Saturday, November 24, 2012

AB Chaput Endorses St Thomas More---But St Thomas Is A Humanist!

St Thomas More and his family by Hans Holbein.  One of the family monkeys is in the lower right hand corner next to Alice More.

One of the trends of the conservative church that has always amused me is the continual dragging forth of St Thomas More to bolster their point.  Off hand I can't think of too many Catholic right wing enterprises that don't feature Thomas More with regularity. Come to think of it,  the same kind of thing is happening with Cardinal Newman.  The truth about Thomas More is that he was not a conservative thinker.  They don't call him one of the fathers of humanism for nothing.  While he was also a staunch defender of Catholicism--he did preside over the burning of Lutheran heretics--he was far more complicated than that.  I would say he was sorely conflicted between his secular speculations and his religious training and couldn't find a reasonable way out of his entangled mind.  Which I suppose is why he is my favorite saint.  In the end he died for his faith, not necessarily for the Church.  He thought the Church was virtually overrun with ambitious clerics and outright corruption.

So while I don't find it surprising that AB Chaput waxes eloquently about Thomas More, I do find it somewhat amusing because based on what he wrote in Utopia, More would have been a democrat, if not an outright socialist.

Archbishop Chaput Writes on the Call To Martyrdom

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput
Archbishop of Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA, NOV. 23, 2012 ( The Church has many good reasons why people should believe in God, believe in Jesus Christ and believe in the beauty and urgency of her own mission.  But she has only one irrefutable argument for the truth of what she teaches – the personal example of her saints.
Over this Thanksgiving weekend, or sometime during Advent, I have a homework assignment for you.  I want you to rent or buy or borrow a copy of the 1966 film about Sir Thomas More, A Man for All Seasons.  I want you to watch it with your family.  Here’s why.  More was one of the most distinguished scholars of his time, a brilliant lawyer, a gifted diplomat and a skilled political leader.  Jonathan Swift, the great Anglo-Irish writer, once described him as the “person of the greatest virtue this kingdom (of England) ever produced.”

Above all, Thomas More was a man of profound Catholic faith and practice.  He lived what he claimed to believe.  He had his priorities in right order.  He was a husband and a father first; a man who – in the words of Robert Bolt, the author of the original play and the 1966 film – “adored, and was adored, by his own large family.” (He was also one of the few men of his time who insisted his daughters receive the same classical education as his son. Many of his fellow scholars thought he was nuts to waste that kind of education on females.)

A Man for All Seasons won Oscars for both Best Picture and Best Actor, and it’s clearly one of the great stories ever brought to the screen.  But it captures only a small fraction of the real man. In his daily life, Thomas More loved to laugh.  He enjoyed life and every one of its gifts.   Erasmus, the great Dutch humanist scholar and a friend of More and his family, described More as a man of “amiable joyousness (and) simple dress … born and framed for friendship … easy of access to all,” uninterested in ceremony and riches, humble, indifferent to food,  unimpressed by opinions of the crowd, and never departing from common sense. (Erasmus also thought St Thomas had compromised his integrity by agreeing to serve in a corrupt monarchy.)

Despite the integrity of More’s character, and despite his faithful service, Henry VIII martyred him in 1535.  More refused to accept the Tudor king’s illicit marriage to Anne Boleyn, and he refused to repudiate his fidelity to the Holy See.  In 1935, the Church declared Thomas More a saint.  Today – half a millennium after he died and a continent away -- this one man’s faith still moves us in our own daily lives.  That’s the power of sainthood.  That’s the power of holiness. (Correction, St Thomas refused to disavow his belief in the religious primacy of the Pope.  In truth he thought the Holy See was a cesspool of corruption which compromised the spiritual mission of the Church.  Kind of like today.)

Here’s the lesson I want to leave you with this week.  We’re all called to martyrdom.  That’s what the word martyr means:  It’s the Greek word for “witness.”  We may or may not ever suffer personally for our love of Jesus Christ.  But we’re all called to be witnesses.

In proclaiming the Year of Faith, Benedict XVI wrote that:
“By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages, whose names are written in the Book of Life … have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life, in the exercise of the charisms and ministries to which they were called.”

The only thing that matters is to be a saint.  That’s what we need to be.  That’s what we need to become.  And if we can serve God through the witness of our lives by kindling that fire of holiness again in the heart of our local parishes and communities, then the Christ Child who comes to us at Christmas will make all things new – in our Church, in our families and in our nation.
May God grant us all a joy-filled and blessed Thanksgiving.


AB Chaput does have this right, Thomas More loved to laugh.  He even kept his own jester who is reported to have had no problem cutting More's ego down to size.  More's wife however, was not so enamored of their court jester.  One too many jokes about her portly proportions I guess.  But then the poor woman also had to put up with her husbands personal zoo.  While Chancellor of England, More's personal zoo was substantial and contained quite a number of exotic animals.  The monkeys were given the run of his house, as can be seen in the above Holbein painting of the family. Besides the court jester, More would also foster patients from London's infamous Bedlam, the beastly forerunner of mental hospitals. In short he seemed to have a penchant for taking in all kinds of strays and befriending all kinds of marginal people.  Personally I think his wife should be the saint.

To protect his own privacy, More also built his own study separate from the main Chelsea Manor, in which he did most of his writing.  It's shape was based on an octagon for esoteric reasons.  Presumably no monkees were allowed.  One could say he invented the first 'man cave' as he did spend a great deal of time in his study when he was at home,  His children and wife were not allowed in it's holy precincts but this might have been as much for security interests as anything else.

More's life is rarely placed in the context in which he actually lived.  These were momentous times and adjustments to an utterly new reality made belief in religious truths a form of personal security.  The man lived in a period of time in European history when all the rules were changing.  The New World with all it's other humans had been discovered during his teen years.  I don't know that contemporary Catholics can fathom how earth shaking this must have been.  Not only was the Earth round, but it held unknown races of people.  It would be as if we today were suddenly confronted with the existence of actual sentient alien life. On top of this, there was enormous corruption in the church which had precipitated major schisms and protests, of which both Erasmus and More were prolific in their own negative assessments of the institutional church, and like the heretics, they could get their writings read by many people because the printing press was beginning to be felt as the truly consciousness changing invention it was.  Reading and writing were no longer just the province of a minority of educated nobility and clerics.  The power of the intellect was being unleashed in anyone who chose to learn to read and write.  Many men were doing just that which would then spawn the Enlightenment.  It was the humanists like Thomas More who laid the seeds for that future.

But not all of More's writings were of the academic sort. Some of More's less known writings are his pamphlets in which he was essentially the Rush Limbaugh of Catholic apologetics.  I suppose they are less known because he wrote them under a pseudonym--supposedly at the behest of Henry VIII.  A number of these apologetic tracts were written in refutation of Martin Luther and William Tyndale who responded in kind. Luther was furious More was writing under a pseudonym while he Luther, was writing under his own name.  Having read a few of these back and forth pamphlets, I'm not sure any of the men should have been proud of their efforts.  Some of the language was truly spewed forth from a gutter and the personal attacks were vicious and completely juvenile.  They were actually far worse than most of today's internet exchanges, and certainly not the kind of thing that owners of Catholic law schools named after the mythical St Thomas More want known about the real St Thomas More.

