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    • Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand September 15, 2014
      Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand: A Vietnam Soldier's Story has just been released. The title comes from a stanza of the gospel traditional, Down by the Riverside, with its refrain--"Ain't gonna study war no more." Golden Sand is a bold, dark, and intense retelling of the Vietnam experience through the eyes of an army scout that is […]
      Obie Holmen
    • Gay Games Symposium July 21, 2014
      I am pleased and honored that the UCC has asked me to moderate a symposium during the games entitled Queer Christians: Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
      Obie Holmen
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    • Where Are You? October 26, 2011
      Greetings to all others who grace these pages! Thank you for stopping by. If you still have a reader pointed here, this blog no longer publishes in this location, but can be found at this new link. Please subscribe to the new feed, get the new blog via email or read us by liking us on Facebook or by following me on Twitter.If you want more, please feel free […]
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    • Out and About – Autumn 2014 December 20, 2014
      With the winter solstice just days away, it seems appropriate to pause and look back on some of the events of my life this autumn. I periodically do this type of looking back in The Wild Reed's "Out and About" series. I began this series in April 2007 as a way of documenting my life as an “out” gay Catholic man, seeking to be all “about” the S […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • Fall Round Up December 19, 2014
      Can you believe it's been over three years since I did a "round-up" post? Time sure flies. So without further ado, here's a "round-up" of recent online articles and commentaries that I've found to be of particular interest. Perhaps you will too!____________________First up is a recent story from the good folks at New Ways M […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
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    • Gay-Bashing Suspects in Philadelphia to Be Formally Arraigned: Update on Previous Story December 19, 2014
      Remember those young folks in Philadelphia, all graduates of the same Catholic high school, who were charged this past September after they beat a gay couple to a bloody pulp? If you need reminding of that story, click the label "Philadelphia" below, and what I've posted here — with links to various news reports — will pop up. An update: as Da […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
    • Vatican Report on U.S. Nuns: Valuable Commentary by Joan Chittister, Christine Schenck, Sandra Schneiders, and Tom Fox December 19, 2014
      Some brief excerpts of responses to the Vatican report on American women religious that have struck me as well worth reading:Joan Chittister maintains that the lingering questions about why this witch hunt took place and what role women are to have in the church point to the following conclusion:These are the questions that will make real both the concern of […]
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    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
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    • Barracuda - a Young Gay Teen Novel December 10, 2014
      A significant contribution to gay teen literature, but not without its exasperating flaws.I had to struggle to finish this book, but I persevered to the end because I respected the author's intentions and his deliberate efforts to integrate the gay sexuality of his central character into the narrative without making it a central issue. We are still in d […]
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    • Religion of the Gypsies December 7, 2014
      I am very pleased that my first book review at Crime Scene Reviews is the sweeping historical saga, Dosha, Flight of the Russian Gypsies, by Sonia Meyer (Author Interview here) which I’ve selected from Book Club Reading List. This deeply moving account of the tragic plight of Russian Romany gypsies is an appropriate choice for this site because it deals with […]
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    • Do Christmas movies have to be about the first Christmas? December 20, 2014
      - from The Bishop's WifeThere's a post at Crux - The trouble with Christmas movies - that I thought was interesting. It was asking why there weren't more Christmas movies actually about the birth of Jesus. I guess it's true that most Christmas movies, aside from The Nativity Story, are set at Christmas in various different eras but aren […]
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)

The Author of Loathing Lincoln Explains Why Some on the Christian Right Loathe Lincoln

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

 photo loathinglincoln.jpgOne under-reported result of the 2014 elections was the rise of Neo-Confederate politics in the U.S. This included the election of unabashed apologist for the Confederacy Michael Peroutka, who was elected to Maryland’s Anne Arundel County Council; and Joni Ernst, a proponent of nullification and secession, who was elected to the United States Senate from Iowa. It has also resulted in divisions on the Christian Right as well as in the wider Republican Party.

