Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Seek Answers To A Fundamental Question

This is not true for orthodox bishops and Catholic Hospitals and pregnant women.

The previous post precipitated a really good discussion about some of the salient points and questions involved in Bishop Olmstead's decision with regards to revoking the Catholic status of St Joseph's Hospital.  Since the Catholic Health Association has come out in defense of the hospital, I am quite sure we haven't heard near the last on Olmstead's decision.  In the linked article there is mention of a similar situation in Baker, Oregon involving Bishop Robert F. Vasa. The following is taken from Wikkipedia:

In February of 2010, according to a December 21, 2010 Catholic News Service online article about the status of another formerly Catholic hospital, Bishop Vasa had stated that St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon, located within the Baker Diocese, "had "gradually moved away" from the church's ethical directives and can no longer be called Catholic. As a result of that decision, Mass is no longer celebrated in the hospital's chapel and all items considered Catholic were removed from the hospital and returned to the church. The hospital retained the St. Charles name and a cross remains atop the building."

What I find interesting about Vasa is that he too is a protege of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska.  Like Olmstead, Vasa is considered very orthodox and places abortion on the pinacle of the Catholic moral pyramid.  He has stated that those who support any form of abortion are guilty of heresy.
It looks as if the proteges of Fabian Bruskewitz have decided their very own personal mission is to take on the Catholic Healthcare system in the US and in the meantime the USCCB stays silent.  I don't find that silence very surprising given they have never censured Bruskewitz in any way for his refusal to adhere to the Dallas Charter.  He is the only bishop who has refused and he was quite snarly and deprecating in his refusal:

Some woman named Patricia O'Donnell Ewers, who is the chair of something called 'A National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People,' has said that her board 'calls for strong fraternal correction of the Diocese of Lincoln.' The Diocese of Lincoln has nothing to be corrected for, since the Diocese of Lincoln is and has always been in full compliance with all laws of the Catholic Church and with all civil laws. Furthermore, Ewers and her board have no authority in the Catholic Church and the Diocese of Lincoln does not recognize them as having any significance. The words attributed to Ewers seem to confirm the suspicion that the members of her Board are unfamiliar with Catholic teachings, Catholic ecclesiology, and even the basic rudiments of the Catholic Catechism. Rather than concerning themselves with the Diocese of Lincoln about which they appear completely ignorant, Ewers and her colleagues would occupy themselves in a better way by learning something about the Catholic religion and the traditions and doctrines and laws of the Catholic Church. The Diocese of Lincoln does not see any reason for the existence of Ewers and her organization.

For Bruskewitz, Olmstead, and Vasa the sole issue of importance seems to be their own unchallenged authority in their own dioceses. It doesn't matter what the issue might be, eventually it comes down to their right to exercise sole authority in their diocese.  They are their diocese as is amply evident in the language used by Bruskewitz in the above quote. Too bad there is no such protocol for bishops using the papal "we".

But I have a different question.  It's a question stemming from the discussion on the previous post.  It's about original sin and it's effects.  I was taught original sin was present at conception as a result of the sexual activity involved in conception--hence, Mary was conceived without original sin. However, when I looked it up in the current catechism as it's found on the Vatican website I found that although we are BORN with original sin no one knows how it's transmitted:

403  Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam's sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the "death of the soul".

The next paragraph then goes on to say no one knows how original sin is transmitted, but it's most certainly part of human nature.  Which of course means something different than being born with original sin.  This is more like saying original sin is part of our very DNA.  And yet the way these orthodox bishops go on about abortion, placing the fetus in a category of life all it's own, I am led to believe birth somehow triggers the effects of original sin, which up until that point have been dormant or something.  I don't even want to get into the line original sin is the 'death of the soul", but I suspect some day I will.

So it turns out there must have been a change in conceptualization of the transmission of original sin from one described in terms of inheritance to one in which we are unsure of it's transmission but we all suffer it's consequences the minute we draw a breath.  Hence it becomes possible to make a somewhat logical case that the pre born state is somehow more innocent than the born state.  From there it could follow that pregnant women commit heresy if they act on the thought their own lives are equal to the fetal life within them and deserving of the right to continue in circumstances such as in the Phoenix case.

Guess what, I don't buy this at all, but I am beginning to understand why there might be such a disconnect between those of us who were catechized in one notion of original sin and those who are catechized in the current thinking which was published under JPII's authority in 1992--well after the abortion wars started.

I can't help but wonder if the addition of a huge grey area in original sin was purposely done in order to promote a theology which places a woman's life subordinate to fetal life in order to strengthen the Catholic abortion case.  Wouldn't be the first time such a thing has happened and I doubt it will be the last, but in the meantime women are at risk and the disconnect between the Catholic medical community and Episcopal authority will only get wider.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Olmstead Aims And Fires Canon Law At St Joseph's

Olmstead says no Jesus in the chapel at St Joseph's hospital in Phoenix.

I hope everyone had a peaceful and joyous Christmas.  I know I did in spite of the fact I was unable to engage in the usual consumer binging I have been known for in the past.  This Christmas was the Christmas of well wishing and home made gifts.  It was a good Christmas in it's very simplicity and I enjoyed it immensely.
Now onto some other thoughts.

Over the past couple of days I have been immersed in the blow back from Bishop Olmstead's decision to rescind the Catholic status of St Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix.  Over at dotCommonweal there is an extensive discussion surrounding the medical decision and whether it qualified as a direct abortion.  The NCR has four or five articles dealing with the hospital's response to Olmstead both before and after his decision,  and over at America, Fr. Jim Martin has posted a synopsis of other folks commentary some of which is very good.  And then I feel compelled to add this link from frequent reader Jim McCrea about a Dr. Phil show "When Good People Do Bad Things".  The show details some of the current research on responses to authority figures including Stanley Milgram's work in the sixties which was sort of a shot heard round the psychological and educational world.  Both science and history say good people will do very bad things if they believe they've been given permission to do so by a respected authority figure.  It was important for me to keep this in mind as I read the convoluted reasoning being used by conservatives to justify Olmstead's actions. 

Part of that convoluted reasoning allows conservatives to place pregnancy and pregnant women in a different and unique class when it comes to self defense.  In this case it seems a pregnant woman is not engaging in an act of self defense, but an act of promoting her survival at the expense of the child.  She is not defending her life. She is selfishly promoting her own survival.  The idea that a mother might be defending the right of her other children to have a mother does not enter this equation. Nor does the fact that in this case both mother and child would die.  Two deaths, half orphaned children, and a widower were God's will for this family. God sometimes allows difficult situations to test us and thwarting his will is cowardly and faithless. Hmmm...... 

