On Open Letter To The Archbishop of my Diocese

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August 12, 2018

Dear Archbishop ,

I discovered the beauty and truth the Catholic Church had to offer me when I was an unmarried, college student trying to figure out what to do with my life.   Nestled in a dimly lit dormitory basement one evening preparing for class, I sat at a table reading a copy of Humanae Vitae, the document written by Pope Paul VI on the Church’s teachings on married sexuality.  As I poured through the words compiled by the Holy Father, my mind was opened to a vision of marriage and family that I had never contemplated before, most especially the idea of married and conjugal love as a reflection of the union between the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

What I learned in that document impacted me in such a profound way that as I closed the thin, marked up booklet that evening, I decided right then and there not only to embrace what the Church taught about marriage and sex, I resolved to teach my children about the great truths of the Catholic Church as well.  Several years later, I met and married my husband, John Duggan, another practicing Catholic.  We’ve been married fifteen years and together we have welcomed seven pregnancies and six living children.  We have done our best to imbue our children in the Catholic faith and to teach them as we best we can what is right from wrong in this morally relative culture.  We take seriously the exhortation found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church to evangelize our children and to initiate them from an early age into the mysteries of faith.  We have indeed made great efforts to associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the church (CCC 2225).

Of course, we are not perfect, and we make many mistakes.  

If there is one thing that we’ve learned through marriage and parenting is the very real truth found in Pope Benedict’s description of family life as a gymnasium of charity. As such, we regularly frequent the sacrament of Confession, begging pardon from God for our sinful weakness. We drag ourselves to the heavenly banquets served to us each week in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  We are grateful for the graces we glean from these sacraments and we recognize that they fortify us in our call to radical holiness in this crazy world.  

I share this information to demonstrate the deep love and dedication I feel for my Mother, the holy, Catholic Church, and my commitment to obediently follow the truths she gives me.  It’s also why, when I learned of the McCarrick Scandal and those complicit in his cover-ups, I felt completely devastated.  

The news of this scandal and the insidious coverups by those around him have left me feeling duped, as if I’ve been called to embrace a life of chastity according to my vocation, preached to me since childhood but one that is not being practiced by a few duplicitous souls in power in the Church.  

Before I explain myself, first let me express my gratitude for the good priests we’ve benefited from as a family, particularly Monsignor James Farmer who was our parish priest  for over five years.  MonsignorFarmer cultivated a personal relationship with us, treating us like a father treats his children, frequently seekingout my family after Mass, which was no small feat in our 10,000-person.

He knew each of us by name. He noticed us and made us feel wanted. After Sunday Mass, he’d give me a hug,or he’d stop at our table during our parish breakfasts to chat.  He would lovingly tease our childrenand ask them questions. On solemnities like Christmas or Easter, Monsignor would whisper to meor John, “Please bring the kids to the sacristy.”

As soon as we assembled in front of him, Monsignor pulled out bags of candy he’d purchased for the kids. Whenever we invited him to our house to celebrate a Sacrament, he would attend, often bringing several seminarians with him.  When he learned I was pregnant with our sixth child, Monsignor flagged me down after Sunday Mass.  

“I want to baptize your baby, Colleen.  It will be my honor,” he said.  He did baptize my sixth baby and brought three seminarians with him to the party afterwards.

He is a good man who quite literally gives his life for the true, the good and the beautiful.  Each week he fed us the body of Christ, absolved me and my family from their sins, preached, and catechized the masses.  It would be wrong of me to overlook the holy priests like Monsignor Farmer, and those priests currently in residence at St. John’s Catholic Church, who are doing their best to follow God’s call and serve their bride, the Holy Catholic Church.

But I’m angry and saddened by the news of the egregious abuse of minors, seminarians, and young priests from those like Archbishop McCarrick.  

I’m appalled that not only did abuse happen but that it was regularly enabled by those around him, people who held positions of the highest power in the Church.  My heart breaks for those victimized by him and others like him and I’m enraged that those known for sex abuse continued to be promoted to positions of authority, even after accusations of abuse were made.  

I’m critical of the clericalism that exists in the highest echelons of the Church where clergy pat each other on the back, hailing the “virtuous” behavior of the other while they enable the grave sexual sins of brother priests. 

I’m angry that those who knew about the crimes did little to protect the most vulnerable.  I’m angry that reports of abuse were ignored without investigation. 

I’m disgusted by the kinds of morally reprehensible sexual antics and acts happening at the seminaries and amongst the ordained clergy.  

I’m angry that while my husband and I have tried as best we can to embrace the Church’s teachings, a few of those called to guide and encourage us have been engaged in the very illicit acts they supposedly condemn.

