The Silent Scream: Covington Catholics Are Wrong and Guilty, and So Are We All

When you live in religious community, if you are fortunate enough to actually be bound to the Rule of St. Benedict or the Rule of St. Albert, you get to experience a lovely exercise called “the Chapter of Faults,” and here’s how that goes:

The whole community gathers in the choir or the chapter room and all members sit facing each other. One by one, from the most senior member down to the newest postulant, each person kneels down and publicly accuses herself of whatever wrongdoing she has commited that week which has caused her to falter on the Road to Perfection in Christ. “On Monday, I saw that Sister Genevieve was having a hard time. I thought about bringing her a cup of tea and finishing the laundry for her, but I went to my bed to take a nap instead. I accuse myself of the faults of selfishness and sloth.” “Yesterday, I took a loaf of Sister Diana’s fresh bread from the refectory without permission and gave it to the Jewish family next door…because I wanted to get the hell out of the priory and I knew that Mrs. X would invite me in for tea. I accuse myself of the faults of theft and selfishness.” “Last night, after Matins, I bit my tongue instead of telling Sister Therese what I really thought about her direction, but in my mind I actively imagined punching her in the face and pushing her out of the window on the third floor landing. I accuse myself of hatred, violence and malice.” “This morning, I peeled the contact paper off a corner of the bathroom mirror so that I could see my reflection to pop a zit. I accuse myself of vanity and disobedience.”

You get the point, I’m sure. All of the admissions above are my own; things that I actually did and said in chapter when I was a candidate in a Benedictine community so many years ago in Pennsylvania. At the end of each admission, the accuser strikes her breast, asks for forgiveness, both from the person that they have slighted, and from the community as a whole. And, when they are finished, they remain kneeling to be accused by their sisters for faults that they have overlooked or omitted, for which they also accept responsibility, beg forgiveness and apologise for, making amends wherever possible and vowing to do better moving forward. It’s a centuries-old proven method for learning to be accountable for our thoughts and deeds, as well as for growing in the virtues of humility and love for our neighbours. It’s also a sound and gentle way of learning how to be honest about ourselves and our many failings.

Calling on this experience with the Chapter of Faults and Catholic Social Teaching, I’m going to lay down my own maternal mixed race heritage to present two sides of the prolife argument that have been completely ignored in the wake of this year’s March for Life in Washington DC, and why I, as a Catholic woman with close ties to and deep love for the First Nations in the United States, firmly believe that ALL of the boys from the Covington Catholic Boys School were wrong for their behaviour during this event, why they ALL need to sincerely, explicitly apologise without excuses for their actions and attitudes, and the sorrow and conflict that their bad behaviour has caused, make amends for the fallout their arrogance has wrought, and why faithful Catholics need to stop defending these kids as victims…because they are NOT victims. Nor are they acting like “faithfully practising Catholics.”

The Indigenous People’s Movement has grown out of the American Indian Movement of the 1970s in the United States in an effort for hundreds of various tribes, bands and nations to come together as one unified body and give voice to the concerns of marginalized people in crisis who otherwise have no voice. Most recently, the IPM has notably given voice to the land treaties between the sovereign Nations in North America and the Federal government, that have been violated across the U.S., taking sovereign tribal reservation lands by imminent domain for the petroleum and non-metallic mining industries and giving the rights to these lands to international corporations for industrial use with absolutely no regard for the people – mostly women, children and elderly – who live there, and whose families have lived and died on these same lands for generations. The IPM has also been the leading voice in publicising a growing humanitarian crisis in the United States and Canada, in which more than 6,000 girls and women from many tribes have disappeared in the past few years without a trace; a few have been found dead, their bodies mutilated and desecrated, and most are feared to be raped, murdered and/or abducted into the sex slave industry which has corporate ties in most major cities around the world. Let’s be clear: these are women and girls, real, living flesh-and-blood human beings with families who love them, miss them and fear for their welfare, all daughters of GOD, all made in His image and likeness. Their disappearances have collectively grown into a silent holocaust that has been roundly ignored by law enforcement, swept under the carpet by the media, and brushed off as nothing to write home about by society at large. What’s worse is that, as a Catholic, these are my sisters, and I feel deep pain at not being able to help them. As a Christian, it is my duty to honour these girls and women as daughters of our Heavenly Father, each of them born into this world posessed of infinite worth, sacred creations of my Lord and GOD. I’m responsible for them; if I say that I am not, then I am no better than Cain.

