10/31/11

A Tale of Two Bishops: Finn in Kansas City, Morris in Toowoomba

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Brilliant COMMENTARY from our good friends at Bilgrimage

In the news this week, stories of two bishops and the radically different way in which Rome is choosing to deal with their cases: Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph in the U.S., and Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba in Australia:

At National Catholic Reporter, Eugene Kennedy analyzes the Finn case as one of tragic arrested development not uncommon among career ecclesiastics. For consummate church careerists like Finn, preferment in the ecclesiastical system becomes everything early in their lives as budding bishops-in-the-making, and ambition to serve the father-pope (and wield churchly power) overshadows the process of human development, stunting the growth of those fixated on becoming monsignors, bishops, etc.

But, unfortunately, the boy who has given his entire heart and soul–his life–to the papa at the top of the ecclesiastical chain of command finds himself abandoned by papa in his hour of need, when his disgrace threatens to become an impediment and embarrassment to the man on top.

Kennedy writes:

There is something poignant, as there always is about a boy abandoned, if not quite tragic, for a good boy is not a great man, about Finn’s present discomfort. He has learned, in a way that he earned even if he did not deserve it, what it is like to be a victim. Clericalism is, after all, an Aztec god that will tear any cleric’s heart out, whether he is guilty or innocent, as a necessary sacrifice to its own survival. Poor Finn now knows, as so many victims of clerical sexual predators do, what it is like to have the institution one loved and trusted stand massive and silent in the face of one’s suffering.
The Finn case is really part of a larger story, that of the collapse of the hierarchical system that is taking place all over the world at this time. That is what is occurring in Ireland where the aftershocks of the generations of sexual abuse scandal have sent football field-size fissures through the foundations of the hierarchy, leaving bishops scrambling to survive and wrecking the once unquestioned entente between Church and State.
The same buckling of hierarchical structures can be observed in the European countries once called Catholic; it is easy to observe in the priests who are organizing and confronting their bishops all across that continent. It is only a question of time before the earth opens in other places in the universal Church.

And while Finn has served papa well if not wisely, and papa chooses to ignore the good boy who has fallen on hard times (since his fall impinges on papa’s reputation), a son-bishop who merely did his duty as a pastoral leader, who simply asked if church officials might please talk about effective ways to keep meeting the sacramental needs of the faithful as priests’ numbers dwindle, is savaged by the system and the papa who pulls its strings. At Enlightened Catholicism, Colleen Baker reproduces and comments on the response of Bishop William Morris of Australia to a recent statement of his brother bishops in support of Rome’s attempt to force Morris to resign.

Morris describes the process by which he was disciplined (“entrapped” is actually the word that leaps to mind as one reads his account of the visitation of his diocese by Archbishop Chaput that resulted in Morris’s disciplining). The process was shameful. Shoddy. Built on lies and deceit.

Morris cites a letter he received from Pope Benedict following Chaput’s visit, which informs him that, when he proposed that the priest shortage might be effectively addressed by keeping the question of women’s ordination open for discussion, he made a choice “incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Benedict then informs Morris,

Yet, the late Pope John Paul II has decided infallibly and irrevocably that the Church has not the right to ordain women to the priesthood . . . .

Did John Paul II make an infallible and irrevocable declaration that the Catholic church has no right to ordain women? If so, I hadn’t heard of this newest use of the ex cathedra power of the papacy. I had understood that the last time a pope has made an infallible declaration was in 1950, when the doctrine of the assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven was declared.

Two bishops: one, the quintessential good boy abandoned by a wily, self-protective father in his hour of need, when that need requires the father to extend himself and risk something to succor a son in need; the other, the son who assumes adult responsibility and seeks to fulfill the obligations of his calling scrupulously and faithfully. But who is then attacked for those very reasons by the same wily father–attacked precisely because he sought scrupulously to attend to his pastoral duties. And because he exhibited maturity, because he chose to act like a responsible adult doing a responsible adult job.

As Eugene Kennedy rightly notes, the entire hierarchical system of the Catholic church is buckling and collapsing all over the world. And is it in the least surprising that a system built on such dysfunction, on such dishonesty and outright cruelty, all premised on the divine right of a quasi-divine father figure to treat his subjects as objects in games that are all about shoring up the power of those on top, would come to such an end in a world in which the divine right of emperor-kings to rule subjects and the divine right of men to rule women are increasingly questioned and rejected everywhere except in the governing structures of the Catholic church?

