Thursday, July 18, 2019

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Church Has Empowered Women

A nice summary of the argument -

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd took the occasion of his triumphant visits to Cuba and the United States to refer to His Holiness as “the perfect 19th-century pope”, largely because he seems disinterested in creating female priests.

Holiness as “the perfect 19th-century pope”, largely because he seems disinterested in creating female priests.

In her piece, Dowd’s assertions often lack context and the column itself is not particularly interesting, but it was a welcome one, nevertheless, because it allows us to consider how the Catholic Church, more than any other institutional body in history, has uplifted women and encouraged them to live to their highest potential.

Yes, a very sound argument can be made that the Catholic Church has been the means of freeing women, and not – as many unthinkingly charge – the means of their oppression. Prior to perhaps the last 150 years, the great majority of educated and accomplished women were Catholic female religious, who conceived completely original ideas and ran with them.

Think of Elizabeth Bayley Seton, a widow with 5 children, cut off from her own family’s fortune due to her conversion, conceiving of what we have come to think of as Catholic elementary education, and essentially inventing a means for the children of the poor and the marginalized to become educated and competitive in the “new world.”

Think of Teresa of Avila, who not only reformed a corrupted religious order, but then went on to build 16 monasteries, both for men and women, while often in paralyzing pain. Oh, and she wrote a few books that are considered classics of theology, and is now a Doctor of the Church. Not bad for a woman who had spent her youth reading romance novels.

Think of Henriette DeLille, the daughter of freed slaves, and Katharine Drexel, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, both founding individual orders of women who spent their time and energy building schools and hospitals for Native Americans and African Americans in the deep south.
Think of Catherine of Siena, counselor to both popes and royalty, dictating her letters to two scribes at a time. Another Doctor of the Church. Interestingly Catherine was almost entirely uneducated and “unaccomplished” by worldly standards, but the church – hardly an elitist institution – calls her “Doctor” just as it does Saint Hildegard of Bingen, an intellectual giant of music, science, medicine, letters and theology. Just as it does Saint Therese of Lisieux, who entered a Carmel at age 15 and never left it, but whose influence has traveled far.

Oh, and let’s not forget Joan of Arc, a female warrior who led men into battle. Self-actualization, anyone? Sure, the men in the church let her down. But we don’t remember them, or call them “saints”, do we?

The fact is, for all of the talk about how oppressive the church has been for women, there has been no other institution in history which has given women such free reign to create, explore, discover, serve, manage, build, expand, usually with very little help from the coffers of the diocese in which they worked, and largely without intrusion on the part of the male hierarchy.

Rose Hawthorne, daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne, founded the Hawthorne Dominicans, an order of nuns who take care of cancer patients – free of charge – and who subsist entirely on donations. An American woman named Vera Duss received her medical degree from the Sorbonne and, less than a week later entered a Benedictine abbey in Paris, where she hid and treated Jews who were being hunted by Nazis. After Patton liberated Paris, Mother Benedicta Duss felt called to return to America, and establish a Benedictine abbey in Connecticut where, ironically, Patton’s granddaughter is a member of the community.

Almost from its inception, the church has been a force and fomenter of feminine self-actualization. One is hard-pressed to name a single institution on the planet, other than the Catholic Church, which would have allowed women to simply run with their heads, be who they were born to be, and accomplish great things.

The church has fostered literally thousands of great, great women, whose accomplishments are unjustly overlooked because they were done in a habit and a wimple. Compare them with the “empowered” women of today – women often trapped in their own bitter vortex of unmet expectations, or trained to find “microaggressions” all around them – and the contrast could not be more stark.

Have modern women truly been more inventive, more socially conscious than the Catholic women who essentially invented social service programs through the church, long before governments knew what to do with the orphans and illiterate children of the poor, or how to treat and nurture the sick? It’s doubtful. Are modern women any more free than the religious women who have built and served the churches? Sadly, no, because in our secularist society, women’s creativity follows not the course of God, but whatever has already succeeded for men. Their sense of success is measured not by their service to others, and to heaven, but by the false – and masculine – worldly measures.

