Sunday, November 18, 2007

incident at bellarmine

So its lame to post something i did for school, but whatever... deal with it!

Background: This is my second year as an intern at Bellarmine University. Last year I worked in the Student Affairs office with a different supervisor and this year I am with in the Campus Ministry Office. My duties generally include answering the phone at the desk in the office, hanging out with students, attending events, helping play and execute the protestant service on Wednesdays. I am in the office pretty regularly Tuesday – Thursday and for some retreats.

Description: I am going to give the website for the Courier Journal article on what happened in addition to my own description ( At Bellarmine University in Anniversary Hall (a residence hall for sophomores and up) on the second floor a young woman gave birth to a baby in her suite bathroom and let the baby girl “slide into the toilet.” She then asked her room mate for a trash bag, put the baby into it and took the bag about 40 feet down the hall to the trash room. Her room mate followed her down the hall, found the newborn in the garbage and called the police. First responders, ambulances and police cars then arrived at the dorms at approximately 1:00 am and stayed until around 6 am in the morning. The student was taken immediately to the hospital and the baby was pronounced dead at 1:05 and taken to the coroner. I did not find out until Wednesday morning at about 9 am when I checked my email. I packed up and went immediately to the BU campus ministry office. I was in the office and at school all day. I worked about 30 hours wed to Friday. My coworkers and I worked all day putting together a liturgy for a worship service that night. After the service there was a school wide meeting that about 20 students attended with the Student Affairs Dept, the Campus Ministry staff and the Counseling Staff. The school has sent out a few campus emails about the event since it happened, but not much information has been provided to the students. There has been a lot of anger on campus since the event that surfaces in different ways in each person. What happened impacted everyone in the Bellarmine community, staff included. My own inability to name what happened is a solid example of its impact on me.

Analysis and Evaluation: The main thing to report here is that since I first read about what happened I have been completely resistant to blame the student for her actions. I have been defending her throughout because I can empathize with her situation. I am sure she was scared, confused and in denial at first. I cannot imagine what loathing something inside of you would do to a person after a time. Just look at super villains. I could not believe, and still can’t, believe how her reputation was dragged through the sewers both verbally and on facebook. It was odd to think that facebook was something we needed to worry about, but the first action we needed to get done was to delete her facebook.

There are 1,500,000 sperm and one egg, so someone else contributed to the situation. She didn’t give herself a reputation; no one said anything about the young men (there were 2 by the way) who had sex with the student. No one said anything about the people who were slandering her either. I found myself extremely defensive to males especially because they seemed insensitive to her situation. I absolutely could not believe the way the press covered the situation either. They were like vultures, lurking on the edges – waiting for a student to say more than they were supposed to. It really puts you out of sorts, kind of hyper-defensive I guess. Luckily, the press were not allowed on the private campus, but they swarmed around on the boarders of campus. The paper called the student a young mother and a murderer and I don’t think those are fair labels yet. She did kill her child, but shouldn’t she be innocent until proven guilty in the press. Most recently the courier journal reported her as a mother who murdered her child, and that is not unbiased reporting. I don’t think that having a baby makes you into a mother automatically, you have given birth to a baby, but you don’t automatically get the skill and aren’t ready for the mold you are expected to conform to as a “mother” in our society. I mean she was 19, she was a scared child herself, obviously.

Also, on the courier journal site there is a place for readers to respond to articles and the things people were writing just wounded my soul. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I feel like maybe Christians should have more compassionate opinions. I believe Jesus would have given this student a hug and had a conversation with her. We are not allowed to contact her either right now and as a part of the campus ministry office I think we should be. I agree that she needs to be held accountable for her actions; I also don’t think she deserves a chance to explain them, and to be forgiven. Redemption is a part of Christianity as well isn’t it? She also needs a chance to get some help and to figure out who she is in this instead of dodging stones for the rest of her life.

My supervisor agreed with me that a male perspective of a situation dealing with issues related to women, pregnancy and childbirth to be more black and white than the perspective of someone who could potentially host another being inside of them for about 9 months or so. That was a relief because I was starting to think I was the only one confused by their reactions. I cannot imagine being in her situation and having nowhere to turn. I would be terrified, but I am lucky to have a solid network of friends and family whom I know would help me through. I also have the great privilege of knowing my options, knowing where to go to get help. But not everyone knows that most clinics actual purpose is to inform people about their reproductive rights works on a sliding scale and is anonymous.

I finally came to the realization the affidavit came out that she might have planned this, though I wonder at what point she began to wonder what would happen when she went into labor. It also made me think differently about the movie Saved. What was that girl going to do if her friends hadn’t discovered her pregnancy?

The reactions at Bellarmine have been many and various since it happened. The captain of the golf team has been suicidal, a lot of this students friends have been suffering with guilt and from not knowing what’s happening because the school has not been exactly open. I believe the two suitemates came back and moved into a different room, I don’t know if the room mate came back. I can’t imagine being the parents having to move the students stuff out of the dorm, because she is suspended from Bellarmine because she is charged with a federal crime. The first part of the grief cycle is anger, confusion and denial and that has been apparent in the staff and students throughout the last few weeks. I have noticed it in me too. There were a few arguments and unfair actions by the Student Affairs office towards the Campus Minister that was just ridiculous and probably partially the result of residual anger. We did prayer services and offered counseling but those are ethereal/abstract and I feel strongly that we need to do something lasting and concrete as a reaction to and a way of healing from what happened. It would be something for the whole community, something that would last. People need to know that this isn’t going away and that we aren’t sweeping it under the carpet. I think a prayer wall, or a wall of lament would be a sweet gift, maybe when I get some time I will work on that.