I’m angry that policies written in 2002 to address sexual abuse amongst the laity excluded those in power, like bishops and the like. In my own family, the generational sins we’ve faced for centuries needed to be named and exorcised. The same is true for the treacherous sexual sins happening amongst the clergy today.  

I ask you, as Bishop of our own diocese—which has suffered from its own insidious scandal and cover up—when will this be done? 

I’m also not satisfied with the Church’s response to these matters.  

There must be a full investigation that brings to light the sinister nature not only of the McCarrick scandal but all sexual abuse or immorality.  Those in the highest positions of authority who have been accused of misconduct or abuse should be investigated by lay people, not those so closely affiliated with the Church.  

There must be updates from those in power—similar to family meetings—to the people sitting in the pews about what it being done to address the scandal. A letter written when scandal breaks is not nearly enough. In my own family, I know that the attitudes my husband and I convey to our children when crisis happens filters down and is embraced by them.  If my husband and I ignore or deny the existence of evil in our home, or worse, are simply silent about it, we communicate a powerful lesson to our children

What do you suppose is the lesson conveyed at this juncture to lay people by the Bishops? It is not one of virtue, like courage and honesty and responsibility, I assure you.  

There must be, as author Dawn Eden and others like her have suggested, public penance on behalf of all the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to help counteract the damage done.  This would help heal the Body of Christ, it would help restore—at least a little of the credibility completely lost—to the Conference of Bishops.  It would show me, as a dedicated lay person in the Church, that those in authority are truly sorry for what’s happened and not just interested in putting out fires in order to return to business as usual.  

There must be regular prayer petitions from the altar where the entire body of Christ begs for healing of the Catholic Church from the top down. There must be women appointed to task forces committed to investigate allegations of sexual crimes and there must be lay people appointed to sniff out the decades of sexual deviance and dysfunction that exists in seminaries and Church power.

There must not be silence.  There must not be ignorance.  There must not be cover up.  There must not be delay.

I will not leave the Catholic Church, I love her too much, and I recognize my deep need for the food she gives me which sustains me towards my heavenly home.  But I will not be silent about my sadness, disappointment and devastation regarding these matters that affect the Church and the good of souls.  I have an obligation to defend the truth, even if a few of those in power have shirked or abandoned their duty to do so. It is part of my baptismal call and one I take seriously.   I trust in God to rectify the wrong but also know I must do my part. 

“God is light and in him there is no darkness.”

Please, I beg of you, bring the darkness into the light.  

When Father Andrew DeFusco, after I voiced my impassioned concerns and tears to him in his office, invited me to write a letter at first, I said no.  

“I can do very little to change what’s happened,” I thought. 

But then I read these words from Francis Fernandez in in Conversations with God, “Just as the current of a great river is fed by a network of tiny streams which in their turn have been formed drop by drop, our opportunity to contribute to the river of truth should never be omitted.”

And I knew then I would write you.  

I have a love for the Church and for those who serve her and I deeply long for the truth of Jesus Christ to be spread to all the nations.  I believe the Catholic Church is the herald of that message and I will not allow my opportunity to speak out against the injustice happening within her pass.

I will pray for you, for the holy Catholic Church, and for the broken, bleeding and wounded body of Christ that you serve.  I implore you to not delay in organizing a task force to prevent future crimes and abuse like the ones I’ve discussed from happening ever again.  I will also offer my assistance to help in any way in seeking reform.  Please receive this letter with the charity and love with which it is intended.

In Christ’s Love,

 

Colleen Duggan

St. John’s Catholic Church parishioner, wife, mother, catechist, speaker, and author  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother's Day Giveaway!

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My newest book, Good Enough Is Good Enough: Confessions Of An Imperfect Mom officially launched into the world a few weeks ago and it's been wonderful to hear positive feedback from different people all over the country.  To those of you who have purchased the book and reviewed it already, thank you!  To those of you who haven't, please don't hesitate to get a copy for yourself and for your best girlfriends.  

My publisher and I wanted to thank everyone for their support, so we brainstormed a way to give all the weary hearted moms out there an opportunity to win an awesome basket of goodies.  Mother's Day is around the corner and this is just the kind of basket I would love to receive as a gift.  We selected items that I would want and I just love what we came up with!

The gift basket goodies include:

  • Copy of Good Enough Is Good Enough, signed by yours truly
  • Copy of The Friendship Project: The Catholic Women's Guide To Making and Keeping Fabulous, Faith-Filled Friends
  • Copy of The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion: A Book Of Daily Reflections
  • Copy Of A Small Steps For Catholic Moms
  • An adorable Good Enough Mom t-shirt
  • Framed Litany of Humility for Parents (The beautiful prayer you can find at the end of my book or if you are a email subscriber.)
  • Beautiful printed inspirational quotes from the book on a clip
  • $15 Starbucks giftcard
  • Chocolate

You don't want to miss the chance to win all these great items!  So go! Enter to win below.  Contents begins today and ends on Friday, May 11th, right before Mother's Day weekend.  Share with your friends and spread the love!

