Nel's New Day

December 16, 2018

‘War on Christmas’ Continues

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 7:34 PM
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The “War on Christmas” rolls on with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) a major perpetrator. He may be telling people “Merry Christmas,” but he cancelled the annual Christmas White House media event, inviting only “nice” commentators “nice”—especially Fox—to other White House holiday parties. Those are the ones who continue to shout “War on Christmas.”

Last year DDT and Melania had a gathering but made a brief appearance and didn’t pose for photographs. The guest list also avoided the inclusion of many black and LGBTQ reporters. Even Bill Clinton was willing to have his picture taken with journalists days after he was impeached. DDT’s relationship with the media has become increasingly frayed during the past year, especially after he pulled Jim Acosta’s press credentials and told the world that his business with Saudi Arabia was more important the torture and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. journalist for the Washington Post.

In their passion about the “war on Christmas,” conservatives forgot to notify the importance of rejecting “Happy Holidays” to its own religious right group Heritage Foundation. Although that political organization has typically used the winter holidays as a wedge against inclusiveness, this year’s gifts fail to represent their battle.

Conservatives—who don’t care about climate change killing polar bears—are up in arms against Starbucks for their sugar cookies decorated as polar bears. The major problem with their complaint is that the cookies disappeared eight years ago.

In Elkhorn (NE), Manchester Elementary principal Jennifer Sinclair banned a long list of Christmas traditions, including candy canes. She wrote, “Historically, the shape [of the candy cane] is a ‘J’ for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection. This would also include different colored candy canes.” Her order has been reversed, and the principal is on administrative leave. Because of a high level of “concerns,” a police officer has been posted at the school.

Other signs of the GOP/DDT war on Christmas:

  • Gassing asylum seekers trying to legally come into the United States from Mexico.
  • Separating children from parents, especially with no intent to return them, and imprisoning them.
  • Killing civilians, including those in schools and hospitals, throughout the Middle East.
  • Refusing health care for low-income people after denying them a living wage.
  • Destroying the planet through ignoring renewable energy sources.
  • Depleting the world’s resources to make the wealthiest people wealthier.
  • Building white supremacy over minorities.
  • Insisting on war to build corporate profits.
  • Making dangerous decisions about the economy.
  • Putting unqualified conservative bigots on federal courts.
  • Removing women’s and voting rights.
  • Rigging elections and winning them by fraud to achieve the above.

The Vatican is also having a problem this Christmas season. Pope Francis has removed two cardinals from the Council, his international advice body, for alleged sexual abuse. Cardinal Pell, still the Vatican treasurer, will be on trial on sexual abuse charges in Australia, and Chile’s Francisco Javier Errazuriz has been accused of covering up child abuse while Archbishop of Santiago. Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, 79, also resigned from the Council leaving only six in the group. There are no plans to immediately the empty seats.

DDT’s firm Christian evangelical beliefs did not extend to reciting the Apostles’ Creed at the funeral of George H.W. Bush. He and Melania stood in stone silence while three former presidents—Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter—participated in the service with their wives.

Over a month after the midterm elections, the Democrats still have no intention to “slaughter” tens of thousands of Christians, as Christian broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles warned if the Dems win. He pronounced that “they hate God. These people are against God. Every nation that has been taken over by Marxist-communists, they immediately kill the pastors. They immediately kill Christians. They immediately burn the churches.” He’s also maintained that MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, an out lesbian, will lead a coup against DDT.

“Be prepared for a mob—a leftist mob—to tear down the gates, the fence at the White House and to go into the White House and to drag him out with his family and decapitate them on the lawn of the White House.”

Matt Shea, a Republican state representative in Washington, wants to kill all people he identifies as non-believers. In his “Biblical Basis for War,” he follows “Dominionism,” also advocated by Ted Cruz’s father, that describes God as a “warrior” and demands that his holy war “kill all males” who do not submit to the document’s rules. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who gave the material to the FBI, described Shea’s document as “a ‘how to’ manual consistent with the ideology and operating philosophy of the Christian Identity/Aryan Nations movement and the Redoubt movement of the 1990s.” Shea won his sixth term in 2018 with 58 percent of the vote.