Thus is seems like a good time to ask John McKee Barr, the author of one of this year’s most informative books, Loathing Lincoln: An American Tradition from the Civil War to the Present for some insight into what is going on. As Barr told me before our interview, it is within the Neo-Confederate movement where the hatred of Abraham Lincoln and all he stood for meets the Religious Right.  

John Barr is currently a professor of history at Lone Star College-Kingwood [Texas], having joined their faculty in 2008. There he teaches a variety of courses including the survey of U.S. History, “Political Novels”, “The Emancipators: Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, and the Making of the Modern World,” and “Revolution and Counterrevolution.” His website can be found right here.

Loathing Lincoln is his first book and an important first effort. The tome not only provides the reader with excellent insight into the to peculiar tradition of Lincoln hatred, but by extension, a more complete understanding of many of the beliefs that underlie the current nullification and secession movements.

I began our conversation by asking Barr to explain Lincoln’s religious philosophy. Was it unchanging or did it evolve over time?

Barr: Lincoln’s religion has been a topic of unending fascination, both for his admirers and his critics. For me, the best book on this subject is Allen Guelzo’s Abraham Lincoln:Redeemer President. In broad terms, I think we can say that Lincoln grew up in a deeply religious world of Protestant Christianity. As Guelzo puts it, “Intellectually, he was stamped from his earliest days by the Calvinism of his parents.”  In addition, Lincoln certainly had what many have called a melancholic streak in his personality (Lincoln’s “melancholy dripped from him as he walked” his law partner William Herndon said), and that too, at least in my view, shaped his religious beliefs. One of his favorite poems was by William Knox, one entitled “Mortality.” A close look at that poem I think verifies the future president’s dark outlook. Still, Lincoln did go through a phase of being what Guelzo calls a “religious skeptic.” He never joined a church, and one political opponent, Peter Cartwright, accused Lincoln of what was called then “infidelity” in a congressional campaign. You can see Lincoln’s response to that charge here. Personally, it seems to me that Lincoln would just rather avoid the whole subject and he does not really answer the charge, thus lending some credence to the idea that Cartwright’s allegations were true.

Now, when Lincoln is campaigning against the extension of slavery into the territories in the 1850s he frequently attacks, or mocks, the idea that slavery is a divine institution and good for the slave (e.g. pro-slavery theology). I especially like the sentence in the preceding link where he says that “Certainly there is no contending against the Will of God; but still there is some difficulty in ascertaining, and applying it, to particular cases.” Thus, he condemns slavery’s defenders for using God to mask their own self-interest.

During the Civil War, I think Lincoln’s language becomes much more suffused, if you will, with religious imagery. In a sense, how could it be otherwise? Hundreds of thousands of Americans are dying (this would be millions, proportionally speaking, today) and he had to make sense of all this suffering and communicate it to the American public in religious language. The culmination of this is his Second Inaugural Address, which some historians believe is truly his greatest speech. Notice Lincoln’s sense that the war is God’s just punishment for the sin of American rather than southern slavery. It is a remarkable address, yet one without rancor and closing with perhaps the finest peroration in the English language.

Once the war concluded and Lincoln had been assassinated, then the issue of his religious beliefs became of profound importance for Americans. This is something that I explore in great detail in the second and fourth chapters of my book, Loathing Lincoln: An American Tradition from the Civil War to the Present. Lincoln’s opponents accused him of being an “infidel,” or unbeliever (this was true not only in the South, I might add), while some of his defenders claimed him as the quintessential Christian. Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, tried to set the record straight in the aftermath of his friend’s death, but in claiming Lincoln was not a Christian he made many people quite angry. Nowadays Lincoln’s religious beliefs are interesting to Americans, of course, but I’m not sure they are as important to people (we are a much more religiously pluralistic country today, including those Americans who like Lincoln affiliate themselves with no church at all) as they were in the latter part of the nineteenth-century, or the early twentieth century. Still, I would agree with Christopher Hitchens that Lincoln cannot be enlisted in the atheist cause. He is instead a political figure who challenged those who claimed religious certitude, those who used religion to justify what was in their own self-interest, yet drew on religious tradition/language in attempt to ascertain the meaning of the Civil War for all Americans.

