From Blind Obedience To A Responsible Faith

From Blind Obedience To A Responsible Faith

by Donald F. Fausel


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781450244572
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/02/2010
Pages: 428
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.87(d)

First Chapter

From Blind Obedience to a Responsible Faith

The Memoir of a Cradle Catholic
By Donald F. Fausel

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Donald F. Fausel
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4502-4457-2

Chapter One

In the Beginning

Knickerbocker News Albany, New York November 27, 1929

Birth Announcements:

On November 22, 1929, a son, Donald Frederick Fausel, was born at the Brady Maternity Hospital to Jane McCarroll Fausel and James Otto Fausel of 8 Judson Street. Mr. Fausel works for the Howard B. Stark Insurance Co.

Not exactly breaking news by today's standards, but in the 1920s birth announcements seemed to be of great public interest in many communities. If for no other reason, they satisfied the curiosity of the busybodies, who had nothing better to do than count the months from your parents' marriage to your birth. After all, they didn't have television and all our other modern distractions to occupy their minds. Since my parents had been married on February 8, my birth date was a few weeks over nine months. Thankfully, that put an end to any speculation or rumors about my legitimacy. The announcement also gave a little free publicity for my father's new position at the Howard B. Stark insurance company.

I obviously don't remember the circumstances surrounding my arrival except what I've been told. When I was growing up, my father frequently told me the story of how he anxiously paced the floor in the hospital waiting room to learn how my mother was doing after my birth and whether he had a son or daughter. I can almost hear him reciting the details as I write. As many times as I listened to him reminisce, I never tired of hearing him recalling that eventful morning.

"I brought your mother to the Brady Maternity Hospital just after dinner on Thursday. I had to call my brother Ken to take us; we didn't have a car in those days. He dropped us off, and it was just the two of us-and you. It was scary! I checked your mother in and then waited until the next morning before I got any news of how either of you was. I spent that night in this gloomy waiting room with another expectant father, whose wife worked with your mother at the telephone company. Your mother and his wife had been telephone operators together. You know, 'Number please'? They called them 'old plugs,' since they sat at a switchboard and plugged the calls into a board. Anyway, about four o'clock on Friday morning, Dr. Kircher came into the waiting room. I couldn't tell by the expression on his face whether the news was going to be good or bad. I never felt more anxious in my life."

"Well, Ott, you have a son. It wasn't an easy delivery, but both your son and Jane are doing okay. Jane is resting right now, but you can see her in a little while. We had to use instruments for the delivery, so when you see your son, don't be upset because he has bandages on his head."

"You're sure he's okay?"

"We're as sure as we can be. He might have some scars, but they should heal in a few weeks."

"He wasn't exactly reassuring, but he wasn't negative, either. I asked if I could see the baby." (I didn't even have a name! I was "the baby.")

"Dr. Kircher said, 'Certainly, but like I said, don't be shocked when you see him. He's going to be okay.'

"I felt a little more reassured. When I got to the nursery, the nurse brought you to the window, but, despite Dr. Kircher's warning, I was taken aback. The bandages covered most of your head, and there were traces of blood seeping through. I could hardly see your face, but I could hear you crying. I hoped that was a good sign. The nurse smiled at me as she held you in her arms and then mouthed though the glass that you were doing just fine. That was a bit of a relief."

Later that day they brought me downstairs to meet my mother. My father prepared her for the shock by reassuring her that Dr. Kircher had told him I would be fine and that they didn't have to worry about any permanent damage. At that point, my mother was just glad to meet me and hold me in her arms after carrying me for nine months. My father told me that he wished he had a picture of that first meeting. My mother cried tears of joy and relief, and Dad was just as proud as can be of their accomplishment. It was just dawning on them that they were parents. It also dawned on him that they didn't have a name for this bundle of joy. There were no ultrasound machines, as there are today, so they had had no idea what my gender would be. My father asked, "What are we going to call him?" He described my mother's response as automatic: "Donald! Donald Frederick! I chose Frederick, after your father." My father agreed but asked, "Where does the 'Donald' come from?" My mother reminded him that one of her favorite radio soap opera characters was named Donald. (I'm not sure, but I think the soap was called The Romances of Helen Trent.)

