholy lotto here, and you’re all bitching about it. You ought to be thrilled. Actually, you probably are because you apparently have nothing better to do than to respond to someone you think doesn’t know God and is a troll. So what does that make you…?

  33. Sarah

    OK, this will be the last line from me on the subject. We’re defending Jen because we love (not worship, not hold up as a great example…simply LOVE) her. It doesn’t get more simple, or profound, than that.

  34. SteveG

    Anon:
    The comment from ‘Jennifer’ is not from the author of this blog. A comment from her shows up as Jennifer F. Click on the profile and you can confirm that was not her comment.

    As for me, I think I speak for a good number of folk here. I most definitely do not hate you. I couldn’t possibly. I don’t know you enough to have any real feelings one way or the other.

    I confess that I am mighty put off by the anger that shouts from your comments, but I know they are not you, not even 1 tenth of 1 percent of who you are in reality.

    Is it possible to run down the volume and see if there is a way for a real conversation to happen?

  35. Renee

    Anonymous, What do you really want

  36. Joshua

    I just wanted to say thank you for this blog Jen. I’ve have not posted here before, but have loved reading about your journey, insights, and scorpions! Many blessings to you! (and hopefully less scorpions)

  37. Anne Marie

    Dear Anon:

    Could you be a bit less vague about what historic event it is you believe you are commenting upon? The rest of us are a bit mystified. Perhaps your pain would be better understood if we had the background. Jen could you enlighten us? Healing happens in the light, so out with it. Prayer teams are standing by seeking to interceed on this matter, the more specifics we have the more specificly we can pray.

  38. Literacy-chic

    Obviously Anonymous, having finished raising however may children and doing whatever other productive things s/he has done with his/her life now has nothing better to do than harass someone who’s “navel gazing” as it has been called, has absolutely nothing to do with that person’s anonymous self. Whether this person knows God or not, this seems a much less productive use of one’s time, and contains more than a little righteous indignation, than Jen’s own attempts to understand her self, her life, and her family in relation to her faith, her understanding of God and the universe. It takes a really self-important person (not to mention bored and heavily leisured–or multiple people, perhaps–to continue to badger others so relentlessly with nothing intelligent to add and nothing new to say. Or perhaps it’s just loneliness and the validation that comes from having others respond. But in all of these scenarios, this person certainly does deserve prayers and pity.

  39. Jeron

    You GO, Sister Biscuit! Great reflection!! When I bartended at a popular local gay bar, comments regarding “trolls” were often made by the “twinkies:” those rail thin, glitzed & glammed boytoys who looked down their noses at anyone over 25 & even remotely out of shape. If some older men had the audacity to tread on their turf, you’d invariably hear a twinkie exclaim, “omgawd, the *troll bus* must’ve just pulled up.” That said, trolls come in varying shapes & sizes (and sexual orientations, faith-filled or no). Your post vividly helped me recall my own run-in with a couple I used to wait on from said nightclub. They found out that I had left the gay lifestyle & was now a member of *Courage.* No amount of witnessing to them did any good. They could not understand what had “happened” to me to make me turn my back on “my truth” so that I felt I had to join such a “hate-filled group.” I felt attacked and downright knocked out of joint. I cried for help – literally – from my friends and even my spiritual director, who gave me the best advice: “pray for them and thank God you’re getting pummeled. You must be doing something right.” 😉

  40. Jennifer F.

    And you know for a fact that “this person” doesn’t know God because…?? Do you realize just how patronizing and holier-than-thou and condescending this comment is?

    I should have clarified…I’m not saying that all “trolls” don’t know God. This particular commentor had described him/herself in the post as an atheist.

  41. Mark Hunsaker

    Jen,

    Thank you for your blog. I was referred here by my wife and I enjoy reading your writing, both in style and content. Keep using the gifts God has given you to build up His kingdom.

  42. Jennifer F.

    Anon –

    There are a lot of points here to address. It seems that your criticism can be boiled down to the following points:

    1. That I’m self-absorbed (hence the blog where I talk about myself all the time)
    2. That I’m a bad mother (perhaps in part because of said blog)
    3. That I was specifically referring to you by linking to some of your old comments
    4. That I presume to know about others’ relationship with God

    1. Self-absorption: This is a fair question, and one that’s occurred to me before. As an introvert and a person who probably missed a call to be a desert hermit, I have an embarrassing lack of interest in politics and current events. Yet writing is an outlet for me to relax and clarify my thoughts, so that leaves me with few topics. Frankly, writing about myself is easier — my only time to blog is during the kids’ naptimes, so the easiest thing to do is just dash of some thoughts about what’s going on with me. I’ve also found that I have grown a lot spiritually through this forum, so I figure it’s probably a good thing.

