On June 5, Pope Francis met in private with Doug Coe, one of the most influential evangelicals in the US and head of the Family, tea-party ally Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and former U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne who served under Bush 43 amid unprecedented scandal. Continue reading
Pope Francis Met With the Head of the Family – the Secretive, Powerful Politicians Based in a Wash. DC Townhouse
Originally posted at Talk to Action.
Pope Francis recently indicated he is serious about ending child sex abuse and cover-ups by Catholic prelates by defrocking a former apostolic nuncio (a nuncio is essentially a high level Vatican diplomat) for having sexual relations with young boys.
But while the Holy See should be applauded for this decisive action, there is unfinished business with the bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri. And the bishop in question is Robert Finn a darling of the American Catholic Right who have very little to say – at least now that he is a convicted criminal.
As the National Catholic Reporter described recent events:
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ordered the laicization of an archbishop-ambassador accused of paying for sex with minors.
Józef Wesołowski, former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic, will have two months to prepare an appeal to the ruling, which was announced in a brief statement from the Vatican on Friday.
The former nuncio, who the Vatican did not refer to as an archbishop in the statement, was removed from his post in August with little explanation. News accounts days afterward detailed allegations of paying for sex with minors and being connected to a Polish priest accused of sexually assaulting at least 14 underage boys.
But while Francis has acted on Wesołowski, he has yet to remove Robert Finn.
Let’s recall that the crimes of Bishop Finn resulted from his knowledge of the related crimes of a priest in his diocese who pleaded guilty in Federal Court to four counts of producing child pornography and one count of attempted production of child pornography. As I reported here and here, Bishop Finn had constructive knowledge of that priest’s improper touching of young girls and possession of child pornography. Finn knew or had good reason to suspect the priest‘s crimes. Had he acted, he would have prevented other crimes against children under his pastoral care. Indeed, in September 2012 Bishop Finn became the first American prelate convicted of failing to report a pedophile priest.
It is worth recalling that the beneficiary of the cover-up was Fr. Shawn Ratigan who was prosecuted and pleaded of his crimes in Federal Court.
In March of this year I reported that a growing number Kansas City Catholics want Bishop Finn gone.
Pope Francis recently met with victims of Catholic clerical sex abuse. He used the occasion to publicly call for stricter, more decisive actions against Catholic clerics who either engage pedophilia or fail by negligence to prevent it. The Times reported:
In his homily, Francis also vowed “not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not,” and declared that bishops would be held accountable for protecting minors. He said the abuse scandals had had “a toxic effect on faith and hope in God.”
As a progressive Catholic I truly want Francis to succeed. Catholicism is wanting for the kind of reforms he seems to be all about. People recognize that he seems to be the breath of fresh air the Vatican so desperately needs. But with that said, in certain areas Francis is beginning to face a credibility problem. Soothing words are not enough. Credibility, especially with regards to the pedophilia issue, requires decisive action. And decisive action requires punishing negligent as well as abusive bishops.
And the perfect place to demonstrate decisive action is in Kansas City.
Filed under: Catholic Right, church reform, clerical abuse | Tagged: Bishop Robert Finn, Catholic Right, child abuse, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, dismissal, Pope Francis, Shawn Ratigan | Leave a comment »
Originally posted at Talk to Action
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the overseer of the Diocese of Brooklyn-Queens New York, recently weighed in on the recent US Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the case concerning the ability of certain closely held corporations to opt out of one of the preventive health care provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that required that insurance packages provide free birth control for women. In praising the High Court’s decision he offered an analogy that was fractured and misses the point.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is not well-known beyond the metropolitan New York area. He is often overshadowed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan the head of the much larger and neighboring Diocese of New York. Installed by Pope John Paul II in October 2003, DiMarzio does nevertheless exercise influence by the fact that he lead a diocese of almost 1 ½ million Catholics. Beyond that, is also a religious cultural warrior being both a member of Opus Dei and a signatory of the Manhattan Declaration; the controversial statement that proclaims that Christians should not only oppose marriage equality and reproductive freedom, but engage in civil disobedience in order to get their way.
Thus it is not surprising that the bishop weighed in on the recent US Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby case. He told the local CBS affiliate:
Religious liberty is at stake. Let me give you an example: if we were to tell Muslims and Jews that pork is good to eat, the government could decide you should eat pork because it’s good for your health. Could we force them to do something that is against their religious tenet? I don’t think so,
Forget for now the shoddiness of the decision. Also put aside that by voting with the majority Associate Justice Antonin Scalia contradicted himself from a decision he himself wrote 24 years earlier. What the Bishop does not seem to understand is that health insurance provided by an employer is part and parcel of a compensation package, akin to monetary salary. This is a critical distinction that illuminates why this is a false analogy.