Good luck! 

 

It's here! A #goodenoughmom Blog Tour!!!

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I can't believe it, but the time has come for this book baby (I'm calling her my seventh child) to be launched into the world. My friends at Ave Maria Press and I have been hard at work trying to set this thing a sail and I wanted you to know all the good stuff we have coming!  

For those of you who don't already know, my new book, Good Enough Is Good Enough: Confessions Of An Imperfect Mom, is available on Amazon (it was released early, lucky for us!). To get yourself a copy, go here OR you can go the Ave Maria website and order the book.  The kind publisher is offering my readers a special promo code (use COLLEEN) which gives you a 20% discount on the title. (Also, in case you didn't know, I wrote a free, downloadable companion study guide to use in small groups or book clubs.  You can see it here.)

I've already had so much fun promoting the book.  I even had the great fortune to have a chat with two of my favorite editors of all time, Lisa Hendey and Danielle Bean on the very same day!  

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To hear to the Lisa Hendey and Friends podcast, please see here.

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To hear the Girlfriends podcast with Danielle Bean, please listen here.

In other news: below is the schedule and a link to a blog post tour, beginning on April 11.  Each day at the various sites listed, you can find a review, a book excerpt, or an interview with me.  The tour is as follows:

April 11-20, 2018

11 Sarah Reinhard, Snoring Scholar, review (Sarah is so gracious and kind!)

12 Rita Buettner, The Catholic Review blog (Archdiocese of Baltimore)/Open Window, interview with Colleen

13 Sterling Jaquith, Coffee and Pearls

14  The Catholic Sisters, review

15 Mary Lenaburg, Mary Lenaburg Blog

16 Amanda Villagomez, Focusing on the Core, interview with Colleen (she will also do a review prior to the blog tour)

17  Michele Faehnle, Divine Mercy for Moms, Excerpt

18 Ginny Kochis, Not So Formulaic

19 Allison Gingras, Reconciled to You, review

20 Erin Franco, Humble Handmaid

I want to thank all the people who have already taken the time to read and review the book.  It means so much to me!  The support and the feedback I've already received is like a divinely inspired paycheck, so thank you!  For those of you who have already read the book and haven't done so, if you could take a minute or two to review it on Amazon, I'd be ever so grateful.  All these little reviews help, especially with ratings!

Also, we have some really FUN things coming down the pike for Mother's Day, so be on the lookout.  You don't want to miss out on the fun!

I think that's it for now.  Thank you again for the support!  

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Thoughts On Holy Week

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The holiest week of the year has begun. 

In today’s gospel, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial. The apostles are gathered with Jesus at an intimate dinner and after Peter declares he won't hesitate to die for Jesus, Jesus tells Peter, 

“Not so fast, before the rooster crows three times, you will have denied our friendship, denied even knowing me...not once, but three times.”

On Sunday, all of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus on a donkey—triumphant and celebratory—and today, Judas’s evil plan of betrayal has been set into motion. On Friday, we will be staring down the suffering of Christ on the cross.

This is the time of Lent where I always take an inventory. 

How did I do with my fasts? 

Did I succeed in abstaining from those things I pledged to give up at the beginning of Lent? 

Did I throw in the towel? Get overwhelmed by all the things I originally pledged to God and then quickly took back in a moment of temptation? 

What worked and what didn’t?

And if I’m not careful, this inventory becomes all about me…my spiritual aptitude or lack thereof and I completely forget that entire point of the sacrificial offering, which is to remind me of my acute need for a God who saves.

Jesus doesn’t need my sacrifice. 

He doesn’t need my Lenten offerings. 

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. It doesn’t matter if I successfully abstained from all I promised (though you can bet fasting does leave me more space for Him in my life.)

What Jesus does need is a friend to accompany him during the Triduum, a friend to keep watch with him while he is in Gethsemane. He needs someone to walk alongside him on the way to the crucifixion, someone to be with him in his suffering.

Isn’t this what we all want when life drowns us in sorrow and pain?

Did you fail at your Lenten observances? Move on.

Don’t spend time beating yourself up and bemoaning your failures. Fix your eyes on Christ and be prepared to walk with him over the next few days.

Be a true friend to Jesus--one who doesn’t deny him three times—but who sits at the foot of the cross while the greatest suffering and drama in all of history unfolds.