06/19/16

Where did the Orlando shooter learn his hate? Hint: It wasn’t from Osama bin Laden.

By Jenny Boylan

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Donald Trump wasted no time. “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”

This was early on Sunday, as the country was waking up to learn about the massacre in Orlando. Fifty people dancing at “Latin night” at a gay nightclub, The Pulse, had been killed by shooter who, at that hour, had not yet been identified.

The facts weren’t all in then, and are even now still being revealed. But it wasn’t too early for Donald Trump to decide on the source for this tragedy. “I called it,” he tweeted, referring to his pledge to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country.

There are a lot of threads in this story: gun rights, terrorism, ISIS, Latino and Latina identity, immigration, and the endless and execrable campaign of 2016. It is hard to understand this catastrophe without taking the time to understand how all these forces intersect. The weeks ahead will give us the chance to learn more.

But one thing seems clear already. Omar Mateen didn’t learn his hatred of LGBT people from a distant cell of terrorists in Syria. He learned it on American soil.

This was no foreign born terrorist who furtively snuck over the border, like those Mexican “criminals, drug dealers, and rapists” Trump has mentioned. This was a man born in New York, raised in this country. Whatever he is, he is the product of our own culture.

We know that Mateen had been married, for a year, and that the marriage was marked by violence and abuse. But we also know that he had used an app called Jack’d, a dating site for men. He’d once proposed meeting a gay man for a drink at Pulse, the very club where he would later commit his atrocity.

One possible narrative of this tragedy is that it was committed by a man who was attracted to other men, and who found it impossible to accept the truth of what was in his heart. So instead he decided to destroy what was in himself, by lashing out at his brothers and sisters, to destroy the lives of people living with an absence of shame that he could not imagine for himself.

This was a man who had learned that it is better to commit mass murder — and suicide — than to accept oneself. This was a man who had learned that the lives of gay and lesbian and bi and trans people are expendable, that his own life, if he was one of us, was not worth living.

From whom did he learn this lesson? Did terrorists in Syria send him telegrams? Did the Taliban reach him by phone?

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Of course not. He learned hatred of LGBT people, and of himself, right here at home.

He learned it from a county in which 200 anti LGBT bills have been introduced in the last six months.

He learned it in a country in which legislators have approved bills making it legal for any business not to approve services for marriages on the basis of religious objection.

He learned it from a country in which in one state, people with female anatomy and appearance are legally required to use the men’s room, because of what might appear on their birth certificates.

He learned it from a country in which, in another state, mental health professionals are permitted, if they so choose, to refuse services to gay people.

He learned it from a country in which people like me, and families like mine, are blithely referred to as “abominations.”

 
He learned it from a country in which the Lieutenant Governor of Texas — the second highest elected official in our second largest state — responded to the tragedy in Orlando by posting the message on Twitter: “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

He learned it from a country in which more than a third of transgender people have attempted to take their own lives. One such victim, seventeen year old Leelah Alcorn, threw herself in front of a truck last year rather than live in this culture. “Fix society,” she wrote in her suicide note.

The society Alcorn wanted fixed is not the society of the Taliban in the mountains of Pakistan. The society Alcorn wanted fixed is not the society of the Islamic State. It was the society of her home town of Kings Mills, Ohio, a state that has no protections for sexual orientation or gender identity outside of state employment.

It was the society of Orlando, Florida, where a person who survived the massacre at the Pulse on Saturday night can be legally fired on Monday morning for being gay.

On Sunday, just hours after the Orlando shooting, a twenty year old Indiana Man, James Wesley Howell, was arrested in California with an arsenal of weapons he apparently intended to use on an attack on the Los Angeles Pride celebration. His car contained three assault rifles, high capacity magazines, ammunition, and a five gallon bucket containing chemicals.

From whom did Howell learn his hatred? Hint: It wasn’t Osama bin Laden.

