Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Ride On The Catholic Roller Coaster

Catholicism is sure getting to be a roller coaster and two stories from yesterday certainly prove the point. In the first story Benedict acknowledges the suffering of Canadian First Nation children at the hands of the residential school system, 75% of which were run by Catholic groups:

Pope Laments Abuse of Canadian Indigenous People
Affirms Desire to Build Partnership for Future

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is lamenting abuses by Church members against indigenous Canadian children in residential Catholic schools, and is offering prayerful solidarity to the aboriginal peoples as they move forward.
The Pope said this today after the general audience in a meeting with representatives from the Catholic communities and aboriginal peoples of Canada, including Phil Fontaine, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada, and Archbishop James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian bishops' conference.

During the meeting, the Pontiff "listened to their stories and concerns," a Vatican press release reported.

He "recalled that since the earliest days of her presence in Canada, the Church, particularly through her missionary personnel, has closely accompanied the indigenous peoples.

"Acknowledging the "sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian residential school system," the Holy Father "expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity."

"Benedict XVI emphasized that "acts of abuse cannot be tolerated in society," and he prayed that "all those affected would experience healing." He encouraged the indigenous peoples "to continue to move forward with renewed hope."

CBC News has this quote from Chief Fontaine as reported by Religion News Service.

Fontaine, himself a survivor of Canada's residential schools, acknowledged that the pope's statement did not amount to a formal apology, but told CBC News that he hoped it would "close the book" on the issue of apologies for residential school survivors.

"The fact that the word 'apology' was not used does not diminish this moment in any way," he said. "This experience gives me great comfort."


This was a very positive step on the part of Pope Benedict. As I've written previously, Native elders are keen to close the book on past abuse and move forward. They also know it's hard to close the book if one of the authors refuses to acknowledge their part in the story.

US Native American Nations, unlike their counterparts in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia are still waiting for governmental and religious authorities to recognize the harm done to their respective cultures by the same kind of residential school systems. School Systems which were really designed to take the Indian out of the child and make them pseudo white Christians. They were also hugely abusive and extremely destructive to the Native American family structure.

Now we come to the second story, and quite frankly I have real trouble believing any politician of any stripe for any reason could go this low. As reported by Politico yesterday, North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx testified during debate on the hate crimes bill, otherwise known as the Mathew Shepard bill, that the murder of Mathew Shepard was about robbery, and that calling it a gay hate crime was a 'hoax'. She said this with Judy Shepard, Mathew's mother in the house gallery.

Matthew Shepard Bias Claims A ‘Hoax,’

North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx is questioning whether the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay University of Wyoming student, was motivated by his sexual orientation. The socially conservative Foxx, arguing against a Democratic hate crimes bill that includes new protections for gays and lesbians, called the description of Shepard’s murder as an anti-homosexual attack a “hoax” — and questioned whether prior bias-crime legislation should have been named after him.

“I also would like to point out that there was a bill — the hate crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay.”

She added: “This ... hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”

“Matthew Shepard’s mother was in the gallery yesterday, and I believe she was back today — so I’m sorry she had to be around to hear it,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). “It’s an urban myth. ... And I’d tell [Foxx] that man did land on the moon, and the moon wasn’t made out of green cheese.”

Two young men — Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron James McKinney — were convicted in connection with the crime, with multiple witnesses testifying to the anti-gay aspect of the crime. Both also intended to rob the Shepard home after the attack, according to press accounts.


Representative Foxx is Catholic. She was one of the Catholic Representatives who sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about how scandalous and denigrating Pelosi's views on abortion are to the Catholic faithful. Hmmmm, in my book, it's now Representative Foxx's turn to hear about how scandalous and denigrating her statements are to Catholics. So much for family values when it's considered perfectly OK to lie about the motivation for the death of a mother's son in front of that mother. Doesn't seem to be a very good example of 'hate the sin, love the sinner'. In the meantime this bill passed in the house 249-175.

The kind of thinking espoused by Representative Foxx, is exactly the same kind of thinking that gave rise to the Native residential school systems. The Native culture, like the gay culture, was seen to be immoral and deficient and the best thing one could do was to destroy families for the sake of the children. The residential school system proved to be efficient only in the destruction of Native families. Native kids were still Native kids and subjected to the same discriminatory treatment after they were 'enculturated' as they had been before they were enculturated.

The anti gay bias, which the Mathew Shepard bill is intended to address, hopes to address the same kind of thinking that led to residential school system. The kind of thinking that goes along the lines of 'dirty indian', 'dirty jew', and 'dirty fag'. The kind of thinking that says it's really OK to emotionally and physically abuse the dirty other, destroy their families, and ignore their pain because that's what Jesus would do. Well the message just sent from the Vatican in the case of the Canadian First Nations is this kind of thing isn't what Jesus would do, and in fact we were wrong that some of us actually believed this is what Jesus would do.

Virginia Foxx should take a clue from Benedict and another look at her prejudice. Benedict should take a long look at what Catholicism in it's misguided righteousness did to the families of the First Nations and wonder if he isn't propagating the same thing in gay families. All he need do is look at Virginia Foxx blathering on in front of Judy Shepard and he should have a pretty good idea of what the answer is.

The more things change the more they stay the same. The first casualty of 'othering' others are families. First Nations paid this price in year's past, and today it's families with gay members. Yesterday's roller coaster showed how far we've come in one case, and how far we still have to travel in the other.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Satan, The Last Best Excuse For Failed Strategy

Of any number of things I've been stuck with lately in the abortion debate, the one that I find seriously frightening is the escalation in Satanic imagery and continual references to Spiritual Warfare. It's not just the military lingo, it's the down right awful theology which subordinates the Salvific action of Jesus to the omnipotent power of Satan. This is not melding faith with reason, it's projecting irrational fear and powerlessness to dizzying heights.

William Lyndsey writes about this thoroughly discounted old form of gnosticism in a post today on his blog Bilgrimage. The following is an excerpt in which Bill is discussing Bishop Finn's speech to a Kansas pro life group. A speech in which Bishop Finn calls for pro life Catholics to engage in Spiritual warfare. I have posted about this speech previously.

The “we” who are at war are a group of Christian warriors with a hidden gnosis, a peculiar vocabulary and eccentric worldview known only to the true believer, from which the rough masses are shut out. (It's also a world view in which the unwashed masses are always shut out. There is no salvation for them.)

That peculiar vocabulary and eccentric worldview revolve around images of battle, militancy, blood, and, above all, Satan. Yes, Satan—in all his scary-alluring glamor; Satan, the old deceiver and father of lies, who constantly tries to weave his snares around our feet and claim us for the kingdom of darkness. Satan, who can, the good bishop warns, lay claim to us without our knowing we’ve been so claimed: as Bishop Finn maintains, “So let’s be clear: Human beings are not Satan, but certainly they can come under his power, even without their fully realizing it.”

Bishop Finn’s brief lecture employs the name Satan five times, that of Jesus six times.

And that pretty much says it all to me, where this apocalyptic worldview of Satanic possession of people who don’t know they’re possessed, with its lurid imagery of war and bloodshed and its gnostic vocabulary and worldview, is headed. It’s headed way off the charts of Christian orthodoxy, as every other gnostic and apocalyptic form of Christianity has done in the past. (In short, this is not Christianity, this is anti Satanism and because it is, it diverts people from doing anything meaningful in this reality by focusing the main effort on the unseen reality. This is a reality in which only the true believers have any authority.)

With its virtual equation of Jesus and Satan—Savior matched with Arch-Enemy—this is a worldview and theological system long ago condemned by most Christian churches, one that makes the devil as powerful as God. It’s a worldview and theological system that spectacularly miss the central point of the gospel proclamation: that Christ has died and is risen, and in that paschal event, the powers of evil have once and all been decisively defeated. (Jesus serves primarily as the foil for Satan. All His teachings on love mean nothing. In this theology there is no call for real conversion, only ritual confrontation.)