Whatever Dowd thinks of Pope Francis, it is worth remembering that it was the Catholic church, before anything else, which looked at the women who surrounded the most Important Being delivered upon the earth and saw them as women-in-full, worthy of honor and exclamation and respect. While Sarah and Rebecca and Esther and Ruth had their roles, and were honored, that respect – that willingness to look at women as more than footnotes but as persons essential to the whole great pageant of salvation – that began with Mary; the woman called by the Catholic Church the greatest of all saints, and the greatest of God’s creation.

Elizabeth Scalia is Editor-in-Chief of the English edition of Aleteia

And here are a series of posts on Empowering Women in the Church from Haley Stewart, starting with one on Mary.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein is a symptom

The other night while flipping the dials we came across Stripes. I hadn't watched any of that movie in years. To be honest, I'd only seen excerpts of it before.

The two main characters went into an Army recruiting office, where they had this exchange:

Russell Ziskey: You could join a monastery.
John Winger: Did you ever see a monk get wildly f****d by some teenage girls?
Russell Ziskey: Never.
John Winger: So much for the monastery.

Immediately I thought of Jeffrey Epstein and the accusations of sex with underage girls.

Then I recalled another movie from around the same time period at Stripes, Animal House.

In that movie, one of the youngest members of the fraternity was apparently about to have sex with the daughter of the mayor, and the following exchanged took place:

Pinto: Before we go any further, there's something I have to tell you. I lied to you. I've never done this before.
Clorette De Pasto: You've never made out with a girl before?
Pinto: No. No, I mean, I've never done what I think we're gonna do. I sort of did once, but I was...
Clorette De Pasto: That's okay, Larry. Neither have I. And besides, I lied to you, too.
Pinto: Oh, yeah? What about?
Clorette De Pasto: I'm only 13.

Later, she perkily introduced Pinto to her parents

Clorette De Pasto: Dad! Mom, Dad, this is Larry Kroger. The boy who molested me last month. We have to get married.

In both movies the idea of sex with underage girls is a laughing matter. Yes, people can argue that the movies were just comedies, but comedies reflect the culture of the writers/directors/performers, and they influence the broader culture. Comedies take things that might be considered taboo, then, by presenting those things again and again with laughter, they normalize what was taboo and make those things seem more acceptable.

What Jeffrey Epstein allegedly did is wrong, but it is also a symptom of that normalization of what had been taboo. People are rightly reacting strongly now, but what he was doing was basically allowed to slide for decades.

Jeffrey Epstein is a symptom of what's happening in our culture.

Think of other things that were once thought of as wrong by the culture as a whole, but through film and television - comedy and drama - and songs have come to be "normalized." Sex outside of marriage. Cohabitation. Homosexual acts. And more.

One of the songs of my youth, for example, was Crosby Stills and Nash suggesting "if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." No direct mention of casual sex, but the message was clear.

Think of the effects on our children as they watch and listen to this sort of fare. The lessons they learn is that these things are perfectly fine. And they evil one knows that. Notice lately some of the things that are creeping into even children's cartoons? Children's books? School curriculums? A steady diet of that helps to form their thinking and their morality. And in a culture where faith and church-going play smaller and smaller roles, these secular influences are often all that young people know.

The song from South Pacific, "You've got to be carefully taught," its true of more than prejudice.

Again. the arts don't MAKE us do these things, but they do help to break down our resistance.

So the alleged crimes of Epstein, can trace their roots to films like the two I mentioned, and, of course, to their fellow movies and television shows and songs.

There's plenty of guilt to go around.

But, of course, according to the morality of those movies, shows, and songs, guilt is just an out-of-date and laughable concept anyway.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Swedenborg - Chapter 13


     “… And so,” Staples continued, ”during the fourteenth century allegory was the guiding concept for thought and writing. Just as events in the Old Testament were seen to pre-figure events in the New Testament, so, too, everything in nature was seen to have an allegorical meaning in terms of Christian beliefs. We must keep this in mind when reading even histories of the period.”

     Staple’s “introductory remarks” had lasted close to 45 minutes. Some 15 students sat in a small classroom in this first session of Staples’ course focusing on the late Middle Ages in England and France. Frank had scribbled a few notes, but much of the material he was already familiar with, having read Staple’s writings.