Complete Article HERE!

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10/30/11

Justice Scalia speaks for himself on death penalty, not the Catholic Church

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That Justice Antonin Scalia believes in execution as a moral form of punishment is a well-known fact. That he is an observant, traditional Roman Catholic is, similarly, well-known.

That he appears to believe his church supports the death penalty and that he’s willing to stake his job on that conviction is nothing short of astonishing. But there it is: “If I thought that Catholic doctrine held the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign,” he told an audience at Duquesne University Law School last month. “I could not be part of a system that imposes it.”

Let’s start with Scalia’s implication that the Roman Catholic Church supports the death penalty. The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. In 2005, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement saying that “ending the death penalty would be one important step away from a culture of death and toward building a culture of life.” In 2007, the Vatican said that capital punishment is “an affront to human dignity.” Both Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, John Paul II, have consistently voiced their opposition to the death penalty and praised governments and leaders who abolished it.

In 2007, Benedict sent a letter through an emissary pleading for clemency in the Georgia capital case of Troy Davis. On Sept. 21, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Davis’s petition for a stay of execution and Davis was killed by injection. One doesn’t know how Scalia voted. But in any case, that justice’s professional and democratic obligations overrode the express wishes of his pope that night.

Scalia might argue that the statements and pleas cited above are just that, statements and pleas reflecting a current mood. And he would be right. Bishops, Vatican officials and even popes say and write many things that are important or illuminating but do not qualify as doctrine, according to the law of the church. Scalia might argue further, as he has done in the past, that he is as traditionalist in his approach to religious interpretation as he is to the Constitution and that Catholic tradition has long endorsed capital punishment. Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More — all these saints — he has argued, believed in punishment by death.

On the question of doctrine, though, Scalia is out on a limb, and like a cartoon bunny, he’s sawing it off behind him. In 1995, Pope John Paul II issued an encyclical — an official document of the utmost importance — called “Evangelium Vitae,” in which he weighed in on the death penalty.

“The nature and extent of the punishment,” he wrote, “ought not to go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible to defend society.” In today’s societies, the pope said, “such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

Death penalty opponents celebrated, saying that “Evangelium Vitae” voiced the church’s near total opposition to capital punishment. Although important theologians disagreed, saying the encyclical falls short of calling the death penalty immoral, Scalia was not one of them.

In a 2002 speech at the University of Chicago, Scalia said “Evangelium Vitae” reversed centuries of Catholic tradition by making capital punishment — his word — “wrong.”

“I do not agree with ‘Evangelium Vitae,’ ” he said, “that the death penalty can only be imposed to protect rather than avenge, and that since it is, in most modern societies, not necessary for the former purpose, it is wrong.”

And so, after consultation with canonical experts, who advised him that the doctrine was nonbinding, Scalia — his words, again — “rejected it.”

To recap: The U.S. bishops oppose capital punishment. So do this pope, the last pope and documents from the Vatican press office. Catholic doctrine isn’t crystal clear, but Scalia himself believes “Evangelium Vitae” fails to support capital punishment. And so, in the tradition of millions of Catholics for thousands of years, he has rejected official teaching in favor of his own view, which he believes (to be presumptuous for a minute) to be more traditional and more moral than the established one.

That’s fine with me. I don’t want a justice sitting on the Supreme Court who submits blindly to religious authority or who holds his religion above the laws of the land. So keep your job, Justice Scalia. Just don’t pretend your church approves of the death penalty. Or that you aren’t like most people of faith, cherry-picking the teachings of your church that suit you best.

Complete Article HERE!

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10/30/11

“Idolizer of the Market”: Paul Ryan Can’t Quite Hear Catholic Church’s Call for Economic Justice

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Paul Ryan accuses President Obama of engaging in “sowing social unrest and class resentment.” The House Budget Committee chairman says the president is “preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment.”

Paul Ryan accuses Elizabeth Warren of engaging in class warfare. The House Budget Committee chairman the Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate is guilty of engaging in the “fatal conceit of liberalism.”