It is questionable if Thomas More would have ever been made a saint if Henry VIII hadn't beheaded him.  There was no question of More recanting his position on Henry's marriage or the primacy of the papacy for Roman Catholicism. More became even more religiously conservative after the Lutheran schism.  More's Catholicism was his anchor in a world of change, some of which he embraced and initiated, and some of which he refused to even consider.  For all his open mindedness in some areas, he could be downright close minded in other areas.  He could correspond with off kilter mystics who spouted one form of heresy while at the same time he was executing Lutherans for spouting what he deemed actual heresy.  He could see to it that his daughters were well educated in classical Greek and Latin while he was persecuting Tyndale for translating the bible in to English from the original Greek sources. I suppose the difference lay in More's ability to control his daughter's education but lack of ability to control Tyndale, whose translation very cleverly used particular English words to undercut certain very important Church concepts, like the translation of the Greek word ecclesia as congregation rather than Church.  In any event, the two enemies met the same fate, execution. One is a saint and one is a heretic, at least in the eyes of the Church.

I have no doubt Thomas More is a saint, but not because he was martyred.  At the end of his life, while he was in prison having lost everything, he wrote his most profound works.  They were mystical treatises on his relationship with the Eucharist and with Jesus Christ.  Stripped bare, he was able to reconcile his intellect with his faith and find his personal truth.  He died true to his conscience.  He died a saint not just a martyr.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Mr" Bourgeois No Longer Has To Worry About How He Dresses In Rome

Mr Roy Bourgeois may win this battle with the US Army, but he just lost one with the CDF
Today the Maryknollers announced the CDF had unilaterally dismissed Fr Roy Bourgeois from the Maryknoll community and his priestly vows.  It took four years, but it was inevitable. I never did understand how in the world Roy Bourgeous could keep his bonds sacred by lieing about his thoughts on this issue, but in the Vatican world priorities seem a little skewed.  Reminds me very much of the Lennon Cihak in Minnesota who was told he could be confirmed if he lied to his whole parish about his feelings on civil gay marriage. Lennon is in very good company now.  Being advised to lie to maintain or receive sacraments is not terribly sacred nor does it seem very Catholic, but lieing is becoming routine in the upper echelons so maybe it is some new form of Catholic truth.

MARYKNOLL, N.Y., Nov. 19, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on October 4, 2012, canonically dismissed Roy Bourgeois from the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, also known as the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. The decision dispenses the Maryknoll priest from his sacred bonds.
As a priest during 2008, Mr. Bourgeois participated in the invalid ordination of a woman and a simulated Mass in Lexington, Kentucky. With patience, the Holy See and the Maryknoll Society have encouraged his reconciliation with the Catholic Church.
Instead, Mr. Bourgeois chose to campaign against the teachings of the Catholic Church in secular and non-Catholic venues. This was done without the permission of the local U.S. Catholic Bishops and while ignoring the sensitivities of the faithful across the country. Disobedience and preaching against the teaching of the Catholic Church about women's ordination led to his excommunication, dismissal and laicization.
Mr. Bourgeois freely chose his views and actions, and all the members of the Maryknoll Society are saddened at the failure of reconciliation. With this parting, the Maryknoll Society warmly thanks Roy Bourgeois for his service to mission and all members wish him well in his personal life. In the spirit of equity and charity, Maryknoll will assist Mr. Bourgeois with this transition.


I don't understand how Maryknoll brass ever expected Roy Bourgeois to reconcile on Vatican terms.  That line about being 'saddened' seems a bit disingenous, but it is nice that they are willing to assist Roy with his transition.  Especially given the fact Roy did quite a bit to put Maryknoll in the lead in social justice advocacy.  I would imagine the charity they extend to Roy will come from numerous donations Roy generated for Maryknoll. 

There's been a lot of craziness today in the Catholic world.  Speaking of letters, I found the letter written by Lennon Nicah's ex pastor more unbelievable than the one from Cardinal Bertone on the clergy dress code.  In this letter Fr Gary DeMoines explains to his parish that all the press and other activity surrounding the non confirmation of Nicah and another student was all the Nicah's family fault--of course, of course, but then he goes on in this vain:

"Nevertheless, even if he had not withdrawn from the confirmation ceremony, I would have had no choice but to remove him from consideration given his rejection of marriage as we understand it. Rejection of the Church’s teaching on marriage is a very serious breach of faith. We believe that the teaching on marriage (that marriage is between one man and one woman for the purpose of creating new life), is a matter of divine revelation; it comes directly to us from God. Rejection of the teaching on marriage is, for example, similar to the rejection of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity or the rejection of the doctrine of Christ as being both human and divine. Marriage, divinely received, is a central belief. Intending to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation, while rejecting a central belief, is an absolute contradiction. One cannot embrace the faith of the Church in Confirmation while rejecting it at the same time.

Since when has anything having to do with marriage been elevated to the same status as Jesus's human/Divine nature or the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity?  I guess about the same time the advocacy by a priest for the ordination of women was placed in the same grave delict category as raping little children.  Except advocation for women's ordination, or just attending an ordination is sure to get you laicized, but not raping little children, even 200 deaf children as in the case of Fr Lawrence Murphy whose story is once again making headlines.  No, in Murphy's case, he only had to whine to Cardinal Ratzinger then the head of the same CDF that just booted Roy, and Murphy gets to be buried with full Catholic clerical honors--much to the joy of his family and over the objections of two of his bishops.  

Conservative or traditional Catholics have made comments to the effect that I am overly hateful towards Catholic leadership.  No, I'm just really angry and engaging in the same 'hate the sin, love the sinner' behavior that I was taught that traditionalists use towards gay folks. But honestly, the real problem I have with that critique is that in making it one has to be willfully blind to the skewed priorities of our current leadership.  You have to willingly stick your head in the sand-or lie to yourself- to avoid seeing there is a very dark force surrounding our leadership and it's not dissenting Catholics.  It's a leadership which can demand a young person  like Lennon Nicah to lie, to knowingly commit a sin, in order to receive a sacrament; that can place the teaching on marriage as equal to the Holy Trinity; that can make the sacraments, including Jesus in the Eucharist, hostage to agreement with a given bishop's politics;  that dares equate the ordination of women with the clerical raping of children; that blatantly interjects itself in secular politics seemingly never having gotten any lessons about this activity from it's traditional past, and that seems to care more about how it clothes it's self than it does whether it's children even have clothes.

I believe Roy Bourgeois was freed from the insanity he couldn't leave, not the Catholic Church freed from Roy and his heretical opinions.  May God bless him in his future endeavors.  One of those endeavors, the closing of the School of the Americas now known as WHINESEC, may actually happen and that would be the answer to a lot of Catholic prayers.


I Learn About The "Abito Piano" As Part Of My Catholic Education

This is an 'abito piano'.  It's just not the correct kind. It is properly Italian.

This is the correct kind.
This is the modern version as modeled by the CDF boss before he became The Boss and could model the less ostentatious pure white version.

The Vatican is really going retro with this lastest letter from Cardinal Bertone at the behest of Pope Benedict. Cassocks make the priest, and cassocks with capes are mandatory when the Pope is around.  I seriously don't know whether to laugh or cry.  The following is from   It was first brought to my attention by NCR's article by Joshua McEwee.
VATICAN CITY, November 19, 2012 – The cassock obligatory for cardinals and bishops during office hours. Cassock or clerical dress for priests and monsignors. Specific habit for religious, always and in every season. And for ceremonies in the presence of the pope or during official meetings in the Roman curia: "abito piano," or cassock with cape, for priests, embroidered cassock for monsignors, and cassock with embroidered cape (called a "pellegrina") for bishops and cardinals.

This is the code of service reiterated recently in the Vatican in the wake of the guidelines issued by John Paul II in a September 8, 1982 letter to the cardinal vicar of Rome at the time, Ugo Poletti:

> "La cura dell'amata diocesi di Roma..."