Further in his post, Bill links to a sermon by Fr. Euteneuer of Human Life International. It's a Good Friday sermon which is all about using Jesus's blood as a meditative ritual for exorcism. Fr. Euteneuer is another leading voice in the reactionary pro life movement. Apparently he's also a card caring member of the New Apostolic Reformation as he begins his sermon by quoting Revelations. It's amazing to me how these pro life prophets can make literal sense of Revelations. To me Revelations is a spiritual Rorshach test. A text one can project what ever they want into it.

I also believe if any of these pro life prophets ever came face to face with the Satan they describe they would shit their pants. They would quickly find out they projected way too much power into Satan for their human minds and emotions, and way too little into Jesus. Blithely spouting on about demons, Satan, and exorcisms is easy if you've never done it. People that actually have had these encounters don't talk about them. They don't brag about them. They don't teach about them. They certainly don't call the innocent in to active battle and they don't speak or act in such a way as to bring more of these encounters to this reality.

But of course, all this rhetoric isn't really about Satan. It's about power and who has it, and who gets to use it. The Catholic clerical caste has lost a lot of power with a lot of people. The Republican party is almost dead. Time to bring up the devil. Time to remind people who traditionally has had the spiritual and ritual to power to battle Satan, to conduct exorcisms, to lead the war against the Principalities and Powers. It's the clerically ordained who wield all that power, supported by all those laity who believe the clerical caste really holds all that power.

Actually, it's Jesus who holds all that power and through Him any baptised person who believes in Jesus. And Jesus Himself took it even further. "Those who are not actively against us are with us." Those others, who caused such angst to Jesus's Apostles, can also cast out demons in Jesus's name. Casting out demons is such an easy task that even those who aren't true believers can do it. Negative plane energy is not all that omniscient or powerful or insightful or intelligent.

It's mostly just our unconscious projections about situations we don't want to take responsibility for.

Which means to me, that some bishops and clerics don't want to take responsibility for the fact they have lost the Roe V Wade battle, and because of that they project that loss on an all powerful Satan. It's always easier to project failure than to deal with it.

The reality is, the abortion debate was never a war in the first place. It was a call for compassion for expectant mothers. It should never have become a crusade for the rights of the unborn at the expense of compassion and support for their mothers. Criminalizing abortion was destined to be a losing strategy because it targeted a law rather than fostering life giving choice in real women. The law became more important than real people in real situations. Catholic bishops allowed themselves to be coerced into the wrong strategy. Blaming this on Satan is a statement of inability to change strategies. The spiritual warfare is not out there somewhere, it's inside their heads.

Kudos again to Cardinal Rigali. At least he seems capable of finally supporting the moral strategy that actually is Christian, is about compassion and will save lives.


The following Vatican analysis of President Obama's first hundred days was just posted on Rocco Palma's Whispers In The Logia. The Vatican isn't playing the Satan card, condemning President Obama, or insisting that the Democratic party is the party of death.

[U]nder the headline, "The 100 days that did not shake the world," [L'Osservatore] said the new president has operated with more caution than predicted in most areas, including economics and international relations.

"On ethical questions, too -- which from the time of the electoral campaign have been the subject of strong worries by the Catholic bishops -- Obama does not seem to have confirmed the radical innovations that he had discussed," it said.

It said the new draft guidelines for stem-cell research, for example, did not constitute the major change in policy that was foreseen a few months ago.

"(The guidelines) do not allow the creation of new embryos for research or therapeutic purposes, for cloning or for reproductive ends, and federal funds may be used only for experimentation with excess embryos," it said.

It added that the new guidelines "do not remove the reasons for criticism in the face of unacceptable forms of bioengineering" but are "less permissive" than expected.

The article saw a positive sign in the recent introduction of the Pregnant Women Support Act, which would help women overcome problems that often cause them to have abortions. It was sponsored by a group of pro-life Democrats.

"It is not a negation of the doctrine expressed up to now by Obama in the matter of interruption of pregnancy, but the legislative project could represent a rebalancing in support of maternity," the newspaper said.

It sure is nice to see that the Vatican actually sees what I've been writing all along. Supporting maternity is a legitimate abortion strategy. I'm almost shocked to read this analysis. Maybe Dr. Glendon jumped the gun as the Vatican doesn't seem to be nearly as anti Obama as some of our clergy.

Perhaps the Vatican understands that President Obama is listening, and rather than beat him with a stick for not being completely Catholic, they've chosen to give him credit where credit is due.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Pregnant Women Support Act--An Act For All Seasons

Cardinal Rigali Praises House Re-Introduction of 'Pregnant Women Support Act,' Urges Co-Sponsorship

"Pregnant women need our assistance now so that abortion is not promoted to them as their only choice"

WASHINGTON, April 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Cardinal Rigali, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), wrote to all U.S. Representatives urging them to co-sponsor the Pregnant Women Support Act (PWSA, H.R. 2035) re-introduced in the House by Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN) on April 22. The PWSA provides resources and support for pregnant and parenting women and their families.

"The Pregnant Women Support Act reaches out to women with a helping hand when they are most vulnerable, and most engaged in making a decision about life or death for their unborn children," Cardinal Rigali said.

The Cardinal said that the PWSA offers "an authentic common ground, an approach that people can embrace regardless of their position on other issues." (Absolutely true.)

"There are some statements that almost everyone can endorse. First, the fact that over a million abortions take place every year in this country is a tragedy, and we should at least take steps to reduce abortions," said Cardinal Rigali. (Absolutely true.)

"Second, no woman should ever have to undergo an abortion because she feels she has no other choice, or because alternatives were unavailable or not made known to her. An abortion performed under such social and economic duress meets no one's standard for 'freedom of choice'," the Cardinal continued. (I wish he would have added paternal pressure as well as social and economic pressure.)

Among other provisions, the PWSA will ensure that pregnant women are not denied coverage by insurance companies; establish a toll-free number for resources during pregnancy and after birth; provide life-affirming pregnancy services and parenting education in maternity group homes and other centers; provide new mothers with free home visits by registered nurses; and codify the current regulation allowing states to provide State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) coverage to unborn children and their mothers. It will also encourage adoption by expanding adoption tax credit and adoption assistance programs.

Cardinal Rigali distinguished the Pregnant Women Support Act from controversial proposals involving pregnancy prevention, which raise serious policy questions and in many studies have been shown not to reduce abortions. "Discussion of pregnancy prevention and related issues will surely continue inside and outside Congress. In the meantime, pregnant women need our assistance now so that abortion is not promoted to them as their only choice ... I hope you will join Representative Davis in ensuring that the Pregnant Women Support Act will be considered and enacted by this Congress," he said.


If representatives of both parties don't get on board with this bill, then neither party has a vested interest in life. If it does pass, I would hope that the Obama administration would get some credit for at least this much, since this never passed under the previous Republican administration.

Originally introduced in 2005 and written by the Democrats for Life, the bill is aimed at abortion reduction, rather than re criminalization, and supports health measures for the pre born as well the born child and mother. It was introduced in the Senate by Senator Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania and in the House by Lincoln Davis of Tennessee. The bill does not deal with pregnancy prevention issues. Rather itsupports the basic necessities needed by women to bring their babies to full term and support them through their child's infancy. Theoretically there is nothing in this bill for Catholics to object to, as Cardinal Rigali points out.

I would hope that all Catholics could get behind this bill. It makes more sense than expending any more time and energy on the Notre Dame controversy.

Kudos to Cardinal Rigali and the USCCB.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ambassador Glendon 'Respectfully Declines' Notre Dame Award

Happier and headier days for Dr. Glendon. Days when politics and religion mixed very well for her career.