Conservative pastor E.W. Jackson maintains that he isn’t Islamaphobic, he is horrified that two Muslim women may be able to wear their hijabs on the floor of the U.S. House starting in January 2019. “The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic,” Jackson said. “We are a Judeo-Christian country. We are a nation rooted and grounded in Christianity and that’s that.”

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tweeted:

“Well sir, the floor of Congress is going to look like America… And you’re gonna have to just deal 😂”

The ban stating “every member shall remain uncovered during the sessions of the House” began in 1837 to break tradition with members of the British House of Commons who were required to wear hats in order to speak. The House of Commons continued its tradition until 1998; the Senate has no rule regarding head coverings.

Jackson, who lost a GOP Virginia primary for Senate in May said:

“Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in the freedom of religion, I believe in the First Amendment, but I’ll tell you what, I’m not voting for a Muslim to serve in any office. Me, personally, I’m not doing it. I’m not doing it. Period. I’m not doing it.”

DDT plans to leave for a two-week vacation at the end of the week. Isolated at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, he will have lots of time for more vicious tweets about the media and his opponents with little monitoring to help him be more rational.

Merry Christmas!

October 19, 2014

Vatican Shifts Left, Backtracks to Right

Pope Francis  seemed to lead the Catholic Church away from the former narrow bigotry last week when an assembly of Roman Catholic bishops called for the church to welcome and accept LGBT people, unmarried couples and divorced individuals as well as the children of these families. In past interviews, the pope has criticized his own church for putting moral doctrines above serving the poor and marginalized and said that the church is “obsessed” with gays, abortion, and birth control. His move was a moved to the Second Vatican Council convened over a half-century ago which brought great changes in church liturgy, relations with other faiths, and the roles of priests and laypeople.

A Vatican official said the church should “respect the dignity” of every person, and a 12-page report stated that pastors should recognize that there are “positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation.” LGBT people have “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” and some gay and lesbian couples provide each other “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice” and “precious support in the life of the partners,” according to the report.

The report led to discussion and modification by bishops within the next week with a final report issued for worldwide discussion. Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert with the Italian newsmagazine L’espresso, said that the “progressives” who want change in the church “are in positions of strength, put there by Pope Francis.” The Rev. James Martin, editor at large of the Jesuit magazine America, that “even though this is an interim document, it represents a revolution in the way the church speaks about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

That was all last week. Now the Vatican has released another statement that removed welcoming language toward LGBT people from the message after Timothy Dolan, New York City’s homophobic archbishop cardinal, vowed that he would fight with fellow conservative Catholics against the language until it was taken out of the document. On CBS This Morning, Dolan gave this message:

“All of this is almost like antipasto to help the holy father arrive at a fresh new way to teach the timeless teaching on marriage and family…I know there is remarkable unanimity and enthusiasm in backing the holy father’s attempt to present the teachings of the church in fresh, exciting and engaging new ways, but there might be some good, deep discussion on the way that is being expressed.”

Instead of the subtitle “Welcoming homosexual persons,” the document, formally known as the Relatio of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, uses these words, “The pastoral care of people with homosexual orientation.” The new language:

“55. Some families live the experience of having members who are of homosexual orientation. In this regard, questions have been raised on pastoral care which is appropriate to deal with this situation by referring to what the Church teaches: ‘There is no basis whatsoever to assimilate or to draw even remote analogies between same-sex unions and the plan of God for marriage and the family.’ Nevertheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. ‘In their regard should be avoided every sign of unjust discrimination. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons , 4).

“56. It is totally unacceptable that the Pastors of the Church pressures in this matter and that international bodies condition financial aid to poor countries, on the institution of laws that establish the ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex.”

All the following has disappeared:

“50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

“51. The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

“52. Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.”

