The Clan of the Red Beanie Stalks MLK, Sanity

The brilliant Charlie Pierce takes down the Cardinals.


Are these idiots kidding me? The Letter From Birmingham Jail?

May god forgive them for such towering, impious self-regard, because I have no intention of doing so.

The Clan of the Red Beanie went celibate balls to the wailing wall on Thursday, issuing a Statement on Religious Liberty that turns the English language inside-out, repositions religious repression and pious bigotry as statements of freedom, makes a mockery of the informed consciences of a good slice of the American Catholic laity, and is a statement of meddling in the secular government that would be almost tragic, if it didn’t drip so garishly with lachrymose sanctimony about how heavily these ermined layabouts have been oppressed by the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and by the fact that some states have decided that, no, they can no longer function as tax-free havens for discrimination on the basis of who does what to whom with their sexyparts. But, before we get to that, we have to deal with one representative passage which makes me wonder what exactly some of these guys were burning in the thurible during the Holy Week services:

In his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. boldly said, “The goal of America is freedom.” As a Christian pastor, he argued that to call America to the full measure of that freedom was the specific contribution Christians are obliged to make. He rooted his legal and constitutional arguments about justice in the long Christian tradition:

I would agree with Saint Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.” Now what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.

Holy Jesus H. Christ on the 5:15 to Galilee, this takes some big clanking brass ones. In 1963, Martin Luther King was in the Birmingham jail because he was fighting to bring down the infrastructure of American apartheid. The odds weren’t much better than 2-1 that he would get out of that jail alive. This is certainly analogous to people padding through the carpeted halls of chancery buildings trying to find a way around the country’s anti-discrimination statutes so that the Presbyterian janitors in their hospitals would be forced to live under the same theologically inept regime that American Catholics have been ignoring for almost 50 years. Sitting in a cell, wondering if every turn of the key in the lock was the last one, is certainly exactly the same moral witness as sitting in your office, worrying your pectoral cross down to the nub because somewhere, somebody is having sex that may not “be open to the transmission of life.”

Moreover, King was in the jail because, as part of his belief in non-violent protest, he had to be there. One of the essential elements of his strategy was to break the secular law and to accept the secular punishment. Now, I don’t think I have to explain in too much detail how, over the last five decades or so, accepting the secular punishment for breaking the secular law never has been high on the priority list for America’s Catholic bishops. Don’t believe me? Take it up with Bernard Cardinal Law there, who ran off to Rome to preside over the Basilica Of Our Lady Of The Clean Getaway….

To be sure, history shows that the Catholic hierarchy has yet to learn its lesson when dealing with pedophile priests. When the problem hit Boston in 1992 — after Massachusetts priest James Porter was convicted of molesting 28 children in three Bristol parishes in the 1960s — scrutiny of the Church grew so intense that Law infamously called down “God’s power on the media.” But despite the negative headlines, the cardinal, we now know, did little to rid his archdiocese of sexual predators and thus prevent further public-relations fiascoes. When the Diocese of Dallas fell to its knees in 1997 — after a jury awarded 11 clergy sex-abuse victims $119.6 million for its negligent supervision – American bishops lamented that the award would cripple the American Catholic Church. But despite the financial threat, the bishops, we now know, did little to set up a system-wide policy to root out abusive clergy.

Oh, make no mistake about it, these guys know how to play the religious freedom card when it suits their purposes. In this case, it was to duck responsibility for the heinous crimes they covered up. Now, it’s to pretend to be oppressed because their insurance carriers might be required by law to do something of which the bishops don’t approve. And the performance is becoming positively operatic. The statement also mentions that the pope is worried about us, too.

This has been noticed both near and far. Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened. He called it the “most cherished of American freedoms” — and indeed it is. All the more reason to heed the warning of the Holy Father, a friend of America and an ally in the defense of freedom, in his recent address to American bishops:

Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.

Funny, we didn’t hear much about the need for an “engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity” when the topic was the raping of children, and the international conspiracy to obstruct justice that covered it up. In fact, the more engaged, articulate and well-formed the laity became on the topic, the more howls we heard from the hierarchy — and from the sheep who follow it blindly — that even to bring up these crimes, let alone demand that the criminals be prosecuted, was to attack the Church itself. That is still going on, here and elsewhere.