Catholic World News has the story, and the text of Glendon’s letter to UND president Fr. John Jenkins:

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.
Yours Very Truly,
Mary Ann Glendon


I wondered how long it would take Ambassador Glendon to bail on Notre Dame. In this letter she specifically cites Notre Dame talking points which regard her as some sort of balance for the dastardly deed of inviting President Obama, but those points were not raised initially by Notre Dame. The first place I read them was in a post by on America Magazine by Micheal Sean Winter on March 23. In this post he stated: "This crowd of conservatives does not own the Catholic Church. They certainly do not own Notre Dame. They are about to find out that they do not own Dr. Glendon either." It looks like they do own Dr. Glendon.

There's really not a great deal left to say about this situation. It saddens me that Dr. Glendon decided it was in her best interests to turn down the Laetare Medal. I see it is as a capitulation on her part to right wing political interests. She may have held out as long as she did hoping the heat would die down, but apparently she doesn't really understand the mentality of the people who were responsible for her own political successes. Perhaps it was pay back time.

In this letter she blames it specifically on Notre Dame's conferring an honorary degree in violation of the USCCB's 2004 letter which states that Catholic universities should not confer honors on those who are in direct defiance of Catholic moral principles. She does not mention that Notre Dame sought the advice of canon lawyers as to whether this letter pertained to non Catholics who are under no obligation to support Catholic moral doctrine. It seems these lawyers determined the letter did not apply to non Catholics. I guess it doesn't matter what canon lawyers think in the face of the opposition of less than 10% of the USCCB. This is a classic case of tyranny by a tiny minority over the much more vast silent majority. That's pretty much been the case in American Catholicism for the last decade. Catholicism may not be a democracy, but it's also not supposed to be a tyranny of the few over the many.

It looks to me that Dr. Glendon has decided it's better to be exploited by the right than give the perception of being exploited by the left. Which says it's not about Catholicism per se, it's about who you will let exploit you. If Dr. Glendon was operating out of personal conviction she would have turned down the Laetare Medal as soon as she heard Obama was to give the commencement address and receive an honorary degree. The fact it's taken her six weeks to come to this decision speaks more about concession to political interests than to her convictions.

It appears to me as if the Notre Dame brouhaha is all about posturing and politics. In the end not one unborn child is saved and that makes the whole thing repulsive. The backlash is coming.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"A Nasty Business With Serious Implications..."

Pro life clerical storm trooper.

The following is excerpted from a longer article in the LA Times. It deals with the battle over the nomination of Governor Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The author, Tim Rutten, makes serious points about the possible future of this clash between conservative Catholic bishops and Catholic democrats.

For conservatives who've been trying for years to pry Catholic voters out of the Democratic Party, the Holy Grail of political advantage is a long-sought clerical edict that would prohibit any Catholic officeholder who ever has cast a pro-choice vote from receiving Communion. From there, it would be a relatively small step to extend the ban to any Catholic who has voted for a pro-choice candidate. Catholic Democrats would be forced to choose between their party and their church. (It also means Catholic voters of any stripe would be placed in the position of acquiescing to the notion that there is no other issue which trumps abortion, and no other moral strategy save criminalizing abortion.)

For years, most bishops -- though unswervingly pro-life -- have avoided such an either/or moment, not least because, on the vast majority of issues apart from abortion, their social agenda coincides more closely with the Democrats than the GOP.

But time is gradually changing the character of the American Catholic hierarchy. The generation of pastoral, politically savvy bishops and cardinals appointed by Pope Paul VI and John Paul II in his early years -- the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington come to mind -- are aging and passing from the scene. In their place a new, more brittle and ultramontane group of bishops appears willing to elevate the abortion issue over all others. (One wonders why men who are supposed to be spiritual pastors have instead chosen to be spiritual dictators.)

That's important because in the past, when more conservative bishops have forbidden Communion to Catholic officeholders, some cardinals -- McCarrick and Mahony in particular -- have declined to enforce the ban. Now, however, the new archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl, and Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, Va., have said they expect Sebelius to obey her local bishop's order if she moves into their sees.

If conservative activists can persuade enough local bishops to do to, say, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Christopher Dodd what Naumann has done to Sebelius, the long-sought national edict is a fait accompli.

George W. Bush's former advisor on Catholic affairs, Deal W. Hudson, said this week that Wuerl's and Loverde's acquiescence in denying Sebelius the sacrament "will send the message to other bishops that if they choose to pronounce members of Congress from their dioceses unfit for Communion, their authority will be respected in D.C. and across the Potomac in Virginia. The ramifications are enormous." (That's very true Deal. The ramifications will be enormous, not just for Republicans and Democrats but for Catholics. Unfortunately the ramifications will not extend to the unborn. Not one life will be saved, but many souls could be lost.)

This is a nasty business with serious implications, and the bishops might want to consider where they'll find themselves if even their own co-religionists come to believe they're in the business of dictating officeholders' actions rather than forming consciences. (Or using abortion to further their political ambitions or those of their wealthy friends.)


One thing Tim Rutten did not address is that some of the conservative bishops have taken to attacking other bishops, as evidenced by Archbishop Burke. Burke's rant, courtesy of Randal Terry, may have actually had an impact on Archbishops Wuerl and Bishop Loverde, since their names figured prominently on the list of 'bad gutless bishops' Randall Terry went to Rome to have corrected for their gutless badness.

It's kind of flattering really, to know that the Republican party is so enamored with getting the Catholic vote. It's just too bad their strategy is so top heavy. Rather than make their appeal on reason, they are using the hierarchy to dictate it from above. That's an interesting choice of strategy which says quite a bit about the Republican party and what the movers and shakers of that party really think about the average Joe Sixpack. Lead Joe to the water and then shove his head in until he drowns or says uncle. That would be kind of like the intent of water boarding I guess. Of course, in the case of Catholics, the threat is not to one's physical life, but to their spiritual life. Same idea though.

I absolutely believe there are bishops who would be more than glad to extend the Communion ban to any Catholic who voted for a pro choice candidate and that there are numerous Republican activists who are agitating amongst those bishops for just such a ban. What I'm curious about is how the rest of the American bishops would handle such a blanket ban. I suspect the contrived 'unity' amongst the bishops would show some serious and irreparable fissures. The kinds of fissures we're beginning to see in other national bishoprics like in Germany, Austria, Brazil, Paraguay, Ireland, and even in the Vatican itself.

Yesterday I wrote that what we're seeing is a collision of different energies regarding human consciousness. This collision is being played out in many different areas, but not surprisingly, Roman Catholicism, and especially the American version are front and center. It's why these internecine battles seem so intense and frankly mind boggling to the rest of the Catholic world.

The truth is, there is no better battle ground than America in which to play this conflict out. This country was founded to guarantee the right of individual choice, but especially the right of religious choice. The abortion battle, and the strategies surrounding it, calls those very freedoms into question. American Catholics are additionally being caught between a monarchical religious structure and a pluralistic political structure. It's not surprising then that bishops whose main thrust seems to be maintaining their monarchical authority would posit the conflict between the two as "vote your conscience, or save your soul and vote my way."

Exploitation is not the future, it's the past. Virtually every Catholic controversy has been fought around some form of exploitation or another. Whether that's the Brazil rape case, the anti Semitic SSPX, lay educators, Vatican investigations, the use of condoms, gay marriage, and on and on, these issues are all about the exploitation of persons or groups for the benefit of other persons or groups. Especially for the benefit of those who have historically held some form of autocratic authority or power over many of these others.

The real question for bishops and politicians should be "how do I exercise my authority in a changing human concsiousness"? Barack Obama has chosen dialogue, and to respect the people he chooses to see as his adversaries, rather than his enemies. He listens, and he admits mistakes. Sometimes our Pope does too.

Perhaps our pro life bishops should take a look at those strategies, because if they don't, their attempt to exploit their authority is going to blow up in their faces. Pope Benedict found that out with his autocratic SSPX decision. In this new energy, dialogue, respect, and genuine listening is the wiser course of action, because in this new consciousness no body in authority gets a free pass. It won't matter how many times one shakes one's crosier or thunders from the pulpit, the days of blind obedience and mindless loyalty are over.