Gone is any respect. No “mutual aid” among couples. And certainly no indication of accepting “civil unions.”

The elders of the Catholic Church, a description aptly fitting the older men who lead the religion, are in direct contrast to 85 percent of young Catholics in the U.S. who express support for gays and lesbians.

Acceptance of those who have divorced and remarried also got knocked out of the report because of lack of votes.

Despite the loss of acceptance for the pope’s report, he managed to demote U.S. anti-LGBT Cardinal Raymond Burke to a figurehead position as the Patron of the Knights of Malta which works among the sick. Almost a year ago, the pope dropped Burke from an important Vatican bureau. As the head of the Roman Catholic Church’s version of the U.S. Supreme Court, he had been the second most-powerful man in the Vatican.

Burke recently said that legally-married gay and lesbian family members should be shunned from family celebrations during the upcoming holidays, asking “what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?” As a member of the Congregation of Bishops, Burke had led the group in such controversial positions as moving Salvatore Cordileone, the church’s leader in California’s Prop 8 movement that reversed marriage equality in the state, to San Francisco. Burke also wants the Latin Mass and prefers the clerical clothing popular before Vatican II in the 1960s modernized the Catholic Church.

Francis has also replaced outspoken Chicago Cardinal Francis George with Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane (WA). Although Cupich opposes same-sex marriage, he rejected attempts “to incite hostility towards homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity.” In a pastoral letter that was read in all Catholic parishes in the diocese, he wrote, “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”

The most telling parts of the changes in the Vatican report is that they are only in English. The other versions stay the same.

January 6, 2013

Religious Madness

Mind-bloggling events from the religious perspective:

While the country needs resolution for the economy, jobs, poverty, etc., one of the first bills introduced in the Indiana legislature is to force students to recite the Lord’s Prayer in school every morning. State Sen. Dennis Kruse is known for his ignorance about the constitution: last year he introduced a bill to teach creationism in public schools. Before that, he tried to get language on evolution taken out of the state’s science standards. Taxpayers pay Kruse and others like him to waste time in the legislature.

The Vatican is also struggling with the 21st century in a bipolar fashion. Pope Benedict said in his New Year’s message on Tuesday he hoped 2013 would be a year of peace and that the world was under threat from unbridled capitalism, terrorism and criminality.

There’s already a lack of peace in the Vatican. The country can no longer  take credit cards—at least for now. The Bank of Italy pulled its authorization as of the first of January because the Holy See hasn’t complied with European Union safeguards against money laundering. The Vatican has tried to upgrade its measures, even hiring a Swiss expert, but got failing grades for its financial watchdog agency and its bank.

A Catholic priest is also giving the Vatican bad press. In Italy, where 118 women were murdered last year in domestic violence, Father Piero Corsi blames the women.  On the church bulletin board, the Catholic priest in the northwestern part of the country posted a message titled, “Women and Femicide, How often do they provoke?'”

According to NPR reporter Sylvia Poggioli, “Corsi said scantily dressed women bring out the worst instincts in men and cause violence or sexual abuse. He claimed women end up exacerbating tensions by ‘leaving children to themselves, having filthy houses, serving cold meals, buying fast food and providing dirty clothes.'” Corsi has a controversial history: in October he posted anti-Muslim cartoons on the church bulletin board and before that, scuffled with a homeless man.

In the United States, a mother is upset with the Catholic Church because it refuses to allow her daughter to play football. Sixth-grader Caroline Pla has played football with the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) for two years, but this year she can’t suit up with her team. The family started a petition on change.org calling for an update to the CYO rules. “Archdiocese of Philadelphia CYO Office: Stop Discrimination – Change the CYO Football Rule – Allow Girls to Play.” Caroline’s teammate, Jake Kueny, and her coach, Jim Reichwin, agree that she should be able to play. CYO’s website says that the purpose of the organization is to develop the individual and promote teamwork.