I bring up the scandal because it is not yet over. Because it is not yet over, the hierarchical Church in America has no serious moral witness that any Catholic with an informed conscience need pay any mind. When you finally settle accounts with the children who were raped, all of them, everywhere, then you may request, gently, that we listen to you about why your insurance companies shouldn’t offer birth control without co-pays because that is religious oppression on a par with hanging Quakers.

(Their history’s pretty bad, too. They drag in poor Jemmy Madison: James Madison, often called the Father of the Constitution, described conscience as “the most sacred of all property. He wrote that “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.” This, of course, is an argument for religious exemptions from the secular law derived from the thoughts of a man who didn’t even want there to be congressional chaplains.)

No Catholic in this country is unfree. No Catholic in this country is being made to do anything against his or her religious principles, or against the dictates of his or her consciences. When the bishops say this…

Catholic foster care and adoption services. Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the state of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services — by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both — because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.

…they are giving away the entire game. Nobody has a right to a government contract under the First Amendment. If secular governments want to give religious institutions waivers from the anti-discrimination statutes, that’s the decision for the secular governments to make. They are under no constitutional requirement to do so. And, again…

Discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services. Notwithstanding years of excellent performance by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require us to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching.

This may well be unfortunate. It may even be a very bad policy decision. But it is not an infringement on anyone’s religious liberty. Apparently, the bishops have decided that referring people for contraceptive and abortion services is something that they cannot in good conscience do. So they have stopped providing this service. Nobody is making them do anything they don’t want to do. In this argument, they are defining religious liberty merely as carving out exceptions within the secular law so they can have their cake and eat it, too. It is using an important principle as nothing more than a picklock and, in doing so, they claim that their ability to discriminate has been truncated so, therefore, they are the victims of discrimination. Yes, and white people are the true victims of racism in America. They should be embarrassed.

And, then, the little tin trumpets sound.

What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society-or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it. Religious believers are part of American civil society, which includes neighbors helping each other, community associations, fraternal service clubs, sports leagues, and youth groups. All these Americans make their contribution to our common life, and they do not need the permission of the government to do so. Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.

“The state alone” is doing no such thing. Religious people can contribute to “our common life” or to “the common good” as much as they ever have, and they don’t need government’s permission to do so. But the state alone can decide who provides what services under state contracts, and the state can decide the rules that will govern those contracts, and the state can decide to waive those rules or not. And the state can decide to what use, if any, religious organizations can put the state’s own buildings and facilities. It can decide who, if anyone, gets a waiver from the secular law. In most cases, it has decided in a democratic fashion that anti-discrimination statutes contribute more to “our common life” and to “the common good” than does the Catholic Church’s opposition to freedom for gay couples to marry. In most cases, it has decided in a democratic fashion that allowing women a measure of control over their reproductive lives contributes more to “our common life” and to “the common good” than the preposterous view of humanity found in Humanae Vitae. It is repressing nobody in having done so, except some career autocrats who dream of crowns and yearn for palaces.

Complete Article HERE!

Priests warn Vatican over move to censor one of their own

An 800-strong group of Irish priests has said it is disturbed over the Vatican’s silencing of one of its members for his liberal views.

The Association of Catholic Priests has warned that forcing Father Tony Flannery to stop writing for a Redemptorist magazine will fuel belief of a disconnect between Irish Catholics and Rome.

“We believe that such an approach, in its individual focus on Fr Flannery and inevitably by implication on the members of the association, is an extremely ill-advised intervention in the present pastoral context in Ireland,” the group said.

“We wish to make clear our profound view that this intervention is unfair, unwarranted and unwise.”

Fr Flannery, a founder of the association, has had his monthly column with the religious publication Reality pulled on orders from Rome.

A second priest, Father Gerard Moloney, the magazine’s editor, has been ordered to stop writing on certain issues.

Both priests hold liberal views on contraception, celibacy and women priests.

At least a dozen priests had already publicly declared support for Fr Flannery and Fr Moloney in messages on the association’s website.

In a strongly-worded statement, the group said Fr Flannery’s writings should not be seen as an attack on or rejection of the fundamental teachings of the church but a reflection on issues surfacing in parishes nationwide.

It said they also reject their portrayal in some circles as a “small coterie of radical priests with a radical agenda”.