PS. My daughter would like me to inform readers of this blog to consider buying Tropicana orange juice as for every jug bought they will plant a tree in the rain forest. One needs to go to their website and type in the product code. Don't be surprised if the code is already entered as certain people's children are copying them off bottles and entering them 'just in case the person who buys the bottle can't be bothered to do it."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A New Day, A New Era, Native Grandmothers, Catholic Sisters, And The Next 500 Years

The thirteen grandmothers in Barcelona in 2008

Sr. Joan Chittister's latest article at the National Catholic Reporter deals with three Papal Bulls issued in the 1400's and their subsequent impact on indigenous populations under European Catholic rule. In the article Joan mentions Grandmother Beatrice Long-Visitor Holy Dance of the Lakota Nation. Grandmother Beatrice is part of a group of indigenous women leaders of whom I wrote in November. I'm going to re post the main article and give different commentary.

The reason I want to do this is to give more background information to Sr. Chittister's article and to demonstrate a particular Native teaching.

Indigenous grandmas nearly kicked out of Vatican-Indian Country Today

Thirteen indigenous grandmothers, formally known as the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, initial greeting at the Vatican was not pleasant. The group was almost kicked out while performing a prayer and waiting to speak with Pope Benedict XVI.
They went to pray. They went to see Pope Benedict XVI on his home turf. They went to ask that he rescind historic church doctrine that played a role in the genocidal onslaught of millions of indigenous people worldwide.
For 13 indigenous grandmothers, accomplishing only one of their three goals wouldn't have been so bad - had they also not been harassed by several Vatican policemen who claimed the women were conducting ''anti-Catholic'' demonstrations.

The elders, formally known as the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, convened in the morning hours of July 9 at St. Peter's Square. After setting up an altar cloth, candles and sacred objects, including feathers and incense, they began holding a prayer and ceremony circle. Nine-year-old Davian Joell Stand-Gilpin, a direct descendant of Chief Dull Knife of the Lakota Nation, was brought along by one of the grandmothers to participate in traditional regalia.

Soon, however, four Vatican police officials asked the women to stop the prayer ceremony, claiming their prayers were in contradiction to the church's teachings - despite the two crosses on the alter cloth and some of the members being practitioners of the Catholic faith.

The officials told Carole Hart, an Emmy and Peabody award-winning producer and filmmaker traveling with the grandmas, that the group was in violation of Vatican policy. They said a permit Hart had obtained in order to document the prayer gathering was only relevant in terms of filming, but did not allow the women to pray, sing or burn incense.

The police said the actions of the grandmothers were ''idolatrous.''Through the course of obtaining the permit, Hart had written to Vatican officials explaining that the grandmothers would be conducting a prayer ceremony at the site.''We stuck to the fact that we were legitimately there with this permit,'' Hart said.

''The grandmas did not back down.'' Still, the police urged the grandmothers to move on; but Hart and the group appealed the decision to a higher authority. Finally, the police brought back a law official who assessed the situation. Upon seeing 13 indigenous elder women and hearing one of their songs, the official concluded there was no problem with the ceremony.

The official also ultimately invited the grandmothers to enter St. Peter's Basilica to rest and pray.

Despite their short-term success, the ultimate goal of the grandmothers - to hand-deliver a statement to Pope Benedict XVI, asking him to rescind several controversial papal bulls that played a part in the colonization of indigenous lands - was thwarted.

Documents from the 15th century, such as the papal bulls, show the papacy played a role in the genocidal onslaught that affected millions of indigenous people on the North American continent. In 1455, for instance, Pope Nicolas authorized Portugal ''to invade, search out, capture, vanquish and subdue all Saracens and pagans'' along the west coast of Africa, enslave them and confiscate their property - which set the tone for European interaction with the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. (The movie The Mission deals with this particular event in an extremely powerful way. It's one of my all time favorite movies.)

Just a short time before the grandmothers left for their long-planned journey to Rome, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be leaving the Vatican to rest at his summer home, called Castel Gandolfo, in preparation for a trip to Australia.

The pope had originally been scheduled to be in residence July 9. Laura Jackson, the grandmothers' publicist, described the pope's decision to leave the Vatican as a ''sudden cancellation'' and noted that the grandmas held tickets to a scheduled public audience he was to have held that day.

While Castel Gandolfo is less than 20 miles away from the Vatican, the grandmothers ultimately decided not to make the journey to the pope's summer getaway despite some in their inner circle encouraging them to pay an unexpected visit.

Hart believes the grandmothers chose to focus on St. Peter's Square because it's part of the Vatican and is a strong symbol of the pope.

''As women of prayer, I think they felt that bringing their prayer there, on the very ground on which the church as an institution stands, as close as they could get to the heart of the church, would have a great effect on what will happen next,'' Hart said. Additionally, the women had no guarantee that they would even be able to enter the grounds of the pope's summer residence.

Instead, the elders left a package with one of the pope's personal guards at the Vatican. The package contained a written statement the women had sent to the Vatican in 2005 decrying the papal bulls, to which the Vatican never responded. It also contained a new 632-word statement to the pope asking him to repeal three Christian-based doctrines of ''discovery'' and ''conquest'' that set a foundation for claiming lands occupied by indigenous people around the world.

''We carry this message for Pope Benedict XVI, traveling with the spirits of our ancestors,'' the women said in their new message. ''While praying at the Vatican for peace, we are praying for all peoples. We are here at the Vatican, humbly, not as representatives of indigenous nations, but as women of prayer.''

The package was given to the pope's guard via a traditional Lakota manner, by extending it to him three times with him then accepting it on the fourth attempt. The entire process was captured on film, and is expected to be made into a documentary by Hart in the coming year.
It is unknown whether the pope has yet personally received the package, but legal scholars and Native activists in the U.S. have nonetheless been paying close attention to the grandmothers' journey.

''I think the trip is very significant,'' said Steven Newcomb, co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute and author of the book, ''Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery,'' and an Indian Country Today columnist.

''These are women who are very much grounded in their own languages and traditions. They're able to raise visibility of the issue in ways that others are perhaps less effective.''


In Sr. Joan's article she quotes from Pope Nicholas V's encyclical Roman Pontifex which was sent to Portugal's King Alonso in 1455. This particular encyclical impacted Africa but subsequently also South and Central America, Mexico and portions of the US Southwest. Apparently Sr. Joan was unaware of this encyclical and found it shocking:

"More than true, the content is also shocking. The shock that comes with knowing that it was a Papal Bull that authorized both conquest and slavery in the New World for hundreds of years is, at very least, part of what such a letter is meant to teach us today: "No decision should be made," the Native Americans tell us, "that does not take into account its affect on the next 10 generations." What we do today, in other words, has something to do with what life will be like 500 years from now."

What I want to focus on is the last couple of sentences which say that no decision should be made that does not take into account it's affect on the next 10 generations. This really is the frame work in which indigenous tribes make decisions and these Grandmothers are working on a specific aspect of the next 500 years.

Traditional indigenous belief says that unless one works through and reconciles the past 500 years the same energy from that era will be brought into the next 500 years. Many indigenous tribes believe the spiritual consciousness of man works in 500 year cycles. This is why it was important for the Grandmothers to go to the Vatican and meet with Pope Benedict. It wasn't just an apology or a rescinding of the bulls they were after, it was also an offering to work through and reconcile the energy of the past--for both groups.

Previous to his death, when Navajo Grandfather Leon Secatero was here in Helena last summer, he spent a great deal of time teaching on this very subject. He taught that it was critically important that both individuals and cultures work to pass through their real and perceived injuries and hurts by finding the good in them, the lessons in them, and then drop them by the wayside freeing oneself of those burdens. He taught that both the conquered and the conqueror were carrying the same burden, that of exploitation, and that both had to reconcile their active participation in that dynamic.

He taught that for the past 500 years the signature energy of humanity was the exploitation of one group or person for the profit of another. This was not to be the signature energy of the next 500 years, but we had much work to do as people to see that this energy of exploitation was not carried forward. He also said that we would see many things happening around us which would show that exploitation was a failed energy and that it could not sustain itself much longer. (I would say that was somewhat prophetic given the last eight months.)

