38 Comments
Jan 13, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

For what it's worth, I don't think you owe anyone--not any of us here especially--anything right now. You are at where you're at, and your being is clearly telling you to write about these things, to be angry, to be loud, and you honoring that is important. A side effect of you being willing to openly write like this at your own pace is that you're giving many of us freedom to ponder the same questions and know we aren't alone, and that's an incredible gift. I think, like many difficult relationships, a lot of the original readers of your writing are railing not against the content of your writing but the fact that you've changed, and if you've changed they have to do something with that. It's uncomfortable and forces us to look at things we don't like when those we trust change, and change radically. But you owe it to yourself to live and write in freedom and truth, whatever that looks like for you right now. If people don't like it anymore, I think they are fully capable of unsubscribing, but I sure won't be. I here not because I'm expecting you to churn out stuff like a content creator but because I want to support you on this critical journey, because I need your authentic voice and thoughts as I grapple with my own crisis of faith. Honor your anger and write whatever the hell you want to write. The anger telling you something bad has happened and needs to change. Most of us will honor it with you and look forward to whatever you ultimately write.

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Thank you so much. I have tears in my eyes reading this. It means a lot.

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Jan 13, 2022·edited Jan 13, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

I for one do not feel slighted or taken advantage of by you or your recent silence on Substack. I do not “do” twitter so I am totally ignorant of what has been occurring there.

Giving up a business and what had been your professional life, having a new child at forty, (we did that at 39 when number five arrived after a baby hiatus of seven years. It is no country for middle aged folks.), moving your family cross country. These are individually each an all consuming event. I just assumed you needed time to collect yourself and put your life, family marriage and writing into some type of new order. Additionally, I freely admit that age forty was the worse time of my life. I am nearly thirty years past that now. Trust me, the years following forty something, have their issues, but they have been so much better than the forties. There is a path ahead.

Beyond all the losses and betrayals. Beyond the utter disaster that is the Catholic Church, Novus ordo and traditional. Beyond the chaos and destruction in our culture and lives. Beyond it all, God is here. He loves you and wants you to reach the point where you sense and understand this love. In spite of the doubt and uncertainty He is here. He wants to bind your wounds and bring you to where you can rest in Him.

I pray for you and your family every day.

Always believed you would reappear at some point, and you have. I will be staying with you and with the folks who have been sharing and commenting here.

JT

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Jan 13, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

Thank you Steve for your honesty. Hold fast. I’m praying for you and your family. And will continue to support you. I had an encounter with our Lord Jesus in 1969 in Vietnam. A grunt who was addicted and busted several times in Nam. Saw action with the America’s Division. Chu Lai. Later with the Grace of God I came into contact with the RCC. And to my joy, the core teachings of the Catholic Church was the mirror image of the Gospels. In the past 50+ years as a dedicated devoted Catholic been through “a lot”. I will continue to stay faith filled to Catholicism regardless of insidious internal attacks. ‘Gates of Hell will not prevail’

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Jan 13, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

You're a talented writer. Just keep writing and it will get better. You have a lot of people in your corner.

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Jan 14, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

Hang in there. From one navel-gazing introvert strugging with faith to another, its OK where you are at. Give yourself permission to be there, without judgement or guilt. A good trauma-informed therapist, if you haven't done that yet, can be an incredible resource for healing. Hang in there. It is apparent your heart is in the right place.

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Jan 14, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

I am so touched by this.

This morning I went looking for you, and found nothing. (In the interest of maintaining my sanity I don’t do Twitter.) And here you are, right on schedule!

We had a baby at 40 too, deliberately, which now seems an odd decision. She was our fourth and last. She was and is a firecracker in every way, and now that we’ve all collectively survived her adolescence (she’s 37 now) I find her an endless delight, one of the smartest things I ever did. Just got back from visiting her in Washington DC, where she is a fabulously successful appellate lawyer. To her transparent delight she’s making tons of money, which makes me smile. She should enjoy it while it’s still fun. That’s the kind of fun you get tired of pretty quickly.