    All that said, having a blog of this nature probably does open me up to the temptation of becoming even more self-centered than I am naturally, and it’s something I’m going to have to continue to be aware of.

    2. That I’m a bad mother: It’s worse than you think. You wouldn’t believe how much television I let my kids watch now that I’m in the third trimester and it rains practically every day! And I won’t even tell you what I let them eat for lunch today. Probably the only way I don’t slack off in my mommy duties is by blogging — I restrict all internet stuff to naptime only. Otherwise I’d be waaaay too tempted to toss the kids a bag of M&M’s and check in on my favorite blogs.

    3. Making references to you in particular: Your comments to old posts do stand out in my mind, so I’m sure I was thinking of some of them. However, those two links I posted really were just off the top of my head. I did a site search on some offensive terms and just grabbed the first two I came up with.

    4. Making judgments about others’ relationships with God: As I think I clarified already, when I wrote that I was thinking of a few particular comments that were written by self-described atheists.

    And then this…

    Jen’s title is “The Gift of Trolls”…hell, she’s practically one the fucking holyholy lotto here

    You kill me. Touche. I’ve actually started this post a few times before but didn’t post it because I thought “how awkward would it be if this post got trolled?” You’ve really been the gift that keeps on giving today! 🙂

  43. Jennifer

    Jen, it sort of pains me to see you even defend yourself against this kind of nonsense.

    A troll is not merely a person who expresses a dissenting opinion or a critique. It is not even a person who delivers a rather scathing criticism.

    A troll is a person who uses foul language, engages in ad hominem attacks, and expresses a disproportionate amount of anger in a blog space.

    It is usually done under anonymous tags because the person is afraid to express such anger in real life.

    This is most definitely an expression of personal pain–I only suggest that it is demonic in nature because only a person beset by figurative or literal demons would waste time spewing such filth and hate.

    I don’t know about anyone else but if a blog angers me that much, or so clearly demonstrates the opposite of my beliefs, I usually don’t bookmark it, comment, or even visit it. What is the point?

    A person who engages in such behavior is of questionable mental health.

    If you are personally attacking or using foul language in a domain that clearly doesn’t favor such language, you are self-designating as a “troll” so my suggesting that you are plauged by personal demons is actually a step up from what you have identified yourself as–in the blogosphere, a person who engages in the kind of behavior we see here is called a demon, and is not pitied for being beset by demons.

    In order to save oneself unnecessary angst, one should understand the trappings of the milieu one chooses to inhabit before raging against the rules that marginalize oneself.

    When you choose to attack Jen personally and use foul language, anonymous, you marginalize yourself, and frankly, it is only Jen’s kindness and hospitality that allow your comments to continue.

    A blog is not a public domain—it is only as public as the owner of the space decides to make it. At any time she can decide to designate you as a trespasser.

    You might ask what kind of heart allows you to remain even when you’ve been so impolite and discourteous in her space.a

  44. Anonymous

    Well, seems this is as “exciting” as the blog world gets…I love reading ur blog jen and i have commented before once or twice. I have to say I think u have held ur tounge better than I would have. I don’t have a blog b/c like u said I probably would sit around typing all day instead of taking care of the babies 🙂 I truely do appreciate the comments from both sides b/c sometimes it helps to read this stuff and be thankful that I’m not near as angry as I think I am. I think it’s proof that sometimes God guides u to see/read/hear stuff(even on the internet lol) that is important for u to see…There’s reasons none of us could ever understand why this happens…maybe anon needed to see ur blog and the comments made afterwards between him/her and the positive side, maybe u needed to deal w/ anon so that u can strengthen ur muscles in virtue b/c we can only do that through practice!, maybe someone reading this blog and comments needed to see this back and forth go on for some reason…God is Great and the Holy Spirit is at work here as everywhere else! I agree w/ jennifer….God Bless, keep blogging so I can have just that one more reminder of being patient w/ everyone, praying more, and seeing someone else struggling w/ being more like Mary in a Martha world…
    God Bless,
    Jenee

  45. Renee

    I removed my last comment due to grammatical errors.

    Is this any different then road rage? Someone is having a bad day, and because for whatever reason they’re upset they have to take it out on someone.