He also said this was a difficult thing for Natives to hear, that one of the things which whites had taught Natives well, is that their true place was to be a victim. He also said that until Natives passed through this mentality that whites would be slow to get their own lessons and that Natives would continue to victimize each other. Strong words that made all of us who heard them uncomfortable. Leon was one of the most gentle people I have ever met, and it was the dispassionate and gentle way in which he said these things that made them that much more powerful.

The thirteen Grandmothers who went to the Vatican were on the same mission as Leon. It's really unfortunate that Pope Benedict didn't get a chance to meet with them. The Indigenous leaders who are bringing this message to the world are giving the world an incredible gift about how they see the future. It's a vision in which women take a much larger role in nurturing the planet and empowering spiritualities. It's a vision in which exploitation is not tolerated and where there really is union in diversity. In other words it's a consciousness of both/and, not one or the other. Some would call it the Kingdom of Heaven brought to Earth.

This is not the Kingdom of Heaven that the New Apostolic Reformation sees, and is being promulgated by numerous conservative Catholics. The kingdom they see is one of domination and exploitation of the 'unsaved' for the sake of the saved. It is the exact vision enacted in Roman Pontifex and for the exact same reasons.

In our present time this reflects old energy defending itself against the incoming new energy. This battle of energies is what I find so fascinating about the Grandmother's experiences with the Vatican. The old energy folks call them pagan, anti Catholic and want to chase them out, while the new energy approves of their efforts and invites them in---and this from official representatives of the same church.

All these denominational and political battles are not really between the left and the right as much as they are between people working in the new energy and people defending the old. There are people of the new energy on the right, just as there are people of the old energy on the left. If one can hold to their opinion with out fear or the need to conquer the other, one is operating from the new energy. It's really pretty simple, and it's one of the core teaching of the true Christian message.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Oh Vey Maria University

There are days, and then there are other days. This is one of those other days. I have maintained in a number of postings that the Notre Dame controversy is all about fund raising and not orthodoxy, but the story I read at the National Catholic Reporter website about Ave Maria University simply floored me. Why is Ave Maria using the Notre Dame scandal to poach donations from Notre Dame alumni:

Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida, for example, saw a possibility for financial gain. The university, founded in 2003 and pledging its fidelity to “magisterial teachings,” sent out a mailing attempting to lure Notre Dame alumni to send in contributions and make it their “new alma mater.”

It's not like Ave Maria's founder Tom Monaghan is broke, but apparently the University itself is in questionable financial shape. In the linked article from Ave Maria Watch, there is a copy of a memo written by a faculty member questioning the real financial status of the University--and he does this for moral reasons:

"The point is that without an audit and a clear 4-year financial plan, we cannot appropriately invite students/families into a 4-year undergraduate program in which students/families will be investing over $20,000 a year. If we fail in due diligence, or if we know now that there is a problem but bring them in anyway, then we are failing not only in financial stewardship but also spiritually as regards love of neighbor and truth-telling to these young people and their families. The third question then is whether we can receive an audit and 4-year financial plan that demonstrates sufficient liquidity, and does not presume rosy scenarios regarding revenues. Without this audit and demonstration of liquid assets, I fear that all of us (to different degrees) are participating in something that we may later deeply regret, namely selling to young people and their families a 4-year educational product that we do not have sufficient reason to believe can be delivered."

These are important concerns both for potential students and the current faculty and staff at Ave Maria. I have been where they are at, where I have had to wonder if the need to sell a particular university to prospective students hasn't crossed moral and ethical lines. Most colleges are businesses first, selling a product called higher education. They all bend over backwards, like any business, to make the case they have the better product. This is the first time I have ever seen a university make it's case (and attempt to enrich itself) by tearing down a competitor rather than espousing it's own special niche. From the NCR article:

Dr. Richard Yanikoski, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, said he “took a dim view” of the mailing. “Ave Maria is stooping to an unfortunate level to try to raise $25 contributions on the back of another institution’s controversy,” he said in an April 17 interview with NCR.

It seems to me that when Ave Maria resorts to this kind of fund raising they are admitting they do in fact, have serious financial problems. When one remembers that Tom Monaghan is also one of the largest contributors to the Cardinal Newman Society the picture gets even more interesting. No surprise that the Cardinal Newman Society lists Ave Maria University as one of it's outstanding examples of a orthodox Catholic university and that it began the attack on Notre Dame.

There are all kinds of issues for parents and students at Ave Maria. This is not a university accredited by SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) the standard accrediting agency in the South, but by AALE (American Academy of Liberal Education). AALE is itself on shaky ground with the Department of Education and the DOE controls federal monies, such as work study, allocated to accredited schools. The DOE has issues with how AALE actually determines accreditation for it's member schools. There also numerous law suits from former employees and faculty all of which cite the use of deceptive tactics. A number of these involve the Ave Maria Law School, which surprise surprise, is also having financial issues.

Then there are also other interesting issues involving Ave Maria's inviting the religious group Servants of the Home of the Mother as part of their campus ministry. This is a religious group started by a---get ready---Spanish priest, Fr. Rafael Alonso Reymundo in 1982. It is affiliated with the Diocese of Cuenca, in Spain. It's mission is: 1) The defense of the Eucharist, 2) The defense of the honor of our Mother especially the privilege of her virginity, 3) The conquest of youth for Christ.

Given number three I guess it's not surprising this group is involved in vocation discernment at Ave Maria. Problem is, all those discerned vocations seem to be going to the Servants of the Home of the Mother. There is also another problem. This group is heavily involved in promoting the alleged Marian apparition at Garabandal, Spain. This particular Marian apparition has never been approved by the Church at any level. It has also not been condemned outright, unlike other sites. I guess this would be part of mission statement number two.

However, there are questions as to recruiting and retention and the fact that they seem to be specifically recruiting immature or psychologically damaged youth. Given the problems the Vatican has had with other cultic orthodox groups started by Spanish priests who target traditional youth, one wonders just how many of these groups have to implode before the Vatican says BASTA!

In the meantime Ave Maria University has a plate full of real problems. Targeting Notre Dame Alumni for 25 dollar donations seems silly given their founder is reputed to have billions. On the other hand, Monaghan is the same man who said something to the effect that he didn't see why Catholic education couldn't be marketed like pizza.

I bet there are a lot of faculty and staff affiliated with Ave Maria who wish it would have been the other devout Catholic pizza barons from Detroit who started Ave Maria. Unfortunately for Ave Maria, the Illitch's are involved in trying to resuscitate downtown Detroit and winning a second Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings. They can take hope though because the Illitch's did buy the Detroit Tigers from Tom Monaghan, so there is some precedent. Might be the best thing that ever happened to Ave Maria. Poaching from Notre Dame certainly doesn't qualify.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Vatican Concludes Investigation Of Miles Jesu

The Miles Jesu Vatican investigation has flown under the radar, but it's conclusion will not. The Vatican has appointed an external superior for the group. This could also be the result for the Legion and for the LCWR.

Miles Jesu is another combination of priestly seminaries and lay apostolates very similar in outlook to Opus Dei and the Legion. It is very orthodox in it's theology and militant in it's lay apostolate. Miles Jesu translates as 'Soldiers of Christ'.

Like Opus Dei and the Legion, Miles Jesu too has been accused of being coercive in recruiting and in it's retention of members and been accused of numerous violations in spiritual practices, most of which involve confessions and spiritual advisers. It has also been accused of keeping it's lay members in a sub poverty state while expecting them to recruit from wealthy donors.

Again, like Opus Dei and the Legion, it's founder Fr. Maria Duran MJ, has Spanish connections. Although he founded Miles Jesu in a church basement in Arizona in 1964, Fr Duran was born in Spain and immigrated to the US as an ordained priest. Miles Jesu has missions in 14 countries. It's primary American bases are in Arizona and Chicago.