We cannot create a more loving and compassionate country by sealing our borders. Hatred of people like me, and of my family, does not come from overseas.

The fault is not in our stars. It is in ourselves.

Complete Article HERE!

06/17/16

U.S. BISHOPS’ SILENCE ON GUNS AND GAYS

By  

gun_jesus

 

The U.S. Catholic bishops met in Huntington Beach, California this week, just days after the Orlando massacre. And despite the fact that the church’s most powerful prelates were all gathered together at a time when the nation is desperate for pastoral leadership to counter the vitriol spewing from Donald Trump and his ilk, this was the official, and only, USCCB statement on the massacre released by conference president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz:

Waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is. Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act. The merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.

It’s an amazingly tepid, generic statement in the face of such tragedy that touches on two areas of special concern to the bishops: guns and gays. While the bishops’ conference officially backs gun control proposals put forward by President Obama and the Democratic Party, it has put almost no energy into pushing for them. Imagine if Catholic bishops rallied from the pulpit against politicians who failed to vote for common sense gun control legislation with the same energy they put into opposing John Kerry and other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights? Or with the sustained effort they put into opposing the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, with their Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom, their annual “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign and countless statements and interventions by leading bishops?

The bishops’ silence on animus toward the LGBT community is more understandable, although no more acceptable, given their own role in fostering it by suggesting that the legalization of same-sex marriage was some kind of cultural Armageddon and that refusing to accommodate gay people is a protected form of religious martyrdom. Only Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, had the guts to admit that the Catholic Church was complicit in fostering a culture of hostility toward the gay community:

…sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence. Those women and men who were mowed down early yesterday morning were all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that.

By comparison, in his statement on the massacre, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone revealed the dark heart of what so many in the church’s leadership believe to be the truth about LGTB individuals:

…we stand in solidarity with all those affected by this atrocity, regardless of race, religion, or personal lifestyle.

That’s right, it’s too bad your “personal lifestyle” got you killed. Just as the Catholic Church still insists on referring to LGBT individuals as “people who experience same-sex attraction,” the church offers its sympathy with a not-to-pointed reminder that ultimately it believes homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism are lifestyle choices that can be rejected, and indeed must be rejected, to be fully accepted by the church.

Similarly, Kurtz’s official statement, with it’s reminder of how “precious life is” and call for “protecting the life and dignity of every person,” is a not-so-subtle reference to abortion. Nothing like using a national tragedy that has absolutely nothing to do with abortion to push your anti-abortion agenda, boys.

But conservatives within the church will continue to push the line that it’s an “abortion mentality”—as well as a lack of respect for the special sacredness of heterosexual, procreative sex—that allows all forms of violence to flourish, ultimately making gay people, not guns, responsible for the violence visited upon them.

Complete Article HERE!

06/17/16

Pennsylvania Catholic church using ‘mafia-like’ tactics to fight sex abuse bill

By

Clergy process into the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, ahead of the papal mass in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 26 September 2015.

Clergy process into the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, ahead of the papal mass in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 26 September 2015.

The Catholic church in Pennsylvania has been accused of employing “mafia-like” tactics in a campaign to put pressure on individual Catholic lawmakers who support state legislation that would give victims of sexual abuse more time to sue their abusers.

The lobbying campaign against the legislation is being led by Philadelphia archbishop Charles Chaput, a staunch conservative who recently created a stir after inadvertently sending an email to a state representative Jamie Santora, in which he accused the lawmaker of “betraying” the church and said Santora would suffer “consequences” for his support of the legislation. The email was also sent to a senior staff member in Chaput’s office, who was apparently the only intended recipient.

The email has infuriated some Catholic lawmakers, who say they voted their conscience in support of the legislation on behalf of sexual abuse victims. One Republican legislator, Mike Vareb, accused the archbishop of using mafia-style tactics.

“This mob boss approach of having legislators called out, he really went right up to the line,” Vareb told the Guardian. “He is going down a road that is frankly dangerous for the status of the church in terms of it being a non-profit.”