This kind of thinking allowed one commenter to compare Sr McBride's failure to let both mother and child die with Abraham's willingness to off his son Isaac. I guess the implication was that Sr McBride failed the test of acting in accordance with God's will. The commenter called this kind of situational obedience a 'terrible beauty'. I tend to see it as spiritual selfishness and moral cowardice.  If that's the kind of God Catholics are supposed to believe in, I'm not much of a Catholic. I could not in conscience waste a mother's life I could save for some hugely abstract moral thought about the sanctity of fetal life or obeying an especially bizarre notion of God's Will.  Especially in view of the fact there are other children in the equation and the Church makes all kinds of other loop holes for other types of killing and murder.

Which is the point I keep coming back too.  Why is pregnancy the one situation in which one life must at all times be subordinate to another?  Why does pregnancy automatically demand the sacrificing of the maternal life to the pre born life?   I don't get this as there is no such situation for men.  We do not tell a father that he must donate his two kidneys to a child in renal failure even though said donations won't allow the child to live and will certainly result in his own death.  In point of fact, Catholicism doesn't demand any father donate any part of himself at any time to insure the life of one of his children.  Catholicism only demands that kind of ultimate sacrifice of pregnant women.  Why is this?  What makes fetal life more innocent and precious than day old post born life--or any other life?  What makes fetal life important enough to mandate excommunication when it's ended directly, but this is not true for any other time in any other human life---- except the Pope's life.  Come to think of it Phoenix mother equals Ali Agca doesn't make much moral sense either.

Quite frankly it boggles my mind that a fetus is deemed more important than the life of a mother who already has four children, even when the fetus can't be saved. This then isn't about life per se, it's about a principle in Canon Law. And in Olmstead's case, he is not defending life or Canon Law, he is using Canon Law to promote his own authority.  That's just mind blowing to me. Where is the living Jesus in this move?  I guess like the pregnant mother, Jesus too is subordinate to Canon Law and Olmstead's authority.  Olmstead has certainly shown this is so because he has also decided there will be no Masses nor Eucharistic presence at St Joseph's.  Olmstead has decreed no Jesus will be present at St Joseph's.  He has used Canon Law to directly abort Catholic Jesus from St Joseph's. 

That last really really angers me. I mean really angers me.  It's spiritual malpractice of the worst sort, but that does seem to be what we can expect from a certain of bishop.  And of course, there is no real Canon Law to deal with the situation of a bishop gone amok.  How convenient for Olmstead.

Monday, December 20, 2010

With the sentencing of serial pedophile Tony Walsh, Dublin faces another chapter in the Irish abuse crisis.

 Pope Benedict gave a Christmas message about clerical abuse just as Archbishop Martin of Dublin faced yet another chapter in Ireland's abuse crisis.  The story of Tony Walsh was left out of the original Murphy report because a criminal case was still in court.  The details of the Walsh case can be found here, while the following is an excerpt from a NY Times article about Benedict's recent remarks.

 Pope Urges Church to Reflect on Abuse

By RACHEL DONADIO - NY Times - 12/20/2010

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI said on Monday that the Catholic Church must reflect on the failures in its message that allowed for the sexual abuse scandal and that the church must find a way to help victims and not ordain potential pedophiles.

“We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that transpired. We must ask ourselves what went wrong in our message, in our entire way of being Christians, so that such a thing could have occurred,” the pope told the Vatican hierarchy in a pointed Christmas message. (I wish I knew who Benedict was referring to in his use of 'we'. If this references the hierarchy that's one message, but if he means the whole church, that's another message entirely. Or maybe he's using the formal papal 'we' which is a third message.)

Benedict said that that in 2010, abuse cases had reached an “unimaginable dimension.” In recent months, investigations in Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have found that clerics had sexually abused children in the past and the church hierarchy was often found to have covered up the abuse.....

 .....The Vatican has said it is working on a series of guidelines for bishops around the world advising them how to handle abuse cases, including reporting abuse to civil authorities in countries where it is required.
In his remarks on Monday, the pope also thanked “the many good clerics,” but focused on ways the church needed to change.

“We are aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and our corresponding responsibility,” the pope said. But he added that the scandal should be seen “in the context of our times.”
(Isn't this a form of moral relativism?)

He said that as recently as the 1970s, pedophilia wasn’t considered as grave as it is today, and that today there is also a market in child pornography and sex tourism that some consider “normal” and yet that should also be condemned. (Puhlease. Stop this. A priest is either held to a higher standard or not.)


Pope Benedict just can't seem to bring himself to admit how devastating the clerical abuse scandal has been for Catholicism in the West.  Nor can he bring himself to face the fact it was far more a product of his own clerical culture than it was society.   I find this article especially frustrating today, given the recent release of more Irish abuse documents concerning one serial pedophile in the Archdiocese of Dublin.  In this particular case, the Vatican actually used the fact he was a diagnosed pedophile as a mitigating circumstance in refusing the Archdiocese's request to laicize him.  Apparently the thinking was he couldn't help himself.  The Vatican determined that the priest be 'sentenced' to ten years in a monastery rather than be defrocked.  Unfortunately for this plan, the Archdiocese couldn't find a monastery willing to take the offender. In the meantime the priest reoffended, was finally incarcerated and then the Vatican agreed to his defrocking.  Although the first reports of abuse were brought to the Archdiocese's attention in the late seventies, it took until the mid nineties before the priest was laicized, allowing him access to hundreds of victims.  Needless to say this is yet another blow to the Irish Church.

There's a part of me that can easily understand why Benedict is having trouble facing up to this scandal. It really does betray the priesthood on a very fundamental level and he has given virtually his entire life to a very idealistic version of the priesthood.  This betrayal of  Benedict's idea of the priesthood has to be something like a dagger to his own heart, but the fact is, his own history has it's moments when he was the one holding that dagger. And that is the problem with the clerical culture.  It seems to be able to compel otherwise good men to do very bad things in order to protect the magical/fantastical notions of the priesthood. 

Sometimes this situation really does come way too close to mirroring the machinations of the Wizard of Oz.  Devious use of smoke and mirrors are designed to hide the laity from the truth of the men behind the curtain. They aren't clerical wizards. They are merely humans providing other humans a little courage, a little heart and compassion, some insight into life, and maybe some directions about how to get home.

When Benedict muses about what went wrong with the message, I hope he can entertain the thought that it might be the definition of the messengers which is what is wrong with the message.  Jesus didn't recruit a bunch of saints and celibates as His messengers.  He didn't demand they have any other special attributes beyond faith and a willingness to hear His teachings. They were every day guys who did their best to promote teachings they probably didn't understand all that well.  In my life, those kind of honest every day guys, guys who were capable of admitting there were things they didn't quite get, have had by far the most effect on my spiritual life. 

Unfortunately I don't think Benedict is the Pope under which humanizing the 'sacred priesthood' is going to happen. Until that happens Catholics will continue to be exposed to priest abusers in order to protect the sacredness of the priesthood, and that is purely crazy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lessons From Sherirff Arpaio: In Olmstead's World It's All About His Authority

Bishop Olmstead receiving lessons in dictatorship from Sheriff Arpaio, a man Olmstead has never questioned publicly and who runs a veritable concentration camp for supposed illegals.