The following is taken from The Truth About Miles Jesu website:

After an investigation into Miles Jesu by the Vicariate of Rome and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life started in June of 2007, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Cardinal Vicar of the Diocese of Rome has decided to appoint an external superior over Miles Jesu. He will take the place of Fr. Mark Gelis, M.J. who was previously the General Director of Miles Jesu. (Miles Jesu is a diocesan apostolate of the Diocese of Rome, as opposed to Opus Dei which is a Pontifilcal prelature, and the Legion which is a Congregation of Pontifical Right.)

In Fr. Gelis's letter on the Miles Jesu website, he makes it sound like this act of appointing an external superior over Miles Jesu is just a matter of "special assistance" for "accompanying us in the further development of our programs for admission and formation of candidates as well as the preparatory formation of the members before deepening their commitments."

What Father Gelis doesn't mention is that this external superior is being imposed over Miles Jesu after an investigation that was started after approximately 19 members in May of 2007 (including members who were former members of Miles Jesu's governing body, Miles Jesu priests, as well as members who had been in Miles Jesu for over 25 years) reported witnessing over the years in Miles Jesu the following abuses: manipulation of possible recruits to join Miles Jesu, financial dishonesty, practices against Canon Law such as non-confidential spiritual direction, not providing all members with adequate health care/insurance, Miles Jesu's teaching that one's salvation strictly depends on joining Miles Jesu, it's prohibition of many members to pursue higher education, it's appointment of a Vicar Directress over the women's branch with no formal education in theology or Canon Law, sexual abuse, and various other abuses that show Miles Jesu has cultic qualities.

Up until now these members have been afraid to speak out and warn the Catholic faithful of this dangerous group because they were intimidated with legal threats by a lawyer working for Miles Jesu. After years of suffering they have also not been helped in any way by the Vicariate of Rome, the Congregation for Religious, or Miles Jesu. (Nor did they receive any help from Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix or Cardinal George of Chicago.)

Hopefully this new superior, Fr. Barry Fischer, will be willing to help victims of Miles Jesu who after years of trying to serve the Church in Miles Jesu are left in destitute situations. Hopefully, he will also prevent Miles Jesu from harrasing ex-members with legal threats. (From what I've been able to determine, lay apostolates received room and board but no salary. When they leave, they truly are destitute.)

If you, like so many others, have been abused, deceived by, or adversely affected by Miles Jesu at any time either as a member or a benefactor, please contact Fr. Barry Fischer, CPPS. To find out how you can talk directly to Fr. Fischer directly please call Miles Jesu's publically listed number (773) 262-0861 (Chicago, IL USA house). No member of Miles Jesu can impede you from speaking to Fr. Fischer. If you are aware of abuses it is your duty to inform Fr. Fischer, so that you can help him to reform Miles Jesu.


The Vatican seems to have it's hands full with investigations. The sad thing is some of these investigations of orthodox cults should have been conducted decades ago, but John Paul II thought these groups were the future of the church and they were off limits no matter what was reported about the groups or their leadership. John Paul apparently saw all these combination groups of clergy and lay apostolate as the Church's future. In reality they are predatory cults cloaked in the Catholic mantle, but they brought in a ton of money and wealthy lay supporters.

There is a sad story coming out of Mexico told by the daughter of one of the women bilked by Marcial Maciel. According to the daughter of the now deceased woman, when Maciel was getting started he assiduously courted this recent widow, who at the time was one of the wealthiest women in Mexico. However, after he had gotten 50 million from her and she was no longer able to contribute, he never saw her again nor answered any phone calls or correspondence.

It would be pretty difficult to find another serial pedophile who was this financially successful. There is no question being a priest really helped and then Maciel did have great friends in very high places. This assured he had a great deal of credibility. The Great Pedophile had a Great Enabler.

When I look at the charges leveled against the Legion and Miles Jesu, and then the suspicions about the LCWR, I can't help but wonder which of these groups has really and truly harmed the Body of Christ. I doubt the Vatican will find any member of the leadership group of the LCWR that lives in opulent splendor, has bilked wealthy supporters, treated lay apostolates like dirt or changed them into robots. I doubt the LCWR investigation will turn up any evidence of retention or recruitment abuses since the Congregations in the LCWR don't use deceptive recruitment techniques and well, they're supposed to be dieing anyway.

I see these three investigations as symptomatic of a fundamental core rot in the Vatican. It took forever for the Vatican to investigate the Legion. It took them forever to investigate Miles Jesu, but the LCWR gets two investigations in short order. This seems to say that allegations involving the actual sexual, emotional, physical and spiritual abuse of the laity is a lesser evil than intellectual speculation and dissent. This is further underscored by the fact no bishop has ever been sanctioned for enabling wide spread clerical abuse. There's another story today about President Lugo of Paraguay which underscores this lack of accountability.

It now appears he has three children, all fathered on different women, while he was a bishop. Another Paraguayan bishop, Rogelio Livieres admitted they all knew about Lugo and intimated there may be more revelations to come. "The church hierarchy knew for years of this misconduct by Lugo, but kept silent. Now there's nothing that it can do." Really, that's true, there is nothing you can do, but this begs the question as to what you should have done and didn't.

A reasonable person might balk at the notion that a hypothetical scandal based around open theological dissent is worse than a scandal based in real abuse secretly and silently covered up.

A reasonable person might translate the second kind of scandal as truly being scandalous because the real reason for the silence and secrecy was the embarrassment factor to the clerical structure, not any concern for the laity.

Finally, a reasonable person might look at these three investigations, comparing the reasons and the charges, and wonder if the Vatican is truly capable of discerning the real threats to the People of God.

Personally, I kind of doubt it.

This link will take you to the Millennium Manifesto written by a Miles Jesu priest. It's interesting reading given that the celibate author is complaining about the dropping birth rate in European whites.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Devil Is The Real Power Behind The Culture Wars

Saying Catholics are “at war” with “the glamour of evil,” Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph Robert W. Finn delivered a keynote address at a pro-life convention on Saturday lamenting “dissension in the ranks” and calling on Catholics to never become used to the “crime against humanity” that is abortion.He also commented on the Notre Dame controversy, saying its head should disinvite President Barack Obama. Greeting the audience at the Gospel of Life Convention in Overland Park, Kansas, Bishop Finn said that alongside encouragements he also wished to tell them, “We are at war!” (Militaristic jingo is the last resort for people who can't make convincing arguments.)

“Harsh as this may sound it is true – but it is not new,” he said, adding that “new battles” bring “an intensity and urgency to our efforts.”
According to the Catholic Key, the bishop invoked the tripartite division of the Catholic Church as the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant. The Church on Earth, Bishop Finn explained, is “the Church Militant.” (The Church Suffering are the souls in purgatory.)

“We are engaged in a constant warfare with Satan, with the glamour of evil, and the lure of false truths and empty promises. If we fail to realize how constantly these forces work against us, we are more likely to fall, and even chance forfeiting God’s gift of eternal life.”

The bishop said it is an “important truth” to know that Jesus Christ “has already won the war definitively and once for all.”
“He has conquered sin and death and has won the prize of life on high in heaven forever. We know the final outcome, but the battle for eternal life is now played out in each human heart.”
Emphasizing that the Church Militant’s battle is “ultimately a spiritual battle,” he said that those who stand up for what is right will be opposed.
“The temptation will be to avoid these attacks. But through our responses we must see what kind of soldiers we are,” Bishop Finn said.

Noting that the true enemy is Satan, he referred to St. Paul’s exhortation to “put on the armor of God, in order that you can stand firm against the tactics of the devil.”

“Human beings are not Satan, but certainly they can come under his power, even without their fully realizing it,” he added. “When we, in our sinfulness, put something in the place of God: pleasure and convenience; material success; political power and prestige, we open a door for the principalities and contrary spirits who war against God.” (This is a prelude statement which is designed to insure people are not just powerless but ignorant in the face of the enemy.)