My father shook his head and said, "Okay with me, as long as we don't call him Otto." His first name was James, but everyone called him by his middle name, Otto. He hated the name but said it was good for business, since no one ever forgot his name. Also because Otto spelled backward was Otto.

Years after, my father presented me with the original itemized bill for the two weeks my mother and I spent in the hospital. I understand it was not unusual in those days for a woman to spend a week or more recovering in the hospital after childbirth. What surprised me was that the total cost for my mother's room was $68.00-just $4.00 a day. I suspected I knew the answer but asked, "Do you want me to reimburse you?"

He responded, "Oh, you think you're funny! Of course I don't want your money. I just thought you might want to keep it to show your kids how reasonable the cost of having a baby was back in the dinosaur age. You were worth every nickel. Just imagine how much you would cost today."

Not So Happy Days

Years later I came to appreciate how difficult it must have been for my parents to bring me home and start their life as parents. To make matters worse, I wasn't one of those good babies who slept through the night. My father frequently reminded me that I had been a crybaby with a touch of colic.

Just imagine-in 1929 my parents were both twenty-one years old. At least my father thought they were both the same age. He didn't find out that his dear wife was a couple of years older until he filed for her Social Security benefits some forty years later. I remember him confiding in me, "Guess what? I went to the Social Security office to start the paperwork for your mother's Medicare, and I found out she was born in 1904. All these years I thought we were the same age. That little devil! When we started dating, she told me she was nineteen. It wouldn't have made any difference to me, but I guess she thought I might not want to marry an older woman." He chuckled and went on, "I wonder if I should tell her?" I knew he wasn't asking for my advice; the question was more rhetorical and didn't require my wisdom. So I let him answer it himself.

"Nah, she'd be too embarrassed if I even mentioned it." That was the end of that conversation, except for my having to swear I would never let her know that I knew "the secret." To his credit, he never told her he had discovered that she was an older woman. He never even put her age in her obituary. Now that's true love.

So, there they were, the honeymoon was barely over, and along I came. They hardly had time to get to know one another as a married couple and now more adjustments. My mother was forced to quit her job at the telephone company when it was evident that she was pregnant. That lowered their income. My father had never finished high school and, after some dead end jobs, had started to work for an insurance company at the lowest rung on the ladder, earning $25 a week. Twenty-eight dollars of his monthly wages were for rent. Now they had to purchase all the paraphernalia that little babies need. Not to mention another mouth to feed. Plus, my father was taking night courses to learn the insurance business. I remember him telling me it was a luxury for him to take the trolley car to work. He would usually walk the three miles to save the dime fare. Don't get me wrong. We were never on the verge of knocking on the door of the poorhouse. If we were poor, I didn't know it. But I know now that it was not easy for my parents to start a new family in 1929.

Just to put my birth in perspective, Herbert Hoover was elected president of the United States in 1928. He ran on the platform that "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of this land ... We shall soon with the help of God be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this land." One of his slogans was, "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." His opponent was Alfred Smith, the first Roman Catholic to run for the presidency. The two major issues in the campaign were religion and prohibition. Smith campaigned against prohibition, while Hoover was in favor of continuing the Eighteenth Amendment. The Republicans attacked Smith, claiming that if he were elected he would make Catholicism the national religion. Growing up, I remember the adults talking about how it was a blessing that Al Smith didn't win the election, since otherwise all the Protestants would be blaming the depression on the Catholics and the pope.

Hoover took the oath of office on March 15, 1929. On October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday, the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression was underway. That was the end of "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." People were lucky if they had a pot to put a chicken in. The optimism that Hoover had inspired came crashing down with the stock market. Remember, I was born on November 22, less than a month after the crash. Nevertheless, my father always blamed me for the Great Depression. Even though he said it in jest, I can still hear him saying to his friends, "That Don, if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have had the Great Depression."

