A Mother’s Wisdom in Resisting Ecclesial Complicity & Religious Nonsense

In the Saturday DM, I cited Pope Francis criticizing American Catholics bishops for their backwardness. I write this DM on Saturday, May 18, the 110th birthday of my mother (who died at 89 years of age). She left behind many stories that can, I think, inspire others.

Matthew Fox being interviewed for the book “Portraits in Faith” by Daniel Kalman Epstein. Taken from the website for the book.

Just this past week, I told the following story in my current Shift class on “Meister Eckhart and Cultivating Compassion in Spirituality.” 

It was in a response to a question (which I don’t remember now). The story goes like this. In 1989, when I learned I was going to be silenced by the Vatican, I called my sister in Boulder, where Mom had recently moved after the death of my father. I asked her, “This is happening, and it will be in the papers. Will Mom be able to handle it and can she keep a secret? My sister said, “she can handle it alright; but she can’t keep a secret.” 

Women protest being forced to carry—a policy driven by a faulty religious doctrine—by wearing “Handmaid’s Tale” costumes. Video by Inside Edition. 

So I decided to fly out to tell Mom in person so she wouldn’t read it in the papers first. When I sat down with her, I asked this question: “Mom, how does it feel to be a mother of a somewhat controversial priest?” “Oh,” she said, “I walk out of church whenever the priest preaches stupid things. Your father and I have an agreement that when the priest says something stupid, I get up and leave church and wait outside until Mass is finished. Then we drive home together and we don’t fight.”  

Fighting religious nonsense at Capitol Pride, 2012. Photo by Tim Evanson. Wikimedia Commons.

This was all news to me, so I asked, “When was the last time you did that?” Answer: “Three months before your father died.” “But wasn’t that when you had your hip operation and had to walk with a walker?” “You bet it was. And as I exited church, I banged that walker as hard as I could—and the floor of the church was rocky, so it made lots of noise. The priest was talking such nonsense.”

I concluded that Mom would not be disturbed at all by the news of my silencing.

She taught me there are many ways to combat falsehood in religion’s name.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


See Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Postdenominational Priest, pp. 30f., 50-52, 185-227, 244-246, 404f.

See also Fox, The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Beatrice Fox with her grown children, c. 1990. From Matthew Fox’s personal collection.



Queries for Contemplation

Did you find my mother’s story inspiring? Does it spark other stories of courage and conscience from your mentors or parents?


Recommended Reading

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved

The Pope’s War offers a provocative look at three decades of corruption in the Catholic Church, focusing on Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. The final section in the book focuses on birthing a truly catholic Christianity.
“This book should be read by everybody, not only for its ferocious courage, but also for its vision for what needs to be saved from the destructive forces that threaten authentic Christianity.” ~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope.
“In the gripping The Pope’s War, Matthew Fox takes an unwavering look at the layers of corruption in the Catholic Church, holding moral truth against power.”   — Jason Berry, author of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II


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8 thoughts on “A Mother’s Wisdom in Resisting Ecclesial Complicity & Religious Nonsense”

  1. Avatar
    Kittie Davenport

    Monday May 20. Disagreements with the church…. Has anyone enlightened the Pope about surrogate mothers. How about Mary???

  2. Avatar

    Thank you so much for sharing this story about your mom. What wonderful, strong, ahead of her times woman! I will draw inspiration to speak up, act up and be up from her! What a blessing! Thank you, Mathew❤️

  3. Avatar
    Mary Elizabeth Heins

    Like Susan, I too will draw inspiration and strength from your mother’s example. Thanks for posting your story!

  4. Avatar

    Yes! Fortunately, there have always been many people, like yourself and peaceful student demonstrators around the world for Truth, Peace & Justice in Palestine and against all wars. Our consciences and actions should always be led by God’s Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Truth~Peace~
    Justice~Compassion~Diverse One-
    ness… Amen

  5. Avatar

    Thank you, Matthew. What a woman! The 3 things that strike me immediately are that she acted despite her physical limitations, she acted in what might seem to be a small act of conscience, and she acted with a wonderful sense of humor. So she is an example of witnessing in a way that her individual values prompted, she did it despite any physical discomfort it might cause her, and she did it with a sense of humor and proportion. Surely we can each do this within our own capacities, within our own regular lives. She also did not expect anyone else to have to agree with her! Her pact with your father was not to discuss it. But, oh, wouldn’t it have been fun if she was just the leader of a group of dissenters who followed her out, stomping all the way!

  6. Avatar
    Martina Nicholson

    Thanks for this story about your courageous mom! When Anne Rice’s second book in her trilogy about Jesus came out, I went into shock, reading about the town stoning to death two young and innocent boys, one who was small and vulnerable, and one who was bigger and more brave and compassionate, protecting him from the bullies. What hit me was the reaction in the town, the silencing, the family of the small boy moving away, the feeling of their grief and also their shame. We need mothers who defend and stand against the cultural wrongness and the bullies. And of course, the clergy is full of this, too; so many wanting to stay “safe”, so they become not only homophobic but cruel and dangerous. Some say 85% of our clergy are gay. It is an honorable way to serve God, if it is done for love, and “widens the circle”. God loves all of us, and what he created is good. My nephew is gay, and he and his husband got married in a wonderful ceremony where his whole family was there to support him. And so many of their friends were young men with no familly support, grateful to be included in this heartwarming event!

  7. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew for sharing a beautiful photograph of your family and this personal story of your mother! Now we know where you got your joy, passion and your voice to speak up.
    Happy Birthday to your mother!
    My mother also listened to her heart. In the 1970’s she was instrumental in bringing the Spirit of Christ off the altar and into the hands of the people. The Pastor of our church gave her a hard time and discouraged her. He felt his authority was threatened by a lay person and a woman. But another priest stepped in to help her and together they held prayer groups in the gym. Many people benefited greatly from the felt presence and immediacy of the Holy Spirit they experienced in these prayer groups.
    Years later when the Pastor was dying in the hospital my mother went to visit him.
    I was surprised by her compassion after all he put her through. When he saw her standing next to his bed he cried and told her he was sorry. They kissed goodbye.
    I learned so much from my mother. She was an instrument of Gods love and peace.

  8. Avatar
    Sister Rosemarie

    Loved your mother,’s story…my mother used to say she did not know where I came from or how she birthed me as I toddled off to a nearby Hindu ashram dedicated to all the religions of the world.,!

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