     Instead of writing, he had spent part of the time lost in the sound of the professor’s voice - a knowing baritone with just a trace of British boredom.

     Staples had obviously delivered this lecture many times before.

     Frank was not particularly interested in the subject - he hoped to focus on American, not European history, for his degree – but the opportunity to take a course from one of the world’s most famous historians was one he did not want to miss.

     Besides, he thought, the man looks sick. This might be my only chance.

     A portly, dark-haired student raised his hand. Staples nodded.

     “How are you defining allegory?” the student asked. “Does historical allegory, if I may call it that, correspond to the literary device of that name?”

     “Ah, yes,” Staples began, nodding. “It comes from the same source.

     “Allegory is a mode of thought. It is a way to represent in images what is essentially not material in nature. In a sense, to the allegorical imagination, the material, visible world copies the invisible, immaterial world.

     “In literature, bright sunlight might convey a sense of goodness, of joy. In histories, the arrival of the leader might coincide with the sun bursting through the clouds. When reading a history written in this mode, we must keep in mind that that detail about the sun is likely a fabrication.”

     He paused, then added, “And I see by the sun that it is time for break. Be back in half an hour.”

     He snapped his notebook shut before any of the students could move.

     “He’s a creep,” one student said.

     “Nah,” another replied. “Just one of those British types.”

     Whatever he was, Frank was certain of one thing: He had never had a professor who so obviously knew so much about so many things.

     He joined the rush of students to the commons. He bought a coffee and sat with a couple of other students, including the portly student who’d asked the last question.

     “Might as well get to know each other,” a young, slender, blond-haired man began. “Bohden Dadlez. People call me Stas.”

“Irish, eh?” Frank said. “Frank McCarthy.”

“Did you say `Stash?’” the portly student asked. “By the way, I’m Joe Paolotto.”

“Stas – as in Stawsh,” Stas said. “It’s a nickname. Easier to say than ‘Bohden.’ Wish they’d let you smoke here.”

“Political correctness,” Joe said.

“So why are you guys in the class?” Frank asked.

“Need it for my doctorate,” Stas said. “When I heard Staples was teaching this summer, I figured I’d better take him before he dies.”

“Dies?” Frank asked.

“Cancer,” Joe said. “They said he only has a year or so.”

“I’ve read some of his stuff,” Frank said. “I didn’t know he was sick.”

“I’ve read everything he’s written that I could get my hands on,” Joe said.

“A true believer,” Stas snorted.

“Why not? He’s got good things to say.”

“When it comes to straight history, yeah,” Stas retorted. “But all that faith and culture war stuff – crock.”

Joe looked like he was about to argue. Frank, used to interveing in family fights, jumped in.

“I’m just trying to get my master’s for certification. I’m a high school history teacher.”

Stas gave him a look of disdain.

“Tough program for a `high school history teacher,’” he said.

           “It was near, and I have a friend here,” Frank began.

           “Ooo, male bonding already.”

           All three turned to see Liza standing there.

          “Hey Liza,” Frank said. “This is Joe and Stas.”

          “Hello Joe and Stas,” Liza said with a slight smile. “Be nice to Frank, boys.”

          At that moment, Staples entered the room, crossing to the hall to where the class was. Liza spotted him.

          “You poor babies with Staples?” Liza said, her voice flat.

“Medieval history,” Frank said.

“That’s where he belongs,” she said with an edge of anger.

Then she smiled. “I have my own babies waiting for me in class. See you Friday, she said to Frank.”

She left.

“Nice `friend,’” Stas said.

“I just met her,” Frank explained.

“Available,” Stas said, rubbing his hands.

“We’d better get back to class,” Joe said. “She seemed not to like the professor.”

“Yeah, I don’t know why.”

“He’s a widower,” Stas said. “Maybe he had the hots for her and she turned him down.”

They shuffled into the classroom.

Staples quickly looked at Frank, Stas and Joe.

“Allegory,” he began. “That’s where we left off.”

And that is where he began. The lecture wandered on, eventually veering into actual history. Frank kept a few notes, but much of the material was still review. Finally, the class ended, with Staples passing out a list of readings for each day.