It sure does seem that Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix is addicted to the adrenaline rush of controversy---and exercising his authority.  I've been out of touch this week as I worked the GVD shift at my new/old job, so I missed out on Omstead's latest controversy with the Catholic hospital which opted to save the life of a mother of four by the therapeutic abortion of her fifth pregnancy.  Olmstead thought it was more Catholic to let both mother and child die. As I read through his letter to the hospital, it strikes me that from Olmstead's position the controversy has absolutely nothing to do with correct medical ethics and everything to do with his authority to rule all things in his diocese.  Olmstead is waging a sort of a small scale version of the large scale battle the Vatican is waging with China over who has the authority to appoint real Chinese bishops.

As a Catholic though, I am completely befuddled by some of the latest 'teachings' of my American leadership.  I keep thinking about Archbishop Broglio, head of our Military Archdiocese, babbling on about the rights of Catholic chaplains when it comes to DADT in the military. Did he forget this same military is engaged in two unjustified wars? Seems to me DADT would be very small potatoes for a Catholic Archbishop in his pastoral duty to over see the souls of Catholic military who are actively engaged in two wars declared unjust by Pope JPII. After all this same Archbishop certainly overlooks the fact military personnel are issued condoms like candy, so it can't be the illicit sex on his mind with his DADT obsession.  Hopefully there is something else, otherwise I will be forced to conclude Broglio is another publicity seeking episcopal hypocrite, but I digress.

I wonder how as a Catholic I am expected to tolerate the moral muddle of Catholic priests serving a military institution dedicated to killing in a war which JPII declared unjustified, while at the same time I'm expected to support Olmstead's authority in one very grey medical case. I can only determine that the over riding issue has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ, or reason applied to faith, and everything to do with mindlessly supporting the rights of tin pot dictator bishops to interpret Christ and Catholicism in any way they see fit.

Olmstead actually says his chief complaint is the hospital's refusal to recognize his authority. Unfortunately for Olmstead, his isn't the only authority to which a hospital or it's employees have to answer. It is not Olmstead who issues professional liceneses to practice medicine.  It's the state.  The state has it's own notion of appropriate medical care.  Allowing a woman and her fetus to die when one can be saved is not considered ethical medical practice.  It's considered malpractice.  Maybe Olmstead doesn't understand that most professionals would rationally determine their licensing board has more authority to decide a professional course of action than a non trained religious figure. Even Archbishop Broglio does not tell the US military how to wage their unjust war.  He just over sees the sacramental and pastoral availability for military personnel engaged in that unjust war.

Maybe the Military Ordinariate represents the solution.  Instead of having any hospitals define themselves as Catholic, hospitals could apply for pastoral and sacramental support from a specialised diocese or archdiocese.  If individual Catholic practitioners had a moral issue with a hospital they would have the same options Catholic military personnel have: confessing or finding other employment.

The issue which really gets to me is that Olmstead is waging his war against this particular hospital over notions of what constitutes murder.  This same issue NEVER comes up in the Military Ordinariate. Sacraments are not refused, Masses are still said, pastoral care given no matter the circumstances, and chaplains don't tell other officers how to do their job, much less demand those professional officers accept their opinions on how to wage warfare.  Why is the hospital system and the practice of medicine different from the military system and the practice of large scale unjustified warfare?  Please, don't tell me it's all in the name --as in Catholic Hospital. Medicine is medicine and regulated by the state, no matter the name on the hospital.

Until someone can give me a real reason for this bizarre discrepancy in the application of the fifth commandment with regards to hospitals vis a vis the military, I will continue to put my own conscience ahead of blind obedience to the USCCB or the Vatican.

Monday, December 13, 2010

When It Comes To Power And Accountability There Really Is Two Catholic Churches And Priests Are Going To Have To Decide Which One They Belong To

It's not hard for me to imagine that many of our priests feel this describes their relationship to the hierarchy.

Every once in awhile I come across an article where in the comment section one commenter unintentionally hi jacks the topic.  One such article is currently posted at the National Catholic Reporter website.  It's an article written by Phyllis Zagano entitled "Rome's checkbook strategy on women's religious".  The comment which diverted the topic was this one:

As a priest I must object, and express my offense and outrage, to the constant "guilt by association" with the "clerical" church, as once again presented in this article. I am da--ed tired of it! This kind of gross oversimplification and villainaization of an entire group within the church is no different that the gross oversimplification and "villainization" of religious women as a "group." Yes, women religious and women in general have more than ample reason to be angy with the church. And, guess what, it case the thought never crossed your mind, many priests also have ample reason to be angry! For the love of Christ, can we stop this nonsense? In what way is it helping?

Actually it has crossed my mind that many priests also think they have ample reason to be angry.  I don't think 'stopping this nonsense' is going to be especially effective.  I do think if all these angry priests broke silence and stepped outside the clerical black line, that their da--ed bi--ching might be more effective and believable.  Anonymous posts on the NCR don't cut it for me, no matter how much truth their might be in the message.

I suspect it might be these three paragraphs in Zagano's article which precipitated the anonymous priest's comments:

What does it all look like now? The world is beginning to see two Catholic Churches: one for bishops and priests and another for the rest of us. The one for clerics collects the money and controls the sacraments.

The church for the rest of us looks to women religious (and, now, male deacons) to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, shelter the homeless, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. These ministers of prayer and service slake the deep thirst of all of us for the Living Word. They do so largely without access to the collection basket.

Do priests and bishops get involved in all this Christian charity? Of course they do, but not so well that they’re the first ones you think of when it comes to works of mercy.

I happen to think Zagano is dead on when she writes the "world is beginning to see two Catholic Churches, one for bishops and priests and another for the rest of us."  If priests don't want to be associated with the clerical version of Catholic church, if they want to be seen as part of the caring and concerned Catholic church, then they need to start shouting out and supporting that Catholic church.  Inadvertently taking over a post with anonymous bitching about blanket vilification smacks of a victim not an agent of any meaningful change.

I understand why priests are not predisposed to opening up about injustice in the Church.  Part of it is conditioning and part of it is economic survival.  I just have a tough time generating much sympathy for the economic survival part when two million Americans are without employment for absolutely no reason or fault of their own. Unemployment is always easier to take when you can attribute it to taking some kind of stand than it is when you are just tossed out like so much unnecessary garbage with no hope of recycling.

These kinds of lay offs happen because everyday people have no leverage.  Unions used to provide the kind of leverage which made employers somewhat accountable to their employees.  Not so much anymore.  The thing is with the current priest shortage, disaffected priests have a serious amount of leverage.  It's got to be the conditioning thing that stops them from considering using their leverage--or maybe even realising they have such leverage. 