  46. Jennifer F.

    Jen, it sort of pains me to see you even defend yourself against this kind of nonsense.

    Thanks for your support! But I think of Anon as a sort of angry, profanity-spewing spiritual director. 🙂 Think of the points she’s given me to ponder today: Is writing about my spiritual journey leading me to be too self-focused? Is it taking time away from my family? Has my awareness of my spiritual progress led me to think that I am spiritually “better” than other people? How much is my enjoyment of my newfound faith impacted by the fact that I have a (mostly) supportive audience to hear about it? These are actually good questions to take to prayer. With the vocations crisis, it’s hard to find this sort of guided reflection for free these days! I gotta take what I can get! 🙂

  47. :o)

    Anonymous,
    Why are you so angry? The whole point of her blog is her journey to be more Christ-like. Never once has she said she was perfect or better than anyone else. She used something that hurt her to examine her own failings and try to amend them.

    Your attacks are unjustified.

  48. Adoro te Devote

    Jen,

    I just have to say you’ve handled your own personal troll very well and I thank you for that. My temper would have gotten the better of me.

    Of course, I also would have made use of the ability to delete posts with such profanity.

    A dissenting opinion, or even an ad hominem attack can be withstood, but profanity? I won’t allow it on my blog. Anyone who gets profane (well, I’ll allow more benign stuff such as “bs” or “s***”, but that’s about it), gets deleted. No argument, no comment. Done. Thankfully I don’t get much of that, and if I do it’s rarely about the post or even an attack….just a random likely 16 year old troll looking to cause trouble and get attention. Not an adult who knows better and just wants to relieve some suppressed anger.

    I’m just always amazed at the bravery of anonymous posters with an agenda and such anger that they can’t even see that they are carrying out with great aplomb exactly what they accuse the poster of doing, and it does nothing but destroy their credibility.

    Keep up the good work…any kind of an ongoing and sustained attack like that HAS to mean you’re doing something right.

  49. Jennifer

    Jennifer:

    Perhaps I’m overlooking the value of such questions but also consider the sin of scrupulosity and ask yourself if such endeavors (spending time on folks like this poor soul) fall into that category and are therefore a waste of your energy.

    I don’t know that they are but ignoring and/or deleting such garbage (when they fall into the categories of profanity and blatant ad hominem attack) is also an option (and in some cases, perhaps an obligation)!

    Only you know best. It’s just a passing thought on this issue.

    I agree with Adoro Te—I’d have deleted a lot of this awhile ago.

    Then again, I’d never get to see how perfectly this kind of hate (the hate and not the person as Steve points out) represents that which we should ignore.

    Since most EVERYONE who reads your blog in good faith can see how ridiculous this troll is, answering him is somehow wasted.

    You always have my support either way!

  50. barbfromcincy

    Reading these nasty comments makes me feel a bit sick and sorry for the person who wrote them. To have so much anger and venom must be difficult. I have a Xanga blog and had problems last year with a woman leaving me nasty hateful comments. I was blogging about what my family was going through losing our 9 year old nephew to cancer and she didn’t like the attention I was getting. So she spewed forth similar remarks to me. I tried to answer her once and it accomplished nothing, so after a few more hateful comments and messages, I banned her from my site. I don’t know if you have that option here, but I guess it makes it much more difficult when they are anonymous. I have found myself wondering if by some wild chance your commenter is the same one as was bothering me…her remarks sound so similar. What I don’t understand is why this person keeps reading your blog if she hates you so much….boggles my mind.
    A blessed evening to you…

  51. Jennifer F.

    Jen and Adoro –

    Good points. I’ve thought about this issue a lot since a lot of the topics I discuss are controversial. Ultimately, I’ve decided that comment moderation would take up too much mental energy for someone as overly analytical and neurotic as I am. 🙂 I’d walk around the house all day second-guessing whether I censored a valid opinion, should have deleted this post but not that one, etc. I’d love to have a carefully moderated blog to ensure civil discussion at all times, but I think that it’s just not something I’m good at, and it would take up too much mental energy. (Which is not to say that I *never* delete comments).

    Anyway, I revisit the issue every time a heated discussion breaks out and may change my mind in the future.

  52. Anonymous

    Wow, this is so cool. I only wish I could get 50+ comments on one of my posts. Thank you anonymous! You are bringing tons of attention to a wonderful Catholic blogger!

    God bless!

