Thursday, December 26, 2013

I Progress Beyond A Sacrosanct Christmas Tradition--And Survive It

My infamous Christmas Coffee Mug which got a lot of use yesterday.

I hope everyone had a safe and fulfilling Christmas.  I know I did, at least the safe and 'filling' part.  I actually had to work Christmas and part of that work was cooking Christmas dinner for ten.  This then will be partly a cooking column and partly a column about Christmas with Pope Francis' 'sheep', but first a little background.  I manage an eight bed facillity for severely disabled mentally ill adults.  In theory it's supposed to be a transitional facility in that clients stabilize and then move out back on their own.  In practice we've begun to accept clients for whom the State Hospital or crisis facilities can't find any other placement.  Which means we have a very diverse group of people representing African Americans, Native Americans, young adults, an 82 year old, three Developmentally Disabled mentally ill, two who are brain injured and two who might actually transition to independent living.  What most of them have in common is that they have little or no family connections.  Holidays can be really trying for clients and staff.  Only one of the eight actually spent any time over the holidays with family.  So staff walk a fine line between creating a holiday atmosphere and not triggering a lot of depression about not being an actual family with actual Holiday traditions.

I get to work at 7:30 in the morning and am met at the door by a sweet heart of woman who greets me with a hug and forces me to get to the Christmas tree and watch her open her gifts. One of which came from my daughter who knew this woman as a neighbor before JW was overcome by the vicissitudes of living life in an adult world not designed for a Black American orphan with a less than average IQ.  She's laughing her heart out because I'm drinking coffee from my Christmas mug.  It's completely black and reads "Bah Humbug".  "You, so funny", she says and gives me another hug and a hug for my daughter and then takes her loot to her room from whence it will never be found.

Most of the rest trickle in for meds and breakfast and exchange some gifts at their leisure.  One of them got the movie Fast and Furious 6 which we had to watch right then.  Lots of talk about death on Christmas and lots of comments from me about how Vin Diesel really can't hit the broadside of a barn with a shotgun.  By the time the movie is over I decide it's time to get going on the turkey.

First off I discover we have no stuffing mix which will force me to make stuffing from scratch.  I assign one client to toast an entire industrial size loaf of bread and another to saute the celery and onions until they are clear.  "How much margarine should I use?", he asks.  I give him very explicit directions, "A whole bunch".  He puts in the correct amount of margarine, pours a cup of coffee and wanders to his room completely forgetting he's supposed to be sauteing the onions and celery 'until clear'.  In the meantime I am trying to thaw out some sausage patties to add to the dressing and finally just cut them up frozen, add them to the vegetables, and saute the whole thing until vegetables are clear and sausage thawed.  I wound up seasoning  with garlic salt and Italian seasoning because I discover we had no other traditional spices. Spices like sage. The Italian seasoning did have some sage. I used a whole bunch.  Thank God my other helper had stayed on task and the bread was toasted to a fine crispness.  We got the dressing done and the turkey stuffed.  By now there are at least six clients in the kitchen including our 82 year old and all loitering in my work space.

One of them had watched a cooking show in which the TV chef stated the key to cooking a turkey is to bake it with breast down. I am appalled at this suggestion.  How totally untraditional.  Secretly I'm thinking about why that might actually work and while I'm voicing my concerns about destroying generations of turkey cooking tradition have decided I will let them think they have a say in this meal and suddenly flip the turkey over on it's breast.  Our 82 year old gasps. "NO NO NO NO, that's not how you cook a turkey!!!!" I have a flashback to my own mother, she too would have been appalled.  My co staff is skeptical. "You do know", he says, "that the breast will be cross hatched from the drip rack and be ugly." "You do know", I respond, "that no one is going to notice that after the turkey is sliced."  "Good point. I sure hope this works."

"It did on TV", says the client who brought this up in the first place. To which another client responds, "and on TV Vin Deisel can't hit the broadside of a barn with a shotgun."  Everyone cracks up, except the 82 year old who stomps off to her room with many mutterings about how I'm insisting on ruining Christmas dinner.  She is so sure about this she returns to the kitchen three hours later and makes herself a huge breakfast of eggs and bacon.

About the time that grandma is cooking herself a breakfast for a lumber jack, we pull the turkey to do a little basting.  Except there aren't enough drippings with which to baste.  "Why isn't there any drippings?" gasps my co staff.  "I TOLD YOU YOU WOULD RUIN DINNER" snaps grandma.  I ignore her.  "Maybe because they are all in the breast meat and they will magically appear when we flip the turkey and brown the ugly cross hatched breast side for the last forty minutes." I tell him, but in truth I did not anticipate this phenomenon. 

We flip the turkey and crank up the temp.  I begin to pray very seriously. Grandma finishes her breakfast and stomps back off to her room.

I loudly suggest people quit loitering in my kitchen and go watch Vin Deisel again.  Nobody pays the least bit of attention. That happens a lot and besides it's not my kitchen.  We begin to make deviled eggs and discover we have no relish, only really big full sized dill pickles and an onion.  We add a ton of Miracle Whip, a little mustard and call it good---and they were.  In the meantime three clients decide they want a summer sausage and cheese plate, which we all make and they finish off in five minutes and I wonder if anyone is even going to be hungry enough to eat my potentially butchered Christmas dinner.

Finally the turkey is done and my patience with it.  We pull it out and by the Grace of God, the drippings are right where the should be.  We will have gravy.  I start slicing and the breast meat just flows off like butter, the dark meat too inviting not to try.  So we all did.  It was to die for. Seriously.  It was hands down the best turkey I have ever made, and I have made a lot.  Of course I got no credit for it, the TV chef and the client who watched the show got all the credit.....which I suppose is only fair.  All I did was to agree to break a generations long tradition and evolve as cooker of turkeys.  It's how this whole faith journey sometimes works.  Sometimes the gifts come when one is open enough to listening to even the most seemingly heretical of ideas. Like baking a turkey breast side down.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bill Donohue Deputizes The Catholic League To Act As A Vigilante Posse On Behalf On AB Neinstedt

And now Bill wants to insure they have no right to privacy and that he has the right to investigate their allegations.

I made a promise to myself that I would refrain from making any more comments on Bill Donohue, president/well paid CEO/self styled mouth piece for Cardinal Dolan/ head of the right wing Catholic League.  However, after his latest press release I gave myself permission to break that promise.  Here is the pertinent part of the press release having to do with the abuse allegation against Minneapolis' embattled Archbishop Neinstedt:

"Archbishop Nienstedt has been the subject of a non-stop crusade orchestrated by ex-Catholics, and Catholics in rebellion against the Church, simply because he stands for everything they are not: he is a loyal son of the Catholic Church.

Now—out of the blue—comes an unidentified male who claims he was touched on his buttocks in 2009 by the archbishop while posing for a group photo. Nienstedt denies the charge, adding that he has never inappropriately touched anyone. Moreover, he has not been told the identity of his accuser.

The Catholic League is asking those who were there to share with us any information they have. Specifically, we are interested in obtaining a tape recording, or set of photos, of any Confirmation ceremony in 2009 where Archbishop Nienstedt was present; presumably, the alleged victim was standing next to the archbishop. Also, we are asking anyone who knows anything about the accuser (someone knows who he is) to come forward."

I wonder if the members of the Catholic League really want to go after an anonymous kid who did not make this allegation on his own initiative.  It was given to the police by a mandated reporter after the mandated reporter was told by the Archdiocese to do so.  I hope this is Bill using 'we' language without consulting the 'we' he represents.  It beggars the imagination that conservative Catholics actually think they have some mandated mission to interfere with an official police investigation in order to 'save' a culture warrior bishop from a 'crusade orchestrated by ex-Catholics, and Catholics in rebellion against the Church....'  In reality it's called bullying a potential abuse victim just because Donohue has the access and the influence and the money to do so.  This is no longer about ranting the party line, this has crossed the ranting line and moved to personal intimidation and abuse.  Bill might be a parody for some of us, but this kind of thing is all too real for the poor kid who may not even have wanted the issue reported.

