“Gatherings Of The Faithful”: The Dominant Class Fiercely Fixed On Keeping Their Privileges And Controlling The Destinies Of Others
How different are they, really, at the end of the day or week in winter—the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and the Vatican Papal Conclave? They were all the talk in Washington and Rome, superpowers of politics and religion.
So how do you feel about Pope Francis and President Rand Paul, R-Ky.? Call it the March epiphany, that they will rule the world. They were voted most popular.
Here’s mine: Rome and the current Republican party would tyrannize us if they could—by us, I mean girls and women. Boys are also secretly victimized in the Vatican’s vale of tears, likely for centuries. But boys grow up; women and girls never escape the yoke.
The “conservative” Republican party and the Roman Catholic Church under the “new” Pope Francis are desperately in need of progressive reform. They are each losing their audiences outside their brittle borders because they refuse to change going forward. Everybody knows it except their gatherings of the faithful. Columnist David Brooks, writing in The New York Times, suggested Rome take a more supple and open approach, in the spirit of St. Augustine, risking vulnerability instead of clinging to tradition.
I see it through a glass darkly. Our subjugation is in fact the common denominator and real reason why each is in crisis: the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and the Republican party. At the same historical hour, they become more retrograde with each passing year. Thus loyalty is paramount. Pope Francis is firmly old guard. Moderates and reformers, in each case, are rebuked or banished until their voices are no longer heard: not even Gov. Chris Christie’s, R-N.J. bellow.
Just look at the pitiless gaze of Ted Cruz, the freshman Republican senator from the Texas Tea Party who acts like he’s the new sheriff in town. The defiant way he presumed to challenge distinguished Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., passing an assault weapons ban out of the Judiciary committee shocked Washington’s socks off.
Ain’t it because she’s a woman? Sojourner’s spirit still speaks truth. Gladly, the gentle lady from San Francisco gave Cruz the dressing-down he deserved. She leaned in like nobody’s business.
In each institution, white male elders are the smoke and mirrors, the dominant class fiercely fixed on keeping their privileges and controlling our destinies. Our bodies, of course, but also our destinies, human rights and liberties. That’s the larger truth, ladies and gentlemen.
The Vatican’s official investigation into the group representing 80 percent of American nuns, as shown on CBS News “60 Minutes” yesterday, shows what I mean—that’s how Rome under stern Pope Benedict XVI treated thinking women. In the political arena, let’s face it: Republican women have no choice left. Not a single 2012 presidential candidate supported a woman’s reproductive rights. This is also a shrewd strategy to keep the march for women’s advancement frozen in place.
Moreover, the handful of women chosen to represent national or party interests resemble ventriloquist dummies, Sarah Palin most of all. Cruz introduced the darling of CPAC, who called President Obama a liar, except she didn’t say the word “President.” That’s not on, as the English say. She also insulted Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the smartest former Republican in show business. He’s the kind of bright light they need in the winter wilderness.
Inviting the Alaskan hockey mom anywhere near the White House was the most cynical choice ever made when it comes to Republican womanhood.
Just conjure Pope Francis and President Palin.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, March 18, 2013
“Something Is Stirring”: There Is New Space For Debate And Rethinking Of The Catholic Church’s Rightward Tilt
To say that the Belle Harbor neighborhood on New York City’s Rockaway Peninsula was slammed by Hurricane Sandy understates the case. Like many other parts of the region, it has suffered the kind of devastation we usually associate with wars.
In these circumstances, people turn to government, yes, but they look first to trusted friends and to neighborhood institutions that combine deep local knowledge with a degree of empathy that arises only from a long connection with residents of a particular place.
Two of my brothers-in-law who have been washed out of their homes are involved in one such group, the Graybeards, a local nonprofit recently featured on the “NBC Nightly News.” They immediately took up the task of restoring the city blocks they love.
And at the heart of the relief effort is the Roman Catholic parish of St. Francis de Sales, the epicenter of so many practical works of mercy that it has received a mountain of earned media attention. The Post published a photo last week of a big Thanksgiving dinner organized in the parish gym where I once watched my nephews and my niece compete fiercely on the basketball court. Last week, for a moment anyway, competition gave way to fellowship.