But what about the Catholic Church, which has taken a far more radical position on economic issues than Obama or Warren? What does the House Budget Committee chairman, a self-described “good Catholic,” do then?

If you’re Paul Ryan, you don’t decry the church for engaging in class warfare. Instead, you spin an interpretation of the church’s latest pronouncements that bears scant resemblance to what’s been written — but that just happens to favor your political interests.

Ryan’s certainly not the only Catholic politician in Washington to break with the church.

For years, Catholic Democrats from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to former House Appropriations Committee David Obey have taken their hits for adopting positions that are at odds with the church’s teachings with regard to reproductive rights and same-sex marriage.

But many of the same politicians who align with the church on social issues are at odds with the social-justice commitment it brings to economic debates.

Ryan’s rigidly right-wing approach to issues of taxation and spending, as well as his deep loyalty to Wall Street (he led the fight to get conservatives to back the 2008 bank bailout), has frequently put him at odds with the church’s social-justice teaching.

But never has the distinction been more clear than in recent days, as Ryan’s statements have reemphasized his status as the leading congressional spokesman for policy positions that are dramatically at odds with those expressed in a major new statement by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace?

That puts the congressman in a difficult spot.

Ryan has always identified as a Catholic politician, and he has frequently suggested that he is guided by the teachings of the church, going so far as to write in a July, 2011, column for a Catholic publication that: “Catholic social teaching is indispensable for officeholders.”

So what, Ryan was asked after the release of the Pontifical Council’s statement, did the House Budget Committee chairman think of proposals that the Rev. Thomas Reese of Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center suggests are “closer to the views of Occupy Wall Street than anyone in the U.S. Congress”

Time magazine observes that: “Those politicians who think the Dodd-Frank law went too far in attempting to reform Wall Street will likely need smelling salts after taking a look at a proposal for reforming the global financial system that was released by the Vatican… Calling into question the entire foundation of neo-liberal economics and proposing one world financial order? You never know what those radicals over at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace will come up with next.”

So what was Paul Ryan’s take?

What did the chairman of the House Banking Committee think of the Pontifical Council’s highlighting of Pope John Paul II’s criticism of the “idolatry of the market”? What of the council’s call for “the reform of the international monetary system and, in particular, the commitment to create some form of global monetary management” that will end abuses and inequity and restore “the primacy of the spiritual and of ethics needs to be restored and, with them, the primacy of politics – which is responsible for the common good – over the economy and finance”?

Ryan’s initial response to a pointed question about whether the church, with urging of “the global community to steer its institutions towards achieving the common good,” might be engaging in the “class warfare” he so frequently decries, was to try and laugh the contradictions off.

“Um, I actually do read these,” Ryan joked, with regard to Pontifical pronouncements. “I’m a good Catholic, you know… get in trouble if I don’t.”

Pressed to actually answer the question, the usually direct and unequivocal Ryan suddenly embraced moral relativism.

“You could interpret these in different ways,” he said of the statements from the church’s hierarchy. “I think you could derive different lessons from it,” he added.

Amusingly, the congressman then took a shot at moral relativism, suggesting that when the Pope expresses concern regarding the global financial system he is “talking about the extreme edge of individualism predicated upon moral relativism that produces bad results in society for people and families, and I think that’s the kind of thing he is talking about.”

That’s an interesting statement coming from a congressman who frequently mentions his reverence for Ayn Rand, the novelist who set herself up as a high priestess of individualism.

It’s also wrong.

The statements from the Pope and the Pontifical Council have been focused and clear in their criticism of the greed and abuse that characterizes the current financial system, of their concerns about the economic inequity its has spawned, and especially about the damage done to the poor by the “idolatry of the market.”

The Pontifical Council is calling for dramatically more oversight and regulation of financial markets, and for the establishment of new public authorities “with universal jurisdiction” to provide “supervision and coordination” for “the economy and finance.”