Or...this is what conspiracy theorists call a false flag operation designed to create the "embattled Archbishop is victim" scenario described in Bill's press release.  In the end the alleged victim will not be found or the police will not have gotten his cooperation and the whole thing will be dropped.  I personally am starting to think this is exactly what this allegation is really all about. For those who remember, Donohue started a vilification campaign against media outlets in Kansas City on behalf of Bishop Finn during the Ratigan investigation.  Given that Ratigan is serving a federal sentence for the manufacture and distribution of child pornography and Finn was convicted of failure to report child abuse, Donohue's victim scenario for Finn was a total failure.  Bill doesn't strike me as the type of personality to accept a second such embarrassing defeat which is why I think this one is set up in such a way that he won't take another such defeat.  After all the mandated reporter only did so after the Archdiocese gave the green light.  I guess only time will tell.

I will not be shocked at all if the allegations prove unprovable---in spite of Bill's national call for evidence. The vigilantes won't find anything because there is nothing for the vigilantes to find.  In any event, no matter how it turns out,  it's another ugly stain on American Catholicism.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Blast From The Past----The Sins Of The Genders

Eve goes for some pride, while Adam is overcome by lust.

One of the things I've been enjoying about the 'feedjit' gizmo on the sidebar is it shows which posts people are clicking on.  Since I've written close to 1300 posts I don't remember 99% of them, so feedjit has been a ticket to a trip down memory lane.  I caught the following link this morning and just had to go read it.  It's worth reposting under the Pope Francis regime since confession is a bigger deal to Francis than it was to Benedict--at least in terms of how often Francis mentions confession and the fact he's making it mandatory all curial staff take a turn at hearing confessions.

One other thing that made for memories with this post, is I wrote it at the same time NCR took down the old NCRcafe which was the whole inspiration for me starting this blog.  It was written on February 18, 2009.  An amazing factoid for me personally, is that by New Years this blog will have had 1 million page views from 125 countries.  That's just mind blowing to me.  I'll probably have to be confessing a little sinful indulgence in pride or something.

Women are prouder than men, but men are more lustful, according to a Vatican report which states that the two sexes sin differently.

A Catholic survey found that the most common sin for women was pride, while for men, the urge for food was only surpassed by the urge for sex.

The report was based on a study of confessions carried out by Fr Roberto Busa, a 95-year-old Jesuit scholar.

The Pope's personal theologian backed up the report in the Vatican newspaper.

"Men and women sin in different ways," Msgr Wojciech Giertych, theologian to the papal household, wrote in L'Osservatore Romano.

"When you look at vices from the point of view of the difficulties they create you find that men experiment in a different way from women."

Msgr Giertych said the most difficult sin for men to face was lust, followed by gluttony, sloth, anger, pride, envy and greed.

For women, the most dangerous sins were pride, envy, anger, lust, and sloth, he added.

Catholics are supposed to confess their sins to a priest at least once a year. The priest absolves them in God's name.

Men --1. Lust; 2. Gluttony; 3. Sloth; 4. Anger; 5. Pride; 6. Envy; 7. Greed
Women --1. Pride; 2. Envy; 3. Anger; 4. Lust; 5. Gluttony; 6. Avarice; 7. Sloth

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into Hell".

Traditionally, the seven deadly sins were considered: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth.

The Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the Vatican's most secretive departments, which fixes the punishments and indulgences handed down to sinners, last year updated its list of deadly sins to include more modern ones.

The revised list included seven modern sins it said were becoming prevalent during an era of "unstoppable globalisation".

These included: genetic modification, experiments on the person, environmental pollution, taking or selling illegal drugs, social injustice, causing poverty and financial greed.

The report came amid Vatican concerns about the declining rate of confessions.
A recent survey of Catholics found nearly a third no longer considered confession necessary, while one in 10 considered the process an obstacle to their dialogue with God.

Pope Benedict, who reportedly confesses his sins once a week, last year issued his own voice of disquiet on the subject.
"We are losing the notion of sin," he said. "If people do not confess regularly, they risk slowing their spiritual rhythm."


This difference between the sexes is kind of fascinating. Is this nature, gender conditioning, or a product of both. The lists are almost reversed with neither side claiming too much greed--probably why the Vatican's new list seems to concentrate on various consequences of greed.

They conjure up images of beer bellied, lusty, male slobs, and shrew jealous Stepford wives. I've often wondered if priests hear in confession the same stuff I've heard in therapy sessions. My experience with men and women is quite a bit different than this. In therapy a lot of men work on esteem issues, communication difficulties, and relationship problems. Women will work on esteem issues, communication difficulties, and relationship problems. It's also true that these difficulties will lead to engaging in lust, gluttony, envy, sloth, and a bogus pride which covers a lot of humiliation and some defense strategies do tend to be favored on the basis of gender.

There were plenty of times in sessions when I wished I could have given absolution because I knew it would make a real difference. Suggesting clients go to confession too frequently fell on deaf ears. Clients wanted a real relationship with a real person rather than a rote form confession to a mostly complete stranger. When your self esteem is in a hole, I guess this makes some sense.

I had a Catholic psychiatrist in grad school who maintained confession is for the stronger in self esteem and counseling is for those without much self esteem. Both could achieve the same ends but the starting points were different. Needless to say he also felt childhood confession was an exercise in abuse. Children didn't have enough of a concept of self to be put through that particular exercise. I can remember sitting in class and having flash backs about my own first confession. It was not one of my better Catholic experiences. I have a sneaking suspicion the lack of confessions from adults has a lot to do with that early formation.

I disagree with Benedict about the usefulness of confession. If he's talking about maintaining a spiritual rhythm that's one thing, but if the issue is maturing in a relationship with God and understanding the motivations behind the sin, that's another issue entirely. Frequent confession does not always lead to legitimate insight. As a priest friend of mine once said, frequent confession too frequently leads to repeating the same confession. I'm sure he's not the only priest who would say that same thing.

Sin, hell, and confession are areas in which left and right do not meet. The right sees things in terms of sinful acts to be confessed and the left tends to see things in attitudes which need to be adjusted. What we need is a theology of sin which relates the acts to the underlying more global attitudes. I doubt we'll see that under this Pope. In the meantime I'm off to work on pride or whatever it was I used to confess before I tuned up my attitudes.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Enough Of The Rhetoric. Where's The Change I Can Believe In?

 I haven't written anything in a while and it's not because there wasn't anything to write about.  There was a lot to write about.  I spent part of the time reading Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium and certainly did have more than a few thoughts about this lengthy piece.  I just didn't feel like writing them.  Call it malaise or maybe even indifference, but my bigger question was why a pope that was generating such enthusiasm in others had induced malaise and indifference in me---and has been for months. I finally came to the conclusion that Francis is not prepared to really act to make definitive changes in the Church culture.  He is in point of fact, reinforcing some of the worst aspects of Church culture by using a lot of 'up is down' rhetoric, about some insidious Church teaching, but more on that later.

The following is an excerpt of an article by Boston Globe's Kevin Cullen.  It's about Rhode Island's Bishop Tom Tobin.  Tobin, like Springfield's Paprocki is a culture warrior of impeccable credentials.  Unfortunately he is a man for whom Pope Francis is not only not an inspiration, Francis is apparently such a light weight leader he can't  even get Tobin to even consider toning down the rhetoric. For what ever reason, Bishop Tom Tobin continues his career as one of America's prominent GOP Bishops no matter that Francis is on record as being dead set against this kind of preaching.  I think the reason Tobin feels free to ignore Francis is answered at the end of this excerpt.  There is more money in extending forgiveness and mercy to the rich than there is in extending mercy and forgiveness to the poor: 

The infallible Tom Tobin

 Kevin Cullen - Boston Globe - 12/13/13
.....While the pope has been busy selling his soul to all us heathens, Tobin used Nelson Mandela’s death as an opportunity to denounce Mandela’s “shameful promotion of abortion” in South Africa.

I was hoping Tobin would throw in Mandela’s “shameful promotion of condoms” for good measure. You know, the condoms that helped shrink the spread of AIDS in South Africa. Tobin is, in keeping with church teaching, opposed to contraception, even if there is incontrovertible evidence that condoms save lives, even if there’s incontrovertible evidence those condoms reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in abortions. (To this point, Pope Francis holds to the same teachings, no matter the real cost to real lives in the developing world.)

It’s that kind of Dark Ages reasoning that allows bishops like Tobin to believe that in cases of a life-threatening pregnancy, women should die rather than have an abortion. (Pope Francis follows the same reasoning.)

