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

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!

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

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!

Catholics react to Archdiocese push for constitutional same-sex marriage ban

Catholics from both sides of the issue are weighing in on the plan by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to create ad hoc committees in every Catholic church in Minnesota to push the state’s constitutional same-sex marriage ban.

One lay Catholic who works for a church-affiliated organization, who asked not to be identified for fear of losing their job, told the Minnesota Independent that the organized campaign in support of the marriage amendment was “offensive, divisive and against the image of Christ we see in the Gospels.”

“But honestly after the sex abuse scandal and the cover-ups made by the hierarchy, nothing they do shocks me anymore,” the source said. ”After watching the Catholic Church use funds to pay for their lawyers, pay off victims and now shove through this amendment, I’ve decided to withhold my tithe from the church. I do not want to provide them more money to defend themselves or lobby against me and those I love. Instead, I will give that money directly to services in Minnesota that provide food and housing for the poorest among us.”

The move by Archbishop John Nienstedt is out of touch with many lay Catholics, according to a large survey of Catholics released on Monday that showed only 35 percent of Catholics oppose same-sex marriage.

The decision has riled some Catholics who oppose the religion’s opposition to same-sex marriage rights.

“Minnesota bishops have just taken the unusual step of urging parish priests across the state to form committees to help pass the proposed anti-marriage amendment in 2012,” wrote Freedom to Marry, a national group that supports marriage rights for same-sex couples. The group recently registered with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board to work on the campaign to defeat the amendment.

The group continued with an appeal for money: “This isn’t the first time we’ve faced a multi-million dollar campaign funded by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to ban the freedom to marry. With your help, this time we will be prepared.”

The Rainbow Sash Movement, a national group working to protest the church’s policies on LGBT people, called Nienstedt’s plans an “abuse of authority.”

“Above and beyond all this, Archbishop Nienstedt appears not to have any concern about the unity of the Archdiocese in his drive to stigmatize the gay marriage as threat to society. He is naive if he thinks that Catholics will buckle under his political direction in this,” wrote Bill O’Connor, spokesperson of the Rainbow Sash Movement. “If anything has damaged marriage in our society, one only has to look to divorce. Perhaps this where the Archbishop should put his energies rather than trying impose an interpretation of marriage that is not grounded [in] today’s reality, by making gay people scapegoats.”

Scott Alessi, writing for U.S. Catholic, which is published by a Roman-Catholic community of priests and brothers called the Claretian Missionaries, said Niensted’s decision was “unusual.”

“Nienstedt has made clear that for priests in his archdiocese, fighting to ensure that the state defines marriage in the same way as the church is today’s top priority,” Alessi wrote.

Alessi wondered if anti-gay marriage amendment was the most appropriate use of resources: ”If an archbishop can call upon all his pastors to form grassroots committees, appoint parish leaders, and organize a large-scale effort, is this the issue on which to do it? What if every parish developed an unemployment committee dedicated to helping out of work people in the parish community find jobs?”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholics campaigning for women priests detained at Vatican

A group of Roman Catholic activists who think women should be ordained priests tried to deliver a petition to the Vatican on Monday but were blocked from entering St Peter’s Square and some were detailed by police. Witnesses said plainclothes Italian police stopped the group of about 15 demonstrators, including several women dressed in priest’s robes, and confiscated a banner reading “God is calling women to be priests.”

The group, headed by an American Roman Catholic priest from Georgia, Father Roy Bourgeois, wanted to leave a petition signed by some 15,000 people at a Vatican entrance. “The scandal of demanding silence on the issue of women’s ordination reflects the absolute arrogance of the (Roman Catholic Church) hierarchy and their tragic failure to accept women as equals in dignity and discipleship in the eyes of God,” said Erin Hanna, executive director of the U.S-based Women’s Ordination Conference.

In a separate, open letter to Vatican officials, Bourgeois said: “If the call to be a priest is a gift and comes from God, how can we, as men, say that our call from God is authentic, but God’s call of women is not?”