    PS, you squack mightly when you feel others judge you, yet you spit out judgment after judgment on the other posters here. Sort of a contradiction there. I think you must be very angry not to notice that.

  53. Peter

    And if you don’t like my comments, don’t read ’em, and don’t respond…duh.

    Thank you thank you for this comment. I SO needed the extended belly laugh the ironic self contradiction gave me this morning!

    If people don’t like your comments they shouldn’t read them or respond, right? And this is different to your reading, reaction and response to Jen’s blog … how?

    JenF I’m afraid I agree with the other jennifer’s opinion on this one. You should definitely carefully consider any legitimate critique of your opinions and approach. But legitimate critiques will actually address the issue rather than ad hominum.

    Keep up the good work!

  54. Rae

    “…the more hateful and vitriolic their tone, the more likely it is a person who is in pain.”

    How true!! In high school I always thought that a person could only “afford” to be nasty if their lives were perfect: we lesser beings had to be kind to each other as a sort of survival mechanism. As I grow older, however, I more and more appreciate that an unkind person is–more often than not–deeply unhappy.

    Thank you for reminding me…. I should pray for people who do and say offensive things, since they probably need the prayers!!

  55. Renee

    “Ultimately, I’ve decided that comment moderation would take up too much mental energy for someone as overly analytical and neurotic as I am. 🙂 I’d walk around the house all day second-guessing whether I censored a valid opinion, should have deleted this post but not that one, etc.”

    Been there. I ended up just allowing everything through. I don’t even have comments anymore on my blog. Since I spoke a lot on sexual issues, I recieved some rather graphic questions.

  56. Elena

    Awesome Jen. Just Awesome.

    As a form of therapy, I did put some of the worst comments I have ever received either on my blog or in other com boxes on my side bar. It keeps me humble!

  57. Adoro te Devote

    Jennifer ~ You don’t have to turn on comment moderation in order to delete posts. You, as the blog owner, should see a little trash can icon next to each post when you click on your comments link. YOU have complete authority to erase offending comments without having to go to the trouble of moderation.

    It actually took me awhile to realize that on my own blog so some initial spam links actually sat there for a long time! LOL!

  58. Stephen Littau

    Jen:

    How can you support such a corrupt and dispicable organization as the Catholic Church? I find it amazing that none of you Catholic bloggers can find the time to write about the sexual abuses of the church. Before you say “well that’s only a small minority of priests” let me submit to you that if you give financial support to the Catholic Church you are funding the churchs lawyers who have done everything in their power to make sure that the church does not take responsibility for its actions.

    I have so much more to say on this issue and I wrote a letter to you and all the other Catholics on my blog. I hope you and your readers will give it a read and consider why you should continue to fund this dispicable behavior.

    http://fpffressminds.blogspot.com/2007/07/letter-to-catholics.html

  59. newhousenewjob

    Hi Jen

    Great post, and some great comments too. I’ve been following it for a couple of days and just can’t understand why Anonymous seems to find it necessary to be so rude and unpleasant. I’ve got a bit of a (friendly) debate going on my blog at the moment with an atheist who linked to one of my posts. I thanked him for his courteous response to my initial post, and here’s an extract from the comment he posted today:

    “I’m always polite on other people’s blogs. My blog has a nice big warning on the top about the sex, violence, strong language and naked porpoises, yours doesn’t so it would not be fair to use the same style of language I use on [my blog].”

    I think this is a great response – people can be as rude as they like on their own blogs, but if you’re visiting a blog which is not 18-rated, I think you do have an obligation at least to try to be polite and debate in a reasonable manner. And if someone uses language that the blog owner doesn’t consider acceptable, then I think you’d be totally justified in deleting their comment.

  60. Christina Martin

    Pardon me if I’m not as charitable as Jen.

    Anonymous, you need to take a timeout and calm down. I am certain that Jen did not intend to insult you and your people by use of the word “troll.”

    Jen, you really should learn to be politically correct. I believe the proper term for anon and his family is “social-graces-challenged bridge dwellers.”

    And everyone else, give poor anon a break. He’s just a lonely child in need of attention. I’m sure he’d calm down if, instead of correction, you offered him a billy goat to munch.

  61. Mary C

    Jennifer F, You are a blessing. Thanks for what you do, and may God bless your family (especially your new little one). I have read these comments, but have only responded to Stephen Littau. I responded at his site, which may not be the best thing to have done, but I did. If you or any of your readers could read my response, I would be glad to hear where I may have gone astray, or left things unsaid.