In that letter, pope Karol Wojtyla addressed his vicar, "who most closely shares my cares and concerns in the governance of the diocese, [. . .] so that, in conjunction with the sacred congregations for the clergy, for religious and secular institutes, and for Catholic education, he may study opportune initiatives destined to foster the use of ecclesiastical and religious dress, issuing in this regard the necessary guidelines and taking care of their application."

The new memo, which bears the date of October 15, 2012 and was issued during the last synod of bishops, was signed by cardinal secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone, who wrote it, as it reads, "at venerable behest," meaning at the direction of Benedict XVI.

It sounds as a reminder of the "duty of exemplarity that is incumbent above all upon those who render service to the successor of Peter."

But not only that. The letter is intended to be an "explicit encouragement" for all of those – "including for the episcopates," it emphasizes – who visit Rome.

There is no explicit reference in the text to the women religious who work in the Vatican, but by analogy with the male religious, the rule should apply to them as well.

The guideline is therefore very clear. Those who have the opportunity to frequent the Vatican offices will be able to see to what extent it is respected.


No more schlepping around Rome in Anglican style dog collars and black suits that have no piping to indicate rank.  The clerical troops are being called to account for themselves as to their dress, but not yet to their off hours shenanigans.  Covering up the clerics does not cover up the cover ups.  Has the Vatican really sunk to this level of performance expectancy? All will be well if we just all get together and dress like we used to dress before we were exposed.  I somehow think this might all a little too Freudian for my tastes. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Nun On A Bus? No, A Jesus Follower On A Mission

Sister Simone Campbell and the infamous Nuns on the Bus bus.

I came across a fabulous talk given by Sr Simone Campbell to the Detroit group Elephants in the Living Room. In her talk she explains the mission of NETWORK as a lobbying group and the interest it drew from the USCCB during the Affordable Care Act debates, how that most like resulted in the attention shown by the Vatican in the Vatican's investigation of the LCWR and more specifically NETWORK itself.  As Simone says, the girls inadvertently wound up taking on the boys and the girls won and the boys were very sore losers.

She also explains in a very unique way how income distribution has warped towards the 1% in the US since 1979 and how that has effected so many issues in this country.  I was shocked to learn the only other global western type culture with a worse income distribution is Singapore.  But principally this is a talk about what motivates Sr Simone.  That motivation is radical acceptance of everyone, although as she admits, that's a difficult prospect with Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell.  But it's not just radical acceptance, it's also the ability to keep the flame of faith burning and shining light on things hidden in dark shadows.  Radical acceptance does not mean being blind to having to fight the good fight.

Following this link will take readers to a transcript of her talk which is really informative and really funny.  It 's easy to see why she held her own with Stephen Colbert.  Simone Campbell is a true prophetic figure who doesn't take herself the least bit seriously, but takes her mission dead seriously.  She's what I call an Enlightened Catholic, in the pun sense of the title. It's worth the time it takes to read it.  There are some other excellent transcripts of speeches given by other speakers on the Elephants in the Living Room website , including one from Fr Charles Curran on dissent and authority.  Be sure to check those out if you have the time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Catholic Religious Tyranny Takes A Mother's Life In Ireland

Irish Times photo by Brenda Fitzsimmons of protesters Wednesday night outside Ireland's Dail
The following is a very very sad story. It should be read by every woman of child bearing age in the US, because if Roman Catholic bishops and Evangelical Pro Life proponents ever get their theocratic way, this situation could and most like will happen in all our hospitals, and not just Catholic ones.
Savita Halappanavar was not Irish and was not Catholic, but like many Irish Catholic women she found Catholic hospital care neither hospitable nor caring.  Not when it comes to pregnant women.  For them the heart beat of a non viable fetus holds their lives hostage to the absolutism of Catholic abortion teaching.  The following is from the Irish Times.

Woman 'denied a termination' dies in hospital

 Kitty Holland and Paul Curren - Irish Times - 11/14/2012
Two investigations are under way into the death of a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant, at University Hospital Galway last month.
Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later.
Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.
This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.
She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.

Intensive care

The dead foetus was removed and Savita was taken to the high dependency unit and then the intensive care unit, where she died of septicaemia on the 28th.
An autopsy carried out by Dr Grace Callagy two days later found she died of septicaemia “documented ante-mortem” and E.coli ESBL.

A hospital spokesman confirmed the Health Service Executive had begun an investigation while the hospital had also instigated an internal investigation. He said the hospital extended its sympathy to the family and friends of Ms Halappanavar but could not discuss the details of any individual case.
Speaking from Belgaum in the Karnataka region of southwest India, Mr Halappanavar said an internal examination was performed when she first presented.
“The doctor told us the cervix was fully dilated, amniotic fluid was leaking and unfortunately the baby wouldn’t survive.” The doctor, he says, said it should be over in a few hours. There followed three days, he says, of the foetal heartbeat being checked several times a day.
“Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby. When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning Savita asked if they could not save the baby could they induce to end the pregnancy. The consultant said, ‘As long as there is a foetal heartbeat we can’t do anything’.
“Again on Tuesday morning, the ward rounds and the same discussion. The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita [a Hindu] said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’ but they said there was nothing they could do.
“That evening she developed shakes and shivering and she was vomiting. She went to use the toilet and she collapsed. There were big alarms and a doctor took bloods and started her on antibiotics.
“The next morning I said she was so sick and asked again that they just end it, but they said they couldn’t.”

Critically ill

At lunchtime the foetal heart had stopped and Ms Halappanavar was brought to theatre to have the womb contents removed. “When she came out she was talking okay but she was very sick. That’s the last time I spoke to her.”
At 11 pm he got a call from the hospital. “They said they were shifting her to intensive care. Her heart and pulse were low, her temperature was high. She was sedated and critical but stable. She stayed stable on Friday but by 7pm on Saturday they said her heart, kidneys and liver weren’t functioning. She was critically ill. That night, we lost her.”
Mr Halappanavar took his wife’s body home on Thursday, November 1st, where she was cremated and laid to rest on November 3rd.
The hospital spokesman said that in general sudden hospital deaths were reported to the coroner. In the case of maternal deaths, a risk review of the case was carried out.
External experts were involved in this review and the family consulted on the terms of reference. They were also interviewed by the review team and given a copy of the report.


As I write this there are major protests occurring in Ireland and elsewhere.  More are scheduled for the weekend. Irish legistlators who mandated the fetal heart beat rule, the very one used in American Catholic hositals, never thought a thing like this could happen.  Not in Catholic Ireland.  Well it did, and it can happen again, and it can happen in any Catholic hospital whose staff let their bishop make their medical decisions for them.

It is the very kind of situation that prompted Phoenix's St Joseph hospital to act on their own initiative and save the life of the mother when the fetus couldn't survive with or without the mother.  For saving a life a bishop excommunicated the director of the ethics board.  St Joseph's is no longer a Catholic affiliated hospital by order of the same bishop. They are free to act on accepted medical ethics. I have no doubt that Ireland will re evaluate both it's legislation regarding abortion and it's foundation in inhumane Catholic absolutism.  This was a woman who held no Catholic beliefs but still died needlessly because of Catholic beliefs.  That seems fundamentally wrong in a modern democratic nation. 

It makes me sick that in this case, and I grant it's unique, that a woman lived three days in agony because a medical staff refused to act on their certain medical knowledge because a law was based on a moral absolutism which took any medical decisions out of their hands.  That is unless they wanted to do the truly humane and Christian thing and break the law.  They should have. 