Cardinal Law could speak to the leverage priests had in the Archdiocese of Boston.  It didn't even take a majority of  Archdiocesan priests to take a stand.  It only took enough to threaten the functioning of the Archdiocese.  American nuns have no such leverage, not being able to function sacramentally.  Their leverage used to be in their numbers and relative wealth.  Zagano thinks the lack of numbers now make the wealth appear to be a plum ripe for picking.  A numbers situation which is working against American nuns could work just the opposite for American priests. Funny how that power differential thing works as opposed to just wealth.  Priests have the power, nuns have the wealth.  Lack of meaningful power always trumps amount of accumulated wealth.--see American middle class.

If the above anonymous priest is this angry and frustrated about how the rank and file clergy are being  painted, he should turn his writing skills towards his fellow priests. But first he should understand that if his buttons got pushed this badly by this article, there is a reason for that, and that reason resides with in his own psyche. When he then gets past being a powerless victim, he might just see that far from being powerless victims, priests have huge power with in this system, they've just been conditioned not to use it.  It's time to break that conditioning and take some risks of behalf of the whole Church.  It's only what the Man they purport to emulate would do---and did.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Is Catholicism By The Rule Book The Only Spiritual Path For Catholic Colleges And Universities?

This is not the kind of Catholic spiritual path Cardinal Burke wants to see taught in Catholic colleges.

It's fun when two articles pop up on the same week end and have two seriously different views of Catholic culture.  The following high lights the main ideas of Cardinal Burke as to what a Catholic university should embody.  Burke gave these thoughts at St Thomas More College of Liberal Arts President's Council Dinner held in Boston. This link will take you to another view point about Catholic education written by Nicholas Lash for the Jesuit magazine America.
Authentic Catholic universities help resist ‘secular dictatorship,’ Cardinal Burke says
Boston, Mass., Dec 11, 2010 / 07:39 am (CNA).-

.....In a lengthy discussion of the nature of Catholic higher education, he said that a Catholic university faithful to its identity will help students give an account of their faith and help them resist “the secularist dictatorship which would exclude all religious discourse from the professions and from public life in general.”

He also declared Jesus Christ, the “fullness” of God’s revelation, as “the first and chief teacher at every institution of Catholic higher education.” (I don't think Burke really means this as Jesus taught something very different from rote memorization of a rule book.)

“A Catholic college or university at which Jesus Christ alive in His Church is not taught, encountered in the Sacred Liturgy and its extension through prayer and devotion, and followed in a life of virtue is not worthy of the name,” he told attendees.

Jesus’ presence is not something “extraneous” to the pursuit of truth because he alone inspires and guides professors and students to remain faithful in their pursuits and not “fall prey to the temptations which Satan cleverly offers to corrupt us.” (This temptation must be secularism since Burke uses the word constantly.)

Cardinal Burke lamented the fall of many American Catholic colleges and universities that have become “Catholic in name only.”

Citing Pope John Paul II’s ad limina address to the U.S. bishops of New York, he said that the service of Catholic universities “depends on the strength of their Catholic identity.” The Catholic university was born from “the heart of the Church” and has been “critical” to meeting the challenges of the time.

The Catholic university is needed more than ever in a society “marked by a virulent secularism which threatens the integrity of every aspect of human endeavor and service,” he said.

“How tragic that the very secularism which the Catholic university should be helping its students to battle and overcome has entered into several Catholic universities, leading to the grievous compromise of their high mission,” he commented. (I can't find where Burke actually defines what he means by 'secularism'.)

The American-born cardinal said that rather than exemplifying secularism, the Catholic university’s manner of study and research should “manifest the bankruptcy of the abuse of human life and human sexuality … and the bankruptcy of the violation of the inviolable dignity of human life, of the integrity of marriage, and of the right order of our relationship to one another and to the world.” (This paragraph seems to imply that Burke actually means 'sexularism' rather than secularism.)

...Cardinal Burke also described the kind of relationship that should exist between the local bishop and a Catholic university. The “noble mission” of the university, he said, can only be accomplished within the Church, and the local bishop should be able to depend upon the Catholic university as a partner in meeting the challenges of evangelization, in teaching the faith, and in celebrating the liturgy.

He criticized as “totally anomalous” the situation in which the Catholic university views the bishop as “a suspect or outright unwelcome partner in the mission of Catholic higher education.” (Ahem, this works the other way around as well, where the bishop views the college or university as an unwelcome partner.)

“Given the religious illiteracy which marks our time and in fidelity to the seriousness with which university studies should be undertaken, there is really no place for engaging in speculative theology and certainly no time to waste on superficial and tendentious theological writings of the time,” the cardinal contended. (This is as blatant a statement as one could want that Catholic colleges should confine their theology departments to the catechism in order to combat 'religious illiteracy'.)

He questioned why students should be engaged in discussions about the ordination of women as priests when they already have little knowledge of the “consistent teaching” of the Holy Scriptures and Catholic Tradition on the priesthood.

“My reflection is offered to assist us all in seeking always first the truth and love by which we serve others and our world well by serving God first,” he said.....


When I participate in giving workshops in spirituality, one thing I find myself doing as I listen to stories, is asking myself what are the basic assumptions about reality the person is using to interpret their experience. Frequently I will hear someone say, 'I used to be a conservative Christian until I had this experience. Now I don't know what I am'.  Or I will hear something a long the lines that 'this was so far out of my understanding I thought I was delusional or going psychotic'.  It turns out what they really mean is there was no explanation for their experience with in their religious system or educational paradigm. Their experience transcended their enculturated explanations and beliefs about the nature of reality.

In Cardinal Burke's case his underlying assumptions are pretty straight forward.  Burke's idea of Catholic education is not spiritual education in any meaningful sense. It's religious governance.  It's what Nicholas Lash's article refers to as commanding as opposed to instructing, as governing as opposed to teaching:

I have long maintained that the heart of the crisis of contemporary Catholicism lies in just such subordination of education to governance, the effect of which has too often been to substitute for teaching proclamation construed as command. As Yves Congar said, it is impossible to make the function of teaching an integral element of jurisdiction because it is one thing to accept a teaching, quite another to obey an order: “Autre chose est agréer une doctrine, autre chose obéir à un ordre.”

Cardinal Burke is a true follower of John Paul II's ideas about Catholic education.  It was JPII who took the idea of Catholic education at the university level down to the level of Catechism 101.  He continued a trend started during the papacy of Pio No No (Pious IX) in which teaching becomes the province of the hierarchy and obedience the province of the laity.  Honest intellectual disagreement becomes purely selfish dissent, as Lash demonstrates with this quote:

John Paul II, addressing the American bishops in Los Angeles in 1987, said without qualification: “It is sometimes said that dissent from the magisterium is totally compatible with being a ‘good Catholic’ and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching office of the bishops in the United States and elsewhere.”

I have a real problem with any religious authority which commands obedience rather than teaches ideas. Jesus taught that we must die to our self.  For me this means we must overcome the enculturated ego which controls our inner dialogue and that we all too frequently mistake for the truth of who we are.  That enculturated ego is a product of memory and learning and is therefore very much a product of external authority.  In Burke's idea of a Catholic college, our best and brightest are to be further enculturated in a system which insists the adult ego stay dependent on the kind of external authority that defined the child ego.