According the Catholic Doctrine, all life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death. To be sacred means that a thing belongs to GOD and must be revered as such; a sacred thing is holy. “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus….” How many times do we kneel before the Altar at these words without truly comprehending their weight and meaning? The lives of these thousands of missing women are holy. Just as holy, just as sacred, just as fragile, hidden and unknown to us as the lives of the unborn.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Indigenous People’s Movement applied for and got a legal permit from the governmental powers that be in Washington DC to assemble from 8am to 4pm on 18 January 2019 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where they held a peaceful march and rally in conjunction with the National March for Life which held its own march and rally three miles away on the steps of the Capitol. Three miles away. Remember that, because it’s important.

I have heard from dozens of professed Catholics I know who attended the March for Life last week that “we didn’t know that anyone else would be there.” That’s not an excuse. Over one million people live and work in Washington DC on any given day, and this was a workday in our nation’s capital. Are you really that myopic that you can believe that the whole place just shuts down because 500,000 mostly Catholic and Evangelical Republicans show up? Does it really occur to no one to look at the OMB website to see what other groups are scheduled to be in town other than the Roe v. Wade protest committee? Just how thoughtless and arrogant can you be to think that you are the only people who are given a permit to hold a rally in the governmental epicenter of a nation of nearly 400 million souls? Whatever. It doesn’t wash. But whilst y’all right-wing Catholic saints were down there at the capitol listening to a white Jewish conservative gay dude with a hunka-hunka-burnin’-love black husband talk about the evils of abortion, believing that doing so makes you so freaking progressively inclusive and nonjudgmental (the irony here is not lost on those looking in from the outside), three miles away there was another prolife group representing some 200 Nations, 70 cities, those more than 6,000 (that’s six thousand – more than twice the population of the town I grew up in) girls, women and their grieving families, all saying in unison WE ARE HERE, TOO. WE ARE LIFE. WE ARE YOUR FAMILY. WE NEED PROTECTION. They stood on the steps of the memorial of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican man who signed executive orders that allowed the slaughter of thousands of their people during his time in office, including the largest mass execution in American history, and they peacefully mourned the present-day illicit encroachment of their lands, the ongoing assaults on their heritage, and the unacknowledged disappearances of their daughters, mothers, sisters, cousins, children and friends. So peacefully did they assemble, in fact, that y’all didn’t even notice they were there…until….

From the videos I’ve seen, it looks as though there were around 20 big, rowdy, rude, jeering teenagers who showed up at the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the IPM rally, and they definitely weren’t there in support of anything good. These kids claim that they were chaperoned by adults; if this is true, their chaperones were doing a really shitty job of it. But I’ve looked for signs of any adult in this mob of privileged, well-heeled white boys from wealthy families, and I can find none. Nor would I have ever guessed that they represented a Catholic boys school (and, therefore, the Church), if their own friends hadn’t outed them. What I have seen over and over again in two hours of footage is a group of callous assholes, not a single one of them carrying a prolife placard or sign demonstrating that they represented ANYTHING but a bullshit pro-Trump campaign slogan. You know??? The guy who, right up until he switched parties so that he could run for president, was an unabashed supporter of Planned Parenthood and abortion rights. The guy with ZERO military or foreign policy experience who is now our bumbling CiC? The guy who has an agenda that includes making beautiful public lands available to corporations for pillaging GOD knows what for the next century, and who has indicated that the same should be on the table for all reservation lands, too. Yeah. That guy.