    May God (or really good exterminators) banish the scorpions from your home, Jen. At least here in KS, we are spared scorpions “shudder”.

  62. Renee

    Since Steve you brought up the sex abuse case…

    I’m a Catholic, in Boston, and attend a parish in which a pedophile priest abused young pubescent boys in the 70s. You can’t defend it, but Christina Hoff-Sommers wrote about what happened.

    As a Catholic within in the Archdiocese of Boston and sought leadership from Cardinal Law in the 1980’s and 1990’s I was wondered, OK banged my head against the wall trying to figure out why did he lets these pedophiles in our parishes! Cardinal Law from all previous understanding of the man would never put us in harms way. He was a part civil rights movement in the 60’s and did so much in regards charity. Huh? Why? Why? Why? Hoff-Sommers and Satel write several pages of what occurred in the 1970’s and1980’s when pedophilia was deemed curable through therapy as the experts informed the Cardinal.

    Here are several passages.

    “The child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is a sobering example of what can happen when the therapeutic perspective displaces a judgmental moral point of view. One year after Wolfe/times study was published, stories of Catholics priests taking advantage of teenagers and children began to appear everywhere in the press. It soon became evident that even the Catholic Church, a stronghold of traditional moral teaching, had been seriously affected by therapism.

    In the 1970’s, it was the fashion among mental health professionals to view pedophilia as a treatable form of psychological immaturity. The pedophile, so the theory went, was sexually attracted because, emotionally, he was a child himself. Talk therapy and other transformative treatments would help him understand himself better and more beyond the arrested state of development. Tragically, the church accepted this theory and sent predatory priests to mental health clinics to be cured.

    The idea that pedophilia is curable is no longer taken seriously by most clinicians. The only recourse is strict control, primarily by imprisoning the perpetrators and, after their release, by denying them unsupervised access to children. But as Fred Berlin, director of the National Institute for Study, Prevention, and Treatment of Sexual Trauma at John Hopkins University of Medicine, says, “Years back, the Church, very sadly, was misled by mental health professionals.” For their part, therapists who treated the priests now blame the church for rushing priests back into service against their advice.

    Church officials sent errant priests to various centers where they received counseling, group therapy, psychodrama, roleplaying therapy, and, according to a report in the Economist, “holistic medicine [and] Christian forgiveness.” Once “cured,” many were permitted to resume their duties…..” p. 81

    “Phillip Jenkins, professor of religious studies at Pennsylvania State University, sees to the heart of the problem the Church faces when it compromises it episcopal mission and yields to therapistic ethos.

    ‘During the 1970’s and 1980’s, psychological values and assumptions permeated the religious would no less then the secular culture…. But an intellectual chasm separates the assumptions the traditional church from those of mainstream therapy and psychology. The medicalization of wrong doing sharply circumscribes the areas in which clergy can appropriately exercise their professional jurisdiction, and this loss of acknowledged expertise to therapists and medical authorities at once symbolizes and accelerates a substantial decline in the professional status of priests and ministers.’

    Even Cardinal Law himself came to see that his leniency had betrayed the Church traditions. The cardinal, who resigned in 2003, was a beloved figure in the Boston community, well-known for his kindness. Tragically, he had extended his goodwill without getting the full picture of harm that had been inflicted on the abused. As the scandal was exploding all around, the cardinal consented to meet with some of the victims. As one of the group explained to the Globe, “He has to see the devastation and peripheral fallout that sex abuse caused.” Close to tears, the Cardinal asked for forgiveness, “I did assign priests who had committed sexual abuse…. I acknowledge my own responsibility which led to intense suffering. While that suffer was never intended, it could have been avoided, had I acted differently.” p. 82-83

    —-

    http://uponchristianhill.blogspot.com/2006/05/cardinal-seans-prayer-service-at-saint.html

    Cardinal Sean’s prayer service at Saint Michael’s

    I have to admit I was not planning on going to the prayer service being held at Saint Michael’s this evening for the victims of sexual abuse. I could say I am pregnant, it is a holiday or the heat but to be honest I just did not want to deal with it because I was being selfish.

    I have to admit why should I get my hands involved, I did not sexually abuse anyone.

    I rather talk about Natural Family Planning, helping couples with the Sacrament of Marriage, or seeing a friend enter the Church through confirmation. Even though I am a Catholic within the Archdiocese of Boston, I do not see myself as part of the sexual abuse scandal. If anything, I am the answer. Right?