Obviously this kind of education doesn't benefit the true spiritual seeker who is attempting to look with in and find independent validation or different understandings for one's experiences or beliefs.  Burke's idea is designed to keep the spiritual seeker from even attempting such a thing, going so far as to imply such a search is satanic in it's origin. And here I thought such a search was divinely inspired and actually required---silly me.

I personally was intrigued by how a college of 100 students could attract a Rome based Cardinal to speak at one of it's dinners. I suppose it should come as no surprise that said college is hugely connected with conservative Catholic political leaders and has the Cardinal Newman Society seal of approval ---or that the Rome based Cardinal is Burke.  Oh or that said college, like many of it's persuasion who were started by an individual Catholic crusader, has a provisional accreditation because of shaky financing.  Maybe Burke's presence at this dinner helped with that financial thing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

There's No Such Thing As Too Much Defense Spending In 'Christian' America

President Eisenhower was not a modern right wing Christian with a personal relationship with Jesus. Eisenhower wasn't enlightened enough to know how much Jesus approves of the vast American defense machine.

When ever I read something from the Christian right about the US being a Christian country I chuckle.  If a person really looks at US policy and spending priorities it's utterly laughable to think Jesus Christ would identify with the United States anymore than He did with Imperial Rome. Or that He would identify with the Christian right anymore than He did with Jewish pharisees.  The NCR published an editorial today on US defense spending.  Here's the meat of it:

.....To the degree federal spending is any indication of national values and priorities, we have lost our way. We are out of touch with our civic, human and Christian ideals.

Let’s take a look. The numbers today are so large they are incomprehensible. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Military Expenditure Database, U.S. military spending in 2009 came to $663 billion. Second on the list of military spenders was China, at $98 billion. If one were to add all 2009 military spending by the top 19 spending nations, other than the United States, the figure comes to $642 billion, or $21 billion less than the United States spent in that year. (This is under the Presidency of  Mr. "Change we can believe in.")

When the 2010 fiscal year budget was signed into law in October 2009, the final size of the Department of Defense’s budget was $680 billion, $16 billion more than President Obama had requested. An additional $37 billion supplemental bill to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was expected to pass Congress in the spring of 2010, but has been delayed by the House of Representatives after passing the Senate. Meanwhile, military-related expenditures outside of the Department of Defense constitute between $319 billion and $654 billion in additional spending, bringing the total for military-related spending in the 2010 fiscal year to between $1.01 trillion and $1.35 trillion, a new landmark.(A significant portion of that additional spending is for the Department of Homeland Security.)

Meanwhile, the Obama administration last May released a one-page unclassified summary of a classified report sent to lawmakers. It projects that spending on so-called modernization of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex over the decade will reach $85 billion. An additional $100 billion is also to be spent on strategic nuclear delivery systems such as bombers and land- and submarine-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Elements in this spending orgy are being played out by pro-military-spending senators, many of them Catholics, as chips in a poker game with Obama, who wants the Senate to ratify a new START treaty. Continued nuclear reductions, however tediously slow, depend on Senate passage of this treaty with Russia.

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., speaking on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a Nov. 29 letter urged the Senate to approve the treaty during the lame-duck session in the final weeks of 2010.

Citing earlier statements by both Pope Benedict XVI and the bishops’ conference, Hubbard called ratification of the arms control accord critical “because it is a modest step toward a world with greater respect for human life.”......

......Our bishops are right to lobby for treaty ratification. We hope they press our Catholic senators, reminding them, as our bishops have taught for more than 20 years, that the U.S. nuclear deterrent system is only plausibly “moral” as long as we are moving toward total nuclear disarmament. (I am eagerly anticipating homilies from Cardinal Burke and Archbishop Chaput threatening to deny communion to these Catholic senators.)

Is there any way to comprehend what military spending is doing to us? How it is shaping our lives? Our souls? Can we ever fathom how a trillion dollars of military expenditures in a single year is viewed elsewhere in the world?

Beneath our daily commutes to work, our family life, our church life, beneath the civil laws that govern us, we have become a militarized nation. The influence of military spending silently shapes us as it shapes our national budget.

Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency is probably remembered less for what he did in office than for what he said while heading for the exit. In a nationally televised address Jan. 17, 1961, only four days before John F. Kennedy’s inaugural, Eisenhower warned of the dangers of “undue influence” exerted by the “military-industrial complex.” He cautioned that maintaining a large, permanent military establishment was new in the American experience, and suggested that an “engaged citizenry” offered the only effective defense against the “misplaced power” of the military-industrial lobby.

He warned: “The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.”


Somewhere up in this editorial the question is posed, "Can we ever fathom how a trillion dollars in military expenditures in a single year is viewed elsewhere in the world?"  I know I can't, because I have a difficult time comprehending a trillion dollars period.  Just like I have a difficult time understanding why the US needs to spend more money on defense than the next nineteen countries combined.  Maybe it's a new way to insure a form of universal health coverage if most of us work for the DOD or the DOHS, which last figures I saw, say twenty five percent of us do in some form or another.

I keep waiting for some representative of the Tea Party to speak to this form of VERY BIG GOVERNMENT, but they never do. I wonder why that is. 

I keep waiting for some right wing conservative to speak to this form of government generated SOCIAL CORPORATE WELFARE, but they never do.  I wonder why that is. 

I keep waiting for Archbishop Chaput or Cardinal George or Cardinal Burke or USCCB President Dolan to start giving homilies on the obscenity of this kind of ANTI LIFE spending, but they don't seem to see the need, and I wonder why that is.

So when all the above start babbling about the US being a Christian country I have to laugh, and wonder why they think that, when it's so obviously not. It makes me wonder if  I've just got the Jesus thing totally wrong.  Maybe Jesus really was some sort of secret corporate oligarch heavily invested in the Roman Military Industrial Complex and all His teachings about justice for the poor and marginalized were really just political spin to cover His real tracks. 

Except something else tells me it's really our modern corporate oligarchs that are the people hiding behind all that Jesus rhetoric spouted by all those pious Christian leaders---and what is really incomprehensible to me is that any American, Christian or not,  actually believes them.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Anonymous David Sends An E Message To Goliath

Looks like WikiLeaks has some sophisticated supporters who are capable of sending some serious email.  The following is from Huffington Post.

Operation Payback: WikiLeaks Supporters' Cyberattacks Target Online 'Enemies'

An online group calling itself Anonymous is attacking sites around the web perceived to be "enemies" of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. This appears to be the group responsible for the shutdown of the Mastercard site earlier today, owing to Mastercard's refusal to process payments to the group. After the site went down, the group posted a statement that read in part:
We will fire at anything or anyone that tries to censor WikiLeaks, including multibillion-dollar companies such as PayPal. Twitter, you're next for censoring #WikiLeaks discussion. The major shitstorm has begun.