I intend to come back again to the determined struggle of this neighborhood to rebuild. But I also hope that the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops contemplating the future of the church’s public and political engagement notice how the witness of this parish has inspired people far beyond the confines of Catholicism.
During the presidential campaign, many bishops, though by no means all, seemed to enlist firmly on one side of a highly contested election. The church didn’t endorse anyone, but some bishops made clear their preference for Mitt Romney over President Obama. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was about as clear as he could be short of putting a Romney-Ryan sticker on his car.
“I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion,” he told the National Catholic Reporter. On the other hand, he said of low-tax conservatives: “You can’t say that somebody’s not Christian because they want to limit taxation.” No doubt Paul Ryan smiled.
For such bishops, the election came as a shock. I’m told by people who attended the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops post-election meeting this month in Baltimore that many of them had been convinced Romney would win. Yet Romney not only lost; he also narrowly lost the Catholic vote, partly because of overwhelming support for Obama among Latinos, the fastest-growing group in the church.
The fallout: disarray in the Bishops’ Conference. This is actually good news. One person’s disarray is another’s openness. There is now new space for debate and a rethinking of the church’s tilt rightward over the past several years.
One surprising result in Baltimore was the refusal to endorse a vague statement on the economy after the document came under attack from more progressive bishops for failing to deal adequately with inequality, the rights of unions and poverty. Rarely does a document reach the floor of the conference and then fail to win the two-thirds majority necessary for approval. Something is stirring.
There are also influential bishops who now want to work with the Obama administration to secure a compromise on the contraception mandate under the health-care law. This, too, would be a positive break with the recent past, and the president should seize the opportunity. He can provide contraception coverage while building on the adjustments he has already made in the mandate to accommodate the church’s legitimate conscience concerns. And there’s nothing that should stop the bishops from cooperating with the administration and other progressives on behalf of immigration reform.
But above all, the bishops need to learn what I’ll call the St. Francis de Sales lesson. A church looking to halt defections among so many younger Catholics should understand that casting itself as a militantly right-wing political organization — which, face it, is what some of the bishops are doing — clouds its Christian message. Worse, the church seems to be going out of its way to hide its real treasure: the extraordinary examples of generosity and social reconstruction visible every day in parishes such as St. Francis and in the homeless shelters, schools, hospices and countless other Catholic entities all over the nation.
Politics divides Catholics. The works of mercy bring us together and also show the world what the power of faith can achieve.
By: E. J. Dionne Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 25, 2012
“Motivation Via Laicization”: Milwaukee Archdiocese, Under Cardinal Dolan, Paid Sex Abusers To Leave Priesthood
Laurie Goodstein reports in the New York Times:
[A] document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll.
A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed on Wednesday that payments of as much as $20,000 were made to “a handful” of accused priests “as a motivation” not to contest being defrocked. The process, known as “laicization,” is a formal church juridical procedure that requires Vatican approval, and can take far longer if the priest objects.
Timothy Dolan, now a Cardinal and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but at the time the Archbishop of Milwaukee, authorized the payments. He did not respond to several requests for comment, according to the Times.
Here are some things Dolan has commented on lately:
He suggested New York’s marriage equality bill was akin laws in totalitarian societies;
He compared gay marriage to “polygamy, adultery, forced marriages;”
After the Obama administration declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, he accused it of “hostility” toward “traditional marriage,” and a “new, more aggressive position” on gay marriage that would “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions;
He found President Obama’s support for marriage equality “deeply saddening;”
He said the White House is “strangling” the church with the contraception coverage requirement;
He wrote that the contraception coverage is “un-American;”
He worried that by inviting HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak, Georgetown University showed it was moving to a more “secular model, where they would take their cues from what’s happening in contemporary events instead of the timeless wisdom of the church.”
Pertinent to the payments made to abusive Milwaukee priests—one, Goodstein reported, had sexually assaulted 10 minors—in March the National Catholic Reporter noted how Dolan was echoing the words of Bill Donohue, the vitriolic head of the Catholic League, calling the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), David Clohessy, a “con artist:”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, posted a link on his blog this afternoon to a statement from Bill Donohue, the head of the Catholic League, which suggests the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests may be a “con artist.”
