Pope Benedict XVI began the week in Spain, his first triumphal tour after being named the fifth most powerful person in the world by one of the world’s leading financial publications. (Forbes said they based their selection in part on the “significant financial resources” available to their top picks and their “insistance that their choices actively wield their power.”) Benedict’s first stop was at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where he said, “The Church, which desires to serve unreservedly the human person and his dignity, stands at the service of both truth and freedom.”
This is what freedom looks like in the Catholic Church.
A National Catholic Reporter article dated Nov. 8 stated, “NCR has obtained a copy of a scathingly critical report of what was to be the final Vatican-approved English translation of the Roman Missal. [This means changes in the words said at mass.] The report was sent to English-speaking bishops’ conferences around the world. NCR obtained a copy of the report from a member of the hierarchy of an English-speaking country who asked not to be identified as the source.”
This summer, Chicago’s Rev. Larry McNally “got way out front on the third rail issue of ordaining women. He also criticized Rome’s inquiry into America’s female religious orders. He spoke from the pulpit, wrote a letter to the Sun-Times, and allowed/encouraged a petition drive outside the church doors calling on the Church to change its stance and allow women priests. He signed the petition himself – in red marker, he said – and in August delivered the 600-plus signatures personally to Cardinal Francis George at his home on the city’s North Side.” On Oct. 10, Cardinal Francis George wrote in his archdiocesan newspaper, “Catholics who want to live their faith in peace should not be subjected to organized protests by others whose personal faith is not adequate to the faith of the Church … Using political tactics to change Church teaching to what one would like it to be is inconsistent with one’s continuing claim to be Catholic.” According to one columnist: “Not subtle. Your faith is inadequate and you can get on board or we’ll toss you. The word excommunication was not used, but rather implied.” Finally, on Sunday, Oct. 31, “McNally quoted the verse from the catechism about Jesus having chosen only male disciples and ‘for this reason the ordination of women is not possible.’ He then apologized to those he had offended and confused. And he closed with…’With the help of the Holy Spirit, I will do my very best to support this Church Doctrine.'”
Parishioners of St. Mary and St. Augustine in Platteville, Wisconsin, petitioned their bishop, Robert Morlino, by letter to remove the priests Morlino had installed the previous June. The priests were members of a strict and traditional Spanish order who ignored the parish pastoral and financial councils, and forbidden girls from being altar servers and lay persons from distributing communion. Bishop Morlino sent the parishioners a letter dated Oct. 28. Rather than simply denying their request, he accused the 469 people who signed the letter of the “gravely sinful conduct” of “rumor, gossip, and calumny” first without substantiating his accusation and then proceding in his letter to treat their grievances as factual. The bishop warned them that “Activities such as protest-letter-writing seminars, leafleting of motor vehicles, door-to-door canvassing for signatures on a petition, etc (that is, exerting organized political pressure on people, where the end justifies any means) is an appropriate tactic in a political campaign, but not in the communion of faith which is the Catholic Church.” He compared them to “groups who dissent from basic tenets of Catholic Doctrine” although the groups he named – Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful – do no such thing.
Morlino required the parishioners’ obedience to their priests and bishop just as Jesus’ “priestly sacrifice” was to be obedient to the Father by dying on the cross. In defending one of the priests from making an “inappropriate comment at a funeral,” Morlino wrote them that “it is very important for priests and deacons” to remind Catholics at a funeral “to have Masses offered for the deceased [which Catholics have to pay for] in order to help make satisfaction for the temporal punishment due them for their sins in purgatory.” In response to the parishioners informing their bishop that “parish donations have decreased by 50 percent” Morlino tells them it is “the obligation of the faithful to support the work of the Church as a good in and of itself, irrespective of the popularity of the clergy. Financial support is not to be treated as a vote of confidence but as a gift of love.”
After Morlino wrote that “the Pastor never needs the approval of the finance council, pastoral council, or any other committee before making any decision….he can never allow them to bind him to make any specific decision” one 25-year member of St. Mary’s told a reporter, “While the Catholic Church is not a democracy, some degree of collaboration with parishioners would be nice….I know they probably have Church law on their side, but just because you have the right to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do,” she said. “People are leaving and taking their money with them.”
