Nel's New Day

August 26, 2018

Religious Leadership, Abusive and in Control of the U.S.

The Nuns on the Bus are traveling again in October, this time from Los Angeles through 21 states with 54 events during their 27 days and aimed directly at Mar-a-Lago, where they finish with a “Fiesta for the Common Good.” For the sixth time since Sister Simone Campbell, leader of a Catholic social justice lobby, fired up her followers, the nuns plan to protest, this time the GOP tax plan just in time for people to pick their candidates at the 2018 general election. Critics of the $1.2 trillion tax cut, mostly going to the richest people and biggest corporations, point out that it increases the budget deficit and income inequality. Even worse, Republicans plan to use the tax cut’s deficit from giving money to the wealthiest Republicans to eliminate or at least reduce Social Security and Medicare.

After Pope Francis addressed a letter to the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, lamenting the horrific sexual abuse by church leaders in Pennsylvania, Sister Simone spoke with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. The sister called on the pope to go beyond writing a letter and take action.

Goodman pointed out that she and the nuns, who fought for social justice, “were investigated more than any of these priests, who preyed on children and adults, seminarians as well.” “When attacked, let’s deflect it,” Sister Simone said to explain the Catholic approach toward the abuse. “We certainly see that in politics right now in our nation,” she added. Sister Simone called on “serious change” in the leadership in a church that ignores women in leadership positions.

“We have all this pious talk about how men and women are created in complementarity and all that, but then we leave women out entirely….”

Sister Simone and her small network was criticized by the Catholic church for “being a bad influence on Catholic sisters in the United States, because we worked too much on the issues of poverty.” The leadership’s focus on abortion and sexual orientation focuses its perspective on sex, “and they become the righteous judgers. And this is wrong. This is wrong.”

Asked if women should be priests, Sister Simone described the “priestly functions” that she performs and “should be acknowledged.” She also thinks that priests should be able to marry, the way that they could before 1200. At that time, a wife might be able to inherit a cathedral if she were married to a bishop. The solution was mandating celibacy.

Pope Francis’ letter promised that “no effort” will be spared to change a church culture that allows both the abuse and the conspiracy to hide it. In Ireland, where the pope is visiting, he may have trouble convincing people after his recent appointment of Philip Boyce as bishop. With only 160,000 residents, County Donegal has the worst record of sexual abuse in Ireland. Four of the 14 accused priests were convicted, including the Rev. Eugene Greene who was imprisoned for nine years after raping and molesting at least 26 boys between 1965 and 1982. Boyce refused to defrock Green in the late 1990s. Residents said that the pope’s appointment of Boyce belies his words, as Francis continues to shuffle along those who protect abusers.

In another case, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington, D.C. from 2011 to 2016, wrote that Pope Francis ignored his information about Theodore Carrick by removing sanctions that Pope Benedict XVI placed on McCarrick in 2013. McCarrick, a long-time successful fundraiser for the Vatican, had been aged out of his position of Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Benedict’s sanctions limited him from leaving his residence at a seminary and performing public Mass. Francis repealed the sanctions and “continued to cover” for McCarrick, making him “his trusted counselor” who advised Francis on several bishop appointments in the United States. The Catholic Church made several settlements to McCarrick’s sexual abuse traced back 47 years, but the Church always covered for his activities until he was blocked from public ministry on June 20, 2018.

Viganò calls for Pope Francis and others involved in the coverup of McCarrick’s abuse to resign, adding that complicity of John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s respective Secretary of States, Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Tarcisio Bertone had led to the delay of the sanctions.  Benedict had ignored both of Viganò’s memos about McCarrick from 2006 and 2008 until Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and specialist in clerical sexual abuse, sent Benedict a statement about McCarrick’s abuse. Viganò also reinforced the record of cover-up in Honduras by Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga and his record of cover-up in Honduras, saying the Pope “defends his man” to the “bitter end,” despite the allegations against him.

In the past three decades, the Catholic Church has paid out over $3.6 billion to settle abuse case.

During his visit to Ireland, Pope Francis largely addressed the “family” with no specifics about stopping the sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, and Colm O’Gorman, a clerical abuse survivor, called the pope’s remarks an “extraordinary deflection.” Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar spoke about actually doing something rather than merely express regret and sadness. Colm O’Gorman, a clerical abuse survivor and the director of Amnesty International Ireland, called the pope’s remarks on Saturday morning an “extraordinary deflection.” He also said that the pope’s statement that Catholics should share the shame were an “insult to faithful Catholics, who have no reason to feel shame because of the crimes of the Vatican and the institution church.”

Francis received a far more lukewarm greeting than the one for John Paul II in 1979, and thousands of protesters gathered in Dublin.