How bad was it? During the worst years of the Depression, 1933-34, the overall jobless rate was 25 percent, with another 25 percent of breadwinners with their wages and hours cut. That translates into almost one out of every two United States households directly experiencing unemployment or underemployment. This was catastrophic for workers and their families.

Songs of the Great Depression

I have a tape recording that I love to replay of my father singing one of the most popular ballads of the day, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" by E. Y. Harburg and Jay Gorney. It's a sad song about a man called Al, who had obviously bought into the hopes of the American Dream, only to have those hopes dashed by the tremendous personal losses of the Great Depression. Al symbolized thousands of wage earners who were down on their luck, as they used to say. I'm sure most people who lived during the depression could identify with the despair and sadness that Al expressed when he was forced to beg on the streets. The song was so popular it was even recorded by two of the most popular vocalists of the twenties, Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby. Every time my dad sang it, he would recount his recollections of the Great Depression. He seemed to make it his own song. It was a song that somehow helped him and others through those years.

I think one of the reasons the song was so special for my father was that one of his very good friends for over fifty years was Al Port. Marge and Al Port eventually became good friends of mine. Marge and my mother had worked at the telephone company before my mother got pregnant with me. In those days women were not permitted to work once it was apparent that they were "in a family way." As a matter of fact, it was considered unseemly for a pregnant woman to be seen in public, except for going to church on Sunday. Anyway, Marge was another of the "old plugs" from my mother's days with the telephone company. She and my mother were also sorority sisters. Not to be outdone by the college girls, they started their own Greek sorority. They called it "Tau Nu Signa," or, in English, "Twenty Necking Sisters." I suspect it was the only chapter in the country. I can picture them in their flapper outfits, going out to the "speakeasies" to meet fellows on the weekends after a hard week at the New York Telephone Company.

Al and my father became friends through dating the founders of the "Twenty Necking Sisters." The connection with Al Port and the Al of the song is that one day, before he was married, Al Port just took off for six months and became a hobo. The hobo population thrived during the Great Depression. Although there isn't much agreement on the etymology of the word, its roots are thought to be associated with the phrase "homeless body." Hoboes traveled from city to city mostly by railroad boxcars, which they hopped on when the authorities were not watching. According to Al Port, it was a dangerous life. The economy was so bad that they would work for money, food, or shelter. I remember Al describing what appeared to be a hobo subculture. He told me that the hoboes had their own language that was foreign to non-hoboes. They had their own code of ethics; for example, "Help runaway children and try to convince them to go home." They also had signs that they would place outside homes where they had asked for food or work. A sign of two shovels indicated work was available. A drawing of a cat meant that a kind lady lived there and would offer food. Eventually, Al got tired of being what he called a "bum" and went back to Albany to marry Marge. His story had a happy ending. After working as plumber for small companies, he started his own company, Al Port Sprinklers, and did very well financially.

My mother told me that she and Dad had a special depression song that they used to sing when they were first married. It was "their song." It was a song that was popular in the twenties, and I suspect that their song was adopted by many other young couples trying to look at a brighter side. The song was "Side by Side," written by Harry Wood, who wrote other uplifting songs during the Depression.

Besides being "their song," it was one that we used to sing growing up, when we took a Sunday ride in my Uncle Ken's car or had gatherings with our extended families and friends. It was always-and still is-one of my favorite old songs. As we say, "They don't make songs like that anymore." I was very touched and pleased when my mother shared how meaningful their song was to her and Dad. I could imagine the two of them singing "Side by Side" and suddenly realizing that it would no longer just be the two of them-that there would be someone else to share their lives.


In reflecting on my birth, I was reminded of one of Albert Einstein's frequently quoted dicta, "There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle. The other as though everything is a miracle." It might be a cliché to refer to the birth process as the "miracle of birth," but as I pondered my own birth, it became more and more apparent that it was a miracle. I became more convinced that miracles can range from a supernatural happening or vision to a wondrous experience that fills us with awe. In that sense, every birth is certainly awesome.