Under US tax laws, organisations like churches that are classified as non-profit groups are not supposed to be engaged in political activity, though they are allowed to publish legislators’ voting records in some cases.

At stake in the contentious fight is a state bill that would allow victims of sexual abuse to file civil claims against their abusers, and those who knew of abuse, until they are 50 years old. Under current law, victims can only file suit until they are 30 years old. The proposal overwhelmingly passed the state lower house in a bipartisan vote in April but appears to have stalled in the state senate, where some believe it might not pass.

If it does pass and is signed by the governor, the legislation could cost the Catholic church tens of millions of dollars following a spate of abuse allegations in the state, including a devastating report released earlier this year by a grand jury that detailed how two Catholic bishops in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese covered up the abuse of hundreds of children by more than fifty priests over a 40-year period.

But it is the church’s personal targeting of legislators, rather than the legislation itself, that is drawing the most scrutiny, particularly among a small group of lawmakers who are both Republican and Catholic – and say they have steadfastly supported the church’s positions on other issues such as abortion and private Catholic schools.

A church bulletin called out Nick Miccareli for his support of a bill to allow victims of sexual abuse more time to sue their abusers.

A church bulletin called out Nick Miccareli for his support of a bill to allow victims of sexual abuse more time to sue their abusers.

Catholic lawmakers interviewed by the Guardian expressed dismay, shock and anger at the treatment they have received, particularly because they were targeted after the bill already passed in the lower house. All said they supported the legislation because they believed survivors of sexual abuse often needed decades to come to grips with the abuse they suffered.

One Catholic state representative named Martina White went on a local talk radio programme to describe how she had been “crushed” when she was disinvited to several planned events at local Catholic parishes because of her support for the bill.

Another representative, Nick Miccarelli, said he was baffled and upset when he learned that his support for the proposed legislation was included in his church’s bulletin under the heading “Just So You are Aware”, including information that he said was blatantly misleading about the nature of the bill.

“I’ve never had anything but good things to say [about my parish], so it was a heck of a shot, when you are out there telling people how much you think of a place, and that place doesn’t even give you a phone call before they print … something that was not an accurate statement,” he said. Miccarelli was angered by the bulletin’s suggestion that the lawmakers had sought to protect public institutions while targeting private ones like churches.

Rep Thomas Murt, who attends mass daily, told a colleague he was “devastated” when the priest at his church spoke about Murt’s support of the legislation, even as Murt was sitting in the pews. The priest’s discussion of the legislation went on for 40 minutes.

“Tom was really upset that no where did the priest mention the kids. Anyone who knows Tom knows he is extremely sincere on this issue. He just wants to do what is right,” the colleague said, asking not to be named.

Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput celebrates mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia on 18 February 2015.

Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput celebrates mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia on 18 February 2015.

Ken Gavin, a spokesman for Chaput, rejected claims that the archdiocese was attempting to “shame elected officials from the pulpit”.

Gavin said the Philadelphia archbishop had sent a letter explaining the church’s opposition to the bill to 219 parishes throughout the area, which had been read or made available during Mass.

“I am not aware of any situations involving a pastor lambasting an elected official and they weren’t directed to do so. I do know of many instances where pastors shared with parishioners how representatives voted on [the bill]. They shared knowledge that is already public,” Gavin said.

Chaput’s criticism of the bill is centred on claims that the Philadelphia archdiocese already has a “genuine and longstanding commitment” to abuse victims; that it is committed to protecting children now; and that the new law would only apply to churches and private institutions, but still make public institutions like schools and prisons immune from similar retroactive civil suits in abuse cases.

But the Catholic lawmakers who support the bill reject that claim as a red herring, because public institutions like schools receive some immunity from lawsuits in order to protect taxpayers. All said they had been deeply moved by the testimony of fellow legislator Mark Rozzi, who was raped by a priest when he was 13 years old and said the bill would offer victims some justice after years of being “stonewalled”.

