Concupiscence and JonBenet Ramsey

I saw her in the supermarket when I was eight years old. Her bright face adorned the cover of a tabloid, right beside the face of Bat Boy, who always fascinated me because I was never sure whether he was real.

I hated her. I hated everything about her in that one instant when her smiling face glowed up at me. She would steal everything. She was pretty.

“What happened to her?” I asked my mother, because I did not yet know what the word murdered meant.

“She was killed,” my mother said, shaking her head as she pushed the cart of groceries along and began to stack cans onto the conveyor belt. “Poor little girl.”

“Good,” I said, my mouth full of bitter poison.

“Bridget! How dare you!”

The reprimand made me hate the girl even more. She had a funny name, and that made it all worse. Some stuck-up, rich, preppy name. A name I couldn’t pronounce, but once I heard it pronounced, I was jealous all over again because the name sounded so perfect, just like her.


“Concupiscence!” the parish priest bellowed, his white robes flapping around him. He reminded me of a dove anyway with his beaky nose and black liquid eyes, and as he yelled now, he seemed to be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit. “The tendency toward sin! No one is exempt!”

My eyes fell on the statue of Mary to the left of the altar. Except her. The epitome of woman. Blond and pristine as depicted. Blue, dewy eyes, looking nothing like she would have looked in reality. Not a dirty, dark-skinned, large-nosed Jew.


I had some female friends. Girls with blond hair and lovely, musical names like Selena and Alexandria, girls I eventually grew to hate because my name was Bridget, which sounded like a punishment when it was screamed and utilitarian when it was not. As if I was a chair.

Her name echoed back to me when I called the names of my friends. Selena, Alexandria. God forbid I call them Lena or Lexi. God forbid I ever call her Jonny, even in my mind.


The Christmas when I was eleven, we were poor. My father had fallen into depression and lost his job, so my mother could not afford presents. I wasn’t disappointed because the part of Christmas I liked the most was going to church at midnight and exiting the church with snow whirling around me, so when I looked back at the lights glowing from the sanctuary, I imagined that I was prairie girl Laura Ingalls Wilder, who took nothing for granted.

That morning, there was a box under the tree, somewhat heavy, and on the plain white label, in frilly handwriting, was “For The Little Mother.”

“Mom, this must be yours,” I said.

“I think it’s for you, Bridget,” she said, a secret in her smile.

I unwrapped the box, trying to hold back what would surely be disappointment upon realizing that the gift inside was indeed my mother’s.

A porcelain doll stared back at me, so delicate and flawless that she took my breath away. Her hair was stiff and white-blond, her eyes blue. Lily, I thought. She looks just like a Lily.

Part of me knew that I was long past the age when I should be playing with dolls, but a stronger part of me wanted to raise my doll. After all, I was “The Little Mother.”

My mother sensed my hesitation. “Are you sure you want her?”

“Yes,” I said firmly.


Lily went everywhere with me, except for school, where I would have been relentlessly teased for still playing with dolls at the ripe old age of eleven. I bought dresses for her, combed her stiff blond hair until it was soft and pliable, and read and sung to her as though she was my own child.

Until the day a heavy book fell on top of her and broke her where she lay in her carriage. Her porcelain face was smashed into three large pieces, and seeing her like that destroyed the illusion that she was a child.

She was just a doll, nothing more.


High school was a minefield, full of girls who would steal your boyfriend and your success when they were pretty and intelligent enough to obtain both on their own and you were hideous and desperate and grabbing at whatever you could get.


He had ugly teeth and uglier hair, several years out of style. I loved him because he paid attention to me. My face was dull, but I had a vagina, which was more memorable.

I still spent time with Alexandria, who had developed marvelously, somehow remaining slender and small while growing enormous breasts and child-bearing hips.

He fell victim to Alexandria’s claws and to her vagina, which was probably more memorable and special than mine.

I stopped talking to her, but she never stopped talking to me. Whenever her words went in one of my ears and out of the other, I could see the knife she held behind her back. I could feel it as she plunged it between my shoulder blades, twisting and pulling.

Eventually, I took that same knife and her own boyfriend, whose penis could hardly be seen under the flap of fat that was his stomach. The revenge was sweet, the sex not so much.


I married a man who was borne out of a dream. At his request, I sought bridesmaids to even out his posse of groomsmen. I thought of them as handmaids to my queen, and when they would swoop to attend to me on that most special day, the knives I imagined they held in their hands would turn to bouquets of flowers, their green scales to flowing blue dresses, their knowledge of makeup into words of wisdom on how I could heal myself from the hatred I still harbored.

They chatted among themselves in the room where we all dressed. I saw myself in the mirror, beautiful for the first time in my life, my lips somewhat resembling a rosebud, and again, she appeared in my mind. The hatred welled up.

My maid of honor came up behind me and squeezed my shoulders. “Bridget!” she squealed in her too-high voice. “This is the best day of your life! Are you excited?”

I must not have looked it as I stared into the mirror, still faced with the girl whose face should have faded from my mind long ago.


Now I have a daughter, six years old. From the moment she made her appearance, my husband and I adored her. She has his hazel eyes and curly blond hair, which I am sure will deepen to brown as she gets older.