Some Thoughts On The USCCB Meeting In Baltimore

Cardinal Dolan, who can't be all that happy with how things have progressed in Baltimore, has a personal project of returning year round meatless Fridays to American Catholics.  Sigh.

Welcome news from the USCCB meeting in Baltimore.  A pastoral statement on social justice, put together by Detroit's AB Vigneron was denounced by a series of retired bishops led by Houston's AB Fiorenza and defeated in a floor vote, failing to get a two thirds majority necessary for passage--134 yes-84 no with 9 abstentions. AB Fiorenza did not pull many punches in his assessment of the original doctrine.  The following is from Jerry Filteau's report in the National Catholic Reporter:  It was written before the vote and then updated later.

Statement on economy denounced by archbishop fails to pass

Jerry Filteau - National Catholic Reporter - 11/13/2012
Portents of a major social justice conflict among the U.S. bishops rose on the first day of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall meeting Monday when retired Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, Texas, denounced a proposed pastoral statement on workers, poverty and the economy as a betrayal of Catholic social teaching.

If approved in its draft form, the statement would be "lampooned" in the Catholic academic world, he said.
Fiorenza, a former USCCB president, said the proposed statement devotes only one short sentence to the long history of Catholic social teaching on workers' rights to organize in unions, to bargain collectively with their employers and to go on strike if their demands for just wages and working conditions are not met.
He noted that the proposed statement, "The Hope of the Gospel in Difficult Economic Times: A pastoral message on work, poverty and the economy," did not have a single reference, even in a footnote, to the bishops' landmark 1986 pastoral letter, "Economic Justice for All," which the bishops developed after years of consultation with economists and other experts. The letter addressed a full range of applications of Catholic social teaching to economic policy and practice in the United States. (I find it quite telling that one of the best statements ever to come from the USCCB was not cited even once.)

"Where's the continuity?" Fiorenza asked.
"I am very disappointed, and I fear that this draft, if not changed in a major way," will harm the U.S. bishops' record on Catholic social teaching, he said.
"The title of this document is about work, and it seems you only gave one sentence to our social teaching ... on the right of workers to unionize," he said.

"One sentence," he added. "It's almost like it was an afterthought. But when you look at the compendium of the social teachings of the church, there are three long paragraphs on the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to strike."
Those kinds of rights are "at the heart of our social teaching" on the rights and dignity of workers, he said.
He added that some conservative Catholic institutions, like the Acton Institute in Michigan, have tried to argue that Pope Leo XIII's landmark 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum, which spelled out workers' and private property rights and marks the start of modern Catholic social teaching, is a dated document that is "no longer applicable today." (OK it's Acton Institute, but really, to whom is this encyclical no longer applicable? Silicon valley maybe, but not Walmart or our corporations who outsource American jobs.)

"Every pope from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI has insisted upon the right to unionize," he said, but the proposed pastoral statement facing the bishops "gives short shrift" to that teaching.

Fiorenza said the proposed document fails to address adequately several other current issues of poverty and human dignity in U.S. economic policy by not giving adequate treatment to the issue of political prudential judgment as a criterion for church assessments of the morality of political policies or decisions.
"Sometimes prudential judgments can be neither prudent nor moral," especially when such judgments attack the poor and the common good, he said. He said he thought Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., head of the bishops' domestic policy committee, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, head of international policy for the bishops, "got it right" earlier this year when they publicly opposed Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's budget proposals as not in keeping with Catholic social teaching. (As an aside, it was down right amazing how the two words 'prudential judgment' became the buzz words of the political right as it pertained to their own policies.)

"Why don't we address [in the proposed statement] the growing gulf between the haves and the have-nots, beginning with Paul VI in Populorum Progressio [his 1967 encyclical letter, "On the Progress of Peoples"] and John Paul II, Benedict XVI: They speak about the growing gap between the haves and have-nots and the right to a redistribution -- redistribution has become a dirty word, yet the [recent popes] have said that this must take place," he said.

"There's not a word about this" in the proposed new statement on the economy, he said.
"I fear that this will not be an effective instrument" for the bishops to address the current woes in the U.S. economy or the people suffering from those problems, Fiorenza said.


This original letter was probably written with input from Action Institute, given how it reads, and given where Acton Institute is in relationship to AB Vigneron's Archdiocesan See of Detroit. It's really nice to see that not all of our bishops are ready and willing to sell out Church teaching to the 'prudential judgments' of the Republican think tank world. At least yet anyway.

Cardinal Dolan gave the opening address and spent considerable time waxing eloquently about the sacrament of penance and how efficacious it would be for the bishops themselves.  Not a bad idea if the penance consists of more than 'three hail Marys and three Our Fathers'. It would be a good idea if the penances given were about restitution for failures.  We might then see Bishop Finn take a permanent vacation, but I doubt Cardinal Dolan had those kinds of penances in mind.  I guess I found it interesting that Dolan would lecture about confession and then get have one of his predecessors publicly confess his reservations about a document which truly would have been lampooned in the academic world and underscored the USCCB's hard swing to the right.  I really would have loved to have been able to see the look on Dolan's face as Fiorenza voiced his observations.  I don't know that any sitting USCCB President has ever had a letter of this importance shot down from the floor.

I have no doubt it was retired bishops that voiced their opposition because this was the strategy the opposition chose to use.  It allowed retired bishops with nothing to lose to voice the concerns of those that had way more to lose.  I'm sure there were conference calls and emails and such moving amongst the bishops before this conference.  Probably quite a few after the disaster of a showing Catholic bishops received on November 6th.  While I have no doubt bishops know how to read polls, the kinds of polls that say American Catholics show most unity over social justice issues, I also like to think that many of them voted against this statement for spiritual reasons.  After all Jesus didn't become man to save the wealth of the wealthy from redistribution, but to bring good news to the poor and the marginalized.

I also couldn't help but hear that AB Cordileone wants to double down on his anti gay marriage failure.  As Jim McCrea noted, nothing like continuing to dig a bigger hole for yourself with a double sized shovel.  I'd like to hope that we have bishops in the USCCB who are also rethinking this strategy.  There are numerous polls out there that indicate Catholics who get the difference between civil and sacramental marriage are now in the majority and that percentage is rising.

No matter what else comes out of this conference, I really took a big dose of hope from the fact that finally the rightwing of the USCCB was essentially slowed down and told their 'prudential judgment' was not very prudential.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Call For Cardinal Pell To Man Up About Catholic Clergy Abuse

Cardinal Pell isn't the only Catholic bishop that needs to progress beyond the 4th grade excuses when it comes to clerical sexual abuse.

I kind of doubt Cardinal Pell is going to 'man up' anymore than Boston's Cardinal Law.  Red beanie nation doesn't answer to 'media out to get them'.  This is a great article anyway.

Archbishop George Pell needs to man up and deal with festering sickness in Catholic church

Tory Shepherd - Herald Sun - Melbourne -11/12/2012
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard announced last night a royal commission would aim to expunge the "vile and evil thing" that is child sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney and the country's most powerful Catholic, is acting like a child just when he most needs to man up.

In the face of the latest horrific allegations of systemic child abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church he has cried, by turns, "It wasn't me", and "They did it, too". (Uhm, yes these do seem to be play ground excuses.)

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, a senior investigative cop, has revealed new depths in the scandal that has haunted the church for decades.
"The church covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the church," he said. (For some reason alerting the perpetrators the police were on to them always bugged me more than any other cover up strategy. This was closely followed by destroying evidence and transferring offenders.)

Meanwhile, the Victorian inquiry keeps uncovering new and more graphic details of abuse. But Cardinal Pell is holding his hands up and deflecting.