So add people from Platteville to the millions who have already left the Catholic Church. Last week’s Election exit polls measuring the “Catholic vote” registered the decrease. While Catholics composed 30 percent of the electorate in the 1960s, they now constitute 25 percent, a number equal to “white born-again or evangelical Christians” according to the New York Times “Portrait of the Electorate.” The polls also reflect the ideology of Americans who still self-identify as “Catholic”. In 1982, 63 percent of Catholics voted Democratic; last week 55 percent voted Republican, close in number – 57 percent – to those with incomes over $100,000 who also voted Republican.
This is also evident from a recent Gallup poll. When asked whether the Islamic center in downtown Manhattan should be re-located further away from Ground Zero, 14 percent of Muslims, 32 percent of atheists and agnostics, 43 percent of Jews and 49 percent of Protestants agreed. Shamefully, 60 percent of Catholics said the center should be moved.
After Benedict said the Catholic Church stands at the service of truth, he told reporters, “In Spain, a strong, aggressive lay mentality, an anticlericalism and secularization has been born as we experienced in the 1930’s. This dispute, perhaps even more this conflict between the faith and modernity, both of which are very much alive, is also unfolding in Spain today.” As noted by the Associated Press: “The reference was striking, given the scale of violence back then, when poverty-stricken and disgruntled Spaniards burned churches and murdered priests and nuns whom they considered obstacles to much-needed change. The Church claims 4,184 clergy were killed by the government, or Republican side, which accused the Church of backing fascist Gen. Francisco Franco.”
Regardless of Benedict’s repeated claims that the Catholic Church is “pro-life,” the Church most definitely supported the fascist Franco. The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) resulted in 365,000 deaths with an additional 100,000 Spaniards executed by Franco until his death in 1975. (These and all the following death counts come from http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstatx.htm. There are no separate counts of the number of unborn children also slaughtered.)
Leaving aside the Catholic Church’s early support for the Nazi Party in Germany and the ensuing controversies over the Church’s continued ambivalence towards Hitler, we know the following Europeans received solid support from the Vatican:
Mussolini (1922-1943) – 200,000 were killed in Ethiopia and Libya before World War II. Italian troops killed 15,000 in Yugoslavia and 9,000 Greeks. Italians executed 9,000 Slovenes in the summer of 1941.
Hitler allies, the Croatian Ustashe, killed 500-700,000 Serbs, 207,000 Croats, 86,000 Muslims, 50,000 Jews and 20,000 Gypsies. Most died in the Ustashe concentration camps.
The post-war expulsion of Germans from East Europe (1945-1947) – approximately 2,100,000 died while being expelled from the heavily Catholic countries of Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Probably the most powerful clergyman in US history was New York Cardinal Francis Spellman who raised millions of dollars to fight Communism in post-war Europe. Spellman promoted the selection of Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic, to be prime minister of South Vietnam. It was Diem’s persecution of the Buddhist majority which caused turmoil and disunity in South Vietnam while Americans engaged the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese in battle.
Many officers in the ARVN converted to Catholicism in the belief that their career prospects depended on it, and many were refused promotion if they did not do so. Additionally, the distribution of firearms to village self-defense militias intended to repel Viet Cong guerrillas was done so that weapons were only given to Catholics. Some Catholic priests ran private armies, and in some areas forced conversions, looting, shelling and demolition of pagodas occurred. Some Buddhist villages converted en masse to receive aid or avoid being forcibly resettled by Diem’s regime.
Vietnam War: (1965-73) 1,700,000
Catholic prelates stood firmly along side Latin American dictators providing them not only with moral support but the means to easily acquire arms and cash. The wars were at their most brutal after Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II formed an alliance.
Brazil: Under Dutra/Vargas (1945-64): 50,000 Under the military (1964-85): 75,000
Guatemala: (1960-1996) 200,000 (in a country with the same population, roughly, as the state of Tennessee.)
Bolivia: (1971-78) Military Regime under Hugo Banzer: 100 disappearances, 39 murders, 400 deaths. Regime of Luis Garcia Meza (1980-81) 1,000 killed by the military.
Nicaragua: (1972-91): 60,000
Uruguay: Military Regime (1973-85) 200 political prisoners disappeared, 61 Tupamaro rebels and 50 soldiers/police KIA
Chile: 5,000 killed in 1973 coup; 20,000 executions in 1974. Remainder of the Pinochet regime until 1990 – extrajudicial executions and deaths under torture: 2,095, disappearances: 1,102
Argentina: Military Junta (1976-83) 30,000
El Salvador: (1979-92): 75,000
Panama: US invasion by the first President Bush (1989) Joint delegation of CODEHUCA + CONADEHUPA: 2,000 – 3,000
Beginning with the election of Pope John Paul II, the US episcopate and the Vatican have done everything in their power to turn America into a traditional Latin American oligarchy. As New York Times columnist Kristof noted in his Nov. 7 essay, “Our Banana Republic“:
The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.