Frank groaned inwardly. 200 pages by the next day.

He hurried out of the room, wondering if he could find a quiet corner in the library to start reading. Then he realized he’d left his bag of books in the room.

He returned. Staples was sitting in a chair, breathing with some difficulty.

“Professor?” Frank said rushing to his side.

Staples waved his hand.

“Just need a breath,” he said, somewhat hoarsely. “I’ll be fine. Thank you.”

“Let me carry you bag back to your office,” Frank offered.

“No, no …,” Staples began. Then he nodded.

They walked down the hall slowly, passing through the commons, then into the office hall. Professor Staples’ office was open. Staples heavily sat in his chair. Frank put the bag on top of the desk.

“Thank you, Mr. …” Staples said.

“McMann, Frank.”

“Thank you, Frank. I hadn’t talked that much in a while. Took my breath.”

“If we all do our reading tonight we can do some of the talking tomorrow,” Frank said, smiling.

“Yes. Was that Ms. Lotechewski I saw you with during the break?”

“Yeah, you know her?”

“We’ve met. Interesting woman. A friend?”

“More of a friend of a friend. Jack Plantir. On the radio.”

“Rarely listen,” Staples said, taking out a handkerchief and blowing his nose. “Ahem. She has some interesting ideas. You might want to be careful not to be influenced.”

 Frank gave him a puzzled look, but Staples did not explain. He coughed.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Frank said. “See you tomorrow.”

Then he added with a smile, “For some reason, I have a lot of reading to do tonight.”

He left the office and went out into the commons. Joe approached  him.

“Was that you with the professor,” Joe said.

“Yeah, he seemed sick, so I helped him back to his office.”

“Too bad. He’s real sick. Only a year or two to live, maybe.”

“Yeah, too bad. Hey, what was all that stuff about Staples Stas was talking about?”

“You don’t know about Staples? He’s a real big in religious circles, fighting against all sorts of things. He’s written as many books about culture and morals as he has histories.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“I’ve got them all, if you’d like to borrow some.”

“Thanks. Maybe if he didn’t assign so much history I could start tonight.”

Joe smiled in a hopeful way.

Frank turned and remembered Stas’ comment. A true believer.

Well, don’t try to convert me.

Pax et bonum

Friday, July 12, 2019

Swedenborg - Chapter 12


     The traffic came to a halt. Puzzled, he looked ahead.

     Police cars.

     His heart raced. He quickly looked around the front seat.

     No sign of blood.

     He felt under the seat for the knife.

     No, he’d left it at the apartment.

     An officer was walking from car to car. He came to his car, leaning down to his window.

     “The road’s blocked up ahead,” the officer said. “We’ll be turning cars around in a minute. Just follow directions.”

     The officer moved on to the next car.

     An ambulance roared by heading to wherever the problem was.

     An accident maybe. But not with that many cops. Then he remembered the women’s clinic. Always problems there.

     He always turned down a side street before the clinic anyway.

     The air was – too full there. It always made him feel worse.

     Sweat was trickling down into his eye. He rubbed it, swiped his forehead, and then dried his hand on his pants.

     He felt hungry.

     No. Not now. 

     He began to cry. He quickly looked around to see if anyone noticed.

     He clutched the steering wheel. Unconsciously he began to tap with his fingers and hum.

     What was that tune.

     Words flooded his mind.

    Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment, chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.

    He shook his head violently.


    At that moment, the officer tapped the back of his car.

    He looked. The cars behind him had begun to back up, turning around in a parking lot. He followed their lead, nodding at the officer as he passed him.

    A few minutes later, he was on a different route to work. He was still sweating.

   And he was hungry.

   J’ai faim.



Pax et bonum

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Swedenborg - Chapter 11



     She sat up in bed, swatting blindly at the air.

     Go away!

     But the sounds were still there. The crying. The babies.

     Joanne Davids-Coulter looked at the clock by the side of the bed. 6 a.m. She’d gotten, what, three hours. A typical night. She turned on the radio. Loud. It was the only way to drown out the crying sounds.