It wasn't him, he said in the Sunday Telegraph. "It is ludicrous to suggest I was involved in some cover-up in the Hunter region.
"I am not bishop of the area and have only visited there a few times.
"I have never approached any politician or police official to speak of problems there, much less have I intervened to thwart justice." (This is the same cardinal who financially bailed out the Brothers of St John of God and then claimed he had no jurisdiction even though he leads the Primatial See of Australia and could have revoked their privileges in his Archdiocese. He may not be the bishop in the Hunter region, but he is that bishops ecclesiastical superior.)

They did it, too, he said in a sermon: "We have to answer up for what we've done but any suggestion that we are the only culprit or only community producing culprits is entirely misleading."
In both cases he's fighting straw men. People just want him to take responsibility for his institution. No one is saying he was involved in the Hunter cover-up, nor are they saying the Catholic Church is the only place where child abuse is happening.

What the evidence has shown is that there is a sickness festering in the Catholic Church, a sickness that has destroyed the lives of children and their families, and that the culture in the church has protected the diseased at the expense of the victims. (As that same culture has in so many other countries.)\
It is hard for the Australian public to hear the tale of a white-knuckled boy screaming in agony as he is raped, trying to focus on a St Christopher cross to take his mind off his pain, then to hear Cardinal Pell say: "It is hard to name any other Australian organisation that has done more to produce a safe environment for young people." (No other Australian organization has this many abuse claims lodged against it, and at this point, no other organization has been proven to have protected rings of pedophiles.)

It's clear the culture of the Catholic Church is threaded with evil. That doesn't mean everyone within it is evil. But it means anyone in a position of power has a responsibility to actively tear out that thread.

Stories keep emerging of priests moved from parish to parish. The abuse does not stop at diocesan borders, or state borders, or even country borders. A federal royal commission is the only way to untangle this mess, to work out why it has happened and to stop it happening again. (As Ireland found out, it doesn't happen at the behest of the Vatican from whom Pell takes his marching orders.)

Where did it go wrong? Is it the insularity, the very cloistered nature of the church where men are in charge of their own little fiefdoms? (Yes)

Does the church's history of protecting its own make it a haven and a magnet for the depraved, who can act without fear of retribution? (Yes)

What role does enforced celibacy play? (Less than misogyny and homophobia and the theological notions of ontological superiority which appeal to narcissists.

And this: What sort of person does not welcome a process that could find out the answers, to fix forever what is so terribly broken, to start the healing process? (One who doesn't want Catholics to know these answers and choose to stop providing them with a meal ticket.)

They're easy to spot. They're the ones, in the face of a royal commission, who are saying "It wasn't me", or "They did it, too".


So far Cardinal Pell has been acting very much like the boy in fifth grade who got caught protecting his fellow altar boys while they engaged in drinking altar wine.  Except of course, this is not about a prepubscent prank of naughty ten year olds trying out an adult behavior.  This is way beyond that, but it seems to me Cardinal Pell can't see it as much different, certainly not for the real time disaster this is for the Australian Church.

I don't know that too many of our hierarchy understand what the term 'man up' actually means, because most of them haven't really been expected to 'man up' about much of anything.  That's not how the clerical culture operates.  It operates on enforced infantilization which can be most clearly seen in the infatuation of upper Roman clergy with clerical bling, political grandstanding, use of ostracizing, plain old juvenile back stabbing, and a universal desire to cover up and lie about embarrassing events.  And then they wonder why they have no credibility.  Sigh.


Out On The Cutting Edge Of Neuro Science, It's All About Compassion

Two spiritual warriors whose weapon is compassion recognize one another, the Dalai Lama and Brother David Steindl-Rast

After catching up on some reading and giving things some thought, there are two more stories in the Catholic world which seem to be gathering momentum and may burst with the same explosive force as the Australian abuse scandal.  The first is Vati Leaks, and the second is the status of women in the Church.  I will get to these two topics in later posts, but for now, there is this article on the new science of contemplation and it's intriguing findings about humanity's innate capacity for compassion.  This is a critical new field of scientific study because it holds within it's framework the synthesis of religious/spiritual contemplation and neuroscience.  It also holds out hope for finally getting past our religious barricades, as mindfullness techniques are part and parcel of amost all religious contemplative traditions.  

I've written this before, and I'm sure I will write it again--The future belongs to comtemplatives and mystics.  The good news is that deep down inside it is innate to our biological brains.  It is exactly what Jesus taught.

When Mindfulness Meets Compassion: Close Encounters in Contemplative Science

At the world's first International Symposia on Contemplative Studies held this April in Denver, it seemed as if the emerging field of meditation research had finally come of age. The gathering brought together research pioneers Jon Kabat-Zinn, Richie Davidson, John Teasdale and Marsha Linehan with groundbreaking contemplative teachers Sharon Salzberg, Roshi Joan Halifax, Matthieu Ricard and Brother David Stendl-Rast. In fact, as the nearly 750 participants convened for what could have been just one more hi-tech conference, the event felt not just historic but oddly unearthly, like a real-world version of Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

A philosopher of science might explain that remarkable feel in light of the history behind the meeting. An unlikely array of individuals and teams -- exploring dozens of converging paths around the nation and world, after decades of patient progress -- suddenly find themselves assembled as one global community embodying a breakthrough field. A science journalist might explain the event's uncanny feel by the fact that a once-obscure Buddhist contemplative practice called mindfulness, introduced in the late 1970s into pain management by Kabat-Zinn, has defied all the skeptics and all the odds by becoming one of the hottest topics in mainstream clinical research today.

But as a contemplative psychiatrist, I found the conference remarkable because what brought its participants together was less the cutting-edge science being discussed there than something far less tangible. Kabat-Zinn announced as much in his keynote address by confessing that what he really meant when he chose the word "mindfulness" for his popular stress-reduction program was "dharma," the ancient Sanskrit term for spiritual teachings and contemplative experiences like Shakyamuni Buddha's. Richie Davidson echoed this sentiment by sharing that his groundbreaking research was inspired not just by a lifelong interest in meditation but by a spiritual challenge from a renowned Buddhist leader. "What the world needs most in our global age," the Dalai Lama told him, "is new brain science that clarifies the causal basis and beneficial effects of compassion." (The Vatican's evangelization efforts would go much better if this melding of science and compassion were being taken as seriously by the Vatican as it is by the Dalai Lama.  Instead Catholics get a new Pontifical academy for the study of Latin.  I kid you not.)

As an exploding body of clinical research confirms that mindfulness helps reduce stress and promote healing, learning and neuroplasticity, a parallel line of study on the related practice of loving-kindness has begun to converge with exciting new research on positive emotions and the brain.

As the conference unfolded, the shape of that convergence came clear. The new contemplative science is not just consolidating its broad foundation in mindfulness, but is also opening an emergent frontier of basic research and application: the deep, healing and transforming power of compassion.(Or to put this differently, a state of compassion helps return a biological/emotional system to it's innate wholeness.)

What I found most surprising about the new compassion research is that for most of human history, this cutting-edge scientific frontier has been the province of religious professionals and lifelong contemplatives.

In panel after panel, researchers from a handful of labs around the world shared recent work involving cognitive-behavioral compassion training based on the Tibetan Buddhist practice called mind-training. The gist of the four studies I heard about is that such training enhances novices' natural capacity to experience and respond to human suffering with proactive compassion, rather than with the sympathetic distress some call empathy, and others, emotional contagion. The studies not only show a significant change in subjects' reported experience but also show measurable changes in brain processing, suggesting a shift from simple mirroring of distress to deeper, positive emotional engagement and prosocial responsiveness.