The fundamental Christian side of religion is not happy either. Bryan Fischer of the far-right American Family Association is upset with legislation passed to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” He declared that it violated the Ten Commandments’ prohibition on covetousness and accused the Democratic Party of being driven by a “Satanic” ideology. Thus the legislation is “demonic.”

Fischer also thinks that abortion is a good idea if—and only if—scientists find a “gay gene.” He wrote, “… I expect many abortion-minded parents will want to know exactly how strong this epi-marker is in their unborn children so they can decide whether or not to exercise reproductive choice. ” Thus he supports abortion for one characteristic that he considers “a birth defect.”

The AFA is also trying to rile up its constituency by warning members that, within 50 years, Christians will be treated like African Americans during the Jim Crow era. The email from Donald Wildmon predicted that government will take children from parents at birth and any city with “saint” or other religious-related name will have to change. “Marriage will include two, three, four or any number of participants. Marriage will not be important, with individuals moving in and out of a ‘family’ group at will,” according to the email.

Two good ideas from Wildmon are that churches will no longer receive “tax credit” and “churches will not be allowed to discuss any political issues.” The email also said that “we will have, or have had, a Muslim president.” It seems that the AFA no longer believes that the current president is a Muslim. And from left field comes the warning that anyone with “any religious affiliation will be forced out of health care.”

AFA’s email comes from the same group that called for kidnapping the children of same-sex couples through a modern-day “Underground Railroad” system. When a man followed this advice and helped a lesbian take her daughter into hiding in South America, AFA recommended that he flee the country to escape U.S. law.

Does Irving Independent School District have an “Islamic bias” in the school curriculum? That was what a chain email claimed. Worried about the backlash of such a possibility, the district asked for a response from the director of Region 10 that administered the state-wide teaching program called CSCOPE, which is put together by the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative.The 72-page answer revealed a “Christian bias” in the school. Jan Moberly told the board  that “she hired a ‘very socially and fiscally conservative’ former social studies teacher who ‘watches Glenn Beck on a regular basis’ to seek out any Islamic bias in CSCOPE [the curriculum].” She “asked her to look for anything she would consider the least bit controversial.”

The report about the investigation that mentioned “every religious reference in the CSCOPE curriculum, from kindergarten to high school” was not a surprise:

Christianity got twice as much attention in the curriculum as any other religion. Islam was a distant second.

The Red Crescent and Boston Tea Party reference mentioned in the email were nowhere in CSCOPE’s curriculum, although they may have been in the past.

If there was any Islamic bias in CSCOPE it was “bias against radical Islam.”

At least one church is the loser after Superstorm Sandy hit the Northwest. After it hit St. George Malankara Orthodox Church of India in New Dorp, Staten Island, ruining its basement, windows and doors, the vicar tried to get a grant from FEMA to help with the estimated $150,000 rebuilding cost. FEMA said no. “They considered the church a business, so they offered us a loan,” the Rev. Alex K. Joy said.

A variety of private nonprofit organizations qualify for federal disaster assistance grants, including zoos, museums, performing arts centers and libraries, but houses of worship, however, are not on the list. In recent years the federal government has ruled that some religiously affiliated institutions like schools and hospitals can get grants. Many other churches don’t have the problem that St. Malankara does because they carry insurance.

Churches may not receive preferential treatment from FEMA, but their tax-exempt status protects them in many other ways. Trying to stop this, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has filed a lawsuit with the IRS, alleging that churches and religious non-profits get unconstitutional preferential treatment unavailable to secular groups. Churches and other religious organizations are exempted from the requirement to file detailed reports required from non-profit organizations, according to the lawsuit. The FFRF alleges it is unconstitutional for the IRS to provide benefits to churches and religious organizations “while discriminating against” secular non-profit groups “solely on the basis of religious criteria.”

It’s interesting that FEMA considers churches a business, but the government fails to collect taxes from this “business.”

July 8, 2012

Bigoted Christianity Rampant in the U.S.