     Even in the night. She used to sleep with headphones on and ocean sounds playing. That had helped for a time. But she’d had to keep playing it louder and louder. Bill – was that his name? – the last guy she’d dated, had grown so annoyed one night with the noise and the nightmares that he got out of the bed and left her house. He never came back.

     Typical man, she’d rationalized.

     But soon even the sleep tapes couldn’t help.

     She went into the bathroom and turned on the radio there. The face in the mirror looked haggard. Black circles ringed her bloodshot eyes.    

     Make-up time.

     Ten minutes later, face restored, she went into the kitchen and turned on the radio. She popped a bagel into the toaster oven, then opened the fridge to get some orange juice.


     She slammed the door shut and turned fiercely.

     “Who is doing this?” she snarled.

     No one answered. But she heard crying.

     She turned up the radio.

     The toaster popped. She took out the bagel, coated it with cream cheese, sat at the table.

     She rubbed the wooden surface. David had bought it as a gift for her. He’d spent days stripping away the old paint, revealing the maple beneath, and then stained it. How proud he’d been giving it to her for their fifth anniversary.

     It was all she had left of him, now. That, and the name hyphenated to her own. Friends had suggested she go back to just her own name. But for some reason even she did not understand, she kept the name.

     She wondered if he’d have any advice if she called. He always seemed to have answers. Even if they were sometimes wrong.

     Especially when he was wrong.

     She remembered their last fight. It was a stupid one, really.

     They’d been at a party. He’d been slightly drunk, an increasingly frequent state late in their marriage, and was pontificating in a history discussion when the burning of the White House by the British during the War of 1812 came up.

     “So when they burned it in 1812 …” he’d begun.

     “1814,” she’d corrected.


     “It was the War of 1812, but they burned it in 1814,” she’d said.

     “Whatever,” he’d replied gruffly.

     “Just wanted to make sure your facts were straight,” she’d said sweetly. “Wouldn’t want you to look foolish.”

     She never understood why she’d said it. But they’d become caught up in some sort of a perverse game those last months. He, the all-knowing prosecutor. She, the all-seeing feminist social worker. He’d hated to be corrected in public, especially when she did it in front of her women friends. With their knowing smirks. Like at that party.

     That night when they’d got home he’d said nothing. He’d gone to bed before she did, and rose before her. When she’d gotten up, he was gone, along with several suitcases filled with his clothes.

     She rubbed the table. It squeaked.


     “Dammit,” she spat, throwing the bagel across the room.

     The crying seemed to grow louder.

     She turned up the radio, tossed the uneaten bagel out, and wiped the cream cheese from the wall where the bagel had struck.

     She wanted a smoke. Strange. She’d had little desire since she’d quit 20 years before. But lately the desire had resurfaced.

     Just one, a voice said. That’s all.

     She went into the bathroom again, turned up the radio, stripped and got into the shower.

     The water poured down over her body. She rubbed herself with her hands, feeling the smoothness. She looked down, watching the water trickle over her breasts.

     “Feed me, mommy.”

     “Shut up!” she screamed.

     The crying seemed to pour down from the shower head.

     She shut off the water, stepped out and dried herself hurriedly, and rushed into her bedroom. Tossing aside the towel, she threw on some clothes. Then she glanced in the mirror. The makeup she’d put on earlier was streaked down she face.

     “Dammit,” she snarled. She went back into the bathroom, scrubbed her face harshly. It looked back at her red and raw.

     As if she’d been crying.

     “Good enough,’ she barked.

     As she left the house, she heard the radios still blaring inside. They can stay on, she thought. They don’t do any good anyway.

     The car radio blasted to life as soon as she started the motor. She turned it to maximum, and searched for a station playing rock. Then she backed out into the street. Her tires squealed as she pulled away.

     A neighbor walking his dog looked at her.

     That’s right, she thought. I’m disturbing the peace.

     On an impulse, she rolled down her window to let the booming music pour out into the still waking suburban streets.

      “Take that,” she yelled. Then self-consciously she realized that she had indeed said it, not just thought it. She rolled the window back up.

      The announcer came on.

      Shut up, she thought. Stop talking.