The post comes as the victims’ advocacy group and its director, David Clohessy, have found support in recent days on the editorial pages of several national papers in light of attempts by attorneys representing priests accused of abuse to obtain 23 years of the group’s documents.
Dolan’s post came on his “The Gospel in the Digital Age” blog at the New York Archdiocese website. It quotes in full three paragraphs of a statement by Donohue before providing people a link to read the rest.
Donohue’s statement, titled “SNAP Unravels,” is a long rehash of some of the facts surrounding the attempts by priests’ lawyers, which resulted last January in Clohessy’s deposition in a case involving a priest accused of abuse in Kansas City, Mo.
After making numerous references to the transcript of that deposition, which was released March 2, Donohue asks: “So is David Clohessy a sincere man driven by the pursuit of justice? Or is he a con artist driven by revenge? It may very well be that the former description aptly explains how he started, while the latter describes what he has become.”
This week, according to Goodstein, SNAP sent a letter to the Milwaukee archdiocese, asking, “In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?”
Kathryn Joyce published an extensive interview with Clohessy at RD in March about efforts by the accused Kansas City priest and the Archdiocese of St. Louis to subpoena confidential records from SNAP. There, she wrote:
While the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has denied that there is a national strategy for the Church to fight sex abuse cases more aggressively, even the Church’s staunchest defenders see the pattern. As William Donohue, the pugilistic president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told the New York Times this week, bishops are going after SNAP because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”
Clohessy told Joyce that the recent escalation against SNAP showed that the dioceses were attempting “to discredit, derail, bankrupt, and silence SNAP. And to scare anyone—police, prosecutors, victims, concerned Catholics—from contacting us and reporting crimes and exposing corruption.”
BY: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, May 31, 2012
A small Massachusetts Roman Catholic college rescinded its invitation to Vicki Kennedy to speak at its graduation ceremony this spring, saying the local bishop objected to honoring the widow of the liberal lion Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
A spokesman for Worcester Bishop Robert McManus declined to say why exactly he objected to the choice of Kennedy, a member of the most prominent U.S. Catholic family in politics.
“Bishop McManus is acting, he feels, consistently with what all of the U.S. bishops asked colleges or higher institutions to do going back to 2004, that they not honor … Catholics who take a public stance or position on issues contrary to things that the Church is trying to teach,” said Raymond Delisle, a spokesman for the diocese.
Kennedy said she was “disheartened” by the public rebuke.
“I am a lifelong Catholic and my faith is very important to me,” she said in a statement. “I have not met Bishop McManus nor has he been willing to meet with me to discuss his objections.”
She said that by opposing her appearance at the college, the bishop “has made a judgment about my worthiness as a Catholic.”
Senator Kennedy, a Democrat, was a liberal standard-bearer during his nearly 47 years in office and an advocate for abortion rights — a stance that ran afoul of church teachings. His brother John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president of the United States, was assassinated in 1963.
The school, Anna Maria College of Paxton, Massachusetts, apologized to Kennedy.
“As a small, Catholic college that relies heavily on the good will of its relationship with the Bishop and the larger Catholic community, its options are limited,” it said in a statement.
The Catholic church has been increasingly vocal on political issues over the past year, particularly regarding the use of contraception, which the church opposes.
In February, clergy around the United States were asked to read statements at the pulpit calling on the administration of President Barack Obama to exempt religious employers from paying for insurance coverage of contraceptives.
Following Edward Kennedy’s death in 2009, the clan has slowly faded from the political spotlight, though Joseph Kennedy III — grandson of Edward’s brother Robert, who also served in the Senate — has announced plans to run for Congress.
By: Scott Malone, Reuters, March 30, 2012
The Obama administration’s ruling requiring certain Catholic institutions like hospitals and universities to offer health insurance covering birth control prompted a furious response from the Catholic bishops. The bishops argued that this was a violation of conscience since birth control is contrary to teachings of the Catholic Church, as expressed in Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae.”