The longer I’m involved with the Church (cradle Catholic here, and I did my stint as a Secular Order Carmelite) the more messed up it seems, but at this point I understand that there is nothing I can do about that. Our local pastor seems very earnest and well-intentioned; I’m touched by that, and wish him well at his impossible job. My good friends in the monastery keep plugging away, as I’m sure they will continue to do. Francis is on what we lawyers call “a frolicke of his own” (aka completely off the leash) so I don’t worry too much about him.

Prayer is where it is at; the rest is only distraction. God is where and Who it is; nothing else really matters.

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It's funny you say that about your daughter. Our Mia, who is 6 going on 36, is the one we thought would be our last. I very much imagine her to be the way you describe your daughter to be, and I can't wait to see what she will become, and what she'll accomplish.

Eli is still too little to know, but his personality is great (when he isn't screaming) and his innocence is truly a balm for my wounded soul. He may be an "oops" baby, but it was a fantastic mistake.

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Jan 14, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

God writes straight with crooked lines it is said. Babies are the clearest example. My youngest, being 40 years my junior, is of an age to be my granddaughter, and puts me in touch with an entirely different generation. (My two older kids are your age.). I saw no sign in her of her fabulous achievements until relatively recently. Oh, everyone knew she’s bright, but she seemed to lack ambition…an unlit firecracker. People mature at different rates. I’m jealous of your new baby! I wish age had not brought my reproductive career to a halt!

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Mar 27, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

Praying for you Steve! We had twins babies 5 and 6 only 11 months ago and at 7 months post partum found out baby 7 was coming and I’m 36. I’m taking one day at a time and just trying to enjoy them and trust that God has put me in this state exactly where He needs me .

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I know you’re working hard, but I’m jealous anyway. I had four, and while I certainly didn’t enjoy every minute of it (!!) I miss those times now.

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Thank you! I know the days are long but the years are short! It keeps me busy for sure, and the twins have been amazing .

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Jan 14, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

... and along with others here I suggest getting some professional help. Trauma, family of origin issues, abuse - you've got it all. You are a communicator, you need to talk it out with a pro who can ask the right questions. You owe it to your self and your fam. Ask me how I know ...

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What I don't know how to do is find the right pro. My last two experiences have been suboptimal. It's not like you can just fire up Yelp and figure out if someone will be a good fit.

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psychology today.com has a pretty comprehensive listing of therapists in your area. My best therapist of a few throughout my 50 something years had background in mindfulness, EMDR and body based interventions. CBT and talk therapies are good, but only once trauma has been dealt with. Sometimes it takes trying out a couple or three therapists to find one that you click with.

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That made a weird hyperlink. Psychology today is supposed to be altogether, no caps

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Jan 13, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

Definitely holding you in prayer ! I am grateful for your courage in sharing all the good, the bad and the ugly and sincerely hoping that your writing brings real, lasting and genuine healing. Nothing I can say will ease the pain - but I hope to offer some encouragement. You are going through deep pain and grief but it will get better by the grace of God. I, too, will be staying with you.

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Jan 15, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

I knew I liked you when in one of your podcasts you poured yourself a glass of Tullamore Dew (or was it Jameson). I enjoy reading your articles and especially listening to your podcasts because you're smart, clever and funny. I don't want you to leave the Church and I certainly don't want you to stop writing. I was a teenager in the 1970's and I've had my share of

'pizza' Masses which didn't always involve pizza but they were all informal - very informal. If not for my parents, especially my mother, I don't know where I would have wandered. I thank God for my parents. I have been disappointed and upset with the Church (I'm not such a catch either) but if not for the sacraments and a couple priests along the way, I think I would be crazy and empty. I was a cheerleader in 8th grade and that's the last time I practiced that! So, please, don't mistake my rant for a pat on the back. I will pray for you and your wife as I do for myself, my husband, children and souls in purgatory (others, too). Life is good and don't worry about doubts and anger as long as you keep God in the conversation. Looking forward to another podcast when you toast your listeners with a glass of Irish whiskey.