Cocozzelli: Why would conservative Christian libertarians despise Lincoln?

Barr: I think that it is because Lincoln and the Republicans used public power to intervene into a private arrangement – slavery. And, it seems to me anyway, that today many Christians are deeply suspicious of any government that might do something similar. Think gay marriage, for example. Also, I don’t know that all, or even most, Christian libertarians despise Lincoln. To be sure, some do and they are influential, but I don’t know if they are a majority.

Cocozzelli: What about Lincoln’s legacy teaches us how to effectively answer the Christian libertarian right?

Barr: Consider these words from Lincoln: “Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much. Public opinion, or [on] any subject, always has a “central idea,” from which all its minor thoughts radiate.”

Why Pope Francis Is Seeking Reconciliation with European Fascists

The head of the notorious Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, met with Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on Sept. 23, 2014, “with a view to the envisioned full reconciliation” with the Catholic Church. Known by its acronym, SSPX, the society “does not have a canonical status in the church [and] its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the church.” Nevertheless, a French SSPX priest was allowed to say mass in St. Peter’s Basilica a month earlier.

The Vatican initiated “non-official” contact with the SSPX leading to an “informal meeting” between Fellay and church officials on Dec. 13, 2013, despite SSPX offering to hold the funeral Mass of a convicted Nazi war criminal the previous October and disrupting a November ceremony in Buenos Aires marking the anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust. Continue reading

Bishop Finn Under Vatican Investigation

Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri has long been a symbol of the ongoing institutional intransigence in addressing the problem of child sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. Finn who was convicted by a Missouri court for failing to report suspected child abuse by a parish priest under his charge, has so far resisted calls for his resignation.

It now appears that Pope Francis wants to remove that symbol.

The National Catholic Reporter reports:

A Canadian archbishop visited the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese last week on behalf of the Vatican to investigate the leadership of Bishop Robert Finn, the first Catholic prelate to be found criminally guilty of shielding a priest in the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis.

Ottawa, Ontario, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast visited the Midwestern diocese for several days last week, interviewing more than a dozen people about Finn’s leadership, several of those interviewed told NCR.

According to those who spoke with Prendergast, the main question he asked was: “Do you think [Finn] is fit to be a leader?”

While Bishop Finn has supporters, there are many in his diocese who have already given an unqualified “no” as their answer.

There is one particular element of this breaking story that bears watching: Archbishop Prendergast, the Vatican appointed investigator, is a Jesuit. And as I have previously pointed out, Bishop Finn is a member of Opus Dei. He is a culture warrior who is well connected in the neoconservative Catholic Right. While the Jesuits are well known for their open-mindedness and temperate outlook that clearly reflects the current Jesuit pope, Opus Dei members are equally known for their rigidity and role in the conservative movement inside and outside the Church.

The investigation of Bishop Finn could turn out to be a transformative moment in the history of the child sex abuse scandal, in the American culture wars and indeed, in the history of the Church.

Pope Francis and Sex Abuse: Time for Another* Reality Check

“Pope sacks Paraguay bishop accused of protecting abuser priest” or some similar headline was carried by newspapers and news agencies around the world yesterday, unanimously praising Pope Francis for “taking action” against a prelate for harboring a clerical sex abuser. Since such notorious guardians of offending priests as Twin Cities Archbishop Nienstedt, Kansas City Bishop Finn and Newark Archbishop Myers are still in place although petitions have been sent to the pope for their removal, and just about every hierarch appointed or promoted in the U.S. by Pope Francis has a dismal record in this regard, accurate headlines would have stated the real reason this bishop was “sacked.” Continue reading

Archbishop Schnurr Throws Cold Water on the Ice Bucket Challenge

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has been an outstanding success in raising both awareness and research money needed to find a cure for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) . As of September 10, 2014 the ALS Association has raised $111.6 million in Ice Bucket Challenge donations. The wildly popular charity stunt captured the hearts of millions of people last summer bringing together former presidents, movie stars and ordinary citizens in an effort to create a greater awareness necessary to cure a hideous muscle disease. They did it by pouring ice water over themselves and then challenging friends and neighbors to do the same.