Other targets that have already been targeted, or threatened with attack, range from Sarah Palin to Sen. Joe Lieberman to PayPal, the last of which recently admitted to bowing to U.S. pressure to break ties with the site.


Just who is this group Anonymous? Enquiring minds want to know.  From the Guardian UK:

.....A 22-year-old spokesman, who wished to be known only as "Coldblood", told the Guardian that the group – which is about a thousand strong – is "quite a loose band of people who share the same kind of ideals" and wish to be a force for "chaotic good".  (Chaotic good is my favorite classification for all my characters when I play any fantasy role playing game.  These folks are apparently playing for real.)

There is no real command structure in the group, the London-based spokesman said, while most of its members are teenagers who are "trying to make an impact on what happens with the limited knowledge they have". But others are parents, IT professionals and people who happen to have time – and resources – on their hands....

....Anonymous was born out of the influential internet messageboard 4chan, a forum popular with hackers and gamers, in 2003. The group's name is a tribute to 4chan's early days, when any posting to its forums where no name was given was ascribed to "Anonymous". But the ephemeral group, which picks up causes "whenever it feels like it", has now "gone beyond 4Chan into something bigger", its spokesman said.

The membership of Anonymous is impossible to pin down; it has been described as being like a flock of birds – the only way you can identify members is by what they're doing together. Essentially, once enough people on the 4chan message boards decide that an issue is worth pursuing in large enough numbers, it becomes an "Anonymous" cause.

The group counts the current campaign in support of WikiLeaks as "probably one of [its] most high profile yet". The group gained notoriety more recently for a number of sustained assaults against the sites of US music industry body RIAA, Kiss musician Gene Simmons, and solicitors' firms involved in lawsuits against people suspected of illegal filesharing. In early 2008, Anonymous launched a campaign against the Church of Scientology, bringing down related websites and promising to "expel" the religion from the internet.

"We're against corporations and government interfering on the internet," Coldblood added. "We believe it should be open and free for everyone. Governments shouldn't try to censor because they don't agree with it.

"Anonymous is supporting WikiLeaks not because we agree or disagree with the data that is being sent out, but we disagree with any from of censorship on the internet. If we let WikiLeaks fall without a fight then governments will think they can just take down any sites they wish or disagree with."....

...."There's no doubt in [Anonymous members'] mind that they are breaking [the] law," he said of the latest attacks. "But they feel that there's safety in numbers."

Anonymous refused to say whether it would target government-owned websites next, but warned: "anything goes."


I'm sure most of the members of Anonymous are fully aware of the fact they are doing exactly what they don't want anyone else to do, but the cause apparently justifies the means.  This is pretty typical of chaotic good strategies and also just happens to be the kind of rationale used by religious terrorists.  The rules of the religious body in whose name they fight don't apply to them.  Once a person has crossed into that kind of thinking, they have pretty much given themselves license to engage in all kinds of behavior they may not have even considered previously.  Couple that with a global group of like thinkers and Master Card's computer network is in trouble.  If the current threats manifest, Master Card will shortly be followed by Twitter, Facebook, Paypal, and Amazon.com.

The existence and capabilities of WikiLeaks and Anonymous have to be increasing the sales of TUMS amongst the world's elite movers and shakers.  This is the sort of behavior that is not going to be easy to stop or check.  The Internet may indeed turn out to be a sort of great equalizer. The west may be legitimately afraid of the notion of North Korea and Iran as nuclear players, but they have to be equally afraid of thousands of anonymous gamers and hackers with 'no real leadership' capable of taking down major financial computer networks.  Chaotic good indeed.  More like a waking nightmare.

About six or seven years ago I had a kind of communication in which I was shown that transparency would be one issue around which the prevailing consensus reality--the one based in money, resource hegemony, secrecy and the cultural power they gave, would be a singular issue in the restructuring of this consensus reality.  Take away the secrecy and much of the power to confuse and befuddle the average man would be seriously lessened. 

I could really see this transparency thing operating in Roman Catholicism in the sexual abuse crisis, but WikiLeaks has taken it into the world of politics, finances, and government structure. It's really amazing to think a low level military member, a corporal in fact, can get access to this kind of information through a computer in the middle of no where, hit the send button, and open the Internet version of Pandora's email box.  I suspect governments will have more success with Iran's muscling into the nuclear world than they will stopping the WikiLeaks of the Internet world.

It would be delightfully ironic if the games players of the computer world put an end to games playing in the political and financial world. There's just something so right about teen age computer warriors ending the games of old men who routinely send teenagers to fight their contrived battles. Maybe Michael the Archangel has turned his big sword in for a lap top and a wifi card.

Here's the latest on Wiki and Anonymous from Yahoo news.  This might just be one of the biggest stories for 2010.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When It Comes To Benedict's Thoughts, Cardinal Wuerl Insists On Civil Discourse

Cardinal Wuerl suddenly feels compelled to ask for polite Christian discourse and truth spoken with charity.  I bet all his DC employees who lost spousal health coverage are somewhat skeptical.

The following paragraphs are taken from a letter written by Cardinal Wuerl for the Washington Archdiocese newspaper. Amazing how the articles about proper Christian discourse are finally being written. I imagine this has something to do with the fact the target of the righteous right is Pope Benedict.

Christian Discourse: Both Truth and Love
Cardinal Donald Wuerl - Person and Society Part II - My Catholic Standard, Archdiocese of Washington

........No community of human or divine origin, political or religious, can exist without trust. At the very core of all human relations is the confidence that members speak the truth to each other. The covenant between God and his people also obliges us to a relationship of truth. It is for this reason that God explicitly protected the bonds of community by prohibiting falsehood as a grave attack on the human spirit. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16). To tamper with the truth or, worse yet, to pervert it is to undermine the foundations of human community and to begin to cut the threads that weave us into a coherent human family. (This deception and erosion of trust usually begins by presenting a false front about yourself, or being ignorant about one's own motivation.)

Christians must not only speak the truth but must also do so in love (Ephesians 4:15). It is not enough that we know or believe something to be true. We must express that truth in charity, with respect for others so that the bonds between us can be strengthened in building up the Church of Christ.  (I've never believed building up the Church of Christ was even on the radar of folks like Bill Donohue or Father Z.  Making it more exclusive, reclusive, and righteous was certainly on their radar.)

Even while there may be disagreements within the ecclesial community on policies and procedures, there is a presupposition that we are all one in our faith. One of the reasons why we should find it easy as a Church to arrive at consensus is because it is Christ who calls us together in the first place. We are already one in what we believe, in our loyalty to the Church and in our commitment to live by God's commandments. (Unfortunately the stronger presupposition for some is that the other person is a sinner and by definition not worth listening too.).......