I realized that just writing about my birth was an opportunity for me to appreciate it as I never had before. Even though I had spent years studying different approaches to meditation, engaging in Native American spiritual teaching and practices, reading spiritual works from a variety of sources, practicing tai chi and other Eastern mind-body experiences, this encounter with my own birth was different for me. After spending hours meditating on the complexity of my own birth, I came to a special realization of the intricacy of every little detail that goes into the creation of each person and felt an awe that was overpowering. Wow! How did that one little spermatozoon reach the one special ovum and produce the DNA that eventually became me? It seemed improbable that it happened by accident. I was filled with gratitude-gratitude to my parents that, despite all the financial pressures they were under, they hadn't aborted me, and gratitude to God for giving them the strength to bring me into the world. The feelings were so strong and different that I asked myself whether I was having a mystical experience. If not mystical, it was certainly a spiritual experience. It was suggestive of what Abraham Maslow refers to as a "peak experience."


Excerpted from From Blind Obedience to a Responsible Faith by Donald F. Fausel Copyright © 2010 by Donald F. Fausel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


In the Beginning....................4
Love Thy Neighborhood....................20
Family Ties....................45
School Dazes....................92
The Seminary Years....................124
The New Priest....................152
Back Home Again....................183
The Turbulent 1960s....................215
Turning Points....................247
Life in Post-Vatican II....................284
Go West, Young Man....................315
The Seventies and Eighties....................344
The Nineties and the New Millennium....................364

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From Blind Obedience to a Responsible Faith: The Memoir of a Cradle Catholic 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
teoralady More than 1 year ago
While some people might come away from this book thinking it was a statement on celibacy for priests, I think it was more of a statement of the value of our own conscience. As Catholics today, we are faced with many contradictions: a growing shortage of priests with the church's determination not to look at the celibacy issue; the widespread use of artificial birth control with the church's continuing stance that it is a sin; the pressure of the church to have children with its ban on artificial insemination for infertile couples. Donald Fausel makes the point well that we have a "primacy of conscience". I also found his thorough explanations of the history of the church's teachings on abortion very helpful. This is a must read for anyone who calls themselves Catholic, but is still searching for their own place in the Church.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a life story of searching, of faithful joy, of painful choices, of unwavering strength, of touching frailties....... told with complete openness and exquisite details. We are informed and educated at the same time one of the most important issues the Catholic church faces today, an issue we should not and can not ignore. Philomena A.
Byars More than 1 year ago
I am not a "cradle Catholic", or even a latter-day Catholic, but I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir of a priest who left the priesthood, mainly because he could not live up to his vow of chastity. Donald Fausel shares his soul-searching memories of his life as a Catholic from birth throughout his entire life as he approached his 80th birthday. He describes in great detail (with photos) his intimate journey through his times of becoming a priest, his life as a priest (including his first sexual adventures), his growing disenchantment with Church teachings and structure, his separation from the priesthood, his life as a professor and associate dean of social work at Arizona State University, and his varied experiences as husband and step-father. Dr. Fausel shares with the reader his intellectual and emotional struggles with such difficult issues as contraception, abortion, celibacy, dogmatism, and authoritarianism in terms of Church structure. While I believe this book will have special appeal to Catholic priests who have left the priesthood and for those who want to bring structural and doctrinal change to the Church, I think non-Catholics like me also will find much to like about the book. Only a tiny portion of the population become priests and the world of the priest is a bit mysterious to most non-Catholics. Dr. Fausel's life as a priest, and later as a family man, reveals that he struggled deeply with the same issues and challenges that almost everyone faces. The chapters move back and forth between recollections and reflections. I found the movement back and forth disconcerting and, at times, jolting. In my opinion, this book could be two books. But think of it this way: the reader gets two books for the price of one! I highly recommend the book to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.