A few years ago, Tobin proclaimed that Patrick Kennedy, then a Rhode Island congressman, should be denied Communion because Kennedy supported abortion rights. The reactionaries in the pews cheered, and Tobin was so busy congratulating himself for standing up for the sanctity of life that he never got around to denying Communion to all those pols who support the death penalty and unnecessary wars fought by other people’s kids.

At the same time Tobin was casting Kennedy out of his church, he was turning over the op-ed page of his diocesan newspaper to Bishop John McCormack, one of the worst enablers of child abuse. At the same time Tobin was denying a sacrament to a politician whose political views he doesn’t share, he was denying diocesan records to men and women who were raped as children by priests. (Pope Francis also has denied access to Archdiocesan records and just last week denied the UN access to Vatican records.)

Tobin’s obsession with judging people narrowly, almost exclusively on whom they fall in love with and whether they support abortion rights, is exactly what the pope has been trying to get away from. The pope hasn’t and won’t change Catholic teaching on these matters, even the risible claim that gay people are “disordered.” He merely wants bishops to stop obsessing about abortion and homosexuality and divorce and contraception because so many who do come across like a bunch of mean-spirited, self-righteous jerks. The pope knows his church is a lot bigger than a couple of hot-button issues, that compassion goes a lot farther than condemnation. (Merely wanting bishops to stop obsessing about these issues means nothing if there is no change in teaching.  Francis can not use his pastoral approach to hide from the implications of the actual teachings.)

To be fair, Bishop Tobin is a merciful guy. Just the other day, he wrote a letter asking a judge to go easy on one of his church’s biggest benefactors, a guy named Joe Caramadre.
Prosecutors want Caramadre sent to prison for 10 years after he was convicted in a $46 million investment fraud that preyed on the terminally ill. So what if Joe Caramadre was using unsuspecting dying people to make a buck? It’s not like he’s gay or in favor of abortion.
Did I mention Caramadre used to advertise his services in the diocesan newspaper?......


Call me a radical, but I don't see why it isn't possible for Pope Francis to send a pointedly worded email or drop a cold call on Cardinal O'Malley and insist the USCCB give some 'fraternal' correction to bishops like Tobin and Paprocki.  It's how leadership changes a culture.  It is virtually impossible to change a culture from the bottom up.  It is virtually impossible to change a culture from the top down if the top isn't willing to exercise their authority in a meaningful way.  Say what you want about Pope Benedict, but he created the culture he wanted in his subordinates.  Just ask William Morris of Toowoomba AU.  One rolled head sent quite the message to every other bishop who might have been entertaining expressing thoughts not acceptable to Benedict.

The thing is, Pope Francis has been dropping hints left and right about what is acceptable to express and what is not.  He has drawn his lines in the proverbial sand and those lines all point to no real change in anything Catholic.  It's as if Francis is using bishops like Tobin to remind us of that while he is free to utter all his pastoral rhetoric, giving the Church a kinder gentler public face.  I don't personally care how wonderful his rhetoric is, if he does not act he will not change the culture he upbraids in many of his writings and talks, and unfortunately too many of his acts indicate the exact opposite of his rhetoric.  And yet, he has the whole world eating out of his hand. 

Even the latest Moneyval report on the IOR, which is not all that flattering, treats the Vatican's failure to implement it's over-site committees with kid gloves.  "No real transparency yet, but we're sure it will come."  Of course the fact it's been over two years,  and nine months of that has been on Francis' watch, doesn't seem to matter. Yes, there has been some change, and yes, there have been accounting firms hired to check for illicit activity, but the permanent structures are still sitting, idling in neutral. In the meantime the indictments of individuals continue and the Italian financial investigations grind on.

When it comes to child abuse the message is exactly the same as it always has been.  No cooperation with outside entities unless forced to in a given secular jurisdiction.  The UN asks for information on the global situation, the Vatican says 'no' and then has Cardinal O'Malley announce an in house committee on child abuse.  Of course there were no pertinent details about this committee.  Just that it would deal with pastoral issues associated with victims and strategies to protect children. Notice how accountability issues were left out?  I can only assume accountability issues will reside where they have always resided, in the hands of the Vatican.  That's change we can believe in. LOL  

And that in a nut shell is where my malaise has come from.  So far Pope Francis has implemented no change in anything meaningful and his rhetoric doesn't cut it for me. I want to see some action that directly points to change I can believe in. Haven't seen it so far and have serious doubts I will any time soon.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

More Up is Down, Plus A Truly Perfect Failing Score

I can't help but wonder if it's not our politicians and bishops who employ tin foil to get in touch with whatever reality it is they are in touch.....because it doesn't seem to be the same reality the rest of us live in.

The following excerpts are taken from an article by Paul Rosenberg for  What makes this article well worth reading is it's information about how American voters would actually handle the current 'raise revenues vs budget cuts' crisis. It turns out the the vast majority of Americans, including the Tea Party faction, are much more practical about this issue than their elected demagogues. In fact, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and Tea Party folks all wind up considerably to the left of the Democratic party.  Yes, you read that right, even the self described Tea Party faction produced cuts and revenue solutions to the left of the current Democratic party. How much more up is down can one get?

The data described below is based on a series of polls designed by the Program for Public Consultation, an adjunct of the University of Maryland.  They did two studies in 2010 and 2011,  designed to find out what Americans would do in a practical as opposed to ideological sense with the Federal budget deficit.  The following are extracts from the much longer article:

..........The results of the process were extremely detailed, particularly compared to what pollsters normally produce.  But the big picture was strikingly clear. Massive cuts to defense on the spending side, massive tax hikes on the revenue side — both positions well to the left of the Obama administration, as well as Democratic leaders in Congress.  More specifically, on the spending side, the public favored an average net reduction of $135.3 billion for general defense spending ($109.4 billion), intelligence ($13.1 billion) and military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq ($12.8 billion), compared to increases proposed by both President Obama and the GOP-dominated House.  This represented just over 92 percent of net spending cuts.  When you add in cuts to military aid and strategic economic aid to U.S. allies, the total cuts involving what the pollsters described as “spending on American international power” came to 96 percent of the total — $139.4 billion. Yet, the public also supported modest increases in several liberal priority areas: job training, education, energy conservation and renewable energy, and pollution control.  Their average net reduction of all spending — $146 billion — was far more than either the president or the GOP House proposed. (This is mind boggling.  Americans across all the political divides almost exclusively recommend steep cuts in defense programs, not entitlements.  This is the utter opposite of the what one hears in the mainstream media.  More up is down.)

On the revenue side, the public increased taxes by an average of $292 billion—roughly triple the amount proposed by President Obama. Majorities increased taxes on incomes over $100,000 by 5 percent or more, and by 10 percent or more for incomes over $500,000. Majorities also increased corporate taxes and other excise taxes. Overwhelming majorities also favored raising estate taxes: 77 percent favored reverting at least to the 2009 levels, with estates over $3.5 million taxed at a 45 percent rate. These positions are generally so far left, they don’t even appear on the spectrum of discussion in Washington. (I love the last sentence. Yes when was the last time any of us heard a peep about raising estate taxes or corporate taxes? Maybe the Occupy folks aren't so far out in left field as we are meant to believe.)

The researchers also found broad agreement across party lines. Their first report noted, “Among a total of 31 areas, on average Republicans, Democrats and independents agreed on 22 areas — that is, all three groups agreed on whether to cut, increase or maintain funding. In 9 other areas there was dissensus.”  That’s not to say there weren’t differences. Republicans cut much less from defense — $55.6 billion for core defense (versus $109.4 billion) — and much less overall — $100.7 billion (versus $146 billion) — than Americans as a whole. But even so, the position of Republican respondents overall was still dramatically to the left of the political conservation in Washington. (Those who advocated for the least amount of cuts, were Republicans, not free spending big guv'mint democrats.)
It is striking that no group — Republican, Democrat, or independents — on average acted in ways that fit their respective media stereotypes. It might be assumed that Republicans would cut the most; Democrats would cut the least or even increase spending; and that independents would be in between. But on the contrary:
  • Republicans cut spending the least, though still considerably ($100.7 billion, or 7.4%)
  • Democrats cut spending more than Republicans ($157.3 billion, or 11.6%)
  • Independents cut spending substantially more than either Republicans or Democrats ($195.5 billion or 14.4%).
Thus, everything the media and Washington’s conventional wisdom tells you about the will of the voters is wrong. But don’t forget the Tea Party! They, too, did not respond as expected.  Sure, they were more conservative than Republicans overall, but they still come across as wild-eyed socialists compared to their D.C. representatives:

 Those who described themselves as “very sympathetic” to the Tea Party (14% of the full sample), as would be expected, raised taxes and revenues less than Republicans in general, and less than Democrats and independents. Even so, on average, Tea Party sympathizers found a quite substantial $188.2 billion in additional revenues to reduce the deficit ($105.2 billion in individual income taxes)....


