Tag Archives: Catholicism

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Pope Francis?

27 Nov

pope-francis_2541160bWell, I suspect the gates of Hell are now freezing over. For those of you who read this blog, you know I am not a religious person. Never did I think I would be actually praising the Catholic Pope, but alas I am.  Today, Pope Francis actually said that Capitalism is “a new tyranny,” and he also managed to dismantle the ever present Reagan myth of “trickle down economics.” Is it possible the Catholic Church may be moving to a model of social justice and abandoning a platform of hate that has been in place for the past 40 years?

It is difficult for me not to think about the classism and avarice demonstrated by John Boehner, Ted Cruz, and the rest of the Teahaddists when I hear Pope Francis say:

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.

Not only does he address poverty and how we treat humans as “consumer goods” but he addresses the systemic root problem which we call Capitalism. When I first read his comments, I thought he was talking about The Hunger Games, and in a way he is. The top 20% live off the remaining 80% and they watch us as we fight for any scraps available and mock us for needing social services because not everyone makes a living wage, not everyone has health insurance.

We are approaching the Thanksgiving Holiday; how many millions of families will be struggling now to put food on the table? Thanks for cutting food stamps just in time for the holidays!  The entire apostolic exhortation is really quite wonderful and if you have the time, I encourage you to read at least the first 25 pages.

Sadly, as wonderful as this movement towards social justice is, it left me wanting more. While he addresses poverty and the causes of poverty, he does not seem to be able to understand fully who is impacted and the intersections of oppression – -those oppressed by intersecting identities of gender, race, ability, and sexual orientation. I was hoping for a call to action to stand with all targeted populations and understand that poverty disproportionately affects people of color, LGBT people, and women, so one can imagine how one might be affected by poverty if one is a black lesbian, or Latina transgender woman.

Again, I give full kudos to the Pope’s address here, but when will “the voice of God” talk about women being able to govern their own bodies? Eradicating homophobia and racism? When does the church say: “All are welcome regardless and ever regardful?”

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Pope Francis Taking Catholics Back to the 14th Century

22 Jul
What Would Chaucer Say?

What Would Chaucer Say?

On July 5, 2013 Pope Francis and Pope Benedict issued a joint encyclical condemning marriage equality. Who better to give advice than two single bachelors who have never had sex? Their joint homophobic rant went on for 82 pages as they were frothing at the mouth thinking about gay sex.

Apparently, the anti-gay stand did not go far enough to prove how UN-Christian the Catholic Church has become.  Now, Pope Francis has donned the wardrobe of the Pardoner from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, selling indulgences.  Yes, welcome back to the 14th Century.  Pope Francis announced that if we follow him on Twitter we can get an indulgence: he will reduce the time Catholics have to spend in purgatory. If this does not send millions of folk to see the Pope’s Twitter, I don’t know what will.  Oh my goodness, that did not sound proper at all.

I also hear that he is willing to sell an actual piece of the cross to the highest bidder.  I wonder about all of the priests that were molesting children.  Do they too receive a “get out of purgatory” card if they follow the Pontiff on twitter? How long before my local priest can start selling indulgences and pardons?  Can I pay for these indulgences and pardons on-line?  Does the Pope/god take credit cards?

It almost makes sense for the leader of a group of millions to try the newest tools to reach his flock where they are. When all you do is use new toys to play old games while you ignore the larger issues, however, there is something horribly wrong. We desperately need a counterbalance to this craziness. How about @Chaucer and the Canterbury Tweets?

Number 4 Bigot of the Year 2012: The Catholic Church

28 Dec
Number 4 Bigot of 2012

Number 4 Bigot of 2012

Regular TSM readers know that I have real suspicion of organized religion and its role in privileging dominant forces in the power structure, thus sustaining a white, heteronormative discourse. While some denominations have inched toward inclusion and social justice, the Catholic church leadership of the 21st Century has abandoned its traditions of caring in favor of narrow political dogma and oppression–completely abandoning any dedication to social justice. This year, the hate filled voices of Pope Benedict XVI and his bishops have proved that more loudly than ever.

Not content to stick with centuries old traditions of misogyny and homophobia, the bishops danced a cruel jig across the lines of church and state, issuing proclamations about candidates and electoral issues willy nilly. Some, like Newark Archbishop John Myers, went so far as to suggest that priests refuse communion to parishioners who support marriage equality, reproductive choice, or progressive candidates–my, Who Would Jesus Hate?

The church spent the year emptying its venomous purse as well. The single largest contributor to anti-equality campaigns in the four states that voted on marriage equality this fall was the Catholic Church. It spent over $2 MILLION fighting fairness. When added to money contributed by the Catholic group Knights of Columbus and the National Organization for Marriage, a church ally that uses local congregations to raise funds, Catholic contributions exceeded $6 million. How much poverty could that fight? How many lives could have been saved instead of harmed?

Just to add insult to injury, the Pope used his biggest speech of the year, the Christmas Message, to spew a little more homophobia and transphobia.