“These latter (economy and finance) need to be brought back within the boundaries of their real vocation and function, including their social function, in consideration of their obvious responsibilities to society, in order to nourish markets and financial institutions which are really at the service of the person, which are capable of responding to the needs of the common good and universal brotherhood, and which transcend all forms of economist stagnation and performative mercantilism,” the council continues. “On the basis of this sort of ethical approach, it seems advisable to reflect, for example, on… taxation measures on financial transactions through fair but modulated rates with charges proportionate to the complexity of the operations, especially those made on the ‘secondary’ market. Such taxation would be very useful in promoting global development and sustainability according to the principles of social justice and solidarity. It could also contribute to the creation of a world reserve fund to support the economies of the countries hit by crisis as well as the recovery of their monetary and financial system…”

That’s a reference to a financial speculation tax, something that Ryan — a major recipient of campaign contributions from traders, hedge-fund managers and other Wall Street insiders — has historically opposed.

The Pontifical Council says that such a tax should be considered “in order to nourish markets and financial institutions which are really at the service of the person, which are capable of responding to the needs of the common good and universal brotherhood, and which transcend all forms of economist stagnation and performative mercantilism.”

There is no moral relativism in that statement, no list of options. Rather, there is a call from the Catholic Church for the development of an economy and financial systems “capable of responding to the needs of the common good and universal brotherhood.”

I happen to agree with the church on this one. My sense is that my friend Paul Ryan does not.

America is not a theocracy. Ryan certainly has a right to deviate from church doctrine as he chooses. But, hopefully, he will recognize that he is, like those members of Congress who support reproductive rights or same-sex marriage, distancing himself from the position of the church.

He is free to do so, of course. But those of us who understand that budgets are moral documents — which outline the values and priorities of a society — are equally free to wonder whether Paul Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, is perhaps engaging too ardently in the “idolatry of the market.”

Complete Article HERE!

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10/30/11

Catholic Church’s German Porn-Selling Media Company Rakes In The Euros

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Weltbild is Germany’s largest media company, with an online business second only to Amazon. It sells books, DVDs, music and a lot more….it also sells a lot of pornography. Oh yes, and did we mention that it was owned by the Catholic Church….not the Catholic Church owns a bit of it. Not the Catholic Church has stock in the company. The company is owned- lock stock and barrel- by the Catholic Church.

Of course, the Church does not really want to believe that. They stated through a spokesman that “Weltbild tries to prevent the distribution of possibly pornographic content.” They seem to be putting about as much effort into preventing the flow of pornographic materials through their business as they do in preventing child molestation- which is not a lot.

For over ten years, a group of Catholics have been trying to get the Church authorities to pay attention to the fact that there is this hypocrisy going on, and they even sent a 70-page document to all the bishops whose diocese have shared ownership of the company over the last thirty years. They detailed evidence of the sale of this pornography.

According to Worldcrunch:

Today, the Augsburg-based company employs 6,400 people, has an annual turnover of 1.7 billion euros, and an online business in Germany second only to Amazon. Weltbild is also Germany’s leading book seller, controlling 20% of the domestic bookstore market. Profits are regularly reinvested in the company with an eye to rapidly increase the market share – an increase that is only possible if Weltbild continues to sell materials that are not compatible with the teachings of the Church.
Weltbild has some 2,500 erotic books in their online catalogue. Some of those come from Blue Panther Books, which is an erotic book publisher actually owned by Weltbild. Among the titles offered by BPB are “Anwaltshure” (Lawyer’s Whore), “Vögelbar” (F—kable) and “Schlampen-Internat” (Sluts’ Boarding School).

The Church also owns a fifty percent stake in the publishing company Droemer Knaur. They produce pornographic books with titles such as “Nimm mich hier und nimm mich jetzt!” (Take Me Here, Take Me Now!), and “Sag Luder zu mir!” (Call Me Slut!).

It sounds as if the Roman Catholic Church has had little incentive to actually stop the flow of pornography out of their publishing company. Let us face it, if you walk past the Inspirational section at your local Walmart, you tend to notice that the books are not exactly flying off the shelf. Several Bible and Christian oriented book stories have had to go more mainstream over the years because of their inability to sell much in the way of books.

Well, it would not be surprising, in all honesty, that the Catholic Church is doing this. After all, it was once said that the Catholic Church owned many a whore house. At one time, ‘nunnery’ was slang for a whore house, so, it seems reasonable that they would just go into pornography these days.

Complete Article HERE!

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