I take a great deal of hope from this article.  It says alot about how manufactured the differences are in this country.  When Americans are given practical choices about solving problems they advocate for practical solutions, and not ideological positions.  Those ideological differences might make for good bumper stickers, but when push comes to shove Americans will look at the whole car, not just the bumper stickers.

Of course politics isn't the only place where leadership is so far out of touch with their people.  Catholics need only look at the positions of the USCCB on things like birth control and gay marriage to see a very similar phenomenon.  Perhaps this why Pope Francis want his leaders out amongst the sheep.  In the main our shepherds, on some issues, can't even find the sheep much less lead them---and this brings me to a series of articles over at the British Catholic magazine The Tablet.  They are running a breakdown of  British Catholics and their attitudes towards various cultural and Catholic issues.  The data is taken from a recent survey which asked very similar questions to the one the Vatican is promulgating.  The Tablet's entire series is as mind blowing as the above article on US political attitudes, but one paragraph on authority is especially mind blowing:

"Catholics have also strayed from magisterial teaching when it comes to the issue of authority itself. When asked where they look for guidance in living their life and making decisions, over half of Catholics say their own reason, judgement, intuition or feelings, and another fifth say family or friends. More narrowly religious sources of authority are much less popular, even with churchgoers. The most cited is “tradition and teachings of the Church” (8 per cent), followed by God (7 per cent), the Bible (2 per cent) , the religious group to which a person belongs (2 per cent), and religious leaders, local or national (0 per cent). 

Zero percent of British Catholics polled in this study look for guidance from their religious leadership.  Zero percent.  Is there any more damning a statement about the irrelevancy of leadership to the people they are supposed lead?  When leadership across the spectrum is as out of touch with their people as these two stories illustrate it's time to put the ideological bull horns away and start listening to what the average Joe is really saying, because it isn't at all what the holders of the bull horns are preaching.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Is This An Example Of Unenlightened Catholicism Or Ritually Abusive Political Grandstanding?

This is the cover of Bishop Paprocki's book, released earlier this year.  Paprocki is not just an avid hockey goalie, he has also run 18 marathons and has 8 degrees.  For all that, he is not an exorcist and his rhetoric is flat dangerous.

There are days I just want to bang my head on my key board.  Yesterday was one of them.  One of the USCCB culture warriors has raised the ante in the demonization of gay marriage and by extension the GLBT community.  Bishop Thomas Paprocki is going to conduct a prayer of exorcism to drive out the Demon of Gay Marriage from the State of Illinois.  The following is the entire article from yesterday's Chicago Tribune.

Bishop to perform 'exorcism' on day same-sex marriage becomes law

By Manya Brachear Pashman - Chicago Tribune - 11/15/2013
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield said he will offer prayers for “exorcism in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage” at the same time Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the same-sex marriage bill next week. (Hopefully Governor Quinn's head won't spin 360 and he won't have eaten pea soup for lunch.)

Paprocki said he will offer the prayers intended to cast out evil at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the state’s capital Wednesday. (How gutless.  The New Apostolic Reformation Spiritual Warriors would go right to the State Capital and not hide behind a cathedral altar.  Paprocki has a long way to go before he gets to Sarah Palin's level of spiritual warrior.)

“It is scandalous that so many Catholic politicians are responsible for enabling the passage of this legislation and even twisting the words of the pope to rationalize their actions despite the clear teaching of the church,” Paprocki said in a statement.

Earlier this month, House Speaker Michael Madigan cited the pope’s renowned “Who am I to judge?” phrase to explain the politician’s support for same-sex marriage on the House floor. Pope Francis’ remark — “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” — referred to gay men who seek to become priests, not to gay marriage. (I guess the Demon of Gay Marriage hasn't yet heard of the Church's metaphor for ordination as priest marrying the Bride of Christ---or maybe this particular demon is too stupid to compute this too can be considered a 'gay marriage'.)

In fact, during Argentina’s debate over same-sex marriage in 2010, Pope Francis, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, called it a “‘move’ of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.”  (This was really a clever 'move' of Pope Francis since he was at the same time advocating for gay civil unions. Must be that 'marriage' word that brings on the evil one.)

“Pope Francis is saying that same-sex ‘marriage’ comes from the devil and should be condemned as such,” Paprocki said.  (Oh, I was right.  It is that 'marriage' word that starts ringing 'Tubular Bells' down below.  'Civil union' just must not have the same ring tone for the demonic realm.)

An exorcism, which often refers to a rite performed on an individual, is applicable in the case of same-sex marriage because the devil can appear “in various forms of opposition to and persecution of the church,” the diocese of Springfield said in statement. (What?!?! The Church is the one who is really under attack?  Oh, no wonder he won't leave his cathedral.  The Church is possessed.  I could have told him that, and so could have a 100,000 clerical abuse victims.)

“All politicians now have the moral obligation to work for the repeal of this sinful and objectionable legislation,” Paprocki said. “We must pray for deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our church.”  (Why did "Dueling Banjos" just go off in my head?  Oh yea, cued by the word 'deliverance' not the inadequacy of the rational Paprocki is using for his exorcism.)


I suppose I should apologize for my flippant responses above.  It's just that the ritual of exorcism is a very solemn, rarely used rite that Paprocki is mocking in this political stunt of his to further his demonization of gays.  It is this which is the true evil.  This stunt surely negates Emeritus Pope Benedict's desire to couple faith with reason. Perhaps Pope Benedict should stop dialoging with atheists and start dialoguing with the Church's own bishops who are actively making a joke of the concept of faith informed by reason.  As for Pope Francis, maybe he needs to explain to all of us just where he stands on gays and gay relationships before some more overly zealous priests take Paprocki seriously and go the way of Fr Eutenuer.  

Exorcism, and the pathological states it describes, is no joke and I guarantee Paprocki is abusing the concept because he has never participated in a real exorcism or any ritual of deliverance.  From where I actually stand on this issue, this man is not funny.  He is abusive and dangerous.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thoughts On The Rich Church For The Few

Bill Maher explains:  "It's a phony $10 dollar bill that Christians sometimes leave on the table in lieu of an actual tip.  It looks like a $10, so you get the benefit of giving poor people hope, and then crushing it, but on the back it says, 'Some things are better than money ... like your eternal salvation that was bought and paid for by Jesus going to the cross.' "

Yesterday I wrote this sentence in regards to the USCCB:  "Pope Francis' notions about a poor church for the poor just isn't going to compete with the reality in the West of the rich church for the few."  After I posted my take on the USCCB, that line kept bugging me.  I fell asleep last night still thinking about how there was probably another post in that thought.  This morning I have been blessed to find an assortment of articles dealing with the same theme.  I have to thank Bill Lyndsey for links to a couple of them.  It's often amusing to me how often Bill and I will get on the same wavelength about a particular issue and be writing about said issue, sometimes not just on the same day, but at the exact same time.  Maybe we were twins in another lifetime or something.

Bill linked to an excellent piece in Alternet by Amanda Marcotte, who has this to say about the link between Christianity piety, and the message of Pope Francis regarding the priority of the poor:  

 Pope Francis may be entirely sincere when he says he wants Catholic clergy to deemphasize the right-wing political pandering in favor of highlighting values that are more in line with liberalism, such as compassion and generosity to the poor, but the odds are slim of this message making inroads with church leaders in the United States. The church needs conservatives who need to believe they’re good and holy people despite their selfish beliefs. Without them, who will show up and tithe? Liberals? Most of them are sleeping in on Sundays, secure that their commitment to social justice makes them good people regardless of how visibly pious they are." (It's very true that liberals give time and money to charities and causes not necessarily affiliated with religion.)