    I went anyways. I was moved by Father Capone’s comment that it was as a parishioner of Saint Michaels I have a duty to suffer with the victims as a part of the restoration of our very broken Church. My husband sat close up on the left hand side and waited to witness what had was done to our Church.

    The service was disturbing, painful, and upsetting. It was not like a funeral, where people mourn, the pain that existed by the hands of the abusive priests was devastating. The service main focal point was in the beginning, where one of the victims of Father Birmingham in the 70’s spoke about his torture at his hands. The victim went into detail as a twelve year old boy lured on a church skiing trip left alone with his abuser in a hotel room. The abuse lasted until he was 18 years old.

    The victim went into further detail how it affected his entire life. He could not feel safe in what should have been his home, his parish. He went into detail of confusion as an adult, a failed marriage, and a concern that his own daughter could be another victim of abuse by hands of a predator. It left him in a psych ward for a week, with much therapy and healing through his family and Faith in God to come forward.

    The overt action of Cardinal O’Malley, Father Capone, and all the priests and deacons present was so painful to watch as they ask God to heal our Church and mercy by lying flat on the stomachs in front of Saint Michael’s altar as we prayed for healing.

    There were some protesters; I did see photographers respectfully present. It is not “Business as usual” in the Archdiocese as one protester had stated on his poster. The suffering I felt was horrible, and I am sure the pain the protestors have is painful also. I had to feel it first hand. This was no public relations stunt, this was no “I’m Sorry”. I saw it. This is real.

    So if you do have an opportunity in the future to go to a prayer service in your own parish or a nearby service with Cardinal, I strongly plead that you attend.

  63. Anna

    Adoro, Jennifer,

    Shame on you! You praise Jen F for her insights, but you don’t apply them to yourselves. Anonymous is a real person; how do you know what horrors she has experienced at the hands of Catholics, or what joys she has found in God? How can you presume that her opinions mean nothing, just because she uses swear words? How can you think of Anonymous as a beloved child of the Most High, and then recommend that Jen F delete her comments and ignore anything she has to say? Can you look at Anonymous, see the face of Jesus, and then call her words demonic?

    Be a light to the world; love her, listen to her – really listen, without being defensive, without trying to protect yourself – and do not disregard her. If she criticizes you, allow yourself to really consider if she might be right. If she is, apologize. If she isn’t, consider whether there is anything you might say that would, in your best judgement, do HER good. If not, let it be.

    But legitimate critiques will actually address the issue rather than ad hominum

    Jen F, don’t you believe this advice. People are emotional creatures. If we get angry, or hurt, or anything like that, we lash out. Christ calls us to turn the other cheek instead of lashing out, but that doesn’t mean that those who lash out against us are doing so without any basis at all. An awful lot of the time, it’s because we have failed to love them as we ought. If someone’s angry about something, deeply deeply angry, that’s MORE reason to listen to them, not less. (Although it may mean you listen to them differently, hearing it as a statement of experience rather than a reasoned argument).

    – a different Anna

  64. Jeff Baker

    Jennifer,

    Your blog is beautifully done and is an inspiration to anyone who might be seeking Him.

    I find a few parallels between your path and mine, though I was agnostic, not an atheist.

    In any event, keep doing God’s work, you are a blessing to the Church and your words are the aroma of life to we believers!

    From another Easter Vigil ’07 crosser of the Tiber River,

    Jeff Baker
    defendusinbattle.org

  65. Kristi

    Jen,
    You are very brave! I love your thoughtful comments. I would never be able to handle this situation so gracefully. Nice job.

  66. Gecko

    I understand why the posters you label as trolls seem to think you have a sanctimonious streak in your writings. But I have no quarrel with either of you as long as your kind never again tries to convert my kind. Catholics seem to turn a blind eye to those horrors and this is why so many pray to g-d every day to save them from the christians.

    ::sighing::

  67. Joe Wetterling

    Jennifer, thank you for this post. Someone once said that friendship is based on saying “hey, me too!” I think we’re friends, because – hey, me too.

    I’ve recently been called a long list of names for defending life and the Catholic Church. I was on your site looking for an argument, book, or quote I hadn’t thought of (found them easily!), but I think what I really needed was to read this post.

    Christ invites all of us to his friendship. He carried a cross. And he promised us that if we became his friends, it would happen to us. He was spit on and mocked, suffering mentally and physically. Hey, me too.

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