“Accordingly, we wish to register our extreme unease and disquiet at the present development, not least the secrecy surrounding such interventions and the questions about due process and freedom of conscience that such interventions surface,” the group said.

“At this critical juncture in our history, the ACP believes that this form of intervention – what Archbishop Diarmuid Martin recently called ‘heresy-hunting’ – is of no service to the Irish Catholic Church and may have the unintended effect of exacerbating a growing perception of a significant ‘disconnect’ between the Irish Church and Rome.”

Fr Flannery, who has written on religious matters in the Redemptorist magazine for 14 years, is under investigation by the Vatican over his views.

As well as expressing opposition to the church’s ban on contraception and women priests, Fr Flannery publicly backed Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s unprecedented attack on the Catholic hierarchy in the aftermath of the Cloyne Report last year.

In a Holy Thursday homily at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Pope Benedict warned that the church will not tolerate priests speaking out against Catholic teaching.

Complete Article HERE!

Churches miss Jesus’ messages


Today is Easter Sunday, which makes it a good time to talk about Jesus.

You know, the real Jesus — the guy who preached humility and sacrifice. The prophet who urged his followers to relinquish power and embrace the poor. The man who, even when persecuted by ignorant enemies, offered nothing but forgiveness and love.

Twelve years of Catholic school does not a theologian make, but I’m guessing that if Jesus returned to Earth in 2012, He’d be hard-pressed to recognize the strident messages from some church leaders and activists who purport to speak in His name.

Last November, Archbishop Charles Chaput lectured at Assumption College about a sexual minority seeking to dominate life in America, according to Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. When Whelan asked the archbishop during the question-and-answer segment if the bishops planned to address poverty at their annual meeting, the archbishop replied that there wasn’t enough time, Whelan said.

But the bishops have time for other issues. From the pulpit, they continue to rail against the evils of contraception, even if they no longer speak for the overwhelming majority of Catholic women. One of their priorities for 2012 was overturning mandatory birth control coverage in health plans. They lobby against same-sex marriage while remaining largely silent about established teachings of the church, such as opposition to the death penalty and protection of the poor.

Meanwhile, incredibly, a number of Christian right organizations devote their efforts toward defeating anti-bullying measures intended to protect kids. In Arizona, which grows odder by the day, a group associated with Focus on the Family pressured lawmakers into rejecting an anti-bullying bill because the bill was really an effort to “force cultural acceptance and affirmation of homosexual lifestyles.” In Washington, Concerned Women of America claimed that a Student Non-Discrimination Act aims to promote “acceptance” of homosexual behavior. In Michigan, a Christian right lobby tried to exempt bullies who acted out of a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

Again, I’m no theologian, but I’m thinking that Jesus would certainly not believe it’s OK for a bully to shove a gay kid against a locker, based on Catholic teachings. I’ll bet Jesus would be sickened by the number of young people who take their own lives after being bullied. I highly doubt that Jesus would endorse cruelty against anyone, gay or straight, by equating it with religious freedom.

The cover of the current issue of Newsweek offers this advice: “Forget the Church: Follow Jesus.” Inside, writer Andrew Sullivan, a Catholic, argues that contemporary Christianity is in “crisis” and has crossed the line between church and state. He claims that the Church lost much authority over its flock when it prohibited the pill in 1968, and lost whatever moral authority remained after the clergy sex abuse scandal.

Rather than address those issues, the bishops “obsess about others’ sex lives, about who is entitled to civil marriage, and about who pays for birth control in health insurance,” Sullivan writes. “Inequality, poverty, even the torture institutionalized by the government after 9/11: These issues attract far less of their public attention.”

He also writes this: “I have no concrete idea how Christianity will wrestle free of its current crisis, of its distractions and temptations … But I do know it won’t happen by even more furious denunciations of others, by focusing on politics rather than prayer, by concerning ourselves with the sex lives and heretical thoughts of others rather than with the constant struggle to liberate ourselves from what keeps us from God.”

The message isn’t new, but it’s more timely than ever.

Complete Article HERE!

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson: 12 Elements Of Reform Needed To Deal With The Culture Of Abuse

Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s talk on the twelve areas with in Roman Catholicism which need reform, or as he might say, attending to. It’s a very comprehensive list. The following is a list of the Robinson’s 12 points and Brian’s short description. The video (below) is just over 26 minutes and well worth watching.