When the rest of the world looks at these videos with an objective eye, what they see is not a group of cherubic innocent choir boys from a Catholic school. What they see is a rude gang of privileged bullies advertizing their support for a lying, womanizing, knuckle-dragging sociopathic thug who joined the Republican party to buy an election right after he sold off his string of strip clubs in the casinos that he built and repeatedly bankrupted, living the American dream getting rich off of LLC loopholes and his daddy’s pile of ill-got cash. When the rest of the world looks at the three minute standoff between poor, sweet Nicholas Sandmann and Omaha Nation’s elder Nathan Phillips, they don’t see an altar boy innocently standing on the steps of a presidential memorial; the rest of the world sees an entitled, smug, snide brat backed up by a gang of big, loud, abusive Trumpslugs deliberately blocking the path of a frail old man singing the American Indian Movement anthem of peace, strength and solidarity for all people as one, whilst he is mocked and ridiculed by this same mob of knuckle-draggers. And they see these things in the context of what really happened: these snot-nosed city white kids crashed the back end of an IPM rally and did exactly what snot-nosed city white kids from privileged backgrounds do, they acted like narcissistic bullies with all the social graces of a rabid pack of hyenas.

These kids did not act like Catholics. They are not victims. And any Catholic who treats them like victims is lying about their discipleship to Christ and His universal Church. These kids are not Kentucky hicks from the backwoods of Appalachia; Covington is a cosmopolitan suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, right across the river, connected by multiple bridges. Covington boasts big, posh gated communities beyond it’s seedy downtown area, populated by wealthy professionals living in luxury brick McMansions, and it’s very own private, gated hospital that sits atop a picturesque wooded hill at the end of a winding private road (I know, I’ve been there). By all accounts, these boys are the spawn of parents who all have high profile careers which have allowed them to hire security firms, prestigious law firms and public relations people to shelter their rotten kids and make them into what they are not. And what they are not is Catholic…or innocent.

Just because you are baptized in the Catholic Church, that doesn’t make you a disciple of Jesus Christ crucified. Just because you attend a Catholic high school, that doesn’t make you a good person, anymore than jumping through hoops and getting good grades makes you wise or intelligent. Just because you attend Mass and receive Communion, that doesn’t make you worthy, nor does it automatically put you in a state of grace. Actually, according to St. Paul, unworthy reception of the Sacrament makes you guilty for the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. And, demonstrably, these boys are no more Catholic than I’m a hot supetmodel and Donald Trump is a real Republican. Even Jeffrey Daumer made a point to remind us that he was a shy, quiet Catholic boy from a good family; that didn’t negate the fact that he was a cannabilistic serial killer. I call bullshit. Unless….

Let’s leave aside the nasty, direspectful display of a mob of teenagers towards an old man that would, under Mosaic Law, earn them a public stoning. The most important thing that has been lost in this circus of media monkeys is that what these allegedly “Catholic” boys are most guilty of is stamping out the voices of 6,000 missing women and their respective families, and shutting them out of the public debate regarding the right to life. By making a public spectacle of themselves, arrogantly “standing [their] ground,” and grooming the media to rake in attention for their future careers as high profile professional assholes just like their not-so-saintly “Catholic” parents, they have done precisely what the Indigenous People’s Movement has been working so hard to combat: they have very effectively, efficiently silenced the very least of our brothers and sisters in their distress and violated Christ’s own gospel mandate in the process. They have, in point of fact, stamped out the cries of innocent blood, calling out from the grave for vengeance against the oppressors. They have used this moment for personal gain and gagged the screams of fear, despair and mourning that sought notice and response in the public square.

Actions have consequences, and these boys are fighting against their own just reward. This is an opportunity for a national Chapter of Faults amongst faithful Catholics who are truly prolife disciples. We are guilty. We are all guilty if we stand idly by whilst the blood of our sisters is spilled and left unacknowledged. We cannot be prolife and ignore the plight of those already here who have no voice to speak. We cannot be taken seriously about abortion if we will not stand up and defend girls and women already born. We are all guilty if we ignore these women, their families and their communities in their distress. They are the real victims in this mess. Don’t turn your backs.

My friend is right. I don’t care about anyone but who I care about. Which means I care about everyone, because that’s what the Gospel says I have to care about. Politics or no, I am my brother’s keeper. The Covington kids were wrong, they need to be held accountable, and they need to make amends, then shut up and go away. And I am wrong for not standing up sooner to say this:


Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Maamwi g’da maashkozimi, Kase eeheho!

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