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Jan 14, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

Thank you. Just - thank you. Your raw pain and honesty speak to where I am myself right now. I dont care about the pauses - I'll keep subscribing as long as you keep sharing. Sheer guts, man, that's what you've got. A troubled marriage, a new mid-life baby, a cross-country move, a massive crisis in faith - lots of us hear you. Keep practising spousal and fatherly love and gentleness in your family, all I know is that love is the key.

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Jan 13, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

I was going to lay down a few quotes of yours but realized I would've wound up pasting half of your article. Needless to say, your experience hit home. I recently walked away too, back to the dark side of Protestantism, partly because I also saw a disconnect between the Sacraments and Grace. Both in myself and others. You shall know them by their fruits?.....the proof is in the pudding? Whatever! I didn't see it, for the most part.

Was this the only thing that drew me away? Absolutely not. But I finally realized that I wasn't going to allow any of it to deaden my faith in Christ any longer. I had to jump ship. I felt like I was being dragged down beneath the surface preparing for my last breath and waiting for the inevitable. Like you, I also seem to be more decent and loving now.

I realize you and I have gone different directions since leaving (or pausing) our Catholic Faith. I do consider myself fortunate coming from my protestant background. Christ is there. I know it. I know it because I first encountered Him there in a very real way. For years, without the Mass and Eucharist, I grew to Love Him more and more everyday. In fact, it was Christ I was chasing when I entered the Catholic Church. Was that Right or Wrong? I honestly can't say for sure.

Anyway, I appreciate your honesty, Steve. You write from the heart and I'm sure it's therapeutic for you. Hell, what I just wrote made me feel better, even though it was a rambling mess pieced together throughout my work morning. Finished just in time for lunch!

God bless you. Cheers!

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Jan 13, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

Praying for you brother. You’re on the journey to discovering the Father and His grace. It’s hard. But you’ll make it. It took me years to detox from the RC Church. There’s so much internal reprogramming required and external pressure. God is faithful.

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Jan 13, 2022·edited Jan 13, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

Steve

Thanks for the update. You are repeating some of the questions I have had since the election of Pope Francis. The most blindingly obvious problem arising from many of his written and spoken words is what reason is there for the Church (and indeed the Pope) to exist.

The ultimate absurdity (so far) is the Document on Human Fraternity.signed in February 2019 by Pope Francis and Grand Imam al-tayyeb of Al-Azhar University. Allegedly all religions are willed by God. I don't know if that includes the Moonies, the Hari Krishnas, the Scientologists and all the Prosperity Churches whose leaders really practice what they preach - to the benefit of retailers of top end cars and private jets. But this Document is consistent with earlier utterances, such as Francis' audiences between August and October 2017, where he was plainly preaching universal salvation.

Of course, I have had one notorious guy telling me that I shouldn't be saying such things. And another telling me that the Pope's from John 23rd to Francis are heretics. Though that plainly raises a ton of other issues.

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Jan 13, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

"didn’t even make me a better person." Damn that's brutal and also probably true.

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It's one of the hardest things in all of this for me to understand.

You want to be a better person? Stop asking God to fix you. Roll up your sleeves and figure out what's important and then stop believing you can do nothing without him, because you absolutely can.

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I'm not saying here that there's no point to asking for grace. If my doubts are wrong, and he's real as rain, maybe he gives you a boost. But stuff I spent 20 years begging for help with, like my volatile temper, was gone overnight when I realized what I was losing by constantly wallowing in it. I needed different motivation, I think, more than grace. I'm not sure. It's hard to explain.

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It's the devil who demands that we be better people, not God. God protects us from becoming the better people. A typical idea of snobbery. Religion for the sake of "becoming a better person" is egotism at its finest.

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Jan 13, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

Good article Steve. Good to get stuff like that off your chest. I'll be staying with you.