      She flipped channels, searching for music. She was so intent on her search that she nearly hit a car stopped at the corner. The man behind the wheel poked his head out the window.

      “Watch where you’re going, bitch.”

      He sped away.

      Typical man, she thought. Always running away.

      She pulled into a convenience store two blocks away. She walked in.

      “Cigarettes,” she demanded.

      “What kind?” the woman at the counter asked.

      Kind? She looked at the display on the wall behind the counter. Names she didn’t recognized. Varied sizes. She searched rapidly, and spotted a familiar brand.

      “Those,” she pointed. “Regular size.”

      A moment later in the safety of the car, the radio blasting, she lit up and took a drag.

      She coughed furiously.

      The memory of her first cigarette flooded her mind.

      She’d been 13, sitting on the porch with her step father. He was smoking, looking at her occasionally.

     “Like to try?” he asked, holding out his cigarette.

     She took it, looking at him to make sure it was all right. He smiled.

     She took a tentative puff.

     “No,” he said. “You have to draw it in.”

     She breathed in, the smoke pouring into her lungs, and erupted into a coughing fit. He laughed and put his hand on her back, rubbing.

     “It gets easier the more you do it.”

     It had become a ritual. On evenings when her mother had to work late, they’d sit on the porch, at first sharing his cigarettes, then each smoking their own.

     “We won’t tell your mother,” he’d promised. “It’s our secret.”

     A few months later he’d come into her room one night when her mother had to work overtime at the factory.

     A new ritual.

     Another secret.

     And when she was 14, it was he who’d taken her to the abortion clinic. They had sat in the car after. Smoking.

     Joanne finished the cigarette. She rolled the window down to throw the butt away and to let the smoke escape.

     God, she thought, I hope I don’t smell.

     Before she’d driven another few blocks, the desire returned.

     Just one more. Just one.

     She lit another, telling herself she’d throw the rest of the pack away.

     At a light, the announcer came on. She flipped channels looking for music. But at every station, an announcer or a commercial.

     Stop talking, she thought.

     A cry. A long, slow wail.

     She looked in the back seat, knowing she’d see nothing.

     She hit button after button on the radio. Finally, music.

     The light changed, and she realized she’d tuned to a Christian station.

     “Listen to the voice of the Lord …”

     She furiously hit another button. A country station. A singer with honkey-tonkin’ on his mind.

     As she approached the Women’s Health Center, she saw the too familiar gathering of protesters out front. The Catholics with their rosaries. The Protestants with their signs. The leafletters approaching any woman who neared the center. And the Reverend Wes Norman.

     Hate welled up in her. Reverend Norman had been leading protests at the center since long before she had become the director. Three days a week.

     But what made it even more galling was that a part of her admired him. His church ran a food pantry, a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, and a shelter for battered women. He had taken pregnant teens into his own home, he and his wife treating them like their own daughters. Some of those girls were now regular picketers.

     Reverend Norman saw her approaching. He smiled broadly, mouthing something she couldn’t hear because of the radio.

     She suddenly realized she still had the cigarette in her mouth. She stubbed it out, steeled herself, and drove past the picketers. Several of them called out as she passed, their words drowned by a woman on the radio singing about a man who’d gone away.

    She parked in the director’s spot and looked at the protesters. None of them looked violent, but she made sure the pistol was in her purse anyway. It was.

     She got out of the car. Now she could hear them.

    “Don’t kill babies today,” one woman pleaded.

    “Turn to the Lord,” another said.

    “The door’s always open,” a familiar voice said.

     She turned sharply. Reverend Norman waved.

     “Come by for coffee,” he called, making sure he stayed beyond the court-mandated buffer zone. “We can talk.”

     Damn your talk, she thought. She hurried to the door. The security guard opened it.

     “Can’t you do something about them?” she demanded.

     “Sorry, ma’am,” he replied. “As long as they don’t trespass, there’s nothing I can do.”

     “Nothing. That’s all anyone ever does to shut them up.”

     She looked at his name tag. Raphael Torres. Why did that sound familiar? Then she remembered.

     “I’m … I’m sorry about your girlfriend, Rafe,” she said, trying to sound sincere. “It was horrible. Are you sure you’re up to being here?”