What SCOTUS has essentially said is that an employer has to power to tell an employee what to do with her compensation. Because birth-control could now conceivably not be covered by insurance plans, it drives up the cost to the user. The reason for that is simple: instead of making a simple $20 or $35 co-payment, the employee is now possibly liable for the full payment. Which brings us back to the bishop’s analogy.
Bishop DiMarzio’s syllogism does not work because it makes no distinction between employer and employee. As the result of the court’s ruling an employer may now dictate to an employee — especially one whose religious beliefs differ from that of an anti-birth-control employer – that she cannot take advantage of the purchasing power of an insurance plan to lower her costs. And beyond that, because before Hobby Lobby was decided, the birth-control coverage was purchased through a compensation plan it was truly the employee, not be employer, who was paying for birth control. While the bishop spins a scenario of the government telling a Muslim or Jewish citizen what type of meat he must eat, the reality was quite different; it would be as if an employee could legally impede that same Muslim or Jew from purchasing what type of meat he can eat. The bishop’s analogy would only make sense if the employee were required to use birth control in violation of her religious convictions
I do agree with Bishop DiMarzio in one respect: religious freedom is the issue. Unfortunately, it is the Supreme Court that is now ensuring that the religious freedom of millions of Americans will be violated in the wake of Hobby Lobby.
Almost unknown outside of Argentina, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named the fourth “Most Powerful Person in the World/People Who Rule the World” by Forbes seven months after his election as pope. Five months later, another business publication, Fortune, named him the “World’s Greatest Leader.” Three of the four other top “rulers of the word” have already been to the Vatican to pay him homage: Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and Angela Merkel. Only Xi Jinping has not yet made the pilgrimage but literally dozens of other heads-of-state have done so and have strengthened their diplomatic ties to the Holy See.
This leap from obscurity to global power was accomplished by the same corporate media complicit in shifting the wealth of the world’s richest nation into the pockets of the 1%. They selectively reported when Bergoglio looked and talked like a moderate populist. They did not tell us about Bergoglio’s compliance with Argentina’s military junta, his disgraceful history on child sex abuse nor his advocacy of right-wing politics. (Also here, here and here.)
And even though progressives know that the Religious Right was created by the neocons to facilitate this takeover, that the Catholic episcopate is an enthusiastic adjunct of the plutocracy, and that the men who elected Bergoglio were appointed by the same popes as the Obama-bashing, misogynist and homophobic U.S. bishops, we were as taken in by the “incense-smoke and mirrors” as the rest of the populace. We not only accepted without question the corporate media’s careful reporting but also showed no interest in Bergoglio’s papal appointments of men with backgrounds and worldviews at polar opposites to his constructed image. (Also, here and here.) Continue reading
Originally posted at Talk to Action.
The 2013 film “Philomena” tells the moving story of an Irish woman who had an out of wedlock son in the early 1950s. The nuns with whom she was sent to live sent her son to America for adoption. The film is at once the story of Philomena Lee’s search for her child – and a lesson in Christ-like forgiveness as well as of enduring Catholic faith.
So, who would find such a story to be anti-Catholic? Why Bill Donohue, of course!
(Spoiler alert below.)
Before we get to Bill Donohue, let’s say a bit more about the film.
Recently my wife and I saw Philomena a film inspired by the heartfelt story of the real life Philomena Lee, who was a single Irish teenage girl who got pregnant in the early 1950s, and as was too often the case at that time, banished by her family to live a very stern existence in a convent. She worked seven days a week in the now notorious Magdalena laundry (which was viewed as “penance”).
Philomena gave birth to a son, Anthony, while living at the convent. Working grueling hours, she was only allowed to see Anthony one hour a day. Young Anthony was soon adopted and taken to live in the United States. She wasn’t even given an opportunity to say goodbye to her child, leaving her devastated.
Most of the story is seen through flashback. Fifty years later Philomena – who remained a deeply religious Catholic — wants to know became of her son. After a couple glasses of wine one night she finally tells her daughter about her older half-brother. Through her, Philomena convinces a former BBC reporter, Martin Sixsmith — a very lapsed Catholic turned atheist — to write a book about her experience and help her find her son. Their journey takes them back to the convent where it all began. There, the nuns tell her that they cannot help her – which is, as the film later shows, a complete mendacity.
The film’s next segment is a trip to America (not based on actual events) where the two learn that her son grew up in Chicago, became a successful attorney and went on to work in the White House of George H. W. Bush. She also learns that her son was gay and died of AIDS in 1995.
But his death is not only unsettling news. Contrary to what Lee and Sixsmith were told when they first visited the convent, Philomena’s son not only also came there looking for his birth mother but was actually buried on its premises.