Bourgeois and Hanna were placed in police cars at the entrance of St Peter’s Square and taken to a police station near the Vatican.

The Vatican says women cannot be ordained priests because Jesus Christ willingly chose only men as his apostles. Advocates of a female priesthood reject this position, saying Jesus was merely conforming to the social customs of his times.

Full Article HERE!

Anita Caspary, Nun Who Led Breakaway From Church, Dies at 95

Anita Caspary led the largest single exodus of nuns from the Roman Catholic Church in American history. And while the issues seemed to be about dress codes and bedtimes, they ran much deeper.

Dr. Caspary said she and the others had never wanted to renounce their vows. In a 2003 memoir, “Witness to Integrity,” she said they had been virtually forced into it by the intransigence of the archbishop, Cardinal James Francis McIntyre of Los Angeles, who would not let them teach in archdiocese schools unless they wore habits and adhered to a host of traditional regimens that were by her account matters best left to grown women to decide for themselves: when to pray, when to go to bed, what books to read or not read.

Rather than comply with those restrictions, Dr. Caspary and the other nuns broke away to establish the Immaculate Heart of Mary Community, a communal organization that continues to provide services in the poorest neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The organization confirmed her death, at age 95.

Dr. Caspary went by her religious name, Mother Humiliata, as superior general of her order. The appellation, meaning “humbled,” was tested sorely in her conflict with the archbishop.

Sandra M. Schneiders, a professor emeritus at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., who has written on what the news media came to call the Immaculate Heart “rebellion,” said in an interview Monday that the changes forbidden by Cardinal McIntyre were being widely adopted nationwide as a result of Vatican II reforms giving greater latitude to nuns.

“It’s not like the Immaculate Heart women were doing anything outlandish,” she said. “All these changes were taking place without incident in the majority of dioceses around the country. Cardinal McIntyre simply was saying, ‘Not in my diocese.’ ”

Cardinal McIntyre, a protégé of Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York, had been a vocal opponent of the reforms during the Vatican Council’s meetings. “He has been described by more than one Vatican observer as the most reactionary prelate in the church, bar none — not even those of the Curia,” an article in The New York Times said in 1964.

In her memoir, Dr. Caspary struggled for nunlike equanimity in writing about him. He was “stubborn, paternalistic, authoritative, frugal and puritanical,” she said. “But he was also a hard-working, dedicated churchman who left monuments in his archdiocese in brick and mortar.”

Anita Marie Caspary was born Nov. 4, 1915, in Herrick, S.D., the third of eight children of Jacob and Marie Caspary. The family moved to Los Angeles, where she received her bachelor’s degree in English at Immaculate Heart College in 1936. She entered the convent the same year, and taught high school English while studying toward a master’s degree at the University of Southern California. She received her Ph.D. in 1948.

She was president of Immaculate Heart College, which was operated by her order, from 1958 to 1963. (The school continued to operate after the schism in 1970, but closed in 1980.) After the break with the church, she taught at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and served on the staff of the Peace and Justice Center of Southern California.

She wrote poetry throughout her life, and had completed a volume she hoped to publish shortly before she died. Her survivors include three sisters, all living in California: Gretchen DeStefano of Los Alamitos, Marion Roxstrom of Newport Beach and Ursula Caspary Frankel of Costa Mesa.

The Immaculate Heart Community remains a democratic communal group with an elected board of directors and 35-member “representative assembly.” Some of its members live in the convent, but most live outside. All contribute 20 percent of their wages to support what Dr. Caspary described in interviews as “a new way of people being together.”

The community has not grown. It counts 160 members today — not all of them former nuns.

In a 1972 interview with The Times, Dr. Caspary said she felt she was part of a cultural flourishing larger than a single enterprise.

“We’ve had an extraordinary experience for women,” she said. “We’ve worked through the problem of liberation. We worked our way out of an oppressive situation.”

Full Article HERE!