"Whatever diminishes love diminishes the Church."  I wish Cardinal Wuerl would have given us his definition of love. The definition he actually acts on, not the one he intellectually believes in.  This whole notion of love is one of those starting assumptions which is fraught with possibilities for vociferous disagreement.  The kind of love a St Francis of Assisi might be acting from, is not the definition of love a teenager might be acting on.  One is all encompassing and non judgmental, the other is quite specific and actually quite selfish. 

Unfortunately, way too many Christians act from the two kinds of love experienced by the teenager.  These also happen to be the two kinds of love which precipitate the most teen age angst.  The first is the love precipitated by hormonal changes and involve sexual attraction.  The second is maturing past parental/cultural authority and learning to define and defend personal boundaries.  Both of these situations involve changes in neural functioning and maturation.  Changes I am not going to get into for purposes of this post, except to note that successfully navigating these tasks of the teenage years call for the healthy development of previous neural stages of development.

Another comment which Cardinal Wuerl makes without defining his starting assumption is this one:  " At the very core of all human relations is the confidence that members speak the truth to each other."  I can guarantee that my starting assumption about speaking truth is not Cardinal Wuerl's. My starting assumption about truth starts with me and my understanding about my truth. Cardinal Wuerl seems to be starting from an assumption of truth that reflects the Church's definition of truth as affirming it's long held tradition about truth.  This tradition by the way, ignores a lot of philosophy and science about how we experience reality and how idiosyncratic that can be and often is. 

Cardinal Wuerl's definition of truth leaves out self examination when relating to and with others. It substitutes externally given truth for hard won self truth. Our task as lay Catholics then becomes a process of finding external speakers who agree with the external teaching authority.  Catholic truth has nothing to do with going with in and discovering self truth.  Hence in this current time and place acting on one's conscience is only given lip service in official church teaching.  A good conscience is defined as being totally in concert with official church teaching and there by the whole notion of personal conscience is subsumed into unquestioned obedience.  There is no need for personal conscience at all.

Then along came Pope Benedict and his thoughts about condoms.  Oh my.  It appeared papa changed his mind and some of the children were being given a lighter yoke to carry.  How totally unfair of papa. 

Sometimes it's amazing how much truth Jesus taught in his parables. The prodigal son is ever so timeless and so hard for some people to understand. 

Neural development impacts our understanding of truth just as it does our ability to love. Failure to be truthful with ouselves about ourselves impacts our understanding of truth just as it severely impacts our ability to love. How we are raised, how many cultural experiences, and how much we've matured also impact our understanding of truth and our ability to love.  The truth is our personal understanding of both truth and love can indeed be very relative and subject to change.  Pretending this truth is false doesn't impact it's truth, it just helps make our own lives and the lives of others less than they could be.  It's also a lazy and cheap way to live one's spiritual life.  That too is the truth.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reform Bush Tax Cuts? Obama Says "No, I Won't"---Again

Valid estimates indicate there are enough of these in private hands for every American currently alive. This might be one of the unstated reasons for Obama's constant "No we can't".

Writing in Huffington Post, Clarence B Jones, (Scholar in Residence, Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University) has sounded one of the first lamenting calls for a democratic challenger to President Barack Obama from a Black American perspective.  Frank Rich writing in the New York times, speculates Obama is a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.  Robert Kuttner, also writing in Huffpo, describes the coming disaster for the Democratic party and the US economy if Obama holds to his current course of circling with the Republican sharks. My hope is that Obama decides it's easier to get wealthy as a 'politician' by following the Sarah Palin route and like wise quits his elective office in mid stream. 

The following are the final paragraphs of Dr. Jones's article:

It is not easy to consider challenging the first African-American to be elected as President of the United States. But, regrettably, I believe that the time has come to do this.

It is time for Progressives to stop "whining" and arguing among themselves about whether President Obama will or will not do this or that. Obama is no different than any other President, nominated by his national party. He was elected with the hard work and 24/7 commitment of persons who believed and enlisted in his campaign for "Hope" and "Change."

You don't have to be a rocket scientist nor have a PhD in political science and sociology to see clearly that Obama has abandoned much of the base that elected him. He has done this because he no longer respects, fears or believes those persons who elected him have any alternative, but to accept what he does, whether they like it or not.   (The way Obama treats his base supporters is very similar to the way Rahm Emannuel treated dems in the House.)

It is time for those persons who constituted the "Movement" that enabled Senator Barack Obama to be elected to "break their silence"; to indicate that they no longer will sit on their hands, and only let off verbal steam and ineffective sound and fury, and "hope" for the best.

The answer is blowin' in the wind

The pursuit of the war in Afghanistan in support of a certifiably corrupt Afghan government and the apparent willingness to retreat from his campaign commitment of no further tax cuts for the rich, his equivocal and foot dragging leadership to end DADT, his TARP for Wall Street, but, equivocal insufficient attention to the unemployment and housing foreclosures of Main Street, suggest that the template of the 1968 challenge to the reelection of President Lyndon Johnson now must be thoughtfully considered for Obama in 2012.


I just did a search of this blog to see how many times I've written about P.O. since his election.  In this current year it's been twice, and one of those was directed more at Rahm Emmanuel.  I haven't written much about P.O.  I suspect that's true because rather than being angry or disappointed, I actually feel contempt for him and his administration. I don't feel as if he betrayed me as a progressive because deep down I never really trusted he would follow through on any of his rhetoric. I hold him in contempt as the quintessential example of the inbuilt corporate corruption in American politics.  PO's administration has demonstrated this beyond any doubt.  The US does not have a two party system.  It has a one party system with two faces.

Two full years into PO's administration we still have virtually every single failed Bush/Cheney policy in place and now that will include extending the Bush tax cuts for the remainder of PO's term of office. The rich will get even richer and very little of it will trickle down to the estimated 18% of Americans who can't find full time work. The budget deficit will increase by another 80 billion strictly from the tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans. 

In the meantime the percentage of Americans qualifying for SNAP (food stamps)has increased significantly for every year since 2007.  Based on August numbers, this represents some 43 million Americans.  August alone showed a one month increase of over 500,000 participants from July.  The current total represents around 13% of the American population.  If nothing changes, by the end of PO's first term, 25% of the US population will be on food stamps--and that will include a significant portion of Tea Party members who will be unable to comprehend that trickle down economics does not and never has worked. It is, as Papa Bush truthfully described it:  "Voodoo economics".  PO knows this just as well as Papa Bush did.  So why is he continuing this debacle of a monetary/tax policy?

I might just as well ask why he is continuing with any number of Bush policies, but I won't get any other answer than the pathetic excuse of 'bi partisanship' when there is no bi partisanship to be had and there never was any to be had.

Right before PO was elected I had some serious doubts as whether he could be effective at all.  I kept thinking back to the 60's and 70's and the list of progressives who were the paramount movers and shakers at that time.  They all wound up dead or neutralized in some way.  In their places we got puppets of right wing economic interests--especially in politics and religion.  The last televised statement from John Paul I contained this strongly worded statement:

"Believe me, we who live in opulence, while so many are dying because they have nothing, will have to answer to Jesus as to why we have not carried out his instruction, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself'. We, the clergy of our church and our congregations, who substitute gold and pomp and ceremony in place of Christ's instruction, who judge our masquerade of singing his praises to be more precious than human life, will have the most to explain....