The link between external forms of piety fueling beliefs that rationalize selfishness is strong.  Polling shows over and over again that the most politically and economically conservative voters in the US are also those who claim the most Church attendance and engage in the most forms of external piety.  Anyone who has spent much time on conservative Catholic websites, especially those which feature Marian piety, know that this piety covers a host of interesting views about poor people, gays, immigrants and other marginalized groups in the Church and society. They unabashedly state that giving up on the only moral issues that count--gay marriage, contraception, and abortion, is to turn everything over to socialism and destroy the country and affirm the work of the devil.  There is very little space given what so ever at all to the idea that poverty, unjust war, racism, or economic greed are moral issues.  The only moral issues are other people's sex lives.  The USCCB has underscored this thinking over and over again.  The USCCB seems to have decided their mission is to make the few, the proud, and the economically secure, feel good about what are essentially core beliefs of the Evangelical prosperity Gospel.

Bill Maher made this same point in a piece he did last Friday.  Maher uses the same kind of direct communication that Pope Francis does, albeit a little more spicey than Francis.  Here's Maher's take on this issue about Christianity becoming a sort sanitized cover for refusing to see beyond one's own driveway:

And finally, New Rule: It's OK if you don't want to feed the hungry, or heal the sick, or house the homeless. Just don't say you're doing it for their own good.  Don't say you'd like to help people, but your hands are tied because if you did, it would cause a culture of dependency, or go against the Bible, or worst of all, rob them of their freedom... to be sick and hungry.

Just admit you're selfish, and based on how little your beliefs mirror the actual teachings of Jesus, you might as well claim to worship  Despicable Me .
Now I bring this up, because last week new food stamp cuts went into effect, and Congressman Steve Fincher, a Republican from Dogpatch, justified the cuts by quoting the Bible — "The one who does not work shall not eat."...... 
Of course, Congressman Fincher failed to note that those who cannot find work also do not eat. Oh well, those folks must not have enough faith in God's single handed ability to provide jobs.  Maybe if they took what money they do have and donated it for the latest diocesan capital campaign, God would create a job for them.  But it's funny how external piety works so much better for those who already have jobs.
Maher's main rant was about the latest trend in which 'Christians' use their restaurant tab to evangelize their heathen wait staff.  That's where the photo and quote at the top of this piece came from.  I personally could relate to this whole tipping phenomenon.  Back when I was working for golf courses in Salt Lake we used to cater a lot of tournaments.  The tips from the corporate tournaments went a long way to paying our rent, but the LDS tournaments, especially the tournaments for women, were seriously unbelievable. We might split $10.00 in tips from a full field of 172 golfers--and most of them weren't using clubs from Walmart.  It was disheartening to say the least, but it taught my daughter a lesson about valuing service folks.  This is one reason I have hope that the next generation of leaders will have a better grip on what it means to actually live the Christian ideals.  Those ideals would not be saying a rosary during Eucharistic Adoration and then marching against the contraception mandate in Obamacare and ranting about socialism and big guv'mint.  
One last observation.  The Justice and Peace Council of the Vatican is holding a two day conference on clergy who minister to parliaments or politicians.  Cardinal Turkson gave an outline of the two day conference to participants.  He had this to say as one of his main points concerning the poor church for the poor:
"The preferential option for the poor includes the unborn and social insecurity, migrants and the elderly, the unemployed and the environment. One characteristic of Christians involved in politics is or should be an ability to promote an all-encompassing and coherent principle of humanity."
 Perhaps the USCCB can take note that Cardinal Turkson did not mention gay marriage or contraception, but did mention social insecurity, migrants, the unemployed and the environment.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thoughts On The USCCB--Not Happy Ones

This is the shorter version of the long Hummer limo.  It only holds 16 republican leaning bishops.

Fr Thomas Reese has written an article for NCR with his observations from the just concluded USCCB meeting in Baltimore.  In the main I found this was a useless and boring meeting of corporate leaders who seem frighteningly out of touch with both their consumers and their own CEO. Although Fr Reese isn't quite that blunt in his assessment he does say some things that are never the less quite blunt.  The following is an extract that includes some of Reese's blunt observations:

......But the bishops as a conference have been embarrassingly silent on economic justice during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Last year, the conference failed to pass a document on the economy despite growing inequality and high unemployment.

Many bishops fear that speaking loudly about economic issues would help Democrats and undermine their alliance with the Republican Party on issues like gay marriage, abortion, and religious liberty. Some even think that the conference's earlier letters, "Economic Justice for All" and "The Challenge of Peace," were mistakes because they hurt their friends.  (Poverty, illness, justice for all, what are these boring things when compared to the titillation of sexual issues?)

Will the new leadership of the conference make a difference? (No.  Especially since the Koch Bros just donated a cool million to the bishops very own university--Catholic University of America.  How quickly came the reward for staying the pelvic course with their friends in the GOP.)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was elected three years ago because the bishops saw him as the perfect "happy warrior" in the culture wars. He could come out swinging but with such charm that no one could demonize him. Bishop Gerald Kicanas, the USCCB vice president and heir apparent, was thrown under the bus because he was seen to be a protégé of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the architect of the "Consistent Ethic of Life," which was concerned about life from the womb to the tomb.

When Cardinal Dolan was asked what the bishops might concretely do in response to the pope's vision of a poor church for the poor, he responded by saying, "I don't think we have to add anything." The first draft of my story on Dolan's press conference had the headline "Dolan says bishops have done enough for the poor," but I changed it to the more boring headline "Dolan on poor church for the poor." Not only is Dolan bigger than I am, I don't think that the first headline reflected what he meant even if it was close to what he said.
Dolan went on to say that the bishops want to resist the temptation to see a new document, a new office, or a new collection as the solution to every problem. Funny how they could not resist a new document on pornography but gave no attention to "the most serious of the evils that afflict the world," according to Pope Francis, "the old need care and companionship; the young need work." (Pornography is another pelvic issue.  Such a letter won't offend their 'friends'.)


If I were a bishop who really cared about his relationship with Jesus, I would be seriously embarrassed with my membership in the USCCB.  But it's getting more obvious that too many of our bishops have a relationship not with Jesus, but with advancing their personal status.  Otherwise why would they be concerned about hurting their GOP and business friends?  Hey I get it, it's much much better for one's social standing to grasp hands with the likes of the Koch brothers than it is to grab the hand of homeless vet. It's much much better for one's social standing amongst the rich and powerful to target gays and female law students for potential sexual transgressions than it is to target the rich and powerful for actual social justice transgressions.  I get all that.  

What upsets me is that the USCCB seems to think so little of the laity that they act as if we laity don't get that they cater to the money.  How else do you explain the use of Hummer limousines?  Or the issuing of a letter on pornography when they have done zero about Bishop Finn who enabled a priest porn addict to stay in the priesthood?  Or giving a prime time platform for AB Cordileone to attack gays while refusing to issue any statement on their sincere desire to do right by abuse victims? Or their continuing to talk about the non negotiable aspects of abortion and euthanasia while maintaining dead silence about everything else needed to sustain people in the rest of their lives?  It sure doesn't look to me that too many of our bishops are channeling their inner Francis. 

The one positive to come out of Baltimore is I am done having to deal with the 'happy culture warrior' Cardinal Dolan. I personally found AB Cordileone less offensive in that Cordileone never pretended he was Mr Rogers and that gays were welcome in his neighborhood.  I doubt AB Kurtz will subject us to the same schtick Cardinal Dolan tried and that's a good thing.  I also have very little hope the USCCB is going to change course.  There's just way too much money on the right wing side of the equation for too many of our bishops.  It fuels their career advancement and loads their wine cellars and cigar boxes.  Pope Francis' notions about a poor church for the poor just isn't going to compete with the reality in the West of the rich church for the few.  

