Saint John Paul II Speaks to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: How Models of Male Domination Have Created This Mess

Dear Friends,  While I generally try to avoid controversial pieces, I feel called to weigh in on what I believe is a fundamental problem with the presidential election we are facing.  May the Lord guide our nation as we go forward, and may he give us the grace to again walk in his ways.  In the hearts of Jesus and Mary on this Feast of the Holy Rosary,      Judy fullsizerender

Man, who is the only creature on earth which God has willed for its own sake, cannot fully find himself except through the sincere gift of self.     Second Vatican Council. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 24.

Whom to vote for on November 8? That seems to be the million-dollar question these days. Many people feel that we are living in an absurd election cycle with two unacceptable candidates running for president. The debate about which one to choose is paramount among Catholics who feel that neither major party nominee represents a Catholic worldview.

While confusion abounds, one thing seems clear: both candidates share the same fundamental problem. They’ve built their proverbial houses on what St. John Paul II called “models of male domination”—systems of power based on a fallen, disordered prototype of “masculinity” that rejects the concept of “being a sincere gift of self” in the image of Christ and instead endorses ruling over others at any cost, using aggression and violence when “necessary.”

In reality, Saint John Paul II’s words regarding “models of male domination,” which the sainted pope penned just over twenty years ago in his encyclical letter The Gospel of Life, are nothing short of prophetic. That’s because his words are incarnated, albeit in different ways, in the platforms and lifestyles of both presidential candidates:

1) Donald Trump, an ultra-Alpha male with a lifelong creed of radical domination in the personal and economic spheres who has fully embraced unbridled capitalism and the shameless objectification of women, among other things denounced by John Paul II.

2) Hillary Clinton, an ultra-Alpha female with a lifelong creed of radical domination in the socio-political realm who has aggressively promoted socialist policies and the shameless objectification of unborn children, among other things decried by John Paul II.

If we personalize Saint John Paul II’s words in The Gospel of Life and address them to each of these candidates, they would say:

My dear Hillary,

In transforming a culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place in thought and action that is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination” …You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love… Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty, or health. This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect of women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.”  Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, par. 99

And to the Donald?

My dear Donald,

In a word, we can say that the cultural change which we are calling for demands from everyone the courage to adopt a new life-style, consisting in making practical choices – at the personal, family, social and international level – on the basis of a correct scale of values: the primacy of being over having, of the person over things. This renewed lifestyle involves a passing from indifference to concern for others, from rejection to acceptance of them. Other people are not rivals from whom we must defend ourselves, but brothers and sisters to be supported. They are to be loved for their own sakes, and they enrich us by their very presence. Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, par. 98

These words are eerily spot-on, are they not? That’s because what we are seeing today is the ripe fruit of the “culture of death” that John Paul II vigorously sought to evangelize during his long pontificate; a “culture of death” that has ramped up with such force and blatantcy that it leaves us practically speechless—and voteless—right now.

In my opinion, whomever we choose on November 8, we lose. We can expect no life-giving societal change from either candidate until each begins to understand that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, “exist mutually ‘one for the other’,” are created to love and be loved, and are called to be ruled by the supreme law of love. No other type of governance will do. And no other form of governance will give us the freedom, peace or protection we yearn for.

This article was previously published at Aleteia.

The Elephant In The Church

Dear Friends, The following reflection is not meant to be a judgment about anyone receiving communion. I am simply wondering what is lacking in our evangelization efforts, and how we can better communicate the love of Christ to Catholics. I would love to hear your views.

Blessings and Grace!






We need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that the way we present our Christian faith and treat other people has contributed to today’s problematic situation. We need a healthy dose of self-criticism.    Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitiae, par. 36

The entire time the discussion has ensued over divorced and remarried Catholics being admitted to Holy Communion, there have been two burning questions in my head that I’ve longed for someone to ask out loud: What percentage of all Catholics who present themselves for Communion are, objectively, in a state of grave sin? And why isn’t the Church’s leadership talking about this enormous problem, which is surely much more massive numerically than the amount of divorced and remarried people receiving Communion?

 Stated otherwise, how many Catholics who receive Communion are actively watching porn, practicing contraception, sleeping with and/or living with their boyfriends/girlfriends, having affairs, having abortions and living in a manner that is incompatible with the moral teachings of the Church? And why has so much attention been focused on the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics while the enormous elephant in the Church—the fact that statistics demonstrate that most Catholics do not follow the Church’s moral teachings—has been largely ignored? Furthermore, what’s at the root of this important problem?

I grew up Catholic in the 60’s and 70’s and was educated in Catholic schools from kindergarten through college. Like so many others of my generation, I learned little to nothing about Catholic teaching and ultimately graduated college as an agnostic—which, in retrospect, was slang for “a practicing pagan.” I had adopted the beliefs and lifestyle of the prevailing culture, much like we are seeing in the lives of so many Catholics today.

Indeed, there was a serious problem with catechesis, a problem that has undergone a major course correction thanks to the pontificates of St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. But the deeper issue was not that I’d failed to learn the teachings and rules of the Catholic Church. The real problem was that I had not met Jesus Christ and had no relationship with him. Personally encountering Christ was and is the crux of the Christian faith, and I believe this insight is what drives Pope Francis in his tireless summons for people to encounter the tender mercy and love of God.

It sounds sloganish, but how many Catholics have failed to embrace a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? How many Catholics have been sacramentalized without being evangelized, leaving them in a state of “cultural Catholicism” wherein they take comfort in the rituals and holidays of the Church without surrendering to the life-changing, soul-transforming power of the living God?

That was certainly my story, and it took being invited to an evangelical Christian church by an ex-Catholic for that to change. How grateful I remain for that blessed day when I was clearly challenged to welcome Jesus into my heart as the Lord of my life! My life has never been the same.