......"It is the inalienable right of man to own property. But it is the right of no man to accumulate wealth beyond the necessary while other men starve to death because they have nothing."

It sure does seem as if there are some messages which are so antithetical to some people that the message must be neutralized and the messengers silenced.  PO has been both neutralized and silenced.  I don't find that too surprising.  Strangely enough, I also find it hopeful.  Light is being shined on some very dark places and that is always a very good thing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Vatican Notions Of Accountability Equate To 'Manning Up' Not Moving Down Or Out

The late Cardinal Michele Giordano meets with Naples prosecutors previous to his 2002 trial for loan sharking.

The following piece by John Allen about the recent death of Italian Cardinal Giordano piqued my curiosity because it's a piece of spin attempting to explain how the Vatican deals with curial officials who hold ecclesiastical rank when those men do things the rest of us consider criminal----criminal, not just immoral or sinful.  I've edited it for length.

Naples cardinal illustrated cultural gap on accountability

John Allen - NCR - 12/06/2010

In a thumbnail: In the late 1990s, Giordano was indicted for fraud and went through a full criminal trial (though he never set foot in court) in a case arising from a real estate scam orchestrated by his brother, causing massive embarrassment for the Italian church and the Vatican. (Italian authorities were also concerned about his brother's connections with the Mafia as the case also concerned loan sharking.)

The case generated church-state tensions when police insisted on examining confidential documents of the Naples archdiocese, in addition to financial records that Giordano provided. The Vatican also protested that Italian investigators had not informed them that Giordano was a target of investigation, a notice they should have given under the terms of the concordat between the Holy See and Italy.

At one stage, prosecutors revealed that they had tapped Giordano’s phone, which led the astonished cardinal to complain to the press: “I could have been talking to the pope!” (Probably not on that particular phone line--unless he meant another kind of pope.)

Although Giordano was acquitted in 2000, the outcome was not exactly a vindication. Essentially, the court bought Giordano’s defense that he was guilty of naiveté and sloppy administration, not criminal intent.
Giordano found himself in the dock once again in 2002, facing criminal charges in another real estate case. This time he was actually found guilty and sentenced to four months in prison and a fine, though that verdict was suspended and eventually overturned on appeal.......

The typical American take-away is that the Giordano saga illustrates a lack of accountability at senior levels of the church, since a cardinal who obviously made some dubious choices never lost his job.  (The Maciel case would suggest something different.  Accountability in the Vatican is a commodity one can purchase.)

In the Vatican, however, the perspective was different. I remember talking to senior officials in both the Congregation for Bishops and the Secretariat of State throughout the Giordano drama, and while some suspected Giordano might be the victim of an anti-clerical vendetta, even those who regarded him as guilty weren’t interested in coming to his rescue. The message was that he’s going to have to stay put and clean up his own mess. (A Mexican standoff seems more likely.  Giorodano undoubtedly had security codes to Archdiocesan accounts the Vatican couldn't afford to lose. Which is maybe why Giordano's successor, Cardinal Sepe, is also in the same exact kind of trouble.)

In other words, the Vatican version of accountability was to allow Giordano to stew in his own juices, rather than getting him off the hook by arranging a face-saving resignation.

Not only was that a tactical calculation to deny Giordano a soft landing, but it also reflects the official theology of the episcopal office. In theory, a bishop is not supposed to be like a CEO or a sports coach, who gets fired for poor performance. He’s more comparable to the father of a family, and policy-makers stepped in this “pater familias” view of the bishops’ role would say that the right course of action when times get tough is not to walk away, but to “man up” and make things right......

.......Nonetheless, the Giordano story illustrates a key insight into Vatican psychology, one that sometimes is obscured by differing cultural assumptions. When the Vatican refuses to sack a bishop, it’s not always about the absence of accountability, but rather a different view of what holding him accountable means.....


I was all  a dither to learn how Giordano 'manned up' and made things right, but alas, John Allen doesn't tell us.  Now that Cardinal Sepe is in the same boat of having to 'man up' maybe I will learn how an Archbishop should 'man up' when the secular authorities think he is in bed with the manly Mafia--- another group which firmly believes in the notion of 'pater familias'.  I can't help but wonder which group of manly fathers actually runs the Archdiocese of Naples, the Vatican or the Mafia?  Maybe there isn't much of a difference or maybe the titular heads of Naples belong to both family groups.  Maybe it's just a family thing.

I personally am not moved by Allen's attempt to explain Vatican accountability.  In fact, I think I'm offended.  If staying in place and facing the secular music is the Vatican's idea of accountability, that means there is no ecclesiastical accountability.  Bishops only face accountability from secular legal proceedings or their own conscience. In the meantime they stay in place with full perks and full access to all the money laity donate as well as the funds these men generate elsewhere.  This is all tax free money with no one looking over their shoulders.  No wonder some of it tends to get shared with their biological families. It's a great gig if you can get it.  Best if all, once you get it , no matter what you do, you get to keep it. 

Allen calls this system 'pater familias' but it's really a form of divine monarchy.  Now a days, abusive criminal fathers are held accountable by their family members, at least to the extent they aren't accorded any meaningful authority over the rest of the family.  This is perhaps why a lot of American Catholics don't get the Vatican notion of accountability and don't get why Cardinal Law is in Rome free from harassment by secular legal authorities.  Plus there is that number of confessed bishop predators who still retain their rank and the perks that go with the rank.  This is a much better deal than a Mafia don, where rank is still retained while in prison, but the don still has to go to prison. Not so with Catholic cardinals and bishops.  Some of them even get better mansions.

I keep mulling over the question of priority when it comes to Church reform.  Should the first priority be the entrenched untouchable hierarchical structure or should it be the theology and tradition from which that structure was created.  The truth is there is no New Testament justification for either one and plenty of justification for condemning both.  It is very difficult for me to picture the itinerant Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth parading in St Peter's in full papal regalia. Constantine yes, Jesus no.  Maybe if our so called Apostolic Successors had to spend some time in prison cells like their ancient predecessors, they might come to some conclusions about their own place in the cosmic scheme of things.  That place is not as clerical versions of mafia dons.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Short Update

I've had a very busy week and must apologize for not updating the blog.  I started a full time job, something I haven't engaged in for quite awhile, and that has been an adjustment.  I've also been working on another project which will culminate in a series of workshops, the first of which is this afternoon. All in all this week has been something of a shock to my system and usual mode of existence.  Hopefully I'll get adjusted and get back to a more consistent schedule.  I'm thinking that might take a few weeks until I get fully oriented with the job and have an assigned schedule.  This coming week's schedule will probably let me get back to more regular posting, and I hope to have something up tomorrow.