These and other studies in the new frontier were the exclusive focus of another historic conference, The Science of Compassion: Origins, Measures and Interventions, which took place in Telluride in July, featuring the renowned Tibetan scholar Thupten Jinpa.

In the last few months, some exciting new studies in this new breed of contemplative science have been published, introducing the budding field to the larger public for the first time.
What does this new frontier mean for our everyday lives? My strongest close encounter moment at the Denver conference came in a panel that brought together neuroscientist Tania Singer with lifelong advocates of compassion Sharon Salzberg and Brother David. Although the two contemplatives used contrasting language from the Buddhist and Christian traditions, they were both able to explain in human terms the shift Singer and her team found on fMRI scans of subjects' brains.

 Brother David used the metaphor of Michelangelo's statue of David, who stands firmly on one leg and "plays" with the other. Our normal, stressful life in the world, he said, reflects a stance where we rely mainly on our disconnected identity and social role, and only play with fleeting glimpses of deeper attunement and connection to others. Instead, a proactive life of social engagement involves a stance where we rely mainly on a deep sense of caring interconnection, and flexibly play with the identities and social roles that seem to separate us from others. (This means a heavier reliance on the intuitive right brain while simultaneously disempowering the social indenties developed by the self aware ego to maintain it's ascendancy.)

What made this moment so profound for me had less to do with an otherworldly encounter than with an unexpected homecoming. As a science-minded teen in a progressive Catholic school, I recall asking my philosophy teacher why the infinite connectedness of people and things should be conceived as a personal God? At the time, I was bemused by the only answer he gave me: his caring smile. Thanks to meeting Robert Thurman and eventually the Dalai Lama at Amherst College, by the time I got to med school I'd learned enough to know my professors were dead wrong to warn compassion would cloud my objectivity and cause burnout. Yet after 30 years integrating contemplative psychiatry with Tibetan mind-training, it was listening to Tania and Brother David that the right and left sides of my brain clicked together, bringing me back to the visual koan of Father Eichner's smile.(Seriously, sometimes the only answer to an astute question is to smile--with compassion.)

In mulling over what makes these new developments so historic, I kept recalling the words of T.S. Eliot: "We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."(Nor shall we stop evolving as a self aware sentient consciousness, whether our religious authorities want to admit that or not.)

The rest of this article can be read here:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'm Not Iventifacting. The Clerical Abuse Crisis Is Exploding in Australia

Australia's PM Julia Gillard has a real problem to deal with:  the exploding clerical abuse crisis and whether the national government should get involved.  It should.

I have to think that some people may think Jerry Slevin is crazy with his posts about clerical sexual abuse and a national response to the lies of our bishops.  He is not crazy.  It's happening in Australia as I posted right before this post.  The pressure is mounting amongst Australian Catholic politicians, and it will mount here in the US.  As long as Bishop Finn stays in his position the pressure will mount. Do you get this USCCB?

Pressure mounts for Royal Commission into sex abuse within the Catholic Church

PRESSURE is mounting on Julia Gillard to launch a Royal Commission into child sex abuse within the Catholic Church following public demands from key independents, and the Greens.
The calls, from Greens leader Christine Milne, Independents Tony Windsor, Nick Xenophon and Craig Thompson, come amid calls from the Prime Minister's own backbench to support a Royal Commission.
There are already state based commissions into sex abuse within the clergy currently underway in New South Wales and Victoria.
A Royal Commission would give investigators national and expansive powers to expose any alleged cover ups.

A victims group will today present to the Victorian government inquiry a list of 18 convicted pedophile priests who were moved from parish to parish or further away, where they continued offending.
The 18 include some of the most notorious pedophiles, such as Gerald Ridsdale, Edward Dowlan, Michael Glennon and the socialite priest Vincent Kiss, as well as many who barely caught public attention.
Mr Windsor said he would write to the prime minister, expressing his concerns about the "enormous number" of people affected by the allegations of abuse. (None of these men include the St John of God's Brothers mentioned in the previous post.)

"They feel as though the system is letting them down," he told ABC radio.
"My advice to the prime minister and others ... is it is probably better to deal with this sooner rather than later."
Mr Windsor said the allegations had created an odour over the Catholic Church.
The odour is the truth.  The Catholic Church surely does have an odor from the priestly caste.) 

He is concerned about recent allegations, especially from a senior NSW police detective, about a cover-up inside the church.
The MP dismissed as "pathetic'' a decision by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell to limit a special commission of inquiry to examine the police investigations of paedophile priests in the Hunter Valley.
"It almost makes a mockery of the people who have suffered," he said.

Any inquiry into the allegations needed to be national, Mr Windsor said.
"Blind Freddy can see that."
Federal cabinet minister Craig Emerson said Ms Gillard had yet to discuss the issue with her colleagues.
"She wants to review the work that is going on already and also review the evidence and the issue more generally," Dr Emerson told ABC radio.

Opposition frontbencher David Johnston said the revelations of child abuse were damaging the reputation of the Catholic Church.
"This has been an absolute blot on the landscape in terms of people's faith and trust in the church," Senator Johnston said.
But he was circumspect about the merits of a national royal commission.
"Remember, royal commissions are very expensive and people have to be cross-examined in giving their evidence," he said.
"The victims are often the last consideration in this, and I am concerned we put them through a court process that aggravates the situation."(Let's be honest, the Church is the first consideration in this because there are victims ready to testify.)

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said the coercive powers of a royal commission would look at the systemic failure of the church.
"And that is what people want," she told ABC radio.
"There is no doubt that cover-up occurred and the key thing was to protect the church at all costs rather than have the embarrassment and the humiliation of this coming out." (Absolutely true, which by actual behavior makes the Church more important than the teachings of Jesus.  Gosh, I wish some fundamentalist could point out in the Gospels where Jesus said the Church was more important than His followers.)

Senator Milne said she would discuss the matter with Ms Gillard when parliament resumes later in November.
Ms Gillard is expected to comment on the possibility of a Royal Commission later today.

Update:  Prime Minister Julia Gillard has indeed announced a national royal commission into child sex abuse which will cover religious institutions, state institutions and NGO's serving Australia's children.  Cardinal Pell welcomed the announcement:   
"Public opinion remains unconvinced that the Catholic Church has dealt adequately with sexual abuse," he said in a statement.
"Ongoing and at times one-sided media coverage has deepened this uncertainty.
"This is one of the reasons for my support for this royal commission.
"I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement. I believe the air should be cleared and the truth uncovered."

Here's a link to the story with video:

Here's a link to Catholica Australia which has mover coverage and comments:

Cardinal Pell Has A Memory Issue. The St John of God Order Has A Major Pedophile Problem

"Seriously, it was just an itty bitty multi million dollar loan.  I didn't bother to ask why there were so many victims of so few Brothers requiring so many pay outs."

There's a major Catholic abuse story unfolding Down Under that has now precipitated government inquiries at the state level.  National legislators are also demanding a national inquiry into sexual abuse in all churches.  The details of this particular abuse are truly horrific, as is the extent of and lengths to which Church authorities tried to evade and cover up. The following unedited story from the Sydney Morning Herald deals with an order of brothers, St John of God,  whose mission was to serve orphaned children and those with special needs.  In other words they were to serve the very least of the least.  Instead they became what I can only describe as a demonic cult of predatory sexual and physical abuse.  They were eventually bailed out of financial distress due to victim payouts, by the orders of Cardinal Pell.  It beggars the imagination that Pell didn't shut the order down, rather than bail it out.