Bishop Finn referred to those who want to establish a way of life in contravention of God’s law: those who promote abortion, “unnatural substitutes for marriage,” and “all such distortions of true freedom.”
He reminded his audience of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
“We cannot hate these human enemies,” Bishop Finn stated, telling his audience that “we must find a way to love them. But we need not show them any sign of agreement. We pray for them,” Bishop Finn commented. “To ignore their destructive errors, particularly those that cost the lives of others, is to shirk our responsibility to attend to their eternal salvation.”
(This is cool logic, first we are powerless and ignorant on our own behalf, but we have a responsibility to save everyone else's soul.)

Those who openly attack belief in Christ or the Church’s right to exist are in some ways not the most dangerous opponents, Bishop Finn said, because “they show themselves and their intentions more forthrightly.”

More dangerous are people from all backgrounds, including Catholics, who “in this age of pluralism and political propriety seek ways to convince us of their sincerity and good will.
“With malice or with ignorance, or perhaps with an intention of advancing some other personal goal, they are willing to undermine and push aside the values and the institutions that stand in their way. They may propose ‘tolerance’ and seem to have a ‘live and let live’ approach to all human choices – even if the choice is not to ‘let live,’ but actually to ‘let die,’ or ‘let life be destroyed.’”

“This dissension in our own ranks should not surprise us because we all experience some dissension against God’s law of love within our own heart,” the bishop told the convention, saying those believers who attack the “most fundamental tenets” of the Church are some of the most “discouraging, confusing and dangerous” opponents. (The Nicene Creed embodies the fundamental tenets. No one is attacking the Nicene Creed.)

Turning to the issue of the University of Notre Dame’s invitation of President Barack Obama, he said “It doesn’t take another Bishop’s Conference statement to know this is wrong: scandalous, discouraging and confusing to many Catholics.”

Predicting that Notre Dame President Fr. John I. Jenkins will “probably lose his job” as “a scapegoat for this debacle,” Bishop Finn suggested: “at this point perhaps he ought to determine to lose it for doing something right instead of something wrong.” He said Fr. Jenkins should disinvite the president and give the honorary degree to Bishop John D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. (Why should the President of Notre Dame lose his job when nobody said much of anything about President Obama speaking at Georgetown.)

He then spoke about the “battle for human life,” especially on abortion.
“The constant magnitude of this crime against humanity is staggering. We must never get used to it,” Bishop Finn said. “In the United States there are 4,000 abortions every day.”

“If we keep saying this – first of all – some people will get very upset with us. They will want us to stop. They may quote other statistics about the tragedies of poverty and war. We must truly share their horror at these things too. However, in the end the measure of our society is in how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst.”
The bishop said that Catholics are “absolutely” in a war over abortion and said people should not consider this “someone else’s war.” (All this war talk pretty much excludes any notions of unity, or dialogue, or seeking other than the legal strategy. Oh by the way, plenty of abortions happened before Roe v Wade.)

Turning to human embryo research, he said Missouri had lost “a valiant battle” to outlaw human cloning and human embryonic stem cell research.
“We haven’t given up, but it requires a constant effort. We won many people over through good instruction in the truth.”
Noting the legalization of assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington State, Bishop Finn lamented the “steady decline” in the number of people opposed to assisted suicide.
“Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that people are losing their sense of the moral evil of assisted suicide. But we cannot give up,” he told the convention audience. (I'm not as morally concerned about terminally ill adults seeking assisted suicide as I am young gay teenagers committing unassisted suicide. Does that make me evil?)

Warning that Catholics public officials who support the legal right to abortion “have abandoned their place in the citizenship of the Church,” the bishop said they have become “warriors for death rather than life.”
They endanger their eternal salvation, he warned.
Exhorting Catholics to build an “active culture of life” that is “capable of turning back hell itself,” he said those who are not living in God’s life should avoid the “ultimately supernatural battle.”
“The devil… will turn you inside out,” he cautioned, encouraging people to become “prayer warriors.”
(This is language straight from the New Apostolic Reformation playbook. Thomas Muthee, the African witch hunter who protects Sarah Palin would be proud.)

“Prayer defeats the devil. Prayer aligns us with Christ. Pray for the abortionist. Pray for the legislator. Pray for the mother (and father and other family members). Pray for the child in the womb. Pray for yourself and allow God to guide you,” he added.


Given the event at which Bishop Finn was speaking, I'm hardly surprised by the over all take of his speech. It's a direct appeal at emotion, not reason. At one level it's designed to dangle the stick of demonic fear with the carrot of the Catholic sacramental system:

"How do we arm ourselves for what is first and foremost a supernatural war?First: Unless we are living in God’s life we should not go near this battle. I don’t care if you are the strongest and most brilliant and clever person on the planet. The devil – as he has shown over and over again – will turn you inside out. If you are not fortified by the sacraments – frequent confession and worthy Holy Communion – you cannot succeed in an ultimately supernatural battle."

And at another level it's designed to rally the troops for the political battle:

"The fight for life is a constant warfare. Those who vied for the leadership of our country last November offered Americans a clear choice in this regard."

And then a little later on he says:

"Please note: This is NOT partisan politics on the part of bishops or their flock."
If that's true then he should have stated that neither candidate was really totally on board with Catholic pro life teaching, as McCain favored embryonic stem cell research and there was no clear choice in this regard.

All of that aside, Bishop Flinn's whole case for spiritual warfare is far more Evangelical than it is Catholic. Most Catholics have not been exposed to this kind of demonic warfare thinking for decades and decades, if ever. This whole notion was basically kept in the hands of priest/exorcists and contemplative orders. On the other hand this demonic warfare idea really sells for the New Apostolic Reformation. Every time I hear or read a conservative Catholic bishop start down this path, I can't help but wonder if they are getting their talking points from Colorado Springs.

It seems to me when Bishops resort to militaristic war language and invoke a Holy War with Satan, that they are not interested in dialogue. They are interested in dominating their flocks and any given agenda. When they threaten Catholics with eternal damnation and evoke the idea of an omniscient all powerful Satan who is way beyond our ignorant ability to deal with, they are anti intellectual, anti humanity, anti Jesus, and plain old fear mongering.

Jesus was not intimidated by Satan. In fact, if you go back and read the story of the temptation in the desert, Satan had no power to over ride Jesus's choice. Satan has no power to over ride anyone's choice and neither does the angelic realm. Free choice is the biggest reason sentient life exists on this planet. Free choice is respected by all sentient energies.

The object is to freely make the best choices which take you closer to God. Choice is how we align with God, it's how we find His presence within ourselves and others. This choice can not be coerced through fear or domination because that only allows one to find the dominator's vision of God. It can not be enforced from above and have any kind of real meaning. It is not the woman who chooses not to abort, because the law forces that choice, which elevates mankind. It's the woman who chooses life for it's own sake that elevates mankind. Mary was given a choice. God did not rape her and it was her choice that so elevated mankind.

Bishops like Flinn would do well to stop all this blather about prayer warriors and Satanic warfare principally because they have an apparent unsophisticated understanding of lower level energies. All they do is encourage fear of the spiritual path with their continual reinforcement of our powerlessness in the face of these unseen evil energies. It's projection pure and simple. In my book this whole thing isn't about Satan's supposed power, it's about Bishop Flinn's.

It's also about political power and societal control and that is the stated goal of the New Apostolic Reformation. They, just like Bishop Flinn, are calling for Christians to engage in a spiritual battle with demons, and a political battle over abortion, gay rights, and secular feminism. Their end goal is the take over of the world for Jesus and their leaders have self selected themselves to run it for Jesus, hence they are the New Apostles, and they are getting New Revelations.

I can guarantee that they are more than happy to have American Catholicism self destruct, and are pumping tons of money into helping those clerics who adopt their positions. Their favorite tactic seems to be to destroy denominations from within. They have been very instrumental in doing the same thing in main line protestant denominations--over the same issues. It strikes me that Bishop Flinn may be getting in bed with the devil, and he's the one who doesn't know it.