Critics of Chaput’s strategy say the archbishop used the same tactics to successfully derail similar legislation in Colorado, where he previously served as archbishop. Joan Fitz-Gerald, the former Democratic head of the state senate in Colorado who had introduced the bill, recalled it was the most vicious and difficult experience of her life, with Chaput allegedly telling one of his lobbyists that he did not believe Fitz-Gerald would be going to heaven.

“He is the most vehement supporter of the secrecy of the Catholic church over pedophiles. He fights any authority over his own, even when it is a matter of criminal law,” Fitz-Gerald said.

One expert, Marci Hamilton, the chair of public law at Cardoza School of Law, said similar legislation that has passed in four other states, including California, has only been used by a relatively small number of victims.

“This is a way for the whole culture to say to survivors that they matter and that they are believed. Because when a survivor comes forward, in most states they are beyond the statute of limitations [to bring civil claims] and the message they get from the law is that what happened to you doesn’t matter,” she said.

Hamilton claimed that Chaput had been brought to Pennsylvania after helping to kill similar legislation in Colorado.

“It is clear they [the church] have bought into this strategy, which is to turn the church into the victim and to portray the victims as just seeking money and triangulating the parishioners against the victims, by saying the parish will go bankrupt and have to close schools,” Hamilton said.

Jamie Santora, the Republican legislator who several people said received the email from Chaput, declined to comment on the email specifically. But he acknowledged he had been accused by a high ranking church official of betraying his church.

“I don’t feel I did betray my church. Growing up Catholic gave me the ability to vote the way I did. To me that was the morally correct vote, by choosing victims over abusers,” he said.

Asked to comment, the spokesman for the Philadelphia archbishop said: “Elected officials are accountable to the people who elected them. There’s nothing odd in that. It’s how the system works.”

Complete Article HERE!

06/15/16

Former vicar general still in the pulpit

by Kay Fate

Bishop John Quinn

Bishop John Quinn

WINONA — The man who abruptly resigned as vicar general and chancellor of the Diocese of Winona continues to say Mass and celebrate the sacraments, despite what church law says about suspended priests.

The Rev. Msgr. Richard Colletti has officiated at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and St. Casimir, both in Winona, according to parishioners who were present.

Colletti, 63, resigned a week ago after the Post-Bulletin discovered he admitted under oath in the early 1990s that he had a sexual relationship with a college freshman whom he was counseling.

The relationship lasted for more than a year, according to court documents obtained by the Post-Bulletin, and included a pregnancy scare.

Fr-Richard-Colletti

Msgr. Richard Colletti

The vicar general is the second-highest ranking position in the diocese. Colletti also resigned from his position as administrative chaplain for the Winona Newman Center.

Bishop John Quinn said June 1 that “it would have been within my role to (terminate Colletti), but before I even began that discussion, Monsignor informed me that he wished to resign.” The resignation was effective that day.

According to canon law, the rules that govern the church and its members, “a suspended priest is usually forbidden by his bishop to exercise the power of order, which means he is not permitted to celebrate any of the sacraments.”

It offers “many reasons why a bishop may suspend a priest,” according to a canon law website, “but here in the U.S. we are all unfortunately familiar with the most common example in recent years: The priest who is suspended after allegations of sexual abuse are made against him.”

A suspended priest always retains the ability to say Mass; he is, however, ordered not to do so.

Quinn is out of town for the week, said Ben Frost, director of public relations for the diocese, and no one else could comment.

Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk and Roman Catholic priest who’s a consultant for Jeff Anderson & Associates, a Twin Cities law firm that has represented dozens of victims of priest sexual abuse, has a master’s degree in canon law from the University of Cardiff School of Law. He said Tuesday that Colletti’s continued role within the church is in “direct violation of their procedures.”