  1. The Angry God: This image the institution projects of a God of Wrath and Anger needs to be challenged. It is wrong, and bad theology. It’s also really bad psychology.
  2. The Male Church: Women have been marginalized and treated as second class by the institution for far too long.
  3. The Culture of Celibacy: Not so much celibacy per se but mandatory celibacy has to take a major part of the blame as a contributing cause of this crisis.
  4. Moral Immaturity: The seminary system and training of priests and religious has not encouraged moral and spiritual maturity. That needs to be changed.
  5. Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy: Bishop Robinson argues there has been far too much emphasis on Orthodoxy (right belief) and far too little on Orthopraxy (right action).
  6. Sexual Teaching: He argues there needs to be “a profound change in all of sexual morality” within the institution.
  7. The Mystique of Priesthood: Priests have been placed on a pedestal of perfection for far too long. It’s dangerous to them and it’s dangerous to the people they are meant to be serving. Priests are not God — they struggle with all the challenges that any human beings struggle with in their lives. Often because of the positions on these pedestals they have been placed on they find it difficult to find support in their lives. The laity also have a huge part to play in keeping priests on those pedestals.
  8. Professionalism: There has been a rise in professional standards across almost all professions — ethical codes, structures that protect and foster professional integrity but the priesthood has largely been excluded. He argues much more needs to be done to lift professional standards of those in ministry with the Church.
  9. A Pope who can’t make mistakes: He argues that the way the pontiff has been placed on a pedestal and immune from criticism has been especially damaging to the institution. Creeping infallibility is a huge problem not only for some at the top who would seem to believe they have divine perfection already but also for many at the lowest rungs of the Church. This culture needs to be changed.
  10. The Loyalty of Bishops to the Pope: Their oath of allegiance is to the Pope — not to God, or the Church. He argues significant blame has to be placed at the feet of the late John Paul II for his inadequate responses to the growing sexual abuse crisis.
  11. A Culture of Secrecy: Bishop Robinson argues that the culture of secrecy in the Church has been a major cause of the problems. Bishops need to present themselves in the best light all the time and the culture of secrecy runs with that. It has been deeply damaging to the institution and needs to be changed.
  12. The Sensus Fidelium: He argues the institutional leadership need to be listening far more to the thinking of the broad body of the faithful not just to the small sectors that crave authority figures and founts of certitude.

Occupy SF: 75 Arrested in Catholic Church Occupation

The San Francisco Archdiocese made it very clear they are there to serve God, not the 99 percent. The religious leaders yesterday afternoon ordered police to start rounding up occupiers and arresting them a day after protesters descended on the church’s vacant building on Turk Street, pledging to turn the site into a permanent space for the homeless.

Initially, SF Catholics had instructed police to hold off on messing with occupiers, which gave protesters plenty of time to start prepping for a fight; when police did raid the building, they found the gates had been heavily barricaded along with piles of bricks, chairs, and buckets of paint on the rooftop. “There was concern that these items were going to be used as weapons against police officers,” said Sgt. Michael Andraychak.

When police entered the building, occupiers retreated into rooms, many that had also been barricaded from the inside. Others locked themselves on the second floor, and one person jumped from the roof and was arrested by police upon his landing.

On Sunday, Occupiers had stormed the building, which the church said was still being used as a music facility for the nearby Sacred Heart Cathedral High School. Occupiers began making themselves at home, handing out flyers, announcing the “grand opening” of the building as the “San Francisco Commune” while activists organized the space for homeless folks in need of shelter.

When police raided the site on Monday afternoon, they did find mattresses, bedrolls, a makeshift medical room, and a kitchen — all signs that occupiers had long-term plans for the two-story building. But there were also signs of miscreants in the group. Police found disturbing graffiti inside the building, including anarchy symbols, the phrases, “Burn it down,” “New Social Order,” and “Kill Cops.” Officers also found white supremacy literature inside one of the rooms, Adraychak said.

By 6 p.m., police had mostly cleared the area, and some 75 protesters were arrested on suspicion of trespassing. Today the Archdiocese is out there assessing just how much money this 24-hour occupation will cost them — and church goers.

But let’s not jump to any conclusions about Catholics. In fact, there is an “Occupy Catholics” movement forming out there, which is working to seek justice for the 99 percent — in God’s eyes, of course.

Complete Article HERE!