Pell urged to close order over abuses

Rory Callinen/Josephine Tovey - Sydney Morning Herald - 11/12/2012
MORE than 70 per cent of the Brothers from the St John of God order are suspected child abusers and the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney should immediately shut it down, says a psychologist who was employed by the order to meet scores of victims.

Michelle Mulvihill, who dealt with more than 120 of the order's child abuse victims during compensation negotiations, claims Cardinal George Pell was aware of a loan by the Catholic Church to the order, which was later used by the order to pay victims of abuse.

She also alleges the order has never properly supervised suspected paedophile Brothers and has hid documents relating to the abuse in places where police ''would never find them''.
Dr Mulvihill's revelation came as the former prime minister Malcolm Fraser joined the independent MP Tony Windsor and the senator Nick Xenophon in calling for a national royal commission into sexual abuse by religious groups and other institutions, after claims by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox last week that the church was still covering up the crime.

The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has announced a special commission of inquiry to examine the police investigations of paedophile priests in the Hunter but resisted the call for a royal commission, as have federal MPs from the main parties.
Mr Fraser said the church should have nothing to fear from a royal commission if it had nothing to hide. ''Isn't it time we laid the issue at rest and made sure that all the institutions in Australia have procedures in place that will protect children?'' he said.

A spokesman for Cardinal Pell last night confirmed he had supported the payment of a loan to the order because the order had a liquidity problem. ''It is not possible to confirm the details today,'' the spokesman said. (How utterly convenient for Cardinal Pell.)

The spokesman denied the cardinal was involved in any investigation of any abuse within the order. He said the cardinal was not briefed on any outcomes. (And yet he was briefed sufficiently to authorize a loan to bail out the order. I wish I had a loan source who didn't ask any questions and just gave me the $$)

Up to 200 victims have sought compensation from the St John of God order after alleging they had been abused in special schools and homes run by the brothers in NSW, Victoria and New Zealand.
Last week a Melbourne inquiry into child abuse heard allegations that Brothers had drugged and pack-raped boys at their operations in Victoria.

Claims were also made that two boys had allegedly been beaten so badly they were thought to have died but their deaths had not been reported to authorities.
And Fairfax Media has obtained documents revealing that in the 1960s and 1970s dozens of boys were brutally assaulted at Kendall Grange, the order's school for mentally and physically impaired boys at Morisset on the NSW central coast.

Dr Mulvihill, who is based in Sydney, worked with the order for nine years from 1998, sitting in on meetings involving negotiators from the order and 150 victims in NSW, Victoria and New Zealand.
But she says she quit the job in 2007, fearing that suspected paedophile Brothers still wielded too
much power in the order and were interfering with victims' compensation and treatment.

On Sunday she described the order as hosting Brothers who were responsible for "the worst examples of child abuse I have ever heard of" and said of the 40 to 50 Brothers who had been in the order around the time she was involved, about 75 per cent had been the subject of allegations. (That means almost 40 of the 50 had abuse allegations of some sort.)

"There was a small gene pool as to who you could talk to [about the abuse],'' she said.
She also alleged the church and now Cardinal Pell had been well aware of the extraordinary numbers of victims as the order's head, Provincial Peter Burke, had borrowed millions of dollars from the church to pay victims in a deal overseen by Cardinal Pell.

Cardinal Pell's spokesman said the order was not responsible to any Australian bishop. It managed its own affairs and reported to its headquarters in Rome.
''Cardinal Pell was not involved in the investigation of any abuse within the order. He was not briefed on any outcomes. He was not involved in the payment of any 'hush money' …

''Cardinal Pell's recollection is that the order had a liquidity problem in meeting its obligations to victims, that a loan was made by the Sydney Development Fund and repaid.'' Cardinal Pell supported this.

Dr Mulvihill said that last year she had given a statement to NSW Police investigating the order's operations at Kendall Grange.
She said she believed documents had been placed in special hiding places where the police would never have found them - locations known only to a few people. ''They are in spaces on Brothers' premises that are extremely hard to find. There's only a couple of people who know where they are.''
The order would not comment.

This article describes a Cardinal Pell that doesn't seem to understand what his roll a pastoral shepherd entails.  The Brothers of St John of God might have their own leadership in Rome, but it is incomprehensible to me that Cardinal Pell couldn't have picked up a phone, or dropped in on it's leadership on one of the many times he was in Rome, and asked what the hell was going on in the order in Australia?  Or for that matter, once he had fixed their 'liquidation' problem, why he just didn't  liquidate the Order's privileges to operate in Australia/New Zealand.  He most certainly would not have been the first Archbishop to forbid an order from operating in his domain.  His excuses are just that, lousy excuses.
This is just one egregious sexual abuse problem of many that have come to light in Australia in the last few months.  Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox has been instrumental in getting officials to move on the pedophile rings in the Church in New South Wales.  As is usual with outspoken committed people, he has been taken off the case for reasons of 'jurisdiction'.  As these stories unfold, it is a given we will see that police and prosecutors enabled the Church with it's policies of protecting pedophiles while ignoring victims. This is one reason people are demanding State and Federal officials open up their inquiries.

Some press coverage indicates that officials have pretty hard evidence that an Archbishop, bishop, and priest were all actively involved in the coverup of at least one predator in New South Wales.  It may come to pass that Bishop Finn will no longer be the only bishop convicted of crimes in covering up pedophile behavior amongst clergy.  If Pell's behavior is any indication, it is going to take the State to provide justice, because the red and purple beanie crowd have closed ranks to protect their own.  Funny how they have the power to  do that, but not the power to demand accountability.

What happens in Australia could certainly happen in the United States.  One would hope our bishops might think long and hard about this possibility when they gather in Baltimore.  The kind of publicity Cardinal Pell is now generating is not exactly the kind of publicity Cardinal Dolan ever seeks.  But he may just get it anyway.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Based on GOP campaigning it's not just atheists that come in for the wrath of God. I just don't think the saner heads in the GOP are going to be able to take back their party from the rabid 'Chri$tian$.

The following excerpt is by Anthea Butler over on Religion Dispatches.  I love Anthea's writing because she doesn't pull any punches, isn't afraid to point out the emperor has no clothes, and she has a preferential option for taking on all hypocrites of any persuasion. The following starts about half way through her essay on Tuesday's take down of the Republican Party.

Election Takeaway: Fake God Talk Doesn’t Cut It with Americans 

Anthea Butler - Religion Dispatches - 11/7/2012
......From Akin’s “legitimate” rape to Richard Mourdock’s “semi-omnipotent God,” the party looks like a version of Inherit the Wind without the monkeys to provide levity. No matter how much Glenn Beck believed that Romney could win, or Billy Graham’s pretense that he never believed Mormonism was a cult, nothing will take away the demographics that are against the party, or their religious conservatives. To top it off, the Catholic Bishops threw their lot in with this bunch, knowing that much of what they believe is not compatible with Catholic theology. (That is a very telling move on the part of our bishops.)

After four years of hearing the refrain “Let’s take our country back,” it is clear that 2012 is not only, as Sarah Posner writes, a religious realignment, but also a moral realignment.

Fake God talk doesn’t cut it with Americans. Everyone sees through it. For Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, and a host of others, the last four years have been a confidence game, a careful calculation that if they could just promote themselves, their god, their America, and Obama as a socialist just enough, the tide would turn their way and the money would flow. It didn’t. Many Americans want gay people to have the right to marry, recognize that rape is rape, and view women’s reproductive rights as important. (The one thing the millennials- a demographic the GOP lost big time- are not looking for is more fake God talk. This generation has a well tuned hypocrisy meter. PO and the Dems better pay attention to this as well.)