What is saddest of all for me is that I don't really think the majority of the USCCB actually agrees with the vocal minority who insist on continuing the culture wars.  I just don't get why they allow themselves to be hi jacked by the minority.  I wish Pope Francis would send a message that he's not kidding about what he wants for a pastoral bishop.  He could start by doing something about Finn and Neinstedt because it's very obvious the USCCB isn't going to do anything at all--at least publicly. But Pope Francis is first and foremost a pragmatist, and faced with the unfolding horror in the Philippines and the amount of money US bishops can raise, he may not be predisposed to do much about Bishops who think running around in a Hummer limo is pastoral act.  Mores the pity.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Powerful Set Of Answers To The Vatican's Questions

It would sure be nice if this meant more than just a neat picture. 

I have to admit I've actually been very surprised with the amount of coverage that has been given the Vatican's solicitation of input for the 2014 Synod on the Family.  It has certainly sparked a conversation, whether or not the USCCB ever gets on board, or whether or not the Vatican actually uses any of the input.  I personally have not yet responded to any of the survey links, and after reading the thoughts of Basque theologian Jose Arregi, know for a certainty my input can't possibly add anything to his thoughtful reflection.  Below I have excerpted his answers to the four main categories of the Vatican survey that I myself was most interested in answering.  The blog Iglesia Descalza has the entirety of his response.  It was written as an open letter to Pope Francis.  Thanks to Rebel Girl for her translation of this beautiful and honest response.

1. Whether the teachings of Sacred Scripture and the hierarchical Magisterium on sexuality, marriage, and the family are known and accepted among the faithful.

Perhaps they're not well known, and certainly they are poorly accepted or simply ignored. We note that in recent decades the gap, or rather the rupture, between official doctrine and the feelings of a wide majority of believers, has grown to a critical degree. It's serious and it grieves us. But we sincerely believe that the reason for the growing break is not the ignorance, much less the irresponsibility of the believers, but rather the hierachy's being locked into patterns from the past.

Times have changed a lot in a short period in everything that has to do with family, matrimony, and procreation, and with sexuality in general. We know they are delicate subjects, that what is most holy is at stake, that the utmost care is necessary. But you can't care for life by repeating the past. We believe deeply that the Spirit of Life goes on speaking to us from the heart of life, with its joys and sorrows. We believe that the living Ruah cannot be closed in any doctrine, or document, or words of the past, and that it goes on inspiring the feelings of all believers and all men and women today. Nothing should ever remain closed.

Pope Francis, we congratulate you on your willingness to listen again to the voice of the Spirit in the men and women of today, and we dare to ask you to keep speaking words of mercy and encouragement, to not go back to obsolete and meaningless "truths" and "norms". In the name of Life!

 2. On the place that the concept of "natural law" in relation to marriage has among believers.

We will tell you simply and frankly: For the great majority of thinkers, scientists, and believers in our society, the concept of "natural law" no longer has any place at all. Yes, the nature that we are has a wondrous order, some marvelous laws, and thanks to them, science is possible. But the supreme law of nature is its capacity for change and novelty. Nature is creative and inventive. The fruits of that creative and inventive capability, of that holy creativity, are all the atoms and molecules, every star and galaxy. All of us living beings, all languages and cultures, all religions are fruits of it. For billions of years to come, infinite new forms yet unknown to us will be the results of it.

Nature is inhabited by the Spirit, by the holy Ruah that blew on the waters in Genesis, that goes on vibrating in the hearts of all beings, in the heart of every atom and particle. The family too has been changing unceasingly, from the first clans to the nuclear family, through the patriarcal family we have known until recently.

Before our very eyes, the model of the family is still changing: families without children, single parent families, families with children of different fathers and mothers...And it will go on changing, we don't know how. It's all very delicate. There's a lot of pain. We ask the Church not to speak ill of the new forms of family, since they already have enough living day to day and getting ahead amid the greater threats that come to us from a cruel, inhumane economic system. It's not the Church's job to dictate but, first of all, to provide accompaniment, relief, and encouragement, as you yourself have said.

 5. On same-sex unions.

The harm caused by the Church to homosexuals is huge, and someday it will have to ask their forgiveness. Let's hope that Pope Francis, in the name of the Church, will ask forgiveness for so much shame, contempt, and feelings of guilt that have been laid on them over the centuries.

The vast majority of men and women in our society today can't understand this obsession, this hostility. How can they go on saying that homosexual love isn't natural, being that it has been so common and natural, for biological and psychological reasons, among so many men and women of all times and on all continents, and in so many other animal species?

In this case, as in many others, the Church should go first, but society precedes us. We celebrate that there are increasingly more countries that recognize that persons of the same sex have the same right as persons of the opposite sex to form unions. What prevents us from calling them "marriages"? Aren't heterosexual unions that, for whatever reason, aren't going to have children called that too? So, let the dictionaries and canon law change to conform to the times and meet the needs of the people.

And what is stopping us from calling homosexual marriage a sacrament? It's love that makes us human and makes us divine. It's love that makes the sacrament. And everything else is gloss and human tradition.

 7. On the openness of spouses to life.

Fortunately, there are very few among us believers under 60 who have heard of Humanae Vitae, that encyclical by Paul VI (1968) that declared it a mortal sin to use any "unnatural" contraceptive method, any method other than abstinence or adjusting to the female fertility cycle. But it made almost all our parents suffer a lot. That doctrine, adopted against the advice of much of the episcopate, was unfortunate in its time and it is no less regrettable that it is still maintained today.

Today no one understands it and almost nobody complies with it among Catholics themselves. And few priests or bishops dare to lay it out these days. It no longer makes sense to state that sex has to be open to reproduction. It no longer makes sense to distinguish between natural and artificial methods, much less to condemn a method for being "artificial", since for the same reason one would have to condemn any vaccination or injection.

Nowadays we are witnessing a momentous change in everything that has to do with sexuality and reproduction: for the first time after many millennia, sex is no longer necessary for reproduction. It is a technological change that brings with it an anthropological change and requires a new moral paradigm. Sexuality and life remain as sacred as ever and it is necessary to care for them with utmost delicacy. But the criteria and standards of Humanae Vitae don't help in this, but rather make it harder. Let the words of the Church be light and comfort, like the Spirit of God, as Jesus' words were in his time and would also be in ours.


This is just such a powerful piece.  I have just a couple of observations.  The first is in line with Jose Arregi's first answer about the reception of the Church's teachings on sex and the family.  I would just add that the influence of the Holy Spirit, as this Spirit propels humanity forward in consciousness and understanding, can not be locked in a box of unchanging dogma and doctrine.  To believe otherwise is anti Gospel and opposed to the true nature of humanity as an expression of God's creative and ever evolving and expanding love.

My second thought, which pertains to mostly to questions 4, 5, and 7 is that the Church needs to prioritize love over legalisms.  I keep going to back to a quote from Fr Mychal Judge in which he asks a very pertinent question:   “Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love?!"  The answer of course is NO.  The Church should be in the business of increasing and sanctifying the amount of love in the world.  Perhaps if that was the first priority people would find it much easier to value and respect their own sexuality and that of others and they would willingly and responsibly bring new life into the world.  Life that would be welcomed as a true joy--and not the burden it becomes all too frequently in a competitive and consumer driven culture.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Who Really Benefits From The Constant Use Of Gays As A USCCB/GOP Wedge Issue?

Cardinal Dolan demonstrates 'big tent' Catholicism.  His letter on immigration reform specifically states the tent has no room for any gay spouses.  The USCCB opposition to ENDA says the tent has no rooms for gays period.

I'm sure it was in the interests of not judging anyone that the USCCB weighed in on the Senate's attempt to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act otherwise known as ENDA. The input of the bishops was not successful in the Senate as ENDA passed 64-32.  An amendment by Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa) to broaden the religious exemption aspects failed to pass as well. The vote in the Senate reflects the attitude of the general US population--including the Catholic population-- with regards to ENDA.  But of course ENDA still has to pass the House and the House more closely reflects the attitude of the USCCB.  I'm sure the bishops letter will have a much better reception in the House where Majority Leader John Boehner refuses to introduce the bill.....good Catholic that he is.....Moving right along I thought I'd pass on some of the observations of NCR's Jamie Manson.  Here is the part where she explains the USCCB objections to ENDA.

"Their reasons are fivefold. In a letter to the U.S. Senate signed by three of the USCCB's most ardent culture warriors, Archbishop William Lori, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Bishop Stephen Blaire insist they "oppose unjust discrimination in the workplace."