More deflection came from Cardinal Raymond Burke who blamed homosexuality for the child abuse, ignoring the science that this abuse is a sexual disorder, more common in men,that has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Men have more access to boys than girls, especially in the Catholic Church where women have few leadership responsibilities.

High profile U.S. Catholics such as Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston and Donald Wuerl of Washington, canceled their trips to be with Francis in Ireland. O’Malley has been accused of concealing sexual abuse among clerics, including a 2015 report about McCarrick, and Wuerl, bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, granted reassignment and retirement requests to priests accused of sexual abuse without reporting their behavior. Current bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, claims that there are no confidentiality agreements about sexual abuse, but he offered a victim money for his children’s college tuition and some counseling in return for his silence.

A letter calling for the resignation of all U.S. bishops is gaining traction since massive reports of sexual abuse coverup; last May, Chile’s 34 bishops all resigned after a sexual abuse scandal. The letter declares:

“The catastrophic scale and historical magnitude of the abuse makes clear that this is not a case of ‘a few bad apples,’ but rather a radical systemic injustice manifested at every level of the Church. Systemic sin cannot be ended through individual goodwill.”

The Irish Catholic Church has a long history of abusing children and women. In a Catholic program that finally ended in 1996, at least 10,000 unmarried mothers or “morally wayward” women were enslaved against their wishes in Magdalene laundries where they worked for no pay, no pension, and no social protection—sometimes for their entire lives—to wash clothes and linens for major hotel groups and the Irish armed forces. The report begins only in 1922; they may have a much longer history.

Many of the women were sent to these laundries after they gave birth in homes run by nuns, one of the most infamous in the small town of Tuam. An investigation found a number of tiny skeletons on the grounds after an historian raised an alarm, who reported that almost 800 children, mistreated at the home are buried there. Her evidence comes from 800 death certificates found at the home, some of them with malnutrition as the cause, but records of only four burials. Conservative Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, ranted against any accusations against Catholic abuse, but Ireland has failed to continue its investigations after discovering the first 35 skeletons. Children who lived were all sent off to foster families.

If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as Supreme Court justice, Catholicism will continue to dominate the high court with two-thirds constituency. Meanwhile, DDT is packing the other courts and the government agencies with radical fundamental Christians—almost all male and many of them also abusers. Running the U.S. House are a Catholic and a fundamentalist Christian—both male. Over 45 percent of Congress is Catholic—twice as many as the Catholic percentage in the U.S. Over half the U.S. population is female, but only 20 percent of Congress are women.

Most conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians don’t object to DDT’s sexual misconduct, cruelty, lies, and illegal activity. Until the conservative religious and male control of the United States changes, the nation will continue to be run by people who are obsessed with sex and have no interest in social justice.

April 15, 2014

Enjoy Tax Day!

Every year, April 15 brings moaning and groaning amid complaints about taxes. Yet if progressives suggest greater equity in taxes for the wealthy, as billionaire Warren Buffet has, Republicans tell us that we can make a gift to the U.S. Treasury. New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, said, “He should just write a check and shut up.” A letter-writer to our local newspaper sneered at me for claiming that taxes went to help people and gave me the address where I could send my money.

Somehow, conservatives don’t mind sending their money to the wealthy hedge-fund managers from Wall Street or the bankers, but they resent contributing to a badly-needed safety net for the poor. They ignore the facts that people in the United States pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than almost all other wealthy Western nations and that taxes as a share of GDP are at a 50-year low. Wealthy people claim to give money to charities, but these are usually places where they can look important such as museums or other forms of the arts.

When former hedge-fund manager John Arnold and his wife did donate $10 million during last fall’s government shutdown to keep Head Start programs open in six states, the general belief of people is that nonprofits can solve the problems of society. Only 56 percent trust the government to do that. Arnold admitted, “Private dollars cannot in the long term replace government commitments.” Press coverage, however, makes people believe that they don’t need to pay taxes for these programs because wealthy people will.

Scientific research is also moving into private hands, frequently the hands of corporations that will reap the benefits. This practice also puts research into the hands of donors’ personal preferences. Conservatives want lowered government funding of science along with “selective science.” The proposed House bill, The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act, would reduce funding in the sciences by 22 percent while removing a general allocation for the National Science Foundation so that lawmakers can use their personal ideologies to cherry-pick favorite science areas.

People in the United States have been levied a permanent income tax for the past 100 years. The current system came from a tax to pay for World War II. In the mid-20th century, voluntary giving helped support the morality of paying taxes. Tax revolts came with the highly conservative era of President Ronald Reagan who maintained that taxes were not a representation of democracy.

One idea of reviving an understanding of democratic tax-paying is to permit taxpayers to allocate part of their income taxes to a choice within the discretionary federal budget. Another is to educate people about their fantasy that charity can solve the immense problems of the nation.