There is no denying the crisis that threatens it (the family) to its foundations — especially in the Western world. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child — essential elements of the experience of being human are lost.

Again I ask, who would Jesus hate?  I don’t want to dismiss the progressive Catholics that exist, but I feel it necessary to remind everyone that every time you tithe, a portion of that tithe goes to Rome and the Pope.

Sadly, there are a number of homophobia dishonorable mentions this year. High on the list, nearly taking the crown from Benedict’s head, is the Boy Scouts of America, which pretended to consider its anti-gay policies and then doubled down on them. Fake researcher Mark Regnerus and his “gay families are harmful” study funded by NOM and its Catholic allies wraps up this unholy trinity in a foul shroud.

Additional dishonorable mention goes to NOM itself and to the ironically named Family Research Council. Both spent huge amounts of time and energy spewing homophobia and pretending to offer “balanced” views to common sense positions of equality. Happily, they lost just about every issue they supported.  So much fear, misogyny, and homophobia.  I guess it is true, the squeaky wheel (Pope Benny the Rat) wants the grease.

Hero of the Week Award: December 7, Ludovic Mohamed Zahed

7 Dec
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Last week an impressive new mosque opened in Paris. Set up in the home of a Buddhist monk, the mosque is the first to be explicitly LGBT welcoming. It was founded by Ludovic Mohamed Zahed, a gay man born in Algeria who now lives in Paris with his husband. Named Unity, the mosque is explicitly established to address traditional taboos in Islam that serve to marginalize people. Zahed describes it as “radically inclusive.”

We need to have a safe space for people who do not feel comfortable and at ease in normal mosques. There are transgender people who fear aggression, women who do not want to wear head scarf or sit in the back of the mosque. This project gives hope back to many believers in my community. It is a safe place to worship.

Unity will invite women to lead prayers and will not segregate seating by gender, encouraging equality in participation and celebration. Zahed and his partners in the mosque — where he will be one of three imams — believe that their progressive approach is a true reflection of the founding pillars of Islam.

We have an embarrassment of riches in the HWA arena this week, with two honorable mentions. First, courtesy of TSM regular and my dear friend Nancy, is Rev. Bill Brennan, a Jesuit priest from Wisconsin. Father Brennan is a longtime peace and equality activist. This week he celebrated mass with a woman priest, violating Catholic doctrine. As a result, he has been sanctioned by the church and forbidden to celebrate the Eucharist. Congratulations to Father Brennan for standing up for human rights over outdated and bigoted codes of behavior.

We’re also happy to celebrate Marilyn McKenna from Washington. Her husband is Rob McKenna, the outgoing Republican state Attorney General who narrowly lost his bid for the Governor’s office last month. Rob has been a vocal opponent of the Boy Scouts’ discrimination, but came out against marriage equality during his campaign. As a delightful breath of fresh air, his wife stood up for equal rights in an editorial as Washington’s same-sex couples began to receive marriage licenses this week. We’ll let her words speak for themselves.

Marriage is a blessing, not a political issue. We do well to remember that everyone benefits when couples commit. … The Republican Party needs to get the hell out of people’s bedrooms and get a life!

Bigot of the Week Award: November 9, University of San Diego

9 Nov

In a horrific abuse of power, the Catholic run University of San Diego revoked a scholar’s fellowship. Tina Beattie, a British scholar visiting USD’s Frances G. Harpst School for Catholic Thought and Culture on a research fellowship, annoyed the administration by expressing an opinion. She joined in a letter to the Times of London supporting marriage equality. It included the declaration that it is

perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.

In a blow against academic freedom that ironically displayed respect for neither thought nor culture, USD President Mary Lyons unilaterally revoked the fellowship and sent Beattie packing. The thrust of her argument?

In light of the contradiction between the mission of the Center and your own public stances as a Catholic theologian, I regretfully rescind the invitation that has been extended to you.

Lyons — who appears to have reacted to an aggressive blogging campaign against the scholar — did not discuss the matter with Beattie beforehand, nor did she even bother to consult Gerard Mannion, director of the Harpst Center. Beattie requested a reconsideration but was rebuffed, prompting her to issue a resounding condemnation of the attack against her.

The cancellation of my visit is not the most important issue in all this. The real issues are academic freedom, the vocation of lay theologians in relation to the official magisterium, and the power of a hostile minority of bloggers (some of whom are ordained deacons and priests) to command the attention and support of the [Catholic doctrine overseer Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith]. The latter is the most sinister development of all, and it is a cause for scandal which brings the Church into disrepute.

Faculty and students have arranged protests in support of Beattie, but the damage is done. So much for Christian charity. Who Would Jesus Hate?

Bigot of the Week Award: September 28: Archbishop John Myers of Newark

28 Sep

Bigot of the Week

Oh what bounty! Sadly, there were many choices yet again this week. We won’t pick on the Romney / Ryan ticket for their serial lies, hypocrisy, racism, classism, bigotry, and oppression since everyone else has been kind enough to do that for us. Instead, the BWA goes to (brace yourselves) yet another Catholic Archbishop. John J. Myers, Archbishop of the Diocese of Newark, decided to wade into election season and instruct his flock (enjoying that tax exempt status, Archbishop).