Americans are tired of racist remarks and the denigration of the office of the President of the United States simply because an African American with a dual heritage and a white mother cracked and decoded the American dream.

While President Obama won decisively, he also must be held to account. Reelection does not mean that the president cannot be judged. The drone war, the continued level of poverty (especially in the African American community), and the injustices of Guantanamo Bay are just a few of the issues we citizens need to hold the president accountable for. Having a black president doesn’t mean that everything is wonderful.  (No one is entitled to a free pass on accountability just because of their skin color. A lesson for all, not just for 'angry white males'.)

In the end, Mitt Romney was the right candidate for the Republicans. His good looks, his CEO cred, and his ability to lie at the slightest turn were tailor-made for what the Republican party and its religious operatives have become: a bunch of capitalistic prosperity grifters who have turned their backs on the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Gospel of Ayn Rand. Even his running mate, Catholic Paul Ryan, was eager to grift by proposing an untenable budget. Rather than “do unto others,” they raised millions to disenfranchise, to sow hatred, and to bask in a smug cocoon of self-reliance while Americans suffered foreclosures, job losses, and anguish. Now, they have lost.


At this point I have no hope that the GOP will seriously reevaluate it's positions on much of anything. There is way too much money and energy invested to allow for much of a change of direction.  At best we will see a change of emphasis, a kind of reshuffling of the deck.  The one thing they will not be able to fix easily is the utter lack of trust in anything they say, which will be the lasting legacy of the GOP primaries and Romney's run for the presidency.  The hidden agendas which called for this lack of transparency may no longer be hidden, but like in Roman Catholicism, the use of secrecy and half truths will continue unabated.  They will continue unabated because the reliance on this strategy is founded in a need to not see any real importance for speaking the truth.  Instead it's founded in a belief that lies serve their truth. It's amorality masking as morality. 

The USCCB has the same problem.  For them the pressing issue is not 're evangelizing' lost Catholics, it's restoring the lost trust in their own offices. But again, the momentum is such that I don't think we are going to see any such acknowledgement coming out of Baltimore.  I believe we will see the beginning of a concerted campaign to deny this issue tomorrow when Bishops Sartain, Paprocki, and Blair meet with LCWR leadership. It's hard for me to imagine that three bishops who were overly involved in GOP politics are going to admit problems to the leadership group whose Nuns on the Bus campaign was far more effective than all the USCCB politicking combined.  That fact too, is a matter of who is trusted.  I expect the bishops will once again attempt to use authority to overcome mistrust.  Big mistake.  More Fake God Talk.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obama Gets 4 More Years, Bishops Need To Rethink Their Politics

Let's hope the next four garner some cross aisle cooperation, which may be easier now that certain Tea Party candidates will be home rethinking their ideas about rape, and one congressman may re evaluate his attachment to Ayn Rand.  As for Mitt, well he's not exactly going to have to get in a soup line.

As for these guys, they may just have to caucus on how to deal with the IRS.  Bummer.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reforming Authority In The Church Also Means Reconstituting The unHoly See

Cardinal Pacelli signing the Reichsconcordat with Nazi Germany in 1933. Pacelli was Secretary of State of the Holy See at the time.  Later as Pope he got to deal with consequences of his own diplomacy.  So did the People of God.

The following seven areas of reform deal with authority in the Church.  It is taken from the blog site  There is a link on their Home page in which folks can add their names to a substantial list of others who agree with these areas of reform.  The Home page also lists 27 theologians from multiple countries as academic sponsors.  Readers will recognize quite a few of the names. Here are the reforms, but as far as I am concerned, they over look one of the real problems for why the Vatican refuses to reform.  The Pope is also the absolute ruler of the Holy See.

A principal source of present-day stagnation lies in misunderstanding and abuse affecting the exercise of authority in our Church. Specifically, the following issues require urgent redress:

The role of the papacy needs to be clearly re-defined in line with Christ's intentions. As supreme pastor, unifier and prime witness to faith, the pope contributes substantially to the health of the universal church. However, his authority may never obscure, diminish or suppress the authentic authority directly given by Christ to all members of the people of God. (Unfortunately the Pope is also the head of a sovereign state, the Holy See, an that entity has zero justification in the Gospels, but wreaks havoc on the spiritual health of the Church. It's aims are too often in conflict with the Gospel and the above paragraph completely ignores this part of the Pope's authority.)

Bishops are vicars of Christ, not vicars of the pope. They carry immediate responsibility for people in their dioceses, and joint responsibility, with other bishops and the pope, for the world-wide community of faith. (Way too many bishops are just mouth pieces for the Pope, much less vicars of Christ and sadly, whole national conferences allow themselves to be bullied and silenced by the Vatican curia.)

The central synod of bishops should assume a more decisive role in planning and guiding the maintenance and growth of faith within our complex world. To execute its task, the synod of bishops needs to be given appropriate structures. (Without structures which insure consistent application of any such power sharing, this will never happen. There are too many forces whose operations need the current structure completely centralized in Rome.)

The Second Vatican Council prescribed collegiality and co-responsibility on all levels. This has not been realised. Priestly senates and pastoral councils, as envisaged by the Council, should involve the faithful more directly in decision making concerning the formulation of doctrine, the running of the pastoral ministry and evangelization in secular society. (The Holy See is an absolute monarchy.  There is a reason Vatican II's call for power sharing and collegiality stalled before it got off the ground. It would be real nice though if this reform were at least implemented on a parish/diocesan level.)

The abuse of choosing for leadership offices in the church only candidates of a particular mindset, should be eradicated. Instead, new norms should be laid down and supervised to ensure that elections to such offices are conducted in a fair, transparent and, to the extent possible, democratic fashion.
(This would be a great start if this one ever got off the ground.  Too bad the current Cardinals are almost all products of the very mindset which should be eradicated.)

The Roman curia requires a more radical reform, in line with the instructions and vision of Vatican II. The curia should be retained for its useful administrative and executive roles.
The curia will never be reformed as long as the Holy See exists as a sovereign state. The diplomatic corps has way too much power and it's way too influenced by the very wealthy.)

The congregation for the doctrine of the faith should be assisted by international commissions of experts who have been independently chosen for their professional competence.(That would be nice, but I can't see this happening either.  The CDF was an effective tool under JPII/Ratzinger for silencing bishops and theologians expressing social justice concerns in Latin America and elsewhere--like Seattle, Wa.


Until the Holy See ceases to exist as it's currently configured, which is basically a rogue state at the beck and call of the Pope,  I have zero hope for reform in Roman Catholicism.  Politics drives policy.  All one need do is study the career of Pius XII as Secretary of State.  He negotiated concordats with Hitler and Mussolini,  an essential validation for the political governments of these fascist dictators whose combined forces then almost destroyed Catholic Europe.  I actually think it was cosmic justice that as Pope Pius XII, Pacelli truly saw the fruits of his diplomatic labors. But in any event, his story perfectly demonstrates the rogue nature of the Holy See.  It wasn't the armies of the Vatican City States that won World War II, but those secular democracies that so threatened the Vatican's concept of it's divine right to rule in the world of men. 

I would add an 8th reform plank:  abolish the Holy See and with it the Vatican Bank.  Then we might have a chance at some real reform.  No other major religious body has this kind of governmental setup in which it's both a secular global player and a religious player.  This hybrid set up has not served the People of God well at all, and it was proscribed by Jesus himself.  It's time to end the Constantinian Church of Empire, and the first step is to end the pretensions and political machinations of the Holy See.