Theological Reflection: This whole situation made me think a lot about how Jesus acted. I work for a Christian institution and I attend a Christian institution and I don’t understand why we haven’t done a better job reaching out to each other for help and for aid. We are connected through the Spirit and belief in Jesus Christ. Courier journal readers have condemned Katie already, as would a society that is obsessed with CSI, Law and Order and News programs that only report the bad news. If Jesus were here I believe he would stand up for Katie and remind everyone to examine the log in their own eye and rethink if they have the right to cast the first stone. I also think Jesus would be appalled at our inaction. Some things you just can’t plan for, but you can learn from and this is one of those things.

Reflection on a funeral

I work at Bellarmine University, through this internship i have been able to participate in some pretty amazing things. One these things are the St. Joseph of Arimathea Society. SJOAS is a program that was started by a group of high schoolers and their teacher because they realized that those who could not afford too, or that had no family were not getting funerals or even being buried with dignity. They started doing prayer services for each funeral and eventually ended up working with other local catholic high schools and eventually the colleges in the area to alternate doing funerals (because there are a LOT of them.

Last Tuesday, September 11th was a particularly interesting funeral experience for me. It was interesting because it was moving, a nerving and enraging at the same time. I never really know how to act at these things because I am the Presbyterian intern with a catholic group and because i just haven't been to a lot of funerals (thank god). First of all it was September 11, and even in a liberal like me that stirs up all sorts of feelings and the General Patrais shit had just hit the fan. It was seriously a gross2 day outside - which means it was cool and windy enough to need a sweater, misting a little and ominously overcast. On the trip from the bell to the cemetery we chatted and prepared to do a prayer service. As we pulled into the long skinny drive of the cemetery the yellow bulldozer resting temporarily like a tired dinosaur up to its ass in the brown mud that someone would be laid to rest in later that day. The sky seemed to get grayer as the reality of our task sunk in, surrounded by sinister gray mounds of coal punctuated with menacing clusters of smoke stacks vomiting gray smoke into the sky and power lines slicing the horizon.

Normally when we arrive the only live people present are the deputy corner and his assistant, occasionally there is a pastor, family member, ministry or case worker, but generally not. On this bleary Tuesday there were nearly 20 people there. They were ministry workers, hospice workers, emergency workers and pastors who had been a part of Ralph’s later life. It was clear just from the gathering that this man had touched a lot of peoples lives. Those who had gathered to honor Ralph had prepared a service, so all we from Bellarmine were asked to serve as pallbearers. I have never seen a dead person at all much less carried one from a hearse to the little porch where he would be honored and then to the graveside for some more prayers and farewell. I was moved that we would be allowed to participate in this way. I always thought that choosing the people who would carry your casket would be sort of like picking your wedding party or your top 8 on spacebook… I have no idea why I rationalized like this, I would imagine that I merely had no perspective at all before this point. I guess more things in life than you can imagine are completely unpredictable. I carried the body of a man inside a casket (not by myself, I had help). It felt so weird, so final and so real all at once. Honestly, that might be the only real part of life left, you will die.

The memorial service for Ralph was deeply touching for those who knew him I could tell. The group, which was mostly women, had put together a wonderful service. The pastor read some prayers and spoke briefly about passing. We all sang a version of amazing grace I had never heard before, but sounded very nice on the CD player. One of the women from hospice had written a poem brought tears to the eyes of everyone present (even me…) with the final line "i will get you a ham sandwich because I know you are allergic to turkey..." He was beloved to some people. They said he had good days and bad days, but to me it seems the good outnumbered or were more potent than the bad for once. I swear God smiles at moments like that. I could feel the spirit moving among these women, I could almost see how the spirit had strung them all together over the last few years of Ralphs life.

Then they opened up the floor to anyone else who would like to share. There was a short pause and the man standing beside me signed and stepped forward. I hadn’t really noticed much about him besides that he was totally disinterested in sharing the song sheet I was holding. He was holding a purple flower (I am not good with flowers) and a sheet of paper. He took three brisk steps to the coffin and haplessly tossed the flower and paper he had been holding on the coffin (like it was a coffee table or something) and put his hands into his pockets and looked at us. He said that he was from lost sheep ministries. He had been friends with Ralph for the last 5 years. He told us how Ralph had cancer and how Ralph would never let him find him somewhere to stay or get help. He said that Ralph probably knew God because Ralph had asked this fellow to pray for him 5 days before he died. While this man could have gone on to tell stories about Ralph what he wanted to say was that he wasn’t sure he would see Ralph in heaven. It seems that Ralph did not live his life in the manner in which Jesus would have preferred and that meant he probably didn’t make it through the pearly gates. However, he says as he takes his hands out of his pockets and motions to the coffin, we should all take this opportunity to examine our own lives and make sure that we are living for Jesus.

So at this point he was pretty much done because I had totally quit listening. I MUST quit reacting this way to people, but I feel strongly that this man was totally out of line. So I was imagining myself turning into a WWF wrestler (probably Hulk Hogan) and breaking chairs on this mans head. He deserved it. I didn’t have to make any crazy wrestling moves though because the woman who had written the poem stepped forward and said that she did not believe that because Ralph was an angel to her. The Coroner then directed us all to the bulldozed area and the giant gaping hole in the ground. They drove the coffin the 40 yards away from the little carport and we took Ralph out of the car one last time and laid him next to the big yellow dinosaur that would plant him in the earth moments later. They are not legally allowed to bury the bodies while we are there, so we said some brief prayers and then went on our way. I just cant believe that is all there is. It is so anticlimactic.


i am the worst blogger in the history of bloggers. wow. because i have taught a spirituality class to middle schoolers, visited Brazil for three week, and been back at school for all this time and not reported anything. i have two reflections i can post, but i gotta study for a greek test today. greek is fun though, its so similar to latin its ridiculous. at any rate. i suck! weeeeeeeeeee!
also some people need to see these!