For more information on the New Apostolic Reformation try this link.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cardinal 'Pot' Calls The LCWR 'Kettles' Black

Current residence of Fr. Ingels. has a fascinating read about the group "Opus Bono Sacerdotii" mentioned in the following article. Shock, it's funding comes from Tom Monaghan.

This morning I was reading the comments after an article on the LCWR investigation in the National Catholic Reporter and came across a link regarding the actions of Cardinal Levada while he was still in the United States. It turned out to be a very long article, documenting his acts and decisions while he was in charge of three different dioceses, Portland, San Francisco and Santa Rosa. It's a fact based article with numerous footnotes and describes the pattern of denial, obfuscation, and cover up which is the hall mark of how US bishops have handled the sexual abuse crisis. One particular section blew me out of the water:

4. Fr. Gregory Ingels, one of the priests that Levada - and the rest of the Catholic bishops in the US - relied upon to make policy in abuse cases is an abuser himself.
(Maybe the bishops thought it took one to deal with one. A theme that will keep recurring.)

Here are the details:
As San Francisco Faith reports, "Levada had known since 1996 of allegations that Ingels had orally copulated a teenage boy in Marin County in 1972. Ingels is a prominent canon lawyer and helped in drafting the U.S. bishops' 'zero-tolerance' policy toward sexual offenders."

Additionally, according to San Francisco Weekly, "Ingels was used - with Levada's approval - to advise U.S. bishops and their aides on the handling of cases of clergy sex abuse in their dioceses. Ingels served as an expert witness on behalf of the church in cases all over the country, helping defend against legal claims by alleged clergy abuse victims. In addition, court records show, Ingels provided legal advice and spiritual counsel to priests accused of molesting children; published scholarly articles on the abuse issue under the imprimatur of the Canon Law Society of America, a group devoted to the study of church law; and lectured on the topic at clerical gatherings in the United States and abroad." (How nice that the American Catholic bishops had such an erudite abuser to testify against victims, counsel other abusers, and give international advice.)

For two decades prior to his removal from public ministry, Ingels had worked on the Diocesan tribunal that considers requests for marriage annulments. In 2001, the Archdiocese made Ingels the "director of formation for the permanent diaconate," a post which the priest held until October 2002, when (in accord with the US Bishops' new zero-tolerance policy) Levada placed Ingels on leave. (Hoisted by his own petard. But don't feel to bad for him yet.)

Ingels was arraigned in May 2003 for the 1972 molestation (which occurred while Ingels was a deacon and chairman of the theology department at Marin Catholic High, two years before he was ordained). The priest had recently made "many incriminating statements" to the victim, who was (at the behest of police) secretly recording the conversation. According to the San Francisco Weekly, "Ingels acknowledged having had sex with the boy and could be heard, on tape, saying, 'What I did to you was terrible.'"

However, criminal charges were dropped in June 2003 when the US Supreme Court reinstated a statute of limitations provision for abuse cases. The same court ruling aborted an additional possible criminal complaint against Ingels for abusing Jane Parkhurst, a high school girl, for four years starting in 1973. In June 2005, the Archdiocese paid a $21.2 million civil settlement to the victims of five priests - including Fr. Ingels. (Pedophilia or ephebophilia are crimes of opportunity, not orientation, which is why Fr. Ingels could swing both ways.)

Levada's handling of the Ingels case was one reason why James Jenkins, the former head of Levada's independent review board (IRB), lost confidence in the Archbishop. As reported by San Francisco Weekly, "Jenkins learned that Ingels was among at least nine priests whose clerical privileges had been restricted in keeping with the new sex-abuse policy adopted by American bishops." At about the time Ingels was arraigned on criminal charges, Jenkins and other members of the review panel learned that he was living with former San Francisco Archbishop John R. Quinn at Quinn's residence on the campus of St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park.

Quinn moved to the century-old mansion on the seminary grounds after his unexpected retirement as archbishop in 1995. Ingels has been living with him in the elegant mission-style home, built as a summer residence for the late Archbishop Patrick William Riordan, since then, say persons who know the men. Neither Ingels nor Quinn responded to requests for comment for this article. Jenkins says that he and others of the six-member panel were especially disturbed by reports that a 'support group' for priests accused of sex abuse had held meetings at the residence. (The founder of one such group, Detroit-based Opus Bono Sacerdotii, confirmed recently that Ingels is an 'adviser' to it. 'Father Ingels may be the best canon lawyer in the United States, and we're grateful to have him,' said Joe Maher. 'He's an excellent priest, a very holy man, and he's a great help to us.') (This certainly beats living in a monastery in the Nevada desert.)

Jenkins says he and other panel members 'didn't believe that a former archbishop had any business keeping house with someone who had acknowledged on a wiretap that he had sodomized a 15-year-old boy,' and he and his colleagues saw the living arrangement as a source of scandal should it become publicly known. He says panel members conveyed those sentiments to Levada face to face, recommending that the archbishop order Ingels be moved elsewhere. 'We looked at the archbishop and told him in no uncertain terms that there needed to be daylight between Ingels and Quinn,' Jenkins says. Levada responded that he would consult with Quinn, Jenkins says. A week or so later, Jenkins says, Levada reported back that he had spoken with Quinn, and the former archbishop 'had seen no reason' for Ingels to move out." (Maybe Ingels is helping pay the power bill or something. One can imagine that mansions are pricey to heat.)

In Conclusion: If the past is prologue (and that's the safest bet, barring a miracle) then it will be business as usual in the Vatican and coverup will continue to be "a way of life" for the Roman Catholic Church Administration. (And no Vatican Investigation will be called to 'investigate' this particular 'way of life'.


Cardinal Levada is the same man who has called for the investigation of the LCWR. One of his reasons is that the LCWR is not, apparently, publicly teaching the Catholic line on homosexuality. If you read this entire article, it becomes very apparent that as far as Cardinal Levada goes, publicly teaching the official line is one thing, but living it is quite another.

Cardinal Levada is now safe in Rome, and will no longer have to deal with anymore depositions or get served with anymore summons. The last time he was served with a subpoena was before his last Mass in San Francisco. This subpoena was issued by the attorneys of 250 abuse victims in Portland and was served by the sister of one of the victims. Levada called this woman a 'disgrace to the Catholic church'.

In a San Francisco case, Levada ostracized a whistle blower preist who had turned his abusive pastor into the police. The diocese then told the police there was no criminality involved and then used a performance review by the abusive pastor of the whistle blower to further castigate the whistle blower. They even accused the whistle blower of engaging in a 'witch hunt'. Unfortunately for Levada it was all true and it cost his diocese 750,000 in settlements for the pastor's victims, and another undisclosed large sum of money to the whistle blower.

This is the same man who thinks the LCWR deserves a Vatican investigation? Isn't this the same CDF that let Maciel do his thing for fifty years before undeniable public evidence forced their hand? Does Levada truly think that congregations in the LCWR using Reiki techniques is a bigger scandal, a bigger disgrace to the church, than his own actions in Portland, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa? Or Cardinal Law's scandal in Boston, or the other 2/3rds of our bishops who engaged in the same behavior? How is this thinking possible?

I went back to the source, to the New Testament, to see if I could shine some light on this, at least for myself. I found myself standing at the foot of the cross and there was me, and the other women and John. I saw Jesus look down at us, and then I saw His eyes search the rest of the crowd, and suddenly he called out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" He wasn't referencing His Father. He was referencing his disciples. His hand picked 'in persona christi' original priests. Eleven out of those twelve men, abandoned Him, left Him there to be abused and executed, showed their true colors. It was all about them.

I don't know that the percentages have changed much given what we know about clerical sexual abuse. We seem to have a whole lot more clergy abandoning Jesus, protecting themselves, than we do witnessing at the foot of His cross. As for the women, well, they weren't believed when they witnessed the very radical truth of the Resurrection. They had to defend themselves to Peter. That hasn't changed either.