When she looks into my eyes, when I tuck her in and kiss her good night, I tell her that she is my sunshine, but words cannot express all that she means to me. I would never prostitute her like that other little girl so many years ago, so that she falls into the wrong hands and her face adorns tabloids.

My daughter is pretty but not pretty enough to be used.

Her father and I look at each other after looking at her, and something in me believes that she is the glue that will keep us attached to each other.

I know it is selfish, but when my husband works late and my daughter asks when daddy will come home, I can’t help but think that a blond woman about our age, with pouting lips, filmy hair, and a voice like an angel will swoop him up in her claws, and he will be powerless to resist her.

Thursday Three #39

  1. This is a good article on the importance of writing things by hand rather than writing using a computer. It boils down to this: writing by computer distances a writer from his work, leaving him to feel as though he has little authority over it.
  2. It is hard to bridge the distance between myself and writing, and I don’t think it has anything to do with handwriting versus typing. I no longer feel as though I have time to form a coherent thought, but that’s silly because I need to make time. Priorities have gotten in the way, I suppose.
  3. On the brighter side, I have gotten more of a chance to read. (It is easier to immerse oneself in another person’s created world than to build one’s own.) I am reading Mischling by first-time author Affinity Konar. It’s about twin sisters who wind up as victims of Josef Mengele’s deranged “scientific experiments” during the Holocaust. The writing style is gorgeous; all of the metaphors are spot on. Highly recommended, even if you’re sick to death of stories about World War II.

A Complicated Issue

One of the biggest issues the Catholic Church is facing recently is how to approach the topic of gay marriage and how to minister to gay people. Many think that the Church hates gay people, but that isn’t true because the Church is, by its catholic nature, inclusive. This misconception probably comes from these passages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which could be misconstrued as harsh and forbidding:

CCC 2357: Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

CCC 2358: The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

CCC 2359: Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

The people are not disordered; the act and the inclination are. A lot of people today (and I’m referring to people in general, not just gay people) have fallen victims to the culture and mistakenly believe that their sexuality is all that they are. They give it more weight than it ought to have. You are more than your reproductive organs, and you are more than your sexual urges. Many other inclinations besides sexual ones are disordered; a person may have an inclination to steal or to be lazy or compulsively lie or look at pornography. This person may have “owned” her inclinations and defend them as being an intrinsic part of who she is, but it doesn’t make them right. Every single person on this planet has inclinations to do things that are wrong or bad or sinful. No one is exempt.

Straight people are also called to chastity, whether they are married or single. Many members and clergy in the Catholic Church today focus too much on the sin of “gay” acts and not enough on the sins that befall straight couples, like using pornography, engaging in polygamous relationships (or infidelity), and using artificial contraceptives. How does someone know that a straight married couple is using birth control? How does someone know that a gay person is “engaging in homosexual acts”? If gay people are judged harshly, then why are straight people not held to that same standard? It is hypocritical. Everyone, married, single, gay, straight, and so on, is called to be chaste and pure and to treat his or her body with respect.

Straight couples, by the nature of their bodies, can reproduce. Gay couples cannot. That is simple biology. It is the way we were created as human beings. We are attempting to use science to subvert the natural order in the name of “fairness” and “equality” (e.g., re-configuring a man’s body so that he can give birth). The natural order is now seen as something cruel and unjust. Why should straight couples be able to have children while gay couples cannot? The “cruel” response is: Because that is how God made our bodies. That is how nature is. Deal with it. The “equal” and “fair” response is: God gave us brains, free will, and reason, and it is perfectly within bounds to scientifically manipulate our bodies so we can have what we want. If God didn’t want us to do that, he certainly wouldn’t have given us the wherewithal to do so, right? 

That’s where it gets complicated, and that’s where interpretation of the CCC and God’s word get skewed and where that nebulous concept of “conscience” comes into play. As Catholics, we are supposed to form our consciences by learning about God and about His word and His will for us, but how does one know when his or her conscience is well formed? How can we form an intelligent conscience when we are exposed to so much nonsense in the news and on social media and when the Catholic Church hardly discusses these important issues at the local level (e.g., in homilies)? Most people’s consciences are formed by their upbringing and their social environment, which often give false impressions of what God’s teachings are because parents and the society at large know very little about their faith (bad catechesis, which is a whole ‘nother post) and thus pass on misinformation to their children.

The bottom line (or tl;dr): The Catholic Church should give parish priests a refresher course on these contentious parts of the CCC, so they can address these issues of chastity and sexuality at the local level, during homilies and perhaps in parish or diocesan retreats or seminars. I don’t believe I have ever heard sexuality or gay marriage discussed in a homily. These topics, and other difficult moral issues, need to be talked about so that parents can teach their children and everyone can be held accountable to the same standard.

Yes, on some level, these issues are being discussed. Books like Fr. James Martin’s Building a Bridge and Fr. Michael Schmitz’s Made for Love attempt to tackle different sides of the issue. Pope Francis addressed it in Amoris laetitia,  where he exhorts people to use their conscience to discern issues of marriage and divorce. But all of this needs to be done in a place where there is a “captive” audience: the Sunday Mass. Only then will those who are lost and confused by the world find themselves a place apart from the world: the arms of the Lord.