He noted Quinn’s “most recent response on sexual abuse about the promise of safe churches, and the most recent statement regarding Colletti,” which says in part that “the Diocese of Winona takes every allegation of clergy sexual misconduct very seriously.”

The victim turned to Colletti, who served as chaplain and director of campus ministry at Saint Mary’s University in Winona, at the beginning of her freshman year more than 20 years ago, court documents say. She was 18 and seeking counseling for depression. According to court documents obtained by the Post-Bulletin, Colletti twice admitted the sexual relationship to the Rev. Gerald Mahon — vicar general of the diocese at the time and now pastor at Church of St. John the Evangelist in Rochester. Mahon told Colletti to stop seeing the woman; Colletti continued to pursue her, documents say.

Eight months after Mahon first learned of the sexual contact, he referred Colletti to Servants of the Paraclete for a psychological evaluation. Within six months, Colletti was also sent to the House of Affirmation, a psychlogical and psychosexual treatment center for priests, and to Guest House, a facility in Rochester that treated priests for alcoholism.

In a letter to Colletti in November 1988, Mahon called him “dishonest” at least six times, writing, “it is clear that deception and dishonesty have characterized your behavior … ”

The woman filed a personal injury lawsuit in 1991 against Colletti, the diocese, Saint Mary’s University and the Church of St. John the Evangelist, where Colletti was later transferred. The parties settled the case three years later. Though the file remains open, the terms of the settlement are confidential.

Complete Article HERE!

06/9/16

Priests, parishes target Pa. legislators who backed sex-abuse bill

By MARIA PANARITIS

Rep. James R. Santora

Rep. James R. Santora, a Republican from Drexel Hill, sits in his office at the Pennsylvania Capitol on Tuesday.

HARRISBURG – One lawmaker called it “electioneering.” Another grew emotional as she recounted being snubbed by a priest. A third penned a Facebook screed that became the buzz of the House of Representatives.

Legislators expressed outrage this week after they said they had been named by priests at Mass, in church bulletins or in some other way rebuked by the Catholic Church for supporting a bill that would let child sex-abuse victims sue individuals and private institutions decades after the abuse occurred.

Rep. Nick Miccarelli, a devout Catholic from Delaware County, said he was stunned on Sunday to see his name printed alongside what he called “lies,” and “distortions” in the weekly bulletin at his Eddystone parish. By his count, at least a dozen other House members reported having been singled out by the church or its advocates in recent days.

“A lot of the members would tell you responses have been nothing short of threats to claims of betraying their faith,” Miccarelli, a Republican first elected in 2008, said the day after his Facebook post about the campaign quickly made the rounds in Harrisburg.

Several of the legislators, each of whom faces re-election this fall, said they were targeted for retribution as Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput leads a push to stop the bill from becoming law.

The measure would give victims until age 50 – instead of 30, as the current law allows – to sue their abusers or the institutions that employed or supervised them. It won near unanimity in the House this spring, but faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.

The church, among the biggest opponents, has warned that the bill’s retroactivity could lead to a wave of lawsuits and unfairly cripple parishes and schools that deserve no blame for sexual attacks that happened decades ago.

Ken Gavin, a spokesman for Chaput, confirmed that archdiocesan pastors this weekend in “many instances” shared with worshipers how certain lawmakers had voted on the bill.

“The bill is public and the voting records are public,” Gavin said in an email Wednesday. “There’s nothing wrong with sharing that information. Obviously, parishioners are very concerned about this legislation. For those constituents to contact elected officials to voice such concern is a very normal thing.”

The push from the pews was not new or unexpected from Chaput. He used the same approach as bishop of Denver to help defeat a similar bill a decade ago. Other dioceses subsequently replicated the approach when statute of limitations reform took hold in their state capitals.

But some on the receiving end said they believed the effort went beyond simply educating the congregation.

The House bill passed overwhelmingly – all but 15 of 195 members voted in favor of it.