Sister Simone has TPPSister Simone Campbell, the nun is trouble with the Vatican for her focus in caring for the poor, has another idea. She invites people to show their pride in what their taxes do:

“What do schools, parks, roads, firefighters, clean air and water, and the social safety net all have in common? You helped pay for them with your taxes! Why? Because what makes our country great is our commitment to everyone having enough and no one getting left behind.

“Many of our faith traditions call us to pool our financial resources for the common good. But fiscal extremists have made ‘taxes’ an ugly word.

“So this Tax Day, April 15th, the nuns and friends at NETWORK are celebrating #TaxpayerPride Day by taking selfies with things our taxes pay for that make us proud. Check out the selfies below and submit your own here!

Photos are available here.

Other solutions to the tax-complainers is education in what their taxes provide. When they complain about the safety net for foreign aid, they need to understand that food stamps, TANF, and foreign aid comprise 3 percent of their taxes. For those who pay $20,000 a year, that’s $600. On the other hand, military is at 25 percent–$5,000.

The $3.7 trillion federal budget is divided into mandatory spending required by Congress and discretionary spending that can be cut. Last year, over half of the discretionary spending went to defense. Some of the interest on the debt can also be attributed to defense spending because George W. Bush’s two wars cost at least $1.5 trillion, a sum that was all borrowed and went above the budget.

spending bubbles

No one knows for sure where the money for the defense budget goes because the Pentagon is too big to audit, despite a 1997 mandate that federal agencies have annual audits. We do know that the Pentagon supports 170 golf courses around the world.

Making the wealthy pay their share would even reduce taxes for most of the complainers. A sales tax on Wall Street transactions like those on clothes and food for most of the people in the nation would bring in hundreds of billions of dollars. The London stock exchange has had a tax of 0.5 percent for over 300 years; U.S. proposals are for only 0.025 percent. The wealthy also game the system by making sure that their income is at the 20 percent rate of capital gains rather the 39.6 percent income tax rate. This and other loopholes have made people like Mitt Romney wealthy.

There has been some discussion of limiting mortgage deductions which most people fight. If the amount of deductions were capped at $400,000, it wouldn’t hurt most of the complainers. Switching the deduction to a credit of 15 or 20 percent would level the playing field between the so-called middle class and the wealthy.

Another way to drop taxes for the complainers is to bring military expenditures back to the United States. The U.S. Navy has just spent $4 billion to create a stealthy destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, to patrol the coast of China for a lot more money required from U.S. taxpayers.

At the same time, President Obama’s budget for 2015 spends 55 percent of federal discretionary funds for the military.The Pentagon Overseas Contingency Operations (aka war funding) is a budget with no caps or sequestration caps. This $85 billion in 2014 was for “whatever” use by the Pentagon. The president’s 2014 budget includes $28 billion to enable the Pentagon to “accelerate the schedules for developing and buying new or upgraded systems.”

Justification for paying all this money is jobs. Last month Sen. Angus King (I-ME) wrote that cuts in defense would hurt his state’s industries. His complaint isn’t unique; senators and representatives around the country make the same justification for the ballooning defense budget.

Taxes don’t have to go to the Pentagon to create jobs. People can get jobs in working construction from light rail for public transit to energy-efficient. Reparation of the nation’s crumbling infrastructure would create jobs and bring home war dollars. Infrastructure spending would benefit the economy far more than defense spending would. The GOP reduction on infracture spending by 20 percent under President Obama will cost businesses $1 trillion in sales and lose people 3.5 million jobs.

Complainers about Social Security need to note that most of America’s wealthiest citizens stop paying Social Security taxes two days from now on April 17. Because the payroll contribution cap is $117,000, millionaires and billionaires don’t pay into the system after this date. Most of the people in the nation pay the entire year, with a higher percentage of their salary.

SocialSecurityTaxCaps03152012 The Reagan standard for payroll taxes was that 90 percent of wages are covered by the Social Security tax, bringing up the cap to almost $200,000. Instead the taxes cover less than 83 percent of wages. Four years ago, the New York Times reported that this one change would produce $50 billion in revenue in 2015. Keeping the cap constant at 90 percent would put it at $230,000. That would be an additional cost of $7,000 at the most and help reduce the deficit. That $7,000 doesn’t hurt as much for a person making $230,000 as it does for those making under $100,000.

The poorest 20 percent of families pay almost double the share of their income to state and local taxes as the richest one percent.

shares of taxes

Dreams: increase Social Security, decrease defense, fix the infrastructure, close tax loopholes for the wealthy, and enjoy what your taxes provide. Oh yes, take away subsidies from undeserving corporations and make them pay taxes. You can demand that here.