The “Nuns on the Bus” have finished their 15-day tour with Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Susan Collins (R-MA) introducing a resolution honoring nuns. The senators said that the resolution “recognizes the Catholic Sisters’ fulfillment of their vital missions to teach our children, care for the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, lead major institutions, demand corporate responsibility and fight for policies that promote human dignity.” These brave women are opposing Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who ignore the Christian belief in aiding the poor and avoid the nuns.

Republicans are not only busy keeping the poor in poverty but also industriously using religion to destroy the credibility of Democrats. Preening themselves on their fiscal responsibility, the conservatives accuse Democrats of having a way on faith. Fiscal responsibility seems to be a problem at the Vatican, however; they have a $19 million deficit. The Rev. Federico Lombardi said that they need to get savings from somewhere although probably not from the layoff of any of the 2,832 Holy See personnel.

Meanwhile Republicans make it very clear that their definition of faith is only Christian. Colorado state Sen. Kevin Grantham wants a law to ban building new mosques: “Mosques are not churches like we would think of churches. They think of mosques more as a foothold into a society, as a foothold into a community, more in the cultural and in the nationalistic sense. Our churches–we don’t feel that way, they’re places of worship, and mosques are simply not that, and we need to take that into account when approving construction of those.”

Even the government suffers from serious religious prejudice. The military found it appropriate to use the depiction of a Muslim woman for target training for the Navy SEALs until they received complaints. Hanging on the wall behind the woman were verses of the Quran, a holy book to the second largest religion in the world with almost as many members as Christianity.

Some Christian leaders clearly show bigotry toward those of their same faith. The Rev. Mel Lewis, organizer and keynote speaker of last week’s Christian Identity Ministries’ three-day conference in Alabama, invited “all white Christians.” Asked about the discrimination, he said, “We don’t have the facilities to accommodate” those who are not “part of the chosen race.” The event, surrounded by Ku Klux Klan flags and supremacy slogans, culminated Friday night by what they call a “Christian cross lighting” as they hold a cross-burning. Some of those who attended also wore KKK garb.

Christians are sinking lower and lower on the scale of belief in the Constitution’s statement “for the general welfare.” Only 40% of Republicans agree that “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.” This number has gone down 18 points in the past five years; in 2007 58% of the Republicans thought that people who cannot take care of themselves deserve help. In three surveys during the George W. Bush administration, no fewer than half of Republicans said the government had a responsibility to care for those unable to care for themselves. In 1987, during the Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62% expressed this view.

One example of right-wing selfishness comes from many Republican governors’ refusal to accept billions of dollars in Medicaid funds to insure millions of people. According to those whose incomes are below 133 percent of the poverty level may receive federal Medicaid but cannot receive the subsidies that are provided for others of lower income.  If governors accept the federal money, everyone can be insured. Without this acceptance, between 3.5 million and 9.2 million people will have no health safety net. Ten Republican governors have stated that they will refuse the funds, and another 19 are considering it. Even three Democrat governors are questioning whether they will take the federal funding in Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Republican austerity is only for the poor and middle-class, however. Corporate taxes are at a 40-year low, with an effective tax rate paid of 12.1 percent. They’ve fallen from about 6 percent of GDP to less than 2 percent.

Radio host Jan Mickelson shows the conservatives’ lack of respect for others in his comment about the nuns on tour to Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA). “Do you guys, do you have any power to pull the nuns on the bus over and pistol whip them? They say [Paul Ryan] is evil, they say he is fake Catholic. They’re the ones that threw the first punch.”

Several years ago leadership of the Mormon church used its political clout to defeat California Proposition 8’s ban on marriage equality; now it is providing its resources, against church rules, to elect Mitt Romney. One action is giving away LDS Tools that provide full directories of church members including that of stake and district presidencies. The app also offers event calendar listings and a “birthday list,” and the Mormons are reaching out through Facebook and Twitter.