"No one should be an object of scorn, hatred, or violence for any reason, including his or her sexual inclinations," the letter continues.

Nevertheless, they complain, ENDA "does not include an exemption for a 'bona fide occupational qualification' (BFOQ), for those cases where it is neither unjust nor inappropriate to consider an applicant's sexual inclinations." Such an omission equates sexual orientation to the same level of race discrimination "and above religion, sex, and national origin discrimination." (The BFOQ 'inclination' reasoning doesn't apply to heterosexuals I guess.  The USCCB is not complaining about straight men coaching girls sports.  It just refers to things like lesbian women coaching girls sports.)

Adding to that, the bishops argue, "ENDA's vague definition of 'sexual orientation' would encompass sexual conduct outside of marriage." Therefore, it will legally affirm and protect what they consider to be extramarital sex. (I'm not sure I get what this means.  Are bishops advocating for employment terminiation for co habiting straight couples or does this just apply to gays?)

And speaking of marriage, the bishops believe ENDA will be used in courts to argue that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.

Not surprisingly, gender identity protections create another host of worries for the bishops. ENDA, they say, legally forces them to view gender as little more than "a social construct or psychosocial reality" that an individual can choose.

The bishops say the bill would also violate the privacy of other employees in places where they may reasonably expect people of the same sex. One assumes they are referring to bathrooms or locker rooms here. It's a worry that apparently hasn't arisen in the 17 states where gender identity protections are already in place, but the bishops fear this could become a problem. (This kind of argumentation gets old, especially given our homes don't normally have his and her bathrooms.)

All of this adds up to their ultimate concern: ENDA threatens religious liberty. The bill threatens to punish the church by treating the teachings of the Catholic faith as discrimination. The exemption for religious employers is uncertain, they insist, and they are convinced that even exempted employers will face government retaliation. (Well, these teachings can easily be considered a form of discrimination, but the good news is the bishops can still kick out all the gays they want any time they want.  It's an unfortunate reality for them that they don't rule the world.)

Even with this litany of complaints, the bishops conclude their letter insisting that they are ready to work with "all people of good will to end all forms of unjust discrimination, including against those who experience same sex attraction."  (Oh yes indeed this is surely more 'up is really down' kind of wishful thinking which is why it will find a welcome audience in Tea Party controlled House.)
The bishops declare they want to work to fight LGBT discrimination in the very same document where they use remarkably discriminatory ideas.


I don't know whose tune the USCCB is dancing to, but it doesn't seem to be the one being played by the Papal piper in Rome.  I hate the thought of what will come out of next week's USCCB meeting in Baltimore.  The entire agenda, except for the approval of more Latinized English for a couple of sacraments, is all pelvic issues.  Why this obsession with sex? Of course, that question could be asked of the Church in general and for too much of it's history, but the USCCB is going beyond the usual.  

I'm hard pressed to think of another national conference of Bishops using the gay wedge issue to the same extreme the USCCB is.  I couldn't help but notice in the NCR coverage of Cardinal Dolan's letter to John Boehner on immigration reform that Dolan included the following line:  He called for expediting the reunification of families, but emphasized the policy must be "based on marriage as the union of one man and one woman."  I'm sure John Boehner gets the reason for this line.  He can be assured the USCCB will not support immigration reform if it contains anything about gays getting the same protections as straights.  It sets up yet another Obamacare/contraception religious freedom fight that was so useful to certain Republicans in the Tea Party in the last elections and this current debacle we call Congress.

I really do want to know who benefits from the constant attacks on gay rights, and why it's only the USCCB that pushes this issue to this extent in Roman Catholicism.  One beneficiary is obviously the Republican party and yet, this doesn't really explain what the USCCB is getting out of it.  It must be on heck of a lot of Benjamins all coming from anonymous sources or the Carl Anderson led K of C, and it's enough money so that Bishops like Lori and Cordileone can spew double talk with a straight face. I'm sure most US Catholic can't wait for the coverage of Cordileone's progress report on the defense of traditional marriage.  It shouldn't take more than a second.  All he needs to say is: "We lost."  Of course that kind of honest assesment is in short supply so I suppose we'll get to hear how losing is really winning and the Benjamins will continue to flow into USCCB coffers.  Sighhhh.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Wow, The Vatican Is Seeking Input For The Synod On The Family.

All the surveys from real families are not going to change this picture.  The decision makers will still be entirely celibate males without families---at least ones they claim in public.

The Catholic blogosphere is all a buzz with the Vatican's decision to seek input from the wider Church about issue pertaining to the family.  The bishops of England and Wales got right on it and put a translation of the pertinent questions on the internet.  You can read that here.  The USCCB on the other hand, is apparently going to conduct business as usual and have Carl Anderson of the KofC fill out the survey, and maybe Bill Donahue, and submit that to the Vatican as representative of all American Catholics.  Actually, this is more likely to be the USCCB response a long as Cardinal Dolan still runs the show.  He can truthfully say he consulted the laity and feel good about himself.  Talent with mental reservation has always been a bishop's best friend on his way to the red.  Tim has talent.

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have posted their own version, which is not exactly the version posted by the bishops of England and Wales.  Some would say it's sort of slanted, but in it's favor, it is a lot shorter. It does have the added bonus of allowing some other American Catholics to add their own input.  I was going to fill out the survey posted by the UK bishops and then I actually read it.  It's not like I had real trouble with the Latin, it's that I couldn't believe the assumptions underlying the questions.  But God is good, and over at Questions from a Ewe, Ewe has ruminated on the verbiage and found the real questions behind the verbiage.

I personally don't know how much good it will do to answer any of the questions in any of the surveys.  It's hard for me to imagine bishops don't have some clue as to what their sheep actually think about these questions.  From a US perspective there are a number of reasons people are not getting married in the Church.  First it's an expensive proposition with a whole lot of road blocks in the way, such as proving you are a contributing member to a parish, or your spouse is, or some part of the family is.  Second the pre Cana process is off putting to couples precisely because of the questions about Humanae Vitae and having children and generally putting the Church in the middle of a young couples most intimate lives.  Seriously, that's what in-laws are for.  Third, lots of young adults are carrying a lot of college and university debt and taking on the added responsibility of raising children and creating a home is hard.  Not too mention all the young adults who are underemployed or have no job security.  I don't know that the Church's teachings on marriage are all that helpful with some of these more mundane practical issues.

As to gay marriage, Ewe has this one right.  What can the Church do about gays and gay marriages when our bishops have spent the last couple decades more or less defining gays as the 'spawn of satan'.  Not much more than secretly minister to them in an alley behind the Church.  The damage done by the Church with it's anti gay marriage campaign is going to take a whole lot more to heal than some questions in a survey.  To be honest, I'm not even sure why these questions on gay marriage and adoption are even in the survey.  Unless it's to make closeted gay priests feel better about the clerical closet.

I suppose the question that really blew me away is the one about what can the Church do to foster an increase in births--outside of insisting on NFP.  I have to think this is all about replenishing both pews and vocations.  This would be the tried and true traditional way of assuring another generation of Catholics and vocations, and it's a lot more sure process than this evangelizing stuff the current Pope is harping on.  Plus Catholic families having more children than they can raise insures they are too busy to notice things like bishops building mansions as testimonials to their own egos.  I can definitely see where the Vatican is vested in this concept.  I'm just not so sure about those Catholic babies coming from the first world since each first world baby takes up three or more times the resources of a baby from the developing world--at least in the UK and the US.  Might be more efficient for the planet and global Catholicism to keep the developing world from getting their hands on birth control.  The West is lost on that issue.  Come to think of it, if the Philippines is any example, so is most of the developing world.

The changes in culture which have resulted in these issues will not be rolled back.  It seems to me the Church needs take a look at their own teachings which have contributed to this 'secularization' in cultures.  One thing that could happen is to stop the promotion of a double standard in holiness between sexually active lay couples and celibate virginal religious.  The Vatican might want to consider canonizing a couple of the multitude of married couples who were truly heroic in raising their families while supporting the Church.  I personally can think of more than a couple. Stop with the virginal founders of religious orders the average pew sitter has never heard of, and please, don't promote the kind of married couples who lived 'as brother and sister' when their procreative years were over.

