On Sunday, my husband was honored with an award for the work he does at a coach at St. Ignatius by an organization called Sports Faith International. One of his student-athletes nominated him for the Hometown Heroes Award. As our family made plans to attend, we learned more and more about Sports Faith International; even so, I was not prepared for the barrage of Anti-Choice rhetoric, the blatant use of the forum to promote Tom Monaghan‘s Ave Maria School in South Florida, and the generally offensive rhetoric, including his self-righteous statements to the attendees that Ave Maria has “abolished tenure” and promoted daily mass attendance and a “chastity” requirement. When he pontificated about tenure being the bane of good teaching, several coaches/teachers in the room seemed insulted, but Monaghan plowed ahead with his talk. I was tempted then and there to begin a chant “Long Live Wisconsin Unions” and “Power to the People.” Instead, I played nice and waited for an opportunity to walk out.
I didn’t have to wait long. Monaghan moved on to his anti-choice rhetoric and his arcane notions of chastity, and I gathered my children, and made a quick escape. Ed was at the head table, filled with Catholic professional athletes and other coaches and students who won awards. He could not escape so easily, and was forced to listen.
My husband absolutely deserves an award for coaching — I’ve written before about his dedication and commitment to his athletes, on and off the field. Paradoxically, part of the reason that he was given the award is the fact that we adopted Gorilla Girl and Monkey Man from Vietnam. In the world view of anti-choice Catholics, adoption is a moral choice that signals some degree of commitment to their cause — a cause which demonizes women and any control they attempt to exert over their lives and bodies. It was a surreal experience to be hiding out in a room off the main event with Gorilla Girl and Monkey Man, listening to the God-infused rhetoric of self-righteousness and hate, but bathed in the joy and love of Monkey Man and Gorilla Girl.
It seemed that everyone in the room knew our story — or at least they thought they did. We adopted two children — therefore, we must be part of the army of God, scooping up children in order to derail choice for women and to show our support for the “unborn.” Our motives, desires, and beliefs are not theirs, so their assumptions about our family were faulty and dangerous. A photographer at the event even remarked to me that we are “saints for saving” our children.
I think I was pretty well-behaved, given the circumstances. Ed commented that he was glad I had escaped the main room, since he feared I might start firing buttered rolls at the offending speakers. When it was Ed’s turn to received his award, he tactfully kept references to god and adoption out of his brief remarks. On the ride home, we talked about how the vast amounts of money and considerable energy spent by Catholics on this particular issue might be well-spent on other silent and deserving causes. Where are the Catholics for justice for union workers? Where are the Catholics for peace in the Middle East? Where are the anti-war Catholics, and how can you possibly be “pro-life” and NOT stand for ending the war?
My anger about men, in particular, showering hate upon women is sparked in these moments when I wonder why, for example, they don’t spend time and energy protesting the protection of college football player alleged rapists who are allowed to continue to play for The University of Notre Dame, a Catholic institution.
In this challenging day, one of the best moments was when Gorilla Girl, who was itching to run to the front of the room when she heard Ed’s name announce, remarked, “They said Daddy is a hero. Daddy, Daddy!” She sprinted to the front of the room to the smiles of the crowd. Later, she asked again about Ed being a hero. “But, he’s not a super hero — not like spiderman.” No, he is not like spiderman. But, maybe he is a hero for using this forum to speak to his team in the aftermath of this experience about how they, as Catholics, can use their voices, even when they disagree, to speak in words that do not harm, and to listen with open minds and hearts.