August 4, 2013

Religion Continues to Invade Lives

ew_jackson-620x412For a state that should be the cradle of religious freedom, Virginia looks pretty far off the mark as its Republican candidates are firing up for their election in three months. E.W. Jackson, candidate for lieutenant governor, has gone farther off the rails with his statement that people can’t both believe in God and vote Democratic. When pressed by WLEE host Jack Gravely, Jackson said, “I believe that the Democrat Party has become an anti-God party.” The GOP party is getting increasingly embarrassed by Jackson. Pat Mullins, Virginia Republican Party chair, said, “I do not agree with that statement. My parents were Democrats, and I’ve got a lot of Democratic friends in Christian churches all around Virginia.” I guess Jackson is even too extreme for far-right Republicans.

simonecampbellOn the other side  is Sister Simone Campbell. The executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, who gained disfavor with the Vatican because she only wants to help poor people, testified before a House Budget Committee hearing last week about the importance of government-subsidized welfare programs. She talked about the foundational nature of charity and economic justice to the Catholic Church and explained the difference that federal assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Head Start initiatives have made in the lives of America’s most vulnerable.

Catholics like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) understand that directly confronting a nun, even one who seems as gentle as Sister Simone, is not safe. But his colleague, Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), decided to tackle her head on. The good Baptist accused both Campbell and the Catholic Church of not fixing poverty by themselves.  “What is the church doing wrong that they have to come to the government to get so much help?” he asked her.

Calmly and firmly, she responded, “Justice comes before charity… Everyone has a right to eat, and therefore there is a governmental responsibility to ensure everyone’s capacity to eat. Love and care makes a difference, but the issues are so big there isn’t sufficient charitable dollars there.” Ribble ignored the nation’s history of working with faith groups to provide assistance for the vulnerable, particularly since George W. Bush, of Ribble’s political party, started handing out great amounts of money to churches. He also ignored the fact that 80 percent of the people in the country are now struggling with joblessness, near-poverty, or relying on welfare for at least parts of their lives.

Ryan got in his licks earlier when he introduced the meeting when he said, “If you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead.” Ryan ignored the fact that 68 percent of children who receive SNAP benefits have working parents, and 8.9 million Americans who work full time still live below the poverty line. Both Ribble and Ryan also skipped over the fact that minimum wage is now three-fourths of what it was almost 50 years ago and that wages have shrunk for everyone except the top layer of people in the United States within the past decade. In addition, each one of them receives annual salaries of over $140,000 but work less than half the year.

Pope Francis caused a buzz in the media when he was quoted as saying “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” Most of the reporters took this as a statement that the Catholic Church is softening toward LGBT people. But not true. He continued by paraphrasing the Catechism that homosexual orientation is not sinful but homosexual acts are against the Church. Bottom line in the pope’s statement: celibate gays are not to be judged or excluded from the church.

The media had less to say about the pope’s comments about another disenfranchised and marginalized population within the church—the women. Although “women in the church are more important than bishops and priests,” there is no possibility that they can be a part of the ordained ministry.”That door is closed,” Francis told reporters. Diane Winston wrote about the media’s neglect of the pope’s comments about women in a Los Angeles Times op-ed:

“In the current media ecology of religion and public life, sex sells and gender gets a nod. (Forget religious leaders opining on violence, materialism or climate change. Unless Jesus himself appeared in a ‘Remember Sandy Hook’ T-shirt to buy sunscreen at Wal-Mart, there’s no story.) … But [the pope] kept in place [the church’s] bar to women. And the import of that bar — its global reverberations in unwanted pregnancies, female poverty and sexual slavery — remains hidden in plain sight.”

The Catholic Church had one temporary victory this past week. Federal Judge Rudolph T Randa ruled that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee can continue to shield $57 million of its assets so that it won’t be used for settlements in sexual abuse lawsuits. When Cardinal Timothy Dolan, then Archbishop of the diocese, realized that the sexual abuse was going public, he got permission from the Vatican to move the $57 million into a trust fund connected with the Milwaukee Catholic cemeteries. In his letter of request, he explained that the transfer would lead to “an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” Dolan is also the president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Forty-five individual priests within that one diocese sexually assaulted an estimated 570 people; one priest was accused of molesting almost 200 deaf boys. The abuse was well-known within diocese leadership, and Dolan informed the Vatican of the problem in the early 2000s before he transferred the funds. If the judge’s ruling holds, the cemetery graves will be safe even if the abused victims receive none of the help that the $57 million could give them.

While the acceptance of different religions is shrinking in the United States, other countries are expanding their tolerance. Lukas Novy has declared for years that he is a Pastaferian of the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” his own satirical faith with the belief that a creature composed of pasta and meatballs “created the world much as it exists today.” The resident of the Czech Republic wanted to wear a pasta sieve on his head while being photographed for an official government ID, and officials agreed.