C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.
Apropos to the Church’s support of President George W. Bush, in Iraq – 4,427 US deaths (over 100,000 wounded) and 1,421,933 Iraqi deaths, including pregnant women and children. (MIRABILEDICTU 11/10/10)
Being one of the five most powerful people in the world means you get to admonish, with a straight face, government leaders like Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who work for peace and a decent standard of living for their countrymen and the world’s press respectfully reports your pronouncements about God’s love.
Shortly after his election, Benedict met with his old friend, the famous theologian Hans Kung. Kung related part of the conversation:”He told me, ‘I have to keep the tradition.’ But by ‘the tradition’ he means the tradition he knows very well, which he thinks is the Catholic tradition.”
Given the history noted above, perhaps current tyrants and dictators have recognized the Vatican’s affinity for their ilk as a “Catholic tradition.”
In October, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent Pope Benedict a letter “in which the president said he hoped to work closely with the Vatican to help stem religious intolerance, the breakup of families and the increase of secularism and materialism,” words sure to warm the pontiff’s heart. In return, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran gave Ahmadinejad a letter from Benedict on Nov. 9 during a meeting in Tehran. (Tauran is currently president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. From 1990 until 2007, Tauran worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State essentially serving as the foreign minister for the Holy See.) Rather than admonishing Ahmadinejad for this human rights abuses and failure to hold democratic elections in the same fashion he perpetually admonishes Western govenments for “secularism” and “relativism,” Benedict wrote that “he hoped the good relations existing between Iran and the Vatican, as well as between the Catholic communities in Iran and civil authorities, would continue to develop. He asked the Iranian president to launch a bilateral commission that could address ‘questions of common concern, including that of the juridical status of the Catholic Church in the country.'”
Cuban dictator, Raul Castro, in need of a loosening of US travel and trade restrictions for his desparately poor populace, arranged with the Vatican to have the Catholic Church act as brokers for the release of political prisoners in order to gain some goodwill PR.
HR 4645, a bill “to remove obstacles to legal sales of United States agricultural commodities to Cuba and to end travel restrictions on all Americans to Cuba,” had been introduced on February 23, 2010, in the U.S. Congress. A report prepared for the Agricultural House Committee stated that not only U.S. agriculture would benefit but also other business interests such as finance, real estate, wholesale and retail, and health care with concomitant increases in employment. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote a letter on March 8, 2010, to members of the House Agriculture Committee to express support for HR 4645.
On May 19, President Castro held a meeting with Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Archbishop Dionisio Garcia, president of the Cuban bishops’ conference regarding the release of political prisoners. On June 10, Spainish Foreign Minister Moratinos met in Rome with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Archbishop Dominique Mambertí, the Vatican’s foreign minister and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez regarding the advisability of releasing some of the prisoners. Rodríguez reportedly requested that the released inmates be removed from the island.
The release of 52 political prisoners was announced by the Catholic Church in July. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi stated on a weekly Vatican Television program: “The crucial role in the process of dialogue” by Cardinal Ortega and Archbishop García “was made possible by the evident fact that the Catholic Church is deeply rooted among the people and is a reliable interpreter of it spirit and expectations.”
Members of the Cuban-American community, however, thought “exile” was a better discription than “release” because the dissidents were forced to leave and that the Church had soldout to Castro. After Ortega had made the second of two visits to Washington D.C. to talk with government officials about passage of HR4645, a group of Cubans wrote a letter to the Pope Benedict: “In this epistle we could make a large list of demands, but only one is the most important: That those who represent God before Cuban Catholics cease their political support of those that for over half a century have behaved as emissaries of Satan on earth.”
In return for dealing with Castro, the Catholic Church obtained the privilege of building a new seminary. “Cuba’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega, nicknamed ‘the Castros’ personal secretary’ by [U.S. Congressman] Lincoln Díaz-Balart, presided the opening ceremony of a new Catholic seminary in Havana on Wednesday,” was reported in one blog .
[Cuban political prisoner who died after a hunger strike] “Orlando Zapata’s mother beaten and detained, Cardinal Ortega was nowhere to be found” was another recent headline.