Cheers for the nuns! According to sister Simone Campbell, bus tour organizer and executive director of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK, “Congressman Ryan [is making] an outrageous claim … that the Catholic faith, that is all about serving the poor, validates his budget—which does nothing but decimate services to the poor and provide further tax cuts for the wealthy. By lifting up the work of Catholic sisters, we will demonstrate the very programs and services that will be decimated by the House budget.”

The country needs to look back at another Ryan—John Ryan, a prominent theologian who published A Living Wage in 1906. He claimed that economics must be shaped by and rooted in morality as he advocated fair and equal pay that started the living wage movement. His “Program for Social Reconstruction” (1919) was considered a blueprint not only for President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal including Social Security but also for collective bargaining rights, the right to organize, and the prevention of child labor—all aspects of the Labor Relations Act in 1935; comprehensive insurance—realized in the Social Security Act of 1935; and a minimum wage—that fueled the movement toward the Fair Labor Standards act of 1938

A century after the first publication of A Living Wage, we have similar economic conditions with rampant economic inequality and wealth in the hands of a few. The top one percent took over 40 percent of the national wealth last year. I prefer the philosophy of John Ryan over Paul Ryan when he declared the three guides to equality: Laws should promoting the general welfare; every individual has inherent dignity; and individuals are stronger through community.

On the eve of the nun’s bus tour, Sister Simone Campbell avowed, “This is a fight for the soul of our nation. Catholic social teaching says that the positive role of government is to counter the excesses of each culture. Our excess at this point is individualism, so the work of government is to counter that by emphasizing our responsibilities to each other.”

Paul Ryan needs to learn that.

June 3, 2012

Women Need to Take Back Their Power

As I share this privileged moment with you, Your Holiness, I urge you to be mindful of the intense suffering and pain which is part of the life of many women in these United States. I call upon you to listen with compassion and to hear the call of women…As women, we have heard the powerful messages of our church addressing the dignity [of] and reverence for all persons. As women, we have pondered these words. Our contemplation leads us to state that the church, in its struggle to be true to its call to reverence and dignity for all persons, must respond by providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of the church.

These were the words of Sister Theresa Kane in 1979 when she was asked, as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), to give four minutes of welcoming remarks to the newly elected Pope John Paul II during his first papal visit to the United States.

In the audience was Joseph Ratzinger, the bishop from Bavaria, who is now Pope Benedict XVI. This pope is the Vatican leader who tried to quell the nuns in the United States because all they do is serve the poor. These nuns were reprimanded because they “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

Their punishment includes giving Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle the final say on every speaker at the group’s conference and every public utterance made in its name. Sartain will also revise LCWR’s governing statutes, and investigate links between LCWR and two liberal Catholic groups.

Sister Maureen Fiedler said yesterday, “If this were the corporate world, I think we’d call it a hostile takeover.” But the nuns are not peacefully accepting the Vatican’s actions. Yesterday, they issued a statement showing LCWR’s intent to contest the hostile takeover:

Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency. Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.

LCWR President Sister Pat Farrell and Executive Director Sister Janet Mock plan to go to Rome to take up these concerns with the prefect and Sartain before they consult with the organization’s general membership in August.  If necessary, LCWR can entirely disassociate with Rome and reconfigure itself as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. According to its website, LCWR “has approximately 1500 members who are elected leaders of their religious orders, representing approximately 80% of the 57,000 Catholic sisters in the United States.”  A reorganization would mean that the group would be only required to operate under U.S. law with the constitutional freedom of religion.

Some people view the Pope’s crusade against the nuns and the fury with which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops attacked the birth control mandate, as opposition to women. Adele Stan believes it goes farther, that  “the church hierarchy is a cult of power.” She cites the scandal regarding the Vatican bank and the battle waged by partisans and enemies of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to keep him from presiding over the group electing the next pope as well as the pay-offs that Cardinal Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, while Archbishop of Milwaukee, to priests accused of abusing children.