Pastafarian-ID-e1375378922671

People in the U.S. might ridicule this satire, but this U.S. allows people to escape responsibilities because they declare a false religious belief. For example, Eden Foods is one of several for-profit corporations that have gone to court to avoid providing health plans that cover birth control.  After owner Michael Potter claimed an exemption based on his religious objections to contraception, a judge ruled in his favor. But Potter gave the press a different story when he spoke with Salon’s Irin Carmon:

“I’ve got more interest in good quality long underwear than I have in birth control pills… Because I’m a man, number one and it’s really none of my business what women do …  I don’t care if the federal government is telling me to buy my employees Jack Daniel’s or birth control. What gives them the right to tell me that I have to do that? That’s my issue, that’s what I object to, and that’s the beginning and end of the story.”

Potter probably won’t mind if the government in Washington state mandates GMO labeling so that he can sell more of his product. He fakes religion because he doesn’t care about women but wants government to help his sales.

The Kentucky chapter of the American Family Association is arguing that government-sponsored religion in public schools will “boost student test scores, lower the crime rate and even decrease the rate of HIV infection.” They can’t use Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church for proof in raising test scores. When four church members went to Rhode Island to protest the start of marriage equality in the state, they carried a flier with the following:

 “Is the United States population illerate? Can’t you read? The Lord Jesus Christ said marriage Is between 1 man and 1 woman for life.”

The four of them were outnumbered by the police and far outnumbered by people supporting same-sex weddings.

And so the craziness continues.

June 2, 2013

Religion Needs Fusion to Avoid Mental Illness

Raised as a Catholic, my partner sometimes tells people that she’s “in recovery” from the religion. She may be right, according to Kathleen Taylor, an Oxford University researcher and author specializing in neuroscience, who suggests that in the future religious fundamentalism may be treated as a curable mental illness. In a presentation on brain research at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales, Taylor said that becoming radicalized to a cult ideology might be perceived as a mental disturbance instead of a free will choice.

Although many people might think that she was talking about radical Islam, Taylor said that she also meant such beliefs as the idea that beating children is acceptable. Her 2006 book is Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control. In a YouTube video, Taylor said:

“We all change our beliefs of course. We all persuade each other to do things; we all watch advertising; we all get educated and experience [religions.] Brainwashing, if you like, is the extreme end of that; it’s the coercive, forceful, psychological torture type.”

Examples of fundamentalist Christian mental illness:

Hundreds of children die across the United States because of “faith healing”: In a report about children who died in the Faith Tabernacle Congregation in North Philadelphia and First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park, one of the members said, “God promised us that if we do his will, that there’s no infection; all these diseases that you name, would not come to you.” And these are just two denominations across the U.S.

Fundamentalists preach hate and violence: Matt Trewhella, founder of Missionaries to the Preborn, announced on In Focus, a broadcast on the Voice of Christian Youth America networks, to damn parents who don’t teach their children that homosexuals are vile people:

“I have no respect for people who are parents, who actually have children, and have no problem with homosexuality or homosexual marriage. They are the most base people on the planet to have totally abandoned every God-given vestige to protect your child from the filth of homosexuality; to blatantly go along with it is disgusting.”

Trewhalla does have a few other problems: he is a convicted arsonist, investigated by the FBI in connection with the murder of a doctor, and signed the “Justifiable Homicide” petition defending the murder of two doctors. He openly called for arming children, saying: “This Christmas I want you to do the most loving thing, and I want you to buy each of your children an SKS rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition.”

Fundamentalist Christians violate individual privacy: Part of the training for Trewhalla’s millitant organization, Missionaries to the Preborn, is  to “sidewalk counsel.” In Georgia, Daryl Banther has taken sidewalk counseling seriously. During the 1890s Day Jamboree in Ringgold, he took his 8-year-old son to accost children in the parking lot, talking about Jesus and handing them religious pamphlets and questionnaires.  Parents called the police to stop him, and he plans to sue if city officials don’t let him continue. None of the parents knew Banther because he is from Cleveland (GA), over 100 miles away.

Fundamentalists also try to indoctrinate through public schools: Although the wall between church and state has kept public schools from teaching religion in the past, the Springboro Community City School District (OH) is considering a “controversial issues policy” so that students can “think critically, learn to identify important issues, explore fully and fairly all sides of an issue, weigh carefully the values and factors involved, and develop techniques for formulating and evaluating positions.” To religious people, such topics as evolution, sustainable development, and sex education are considered “controversial.” In the real world, scientific study has made these issues non-controversial.

Agenda 21 is one of those issues religious people consider wrong. A program supported by the United Nations, Agenda 21 encourages nations to consider environmental factors when developing resources, land, transportation, etc. Even the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation does not consider Agenda 21 a threat “in and of itself.” Glenn Beck has an hysterical book showing a dystopian future because of Agenda 21, and the public school wants make the book required reading for all students.