     “It’s better than being home.”

     “I understand,” she replied. “I …”

     Suddenly a woman yelled, “What about the babies?”

     “Keep them away,” Joanne snapped. “That’s what I pay you for.”

     She hurried past the waiting room and staff. She ignored their greetings. Her secretary rose to speak, but Joanne waived her away and slammed her office door.

     She looked around. Panicked, she opened her door.

     “Carol,” she barked. “Where’s my radio.”

     “Don’t you remember,” Carol stammered. “It’s out being fixed. The speakers …”

     “Get me another,” she snarled and closed her door.

     Try another cigarette, the voice in her head said. She reached into her purse. Her fingers found the gun.

     Scare them, the voice said. Just scare them away.

     She closed the purse quickly and sat with her hands knotted on the desk.

     The sound of the crying grew.

     She put her head in her hands.

     Dozens of babies.

     She picked up the phone, punched in Carol’s extension.

     “Yes?” Carol answered.

     “Where’s that radio?”

     “We’re looking,” Carol replied.

     Joanne hung up.

     She looked at the purse.

     Go ahead, the voice said. Just one. Just a little smoke.

     A child who sounded in pain cried out.

     “Stop!” she screamed, grabbing the purse.

     Carol burst into the room. “Are you all right?”

     “Stop talking!” Joanne said.

     “I … I’m sorry,” Carol blurted. “I just …”

     “Shut up!” Joanne roared, pulling out the gun and firing.

     Carol staggered back, blood blossoming on her blouse near her left shoulder. She fell to the floor to the left of the door.

     There were screams outside her door.

     “Quiet,” Joanne screeched, rushing past the fallen Carol into the outer office. One worker looked at her.

      “There’s shooting,” the worker sobbed. “The antiabortionists …”

      “Stop crying,” Joanne shrieked and shot.

      The bullet missed high. The woman wailed and ran into the hall.

      Joanne followed. Panicked staff members looked at her, eyes wide with terror. The air was full screams and whimpers.

      “Stop that crying,” Joanne screeched.

      One keening woman fled out the front door. Joanne raced after her.

      The woman ran across the parking lot. The picketers were staring open mouthed. Joanne saw the Reverend Norman.

       “Leave me alone,” she howled.

       She fired. The bullet stuck a woman standing near the minister.

       “Typical man,” Joanne rasped. “Let the woman suffer.”

       She ran toward him and fired again. He staggered back and fell to one knee.

       Rafe, who had been sent to get a radio, had rushed to the door when he’d heard the shooting. He burst out gun in hand expecting to find a gun-wielding anti-abortion fanatic. What he saw was Joanne shooting at the kneeling minister. The bullet missed low, ricocheting off the pavement and striking a man in the legs. The man screamed and fell.

     Rafe scanned the fleeing crowd.

     Where’s the shooter. The boss must be acting in self-defense.

     “Where?” he called out to Joanne.

     She wheeled.

     “Quiet,” she roared, and fired at him.

     The bullet struck the glass door. Shards sprayed Rafe.

     Confused, he ducking behind a car.

     She turned and faced the minister. He looked at her and held out his hand.

     “No one is going to hurt you,” he said gently.

     “Mommy,” came the voice.

     “No!” She howled. “Leave me alone.”

     She walked up to the minister and pointed the gun at his head. Rafe jumped from behind the car.

     “Stop,” he barked.

     Joanne smiled wickedly at the minister.

     “Smokin’” she croaked.

     As her arm tensed, Rafe fired. The bullet struck her square in the back. She spun around, facing Rafe, who fired again. The second bullet hit her in the chest and she staggered back, falling to the ground next to the minister.

     Reverend Norman crawled over to her. He cradled her head in his lap.

     “Help is coming,” he said. “I’ll pray for you.”

     She looked at her chest in confusion. The blood stain spread.

     “Feed me, mommy,” the voice said.

     Then the crying. Babies. Dozens. Hundreds. Thousands. How many?

     “Please,” she gasped.

     “I’m here,” the minister whispered. “I won’t leave.”

     The last thing she heard was the wail of the approaching sirens.

     Like thousands of babies.

Pax et bonum