On Nov. 8, many newspapers reported that “Pope Benedict XVI called a world-wide meeting of cardinals to discuss the Vatican’s response to sexually abusive priests.” The Washington Post wrote, “Pope Benedict XVI has summoned cardinals from around the world to a day-long summit in Rome next week on the clerical sex abuse scandal and other issues facing the Catholic Church, the Vatican said.” Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl told the WaPo that if asked by the pope, Wuerl would tell him, “I think what we’ve done in the U.S. is a very good model. The issue now is essentially behind us. The concentration today has to be on victims. There is the question of awareness, of removing people from priesthood, those were done a long time ago.” (I pointed out the falacy of this genre of hierarchical lying last week .)
Politics Daily and the National Catholic Reporter got the story correct at the top of their articles i.e. the cardinals were already scheduled to be in Rome for the installation ceremonies of the newly-named cardinals beginning the next day. The pope was only asking that they assemble a day earlier on Nov. 19 for “reflection and prayer” on several topics – the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the previously mentioned changes in the mass, efforts to bring more Anglicans into the Catholic Church (five English bishops announced this week they were converting), and last AND least, the sex abuse scandal.
According to the schedule released by the Vatican, the first two topics will be discussed during the day. The talk on Anglican conversions will take place after 5 p.m. Those who are still awake after a fine meal and an all-day and evening conference, not to mention jet-lag, will hear the last address of the day – “Response of the Church to Cases of Sexual Abuse” – by Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office in charge of disciplining abusive priests and maintaining doctrinal “purity.”
“Before any hopes get raised, let’s remember that it’s likely that every man in that room next week has ignored and concealed clergy sex crimes or is doing so right now,” Barbara Blain, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the largest victims advocacy organization, told the press.
That’s certainly true of the presenter, Cardinal Levada. While archbishop of San Francisco in 2004:
“James Jenkins, one of six members of the Independent Review Board and its chairman until last December, said Archbishop William Levada has blocked the release of the panel’s findings on sexual-abuse allegations involving 40 priests. In his resignation letter to Levada, Jenkins said the archdiocese panel could soon be reduced to ‘an elaborate public relations scheme.’ He said he doubts the Church could restore public trust ‘given its present leadership and the state of its corruption.’ Levada appointed Jenkins in 2001 to head the review board in response to a series of child molestation scandals involving the Catholic Church in Northern California. Jenkins, a Catholic layman and clinical psychologist practicing in the East Bay, served more than two years as chairman and remained active on the board until his resignation Oct. 15.”
Instead of working with “openness and transparency,” Jenkins said, the archdiocese’s review board has bought into “the culture of silence that gave the church hierarchy permission to be complicit in the criminal sexual abuse of children.” Jenkins wrote, “Sadly, it would seem the independence of the (board) has been compromised by disingenuous actions of deception, manipulation and control — all the false idols that gave birth to the clergy sex abuse scandal.” Jenkins said it is “crucial that the archdiocese not be seen as having adopted tough, aggressive, give-no-quarter legal strategies against the claims of survivors, which in the process betray the church’s true pastoral identity.”
Before taking over the San Francisco archdiocese, Levada was archbishop of Portland, Oregon from 1986 to 1995. Portland declared bankruptcy in 2004 on the eve of trial for the first of several lawsuits regarding the clerical sex abuse of minors in July 2004.. Levada was subpoenaed to testify after he had been appointed to his position in the Roman Curia about “such topics as discussions with officials at the congregation concerning the destruction of records of alleged sexual misconduct by priests, the nature of the secrecy oath he took, canon law, and communications with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other dioceses….In October 2005, lawyers for the Holy See and Levada filed a motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Oregon arguing, among other things, that Levada shouldn’t have to testify about the Vatican’s policies because he enjoys immunity as an official of a foreign state – the Holy See – and because the Vatican’s own laws and confidentiality oaths prevent it. If Levada were to violate such oaths, he could face ‘excommunication, confinement to a residence or a house of penance for up to five years, and a prohibition from holding any office or faculty,’ according to the court documents obtained by The Associated Press.”
(The word oligarchy is from the Greek words “a few” and the verb “to rule, to govern, to command”. George Orwell’s novel, 1984, written in 1949 is about an oligarchical society – “a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance and incessant public mind control….The Ministry of Truth is responsible for perpetuating the Party’s propaganda by revising records to render the Party omniscient and always correct.” The term “doublespeak,” inspired by Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, was coined in the 1950s. Doublespeak “is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms – making the truth less unpleasant – intentional ambiguity or a reversal of meaning (for example, naming a state of war “peace”). Doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth.)
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