I wish my experience was unique, but I’ve seen this scenario play out in the lives of numerous baptized Catholics I’ve known, with a few, like me, eventually making our way back to the Catholic Church (usually due to a hunger for the Eucharist.) Many evangelical churches are filled with ex-Catholics who will tell you that they left the Catholic faith because they got “religion without relationship,” in other words, because they never came to an intimate, personal relationship with God as Catholics. This is nothing short of tragic.

I received a call not long ago from the head of the theology department at the Catholic college where I taught moral theology for seven years. “I asked some of the students which course they took at this school that changed their lives,” he shared. “A number of them said yours.” The reason? I introduced my students to the God of Jesus Christ; the God who loves us personally and passionately, the God reaches out to us with his great mercy, the God wants to have an intimate love relationship with each of us—the Lord who wishes to transform our very hearts and lives with his infinite, inestimable power.

In teaching the students about the moral life, I conveyed the message of St. John Paul II:

Following Christ is thus the essential and primordial foundation of Christian morality…this is not a matter only of disposing oneself to hear a teaching and obediently accepting a commandment. More radically, it involves holding fast to the very person of Jesus, partaking of his life and his destiny, sharing in his free and loving obedience to the will of the Father.     Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, par. 19.

Holding fast to the very person of Jesus.  This is the essence of the Christian faith, the foundational truth that must be communicated to Catholics today if we are to see the Church healed of the many moral issues it faces--the tip of the iceberg which is divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion.

Note: This article was previously published on Aleteia.

The Day I Kissed The Pope


We rose at the crack of dawn on a beautiful Rome morning to don our wedding attire and arrive early at St. Peter’s Square, just as we were instructed. To our surprise and delight, my husband, Mark, and I had been granted permission to have our marriage blessed by Pope Francis on the second attempt—after our first request for the “sposi novelli” blessing was turned down because we’d been “married too long.”

As the Vatican normally requires newlyweds to appear for the papal blessing within the first two months of marriage, an exception was made after we explained that Hurricane Isaac had swamped the interior of our Louisiana home with six inches of water, prompting the gutting of the house along with a yearlong delay in our honeymoon. That was only part of the crazy story of the miracle of our marriage, and the crazy miracle of having it blessed by the pope.

Never married before, Mark had lived abroad as a Catholic missionary for 27 years, with 23 of those spent headquartered in a community in Rome. After 25 years of marriage I’d been widowed for two years and, frankly, expected to remain single for the rest of my life. All of that changed when our paths converged in my parish adoration chapel, to which providence had led Mark upon his recent return to America.   We married a year and a half later, then traveled to Rome in 2013 for our first anniversary to tour Mark’s former stomping-grounds and see the newly elected pope--the man who would soon become, according to Gallup polls, “the most popular leader in the world.”  Needless to say, we were elated.

Mark and I had no idea what to expect that day, as the “sposi novelli” blessing is somewhat shrouded in mystery, lending to the intrigue and excitement of the event. Virtually no information is given to participants about what will take place, other than the instructions to arrive at 7:00 a.m. to gain entrance to a special section of seating for the noon Wednesday audience. That, plus the advice to bring snacks and water for a long day of waiting.

We sat for five hours in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in what, by noontime, was piping hot sun. Trying our best to stay fresh (and not drip sweat on our wedding attire), we sipped water and dabbed Kleenex on our damp faces as we gleefully shared wedding stories with the other newlyweds around us.

At long last, Pope Francis appeared in the popemobile and rode through the large crowd assembled in St. Peter’s Square before taking his place on the stage directly in front of us. After delivering an address in Italian about the Church being our Mother, which Mark kindly translated into my ear, the pope gave a general blessing to the thousands of attendees before making his way through the crowd, shaking hands with hundreds of the faithful over the next hour. It was now 1:30 p.m. and we still weren’t sure if we were going to meet the pope.When Vatican guards finally told us to line up in order, our hearts soared. Pope Francis came to the newlywed section and began greeting each of the hundred or so newly married couples in attendance, personally handing each person a blessed Rosary as a gift.

When our turn came, the pope extended his hand to shake mine as we walked up, and quite spontaneously, I leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. A wave of panic came over me as I immediately thought: I don’t think I was supposed to do that! But the pope was quite at ease, smiling warmly as he held my hands and looked me directly in the eyes. He then turned to Mark to carry on a ten-minute conversation with him in his native Spanish. (The pope does not speak English and it was quite a stretch for him to deliver so many addresses in English during his visit to America.)

Mark and I were amazed that Pope Francis was completely present to us the entire time we spoke, as though we were the only other people with him on the planet, as though he had nothing else in the world to do but stand in the hot sun in one of the busiest public squares on earth and ask about our lives.

“He is a pope who has introduced us to a new style. He has abandoned the rituals, the courtly formalities … and so, somehow, he is very striking. No? Some boys and girls say: ‘He seems like one of our relatives.’ What do they mean by this? That there is a closeness, a proximity. I feel welcomed exactly as one of my family welcomes me,” Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, Prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for Communications, said in an interview about his new book about Pope Francis entitled “Fidelity Is Change.”

I can tell you first hand that this is true. I kissed the pope, and it felt like I had kissed a beloved father. Moreover, the successor of St. Peter gazed into my eyes—looked into me, looked through me, looked at me with the penetrating eyes of Jesus Christ. I felt seen as I’ve rarely felt seen by another human being in my entire life, and I will never forget the experience. Surely it was that same look that drew people to Jesus.

“Please pray for me,” the pope said sincerely as he closed our conversation in broken English.

And I have, without fail, every day since. Just like I pray for my own father.

Note: This article was previously published on Aleteia.