Parents, teachers, and students were at the well-attended board meeting to oppose uneducating students. The board tabled the issue for another month.

Religious leaders control message of priests: Nine violent hate crimes against the LGBT community in New York brought the year’s total to 27 in that city, and the highest ranking Catholic in the United States, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, told members of the LGBT community to “wash” their hands before they enter the Catholic Churches. In answer to this tension, Dolan told all Catholic dioceses to focus sermons on “traditional marriages” for the next month. He has also told the parishioners to join anti-LGBT events, fast, and pray to stop marriage from becoming a reality.

His church bulletin reads:

“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with many other organizations in urging the Supreme Court to uphold both DOMA and Proposition 8 and thereby to recognize the essential, irreplaceable contribution that husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, make to society, and especially to children.”

These coercive statements lead up to July 4, the day to celebrate religious freedom. Even the usual hate groups, National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council, have denounced the violence against LGBT people. 

In her book, Create Your Own Religion: A How-To Book without Instructions, Daniele Bolelli has an answer for these religions that purport “that they alone possess the Only Truth revealed to them by the deity of their choosing.” She suggests that people determine individual religions based on what is best for humanity.

Religious people already read selectively, cherry picking what they like and throwing out the rest. Groups use the same book—usually the Bible—to support opposing views, for example, about slavery before and during the Civil War: “It was in this same time period … that Christians used the Bible to argue for the abolition of slavery while just as many Christians found in the Bible the ideological ammuni­tion to support slavery as a divinely ordained institution.” A century later, both the Ku Klux Klan and Martin Luther King, Jr. called themselves Christians.

Early in the development of Christianity, Saint Paul pushed celibacy whereas Christian teacher Carpocrates urged sexual orgies.  Centuries later conservatives praise wealth as a divine blessing while liberals might find sin in unfettered capitalism.

With over 30,000 different Christian denominations, Bolelli describes most established religions as “based on shaky sources.”  She compares divine revelations to playing the game of “Telephone” as one person whispers something into another’s ear who then moves what is heard on down the line. Comparing the original statement and the distorted one at the end always results in laughter at the misunderstandings.

In the case of religious texts, several decades can pass, and the message passes through thousands of people before anyone writes down what they think was said. Another group then tries to determine the “accurate” version. Religious leaders have an easy job persuading people of “the truth” because the prophets are dead and no one knows anything about them. As Bolelli wrote:

“Like demented kids hugging a puppy too tight and crushing him to death out of ‘love,’ followers destroy their founders’ teachings with blind devotion. The freshness, beauty, and vital energy of the original message dies a miserable death when the message is turned into dogma. And what followers are left to worship is the dried-up, mummified corpse of what was maybe once a wonderful idea.”

The solution to working together is creating our own religions. A recent buzz word is “fusion”—music, food, dress, ethnic makeup—and certainly religion. Without this fusion, the world will be a disaster.

“The most conservative, fundamentalist branches see the global world as a threat. To them, more choices mean more opportunity to fall in error and stray from the One True Way. In their worldview, choice is the Devil’s tool to lead us away from the truth. Confronted with a world offering greater chances for choosing one’s own way, their answer is to dig deeper trenches and become even more radi­cally rigid. The more freedoms human history offers us, the more fundamentalists will fight them. Despite their mutual hatred for one another, Jerry Falwell and the Taliban are twins separated at birth—modernity makes both of them recoil in horror.”

Religious figures best at religious fusion are the “nuns on the bus.” Led by Sister Simone Campbell, the same group of Catholic nuns that traveled across the country to protest Republican budget cuts leaves this week from Ellis Island for a 15-state tour about immigration reform. Campbell said:

“Immigration is at the heart of our Catholic faith. It’s about community. We need to welcome the stranger, and treat the stranger as yourself.”

Right on, Sister Campbell!

April 21, 2013

New Pope Also Censures Nuns for Work with Poor

Over 50 years ago, Pope John XXIII called a council of Catholic bishops from around the world to deliberate on the Church’s direction. The progressive Vatican II met for three years and made tremendous strides ahead in the Catholic guidelines. Mass could be celebrated in a language that people could understand instead of Latin, and the ecumenical bridges were built between Christians and other religions including Jews. Nuns came out of the convents to “live the Gospel” through service with the poor and in prisons and hospitals.

The progressive pope, however, was replaced with Paul VI who declared birth control to be an “intrinsic evil” even for married people, despite the majority report of his own theological commission. The dark curtain of Catholic control was further lowered when Paul II opposed “liberation theology” movements in Latin America where priests and nuns stood with the poor against oppressive right-wing movements. The defense of the all-male priesthood and Church’s official concealment of their sexual abuses continued.