The challenge is important because ALS (commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease” (because of its fatal impact upon the life of the great New York Yankee first baseman) is still considered an “orphan disease” —  defined as

“A disease that has not been `adopted’ by the pharmaceutical industry because it provides little financial incentive for the private sector to make and market new medications to treat or prevent it.”

Fortunately, the Ice Bucket Challenge has gone a long way in correcting that dynamic.

But all this warm hearted, spot-on humanitarianism did not deter Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr from sounding a sour note. It seems that his eminence wanted to seize an opportunity to change the subject to stage a culture war battle over stem cells.

It is not that Cincinnati prelate did not want his diocesan members to take part in the challenge; instead, he did not want them to send any money to the ALS Association. Perhaps without realizing the consequences, he was making the phenomena more about stem cell ethics then being focused on cure this dreaded disease  — or perhaps, as a more cynical mind would suspect, he was deliberately trying to change the topic of conversation.

But before we get to our story, let’s note that Schnurr is the kind of culture warrior many of us hoped might seek a truce in the era of Pope Francis. Unfortunately, that has not come to pass. Schnurr seems to seek to impose his personal moral parameters, even upon those who do not share his Catholic Faith.

For example, as CNN reported this past May:

(CNN) — If you want to teach at a Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, regardless of your religion, you must be willing to sign a detailed morality clause that critics say focuses on “pelvic issues.”

The revised contracts forbid teachers from — among other things — living together or having sex outside of marriage, using in-vitro fertilization, a gay “lifestyle,” or publicly supporting any of those things.

The system’s 2,200 current teachers must sign the agreement to stay on the job.

Anyway, here is the reason behind culture war commander Schnurr’s lastest exploit. The Washington Post recently explained, “That’s because the [ALS] association funds a single study using embryonic stem cells, mainly through the funds of a single donor.”

To that end, the Archbishop asked those who took part in the challenge to send the matching donations to an institution such as The John Paul II Medical Research Institute which, while doing extensive research on adult stem cells is not focused on curing ALS.

The Post continued: “In a statement to the American Life League, ALS Association spokesperson Carrie Munk said that donors are able to specify whether they want their funds to support embryonic stem cell research or not.”

Schnurr created a false equivalence in order to try to direct donor funds away from from an organization that exclusively engages in ALS research to an institution that does not do ALS research. The ALS Association is completely focused upon curing this one fatal disease while the John Paul II Medical Research Institute is not. In fact, the Institute, which has only three paid staff, has done no work on ALS (Its focus has been on cancer research). And while The National Catholic Register  reported that between August 15 and August 20, 2014 “received 350 donations for $15,000 dollars,” The Gazette of Iowa City reported otherwise. The newspaper directly quoted the Institute’s CEO who claimed that the Institute “has gotten “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in donations from people who want to support research on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), but don’t want the research done with human embryos.”

The archbishop used the Ice Bucket Challenge to mooch off of the campaign’s newly found heightened awareness to raise money needed for heretofore underfunded research. Schnurr managed to siphon off both attention and hundreds of thousands of dollars that might otherwise have gong to do actual research into finding a cure for this orphan disease. And in so doing, kicked instead of assisting the orphan.

For this Catholic writer, to equate an embryo with a natural born human being is tantamount to equating an acorn with a fully-grown oak tree. While there is clearly a relationship between the embryo and the human they are not one in the same, just as an acorn and an oak tree are not the same. A significant portion of the embryo is the placenta, which is discarded as “afterbirth.” But what is more strikingly different is that a natural born human being has a face. And it is by looking into the face of an ALS victim we see the vital necessity of exploring every avenue that may lead to extinguishing this horrible disease.