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Since I am the one who wrote the critical message that prompted you to write this heartfelt blog entry, I hope you will allow me to apologize for unintentionally hitting you while you’re down; I suppose I should have been able to tell from your various tweets and Facebook posts that something more than whining was going on. So, please forgive me and accept my truly sincere apology.

With that said, I’d like to make an observation that might (or might not?) help you and others who are struggling with various levels of anger at the Church and/or their particular Bishop, parish or trad priest/friends. I’d like to offer a perspective that might help separate your horrific experience with the Legionnaires from what happened with your trad priest in Arizona.

First, I think that the various groups, movements, religious orders and parishes that are the offspring of the Church at large can be very good for some folks at some stages of their spiritual growth, and for others, can be a waste of time at best, downright harmful at worst. It sounds like you got a huge dose of “downright harmful” with the Legionnaires. I can see why you would connect the same dots with the Trad “movement” after what happened to you and your family, but I’m not sure that’s completely fair. My take on this “movement” is that it is still quite young-- it started experiencing growth with Summorum Pontificum but it has really taken off in the last 10 years. I learned about One Peter Five through one of my young adult sons who had begun regularly attending a TLM in Virginia where he was an undergrad at the time; it (1Peter5) was helpful and important to him--thank you. Three of my adult sons are now devotees of the TLM; two of them have, like you in your youth, considered (or still consider) whether they may have a vocation to the priesthood. Reading about what happened to you strikes fear into the hearts of every mother who is conflicted about encouraging her son to become a priest, I can assure you. Your “existential crisis” (as I perhaps unkindly dubbed it in my earlier post) triggered a strong interest from me largely for this reason.

But I digress.

What I see in the Trad “movement” are a lot of people, particularly younger people, who are at similar stages of spiritual growth and education. Catechesis for many of us (including myself, a baby boomer who can still, barely, remember the TLM of my childhood) was weak at best growing up. I didn’t attend Catholic School and neither did my kids. I considered myself a “revert” back in the 1980s after having sown some wild secular oats before I married and started having kids. When I did revert, the first thing(s) I wanted to know about were “the rules”: Why does the Church oppose contraception? What is the deal with homosexuality? Why do I have to go to Confession? For a while (for years, probably) I was pretty insufferable as I learned and enthusiastically embraced all the rules and rubrics. Undoubtedly, I thought far more about the splinter in my neighbor’s eye than the log in my own.

As the spiritual masters say, you are either moving forward or moving backward. Fortunately and by the grace of God, I have moved on from that annoying but important phase of spiritual growth. I’m not suggesting I’ve reached any great heights but at least I’m moving forward. But the real point is that I think a lot of Trads, by virtue of the newness of the movement and its appeal to young Catholics in particular, are disproportionately represented by those in the early “revert” phase of spirituality I just described. So it can seem like it’s the fault of the Church or the fault of the traditional movement or those overly rigid young priests Pope Francis likes to look down on, but I think time will tell a different story. Much moreso than the modern, Novus Ordo Church, I think the Traditional Church has great potential to help serious Catholics grow in Faith, humility and virtue. Lex orandi, lex credendi and all that.

I think maybe you are like the big brother who is ready to move on to hanging out with the older kids while so many of your siblings are still enjoying the playground. There is a lot to be learned on the playground, make no mistake. But once you’ve learned what you need to, you absolutely have to move on. Just don’t be fooled into “moving on” by moving backwards.

Sorry for the long post. I really do wish you all the best, and pray this time of despair and depression will soon give way to a newer, better, clearer time of life for you and your family. Good luck, and don’t stop writing.

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Please don't feel bad about saying what you did. I was not only already thinking it myself, I was already considering a post explaining my continued absence after I'd said I'd be around more. You just gave me the final nudge. And you were not wrong to say it.