Pope Benedict XVI carried the suppression of the nuns farther when he tried to stop the actions of 80 percent of the 57,000 U.S. nuns who belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) because they concentrated on their care of the poor. The Vatican’s explosive report accused the nuns of “promoting radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” because they didn’t march around opposing abortion and marriage equality.

LCWR, according to Benedict, was to be controlled by Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain. He and two other bishops were assigned to oversee a rewriting of LCWR’s statutes, review its plans and programs, approve speakers, and guarantee that the group properly follows Catholic prayer and ritual.

Last year Catholic leaders were so disillusioned that such bishops as Cardinal Carlo Martini of Milan said that his church is “200 years out of date,” so focused on sex that its leaders may be considered a “caricature in the media.” U.S. bishops made positive statements about the value of unions, immigration reform, and safety nets for poor people. They described Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget plan as failing “a basic moral test.”

The new pope, Francis, offered a bit of hope for a  more progressive Catholic Church perception. Initially he showed the desire for a simpler and less formal life which included giving aid to the poor. This new attitude indicated the possibility that the nuns in the United States could move on with their vocation of helping the poor instead of fighting pressure from the Vatican. This is not to be.

Like his predecessor, Francis has now expressed concern that these nuns have “serious doctrinal problems.”  Nuns meeting last week with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, the new head of the Vatican’s doctrinal department, and Sartain were told that Pope Francis has already endorsed Pope Benedict’s criticisms. Muller told the sisters their job is to promote “cooperation” with local bishops and bishops’ conferences, according to Religion News Service.

Kenneth Briggs, the author of a book about the Vatican’s clash with U.S. nuns, said Francis’ backing of the Holy See’s unyielding line was “a major blow” to prospects for more dialogue. “It seems like the Vatican has put a more appealing salesman in charge of the same old product,” Briggs said.

Sister Simone Campbell of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying group, said that she would wait to see if these orders change in the future. She added:

“The censure [of the LCWR] has always been about politics. And politics are shifting in the church right now. We know when politics shift, there are opportunities and there are risks. But we are concerned that Catholic sisters below the decision-making level are caught in the bigger picture of Vatican politics. We’re sort of the soccer ball here. My most optimistic self had hoped that CDF report would never be mentioned again, but in light of the broader politics, I think it was overly optimistic of me.”

John Allen, a Vatican specialist for The National Catholic Reporter and CNN, has described the tension between the sisters and the bishops as one that is really about “what it means to be Catholic in the 21st century.” Other people are guessing that a major problem in changing the orders for the U.S. nuns comes from the immediate past pope still being alive, that he is casting a shadow over any changes that Francis might want to make.

The Vatican approved of the LCWR for decades until Cardinal Bernard Law started an investigation into its activities. Law resigned as Boston archbishop in 2002 because of his role in the clergy abuse scandal and moved to Rome in 2004 to become pastor of a basilica. He served on several influential Vatican boards until his recent retirement at age 80.

Research on goals and processes of ethical beliefs of men and women indicate a distinct difference between the two genders with the female caring component missing from male ethical conceptions. James Fieser suggests that the male “emphasizes rules: moral laws, abstract notions of justice, lists of dos and don’ts, ideal standards of right and wrong.”  According to Fieser, men have a “preoccupation with rules in general, and the need to postulate scientific laws, legal statutes, and social policies.”  In contrast, “women see morality as the need to care for people who are in situations of vulnerability and dependency.”

These opposing attitudes are reflected in Christian religion across the United States that is dominated by men. In all the conservative groups, women are subservient to the domination of men.

The emphasis on “rules” is reflected in these two news stories:

According to a woman’s lawsuit in Philadelphia, a priest sexually assaulted her after he asked to see her for “counseling” and then “smeared her menstrual blood on her face.” When detectives asked the priest for an interview, he said that he could not talk with the police because the events were under the seal of confession. The case was not pursued until the woman filed her suit, and the priest has been sent to Poland.

For almost a decade, openly gay parishioner at St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church (Oceanside, NY) was an active member of his church. Nicholas Coppola visited the home-bound, taught fifth-graders in preparation for confirmation, and served as a member of the Consolation Ministry and St. Vincent de Paul.

Three months after he married David in a ceremony attended by some St. Anthony members, the pastor removed him from all parish activities. A letter complaining about Coppola’s sexual orientation had been sent to the diocese bishop. Two months later, U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that the Church must welcome the LGBT community and not be “anti-anybody.”

The ultimate of “rules” in the U.S. may be the law. Seven states bar atheists from holding public office: Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. The statutes are unconstitutional, based on a Supreme Court ruling in 1961, but they can always overturn that ruling.

Meanwhile, I hope that the nuns get back on the bus for another tour and continue to help people who have fallen through the safety net.