Look around you and process the fact people are living longer and decisions made in the heat of youth may not last into one's forties or fifties.  Life keeps on happening and it keeps on changing people.  It doesn't stop at confirmation or even at an altar rail on a wedding day.  People don't marry with the intent to divorce any more than people choose gay.  Concepts that might have worked when the life of an individual was short and pretty much set at birth, no longer work in a culture which is changing as rapidly as it is in the twenty first century and whose people lives are not infrequently lasting a century. Stop trying to put old wine into new wineskins.

And last, but not least, open the priesthood to everyone.  Quit closing parishes or importing priests from hither and yon.  This sends the very strong message that the priesthood is more important than the Message.  That's not a particularly good message to send, and expecting more babies from strapped families isn't the answer to the vocations shortage.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Non Reform Of The Reform: Maciel's Legion Lives On Mostly Unreformed

Another group of recruiters is ordained for Grupo Integer---Oh wait, I mean priests for the Legion of Christ

One of the Catholic stories I have featured prominently on this blog over the past seven years or so is the one concerning the Legion of Christ.  I feature this story because the Legion story itself contains with in it a legion of other stories that seem to epitomize the very clericalism, corruption, sexual abuse, personality cult, and elitism that Pope Francis states he wishes to purge from the Church and it's leadership. So how is Pope Francis doing with regards to the Legion and it's legion of issues.  Not so well so far. John Allen has a story about the Legion in his latest All Things Catholic article.  It is now involved in another potential scandal which typifies how the Legion has historically done business.  Allen refers to it as 'rigging competition for teaching positions' when it is better described as 'granting preferential treatment to the children of the rich and powerful'.  After all, as far as I can see the only charism the Legion has ever had is catering to and then bilking the rich and powerful.  And as usual the Legion is denying any such wrong doing. 

Pope Francis and the Legionaries of today

The embattled Legionaries of Christ recently announced that a general chapter meeting will be held beginning Jan. 8, billing it as the next step in their recovery from the scandals surrounding their founder, the late Mexican Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. (This would be an announcement from the same leadership that was in place when Maciel was the Legion's revered Nuestro Padre and could very well be the next leadership.)

This week, a new hiccup, albeit a relatively minor one, emerged with reports claiming that the former rector of a Legionaries university in Rome, Fr. Paolo Scarafoni, is among the persons of interest in an Italian civil investigation of rigging competitions for teaching positions. (The Legionaries issued a statement saying no one has informed them that he's a target.) (This is so typical.  There is no denial in this, only that 'no one has informed them that their former rector is a target.)

To be honest, the situation has little to do with the Legionaries. The charge is that a network of influential Italian "wise men" conspired to make sure their protégés, in some cases their own children, got teaching positions at a series of universities despite the fact those jobs were supposed to be awarded on the basis of open competitions.

It's a juicy story for the Italians, mostly because five of those alleged "wise men" are also jurists tapped by Prime Minister Enrico Letta to advise the government on constitutional reform. Reportedly, prosecutors have wiretaps that reveal these VIPs putting in the fix.

One of the campuses allegedly involved is the European University of Rome, founded by the Legion of Christ in 2004. It remains to be seen whether the charges have any merit and to what extent Scarafoni, who stepped down as rector Sept. 11, may have been involved.

The Legion has pledged to cooperate fully with the Italian probe, and they'd probably be well advised to follow through. (The Legion has their own definition of 'full cooperation'.)

So far, Francis doesn't seem to have any prejudice against the order. On Aug. 30, he appointed a prominent Legionary named Fr. Fernando Vergez, previously the head of the Vatican's telecommunications department, as the new No. 2 official in the government of the Vatican City State. The pope made Vergez a bishop on Tuesday.

That benevolence could disappear, however, if Francis were to get the impression that the Legion's past isn't really in the past.  (Maybe)


As far as I've been able to discern, not much has really changed in the Legion or in it's formation program.  On the other hand, there has been some changes with the Regnum Christi movement in the area of transparency and in their statutes. The women's branch of Regnum Christi also experienced a group breaking off and forming their own program which probably helped loosen up some of the other aspects of the RC movement.  The new group split with the blessings of Cardinal de Paolis, the Cardinal Pope Benedict placed in charge of LC/RC in 2010.  RC leadership was not so sanguine.  Cardinal de Paolis' mandate lasts until after the General Congregation in January 2014 when the Legion will once again be on it's own.  Unfortunately Cardinal de Paolis does not seem to have effected much change in the Legion itself. especially in the areas of accountability and transparency.  That's not real surprising given the man doesn't even speak Spanish.  Makes one wonder if real reform was ever the intention.

Some of the non changes:

There are still too many victims of Maciel himself who have still not received any compensation from the Legion. (including Maciel's biological sons)  There have been at least 8 Legion priests accused of sexual abuse, and this doesn't include the high profile case of Fr Thomas Williams who fathered a child with a consenting adult woman.  He chose to leave the priesthood after his year sabbatical and is scheduled to marry the mother of his pre teen child.  The Legion General Superior kept Williams indiscretion under wraps for years (Cardinal de Paolis was also aware of it) until Williams was exposed in the press.  The same appears to be true for Fr John O'Reilly, the Legions' long time numero uno in Chile.  As soon as child sexual abuse allegations hit the Chilean press the Legion took action and removed O'Reilly from the Legion school he headed.  So too did the Vatican take action.  They took the internal investigation of the charges out of the hands of the Legion and put the local bishop in charge.  I cite these two events because they happened while the Legion was under the supervision of Cardinal de Paolis, which for some reason does not seem to have changed the Legion's modus operandi when it comes to covering up the sexual abuses of Legion members.

There have been no real changes in upper leadership while the Legion has been under Vatican supervision.  Nor has the Vatican or de Paolis initiated any investigation of Maciel's history with the Legion nor initiated any internal investigation of the upper leadership.  A leadership that included some who must have abetted Maciel's fraud, embezzlement, and double life.  The same people are eligible for election to the same offices at the coming General Congregation.  Excuse me?!  How is it possible to reform a group when upper management has never been held accountable for any of the  mismanagement necessitating all the reform?  How could this be?

There is still no really well defined charism (unless it's a capacity for denial) and not much real reform of the constitutions, spiritual formation, or operating rules.  I suppose this could happen at the General Congregation, but no one who is actively seeking reform is holding their breath about that possibility.  In any event the systematic grooming and targeting of wealthy families and their children continues--and that is most likely the real charism the Legion enacts for the Church.

The same people are still in control of all the money and assets. Legion assets are controlled by an independent company Grupo Integer. It's stated reason for existence is as an advertising agency, but in fact it appears to be the accounting and investment arm of the Legion.  It's officers are relatives or friends of high placed Legion priests, most notably Fr Luis Garza Medina and members of his family--a family that just happens to be one of the wealthiest in Mexico.  Garza is currently the Director for the North American Region, which is sort of a demotion as Maciel appointed Garza as Vicar General of the Legion when Garza was quite young.  In any event, while he is no longer listed as one of Grupo Integer's officers, he is still reputed to be the man behind the decisions made by Integer.  In other words Varga is the man with all the security codes.  To this day, there is no information that indicates anyone outside a select few actually has any idea what Legion assets are worth.  Some estimates exceed 25 billion---which is close to 4 times the wealth controlled by the Vatican Bank-----and I would think,  is the real reason there is no real change in the Legion or it's leadership and perhaps why the Vatican can afford to clean up their little bank and make it transparent.  There is always Integer for other transactions.  

In any case, what we seem to have with the Legion is a non reform of the reform. Pope Francis has a challenge in the Legion.  He has already demonstrated he has no problem putting Legion and OD priests in very high places.  If he does not seriously do something more substantial with the reform of the Legion he will have sent a very very interesting message about just how seriously thinking Catholics should take his talk.  In any event, Maciel is slowly but surely making a comeback in Legion thinking and practice.  From the ReGAIN website:

"Fr. Peter Byrne has advised ReGAIN that there was a Mass in Cotija celebrated by 40 Legionary priests around their founder's tomb. Father Byrne advised us that the whole problem of the victims has been a mess. As always the Cardinal has not taken any direct responsibility.
The terrible truth is that the majority of the Legionaries do not know what we are talking about when we speak of victims, they have no idea of what happened. Now we face a future where the victims will be forgotten and the sociopath will be remembered.