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.