I've been at this longer than most people my age. I started going exclusively to the TLM in 2004, so I'm on year 18. And I think the trad movement has been hurt by the fact that some of the longest-running pubs and thought leaders on this topic have always been extremely bitchy and negative, but treated like royalty. We lost men like Michael Davies too soon. He'd have been a counterbalancing force.

It's not so much that I want to move on, as that the good things I identified in tradland -- liturgy, sacraments, some of the theology -- are often outweighed by the anxiety inducing preaching, the excessive elevation of clergy (to their own detriment), and as much as I hate to concede the point to Francis, the rigidity. I actually think his experience of growing up in the pre-conciliar Church helped turn him into what he is. He's spoken before about the childhood fear he had of accidentally swallowing water while brushing his teeth, because he would break the communion fast before serving at the altar. You get enough of this kind of stuff in your head, and it will turn you around rather quickly.

Someone on the Facebook thread for this article comments:

"I think it's awesome that you're being open about clinical depression--I've encountered so many trads with crappy hot takes about mental health and there's so. much. terrible. advice. about mental health coming from Catholics. I struggled with horrible persistent depressive disorder with chronic passive suicidality for years, and tried to pray it away. I had terrible postpartum depression after both children were born and priests basically told me that I was sinning be being anxious & depressed and not feeling up for having a new baby every year.

I've been in therapy for 3 years & on an SSRI, and am happy to say that the suicidal thoughts that plagued me for years while I was trying to be the perfect tradwife are gone. I wish I didn't go so many years before seeking professional help.

[...]

it's especially rich when you consider that many Catholics think that it's normal to be in a constant state of anxiety. Priests acknowledge that scrupulousity is a thing, albeit rare, but then preach a sermon that's designed to make you anxious about hell. Why else would we show up week after week at church if not for anxiety? It's better to go to church out of a desire for intimacy with God, but Sunday obligation exists because not everyone feels that desire and love of God week after week. That's where the anxiety comes in. When I peek at the trad groups I'm in, all I see is anxiety. "Is this modest enough?" "Am I fasting the right way?" "Am I doing enough for my children?" "What if, by accepting this person as they are, I send the message that I approve of everything they do?" "Am I being too easy on myself?" "Am I being lazy by not choosing the hardest possible path in life?" "Do I really love God? Am I loving Him as much as I could? Could I do more?"

Because God is infinite and we are finite, we will never be at a point where we can say we are doing enough. Nothing is ever enough.

When I started therapy (again, as an adult) I did basic CBT. That's a good fit for a lot of people but it wasn't right for me. DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) was what actually helped me because it's all about balancing and finding synthesis between two seemingly opposing truths. A lot of growth happened when I was able to be able to say "I'm doing the best I can" and also say "I can do better.""

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Jan 14, 2022Liked by Steve Skojec

One thing I want to clarify from my post is that I wasn't suggesting you should "move on" from the traditional liturgy but rather move on from the spirituality mired in the "rigidity,"you write about which probably is more pronounced than it should be among traddies (see my theory about that in my earlier post). I think Catholics in general, not just traddies, seem to have trouble with the supernatural vision needed for "loving God above all else" or at least defining that. I used to work for the Diocesan pastoral ministry and I remember once asking my coworkers, including the VP of Pastoral Ministries, what they mean when they say they "love Jesus." Like, what does that look like for them? None had anything resembling a coherent answer. I'm not criticizing them for not being able to articulate something that even (especially) the Christian mystics have had some inscrutable ways of describing, but as a faithful, searching, discerning, praying Catholic who is now pushing 70 it's only in the last few years that I've even glimpsed what that may actually mean. (Slow learner, admittedly.) Nonetheless, I believe that our Faith is the path to the true joy that God has in store for us. "Avoiding hell" is merely a starting point, you know? Got to move past that. Lastly, I think too many Catholics give priests too much credit for being able to solve psychological issues better dealt with by a professional psychologist, and too many priests jump in to take the bait when asked. I hope you can find a good counselor; if you can't and you're willing to travel to Vermont (I don't know where in NH you are) I can recommend someone.

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