What interests me as a philosopher — and a Catholic — is that virtually all parties to this often acrimonious debate have assumed that the bishops are right about this, that birth control is contrary to “the teachings of the Catholic Church.” The only issue is how, if at all, the government should “respect” this teaching.
As critics repeatedly point out, 98 percent of sexually active American Catholic women practice birth control, and 78 percent of Catholics think a “good Catholic” can reject the bishops’ teaching on birth control. The response from the church, however, has been that, regardless of what the majority of Catholics do and think, the church’s teaching is that birth control is morally wrong. The church, in the inevitable phrase, “is not a democracy.” What the church teaches is what the bishops (and, ultimately, the pope, as head of the bishops) say it does.
But is this true? The answer requires some thought about the nature and basis of religious authority. Ultimately the claim is that this authority derives from God. But since we live in a human world in which God does not directly speak to us, we need to ask, Who decides that God has given, say, the Catholic bishops his authority?
It makes no sense to say that the bishops themselves can decide this, that we should accept their religious authority because they say God has given it to them. If this were so, anyone proclaiming himself a religious authority would have to be recognized as one. From where, then, in our democratic, secular society does such recognition properly come? It could, in principle, come from some other authority, like the secular government. But we have long given up the idea (“cujus regio, ejus religio”) that our government can legitimately designate the religious authority in its domain. But if the government cannot determine religious authority, surely no lesser secular power could. Theological experts could tell us what the bishops have taught over the centuries, but this does not tell us whether these teachings have divine authority.
In our democratic society the ultimate arbiter of religious authority is the conscience of the individual believer. It follows that there is no alternative to accepting the members of a religious group as themselves the only legitimate source of the decision to accept their leaders as authorized by God. They may be wrong, but their judgment is answerable to no one but God. In this sense, even the Catholic Church is a democracy.
But, even so, haven’t the members of the Catholic Church recognized their bishops as having full and sole authority to determine the teachings of the Church? By no means. There was, perhaps, a time when the vast majority of Catholics accepted the bishops as having an absolute right to define theological and ethical doctrines. Those days, if they ever existed, are long gone. Most Catholics — meaning, to be more precise, people who were raised Catholic or converted as adults and continue to take church teachings and practices seriously — now reserve the right to reject doctrines insisted on by their bishops and to interpret in their own way the doctrines that they do accept. This is above all true in matters of sexual morality, especially birth control, where the majority of Catholics have concluded that the teachings of the bishops do not apply to them. Such “reservations” are an essential constraint on the authority of the bishops.
The bishops and the minority of Catholics who support their full authority have tried to marginalize Catholics who do not accept the bishops as absolute arbiters of doctrine. They speak of “cafeteria Catholics” or merely “cultural Catholics,” and imply that the only “real Catholics” are those who accept their teachings entirely. But this marginalization begs the question I’m raising about the proper source of the judgment that the bishops have divine authority. Since, as I’ve argued, members of the church are themselves this source, it is not for the bishops but for the faithful to decide the nature and extent of episcopal authority. The bishops truly are, as they so often say, “servants of the servants of the Lord.”
It may be objected that, regardless of what individual Catholics think, the bishops in fact exercise effective control over the church. This is true in many respects, but only to the extent that members of the church accept their authority. Stalin’s alleged query about papal authority (“How many divisions does the Pope have?”) expresses more than just cynical realpolitik. The authority of the Catholic bishops is enforceable morally but not militarily or politically. It resides entirely in the fact that people freely accept it.
The mistake of the Obama administration — and of almost everyone debating its decision — was to accept the bishops’ claim that their position on birth control expresses an authoritative “teaching of the church.” (Of course, the administration may be right in thinking that the bishops need placating because they can cause them considerable political trouble.) The bishops’ claim to authority in this matter has been undermined because Catholics have decisively rejected it. The immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI meant his 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” to settle the issue in the manner of the famous tag, “Roma locuta est, causa finita est.” In fact the issue has been settled by the voice of the Catholic people.
By: Gary Gutting, The New York Times Opinion Pages, February 15, 2012