And to that end, we should all look into the face of a victim of this illness. William M. Tendy Jr., who is pictured below.

 photo talk2actionfrankc.jpg
Affectionately known as “Billy” to his family, William Tendy was an extraordinary person.  After a difficult two-year battle, sixty-year-old Billy succumbed to ALS. A dedicated husband and father, he was a private practice attorney who successfully took on the death penalty while commanding the respect of the legal community. In his August 26, 2014 obituary in the New York Law Journal his law partner said of him, “Bill was very compassionate to his clients. He didn’t treat clients like files” while another lawyer who was his friend described him as a “truly gifted trial attorney.” In that same piece a former Court of Appeals Judge warmly recalled, “It was astonishing how he gained admiration of the judges,” said Rosenblatt. “They often commented he was a staunch advocate, a model of politeness, hard work and fairness. That was well known and widely reported.”

It is often said that you can tell a lot about a man simply by looking in his eyes. When you look into Billy Tendy’s eyes in the picture above it is easy to see the basis for such plaudits and fond memories. His eyes were the centerpiece of a warm face that simultaneously reflected kindness, intelligence and strength; they complimented a smile that exuded self-assurance without arrogance. And now that is all gone, stolen by an illness that gets too little attention and too few dollars for research.

I can tell you from my own 30-year battle with a lesser form of muscular dystrophy what happens to the body. Month by month, sometimes week by week, and even they by day the ability to do even the most basic tasks desert you. At first it is difficult to stand up from sitting position or to step up from a curb. Being able to play a game of catch with you son becomes an impossibility, let alone hugging your wife and children. Eventually, you need help with the most mundane tasks such as showering and eating a meal. The constant deterioration is selfish and causes friends and family to do things for you such as taking a simple drink or scratching an itch on the head. And as your body turns to nothingness your mind remains unchanged and alert slowly becoming imprisoned in a castle tower that used to be your healthy body.

But that experience is nothing compared to what Billy Tendy went through. His illness accelerated 20 times faster than mine ever will, compressing more than my 30-year of atrophy in less than two years.

Perhaps we should give the archbishop the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he did not realize the consequences of his comments – although I, for one, am not so sure. (On the other hand, his insistence that Catholic school employees abandon their own moral code and legal rights as a condition of employment, suggests that maybe Schnurr is more wily than he is short sighted.) Either way, in his overzealousness to battle embryonic stem cell research he has done a disservice to all the victims who suffer as Billy Tendy and his loved ones suffered.

Only One Catholic News Source Allows Open Coverage and Commentary

Considering that leaders of the Catholic Church made the decisive difference in the reelection of Pres. George W. Bush; after coming close to denying Americans
affordable health insurance, theirs is the power and money obstructing
women’s health care; and, having failed to stop same-sex marriage in this country, are going global to persecute gays (NOM is Opus Dei); one would think more would be concerned about the absence of critical information about the institution and its leader. But like its secular counterpart, the Catholic media have yielded to idolatrous obsequiousness towards Pope Francis. Continue reading

The Vatican Sets Their Sights on Asia

Pontificates have common and particular geopolitical aspirations for increasing the power of the Catholic Church. The current pope and his two predecessors formed and maintain the U.S. episcopate as a politically motivated body who, in support of the Republican Party, remained silent on immoral military invasion, torture and domestic slaughter by firearms but went into paroxysms of outrage over birth control.

John Paul II allied with the Reagan administration against the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe and in support of military dictatorships in Latin America.[1] The Eurocentric Benedict XVI tried to restore some deference previously enjoyed by the Church on that continent and concentrated on Africa, which he called the “lung of the Church,” mindful of the West African oil boom. Now, with one of their most influential and powerful pontiffs in history, the Vatican has undertaken a most ambitious project: incursion into Asia, the economic powerhouse and home to half the world’s population. Continue reading

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