Theologian Mary E. Hunt, co-director of the Catholic feminist resource center WATER, describes the Vatican’s attack on nuns as a method of maintaining the clerics’ power, thus keeping people in the church from claiming the power that reforms of the Second Vatican Council give them. Cardinal Ratzinger attacked the nuns before when 24 sisters were threatened with expulsion from their orders for having signed a statement that asserted “a diversity of views” on the subject of abortion existed within the church. This time the reason was the support that LCWR, joined by leaders of 55 religious orders and umbrella groups, gave to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, which represents some 600 Catholic hospitals and 1400 health-care facilities, also backed the bill in defiance of the Vatican. In addition, she  supported the compromise regarding the birth control mandate when the White House required health insurance companies to pay for contraception. Although the bishops gave a hue and cry against the compromise, the majority of Catholics in the country support the nuns’ position, not that of the bishops.

While the nuns pay for food for the poor, the bishops pay for lawsuits against the administration challenging the requirement that all health insurance companies contracted for employer-provided health plans offer contraceptive coverage to the insured, with no co-payment by the patient. According to a New York Times editorial, “The First Amendment is not a license for religious entities to impose their dogma on society through the law.” Even ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia disagrees with the Catholic Church’s position: in 1990, he said that making “the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land” would mean allowing “every citizen to become a law unto himself.”

The Catholic leadership’s supposed desire for “religious freedom” comes from the same people who want to make laws against all people in the United States regarding women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality, and other issues that result solely from religious interests. They threaten religious liberty by their efforts to impose their doctrine on everyone. The same desire for this freedom comes from Catholic Church leadership’s desire to protect all priests who sexually abuse children. One such bishop was William Levada, who served as archbishop of San Francisco and Portland (OR) and is now the Vatican prefect in charge of the nuns’ persecution.

According to Hunt, the Vatican’s power structure is very similar to that of a corporation, while the structure of the U.S. coalition of women’s religious orders functions more on the process-oriented and deliberative model of a local food co-op. About the Vatican, she said, “This is a business, where people do what people do in business.” The Catholic Church’s fiscal problems pattern those of big business.

Two U.S. archdioceses in the U.S. declared bankruptcy after making settlements to abuse victims: Milwaukee, less than two years after Cardinal Dolan became Archbishop of New York; and Portland (OR) under the leadership of Cardinal Levada. Levada punished a priest who reported a child-abusing fellow priest to the police, but the whistle-blower, Father Jon Conley, brought a defamation case against the archdiocese after paving the way for the family of an abused child to win a $750,000 settlement from the archdiocese.

The New York Times’ Laurie Goodstein reported about Catholics protesting in more than 50 cities against the Vatican removing nuns’ rights “for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping ‘silent’ on abortion and same-sex marriage.”

The Catholic Church is not the only religion suffering protests against their actions. The fundamentalist pastors who call for imprisonment and death of LGBTQ people are also experiencing backlashes from their communities. One Million Moms of the hate group American Family Association keeps failing in its boycotts with JC Penneys and Olay making more money after the group publicizes advertising by gays and lesbians.

In a Washington Post column, Lisa Miller wrote about women leaving the church:

There are churches in America in which women aren’t allowed to speak out loud unless they get permission from a man first.

There are churches (many of them) in which women aren’t permitted to preach from the pulpit.

There are churches in America where a 13-year-old boy has more authority than his mother.

Between 1991 and 2011, the number of adult women attending church weekly  declined 20 percent. The number of women going to Sunday school dropped by about a third, as did the number of women who volunteer at church.

It is not only Rush Limbaugh who demeans all women by calling one a “slut” and a “prostitute.” It’s Rick Santorum–that man of faith–who has stopped just short of calling working mothers selfish and who lumps all single moms together as his opposition, as he did in an interview with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council last year.

Unless the strident, authoritarian social conservatives loosen their stranglehold on American women, American women will abandon the Republican Party (as they’re quitting church) and look for their candidates elsewhere.

Conservatives won’t give up their power. Let’s hope that women just take it.

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

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politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

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