 

June 18, 2012

The Nuns Take a Tour

The Catholic bishops are calling for a “Fortnight for Freedom” starting Thursday because they believe that the U.S. government is abusing their religious freedom. The real issue is that the government—and most of the Catholics—think that all women should have the right to birth control, but another part of this “freedom” is to silence the nuns who care for the poor and feed them. Earlier this year, the Vatican removed their organizational leadership because all the nuns do is help people. The Vatican wants the nuns out there protesting abortion and marriage equality.

The Vatican has decided that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious undermines Roman Catholic teaching with radical feminist themes and takes positions that don’t Catholic teaching on the all-male priesthood, marriage, and homosexuality. Three U.S. bishops, including Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, have been given five years to reorganize that group.

Fourteen nuns, however, are three days ahead of the bishops. They started a nine-state bus tour today called “Nuns on the Bus: Nuns Drive for Faith, Family and Fairness,” beginning in Iowa, ending in Virginia, and making stops in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Although the Vatican has shown no problem with the lack of economic justice in this country, touring nuns will both protest federal budget cuts that hurt low-income family and praise the nuns’ work in helping the country’s most vulnerable.

Although they haven’t specified opposition to any specific Republicans, nuns plan to visit offices of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the instigator of the repressive budget that has already passed the House. Today they dropped by Rep. Steve King’s office in Ames (IA). Other activities on the bus tour include visiting homeless shelters, food pantries, schools, and health care facilities nuns to highlight their work with the nation’s most vulnerable.

The nuns have gained a great deal of support. Mary Ann McCoy, of Des Moines, described the nuns as “women of courage.” Sister Simone Campbell also appeared on The Colbert Show where she talked about the best way to enter the kingdom of heaven—and it isn’t by gathering wealth! Groups of Catholics are supporting the Women Religious. Picketers meet monthly outside Archbishop Sartain’s cathedral to protest his stance against equality. The Franciscan brothers issued a statement of solidarity with the nuns.

Another nun has recently distressed the Vatican. According to the leader of the Catholic Church, the 2005 book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics by Sister Margaret A. Farley is “not consistent with authentic Catholic theology” and should not be used by Roman Catholics. Farley said that she had never intended that the book said express official Catholic teaching. The book, she said, offers “contemporary interpretations” of justice and fairness in human sexual relations, moving away from a “taboo morality” and drawing on “present-day scientific, philosophical, theological, and biblical resources.”

Yet the church has censured Sister Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. This is the second time within the past few years that a book by an American nun has been denounced. In 2011, the doctrine committee of the United States bishops condemned Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God by by Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, a professor of theology at Fordham University in New York.

Sister Farley’s book finds both moral and theological justifications for same-sex marriage. She wrote that marriage quality “can also be important in transforming the hatred, rejection, and stigmatization of gays and lesbians” and “can be justified according to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships and activities.”

What are the male leaders of the Catholic Church doing to help people? Cardinal Timothy Dolan, leader of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, paid pedophile priests to disappear. He also led the Catholic hierarchy in New York in blocking a bill to give child molestation victims more time to file charges—and  not just once but seven times.

The Diocese of Phoenix (AZ) excommunicated doctors and nuns at St. Josephs for saving the life of a 27-year-old woman who would have died without an abortion. Brazilian bishops excommunicated a mother who helped her 13-year-old daughter get an abortion after being raped because she was so small that carrying the fetus might have killed her. But they failed to excommunicate the stepfather who raped the child.

The Catholics lied about contraceptives to Africans to keep them from using condoms that would save their lives. “The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the ‘net’ that is formed by the condom,” said the archbishop of Nairobi. Priests also told parishioners that condoms were impregnated with the virus.

They also lied to patients in small secular hospitals undergoing mergers with a Catholic healthcare network. Although the merger was not complete, a woman who miscarried and needed surgery to save her life was sent by ambulance to another hospital 80 miles away. To complete these mergers, CEOs of Catholic healthcare networks claim that the formerly-secular hospital can continue with contraceptives, vasectomies, tubal ligations, fertility treatment, and end-of-life patient directives, only to deny these once the merger is complete. The Catholic directives are in place despite the federal funding provided to these hospitals.

Deadly or “cardinal” sins are defined by Catholics as those from which all other sins derive: the seven cardinal sins are lust, gluttony, wrath, sloth, envy, pride, and greed. How does one classify the attempt to control physical lives of lay people? Or silence child victims to protect church assets? Or launder money? Pride? Greed? Wrath?

Not all the male leadership of the Catholic Church has ignored the needs of the people. Bishops have also opposed the Ryan budget, but they are far busier complaining about birth control for women. It’s the women who are doing the work that represents the Church’s religious belief that “charity is at the heart of the Church.” The bishops should think about this belief during their “Fortnight for Freedom.”

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