Still, Rep. James R. Santora, another Delaware County Republican, said even stalwart church supporters like him were finding themselves under attack and unhappy about it.

“I believe everyone that voted for the bill is being targeted,” he said, including himself in that list but declining to say how he had been targeted.

To Santora, the naming of lawmakers inside churches and in parish bulletins smacked of “electioneering.” He questioned the propriety of the church telling worshipers, as he saw it, that they were not worthy of votes come November.

It also bothered Santora that, to the church, it made no difference that he had helped secure millions of public dollars to help the archdiocese finance the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia. Or that his late mother worked for the archdiocese. Or that his children attend Catholic school.

“We’re constantly advocating for the church,” Santora said in an interview, “and now we’re the enemy.”

At Mass Saturday and Sunday at St. Dorothy’s in Drexel Hill, the pastor did not name Santora, he said, but did read a letter from Chaput urging parishioners to contact the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After that, calls and emails began flowing in, including from a major church donor who asked Santora to explain why he had supported the bill.

Santora said he did so because as a Catholic he felt it was the moral thing to do.

“I had a choice,” he said. “Do I choose victims, or do I choose the rapists or the abusers? I chose the victims.”

In an interview Tuesday, Rep. Martina White of Northeast Philadelphia was visibly moved as she described hearing a few days ago she would be no longer welcome at some constituent events in her district. She said a priest told her aide the reason was White’s support in April of House Bill 1947.

“When you think of the Catholic Church, you think of acceptance and forgiveness and a community that’s available to you,” said White, a first-term Republican who belongs to St. Christopher’s in Somerton and attended 12 years of Catholic school.

“Being dis-invited,” she said, choking back tears, “you feel cut off.”

A letter on the issue distributed to St. Christopher’s parishioners over the weekend didn’t identify White, she said, but it did name Sen. John Sabatina, a Democrat from Northeast Philadelphia. (He did not respond to request for comment.)

Another legislator said to have been shaken after hearing his parish priest call him out by name at Mass was Rep. Thomas Murt of Montgomery County, according to Miccarelli, who said he discussed it with Murt. A Republican and Iraq war vet, Murt did not respond to a request seeking an interview.

In recent letters distributed to worshipers and through Catholic schools, Chaput and others have expressed many of the same concerns that, when brought to the table in Colorado, helped defeat a change to the civil statute of limitations there.

They say the bill is unconstitutional because it allows retroactive filing of civil claims; is selective because the retroactivity does not apply uniformly to public schools and state institutions; and could bankrupt schools and parishes by allowing a flood of lawsuits for clergy abuse.

Gavin also noted that the archdiocese had taken action in recent years to help victims of clergy abuse, dedicating more than $13 million since 2002 “to provide victim assistance to individuals and families, including counseling, providing medication, eliminating barriers to travel and childcare, and providing vocational assistance as well as other forms of support.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Stewart Greenleaf (R., Montgomery) has taken no position on the bill, committing only to hold a hearing Monday on its constitutionality.

After enduring what he called “bully tactics,” Miccarelli went on Facebook Monday night and excoriated his church, St. Rose of Lima, for singling him out in what he said was an inaccurate summary of the bill. That passage in the church bulletin read:

JUST SO YOU ARE AWARE – State Representative Miccarelli voted in favor of House Bill 1947 which states that private institutions can be sued as far as 40 years ago for millions of dollars, while public institutions may not be sued for any crimes committed in the past.

Supporters point out that the bill would not prevent people from suing public institutions for child sexual abuse on the grounds of gross negligence.

On Tuesday, Miccarelli distributed copies of the church bulletin page to members on the House floor and began to hear stories of similar campaigns. Demand was so strong for the copies, he said, he had to make more.

Despite the pressure, he, like other legislators, said he would not change his stance on the bill.

Said Miccarelli: “I would much rather be chastised from the altar, than to be damned for not allowing justice to be done.”

Complete Article HERE!