Archbishop Myers released a “sweeping pastoral statement” this week. Feeling that many Catholics were “at odds with church teaching” he decided to apply his privilege and abuse his power. “No one has said things clearly to them for years,” he said. Well he took care of that. When looking at candidates, he said that true Catholics should examine the full spectrum of each candidate, including how they stand on abortion and a “proper backing of marriage.” He clarified why opposition to marriage equality is valid by using this old false equivalency:

Even those who propose radically altering the definition of marriage would not advocate allowing two brothers or sisters or an uncle and his nephew to marry.

Not content to spew his misogyny and homophobia, he went on to take an extremist position even for the Catholic church, saying that people who disagree with his guidance or who might vote for candidates who take different stands should “refrain from receiving Holy Communion.” That’s right, folks, vote my way or no eternal salvation for you! How very christian (in my best Church Lady (Dana Carvey) voice).

Dishonorable mention this week goes to Sen. Scott Brown (R – Mass. of Bigotry); he only came in second because of his previous win last July. Infamous for pretending to be a moderate Republican while marching in lockstep with the worst of their obstructionist behavior, the Senator managed to become even more odious this week. As part of a series of attacks on his opponent, the wonderful Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Brown has latched on to her Native American heritage. Defying the truth and common decency, he has accused her of trying to “cash in” on that heritage, something she has demonstrably not done.

As a result of these attacks, his campaign staff got a bit out of hand at a rally, shouting down Warren supporters with war whoops and tomahawk chops. The Senator (after a delay of days) finally said that this behavior wasn’t very nice, although the whole thing was Warren’s fault for not being white enough. Anyone wondering where they got the idea, however, should look to Sen. Brown’s words during the recent debate.

Professor Warren claimed that she was a Native American, a person of color, and as you can see, she’s not.

REALLY? What should a Native American look like, Senator? Just to round out his GOP credentials, when he was interviewed about his comments, plainly recorded and available for public consumption, he said, “I never made that suggestion at all.” It looks like he’s hoping for a place in a Romney Administration…

Boy Scouts: Molesters Welcome but Gays Need Not Apply

9 Aug

More secrets…less safety

The Boy Scouts of America are having more problems with their hypothetical ethics. The Scouts have consistently relied on a “moral code” defense to explain their refusal to allow gay Scouts or leaders. That same reasoning was trotted out again last month when the organization’s super-secret committee unanimously approved maintaining this bigoted ban. Sadly, the same reasoning doesn’t seem to apply to sexual predators and child molesters. Despite the existence of a super-secret “perversion file” (the Scouts do like their secrets, don’t they?), many men ejected from leadership roles for abuse later return to the organization.

Not unlike the Catholic Church, the Scouts have had a number of high-profile abuse cases in recent years. They have steadfastly refused to open their files, maintaining that the secrecy is what makes them effective. That’s proving a curiously bad arguement. A high-profile case in Oregon — in which the abused former Scout won nearly $20 million — resulted in court decision that the files cannot be kept secret. Prior to the release of those files, the Los Angeles Times used similar information from court cases in California to test the Scouts claim that the secret files protect young Scouts. The paper reported the results of that test this week.

[The] review of more than 1,200 files dating from 1970 to 1991 found more than 125 cases across the country in which men allegedly continued to molest Scouts after the organization was first presented with detailed allegations of abusive behavior. Predators slipped back into the program by falsifying personal information or skirting the registration process. Others were able to jump from troop to troop around the country thanks to clerical errors, computer glitches or the Scouts’ failure to check the blacklist.

In some cases, officials failed to document reports of abuse in the first place, letting offenders stay in the organization until new allegations surfaced. In others, officials documented abuse but merely suspended the accused leader or allowed him to continue working with boys while on “probation.” In at least 50 cases, the Boy Scouts expelled suspected abusers, only to discover later that they had reentered the program and were accused of molesting again.

One scoutmaster was expelled in 1970 for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in Indiana. Even after being convicted of the crime, he went on to join two troops in Illinois between 1971 and 1988. He later admitted to molesting more than 100 boys, was convicted of the sexual assault of a Scout in 1989 and was sentenced to 100 years in prison, according to his file and court records. In 1991, a Scout leader convicted of abusing a boy in Minnesota returned to his old troop — right after getting out of jail.

Bill Dworkin, a retired L.A. police expert on child sexual abuse who served as a witness in the Oregon case summed things up succinctly: “Basically, there were no controls.”

So, also like the Catholics, the Scouts demonize gays while allowing predators to move from troop to troop. Relying on faulty secrecy and an outdated “moral” stand that does far more harm than good, this organization allows children to suffer while pretending to protect them. Looks like the Boy Scouts need a pretty thorough overhaul before they can consider themselves “morally straight.”

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