Throughout the film there is a tension about faith and forgiveness. Sixsmith has become increasingly bitter towards the church (when Philomena is looking for a church where she could go to confession, he tells her, “The Catholic Church should go to confession, not you!”). The title character, however, takes a different path. She is able to separate the hierarchy from the body of the Church – the rank and file engaging in belief.
Which brings us to Bill Donohue who cannot help but attack the film in ways that range from petty to vicious.
In a press release, for example, the Catholic League president labeled the film “bunk” and “propaganda.” In an op-ed he attempted to paint the entire project as a giant falsehood by noting, “The film and the book also maintain that Philomena went to the United States to find her son, but this is patently untrue: she never set foot in America looking for him.” But even as Donohue is well aware, the film never claims to be a non-fiction account. Indeed, the film prominently acknowledges that the story was “inspired by actual events.”
During the Oscar season he issued a further attack on the film. In it, he commented on how Philomena revealed her secret over a few drinks on Christmas 2004. He then falsely suggests that she had sworn herself to secrecy and that excessive amounts of alcohol was the real culprit.
This is not to say there was no secrecy. However, it was Philomena, not the nuns, who were tight lipped: she swore herself to secrecy, never telling her children what happened when she was a teenager. Alcohol changed that.
He then tries to blame it all on atheism:
[Martin] Sixsmith does not say whether Philomena was also bombed when they met, though he said it was at a New Year’s party that same year. Lucky for her, she found an atheist willing to buy her tale.
Donohue goes on to raise other issues – many of them (such as disputing how the young women were treated in the laundries) – are easily refuted including by the Irish government. But he avoids the film’s main criticism: the convent’s false pleas of ignorance in response to a dying son and a searching mother looking for each other. Bill’s angry bluster over how both the hierarchy and the Church as an institution are portrayed almost seem to be an intended distraction from the film’s central question: what justifies separating a mother and child from each other? That is a question Donohue will not even attempt to answer.
Philomena and Sixsmith confront Sister Hildegarde near the end of the film (A juncture where the film takes license order to inject Philomena’s final judgment of her actions; the actual nun in question passed away in 1995). She is unrepentant for having given away Philomena’s son fifty years before — arguing that Philomena and the other mothers’ penance for their sins was the loss of their children. When Philomena nevertheless forgives the bitter old nun — an incredulous Sixsmith protests. “But I don’t wanna hate people,” Philomena explains. “I don’t wanna be like you. Look at you.” And when he responds by saying that he’s angry, she mutters. “Must be exhausting.”
Catholic means “universal” or “all encompassing.” But the priorities and interests of Donohue’s “Catholic League” are far from universal. As I’ve written time and time again, Donohue and friends seek to advance a specific cultural and political agenda. Culturally, he speaks for the highly conservative portion of the hierarchy that has no use for flexibility, transparency and accountability. The body of the Catholic Church is not just the hierarchy or a certain group of nuns; it is the entire church mostly made up of people such as Philomena Lee.
Politically, Donohue is a “top-down” person. He has deep ties to movement conservatism – including being an adjunct scholar with the Heritage Foundation. The Catholic League’s Board of Advisers reads as a neoconservative Who’s Who list). More often than not, Donohue’s Catholicism dovetails nicely with secular political considerations of the Right (this was recently on full display when Donohue recently described Pope Francis’s economics as a form of Marxism).
Bill Donohue will angrily scowl, brow-beat and even resort to hateful language in pursuit of his goals. His method is on vivid display in his war on Philomena.
It must be exhausting to be Bill Donohue.
Filed under: Catholic Right, Church Structures / Ecclessiology, clerical abuse, Family, Practical Compassion | Tagged: Catholic League, Catholic Right, Magdalene Laundries, movement conservatism, out of wedlock pregnancy, overseas adoption, Philomena Lee, William Donohue | Leave a comment »
The Gospels tell us that the religious leaders were the only people Jesus reprimanded and chastised. They were hypocrites and didn’t set a good example. In turn, they paid Judas 30 pieces of silver to help them arrest Jesus. Their court handed Jesus over to the civil government to have him tortured and executed.
Early Christians were mostly a persecuted minority until the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century. By law, no other religion would be tolerated. So Christian leaders supported the state. Constantine used Christianity, in part, to unify his empire. Church leaders used the Roman Empire as their organizational model even though Jesus told his followers, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Continue reading
Opus Dei, an official institution of the Catholic Church, at the top is a secret society of international bankers, financiers, businessmen and their supporters. Their goal is the same as other plutocrats – unbridled power – except they use the influence of the Catholic Church and its worldwide network of institutions exempt from both taxes and financial reporting to advance rightwing parties and governments.
A year after Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s elevation as head of the Church and his many appointments, the dust has settled. Three cardinals have emerged as the most powerful in this papacy; all have close ties to Opus Dei. Two now control all Vatican finance. Continue reading